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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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Jesus Is God

“‘All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him’” (Matthew 11:27).

Any genuine invitation to salvation such as Jesus gives here must include mention of God’s revelation. Nobody, even the most sincerely religious or philosophically determined, has ever obtained real salvation unless God sovereignly revealed it—and such revelation has to include the truth that Jesus Christ is God.

Jesus without doubt or qualification equates Himself with God and calls Himself the Son of the Father. The Jews of His day would never have used the expression about divine fatherhood unless they were referring to God’s fatherhood over their nation. Jesus’ statement was and is one of His clearest declarations of deity, and it discloses an intimate, unique, and inseparable relationship with the Father.

Without question, Jesus’ audience knew that His statements about a relationship with His heavenly Father meant He was claiming to be the Son of God. The unbelieving Jews did not at all accept this claim. On other similar occasions they would want to kill Him for such “blasphemous” assertions (see John 5:18; 10:30–38).
That Jesus is God is an essential component of the gospel, because apart from deity no savior could redeem a single soul. The heresy of making Christ just another human teacher or martyr devalues the gospel and robs it of its true saving power.

Ask Yourself
To trust God completely means also knowing that He is fully capable of revealing Himself to anyone He desires, any time He desires. Our task is merely to be faithful to reveal what we have heard and seen in Him, trusting the Lord to save His people. Are you being true to that calling?

Living in a World of Fools

“Wisdom is too high for a fool” (Proverbs 24:7).

A fool wants his own way.

There’s no question in my mind that we live in a world of fools. In fact, everyone born into this world comes in with congenital foolishness—otherwise known as the sin nature. Proverbs 22:15says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” Since we live in a world of fools, let’s look at a few of their characteristics.

A fool denies God. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.” I call this practical atheism. A fool lives as if there were no God—denying God with his actions.

A fool becomes his own god. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” No man can live without a god. It isn’t a question of, does he worship? It’s a question of, whom does he worship? If a person doesn’t worship the true God, he will worship a false god—which inevitably will be a reflection of himself. He becomes the one who determines truth and error, articulating his own standards for living.

A fool mocks sin. Proverbs 14:9 says, “Fools mock at sin.” Since a fool makes his own rules, he wants to justify his own behavior to make sure he’s going to be all right in the end. He attempts to eliminate sin along with its consequences.

A fool, then, begins by living as if there were no God, substituting himself as god and determining his own style of life. Then he denies the existence of sin because he cannot tolerate guilt.

When God saved you, you stopped your foolishness and became His wise child. Be encouraged, knowing God will continue to help you grow in wisdom through your understanding of and obedience to His Word.

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray for the salvation of a family member, friend, or neighbor who is living foolishly.

For Further Study
Read Matthew 7:24-27. What is the difference between a wise man and a foolish man?
Focusing on Heaven

"By faith [Abraham] lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Heb. 11:9-10).

Focusing on Heaven is the best way to endure difficulties on earth.
Following God's call isn't always easy. He expects us to trust Him explicitly, yet doesn't ask our advice on decisions that may impact us dramatically. He doesn't tell us His specific plans at any given point in our lives. He doesn't always shelter us from adversity. 

He tests our faith to produce endurance and spiritual maturity—tests that are sometimes painful. He makes some promises that we'll never see fulfilled in this life. 

If following God's call is a challenge for us, imagine how it was for Abraham, who had no Bible, no pastor, no sermons, no commentaries, and no Christian encouragement or accountability. But what he did have was the promise of a nation, a land, and a blessing (Gen. 12:1-3). That was good enough for him.

Abraham never settled in the land of promise. Neither did his son Isaac or grandson Jacob. They were aliens, dwelling in tents like nomads. Abraham never built houses or cities. The only way he would possess the land was by faith. Yet Abraham patiently waited for God's promises to be fulfilled.

As important as the earthly land was to him, Abraham was patient because his sight was on his heavenly home, "the city . . . whose architect and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10). He knew beyond any doubt that he would inherit that city, whether or not he ever saw his earthly home in his lifetime.

Similarly, being heavenly minded gives you the patience to continue working for the Lord when things get tough. It's the best cure I know for discouragement or spiritual fatigue. That's why Paul says to set your mind "on the things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Col. 3:2). If your mind is set on heaven, you can endure whatever happens here.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God for your heavenly home.
* Seek His grace to help you keep a proper perspective amid the difficulties of this life.

For Further Study
Read the portion of Abraham's life recorded in Genesis 12-17.

Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 25:1–26:21
* Psalm 128:1-6
* Proverbs 28:25
* Hebrews 11:17-40

Psalm 128:1 who fears the LORD. A good working definition is provided by the parallel line, “who walks in His ways.” Fathers (Ps. 128:1, 4), mothers (Prov. 31:30), and children (Ps. 34:11) are to fear the Lord. This psalm may have been the basis for Jesus’ illustration of the two builders (Matt. 7:24–27).

Hebrews 11:19 even from the dead. Believing that God’s promise regarding Isaac was unconditional, Abraham came to the conclusion that God would fulfill that promise even if it required raising Isaac from the dead (Gen. 22:5). figurative sense. The word is the same as in 9:9, which is the basis for the English word “parable.” Abraham received Isaac back from the dead, as it were, even though Isaac had not been slain.

How did faith shape the life of Moses?

In Hebrews 11:24, we are told that “By faith Moses, when he became of age,” refused the fame he could have in Egypt if he would have capitalized on his position as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Ex. 2:10). 

“Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God” (v. 25). Moses would have sinned had he refused to take on the responsibility God gave him regarding Israel, and he had a clear and certain conviction that “God would deliver them by his hand” (Acts 7:25). Moses repudiated the pleasures of Egypt. 

“Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (v. 26). Moses suffered reproach for the sake of Christ in the sense that he identified with the Messiah’s people in their suffering (v. 25). In addition, Moses identified himself with the Messiah because of his own role as leader and prophet (12:2; Deut. 18:15; Pss. 69:9; 89:51). Moses knew of the sufferings and glory of the Messiah (John 5:46; Acts 26:22,23; 1 Pet. 1:10–12).

“By faith he forsook Egypt” (v. 27). Moses left Egypt for the first time when he fled for his life after killing the Egyptian slave master (Ex. 2:14, 15). That time he did fear Pharaoh’s wrath. On the second occasion, he turned his back on Egypt and all that it represented. This leaving was not for fear of Pharaoh, so it is the one in view here. “Seeing Him who is invisible.” Moses’ faith was such that he responded to God’s commands as though God were standing visibly before him. This was the basis for his loyalty to God, and it should be a believer’s example for loyalty (2 Cor. 4:16–18).




The Results of True Wisdom

“The seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18).

A wise life is a righteous life. 

Puritan minister Richard Baxter said, “Wisdom is honorable because it is the skill of doing good.” Like Baxter, James also sees a connection between wisdom and doing good. James 3:18 is in the present tense and literally reads, “The fruit of righteousness is being sown in peace by them that make peace.” At first glance it seems strange that James would say the “fruit of righteousness is being sown” because usually seed is sown. But harvested fruit also becomes seed for the next crop. The fruit of righteousness is sown again in peace by those who make peace.

Where true wisdom exists, true righteousness follows. And that becomes seed and generates more righteousness. That’s the law of sowing and reaping. It is a continual cycle: one righteous act harvested from the field of true wisdom becomes the seed to grow another righteous act. Those who make peace receive the benefit from it, and righteousness flourishes in a climate of peace. The bottom line is that peacemakers aren’t preoccupied with themselves.

The life of a farmer illustrates what James is saying. The seeds that a farmer plants in the spring are what he eventually harvests in the fall. Similarly, by sowing righteous deeds each day of your life, you can be assured of what you’ll reap: a life that reflects true wisdom. Make it your aim to live righteously!

Suggestions for Prayer
Worship the Lord for being righteous, and ask Him to help you obey His Word and live a righteous life.

For Further Study
James follows a clear line of thought: if one professes to be a Christian, he must prove it by living like a Christian. According to 1 John 3:7-10, what proves a person is a true believer?

Stepping out in Faith

"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going" (Heb. 11:8).

The life of faith begins with a willingness to forsake everything that displeases God.

Abraham is the classic example of the life of faith. As the father of the Jewish nation, he was the most strategic example of faith available to the writer of Hebrews. But the people to whom Hebrews was written needed to understand that Abraham was more than the father of their race; he also was, by example, the father of everyone who lives by faith in God (Rom. 4:11).

Contrary to popular first-century Jewish thought, God didn't choose Abraham because he was righteous in himself. When called by God, Abraham was a sinful man living in an idolatrous society. His home was in the Chaldean city of Ur, which was located in ancient Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

God's call to Abraham is recorded in Genesis 12:1-3: "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

Note Abraham's response: "So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him" (v. 4). He listened, trusted, and obeyed. His pilgrimage of faith began when he separated himself from the pleasures of a pagan land to pursue God's plan for his life.

So it is with you if you're a man or woman of true faith. You've forsaken sinful pleasures to follow Christ. And as your love for Christ increases, there's a corresponding decrease in worldly desires.

I pray your focus will continually be on fulfilling God's will for your life, and that you'll always know the joy and assurance that comes from following Him.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God for the grace and spiritual fortitude to walk by faith today.

For Further Study
Memorize 1 John 2:15 as a reminder to remain separate from the world.

Those Who Accept the Invitation

“‘You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight’” (Matthew 11:25–26).

An infant is completely dependent on others for everything he or she needs. A baby has no resources of its own to draw upon for help. The same Greek word (for “infants”) is used of those who can’t eat solid food (1 Cor. 3:1; Heb. 5:13). It is also used of those who can’t speak (1 Cor. 13:11) and of those who are helpless (Eph. 4:14).

To such spiritual babes, those who realize they are utterly unable to save themselves, God wants to reveal the truths of His kingdom. As seen in the Sermon on the Mount, the “poor in spirit” who humbly confess their dependency on the Father and the Son receive a clear and irrevocable invitation to salvation.

Infants mentioned here are precisely the opposite kind of persons from the proud Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus at every turn. They are also the antitheses of supposed ideal practitioners of religion who glory in their own self-worth and success.
God is totally satisfied to offer a gospel of grace because that glorifies Him. “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite’” (Isa. 57:15).

Ask Yourself
Would you say you’ve maintained this same spirit of contrition and trust since you’ve entered into saving relationship with Jesus Christ? What tempts us to claim more confidence in our own identity and our perceived deservedness?

Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 23:1–24:27
* Psalm 127:1-5
* Proverbs 28:24
* Hebrews 11:1-16

Ezekiel 24:16–27 Ezekiel’s wife died as a sign to Israel. All personal sorrow was eclipsed in the universal calamity. Just as Ezekiel was not to mourn the death of his wife (v. 17), so Israel was not to mourn the death of her families (vv. 19–24). 

Though the text emphasizes how precious his wife was, the “desire of [his] eyes” (vv. 16, 21), his “boast” and “delight” (v. 21), he was obedient and submitted to God’s will. He became a heartbreaking sign to his people.

Psalm 127:3 heritage…reward. Children are a blessing from the Lord. There are overtones of God’s promise to Abraham to make his offspring like the dust of the earth and the stars of heaven (Gen. 13:16; 15:5).

Hebrews 11:6 impossible to please. Enoch pleased God because he had faith. Without such faith it is not possible for anyone to “walk with God” or “please Him” (10:38). He is. The emphasis here is on “He,” the true God. Genuine faith does not simply believe that a divine being exists, but that the God of Scripture is the only real and true God who exists. Not believing that God exists is equivalent to calling Him a liar (1 John 5:10). rewarder. 

A person must believe not only that the true God exists, but also that He will reward men’s faith in Him with forgiveness and righteousness, because He has promised to do so (10:35; Gen. 15:1; Deut. 4:29; 1 Chr. 28:9; Ps. 58:11; Is. 40:10).

Hebrews 11:13–16 strangers and pilgrims. See Genesis 23:4. Their faith was patient and endured great hardships because they believed God had something better. They had no desire to go back to Ur, but did long for heaven (Job 19:25, 26; Ps. 27:4).

Why are so many Old Testament people listed in chapter 11?

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews offers a moving account of faithful Old Testament saints who remain models of faith. The chapter has received such titles as “The Saint’s Hall of Fame,” “The Honor Roll of Old Testament Saints,” and “Heroes of the Faith.” Their lives attest to the value of living by faith. They compose the “cloud of witnesses” (12:1) who give powerful testimony to the Hebrews that they should come to faith in Christ.

This passage begins with an emphatic statement about the nature of faith. Faith involves the most solid possible conviction—the God-given present assurance of a future reality. True faith is not based on empirical evidence but on divine assurance and is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8).

The names, accomplishments, and sufferings described in this chapter illustrate the range of faithfulness in the lives of saints. Some experienced great success in this world; whereas others suffered great affliction. The point is that they all courageously and uncompromisingly followed God, regardless of the earthly outcome. They placed their trust in Him and in His promises (see 6:12; 2 Tim. 3:12).




The Qualities of True Wisom

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). 

True wisdom is evident in a person’s behavior.

What is true wisdom? James answers that question in verse 17 by pointing out the characteristics or qualities of true wisdom. After purity, the next quality is “peaceable,” which means “peace loving” or “peace promoting.” It refers to someone who doesn’t create confusion or disorder. He doesn’t promote himself or compromise truth but makes peace.
True wisdom is also “gentle.” 

A gentle person will submit to dishonor, disgrace, mistreatment, and persecution with an attitude of humility, courteousness, kindness, patience, and consideration. He will not display hatred, malice, or revenge.
True wisdom is also characterized as “reasonable.” It refers to someone who is willing to yield, who is easily persuaded, teachable, and compliant. It was used of a person who willingly submitted to military discipline or who observed legal and moral standards in life and willingly submitted to them. A wise person manifests such “reasonable” traits concerning God’s standards for life.

“Full of mercy” refers to someone who shows concern for people who suffer and is quick to forgive. He demonstrates kindness and compassion toward others.

“Good fruits“ refer to all good works in general or a wide variety of spiritual deeds. The Christian demonstrates the genuineness of his salvation through his good deeds—works that are produced by faith (James 2:14-20) and are called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23) or “the fruit of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11).

“Unwavering” refers to someone who is consistent and doesn’t vacillate. He is undivided in his commitment, doesn’t make unfair distinctions, and is sincere in his faithfulness to God.
“Without hypocrisy” is the climax of true wisdom and speaks of someone who is utterly genuine. He isn’t a phony or fake. A truly wise person manifests sincere behavior.

If true wisdom is part of your life, it will be evident in your behavior. Make it your aim to reflect the qualities of true wisdom so that others may see Christ in you.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help you develop the qualities of true wisdom in your life. But before you do, make sure you’re being motivated by a pure heart.
For Further Study
Read Matthew 5:1-16, noting how the words of Christ parallel James 3:17.

Rebuking the World

"By faith Noah . . . condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Heb 11:7).

Your actions and words should rebuke our godless society.

Genesis 6:5 says, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Before moving in judgment against the most evil and corrupt society in history, God appointed Noah to build an ark, which became a symbol of life and salvation to all who believed God. For those who disbelieved, it represented impending death and judgment.

Concurrent with constructing the ark, Noah preached about coming judgment. Peter called him "a preacher of righteousness" (2 Pet. 2:5), and every board he cut and nail he drove in was a living illustration of the urgency of his message.
God's warning was stern and His message horrifying, but His patience and mercy prevailed for 120 years. As Peter said, "The patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark" (1 Pet. 3:20). The people had ample warning of judgment, but they chose to disregard Noah's message.

As sad as the account of Noah's day is, perhaps the greatest tragedy is that man's attitude toward God hasn't changed since then. Jesus said, "The coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were 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 shall the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matt. 24:37-39).

Like Noah, you are to proclaim righteousness to an evil and perverse generation by your works and your life. Be faithful to do so even if people don't want to listen. After 120 years of diligent work and faithful preaching by Noah, only eight people entered the ark. But God's purposes were accomplished and the human race was preserved.

Suggestions for Prayer
Sometimes you'll encounter people who scoff at God's judgment and mock your testimony. Don't be discouraged. Pray for them and be available to minister to them whenever possible.

For Further Study
Read 2 Peter 3. What effect should the prospect of future judgment have on your present behavior?

Those Who Miss the Invitation

“‘You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight’” (Matthew 11:25–26). 

God does not exclude intelligent people from His kingdom but those who rely on their own intelligence for salvation. The apostle Paul was a scholar, but he didn’t abandon that brilliance to become a Christian. However, he did stop relying on that training to understand the things of God. Intellect is a gift from God, but it becomes an impediment to authentic knowledge of Him when trust in it supersedes trust in the One who gave it.

The means God uses to hide things from certain people who relish their own intelligence is the darkness of their proud hearts. God’s truth is not knowable by mere empirical means. Instead, it must be known and received through the faithful heart, as God graciously reveals it. No amount of human insight can grasp God’s saving truths since the unregenerate “cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14).

Of those who miss the divine invitation, the apostle John writes that, “though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’. . . ‘He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted’” (John 12:37–38, 40). 

Those who reject the gospel will one day have their unwise choice confirmed by God, the all-wise Judge.

Ask Yourself
Yes, God’s heart moves at the sight of simple trust, honest dependence, and awareness of need. Does your heart likewise bend toward those who are the least deserving yet the most impoverished?

Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 21:1–22:31
* Psalm 126:1-6
* Proverbs 28:23
* Hebrews 10:1-39

Ezekiel 21:27 Until He comes. The 3-fold mention of “overthrown” expresses the severest degree of unsettled and chaotic conditions. Israel was to experience severe instability and even the kingly privilege will not be Israel’s again until the Messiah comes, “to whom it rightly belongs,” or “whose right it is” (Gen. 49:10). God will give the kingship to Him (Jer. 23:5–8), the greater “David” (Ezek. 37:24). His “right” is that perfect combination of priestly and royal offices (Heb. 5–7).

Ezekiel 22:30 So I sought for a man. Ezekiel and Jeremiah were faithful, but apart from them God sought a man capable of advocacy for Israel when its sin had gone so far. But no one could lead the people to repentance and draw the nation back from the brink of the judgment that came in 586 B.C. (Jer. 7:26, 36; 19:15). Only God’s Messiah, God Himself, will have the character and the credentials sufficient to do what no man can do, intercede for Israel (Is. 59:16–19; 63:5; Rev. 5). He was rejected by them in His earthly ministry, so the effects of this judgment continue today, until they turn to Him in faith (Zech. 12:10; 13:1).

Hebrews 10:20 new. In Greek, this word originally meant “newly slain,” but was understood as “recent” when the epistle was written. The way is new because the covenant is new. It is not a way provided by the Levitical system. living way. Though it is the path of eternal life, it was not opened by Christ’s sinless life—it required His death. The Hebrews were invited to embark on this way which is characterized by the eternal life of the Son of God who loved them and gave Himself for them (John 14:6; Gal. 2:20). The Christian faith was known as “the Way” among the Jews of Jerusalem (Acts 9:2), as well as among the Gentiles (Acts 19:23).

Those receiving this epistle understood quite clearly that the writer was inviting them to become Christians—to join those who had been persecuted for their faith. True believers in their midst were even then suffering persecution, and those who had not committed themselves to the Way were asked to become targets of the same persecution.

How do we draw near to God?
“Let us draw near with a true heart”(Heb. 10:22). Based on what had been written, this was the heart of the invitation to those in the assembly who had not come to Christ. The same invitation is found in the first New Testament book to be written (James 4:8), where James reveals the corollary of drawing near to God: God will draw near to you. Asaph taught that it is a good thing to draw near to God (Ps. 73:28). The full restoration of Israel to God’s blessing is dependent upon their drawing near to Him (Jer. 30:18–22). 

In other words, it is an eschatological invitation coming to them in “these last days” (Heb. 1:2). This verse describes the prerequisites for entering the presence of God (Ps. 15): sincerity, security, salvation, and sanctification. The Greek term behind “true” carries the ideas of being sincere, genuine, and without ulterior motive (Jer. 24:7; Matt. 15:8). This one thing these particular Hebrews lacked: genuine commitment to Christ.

“In full assurance of faith.” Utter confidence in the promises of God is intended by the phrase. Such confidence will result in heartfelt assurance or security which will allow them to persevere through the coming trials. This is the first of a familiar triad: faith, hope (v. 23), and love (v. 24). “Having our hearts sprinkled…with pure water.” The imagery in this verse is taken from the sacrificial ceremonies of the Old Covenant, where blood was sprinkled as a sign of cleansing, and the priests were continually washing themselves and the sacred vessels in basins of clear water. 

The “washing with pure water” does not refer to Christian baptism, but to the Holy Spirit’s purifying one’s life by means of the Word of God (Eph. 5:25,26; Titus 3:5). This is purely a New Covenant picture (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:25, 26).




The Motive for True Wisdom

“The wisdom from above is first pure” (James 3:17).

A pure life is necessary for a wise life.
A person whose life is characterized by true wisdom will seek to be pure. The Greek word translated “pure” in James 3:17 refers to spiritual integrity and moral sincerity. It is freedom from bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, and arrogant self-promotion. Christ is the perfect example of purity (1 John 3:3).

A true believer will have pure desires. The deepest part of him desires to do God’s will, serve God, and love God. In Romans 7:15-21 the apostle Paul testifies that when he sinned, he was doing what he didn’t want to do. In Psalm 51:7 David cries out, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” The true believer hates his sin. Rising out of his innermost being is a longing for what is clean, pure, holy, and honest.

Purity of heart is the motive of someone who seeks to live a life of godly wisdom (cf. Ps. 24:3-4). God says he will “take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19); that new heart will be consumed with purity rather than self. You do still sin because your new heart is incarcerated in your old flesh. 

But your new heart fights against your flesh. That’s why Paul said, “I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:22-23).

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). As you persevere in battle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil, be encouraged by reminding yourself that one day the fight will be finished. The apostle John said it this way: “We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Suggestions for Prayer
Read Psalm 51:1-17, making David’s prayer your own.

For Further Study
According to Matthew 5:48 and 1 Peter 1:15-16, what is God’s standard of purity?

Building a Picture of Salvation

"By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household" (Heb. 11:7).

The ark is a beautiful picture of salvation by grace through faith.

God called Noah to a gargantuan task. Conservative figures estimate that the ark was about 438 feet long, 73 feet wide, and 44 feet high. That makes it almost one-and-a-half times the length of a football field and more than four stories high. Its three decks totaled almost 96,000 square feet with a total volume of about 1.3 million cubic feet. Naval engineers concur that its shape and dimensions constitute an incredibly stable ship design.

But beyond the enormity of its size and precision of its measurements, the ark is a wonderful illustration of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. For example, Noah was instructed to cover the ark inside and out with pitch (Gen. 3:14). The Hebrew word for pitch has the same root as the word for atonement. The pitch kept the waters of judgment from entering the ark just as Christ's atoning blood keeps judgment from the repentant sinner.

The ark was large enough to hold two of each species of animals plus every person who turned to God for safety. Only eight persons chose to be saved on God's terms, but had more come, surely He would have accommodated them. It is His desire that none perish, but that all come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Those who perished in the Flood did so because they rejected God's means of salvation.

Similarly, Jesus's blood is sufficient to atone for every sinner and every sin since man's fall in the Garden of Eden. No one who comes to Him will be cast out (John 6:37), yet so few avail themselves of His gracious provision (Matt. 7:14).

Noah was a man who "walked with God" (Gen. 6:9), yet he wasn't without sin. That's obvious from his drunken and immodest behavior after the Flood (9:20-21). But Noah, like every true believer, was justified by God's grace, his faith being counted as righteousness. That has always been the basis of salvation (Gen. 15:6;Rom. 4:5).

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for His amazing grace, by which He saved you and continues to cleanse you from every sin.
For Further Study
Read Romans 4:1-8.

Jesus Opens His Great Invitation

“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth’” (Matthew 11:25).

When all life’s rhetoric, rationalizations, and routines are swept aside, a person is either for Jesus Christ or against Him (cf. Mark 9:40). After performing many miracles (Matt. 4:23–24) and preaching in detail the gospel and sanctification (chaps. 5–7), Jesus more specifically urged people either to accept Him or reject Him. Here begins a final appeal of grace and mercy during His first Galilean ministry.

This opening address to God calls our attention both to Christ’s unique relationship to His Father and to the Father’s sovereignty over all things, including salvation. Through the Holy Spirit, salvation is a divine provision and not a result of human wisdom, purposes, or ability, and Jesus is thankful for that.

Everyone who evangelizes is sometimes disappointed that so few people respond. We wonder how we can make the message clearer or more convincing, and what things we ought to change. But we also should remind ourselves that some will reject the gospel no matter how effectively we seem to present it. If people rebuffed the Lord when He was in their midst, we have to expect some will also refuse our imperfect witness to them.

We are sad and prayerful for those who don’t want the gospel, but like Jesus we must praise our heavenly Father that He has sovereign control over the universe and that His plan for us and others—saved and unsaved—will not be thwarted. Men and women who reject Christ show their sinful disobedience, not any failure by God.

Ask Yourself
Seeing worship as such a natural reaction of Jesus—not in purely religious settings, but right in the middle of any moment—should spurn us on to make godly praise a frequent occupant in our heart and on our lips. How often does worship just well up inside you?

Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 19:1–20:49
* Psalm 125:1-5
* Proverbs 28:22
* Hebrews 10:1-18

Ezekiel 20:37 pass under the rod. God used a shepherd figure here, apt since He was their Great Shepherd (34:11–13; Jer. 23:5–8). As a shepherd, God brings His sheep home to their fold (Jer. 33:13), has them file in, separating sheep from goats (Matt. 25), passing under His shepherd’s rod to be noted and checked for injury. He will bring them into the bond of the New Covenant by giving them His Spirit with life (36:24–27; 37:14; 39:29). This is Israel’s final salvation (Rom. 11:26–33).

Ezekiel 20:39 If they persist in their stubborn idolatry, God will allow them to follow it to their doom. He would also rather have them as out-and-out idolaters rather than hypocritical patronizers of His worship like they had been (Amos 5:21–26).

Hebrews 10:5, 6 You did not desire. God was not pleased with sacrifices given by a person who did not give them out of a sincere heart (Ps. 51:17; Is.1:11; Jer. 6:20; Hos. 6:6; Amos 5:21–25). To sacrifice only as a ritual, without obedience, was a mockery and worse than no sacrifice at all (Is. 1:11–18).

Hebrews 10:10 sanctified. “Sanctify” means to “make holy,” to be set apart from sin for God (1 Thess. 4:3). When Christ fulfilled the will of God, He provided for the believer a continuing, permanent condition of holiness (Eph. 4:24; 1 Thess. 3:13). This is the believer’s positional sanctification as opposed to the progressive sanctification that results from daily walking by the will of God (Rom. 6:19; 12:1, 2; 2 Cor. 7:1). body. Refers to His atoning death, as the term “blood” has been used to do (9:7, 12, 14, 18, 22). Mention of the body of Christ in such a statement is unusual in the New Testament, but it is logically derived from the quotation from Psalm 40:6.

What was the problem with the Old Testament sacrificial system?
“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image” (Heb. 10:1). The Greek term translated “shadow” refers to a pale reflection, as contrasted with a sharp, distinct one. The term behind “very image,” on the other hand, indicates an exact and distinct replica (Col. 2:17). “Can never…make those who approach perfect.” This term is used repeatedly in Hebrews to refer to salvation. As much as those living under the law desired to approach God, the Levitical system provided no way to enter His holy presence (Pss. 15:1; 16:11; 24:3, 4).

If sin had really been overpowered by that system of sacrifices, the Old Testament believers’ consciences would have been cleansed from condemning guilt (v. 2). There was not freedom of conscience under the Old Covenant. The Old Testament sacrifices not only could not remove sin, but their constant repetition was a constant reminder of that deficiency (v. 3). The promise of the New Covenant was that the sin would be removed and even God would “remember” their sins “no more” (8:12, quoting Jer. 31:34).
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (v.4). The Levitical system was not designed by God to remove or forgive sins. It was preparatory for the coming of the Messiah (Gal. 3:24) in that it made the people expectant (1 Pet. 1:10). 

It revealed the seriousness of their sinful condition, in that even temporary covering required the death of an animal. It revealed the reality of God’s holiness and righteousness by indicating that sin had to be covered. Finally, it revealed the necessity of full and complete forgiveness so that God could have desired fellowship with His people.




The Results of False Wisdom

“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:16).

False wisdom ruins lives.

Renowned eighteenth-century theologian Jonathan Edwards said the following about the effect of the Fall on man:
Sin, like some powerful astringent, contracted his soul to the very small dimensions of selfishness; and God was forsaken, and fellow-creatures forsaken, and man retired within himself, and became totally governed by narrow and selfish principles and feelings. Self-love became absolute master of his soul, and the more noble and spiritual principles of his being took wings and flew away. 

Edwards’s analysis certainly agrees with what James is saying: man is self-centered (cf. James 3:14, 16). Where self-centeredness exists, there will be negative results. One such result is “disorder” (v. 16). The term refers to disorder that comes out of instability and chaos. 

Earthly wisdom will never produce harmony or love because it’s proud and self-indulgent. It destroys intimacy, love, unity, and fellowship, and in its place brings discord and chaos. You can see the result of earthly wisdom all over our world today. Anger, bitterness, lawsuits, and divorces are just part of the legacy.
“Every evil thing” also results from earthly wisdom (v. 16). The phrase speaks of something worthless or vile. Greek scholar R.C. 

Trench said it contemplates evil, “not so much that either of active or passive malignity, but rather of its good-for-nothingness, the impossibility of any true gain ever coming forth from it.” The Greek word translated “thing” implies that false wisdom produces nothing of any practical value. At its best it produces worthless things; at its worst it produces vile things.

Which kind of life do you prefer? One that is characterized by love and unity, or by instability and chaos? A life with fulfillment and meaning, or with emptiness? If you want a life that satisfies and has eternal value, choose divine wisdom!

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for giving you His Word so you can know how to live wisely and avoid the negative results of man’s wisdom.
For Further Study
Following human wisdom leads only to evil. Memorize Proverbs 4:27 to help you stay on the path of true wisdom.

Obeying Faith

"By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Heb. 11:7). 

True faith works.

When James said, "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26), he stated a principle that's consistent throughout Scripture: True faith always produces righteous works.
The people described in Hebrews 11 made their genuine faith known in the things they did. The same applies to us today. Paul said, "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12).

Perhaps better than anyone else in history, Noah illustrates the obedience of faith. Scripture characterizes him as "a righteous man, blameless in his time . . . [who] walked with God" (Gen. 6:9).

I remember a sportscaster interviewing a professional football player and asking him what he thought of his team's chances of winning the Super Bowl. The player replied, "We believe that if we just do what the coach says, we'll win." The team had absolute confidence in their coach, but they realized they had to do their part as well.

That illustrates the quality of faith Noah had in God, whom he trusted absolutely as he pursued a task that seemed utterly foolish and useless from a human perspective. Imagine instantly surrendering all your time and effort to devote 120 years to building something you'd never seen (a vessel the size of a ocean liner or battleship) to protect you from something you'd never experienced (rain and flooding). Yet Noah did it without question.

Noah's faith is unique in the sheer magnitude and time span of the task God gave him to do. He didn't argue with God or deviate from his assignment. Is that true of you? Are you pursuing your ministry as faithfully and persistently as Noah did his? Is your faith a faith that works?

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for the ministry He's called you to. If you sense there's more you could be doing, ask Him for guidance. Pray for added faithfulness and tenacity in serving Him.
For Further Study
Read the account of Noah in Genesis 6:1—9:17.

Unbelieving Indifference: Capernaum

“‘And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day’” (Matthew 11:23).

Often those who have opportunity for the greatest spiritual privileges take those most for granted and enjoy them least. Such could be said for the Galilean city of Capernaum. It was the area where Christ made His headquarters and performed more miracles and preached more messages than in any other region during His earthly ministry. 

Yet all of this marvelous activity apparently had little impact on the indifferent citizens. 

Had all of it happened in and around Sodom, Jesus says, that infamously wicked city would have repented, turned in faith to God, and been spared destruction. Even secular people know Sodom as a synonym for moral degradation and a place where homosexuality and other perversions were rampant. On the other hand, Capernaum, like many modern cities, probably had mostly law-abiding, decent residents.

Capernaum exceeded Chorazin and Bethsaida in advantage, and Sodom exceeded Tyre and Sidon in sinfulness. By such striking contrasts, our Lord shows that people most blessed by God will be most punished if they spurn Him. Judgment against the spiritual aloofness of Capernaum will far exceed judgment against the egregious sins of Sodom. The sober truth is that the self-righteous, orthodox person is more repugnant to the Father than the externally immoral, unbelieving person.

Johann Bengel once noted, “Every hearer of the New Testament truth is either much happier or much more wretched than the men who lived before Christ’s coming.” Such people are either more secure or more condemned.

Ask Yourself
What is the basis for any feelings we have of superiority and supremacy? What are some of the best cures for this type of sin? Which remedies would you prefer to choose for yourself, rather than having some of the more extreme ones thrust upon you?

Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 17:1–18:32
* Psalm 124:1-8
* Proverbs 28:21
* Hebrews 9:1-28

Ezekiel 17:22, 23 one of the highest branches. This is messianic prophecy stating that God will provide the Messiah from the royal line of David (“the high cedar”) and establish Him in His kingdom (like a mountain, Dan. 2:35, 44, 45). He will be “a high branch” reigning in the height of success. “Branch” is a name for the Messiah (34:23, 24; 37:24, 25; Is. 4:2; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12).The Messiah will be “a tender one” (v. 22) who grows into a “majestic cedar” (v. 23). Under His kingdom rule, all nations will be blessed and Israel restored.

Ezekiel 18:4 The soul who sins shall die. God played no favorites, but was fair in holding each individual accountable for his own sin. The death is physical death which, for many, results in eternal death.

Hebrews 9:8 The Levitical system did not provide any direct access into God’s presence for His people. Rather, it kept them away. Nearness had to be provided by another way (v. 12). This is the primary lesson which the Holy Spirit taught concerning the tabernacle. It teaches how inaccessible God is apart from the death of Jesus Christ. 

Holy Spirit. By the Spirit-inspired instruction given for the Holiest of All, He was indicating that there was no way to God in the ceremonial system. Only Christ could open the way (John 14:6).

Hebrews 9:27 to die once. This is a general rule for all mankind. There have been very rare exceptions (e.g., Lazarus died twice, John 11:43, 44). Those, like Lazarus, who were raised from the dead by a miraculous act of our Lord were not resurrected to a glorified body and unending life. They only experienced resuscitation. Another exception will be those who don’t die even once, but who will be “caught up…to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17; Enoch, Gen. 5:24; Elijah, 2 Kin. 2:11). the judgment. A general term encompassing the judgment of all people, believers (2 Cor. 5:10) and unbelievers (Rev. 20:11–15).

Why does Hebrews have so much about blood, including a statement such as “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (9:22)?
Beginning with 9:7, the writer examined the significance of the blood of sacrifice. This term is especially central to 9:1–10:18 where the passage identifies the deaths of Old Testament sacrifices with the death of Christ (9:12–14). 

Note, however, that this shedding of blood in and of itself was an insufficient sacrifice. Christ had not only to shed His blood, but He also had to die—10:10 indicates that He gave His body as a sacrificial offering. Without His death, His blood had no saving value.

The expression, then, “blood of Christ” (9:14) refers not simply to the fluid but to the whole atoning sacrificial work of Christ in His death. Blood is used as a substitute word for death (see, e.g., Matt. 23:30, 35; 27:6, 8, 24, 25; John 6:54–56; Acts 18:6; 20:26). By reviewing the significance of the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament, the writer was pointing to a pattern of lessons that prepared the world to understand the necessity of Christ’s death. 

The emphatic phrase “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (9:22) simply repeats the lesson that sin creates a debt that must be paid by someone. “It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). The phraseology is reminiscent of Christ’s words, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). 

Remission means forgiveness in these verses—forgiveness for the sinner and payment of the debt. Christ’s death (blood) provides the remission.




Identifying False Wisdom

“This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15).

True wisdom is from God; false wisdom is from the Devil.

Wisdom that is bitterly jealous and self-centered is not “from above.” Such traits constitute a wisdom that doesn’t come from God, the source of true wisdom (cf. 1:5, 17). Human wisdom, rather than being from above, is “earthly” (3:15). It is limited to the sphere of time and space and marked by the curse of man’s own fallenness, which is characterized by pride and self-centeredness. 

Everything the world initiates in the way of supposed truth is self-centered. Unregenerate man’s finite system demands an earthly wisdom and nothing more.

Man’s wisdom is also “natural” (v. 15), which means “fleshly” and refers to man’s humanness and frailty. First Corinthians 2:14 says, “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” The natural man is sensual. All his feelings, impulses, and appetites are locked up in a fallen and corrupted system. All of man’s wisdom comes from his unsanctified heart and unredeemed spirit.

Besides being earthly and natural, human wisdom is “demonic” (James 3:15). This is the only place in the New Testament where the Greek word translated “demon” appears in its adjectival form. Human wisdom is actually generated by demons, who have been made captive to the same evil system as man. Satan and his agents disguise themselves as ministers of light when in fact they are ministers of darkness (2 Cor. 11:14-15).

The wisdom of the world is spawned by demons, reflects man’s humanness, and proceeds no further than the fallenness of mankind. Since that is so, be sure to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10). Don’t let Satan and the world beguile you with their so-called wisdom.

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray to be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:9-10).

For Further Study
According to 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 and Colossians 2:8, how is the believer to fight against Satan and his demonic wisdom?

Seeking God's Reward

"He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).

All who come to God in faith will receive the reward of eternal life.

We've seen that without faith it's impossible to please God. And the first step in faith is believing that God exists. In addition, we must also believe that He answers our prayers—more specifically, that He redeems those who come to Him in faith.
Scripture repeatedly tells us that God not only can be found, but also desires to be found. David said to his son Solomon, "If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever" (1 Chron. 28:9). 

The Lord says in Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Jesus said, "Everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened" (Luke 11:10).
At first glance those verses may seem to contradict Paul's teaching that "there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside" (Rom. 3:11-12), and Jesus' statement that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). But really they're two sides of the same theological coin.

On one side you see man believing God and receiving Christ for salvation. On the other you see God enabling man to do so. Prior to salvation, a person is spiritually dead and utterly incapable of responding to the gospel. God must grant him or her saving faith. That's why the Bible contains statements like, "To you it has been granted for Christ's sake . . . to believe in Him" (Phil. 1:29); "As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48); and "The Lord opened [Lydia's] heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14).

God is the Great Rewarder, extending His love and grace to all who call upon Him. "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed" (Rom. 10:11).

Suggestions for Prayer
If you've been praying for someone's salvation, don't become discouraged. Only God can grant saving faith, but He gives us the privilege of participating in His redemptive work through faithful prayer and evangelism (Rom 10:1).

For Further Study
Memorize Ephesians 2:8-9.

Unbelieving Indifference: Chorazin and Bethsaida

“‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you’” (Matthew 11:21–22).

Indifference is a terrible form of unbelief. It so totally ignores God that He is not even considered worth arguing about. As Josiah realized after God’s people rediscovered His book, “great is the wrath of the Lord that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book” (2 Kings 22:13; cf. Matt. 22:5–6, 14).

Probably most citizens of Chorazin and Bethsaida had seen Christ’s miracles, and others knew about them from reports of friends and relatives. But relatively few responded in saving faith (cf. Matt. 7:13–14). Hence the Lord’s righteous wrath came down on them with exclamations of woe for their unrepentance. It is better to have never heard about Jesus than to hear and yet reject Him (cf. Heb. 10:26–27).
By contrast, Jesus tells us that pagan, corrupt cities such as Tyre and Sidon would have repented early on had they heard Jesus’ message and seen His miracles. Few statements such as this from the Messiah would have shocked the Jews more than to be unfavorably compared to sinful Gentiles. 

At the great white throne, God will judge unbelievers from all eras, sentencing them to eternal punishment. At that time, many from places like Tyre and Sidon will fare better than unbelieving Jews. The greater the privilege God offers people, the greater the responsibility they have. The greater the light they see, the worse the consequences for not receiving it.

Ask Yourself
Does your church bear the marks of people who have grown lackadaisical in faith and protectively focused on side issues, or people who are active and animated in their love for the Lord? How can you be part of encouraging faithful zeal in those familiar with Christian faith?

Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 15:1–16:63
* Psalm 123:1-4
* Proverbs 28:20
* Hebrews 8:1-13

Ezekiel 15:1–3 Then the word…came. Israel, often symbolized by a vine (17:6–10; Gen. 49:22; Jer. 2:21), had become useful for nothing. Failing to do the very thing God set her apart to do—bear fruit—she no longer served any purpose and was useless (v. 2). Other trees can be used for construction of certain things, but a fruitless vine is useless (v. 3). It has no value. In every age, the people of God have their value in their fruitfulness.
Ezekiel 16:8 the time of love. 

This refers to the marriageable state. Spreading his “wing” was a custom of espousal (Ruth 3:9) and indicates that God entered into a covenant with the young nation at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:5–8). Making a covenant signifies marriage, the figure of God’s relation to Israel (Jer. 2:2; 3:1ff.; Hos. 2:2–23).

Ezekiel 16:60 I will remember My covenant. God is gracious and He always finds a covenant basis on which He can exercise His grace. The Lord will remember the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1ff.) made with Israel in her youth. Restoration will be by grace, not merit. an everlasting covenant. 

This is the New Covenant, which is unconditional, saving, and everlasting (37:26; Is. 59:21; 61:8; Jer. 31:31–34; Heb. 8:6–13). The basis of God’s grace will not be the Mosaic Covenant, which the Jews could never fulfill, even with the best intentions (Ex. 24:1ff.). When God establishes His eternal covenant, Israel will know that God is the Lord because of His grace.

Hebrews 8:5 The quote is from Exodus 25:40. copy and shadow. This does not mean that there are actual buildings in heaven which were copied in the tabernacle, but rather that the heavenly realities were adequately symbolized and represented in the earthly tabernacle model.

Who was the prophet Ezekiel?
If the “thirtieth year” of Ezekiel 1:1 refers to Ezekiel’s age, he was 25 when taken captive and 30 when called into ministry. Thirty was the age when priests commenced their office, so it was a notable year for Ezekiel. His ministry began in 593/92 B.C. and extended at least 22 years until 571/70 B.C. (25:17). He was a contemporary of both Jeremiah (who was about 20 years older) and Daniel (who was the same age), whom he names in 14:14, 20; 28:3 as an already well-known prophet. 

Like Jeremiah (Jer. 1:1) and Zechariah (Zech. 1:1 with Neh. 12:16), Ezekiel was both a prophet and a priest (1:3). Because of his priestly background, he was particularly interested in and familiar with the temple details. So God used him to write much about them (8:1–11:25; 40:1–47:12).

Ezekiel and his wife (who is mentioned in 24:15–27) were among 10,000 Jews taken captive to Babylon in 597 B.C. (2 Kin. 24:11–18). They lived in Tel Abib (3:15) on the bank of the Chebar River, probably southeast of Babylon. Domestically, Ezekiel and the 10,000 lived more as colonists than captives, being permitted to farm tracts of land under somewhat favorable conditions (Jer. 29). Ezekiel even had his own house (3:24; 20:1). 

Ezekiel writes of his wife’s death in exile (Ezek. 24:18), but the book does not mention Ezekiel’s death, which rabbinical tradition suggests occurred at the hands of an Israelite prince whose idolatry he rebuked around 560 B.C.

Prophetically, false prophets deceived the exiles with assurances of a speedy return to Judah (13:3, 16; Jer. 29:1). From 593 to 585 B.C., Ezekiel warned that their beloved Jerusalem would be destroyed and their exile prolonged, so there was no hope of immediate return. In 585 B.C., an escapee from Jerusalem, who had evaded the Babylonians, reached Ezekiel with the first news that the city had fallen in 586 B.C., about 6 months earlier (33:21). That dashed the false hopes of any immediate deliverance for the exiles, so the remainder of Ezekiel’s prophecies related to Israel’s future restoration to its homeland and the final blessings of the messianic kingdom.




Being Honest

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

Humility is the hallmark of a wise person.

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

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

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

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

For Further Study
* The wise person seeks to be humble. To help you manifest humility in your life, meditate on the following verses: Proverbs 16:19; 22:4; Isaiah 57:15; Micah 6:8; Matthew 18:4; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5.
* Memorize at least one Old Testament verse and one New Testament verse from this list.

Believing in God

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

Nothing you do can please God apart from faith.

Throughout history, people have tried everything imaginable to gain favor with God. Most turn to religion, but religion apart from Christ is merely a satanic counterfeit of the truth.
Many trust in their own good works, not realizing that even their best efforts are offensive to God (Isa. 64:6; Phil. 3:8). And the more we try to justify ourselves, the more we offend God, because "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight" (Rom. 3:20).

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

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

God has given ample evidence of His existence. Romans 1:20says, "Since the creation of the world [God's] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made." David said, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Ps. 19:1).
Creation itself proclaims the existence, power, and glory of God, yet most people "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18) by rejecting the Creator and denying their accountability to Him. Rather than bowing to the true God, they pay homage to "Mother Nature" or evolution. How foolish!

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God for the beauty of His creation.
* Worship Him as the giver of every good gift (James 1:17).

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

Criticism of John and Jesus

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

Contemporary people love to criticize whatever the church does, which is really just a convenient excuse to reject the gospel. Such was also true in Jesus’ day, and here He uses two illustrations of criticism to make that point.

First, He applies the children’s game “Funeral” to the criticism of John the Baptist. John lived in the funeral mode, and people became so resentful of his constant stress on repentance and judgment that they claimed he had a demon. He would not let his audience be neutral—he called for commitment to truth and righteousness. But instead of accepting that call, they generally rebuked John’s righteousness.
Second, Jesus applies the game of “Wedding” to Himself. 

In contrast to John’s austere living, Jesus participated in society’s usual activities. His ministry brought Him into contact with hundreds of ordinary people. This difference from John had not escaped his disciples (Matt. 9:14–15), but the critics exaggerated Jesus’ activities and said His appetites were out of control. It was true that Jesus befriended tax collectors and sinners, but only to offer deliverance from their sins, not to be involved with them in sin (cf. 9:12–13).

Their opponents criticized John and Jesus differently, but the lesson is the same. Like today, the enemies of truth found it easy to criticize but difficult to explain how so many lives were transformed from despair to hope, from anger to love, from enmity to Christ to fellowship with Him.

Ask Yourself
What are some of the most common criticisms against Christianity? Which ones hold water, and which are just rebellious bluster?

Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 13:1–14:23
* Psalm 122:6-9
* Proverbs 28:19
* Hebrews 7:1-2

Ezekiel 13:10, 11 builds a wall. False prophets had lulled the people into false security. Phony “peace” promises, while sin continued on the brink of God’s judgment, was a way, so to speak, of erecting a defective “wall” and whitewashing it to make it look good. Such an unsafe “wall” was doomed to collapse (v. 11) when God would bring His storm, picturing the invaders’ assault (v. 11).

Ezekiel 14:14–20 Noah, Daniel, and Job. Jeremiah 7:16 and 15:1–4 provide a close parallel to this passage. According to Jeremiah, even Moses and Samuel, well known for their power in intercessory prayer, would not prevail to deliver Jerusalem and the people. The 3 Old Testament heroes mentioned in this section exhibited power in intercession on behalf of others (Gen. 6:18; Job 42:7–10; Dan. 1; 2) at strategic points in redemptive history, and even they could not deliver anyone but themselves if they were there praying earnestly. 

Even the presence and prayers of the godly could not stop the coming judgment. Genesis 18:22–32 and Jeremiah 5:1–4 provide rare exceptions to the principle that one man’s righteousness is no protection for others.

Hebrews 7:19 the law made nothing perfect. The law saved no one (Rom. 3:19, 20); rather it cursed everyone (Gal.3:10–13). draw near to God. This is the key phrase in this passage. Drawing near to God is the essence of Christianity as compared with the Levitical system, which kept people outside His presence. As believer priests, we are all to draw near to God—that is a characteristic of the priesthood (Ex. 19:22; Matt. 27:51).
Hebrews 7:25 uttermost. 

Virtually the same concept as was expressed in “perfection” (v. 11) and “make perfect” (v. 19). The Greek term is used only here and in Luke 13:11 (the woman’s body could not be straightened completely). 

intercession. The word means “to intercede on behalf of another.” It was used to refer the bringing of a petition to a king on behalf of someone. The High Priestly intercessory prayer of Christ in John 17 is an example. Since rabbis assigned intercessory powers to angels, perhaps the people were treating angels as intercessors. The writer makes it clear that only Christ is the intercessor (1 Tim. 2:5).

Who was Melchizedek, and why was he so important?
Melchizedek shows up abruptly and briefly in the Old Testament, but his special role in Abraham’s life makes him a significant figure. 

He is mentioned again in Psalm 110:4, the passage under consideration in Hebrews 4:14–7:28. As the king of Salem and priest of the Most High God in the time of Abraham, Melchizedek offered a historical precedent for the role of king-priest (Gen. 14:18–20), filled perfectly by Jesus Christ.

By using the two Old Testament references to Melchizedek, the writer (7:1–28) explains the superiority of Christ’s priesthood by reviewing Melchizedek’s unique role as a type of Christ and his superiority to the Levitical high priesthood. The Levitical priesthood was hereditary, but Melchizedek’s was not. Through Abraham’s honor, Melchizedek’s rightful role was established. 

The major ways in which the Melchizedekan priesthood was superior to the Levitical priesthood are these:
1. The receiving of tithes (7:2–10), as when Abraham the ancestor of the Levites gave Melchizedek a tithe of the spoils.
2. The giving of the blessing (7:1,6, 7), as when Abraham accepted Melchizedek’s blessing.
3. The continual replacement of the Levitical priesthood (7:11–19), which passed down from father to son.
4. The perpetuity of the Melchizedekan priesthood (7:3, 8, 16, 17, 20–28), since the record about his priesthood does not record his death.




Living Unselfishly

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

A wise person lives for God and others, not for self.

Having characterized spiritual wisdom in the preceding verse, James begins to analyze worldly wisdom in verse 14. Worldly wisdom is not of God. It has no relationship to Him, is not obedient to Him, and has no knowledge of His truth.

What is the motive of someone who lives according to worldly wisdom? “Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.” The Greek word translated “bitter” also means “harsh” and is used of bitter, undrinkable water. “Bitter jealousy” carries the idea of a harsh, bitter self-centeredness that produces a resentful attitude toward others. People with bitter jealousy live in a world that focuses on themselves.

They react in a jealous manner toward anyone who threatens their territory, accomplishments, or reputation. They resent anyone who threatens to crowd their slice of this world. They consider people who differ from them as implacable enemies. And they are bitterly jealous of anyone who is successful.

The Greek term translated “selfish ambition” refers to a personal ambition that creates rivalry, antagonism, or a party spirit. That’s another way of pointing to self. The person who follows human wisdom begins with a “bitter jealousy” that creates an attitude of competition and conflict. Then “selfish ambition” generates a party spirit and bitterness toward others. James is saying that ungodly wisdom is self-centered, and its goal is personal gratification at any cost.

What about you? Are you motivated by jealousy and selfish ambition? Be honest in your evaluation. Take a serious inventory of your heart and ask yourself, Am I serving others instead of fulfilling my own desires at the expense of others?

Suggestions for Prayer
* Ask God to convict you when you put yourself before Him and others.
* Repent of any present situations in which you are doing that very thing.

For Further Study
Read the following verses: Genesis 37:4; 1 Samuel 18:8; Luke 15:25-30; 22:24.

* What was the sin in each example?
* Read and study 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to learn how the qualities of love are opposite to human wisdom.

Walking with God

"Enoch walked with God" (Genesis 5:24).

Walking with God includes reconciliation, obedience from the heart, and ongoing faith.
When Scripture speaks of walking with God, it's referring to one's manner of life. For example, Paul prayed that the Colossian believers (and us) would be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so they could walk (live) in a manner worthy of the Lord (Col. 1:9-10). 

To the Ephesians he said, "Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind . . . [but] be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you" (Eph. 4:17; 5:1-2).

The Old Testament describes Enoch as a man who walked with God. Though relatively little is said about this special man, we can derive implications from his life that will help us better understand what it means to walk with God.

First, Enoch's walk with God implies reconciliation. Amos 3:3 says, "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" (NIV). Two people can't have intimate fellowship unless they agree. Obviously Enoch wasn't rebellious toward God, but had been reconciled with Him through faith.

Second, walking with God implies loving service. Second John 6says, "This is love, that we walk according to His commandments." We obey Christ, but our obedience is motivated by love, not legalism or fear of punishment.

Third, a godly walk implies continuing faith, "for we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). Colossians 2:6-7 adds, "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith." By grace Enoch believed God and pleased Him all his life.

Do those who know you best see you as one who walks with God? I trust so. After all, that's the distinguishing mark of a true believer: "The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6).

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for granting the reconciliation, faith, and love that enables you to walk with Him day by day.

For Further Study
What do the following verses teach about your Christian walk: Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; and 1 John 1:7?

John Likened to Elijah

“‘For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come’” (Matthew 11:13–14).

All of God’s Old Testament revelation climaxed in John the Baptist. And the apostle John picked up the theme (which at times had been only implicit) that said, “The Messiah is coming!”
The Lord Jesus suggests a close likeness between John and the prophet Elijah, based on Malachi’s prophecy, which are the final words of the Old Testament: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:5–6).

That Malachi referred to the future John the Baptist and not a literally reincarnated Elijah is clear when we look at Luke 1:17—“It is he [John] who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah.” John himself clearly denied that he was actually Elijah come back (John 1:21). Rather he was like Elijah—inwardly in “spirit and power” and outwardly in independence and nonconformity.
John was uniquely great, in the mold of Elijah and more so than any man but Jesus; but God’s highest bestowing of greatness is not John’s. His greatness, Jesus declared, pales beside those like us who enter God’s spiritual kingdom by trusting in the Son as Lord and Savior. Thus true greatness is to be like Jesus Christ, not like Elijah or John the Baptist.

Ask Yourself
“Spirit and power.” How could these words more readily describe you and your ministry in the kingdom? Are these characteristics the sole possession of the overly demonstrably inclined? Or does “spirit and power” even have a gentle side in the cause of Christ?

Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 11:1–12:28
* Psalm 122:1-5
* Proverbs 28:17-18
* Hebrews 6:1-20

Ezekiel 12:3 prepare…for captivity. This dramatic object lesson by the prophet called for carrying belongings out in a stealthy way as an act that depicted baggage for exile, just the bare necessities. His countrymen carried out such baggage when they went into captivity or sought to escape during Babylon’s takeover of Jerusalem (vv. 7, 11). 

Some attempting to escape were caught as in a net, like King Zedekiah who was overtaken, blinded, and forced into exile. Verse 9 indicates that Ezekiel actually did what he was told.

Ezekiel 12:22 this proverb. Delay had given the people the false impression that the stroke of judgment would never come. In fact, a saying had become popular, no doubt developed by false prophets who caused the people to reject Ezekiel’s visions and prophecies (v. 27) and who gave “flattering divinations” (vv. 23, 24).

Hebrews 6:1 leaving. This “leaving” does not mean to despise or abandon the basic doctrines. They are the place to start, not stop. They are the gate of entrance on the road to salvation in Christ. elementary principles of Christ. As “the oracles of God” in 5:12 refers to the Old Testament, so does this phrase. 

The writer is referring to basic Old Testament teaching that prepared the way for Messiah—the beginning teaching about Christ. These Old Testament “principles” include the 6 features listed in vv. 1, 2. go on to perfection. 

Salvation by faith in Messiah Jesus. The verb is passive, so as to indicate “let us be carried to salvation.” That is not a matter of learners being carried by teachers, but both being carried forward by God. The writer warns his Jewish readers that there is no value in stopping with the Old Testament basics and repeating (“laying again”) what was only intended to be foundational.

Hebrews 6:4 enlightened. They had received instruction in biblical truth which was accompanied by intellectual perception. Understanding the gospel is not the equivalent of regeneration (10:26, 32). In John 1:9, it is clear that enlightening is not the equivalent of salvation. tasted the heavenly gift. Tasting in the figurative sense in the New Testament refers to consciously experiencing something (2:9). The experience might be momentary or continuing. 

Christ’s “tasting” of death (2:9) was obviously momentary and not continuing or permanent. All men experience the goodness of God, but that does not mean they are all saved (Matt. 5:45; Acts 17:25). 

Many Jews, during the Lord’s earthly ministry experienced the blessings from heaven He brought—in healings and deliverance from demons, as well as eating the food He created miraculously (John 6). Whether the gift refers to Christ (John 6:51; 2 Cor. 9:15) or to the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 1:12), experiencing either one was not the equivalent of salvation (John 16:8; Acts 7:51).

To whom is Hebrews 6:4–6, and particularly the phrase “once enlightened,” directed?

The phrase “once enlightened” is often taken to refer to Christians. The accompanying warning, then, is taken to indicate the danger of losing their salvation if they “fall away” and “crucify again for themselves the Son of God.” But the immediate context has no mention of their being saved. They are not described with any terms that apply only to believers (such as holy, born again, righteous, or saints).

The interpretive problem arises from inaccurately identifying the spiritual condition of the ones being addressed. In this case, they were unbelievers who had been exposed to God’s redemptive truth and, perhaps, had made a profession of faith but had not exercised genuine saving faith. Another passage (10:26) addresses the same issue. The subject here is people who come in contact with the gospel but are spiritually unchanged by it. 

Apostate Christians are Christians in name only, not genuine believers who are often incorrectly thought to lose their salvation because of their sins.
There is no possibility of these verses referring to someone losing their salvation. Many Scripture passages make unmistakably clear that salvation is eternal (see, e.g., John 10:27–29; Rom. 8:35, 38, 39; Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:4, 5). 

Those who want to make this passage mean that believers can lose salvation will have to admit that it would then also make the point that one could never get it back again.




Knowing the Right Answers


Keep in Step with the 

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20).
Knowing Christ makes the believer wiser than the world.
Lawrence Toombs, in his 1955 article “O.T. Theology and the Wisdom Literature,” said, “Wisdom is to be found with God and nowhere else. And unless the quest for wisdom brings a man to his knees in awe and reverence, knowing his own helplessness to make himself wise, wisdom remains for him a closed book” (The Journal of Bible and Religion, 23:3 [July 1955], 195). It’s wonderful to have the book of God’s wisdom opened to us as believers.

Through God’s book of wisdom it’s easy for any believer to analyze the world. People who have no biblical background find it difficult to resolve controversial issues like capital punishment, abortion, or homosexuality. But the Bible has clear answers for those seemingly complex issues: If you take a life, you should die (Gen. 9:6); the life within the womb is a person made by God (Ps. 139:13); and homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle but a damning sexual sin like adultery or fornication (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Rom. 1:26-27).

As a Bible-believing Christian you may not be considered “noble” or “mighty” by the world’s standards (1 Cor. 1:26) and may be seen as the refuse of the world (1 Cor. 4:13); but you have the answers to the important questions. Because of God’s sovereign, gracious work, you’ve been ushered into the wisdom of God through fear of the Lord. The apostle Paul said, “You are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). Once you fear God, His wisdom continually flows to you. Paul told the Colossians that in Christ dwells “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). Since Christ dwells in you, you possess the very wisdom of God!

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise the Lord for the privilege of knowing Him and His will through His Word and His Spirit.
* Pray that you might manifest the wisdom of the living God so that the world sees Christ in you.

For Further Study
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. How does the apostle Paul contrast God’s wisdom with the world’s?

Walking by Faith

"By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God" (Heb 11:5).

When you walk by faith, you enjoy intimacy with God.

Our second hero of faith is Enoch. Genesis 5:21-24 records that "Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him."

What a wonderful epitaph: "Enoch walked with God." His life exemplifies the walk of faith. Adam and Eve had walked with God in the Garden of Eden, but their sin separated them from such intimacy. Enoch experienced the fellowship with God they had forfeited.

Enoch's faithful walk pleased God greatly. And after more than three hundred years on earth, Enoch was translated to heaven without ever experiencing death. It's as if God simply said, "Enoch, I enjoy your company so much, I want you to join me up here right now."
Like Enoch, there is coming a generation of Christians who will never see death. Someday—perhaps soon—Jesus will return for His church, "then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up . . . in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:17). 

Enoch is a beautiful picture of that great future event, which we call the rapture of the church.
As you walk with God, He delights in you. You're His child and your praises and fellowship bring Him joy. Psalm 116:15 says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones." Even death itself simply ushers you into His presence for all eternity.

Let the joy of intimacy with God, and the anticipation of seeing Christ face to face—either by rapture or by death— motivate you to please Him more and more each day of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for the promise of Christ's return.
For Further Study
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
* What events surround the rapture of the church?
* How were the Thessalonians to respond to Paul's teaching about the rapture?
* How should you respond?

John and the Kingdom of Heaven

“‘From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force’” (Matthew 11:12).

“The kingdom of heaven” refers to God’s general rule and represents His purpose, message, commands, and activities regarding humanity. This great concept was associated in some fashion with violence since John the Baptist began preaching. Wherever he went, his call for repentance and entrance into the kingdom generated strong and eventually violent opposition.

The verb translated “suffers violence” carries both negative and positive connotations. First is the idea of the kingdom being treated violently by its foes—by those outside it, like the Jewish leaders. They vociferously rejected its spiritual dimension, and so its earthly dimension could not begin for some time.

Second, there is a more proactive and primary meaning to the phrase “suffers violence”—which sees the kingdom as vigorously pressing forward and people forcefully entering it. The angel’s prediction before John’s birth illustrates this positive element (see Luke 1:16–17). Jesus was already teaching about the narrow gate and the narrow way (Matt. 7:13–14), declaring that kingdom citizenship requires self-denial and cross bearing (16:24; cf. 10:38).

To be a Christian today means swimming against the world’s flow, going against its grain, because its satanic system is extremely powerful. Those who truly enter God’s kingdom do so through faith and with great effort—effort that is not their own, but from the sovereign, converting power of the Holy Spirit.

Ask Yourself
You’re certainly familiar with the kingdom of God arousing violent opposition from without. But have you ever thought of it flexing its strength to bring you into its borders? How has the kingdom met you in brute force, causing “violence” to your former manner of living?



Submitting to Wisdom

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psalm 111:10).
Saving faith is obedient faith.

The wisdom of God resulting from the fear of the Lord leads to obedience. When we fear the Lord, we submit to His wisdom and commit ourselves to keeping His commandments. In the New Testament Jesus said the same thing: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). We aren’t always as obedient as we ought to be, but the pattern of our lives turns from disobedience to a submissive heart of obedience. First John 2:3 says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” A person’s claim to be a Christian is meaningless if he’s not obedient.

From a positive perspective, fearing the Lord involves obeying His commandments; from a negative perspective, it involves turning away from evil. Job 28:28 says, “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” 

Equal to wisdom is understanding, and equal to fearing the Lord is departing from evil. Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Obeying the Lord’s commandments and shunning evil are dynamics that work in the soul of one who truly fears God. The fear of the Lord is not some feeling you try to generate within yourself; it’s the result of believing in the true God and living a life of love and obedience to Him. What about you? Does obedience to God’s Word characterize your life?

Suggestions for Prayer
Jesus Christ paid the price for your sin and ushered you into a relationship with God. Honor His work by obeying His Word, and ask Him to help you see evil from His perspective.

For Further Study
Read the following verses: Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 13-15, 24; 8:6; 10:12-13; 13:4; 17:19; 28:58-59; 31:12. What characterizes the life of a person who fears the Lord?


The First Disciple

"Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. And Abel . . . brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard" (Gen. 4:3-5).

True discipleship is characterized by obedience to God’s Word.

In John 8:31 Jesus issued an important statement to a group of people who were showing an interest in Him: "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine." Sadly, they rejected His words, proving themselves to be less than true disciples. Jesus went on to explain why: "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God" (v. 47). 

They listened but didn't really hear. They were interested but not truly committed. They were hearers of the Word but not doers (James 1:22).

In contrast, Abel did what God told him to do. He wa s, in effect, the first disciple. He was probably a better person than Cain—more friendly, moral, and dependable—but that's not why God accepted his sacrifice and rejected Cain's. Abel trusted God, and his faith was counted as righteousness. Like Abraham, whose faith was evidenced by his willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son Isaac (James 2:21-22), Abel's faith was evidenced in his obedient offering. 

He didn't rely on his own goodness but acknowledged his sin and made the prescribed sacrifice.

Perhaps God indicated His acceptance of Abel's sacrifice by consuming it with fire, as He did on other occasions in Scripture (Judg. 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38). But whatever means He used, God made his pleasure known to Abel.

Abel's brief life conveys a simple three-point message: we must come to God by faith; we must receive and obey God's Word; and sin brings serious consequences. If you hear and heed that message, you'll walk the path of true discipleship and be assured of God's pleasure.

Suggestions for Prayer
Make it your goal to please the Lord in everything you do today. Seek His wisdom and grace to do so faithfully.

For Further Study
Read these verses, noting what they say about pleasing God: 2 Corinthians 5:9; Ephesians 5:6-10; Philippians 2:12-13; Hebrews 11:6; and Hebrews 13:15-16, 20-21.


John’s Greatness: His Privileged Call

“‘But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, “Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.” Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’” (Matthew 11:9–11).

God always calls the right person to the right position in the realm of greatness. In John, the greatest man and the greatest human assignment converged—God called him as the valedictory prophet, the most dynamic, articulate, confrontational, and powerful spokesman ever.

Jesus quotes Malachi 3:1 in declaring to the people that John’s privileged call meant he was more than an ordinary prophet. We could expand the Lord’s quotation this way: “Behold, I, Yahweh, send My messenger John the Baptist to be the forerunner of You, the Messiah, and to prepare the people for Your coming.” After centuries of divine preparation and prophecy, God gave John the unequaled privilege of heralding Messiah’s coming.

Jesus’ point here in calling John the greatest is that, humanly speaking, he was the greatest person who had lived until that time. With his superior human qualities, John was unequaled until the God-Man Himself came to earth.

John the Baptist was a spiritual giant, but his privileged call mainly concerned his historic role. In spiritual inheritance, every believer is the equal of John: “The least in the kingdom of heaven [the spiritual realm] is greater than he.” Average saints are greater than anyone in the human realm, including John the Baptist, the one called to be the messianic forerunner. 

That’s a reality for which we should be ever thankful as Christians.

Ask Yourself
How would you define the specific calling God has placed on your life? What duties and responsibilities go into your faithful performance of it? How is God employing your natural abilities in serving Him, while also providing you spiritual gifts as vehicles of grace to others?


Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 7:1–8:18
* Psalm 120:1-7
* Proverbs 28:15
* Hebrews 4:1-16

Ezekiel 8:3 in visions of God. Ezekiel 8–11 deals with details conveyed only to Ezekiel in visions. Ezekiel’s trip to Jerusalem was in spirit only, while his body physically remained in his house. In visions he went to Jerusalem and in visions he returned to Babylon (11:24). After God finished the visions, Ezekiel told his home audience what he had seen. The visions are not a description of deeds done in the past in Israel, but a survey of Israel’s current condition, as they existed at that very time. the seat…image of jealousy. 

God represents to Ezekiel the image of an idol (Deut. 4:16) in the entrance to the inner court of the temple. It is called “the image of jealousy” because it provoked the Lord to jealousy (5:13; 16:38; 36:6; 38:19; Ex. 20:5).

Ezekiel 8:14 weeping for Tammuz. Yet a greater abomination than the secret cult was Israel’s engaging in the Babylonian worship of Tammuz or Dumuzi (Duzu), beloved of Ishtar, the god of spring vegetation. Vegetation burned in the summer, died in the winter, and came to life in the spring. The women mourned over the god’s demise in July and longed for his revival. The fourth month of the Hebrew calendar still bears the name Tammuz. With the worship of this idol were connected the basest immoralities.

Psalm 120:4 Sharp arrows…coals. Lies and false accusations are likened to 1) the pain/injury inflicted in battle by arrows and 2) the pain of being burned with charcoal made from the wood of a broom tree (a desert bush that grows 10 to 15 feet high).
Hebrews 4:12 two-edged sword. 

While the Word of God is comforting and nourishing to those who believe, it is a tool of judgment and execution for those who have not committed themselves to Jesus Christ. Some of the Hebrews were merely going through the motions of belonging to Christ. Intellectually, they were at least partly persuaded, but inside they were not committed to Him. God’s Word would expose their shallow beliefs and even their false intentions (1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Pet. 4:5). division of soul and spirit. 

These terms do not describe two separate entities (any more than “thoughts and intents” do) but are used as one might say “heart and soul” to express fullness (Luke 10:27; Acts 4:32; 1 Thess. 5:23). Elsewhere these two terms are used interchangeably to describe man’s immaterial self, his eternal inner person.

What does Hebrews 4:14–16 teach about prayer?

Just as the high priest under the Old Covenant passed through 3 areas (the outer court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies) to make the atoning sacrifice, Jesus passed through 3 heavens (the atmospheric heaven, the stellar heaven, and God’s abode; 2 Cor. 12:2–4) after making the perfect, final sacrifice (v. 14).

Once a year on the Day of Atonement the high priest of Israel would enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of the people (Lev. 16). That tabernacle was but a limited copy of the heavenly reality (8:1–5).

When Jesus entered into the heavenly Holy of Holies, having accomplished redemption, the earthly facsimile was replaced by the reality of heaven itself. Freed from that which is earthly, the Christian faith is characterized by the heavenly (3:1; Eph. 1:3; 2:6; Phil. 3:20; Col. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:4).

And Jesus as our High Priest was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (v. 15). Jesus became fully capable of understanding and sympathizing with His human brethren.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace” (v. 16). Most ancient rulers were unapproachable by anyone but their highest advisers (Esth. 4:11). In contrast, the Holy Spirit calls for all to come confidently before God’s throne to receive mercy and grace through Jesus Christ. The ark of the covenant was viewed as the place on earth where God sat enthroned between the cherubim (2 Kin. 19:15; Jer. 3:16, 17). Oriental thrones included a footstool—yet another metaphor for the ark (Ps. 132:7). It was at the throne of God that Christ made atonement for sins, and it is there that grace is dispensed to believers for all the issues of life (2 Cor. 4:15; 9:8; 12:9; Eph. 1:7; 2:7).




Knowing God

“‘“The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom”’” (Job 28:28).
Being wise begins with knowing God.

The fear of the Lord is the most basic idea related to wisdom and is the key to understanding it. The Book of Proverbs especially teaches us that the fear of the Lord is inextricably linked to wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). 

Knowledge, wisdom, instruction, and understanding are often used as synonyms in Proverbs. The link between fear of the Lord and wisdom is also evident in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Since wisdom and understanding are parallel, so are the fear of the Lord and knowledge of the Holy One. To know God and to fear God are one and the same.

What does it mean to fear God? It’s a reverential trust, or simply another way of describing saving faith. We begin to be wise when we revere God and trust in Him. When an Old Testament saint wanted to evangelize, he might have said, “Fear God!”

When you read in the Bible of people fearing God or that fearing God is linked to wisdom, that means a person can’t even begin to be wise until he is first converted. Fearing God is the initiation of a life of faith. As long as a person has only human wisdom, he can’t know God or true wisdom.

The fear of the Lord is your entrance to wisdom. It will prolong your life, fulfill your life, enrich your life—it is your life (cf. Prov. 10:27; 14:27). It will open the continual flow of God’s wisdom to you. The significance of everything is tied to the wisdom of God, which alone will give you proper values, guidance, instruction, and perspective in life. Apply His wisdom to your life daily, and enjoy all the benefits that wisdom has to offer.

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for His wisdom by which you are so abundantly blessed.

For Further Study
God’s wisdom enriches our life and gives us proper values and instruction. Read Proverbs 10:1-12, and notice how that is so.


Worshiping God His Way

"By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain" (Heb 11:4).

True worship requires coming to God on His terms.

At the heart of every false religion is the notion that man can come to God by any means he chooses—by meditating, doing good deeds, and so on. But Scripture says, "There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). That name is Jesus Christ, and we come to Him by confessing and repenting of our sin, trusting in His atoning death on the cross, and affirming His bodily resurrection from the grave (cf. Rom. 10:9-10). 

There is no other way to God.
Centuries before Christ's death, God provided a means of worship and sacrifice. Genesis 4:3-5says, "It came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard."

Apparently God had designated a special time for sacrificing because "in the course of time" (v. 3) literally means, "at the end of days"—at the end of a certain period of time. Additionally, He initiated a particular pattern for worship and sacrifices. Otherwise Cain and Abel would have known nothing about how it was to be done.

God required a blood offering for sin. Abel came in faith, acknowledged his sin, and made the appropriate sacrifice. His offering was better than Cain's because Cain neglected the prescribed sacrifice, thereby demonstrating his unwillingness to submit to God and deal with his sin.
There was nothing intrinsically wrong with Cain's offering. Grain, fruit, or vegetable offerings were included in the Mosaic covenant. But the sin offering had to come first. Like so many today, Cain wrongly assumed he could approach God on his own terms. In doing so he became the father of all false religions, and his name became synonymous with rebellion and apostasy (cf. Jude 11).

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for graciously providing salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
* Be careful never to approach Him irreverently or presumptuously.

For Further Study
Read Jude 11. How did Jude describe the false teachers of his day?


John’s Greatness: His Self-Denial

“‘But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces!’” (Matthew 11:8).

The easy way is seldom if ever the way of success. Great generals risk their lives just as their troops do. Great athletes train relentlessly, forgoing the pleasure most people take for granted. And in order to help save other lives, medical researchers sometimes risk exposure to deadly disease to find cures.

The self-indulgent person is not willing to live as John the Baptist did. He wore camel’s hair and a leather belt and ate locusts and honey (Matt. 3:4). His lifestyle was a down-to-earth protest against self-indulgence and self-centeredness. John lived completely apart from the hypocritical, corrupt political and religious systems of his day. His devotion to God’s kingdom completely superseded any personal comforts or attractions to the world’s standards. 

Prior to John’s birth, the angel predicted to Zacharias, John’s father, that John would “be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:15). That was part of the Nazirite vow, along with pledging not to cut one’s hair or touch anything unclean, that many Jews took for a few months or years. But John, along with Samson (Judg. 13:7; 16:17) and Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11), took the vow for life. 

John the Baptist had a lifelong, voluntary commitment to self-denial as an act of devotion and service to God—one aspect of his greatness that Jesus praised.

Ask Yourself
What have you sacrificed in order to stay true to the will of God? What are some things—even good, sinless things—that others are allowed to enjoy, but which cannot be a part of your life for one reason or another?


Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 5:1–6:14
* Psalm 119:169-176
* Proverbs 28:14
* Hebrews 3:1-19

Ezekiel 5:1–4 a barber’s razor. The sign in Ezekiel’s shaving his hair illustrated the severe humiliation to come at the hand of enemies, emphasizing calamities to three segments of Jerusalem due to the Babylonian conquest. Some were punished by fire, i.e., pestilence and famine (v. 12), others died by the enemy’s sword, and some were dispersed and pursued by death (v. 12). A small part of his hair clinging to his garment (v. 3) depicted a remaining remnant, some of whom were subject to further calamity (v. 4; 6:8; Jer. 41–44).

Ezekiel 6:7 you shall know that I am the LORD. This clause recurs in vv. 10, 13, 14, and 60 times elsewhere in the book. It shows that the essential reason for judgment is the violation of the character of God. This is repeatedly acknowledged in Leviticus 18–26, where the motive for all obedience to God’s law is the fact that He is the Lord God.

Hebrews 3:1 consider. The writer asks for the readers’ complete attention and diligent observation of the superiority of Jesus Christ. Apostle and High Priest. An apostle is a “sent one” who has the rights, power, and authority of the one who sends him. Jesus was sent to earth by the Father (John 3:17, 34; 5:36–38; 8:42). The topic of the High Priesthood of Christ, which was begun in 2:17,18 and is mentioned again here, will be taken up again in greater detail in 4:14–10:18.

Meanwhile, the writer presents the supremacy of Christ to Moses (vv. 1–6), to Joshua (4:8), and to all other national heroes and Old Testament preachers whom Jews held in high esteem. Jesus Himself spoke of His superiority to Moses in the same context in which He spoke of His being sent by the Father (John 5:36–38, 45–47; Luke 16:29–31). 

Moses had been sent by God to deliver His people from historical Egypt and its bondage (Ex. 3:10). Jesus was sent by God to deliver His people from spiritual Egypt and its bondage (2:15). of our confession. Christ is the center of our confession of faith in the gospel, both in creed and public testimony. The term is used again in 4:14 and 10:23. In all 3 uses in Hebrews, there is a sense of urgency. Surely, the readers would not give up Christ, whom they had professed, and reject what He had done for them, if they could understand the superiority of His Person and work.

What are the central warnings for believers in the Book of Hebrews?

Beyond its value as a doctrinal treatise, this book is intensely practical in its application to everyday living. The writer himself even refers to his letter as a “word of exhortation” (13:22). 

Exhortations designed to stir the readers into action are found throughout the text. Those exhortations are given in the form of 6 warnings:

1. Warning against drifting from “the things we have heard” (2:1–4)

2. Warning against disbelieving the “voice” of God (3:7–14)

3. Warning against degenerating from “the elementary principles of Christ” (5:11–6:20)

4. Warning against despising “the knowledge of the truth” (10:26–39)

5. Warning against devaluing “the grace of God” (12:15–17)

6. Warning against departing from Him “who speaks” (12:25–29)

For example, when the writer warns of the danger of drifting (2:1), he uses some vivid nautical terms. The phrase “earnest heed” refers to mooring a ship by securing it to a dock. The second phrase “drift away” was often used of a ship that had been allowed to drift past the harbor. The warning is to secure oneself to the truth of the gospel in such a way as to not pass by the only harbor of salvation. The alternate tendency toward apathy points to those who make a shipwreck of their lives.




Searching for Wisdom

“‘Where can wisdom be found?’” (Job 28:12).
Wisdom is found in a Person, not a place.

In ancient days men would drill a shaft deep into a mountain or the ground, suspend themselves with a rope, and hang in the shaft while they tried to find some metal or precious stone to mine. In the Old Testament Job described the process this way: “He [man] sinks a shaft far from habitation, forgotten by the foot; they hang and swing to and fro far from men” (Job 28:4). 

The miner searched far below the earth’s surface for “anything precious” (v. 10).
Man goes to great efforts to search for precious metals. “But,” Job says, “where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living. . . . Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can silver be weighed as its price” (vv. 12-13, 15). Nothing in the world can buy wisdom, and it can’t be found in the things of the world.

So where does wisdom come from? Job says, “It is hidden from the eyes of all living. . . . Abaddon [Destruction] and Death say, ‘With our ears we have heard a report of it.’ God understands its way; and He knows its place” (vv. 2123). If you are searching for wisdom, go to God. He knows where wisdom is because “He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens. . . . And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding’” (vv. 24, 28).

What is true wisdom? To fear God and depart from evil. Wisdom isn’t a question of how much you know, but of whether you love the Lord your God and depart from sin. Only when you pursue God will you know true wisdom.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help you adorn your life with the ornaments of His true wisdom and have a winsome testimony that attracts others to Christ.

For Further Study
Read the following verses, noting how both the Old and New Testaments tell us that God is the source of true wisdom: Job 9:4; Psalm 104:24; Proverbs 3:19-20; Romans 11:33; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 1:17 (NKJV).


Leaving a Righteous Legacy

"By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks" (Heb 11:4).

The character of your life will determine the legacy you leave to others.

Bible scholar James Moffatt wrote, "Death is never the last word in the life of a . . . man. When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something in the world. He may leave something that will grow and spread like a cancer or a poison, or he may leave something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that permeates the atmosphere with blessing."

That's illustrated in the lives of Adam and Eve's first sons: Cain and Abel. Cain was an unrighteous man who sought to please God by his own efforts. God rejected him (Gen. 4:5). Abel was a righteous man who worshiped God in true faith. God accepted Him (v. 4).

In a jealous rage, Cain murdered Abel, becoming the first human being to take the life of another. He forever stands as a testimony to the utter tragedy of attempting to please God apart from true faith. For "without faith," Hebrews 11:6 says, "it is impossible to please Him." Cain tried and failed—as have millions who have followed in his footsteps.

Abel, on the other hand, was the first man of faith. Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve had no need of faith in the same way as their descendants. They lived in the paradise of Eden and had direct contact with God. Their children were the first to have need of faith in its fullest sense.

Cain's legacy is rebellion, heartache, and judgment. Abel's is righteousness, justice, and saving faith. His life proclaims the central message of redemption: righteousness is by faith alone.

What legacy will you leave to those who follow? I pray they will see in you a pattern of righteousness and faithfulness that inspires them to follow suit.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God for righteous Abel and all who have followed his example.
* Ask Him to guard you from ever rebelling against His Word.

For Further Study
Read Genesis 4:1-16 and 1 John 3:11-12.
* What was God's counsel to Cain after rejecting his offering?
* Why did Cain kill Abel?
* How did God punish Cain?


John’s Greatness: Strong Convictions

“As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?’” (Matthew 11:7).

The world uses many standards—intellectual achievement, public service, wealth, athletic skill, and others—to measure greatness. But here Jesus begins to portray real greatness in the character qualities of John the Baptist. Strength of conviction was one of those qualities, and it was even more remarkable given his doubts about Jesus that John’s disciples had just presented. His foundational convictions were strong enough that raising some doubts was not a cause for embarrassment or shame for John.

But hearing of John’s doubt caused perplexity among the onlookers. Was the Baptist, the model of boldness and certainty, no longer trustworthy in view of his public admission of misgivings about Jesus?
To reaffirm that John’s convictions were strong, Jesus appealed to the listeners’ own experiences, asking in effect, “Was the spokesman you saw preaching and baptizing uncertain and vacillating, like ‘a reed shaken by the wind’?” The reed was common to the riverbanks of the Middle East, a light and flexible stalk that easily bent back and forth in the wind. But the people knew that if ever there had been a man of unswerving belief, it was John. In fact, his bold stand for righteousness had landed him in prison.

“A double-minded man [is] unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8; cf. Eph. 4:14). But that was not John the Baptist, who like William Penn believed that “right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”

Ask Yourself
In what ways has your life exhibited reed-like qualities, bending to challenges that required a sturdy backbone and a steady faith? How, on the other hand, has God enabled you to mirror the boldness of John in your obedience to Christ’s call? Thank God for His provision and empowerment.


Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 3:1–4:17
* Psalm 119:161-168
* Proverbs 28:13
* Hebrews 2:1-18


Ezekiel 3:8,9 I have made your face strong. What God commands (“do not be afraid”) He gives sufficiency to do (“I have made”), so God will enable the prophet to live up to his name (which means “strengthened by God”). 2:2; 3:14, 24; Is. 41:10; Jer. 1:8, 17.

Ezekiel 3:9 rebellious. It is sad to observe that the exile and affliction did not make the Jews more responsive to God; rather, they were hardened by their sufferings. God gave Ezekiel a “hardness” to surpass the people and sustain his ministry as prophet to the exiles.

Ezekiel 3:17 a watchman. This role was spiritually analogous to the role of watchmen on a city wall, vigilant to spot the approach of an enemy and warn the residents to muster a defense. The prophet gave timely warnings of approaching judgment. The work of a watchman is vividly set forth in 2 Samuel 18:24–27 and 2 Kings 9:17–20.

Hebrews 2:4 signs…wonders,…miracles…gifts. The supernatural powers demonstrated by Jesus and by His apostles were the Father’s divine confirmation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, His Son (John 10:38; Acts 2:22; Rom. 15:19; 1 Cor. 14:22; 2 Cor.12:12). 

This authentication of the message was the purpose of such miraculous deeds. the Holy Spirit. The epistle’s first reference to the Holy Spirit refers in passing to His ministry of confirming the message of salvation by means of miraculous gifts. Mentioned elsewhere in the epistle are the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the revelation of Scripture (3:7; 10:15), in teaching (9:8), in pre-salvation operations (6:4, perhaps His convicting work; 10:29, common grace), and in ministry to Christ (9:14).

Hebrews 2:14 partaken…shared. The Greek word for “partaken” means fellowship, communion, or partnership. “Shared” means to take hold of something that is not related to one’s own kind. The Son of God was not by nature “flesh and blood,” but took upon Himself that nature for the sake of providing redemption for mankind. death…power of death. 

This is the ultimate purpose of the Incarnation: Jesus came to earth to die. By dying, He was able to conquer death in His resurrection (John 14:19). By conquering death, He rendered Satan powerless against all who are saved. Satan’s using the power of death is subject to God’s will (Job 2:6).

Hebrews 2:17 propitiation. The word means “to conciliate” or “satisfy.” Christ’s work of propitiation is related to His High Priestly ministry. By His partaking of a human nature, Christ demonstrated His mercy to mankind and His faithfulness to God by satisfying God’s requirement for sin and thus obtaining for His people full forgiveness.

How can we know whether Ezekiel’s language is descriptive of a literal event or symbolic of an idea or principle?

Ezekiel’s life offered his audience a sequence of experiences and actions that became teachable moments. Some of these were scenes in visions that held special significance. For example, the first three chapters of the book report extended visions in which the prophet saw a whirlwind, heavenly creatures, and an edible scroll. He also received his call to the prophetic ministry.
In addition, Ezekiel carried out certain unusual or highly symbolic actions that were intended to picture a message or convey a warning. In 4:1–3, the prophet was directed to carve on a clay tablet and then use an iron plate as a sign about the danger facing Jerusalem. Other acted-out sermons followed: symbolic sleeping postures (4:4–8), siege bread making and baking (4:9–17), and haircutting and burning (5:1–4). 

God instructed Ezekiel to respond even to the tragedies in his life in such a way that a message was communicated to the people. The prophet learned of his wife’s impending death but was told by God that his loss would provide an important lesson the people needed to hear. Just as Ezekiel was not allowed to mourn, the people would not be allowed to mourn when they finally faced the “death” of Jerusalem. 

“‘Thus Ezekiel is a sign to you; according to all that he has done you shall do; and when this comes, you shall know that I am the Lord GOD’” (Ezek. 24:24).

The unique nature of Ezekiel’s approach creates a striking contrast between the clarity of his message and the willful rejection of that message by the people. His ministry removed every excuse.




Living a Fulfilled Life

“Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Living life apart from God is futile.

The Book of Ecclesiastes is greatly misunderstood. It is a difficult book to read simply because it is hard to understand. Everything in it appears wrong and as if it doesn’t fit with the rest of Scripture. But it is part of the Old Testament wisdom literature because it is a statement of human wisdom. Ecclesiastes tells us how man perceives his world, God, and the realities of life.

Most scholars believe Ecclesiastes was penned by Solomon. They debate whether he wrote it before he was a true believer or after. He may have written it in retrospect, or he may have penned it sometime before he had a full understanding of the life-changing truth of God.

Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book because it reveals the folly, uselessness, senselessness, and frustration of human wisdom—that which James calls “earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15). In Ecclesiastes 1:16Solomon says to himself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me.” 

That verse shows me that when God initially gave Solomon wisdom, He gave it to him on a human level. He gave Solomon wisdom to make successful decisions and judgments as king. But although divine wisdom was available to him, I believe Solomon opted for human wisdom the greater portion of his life. And that wisdom was never able to answer his ultimate questions.

The sum of Solomon’s perspective on human wisdom is in Ecclesiastes 4:23: “I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed.” That’s a death wish and is the logical end of worldly wisdom—futility.

Fortunately, Solomon did eventually embrace true wisdom. At the end of his book, he said, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (12:13). What then can satisfy your heart and make life worth living? The wisdom of God alone.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help you follow His ways for a blessed and fulfilled life.

For Further Study
Read Proverbs 3:13-26, noting how the benefits of true wisdom are in contrast to what Solomon experienced.


Knowledge Through Faith

"By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible."

God’s greatest truths are discovered by simple faith.
As a man or woman of faith, you have insights into life that unbelievers can't know. You know how the physical universe began, where it is heading, and how it will end. You know Who governs the universe and how you fit into the total scheme of things. You know why you exist and how to invest your life in matters of eternal consequence.

Unbelievers can't possibly appreciate those things because "a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor. 2:14).

Some of the most basic issues of life remain a mystery to most people because they refuse God's counsel. For example, the most brilliant thinkers have never agreed on the origin of the universe. Theirs is a futile attempt to explain what is beyond the realm of scientific investigation.

But such things aren't beyond the realm of knowing—if a person is willing to be taught by God's Word. For the Bible clearly states that God spoke the physical universe into existence, creating visible matter from what was non-physical or invisible (Rom. 4:17). No humans observed that event. It cannot be measured or repeated. It must be taken by faith.

Any attempt to explain the origin of the universe or the nature of man apart from God's Word is foolhardy. The unregenerate mind, no matter how brilliant it might be, cannot fathom such things.
So never feel you have to apologize for trusting God's Word. Let the confidence of the psalmist be yours: "I have more insight than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Thy precepts" (Ps. 119:99-100).

Suggestions for Prayer
Read Genesis 1-2 as a reminder of the power and wisdom of God in creating the universe. From those chapters select specific things to praise Him for.

For Further Study
Memorize Psalm 19:1. Can you think of ways that the natural creation brings glory to God? (See also Romans 1:18-20.)


Jesus Reassures John, Part 2

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me’” (Matthew 11:4–6).

Jesus’ deity and His message of salvation by grace through faith have been great stumbling blocks for many unbelieving sinners, but Christ did not want such doubt and unbelief to affect John. It is likely that the Lord’s response was more than adequate to renew John’s faith and confidence, even though his circumstances, humanly speaking, went from bad to worse and he was beheaded.

After burying John’s body, his disciples reported the news to Jesus (Matt. 14:12), probably because the most important person in John’s life was now their Savior as well. At death, John likely still wondered when Jesus would judge the wicked and establish His righteous kingdom. The forerunner probably also regretted not being able to see the great events he’d faithfully preached about. But his doubts about Jesus’ identity were at an end, and he was content to leave in God’s sovereign hands the things he never fully understood.  This last trait is the secret for any saint who would be blessed and not cause offense.

The Baptist would have ultimately affirmed the apostle John's later declaration, "Beloved, now we are children of God . . . we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2–3). Knowing this, we can always approach Jesus, even while in temporary doubt.

Ask Yourself
Have you ever thought about what your final words will be if the Lord enables you to utter some parting thoughts at your passing? How do you think you’d want to sum up your experience on earth with the Lord and your perspective on life, looking back?


Reading for Today:
* Ezekiel 1:1–2:10
* Psalm 119:153-160
* Proverbs 28:12
* Hebrews 1:1-14

Ezekiel 1:4 whirlwind…fire. Judgment on Judah in a further and totally devastating phase (beyond the 597 B.C. deportation) is to come out of the north, and did come from Babylon in 588–586 (as Jer. 39; 40). Its terror is depicted by a fiery whirlwind emblematic of God’s judgments and the golden brightness signifying dazzling glory.

Ezekiel 1:16 wheel in the middle of a wheel. This depicted the gigantic (v. 15, “on the earth” and “so high,” v. 18) energy of the complicated revolutions of God’s massive judgment machinery bringing about His purposes with unerring certainty.

Ezekiel 2:2 the Spirit entered me. What God commands a servant to do (v. 1), He gives power to fulfill by His Spirit (3:14; Zech. 4:6). This pictures the selective empowering by the Holy Spirit to enable an individual for special service to the Lord, which occurred frequently in the Old Testament. (For examples see 11:5; 37:1; Num. 24:2; Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 1 Sam.10:10; 16:13, 14; 19:20; 2 Chr. 15:1; Luke 4:18.)

Hebrews 1:2 last days. Jews understood the “last days” to mean the time when the Messiah (Christ) would come (Num. 24:14; Jer. 33:14–16; Mic. 5:1, 2; Zech. 9:9, 16). The fulfillment of the messianic prophecies commenced with the advent of the Messiah. Since He came, it has been the “last days” (1 Cor. 10:11; James 5:3; 1 Pet. 1:20; 4:7; 1 John 2:18). In the past, God gave revelation through His prophets; but in these times, beginning with the Messiah’s Advent, God spoke the message of redemption through the Son. heir. 

Everything that exists will ultimately come under the control of the Son of God, the Messiah. This “inheritance” is the full extension of the authority which the Father has given to the Son (Dan. 7:13, 14; Matt. 28:18), as the “firstborn.” worlds. The word can also be translated “ages.” It refers to time, space, energy, and matter—the entire universe and everything that makes it function (John 1:3).

Hebrews 1:8, 9 He says. Quoting from Psalm 45:6, 7, the writer argues for the Deity and the lordship of the Son over creation (v. 3). The text is all the more significant since the declaration of the Son’s Deity is presented as the words of the Father Himself (Is. 9:6; Jer. 23:5, 6; John 5:18; Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20). It is clear that the writer of Hebrews had the 3 messianic offices in mind: Prophet (v. 1), Priest (v. 3), and King (vv. 3, 8). Induction into those 3 offices required anointing (v. 9). The title “Messiah” (“Christ”) means “anointed one” (Is. 61:1–3; Luke 4:16–21).

To which Hebrews was this book written?

Although the author and the original recipients of this letter are unknown, the title, dating as early as the second century A.D., had been “To the Hebrews.” The title certainly fits the content. The epistle exudes a Jewish mind-set. References to Hebrew history and religion abound. And since no particular Gentile or pagan practice gains any attention in the book, the church has kept the traditional title.

A proper interpretation of this epistle requires the recognition that it addresses 3 distinct groups of Hebrews:
1. Hebrew Christians who suffered rejection and persecution by fellow Jews (10:32–34), although none as yet had been martyred (12:4). The letter was written to give them encouragement and confidence in Christ, their Messiah and High Priest. They were an immature group of believers who were tempted to hold on to the symbolic and spiritually powerless rituals and traditions of Judaism.
2. Jewish unbelievers who were intellectually convinced of the basic truths of the gospel but who had not placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their own Savior and Lord. They were intellectually persuaded but spiritually uncommitted. These unbelievers are addressed in such passages as 2:1–3; 6:4–6; 10:26–29; and 12:15–17.
3. Jewish unbelievers who were attracted by the gospel and the Person of Christ but who had reached no final conviction about Him. Chapter 9 is largely devoted to them.




Being Wise in Adversity

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

Wisdom teaches us how to handle adversity.

In his wonderful commentary on the book of James, Robert Johnstone wrote the following about meekness:
That “the meek” should “inherit the earth”—that they bear wrongs, and exemplify the love which “seeketh not her own”—to a world that believes in high-handedness and self-assertion, and pushing the weakest to the wall, a statement like this of the Lord from Heaven cannot but appear an utter paradox. The man of the world desires to be counted anything but “meek” or “poor in spirit,” and would deem such a description of him equivalent to a charge of unmanliness.

Ah, brethren, this is because we have taken in Satan’s conception of manliness instead of God’s. One man has been shown us by God, in whom His ideal of man was embodied; and He, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: He for those who nailed Him to the tree prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” The world’s spirit of wrath, then, must be folly; whilst than a spirit of meekness like His, in the midst of controversy, oppositions, trials of whatever kind, there can be no surer evidence that “Jesus is made of God to His people wisdom” (The Epistle of James[Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1978], 272-273).

Johnstone recognized more than a hundred years ago what we need to know today—that the wisdom of man is arrogant, conceited, and self-serving, whereas the wisdom of God is humble, meek, and non-retaliatory.

The contrast between false wisdom and true wisdom is crystal-clear. Be sure you handle adversity in a Christlike way, knowing that every detail of your life is under God’s sovereign control.

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank the Lord for His example of how to respond to adversity (cf. 1 Peter 2:21-24).

For Further Study
Read Philippians 2:1-11, applying Christ’s example to your life (vv. 1-5).


Gaining God's Approval

"By [faith] the men of old gained approval" (Heb. 11:2).
God makes His approval known to those who trust in Him.

The book Catch-22 tells of a squadron of World War II fliers stationed on the fictitious island of Pianos in the Mediterranean. Before a flier could transfer off the island, he had to complete 25 extremely dangerous missions over southern Europe.
One flier, Yosarian, was especially anxious to leave. 

After completing his twenty-fifth mission, his commanding officer began raising the number of qualifying missions. 

Insanity became the only justification for a transfer. But the commander decided that whomever feigned insanity to obtain a transfer simply proved his sanity by that sane act!

Realizing it was all a cruel game with no way out, Yosarian devised a plan to build a raft and float to Sweden. Even though there was a whole continent between him and Sweden and the ocean currents would take him in the opposite direction, he couldn't be dissuaded. He took a leap into the absurd with a hopeless and impossible plan to escape a hopeless and impossible situation.

In their relentless quest for meaning in life, many people become spiritual Yosarians. Rejecting God, who is the only sure and rational answer to life, they jump headlong into alcohol, drugs, witchcraft, astrology, reincarnation, or countless other absurdities.

Many acknowledge God, but try to gain His approval through self-righteous deeds apart from true faith. In either case the results are the same: no faith, no salvation, no hope, no peace, and no assurance.

But those who take God at His word and approach Him in true faith receive His approval and enjoy His blessings. Theirs isn't a blind leap into the absurd, but a living hope in the God who made man and who alone can fulfill man's deepest longings. 

They know the joy and satisfaction of a life spent in service to Christ, and the peace and assurance that all is well—both now and for eternity.

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray for those you know who have rejected God or are trying to gain His approval on their own. Explain to them the meaning and purpose Christ alone can bring to their lives.

For Further Study
According to 2 Timothy 2:24-26, what is the spiritual state of those who oppose the gospel, and how are we to approach them?


Jesus Reassures John, Part 1

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me’” (Matthew 11:4–6).

The Lord Jesus always has the best answer for every distinct situation. Rather than a terse yes-or-no answer to John the Baptist, Jesus reported to his disciples a reminder of the healing miracles already so well-reported and witnessed. 

The signs had prompted many to follow Jesus (Matt. 4:23–25), and notable healings were well publicized: the cleansing of an unclean spirit (Mark 1:28), Jairus’s daughter (Matt. 9:26), and the Galilean leper (Luke 5:15).

Jesus greatly loved John the Baptist, and because he was His faithful forerunner, our Lord purposed to give him a personal and direct report of miracle-working evidence about Himself. Concerning this time of John’s doubting, Luke writes, “At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind” (Luke 7:21). 

What He did included nothing to improve John’s difficult circumstances, but He did send him a special confirmation that He was indeed performing messianic works. Such miracles occurred in keeping with Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa. 35:5; 61:1).

In essence, Jesus’ initial reassurance to John said, “These things are just a preview of My coming kingdom. You can see by what I do now that I care, that I heal, and that I have control over all things.”

Ask Yourself
Does anything please you more than seeing God’s kingdom advanced and His name being honored? What other priorities threaten to dethrone this goal from being your top reason for satisfaction?


Reading for Today:
* Lamentations 3:1–5:22
* Psalm 119:145-152
* Proverbs 28:11
* Philemon 1-25

Lamentations 3:8 He shuts out my prayer. God’s non-response to Jeremiah’s prayers was not because Jeremiah was guilty of personal sin (Ps. 66:18); rather, it was due to Israel’s perpetual sin without repentance (Jer. 19:15). God’s righteousness to judge that sin must pursue its course (Jer. 7:16; 11:14). Jeremiah knew that, yet prayed, wept (vv. 48–51), and longed to see repentance.

Lamentations 3:22–24 His compassions fail not. As bleak as the situation of judgment had become, God’s covenant lovingkindness was always present (vv. 31, 32), and His incredible faithfulness always endured so that Judah would not be destroyed forever (Mal. 3:6).

Philemon 1 prisoner of Christ Jesus. At the time of writing, Paul was a prisoner in Rome. Paul was imprisoned for the sake of and by the sovereign will of Christ (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:19, 20; Phil. 1:13; Col. 4:3). By beginning with his imprisonment and not his apostolic authority, Paul made this letter a gentle and singular appeal to a friend. A reminder of Paul’s severe hardships was bound to influence Philemon’s willingness to do the comparatively easy task Paul was about to request.

Philemon 16 more than a slave—a beloved brother. Paul did not call for Onesimus’s freedom (1 Cor. 7:20–22), but that Philemon would receive his slave now as a fellow believer in Christ (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1; 1 Tim. 6:2). Christianity never sought to abolish slavery, but rather to make the relationships within it just and kind. in the flesh. In this physical life (Phil. 1:22), as they worked together. in the Lord. The master and slave were to enjoy spiritual oneness and fellowship as they worshiped and ministered together.

What is the background for the Book of Philemon?

Philemon had been saved under Paul’s ministry, probably at Ephesus (v. 19), several years earlier. Wealthy enough to have a large house (v. 2), Philemon also owned at least one slave, a man named Onesimus (literally, “useful”; a common name for slaves). Onesimus was not a believer at the time he stole some money (v. 18) from Philemon and ran away. Like countless thousands of other runaway slaves, Onesimus fled to Rome, seeking to lose himself in the imperial capital’s teeming and nondescript slave population. 

Through circumstances not recorded in Scripture, Onesimus met Paul in Rome and became a Christian.
The apostle quickly grew to love the runaway slave (vv. 12,16) and longed to keep Onesimus in Rome (v. 13), where he was providing valuable service to Paul in his imprisonment (v. 11). 

But by stealing and running away from Philemon, Onesimus had both broken Roman law and defrauded his master. Paul knew those issues had to be dealt with and decided to send Onesimus back to Colosse. It was too hazardous for him to make the trip alone (because of the danger of slave-catchers), so Paul sent him back with Tychicus, who was returning to Colosse with the Epistle to the Colossians (Col. 4:7–9). 

Along with Onesimus, Paul sent Philemon this beautiful personal letter, urging him to forgive Onesimus and welcome him back to service as a brother in Christ (vv. 15–17).



Manifesting a Wise Attitude

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13).
A wise person is a gentle person.

A believer will demonstrate that he possesses the wisdom of God not only by his behavior, but also by his attitude. True wisdom is characterized by gentleness and is the opposite of self-promotion and arrogance. Gentleness is the trait that characterized our Lord. 

In Matthew 11:29 He says, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” It is also a trait belonging to all the members of His kingdom. In Matthew 5:5 the Lord says, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” “Gentleness” is also a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23).

The word translated “gentleness” is from the Greek word praus, which can also be translated “meek” or “tender.” Praus is often used of a gentle voice, a gentle breeze, or a gentle animal. It was also used of a horse that was broken. The Greeks characterized meekness as power under control; in the believer’s case, that means being under the control of God. It’s a freedom from malice, bitterness, or any desire for revenge. The only way to truly define meekness is in the context of relationships because it refers to how we treat others. It should characterize our relationship with both man and God.
How about your attitude? Is it characterized by meekness, humility, gentleness, and mildness, or do you tend to display an arrogant, selfish attitude toward others?

Suggestions for Prayer
Christ is the perfect example of gentleness. Thank Him for this attribute, and ask Him to help you be like Him.

For Further Study
* In 1 Thessalonians 2:7 what analogy does Paul use to characterize his ministry?
* Also read 2 Timothy 2:24 and Titus 3:2. To whom should we be gentle?


Having a Faith That Responds

"Faith is . . . the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).
True faith goes beyond assurance to action.

When the writer said, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen", he used two parallel and almost identical phrases to define faith.

We've seen that faith is the assurance that all God's promises will come to pass in His time. "The conviction of things not seen" takes the same truth a step further by implying a response to what we believe and are assured of.
James addressed the issue this way: "Someone may well say, 'You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.'. . . But are you willing to recognize . . . that faith without works is useless? . . . For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (James 2:18, 26). In other words, a non-responsive faith is no faith at all.

Noah had a responsive faith. He had never seen rain because rain didn't exist prior to the Flood. Perhaps he knew nothing about building a ship. Still, he followed God's instructions and endured 120 years of hard work and ridicule because he believed God was telling the truth. His work was a testimony to that belief.

Moses considered "the reproach of Christ [Messiah] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward" (Heb. 11:26). Messiah wouldn't come to earth for another 1,400 years, but Moses forsook the wealth and benefits of Egypt to pursue the messianic hope.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when faced with a life- threatening choice, chose to act on their faith in God, whom they couldn't see, rather than bow to Nebuchadnezzar, whom they could see all too well (Dan. 3). Even if it meant physical death, they wouldn't compromise their beliefs.

I pray that the choices you make today will show you are a person of strong faith and convictions.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Ask God to increase and strengthen your faith through the events of this day.
* Look for specific opportunities to trust Him more fully.

For Further Study
Read Daniel 3:1-20. How was the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tested?


Unfulfilled Expectations for John

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’” (Matthew 11:2–3). 

It has often been difficult for Christians to understand why the Lord allows them to wait for Him to fulfill certain promises. It was even harder for John the Baptist, given his expectations. John had a strong devotion to righteousness as a prophetic voice divinely called to preach repentance and judgment. God had also called him to herald the coming Messiah, who would render judgment. 

John expected this to happen immediately or at least soon after Messiah appeared.
The second part of John’s question, “Shall we look for someone else?” would indicate he was dealing with unfulfilled expectations regarding Messiah. Under the Spirit’s direction he had preached about Christ’s ministry of judgment (see Matt. 3:11–12). 

John knew his preaching was true and that Jesus was that One about whom he preached, yet He had not yet done the stringent things John proclaimed.

As John sat in prison he must have recalled the psalmist’s cry, “Surely there is a God who judges on earth!” (Ps. 58:11; cf. 9:3–4; 52:1–5; Rev. 6:10).

Believers today sometimes have high expectations about the soon return of Christ, but when that doesn’t happen, their hope and dedication often fades. They don’t stop believing in the second coming, but they don’t think about that hope nearly as much as before. But, as Jesus reassured John, they can know that God’s program remains on His schedule, as Peter assured his readers, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you” (2 Peter 3:9a; cf. vv. 3–8).

Ask Yourself
How have expectations affected your own outlook on God and the life of faith? Does this mean you should lower your expectations to make them less likely to go unmet? How do you make yourself less susceptible to being waylaid by disappointment?


Reading for Today:
* Lamentations 1:1–2:22
* Psalm 119:137-144
* Proverbs 28:9-10
* Titus 3:1-15

Lamentations 1:21, 22 Bring on the day. A prayer that God will likewise bring other ungodly people into judgment, especially Babylon (2:20–22; 3:64–66; 4:21, 22). Such prayers are acceptable against the enemies of God (Ps. 109:14, 15).

Lamentations 2:20 See, O LORD, and consider! The chapter closes by placing the issue before God. women eat their offspring. Hunger became so desperate in the 18-month siege that women resorted to the unbelievable—even eating their children (4:10; Lev. 26:29; Deut. 28:53, 56, 57; Jer. 19:9).

Titus 3:1–11 In his closing remarks, Paul admonished Titus to remind believers under his care of their attitudes toward: 1) the unsaved rulers (v.1) and people in general (v. 2); 2) their previous state as unbelievers lost in sin (v. 3); 3) of their gracious salvation through Jesus Christ (vv. 4–7); 4) of their righteous testimony to the unsaved world (v. 8); 5) and of their responsibility to oppose false teachers and factious members within the church (vv.9–11). All of these matters are essential to effective evangelism.

Titus 3:3 ourselves. It is not that every believer has committed every sin listed here, but rather that before salvation every life is characterized by such sins. That sobering truth should make believers humble in dealing with the unsaved, even those who are grossly immoral and ungodly. If it weren’t for God’s grace to His own, they would all be wicked.

What is the Book of Lamentations about?
The prophetic seeds of Jerusalem’s destruction were sown through Joshua 800 years in advance (Josh. 3:15, 16). Now, for over 40 years, Jeremiah had prophesied of coming judgment and been scorned by the people for preaching doom (ca. 645–605 B.C.).When that judgment came on the disbelieving people from Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army, Jeremiah still responded with great sorrow and compassion toward his suffering and obstinate people. 

Lamentations relates closely to the Book of Jeremiah, describing the anguish over Jerusalem’s receiving God’s judgment for unrepentant sins. In the book that bears his name, Jeremiah had predicted the calamity in chapters 1–29. 

In Lamentations, he concentrates in more detail on the bitter suffering and heartbreak that was felt over Jerusalem’s devastation (Ps. 46:4, 5). So critical was Jerusalem’s destruction that the facts are recorded in 4 separate Old Testament chapters: 2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 39:1–11; 52; and 2 Chronicles 36:11–21.

All 154 verses have been recognized by the Jews as a part of their sacred canon. Along with Ruth, Esther, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes, Lamentations is included among the Old Testament books of the Megilloth, or “five scrolls,” which were read in the synagogue on special occasions. Lamentations is read on the ninth of Ab (July/Aug.) to remember the date of Jerusalem’s destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. Interestingly, this same date later marked the destruction of Herod’s temple by the Romans in A.D. 70.



Proving You Are Wise

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13).
Divine wisdom produces a changed life.

The one who possesses godly wisdom will show it in his life. That’s why James says, “Let him show by his good behavior his deeds” (3:13, emphasis added). The phrase “let him show” is a command to demonstrate one’s wisdom and understanding. That is the thrust of James 2:14-26, summarized in verse 26: “Faith without works is dead.” 

A person’s claim to have faith will be validated by his works. Similarly, James is saying that if you claim to be wise, you need to demonstrate it. From God’s perspective, wisdom is made manifest by the way a person conducts his life.

How will a person show he has true wisdom? By his “good behavior” (3:13). The Greek word translated “good” means “lovely,” “beautiful,” “attractive,” “noble,” or “excellent.” The term translated “behavior” speaks of one’s lifestyle or activity. If a person truly has divine wisdom and living faith, he will show it by his good conduct and excellent lifestyle.

James becomes specific when he says, “Let him show by his good behavior his deeds” (v. 13, emphasis added). He is focusing on the details. The wisdom of God alters not only your general conduct, but also what you do specifically. Every act within a person’s life is consistent with how he conducts his entire life. If it’s a life based on the wisdom of God, each aspect of his life will reveal that. 

The general pattern of his life and the specific things he does will reflect the work, the way, and the will of God. Take time to examine your life and see whether your conduct proves that you possess the true wisdom of God.

Suggestions for Prayer
A wise person will manifest good behavior. Read Psalm 119:33-40, making the prayer of the psalmist your own.

For Further Study
Your conduct will reveal whether you’re living wisely. What do the following verses say about how you should live: Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Peter 2:12; and 2 Peter 3:11?


The Hope That Assures

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for" (Heb. 11:1).
Faith is the solid ground on which we stand as we await the fulfillment of God's promises.
An elderly man who, on his seventy-fifth birthday, received an invitation to fly over the little West Virginia town in which he had spent his entire life. 

Although he had never before flown, the man accepted the gracious offer.

After circling the town for about twenty minutes, the pilot safely returned his passenger to the ground. The man's grandson greeted him excitedly, asking, "Were you scared, Grandpa?" "No," he replied sheepishly, "but I never did put my full weight down."

Unlike that hesitant grandfather, true faith trusts fully in its object. For the Christian, that means resting in God and His promises. That's the primary characteristic of each faithful individual listed in Hebrews 11. They all believed God and responded accordingly.

People often confuse faith with a wistful longing that something, however unlikely, will come to pass in the future. But "assurance" in Hebrews 11:1 speaks of essence and reality— the real thing, as opposed to mere appearance. Faith, then, involves absolute certainty.

For example, the Old Testament saints had the promise of a coming Messiah who would take away sin. They believed God, even though their understanding of Messiah was incomplete and somewhat vague. They knew their hopes would be fulfilled, and that assurance dominated their lives. 

It's the same for New Testament believers. Peter said, "Though you have not seen [Christ], you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet. 1:8-9).

Man's natural tendency is to trust only in the things he can see, hear, touch, or taste. But our physical senses may lie, whereas God cannot (Titus 1:2). Far better to believe God and trust in His promises.

Suggestions for Prayer
Which promises of God are especially meaningful to you today? Thank Him for them and reaffirm your commitment to living on the basis of His Word.

For Further Study
Skim Hebrews 11 and note all the divine promises you find there. To gain a fuller understanding of each one, find other Scripture references that mention the same promises.


Worldly Influence on John

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’” (Matthew 11:2–3).

Even the righteous John the Baptist was not totally freed from worldly influences that could cause him doubts about Jesus. The Lord’s ministry did not completely square with what most Jews, including John, thought Messiah would do. The Christ could not set up His own kingdom without first freeing Israel from Roman bondage and injustice. But He had done nothing to oppose Rome. And Jesus’ many miracles had still not yet banished all suffering from Israel or the world.

A common misunderstanding was that other prominent men would precede Him—perhaps Elijah, Jeremiah, and some other prophets. Thus when Jesus later asked the apostles who people thought He was, they replied, “Some say John the Baptist [who by then was dead]; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (Matt. 16:14).

The distorted and world-based ideas about Messiah—with Jesus not fitting their preconceived notions—almost inevitably rubbed off on John. Then some Jewish leaders challenged Jesus by asking, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” To this, Jesus responded, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me” (John 10:24–25).

The unbelieving world could affect even John’s confidence in Jesus because it does not grasp God’s plan, since such things “are foolishness to [them]; and [they] cannot understand them” (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. John 10:26). Worldly, unbelieving thinking will always try to sow doubts regarding the truth of Christ. 

Ask Yourself
Can you identify a sliver of worldly thinking that has slipped into your way of looking at things? Why do we tend to embrace these kinds of perspectives at times? What do you do when you detect an unbiblical line of thought taking hold in your mind and attitude?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 51:1–52:34
* Psalm 119:129-136
* Proverbs 28:7-8
* Titus 2:1-15

Jeremiah 51:8 suddenly fallen. The focus was first on Babylon’s sudden fall on one night in 539 B.C. (Dan.5:30).The far view looks at the destruction of the final Babylon near the Second Advent when it will be absolutely sudden (Rev. 18).

Jeremiah 51:15–19 He has made the earth. God’s almighty power and wisdom in creation are evidences of His superiority to all idols (vv. 17, 18), who along with their worshipers will all be destroyed by His mighty power (vv. 15, 16, 19), as in Babylon’s case.

Titus 2:4 admonish the young women. Their own examples of godliness (v. 3) give older women the right and the credibility to instruct younger women in the church. The obvious implication is that older women must exemplify the virtues (vv. 4, 5) that they “admonish.” love their husbands. Like the other virtues mentioned here, this one is unconditional. It is based on God’s will, not on a husband’s worthiness. The Greek word phileo emphasizes affection.

Titus 2:9 bondservants. The term applies generally to all employees, but direct reference is to slaves—men, women, and children who, in the Roman Empire and in much of the ancient world, were owned by their masters. They had few, if any, civil rights and often were accorded little more dignity or care than domestic animals. The New Testament nowhere condones or condemns the practice of slavery, but it everywhere teaches that freedom from the bondage of sin is infinitely more important than freedom from any human bondage a person may have to endure (see Rom. 6:22). 

obedient….well pleasing. Paul clearly teaches that, even in the most servile of circumstances, believers are “to be obedient” and seek to please those for whom they work, whether their “masters” are believers or unbelievers, fair or unfair, kind or cruel. How much more obligated are believers to respect and obey employers for whom they work voluntarily! As with wives’ obedience to their husbands (v. 5), the only exception would involve a believer’s being required to disobey God’s Word.

Titus 2:14 redeem…purify. Another expression (v. 12) summarizes the dual effect of salvation (regeneration and sanctification). To “redeem” is to release someone held captive on the payment of a ransom. The price was Christ’s blood paid to satisfy God’s justice. special people. People who are special by virtue of God’s decree and confirmed by the grace of salvation which they have embraced (1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 1 Pet. 2:9). zealous. Good works are the product, not the means, of salvation (Eph. 2:10).

How does the Book of Titus indicate that the message was intended for more than just Titus and the Christians on Crete?

Titus 2:11–13 presents the heart of Paul’s letter to Titus. The apostle had already emphasized that God’s sovereign purpose in calling out elders (1:5) and in commanding His people to live righteously (vv. 1–10) is to provide the witness that brings God’s plan and purpose of salvation to fulfillment. Paul condensed the saving plan of God into 3 realities: 1) salvation from the penalty (v. 11); 2) salvation from the power (v. 12); and 3) salvation from the presence of sin (v. 13).

As Paul described the “grace of God that brings salvation” (v. 11), he was not simply referring to the divine attribute of grace, but Jesus Christ Himself, grace incarnate, God’s supremely gracious gift to fallen mankind (John 1:14). 

The term “all men” does not teach universal salvation. “All men” is used as “man” in 3:4 to refer to humanity in general, as a category, not to every individual. Jesus Christ made a sufficient sacrifice to cover every sin of every one who believes (John 3:16–18; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2). Paul makes clear in the opening words of this letter to Titus that salvation becomes effective only through “the faith of God’s elect” (1:1). Paul was well aware that the gospel had universal implications. Out of all humanity, only those who believe will be saved (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24, 38, 40; 6:40; 10:9; Rom. 10:9–17).




Living Wisely

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

Wisdom is the art of living life skillfully.

Most philosophers throughout history have believed that if a person could acquire anything, it should be wisdom, because wisdom would allow him to obtain anything else. 

That philosophy matches Scripture. Proverbs 4:7says, “Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.” Many people claim to be wise, but it’s also true that no fool in our world is a self-confessed fool—everyone believes he’s an expert. The world offers a sea of opinions, but the bottom line is that no one’s opinion is worth more than anyone else’s.

The only trustworthy perspective on wisdom—on who is wise and who isn’t—is God’s. In James 3:13 He gives His divine insight on the matter by first asking, “Who among you is wise?” The Greek term translated “wise” is sophos. The Greeks used it to refer to speculative knowledge, theory, and philosophy. 

But the Hebrews infused wisdom with a deeper meaning: skillfully applying knowledge to the matter of practical living.
God also asked, “Who among you is . . . understanding?” The Greek word translated “understanding” is used only here in the New Testament and refers to a specialist or a professional who is highly skilled in applying his knowledge to practical situations. 

In other words, God is asking, “Who among you has practical skill? Who among you is truly a professional and specialist in the art of living?”

The only one who can live life skillfully is the one who lives according to God’s wisdom, and He gives His wisdom to all who receive His salvation and obey His Word. What about you? Are you living life skillfully? If so, your life will manifest good behavior and a meek spirit (James 3:13). Determine to live your life according to God’s wisdom, not the world’s opinions.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help you live life skillfully each day by obeying His Word.

For Further Study
As a Christian, you are responsible to appropriate God’s wisdom in your life on a daily basis. To help you do so, begin a daily reading program in Proverbs. Read one chapter a day, and let God’s wisdom penetrate every aspect of your life.


The Heroes of Faith

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval" (Heb. 11:1-2).

Christian faith produces righteous deeds.

Hebrews 11 has been called "The Heroes of Faith," "The Faith Chapter," "The Saints' Hall of Fame," "The Honor Roll of the Old Testament Saints," and "The Westminster Abbey of Scripture." 

Those are appropriate titles because this chapter highlights the virtues of faith as demonstrated in the lives of great Old Testament saints. It also reminds us that without faith, it is impossible to please God.

Such a reminder was necessary for the first-century Hebrew people because Judaism had abandoned true faith in God for a legalistic system of works righteousness. Its message is valid today since our devotion to Christ can easily degenerate into a religion of rules and regulations.

While affirming the primacy of faith, the writer of Hebrews doesn't undermine the importance of righteous works. Quite the contrary. He exhorts us "to stimulate one another to love and good deeds" (10:24) and to pursue holiness so others will see Christ in us and be drawn to Him (12:14).

Yet righteous works are the by-product of true salvation, not its means. As the apostle Paul wrote, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). 

Apart from faith, all attempts to please God through good works alone are as useless and offensive to Him as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). That's why Paul gladly set all his Jewish legalistic practices aside, counting them as rubbish. He wanted only "the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith" (Phil. 3:9).

This month we'll study the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11. As we do, remember they weren't perfect people. But their faith was exemplary and by it they gained God's approval. I pray that's true of you as well.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for the gift of faith.
* Undoubtedly you know people who are trying to please God by their own efforts. Pray for them and take every opportunity to tell them of true salvation through faith in Christ. 

For Further Study
Select one of the individuals mentioned in Hebrews 11 and read the Old Testament account of his or her life.


Incomplete Information for John

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’” (Matthew 11:2–3).

Many of us today doubt certain truths about God, Christ, and God’s Word due to lack of information. That’s because we might have an inadequate understanding of Scripture. 

That’s the kind of thing that contributed to John the Baptist’s doubt—he had not experienced the full truth about Jesus Christ that God had sent him to proclaim. 

His position was similar to the Old Testament prophets: “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” (1 Peter 1:10–11).

Two disciples on the road to Emmaus were also confused and doubting. But the risen Christ first rebuked them for being “slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25). After that, “beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (v. 27). 

Even before they realized it was Jesus who had been teaching them, the truth of Scripture began removing the two men’s doubts (vv. 31–32).

The truth of God’s Word needs to continually inform our hearts and minds and protect us from doubt and dispel it when it does arise. If we are immersed in the Word, we have no reason to stumble (cf. Acts 17:11).

Ask Yourself
Have you noticed that when you stay regularly and intently in the Word, the Holy Spirit begins piecing the big picture of the Bible together, bringing to mind other Scriptures lodged in your memory bank? Why is this truth retrieval such a valuable blessing and benefit?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 49:1–50:46
* Psalm 119:121-128
* Proverbs 28:6
* Titus 1:1-16

Jeremiah 50:23 hammer of the whole earth. The description was of Babylon’s former conquering force, and God’s breaking the “hammer” He had once used. The fact that God used Babylon as His executioner was no commendation of that nation (Hab. 1:6, 7).

Titus 1:1 bondservant. Paul pictures himself as the most menial slave of New Testament times, indicating his complete and willing servitude to the Lord, by whom all believers have been “bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19). This is the only time Paul referred to himself as a “bondservant of God” (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1). He was placing himself alongside Old Testament men of God (Rev. 15:3).

Titus 1:12 a prophet. Epimenides, the highly esteemed sixth century B.C. Greek poet and native of Crete, had characterized his own people as the dregs of Greek culture. Elsewhere, Paul also quoted pagan sayings (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33). This quote is directed at the false teachers’ character.

Titus 1:14 fables and commandments of men. Paul reemphasized (v. 10, “those of the circumcision”) that most of the false teachers were Jewish. They taught the same kind of externalism and unscriptural laws and traditions that both Isaiah and Jesus railed against (Is. 29:13; Matt. 15:1–9; Mark 7:5–13).

Titus 1:15 defiled. The outwardly despicable things that those men practiced (vv. 10–12) were simply reflections of their inner corruption. mind and conscience. If the mind is defiled, it cannot accurately inform the conscience, so conscience cannot warn the person. When conscience is accurately and fully infused with God’s truth, it functions as the warning system God designed.

Who was Titus, and what was his role in the church?
Although Luke did not mention Titus by name in the Book of Acts, it seems probable that Titus, a Gentile (Gal. 2:3), met and may have been led to faith in Christ by Paul (Titus 1:4) before or during the apostle’s first missionary journey. 

Later, Titus ministered for a period of time with Paul on the Island of Crete and was left behind to continue and strengthen the work (1:5). After Artemas or Tychicus (3:12) arrived to direct the ministry there, Paul wanted Titus to join him in the city of Nicopolis, in the province of Achaia in Greece, and stay through the winter (3:12).

Because of his involvement with the church at Corinth during Paul’s third missionary journey, Titus is mentioned 9 times in 2 Corinthians, where Paul refers to him as “my brother” (2:13) and “my partner and fellow worker” (8:23). The young elder was already familiar with Judaizers, false teachers in the church, who among other things insisted that all Christians, 

Gentile as well as Jew, were bound by the Mosaic Law. Titus had accompanied Paul and Barnabas years earlier to the Council of Jerusalem where that heresy was the subject (Acts 15; Gal. 2:1–5).

Crete, one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, measuring 160 miles long by 35 miles at its widest, lying south of the Aegean Sea, had been briefly visited by Paul on his voyage to Rome (Acts 27). He returned there for ministry and later left Titus to continue the work, much as he left Timothy at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), while he went on to Macedonia. He most likely wrote to Titus in response to a letter from Titus or a report from Crete.




Overcoming Temptation

“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” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus Christ provides us with the perfect example of how to defeat temptation.

Perhaps you’ve heard the joke, “I can resist anything but temptation!” Unfortunately, that is all too often true in our lives. Learning how to successfully resist temptation is vitally important, for we sin only when we yield to temptation.

Christians throughout history have recognized the importance of resisting temptation. One early believer wrote, “Fly from all occasions of temptation, and if still tempted, fly further still. If there is no escape possible, then have done with running and show a bold face and take the two-edged sword of the Spirit.” 

The desire to escape temptation has led many in the history of the church to attempt heroic but ultimately futile feats of ascetic self-denial. So desperate did one monk become that he threw himself into a thicket of thorn bushes! Unfortunately, that did not bring him the relief from temptation that he so desperately sought.

The way to successfully resist temptation was modeled by our Lord Jesus Christ when He was tempted. We must first understand our enemy’s plan of attack and, secondly, make use of our spiritual resources.
Satan made a three-pronged assault on Jesus—the same three ways he tempts us. First, he tempted Jesus to doubt God’s goodness by commanding the stones to become bread (Matt. 4:3). 

That implies that God didn’t care enough about Jesus to provide for His physical needs. Second, he tempted Jesus to doubt God’s love, suggesting that He test that love by leaping from the pinnacle of the temple (Matt. 4:5-6). Finally, he tempted Jesus to compromise God’s truth, promising Him the kingdom without the cross if Jesus would worship him (Matt. 4:8-9).

To each of Satan’s temptations, Jesus replied, “It is written” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). He thereby showed us the resource for defeating temptation: the Word of God (cf. Eph. 6:17). Do you find yourself overcome by temptation? Then follow our Lord’s example and take up the sword of the Spirit today!

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God would make you alert to Satan’s attacks.
For Further Study
Make a list of specific verses you can use to combat the specific temptations you face.


Training in Righteousness

"All Scripture is . . . profitable for . . . training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).
God’s Word nourishes your spiritual life.

We conclude our study of the character and benefits of God's Word by focusing on the benefit that ties all the others together: training in righteousness. 

Everything the Word accomplishes in you through teaching, reproof, and correction is aimed at increasing your righteousness so you'll "be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV).
"Training" refers to training or educating a child. The New Testament also uses the term to speak of chastening, which is another important element in both child rearing and spiritual growth (Heb. 12:5-11). The idea is that from spiritual infancy to maturity, Scripture trains and educates believers in godly living.

Scripture is your spiritual nourishment. Jesus said, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Peter exhorted us to be like newborn babes, longing "for the pure milk of the word, that by it [we] may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Pet. 2:2).

You should crave the Word just like a baby craves milk. But Peter prefaced that statement with an exhortation to put "aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander" (v. 1). That's the prerequisite. James taught the same principle: "Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word" (James 1:21). 

Attempting to feast on Scripture without confessing your sin is like attempting to eat a meal while wearing a muzzle.
Either the Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Word. Deal with sin immediately so it doesn't spoil your appetite for God's Word. And even if you know the Bible well, be regularly refreshed by its power and reminded of its truths. That's the key to enjoying spiritual health and victory.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for the nourishment His Word provides.
* Seek His wisdom and grace in dealing with personal sin. Don't ignore it, for it will diminish your desire for biblical truth.

For Further Study
Read Philippians 3:1 and 2 Peter 1:12-15.
* What did Paul and Peter say about the importance of being reminded of biblical truths you've already learned?
* Do you follow that advice?


Difficult Circumstances for John

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’” (Matthew 11:2–3).

John the Baptist was a true saint and prophet of God, unreserved in His divine service. He had ministered precisely according to God’s will, but now he couldn’t help wondering why he was imprisoned and enduring other hardships.

He knew the Old Testament and maybe asked where the God of comfort (Ps. 119:50; Isa. 51:12) was at that time. Where was the promise that Messiah would “bind up the brokenhearted . . . proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners” (Isa. 61:1)?
Paul was also imprisoned, likely in Rome, when he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. 

The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:4–7; cf. vv. 11–13, 19).

John knew where to find answers, even in the midst of doubt. That’s why he sent his disciples to Jesus to plead, “Lord, please help me!” And Christ was glad to respond, performing miracles for John’s sake and promising spiritual blessing if he remained steady.
Difficult circumstances can be stressful and painful, but our attitude and response should be like John’s—and Paul’s—trusting in the Lord to calm our doubts, anxieties, and fears (cf. James 1:2–12).

Ask Yourself
What causes some to be secure and steadfast no matter their circumstances, while others really struggle to keep their faith front and center? How are you preparing your heart to stay strong in the inevitable seasons of conflict to come?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 47:1–48:47
* Psalm 119:113-120
* Proverbs 28:5
* 2 Timothy 4:1-22

Jeremiah 48:11, 12 This wine-making imagery is vivid. In the production of sweet wine, the juice was left in a wineskin until the sediment or dregs settled onto the bottom. Then it was poured into another skin until more dregs were separated. This process continued until the dregs were all removed and a pure, sweet wine obtained. Moab was not taken from suffering to suffering so that her bitter dregs would be removed through the purging of pain. Thus the nation was settled into the thickness and bitterness of its own sin. Judgment from God was coming to smash them.

2 Timothy 4:2 the word. The entire written Word of God, His complete revealed truth as contained in the Bible (3:15, 16; Acts 20:27). Be ready. The Greek word has a broad range of meanings, including suddenness or forcefulness. Here the form of the verb suggests the complementary ideas of urgency, preparedness, and readiness. It was used of a soldier prepared to go into battle or a guard who was continually alert for any surprise attack—attitudes which are imperative for a faithful preacher. in season and out of season. The faithful preacher must proclaim the Word when it is popular and/or convenient and when it is not; when it seems suitable to do so and when it seems not. 

The dictates of popular culture, tradition, reputation, acceptance, or esteem in the community (or in the church) must never alter the true preacher’s commitment to proclaim God’s Word. 

Convince, rebuke. The negative side of preaching the Word (the “reproof” and “correction”; 3:16). The Greek word for convince” refers to correcting behavior or false doctrine by using careful biblical argument to help a person understand the error of his actions. The Greek word for “rebuke” deals more with correcting the person’s motives by convicting him of his sin and leading him to repentance.

Describe how Paul recaps his life in 2 Timothy 4:6–8.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering” (v. 6).Meaning his death was imminent. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, a drink offering was the final offering that followed the burnt and grain offerings prescribed for the people of Israel (Num. 15:1–16). Paul saw his coming death as his final offering to God in a life that had already been full of sacrifices to Him.

"My departure” speaks of Paul’s death. The Greek word essentially refers to the loosening of something, such as the mooring ropes of a ship or the ropes of a tent; thus it eventually acquired the secondary meaning of “departure.”

“I have fought…have finished…have kept” (v. 7).The form of the 3 Greek verbs indicates completed action with continuing results. Paul saw his life as complete—he had been able to accomplish through the Lord’s power all that God called him to do. He was a soldier, an athlete, and a guardian. “The faith.” The truths and standards of the revealed Word of God.
“Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” (v. 8). The Greek word for “crown” literally means “surrounding,” and it was used of the plaited wreaths or garlands placed on the heads of dignitaries and victorious military officers or athletes. 

Linguistically, “of righteousness” can mean either that righteousness is the source of the crown or that righteousness is the nature of the crown. The crown represents eternal righteousness received through the imputed righteousness of Christ at salvation (Rom. 4:6, 11). The Holy Spirit works practical righteousness (sanctification) in the believer throughout his lifetime of struggle with sin (Rom. 6:13, 19; 8:4). 

But only when the struggle is complete will the Christian receive Christ’s righteousness perfected in him (glorification) when he enters heaven (Gal. 5:5).




The Believer and Indwelling Sin

“For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me” (Romans 7:14-17).
Believers have been freed from sin’s power, but not from its presence.

Romans 7:14-25 is perhaps the most autobiographical passage in all of Scripture. In this poignant account Paul describes in vivid, striking language his battle with indwelling sin. So powerful is that language that some believe it refers to Paul’s life before his conversion. But the apostle describes himself as one who seeks to obey God’s law and who hates evil (vv. 15, 19, 21), who is humble and broken over his sin (v. 18), and who acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and serves Him with his mind (v. 25). None of those things characterize an unbeliever.

The word “for” indicates that Paul is not beginning a new subject but is continuing with the thought from the first part of Romans 7, that the law reveals our sin. The law is not the problem but reveals the problem—sin. The apostle then makes the startling statement that he is “of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” “Flesh” is our unredeemed humanness—that part of us that is still sinful and fights against our new natures. Paul’s words do not mean that God had only partially saved him; rather, they emphasize that sin is still a powerful force in believers’ lives and is not to be trifled with.

Christians are under attack from the outside, from Satan and the evil world system. But we also have a “fifth column”—the flesh inside us, aiding and abetting those attacks. Fight the flesh today by making “no provision for [it] in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).

Suggestions for Prayer
“Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).

For Further Study
What do the following passages teach about the possibility of a believer’s being “sold into bondage to sin”—Psalm 51:1-5; Isaiah 6:5; 1 John 1:8-10?


Reproving Sinful Conduct

"All Scripture is . . . profitable for . . . reproof" (2 Tim. 3:16).
People who aren’t interested in holy living will avoid being exposed to sound doctrine.

Paul instructed Timothy to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2). He knew a time was coming when many people would reject sound doctrine, and "wanting to have their ears tickled, [would] accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and . . . turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths" (vv. 3-4).

That's certainly true of our day. Many who profess to love Christ seem intolerant of His Word. Often they fall into spiritual complacency and surround themselves with teachers who tell them exactly what they want to hear. If they can't find a comfortable message, they drift from church to church or simply abandon it altogether.

Such people have exchanged conviction for comfort, and need to examine themselves to see if they are genuine believers (2 Cor. 13:5). Their attitude toward the Word is in stark contrast to those who truly love Christ and come to the Word with an earnest desire to learn its truths and live accordingly.

But even true believers can fall into the trap of negligence and compromise. Perhaps you've noticed how sinning Christians often try to avoid exposure to God's Word. Sometimes they'll temporarily stop attending church or Bible studies. They also try to avoid other believers—especially those who will hold them accountable to what they know to be true.

But like any loving parent, God won't allow His children to remain in sin for long without disciplining them (Heb. 12:5-11). Sooner or later they must repent and be reconciled to Him.

An important element in reconciling sinning Christians to God is the faithful prayers of other believers. God may choose to use you in that way, so always be ready to pray, and eager to restore others in a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1).

Suggestions for Prayer
Do you know a Christian who is being disobedient to God's Word? If so, ask God to bring him or her to repentance. Assure the person of your prayers and concern, and be available to be further used in the restoration process if the Lord wills.

For Further Study
What does Matthew 18:15-20 say about how to confront a sinning Christian?


John the Baptist and His Doubt, Part 1

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’” (Matthew 11:2–3).

Countless Christians since John the Baptist’s time have dealt with doubt, which might better be called perplexity or confusion. Here John did not question the truthfulness of Old Testament Scripture or the veracity of Jesus’ baptism, which he himself had seen. Rather, John was simply uncertain about his understanding of those truths. 

And the kind of question he asked could come only from a believer. In that transitional period between the Testaments, many things seemed unclear and called for further explanation.

Until this time, John the Baptist was the greatest man who had ever lived (Matt. 11:11); so when believers are confused, they can take comfort that even John was perplexed for a time. Also encouraging for us is that Jesus often said to His disciples, “You of little faith” and “How long will you doubt?” (e.g., Matt. 8:26; 14:31; Mark 11:23; Luke 12:28).

Although Christ understands His children’s doubts, He is never pleased with such misgivings because they reflect against Him. When messengers from the Gentile Cornelius arrived where Peter was staying, the Holy Spirit told the apostle, “Get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself” (Acts 10:20). 

James warns us that “the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6; cf. Eph. 4:14). But John’s doubt derived from weakness, not sin, and the only remedy for similar doubt by us is sincere inquiry, prayerful confession, and reliance on Scripture for reassurance.

Ask Yourself
How do you respond to people in crisis, especially when the trauma of their situation has left them doubting God’s goodness or shaken in their faith? How do you go about reassuring them of the Lord’s faithfulness when they will hear none of it or aren’t ready to listen?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 43:1–44:30
* Psalm 119:97-104
* Proverbs 28:3
* 2 Timothy 2:1-26

Jeremiah 43:1–7 when Jeremiah…stopped speaking. The incorrigible, disobedient leaders accused him of deceit and forced Jeremiah and the remnant to go to Egypt, despite the fact that all his prophecies regarding Babylon had come to pass. In so doing, they went out of God’s protection into His judgment, as all who are disobedient to His Word do.

Proverbs 28:3 oppresses the poor. When the poor come to power and oppress their own, it is as bad as a destructive storm washing the fields clean instead of watering the crop.

2 Timothy 2:2 faithful men who will be able to teach others. Timothy was to take the divine revelation he had learned from Paul and teach it to other faithful men—men with proven spiritual character and giftedness, who would in turn pass on those truths to another generation. From Paul to Timothy to faithful men to others encompasses 4 generations of godly leaders. That process of spiritual reproduction, which began in the early church, is to continue until the Lord returns.

2 Timothy 2:8 Remember…Jesus Christ. The supreme model of a faithful teacher (v. 2), soldier (vv. 3, 4), athlete (v. 5), and farmer (v. 6). Timothy was to follow His example in teaching, suffering, pursuing the prize, and planting the seeds of truth for a spiritual harvest. of the seed of David. As David’s descendant, Jesus is the rightful heir to his throne (Luke 1:32, 33). The Lord’s humanity is stressed. raised from the dead. 

The resurrection of Christ is the central truth of the Christian faith (1 Cor. 15:3, 4, 17, 19). By it, God affirmed the perfect redemptive work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:4).

How is the Christian life compared to being a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer?
“Endure hardship as a good soldier” (2 Tim. 2:3). The metaphor of the Christian life as warfare (against the evil world system, the believer’s sinful human nature, and Satan) is a familiar one in the New Testament (2 Cor. 10:3–5; Eph. 6:10–20; 1 Thess. 4:8; 1 Tim. 1:18; 4:7; 6:12). 

Here Paul is dealing with the conflict against the hostile world and the persecution. “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself” (v. 4). Just as a soldier called to duty is completely severed from the normal affairs of civilian life, so also must the good soldier of Jesus Christ refuse to allow the things of the world to distract him (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17).

“If anyone competes in athletics” (v. 5). The Greek verb expresses the effort and determination needed to compete successfully in an athletic event (1 Cor. 9:24). This is a useful picture of spiritual effort and untiring pursuit of the victory to those familiar with events such as the Olympic Games and the Isthmian Games (held in Corinth). “Crowned…rules.” All an athlete’s hard work and discipline will be wasted if he or she fails to compete according to the rules. This is a call to obey the Word of God in the pursuit of spiritual victory.

“The hardworking farmer” (v. 6).“ Hardworking” is from a Greek verb meaning “to labor to the point of exhaustion.” Ancient farmers worked long hours of backbreaking labor under all kinds of conditions with the hope that their physical effort would be rewarded by a good harvest. Paul is urging Timothy not to be lazy or indolent but to labor intensely (Col. 1:28, 29) with a view to the harvest.




Saving faith? 


Keep in Step with the 

What are some signs of authentic, saving faith? 

How can a person know he or she has genuine, saving faith? The New Testament book of 1 John was written in large part to help address this important issue. First John brings up several important questions we can ask ourselves to see if our faith is genuine.

Do you "walk in the light" and live according to God's ways? First John 1:6-7shares, "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."

Do you admit you are a sinner? First John 1:8 notes, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

Do you obey God's Word? First John 2:3-4 reveals, "And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

Do you love other people? First John 2:9 teaches, "Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness." A Christian cannot hate people because he or she is filled with the love of Christ.

Do you love the world? First John 2:15 teaches that those who love the world, meaning the ways of the world and its temporary, sinful pleasures, do not have genuine faith: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

Are you known for doing what is right? First John 2:29 notes, "If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him."

Are you seeking to decrease sin in your life? First John 3:6 teaches, "No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him." This refers to ongoing, continual sin. True believers will not continue in sin without seeking to stop, relying on God's power to help. Every believer will struggle with sin (Romans 7:24-25), but will seek to live God's way rather than to continue in sin.

Do you love other Christians? A person cannot love God and hate His followers. First John 3:14 shares, "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death."

Do you seek to help those in need? First John 3:17 teaches, "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?"

Do you have a clear conscience before God? First John 3:21 reveals, "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God."

Do you believe in the name of the Son of God? First John 5:4-5 explains, "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"

If these attributes are increasingly evident in your life, they help serve as signs of genuine faith. Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9), yet these additional traits help you and others see that Jesus is in you and that you are a genuine believer.




Avoiding Spiritual Deception

"All Scripture is . . . profitable for . . . reproof" (2 Tim. 3:16).
Scripture is the standard by which you must measure all teaching.

In November of 1978, United States Representative Leo Ryan of California visited the People's Temple (a California- based cult) in Guyana. He went to investigate reports that some of the people were being held there against their will. The world was shocked to learn that the congressman and his party had been ambushed and killed.

Even more shocking was the grim discovery that followed a few days later. Authorities who entered the compound at Jonestown, Guyana were horrified to find the bodies of 780 cult members who had been shot or had committed suicide by drinking cyanide-laced punch. Their leader, the Reverend Jim Jones, was found lying near the altar—dead from a single bullet wound to the head.

For many, it was the first time they had witnessed the deadly effect of satanic teaching. Editorials and articles for months attempted to explain how such appalling deception and genocide could occur in this day and age. But as tragic as the Jonestown deaths were, most observers missed the greatest tragedy of all: the spiritual damnation that Jim Jones and all other false teachers lead their followers into.

Spiritual deception is a very serious issue to God. That's why in Scripture He lays down the truth and reproves anything contrary to it. The Greek word translated "reproof" in 2 Timothy 3:16 means to rebuke or confront someone regarding misconduct or false teaching.
If you have a thorough grasp of Scripture, you have a standard by which to measure all teaching. Then you can easily recognize false doctrine and avoid spiritual deception. That's what John had in mind when he said, "I have written to you, [spiritual] young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one" (1 John 2:14).

False religions will always attempt to distort Scripture because they must eliminate God's truth before they can justify their own lies. Beware of their subtleties, and be strong in God's Word.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank the Lord for protecting you from spiritual deception.
* Pray for anyone you may know who has fallen victim to false teaching. Take every opportunity to impart God's truth to them.

For Further Study
Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, 13-15. How did Paul describe false teachers?


The Law Devastates the Sinner

“And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me” (Romans 7:9-11).

The law shatters all of man’s attempts at self-righteousness.
The old saying “ignorance is bliss” is rarely true, and in the spiritual realm it is deadly. As a Pharisee, one of the rising stars of first-century Judaism (Gal. 1:14), 

Paul thought himself very much “alive apart from the Law.” When convicted of his utter sinfulness by the law, however, Paul “died”; that is, his false sense of security and self-satisfaction was shattered. 

The enormity of his guilt became evident to him, and he realized he could not save himself. He recognized he was “helpless” (Rom. 5:6) and desperately in need of the divine Physician (Matt. 9:12).
To his dismay, Paul found that the “commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death” for him. The law was given to provide blessing and joy (Prov. 3:1-2) by guiding men in the path of righteousness. 

That purpose, however, can’t be accomplished in the unsaved, since they lack the ability to keep the law. Shut out from its blessings by their disobedience, they face its curses. Instead of providing Paul with a rich, meaningful life, the law devastated him.
Paul further realized that he had been deceived by sin. He had thought himself “blameless” (Phil. 3:6), doing God’s work by persecuting Christians (cf. John 16:2). But instead of satisfaction, he found only misery, disillusionment, and disappointment.

Like Paul, millions today are tragically deceived. The deceitfulness of sin leads them to think they can please God and obtain His blessing by their good works or religious activity. Such trust in self-righteousness is the hallmark of all false religion. But those who trust in themselves will see no need for a Savior and will be eternally lost. What are you trusting in?

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help you obey His commandments.

For Further Study
Read Hebrews 3:13. Are believers also in danger of being deceived by sin?


Jewish Leaders Ignore Testimonies

“‘How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?’” (John 5:44–47).

Jesus’ pensive question, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” offers a crucial reason why the Jews rejected Him. Those engaged in seeking “glory from one another” do not humble themselves to believe in Jesus.

The Lord stunned them when He said the one who would accuse them of their rejection of Christ was Moses—the very one in whom they had set their hope. Can you imagine how profoundly shocked and outraged the Jewish leaders must have been? In their minds, it was incomprehensible to think that Moses—whom they proudly affirmed as their leader and teacher (9:28; cf. Matt 23:2)—would accuse them before God. But had they truly believed Moses, they would believe Jesus, since Moses wrote about Him.

It should come as no surprise that those who did not believe Moses’ writings would not believe Christ’s words either. If they rejected the truths taught by Moses, whom they revered, they could hardly be expected to accept the teaching of Jesus, whom they reviled. The sobering reality is that those who reject Moses’ teaching about Jesus will face judgment.

Ask Yourself
Jesus was able to interact forcibly with His detractors because He knew them, understood their hearts, and was aware of what blinded them to the truth. If your witness is not as effective as it should be, have you considered that perhaps you’re proclaiming the gospel without stopping to understand the people you’re talking to?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 41:1–42:22
* Psalm 119:89-96
* Proverbs 28:2
* 2 Timothy 1:1-18

Proverbs 28:2 many are its princes. Unrighteousness in a nation produces political instability with many vying for power, thus the tenure of each leader is shortened. Wisdom promotes social order and long rule.

2 Timothy 1:4 mindful of your tears. Paul perhaps remembered this occurring at their latest parting, which occurred after a short visit to Ephesus, following the writing of 1 Timothy and prior to Paul’s arrest at Troas and his second imprisonment in Rome. Years before, Paul had a similar parting with the elders at Ephesus (Acts 20:36–38).
2 Timothy 1:7 a spirit of fear. 

The Greek word, which can also be translated “timidity,” denotes a cowardly, shameful fear caused by a weak, selfish character. The threat of Roman persecution, which was escalating under Nero, the hostility of those in the Ephesian church who resented Timothy’s leadership, and the assaults of false teachers with their sophisticated systems of deceptions may have been overwhelming Timothy. But if he was fearful, it didn’t come from God. power.Positively, God has already given believers all the spiritual resources they need for every trial and threat (Matt. 10:19, 20). 

Divine power—effective, productive spiritual energy belongs to believers (Eph. 1:18–20; 3:20; Zech. 4:6). love. This kind of love centers on pleasing God and seeking others’ welfare before one’s own (Rom. 14:8; Gal. 5:22, 25; Eph.3:19; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 4:18). sound mind. Refers to a disciplined, self-controlled, and properly prioritized mind. This is the opposite of fear and cowardice that causes disorder and confusion. Focusing on the sovereign nature and perfect purposes of our eternal God allows believers to control their lives with godly wisdom and confidence in every situation.
2 Timothy 1:12 I also suffer. 

Paul had no fear of persecution and death from preaching the gospel in a hostile setting because he was so confident God had sealed his future glory and blessing. know whom I have believed. “Know” describes the certainty of Paul’s intimate, saving knowledge—the object of which was God Himself. The form of the Greek verb translated “I have believed” refers to something that began in the past and has continuing results. This knowing is equal to “the knowledge of the truth” (3:7; 1 Tim. 2:4). 

He is able to keep what I have committed. Paul’s life in time and eternity had been given to his Lord. He lived with unwavering confidence and boldness because of the revealed truth about God’s power and faithfulness and his own experience of an unbreakable relationship to the Lord (Rom. 8:31–39). that Day. Also called “Day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10), when believers will stand before the judgment seat and be rewarded.

Why did Paul write 2 Timothy?
Paul was released from his first Roman imprisonment for a short period of ministry during which he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus. Second Timothy, however, finds Paul once again in a Roman prison (1:16; 2:9), apparently rearrested as part of Nero’s persecution of Christians. Unlike Paul’s confident hope of release during his first imprisonment (Phil. 1:19, 25, 26; 2:24; Philem. 22), this time he had no such hopes (4:6–8). 

In his first imprisonment in Rome (ca.A.D. 60–62), before Nero had begun the persecution of Christians (A.D. 64), he was only under house arrest and had opportunity for much interaction with people and ministry (Acts 28:16–31). At this time, 5 or 6 years later (ca. A.D. 66–67), however, he was in a cold cell (4:13), in chains (2:9), and with no hope of deliverance (4:6).

Abandoned by virtually all of those close to him for fear of persecution (1:15; 4:9–12, 16) and facing imminent execution, Paul wrote to Timothy, urging him to hasten to Rome for one last visit with the apostle (4:9, 21). Whether Timothy made it to Rome before Paul’s execution is not known. According to tradition, Paul was not released from this second Roman imprisonment but suffered the martyrdom he had foreseen (4:6).

In this letter, Paul, aware the end was near, passed the nonapostolic mantle of ministry to Timothy (2:2) and exhorted him to continue faithful in his duties (1:6), hold on to sound doctrine (1:13,14),avoid error (2:15–18), accept persecution for the gospel (2:3,4; 3:10–12), put his confidence in the Scripture, and preach it relentlessly (3:15–4:5).




The Law Arouses Sin

“But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead” (Romans 7:8).

When confronted with God’s holy law, sinful men are motivated not to obey it, but to break it.

It is a perverse fact of fallen human nature that the surest way to get people to do things is to tell them not to do them. When people see a sign reading “Keep off the grass!” or “Don’t pick the flowers!” their first impulse is often to trample the grass and take some flowers. 

The same is true in the spiritual realm. God’s law reveals what is right and what is wrong—and sinful men choose to do what is wrong. In his classic allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan vividly depicts the seemingly paradoxical truth that the law does not restrain sin but stirs it up. In the house of Interpreter, Christian was shown a large, dust-filled room. 

A man with a broom, representing the law, appeared and began to sweep. The resulting dust cloud nearly choked Christian. Bunyan’s point was that just as sweeping a dusty room does not remove the dust but only stirs it up, so the law does not restrain sin but merely aggravates it.

Does that mean the law is evil? Certainly not. “The Law is holy” (Rom. 7:12) since it derives from a holy God. And it does sinners good by exposing their sin and revealing to them their need for a Savior. The law, then, is not the culprit—sin is.
Using himself as an illustration, Paul notes that “sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind.” 

”Opportunity” translates a Greek word used in military terms to speak of a base of operations from which attacks could be launched. Sin used the law—especially the knowledge of right and wrong it brought—to launch its attacks on Paul.
Don’t be afraid in your evangelism to confront sinners with the demands of God’s holy law. They must face their utter inability to meet its demands before they will recognize their need for a Savior.

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God would help you discern the subtlety of sin’s attacks against you.

For Further Study
Read 2 Kings 17:13-16. Did the Israelites’ knowledge of God’s law keep them from sinning?


Learning Truth

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).
Scripture is a manual of divine truth.

This month we've considered many benefits of Scripture. Second Timothy 3:16 lists four more that will be the focus of our studies as we draw this month to a close: teaching truth, reproving sin and error, correcting behavior, and training in righteousness. We've touched on each of those to some extent in our past studies, but they warrant additional discussion from this verse, which is Scriptures most concise statement on its own power and purpose.

First, the Bible is profitable for teaching. The Greek word translated "teaching" refers more to content than to the process of teaching. Scripture is God's manual of divine truth for patterning your thoughts and actions.

As a believer, you have the capacity to understand and respond to Scripture. That's because the Holy Spirit indwells you and imparts spiritual discernment, wisdom, and understanding (1 John 2:27). You have "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16).

But having the ability to understand spiritual truth doesn't guarantee you'll exercise that ability. God said to the Israelites through the prophet Hosea, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (4:6). His truth was available to them, but they ignored it and lived in disobedience.

I've heard many people lament that they could have avoided much grief if only they had known the Bible more thoroughly—if only they had taken the time to learn what God expected of them in a particular situation. Perhaps you've felt that way. The best way to avoid making that mistake in the future is to faithfully, prayerfully, patiently, and thoroughly saturate your mind with biblical truth, then discipline yourself to live according to its principles. Now that's the challenge of a lifetime, but it's the only way to profit from biblical teaching and avoid unnecessary heartaches.
I pray you will be encouraged today as you study God's Word and diligently apply it to your life.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to use the circumstances you face today to draw you closer to Him and motivate you to dig deeper into His Word.
For Further Study
Read Exodus 24:1-8. What was the Israelites' response to God's Word? What is yours?


Scripture Testifies to Jesus’ Deity

“‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him’” (John 5:39–43).

Merely knowing the facts of Scripture, without hiding them in your heart and acting on them, will not bring the blessings of salvation. That was the problem of Jewish unbelievers. Jesus understood their searching of the Scriptures in a desperate and futile attempt to find the key to eternal life. But ironically, they failed to grasp that it is those very Scriptures “that testify about” Jesus.

The Bible cannot be properly understood apart from the Holy Spirit’s illumination or a transformed mind. The Jews’ zeal for the Scripture was commendable, but because they were unwilling to come to Jesus—the sole source of eternal life—their knowledge did not result in salvation. Clinging in their stubborn unbelief to a superficial system of self-righteousness by works, they became ignorant of “God’s righteousness and [sought] to establish their own” (Rom. 10:3). 

But self-righteousness cannot save anyone, since “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isa. 64:6).
Please be sure you are not trusting in your own righteous works for salvation. Be sure you are clinging in utter dependence on the grace of God in Christ.

Ask Yourself
Have you ever allowed your knowledge of the Scriptures to blind you to its more excellent meaning, whether through pride or tradition or a dogmatic overconfidence in your own interpretations? How do you guard against these kinds of snares and deceptions?


Reading for Today:

* Jeremiah 39:1–40:16
* Psalm 119:81-88
* Proverbs 28:1
* 1 Timothy 6:1-21
Psalm 119:83 a wineskin in smoke. Just as smoke will dry out, stiffen, and crack a wineskin thus making it useless, so the psalmist’s affliction has debilitated him.
Proverbs 28:1 A guilty conscience imagines accusers everywhere (Num. 32:23; Ps. 53:5), while a clear conscience has boldness to face everyone.
1 Timothy 6:3 Paul identifies 3 characteristics of false teachers: 1) they “teach otherwise”—a different doctrine, or any teaching that contradicts God’s revelation in Scripture; 2) they do “not consent to wholesome words”—they do not agree with sound, healthy teaching, specifically the teaching contained in Scripture; and 3) they reject “doctrine which accords with godliness”—teaching not based on Scripture will always result in an unholy life. Instead of godliness, false teachers will be marked by sin.
1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith. The Greek word for “fight” gives us the English word “agonize” and was used in both military and athletic endeavors to describe the concentration, discipline, and extreme effort needed to win. The “good fight of faith” is the spiritual conflict with Satan’s kingdom of darkness in which all men of God are necessarily involved. lay hold on eternal life. Paul is here admonishing Timothy to “get a grip” on the reality of the matters associated with eternal life, so that he would live and minister with a heavenly and eternal perspective (Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:2). to which you were also called. Refers to God’s effectual, sovereign call of Timothy to salvation. good confession. Timothy’s public confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which likely occurred at his baptism and again when he was ordained to the ministry (4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).
1 Timothy 6:17–19 Paul counsels Timothy what to teach those who are rich in material possessions, those who have more than the mere essentials of food, clothing, and shelter. Paul does not condemn such people nor command them to get rid of their wealth. He does call them to be good stewards of their God-given resources (Deut. 8:18; 1 Sam. 2:7; 1 Chr. 29:12).

DAY 27: How can a believer find genuine contentment?
In 1 Timothy 6:6, the Greek word for “contentment” means “self-sufficiency” and was used by Stoic philosophers to describe a person who was unflappable and unmoved by external circumstances. Christians are to be satisfied and sufficient and not to seek for more than what God has already given them. He is the source of true contentment (2 Cor. 3:5; 9:8; Phil. 4:11–13, 19).
“Having food and clothing,…be content” (v. 8). The basic necessities of life are what ought to make Christians content. Paul does not condemn having possessions as long as God graciously provides them (v. 17). He does, however, condemn a self-indulgent desire for money, which results from discontentment.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation” (v. 9). “Desire” refers to a settled wish born of reason and clearly describes those guilty of greed. The form of the Greek verb for “fall” indicates that those who have such a desire are continually falling into temptation. Greedy people are compulsive—they are continually trapped in sins by their consuming desire to acquire more. “In destruction and perdition.” Such greed may lead these people to suffer the tragic end of destruction and hell. These terms refer to the eternal punishment of the wicked.
“For the love of money” (v. 10). Literally, “affection for silver.” In the context, this sin applies to false teachers specifically, but the principle is true universally. Money itself is not evil since it is a gift from God (Deut. 8:18). Paul condemns only the love of it (Matt. 6:24), which is so characteristic of false teachers (1 Pet. 5:2; 2 Pet. 2:1–3,15). “Some have strayed from the faith.” From the body of Christian truth. Gold has replaced God for these apostates, who have turned away from pursuing the things of God in favor of money.


The Heart of the Gospel

“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28).

Being dead in sin, man is unable to save himself.

As we’ve seen this month, the most serious problem facing the human race is not the destruction of the environment, crime, or the threat of nuclear war; it is sin. The former threaten us with physical death, the latter with spiritual death. 

Thus it follows that the greatest news ever known is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Hell may be the destiny of man, but that is not the desire of God’s heart. Peter notes that the Lord “is patient . . . not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Because of His great love for sinners, God sent His Son “to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). 

Since God’s gracious gift of salvation is appropriated by faith, it is not surprising that justification by faith is the theme of Romans (see Rom. 1:16-17). The apostle shows that all men are guilty before God and in need of justification (chaps. 1—2). He then describes justification in chapters 3—4. Then he presents the results of justification in chapters 5—6.

Two key words are associated with justification in Romans: grace and faith. In Romans 3:24 Paul declares that we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,” while in verse 28 he says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” 

The promise of justification to Abraham, Paul notes, was “by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace” (Rom. 4:16). Faith and grace are both linked to justification again in Romans 5:1-2: “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

In this day of doctrinal vacillation, I pray that you will stand firm in your commitment to the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for His mercy and love in saving you when you were dead in sin (Eph. 2:4-5).
* Ask Him to help you walk worthy of your salvation (Eph. 4:1).

For Further Study
Read Romans 1—6, noting what it teaches about man’s lost state and God’s gracious provision of salvation.


Heeding God's Warnings

"By [Thy judgments] Thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward" (Ps. 19:11).

Heeding God’s warnings brings spiritual protection and great joy.

Psalm 19:11 concludes David's hymn on the sufficiency of Scripture. How appropriate that it ends noting the value of God's warning, because guarding His people against temptation, sin, error, foolishness, false teachers, and every other threat to their spiritual well-being is a major concern to God.

For example, God said to the prophet Ezekiel, "Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth, and give them warning from Me" (Ezek. 33:7). The great tragedy of the Old Testament is that Israel rejected God's "statutes and His covenants which He made with their fathers, and His warnings with which He warned them" (2 Kings 17:15).

The apostle Paul defined his ministry as that of proclaiming Christ and warning "every man and teaching every man with all wisdom" (Col. 1:28). After exhorting the Thessalonian church to maintain sexual purity, Paul added, "The Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you" (1 Thess. 4:6).

He also warned the Ephesian church, saying, "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish [warn] each one with tears" (Acts 20:29-32). He did that by declaring to them the whole counsel of God (v. 27).

The warnings of Scripture aren't intended to frustrate or stifle you. On the contrary, when you heed them they shelter you from spiritual harm and bring the joy of knowing you're in God's will. That's the "great reward" David speaks of in Psalm 19:11. May you earn it as he eventually did through heeding God's Word in every aspect of life.

Suggestions for Prayer
Overwhelmed with the sufficiency of God's Word, David prayed, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Ps. 19:14). Make that your prayer as well.

For Further Study
Reread Psalm 19:7-11, reviewing each characteristic and benefit of Scripture. Think carefully about how they apply to your life.


Finished Works Testify to Jesus’ Deity

“‘But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me’” (John 5:36).

John the Baptist’s testimony carried considerable weight; after all, he was the greatest man who had ever lived up to this time (Luke 7:28). But the testimony Jesus was about to introduce was far “greater than the testimony of John.” More convincing than the greatest prophet’s testimony to Christ were “the very works that” He did.

Throughout His ministry the Lord repeatedly pointed to His miraculous works as confirmation of His claim to be the Son of God and the Messiah (cf. 10:25, 37–38; 14:11; Matt. 11:3–5). The gospels record at least three dozen of His miracles, and Jesus performed countless others that Scripture does not record (20:30).

Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus was conscious of carrying out the mission the Father had given Him in the energy of the Spirit (Luke 4:14). In John 4:34, Jesus told the disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” In His High Priestly Prayer to the Father, Jesus declared triumphantly, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (17:4).

Because Jesus’ works were in perfect harmony with the will of His Father, they testified “that the Father sent” Him. His works were supernatural and in keeping with God’s exact wishes.

Those very miracles, as recorded in Scripture, provide you with a powerful witnessing tool today.

Ask Yourself
What elements of God’s nature are revealed when He performs a miracle in the lives of His people? What is revealed when He withholds the miracle we desire, choosing instead to work His will in another way?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 35:1–36:32
* Psalm 119:65-72
* Proverbs 27:22
* 1 Timothy 4:1-16

Jeremiah 36:4 Baruch wrote. Jeremiah’s recording secretary wrote the prophet’s messages and penned them a second time after the first scroll was burned (36:32). He also read the messages in the temple (v. 10) and in the palace (v. 15). Later, Jehudi read a small part of the first scroll before King Jehoiakim (vv. 21–23).

Jeremiah 36:23 cut it. As often as Jehudi read “three or four columns,” the king cut it up, doing so all the way through the whole scroll because he rejected the message (v. 29). Jehoiakim is the king who sent men to Egypt (chap. 26) to bring back God’s faithful prophet, Urijah, so that he could execute him.

1 Timothy 4:1 the Spirit expressly says. Paul repeats to Timothy the warning he had given many years earlier to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29, 30). The Holy Spirit through the Scriptures has repeatedly warned of the danger of apostasy (Matt. 24:4–12; Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thess. 2:3–12; Heb. 3:12; 5:11–6:8; 10:26–31; 2 Pet. 3:3; 1 John 2:18; Jude 18). in latter times. The period from the First Coming of Christ until His return (Acts 2:16, 17; Heb. 1:1, 2; 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:20; 1 John 2:18). Apostasy will exist throughout that period, reaching a climax shortly before Christ returns (Matt. 24:12). depart from the faith. 

Those who fall prey to the false teachers will abandon the Christian faith. The Greek word for “depart” is the source of the English word “apostatize” and refers to someone moving away from an original position. These are professing or nominal Christians who associate with those who truly believe the gospel but defect after believing lies and deception, thus revealing their true nature as unconverted. deceiving spirits. 

Those demonic spirits, either directly or through false teachers, who have wandered away from the truth and lead others to do the same. doctrines of demons. Not teaching about demons, but false teaching that originates from them. To sit under such teaching is to hear lies from the demonic realm (Eph. 6:12; James 3:15; 2 John 7–11). The influence of demons will reach its peak during the Tribulation (2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 9:2–11; 16:14; 20:2, 3, 8, 10). Satan and demons constantly work the deceptions that corrupt and pervert God’s Word.

1 Timothy 4:6 nourished…words of faith…good doctrine. Continual feeding on the truths of Scripture is essential to the spiritual health of all Christians (2 Tim. 3:16, 17), but especially of spiritual leaders like Timothy. Only by reading the Word, studying it, meditating on it, and mastering its contents can a pastor fulfill his mandate (2 Tim. 2:15). 

Timothy had been doing so since childhood (2 Tim. 3:15), and Paul urged him to continue (v. 16; 2 Tim. 3:14). “Words of faith” is a general reference to Scripture, God’s revealed truth. “Good doctrine” indicates the theology Scripture teaches.

What specific instructions did Paul give Timothy that would apply to a young person?
A young person seeking to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ can find essential guidelines in 4:12–16,where Paul listed five areas (verse 12) in which Timothy was to be an example to the church:

1. In “word” or speech—see also Matthew 12:34–37; Ephesians 4:25, 29, 31.
2. In “conduct” or righteous living—see also Titus 2:10; 1 Peter 1:15; 2:12; 3:16.
3. In “love” or self-sacrificial service for others—see also John 15:13.
4. In “faith” or faithfulness or commitment, not belief—see also 1 Corinthians 4:2.
5. In “purity” and particularly sexual purity—see also 4:2.

The verses that follow hold several other building blocks to a life of discipleship:

1. Timothy was to be involved in the public reading, study, and application of Scripture (v. 13).
2. Timothy was to diligently use his spiritual gift that others had confirmed and affirmed in a public way (v. 14).
3. Timothy was to be committed to a process of progress in his walk with Christ (v. 15).
4. Timothy was to “take heed” to pay careful attention to “yourself and to the doctrine” (v. 16).

The priorities of a godly leader should be summed up in Timothy’s personal holiness and public teaching. All of Paul’s exhortations in vv. 6–16 fit into one or the other of those two categories. By careful attention to his own godly life and faithful preaching of the Word, Timothy would continue to be the human instrument God would use to bring the gospel and to save some who heard him. 

Though salvation is God’s work, it is His pleasure to do it through human instruments.




The Fearsome Foursome

“For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death” (Romans 7:5).

Four key terms characterize those who are not in Christ.

In our fallen, cursed world, disasters are commonplace. Fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters happen somewhere every day. Added to those natural disasters are the man-made ones, such as war, acts of terrorism, plane crashes, train wrecks, etc.

But far greater than any of those disasters, and the one from which they all stem, was the entrance of sin into the human race. Sin renders fallen men spiritually dead, cuts them off from fellowship with God, and consigns them to eternal punishment in Hell.

In today’s verse Paul introduces four words that describe man’s unregenerate state: flesh, sin, law, and death. Those four words are interconnected: the flesh produces sin, which is stimulated by the law, resulting in death. Let’s consider each one individually.

The term flesh is used two ways in Scripture. It is sometimes used in a physical sense to speak of human existence. John used it to describe Christ’s incarnation in John 1:14 and 1 John 4:2. But in its moral sense, “flesh” represents the believer’s unredeemed body (Gal. 5:13; Eph. 2:3). 

While believers are no longer “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:9) as are unbelievers, the flesh is still in us. It is the seat of temptation, the beachhead from which Satan launches his attacks.
Sin (or “sinful passions”) energizes the flesh, which in turn produces further sin. 

Those “sinful passions,” Paul says, “were aroused by the Law”; they are exposed by the law because fallen man’s rebellious nature makes him desire to do what is forbidden. The end result of this downward spiral is “death”—both physical and spiritual.
What a merciful God we serve, who “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5).

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray for the unbelievers in your life, that God would open their hearts to respond to the gospel (Acts 16:14).

For Further Study
* What do the following passages teach about the Christian’s relationship to the law—Romans 8:2-4; 10:4; Galatians 3:13; 5:18; Philippians 3:9?
* Does that mean believers can live as they please? (See 1 Cor. 9:21.)


Desiring God's Word

"The judgments of the Lord are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb" (Ps. 19:10).

You should value Scripture more than all earthly treasures.
I have a friend who has a beautiful collection of rare Bibles. My favorite is one of the earliest printed copies, dating back to sixteenth-century England. The first time I held it in my hands I noticed that the top third of every page was covered with a dark stain. Tears filled my eyes when I realized it was from the blood of its original owner.

My friend explained that when Bloody Mary ruled England, she delighted in terrorizing Protestants and murdering as many as she could. Her soldiers would execute their victims through some bloody means, then take his or her Bible and dip it into the blood. Some of those Bibles have been preserved and are known as Martyrs' Bibles. Scientists have confirmed that the dark stains on every page of my friend's Bible are, indeed, human blood.
That same Bible is well worn from being studied. And many of its pages have water stains on them—perhaps from tears. Obviously it was someone's most precious possession, and his or her blood is there to prove it.

Psalm 19:10 captures the heart of such people, extolling the preciousness of God's Word. To David, Scripture was more valuable than the best gold and purest honey. Meditating on it meant more to him than the richest and sweetest things in life. He knew its ability to satisfy every spiritual appetite.
As precious as God's Word is, many Christians take it for granted and become complacent in their studies. Some go for long periods without gaining fresh insights from its pages.

Perhaps you know someone who is in that situation. If so, ask the Lord for wisdom as you gently encourage him or her toward greater faithfulness in the Word. At the same time be careful not to become negligent yourself.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for the example of those who have loved His Word to the cost of their lives.
* Ask Him to give you the desire to feed on His truth daily and the drive to satisfy that desire.

For Further Study
Read 1 Peter 2:1-2 as a reminder to keep your heart sensitive to the precious gift of God's Word.


John the Baptist’s Testimony to Jesus’ Deity

“‘You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light’” (John 5:33–35).

The purpose of John the Baptist’s ministry was to prepare the nation for the Messiah (1:23), and to point Him out when He came (1:31).
John’s testimony supported Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah. Since he was generally regarded as a prophet (Matt. 21:26; Luke 20:6)—the first one in four centuries—his testimony carried considerable weight.

Jesus, of course, did not depend on human testimony to establish His claim to deity. He cited the testimony of John the Baptist to confirm by the mouth of one already recognized as God’s true prophet that same truth concerning Himself. He did so for the sake of His hearers—that they might be saved on account of John’s faithful witness.

Having mentioned John’s testimony to Him, Jesus in turn gave both a tribute to the Baptist and a rebuke to the Jewish leaders for rejecting his witness. John was “the lamp that was burning and was shining.” His “burning” inner zeal made him a “shining” light in the dark world. Unlike Jesus, who is the Light of the world (8:12), John was a lamp—he was a reflector of the Light. Just as a lamp lights the way for people, so John lit the way to Jesus (1:31). 

Ask Yourself
We are never just standing still. We’re either increasing our resemblance to Christ’s character, or we’re looking more like ourselves—more controlled by our own desires and appetites. What traits would make you a better reflection of the presence of Christ in your life?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 33:1–34:22
* Psalm 119:57-64
* Proverbs 27:21
* 1 Timothy 3:1-16

Jeremiah 33:15 A Branch. This is the Messiah King in David’s lineage. He is the King whose reign immediately follows the Second Coming when He appears in power (Dan. 2:35, 45; 7:13, 14, 27; Matt. 16:27–28; 24:30; 26:64).

Jeremiah 34:18, 21 cut the calf in two. God will give the guilty over to death before the conqueror, for they denied the covenant ratified by blood (v. 21). In this custom, as in Genesis 15:8–17, two parties laid out parts of a sacrifice on two sides, then walked between the parts. By that symbolic action, each pledged to fulfill his promise, agreeing in effect, “May my life (represented by the blood) be poured out if I fail to honor my part.”

1 Timothy 3:1 desires…desires. Two different Greek words are used. The first means “to reach out after.” It describes external action not internal motive. The second means “a strong passion” and refers to an inward desire. Taken together, these two words aptly describe the type of man who belongs in the ministry—one who outwardly pursues it because he is driven by a strong internal desire. bishop. The word means “overseer” and identifies the men who are responsible to lead the church (5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12; Heb. 13:7). In the New Testament the words “bishop,” “elder,” “overseer,” and “pastor” are used interchangeably to describe the same men (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5–9; 1 Pet. 5:1, 2). 

Bishops (pastors, overseers, elders) are responsible to lead (5:17), preach and teach (5:17), help the spiritually weak (1 Thess. 5:12–14), care for the church (1 Pet. 5:1, 2), and ordain other leaders (4:14).

1 Timothy 3:6 not a novice, lest…puffed up with pride. Putting a new convert into a leadership role would tempt him to pride. Elders, therefore, are to be drawn from the spiritually mature men of the congregation. fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Satan’s condemnation was due to pride over his position. It resulted in his fall from honor and authority. The same kind of fall and judgment could easily happen to a new and weak believer put in a position of spiritual leadership.

1 Timothy 3:8 deacons. From a word group meaning “to serve.” Originally referring to menial tasks such as waiting on tables (Acts 6:1–4), “deacon” came to denote any service in the church. Deacons serve under the leadership of elders, helping them exercise oversight in the practical matters of church life. Scripture defines no official or specific responsibilities for deacons. They are to do whatever the elders assign them or whatever spiritual ministry is necessary.

What does it mean for an elder to be “the husband of one wife”?

In 1 Timothy 3:2, the Greek is literally a “one-woman man.” This says nothing about marriage or divorce (v. 4). The issue is not the elder’s marital status but his moral and sexual purity. This qualification heads the list, because it is in this area that leaders are most prone to fail. Various interpretations of this qualification have been offered. Some see it as a prohibition against polygamy—an unnecessary injunction since polygamy was not common in Roman society and clearly forbidden by Scripture (Gen. 2:24), the teaching of Jesus (Matt. 19:5, 6; Mark 10:6–9), and Paul (Eph. 5:31). 

A polygamist could not even have been a church member, let alone a church leader. Others see this requirement as barring those who remarried after the death of their wives. But, as already noted, the issue is sexual purity, not marital status. Further, the Bible encourages remarriage after widowhood (5:14; 1 Cor. 7:39). Some believe that Paul here excludes divorced men from church leadership. That again ignores the fact that this qualification does not deal with marital status. Nor does the Bible prohibit all remarriage after divorce (Matt. 5:31, 32; 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:15). 

Finally, some think that this requirement excludes single men from church leadership. But if that were Paul’s intent, he would have disqualified himself (1 Cor. 7:8).

A “one-woman man” is one totally devoted to his wife, maintaining singular devotion, affection, and sexual purity in both thought and deed. To violate this is to forfeit blamelessness and no longer be “above reproach” (Titus 1:6,7).




Joined to Christ

“. . . That you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).
No longer married to the law, the believer is now married to Jesus Christ.

Of the many New Testament metaphors used to describe the church, the most intimate is that of the bride of Christ. Paul describes that relationship in Ephesians 5:24-27: “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.”

By describing Christ as “Him who was raised from the dead,” Paul stresses the believer’s union with Jesus not only in His death but also in His resurrection (Rom. 6:4-5). Thus, our marriage bond with the living Savior will last forever.
The result of our union with Christ is “that we might bear fruit for God.” It is the goal of every believer’s life to glorify God by bearing fruit. There is no such thing as a Christian who bears no fruit, because the inevitable result of salvation is a transformed life. 
Jesus continues that process of transformation throughout our lives, continually pruning us so that we may produce even more fruit to His glory (John 15:1-2).

Spiritual fruit may be defined as any righteous act that glorifies God. It may consist of godly, Spirit-produced attitudes (Gal. 5:22-23), praise to God (Heb. 13:15), others led to Christ (Rom. 1:13), giving to those in need (Rom. 15:26-28), and righteous living (Phil. 1:11).What a great privilege is ours, to be eternally “one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17) with the Lord of Glory!

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God would enable you to do all things for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31).

For Further Study
Read the list of the fruit of the Spirit Paul gives in Galatians 5:22-23.

* Using a concordance, Bible dictionary, or other reference tools, study each aspect of fruit listed.
* Look for ways to implement into your daily life what you learn.


The Source of Righteousness

"The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether" (Ps. 19:9).

God’s Word is true and produces righteousness in the believer’s life.
The inability of human wisdom to produce right living was reaffirmed in my thinking as I read a contemporary psychiatrist's book on how to overcome depression. The doctor's first suggestion was to shout "Cancel!" every time you have a negative thought. 

She also recommended playing a tape recording of positive messages while you sleep at night, and listening to positive music during the day.

Cultivating a meaningful spiritual philosophy was another of her suggestions. She said any will do—as long as it works for you—but cautioned against those that speak of sin and guilt. Her final point was to find the spiritual light within yourself.

That kind of advice is foolish because it has no basis in truth. The best it can do is mask a few symptoms. It cannot cure the illness.

Jesus illustrated the hopelessness of searching for truth through such means when He said to a group of unbelievers, "Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil . . . [who] does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. . . . He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God" (John 8:43-47).

Unbelievers don't see the truth of God's Word for what it is. But believers hear the truth and receive it. Like David, they acknowledge that "the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether" (Ps. 19:9).  "Judgments" in that context speaks of ordinances or divine verdicts from the Supreme Judge.  

"Righteous altogether" implies that Scripture produces comprehensive righteousness in all who receive it. Together they emphasize that true righteousness originates from God's Word and flows through His people.

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for giving you the truth that produces righteousness.

For Further Study
What do the following verses say about God's righteous Word: Psalm 119:89, 128, 137-38, and 142?


Physical Resurrection

“‘Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment’” (John 5:28–29).

The unbelieving Jews were astonished and outraged at Jesus’ bold claim to be the giver of spiritual life and the ultimate judge of all men. But then Jesus revealed another truth that astounded them: He would one day raise the dead from their graves. As He did with the spiritual resurrection (v. 25), Jesus said that the hour of physical resurrection is coming. The resurrection of “all who are in the tombs” is still future. At that time, the souls of the righteous dead, now in heaven with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6–8), and of the wicked dead, now in torment in Hades (Luke 16:22–23), will be given resurrected bodies fit for eternity.

The final resurrection will usher believers into the glories of eternal life, and bring unbelievers to the endless suffering of eternal judgment. By characterizing believers as “those who did the good deeds” and unbelievers as “those who committed the evil deeds,” Jesus was not teaching that salvation is by works. Throughout His ministry, Jesus clearly taught that salvation “is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (6:29). Good works are simply the evidence of salvation. 

Those who believe in the Son will as a result do “good deeds” (3:21; Eph. 2:10; James 2:14–20), while those who reject the Son will be characterized by “evil deeds.”

Ask Yourself
How does the reality of a physical resurrection help deflect the disappointment you feel when you notice those tell tale signs of aging and bodily decay? How do you balance the biblical stewardship of healthy living with the assurance that these temporary dwellings are destined for replacement?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 31:1–32:44
* Psalm 119:49-56
* Proverbs 27:20
* 1 Timothy 2:1-15

Jeremiah 32:14 Take these deeds. Title deeds to the land, kept for security reasons in a pottery jar, would attest in a future day to one’s claim of possession. Men of Anathoth did return to Jerusalem from Babylon (Ezra 2:23). Also, some of the poor of the land, left by the Babylonians (chap. 39), could have included certain inhabitants of Anathoth. In a still future day, God will be able (vv. 17, 27) to make this land good to a resurrected Jeremiah and confirm to the right people that they are the prophet/priest’s descendants.

Proverbs 27:20 Hell and Destruction. Man’s desires are never filled up. They are as insatiable as the place of eternal punishment which never overfills.
1 Timothy 2:1 supplications. The Greek word is from a root that means “to lack,” “to be deprived,” or “to be without.” Thus this kind of prayer occurs because of a need. The lost have a great need for salvation, and believers should always be asking God to meet that need. intercessions. This word comes from a root meaning “to fall in with someone” or “to draw near so as to speak intimately.” 

The verb from which this word derives is used of Christ’s and the Spirit’s intercession for believers (Rom. 8:26; Heb. 7:25). Paul’s desire is for the Ephesian Christians to have compassion for the lost, to understand the depths of their pain and misery, and to come intimately to God pleading for their salvation.

1 Timothy 2:9 adorn…modest apparel. The Greek word for “adorn” means “to arrange,” “to put in order,” or “to make ready.” A woman is to arrange herself appropriately for the worship service, which includes wearing decent clothing which reflects a properly adorned chaste heart. propriety and moderation. The Greek word for “propriety” refers to modesty mixed with humility, which carries the underlying idea of shame. It can also refer to a rejection of anything dishonorable to God or to grief over sin. “Moderation” basically refers to self-control over sexual passions. Godly women hate sin and control their passions so as not to lead another into sin.

What is the “New Covenant” in Jeremiah 31:31–34?
God announced here the coming establishment of a New Covenant with His people. This covenant will be different from the one “I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke. ”The New Covenant is given in these terms: “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

The fulfillment of this New Covenant was to individuals, as well as to Israel as a nation (v. 36; Rom. 11:16–27). It is set 1) in the framework of a reestablishment in their land (vv. 38–40 and chaps. 30–33) and 2) in the time after the ultimate difficulty (30:7).

In principle, this covenant, also announced by Jesus Christ (Luke 22:20), began to be exercised with spiritual aspects realized for Jewish and Gentile believers in the church era (1 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 8:7–13; 9:15; 10:14–17; 12:24; 13:20). It has already begun to take effect with “a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). The New Covenant will be also realized by the people of Israel in the last days, including the regathering to their ancient land, Palestine (chaps. 30–33). The streams of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants find their confluence in the millennial kingdom ruled over by the Messiah.




Spiritual Resurrection: Purpose and Power

“‘Those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself’” (John 5:25–26).

Those who experience spiritual resurrection will receive abundant (10:10), everlasting life. But the only ones who “will live” are “those who hear” in the sense of true faith and obedience to the gospel. “My sheep hear My voice,” Jesus declared, “and I know them, and they follow Me” (10:27). 

Believers are those who have both the spiritual faculty and duty to respond to divine revelation. In contrast, the lost do not hear Christ’s voice; they are not saved and thus do not understand or obey it (8:43, 47; 12:4714:24), and hence will not live spiritually.

The Son can give life (v. 21) because, like the Father, He “has life in Himself.” No one can give to others what he himself lacks; thus no sinful human being can generate for himself eternal life. God alone possesses it, and He grants it through His Son to whomever He wills.

Those who deny His deity twist Jesus’ statement about the Father giving life to the Son into a claim that He was created and thus inferior to the Father. Such is not the case, however. John has already stated in the prologue to his gospel that the Son possessed life in Himself from all eternity (1:4). When He became a man, our Lord voluntarily gave up the independent use of His divine attributes (Phil. 2:6–7). But the Father granted Him the authority to give life (both physical and spiritual) even during the self-limiting condescension of His earthly ministry.

Ask Yourself

What’s the motivation behind those who try to downplay Jesus’ divinity? What are they trying to avoid admitting or dealing with? What would you say to those who claim that doctrines like these are unimportant and nonessential?


Dead to the Law

“Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4).

The law can no longer punish those who have died with Christ.

It’s an axiomatic truth that laws don’t apply to dead people. No policeman would issue a ticket to a drunk driver who was killed in an accident. Nor was Lee Harvey Oswald tried for killing President Kennedy, since he himself was killed by Jack Ruby. 

In Romans 7:2-3Paul uses marriage to illustrate that truth: “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then if, while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man.” Paul’s point is simple: death ends a marriage because the laws regarding marriage don’t apply to the dead.

The same principle holds true in the spiritual realm. Since believers have died with Christ (Rom. 6:3-7), the law can no longer condemn them; it no longer has authority over them. Paul’s use of a passive verb (“were made to die”) indicates that believers don’t make themselves dead to the law; they were made dead to the law through a divine act.

The only provision for paying the penalty the law demands is the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). 

The apostle repeated that truth in Galatians 2:19-20: “For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that you are no longer under the law’s condemnation (Rom. 8:1).

For Further Study

Read Romans 3:207:12Galatians 3:24-25. Since the law can’t save anyone, what is its purpose?


Reading for Today:


Jeremiah 29:14 I will be found by you. The Lord would answer their prayer by returning the Jews to their land, Daniel’s example and God’s response (Dan. 9:4–27). Fulfillment would occur in the era of Ezra and Nehemiah, and beyond this in even fuller measure after the Second Advent of their Messiah (Dan. 2:35457:13142712:1–313).

Jeremiah 30:7 time of Jacob’s trouble. This period of unprecedented difficulty for Israel, as the verse defines, is set in a context of Israel’s final restoration. It is best equated with the time of tribulation (vv. 8, 9) just before Christ’s Second Advent mentioned elsewhere (Dan. 12:1Matt. 24:2122) and described in detail by Revelation 6–19.

1 Timothy 1:4 fables and endless genealogies. Legends and fanciful stories manufactured from elements of Judaism (v. 7; Titus 1:14), which probably dealt with allegorical or fictitious interpretations of Old Testament genealogical lists. In reality, they were “doctrines of demons” (4:1), posing as God’s truth (4:7).

1 Timothy 1:8 the law is good. The Greek word for “good” can be translated “useful.” The law is good or useful because it reflects God’s holy will and righteous standard (Ps. 19:7Rom. 7:12) which accomplishes its purpose in showing sinners their sin (Rom. 3:19) and their need for a Savior (Gal. 3:24).The law forces people to recognize that they are guilty of disobeying God’s commands, and it thereby condemns every person and sentences them to hell.

1 Timothy 1:13 because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. Paul was neither a Jewish apostate nor a Pharisee who clearly understood Jesus’ teaching and still rejected Him. He was a zealous, fastidious Jew trying to earn his salvation, thus lost and damned. His plea of ignorance was not a claim to innocence nor an excuse denying his guilt. It was simply a statement indicating that he did not understand the truth of Christ’s gospel and was honestly trying to protect his religion. His willing repentance when confronted by Christ is evidence that he had not understood the ramifications of his actions—he truly thought he was doing God a service (Acts 26:9).

Who is Timothy?

Timothy received his name, which means “one who honors God,” from his mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois), devout Jews who became believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 1:5) and taught Timothy the Old Testament Scriptures from his childhood (2 Tim. 3:15). His father was a Greek (Acts 16:1) who may have died before Timothy met Paul.

Timothy was from Lystra (Acts 16:1–3), a city in the Roman province of Galatia (part of modern Turkey). Paul led Timothy to Christ (1:2, 18; 1 Cor. 4:172 Tim. 1:2), undoubtedly during his ministry in Lystra on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:6–23). When he revisited Lystra on his second missionary journey, Paul chose Timothy to accompany him (Acts 16:1–3). 

Although Timothy was very young (probably in his late teens or early twenties, since about 15 years later Paul referred to him as a young man; 4:12), he had a reputation for godliness (Acts 16:2). Timothy was to be Paul’s disciple, friend, and co-laborer for the rest of the apostle’s life, ministering with him in Berea (Acts 17:14), Athens (Acts 17:15), Corinth (Acts 18:52 Cor. 1:19), and accompanying him on his trip to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). He was with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment and went to Philippi (2:19–23) after Paul’s release. In addition, Paul frequently mentions Timothy in his epistles. Paul often sent Timothy to churches as his representative (1 Cor. 4:1716:10Phil. 2:191 Thess. 3:2), and 1 Timothy finds him on another assignment, serving as pastor of the church at Ephesus (1:3).






There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. - Romans 8:1


Spiritual Resurrection: Purpose and Power

“‘Those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself’” (John 5:25–26).

Those who experience spiritual resurrection will receive abundant (10:10), everlasting life. But the only ones who “will live” are “those who hear” in the sense of true faith and obedience to the gospel. “My sheep hear My voice,” Jesus declared, “and I know them, and they follow Me” (10:27). 

Believers are those who have both the spiritual faculty and duty to respond to divine revelation. In contrast, the lost do not hear Christ’s voice; they are not saved and thus do not understand or obey it (8:43, 47; 12:4714:24), and hence will not live spiritually.

The Son can give life (v. 21) because, like the Father, He “has life in Himself.” No one can give to others what he himself lacks; thus no sinful human being can generate for himself eternal life. God alone possesses it, and He grants it through His Son to whomever He wills.

Those who deny His deity twist Jesus’ statement about the Father giving life to the Son into a claim that He was created and thus inferior to the Father. Such is not the case, however. John has already stated in the prologue to his gospel that the Son possessed life in Himself from all eternity (1:4). When He became a man, our Lord voluntarily gave up the independent use of His divine attributes (Phil. 2:6–7). But the Father granted Him the authority to give life (both physical and spiritual) even during the self-limiting condescension of His earthly ministry.

Ask Yourself

What’s the motivation behind those who try to downplay Jesus’ divinity? What are they trying to avoid admitting or dealing with? What would you say to those who claim that doctrines like these are unimportant and nonessential?


Dead to the Law

“Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4).

The law can no longer punish those who have died with Christ.

It’s an axiomatic truth that laws don’t apply to dead people. No policeman would issue a ticket to a drunk driver who was killed in an accident. Nor was Lee Harvey Oswald tried for killing President Kennedy, since he himself was killed by Jack Ruby. 

In Romans 7:2-3Paul uses marriage to illustrate that truth: “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then if, while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man.” Paul’s point is simple: death ends a marriage because the laws regarding marriage don’t apply to the dead.

The same principle holds true in the spiritual realm. Since believers have died with Christ (Rom. 6:3-7), the law can no longer condemn them; it no longer has authority over them. Paul’s use of a passive verb (“were made to die”) indicates that believers don’t make themselves dead to the law; they were made dead to the law through a divine act.

The only provision for paying the penalty the law demands is the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). 

The apostle repeated that truth in Galatians 2:19-20: “For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that you are no longer under the law’s condemnation (Rom. 8:1).

For Further Study

Read Romans 3:207:12Galatians 3:24-25. Since the law can’t save anyone, what is its purpose?


Reading for Today:


Jeremiah 29:14 I will be found by you. The Lord would answer their prayer by returning the Jews to their land, Daniel’s example and God’s response (Dan. 9:4–27). Fulfillment would occur in the era of Ezra and Nehemiah, and beyond this in even fuller measure after the Second Advent of their Messiah (Dan. 2:35457:13142712:1–313).

Jeremiah 30:7 time of Jacob’s trouble. This period of unprecedented difficulty for Israel, as the verse defines, is set in a context of Israel’s final restoration. It is best equated with the time of tribulation (vv. 8, 9) just before Christ’s Second Advent mentioned elsewhere (Dan. 12:1Matt. 24:2122) and described in detail by Revelation 6–19.

1 Timothy 1:4 fables and endless genealogies. Legends and fanciful stories manufactured from elements of Judaism (v. 7; Titus 1:14), which probably dealt with allegorical or fictitious interpretations of Old Testament genealogical lists. In reality, they were “doctrines of demons” (4:1), posing as God’s truth (4:7).

1 Timothy 1:8 the law is good. The Greek word for “good” can be translated “useful.” The law is good or useful because it reflects God’s holy will and righteous standard (Ps. 19:7Rom. 7:12) which accomplishes its purpose in showing sinners their sin (Rom. 3:19) and their need for a Savior (Gal. 3:24).The law forces people to recognize that they are guilty of disobeying God’s commands, and it thereby condemns every person and sentences them to hell.

1 Timothy 1:13 because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. Paul was neither a Jewish apostate nor a Pharisee who clearly understood Jesus’ teaching and still rejected Him. He was a zealous, fastidious Jew trying to earn his salvation, thus lost and damned. His plea of ignorance was not a claim to innocence nor an excuse denying his guilt. It was simply a statement indicating that he did not understand the truth of Christ’s gospel and was honestly trying to protect his religion. His willing repentance when confronted by Christ is evidence that he had not understood the ramifications of his actions—he truly thought he was doing God a service (Acts 26:9).

Who is Timothy?

Timothy received his name, which means “one who honors God,” from his mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois), devout Jews who became believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 1:5) and taught Timothy the Old Testament Scriptures from his childhood (2 Tim. 3:15). His father was a Greek (Acts 16:1) who may have died before Timothy met Paul.

Timothy was from Lystra (Acts 16:1–3), a city in the Roman province of Galatia (part of modern Turkey). Paul led Timothy to Christ (1:2, 18; 1 Cor. 4:172 Tim. 1:2), undoubtedly during his ministry in Lystra on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:6–23). When he revisited Lystra on his second missionary journey, Paul chose Timothy to accompany him (Acts 16:1–3). 

Although Timothy was very young (probably in his late teens or early twenties, since about 15 years later Paul referred to him as a young man; 4:12), he had a reputation for godliness (Acts 16:2). Timothy was to be Paul’s disciple, friend, and co-laborer for the rest of the apostle’s life, ministering with him in Berea (Acts 17:14), Athens (Acts 17:15), Corinth (Acts 18:52 Cor. 1:19), and accompanying him on his trip to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). He was with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment and went to Philippi (2:19–23) after Paul’s release. In addition, Paul frequently mentions Timothy in his epistles. Paul often sent Timothy to churches as his representative (1 Cor. 4:1716:10Phil. 2:191 Thess. 3:2), and 1 Timothy finds him on another assignment, serving as pastor of the church at Ephesus (1:3).






There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. - Romans 8:1


Paying Sin's Prince

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Christ paid a debt He did not owe to free us from a debt we could not pay.

In the scientific realm there are universal laws, such as the law of gravity. These laws are built into the creation by its all-wise Creator and keep it functioning normally.

Just as God has made inexorable laws to govern the physical dimension, so also has He decreed universal spiritual principles. The most significant of those spiritual laws is that sin demands death; death is the wages sin pays. The Greek word translated “wages” was commonly used to speak of giving compensation for service rendered. When God sentences sinners to Hell, He is merely giving them the compensation that they have earned and that His justice demands.

In sharp contrast to the inexorable law of sin and death is the gracious “free gift of God”—“eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal life is not a wage but a gift, and hence it can’t be earned. Good works, church attendance, or religious rituals will not entitle anyone to it. After recounting his religious credentials—credentials unsurpassed in first-century Judaism (Gal. 1:14)—Paul dismissed them as “loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:7).

The free gift of eternal life comes only through “Christ Jesus our Lord.” In Acts 4:12 Peter declared that “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.” And in John 14:6Jesus said simply, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15)!

Suggestions for Prayer

Have you lost touch with the reality that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:2)? If so, spend some time in prayer today, thanking God for giving you eternal life.

For Further Study

What do the following passages teach about the possibility of earning eternal life: Romans 3:28Galatians 2:163:11Philippians 3:9Titus 3:5?


Obeying God's Commands

"The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Ps. 19:8).

Obedience to the Word is the hallmark of a true believer.

It isn't popular these days to speak of God's Word as a book of commandments. Commands imply law and we're accustomed to grace. But the fact is, both the Old and New Testaments contain many commandments that all God's people are to obey. 

The apostle John said, "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected" (1 John 2:3-5). John equated the commandments of God with the Word of God.

Jesus Himself said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15) and "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father" (v. 21). 

If you truly love Christ, your life will be characterized by a pattern of obedience to His Word.

Every commandment of God is "pure", the psalmist said (Ps. 19:8). Its effect is "enlightening the eyes." God's Word brings spiritual truth into clear focus. Not every passage of Scripture is easy to understand, but taken as a whole, the message of the Bible is clear to the regenerate mind.

But as clear as the Bible is to believers, unredeemed people can't understand it. To them it's foolishness because their minds are unenlightened (1 Cor. 2:14). In their spiritual blindness they choose humanistic philosophical speculations over God's Word. But as a believer, you are continually being enlightened by the truths of God's Word as the Holy Spirit enables you to understand and apply them to your life.

Your ability to understand the Word is a priceless gift. Take advantage of it daily by expanding your Bible knowledge and increasing your obedience.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for opening your mind to the truths of His Word.
  • Commit yourself to discovering at least one additional truth from Scripture each day. 

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 2:14-16. What comparison did Paul make between the natural (unregenerate) man and the spiritual (regenerate) man?


Who Receives Spiritual Resurrection?

“‘Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live’” (John 5:25).

Jesus begins this emphatic, unarguable declaration with the seemingly paradoxical statement “an hour is coming and now is.” The hour of the believers’ resurrection “now is” in the sense that when they “were dead in [their] trespasses and sins . . . [God] made [them] alive together with Christ, and raised [them] up with Him” (Eph. 2:15–6). Yet the hour is still “coming” in the sense that the resurrection of their physical bodies is yet future (1 Cor. 15:35–54Phil. 3:20–21).

This “already/not yet” sense of the phrase may be understood in another way. When Christ was present, He offered spiritual life to all who would heed His Word (6:37Matt. 7:24–27). Yet the full expression of the new era He inaugurated would not come until the day of Pentecost (14:17). Both during Christ’s earthly ministry and in the fullness of the Spirit’s ministry after Pentecost, the spiritually dead who heard “the voice of the Son of God” would live.

Scripture frequently describes unbelievers as spiritually dead. To be spiritually dead is to be insensitive to the things of God and totally unable to respond to Him. Paul vividly described it as living “in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and [being] by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).

Rejoice in the amazing grace of God for making you alive together with Christ.

Ask Yourself

Try to define the ways you’re experiencing the first rays of eternal life even while bound in this time and place. How would your life be different if you were still spiritually dead, removed from the grace of God?


Reading for Today:


Jeremiah 27:8 yoke of…Babylon. The point of the object lesson is simple. Any nation that will serve Babylon willingly may stay in their own land, but nations that will not submit voluntarily to Babylon will suffer destruction. 

Consequently, Judah should submit and not be removed from the land (vv. 9–18).

Jeremiah 28:2, 3 I have broken the yoke. The false prophet, of the kind Jeremiah warned of in 27:14–16, boldly predicted victory over Babylon and the return of the temple vessels within two years. In actuality, Babylon achieved its third and final step in conquering Judah 11 years later (586 B.C.) as in chapters 39, 40, and 52.

Psalm 119:39 good. The very attributes of God (v. 68) become the characteristics of Scripture: 1) trustworthy (v. 42); 2) true (vv. 43, 142, 151, 160); 3) faithful (v. 86); 4) unchangeable (v. 89); 5) eternal (vv. 90, 152); 6) light (v. 105); and 7) pure (v. 140).

2 Thessalonians 3:1 pray for us. Paul frequently enlisted prayer support from the churches for his ministry (Rom. 15:30–32Eph. 6:1819Col. 4:231 Thess. 5:25; Philem.22). In particular, he asked them to pray that the word of God would continue to spread rapidly as it had been already (Acts 6:712:2413:44–49) and be received with the honor it deserved.

How does Paul’s teaching on church discipline in 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15 fit with other major biblical passages on this subject?

Paul addressed a particular issue of church discipline with the Thessalonians in 3:6–15. Helpful parallel passages that should be consulted in studying this one include Matthew 18:15–201 Corinthians 5:1–13Galatians 6:1–5, and 1 Timothy 5:1920.

This passage (3:6–15) gives specific direction on the nature of the church’s response to someone who deliberately refuses to follow God’s Word, expecting to benefit from fellowship with God’s people while being unwilling to participate in a meaningful way. Paul’s directions were not mere suggestions, but rather they carried the weight and authority of a judge’s court order which the apostle delivered and enforced (vv. 4, 6, 10, 12). In Paul’s words, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (3:10). These were fellow believers acting in a parasitic way, sapping the generosity of other believers. Paul had already addressed this pattern in his first letter (1 Thess. 4:11). If there were any questions, Paul called them to imitate him (v. 7; 1 Thess. 1:6) because he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 4:1611:1Eph. 5:1).

This passage offers an emphatic command, a personal confrontation, and a compassionate caution. First, vv. 6 and 14 instruct the rest of the church to “withdraw” and “not keep company” with such a person. In other words, Paul was commanding the church to disfellowship blatantly disobedient Christians in order to produce shame (v. 14) and, hopefully, repentance. Second, Paul was giving the sluggards a direct command to “work in quietness and eat their own bread” (v. 12), removing any excuse that they had not been warned about discipline. Third, Paul added two crucial words of caution. He reminded the believers that genuinely needy people deserved help. He urged them, “Do not grow weary in doing good” (v. 13). He also cautioned them to limit their disciplinary withdrawal. “Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (v. 15).

While an unrepentant pattern of sin should be handled decisively, they should continually remember that the person being disciplined is a brother or sister in the Lord. All further warnings to this person about his or her sin should be done with love and concern, praying for this fellow believer’s restoration.

The goal for any prescription for church discipline must be the restoration of the sinning person. If successful, Jesus said that “you have gained your brother” (Matt. 18:15). The idea is not merely to punish the offender or to shun him completely, but to remove him as a detrimental influence from the fellowship of the church, and henceforth to regard him as an evangelistic prospect rather than a brother. 

Ultimately, the sin for which he is excommunicated is a hardhearted impenitence.







Serving a New Master

“I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification” (Romans 6:19).

You must live consistent with your new nature.

It is a truism that in the spiritual realm, no one stands still. Sin leads to more sin, while holy living leads to further righteousness. All unbelievers are slaves of sin and have no choice but to sin; yielding to sin comes naturally to them. They are inwardly full of “impurity” and hence outwardly given to “lawlessness.” They continually spiral downward; sin leads to more sin, which leads in turn to still more sin. Ultimately, sin will drag a person into the depths of Hell.

For Christians, however, the spiral is an upward one. Having become new creatures at salvation (2 Cor. 5:17), believers are no longer servants of sin. The Christian life is the process of bringing one’s lifestyle into line with one’s nature. As believers “present their members as slaves to righteousness,” the inevitable result is further “sanctification.” Decreasing frequency of sin, therefore, is a sure sign of a mature believer.

Paul knew all too well from his own experience that the believer’s body is a battleground. In his spiritual autobiography he wrote, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:21-24).

How are you faring in the daily battle with sin? If victories are few and far between, perhaps you have forgotten Paul’s exhortation to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray with the psalmist, “Establish my footsteps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me” (Ps. 119:133).

For Further Study

Identify one area in which you lack self-control. Use a concordance to see what Proverbs teaches about your problem.


Living a Joyous Life

"The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart" (Ps. 19:8).

Knowing your life is on the right track is a source of great joy.

What brings you joy? Your answer will reveal much about your priorities and the direction your life is heading spiritually.

The psalmist wrote, "How blessed [happy] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers" (Ps. 1:1-3).

That psalmist knew that true joy and happiness come from knowing God and abiding in His Word. That was David's confidence when he wrote, "The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart" (Ps. 19:8).

"Precepts" in that verse speaks of divine principles and guidelines for character and conduct. God created you and knows how you must live to give glory to Him. And He revealed in His Word every precept you must know to do so.

Every divine precept is "right." It shows you the path that is right and true. What a wonderful confidence that is! While many around you may be discouraged or despondent because of their lack of direction and purpose, God's Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Ps. 119:105). 

It guides you through the difficult mazes of life and gives your life eternal significance. Don't live simply for your own pleasures. Your life has a high and holy purpose, and each day can be filled with joy as you see that purpose unfold.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to help you be mindful of your eternal purpose today and every day.
  • Ask Him to direct you to someone who needs Christ and is sensing a lack of purpose in his or her life. 

For Further Study

Read Colossians 3:1-4.

  • How did Paul describe Christ?
  • What should be the focus of your thinking?
  • Are you heeding Paul's exhortation?


Jesus’ Deity in His Honor

“‘. . . so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life’” (John 5:23–24).

The Father’s purpose in entrusting all judgment to Jesus is “so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” It is only fitting that those equal in nature (vv. 17–18), works (vv. 19–20), power and sovereignty (v. 21), and judgment (v. 22) would be accorded equal honor. The Father’s honor is not diminished by the honor paid to Christ; on the contrary, it is enhanced.

Although the unbelieving Jews thought they were truly worshiping God while rejecting His Son (cf. 16:2), instead the opposite was true: “he who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” “He who hates Me,” Jesus warned, “hates My Father also” (John 15:23). Those who refuse to honor the Son while claiming to honor the Father are actually self-deceived.

That the Father and the Son are to be afforded equal honor forcefully asserts Christ’s deity and equality with God, who declared through the prophet Isaiah, “I will not give My glory to another” (Isa. 42:8; cf. 48:11). Yet the Father has commanded that “all will honor the Son.” Willingly or unwillingly, everyone will eventually obey the Father’s command to honor Jesus Christ. The blessed promise to those who believe is that they “do not come into judgment, but [have] passed out of death into life.”

Ask Yourself

Many in our culture today still don’t have a lot of trouble believing in God, but Jesus is quite another matter. Are you sometimes convinced that a person is spiritually sound because he talks favorably of God and exhibits some good qualities? How do you speak to an individual like this about his or her need for Jesus?


Reading for Today:


Jeremiah 25:11 seventy years. Here is the first specific statement on the length of the exile. This period probably began in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, when Jerusalem was first captured and the temple treasures were taken. It ends with the decree of Cyrus to let the Jews return, spanning from ca. 605/04 B.C. to 536/35 B.C. The exact number of Sabbath years is 490 years, the period from Saul to the Babylonian captivity. This was retribution for their violation of the Sabbath law (Lev. 26:34352 Chr. 36:21).

Jeremiah 26:12 Jeremiah spoke. Leaders and people threatened to kill him (v. 8). The prophet defended himself while in extreme danger. He did not compromise but displayed tremendous spiritual courage. He was ready to die (v. 14), yet warned the crowd that God would hold the guilty accountable (v. 15).

Proverbs 27:17 iron sharpens iron. The benefits of intellectual and theological discussion encourage joy through a keener mind and the improvement of good character which the face will reveal.

2 Thessalonians 2:7 the mystery of lawlessness. This is the spirit of lawlessness already prevalent in society (1 John 3:45:17), but still a mystery in that it is not fully revealed as it will be in the one who so blatantly opposes God that he blasphemously assumes the place of God on earth which God has reserved for Jesus Christ. The spirit of such a man is already in operation (1 John 2:184:3), but the man who fully embodies that spirit has not come. taken out of the way. This refers not to spatial removal (therefore it could not be the Rapture of the church) but rather “a stepping aside.” The idea is “out of the way,” not gone. This restraint will be in place until the Antichrist is revealed, at the midpoint of the Tribulation, leaving him 42 months to reign (Dan. 7:25Rev. 13:5).

2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10 the lawless one. He will do mighty acts pointing to himself as supernaturally empowered. His whole operation will be deceptive, luring the world to worship him and be damned. The career of the coming lawless one is more fully described in Revelation 13:1–18.

What is the “falling away” that Paul speaks of in 2 Thessalonians 2:34?

The Day of the Lord cannot occur until a deliberate abandonment of a formerly professed position, allegiance, or commitment occurs (the term was used to refer to military, political, or religious rebellion). Some have suggested, on questionable linguistic evidence, that this refers to a “departure” in the sense of the Rapture. Context, however, points to a religious defection, which is further described in v. 4.The language indicates a specific event, not general apostasy which exists now and always will. Rather, Paul has in mind the apostasy. This is an event which is clearly and specifically identifiable and unique, the consummate act of rebellion, an event of final magnitude. The key to identifying the event is to identify the main person, which Paul does, calling him the “man of sin.” 

Some texts have “man of lawlessness,” but there is no real difference in meaning since sin equals lawlessness (1 John 3:4). This is the one who is called “the prince who is to come” (Dan. 9:26) and “the little horn” (Dan. 7:8), whom John calls “the beast” (Rev. 13:2–1018) and most know as the Antichrist. The context and language clearly identify a real person in future times who actually does the things prophesied of him in Scripture. He is also called “the son of perdition” or destruction, a term used of Judas Iscariot (John 17:12).

“The falling away” is the abomination of desolation that takes place at the midpoint of the Tribulation spoken of in Daniel 9:2711:31 and Matthew 24:15. This man is not Satan, although Satan is the force behind him (v. 9) and he has motives like the desires of the devil (Is. 14:1314). Paul is referring to the very act of ultimate apostasy which reveals the final Antichrist and sets the course for the events that usher in the Day of the Lord. 

Apparently, he will be seen as supportive of religion so that God and Christ will not appear as his enemies until the apostasy. He exalts himself and opposes God by moving into the temple, the place for worship of God, declaring himself to be God and demanding the worship of the world. In this act of satanic self-deification, he commits the great apostasy in defiance of God.







Slaves of Righteousness

“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).

True freedom comes from being a servant of Jesus Christ.

I once knew a man who, though intellectually convinced that the gospel was true, balked at committing his life to Jesus Christ. When I asked him why, he replied, “Because I don’t want to give up my freedom.” He understood clearly that genuine saving faith requires submission to Christ’s lordship. But he was tragically deceived in thinking that non-Christians are free—they aren’t. 

Unbelievers are slaves to sin (John 8:34). Only Christians have true freedom (John 8:31-32)—the freedom not to sin.

Paul reminded the Roman Christians that before they were saved, they ”were slaves of sin.” The apostle’s use of the imperfect tense indicates that the Romans, like all unbelievers, had been in a continual state of slavery to sin. Every human ever born—since Adam and Eve plunged the human race into sin—has been born enslaved to sin—except of course, for Christ.

When a person comes to faith in Christ, he or she becomes “obedient from the heart” to the Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian’s initial act of obedience, repenting and believing the gospel message (Mark 1:15), is the first step in a lifelong path of obedience. In the words of the apostle Peter, Christians are those who “have in obedience to the truth purified [their] souls” (1 Peter 1:22).

Paradoxically, it’s only those who have made themselves servants of Jesus Christ who are truly free. They alone are free to do what is right; even unbelievers’ “good deeds” are sinful, since they aren’t done to glorify God. Christian liberty is not the freedom to choose to sin, but the freedom to choose not to.

Renew today your commitment to be an obedient servant of God, knowing that “you are not your own. For you have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for freeing you from slavery to sin.
  • Ask Him to show you those areas in your life that you have not yielded fully to Him.

For Further Study


Gaining True Wisdom

"The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (Ps. 19:7).

God’s Word imparts wisdom and knowledge beyond the realm of mere human understanding.

David's characterization of God's Word as "the testimony of the Lord" (Ps. 19:7) speaks of its role as God's witness to who He is and what He requires of us. In addition, it's a "sure" witness. That means it's unwavering, immovable, unmistakable, reliable, and trustworthy.

Peter made the same point when, after recounting his incredible experience with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Pet. 1:16-18), he said, "but we have a testimony more sure than that—the prophetic word" (v. 19, literal translation). The testimony of God's written Word is a surer and more convincing confirmation of God's truth than even apostolic experiences with Christ Himself!

Perhaps that's why our Lord prevented the two disciples on the Emmaus Road from recognizing Him as He gave them a biblical basis for the things they had seen and heard (Luke 24:27). Their faith and preaching were to be based on Scripture, not merely on their own personal experiences—no matter how profound or moving those experiences may have been.

The benefit of God's sure Word is that it makes the simple wise (Ps. 19:7). It takes undiscerning, ignorant, and gullible people and teaches them profound truth from God that they can apply to their lives. As they do, they become skilled in the art of godly living.

That was the psalmist's joy when he wrote, "Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Thy precepts" (Ps. 119:98-100).

Applying that principle to New Testament believers, Paul prayed that we would be "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col. 1:9). As that occurs, we're enabled to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and please Him in every respect (v. 10). That's the outworking of godly wisdom, and the key to holy living.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God's wisdom will increase and abound in your life today and every day.

For Further Study

Read Luke 24:13-35, noting how Jesus ministered the Word to the disciples on the Emmaus Road.


Jesus’ Deity in His Judgment

“‘For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son’” (John 5:22).

Jesus’ authority to grant spiritual life to whomever He chooses is consistent with His authority to judge all men on the last day (cf. 3:18–1912:48). Since God is the “Judge of all the earth” (Gen. 18:25), the fact that the Father judges no one, but “has given all judgment to the Son,” further attests to Christ’s deity. Because their wills are in perfect harmony, all judgment can be given to Christ in the assurance that His judgment will be, in fact, the very same as the Father’s judgment. 

Although judgment was not the primary purpose of Christ’s first coming to earth (3:1712:47), it remains the inescapable final result of rejecting the salvation He offers (3:18).

In the future, “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7–8), because God “has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). 

On that final, terrible day of judgment, those who rejected Jesus will hear Him say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23).

Take the time right now to examine your relationship to Christ. Make sure you are depending on His grace and mercy for salvation, not on your own sincere efforts.

Ask Yourself

Knowing ourselves and our tendency to sin, our view of God’s power is perhaps most clearly seen, not in His ability and authority to judge but in His willingness to continually restrain it. That He doesn’t begrudge His sacrifice but keeps applying it to our need is evidence of the highest form of mercy. Thank Him heartily for this today.


Reading for Today:


Jeremiah 23:3, 4 I will gather. God pledged to restore exiled Israelites to their ancient soil. The land in view was Palestine, being contrasted with all the other countries (v. 3), thus assuring that the regathering would be as literal as the scattering. The restoration of Judah from Babylon is referred to in language which in its fullness can only refer to the final restoration of God’s people (“out of all countries” and v. 8), under the Messiah. “Nor shall they be lacking” indicates that no one will be missing or detached. These are prophecies not yet fulfilled.

Jeremiah 23:4 shepherds…will feed them. Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and others were small fulfillments compared to the consummate shepherding of the Messiah Jesus.

Jeremiah 23:5 Branch. The Messiah is pictured as a branch (literally, “shoot”) out of David’s family tree (23:5; 33:15, 16; Is. 4:211:1–5Zech. 3:86:1213), who will rule over God’s people in the future.

Jeremiah 23:29 like a fire…hammer. God’s word has irresistible qualities to prevail over the deception in the shepherds’ false messages.

Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes. Perhaps this is the supreme prayer that a student of Scripture could speak since it confesses the student’s inadequacy and the divine Author’s sufficiency (vv. 98, 99, 105, 130).

What should a believer’s attitude be toward suffering?

In 2 Thessalonians 1:4, Paul speaks of the “patience and faith” of the Thessalonians. Nowhere was their growth in faith and love more evident than in the way they patiently and faithfully endured hostilities and suffering from the enemies of Christ. Although there was no need to speak, since the Thessalonians’ lives spoke clearly enough (1 Thess. 1:8), Paul’s joy before the Lord over their perseverance bubbled up.

Having a right attitude toward suffering (v. 5) is essential, and that required attitude is concern for the kingdom of God. 

They were not self-centered but concentrated on God’s kingdom. Their focus was not on personal comfort, fulfillment, and happiness, but on the glory of God and the fulfillment of His purposes. They were not moaning about the injustice of their persecutions. Rather, they were patiently enduring the sufferings they did not deserve (v. 4). This very attitude was “manifest evidence” or positive proof that God’s wise process of purging, purifying, and perfecting through suffering was working to make His beloved people worthy of the kingdom (2:12) by being perfected (James 1:2–41 Pet. 5:10).

For believers, afflictions are to be expected (1 Thess. 3:3) as they live and develop Christian character in a satanic world. Suffering is not to be thought of as evidence that God has forsaken them, but as evidence that He is with them, perfecting them (Matt. 5:10Rom. 8:182 Cor. 12:10). So the Thessalonians demonstrated that their salvation, determined by faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, was genuine because they, like Christ, were willing to suffer on account of God and His kingdom. They suffered unjustly as objects of man’s wrath against Christ and His kingdom (Acts 5:41Phil. 3:10Col. 1:24).







Liberty or License?

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:15-16).

Freedom from sin does not mean freedom to sin.
From Paul’s day until now, the gospel of grace has been accused of providing license to sin. If salvation is the gift of God’s grace, legalists argue, wholly apart from human works, what will motivate people to lead holy lives? 

In the face of such opposition, Paul never gave an inch on the vital issue of salvation by grace—and neither can we. The Bible teaches a salvation that is entirely by God’s free grace through faith and in which human works play no part.

But there is a second way in which the doctrine of salvation by grace may be perverted. Fulfilling the legalists’ fears, some believe that since God’s grace covers all their sins, they can live as they choose. In today’s passage Paul addresses that error.

The very thought of a Christian living in persistent, habitual sin horrified Paul. To the hypothetical question “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Paul responded emphatically, “May it never be!” As in verse 2, the apostle used the strongest form of negation in the Greek language. In our English vernacular, Paul was saying “Ridiculous! Impossible! No way!” 

He went on to point out the self-evident truth that no one can serve two masters. Everyone is either a servant of sin or a servant of God; there is no third option. And the one to whom people habitually yield their obedience is their real master, no matter what they may claim.

Don’t be deceived by those who claim that since Christians are forgiven, they can therefore sin at will. Such people know nothing of God’s grace, which, far from giving us license to sin, “instruct[s] us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for His grace, which is always greater than your sin (Rom. 5:20).

For Further Study
Read Joshua 24:14-27; Matthew 4:8-11; and 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9. Spend some time in prayer, asking God to help you renew your commitment to serve Him.


God's Transforming Word

"The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul" (Ps. 19:7).

God can transform you through His Word into the person He wants you to be.

Many today doubt the power of Scripture in dealing with the deeper aspects of the human heart and mind. The Bible may be helpful for certain superficial or "spiritual" problems, they say, but it's too simplistic and inadequate for the more complex psychological issues of modern man. 

The truth is, however, the best psychology can do is modify external behavior. It cannot redeem and transform the soul. Only God can do that through the power of His Word.
That's the truth behind Psalm 19:7, which calls Scripture "the law of the Lord," thus emphasizing its didactic nature. It is the sum of God's instruction to man, whether for creed (what we believe), character (what we are), or conduct (what we do).

The law of the Lord is "perfect." That represents a common Hebrew word that speaks of wholeness, completeness, or sufficiency. Commentator Albert Barnes wrote that Scripture "lacks nothing [for] its completeness; nothing in order that it might be what it should be. It is complete as a revelation of Divine truth; it is complete as a rule of conduct. . . . It is absolutely true; it is adapted with consummate wisdom to the [needs] of man; it is an unerring guide of conduct. 

There is nothing there which would lead men into error or sin; there is nothing essential for man to know which may not be found there" (Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms, Vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974], p. 171).

Man's reasoning is imperfect, but God's Word is perfect, containing everything necessary for your spiritual life. It is so comprehensive that it can restore your soul. That is, convert, revive, refresh, and transform every aspect of your being to make you precisely the person God wants you to be.
Don't look to impotent human alternatives when God's Word stands ready to minister to your every need. Spiritual warfare is fought with spiritual weapons, not fleshly techniques, theories, or therapies (2 Cor. 10:4).

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to keep you focused on His counsel regarding every situation you face today.

For Further Study
Memorize 2 Corinthians 9:8 as a reminder of God's super- abounding grace to you.


October 18 - Jesus’ Deity in His Power and Sovereignty

“‘For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes’” (John 5:21).

By asserting His equality with God, Jesus claimed that He had the parallel power with God to raise the dead—“just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life.” The Bible teaches that only God has the power to raise the dead (Deut. 32:39; Acts 26:8; Heb. 11:19), and the Old Testament records several instances in which He did so (1 Kings 17:17–24; 2 Kings 4:32–37; 13:20–21). 

Because His power is the same as the Father, Jesus Christ is able to raise the physically dead (John 11:25–44). Moreover, He has the power to give spiritual life to the spiritually dead. 

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him,” Jesus promised, “shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

Unlike Elijah and Elisha, Jesus did not merely act as God’s representative when He raised the dead, but as God Himself. “The Son” Himself gives resurrection and spiritual “life to whom He wishes.” As God is the source of life, so Jesus Christ is the source of life. As God chooses when He gives life, so does the Son choose, in perfect agreement with the Father—a truth illustrated by the salvation of sinners. All whom the Father chose before the foundation of the world to give to the Son will come to him, and He will not reject any of them (John 6:37).

Ask Yourself
Is there anything you’ve given up for dead in your own life, barely considering that God could raise it to life again? Even the possibility of victory over sin or the presence of Christian joy can be regarded as hopeless—lost relics from the past. Pray that Jesus would help you experience life anew.


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 21:1–22:30
* Psalm 119:9-16
* Proverbs 27:14
* 1 Thessalonians 5:1-28

Jeremiah 22:18, 19 Jehoiakim. Ruling from 609 to 598 B.C., he was also wicked in taxing the people (2 Kin.23:35) and making them build his splendid palace without pay, violating God’s law in Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:14, 15. He was slain in Babylon’s second siege and his corpse dishonored, being left like a dead donkey on the ground for scavengers to feed on.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 recognize. This does not mean simple face recognition, but that the people are to know their pastors well enough to have an intimate appreciation for them and to respect them because of their value. The work of pastors is summarized in a 3-fold description which includes: 1) laboring, working to the point of exhaustion; 2) overseeing, literally standing before the flock to lead them in the way of righteousness; and 3) admonishing, instructing in the truths of God’s Word.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 quench. The fire of God’s Spirit is not to be doused with sin. Believers are also instructed to not grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) but to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and to walk by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16).
1 Thessalonians 5:23 God…sanctify you. Only God (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; Phil. 4:9; Heb. 13:20) “Himself” can separate us from sin to holiness “completely.” whole spirit, soul, and body. 

This comprehensive reference makes the term “completely” more emphatic. By using spirit and soul, Paul was not indicating that the immaterial part of man could be divided into two substances (Heb. 4:12). The two words are used interchangeably throughout Scripture (Heb. 6:19; 10:39; 1 Pet. 2:11; 2 Pet. 2:8).

When Paul refers to the “Day of the Lord” in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, what does he mean?
There are 19 indisputable uses of “the Day of the Lord” in the Old Testament and 4 in the New Testament (Acts 2:20; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). 

The Old Testament prophets used “Day of the Lord” to describe near historical judgments (Is. 13:6–22; Ezek. 30:2–19; Joel 1:15; 3:14; Amos 5:18–20; Zeph. 1:14–18) or far eschatological divine judgments (Joel 2:30–32; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:1, 5). Six times it is referred to as the “day of doom” and 4 times as the “day of vengeance.” The New Testament calls it a day of “wrath,” a day of “visitation,” and the “Great Day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14). 

These are terrifying judgments from God (Joel 2:30, 31; 2 Thess. 1:7–10) for the overwhelming sinfulness of the world.

The future “Day of the Lord” which unleashes God’s wrath falls into two parts: 1) the end of the 7-year tribulation period (Rev. 19:11–21), and 2) the end of the Millennium. These two are actually 1,000 years apart, and Peter refers to the end of the 1,000-year period in connection with the final “Day of the Lord” (2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 20:7–15). Here, Paul refers to that aspect of the “Day of the Lord,” which concludes the Tribulation period. When Paul uses the phrase “a thief in the night,” it is never used to refer to the Rapture of the church. 

It is used of Christ’s coming in judgment on the Day of the Lord at the end of the 7-year Tribulation which is distinct from the Rapture of the church, and it is used of the judgment which concludes the Millennium (2 Pet. 3:10). As a thief comes unexpectedly and without warning, so will the Day of the Lord come in both its final phases.




Yielding to God

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).
Believers are to yield themselves to God, not to sin.

Three key words in Romans 6 define the believer’s relationship to sin: “know” (vv. 3, 6, 9), “consider” (v. 11), and “present” (v. 13). The first two speak of understanding and believing that we are dead to sin. The third demands of us active obedience in our lives based on that truth. Since we are truly dead to sin, we must not allow it to be the dominant force in our lives.

Sin is a dethroned monarch, but it is still present in this fallen world and desires to lure the believer back into its grasp. Knowing that, Paul exhorts Christians, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts.” He says, “Sin has no right to rule; so don’t let it!” Peter echoed that thought in 1 Peter 2:11: “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.”
How does a believer keep sin from reigning? 

Negatively, believers defeat sin by no longer “presenting the members of [their bodies] to sin as instruments of unrighteousness.” We must make sure that our thoughts, speech, and actions are not used for unrighteous purposes. Positively, we must yield all of our faculties to God as “instruments of righteousness.” To do both requires self-discipline—like that which Paul expressed in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”

Yield to sin, and experience chastening and sorrow; yield to God, and experience joy and blessing. Which will you choose today?

Suggestions for Prayer
Is there a part of your life (thoughts, speech, actions, habits) where sin still reigns? If so, confess it to God, and ask for His help in breaking sin’s hold in that area.

For Further Study
Memorize Romans 12:1 to help you remember the importance of yielding your body to God.


A Psalm of Sufficiency

"The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
"They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
"Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Ps. 19:7-14).

God’s Word addresses the soul’s every need.

King David was a man of stark contrasts. He knew the humility of shepherding a flock and the prestige of reigning over a nation. He experienced glorious triumphs and bitter defeats. He sought after God, yet also suffered immense guilt and pain from immorality and murder. That led to even his own son's seeking to take his life. Some of his psalms reflect great hope and others, despair. But through it all he continued to look to God, being assured of God's sovereignty and the sufficiency of His divine resources.

In Psalm 19 David penned the most monumental statement ever made on the sufficiency of Scripture. As we study it in the days ahead, keep in mind that every need of your soul or inmost being is ultimately spiritual, and God has supplied sufficient resources to meet those needs completely. That was David's confidence. May it be yours as well.

Suggestions for Prayer
Throughout our study of Psalm 19, ask God to give you fresh insights that will enable you appreciate and rest more fully in His gracious provisions.

For Further Study
Reread Psalm 19:1-14.
* What terms did David use for God's Word?
* What benefits does the Word bring to believers?
* Are you enjoying those benefits?


Jesus’ Deity in His Works

“Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel’” (John 5:19–20).

For a mere man to claim to be God was, to the Jews, outrageous blasphemy. 

Therefore if they had misunderstood Him, Jesus surely would have immediately and vehemently denied making such a claim. But instead, He became even more forceful and emphatic. In the strongest possible terms, the Lord assured His hearers that what He said to them was true.

He further defended His healing on the Sabbath by tying His activities directly to those of the Father. “The Son can do nothing of Himself,” Jesus declared, “unless it is something He sees the Father doing.” He always acted in perfect harmony with and subordination to the Father’s will. Thus His works paralleled those of the Father in both their nature and extent: “for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” Christ’s statement is a clear declaration of His own divinity.

Jesus continued by declaring that the Father would show Him still greater works. His healing of the crippled man had amazed the crowds. But in obedience to the Father, Jesus predicted that He would perform even more spectacular deeds—deeds that would make His listeners marvel.

Ask Yourself
Is there any application of this principle for us—observing what the Father is doing, and then participating in those very things “in like manner”? How could this become more than a theory, shielded from human error? What would be some of the expected results from this kind of lifestyle and ministry approach?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 19:1–20:18
* Psalm 119:1-8
* Proverbs 27:13
* 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18

Jeremiah 20:2 struck Jeremiah. Pashur or others acting on his authority delivered 40 lashes (see Deut. 25:3) to the prophet. put him in the stocks. Hands, feet, and neck were fastened in holes, bending the body to a distorted posture, causing excruciating pain. high gate. The northern gate of the upper temple court.

Psalm 119:1–176 This longest of psalms and chapters in the Bible stands as the “Mt. Everest” of the Psalter. It joins Psalms 1 and 19 in exalting God’s Word. The author is unknown for certain, although David, Daniel, or Ezra have reasonably been suggested. The psalmist apparently wrote while under some sort of serious duress as comes through in many verses. This is an acrostic psalm (Pss. 9; 10; 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; 145) composed of 22 sections, each containing 8 lines. 

All 8 lines of the first section start with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; thus the psalm continues until all 22 letters have been used in order. The 8 different terms referring to Scripture occurring throughout the psalm are: 1) law, 2) testimonies, 3) precepts, 4) statutes, 5) commandments, 6) judgments, 7) word, and 8) ordinances. From before sunrise to beyond sunset the Word of God dominated the psalmist’s life: 1) before dawn (v. 147), 2) daily (v. 97), 3) 7 times daily (v. 164), 4) nightly (vv. 55, 148), and 5) at midnight (v. 62).

1 Thessalonians 4:13 those who have fallen asleep. Sleep is the familiar New Testament euphemism for death which describes the appearance of the deceased. It describes the dead body not the soul (2 Cor. 5:1–9; Phil. 1:23). Sleep is used of Jairus’s daughter (Matt. 9:24), whom Jesus raised from the dead, and Stephen, who was stoned to death (Acts 7:60; John 11:11; 1 Cor. 7:39; 15:6, 18, 51; 2 Pet. 3:4). Those who sleep are identified in v. 16 as “the dead in Christ.” The people, in ignorance, had come to the conclusion that those who die miss the Lord’s return, and they were grieved over their absence at such a glorious event. Thus the departure of a loved one brought great anguish to the soul.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 comfort one another. The primary purpose of this passage is not to teach a scheme of prophecy, but rather to provide encouragement to those Christians whose loved ones have died. 

The comfort here is based on the following: 1) the dead will be resurrected and will participate in the Lord’s coming for His own; 2) when Christ comes, the living will be reunited forever with their loved ones; and 3) they all will be with the Lord eternally (v. 17).

DAY 17: How does Paul describe the return of Jesus Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:15,16?

It is clear the Thessalonians had come to believe in and hope for the reality of their Savior’s return (1:3, 9, 10; 2:19; 5:1, 2). They were living in expectation of that coming, eagerly awaiting Christ. First Thessalonians 4:13 indicates they were even agitated about some things that might affect their participation in it. 

They knew Christ’s return was the climactic event in redemptive history and didn’t want to miss it. The major question they had was: “What happens to the Christians who die before He comes? Do they miss His return?” Clearly, they had an imminent view of Christ’s return, and Paul had left the impression it could happen in their lifetime. Their confusion came as they were being persecuted, an experience they thought they were to be delivered from by the Lord’s return (3:3, 4).

Paul answers by saying “the Lord Himself will descend with a shout” (v. 16). This fulfills the pledge of John 14:1–3 (Acts 1:11). Until then He remains in heaven (1:10; Heb. 1:1–3). “With the voice of an archangel.” Perhaps it is Michael, the archangel, whose voice is heard as he is identified with Israel’s resurrection in Daniel 12:1–3. At that moment, the dead rise first. They will not miss the Rapture but will be the first participants. “And with the trumpet of God.” 

This trumpet is illustrated by the trumpet of Exodus 19:16–19, which called the people out of the camp to meet God. It will be a trumpet of deliverance (Zeph. 1:16; Zech. 9:14).
After the dead come forth, their spirits, already with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23), now being joined to resurrected new bodies, the living Christians will be raptured, “caught up” (v. 17). This passage along with John 14:1–3 and 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52 form the biblical basis for “the Rapture” of the church.




You Can Count on It

“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
You must act on what you know to be true.

A foundational biblical principle is that people must understand the truth before they can live it out in their lives. Put another way, duty is always based on doctrine. The first ten verses of Romans 6 lay the solid foundation of truth upon which believers can build their lives. Several times so far (vv. 3, 5, 6, 8) Paul has exhorted Christians to understand the truth of their union with Christ in His death and resurrection. Now he exhorts us to act on it.

“Consider” translates a Greek word that means “to calculate,” “to compute,” “to take into account.” Paul urges believers to come to a settled conviction about their death to sin through their union with Christ.
Why do some question the liberating truth that in Christ they are dead to sin? Some are victimized by an inadequate view of salvation, seeing it as a mere change in their legal standing before God. Salvation involves far more, however; it involves a transformation of life. 

Those who believe their Christian life to be a constant battle between their old and new selves will not be able to consider themselves dead to sin. The accusations of Satan (Rev. 12:10) and conscience also make it very difficult for some to count on their death to sin. But the biggest difficulty Christians face in believing sin is a defeated enemy is their constant battle with it. That struggle makes it hard to believe we’re really dead to sin’s power (Rom. 7:15-24). 

Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that Christ’s holiness imputed to believers has released us from sin’s dominion. Therefore, Christians can choose not to sin and are never forced to sin.
Consider yourself to be dead to sin, and experience the blessings of triumph over temptation (1 Cor. 10:13), sin (which can never cause you to lose your salvation, Heb. 7:25), and death (John 11:25-26).

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for His gracious provision of salvation in Jesus Christ.
For Further Study
Read the following passages: Hosea 4:6; Isaiah 1:3; Colossians 3:8-10. What do they teach about the importance of doctrinal knowledge in the Christian life?


Submitting to Divine Authority

"Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the Lord speaks" (Isa. 1:2).
God’s Word is the only source of divine authority.

We might assume that those who affirm the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of God's Word would automatically submit to its authority. But that isn't always the case. Even those who hold to a high view of Scripture may sometimes fail to obey it. We need to be reminded that the authority of God's Word isn't simply a doctrine to be affirmed, but a priority to be pursued.

Israel fell into the trap of holding to a high view of Scripture while failing to abide by its statutes. To them Paul said, "If you bear the name 'Jew,' and rely upon the Law, and boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?

"You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For 'the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you'" (Rom. 2:17- 21, 23-24).
Israel's sin led unbelievers to blaspheme God. That's analogous to our society in which the Lord is constantly ridiculed because of the sins of His people.

You are the only Bible some unbelievers will ever read, and your life is under scrutiny every day. What do others learn from you? Do they see an accurate picture of your God?

Christians will always be maligned, but let it be for righteousness sake, not sin. As Peter said, "Keep your behavior excellent among [unbelievers], so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God" (1 Pet. 2:12).

Suggestions for Prayer
* Confess any areas of your life where you are being disobedient to God's Word.
* Seek His grace and power to live each day as one who truly respects the authority of God's Word.
For Further Study
Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. What purpose does the Old Testament record of Israel's punishments serve for us?


Jesus and the Sabbath

“He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’ For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:17–18).

The Sabbath observance was at the heart of Jewish worship in Jesus’ day. The Lord’s reply to those who persecuted Him for violating it (5:16), “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working,” implies that the Sabbath was not instituted for God’s benefit but for man’s (Mark 2:27).

Jesus’ statement that He worked on the Sabbath just like the Father was nothing less than a claim to full deity and equality with God—that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8). His words also served as a subtle rebuke to the Jewish legalistic system, under which He had been indicted for doing good and showing mercy on the Sabbath. 

After all, God Himself does good and shows mercy on the Sabbath. Jesus, therefore, maintained that it is right to do good on the Sabbath, since God does.

The hostile Jews instantly grasped the import of Jesus’ words and as a result were continually seeking “all the more to kill Him.” He was not just breaking the Sabbath, but even worse, Jesus “also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” From this time forward they intensified their efforts to take His life, not just for flouting their man-made Sabbath regulations, but even more for asserting His deity.

Ask Yourself
Do you observe any Sabbath distinctions in your usual practice of the Lord’s Day? What are the benefits of these various habits or self-imposed restrictions? Would you say that the church today has a healthy understanding of the Sabbath? How could we lead each other to a better stance on it?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 17:1–18:23
* Psalm 118:25-29
* Proverbs 27:11-12
* 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

Jeremiah 17:1 The sin of Judah. Reasons for the judgment continue here: 1) idolatry (vv. 1–4), 2) relying on the flesh (v. 5), and 3) dishonesty in amassing wealth (v. 11). pen of iron. The names of idols were engraved on the horns of their altars with such a tool. The idea is that Judah’s sin was permanent, etched in them as if into stone. How much different to have God’s word written on the heart.

Jeremiah 18:2–6 potter’s house. God sent Jeremiah to a potter, who gave him an illustration by shaping a vessel. The prophet secured a vessel and used it for his own illustration (19:1ff.). Jeremiah watched the potter at his wheel. The soft clay became misshapen, but the potter shaped it back into a good vessel. God will so do with Judah if she repents.

Jeremiah 18:12 That is hopeless! Jeremiah brought the inhabitants of Jerusalem to the point where they actually stated their condition honestly. The prophet’s threats were useless because they were so far gone—abandoned to their sins and the penalty. All hypocrisy was abandoned in favor of honesty, without repentance. Repentance was not in Israel (v. 18; 19:15). 

This explains a seeming paradox, that Israel can repent and avert judgment, yet Jeremiah is not to pray for Israel (7:16; 11:14). It would do no good to pray for their change since they steeled themselves against any change.

1 Thessalonians 3:2 establish…encourage…your faith. This was a common ministry concern and practice of Paul (Acts 14:22; 15:32; 18:23). Paul’s concern did not focus on health, wealth, self-esteem, or ease of life, but rather the spiritual quality of life. Their faith was of supreme importance in Paul’s mind as evidenced by 5 mentions in vv. 1–10. Faith includes the foundation of the body of doctrine (Jude 3) and their believing response to God in living out that truth (Heb. 11:6).

1 Thessalonians 3:5 the tempter. Satan had already been characterized as a hinderer (2:18) and now as a tempter in the sense of trying/testing for the purpose of causing failure (Matt. 4:3; 1 Cor. 7:5; James 1:12–18). Paul was not ignorant of Satan’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11; 11:23) nor vulnerable to his methods (Eph. 6:11), so Paul took action to counterattack Satan’s expected maneuver and to assure that all his efforts were not useless.

What was Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians?
“Now may our God…direct our way to you” (1 Thess. 3:11). Paul knew that Satan had hindered his return (2:18).Even though Timothy had visited and returned with a good report, Paul still felt the urgency to see his spiritual children again. Paul followed the biblical admonition of the Psalms (Ps. 37:1–5) and Proverbs (Prov. 3:5, 6) to entrust difficult situations to God.

“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another” (v. 12). With over 30 positive and negative “one anothers” in the New Testament, love appears by far most frequently (4:9; Rom. 12:10; 13:8; 2 Thess. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11; 2 John 5). It is the overarching term that includes all of the other “one anothers.” Its focus is on believers in the church. 

“And to all.” In light of the fact that God loved the world and sent His Son to die for human sin, believers who were loved when they were unlovely (Rom. 5:8) are to love unbelievers (Matt. 5:43,44). Other New Testament commands concerning all men include pursuing peace (Rom. 12:18), doing good (Gal. 6:10), being patient (Phil. 4:5), praying (1 Tim. 2:1), showing consideration (Titus 3:2), and honoring (1 Pet. 2:17).

“So that He may establish your hears blameless in holiness before our God.” Paul prayed that there would be no grounds of accusation because of unholiness. “At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” Since this exact term is not used elsewhere in the New Testament of angels but is commonly used for believers, it is best to understand the coming of the Lord to rapture all His church and take them to heaven to enjoy His presence.




Dead with Christ

“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God” (Romans 6:8-10).
God frees us from sin through the death of His Son.

As a good teacher, the apostle Paul understood that important truths bear repeating. Thus in today’s passage he repeats and expands on the important truth he presented earlier in Romans 6: believers died with Christ. Through that death, sin’s dominion over us was broken.
The rock-solid foundation of the believer’s forgiveness from sin is Christ’s victory over sin and death. When our Lord rose from the dead, He proved that He had shattered the power of sin and death (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:54-57). 

And since believers are identified with Christ in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5), we, too, share in His victory.

That Christ was the perfect sacrifice for sin is an essential New Testament truth. The Book of Hebrews expresses that important reality repeatedly, nowhere more clearly and forcefully than in 10:10-14: “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 

And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

Christ “died to sin” not only to break its power but to pay its penalty— death (Rom. 6:23)—on our behalf. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross,” wrote Peter, “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Believers are dead to sin’s power and penalty. “Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 7:25)!

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for sending His Son to bear your sins (2 Cor. 5:21).
For Further Study
Memorize 1 Corinthians 6:20 to help motivate you to glorify God with your life.


Trusting God's Word

"The law of the Lord is perfect. . . . The commandment of the Lord is pure. . . . The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether" (Ps. 19:7-9).
God’s Word is infallible.

Infallibility refers to the truth of Scripture as a whole, whereas inerrancy focuses on the accuracy of every single word. Like inerrancy, infallibility is grounded in the character of God. God cannot lie and does not change (1 Sam. 15:29). 

He is thoroughly consistent in everything He does, and His Word reflects those characteristics. The psalmist wrote, "The sum of Thy word is truth, and every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting" (Ps. 119:160). Paul said, "The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good" (Rom. 7:12).

Jesus said He didn't come to abolish the law or the prophets (sections of the Old Testament) but to fulfill them. He promised that everything in Scripture will be fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-18). John 10:35 declares that the authority of Scripture "cannot be broken." It is binding and cannot be destroyed, abolished, or done away with. God's Word is indestructible, authoritative, and infallible. 

On a practical level, infallibility means that you can trust the Bible. It will never deceive you or give you counsel that will later prove to be erroneous. That was the confidence of the psalmist when he wrote, "Establish Thy word to Thy servant, as that which produces reverence for Thee. Turn away my reproach which I dread, for 
Thine ordinances are good. Behold, I long for Thy precepts; revive me through Thy righteousness. May Thy lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord, Thy salvation according to Thy word; so I shall have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Thy word. 

And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I wait for Thine ordinances. So I will keep Thy law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Thy precepts. I will also speak of Thy testimonies before kings, and shall not be ashamed. And I shall delight in Thy commandments, which I love" (Ps. 119:38-47).

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God that His Word is utterly trustworthy.
For Further Study
Memorize Psalm 119:165 as a reminder of the infallibility of God's Word.


Lessons from Bethesda, Part 2

“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.’ The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath” (John 5:14–16).

In response to this miracle, the Jewish authorities castigated the healed man for breaking their trivial rules (v. 10). They were more concerned with legalistic regulations than with the man’s well-being—an attitude for which the Lord sharply rebuked them (Matt. 23:13ff.).

From this point on, the Jews were continually “persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.” So began their open opposition toward Jesus—persecution that would eventually result in His death.

The die was cast. Jesus confronted Jewish legalism by disregarding their Sabbath rules, challenging them with His true identity as the Son of God. The Jews’ opposition to their own Messiah would harden and intensify until they crucified Him (1 Cor. 2:8).

Ask Yourself
Are there one or two individuals in your usual field of vision who are such sticklers for precision and protocol, they choke the life out of others’ freedom in Christ? How do you deal with this kind of attitude? How might their predilection for order be of value to the Body if exercised properly?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 15:1–16:21
* Psalm 118:21-24
* Proverbs 27:10
* 1 Thessalonians 2:1-20

Jeremiah 15:1–9 It was ineffective at this point to intercede for the nation. Even prayers by Moses (Num. 14:11–25) and Samuel (1 Sam. 12:19–25), eminent in intercession, would not defer judgment, where unrepentance persists. Chief among things provoking judgment was the intense sin of King Manasseh. Noted in v. 4, this provocation is recounted in 2 Kings 21:1–18, 2 Kings 23:26, which says the Lord did not relent from His anger because of this.

Jeremiah 16:2 You shall not take a wife. Since destruction and exile are soon to fall on Judah, the prophet must not have a wife and family. God’s kindness will keep him from anxiety over them in the awful situation of suffering and death (v. 4).

Psalm 118:22 stone…builders rejected…chief cornerstone. Peter identified the chief cornerstone in the New Testament as Christ (Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:7). In the parable of the vineyard (Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10–11; Luke 20:17), the rejected son of the vineyard owner is likened to the rejected stone which became the chief cornerstone. Christ was that rejected stone. Jewish leaders were pictured as builders of the nation. Now, this passage in v. 22 has a historical basis which is paralleled in its major features by analogy with the rejection of Christ who came to deliver/save the nation. Moses’ experience, as a type of Christ, pictured Christ’s rejection. On at least 3 occasions, Moses (stone) was rejected by the Jews (builders) as their God sent the deliverer (chief cornerstone). For examples see Exodus 2:11–15; 14:10–14; 16:1–20.

1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8 gentle…as a nursing mother. Paul may have had in mind Moses’ portrayal of himself as a nursing mother to Israel (Num.11:12). He used the same tender picture with the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:14, 15) and the Galatians (Gal. 4:19). Paul’s affection for the Thessalonians was like that felt by a mother willing to sacrifice her life for her child as was Christ who was willing to give up His own life for those who would be born again into the family of God (Matt. 20:28).

What is the effect of the Word of God working in a person’s life?
“We also thank God without ceasing,” Paul said, “because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13). Paul’s message from God is equated with the Old Testament (Mark 7:13). It was the message taught by the apostles (Acts 4:31; 6:2). Peter preached it to the Gentiles (Acts 11:1). 

It was the word Paul preached on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:5, 7, 44, 48, 49), his second (Acts 16:32; 17:13; 18:11), and his third (Acts 19:10).

“Which also effectively works in you who believe.” The work of God’s Word includes:
saving (Rom. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:23);
teaching and training (2 Tim. 3:16, 17);
guiding (Ps. 119:105);
counseling (Ps. 119:24);
reviving (Ps. 119:154);
restoring (Ps. 19:7);
warning and rewarding (Ps. 19:11);
nourishing (1 Pet. 2:2);
judging (Heb. 4:12);
sanctifying (John 17:17);
freeing (John 8:31, 32);
enriching (Col. 3:16);
protecting (Ps. 119:11);
strengthening (Ps. 119:28);
making wise (Ps. 119:17–100);
rejoicing the heart (Ps. 19:8);
and prospering (Josh. 1:8, 9).




Free from Sin

“Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).
Having died with Christ, believers are no longer under sin’s control.

Years ago a book with the amusing title “It Ain’t Gonna Reign No More” appeared. Though humorous, that title aptly summarizes the believer’s relationship to sin. Christians still commit sins but are no longer under sin’s dominion.

When we were united with Christ in His death (Rom. 6:5), “our old self was crucified with Him” (verse 6). Our “old self” equals what we were before salvation—lost in sin and bound for Hell. It is the unregenerate nature we inherited from Adam (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22).

Some argue that believers now have both an old and new nature—a sort of spiritual split personality. The conflict between those two natures, they believe, is responsible for the struggles of the Christian life, as the believer strives to crucify his old self. But notice that Paul does not command us to crucify our old self; he tells us that has already happened (cf. Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:9-10).

The expression “that our body of sin might be done away with” approaches this same truth from a slightly different perspective. It notes the close connection between the body and sin (Rom. 8:10, 13) and describes the absolute domination of sin in the life of an unbeliever. That domination is broken at salvation.

Paul is not teaching, however, that believers’ sin natures have been eradicated, and hence they no longer sin. The Greek word translated “done away with” does not mean “destroyed” but “rendered inoperative” or “deprived of its strength, influence, or power.” Christians are no longer slaves to sin; its tyranny in our lives has been broken.

Be encouraged today in your battle with sin because though it is still a dangerous enemy, sin is no longer your master.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God for delivering you from sin’s power.
* Pray that He would deliver you from sin’s presence in your life.
For Further Study
Read the following passages: Romans 6:19; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
* What is your part in the battle against sin?
* What practical steps can you take to more effectively defeat sin in your life?


Rallying Around the Word

"Every word of God is tested [pure, flawless]" (Prov. 30:5).
God’s Word is without error.

Inerrancy is a term that conveys the belief that the original writings of Scripture are wholly true in everything they teach— whether doctrine, history, science, geography, geology, or any other discipline or knowledge. It also applies to accurate copies of those original writings.

Inerrancy is an unpopular concept with some people because they believe it isn't really important. But consider the implications. No Christian would deny that our relationship to Jesus Christ is of utmost importance. How can we know Him except as He is presented in the Bible? He is our Lord and we must obey His commandments (Heb. 5:9). How can we know what He commands if we doubt His Word?

Others reject inerrancy because they think it's divisive. But inerrancy should be a rallying point for evangelicals, not a dividing point. What unifying factor do we have if we can't agree on the truth of divine revelation?

Still others withhold judgment on the issue, thinking it's a technical matter that is best decided by biblical scholars. On the contrary, it is the most basic of all matters. It's nothing less than asking, "Is there a sure Word from God?"

Inerrancy isn't simply a matter of theological debate. It's a matter of God's character. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18); therefore His Word is true. Jeremiah 10:10says that the Lord is the true God or the God of truth. The apostle John said, "God is true" (John 3:33). And Jesus defined eternal life as knowing the only true God (John 17:3). Christ came so we might "know him that is true . . . the true God and eternal life" (1 John 5:20).

Don't be shaken by those who attack the integrity of Scripture. As you have opportunity, study any problem passages so you'll know first-hand what the issues and proposed solutions are. And remember, Scripture was given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13). He cannot err.

Suggestions for Prayer
If Psalm 119:12-16 reflects the intent of your heart, read it to the Lord as a prayer of praise and commitment.
For Further Study
According to Matthew 22:29 and John 17:17, what was Jesus' view of Scripture?


Lessons from Bethesda, Part 1

“Now it was the Sabbath on that day. So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.’ But he answered them, ‘He who made me well was the one who said to me, “Pick up your pallet and walk.”’ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your pallet and walk”?’ But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place” (John 5:9–13).

John notes that the healing took place on the Sabbath. Indeed, that was the key to this whole incident. It set the stage for the Jewish authorities’ open hostility toward Christ. The fury of their opposition would only escalate throughout the remainder of His earthly ministry, finally culminating in His death.

Jesus’ refusal to observe the legalistic and man-made Sabbath regulations was a major point of contention between Himself and Israel’s religious establishment. In fact, the Lord deliberately chose to heal this man on the Sabbath to confront superficial and bankrupt Jewish legalism. The Lord wanted to show mercy to this man, but also to call the nation to repentance by confronting the self-righteous and unbiblical stipulations that led to their illusion of spiritual life.

Ask Yourself
Are there certain tastes, traditions, and preferences that cloud your view of God’s activity in the world and in people’s lives? How many could you name? What elevates these rigid absolutes beyond their biblical contexts, positioning them as barriers to grace rather than gateways to it?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 13:1–14:22
* Psalm 118:15-20
* Proverbs 27:9
* 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Jeremiah 13:1 a linen sash. 

One of several signs Jeremiah enacted to illustrate God’s message involved putting a linen sash (generally the inner garment against the skin) around his waist. This depicted Israel’s close intimacy with God in the covenant, so that they could glorify Him (v. 11). do not put it in water. Signified the moral filth of the nation. Buried and allowed time to rot (v. 7), the sash pictured Israel as useless to God due to sin (v. 10). Hiding it by the Euphrates (v. 6) pointed to the land of Babylon, where God would exile Israel to deal with her pride (v. 9).

Psalm 118:19 gates of righteousness. Most likely a figurative reference, i.e., spiritual gates through which the righteous pass (Ps. 100:4) rather than to the gates of the temple.

Psalm 118:20 the gate. This points to the entryway which leads to the presence of the Lord. Jesus may have had this psalm in mind when He taught about “the narrow gate” in Matthew 7:13, 14.

1 Thessalonians 1:6 followers. The Thessalonians had become third-generation mimics of Christ. Christ is the first; Paul is the second; and the Thessalonians are the third (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1). joy of the Holy Spirit. Joy in the midst of suffering evidenced the reality of their salvation, which included the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).

Why was Paul writing to the Thessalonians?
Paul had originally traveled 100 miles from Philippi via Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica on his second missionary journey (A.D. 50; Acts 16:1–18:22). As his custom was upon arrival, he sought out the synagogue in which to teach the local Jews the gospel (Acts 17:1, 2). On that occasion, he dialogued with them from the Old Testament concerning Christ’s death and resurrection in order to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the promised Messiah (Acts 17:2, 3). 

Some Jews believed and soon after, Hellenistic proselytes and some wealthy women of the community also were converted (Acts 17:4).

Because of their effective ministry, the Jews had Paul’s team evicted from the city (Acts 17:5–9), so they went south to evangelize Berea (Acts 17:10).There Paul had a similar experience to Thessalonica with conversions followed by hostility, so the believers sent Paul away. He headed for Athens, while Silvanus and Timothy remained in Berea (Acts 17:11–14).They rejoined Paul in Athens (Acts 17:15, 16 with 1 Thess. 3:1), from which Timothy was later dispatched back to Thessalonica (3:2). 

Apparently, Silas afterwards traveled from Athens to Philippi while Paul journeyed on alone to Corinth (Acts 18:1). It was after Timothy and Silvanus rejoined Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5) that he wrote 1 Thessalonians in response to Timothy’s good report of the church.

Paul undoubtedly had multiple reasons for writing, all coming out of his supreme concern for the flock from which he had been separated. Some of Paul’s purposes clearly included: 1) encouraging the church (1:2–10); 2) answering false allegations (2:1–12); 3) comforting the persecuted flock (2:13–16); 4) expressing his joy in their faith (2:17–3:13); 5) reminding them of the importance of moral purity (4:1–8); 6) condemning the sluggard lifestyle (4:9–12); 7) correcting a wrong understanding of prophetic events (4:13–5:11); 8) defusing tensions within the flock (5:12–15); and 9) exhorting the flock in the basics of Christian living (5:16–22).




Alive in Christ

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
Union with Christ means participation in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Believers are united with Christ not only in His life, but also in His death. When believers come to faith in Christ, they symbolically share in His death, dying to sin in order to live to God (Rom. 6:10-11).

That reality has profound implications. Having died to the old life of sin and been raised to share new life in Christ, believers cannot continue in the same old patterns of sin. They now live in an entirely different realm. Those who die in Christ live in Christ. In the words of the great nineteenth-century theologian Charles Hodge, “There can be no participation in Christ’s life without a participation in his death, and we cannot enjoy the benefits of his death unless we are partakers of the power of his life. We must be reconciled to God in order to be holy, and we cannot be reconciled without thereby becoming holy.”

As a result, believers cannot help but “walk in newness of life.” Walk describes daily spiritual conduct. Believers have a new direction in life; they no longer live like they did before they were saved (1 Peter 4:3-4).

In his classic hymn “And Can It Be?” Charles Wesley wrote:
No condemnation now I dread: 
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine! 
Alive in Him, my living Head, 
And clothed in righteousness divine, 
Bold I approach the eternal throne, 
And claim the crown, thru Christ my own.
Is that the song of your heart today?

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for rescuing you from sin and death and making you alive with Christ.
For Further Study
Study the following passages: Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 3:17-18; Colossians 1:10; 1 John 1:7. What do they tell you about the Christian’s walk?


From the Mouth of God

"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).

God’s Word is inspired.

Second Timothy 3:16 speaks of the inspiration of Scripture. "Inspired" is the translation of a Greek word that literally means "God-breathed." Every word of Scripture is from the mouth of God.

Theologians speak of inspiration as the mysterious process by which God worked through the authors of Scripture to produce inerrant and divinely authoritative writings. Inspiration is a mystery because Scripture doesn't explain specifically how it occurred. The only glimpse we have is this from 2 Peter: "Know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (vv. 20-21).

"Interpretation" speaks of origin. Scripture didn't originate on the human level, but with the Holy Spirit, who moved upon the authors to write it (v. 21). "Moved" is the translation of a nautical term that describes the effects of wind upon a ship as it blows against its sails and moves it through the water. Similarly, the Spirit moved on the biblical writers to produce the Word of God in the language of men.

The human authors of Scripture knew they were writing God's Word, and did so with confidence and authority. Often they cited or alluded to one another as authoritative agents of divine revelation (e.g., 2 Pet. 3:15-17).

On a personal level, inspiration guarantees that what Scripture says, God says. It's His counsel to you, so you can study and obey it with full assurance that it is true and will never lead you astray.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise the Lord for His inspired Word.
* Reaffirm your commitment to live according to its principles today.
For Further Study
Often the New Testament affirms the inspiration of the Old Testament by attributing Old Testament quotations to God Himself. For example, compare these Old Testament passages with their New Testament counterparts: Genesis 2:24 with Matthew 19:4-5; Psalm 2:1 with Acts 4:24-25; Isaiah 55:3 with Acts 13:34; Psalm 16:10 with Acts 13:35; Psalm 95:7 with Hebrews 3:7.

* How might you respond to someone who says that the Bible is merely the words of devout religious men?


Miracle at Bethesda

“After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, ‘Do you wish to get well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.’ Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk” (John 5:1–9).

This miracle perfectly illustrates God’s sovereign grace in action. Out of all the sick people at the pool, Jesus chose to heal this one man. There was nothing about him that made him more deserving than the others, nor did he seek out Jesus; Jesus approached him. The Lord did not choose him because He foresaw that he had the faith to believe; he never did express belief that Jesus could heal him.
It is the same way in salvation. Out of the spiritually dead multitude of Adam’s fallen race, God chose and redeemed His elect—not because of anything they did to deserve it, or because of their foreseen faith, but because of His sovereign choice.

Ask Yourself
Be on the lookout for people in need—those you meet in very random encounters, as well as those you know well, people you see on a fairly routine basis. Wherever possible, be part of bringing hope and compassion to those who think no one really cares about them. Understand that you represent Jesus’ love and mercy everywhere you go.


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 11:1–12:17
* Psalm 118:10-14
* Proverbs 27:8
* Colossians 4:1-18
Jeremiah 11:15 My beloved. A phrase showing God’s sensitive regard for His relationship to Israel as a nation (2:2; 12:7). It does not carry the assumption, however, that every individual is spiritually saved (5:10a). lewd deeds. Shameful idolatry that defiled all that befits true temple worship, such as the examples in Ezekiel 8:6–13. These were gross violations of the first 3 commandments (Ex. 20:2–7). holy flesh. In some way, they corrupted the animal sacrifices by committing sin which they enjoyed.
Jeremiah 12:5 If you have run. The Lord replied to Jeremiah telling him that if he grew faint with lesser trials and felt like quitting, what would he do when the battle got even harder? floodplain of the Jordan. The river in flood stage overflowed its banks into a plain that grew up as a thicket. The point is that Jeremiah needed to be ready to deal with tougher testings, pictured by the invader’s overwhelming the land like a flood, or posing high danger as in the Jordan thicket where concealed wild animals could terrify a person.

Colossians 4:2 Continue earnestly. The Greek word means “to be courageously persistent” or “to hold fast and not let go” and refers here to persistent prayer (Acts 1:14; Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17; Luke 11:5–10; 18:1–8). being vigilant. In its most general sense this means to stay awake while praying. But Paul has in mind the broader implication of staying alert for specific needs about which to pray rather than being vague and unfocused.

Colossians 4:6 with grace. To speak what is spiritual, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, purposeful, complimentary, gentle, truthful, loving, and thoughtful. seasoned with salt. Just as salt not only flavors but prevents corruption, the Christian’s speech should act not only as a blessing to others but as a purifying influence within the decaying society of the world.

Colossians 4:18 by my own hand. Paul usually dictated his letters to an amanuensis (recording secretary), but would often add his own greeting in his own writing at the end of his letters (1 Cor. 16:21; Gal. 6:11; 2 Thess. 3:17; Philem. 19).

What were the Prison Epistles, and what prison was Paul in when he wrote them?
Four of Paul’s letters are grouped as the Prison Epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Each of them includes clear internal references to the writer’s prison surroundings (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Phil. 1:7, 13, 14, 17; Col. 4:3, 10, 18; Philem. 1, 9, 10, 13, 23). The similarities between the details of Paul’s imprisonment given in Acts and in the Prison Epistles support the traditional position that the letters were written from Rome. Among these details are: 1) Paul was guarded by soldiers (Acts 28:16; Phil. 1:13, 14); 2) Paul was permitted to receive visitors (Acts 28:30; Phil. 4:18); and 3) Paul had the opportunity to preach the gospel (Acts 28:31; Eph. 6:18–20; Phil. 1:12–14; Col.4:2-4).

Caesarea and Ephesus have also been suggested as Paul’s possible location when he wrote at least some of these letters. Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea for two years (Acts 24:27), but his opportunities to receive visitors and proclaim the gospel were severely limited during that time (Acts 23:35). The Prison Epistles express Paul’s hope for a favorable verdict (Phil. 1:25; 2:24; Philem. 23). In Caesarea, however, Paul’s only hope for release was either to bribe Felix (Acts 24:26) or agree to stand trial at Jerusalem under Festus (Acts 25:9). In the Prison Epistles, Paul expected the decision in his case to be final (Phil. 1:20–23; 2:17, 23). That could not have been true at Caesarea, since Paul could and did appeal his case to the emperor.

Ephesus has been the other suggested location. Most of the same difficulties faced by the Caesarea suggestion face those who support Ephesus. The most telling argument against Ephesus as the point of origin for the Prison Epistles, however, is that there is no evidence that Paul was ever imprisoned at Ephesus.

In light of the serious difficulties faced by both the Caesarean and Ephesian views, no reason remains for rejecting the traditional view that Paul wrote the Prison Epistles from Rome while awaiting a hearing before the emperor on his appeal for justice as a Roman citizen.




Baptized into Christ

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3).

Believers are united with Christ.

A person who believes Christians are free to continue sinning betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of what a Christian is. Christians are not merely guilty sinners declared righteous by God because Christ has satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness on their behalf. That truth, which theologians call justification, is indeed an essential one. But there is much more to salvation than justification. Believers are also placed into union with Jesus Christ.

Paul introduces this momentous truth by means of the analogy of water baptism. Some wrongly interpret this passage to teach that baptism itself places us into union with Christ. But Paul had just spent three chapters (Rom. 3—5) teaching that salvation is solely by faith in Christ. He would hardly then turn around in chapter 6 and teach that it was by ritual. The apostle, as he did in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, used baptism in a metaphorical sense. (The Greek word translated “baptism” simply means “to immerse,” not necessarily in water.)

Paul also uses other metaphors to describe believers’ union with Christ. In Galatians 3:27 he says believers have put on Christ, while 1 Corinthians 6:17 says Christians are joined to Him. But none is so graphic as that of baptism; the leaving of one environment (air) and entering another (water) symbolizes believers leaving Satan’s realm (Eph. 2:2) and entering that of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does our union with Christ mean in our everyday lives? First, it provides the means of fellowship with both Jesus and the Father (1 John 1:3). It also should motivate us to avoid sinning. In 1 Corinthians 6:15, Paul chided the Corinthians for their lax view of sexual sin: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be!” Finally, our union with Christ provides hope of future glory (Rev. 3:21).

What a blessed privilege and awesome responsibility is ours, to have our lives inextricably bound with the Son of God (Col. 3:3)!

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for all the blessings resulting from your union with Christ.
For Further Study
Read 2 Peter 1:3-4. In light of our union with Christ, do we lack anything necessary for living the Christian life?


Modern-Day Revelations

"Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3, emphasis added).
Scripture contains everything you need to know for godly living.

For many years I've watched with deep concern as a significant number of Christians have drifted from a thoughtful, biblical, God- centered theology to one that is increasingly mystical, non- biblical, and man-centered. One of the most disturbing indicators of this trend is the proliferation of extrabiblical revelations that certain people are claiming to receive directly from God.

Such claims are alarming because they dilute the uniqueness and centrality of the Bible and cause people to lean on man's word rather than God's. They imply that Scripture is insufficient for Christian living and that we need additional revelation to fill the gap.

But God's Word contains everything you need to know for spiritual life and godly living. It is inspired and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that you may be fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16). 

What more is necessary?
When the apostle John died, apostolic revelation came to an end. But that written legacy remains as the standard by which we are to test every teacher and teaching that claims to be from God (1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1). If a teaching doesn't conform to Scripture, it must be rejected. If it does conform, it isn't a new revelation. In either case, additional revelation is unnecessary.

God went to great lengths to record and preserve His revelation, and He jealously guards it from corruption of any kind. From Moses, the first known recipient of divine revelation, to the apostle John, the final recipient, His charge remained the same: "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deut. 4:2; cf., Rev. 22:18-19).

Don't be swayed by supposed new revelations. Devote yourself to what has already been revealed.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to guard your heart from confusion and help you to keep your attention firmly fixed on His Word.
For Further Study
According to 2 Timothy 4:1-4, why must we preach and uphold God's Word?


Conquering Unbelief

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son lives.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’ So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives’; and he himself believed and his whole household. This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee” (John 4:50–54).

The royal official did not dispute Jesus’ assessment of him and his fellow Galileans. Instead, he poured out his heart, exclaiming, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Despite Christ’s rebuke of the Galileans’ faithless demand for miracles, the Lord graciously performed the miracle and drew the official’s faith to a higher level.
Rather than agreeing to go back to Capernaum with him as the official had begged Him to do, Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” 

At that very instant (vv. 52–53), the boy was healed. Though he had no confirmation of it, “the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him” and started off for home.

On the way, his slaves met him, and he received the good news he was hoping to get: “his son was living.” When he discovered that the time of his son’s recovery was at the very hour that Jesus spoke the proclamation of healing, not only did the royal official himself believe but also his whole household.

Ask Yourself
It is hard to be one faithful person among many others who are unfaithful. How are you being called to exercise the lonely, upstream walk of faith in your work or church or family environment? Pray that you would keep believing, even when all those around you discount your unflagging trust.


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 9:1–10:25
* Psalm 118:5-9
* Proverbs 27:7
* Colossians 3:1-25

Jeremiah 9:1 waters,…tears. Jeremiah cared so greatly that he longed for the relief of flooding tears or a place of retreat to be free of the burden of Judah’s sins for a while.
Jeremiah 10:7 King. God, who sovereignly created and controls all things (vv. 12, 16; Deut. 4:35), is alone the eternal, living God (Pss. 47; 145) worthy of trust. By contrast, earthly idols have to be fashioned by men (v. 9) and will perish (v. 15).

Colossians 3:2 Set your mind. This can also be translated “think” or “have this inner disposition.” As a compass points north, the believer’s entire disposition should point itself toward the things of heaven. Heavenly thoughts can only come by understanding heavenly realities from Scripture (Rom. 8:5; 12:2; Phil. 1:23; 4:8; 1 John 2:15–17).

Colossians 3:20 in all things. The only limit on a child’s obedience is when parents demand something contrary to God’s Word. For example, some children will act contrary to their parents’ wishes even in coming to Christ (Luke 12:51–53; 14:26).

What should a believer’s relationship be to the Word of God?

In Colossians 3:16, Paul says to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” This is Scripture, the Holy Spirit inspired Scripture, the word of revelation He brought into the world. “Dwell” means “to live in” or “to be at home,” and “richly” may be more fully rendered “abundantly or extravagantly rich.” Scripture should permeate every aspect of the believer’s life and control every thought, word, and deed (Ps. 119:11; Matt. 13:9; Phil. 2:16; 2 Tim. 2:15). 

This concept is parallel to being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18 since the results of each are the same. In Ephesians 5:18, the power and motivation for all the effects is the filling of the Holy Spirit; here it is the word richly dwelling. Those two realities are really one. The Holy Spirit fills the life controlled by His Word. This emphasizes that the filling of the Spirit is not some ecstatic or emotional experience, but a steady controlling of the life by obedience to the truth of God’s Word.

“Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (v. 17). The early church sang the Psalms. Old Testament psalms put to music, primarily, but the term was used also of vocal music in general. “Hymns”—perhaps songs of praise distinguished from the Psalms which exalted God, in that they focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. “Spiritual songs”—probably songs of personal testimony expressing truths of the grace of salvation in Christ. “With grace in your hearts to the Lord”—not just public, but private. 

The Lord Himself is both the source and the object of the believer’s song-filled heart. That such music pleases God can be seen in the account of the temple dedication, when the singing so honored the Lord that His glory came down (2 Chr. 5:12, 14).




Dead to Sin

“How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2).
In Christ, believers are dead to sin.

As a pastor, I frequently encounter people who profess to be believers, yet are living in all kinds of vile sins. The incongruity of people claiming to be believers while living in constant, unrepentant sin was not lost on the apostle Paul. 

In Romans 6:1 he asked the rhetorical question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” In verse 2 he answered his own question by exclaiming “May it never be!”—the strongest, most emphatic negation in the Greek language. 

It expressed Paul’s horror and outrage at the thought that a true Christian could remain in a constant state of sinfulness. For a person to claim to be a Christian while continuing in habitual sin is absurd and impossible.

Paul goes on in verse 2 to explain why believers cannot continue to live in sin, asking, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” His point is that believers, at salvation, died to sin. Therefore, they cannot live in a constant state of sinfulness, because it is impossible to be both dead and alive at the same time. Those who continue in unrepentant sin thereby give evidence that they are spiritually dead, no matter what they may claim.

Unbelievers are “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), walking “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2). Believers, on the other hand, have been “delivered . . . from the domain of darkness, and transferred . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).

Christians no longer live in the realm of sin, though they still commit sins.

Having a proper understanding of the believer’s relationship to sin is foundational to progressing in holiness. Take comfort today in the reality that sin, though still dangerous, is a defeated foe.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God who, because of His mercy and love, made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:4-5).
* Ask Him to help you walk worthy of that high calling (Eph. 4:1).
For Further Study
Read the following passages: John 8:31; 2 Cor. 13:5; James 2:14-26. Is every profession of faith in Jesus Christ genuine? Explain.


God's Self-Disclosure

"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).
Scripture is the storehouse of divine revelation.

For decades liberal theologians have misrepresented the Bible as merely a collection of man's religious thoughts and aspirations. But Scripture is much more than that. It is in fact divine revelation—God's self disclosure through His Spirit to the human authors. 

Man could never know God's identity, attributes, perspectives, or commands if God hadn't revealed them to him. Nor could man know his own origin, purpose, or destiny.
Paul said, "'Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.' For to us God revealed them through the Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:9-10). 

In 2 Timothy 3:16 he adds, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." God inspired every word of Scripture and speaks on every page.
Hebrews 1 speaks of two general means by which God revealed Himself: Old Testament revelation ("long ago," v. 1) and New Testament revelation ("in His Son," v. 2). 

First He spoke to the Jewish fathers through the Old Testament prophets "in many portions." That refers to all the books of the Old Testament. "In many ways" speaks of the specific means by which He communicated: visions, prophecies, parables, types, symbols, ceremonies, theophanies, and audible voice.

From the close of the Old Testament to the arrival of John the Baptist, there were approximately 400 years during which God was silent. But that silence was shattered when John announced the coming of Christ. From that time on, God spoke through His Son. The gospels record His life and teachings, the book of Acts shows the propagation of His teachings through the apostles and early church, the epistles apply His teachings to everyday life, and Revelation tells of His triumphant return and the consummation of divine revelation.

Isn't it wonderful to know God's perspective on life and history?
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God that His Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Ps. 119:105).

For Further Study
According to Deuteronomy 29:29, what is the purpose of divine revelation?


Facing Unbelief

“After the two days He went forth from there into Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast. Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.’ The royal official said to Him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies’” (John 4:43–49).

The proverbial statement “a prophet has no honor in his own country” contrasts Jesus’ acceptance by the Samaritans with His general rejection by the Jewish people (1:11). Jesus returned to Galilee knowing that the saying would be proved true in His case.

John’s statement, “so when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him,” does not mean that they believed in Jesus as the Messiah; they welcomed Him merely as a miracle worker.
The Lord’s encounter with the royal official in Cana is just one more example that the faith of many Galileans, like that of many Judeans, was only superficial, curious, non-saving interest. As a result, Jesus issued this stern rebuke: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”

Ask Yourself
Has familiarity with Jesus robbed you of recognizing the wonder of His ministry in and around you? How can a person guard against this natural tendency, living daily and actively in His presence while not growing ho-hum with the work He does and the blessings He provides?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 7:1–8:22
* Psalm 118:1-4
* Proverbs 27:5-6
* Colossians 2:1-23

Jeremiah 7:1 The word that came. This was Jeremiah’s first temple sermon (v. 2); another is found in chapter 26. God was aroused against the sins He names (vv. 6, 19), especially at His temple becoming a den of thieves (v. 11). The point of this message, however, was that if Israel would repent, even at this late hour, God would still keep the conqueror from coming (vv. 3, 7). 

They must reject lies such as the false hope that peace is certain, based on the reasoning that the Lord would never bring calamity on His own temple (v. 4). They must turn from their sins (vv. 3, 5, 9) and end their hypocrisy (v. 10).

Jeremiah 7:18 the queen of heaven. The Jews were worshiping Ishtar, an Assyrian and Babylonian goddess also called Ashtoreth and Astarte, the wife of Baal or Molech. Because these deities symbolized generative power, their worship involved prostitution.

Jeremiah 7:22 I did not…command. Bible writers sometimes use apparent negation to make a comparative emphasis. What God commanded His people at the Exodus was not so much the offerings as it was the heart obedience which prompted the offerings.

Colossians 2:14 wiped out the handwriting. The Greek word translated “handwriting” referred to the handwritten certificate of debt by which a debtor acknowledged his indebtedness. All people (Rom.3:23) owe God an unpayable debt for violating His law (Gal. 3:10; James 2:10; Matt. 18:23–27) and are thus under sentence of death (Rom. 6:23). Paul graphically compares God’s forgiveness of believers’ sins to wiping ink off a parchment. 

Through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, God has totally erased our certificate of indebtedness and made our forgiveness complete. nailed it to the cross. This is another metaphor for forgiveness. The list of the crimes of a crucified criminal was nailed to the cross with that criminal to declare the violations he was being punished for. Believers’ sins were all put to Christ’s account, nailed to His cross as He paid the penalty in their place for them all, thus satisfying the just wrath of God against crimes requiring punishment in full.

What were the false teachers trying to do to the Colossians?
“Beware lest anyone cheat you,” Paul warns in Colossians 2:8.Here is the term for robbery. False teachers who are successful in getting people to believe lies rob them of truth, salvation, and blessing.“ 

Through philosophy and empty deceit.” “Philosophy” (“love of wisdom”) appears only here in the New Testament. The word referred to more than merely the academic discipline, but described any theory about God, the world, or the meaning of life. Those embracing the Colossian heresy used it to describe the supposed higher knowledge they claimed to have attained. Paul, however, equates the false teachers’ philosophy with “empty deceit”; that is, with worthless deception. 

"According to the basic principles of the world.” Far from being advanced, profound knowledge, the false teachers’ beliefs were simplistic and immature like all the rest of the speculations, ideologies, philosophies, and psychologies the fallen satanic and human system invents.

“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (v. 9). Christ possesses the fullness of the divine nature and attributes. In Greek philosophical thought, matter was evil; spirit was good. Thus, it was unthinkable that God would ever take on a human body. Paul refutes that false teaching by stressing the reality of Christ’s Incarnation. Jesus was not only fully God, but fully human as well.“ And you are complete in Him” (v. 10). 

Believers are complete in Christ, both positionally by the imputed perfect righteousness of Christ and the complete sufficiency of all heavenly resources for spiritual maturity. “Who is the head of all principality and power.” Jesus Christ is the creator and ruler of the universe and all its spiritual beings, not a lesser being emanating from God as the Colossian errorists maintained.




A Right View of Self

“Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6).
True confession involves a proper understanding of oneself.

The supreme goal pursued by many in our narcissistic culture is a “healthy” self-esteem. Even Christians have jumped on the self-esteem bandwagon, misconstruing Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 19:19) as a mandate for self-love. 

But the Bible nowhere commands us to pursue self-esteem; instead, it commands us to be holy (1 Peter 1:16). In Psalm 51, David gives three reasons why holiness is imperative in the life of every Christian.
First, because of unbelievers. David knew he could be a witness for God only if his life was holy. In verse 13 he noted that it was only after God forgave him that he could “teach transgressors [God’s] ways” and see “sinners . . . converted to [Him].” “You are a chosen race,” Peter agrees, “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” (1 Peter 2:9). Nothing shuts a Christian’s mouth so tightly as guilt over unconfessed sin.

Second, because of God. In verse 14 David acknowledged that only when his life was pure could he praise God. He prayed, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; then my tongue will joyfully sing of Thy righteousness.” In verses 16-17 David attested that God desires holiness of life, not conformity to external ritual, in His children. When believers lead holy lives, God is pleased; when they sin, He is dishonored (2 Sam. 12:14).

Third, because of other Christians. Believers’ sin always affects, directly or indirectly, other Christians. As king, David’s sin affected both his family and the entire nation of Israel (2 Sam. 12:10-12). Thus he concluded his prayer of confession by praying for the nation: “By Thy favor do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then Thou wilt delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then young bulls will be offered on Thine altar” (vv. 18-19).

Does your confession reflect a right view of yourself?
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God would enable you to “cleanse [yourself] from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

For Further Study
What do Psalm 66:18 and 1 Peter 3:7 teach about the connection between holiness and prayer?


Searching for Truth

"Thy law is truth. . . . And all Thy commandments are truth. . . . The sum of Thy word is truth" (Ps. 119:142, 151, 160).

Scripture is the source of divine truth.

It amazes me how people can spend so much time searching for truth but ignore the Bible. In his poem Miriam, John Greenleaf Whittier reflected on the same conundrum:
We search the world for truth. 

We cull
The good, the pure, the beautiful,
From graven stone and written scroll, 
From all old flower-fields of the soul; 
And, weary seekers of the best, 
We come back laden from the quest, 
To find that all the sages said 
Is in the Book our mothers read.

God never intended for truth to be mysterious or unattainable. His Word is a repository of truth, containing every principle we need for life and thought.
But knowing truth begins with knowing God, who is its author. First John 5:20 says, "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."
The psalmist proclaimed, "The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure. They are upheld forever and ever; they are performed in truth and uprightness" (Ps. 111:7-8).

As Christians, we are those who walk in truth. That's how Jesus described us when He prayed to the Father, "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). Similarly John said, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth" (3 John 4). In contrast, unbelievers "suppress the truth in unrighteousness," thus making themselves targets for the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18).

To love God is to love truth; to love truth is to love the Word. May you walk in the truth of God's Word today and every day.
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for the privilege of knowing Him and being able to walk in His truth.
For Further Study
How does Jesus describe the Holy Spirit in John 14:17, 15:26, and 16:13?


Christ’s Concern for Souls
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“‘Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest”? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor’” (John 4:35–38).
Using the grain growing in the surrounding fields as an object lesson, Jesus impressed on the disciples the urgency of reaching the lost. There was no need to wait four months; the spiritual fields were already “white for harvest.” He was likely referring to the Samaritans who at that moment were coming toward them (v. 30). Their white clothing formed a striking contrast with the brilliant green of the ripening grain and looked like the white heads on the stalks that indicated the time for harvest.

By telling the disciples that the one “who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal,” the Lord highlighted their responsibility to participate in the harvest of souls. They would receive their “wages”—the rewarding joy of gathering “fruit” for all eternity.
You have the same responsibility as the disciples. Pray that the Lord will give you opportunities to experience the joy of gathering souls as you cooperate with His Spirit.

Ask Yourself
Part of the hindrance to our evangelistic fervor is that the Lord often uses us as one in a long line of invitation points. Though He may be drawing this very person to faith, our own encounter is subject to being met by rejection. How do you overcome the fatigue of knowing that faith can sometimes feel like failure?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 5:1–6:30
* Psalm 117:1-2
* Proverbs 27:3-4
* Colossians 1:1-29

Jeremiah 5:10 not the LORD’s. The people, depicted as vine branches to be destroyed (11:16, 17), did not genuinely know the Lord in a saving relationship, but had forsaken Him and given allegiance to other gods. The description of having eyes but not seeing and ears but not hearing (v. 21) is used by Isaiah (6:9) and Jesus Christ (Matt. 13:13) for such false professors as these branches. Jesus also referred to false branches which were burned (John 15:2, 6).

Jeremiah 6:14 ‘Peace, peace!’ Wicked leaders among the prophets and priests (v. 13) proclaimed peace falsely and gave weak and brief comfort. They provided no true healing from the spiritual wound, not having discernment to deal with the sin and its effects (v. 15). The need was to return to obedience (v. 16).
Colossians 1:12 qualified us. The Greek word means “to make sufficient,” “to empower,” or “to authorize.” God qualifies us only through the finished work of the Savior. Apart from God’s grace through Jesus Christ, all people would be qualified only to receive His wrath. inheritance. Literally, “for the portion of the lot.” Each believer will receive his own individual portion of the total divine inheritance, an allusion to the partitioning of Israel’s inheritance in Canaan (Num. 26:52–56; 33:51–54; Josh. 14:1, 2). in the light. Scripture represents “light” intellectually as divine truth (Ps. 119:130) and morally as divine purity (Eph. 5:8–14; 1 John 1:5). The saints’ inheritance exists in the spiritual realm of truth and purity where God Himself dwells (1 Tim. 6:16). Light, then, is a synonym for God’s kingdom.

Colossians 1:19 all the fullness. A term likely used by those in the Colossian heresy to refer to divine powers and attributes they believed were divided among various emanations. Paul countered that by asserting that the fullness of Deity—all the divine powers and attributes—was not spread out among created beings but completely dwelt in Christ alone.

Colossians 1:27 Gentiles:…Christ in you. The Old Testament predicted the coming of the Messiah and that the Gentiles would partake of salvation (Is. 42:6; 45:21, 22; 49:6; 52:10; 60:1–3; Pss. 22:27; 65:5; 98:2, 3), but it did not reveal that the Messiah would actually live in each member of His redeemed church, made up mostly of Gentiles. That believers, both Jew and Gentile, now possess the surpassing riches of the indwelling Christ is the glorious revealed mystery. the hope of glory. The indwelling Spirit of Christ is the guarantee to each believer of future glory.

How does Colossians 1:15, 16 define Christ as God?
The Greek word for “image” means “copy” or “likeness.” Jesus Christ is the perfect image—the exact likeness—of God and is in the very form of God (Phil. 2:6; John 1:14; 14:9) and has been so from all eternity. By describing Jesus in this manner, Paul emphasizes that He is both the representation and manifestation of God. 

Thus, He is fully God in every way (2:9; John 8:58; 10:30–33; Heb. 1:8). “The firstborn over all creation.” The Greek word for “firstborn” can refer to one who was born first chronologically, but most often refers to preeminence in position or rank (Heb. 1:6; Rom. 8:29). 

In both Greek and Jewish culture, the firstborn was the ranking son who had received the right of inheritance from his father, whether he was born first or not. It is used of Israel who, not being the first nation, was however the preeminent nation (Ex. 4:22; Jer. 31:9). Firstborn in this context clearly means highest in rank, not first created (Ps. 89:27; Rev. 1:5) for several reasons:

1. Christ cannot be both “first begotten” and “only begotten” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9);
2. when the “firstborn” is one of a class, the class is in the plural form (v. 18; Rom. 8:29), but “creation,” the class here, is in a singular form;
3. if Paul was teaching that Christ was a created being, he was agreeing with the heresy he was writing to refute; and
4. it is impossible for Christ to be both created and the Creator of everything (v. 16). Thus Jesus is the firstborn in the sense that He has the preeminence (v. 18) and possesses the right of inheritance “over all creation” (Heb. 1:2; Rev. 5:1–7,13). He existed before the creation and is exalted in rank above it.

The false teachers had incorporated into their heresy the worship of angels, including the lie that Jesus was one of them, merely a spirit created by God and inferior to Him. Paul rejected that and made it clear that angels, whatever their rank, whether holy or fallen, are mere creatures, and their Creator is none other than the preeminent One, the Lord Savior, Jesus Christ (v. 16). 

The purpose of His catalog of angelic ranks is to show the immeasurable superiority of Christ over any being the false teachers might suggest.




A Right View of God

“Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, and blameless when Thou dost judge” (Psalm 51:4).
True confession involves a proper understanding of God.

Today we will see a second element of true confession in David’s prayer in Psalm 51: true confession requires not only a proper view of sin, but also a proper view of God. David gives us an understanding of four essential truths about God.

First, God is holy. Affirming God’s omniscience, David declared, “Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom” (v. 6). David knew that because God is holy, He is never satisfied with mere external behavior.

Second, God is powerful. David prayed, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness” (vv. 7-8). David believed God had the power to change him—unlike some who think their sinful habits are too strong for Him to overcome.

Third, God will chastise believers for their sins. David pleaded with God, “Let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice” (v. 8). He alluded to the way shepherds sometimes dealt with wayward sheep. They would take such troublesome sheep and break one of their legs. Then they would set the leg and carry the sheep while the leg healed. Afterwards the sheep would remain close to the shepherd. Through this picturesque metaphor, David described God’s chastisement of him for his sin.

Fourth, God is a forgiving God. “Hide Thy face from my sins,” pleaded David, “and blot out all my iniquities. . . . Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation” (vv. 9, 14). 

David obviously believed God would forgive his sin or he would never have asked Him for forgiveness. In Isaiah 43:25 God Himself affirmed that He is a forgiving God: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”

Does your confession reflect a right view of God?

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for His holiness, power, and forgiveness.
For Further Study
Read the prayers of the exiles (Neh. 9:5-38) and Daniel (Dan. 9:4-19). What do those prayers tell you about their views of God?


Giving Godly Counsel

"Concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another" (Rom. 15:14).
Scripture is the source of godly counsel.

In recent years the question of who is competent to counsel has become an important issue in the church. Many pastors and other church leaders have curtailed their counseling ministries or stopped them altogether. They've been made to feel inadequate for not having formal training in psychological counseling techniques.

Behind this movement away from pastoral counseling is the subtle implication that the Holy Spirit and Scripture are incapable of addressing the deepest needs of the human heart. It is claimed that only secular psychology dispensed by trained analysts can do that.

But the truth is, the heart of man is "more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). No one. That includes humanistic counselors. Verse 10 says, "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind." Only God can understand the human heart.

David prayed, "O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar. Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, and art intimately acquainted with all my ways. . . . Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?" (Ps. 139:1-3, 7).

Only God knows what's in a person's heart. Only His Spirit working through His Word can penetrate one's deepest thoughts and motives to transform the heart and renew the mind (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 12:2).
Professional psychologists are no substitute for spiritually gifted people who know the Word, possess godly wisdom, are full of goodness, and available to help others apply divine truth to their lives (Rom. 15:14).

When people come to you for counsel, the best thing you can do is show them what God's Word says about their problem and how it applies to their situation. But you can't do that unless you know the Word and are allowing it to do its work in you first. Then you'll be in a position to counsel others more effectively.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for the wise and all-sufficient counsel of His Word.
* Reaffirm your commitment to share it at every opportunity.
For Further Study
According to Psalm 119:24, on what did the psalmist rely for his counsel?


Intimacy with the Father

“Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples were saying to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work’” (John 4:31–34).

The disciples’ primary concern at this point had been food. That’s why they urged Jesus to eat. Jesus, however, had a higher priority, as His reply to them makes clear: “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” Like the Samaritan woman (4:11), the disciples misunderstood Jesus’ words and began saying doubtfully to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?”

Jesus took advantage of their confusion to teach them an important spiritual lesson. He said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” Doing God’s will by proclaiming the truth to a lost sinner gave the Lord satisfaction and sustenance far surpassing what food could give Him.
Jesus frequently referred to the Father as the One who sent Him. His goal during His earthly ministry was to accomplish His work of salvation. Throughout His ministry, Jesus walked in perfect intimacy with His Father, living in complete accordance with the Father’s will until His cry of triumph from the cross—“It is finished!” (19:30)—marked the accomplishment of His mission on earth. Submitting to the Father was Jesus’ constant devotion, consummate joy, and true sustenance.

Ask Yourself
How often does food come between you and sweet fellowship with your Father in heaven? In what ways does this legitimate appetite become a tyrannical force that overrules and overrides the greater necessity of daily dependence on God?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 3:1–4:31
* Psalm 116:15-19
* Proverbs 27:2
* Philippians 4:1-23
Jeremiah 3:14 I am married to you. God pictured His covenant relationship with Israel as a marriage and pleaded with mercy for Judah to repent and return. He will take her back. 

Hosea’s restoration of Gomer was a picture of God taking back His wicked, adulterous people.
Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise. This surgery (Gen. 17:10–14) was to cut away flesh that could hold disease in its folds and could pass the disease on to wives. 

It was important for the preservation of God’s people physically. But it was also a symbol of the need for the heart to be cleansed from sin’s deadly disease. The essential surgery needed to happen on the inside, where God calls for taking away fleshly things that keep the heart from being spiritually devoted to Him and from true faith in Him and His will. Jeremiah later expanded on this theme (31:31–34).

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord. Paul’s familiar theme throughout the epistle, which has already been heard in chapters 1 and 2. “In the Lord” signifies the sphere in which the believers’ joy exists—a sphere unrelated to the circumstances of life, but related to an unassailable, unchanging relationship to the sovereign Lord.

Philippians 4:12 abased…abound. Paul knew how to get along with humble means (food, clothing, daily necessities) and how to live in prosperity (“to overflow”). to be full and to be hungry. The Greek word translated “to be full” was used of feeding and fattening animals. Paul knew how to be content when he had plenty to eat and when he was deprived of enough to eat.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things. Paul uses a Greek verb that means “to be strong” or “to have strength” (Acts 19:16, 20; James 5:16). He had strength to withstand “all things” (vv. 11, 12), including both difficulty and prosperity in the material world. through Christ who strengthens me. The Greek word for strengthen means “to put power in.” Because believers are in Christ (Gal. 2:20), He infuses them with His strength to sustain them until they receive some provision (Eph. 3:16–20; 2 Cor. 12:10).

How do we keep the peace of God in our lives?
Paul tells us to “be anxious for nothing” (Phil. 4:6).Fret and worry indicate a lack of trust in God’s wisdom, sovereignty, or power. 

Delighting in the Lord and meditating on His Word are a great antidote to anxiety (Ps. 1:2). “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,…requests.” All difficulties are within God’s purposes. Gratitude to God accompanies all true prayer.
“And the peace of God” (v. 7). Inner calm or tranquility is promised to the believer who has a thankful attitude based on an unwavering confidence that God is able and willing to do what is best for His children (Rom. 8:28). 

“Which surpasses all understanding.” This refers to the divine origin of peace. It transcends human intellect, analysis, and insight. “Will guard.” A military term meaning “to keep watch over.” God’s peace guards believers from anxiety, doubt, fear, and distress. “Your hearts and minds.” Paul was not making a distinction between the two—he was giving a comprehensive statement referring to the whole inner person. Because of the believer’s union with Christ, He guards his inner being with His peace.

And believers are to think on what is true (v. 8), what is found in God (2 Tim.2:25), in Christ (Eph. 4:20, 21), in the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), and in God’s Word (John 17:17). They are to think on what is “worthy of respect,” whatever is worthy of awe and adoration, i.e., the sacred as opposed to the profane. The believer is to think in harmony with God’s divine standard of holiness and on what is morally clean and undefiled. Believers are to focus on whatever is lovely, “pleasing” or “amiable,” and that which is highly regarded or thought well of. If they follow the truth of God proclaimed, along with the example of that truth lived by Paul before them, “the God of peace will be with [them]” (v. 9). God is peace (Rom. 16:20; Eph. 2:14), makes peace with sinners through Christ (2 Cor. 5:18–20), and gives perfect peace in trouble (v. 7).




A Right View of Sin

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2).
True confession involves a proper understanding of sin.

King David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). He was far from perfect, however. He was not an effective father (1 Kings 1:5-6), nor did he always trust God (1 Sam. 21:10—22:1). But by far his greatest failings were his horrible sins of adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband (2 Sam. 11—12). 

After Nathan the prophet confronted him with his sin, David poured out his heart in confession to God. During the next three days, we will learn from that prayer (Ps. 51) some key marks of true confession.
Confession, first of all, involves a right view of sin. In Psalm 51 David summarized the biblical view of sin.

First, sin deserves judgment. In verse 1 David pleaded, “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions.” True confession must begin with an admission of guilt.
Second, sin demands cleansing. In verse 2 David asked God to cleanse him from the guilt of his sin. Since God’s “eyes are too pure to approve evil” and He cannot “look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13), only those cleansed from their sins can enter His presence. 

True confession acknowledges the defilement sin causes, and it pleads for God’s cleansing (1 John 1:7, 9).

Third, sin is our responsibility. Unlike Adam (Gen. 3:12) and Eve (Gen. 3:13), David accepted full responsibility for his sin. In verses 1 and 3 he referred to his sins as “my transgressions.” True confession does not blame others for sin.

Fourth, all sin is ultimately against God. David admitted that when he said to God, “Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned” (v. 4). True confession recognizes God as the supreme Lawgiver.

Fifth, sin is part of human nature. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,” David acknowledged in verse 5, “and in sin my mother conceived me.” David accepted the biblical teaching of total depravity—that all men inherit Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12). True confession looks inward for the cause of sin, not to external factors.

Does your confession reflect a right view of sin?

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God that He doesn’t keep a record of your sins (Ps. 130:3-4).
For Further Study
Why is acknowledging sin important (Josh. 7:19)?


Experiencing Spiritual Victory

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word. . . . Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee" (Ps. 119:9, 11).

Scripture is the source of spiritual victory.

Many Christians struggle with spiritual defeat or recurring sins because they haven't learned to apply biblical principles to specific situations. Perhaps they don't know God's will because they haven't matured in the Word. Or maybe they know what He expects of them but disregard His counsel. In either case, the result is the same.

Jesus Himself repelled Satan's attacks by quoting specific portions of Scripture that applied to specific temptations (Matt. 4:1-11). He knew the Word, believed it, and refused to compromise its principles. In so doing He set a pattern for us to follow.

Using metaphorical language, the apostle John emphasized the priority of the Word when he described three levels of spiritual maturity: children, young men, and fathers. In 1 John 2:13 he says, "I have written to you, children, because you know the Father." Spiritual children aren't yet mature in their faith, but they know who their Heavenly Father is. They know they belong to God.

John continues: "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one" (v. 14). Spiritual young men are healthy, vibrant, and aggressive because the Word abides in them—it has found a home in their hearts. They're victorious over the evil one because their doctrine is sound and they've cultivated spiritual wisdom and discernment (Phil. 1:9). They recognize Satan's lies and reject them.

First John 2:14 says, "I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning." Spiritual fathers have a deep, mature relationship with God that comes from prolonged time in prayer and the Word.

Which of those terms best describes you: spiritual child, young man, or father? What specific things can you do today to move toward a more mature and victorious Christian life?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you love Him more deeply and know His Word more completely. Therein is the key to spiritual victory.

For Further Study

Memorize Psalm 119:11. Recite it often as a reminder of the priority of hiding God's Word in your heart.


The Samaritan Woman’s Reaction

“So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’ They went out of the city, and were coming to Him” (John 4:28–30).

Leaving her jar at the well, the woman hurried back “into the city” and, gathering a crowd, excitedly said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done.” A stranger who knew all about her past was no ordinary man. 

Jesus’ impact on her was so profound that she did not hesitate to share the news about Him—even with those familiar with her sordid reputation. Jesus had read her heart and forced her to face herself. She had already recognized her need (4:15), her sin (4:19), and who He was (4:26). Her immediate desire to witness to others was now the clinching piece of evidence that her conversion was genuine.

“This is not the Christ, is it?” The Greek construction of this question implies a negative or at least a doubtful answer. The woman described her conversation with Jesus and humbly deferred the question of His identity to the men. They were so impressed by her excitement and sincerity that they went to investigate Him for themselves. Though no specific number is given, the implication is that the woman’s excited testimony had stirred up a sizeable group.

Let the testimony of this woman work as a barometer of your own desire to proclaim the gospel as the Lord gives you opportunity.

Ask Yourself
The incessant demands of our daily wants and needs always serves as a willing excuse for putting off Christ’s command to proclaim our faith. What are some of the “waterpots” you need to put down from time to time so that you can be free and available to share what Jesus has done for you?


Reading for Today:
* Jeremiah 1:1–2:37
* Psalm 116:5-14
* Proverbs 27:1
* Philippians 3:1-21
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you… This is not reincarnation; it is God’s all-knowing cognizance of Jeremiah and sovereign plan for him before he was conceived (Paul’s similar realization, Gal. 1:15).

Philippians 3:2 dogs. During the first century, dogs roamed the streets and were essentially wild scavengers. Because dogs were such filthy animals, the Jews loved to refer to Gentiles as dogs. Yet here Paul refers to Jews, specifically the Judaizers, as dogs to describe their sinful, vicious, and uncontrolled character. evil workers. The Judaizers prided themselves on being workers of righteousness. Yet Paul described their works as evil, since any attempt to please God by one’s own efforts and draw attention away from Christ’s accomplished redemption is the worst kind of wickedness. mutilation. 

In contrast to the Greek word for “circumcision,” which means “to cut around,” this term means “to cut down (off).” Like the prophets of Baal (1 Kin. 18:28) and pagans who mutilated their bodies in their frenzied rituals, which were forbidden in the Old Testament (Lev. 19:28; 21:5; Deut. 14:1), the Judaizers’ circumcision was, ironically, no spiritual symbol; it was merely physical mutilation.

Philippians 3:7 what things were gain…I have counted loss. The Greek word for “gain” is an accounting term that means “profit.” The Greek word for “loss” also is an accounting term used to describe a business loss. Paul used the language of business to describe the spiritual transaction that occurred when Christ redeemed him. All his Jewish religious credentials that he thought were in his profit column were actually worthless and damning (Luke 18:9–14). Thus, he put them in his loss column when he saw the glories of Christ.

Philippians 3:8 knowledge of Christ Jesus. To “know” Christ is not simply to have intellectual knowledge about Him. Paul used the Greek verb that means to know “experientially” or “personally” (John 10:27; 17:3; 2 Cor. 4:6; 1 John 5:20). It is equivalent to shared life with Christ. It also corresponds to a Hebrew word used of God’s knowledge of His people (Amos 3:2) and their knowledge of Him in love and obedience (Jer. 31:34; Hos. 6:3; 8:2). rubbish. 

The Greek word refers to garbage or waste and can even be translated “dung” or “manure.”

Who was the prophet Jeremiah?
Jeremiah, who served as both a priest and a prophet, was the son of a priest named Hilkiah. He was from the small village of Anathoth (1:1), today called Anata, about 3 miles northeast of Jerusalem. As an object lesson to Judah, Jeremiah remained unmarried (16:1–4). 

He was assisted in ministry by a scribe named Baruch, to whom Jeremiah dictated and who copied and had custody over the writings compiled from the prophet’s messages (36:4, 32; 45:1). Jeremiah has been known as “the weeping prophet” (9:1; 13:17; 14:17), 
living a life of conflict because of his predictions of judgment by the invading Babylonians. He was threatened, tried for his life, put in stocks, forced to flee from Jehoiakim, publicly humiliated by a false prophet, and thrown into a pit.

Jeremiah carried out a ministry directed mostly to his own people in Judah, but which expanded to other nations at times. He appealed to his countrymen to repent and avoid God’s judgment via an invader (chaps. 7; 26). Once invasion was certain after Judah refused to repent, he pled with them not to resist the Babylonian conqueror in order to prevent total destruction (chap. 27). He also called on delegates of other nations to heed his counsel and submit to Babylon (chap. 27), and he predicted judgments from God on various nations (25:12–38; chaps. 46–51).

The dates of his ministry, which spanned 5 decades, are from the Judean king Josiah’s thirteenth year, noted in 1:2 (627 B.C.), to beyond the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 B.C. (chaps. 39; 40; 52). After 586 B.C., Jeremiah was forced to go with a fleeing remnant of Judah to Egypt (chaps. 43; 44).




The Prerequisite for Cleansing

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Continuous confession characterizes Christians.

Yesterday we learned that the only condition for receiving God’s gracious forgiveness is to “walk in the light”—in other words, to be a true Christian (1 John 1:7). At first glance, today’s verse appears to contradict that truth by adding a condition—namely, confession of sin. Such is not the case, however. First John 1:9 could be translated, “If we are the ones confessing our sins, He is forgiving us.” 

This verse looks at salvation from man’s perspective and defines Christians as those who are continually confessing their sins. Confession, like saving faith, is not a one-time act but a continuous pattern throughout our lives.

What is confession? The Greek word means “to say the same thing.” Confession, then, is agreeing with God about our sin. Confession affirms that God is just when He chastens us for our sins. It also restores us to the place of His blessing—something He is always “faithful” to do. Proverbs 28:13 reinforces that truth, promising that “he who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”

Some may question how a holy God can be “righteous” and still forgive sins. John has already answered that by noting in verse 7 that forgiveness comes through the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul declares that “God displayed [Christ] publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith . . . for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25-26).
True confession involves sorrow because sin has offended God (2 Cor. 7:10)—not mere remorse because of its negative consequences in one’s life (as was the case with Saul [1 Sam. 15:24] and Judas [Matt. 27:3]). It also involves repentance—turning away from sin and no longer embracing it (cf. Acts 19:18-19; 1 Thess. 1:9).
Is there a sin you’ve been clinging to? If so, confess and forsake it today, and experience God’s blessed forgiveness.

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for being “good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon [Him]” (Ps. 86:5).

For Further Study
Memorize Psalm 139:23-24 to remind you of the need for God’s help in confessing your sins.


Enjoying God's Blessings

"Blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it" (Luke 11:28).

Obeying Scripture brings spiritual blessing.

When Scripture speaks of a person's being blessed, it usually refers to the reception of some temporal or spiritual benefit. It also includes the joy and sense of well-being that comes with knowing that God is at work on your behalf.
The psalmist wrote, "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 

And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers" (Ps. 1:1-2). Those who know and obey God's Word will be blessed. The psalmist likened them to a strong, productive, prosperous tree.

James added, "One who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty [God's Word], and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25). Again, the very act of obedience brings blessing.

John opens the book of Revelation with this promise: "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it" (Rev. 1:3). Jesus closed the Revelation with the same promise: "Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book" (Rev. 22:7). Obedience and blessing always go hand-in-hand.

As a Christian, you've been blessed "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). Every spiritual resource is yours. Even in times of sorrow and persecution, God's blessing rests on you (1 Pet. 4:14). But you can forfeit His blessings by neglecting His Word or committing other sinful acts. So guard your heart carefully and continue in the Word. As you do, your joy will be boundless!

Suggestions for Prayer
Make a list of specific ways in which the Lord has blessed you in recent days. Praise Him for each one.

For Further Study
Read James 1:12, 1 Peter 3:14, and 1 Peter 4:14. How does God's blessing apply when you're suffering unjustly?


Jesus’ Sovereign Control of All

“At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, ‘What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why do You speak with her?’” (John 4:27).

The disciples came back from buying food in Sychar at the exact moment Jesus revealed His messiahship to the Samaritan woman. The phrase “at this point” captures Jesus’ complete mastery of the situation. Had the disciples returned earlier, they would have interrupted the conversation before it reached its dramatic conclusion; had they returned later, they would have missed hearing Jesus’ declaration.

The disciples were amazed to see that Jesus “had been speaking with a woman,” which was a shocking breach of societal norms. That she was a Samaritan made the Lord’s action even more astonishing. And had they known the woman’s immoral background, the disciples would have been completely stunned. But they respected Jesus so much that they knew better than to interrupt His conversation. Therefore they did not ask the woman, “What do You seek?” or ask Jesus, “Why do You speak with her?” They had already learned that Jesus had good reasons for doing what He did.

As He explained the truth to this woman, the Lord did not force or manipulate the conversation. Instead, He sovereignly orchestrated the timing of events so the disciples would arrive at the right moment. History is under God’s absolute control, prewritten in eternity past. Therefore, Jesus Himself always acted according to the Father’s timetable.

In this situation at a well in Samaria—as so often in His life—Jesus’ sovereign control of events opens a window through which we can see His deity.

Ask Yourself
God’s sovereignty is one of the aspects of His nature that disturbs some, feeling as though He’s too much in their business. But what are some of the many comforts and confidences that flow from this glorious doctrine of His providence?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 65:1–66:24
* Psalm 116:1-4
* Proverbs 26:28
* Philippians 2:1-30
Isaiah 65:1 not ask…not seek…not called. Though Israel sought the Lord, they did so only superficially. They did not genuinely seek Him. The New Testament assigns an additional sense to the words in Romans 10:20, applying them to Gentiles who find Him through the work of His sovereign grace.

Isaiah 66:1, 2 Isaiah began the final summary of his prophecy with a reminder that God is not looking for a temple of stone, since as Creator of all things, the whole universe is His dwelling place. Stephen cited this passage before the Sanhedrin to point out their error in limiting God to a temple made with hands (Acts 7:49, 50). On the contrary, God is looking for a heart to dwell in, a heart that is tender and broken, not one concerned with the externalities of religion. God is looking to dwell in the heart of a person who takes His Word seriously.

Philippians 2:2 fulfill my joy. This can also be translated “make my joy complete.” Paul’s joy was tied to a concern for the unity of believers (Heb. 13:17). like-minded. The Greek word means “think the same way.” This exhortation is not optional or obscure, but is repeated throughout the New Testament (Rom. 15:5; 1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11–13). same love. Believers are to love others in the body of Christ equally—not because they are all equally attractive, but by showing the same kind of sacrificial, loving service to all that was shown to them by Christ. one accord. This may also be translated “united in spirit” and perhaps is a term specially coined by Paul. It literally means “one-souled” and describes people who are knit together in harmony, having the same desires, passions, and ambitions.

Philippians 2:6 being in the form of God. Paul affirms that Jesus eternally has been God. The usual Greek word for “being” is not used here. Instead, Paul chose another term that stresses the essence of a person’s nature—his continuous state or condition. Paul also could have chosen one of two Greek words for “form,” but he chose the one that specifically denotes the essential, unchanging character of something—what it is in and of itself. The fundamental doctrine of Christ’s deity has always encompassed these crucial characteristics (John 1:1, 3, 4, 14; 8:58; Col. 1:15–17; Heb. 1:3). not…robbery. The Greek word is translated “robbery” here because it originally meant “a thing seized by robbery.” It eventually came to mean anything clutched, embraced, or prized, and thus is sometimes translated “grasped” or “held on to.” Though Christ had all the rights, privileges, and honors of Deity—which He was worthy of and could never be disqualified from—His attitude was not to cling to those things or His position but to be willing to give them up for a season. equal with God. The Greek word for “equal” defines things that are exactly the same in size, quantity, quality, character, and number. In every sense, Jesus is equal to God and constantly claimed to be so during His earthly ministry (John 5:18; 10:33, 38; 14:9; 20:28; Heb. 1:1–3).

How did Christ humble Himself for our salvation?
In Philippians 2:7, Paul writes that Christ “made Himself of no reputation.” This is more clearly translated “emptied Himself.” This was a self-renunciation, not an emptying Himself of Deity nor an exchange of Deity for humanity. Jesus did, however, renounce or set aside His privileges in several areas: 

1) heavenly glory—while on earth He gave up the glory of a face-to-face relationship with God (John 17:5); 

2) independent authority—during His Incarnation Christ completely submitted Himself to the will of His Father (Matt. 26:39; John 5:30); 

3) divine prerogatives—He set aside the voluntary display of His divine attributes and submitted Himself to the Spirit’s direction (Matt. 24:36; John 1:45–49); 

4) eternal riches—while on earth Christ was poor and owned very little (2 Cor. 8:9); and 

5) a favorable relationship with God—He felt the Father’s wrath for human sin while on the cross (Matt. 27:46; 2 Cor. 5:21).

“Taking the form of a bondservant” (v. 7). Again, Paul uses the Greek word “form,” which indicates exact essence. As a true servant, Jesus submissively did the will of His Father (Is. 52:13, 14). “Coming in the likeness of men.” Christ became more than God in a human body, but He took on all the essential attributes of humanity (Luke 2:52; Gal. 4:4; Col. 1:22). He became the God-Man: fully God and fully man.

“And being found in appearance as a man” (v. 8). Christ’s humanity is described from the viewpoint of those who saw Him. Paul is implying that, although He outwardly looked like a man, there was much more to Him (His deity) than many people recognized naturally (John 6:42; 8:48). “He humbled Himself.” After the humbling of incarnation, Jesus further humbled Himself in that He subjected Himself to persecution and suffering (Is. 53:7; Matt. 26:62–64; Mark 14:60, 61; 1 Pet. 2:23). 

“Obedient…death.” Beyond even persecution, Jesus went to the lowest point or furthest extent in His humiliation in dying as a criminal, following God’s plan for Him. “The cross.” Even further humiliation was His because Jesus’ death was not by ordinary means, but was accomplished by crucifixion—the cruelest, most excruciating, most degrading form of death ever devised.




Children of Light

“If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
God is light, and His children share His nature.

First John 1:5 aptly describes God’s nature as “light” (truth and holiness). Because they partake of His nature (2 Peter 1:4), His children also walk in the light. It must be understood that we don’t become God’s children by walking in the light, but rather we walk in the light because we are His children. The Greek verb describes continuous action and could be translated, “If we habitually or continuously walk in the light. . . .” It’s an indicator of character; a definition of a true Christian, just as walking in the darkness characterizes unbelievers.

Two significant benefits come to believers because they walk in the light. These are privileges granted only to Christians; unbelievers who think they possess them deceive themselves.

First, believers experience fellowship with God. “One another” in 1 John 1:7 does not refer to other Christians. Although it is certainly true that believers enjoy fellowship with each other, that is not what this verse is teaching. The use of the pronoun “his” later in the verse makes it clear that the fellowship in view here is with God. That fellowship is mutual, “with one another.” Believers share a common life with God, experience His presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and commune with Him through prayer and the reading of His Word.

Second, believers experience cleansing from sin. “The blood of Jesus His Son” is the agency of that cleansing. Christ’s blood is symbolic of His sacrificial death on the cross, where full payment was made for believers’ sins. Once again it must be noted that walking in the light does not earn forgiveness; rather, forgiveness is freely granted to those who walk in the light (who are Christians).

In view of those glorious truths, I would leave you today with the challenge of the apostle Paul: “Now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8).

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help 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).
For Further Study
Look up the following passages, noting what each teaches about forgiveness of sin: Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14; 10:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5-6.


Preparing for Spiritual Service

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable . . . that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Scripture equips you for spiritual service.

Each week I have the privilege of interacting with more than one hundred students at The Master's Seminary. One of my greatest joys is seeing their determination to do God's work in God's way.

That attitude is the key to success in ministry, as Joshua learned when he assumed leadership over the Israelites after Moses' death. At that point, God said to him, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success" (Josh. 1:8).

This is how Paul described spiritual success to Timothy: "In pointing out [the things I have said] to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following" (1 Tim. 4:6).

"Servant" speaks of one who oversees and dispenses the goods and property of another. A good spiritual servant is one who knows and dispenses God's Word. Whatever level of ministry you pursue, you must conform to biblical teaching. To do that, you must know what God says about ministering to His people.

I've met many people who love the Lord and want desperately to serve Him effectively, but haven't taken time to learn the principles that govern spiritual ministry. Consequently they're ill-prepared and in some cases unwittingly participating in activities that actually violate God's Word.

Don't let that happen to you. God's Word supplies all the strength, instruction, and comfort you need to serve Christ properly. Study it thoroughly and follow it closely.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for every ministry opportunity He gives you.
* Ask Him to help you see any areas of your service that might need to be corrected, and then respond accordingly.
For Further Study
According to Philippians 1:12-18, is it possible to minister with impure motives? Explain.


The True Nature of God and Worship

“‘God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He’” (John 4:24–26).

The phrase “God is spirit” is the classic biblical definition of the nature of God. Despite the heretical teaching of false cults, God is not an exalted man (Num. 23:19), “for a spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). He is “the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), who “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). Had He not revealed Himself in Scripture and in Jesus Christ, God would be utterly incomprehensible.

Because God is spirit, those who would truly worship Him “must worship in spirit and truth.” True worship does not consist of mere outward conformity to religious standards and duties; it springs from the inner spirit. It must also be consistent with the truth God has revealed about Himself in His Word. The extremes of dead orthodoxy (truth and no spirit) and zealous heterodoxy (spirit and no truth) must be avoided.

In spite of her confusion, the Samaritan woman expressed her hope that one day the Messiah would clarify all of these vexing religious questions. Imagine her surprise when the man who just a few minutes earlier had made a simple request for a drink of water claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah, and what He knew about her left her with no doubt about who He really was.

Ask Yourself
Why would Jesus spend so much time with this woman, letting her ask her guarded questions, waiting for her situation to be exposed, waiting to see the light come on? He didn’t always appear so patient and courteous, not with everyone. What can we learn from His treatment of her?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 63:1–64:12
* Psalm 115:14-18
* Proverbs 26:27
* Philippians 1:1-30
Isaiah 63:7 lovingkindnesses…lovingkindnesses. All the plurals in this verse imply that language is inadequate to recite all the goodness and undeserved mercies God has showered on the nation time after time because of His everlasting covenant with them. By His elective choice, they became His people and He their Savior (43:1, 3). This guarantees that they will not always be false (“lie”), but someday true and faithful to God because of His sovereign election of them.
Isaiah 64:11 burned up with fire;…laid waste. Through prophetic revelation Isaiah uttered these words many years before the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 586 B.C. Yet he lamented over the fallen state as though it had already occurred. God’s people were in desperate straits and their prayers urgent and persistent: “How can You stand by when Your people and Your land are so barren?”
Philippians 1:18 I rejoice,…will rejoice. Paul’s joy was not tied to his circumstances or his critics (Ps. 4:7, 8; Rom. 12:12; 2 Cor. 6:10). He was glad when the gospel was proclaimed with authority, no matter who received credit. He endured the unjust accusations without bitterness at his accusers. Rather, he rejoiced that they preached Christ, even in a pretense of godliness.

What was Paul’s prayer for the Philippians?
“That your love may abound still more and more in knowledge” (1:9). This is from the Greek word that describes genuine, full, or advanced knowledge. Biblical love is not an empty sentimentalism but is anchored deeply in the truth of Scripture and regulated by it. “Discernment.” The English word “aesthetic” comes from this Greek word, which speaks of moral perception, insight, and the practical application of knowledge. Love is not blind, but perceptive, and it carefully scrutinizes to distinguish between right and wrong.

“That you may approve the…excellent” (v. 10). “Approve” in classical Greek described the assaying of metals or the testing of money for authenticity. “Excellent” means “to differ.” Believers need the ability to distinguish those things that are truly important so they can establish the right priorities. “Sincere and without offense.” “Sincere” means “genuine” and may have originally meant “tested by sunlight.” In the ancient world, dishonest pottery dealers filled cracks in their inferior products with wax before glazing and painting them, making worthless pots difficult to distinguish from expensive ones. The only way to avoid being defrauded was to hold the pot to the sun, making the wax-filled cracks obvious. Dealers marked their fine pottery that could withstand “sun testing” as sine cera—“without wax.” “Without offense” can be translated “blameless,” referring to relational integrity. Christians are to live lives of true integrity that do not cause others to sin.

“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness” (v. 11). This is better translated, “the fruit righteousness produces.” “Which are by Jesus Christ.” This speaks of the salvation transformation provided by our Lord and His ongoing work of power through His Spirit in us.“ To the glory and praise of God. ”The ultimate end of all Paul’s prayers was that God be glorified.




Children of Darkness

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6).
Those who deny the reality of their sin affirm the unreality of their salvation.

Ours is a society that rejects the concept of individual responsibility. People blame society, their parents, their genes—anything but their own actions and choices—for their problems. The biblical teaching that all people are responsible for breaking God’s holy law is scoffed at as primitive, unsophisticated, and harmful to a healthy self-esteem.

Even some who claim to be Christians refuse to acknowledge their sin. They say, “I make mistakes. But I’m a good person. Surely God won’t reject me!” Such people are tragically deceived and will miss out on salvation; those who don’t see themselves as lost will not seek God’s gracious salvation. In the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

The apostle John gives three characteristics of those who deny their sin.
First, they walk in darkness (1 John 1:6). That reveals that they are not saved, since only those who “walk in the light” are cleansed from their sins by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7).

Second, they are self-deceived (1 John 1:8). The Bible makes it unmistakably clear that all people are sinners (2 Chron. 6:36; Rom. 3:23); there are no exceptions (Rom. 3:12).

Third, they defame God, making Him out to be a liar (1 John 1:10) by denying what His Word affirms—that they are sinners. That is a serious, blasphemous accusation to make against the God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), whose word is truth (John 17:17).
In Luke 18, Jesus described two men praying in the temple. One, a proud, self-righteous Pharisee, denied his sin. The other, a despised tax-gatherer, cried out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” Which of the two do you identify with?

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God, “who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
For Further Study
Read the following passages: John 8:12; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 5:1-2, 8; Colossians 1:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5. 

Is it possible for a Christian to habitually walk in darkness (lead a life of continuous, unrepentant sin)? Explain.


Longing for the Word

"Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Pet. 2:2).
Scripture is our source of spiritual growth.

A newborn baby was abandoned in a pile of trash in a city alley. The mother had obviously left it there to die. The infant was near death when someone heard its faint cry and summoned medical help. The child survived, but not until it had received the attention and nourishment it needed.
That situation has a spiritual parallel, which Peter used to illustrate the believer's dependence on God's Word. If a baby is deprived of nourishment, it will soon die. Similarly, if a Christian doesn't feed on the Word, he or she will languish spiritually and become ineffective for the Lord. On the positive side, a believer should long for God's Word as intently as a newborn baby longs for its mother's milk.

Scripture draws on the parent/child metaphor in other ways, referring to Christians as being born again (John 3:7; 1 Pet. 1:3), children of God (Rom. 8:16; 1 John 3:1), and adopted sons (Rom. 8:14; Eph. 1:5). Just as it is natural for biological children to grow and mature, Christians also have the capacity for spiritual growth. In fact, we're commanded to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18).

The Word of God is the mainstay of your spiritual diet. It's your primary source of nourishment. Paul said, "As you . . . have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed" (Col. 2:6-7). "Your faith" in that context refers to the content of Christianity—the doctrines of Scripture. As your knowledge and application of biblical principles increases, you will become more and more grounded in truth and steadfast in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer
If you've lost your appetite for God's Word, it may be because of sin (1 Pet. 2:1). If so, ask God to cleanse your heart and give you a renewed longing for His truth. Then commit yourself to daily time in the Word.
For Further Study
Read Acts 20:32 and 1 Thessalonians 2:13, noting the effect Scripture has on believers.


True Worship

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” John 4:19–23. 

Having been convicted of her sin and need for forgiveness, and having repented and agreed with Jesus’ indictment, the Samaritan woman wondered where she should go to meet God and seek His grace and salvation.

Jesus explains that under the new covenant, the place of worship is not the issue, but rather the nature of worship. “An hour is coming,” Jesus informed the woman, “and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. “Spirit” does not refer to the Holy Spirit but the human spirit. Worship must be internal, not external—it must be from the heart. “Truth” calls for this heart worship to be consistent with what Scripture teaches and to be centered on Christ.

True worshipers are those who “worship the Father in spirit and truth.” It is “such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” by sovereignly drawing them to Himself (6:44, 45). God has called you to worship Him. Make sure your worship is genuine.

Ask Yourself
What is so empty and uninspiring about worship that fails to engage the heart, worship that is mouthed and measured rather than done like you mean it? Then why do we resort to it so often? Why are we duped into believing that the object of our distraction is more worthy than the rightful recipient of our praise? 


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 61:1–62:12
* Psalm 115:9-13
* Proverbs 26:24-26
* Ephesians 6:1-24

Isaiah 61:1,2 The Spirit…acceptable year of the LORD. The Servant of the Lord (42:1) will be the ultimate Preacher and the Redeemer of Israel who rescues them. Jesus speaks of the initial fulfillment of this promise, referring it to His ministry of providing salvation’s comfort to the spiritually oppressed (Luke 4:18, 19). He says specifically, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). The Jews who were saved during Christ’s ministry, and those being saved during this church age still do not fulfill the promise of the salvation of the nation to come in the end time (Zech. 12:10–13:1; Rom. 11:25–27).

Isaiah 61:10 clothed me…covered me. Here is the Old Testament picture of imputed righteousness, the essential heart of the New Covenant. When a penitent sinner recognizes he can’t achieve his own righteousness by works (Rom. 3:19–22; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:8, 9) and repents and calls on the mercy of God, the Lord covers him with His own divine righteousness by grace through his faith.

Ephesians 6:10 be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Ultimately, Satan’s power over Christians is already broken and the great war is won through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, which forever conquered the power of sin and death (Rom. 5:18–21; 1 Cor. 15:56, 57; Heb. 2:14). However, in life on earth, battles of temptation go on regularly. The Lord’s power, the strength of His Spirit, and the force of biblical truth are required for victory.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God. Paul again emphasized the necessity of the Christian’s appropriating God’s full spiritual armor by obedience in taking it up or putting it on (v. 11). The first 3 pieces of armor (girdle, breastplate, and shoes/boots, vv. 14, 15) were worn continually on the battlefield; the last 3 (shield, helmet, and sword, vv. 16, 17) were kept ready for use when actual fighting began. the evil day. Since the Fall of man, every day has been evil, a condition that will persist until the Lord returns and establishes His own righteous kingdom on earth. having done all, to stand. Standing firm against the enemy without wavering or falling is the goal.

Why does Paul insist in Ephesians 6:10–17 that Christians must be prepared for spiritual battle?
The true believer described in chapters 1–3, who lives the Spirit-controlled life described in 4:1–6:9, can be sure to encounter spiritual warfare. So Paul closed his letter with warnings about upcoming battles and instructions about victorious living. The Lord provides His saints with sufficient armor to combat and defeat the adversary. Ephesians 6:10–13 briefly sets forth the basic truths regarding the believer’s necessary spiritual preparation as well as truths about the enemy, the battle, and the victory. Verses 14–17 specify the six most necessary pieces of spiritual armor with which God equips His children to resist and overcome Satan’s assaults. 

The spiritual equipment parallels the standard military equipment worn by soldiers in Paul’s day:

1. Belt of truth—The soldier wore a tunic of loose-fitting clothing. Since ancient combat was largely hand-to-hand, the tunic was a potential hindrance and danger. The belt cinched up the loose material. The belt that pulls together all the spiritual loose ends is “truth” or, better, “truthfulness.”

2. Breastplate of righteousness—A tough, sleeveless piece of leather or heavy material covered the soldier’s full torso, protecting his heart and other vital organs. Because righteousness, or holiness, is such a distinctive characteristic of God Himself, it is easy to understand why it is the Christian’s chief protection against Satan and his schemes.

3. Boots of the gospel—Roman soldiers wore boots with nails in them to grip the ground in combat. The gospel of peace pertains to the good news that through Christ believers are at peace with God, and He is on their side (Rom. 5:6–10).

4. Shield of faith—This Greek word usually refers to the large shield that protected the soldier’s entire body. The believer’s continual trust in God’s Word and promise is “above all” absolutely necessary to protect him or her from temptations to every sort of sin.

5. Helmet of salvation—The helmet protected the head, always a major target in battle. This passage is speaking to those who are already saved; therefore, it does not refer to attaining salvation. Rather, since Satan seeks to destroy a believer’s assurance of salvation with his weapons of doubt and discouragement, the believer must be as conscious of his or her confident status in Christ as he or she would be aware of a helmet on the head.

6. Sword of the Spirit—A sword was the soldier’s only weapon. In the same way, God’s Word is the only weapon that a believer needs, infinitely more powerful than any of Satan’s devices.




God Is Light

“God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
God’s truthfulness and holiness are powerful motives not to sin.

Light and darkness are familiar metaphors in Scripture. Intellectually, light refers to truth, and darkness to error; morally, light refers to holiness, and darkness to evil.
Intellectually, the Bible reveals God as the God of truth. In Exodus 34:6 God described Himself to Moses as “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” Both Psalm 31:5 and Isaiah 65:16 refer to Him as the “God of truth.” In the New Testament, Jesus called Himself “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Not only is God true, but so also is His Word. In 2 Samuel 7:28 David exclaimed, “O Lord God, Thou art God, and Thy words are truth.” The Lord Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). The Bible, “the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), imparts the light of knowledge. In the familiar words of the psalmist, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).

Morally, light describes God’s absolute holiness and separation from evil. Psalm 5:4 says of Him, “No evil dwells with Thee.” “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil,” said the prophet Habakkuk to God, “and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13). Because God is light in the sense of truth, He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). When His Word promises that things will go well with the righteous (Isa. 3:10) and that sin brings consequences (Prov. 11:5), we can be certain that is exactly what will happen. Because God is moral light, we know that He is neither the cause of any evil we encounter, nor the source of our temptation (James 1:13).

Understanding the truth that God is light is foundational to dealing with sin in our lives.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God that He has revealed His truth in the Bible.
* Ask God to give you a deeper understanding of His holiness as you study the Scriptures.
For Further Study
Read Proverbs 11:3; 19:3; James 1:13-15. Based on those passages, how would you answer someone who blames God for the bad things that happen to him or her?


Why Study the Bible?

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

The Holy Spirit protects you from false doctrine, but that doesn’t eliminate the need for diligent Bible study.

For the next few days we'll consider several benefits of Bible study. Today we'll address the broader question of why Bible study is necessary at all.
Perhaps you know believers who think Bible study is unnecessary. Bible reading, they say, is sufficient because we have the Holy Spirit, who teaches us all things. Often they cite 1 John 2:27 in support of their view: "As for you, the anointing [the Holy Spirit] which you received from [God] abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him."

That passage, however, isn't implying that Bible study or Bible teachers aren't necessary. On the contrary, John was exhorting his readers to abide in what they'd already learned (v. 24) and shun only those teachers who deny Christ and try to deceive believers.

The Holy Spirit is the believer's resident lie detector, granting discernment to shield him or her from false doctrine. 

Although a Christian may be temporarily confused by false teachers, ultimately he can never drift into apostasy or deny Christ. If anyone does depart from the faith, his departure is proof that he was never a true believer in the first place (v. 19).

The Spirit protects you from error, but you must fulfill your responsibility as a student of the Word. Even a man of Timothy's spiritual stature needed to study the Word diligently and handle it accurately (2 Tim. 2:15).
I pray that the psalmist's attitude toward Scripture will be yours as well: "O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day" (Ps. 119:97).

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for His precious Word.
* Ask Him to give you a deeper love for its truths.
For Further Study
Read Titus 1:7-16 and 2 Timothy 2:2.

* What skills must an overseer have regarding God's Word?
* Why are those skills necessary?
* Do those skills apply to church leaders only? Explain.
* Are you skilled in handling God's Word?


What Is Living Water?

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ She said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?’ . . . Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life’” (John 4:10–11, 13–14).

Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well is another opportunity for Him to teach profound spiritual truth through a metaphor. When their conversation began, He was the thirsty one, and she the one with the water. Now He spoke as if she were the thirsty one and He the one with the water. 

Her confusion is not unexpected. She did not understand Jesus was talking about spiritual realities. The “living water” He offered was salvation in all its fullness.
But she was skeptical of His ability to provide the living water He offered. 

So Jesus patiently answered her skeptical question: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Here was Jesus offering her the living water of spiritual life to quench her parched, needy soul.

Ask Yourself
What activities of Jesus in your life share some common qualities with water—its clarity, its refreshment, its cleansing, its sustenance, its replenishment? Praise Him for each of these things as He brings them to mind.


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 59:1–60:22
* Psalm 115:1-8
* Proverbs 26:23
* Ephesians 5:17-33

Isaiah 59:15, 16 the LORD saw…no intercessor. The Lord was aware of Israel’s tragic condition and of the absence of anyone to intervene on His behalf. The Lord took it on Himself to change Israel’s condition through the intervention of His Suffering Servant (53:12).

Isaiah 59:17 righteousness as a breastplate…helmet of salvation. Figuratively speaking, the Lord armed Himself for the deliverance of His people and for taking vengeance on enemies who would seek His destruction. Paul drew on this terminology in describing a believer’s spiritual preparation for warding off the attacks of Satan (Eph. 6:14, 17; 1 Thess. 5:8).

Isaiah 60:19 sun shall no longer…everlasting light. Isaiah, looking beyond the millennial kingdom, sees a view of the New Jerusalem following the Millennium (Rev. 21:23; 22:5). His prophetic perspective did not allow him to distinguish the eternal phase of the future kingdom from the temporal one, just as the Old Testament prophets could not distinguish between the First and Second Advent of Christ (1 Pet. 1:10, 11).

Proverbs 26:23 earthenware covered. A cheap veneer of silver over a common clay pot hiding its commonness and fragility is like the deception spoken by evil people. This thought is expanded in vv. 24–28.

Ephesians 5:18 but be filled with the Spirit. True communion with God is not induced by drunkenness but by the Holy Spirit. Paul is not speaking of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling (Rom. 8:9) or the baptism by Christ with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), because every Christian is indwelt and baptized by the Spirit at the time of salvation. He is rather giving a command for believers to live continually under the influence of the Spirit by letting the Word control them, pursuing pure lives, confessing all known sin, dying to self, surrendering to God’s will, and depending on His power in all things. Being filled with the Spirit is living in the conscious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, letting His mind, through the Word, dominate everything that is thought and done. Being filled with the Spirit is the same as walking in the Spirit.

How do the principles of submission and love in Ephesians 5:21–33 work in a marriage?

The section that begins with a call to wise living (5:15) leads up to Paul’s general counsel about submission (5:21). This last verse serves to introduce the next section (5:22–6:9), which spells out the godly expectations for various relationships. Here Paul stated unequivocally that every Spirit-filled Christian is to be a humble, submissive Christian. This is foundational to all the relationships in this section. No believer is inherently superior to any other believer. In their standing before God, all believers are equal in every way (3:28).

Having established the foundational principle of submission (5:21), Paul applied it first to the wife. The command is unqualified and applicable to every Christian wife, no matter what her own abilities, education, knowledge of Scripture, spiritual maturity, or any other qualities might be in relation to those of her husband. The submission is not the husband’s to command but for the wife to willingly and lovingly offer. 

The phrase “your own husband” limits the wife’s submission to the one man whom God has placed over her.
The Spirit-filled wife recognizes that her husband’s role in giving leadership is not only God-ordained but also a reflection of Christ’s own loving, authoritative headship of the church. As the Lord delivered His church from the dangers of sin, death, and hell, so the husband provides for, protects, preserves, and loves his wife, leading her to blessing as she submits (Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6)

Paul has much more to say to the man who has been placed in the role of authority within marriage. That authority comes with supreme responsibilities for husbands in regard to their wives. Husbands are to love their wives with the same sacrificial love that Christ has for His church. 

Christ gave everything He had, including His own life, for the sake of His church, and that is the standard of sacrifice for a husband’s love of his wife.
The clarity of God’s guidelines makes it certain that problems in marriage must always be traced in both directions so that each partner clearly understands his or her roles and responsibilities. Failure to love is just as often the source of marital trouble as failure to submit.




The Importance of Confession

“If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).
Confession is the first step toward defeating sin. 

It is often true that the hardest part of dealing with a problem is admitting that you have one. Beginning with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:11-13), people have denied responsibility for their sins, and our generation is no exception. To acknowledge that one is a sinner, guilty of breaking God’s holy law, is not popular. People call sin by a myriad of other names, futilely hoping to define it out of existence. 

They do so, motivated by their innate awareness that there is a moral law and that there are consequences for violating it (Rom. 1:32).

But God’s people have always recognized the necessity of confession. After committing the terrible sins of adultery and murder, David acknowledged to Nathan the prophet, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13). Later he cried out to God, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight” (Ps. 51:3-4). Faced with a vision of the awesome majesty and holiness of God, Isaiah declared, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). Daniel was a man of unparalleled integrity, yet part of his prayer life involved confessing his sin (Dan. 9:20). 

Peter, the acknowledged leader of the apostles, said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). The apostle Paul, the godliest man who ever lived (except for Jesus Christ), wrote this about himself: “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15).
The examples of those godly men illustrate a fundamental biblical truth: constant confession of sin characterizes true Christians (1 John 1:9). 

Those who claim to be believers but refuse to confess their sins deceive themselves (1 John 1:8) and make God a liar (1 John 1:10).

Suggestions for Prayer
Confess and forsake your sins today, and experience the blessedness of God’s forgiveness (Prov. 28:13).
For Further Study
Read and meditate on Nehemiah’s masterful prayer of confession in Nehemiah 1.


The Ministry of the Word

"My Word . . . shall not return to Me . . . without accomplishing what I desire" (Isa. 55:11).
"Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deut. 8:3). 
God’s Word is both productive and nourishing.

The Bible contains many precious promises, two of which relate specifically to itself. First, the prophet Isaiah said that the Word is productive: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I send it" (Isa. 55:10-11).

As you administer the Word, it may encourage a fellow Christian, bring a sinner to repentance, or even confirm an unbeliever in his sin. Whatever the response, be assured that the Word always accomplishes its intended purpose.

The Word is like a messenger that runs to do God's work: "He sends forth His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. He casts forth His ice as fragments; who can stand before His cold? He sends forth His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow. He declares His words to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel" (Ps. 147:15-19). Just as God sends the natural elements to accomplish His purposes, He also sends His Word.

The Word is also nourishing. Moses wrote, "Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deut. 8:3). God's Word feeds believers, causing spiritual growth.

How should you respond to such a powerful and productive Word? Trust it, so you can live each day in confidence. Proclaim it, so others will come to know its author. Obey it, so it can continue its transforming work in you, making you more like Christ each day.

Suggestions for Prayer
God's promises are intended to bring you great joy and encouragement. List seven promises that are especially meaningful to you. Use one each day for one week as a focal point for prayer and praise.

For Further Study
What promises does Jesus make in John 14:1-14?


All Authority from the Father

“‘The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him’” (John 3:35–36).

Because of His love for the Son, the Father has given Him supreme authority over all things on earth and in heaven (Matt. 11:27; 28:18; Phil. 2:9–11). That supremacy is a clear indicator of His deity.

John’s affirmation of Jesus’ absolute authority demonstrated his humble attitude, even as his own heralding ministry faded into the background. Having fulfilled his mission on earth, John realized that his work would soon be finished.

But before he faded from the scene, John gave a warning and invitation that forms a fitting climax to his ministry: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” The blessed truth of salvation is that the one “who believes in the Son has eternal life” as a present possession, not merely as a future hope.

But on the other hand, the one “who does not obey the Son will not see life.” The fearful reality is that “the wrath of God” continually “abides on” disobedient sinners who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ. Condemnation is their present condition. The idea here is not that God will one day condemn sinners for their disobedient unbelief; they are already in a state of condemnation (3:18; 2 Peter 2:9) from which only saving faith in Jesus Christ can deliver them.

Ask Yourself
In what ways is the wrath of God evident in the lives of unbelievers? How do you hear it in their voice, see it in their eyes, notice it in their countenance, observe it in their families? Some of these folks seem so nice and easy-going. What are the more subtle forms of dissatisfaction they carry within them?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 57:1–58:14
* Psalm 114:1-8
* Proverbs 26:22
* Ephesians 5:1-16

Isaiah 58:3–7 Why…? The people complained when God did not recognize their religious actions, but God responded that their fastings had been only halfhearted. Hypocritical fasting resulted in contention, quarreling, and pretense, excluding the possibility of genuine prayer to God. Fasting consisted of more than just an outward ritual and a mock repentance. It involved penitence over sin and consequent humility, disconnecting from sin and oppression of others, feeding the hungry, and acting humanely toward those in need.
Isaiah 58:14 delight yourself in the LORD. 

Repentant ones walking in fellowship with the Lord experience satisfaction of soul (Ps. 37:4). Their satisfaction will not come from material goods.

What should the standard be for a Christian’s life?
“Be imitators of God,” says Paul in Ephesians 5:1. The Christian has no greater calling or purpose than that of imitating his Lord. That is the very purpose of sanctification, growing in likeness to the Lord while serving Him on earth (Matt. 5:48). The Christian life is designed to reproduce godliness as modeled by the Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, in whose image believers have been recreated through the new birth (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Pet. 1:14–16). 

As God’s dear children, believers are to become more and more like their heavenly Father (Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16).

“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (v. 2). The Lord is the supreme example in His self-sacrificing love for lost sinners (4:32; Rom. 5:8–10). He took human sin upon Himself and gave up His very life that men might be redeemed from their sin. They are henceforth to be imitators of His great love in the newness and power of the Holy Spirit, who enables them to demonstrate divine love. “A sweet-smelling aroma.” Christ’s offering of Himself for fallen man pleased and glorified His heavenly Father, because it demonstrated in the most complete and perfect way God’s sovereign, perfect, unconditional, and divine kind of love.

In absolute contrast to God’s holiness and love, such sins as “fornication…covetousness” (v. 3), by which Satan seeks to drive God’s children as far away as possible from His image and will, are so godless that the world should never have reason even to suspect their presence in Christians. The 3 inappropriate sins of the tongue (v.4) include any speech that is obscene and degrading or foolish and dirty, as well as suggestive and immoral wit. All such are destructive of holy living and godly testimony and should be confessed, forsaken, and replaced by open expressions of thankfulness to God (Col. 3:8).




The Plague of Plagues

“But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:23).
Sin is the deadliest plague ever to affect mankind.

Throughout history, deadly plagues have ravaged the human race. In just three years (1348-1350), the infamous “Black Death” (an outbreak of bubonic plague) killed half the population of Europe. In our own times, diseases such as AIDS have reached epidemic proportions.

But there is one plague that is far deadlier than all the others combined: sin. Sin has affected everyone who has ever lived (Rom. 3:19, 23). And unlike other plagues, sin kills everyone it infects (Rom. 5:12).

While sin invariably causes physical and (apart from faith in Christ) spiritual death, it has many other devastating consequences. Sin corrupts the mind (Jer. 17:9; Eph. 4:17-19), the will (cf. Jer. 44:16-17), and the affections (John 3:19; 1 John 2:15). Sin brings people under the control of Satan (John 8:44; Eph. 2:2) and makes them the objects of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:3). Sin robs people of peace (Isa. 48:22) and replaces it with misery (Job 5:7; Rom. 8:20).

Although as Christians we experience God’s gracious forgiveness, sin still has serious consequences in our lives. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), causes God not to answer our prayers (1 Peter 3:7), limits our ability to serve God (2 Tim. 2:20-21), or even disqualifies some from Christian service (1 Cor. 9:27). It also renders our worship hypocritical and unacceptable (Ps. 33:1; Isa. 1:14), causes God to withhold blessing (Jer. 5:25), robs us of joy (Ps. 51:12), subjects us to God’s chastening (Heb. 12:5-11), hinders our spiritual growth (1 Cor. 3:13), and pollutes our fellowship with Him (1 Cor. 10:21). Most significantly, sin causes our lives to dishonor Him (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Every true Christian despises sin and yearns to be free from it. Do you realize the deadly nature of sin? I pray that the cry of your heart would echo that of Paul’s: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for delivering you from sin, and pray that He would give you a holy hatred for it.
For Further Study
Read Romans 7—8.
* How did Paul view his struggle with sin?
* What was the key to overcoming it?


Programming Your Spiritual Computer

"Be filled with the knowledge of [God's] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord" (Col. 1:9-10).
Godly behavior is the result of godly thinking.

Perhaps you've heard computer buffs use the term G.I.G.O.: "Garbage In, Garbage Out." Input determines output. What you feed into a computer is what you'll get out.
Similarly, what you program into your mind will eventually influence your behavior. That's why you must expose your mind to things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). As one preacher put it, "You should be so saturated with God's Word that your blood is 'bibline.' If you cut yourself, you should bleed Bible verses!" His exaggeration reveals his passion for God's truth—a passion every believer should share.

Paul prayed that we would "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; [and be] strengthened with all power . . . for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father" (Col. 1:10-12).

Those are marvelous Christian characteristics, but how are they achieved? Verse 9 gives us the answer: "Be filled with the knowledge of [God's] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." The Greek word translated "filled" speaks of influence or control. It's the same word Paul uses in Ephesians 5:18: "Be filled [controlled by] the Holy Spirit." When you're filled with the Spirit, He governs our choices. Similarly, when you're filled with the knowledge of God's will, your choices reflect godly wisdom and understanding.

The phrase "spiritual wisdom and understanding" indicates more than merely knowing God's Word. It speaks of applying it to your life under the Spirit's power and direction.
As you prayerfully saturate your mind with God's Word, it begins more and more to control your thinking and behavior. And the Spirit uses the Word to renew your mind and protect you from conformity to worldly attitudes and actions (Rom. 12:2).
Suggestions for Prayer
* Ask the Holy Spirit to control every aspect of your life today.
* Be diligent to apply the appropriate biblical principles to every circumstance you face.
For Further Study
Memorize Philippians 4:8 as a reminder to feed your mind with the things that produce godliness.


Christ’s Unity with the Father and the Spirit

“‘He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure’” (John 3:33–34).

Although the majority of people reject Jesus’ message, not everyone does. There are some who accept His testimony, believing in Him for eternal life. In the ancient world, people set their seal to something, often with a signet ring, as a sign of complete acceptance and approval. Those who have received Christ’s testimony thereby verify their belief that “God is true” when He speaks through His Son.

Unlike human teachers, whose words sometimes agree with divine truth and sometimes do not, Jesus always spoke in complete harmony with the Father. Thus, those who profess to believe in God yet reject Jesus Christ are deceived. Jesus is one with the Father (John 10:30)—“He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (5:23)—and the Father said of Him, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matt. 17:5). He is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (John 14:6). To reject Jesus, then, is to call God a liar (1 John 5:10).

Jesus is also one with the Holy Spirit. Jesus infallibly spoke “the words of God” because God gave the Spirit to Him “without measure.” Since “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9), there were no limits to the Spirit’s power working through Him.

Ask Yourself
When are we guilty of calling God a liar—perhaps not in regards to the salvation He’s given us, but in other matters of expectation and belief? What are the great hazards of doubting His Word and discounting His truthfulness?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 55:1–56:12
* Psalm 113:5-9
* Proverbs 26:20-21
* Ephesians 4:1-32

Isaiah 55:1 Everyone. The Servant’s redemptive work and glorious kingdom is for the benefit of all who are willing to come (53:6). The prophet invites his readers to participate in the benefits obtained by the suffering of the Servant in chapter 53 and described in chapter 54. no money,…without money and without price. Benefits in the Servant’s kingdom will be free because of His redemptive work (53:6, 8, 11; Eph. 2:8, 9). wine and milk. Symbols for abundance, satisfaction, and prosperity (Song 5:1; Joel 3:18).

Isaiah 55:6, 7 Here is one of the clearest Old Testament invitations to salvation now and kingdom blessing later. It gives an excellent example of how people were saved during the Old Testament period. Salvation grace and mercy were available to the soul that was willing to 1) seek the Lord (Deut. 4:29; 2 Chr. 15:4) and 2) call on Him while He is still available (65:1; Ps. 32:6; Prov. 8:17; Matt. 25:1–13). Such true seeking in faith is accompanied by repentance, which is described as forsaking ways and thoughts and turning from sinful living to the Lord. A sinner must come, believing in God, recognizing his sin, and desiring forgiveness and deliverance from that sin. At the same time he must recognize his own inability to be righteous or to satisfy God and cast himself on God’s mercy. It is then that he receives a complete pardon. His sin has been covered by the substitution of the Messiah in his place (chap. 53).

Psalm 113:9 the barren woman. Sarah (Gen. 21:2), Rebekah (Gen. 25:21), and Rachel (Gen. 30:23) would be the most significant since the outcome of the Abrahamic Covenant depended on these childless women being blessed by God to be mothers.
Ephesians 4:12 equipping. This refers to restoring something to its original condition, or its being made fit or complete. In this context, it refers to leading Christians from sin to obedience. Scripture is the key to this process (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; John 15:3). saints. All who believe in Jesus Christ. the work of ministry. The spiritual service required of every Christian, not just of church leaders (1 Cor. 15:58). the edifying of the body of Christ. The spiritual edification, nurturing, and development of the church (Acts 20:32).

Ephesians 4:14 carried about with every wind of doctrine. Spiritually immature believers who are not grounded in the knowledge of Christ through God’s Word are inclined to uncritically accept every sort of beguiling doctrinal error and fallacious interpretation of Scripture promulgated by deceitful, false teachers in the church. They must learn discernment (1 Thess. 5:21, 22). The New Testament is replete with warnings of such danger (Acts 20:30,31; Rom. 16:17, 18; Gal. 1:6, 7; 1 Tim. 4:1–7; 2 Tim. 2:15–18; 2 Pet. 2:1–3).

Define the spiritually gifted men Christ calls to serve His church in Ephesians 4:11.
“Apostles.” A term used particularly of the 12 disciples who had seen the risen Christ (Acts 1:22), including Matthias, who replaced Judas. Later, Paul was uniquely set apart as the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:15–17) and was numbered with the other apostles. Those apostles were chosen directly by Christ, so as to be called “apostles of Christ” (Gal. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1). They were given 3 basic responsibilities: 1) to lay the foundation of the church (2:20); 2) to receive, declare, and write God’s Word (3:5; Acts 11:28; 21:10, 11); and 3) to give confirmation of that Word through signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12; Acts 8:6, 7). The term “apostle” is used in more general ways of other men in the early church, such as Barnabas (Acts 14:4), Silas, Timothy, and others (Rom. 16:7; Phil. 2:25). They are called “apostles of the churches” (2 Cor. 8:23) rather than “apostles of Jesus Christ” like the 13. They were not self-perpetuating nor was any apostle who died replaced.

“Prophets.” Not ordinary believers who had the gift of prophecy but specially commissioned men in the early church. The office of prophet seems to have been exclusively for work within a local congregation. They were not “sent ones” as were the apostles (Acts 13:1), but, as with the apostles, their office ceased with the completion of the New Testament. They sometimes spoke practical direct revelation for the church from God (Acts 11:21–28) or expounded revelation already given (implied in Acts 13:1).Their messages were to be judged by other prophets for validity (1 Cor. 14:32) and had to conform to the teaching of the apostles (v. 37). Those two offices were replaced by the evangelists and teaching pastors.

“Evangelists.” Men who proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to unbelievers. The related verb translated “to preach the gospel” is used 54 times and the related noun translated “gospel” is used 76 times in the New Testament.
“Pastors and teachers.” This phrase is best understood in context as a single office of leadership in the church. The Greek word translated “and” can mean “in particular” (1 Tim. 5:17). The normal meaning of pastor is “shepherd,” so the two functions together define the teaching shepherd. He is identified as one who is under the “great Pastor” Jesus (Heb. 13:20, 21; 1 Pet. 2:25). One who holds this office is also called an “elder” (Titus 1:5–9) and “bishop” (1 Tim. 3:1–7).




Man's Biggest Problems

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Sin is pervasive and deadly.

When the early church father Chrysostom remarked, “I fear nothing but sin,” he correctly identified sin as the greatest threat any person faces. Sin mars all the relationships people are involved in: with other people, with themselves, and, most significantly, with God. Sin causes suffering, disease, and death in the physical realm and also causes spiritual death—eternal separation from God in Hell.

Because sin is so deadly, we need to carefully define it, so we can understand and avoid it. First John 3:4 sums up the essence of sin when it says, “Sin is lawlessness.” Sin is refusing to obey God’s law; it is rejecting God’s standards; it is, in fact, living as if God did not exist.

In 1 John 5:17, the apostle John adds to his definition of sin, describing it as “unrighteousness.” James defines sin as failing to do what is good (James 4:17). Paul defines it as lack of faith (Rom. 14:23). Sin is the ultimate act of ingratitude toward the God “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).
Sin pollutes the sinner, prompting Paul to refer to it as that “defilement of flesh and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:1) from which sinners are in desperate need of cleansing. No amount of human effort, however, can cleanse a person of sin. Such self-effort is as futile as attempting to change the color of one’s skin (Jer. 13:23). Only through the death of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:12), is forgiveness and cleansing available (1 John 1:7).

Sin is the only thing that God hates (cf. Jer. 44:4), and so must believers (Ps. 97:10; Amos 5:15). The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson noted that a prerequisite for sanctification is such hatred for sin. Renew your commitment today to grow in your relationship with the Lord by hating evil (Prov. 8:13).

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray for yourself and others that you would not be deceived by the subtleness of sin (Heb. 3:13).
For Further Study
* Identify the sins you struggle with the most.
* Using a concordance and other study tools, find out what the Bible says about those sins.
* Form a biblical plan of attack to combat them.


How to Be Noble Minded

"[The Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). God honors spiritual discernment.

On his second missionary journey, Paul, accompanied by Silas, preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in the city of Thessalonica. They weren't there long before the gospel took root and many turned from their idolatry to serve the true and living God (1 Thess. 1:9). In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul says, "We also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God." Their open response to God's Word made them an example to all the believers in that area (1 Thess. 1:7).

But as exemplary as the Thessalonians were, their fellow believers in Berea were even more so. God called them "noble- minded" (Acts 17:11). They were eager to hear what Paul and Silas had to say, but tested it against God's prior revelation in the Old Testament before receiving it as a message from God. They had learned to examine everything carefully and hold fast to the truth (1 Thess. 5:21).

The church today, however, has an appalling lack of that kind of discernment. Many believers are duped by novel teachings and outright heresies. They're "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). We desperately need a new breed of Bereans who will raise high the banner of sound doctrine and never compromise it.

With that goal in mind, our studies this month will focus on the character and benefits of God's Word. You'll learn that it's the source of spiritual growth, spiritual service, blessing, victory, truth, and knowledge. You'll see its infallibility, inerrancy, authority, inspiration, and sufficiency.

I pray that by this month's end, your commitment to learning and applying biblical truth will be stronger than ever, and you will indeed be a modern-day, noble-minded Berean.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to give you a greater love for His wonderful Word.
For Further Study
Read Acts 17:1-15.
* Why did Paul and his companions leave Thessalonica and Berea?
* What do Paul's experiences tell you about what you might expect as you share Christ with others?


Christ the Son Knows the Truth

“‘He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony’” (John 3:31–32).

Jesus Christ is the one “who descended from heaven” (3:13). As such, He is “above all”—Christ is sovereign over the universe in general, and the world of humanity in particular.
In the old covenant, “God . . . spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets” (Heb. 1:1). But in the new covenant God “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (v. 2). Jesus’ teaching is superior to anyone else’s because His knowledge is not secondhand. He is the source of divine revelation. What “He has seen and heard” in the heavenly realm, “of that He testifies” with certainty.

Yet despite Jesus’ powerful, authoritative proclamation of the truth, “no one receives His testimony.” The world in general rejects Jesus and His teaching. The apostle John noted this in the Prologue to his gospel: “[Jesus] was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (1:9–11). Unbelievers willfully reject Jesus’ testimony to the truth because they are dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) and blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4).

Ask Yourself
When there are so many situations in which we think we know best, not to mention so many other people who have their own judgments and opinions, how do we train ourselves to keep in mind that what God says is what’s true? When do you sense His authority challenged the most in your life?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 53:1–54:17
* Psalm 113:1-4
* Proverbs 26:17-19
* Ephesians 3:1-21

Isaiah 53:6 All we…every one,…us all. Every person has sinned (Rom. 3:9, 23), but the Servant has sufficiently shouldered the consequences of sin and the righteous wrath deserved by sinners (1 Tim. 2:5, 6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2). The manner in which God laid our iniquity on Him was that God treated Him as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe, though He was perfectly innocent of any sin. God did so to Him, so that wrath being spent and justice satisfied, God could then give to the account of sinners who believe, the righteousness of Christ, treating them as if they had done only the righteous acts of Christ. In both cases, this is substitution.

Isaiah 53:10 it pleased the LORD. Though the Servant did not deserve to die, it was the Lord’s will for Him to do so (Matt. 26:39; Luke 22:42; John 12:27; Acts 2:23). an offering for sin. Fulfilled by the Servant as the Lamb of God (v. 7; John 1:29). Christ is the Christian’s Passover (1 Cor. 5:7). This conclusively eliminates the error that Christ’s atonement provides present-day healing for those who pray in faith. His death was an atonement for sin, not sickness. see His seed,…prolong His days. To see His seed, the Servant must rise from the dead. He will do this and live to reign forever.

Ephesians 3:19 to know the love of Christ. Not the love believers have for Christ, but the love of and from Christ that He places in their hearts before they can truly and fully love Him or anyone else (Rom. 5:5). which passes knowledge. Knowledge of Christ’s love is far beyond the capability of human reason and experience. It is only known by those who are God’s children (Phil. 4:7). filled with all the fullness of God. To be so strong spiritually, so compelled by divine love, that one is totally dominated by the Lord with nothing left of self. Human comprehension of the fullness of God is impossible, because even the most spiritual and wise believer cannot completely grasp the full extent of God’s attributes and characteristics—His power, majesty, wisdom, love, mercy, patience, kindness, and everything He is and does. But believers can experience the greatness of God in their lives as a result of total devotion to Him. Note the fullness of God, here; the fullness of Christ in 4:13; and the fullness of the Spirit in 5:18.

How explicit does Isaiah 53 get regarding the Messiah?
Isaiah begins in v. 1 by saying, “Who has believed our report?” The question implied that, in spite of these and other prophecies, only a few would recognize the Servant when He appeared. This anticipation found literal fulfillment at Christ’s First Advent. Israel did not welcome Him at His First Advent (John 1:9–11; 12:38). Paul applied the same prophecy to the world at large (Rom.10:16). At His First Coming, the nation did not recognize the mighty, incarnate power of God in the Person of Jesus, their Deliverer.

Yet Messiah Jesus was observed carefully by God (“before Him”, v. 2), who ordered every minute circumstance of His life. “Dry ground…no beauty that we should desire Him.” The Servant will arise in lowly conditions and wear none of the usual emblems of royalty, making His true identity visible only to the discerning eye of faith.
“Despised…rejected…despised” (v. 3). The prophet foresees the hatred and rejection by mankind toward the Messiah/Servant, who suffered not only external abuse, but also internal grief over those He came to save. “We hid…we did not esteem.” By using the first person, the prophet spoke for his unbelieving nation’s aversion to a crucified Messiah and their lack of respect for the incarnate Son of God.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (v. 4). Isaiah was saying that the Messiah would bear the consequences of the sins of men, namely the griefs and sorrows of life, though incredibly the Jews who watched Him die thought He was being punished by God for His own sins. Matthew found an analogical fulfillment of these words in Jesus’ healing ministry (Matt. 8:16, 17), because sickness results from sin for which the Servant paid with His life. In eternity, all sickness will be removed, so ultimately it is included in the benefits of the atonement.

“He was wounded for our transgressions…bruised for our iniquities” (v. 5). The Servant suffered not for His own sin, since He was sinless (Heb. 4:15; 7:26), but as the substitute for sinners. The emphasis here is on Christ being the substitute recipient of God’s wrath on sinners (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 1:3, 4; Heb. 10:9, 10). “Chastisement for our peace.” He suffered the chastisement of God in order to procure our peace with God. “By His stripes we are healed.” The stripe that caused His death has brought salvation to those for whose sins He died. Peter confirms this in 1 Peter 2:24.




Using Spiritual Gifts

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
To be effective, spiritual gifts must be used in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in the power of the flesh.

One of the constant battles all believers face is to avoid ministering their spiritual gifts in the power of the flesh. Even those of us who are called to be preachers (prophets) need to subject our spirits to other mature believers (1 Cor. 14:32). As a pastor, I am not spiritual just because I stand behind a pulpit and preach. Paul instructs us, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let others pass judgment” (1 Cor. 14:29). Those who teach God’s Word are not infallible; therefore, they must allow other qualified believers to verify the truth of what they proclaim.

Whenever Christians rely on their own strength, wisdom, and desire to minister, whatever they accomplish is a mockery and a waste. But whenever they minister by the Spirit’s power, the result is pleasing to God and has lasting value (“gold, silver, precious stones. . . . If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward,” 1 Cor. 3:12, 14). Essentially, all a believer needs to pray is, “Spirit of God, use me,” and divine energy will activate and flow through his or her ministry to fellow believers and unbelievers.

You can use your spiritual gift effectively by faithfully following three basic steps: Pray—continually confess and turn from your sins (1 John 1:9) and ask God to use you in the Holy Spirit’s power. Yield yourself—always determine to live according to God’s will, not the world’s (Rom. 6:16; 12:12). Be filled with the Spirit—let the Spirit control all of your thoughts, decisions, words, and actions. Commit everything to Him, and He will minister through you.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Confess any and all times lately that you have counted on your human ability rather than on the Spirit’s power to minister to others.
* Pray that this week God would give you a clear opportunity to exercise your spiritual gift for His glory.
For Further Study
Read 1 Samuel 15:1-23.
* In what way did King Saul use his own insight rather than follow God’s command?
* What can be the consequence of such disobedience (vv. 22-23; see also 1 Sam. 13:8-14)?


Principles for Spiritual Victory

"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might" (Eph. 6:10).
You can be victorious!
This month we've learned many things about spiritual warfare that I pray will better equip you for victory in your Christian life. In concluding our brief study of Ephesians 6:10-18, here are some key principles I want you to remember:

1. Remember that Satan is a defeated foe. Jesus came to destroy his works (1 John 3:8) and will someday cast him into eternal hell (Rev. 20:10).
2. Remember the power of Christ in your life. John said, "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). The same power that defeated Satan indwells you. Consequently, you are never alone or without divine resources.
3. Remember to resist Satan. You have the power to resist him, so don't acquiesce to him by being ignorant of his schemes or deliberately exposing yourself to temptation.
4. Keep your spiritual armor on at all times. It's foolish to enter combat without proper protection.
5. Let Christ control your attitudes and actions. The spiritual battle we're in calls for spiritual weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-4), so take "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (v. 5). Feed on the Word and obey its principles.
6. Pray, pray, pray! Prayer unleashes the Spirit's power. Be a person of fervent and faithful prayer (cf. James 5:16).

God never intended for you to live in spiritual defeat. I pray you'll take advantage of the resources He has supplied that your life might honor Him. Enjoy sweet victory every day!

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for His promise of ultimate victory in Christ.
For Further Study
Read Ephesians 6:10-18.
* Review each piece of armor.
* Is any piece missing from your personal defense system? If so, determine what you will do to correct the deficiency.


Belief Contrasted with Unbelief

“‘He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God’” (John 3:18–21).

Although God graciously has offered the world salvation through the work of Christ, that salvation is not appropriated except by penitent faith. The lost are condemned because they have “not believed in [literally, “believed into”] the name of the only begotten Son of God.” While the final sentencing of those who reject Christ is still future (cf. 5:28–29), their judgment will merely consummate what has already begun.
Jesus described judgment by contrasting light and darkness. Christ is the Light—He came into the world and “enlightens every man” (John 1:9). But people refuse to come to the Light because they love the darkness where their evil deeds will not be exposed. The Light reveals their sin. But as a result, they seal their own condemnation because they reject the only One who can save them from their spiritual darkness.

In contrast, believers hate their sin and love righteousness (1 John 2:3–6), so they willingly come to the light because they have nothing to hide and no reason to fear what the light will reveal.

Ask Yourself
How many times a day do you participate in activities you hope no one else knows about? Aspire to the freedom of being the same person in private that you are in public—unashamed at and unexposed by the Light.


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 51:1–52:15
* Psalm 112:5-10
* Proverbs 26:16
* Ephesians 2:1-22

Isaiah 51:6 heavens will vanish…earth will grow old. This begins to take place in the time of tribulation (Rev. 6:12–14; 8:12, 13; 16:8–10, 21), setting the stage, along with the earthly judgments on land, sea, and fresh water (Rev. 6:14; 8:6–11; 16:3–5), for a renewed earth during the Millennium. The actual “uncreation” or destruction of the present universe, of which Peter wrote (2 Pet. 3:10–13), occurs at the end of Christ’s millennial reign on the earth, when a new heaven and a new earth will replace the present creation (2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 21:1).

Isaiah 52:14 His visage was marred. The Servant must undergo inhuman cruelty to the point that He no longer looks like a human being. His appearance is so awful that people look at Him in astonishment (53:2, 3; Ps. 22:6; Matt. 26:67; 27:30; John 19:3).
Isaiah 52:15 sprinkle many nations. In His disfigured state, the Servant will perform a priestly work of cleansing not just Israel but many outside the nation (Ex. 29:21; Lev. 4:6; 8:11; 14:7; Num. 8:7; 19:18, 19; Heb. 9:13). shut their mouths. At His exaltation, human leaders in the highest places will be speechless and in awe before the once-despised Servant (Ps. 2). When He takes His throne, they will see the unfolding of power and glory such as they have never heard. Paul applied the principle in this verse to his apostolic mission of preaching the gospel of Christ where Christ was yet unknown (Rom. 15:21).

Ephesians 2:1 dead in trespasses and sins. A sobering reminder of the total sinfulness and lostness from which believers have been redeemed. “In” indicates the realm or sphere in which unregenerate sinners exist. They are not dead because of sinful acts that have been committed but because of their sinful nature (Matt. 12:35; 15:18, 19).

Ephesians 2:21 a holy temple in the Lord. Every new believer is a new stone in Christ’s temple, the church, Christ’s body of believers (1 Pet. 2:5). Christ’s building of His church will not be complete until every person who will believe in Him has done so (2 Pet. 3:9).

How were Gentiles brought into the family of God?
Historically, the Gentiles (the “uncircumcision”) experienced two types of alienation. The first was social, resulting from the animosity that had existed between Jews and Gentiles for thousands of years. Jews considered Gentiles to be outcasts, objects of derision and reproach. The second and more significant type of alienation was spiritual, because Gentiles as a people were cut off from God in 5 different ways (Eph. 2:11, 12): 1) they were “without Christ,” the Messiah, having no Savior and Deliverer and without divine purpose or destiny. 2) They were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” God’s chosen people, the Jews, were a nation whose supreme King and Lord was God Himself, and from whose unique blessing and protection they benefitted. 3) Gentiles were “strangers from the covenants of promise,” not able to partake of God’s divine covenants in which He promised to give His people a land, a priesthood, a people, a nation, a kingdom, and a King—and to those who believe in Him, eternal life and heaven. 4) They had “no hope” because they had been given no divine promise. 5) They were “without God in the world.” While Gentiles had many gods, they did not recognize the true God because they did not want Him.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”(v.13). “Far off” was a common term in rabbinical writings used to describe Gentiles, those who were apart from the true God (Is. 57:19; Acts 2:39). Every person who trusts in Christ alone for salvation, Jew or Gentile, is brought into spiritual union and intimacy with God. This is the reconciliation of 2 Corinthians 5:18–21.The atoning work accomplished by Christ’s death on the cross washes away the penalty of sin and ultimately even its presence. “He Himself” (v. 14). Through His death, Christ abolished Old Testament ceremonial laws, feasts, and sacrifices which uniquely separated Jews from Gentiles. God’s moral law (as summarized in the Ten Commandments and written on the hearts of all men, Rom. 2:15) was not abolished but subsumed in the New Covenant, however, because it reflects His own holy nature (Matt. 5:17–19.)




Spiritual Gifts

“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
God wants every Christian to understand spiritual gifts and use his or hers wisely.

A spiritual gift is a channel through which the Holy Spirit ministers to the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:11). The day we were born again into God’s family, His Spirit distributed to us a spiritual gift. Therefore, having a spiritual gift does not mean a believer is “spiritual.” What we really must ask is, “Is the channel clear?” Hypothetically, someone could have all the recorded spiritual gifts and not be using any of them. Or that believer could be greatly abusing some gifts. In either case, such a person would not be spiritual.

It is also incorrect to equate a natural ability with a spiritual gift. Someone might say, “My gift is baking pies”; another might say, “I’m good at playing the piano.” Those are wonderful and useful abilities, but they are natural abilities, not spiritual gifts.
Paul illustrates the difference between abilities and gifts. He could have used his knowledge of philosophy and literature to write and deliver great orations. However, this is what he said to the Corinthians: “I did not come with superiority of speech or wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). The Holy Spirit uses the abilities of people like Paul and speaks through them, but He expresses Himself in a supernatural way, which is not necessarily related to the person’s natural skills.
If we rely on our own ability to produce spiritual fruit, we hinder what the Spirit wants to do in us. Instead, ponder what Peter says about using your gift: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank the Lord for the special spiritual gift He has given you. Ask that He would help you use it faithfully, to its full potential.
For Further Study
Read Romans 12:4-8 and list the spiritual gifts mentioned there. What does 1 Corinthians 12, especially verses 12-31, emphasize regarding the use of the various gifts within the church?


Praying for Others

"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).

God wants you to look beyond your own problems and pray for the needs of others.
The great preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, "Before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in Barcelona, Madrid and other places, there were psychological clinics with large numbers of neurotics undergoing drug treatments and others attending regularly for psychoanalysis and such like. They had their personal problems, their worries, their anxieties, their temptations, having to go back week after week, month after month, to the clinics in order to be kept going.

"Then came the Civil War; and one of the first and most striking effects of that War was that it virtually emptied the psychological and psychiatric clinics. These neurotic people were suddenly cured by a greater anxiety, the anxiety about their whole position, whether their homes would still be there, whether their husbands would still be alive, whether their children would be killed.
"Their greater anxieties got rid of the lesser ones. In having to give attention to the bigger problem they forgot their own personal and somewhat petty problems" (The Christian Soldier: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10to 20 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], p. 357).

That's a negative illustration of a positive principle: your own problems pale as you pray in the Spirit on behalf of others. Praying "in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18) is praying in concert with the Holy Spirit—in harmony with His Person and will. It's synonymous with praying according to God's will (1 John 5:14).

As the Holy Spirit intercedes for you (Rom. 8:26-27), you are to intercede for others. That's not always easy in our contemporary religious environment where self- centeredness is praised rather than shunned, and more and more professing Christians are embracing the health, wealth, and prosperity heresy. But God's mandate is for us to love one another, pray for one another, and look out for one another's interests (Phil. 2:3-4). Let that mandate govern all your relationships.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Make a list of people you want to intercede for.
* Spend time praying for each person, asking God to show you specific ways to minister to his or her needs.
For Further Study
Read Philippians 2:1-11.
* What should be your attitude toward other believers?
* How did Christ set an example of proper attitudes?


The Offer of Salvation

“‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him’” (John 3:16–17).

God’s gracious gift of salvation is freely available to whoever believes in Christ. The free offer of the gospel is broad enough to encompass the vilest sinner (1 Tim. 1:15), yet narrow enough to exclude all who reject Christ (John 3:18). But to those who come to Him on His terms, Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37)—they will never perish.

To “perish” is to face God’s eternal judgment. It is true that “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world.” Jesus Himself declared in John 12:47, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Yes, God will ultimately judge those who reject His Son, but this was not the mission of the Son in His first coming.
Furthermore, the point of Jesus’ coming was not to redeem Israel and condemn the Gentiles, “but that the world might be saved through Him.” God’s gracious offer of salvation extended beyond Israel to all mankind. Once again, Nicodemus should have known this, for in the Abrahamic covenant God declared, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Gentile salvation was always God’s purpose.

Ask Yourself
Are you ever troubled that your salvation is perhaps still in doubt, eligible for recall if you don’t toe a certain line or achieve a base level of righteousness? Take heart in the promise that coming to Christ equates to never being “cast out.”


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 49:1–50:11
* Psalm 112:1-4
* Proverbs 26:13-15
* Ephesians 1:1-23

Isaiah 49:8 acceptable time…day of salvation. The Messiah is represented as asking for the grace of God to be given to sinners. God gives His favorable answer in a time of grace (61:1) when salvation’s day comes to the world (Gal. 4:4, 5; Heb. 4:7). At His appointed time in the future, the Lord will, by His Servant, accomplish the final deliverance of Israel. Paul applied these words to his ministry of proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace to all people (2 Cor. 6:2). a covenant to the people. When the Lord saves and regathers Israel, they will return to the land, to which Joshua brought their ancestors after their exit from Egypt, now restored and glorious (44:26; Josh. 13:1–8).

Isaiah 50:6 My back…My cheeks…My face. The Servant remained obedient though provoked to rebel by excessively vile treatment. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy by remaining submissive to the Father’s will (Matt. 26:67; 27:26, 30; Mark 14:65; 15:19; Luke 22:63; John 18:22).

Isaiah 50:7 set My face like a flint. So sure was He of the Lord God’s help that He resolutely determined to remain unswayed by whatever hardship might await Him (Ezek. 3:8, 9). Jesus demonstrated this determination in setting His face to go to Jerusalem to be crucified (Luke 9:51).

Ephesians 1:13, 14 sealed with the Holy Spirit. God’s own Spirit comes to indwell the believer and secures and preserves his eternal salvation. The sealing of which Paul speaks refers to an official mark of identification placed on a letter, contract, or other document. That document was thereby officially under the authority of the person whose stamp was on the seal. Four primary truths are signified by the seal: 1) security (Dan. 6:17;Matt. 27:62–66); 2) authenticity (1 Kin. 21:6–16); 3) ownership (Jer. 32:10); and 4) authority (Esth. 8:8–12). The Holy Spirit is given by God as His pledge of the believer’s future inheritance in glory (2 Cor. 1:21).

Ephesians 1:19, 20 exceeding greatness of His power. God’s great power, that very power which raised Jesus from the dead and lifted Him by ascension back to glory to take His seat at God’s right hand, is given to every believer at the time of salvation and is always available (Acts 1:8; Col. 1:29). Paul therefore did not pray that God’s power be given to believers but that they be aware of the power they already possessed in Christ and use it (3:20).

Why does Paul use the word “mystery” so often in his letter to the Ephesians?
Paul actually uses the word “mystery” six times in this letter (1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19). By comparison, the word appears twice in Romans, once in 1 Corinthians, four times in Colossians, once in 1 Timothy, and nowhere else. Contrary to our use of “mystery” as a series of clues to be figured out, Paul’s use of the word points to mystery as a heretofore unrevealed truth that has been made clear. The word “mystery” preserves the sense that the revealed truth has such awesome implications that it continues to amaze and humble those who accept it.

Ephesians introduces various aspects of the “mystery.” Paul explained his use of the word in 3:4–6 by saying, “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” When the unsearchable riches of Christ are preached among the Gentiles, one result is an understanding of the “fellowship of the mystery” (3:9). And when God’s plan for human marriage is used to explain the unique relationship between Christ and His bride, the church, Paul reminded his readers that the real subject is a great mystery (5:32). 

And finally, Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him that he would be able “boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (6:19).The gospel is not mysterious because it is hard to understand. It is mysterious because it is unexpected, unmerited, and free. Though Paul didn’t use the word in this passage, his summary of the mystery for the Ephesians can be found in 2:8,9:“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”




A Healthy Church

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
God has given every believer certain gifts and functions to contribute to the health of the church and enable it to communicate the gospel to the world.

God fervently desires to reach the whole world with the gospel’s truth (Acts 1:8). Therefore, the Holy Spirit has specially energized members of Christ’s Body, the church, to fulfill God’s great desire for the world. In Old Testament times, Israel was God’s agency to reach other peoples. During New Testament history, Christ and the apostles were the outreach vehicles God used. Today the church is the channel God uses to tell the world about His nature and His truth.

The Lord wants this collection of believers to be strong and functioning well. Besides providing the gifted church leaders mentioned in today’s verses, it is God’s plan to equip every member with a specific gift that will help the church grow and be a healthy witness to its community. Just as a human body has a variety of organs that must function and interact properly for the vitality of the entire body, any believer’s consistent use of his gift helps to build up the church.

Spiritual gifts are not showered randomly, but God gives believers differing gifts so the church might display a composite reflection of Christ’s character. Therefore, believers will never begin to reach their full spiritual maturity unless all the gifts are being ministered among members of the church.
For instance, if a pastor ministers by preaching, his people should communicate more effectively. If someone ministers the gift of mercy, another believer receives the direct benefit but also learns how to show mercy. As spiritual gifts are used, everyone is built up to be more like Christ and manifest His character traits. By this process, the Holy Spirit helps the church to reflect the total Person of Christ. How are you doing in contributing your gift to God’s plan?

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that the leaders and all the members of your church would consistently display a unified, solidly biblical testimony to the community.
For Further Study
Read Acts 1:12-14; 2:1-4, 37-47.
* How did the early believers demonstrate their unity?
* What were the primary results of the Spirit’s ministry on the Day of Pentecost?


Knowing God

"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).
Your desire to know God should motivate you toward fervent prayer.

Man's highest purpose is to know God. Jesus prayed to the Father, saying, "This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Of us He said, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me" (John 10:14). John added that "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" (1 John 5:20).

Every Christian knows God through salvation, but beyond that lies an intimate knowledge of God. That should be the quest of every believer. Moses prayed, "Let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight" (Ex. 33:13). David entreated his son Solomon to "know the God of [his] father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind" (1 Chron. 28:9). Even the apostle Paul, who perhaps knew Christ more intimately than any human being thus far, never lost his passion for an even deeper knowledge (Phil. 3:10).

Such passion is the driving force behind powerful prayer. Those who know God best pray most often and most fervently. Their love for Him compels them to know and serve Him better.

How about you? Is your knowledge of God intimate? Does the character of your prayers reveal that you're in the process of knowing God?
Paul's admonitions to "pray at all times in the Spirit" and "be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18) presuppose that you know God and desire to see His will fulfilled in His people. If not, you'll never appreciate the importance of interceding on behalf of others.

Suggestions for Prayer
The martyred missionary Jim Elliot once prayed, "Lord, make my life a testimony to the value of knowing you." Let that be your prayer each day.
For Further Study
Read 1 Chronicles 28.
* What did God forbid David to do?
* What would happen to Solomon if he failed to know and serve God?


The Only Begotten Son

“‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life’” (John 3:16).
There are no words in human language that can adequately express the magnitude of God’s saving gift to the world. Even the apostle Paul refused to try, declaring this gift to be “indescribable” (2 Cor. 9:15). The Father “gave His only begotten Son”—His unique, one-of-a-kind Son. He is the one of whom He declared, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17); the one whom He “loves . . . and has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35); the one whom He “highly exalted . . . and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9); the one with whom He had enjoyed intimate fellowship from all eternity (John 1:1). 

The Father sent Him to die as a sacrifice on behalf of sinful men. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,” wrote Paul, “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
By “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Just as the supreme proof of Abraham’s love for God was his willingness to sacrifice his son (cf. Gen. 22:12, 16–18), so also—but on a far grander scale—the Father’s offering of “His only begotten Son” was the supreme manifestation of His love for lost sinners.

Ask Yourself
The heart of the good news is always worth returning to and reminding ourselves of, causing us to fall down in reverential awe at every fresh glimpse of this astounding grace. As you read this cherished verse of Scripture again, let each word resonate in your spirit. Into your needy heart has come the gift of God’s Son. Never get over it.


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 47:1–48:22
* Psalm 111:7-10
* Proverbs 26:11-12
* Galatians 6:1-18

Isaiah 48:6 new things. From this point onward, the prophecies of the Messiah’s First and Second Coming and the restoration of Israel have a new distinctiveness. Babylon becomes the Babylon of Revelation (v. 20), and God uses Isaiah to communicate truths about the messianic kingdom on earth and the new heavens and new earth that follow it (e.g., 11:1–5; 65:17). Verse 7 indicates that God had never before revealed these features about the future.
Isaiah 48:10, 11 refined…tested. Since Isaiah’s time, Israel’s testings have included the Babylonian captivity and present worldwide dispersion from her land; unlike silver purged in the furnace, the purging of Israel is not complete, and they are not refined. But God keeps up the afflictions until they are, so His name is not defamed through the destruction of Israel. The nation will be purged (Zech. 13:1). 

God’s plan is such that He alone, not man or manmade idols, will receive credit for Israel’s salvation (42:8; Rom. 11:25–27, 33–36). The adversaries of God are never to be given legitimate reasons for scoffing at God and His work.
Galatians 6:8 sows to his flesh. Here it means pandering to the flesh’s evil desires. corruption. From the Greek word for degeneration, as in decaying food. Sin always corrupts and, when left unchecked, always makes a person progressively worse in character (Rom. 6:23). sows to the Spirit. To walk by the Holy Spirit. everlasting life. This expression describes not only a life that endures forever but, primarily, the highest quality of living that one can experience (Ps. 51:12; John 10:10; Eph. 1:3, 18).

Galatians 6:10 opportunity. This Greek word refers to a distinct, fixed time period rather than occasional moments. Paul’s point is that the believer’s entire life provides the unique privilege by which he can serve others in Christ’s name. especially…the household of faith. Our love for fellow Christians is the primary test of our love for God.

How do we restore a believer overtaken in sin?
In Galatians 6:1, Paul addresses the situation where someone is overtaken in a sin, which may imply the person was actually seen committing the sin or that he was caught or snared by the sin itself. Those believers who are walking in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, and evidencing the fruit of the Spirit are to “restore” such a one. 

This is sometimes used metaphorically of settling disputes or arguments. It means “to mend” or “repair” and was used of setting a broken bone or repairing a dislocated limb (Heb. 12:12, 13; Rom. 15:1; 1 Thess. 5:14). The basic process of restoration is outlined in Matthew 18:15–20. “In a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The Greek form strongly emphasizes a continual, diligent attentiveness.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (v. 2). “Burdens” are extra heavy loads, which here represent difficulties or problems people have trouble dealing with. “Bear” connotes carrying something with endurance. The law of love which fulfills the entire law (John 13:34; Rom. 13:8, 10).

“But let each one examine his own work” (v. 4). Literally, “to approve something after testing it.” Believers first must be sure their lives are right with God before giving spiritual help to others (Matt. 7:3–5). “Have rejoicing in himself.” If a believer rejoices or boasts, it should be only boasting in the Lord for what God has done in him (2 Cor. 10:12–18), not for what he supposedly has accomplished compared to other believers.
“For each one shall bear his own load” (v. 5). This is not a contradiction to v. 2. “Load” has no connotation of difficulty; it refers to life’s routine obligations and each believer’s ministry calling (Matt. 11:30; 1 Cor. 3:12–15; 2 Cor. 5:10). God requires faithfulness in meeting those responsibilities.




The Spirit Unveils the New Covenant

“Whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:15-16).
One of the most important truths the Holy Spirit unveils for us is the glory of the New Covenant.

The Old Testament contains many veiled statements, types, prophecies, and parables. The Israelites didn’t understand most of those things because the Old Testament didn’t have plainness of speech. Its glory was veiled and was even described as fading away (2 Cor. 3:13-14).

In contrast to the Old Covenant, the present New Covenant age is characterized by the clarity of all the key doctrinal and practical passages in the New Testament. This progress from the veiled glory of the previous era to the unveiled glory of the present era occurred when the Holy Spirit came in the Book of Acts. All that God wants us to know and do is clearly brought into focus now because of the teaching ministry of the indwelling Spirit.

The Spirit guides and enlightens New Covenant believers as they read and study God’s Word. Therefore, there is no longer any need, for example, to unscramble the pictures and prophecies regarding Christ. Thus Paul can say, “We use great plainness of speech” (2 Cor. 3:12, KJV). He goes on to say in verses 17-18, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Those verses describe the essence of the Christian life: becoming like Jesus Christ. The only way to do that is to know well the unveiled glory of the New Covenant and allow the Holy Spirit to change you more and more into the Savior’s image.

Suggestions for Prayer
* As you go through this day, ask the Lord to remind you often of the glory, clarity, and freedom you have under the New Covenant.
* Pray that all your actions would reflect this truth.
For Further Study
* Hebrews 8 begins a discussion and outline of the superiority of the New Covenant. Read this chapter, and record what it says are differences and improvements from the Old to the New Covenant.
* Who mediates the New Covenant?


Always Praying

"With all prayer and petition pray at all times" (Eph. 6:18).
Make prayer an ongoing part of your day.

As important as prayer is to your Christian life, you might expect Paul to list it as another piece of spiritual armor, but he doesn't. Instead, he makes it all-pervasive by instructing us to pray at all times. That's our spiritual lifeline—the air our spirits breathe. The effectiveness of each piece of armor is directly related to the quality of our prayers.

We see the importance of prayer throughout the New Testament. Jesus instructed His disciples to be on the alert at all times, praying so that they would have strength to face the trials and temptations that lie ahead (Luke 21:36). The apostles devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 6:4), as did godly people like Cornelius (Acts 10:2). Every Christian is to be continually devoted to prayer (Rom. 12:12).

In Philippians 4:6 Paul says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." He told the Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17) and instructed men everywhere to "pray, lifting up holy hands" (1 Tim. 2:8).
Jesus and Paul not only exhorted believers to pray, but also modeled diligent prayer in their own lives. Jesus often went for extended periods of time alone to pray. Paul wrote often of his own fervent prayers on behalf of others (cf. Col. 1:9; Philem. 4).

As a child, you may have been taught that prayer is reserved for mealtimes, bedtime, or church services. That's a common misconception many children carry into their adult years. But believers are to be in constant communication with God, which is simply the overflow of seeing all of life from His perspective. Just as you would discuss your everyday experiences and feelings with a close friend, so you're to discuss them with God.
God loves you and wants to share your every joy, sorrow, victory, and defeat. Be conscious of His presence today and take advantage of the sweet communion He offers.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God that He's always available to hear your prayers.
* Ask Him to give you a desire to commune with Him more faithfully.
For Further Study
What do these verses say about the most appropriate times for prayer: Psalm 55:16-17, Daniel 6:10, Luke 6:12, and 1 Timothy 5:5?


The World

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

John 3:16 is undoubtedly the most familiar and beloved verse in all of Scripture. The first thing you notice is God’s motive for giving Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 9:15)—because He loved the evil, sinful world of fallen humanity. There was nothing in man that attracted God’s love. Rather He loved because He sovereignly determined to do so.
It is important to note that “world” is a nonspecific term for humanity in a general sense. The statement in verse 17, “that the world might be saved through Him,” proves that it does not mean everyone who has ever lived, since all will not be saved. Verse 16 cannot be teaching universal salvation, since the context promises that unbelievers will perish in eternal judgment (vv. 16–18). Our Lord is saying that for all in the world there is only one Savior (1 John 2:2), but only those who are regenerated by the Spirit and who believe in His gospel will receive salvation and eternal life through Him.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:19, used “world” in a similar way: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” The reason God was reconciling the world to Himself is that the world has no other reconciler. That not all will believe and be reconciled is clear from Paul’s plea in verse 20: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Ask Yourself
How else might you respond to someone who believes that “a loving God would not send anyone to hell” and therefore everyone will be saved in the end? What does this probably tell you about the person making this claim?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 45:1–46:13
* Psalm 111:1-6
* Proverbs 26:10
* Galatians 5:1-26

Isaiah 45:1 His anointed. This word is the one translated from the Hebrew by the transliteration—“Messiah.” It is the word used for the messianic Redeemer King in Psalm 2:2 and Daniel 9:25, 26, but here refers to Cyrus, as the king set apart by God’s providence for divine purposes. Though not a worshiper of the Lord, the Persian monarch played an unusual role as Israel’s shepherd (44:28) and God’s anointed judge on nations.
Isaiah 45:21 there is no other…There is none. The Lord restated the truth expressed by Moses in Deuteronomy 4:35. The scribe who asked Jesus about the greatest commandment cited this same principle in agreeing with Jesus’ answer to his question (Mark 12:32).

Isaiah 45:23 every knee shall bow. In the kingdom age, all nations will worship the one true God of Israel. A further meaning, justified by the New Testament, applies this verse to believers’ accountability to God when He evaluates their works (Rom. 14:11). In assigning the words another meaning, Paul relates the words to the coming universal acknowledgment that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10, 11).

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast. Stay where you are, Paul asserts, because of the benefit of being free from the law and the flesh as a way of salvation and the fullness of blessing by grace. free. Deliverance from the curse that the law pronounces on the sinner who has been striving unsuccessfully to achieve his own righteousness (3:13, 22–26; 4:1–7), but who has now embraced Christ and the salvation granted to him by grace. entangled again. Better translated “to be burdened by,” “to be oppressed by,” or “to be subject to,” because of its connection with a yoke. yoke of bondage. “Yoke” refers to the apparatus used to control a domesticated animal. The Jews referred to the “yoke of the law” as a good thing, the essence of true religion. Paul argued that for those who pursued it as a way of salvation, the law was a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:6 neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything. Nothing done or not done in the flesh, even religious ceremony, makes any difference in one’s relationship to God. What is external is immaterial and worthless, unless it reflects genuine internal righteousness (Rom. 2:25–29). faith working through love. 

Saving faith proves its genuine character by works of love. The one who lives by faith is internally motivated by love for God and Christ (Matt. 22:37–40), which supernaturally issues forth in reverent worship, genuine obedience, and self-sacrificing love for others.

Describe the fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit are the godly attitudes that characterize the lives of only those who belong to God by faith in Christ and possess the Spirit of God. The Spirit produces fruit which consists of 9 characteristics or attitudes that are inextricably linked with each other and are commanded of believers throughout the New Testament.

“Love.” One of several Greek words for love, agape, is the love of choice, referring not to an emotional affection, physical attraction, or a familial bond, but to respect, devotion, and affection that leads to willing, self-sacrificial service (John 15:13; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 3:16, 17).“Joy.” A happiness based on unchanging divine promises and eternal spiritual realities. It is the sense of well-being experienced by one who knows all is well between himself and the Lord (1 Pet. 1:8). Joy is not the result of favorable circumstances, and even occurs when those circumstances are the most painful and severe (John 16:20–22). Joy is a gift from God, and as such, believers are not to manufacture it but to delight in the blessing they already possess (Rom.14:17; Phil. 4:4). 

“Peace.” The inner calm that results from confidence in one’s saving relationship with Christ. The verb form denotes binding together and is reflected in the expression “having it all together.” Like joy, peace is not related to one’s circumstances (John 14:27; Rom. 8:28; Phil. 4:6, 7, 9).

“Longsuffering.” Patience which refers to the ability to endure injuries inflicted by others and the willingness to accept irritating or painful situations (Eph. 4:2;Col. 3:12; 1 Tim.1:15,16). “Kindness.” Tender concern for others, reflected in a desire to treat others gently, just as the Lord treats all believers (Matt. 11:28, 29; 19:13, 14; 2 Tim. 2:24). 

“Goodness.” Moral and spiritual excellence manifested in active kindness (Rom. 5:7). Believers are commanded to exemplify goodness (6:10; 2 Thess. 1:11). “Faithfulness.” Loyalty and trustworthiness (Lam. 3:22; Phil. 2:7–9; 1 Thess. 5:24; Rev. 2:10).

“Gentleness.” Better translated “meekness.” It is a humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while having no desire for revenge or retribution. In the New Testament, it is used to describe 3 attitudes: submission to the will of God (Col. 3:12), teachability (James 1:21), and consideration of others (Eph. 4:2). 

"Self-control.” This refers to restraining passions and appetites (1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Pet. 1:5, 6). “No law.” When a Christian walks by the Spirit and manifests His fruit, he needs no external law to produce the attitudes and behavior that please God (Rom.8:4).






Keep in Step with the 

"Will the Holy Spirit ever leave a believer?"

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

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

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

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

 "What is the seal of the Holy Spirit?"

The Holy Spirit is referred to as the “deposit,” “seal,” and “earnest” in the hearts of Christians (2 Corinthians 1:225:5Ephesians 1:13-144:30). The Holy Spirit is God’s seal on His people, His claim on us as His very own. The Greek word translated “earnest” in these passages is arrhabōn which means “a pledge,” that is, part of the purchase money or property given in advance as security for the rest. The gift of the Spirit to believers is a down payment on our heavenly inheritance, which Christ has promised us and secured for us at the cross. It is because the Spirit has sealed us that we are assured of our salvation. No one can break the seal of God.

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

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

"Should we worship the Holy Spirit?"

We know that only God should be worshipped. Only God deserves worship. The question of whether we should worship the Holy Spirit is answered simply by determining whether the Spirit is God. Contrary to the ideas of some cults, the Holy Spirit is not merely a “force,” but a personality. He is referred to in personal terms (John 15:2616:7-813-14). He acts as a Being with personality would act—He speaks (1 Timothy 4:1), He loves (Romans 15:30), He teaches (John 14:26), He intercedes (Romans 8:26), and so on. 

The Holy Spirit possesses the nature of deity—He shares the attributes of God. He is neither angelic nor human in essence. He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). He is everywhere present (Psalm 139:7-10). The Spirit is omniscient, i.e., He knows “all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He taught the apostles “all things” (John 14:26). He was involved in the creation process (Genesis 1:2). The Holy Spirit is spoken of in intimate association with both the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19John 14:16). As a Person, He can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4) and grieved (Ephesians 4:30). Furthermore, some passages in the Old Testament that are attributed to God are applied to the Spirit in the New Testament (see Isaiah 6:8 with Acts 28:25, and Exodus 16:7 with Hebrews 3:7-9). 

A divine Person is worthy of worship. God is “worthy of praise” (Psalm 18:3). God is great and “most worthy of praise” (Psalm 48:1). We are commanded to worship God (Matthew 4:10Revelation 19:1022:9). If, then, the Spirit is deity, the third Person of our triune God, He is worthy of worship. Philippians 3:3 tells us that true believers, those whose hearts have been circumcised, worship God by the Spirit and glory and rejoice in Christ. Here is a beautiful picture of worship of all three members of the Godhead. 

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

Worship is itself a function of the Spirit. Jesus says that we “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Those who are spiritual are those who are indwelt by the Spirit who testifies to us that we belong to Him (Romans 8:16). His presence in our hearts enables us to return worship to Him in the Spirit. We are in Him as He is in us, just as Christ is in the Father and the Father is in us through the Spirit (John 14:2017:21).

"Should we worship the Holy Spirit?"

We know that only God should be worshipped. Only God deserves worship. The question of whether we should worship the Holy Spirit is answered simply by determining whether the Spirit is God. Contrary to the ideas of some cults, the Holy Spirit is not merely a “force,” but a personality. He is referred to in personal terms (John 15:2616:7-813-14). He acts as a Being with personality would act—He speaks (1 Timothy 4:1), He loves (Romans 15:30), He teaches (John 14:26), He intercedes (Romans 8:26), and so on. 

The Holy Spirit possesses the nature of deity—He shares the attributes of God. He is neither angelic nor human in essence. He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). He is everywhere present (Psalm 139:7-10). The Spirit is omniscient, i.e., He knows “all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He taught the apostles “all things” (John 14:26). He was involved in the creation process (Genesis 1:2). The Holy Spirit is spoken of in intimate association with both the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19John 14:16). As a Person, He can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4) and grieved (Ephesians 4:30). Furthermore, some passages in the Old Testament that are attributed to God are applied to the Spirit in the New Testament (see Isaiah 6:8 with Acts 28:25, and Exodus 16:7 with Hebrews 3:7-9). 

A divine Person is worthy of worship. God is “worthy of praise” (Psalm 18:3). God is great and “most worthy of praise” (Psalm 48:1). We are commanded to worship God (Matthew 4:10Revelation 19:1022:9). If, then, the Spirit is deity, the third Person of our triune God, He is worthy of worship. Philippians 3:3 tells us that true believers, those whose hearts have been circumcised, worship God by the Spirit and glory and rejoice in Christ. Here is a beautiful picture of worship of all three members of the Godhead. 

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

Worship is itself a function of the Spirit. Jesus says that we “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Those who are spiritual are those who are indwelt by the Spirit who testifies to us that we belong to Him (Romans 8:16). His presence in our hearts enables us to return worship to Him in the Spirit. We are in Him as He is in us, just as Christ is in the Father and the Father is in us through the Spirit (John 14:2017:21).






The Need for Understanding


Keep in Step with the Spirit. 

“‘These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will speak no more to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father’” (John 16:25).
Jesus’ teaching in figurative language revealed the need for further enlightenment by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus left His disciples a storehouse of valuable information that would require additional teaching from the Holy Spirit to make it understandable. The “figurative language” our Lord sovereignly used was made up of many veiled but pointed statements, filled with rich meaning. Even Christ’s closest followers, when they first heard Him, often understood only the basics of His teachings.

Jesus used various veiled statements whose deeper meanings were not revealed until the Holy Spirit gave believers special insight. One such statement is John 2:19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The truth that Jesus was teaching—His death and resurrection—became clearer later on. John 6:53-58speaks of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood. Many of the Jews took this teaching literally and did not understand that Jesus was referring to believers’ intimate, spiritual communion with Himself.

In addition to those and other figurative expressions (see John 6:35; 8:12), the Lord knew His disciples would not understand certain truths right away (John 16:12). They were spiritually ignorant and unable to grasp every teaching prior to Christ’s death. But once He died and rose again and the Holy Spirit came, they would understand Jesus’ teaching about His relationship to the Father, as the end of today’s verse indicates.

Whenever Christ used figurative language, it was clear enough to make it meaningful, but veiled just enough so the Spirit could reveal more profound truth later on. Having access to that unveiled truth is the blessed privilege we have today, thanks to the indwelling Holy Spirit who has come as our teacher, just as Jesus promised in John 14:26 and 16:13. We need to take full advantage of the Spirit’s teaching ministry every time we hear the Word expounded or read or study it for ourselves.

Suggestions for Prayer
When you study the Word, ask the Lord and His Spirit to help you see beneath the surface and understand as much biblical truth as possible.

For Further Study
Read John 6:32-58.
* What does the Bread of Life provide?
* How is it better than manna?
* What made some of the Jews stumble at Jesus’ words?


Butterfly, Botanist, or Bee?

"Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17).

Your attitude toward Scripture will determine your effectiveness in spiritual battle.
I remember enjoying the observations of a perceptive man who was gazing at a beautiful garden. First he saw a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. It spent a few seconds on the edge of each, but derived no particular benefit from any of them.

Next he saw a botanist with large notebook and microscope in hand. As the botanist carefully observed each flower and plant, he made copious entries in his book. But after hours of meticulous study, most of what he learned was shut up in his book. Very little remained in his mind.

Then came a little bee. When it entered a flower, it emerged laden with pollen. It had left the hive that morning empty, but would return full.
When it comes to Bible study, some people are like butterflys, going from one favorite verse to another, one seminar to another, or one book to another. They're very busy and expend much energy but have little to show for their efforts. They remain unchanged in any significant way because they never really delve into the Word wholeheartedly. They're content to simply flutter around the edges.

Others, like the botanist, may study in great depth but never apply it to their lives. I know of entire commentaries written by unbelievers. In some cases their grasp of Scripture is exceptional, but they know nothing of true love for God and obedience to biblical truth. What a tragedy! But you don't have to be a biblical scholar to make that mistake. You need only to fail to apply what you learn to your life.

Rather, strive to be like the bee, spending time in the Word—reading, studying, taking notes, then emerging fuller than when you began. Your mind will be filled with wisdom and biblical insights. Your life will be sweeter and purer because the Word has done its work (1 Cor. 2:13).

Are you a butterfly, a botanist, or a bee?
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for the opportunities He gives you to study His Word. Take full advantage of them.

For Further Study
According to James 1:22-25, what's the difference between someone who merely hears the Word and someone who obeys it?


Nicodemus’ Doubt

“Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?’” (John 3:9–10).

Although he was a renowned, recognized, and established teacher in Israel, Nicodemus was a poor learner. His question “How can these things be?” indicates he had made little progress. Despite Jesus’ further clarification, Nicodemus still could not accept what he was hearing. He could not let go of his legalistic religious system and realize that salvation was a sovereign, gracious work of God’s Spirit.

Because of his position as the teacher of Israel, Nicodemus could have been expected to understand the things Jesus had said. In fact, his lack of understanding was inexcusable considering his exposure to the Old Testament. Jesus found it indefensible that this prominent scholar was not familiar with the foundational new covenant teaching, housed in the Old Testament, regarding the only way of salvation (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15). 

Sadly, Nicodemus serves as a clear example of the numbing effect that external, legalistic religion has on a person’s spiritual perception—even to the point of obscuring the revelation of God.

Although nothing in this passage suggests Nicodemus was converted that evening (and verse 11 strongly implies that he was not), he never forgot his discussion with Jesus. Later, he boldly defended Him before the Sanhedrin (7:50–51), and helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare His body for burial (19:38–39)—actions that indicate the presence of genuine faith in his life. 

Somewhere after that memorable evening he spent with Jesus but before the crucifixion, Nicodemus came to understand sovereign grace and experience the reality of the new birth.

Ask Yourself
Perhaps there’s someone (or several people) you’ve been talking to and praying for, deeply concerned about their spiritual condition, perhaps even a little perturbed at their stubborn resistance to the gospel. Don’t give up. Don’t quit asking. There is more than one Nicodemus who said no, no, no, before finally succumbing to grace.

Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 41:1–42:25
* Psalm 109:26-31
* Proverbs 26:3-4
* Galatians 3:1-29
Isaiah 41:4 first…last. He existed before history and will exist after it (44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13). I am He. It is legitimate to translate the two Hebrew words thus represented by “I am” (see also 42:8; 43:10, 13; 46:4), a messianic title appropriated by Jesus frequently as explicit testimony to His deity (e.g., Mark 13:6; 14:62; Luke 21:8; John 8:28, 58; 13:19).The title comes originally from the Lord’s self-revelation to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

Galatians 3:1 foolish. This refers not to lack of intelligence, but to lack of obedience (Luke 24:25; 1 Tim. 6:9; Titus 3:3). 

Paul expressed his shock, surprise, and outrage at the Galatians’ defection. Who…? The Judaizers, the Jewish false teachers were plaguing the Galatian churches. bewitched. Charmed or misled by flattery and false promises. The term suggests an appeal to the emotions by the Judaizers. 

clearly portrayed. The Greek word describes the posting of official notices in public places. Paul’s preaching had publicly displayed the true gospel of Jesus Christ before the Galatians. crucified. The crucifixion of Christ was a onetime historical fact with continuing results into eternity. Christ’s sacrificial death provides eternal payment for believers’ sins (Heb. 7:25) and does not need to be supplemented by any human works.

Galatians 3:2 Did you receive the Spirit…? The answer to Paul’s rhetorical question is obvious. The Galatians had received the Spirit when they were saved (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:13; 1 John 3:24; 4:13), not through keeping the law, but through saving faith granted when hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:17). The hearing of faith is actually hearing with faith. Paul appealed to the Galatians’ own salvation to refute the Judaizers’ false teaching that keeping the law is necessary for salvation.
Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Incredulous at how easily the Galatians had been duped, Paul asked a second rhetorical question, again rebuking them for their foolishness. begun in the Spirit,…by the flesh. The notion that sinful, weak, fallen human nature could improve on the saving work of the Holy Spirit was ludicrous to Paul.
Galatians 3:28 you are all one in Christ Jesus. All those who are one with Jesus Christ are one with one another. This verse does not deny that God has designed for racial, social, and sexual distinctions among Christians, but it affirms that those do not imply spiritual inequality before God. Nor is this spiritual equality incompatible with the God-ordained roles of headship and submission in the church, society, and at home. Jesus Christ, though fully equal with the Father, assumed a submissive role during His incarnation (Phil. 2:5–8).

Who is the “Servant” of Isaiah 42?
Others deserve the title “my servant” (v. 1), but this personal Servant of the Lord is the Messiah, who was chosen (Luke 9:35; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8) because the Lord delights in Him (Matt. 3:17; 17:5) and puts His Spirit upon Him (11:2; 59:21; Matt. 3:16; Luke 4:18). 

“He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” At His Second Coming, Christ will rule over a kingdom in which justice prevails throughout the world. The millennial kingdom is not for Israel alone, though the Messiah will reign on the throne of David in Jerusalem, and Israel will be the glorious people. In fact, all the nations of the world will experience the righteousness and justice of the Messiah King.

“He will not cry out…in the street” (v. 2). The quiet and submissive demeanor of Christ at His first advent fulfilled this prophecy (Matt. 11:28–30; 1 Pet. 2:23). “A bruised reed…smoking flax” (v. 3). The Servant will bring comfort and encouragement to the weak and oppressed (Matt. 12:18–20). “Till He has established justice in the earth” (v. 4). Isaiah looked beyond the First Coming of Christ to His Second Coming. Jesus fulfilled vv. 1a, 2, 3 at His First Coming and will fulfill vv. 1b, 4 at His Second Coming, when He rules the earth in perfect justice with “a rod of iron” (Ps. 2:8, 9; Rev. 2:27).

“I, the LORD,…will…give you as a covenant to the people” (v. 6). The Servant is a covenant in that He personifies and provides the blessings of salvation to God’s people Israel. He is the Mediator of a better covenant than the one with Moses, i.e., the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34; Heb. 8:6, 10–12). “As a light to the Gentiles.” Simeon saw the beginning of this fulfillment at Christ’s First Coming (Luke 2:32). He came as the Messiah of Israel, yet the Savior of the world, who revealed Himself to a non-Jewish immoral woman by the well in Samaria (John 4:25, 26) and commanded His followers to preach the gospel of salvation to everyone in the world (Matt. 28:19, 20). 

Certainly the church, made up mostly of Gentiles grafted into the trunk of blessing (Rom. 9:24–30; 11:11–24), fulfills this promise, as does the future kingdom on earth when the Servant will use Israel to shine and enlighten all the nations of the earth (49:6; 19:24).




The Spirit's Intercession

“But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
Because He understands our struggles in this life, the Holy Spirit continually prays for us before the Father’s throne.

In the midst of life’s many difficulties and stressful times, there is hardly anything more comforting than knowing you have a friend—someone on your side. In the legal realm, an attorney formally argues your case when you need to settle a judicial or financial dispute. This concept of friend and advocate is right at the heart of the Holy Spirit’s role as our Paraclete, one called alongside to help (John 14:16).

Paul’s words in today’s passage comfort us with the knowledge that the Spirit is fulfilling the promise of John 14 by being on our side and shepherding us toward Heaven. In the process He is continuously ensuring the security of our salvation and interceding for us and all believers, just as Christ does (see Luke 22:31-32; Heb. 7:25).
We would be at an eternal loss if the Holy Spirit did not intercede for us. He understands our sinful frailties and knows that, by our own wisdom, we don’t know how to pray properly for ourselves or how to consistently maintain our walk with the Lord. This intercession is done “with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).
Those “groanings” refer to divine communications between the Father and the Spirit that transcend any human language. They are more like sighs that can’t be put into words. That means we can’t know precisely what the Holy Spirit says when he intercedes on our behalf, but we can be certain that He is praying for us.

The Spirit’s lofty ministry of intercession reminds us again of how utterly dependent we are on Him to support us and help us with our daily discipleship. As the Christian writer A.W. Pink once said, “Only by His [the Spirit’s] strengthening of the heart are we delivered from being engrossed in the things around us, and our earthbound affections are drawn to things above.”

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God that when you are perplexed or confused and unsure how to pray, the Spirit will already be interceding for you.
For Further Study
Jesus’ most notable time of intercession for His disciples came in John 17. Read this chapter, and record the items that compose His intercessory list. How do these apply to us?


Learning from Christ's Example

"Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17).
To wield the sword of the Spirit is to apply specific Biblical principles to specific situations.

Jesus gave us the perfect example of skillful and precise use of the sword of the Spirit. Following His baptism, "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread'" (Matt. 4:1-3).

Satan was challenging Christ's trust in His heavenly Father's power and provisions. God had just announced that Jesus was His Son (Matt. 3:17). Would He now abandon Jesus to starve in the wilderness? Satan urged Jesus to take matters into His own hands and supply for His own needs. After all, Satan implied, doesn't the Son of God deserve better than this?

Jesus might have acted on His own authority or demanded that God give Him what He deserved. Instead, He demonstrated His trust in God and rebuked Satan for his evil intents: "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'" (v. 4). That's a specific verse applied to a specific situation. Jesus responded the same way to Satan's other temptations (vv. 7, 10).
Scripture gives many general principles for Christian living, but the sword of the Spirit is a precise weapon. We must learn to apply the appropriate biblical principles to any given situation. That's what the psalmist meant when he wrote, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word. . . . Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee" (Ps. 119:9, 11).

Do you know where to go in the Bible to defend yourself against sorrow, discouragement, apathy, lust, or pride? If not, you're attempting to do spiritual battle unarmed.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for His precious Word and the study resources that are available to Bible students today.
* Renew your commitment to daily systematic Bible study.
For Further Study
Read Psalm 119:97-105. Is that your attitude toward Scripture?


Water and Spirit; Flesh and Spirit

“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again”’” (John 3:5–7).

Jesus answered Nicodemus’s objection by elaborating on the truth He introduced in verse 3: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” “Water” and “Spirit” often refer symbolically in the Old Testament to spiritual renewal and cleansing.

It was surely Ezekiel 36:24–27 that Jesus had in mind, which shows regeneration to be an Old Testament truth with which Nicodemus should have been acquainted. Christ’s point was unmistakable: Without the spiritual washing of the soul, a cleansing accomplished only by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) through the Word of God (Eph. 5:26), no one can enter God’s kingdom.

Jesus continued by further emphasizing that this spiritual cleansing is wholly a work of God and not the result of human effort: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Just as only human nature can beget human nature, so also only the Holy Spirit can effect spiritual transformation.

Even if a physical rebirth were possible, it would produce only flesh. Thus only the Spirit can produce the spiritual birth required for entrance into God’s kingdom. Regeneration is entirely His work, unaided by any human effort (cf. Rom. 3:25).
Ask Yourself
What have you needed washing from your heart in the last several days or weeks? How have you gone about seeking the Lord’s cleansing and renewal? How have you experienced the reality of His refreshment?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 39:1–40:31
* Psalm 109:21-25
* Proverbs 26:2
* Galatians 2:1-21

Isaiah 40:1, 2 Comfort,…comfort. The prophecy addressed God’s prophets, instructing them to emphasize the theme of comfort to a captive people in a foreign land many miles from their home city of Jerusalem. God has good plans for great blessing to Israel in the future because they are His covenant people, who are never to be permanently cast away (Rom. 11:2).

Isaiah 40:3, 4 Prepare the way. The remnant of Israel could remove obstacles from the coming Messiah’s path through repentance from their sins. John the Baptist reminded his listeners of this necessity (Matt. 3:2), as did Jesus (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15). These verses reflect the custom of some eastern monarchs to send heralds before them to clear away obstacles, make causeways, straighten crooked roads and valleys, and level hills (45:1, 2). John had the task of getting people ready for the Messiah’s arrival.

Isaiah 40:13, 14 directed the Spirit of the LORD. Isaiah pointed to the incomparable wisdom of God. Paul alluded to this verse in connection with God’s wisdom in dealing with Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 11:34) and with God’s impartation of wisdom to the spiritual believer (1 Cor. 2:16).

Isaiah 40:28 Neither faints nor is weary. God was not too weak to act on their behalf, nor was fatigue an obstacle for the Creator in caring for His people (vv. 29, 30). Though even the young and strong become tired and fall, the Ancient of Days never does. unsearchable. To the human mind, God’s wisdom is not fully comprehensible in how He chooses to fulfill His promises to deliver Israel. Paul saw a further illustration of this truth in God’s plan for the final restoration of Israel (Rom. 11:33; see Is. 40:13).
Isaiah 40:31 wait on the LORD. There is a general principle here that patient, praying believers are blessed by God with strength in their trials (2 Cor.12:8–10).The Lord also expected His people to be patient and await His coming in glory at the end to fulfill the promises of national deliverance, when believing Israel would become stronger than they had ever been.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. When a person trusts in Christ for salvation, he spiritually participates with the Lord in His crucifixion and His victory over sin and death. no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The believer’s old self is dead, having been crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:3, 5).The believer’s new man has the privilege of the indwelling Christ empowering him and living through him (Rom. 8:9, 10). gave Himself for me. The manifestation of Christ’s love for the believer through His sacrificial death on the cross (John 10:17, 18; Rom. 5:6–8; Eph. 5:25–30).

What led Paul to confront Peter with his hypocrisy?
It took place in the first Gentile church, which was at Antioch, where we are told that Peter “stood condemned” (Gal. 2:11). Peter had been in Antioch for some time, eating with Gentiles. When Judaizers came, pretending to be sent by James (v. 12), they lied, giving false claims of support from the apostles. Peter had already given up all Mosaic ceremony (Acts 10:9–22); nevertheless, he “withdrew.” The Greek term refers to strategic military withdrawal. The verb’s form may imply that Peter’s withdrawal was gradual and deceptive. To eat with the Judaizers and decline invitations to eat with the Gentiles, which he had previously done, meant that Peter was affirming the very dietary restrictions he knew God had abolished (Acts 10:15) and thus striking a blow at the gospel of grace. “Fearing those…of the circumcision”—the true motivation behind Peter’s defection. He was afraid of losing popularity with the legalistic, Judaizing segment of people in the church, even though they were self-righteous hypocrites promoting a heretical doctrine.

The Jewish believers in Antioch followed Peter’s example and “played the hypocrite” (v. 13). This Greek word refers to an actor who wore a mask to depict a mood or certain character. In the spiritual sense, it refers to someone who masks his true character by pretending to be something he is not (Matt. 6:1–6). They were committed to the gospel of grace, but pretended to accept Jewish legalism. By withdrawing from the Gentile Christians, Peter and the other Jewish believers were not walking in line, “straightforward,” with God’s Word (v. 14). Before his gradual withdrawal, Peter regularly had fellowship and ate with the Gentiles, thus modeling the ideal of Christian love and liberty between Jew and Gentile. By his Judaizing mandate, he was declaring theirs was the right way.

Paul’s rebuke of Peter in vv. 15, 16 serves as one of the most dynamic statements in the New Testament on the absolute and unwavering necessity of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. Peter’s apparent repentance acknowledged Paul’s apostolic authority and his own submission to the truth (2 Pet. 3:15, 16).




The Spirit and Adoption

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14-16).
The Holy Spirit confirms in our hearts the reality of adoption into God’s family.

In first-century Rome, people did not practice adoption exactly the same as they do today. A father sometimes adopted a young man outside the family to be the primary heir of the father’s name and estate. If the father considered his natural sons unworthy, he would find someone else with the qualities he wanted in a son. The adopted son would then take precedence over any of the real sons in the inheritance process. Thus the new son received many rights and privileges he would not have had otherwise; he was not merely a second-class citizen rescued from homelessness.
Likewise, it requires more than a natural birth process for us to become members of God’s family. We become God’s children because He sovereignly chose to grant us spiritual rebirth (John 1:12-13). That’s the substance of biblical adoption.

Therefore, adoption and regeneration are both terms that describe how God brought us to Himself (see 2 Cor. 5:17). Regeneration makes us sons and daughters and prepares us for our eternal inheritance. Adoption names us “sons of God” and actually gives us the title to our inheritance. Once this occurs, all our former debts (sins) are canceled, and we have a right to be in God’s presence without condemnation.
The entire process of adoption is superintended by the Holy Spirit, who repeatedly confirms its reality in our hearts. He transfers us from an alien family into God’s family and thus “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). If you are a Christian, you can, by the indwelling Spirit, know that you are legally and eternally God’s child.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask the Lord to give you a renewed sense of joy and thanksgiving throughout this day as you remember the blessings of being his adopted child.

For Further Study
Read Genesis 12:1-8.
* What commands and promises did God make?
* Had Abraham known God in the same way prior to this passage?
* Does God’s promise in any sense parallel the concept of adoption? Explain.


Dealing with Despair

"Take the helmet of salvation" (Eph. 6:17).
Your helmet of salvation protects you from discouragement and despair.

We've seen how Satan attacks believers with his two-edged sword of doubt and discouragement. But he doesn't stop there. He tries to take you beyond discouragement to despair by robbing you of hope. Unless you're careful, his attacks will be successful when you're battle-weary.

The prophet Elijah is an illustration of that truth. The highlight of his ministry came atop Mount Carmel, where he slew 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Yet immediately after that great victory, he fled for his life because Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him (1 Kings 19:1- 3).

He ran from Mount Carmel into the wilderness of Beersheba, where he "sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, 'It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers'" (v. 4). He went on to moan, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away" (v. 10).

Elijah lost hope because he failed to see his circumstances through the eyes of faith; he was attempting to fight the battle on his own. He allowed himself to become emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent, and became overwhelmed with self-pity. He felt utterly alone.

But God hadn't abandoned Elijah. He was still in control and His people were numerous (v. 18). But Elijah had, in effect, removed his helmet of salvation and received a near-fatal blow to his confidence in God's blessing on his life.

There may be times when, like Elijah, you lose your confidence and doubt God's faithfulness. At such times, putting on the helmet of salvation means taking your eyes off your circumstances and trusting in God's promises. You may not always sense His presence or understand what He's doing, but be assured He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5) and His purposes will always be accomplished Rom. 8:28).

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for His unchanging character and irrevocable promises.
For Further Study
Read Isaiah 40:29-31 and Galatians 6:9.
* What promises are given in those passages?
* In what specific ways do they apply to your life?


Nicodemus’s Inquiry: What Is the Kingdom?

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:1-3).

Nicodemus came to Jesus as one of those superficial believers mentioned in John 2:23–25. But the Lord refused to accept Nicodemus’s profession, which was based on the signs he had witnessed (v. 2).

Jesus went straight to the real issue—the transformation of Nicodemus’s heart by the new birth, which is the act of God by which He imparts eternal life to those who are “dead in . . . trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Jesus answered his unasked question, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

By the “kingdom of God,” Jesus is speaking specifically of the kingdom of salvation, the spiritual realm where those who have been born again by divine power through faith now live under the rule of God mediated through His Son. Nicodemus, like his fellow Jews, eagerly anticipated that glorious realm. But they believed that being descendants of Abraham, observing the law, and performing external religious rituals would gain them entrance into that kingdom. As Jesus made clear, no matter how religiously active someone might be, no one can enter the kingdom without experiencing the personal regeneration of the new birth.

Ask Yourself
What are some questions you commonly hear that purport to be genuine interest toward Christian discipleship, but in reality are dodges and smokescreens that disguise a rebellious, disinterested heart? What’s the best way to respond to comments like these? What can you learn from Jesus’ dealings with Nicodemus?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 35:1–36:22
* Psalm 109:6-13
* Proverbs 25:27-28
* 2 Corinthians 13:1-14

Isaiah 35:6 lame…sing. God’s restoration in the millennial age is to include physical restoration to the afflicted. Jesus’ First Coming gave a foretaste of that future day (Matt. 11:5; 12:22; Mark 7:37; Luke 7:21; Acts 3:8).

Isaiah 35:8 Highway of Holiness. This refers to the way leading the redeemed back to Jerusalem, the throne of the Messiah, literally and spiritually. Christ Himself is to be the leader on that way, called in 40:3, the “way of the LORD.”

Isaiah 36:10 The LORD said. Rabshakeh’s boastful claim of the authority from Judah’s God for his mission may have been a ploy on his part to get a surrender, but it aligned with Isaiah’s prophecy that the Assyrians would be His instrument to punish His people (8:7, 8; 10:5, 6). The Assyrians may have heard this from partisans or may not have known this, but Judah did.

Proverbs 25:28 city broken down. Such are exposed and vulnerable to the incursion of evil thoughts and successful temptations.

2 Corinthians 13:12 a holy kiss. A sign of greeting in biblical times (Matt. 26:49; Luke 7:45), much like the modern handshake. For Christians, it further expressed brotherly love and unity (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Pet. 5:14).

What was Paul’s final warning to the Corinthians?
In 2 Corinthians 12:20, 21, it is clear that when he visited them, Paul did not want to find the Corinthians in the same sorry spiritual condition as on his last visit (the “painful visit,” 2:1). If he found that they were not what he wished (i.e., still practicing the sins he listed), they would find him not as they wished—he would have had to discipline them (13:2). To find the Corinthians still living in unrepentant sin would both humiliate and sadden Paul. This warning (and the one in 13:2) was designed to prevent that from happening.

“I will not spare” (v. 2). Paul informed the Corinthians that he would deal biblically with any sin he found in Corinth. Those Corinthians still seeking proof that Paul was a genuine apostle would have it when he arrived (v. 3). They may have gotten more than they bargained for, however, for Paul was going to use his apostolic authority and power to deal with any sin and rebellion he found there. Christ’s power was to be revealed through Paul against the sinning Corinthians (1 Cor.11:30–32). Paul was to come to Corinth armed with the irresistible power of the risen, glorified Christ (v. 4).
In vv. 5, 6, the Greek grammar places great emphasis on the pronouns “yourselves” and “you.” Paul turned the tables on his accusers. Instead of presuming to evaluate his apostleship, they needed to test the genuineness of their faith (James 2:14–26). He pointed out the incongruity of the Corinthians’ believing (as they did) that their faith was genuine and his apostleship false. Paul was their spiritual father (1 Cor. 4:15). If his apostleship was counterfeit, so was their faith. The genuineness of their salvation was proof of the genuineness of his apostleship.




The Spirit and Assurance

“You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9).
The indwelling Holy Spirit gives us an assurance of salvation.

Assurance of salvation is essential to our Christian lives, and I can’t imagine living without it. And we must have clarity about it from a truly biblical standpoint. This begins with realizing that a genuine believer is in the Spirit and has been given a new nature (see John 3:6). If the Holy Spirit lives in you, you are no longer controlled by the sinful tendencies of the flesh, as Paul suggests in Romans 8:9. The Greek term for “dwells” indicates that the Holy Spirit makes His home in you and in every believer.
But today’s verse also points out that if someone does not have the Holy Spirit within him, he doesn’t belong to Christ. From time to time—perhaps for you it’s the first time—we need to be warned about that. Being in the Spirit is not merely professing Jesus, having a pious appearance, or attending church. No matter what we claim, if we aren’t fulfilling God’s law, desiring to walk by the Spirit, and wholeheartedly seeking the things of the Spirit, He is not in us.

Second Corinthians 13:5 exhorts, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” You can do this by looking for evidences of the Holy Spirit in your life. Have you sensed the presence of the Spirit’s fruit in your life (Gal. 5:22-23)? Do you struggle with sin and have a desire to be free from all its influences (Rom. 7:14-25; Gal. 5:16-17)? Have you experienced the actions and attitudes the Holy Spirit brings to your daily life, as we studied earlier this month? Do you yearn for a closer communion with God and a deeper fellowship with other believers? If you can answer yes to these questions, you have solid reasons to be sure the Spirit lives in you and to know for certain that you belong to Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for the reminders His Spirit gives you that you belong to Christ.
For Further Study
Read 1 John 5:1-12.
* What indicators does John give us that would also provide us with an assurance of salvation?
* What role does the Holy Spirit have in this passage?


Conquering Doubt

"Take the helmet of salvation" (Eph. 6:17).
The key to conquering doubt is to focus on the preserving power of God.
Doubt comes to Christians in many ways. After you've sinned, your conscience might hiss at you, saying, "Surely you're not a Christian. Why would God save you anyway? You don't deserve His mercy. You're not good enough. How presumptuous to think God could ever use you!" Such doubts are common among Christians who focus on their performance rather than God's power.

All too often we're quick to acknowledge God's power to save us but slow to understand His power to keep us. To complicate matters, many Christians believe they can lose their salvation, so they live in constant fear of falling away from the faith. Still others have never learned what Scripture teaches about their security in Christ. They're so intent on pleasing God through their own efforts that they lose sight of grace and drift into a subtle works- righteousness mentality.

Your performance doesn't determine your standing in Christ; your standing in Christ determines your performance. Good works are the necessary result of salvation (Eph. 2:10) but they don't save you or keep you saved. That's God's work.

Jude said, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy" (v. 24). "Able" in that verse translates a Greek word that speaks of power. "Keep" literally means "to secure in the midst of an attack." "Stumbling" refers to falling into sin. Together they say that God is powerful enough to prevent you from stumbling into sin and falling away from Him—no matter how intense Satan's attacks might be. He will continue to protect and cleanse you until the day you enter His glorious heaven perfected.

Sin is a serious issue and you should never take it lightly. But when you do sin, remember that as a believer you're immediately cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). So always confess your sins and turn from them, but never doubt God's power or willingness to keep you saved. Trust in His grace, not in your ability to perform.

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise the Lord for continually cleansing your sin.
For Further Study
Memorize Jude 24-25 and recite it often as a reminder of God's power and majesty.


Spurious vs. Saving Faith

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:23–25).

After the Passover, Jesus remained in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During His stay He performed a number of miracles not recorded in Scripture. As a result of those miracles, John says, “Many believed in His name.”

But this faith was shallow, superficial, and disingenuous. It was not true saving faith, as John’s play on words indicates. “Believed” in verse 23 and “entrusting” in verse 24 both come from the same Greek verb. Though they believed in Jesus, Jesus did not believe in them; He had no faith in their faith.

Although many claimed to believe, Jesus knew that mere intellectual assent proves nothing; even the demons have such faith (James 2:19). Jesus did not embrace the false faith manifested by those who witnessed His signs, because “He knew all men,” and therefore “did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” He knows the true state of every heart. He saw in Nathanael the heart of an honest, true seeker (1:47); He saw in these people a superficial façade—a mere outward attraction to spectacular signs (cf. 6:2). Genuine saving faith goes far beyond that. It demands wholehearted commitment to Jesus as the Lord of one’s life (Matt. 16:24–26; Rom. 10:9). Is that the state of your heart?

Ask Yourself
It’s certainly fine to admire godly people and aspire to be like them. But if you haven’t noticed already, these same ones will eventually do or say something to spoil your image of them. We will too, if others look up to us. When you see Jesus in someone, don’t strive to be like them but to be like Him.


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 33:1–34:17
* Psalm 109:1-5
* Proverbs 25:25-26
* 2 Corinthians 12:1-21

Isaiah 33:17 King in His beauty. The prophecy moves beyond Hezekiah in his sackcloth, oppressed by his enemy, to the Messiah in His beauty. Seeing Him in glory is another reward of the righteous. The near-future deliverance from Sennacherib anticipates a more distant wonder when the Messiah will sit on His throne.

Proverbs 25:26 murky spring. The righteous one who sins muddies the water for the wicked who see him and for whom he should serve as an example of righteousness (Ps. 17:5).

2 Corinthians 12:2–4 Since it took place 14 years before the writing of 2 Corinthians, the specific vision Paul relates cannot be identified with any incident recorded in Acts. It probably took place between his return to Tarsus from Jerusalem (Acts 9:30) and the start of his missionary journeys (Acts 13:1–3). caught up to the third heaven…caught up into Paradise. Paul was not describing two separate visions—“the third heaven” and “Paradise” are the same place (Rev. 2:7, which says the tree of life is in Paradise, with Rev. 22:14, which says it is in heaven). The first heaven is the earth’s atmosphere (Gen. 8:2; Deut. 11:11; 1 Kin. 8:35); the second is interplanetary and interstellar space (Gen. 15:5; Ps. 8:3; Is. 13:10); and the third the abode of God (1 Kin. 8:30; 2 Chr.30:27; Ps. 123:1).

2 Corinthians 12:8 I pleaded…three times. Paul, longing for relief from this painful hindrance to his ministry, went to his Lord, begging Him (the use of the definite article with “Lord” shows Paul’s prayer was directed to Jesus) to remove it. The demons are only subject to His authority. The 3-fold repetition of Paul’s request parallels that of Jesus in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–41). Both Paul and Jesus had their requests denied, but were granted grace to endure their ordeals.

2 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you. The present tense of the verb translated “is sufficient” reveals the constant availability of divine grace. God would not remove the thorn, as Paul had requested, but would continually supply him with grace to endure it (1 Cor. 15:10; Phil. 4:13; Col. 1:29). My strength is made perfect in weakness. The weaker the human instrument, the more clearly God’s grace shines forth.

To what was Paul referring by the term “thorn in the flesh”?
Paul began his account about the “thorn in the flesh” by indicating the reason it was given to him—“lest I should be exalted above measure.” The assault was painful, but purposeful. As with Job, Satan was the immediate cause, but God was the ultimate cause. God was allowing Satan to bring this severe trouble in the church for the purpose of humbling Paul who, having had so many revelations, including a trip to heaven and back, would have been proud.

Paul’s use of the word “messenger” (Greek, angellos, or angel) from Satan suggests the “thorn in the flesh” (literally, “a stake for the flesh”) was a demon, not a physical illness. Of the 188 uses of the Greek word angellos in the New Testament, at least 180 are in reference to angels. This angel was from Satan, a demon afflicting Paul.

Possibly, the best explanation for this demon was that he was indwelling the ring leader of the Corinthian conspiracy, the leader of the false apostles. Through them he was tearing up Paul’s beloved church and thus driving a painful stake through Paul. Further support for this view comes from the context of chapters 10–13, which is one of fighting adversaries (the false prophets). The verb translated “buffet” always refers to ill treatment from other people (Matt. 26:67; Mark 14:65; 1 Cor. 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:20). Finally, the Old Testament describes Israel’s personal opponents as thorns (Num. 33:55; Josh. 23:13; Judg. 2:3; Ezek. 28:24).




Fulfilling God's Law

“In order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).
If the Holy Spirit resides within us, we will be able to fulfill the demands of God’s law.
Augustine once said, “Grace was given, in order that the law might be fulfilled.” When God saves us He, by His Spirit, creates within us the ability to obey His perfect law. Because we now live “according to the Spirit”—walking by the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit—we are able to do the righteous things God’s law requires.

Isn’t it wonderful that the Lord no longer expects His law to be lived out only by means of an external code of ethics? Now holiness, righteousness, and obedience to the law are internal, the products of the indwelling Holy Spirit (see Ezek. 11:19-20).

God’s salvation is more than a spiritual transaction by which He imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. It is more than a forensic action by which He judicially declared us righteous. As great and vital as those doctrines are, they were not applied to us apart from God’s planting His Spirit within our hearts and enabling our lives to manifest the Spirit’s fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

We need to remind ourselves regularly that God’s purpose for us after He redeemed us was that we might live a holy life filled with good works (Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14). Whenever you are disobedient to God’s will and purpose, you are quenching the Holy Spirit and fighting against yourself and what you know is right. Such disobedience makes about as much sense as the person who holds his breath for no reason and therefore makes his lungs resist their natural function. The believer who disobeys, especially one who persists in a sin, prevents the Spirit from naturally leading him along the path of holiness.

We are not perfect after our salvation—that won’t happen until glorification (1 John 3:2-3)—but the Holy Spirit will empower us to live in ways pleasing to God, which is the kind of righteousness that fulfills His law.

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank the Lord that you don’t have to meet the demands of the law solely by your own strength.

For Further Study
Read Romans 6.
* What happened to your old self at the time of your conversion?
* How must that affect the way you live?


Repelling Discouragement and Doubt

"Take the helmet of salvation" (Eph. 6:17).
Discouragement and doubt are deflected when you know you’re secure in Christ.
The Roman soldier's helmet was a crucial piece of armor designed to deflect blows to the head—especially the potentially lethal blow of a broadsword. Soldiers of that day carried a swift and precise dagger designed for close- quarter hand-to-hand combat. But they also carried a giant broadsword, which was a two-edged, three to four-foot long sword. It had a massive handle that, similar to a baseball bat, was held with both hands. With it they could take broad swipes from side to side or deliver a crushing blow to an opponent's skull.

To protect us from Satan's crushing blows, Paul tells us to "take the helmet of salvation." Now considering all he's been telling us so far, he was not saying, "Oh, by the way, go get saved." Paul was addressing believers. Unbelievers don't have to put on spiritual armor. They aren't even in the battle. Satan doesn't attack his own forces.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 Paul describes the helmet of salvation as "the hope of salvation." That implies Satan's most fierce and powerful blows are directed at the believer's assurance and security. Therefore Paul was encouraging believers to have confidence in the salvation they already possess. He knew that doubting their security in Christ would render them ineffective in spiritual warfare—just as a blow to the head renders one's physical body incapable of defending itself.

As a believer, you should have the assurance that you are secure in Christ. If you don't, you haven't put your helmet on, and that makes you vulnerable to discouragement and doubt. Romans 8:29-30assures us that all whom God justifies, He sanctifies and glorifies. No one is lost in the process.

Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28). That's a wonderful promise. So don't let your enemy rob you of the joy and assurance of knowing you belong to Christ, for the Lord will never let you go (Heb. 13:5).

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for your eternal security in Christ!

For Further Study
Read John 6:37-40.
* Who receives eternal life?
* How does Christ respond to those who come to Him?


Sign of the Resurrection

“The Jews then said to Him, ‘What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (John 2:18–22).

The Jewish authorities completely missed the point of Jesus’ statement, incorrectly applying it to the Herodian temple. But as John points out, Jesus “was speaking of the temple of His body.”

The sign He would give was His own resurrection, which even His disciples did not immediately understand (cf. 12:16). It was not until “He was raised from the dead [that] His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” His death as the ultimate sacrificial Lamb would render the Jerusalem temple obsolete (cf. 4:21); and His resurrection as the triumphant Lord would lay the foundation for a new, spiritual temple in its place—namely the church (1 Cor. 3:16–17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19–22).

It was not until after the resurrection that everything came into focus for the disciples. Only then did they recognize Jesus’ power of resurrection as convincing proof of His deity.

Ask Yourself
Have you been confused recently by a section of Scripture that puzzles you with its mystery, or seems to scrape against other things you’ve been taught in the past? If your heart is set on learning and obeying, rather than arguing or resisting, be sure that the Holy Spirit will reveal truth as you seek Him for it.


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 30:1–32:20
* Psalm 108:7-13
* Proverbs 25:23-24
* 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Isaiah 30:1 not of Me…not of My Spirit. Hezekiah’s advisers urged him to turn to the Egyptians, not to God, for help against the invading Assyrians. Isaiah denounced this reliance on Egypt rather than God, who had forbidden such alliances.

Isaiah 30:33 Tophet. Literally, a place of abomination. Idolatrous Israel had burned to death human victims in this valley just south of Jerusalem, an area sometimes called the Valley of Hinnom (2 Kin. 23:10; Jer. 19:6). Later it became known as Gehenna, the place of refuse for the city, with constantly burning fires, symbolizing hell. The defeat was to be so complete that the fire burns continually.

2 Corinthians 11:19–21 These verses contain some of the most scathing sarcasm Paul ever penned, demonstrating the seriousness of the situation at Corinth and revealing the jealous concern of a godly pastor. Paul did not view his disagreement with the false apostles as a mere academic debate; the souls of the Corinthians and the purity of the gospel were at stake.

2 Corinthians 11:20 brings you into bondage. The Greek verb translated by this phrase appears elsewhere in the New Testament only in Galatians 2:4, where it speaks of the Galatians’ enslavement by the Judaizers. The false apostles had robbed the Corinthians of their freedom in Christ (Gal. 5:1). devours you. Or “preys upon you.” This probably refers to the false teachers’ demands for financial support (the same verb appears in Luke 20:47 where Jesus denounces the Pharisees for devouring widows’ houses). takes from you. Better translated “takes advantage of you.” The false apostles were attempting to catch the Corinthians like fish in a net (Luke 5:5, 6). exalts himself. This refers to one who is presumptuous, puts on airs, acts arrogantly, or lords it over people (1 Pet. 5:3). strikes you on the face. The false apostles may have physically abused the Corinthians, but the phrase is more likely used in a metaphorical sense (1 Cor. 9:27) to speak of the false teachers’ humiliation of the Corinthians. To strike someone on the face was a sign of disrespect and contempt (1 Kin. 22:24; Luke 22:64; Acts 23:2).

What had being a minister of Christ cost the apostle Paul?
Contrasting his ministry to the false apostles in 2 Corinthians 11:23, Paul spoke of “in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.” This is a general summation of Paul’s sufferings for the gospel. The next few verses give specific examples, many of which are not found in Acts.

“Forty stripes minus one” (v. 24). Deuteronomy 25:1–3 set 40 as the maximum number that could legally be administered. In Paul’s day the Jews reduced that number by one to avoid accidentally going over the maximum. Jesus warned that His followers would receive such beatings (Matt. 10:17).

“Beaten with rods” (v. 25). Refers to Roman beatings with flexible sticks tied together (Acts 16:22, 23). “Once I was stoned”—at Lystra (Acts 14:19,20). “Three times I was shipwrecked.” Not including the shipwreck on his journey as a prisoner to Rome (Acts 27), which had not yet taken place. Paul had been on several sea voyages up to this time, giving ample opportunity for the 3 shipwrecks to have occurred. “A night and a day I have been in the deep.” At least one of the shipwrecks was so severe that Paul spent an entire day floating on the wreckage, waiting to be rescued.

“In perils” (v. 26). Those connected with his frequent travels. “Waters” (rivers) and “robbers” posed a serious danger to travelers in the ancient world. Paul’s journey from Perga to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14), for example, required him to travel through the robber-infested Taurus Mountains and to cross two dangerous, flood-prone rivers. Paul was frequently in danger from his “own countrymen” (Acts 9:23, 29; 13:45; 14:2, 19; 17:5; 18:6, 12–16; 20:3, 19; 21:27–32) and, less often, from “Gentiles” (Acts 16:16–40; 19:23–20:1). “False brethren.” Those who appeared to be Christians, but were not, such as the false apostles (v. 13) and the Judaizers (Gal. 2:4).

And far worse than the occasional physical suffering Paul endured—weariness and toil, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, fastings, and cold—was the constant, daily burden of concern for the churches that he felt (v. 28). Those who were “weak” (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8) in faith or were “made to stumble” into sin caused him intense emotional pain.




Spirit-Filled Submission

“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

Spirit-filled believers will submit to one another.
To the world, submission implies personal weakness or the coercive dominance of one person by another stronger, more intimidating individual. Such perspectives, however, are unbiblical. The noted expositor Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes submission’s original meaning in a military context, which helps us understand its scriptural definition:

It is the picture of soldiers in a regiment, soldiers in a line under an officer . . . and if he [the soldier] begins to act on his own, and independently of the others, he is guilty of insubordination and will be punished accordingly. Such is the word the Apostle uses; so what he is saying amounts to this—that we who are filled with the Spirit are to behave voluntarily in that way with respect to one another. We are members of the same regiment, we are units in this same great army. We are to do that voluntarily which the soldier is “forced” to do.

In addition to Ephesians 5:21, the New Testament repeatedly expresses the importance of submitting to one another. Philippians 2:3-4 tell us how mutual submission ought to operate: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” And Hebrews 13:17 commands us to submit to our spiritual leaders: “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

The only way we can possess any of those traits or exhibit any of that behavior is to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit. Then we will be able to voluntarily and joyfully submit to the Lord and one another in love, just as the apostle John urges: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

Suggestions for Prayer
Examine your heart and see if your attitude has been a biblically submissive one.
Ask God’s Spirit to reveal and correct any sinful shortcomings you’ve had in that regard.

For Further Study
Read Romans 12:10; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Timothy 5:21; James 2:1. List comparisons and contrasts between these verses and what Philippians 2:3-4 says about mutual submission.


Extinguishing Satan's Fiery Darts

"In addition to all, [take] up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16).
Don’t elevate Satan’s will above God’s will in your life.

In Ephesians 6:13 Paul characterizes Satan as "the evil one" who attacks believers with flaming missiles. The Greek word translated "evil one" literally means "bad," "vile," or "wretched." All are apt descriptions of the archenemy of our souls, who seeks to maim and destroy us spiritually.

The term "flaming missiles" pictures one of the Roman weapons of Paul's day: arrows that had pitch-soaked cotton material affixed to their tips. In battle they were set on fire and shot at the enemy. As the arrow hit its target, flaming pitch spread onto clothing and other flammable surfaces. Under such attacks a Roman soldier without a shield was in a perilous situation indeed.

Satan's flaming arrows come in many forms: solicitations to impurity, selfishness, doubt, fear, disappointment, greed, vanity, covetousness, and the like. But whatever the specific form, all are seducing temptations aimed at eliciting ungodly responses.
Your faith protects you from such attacks when you elevate God's will above Satan's in your life. When tempted by Satan, Jesus responded by saying in effect, "I will not violate my Father's will by yielding to your devious schemes. In His own time He will feed Me, anoint Me as Messiah, and give Me the kingdoms of the world. I will not elevate your will and timing above His" (Matt. 4:1-11).

Jesus could have created food. He is the Messiah and the sovereign Lord over the kingdoms of the world. But He trusted the Father and yielded to His will, even though it meant personal discomfort and, eventually, the cross. When Satan saw that Jesus' trust in the Father was unshakable, he left Him (v. 11). That's the power of faith.
I pray you will show similar strength in times of testing. Satan will flee from you if you "resist him, firm in your faith" (1 Pet. 5:9).

Suggestions for Prayer
Praise Jesus for His sinless character and His example of how to triumph over temptation.
For Further Study
Memorize James 4:7 as a reminder of the importance of resisting Satan.


The Significance of Temple Cleansing

“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house will consume me’” (John 2:13–17).

The Feast of Passover in Jerusalem each year meant big business for Jerusalem-based merchants. They sold animals necessary for the sacrifices at inflated prices to Jewish pilgrims who found it impractical to bring their own from their homes in distant lands.

Also, every Jewish male twenty years of age or older had to pay the annual temple tax (Matt. 17:24–27). But it could be paid only by using Jewish or Tyrian coins, so foreigners had to exchange their money for acceptable coinage. Because they held a monopoly, money changers charged an exorbitant fee.

What should have been a place of sacred reverence and adoration had become a place of abusive commerce and excessive overpricing.
Realizing that the purity of temple worship was a matter of honor to God, Jesus took swift and decisive action. The intensity of His righteous indignation was unmistakable—Christ would not tolerate any mockery of the spirit of true worship.

Ask Yourself
Are there instances in which we have turned the worship of God into something less than it should be—perhaps into something it should never be? What kind of heart do you intend to bring with you the next time you join with others in the Lord’s house for worship?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 29:1–24
* Psalm 108:1-6
* Proverbs 25:21-22
* 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Isaiah 29:10 spirit of deep sleep. Because Israel refused to hear her true prophets initially, their ability to hear has been impaired. God gave them up judicially to their own hardness of heart. Paul applied this verse specifically to the general condition of Israel’s blindness during the age of the church (Rom. 11:8). prophets…seers. False prophets and seers have blinded their listeners with their false prophecies.

Isaiah 29:13 hearts far from Me. Empty ritualism does not bring closeness to God. Jesus used this verse to describe the Judaism of His day (Matt. 15:7–9; Mark 7:6, 7).
Isaiah 29:22 redeemed Abraham. God delivered Abraham from his pagan background when He brought him from beyond the Euphrates River into the land of Canaan (Josh. 24:2, 3). Paul elaborates on this theme in Romans 4:1–22. not now be ashamed. Israel in her history had frequently suffered disgrace, but the personal presence of the Messiah is to change that (45:17; 49:23; 50:7; 54:4). After the salvation of Israel in the end time, the children of Jacob will no longer cause their forefathers to blush over their wickedness.

Proverbs 25:21, 22 As metals are melted by placing fiery coals on them, so is the heart of an enemy softened by such kindness. Contrast the coals of judgment in Psalm 140:10. Paul quotes this proverb in Romans 12:20.

2 Corinthians 11:7 free of charge. Greek culture measured the importance of a teacher by the fee he could command. The false apostles therefore accused Paul of being a counterfeit, since he refused to charge for his services (1 Cor. 9:1–15). They convinced the Corinthians to be offended by Paul’s refusal to accept support from them, offering that as evidence that he did not love them (v. 11). Paul’s resort to manual labor to support himself (Acts 18:1–3) also embarrassed the Corinthians, who felt such work to be beneath the dignity of an apostle. With biting irony Paul asked his accusers how foregoing his right to support could possibly be a sin. In fact, by refusing support he had humbled himself so they could be exalted, i.e., lifted out of their sin and idolatry.

2 Corinthians 11:13–15 No longer speaking with veiled irony or defending himself, Paul bluntly and directly exposed the false apostles for what they were—emissaries of Satan. Not only was their claim to apostleship false, so also was their doctrine. As satanic purveyors of false teaching, they were under the curse of Galatians 1:8, 9. Paul’s forceful language may seem harsh, but it expressed the godly jealousy he felt for the Corinthians. Paul was unwilling to sacrifice truth for the sake of unity.

Why was Paul so emotional about the Corinthians’ spiritual welfare?
In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul said, “I am jealous for you with godly jealousy.” Paul was concerned to the point of jealousy, a zeal for their spiritual purity. Jealousy inspired by zeal for God’s causes, and thus similar to God’s own jealousy for His holy name and His people’s loyalty (Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16, 21; Josh. 24:19; Ps. 78:58; Ezek. 39:25; Nah.1:2). “I have betrothed you to one husband.” As their spiritual father (12:14; 1 Cor. 4:15; 9:1, 2), Paul portrayed the Corinthians like a daughter, whom he betrothed to Jesus Christ (at their conversion). “A chaste virgin to Christ.” Having betrothed or pledged the Corinthians to Christ, Paul wanted them to be pure until the marriage day finally arrived (Rev. 19:7).

Paul compared the danger facing the Corinthian church to Eve’s deception by Satan (v. 3). He feared the Corinthians, like Eve, would fall prey to satanic lies and have their minds corrupted. The tragic result would be the abandonment of their simple devotion to Christ in favor of the sophisticated error of the false apostles. Paul’s allusion to Genesis 3 implies that the false apostles were Satan’s emissaries—a truth that he later made explicit (vv. 13–15).

The false apostles came into the Corinthian church from the outside—just as Satan did into the Garden (v. 4). It is likely that they were Palestinian Jews (v. 22; Acts 6:1) who allegedly sought to bring the Corinthians under the sway of the Jerusalem church. They were in a sense Judaizers, seeking to impose Jewish customs on the Corinthians. Unlike the Judaizers who plagued the Galatian churches (Gal. 5:2), however, the false apostles at Corinth apparently did not insist that the Corinthians be circumcised. Nor did they practice a rigid legalism; in fact, they apparently encouraged licentiousness (12:21). Their fascination with rhetoric and oratory (10:10) suggests they had been influenced by Greek culture and philosophy.

Though their teaching may have differed from the Galatian Judaizers, it was just as deadly. “Another Jesus…a different spirit…a different gospel” (v. 4). Paul’s quarrel with the false apostles was not personal, but doctrinal. Those who adulterated the true gospel received Paul’s strongest condemnation (Gal. 1:6–9). Paul’s fear that the Corinthians would embrace the damning lies of the false apostles prompted his jealous concern for them.




Spirit-Filled Gratitude

“Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:20).

Sincere thanks to God will result at all times if we are truly filled with the Spirit.

I’m convinced that gratitude is the single greatest act of personal worship we can render to God. And today’s verse plainly asserts that thankfulness should be a well-rounded, consistent response to whatever God allows to happen in our lives (see 1 Thess. 5:18). 

Such a thankful attitude is impossible in our own strength, but as the Holy Spirit indwells us, He graciously and mercifully enables us to be thankful at all times, without exception.
It follows that if a Spirit-filled believer is enabled to give thanks at all times, he will also be strengthened to give thanks “for all things.” Implicit in Paul’s words are the hard things (see also James 1:2-5; 1 Peter 2:20-21); but there are also dozens of blessings that we must not neglect to be grateful for. Here are some primary examples: God’s goodness and mercy (Ps. 106:1), the gift of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 9:15), the gospel’s triumph (2 Cor. 2:14), and victory over death (1 Cor. 15:56-57).

The Spirit-filled Christian will always display his gratefulness in the name of Christ to God the Father. We could not be thankful at all if it were not for the Person and work of Jesus Christ. So to be thankful in His name simply means it will be consistent with His character and deeds (see Eph. 1:5-8, 11-12).

God is the ultimate object of all our thanksgivings, and Father is the name that highlights His loving benevolence and the constant flow of His gracious gifts that come to those who know Him (see James 1:17). We just can’t escape the importance of our continually offering thanks to God on every occasion, for everything. 

Hebrews 13:15 presents us with this excellent summary: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

Suggestions for Prayer
Think of something you have not thanked God for in the past. Confess that neglect, and begin thanking Him for it regularly from now on.

For Further Study
Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-23.
* How was that opportunity for gratitude different from those mentioned in the lesson?
* How did Jehoshaphat demonstrate His trust in God?


Trusting God

"In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16).

Intense spiritual warfare calls for intense trust in God.
An on-duty Roman soldier was always dressed for battle but didn't employ his shield, helmet, and sword until the fighting started. But we as Christians must be ready for battle at all times because our enemy is relentless. We can't afford to overlook a single piece of armor or slip into complacency or neglect.

In that regard, Ephesians 6:16 says in effect, "Now that you've prepared for battle by girding your loins with truth, protecting your vital organs with the breastplate of righteousness, and securing your feet with the gospel of peace, don't forget to take up your shield."

Two types of shields were commonly used by Roman soldiers. One was a small, lightweight, round shield that was strapped to the soldier's left forearm and used to parry blows during hand-to-hand combat. The other, which Paul refers to here, was a large shield measuring about four-and- a-half-feet high and two-and-a-half-feet wide. It was made of sturdy wood covered with metal and a thick layer of oil- treated leather. The metal deflected arrows while the oily leather extinguished the fiery pitch that arrows were commonly swabbed with. That type of shield was ideal for full-body protection.

In the initial stages of a battle, the front-line soldiers knelt behind their large shields to protect themselves and provide a defense barrier for the troops behind them who were firing offensive weapons. The goal was to inch their way forward as a human wall until they could engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

As a believer, the shield that protects you is your faith in God. If you never question His character, power, or Word, you'll never fall victim to Satan's attacks. That doesn't mean he won't beseige you—but when he does, his assaults will be ineffective.

Suggestions for Prayer
Faith is a precious gift from God (Phil. 1:29). Thank Him for it and ask for wisdom to apply it properly when spiritual struggles come (James 1:5).

For Further Study
Read Romans 8:31-39.
* Meditate on the victory you have in Christ.
* What effect should that have on your daily living?


The Importance of the Miracle at Cana

“This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11).
When Jesus turned water into wine, His purpose was not to amaze His audience with His power. His miracles met specific needs, such as opening blind eyes or deaf ears, delivering those oppressed by demons, feeding hungry people, or calming a threatening storm. This miracle met the genuine need of the family and their guests.

But even more important, this first of Jesus’ signs manifested His glory (cf. 1:14)—He put His deity on display. Jesus’ signs were not simply powerful displays of compassion, but were designed to reveal who He really was, since they unmistakably manifest God at work. Signs, miracles, and wonders nevertheless do not necessarily convince people to believe in the Lord and the gospel.

Amazingly, Jesus seems to have left Cana with only the disciples who had come there with Him, despite having performed a miracle, the likes of which had not happened since God created flour and oil in the days of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:8–16; 2 Kings 4:1–7). The obvious deduction that He was the Messiah escaped the people; they saw the sign, but missed what it pointed to.

His disciples, however, believed in Him. Having heard John the Baptist’s testimony that Jesus was the Messiah (1:34), having heard Jesus’ own words (1:39) and believed in Him (1:41), they now saw firsthand miraculous confirmation of that faith.

Ask Yourself
There is not a need He hasn’t met in your life, even though it may appear so at times. If a “need” goes unmet, it’s only because there is reason to wait or because we have incorrectly categorized our desire as a demand. As you bring your needs before Him today, you can be sure He hears you and responds.


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 27:1–28:29
* Psalm 107:33-43
* Proverbs 25:20
* 2 Corinthians 10:1-18

Isaiah 28:16 stone for a foundation,…a sure foundation. The Lord God contrasted the only sure refuge with the false refuge of relying on foreigners (v. 15).This directly prophesied the coming of the Messiah (Matt.21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Rom.9:33; Eph.2:20; 1 Pet.2:6–8; 8:14, 15; Ps. 118:22). will not act hastily. The Greek Old Testament interprets this Hebrew verb for “hurry” in the sense of “put to shame,” furnishing the basis of the New Testament citations of this verse (Rom. 9:33; 10:11; 1 Pet. 2:6).

Isaiah 28:23 Give ear. The parable of a farmer underlined the lessons of judgment threats in vv. 18–22. As the farmer does his different tasks, each in the right season and proportion, so God adopts His measures to His purposes: now mercy, then judgment; punishing sooner, then later. His purpose was not to destroy His people, any more than the farmer’s object in his threshing or plowing is to destroy his crop.

Proverbs 25:20 vinegar on soda. Pouring vinegar on an alkali (e.g., baking soda) produces a reaction like boiling or turning tranquility into agitation. So is the effect of singing joyful songs without sympathy to the sorrowful.
2 Corinthians 10:4 our warfare. The motif of the Christian life as warfare is a common one in the New Testament (6:7; Eph. 6:10–18; 1 Tim. 1:18; 2 Tim. 2:3, 4; 4:7). carnal. Human. strongholds. The metaphor would have been readily understandable to the Corinthians since Corinth, like most ancient cities, had a fortress in which its residents could take refuge. 

The formidable spiritual strongholds manned by the forces of hell can be demolished only by spiritual weapons wielded by godly believers—singularly the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17), since only the truth of God’s Word can defeat satanic falsehoods. This is the true spiritual warfare. Believers are not instructed in the New Testament to assault demons or Satan, but to assault error with the truth. That is our battle (John 17:17; Heb. 4:12).

2 Corinthians 10:5 arguments. Thoughts, ideas, speculations, reasonings, philosophies, and false religions are the ideological forts in which men barricade themselves against God and the gospel (1 Cor. 3:20). every thought into captivity. Emphasizes the total destruction of the fortresses of human and satanic wisdom and the rescuing of those inside from the damning lies that had enslaved them.

Why does the tone of 2 Corinthians change so abruptly between 9:15 and 10:1?
Even a casual reader usually notices the abrupt change in tone that occurs between the ninth and tenth chapters. This apparent difference has prompted various explanations of the relationship between chapters 1–9 and 10–13.
Some argue that chapters 10–13 were originally part of the “severe letter” (2:4), and hence belong chronologically before chapters 1–9. Chapters 10–13 cannot, however, have been written before chapters 1–9, since they refer to Titus’s visit as a past event (12:18; 8:6). Further, the offender whose defiance of Paul prompted the “severe letter” (2:5–8) is nowhere mentioned in chapters 10–13.

Others agree that chapters 10–13 belong after chapters 1–9, but believe they form a separate letter. They assume that Paul, after sending chapters 1–9 to the Corinthians, received reports of new trouble at Corinth and wrote chapters 10–13 in response. A variation of this view is that Paul paused in his writing of 2 Corinthians after chapters 1–9, then heard bad news from Corinth before he resumed writing chapters 10–13.This view preserves the unity of 2 Corinthians; however, Paul does not mention anywhere in chapters 10–13 that he received any fresh news from Corinth.

The best interpretation views 2 Corinthians as a unified letter, with chapters 1–9 addressed to the repentant majority (2:6) and chapters 10–13 to the minority still influenced by the false teachers. The support for this view is that: 1) there is no historical evidence (from Greek manuscripts, the writings of the church fathers, or early translations) that chapters 10–13 ever circulated as a separate letter—all Greek manuscripts have them following chapters 1–9; 2) the differences in tone between chapters 10–13 and 1–9 have been exaggerated (11:11; 12:14 with 6:11; 7:2); and 3) chapters 10–13 form the logical conclusion to chapters 1–9, as Paul prepared the Corinthians for his promised visit (1:15, 16; 2:1–3).




Spirit-Filled Song

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).
If we are Spirit-filled, we will have songs of praise in our hearts and on our lips.

Once a Christian knows about being Spirit-filled and walking by the Spirit, it is still fair for him or her to ask, “But how can I know if the Holy Spirit is really at work in my life?” Ephesians 5:19 answers this question by declaring one of the unmistakable evidences of the Spirit’s full operation in our lives—we will have a song in our hearts.

The Bible does not give us much detail about the practical use of music and song, but there are enough references so that its significance to God and His people is clear. The Israelites praised God after He rescued them from the Egyptians (Ex. 15). The Psalms are filled with songs and praise, epitomized by the final verse, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (150:6).

In the New Testament, Jesus and the disciples closed the Last Supper by singing a hymn (Matt. 26:30). Paul and Silas sang while they were imprisoned at Philippi (Acts 16:25). During his vision in Revelation 5, the apostle John sees this: “When He [Christ, the Lamb] had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song” (vv. 8-9).

That “new song” John was about to hear sung before God’s throne was not just new chronologically—it was new qualitatively. Here as elsewhere in the New Testament, “new” is used in relation to God’s salvation, which means it makes perfect sense for us to sing a new song—one that is far better than the world’s songs—if we are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. Words of genuine praise should well up in our hearts often and at the appropriate times break forth from our lips as we reflect the joy of the Spirit-filled life.

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God specifically for some of your favorite hymns.
For Further Study
Read Revelation 5:1-14 for the complete context of John’s new song.
* What is the song’s theme?
* How many eventually join in the praises?


Selecting the Proper Shoes

"Stand firm . . . having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:14-15).

Standing firm while in the conflict requires the right kind of spiritual footwear.

I'll never forget a game that took place at the Rose Bowl during my college football days. Being winter time and late in the football season, the field was in bad shape from several days of rain and an entire season of wear and tear. 

However, the grounds crew painted the field green, so it looked much better than it actually was. I had two pairs of football shoes: one with long spikes for bad turf and one with short spikes for good turf. Thinking the field looked pretty good, I opted to wear the short spikes.

On the opening kick-off I caught the ball on the four- yard line, took two steps, and immediately landed on my backside. That's not unusual after a tackle, but in this case there wasn't an opponent in sight! I slipped in the mud—my shoes betrayed me.
Since proper shoes are important in athletics, how much more so are they when fighting for your life. Roman soldiers took great care in selecting just the right shoe. Typically they wore a thick-soled semi-boot with straps securing it to the leg. On the bottom of the soles were hobnails that protruded like the cleats of a track or baseball shoe. The thick soles protected the feet from injury; the hobnails provided traction when maneuvering on the soil.

The Christian's spiritual footwear is the "gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15). Romans 5:1 says, "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." God has reconciled you to Himself through the death of His Son (v. 10). Once you were His enemy; now you are His child. Once He opposed you; now He is on your side.

No matter how difficult your circumstances may be or how many opponents come against you, realize that the invincible God of the universe is on your side. He makes war against His enemies (Rev. 2:16), and against Him no one can stand. So stand firm in that confidence. Focus on your Great Ally rather than your feeble enemies.

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for His peace, presence, and protection in your life.

For Further Study
Read Judges 7. How did Gideon demonstrate his confidence that God was on his side?


A New Relationship Between Jesus and Mary

“When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it’” (John 2:3–5).

Returning to the wedding at Cana we come across a major crisis—the wine ran out because the supply was insufficient. This potential embarrassment for the couple and their families could have stigmatized them for the rest of their lives. Mary was apparently helping to oversee the catering of the celebration and became aware of this serious problem. She anxiously said to Jesus, “They have no wine.”

Jesus’ abrupt reply, “Woman, what does that have to do with us?” signaled a major change in their relationship. It was an idiomatic expression that asks rhetorically what the two parties in question have in common, and has the effect of distancing them. By calling Mary “Woman” (a polite, but not intimate, form of address) instead of “Mother,” Jesus politely but firmly informed her that their relationship was no longer to be what it had been while He was growing up. His public ministry had begun, and earthly relationships would not direct His actions. Mary was to relate to Him no longer as her son but as her Messiah, the Son of God, her Savior.

Undeterred by the mild rebuke, and aware that He was not saying no to the request, Mary said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Mary shows us how we should respond to the Lord.

Ask Yourself
Is your relationship with Jesus such that you can receive His rebuke without taking offense or crawling into a corner? Can you respond to His truth—even a hard truth—by adjusting your life to His right way of thinking and then continuing to serve Him as faithfully as before?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 25:1–26:21
* Psalm 107:23-32
* Proverbs 25:18-19
* 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

Isaiah 25:8 swallow up death. God will swallow up death, which itself functions as a swallower of human beings (5:14; Prov. 1:12). Paul notes the fulfillment of this promise in the resurrection of believers (1 Cor. 15:54). wipe away tears. The Lord God will remove the sorrow associated with death (65:19).Revelation alludes to the tender action of this verse twice—once in 7:17 to describe the bliss of the redeemed in heaven, and once in 21:4 to describe ideal conditions in the New Jerusalem. rebuke…He will take away. Israel will be the head of the nations and no longer the tail (Deut. 28:13).
Isaiah 26:3 perfect peace,…trusts in You. 

A fixed disposition of trust in the Lord brings a peace that the wicked can never know (48:22; 57:21). Such reliance precludes double-mindedness (James 1:6–8) and serving two masters (Matt. 6:24).

Isaiah 26:15 have increased the nation. With prophetic certainty from the perspective of Israel’s future restoration, Isaiah saw the expansion of Israel’s borders as an accomplished fact.
2 Corinthians 9:12 administration of this service. “Administration,” which may also be translated “service,” is a priestly word from which we get “liturgy.” Paul viewed the entire collection project as a spiritual, worshipful enterprise that was primarily being offered to God to glorify Him. supplies the needs of the saints. The Greek word for “supplies” is a doubly intense term that could be rendered “really, fully supplying.” 

This indicates the Jerusalem church had an extremely great need. Many residents of Jerusalem had undoubtedly lost their jobs in the waves of persecution that came after the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1). However, the Corinthians were wealthy enough (they had not yet suffered persecution and deprivation like the Macedonians) to help meet the huge need with a generous monetary gift.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Paul summarized his discourse by comparing the believer’s act of giving with what God did in giving Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:32), “His indescribable gift.” God buried His Son and reaped a vast harvest of those who put their faith in the resurrected Christ (John 12:24). That makes it possible for believers to joyfully, sacrificially, and abundantly sow and reap. As they give in this manner, they show forth Christ’s likeness (John 12:25, 26; Eph. 5:1, 2).

What does God look for in our financial giving?
“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). The simple, self-evident agrarian principle—which Paul applied to Christian giving—that the harvest is directly proportionate to the amount of seed sown (Prov. 11:24, 25; 19:17; Luke 6:38; Gal. 6:7). 

When a generous believer gives by faith and trust in God, with a desire to produce the greatest possible blessing, that person will receive that kind of a harvest of blessing (Prov. 3:9, 10; 28:27; Mal. 3:10). 

God gives a return on the amount one invests with Him (Luke 6:38).

“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart” (v. 7). The term translated “purposes” indicates a premeditated, predetermined plan of action that is done from the heart voluntarily, but not impulsively. “Grudgingly.” Literally, “with grief,” “sorrow,” or “sadness,” which indicates an attitude of depression, regret, and reluctance that accompanies something done strictly out of a sense of duty and obligation, but not joy. “Of necessity” or “compulsion.” This refers to external pressure and coercion, quite possibly accompanied by legalism. 

Believers are not to give based on the demands of others or according to any arbitrary standards or set amounts. “God loves a cheerful giver.” God has a unique, special love for those who are happily committed to generous giving. The Greek word for “cheerful” is the word from which we get “hilarious,” which suggests that God loves a heart that is enthusiastically thrilled with the pleasure of giving.

God possesses an infinite amount of grace, and He gives it lavishly, without holding back (v. 9). Here “grace” does not refer to spiritual graces but to money and material needs. 

When the believer generously—and wisely—gives of his material resources, God graciously replenishes them so he always has plenty and will not be in need (2 Chr. 31:10). 

“Always having all sufficiency.” In secular Greek philosophy, this was the proud contentment of self-sufficiency that supposedly led to true happiness. Paul sanctifies the secular term and says that God, not man, will supply everything needed for real happiness and contentment (Phil. 4:19). “May have an abundance for every good work.” God gives back lavishly to generous, cheerful givers, not so they may satisfy selfish, nonessential desires, but so they may meet the variety of needs others have (Deut. 15:10, 11).





“Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
God wants every aspect of the believer’s being to be under the complete control of the Holy Spirit.

Pleroo, the basic Greek word for “be filled,” offers three shades of meaning that illustrate what Paul’s command to be Spirit-filled means. First, the word describes the pressure of wind filling a ship’s sails and moving the vessel across the water. That parallels the Holy Spirit’s leading us down the pathway of spiritual obedience. We aren’t primarily motivated by our own plans and desires, but we allow the Spirit’s gracious pressure to move us in the right direction.

The well-known pain reliever Alka-Seltzer effectively illustrates the second meaning, permeation. If you drop two Alka-Seltzers into a glass of water, they immediately fizzle and soon transform themselves into clear bubbles throughout the water and permeate it with a distinct flavor. That’s how God wants the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, so that there will be no doubt in others’ minds that we possess the distinct and pervasive savor of the Spirit.
Pleroo’s third and primary shade of meaning is that of domination or total control. In Luke 6:11 the scribes and Pharisees “were filled with rage” when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. Jesus said, “Sorrow has filled your heart” (John 16:6) when He described the disciples’ reaction to the news that He was soon departing. In those two examples, pleroo denotes an emotion that thoroughly dominated the people’s thoughts and excluded everything else.

In regard to earthly concerns, such overwhelming feelings can be wasteful, foolish, and even harmful. But it is beneficial and completely in agreement with the Lord’s will when we yield every thought, feeling, and action to the absolute domination of the Holy Spirit. This yielding will occur in our Christian lives only when we obey another of Paul’s commands, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” (Col. 3:16). In practice, the Spirit-filled walk is a matter of knowing God’s Word and obeying it.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to forgive you for the times when you have not allowed His Spirit to completely fill and control your life.

For Further Study
Read and compare Isaiah 6 and Revelation 1:9-18.
* What reactions did the prophet Isaiah and the apostle John both have to the notion of God’s overwhelming power and control?
* What other general similarities are present in their visions?


A Righteousness That Glorifies God

"Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness" (Eph. 6:14).
A righteous life testifies to God’s transforming power and brings Him glory.

We've seen the importance of donning the breastplate of righteousness, but Scripture also discusses the consequences of failing to do so. These consequences serve as warnings to anyone who is prone to neglect righteousness.
If you're not committed to righteousness, you not only make yourself spiritually vulnerable, but also forfeit some of God's wonderful blessings. David prayed, "Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation" (Ps. 51:13). 

His sin had robbed him of his joy and assurance. That's true of us as well because joy is directly proportional to obedience. If you're pursuing greater righteousness, you'll know greater joy.

You might also forfeit some of your heavenly reward. John said, "Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward" (1 John 8). I believe that New Testament rewards are various capacities for service in heaven. The greater your reward, the greater your capacity to serve God. 

Somehow your current righteousness and faithfulness to God affect what you will do for all eternity. Don't allow sin and negligence to diminish your reward!
Without righteousness you will also suffer loss of opportunity to glorify God. When thinking or behaving unrighteously, you violate your reason for existence, which is to glorify God in everything (1 Cor. 10:31). Instead of exalting Him, you bring reproach on His name. Instead of causing others to see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16), you breed confusion and mockery.

Peter says to us, "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that . . . they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Pet. 2:11). When unbelievers scrutinize your life, what do they see? Does your righteousness testify of God's saving and sanctifying grace?

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to give you an increased hunger and thirst for righteousness as you seek to live to His glory today.

For Further Study
Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:21 as a reminder of God's marvelous grace to you.


The Significance of Jesus at Cana

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding” (John 2:1–2).

A wedding was a major social event in first-century Palestine, and the ensuing celebration could last as long as a week. It marked the culmination of the betrothal period, which often lasted for several months. The couple was considered legally man and wife during their betrothal period. They did not, however, live together or consummate the marriage during that time (cf. Matt. 1:18). On the night of the ceremony, the groom and his friends would go to the bride’s house. 

They would then escort her and her attendants to the groom’s house, where the ceremony and banquet would be held.
John states that a particular wedding was held in Cana. That both Jesus and His mother attended suggests the wedding involved relatives or friends of the family.

By attending this wedding and performing His first miracle there, Jesus sanctified both the institution of marriage and the ceremony itself. Marriage is the sacred union of a man and a woman whereby they become one in the sight of God. The ceremony is an essential element of that union, because that’s when the couple publicly vow to remain faithful to each other.

That Jesus attended the celebration also reveals the marked difference between His ministry and that of John the Baptist. Instead of being a voice in the wilderness, Jesus had the more difficult task of mingling with the crowds and ministering to them in their daily existence.

Ask Yourself
Does your faith travel with you into social settings like this? When your time is your own, when the conversation is light, when you feel a long way from the workweek or the usual pressures of life, are you still looking for opportunities to be used of God and helpful to others?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 23:1–24:23
* Psalm 107:10-22
* Proverbs 25:17
* 2 Corinthians 8:1-24

Isaiah 23:1 Tyre. A Phoenician seaport on the Mediterranean Sea, located about 35 miles north of Mt. Carmel and 28 miles west of Mt. Hermon, Tyre supplied lumber for King Solomon’s temple (1 Kin. 5:1, 7–12) and sailors for his navy (1 Kin. 9:26, 27). laid waste. Tyre was under siege 5 times between this prophecy and 332 B.C. Only the last of these attacks (in 332 B.C., by Alexander the Great) completely leveled and subdued the city. Ezekiel prophesied this destruction in Ezekiel 26:3–27:36.

Isaiah 24:18 windows from on high. In Noah’s day, God judged with a flood (Gen. 7:11). He will judge again from heaven, but not with a flood. Revelation 6:13, 14; 8:3–13; 16:1–21. foundations of the earth. Unparalleled earthquakes will mark the future visitation during and after the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70-week prophecy (13:13; Matt. 24:7; Rev. 6:12, 14; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18).

Isaiah 24:23 moon…disgraced…sun ashamed. In the eternal state after Christ’s millennial reign, the glory of God and of the Lamb will replace the sun and moon as sources of light (Rev. 21:23). reign…in Jerusalem. In Revelation 11:15–17; 19:6, 16 (Luke 1:31–33), John confirmed this clear prophecy of Messiah’s future earthly reign in Jerusalem.
2 Corinthians 8:9 though He was rich. A reference to the eternality and preexistence of Christ. As the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ is as rich as God is rich. He owns everything, and possesses all power, authority, sovereignty, glory, honor, and majesty (Is. 9:6; Mic. 5:2; John 1:1; 8:58; 10:30; 17:5; Col. 1:15–18; 2:9; Heb. 1:3). He became poor. A reference to Christ’s Incarnation (John 1:14; Rom. 1:3; 8:3; Gal. 4:4; Col. 1:20; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:7). He laid aside the independent exercise of all His divine prerogatives, left His place with God, took on human form, and died on a cross like a common criminal (Phil. 2:5–8). that you…might become rich. Believers become spiritually rich through the sacrifice and impoverishment of Christ (Phil. 2:5–8). 

They become rich in salvation, forgiveness, joy, peace, glory, honor, and majesty (1 Cor. 1:4, 5; 3:22; Eph. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3, 4). They become joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
2 Corinthians 8:12 willing mind. Paul spoke of a readiness and eagerness to give. God is most concerned with the heart attitude of the giver, not the amount he gives (9:7; Mark 12:41–44). according to what one has. Whatever one has is the resource out of which he should give. That is why there are no set amounts or percentages for giving anywhere stated in the New Testament. The implication is that if one has much, he can give much; if he has little, he can give only little (9:6). not according to what he does not have. Believers do not need to go into debt to give nor lower themselves to a poverty level. God never asks believers to impoverish themselves. The Macedonians received a special blessing of grace from God to give the way they did.

How did the Macedonians exemplify freewill giving?
The generosity of the churches of Macedonia that Paul addresses in 2 Corinthians 8:1 was motivated by God’s grace. Paul did not merely commend those churches for a noble human work, but instead gave the credit to God for what He did through them. Paul’s reference was to the churches at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (Acts 17:11). This was basically an impoverished province that had been ravaged by many wars and even then was being plundered by Roman authority and commerce.
In spite of their difficult circumstances, the churches’ joy rose above their pain because of their devotion to the Lord and the causes of His kingdom. It was through the “abundance of their joy” (v. 2) that it was given despite their “deep poverty.” “Poverty” refers to the most severe type of economic deprivation, the kind that caused a person to become a beggar. “Riches of their liberality.” The Greek word for “liberality” can be translated “generosity” or “sincerity.” It is the opposite of duplicity or being double-minded. The Macedonian believers were rich in their single-minded, selfless generosity to God and to others.

In v. 3, Paul highlighted 3 elements of the Macedonians’ giving which summed up the concept of freewill giving: 1) “according to their ability.” Giving is proportionate—God sets no fixed amount or percentage and expects His people to give based on what they have (Luke 6:38; 1 Cor. 16:2); 2) “beyond their ability.” Giving is sacrificial. God’s people are to give according to what they have, yet it must be in proportions that are sacrificial (Matt. 6:25–34; Mark 12:41–44; Phil. 4:19); and 3) “freely willing”—literally “one who chooses his own course of action.” Giving is voluntary—God’s people are not to give out of compulsion, manipulation, or intimidation. Freewill giving has always been God’s plan (9:6; Gen. 4:2–4; 8:20; Ex. 25:1, 2; 35:4, 5, 21, 22; 36:5–7; Num. 18:12; Deut. 16:10, 17; 1 Chr. 29:9; Prov. 3:9, 10; 11:24; Luke 19:1–8). Freewill giving is not to be confused with tithing, which related to the national taxation system of Israel (Lev. 27:30) and is paralleled in the New Testament and the present by paying taxes (Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:6, 7).




Bearing Burdens

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Those who walk by the Spirit will lovingly bear one another’s burdens.

The Lord Jesus presents love for God and love for our neighbor as the great summary of the entire Law (Matt. 22:37-40).

It only makes sense, then, that love will characterize the life of any Christian who is walking by the Spirit. Love will also be an integral part of any Spirit-assisted ministry to others. Paul tells us in today’s verse that when we help other believers hold up their particular burdens, we are obeying “the law of Christ” or the law of love, which James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8).

But what exactly does Galatians 6:2 mean when it commands us to “bear one another’s burdens”? Commentator William Hendriksen gives us this general but helpful observation: “This does not merely mean ‘Tolerate each other,’ or ‘Put up with each other.’ It means: ‘Jointly shoulder each member’s burdens.’”

The actual word burden calls to mind a variety of possible sins, difficulties, and responsibilities; but Paul was using the Greek term that refers to an extremely heavy and unbearable load. It’s a load that one person alone can’t carry, which underscores again that Christians need each other. The Holy Spirit wants each member of the church involved in a ministry of mutual support.

The essence of burden-bearing is spiritual accountability and responsibility. One of the most practical ways we can bear someone else’s burden is to talk and pray regularly with him or her about spiritual issues and measure that person’s progress in overcoming a certain sin or temptation.

Bearing the burdens of another believer is a wonderful, reciprocal learning process in which both individuals can benefit from God’s truth and understand more about His will for their lives (see Gal. 6:6). As we become more sensitive and obedient to Him, the Holy Spirit orchestrates this ministry and gives us the privilege of instructing and upholding others as we continue to walk in Him day by day.

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God that His Spirit is powerful enough to help us bear the heaviest burdens of fellow believers.

For Further Study
Read the Epistle to Philemon.
* What things did Paul probably do to bear Onesimus’s burdens?
* How was the entire letter a form of burden-bearing by Paul for Philemon?


Developing Practical Righteousness

"Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness" (Eph. 6:14).
Practical righteousness is moment-by-moment obedience to God.

We've seen the importance of putting on the breastplate of righteousness as protection against Satan's attempts to pervert your thinking and emotions. But Scripture speaks of three kinds of righteousness: self-righteousness, imputed righteousness, and practical righteousness. Which did Paul have in mind in Ephesians 6:14?

Paul wasn't speaking of self-righteousness because that is what the breastplate of righteousness is designed to protect you from. Self-righteousness deceives a person into thinking, I can please God and reach heaven on my own merit. But Isaiah said, "All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment" (Isa. 64:6). Far from getting you to heaven, self- righteousness will condemn you to eternal hell because it rejects the merits of Christ's atonement.

Similarly, Paul wasn't speaking of imputed righteousness—the righteousness of Christ granted to every believer at the moment of salvation. It's also called "positional righteousness" because it results from your position or standing in Christ. Second Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Christ, "who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Every believer is clothed in the garment of Christ's righteousness. You don't put that on. It's already yours in Christ.

Only practical righteousness remains—that which flows from obedience to God's Word. Although in God's eyes you are righteous in Christ, you must also pursue righteous behavior. In other words, your practice should match your position. That's what Paul meant when he said, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:13). John added that "the one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6).

As you learn to live in obedience to God's Word, you'll be protected by the breastplate of righteousness.

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask the Spirit to help you search your heart and reveal any self-righteous attitudes that might be making you vulnerable to Satan's attacks. Confess them, then praise Christ for the true righteousness that is yours in Him.

For Further Study
Read Romans 3:10-23. What kind of righteousness did Paul pursue?


Nathanael’s Encounter with Jesus

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel’” (John 1:47–49).

Of all the apostles, Nathanael had one of the more interesting first encounters with Jesus. After Philip told him he had found the Messiah—“Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”—Nathanael was skeptical. His dubious reply, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” reflects his incredulity that the Messiah could come from such an insignificant town. Yet he followed Philip.

As he approached, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’” Jesus recognized that Nathanael’s blunt, honest reply revealed his lack of duplicity and his willingness to examine Jesus’ claims for himself. Nathanael was “an Israelite indeed”—he was a genuine, true disciple from the beginning.

Taken aback by Jesus’ omniscient recognition of him, Nathanael was also surprised by Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of information known only to him. Not only did Jesus supernaturally see Nathanael’s physical location, but He also saw into his heart (cf. Ps. 139:1–4).

Whatever happened under the fig tree, Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of it removed Nathanael’s doubt. Overwhelmed, he acknowledged Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.
Just think—Jesus knows you every bit as intimately as He knew Nathanael. The same acknowledgement of Christ’s deity ought to be on your lips as well.

Ask Yourself
Is Jesus’ intimate knowledge of you a source of fear and anxiety, or is it rather a source of comfort and security? If you’re living in the first state of mind, try putting into words why anything that keeps you from the latter could possibly be worth it.


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 21:1–22:25
* Psalm 107:1-9
* Proverbs 25:14-16
* 2 Corinthians 7:1-16

Isaiah 21:9 Babylon is fallen, is fallen! The watchman proclaimed the tragic end of mighty Babylon, which initially fell to the Assyrians in 689 B.C. and again to the Persians in 539 B.C. Yet Isaiah’s prediction looked forward to the ultimate fall of the great enemy of God, as verified by John’s citation of this verse in Revelation 14:8; 18:2 (Jer. 50:2; 51:8, 49).

Isaiah 22:1 Valley of Vision. This referred to Israel, since God often revealed Himself to Jerusalem in visions. However, the unrepentant inhabitants displayed a marked lack of vision in their oblivion to the destruction that awaited them. What ails you…? The prophet reproached the people for celebrating with wild parties when they should have been in deep repentance because of their sins. Apparently he anticipated a condition that arose in conjunction with Jerusalem’s fall to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. But similar incursions by the Assyrians in either 711 or 701 B.C., from which the Lord delivered the city, had prompted the revelry among the people.

Isaiah 22:13 Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die! Paul cites the same philosophy (1 Cor. 15:32): If there is no resurrection, enjoyment in this life is all that matters. It utterly disregards God’s eternal values.
Isaiah 22:22 key of the house of David. This authority to admit or refuse admittance into the king’s presence evidenced the king’s great confidence in Eliakim. Jesus applied this terminology to Himself as one who could determine who would enter His future Davidic kingdom (Rev. 3:7).

2 Corinthians 7:1 these promises. The Old Testament promises Paul quoted in 6:16–18. Scripture often encourages believers to action based on God’s promises (Rom. 12:1; 2 Pet. 1:3). let us cleanse ourselves. The form of this Greek verb indicates that this is something each Christian must do in his own life. filthiness. This Greek word, which appears only here in the New Testament, was used 3 times in the Greek Old Testament to refer to religious defilement or unholy alliances with idols, idol feasts, temple prostitutes, sacrifices, and festivals of worship. flesh and spirit. False religion panders to the human appetites represented by both “flesh and spirit.” While some believers for a time might avoid succumbing to fleshly sins associated with false religion, the Christian who exposes his mind to false teaching cannot avoid contamination by the devilish ideologies and blasphemies that assault the purity of divine truth and blaspheme God’s name. perfecting holiness. The Greek word for “perfecting” means “to finish” or “to complete” (8:6). “Holiness” refers to separation from all that would defile both the body and the mind. Complete or perfect holiness was embodied only in Christ; thus, believers are to pursue Him (3:18; Lev. 20:26; Matt. 5:48; Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:12–14; 1 John 3:2, 3).

What are the characteristics of true repentance?
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians produced a sorrow in the believers that led them to repent of their sins (2 Cor. 7:9). “Repentance” refers to the desire to turn from sin and restore one’s relationship to God. “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (v. 10). “Godly sorrow” refers to sorrow that is according to the will of God and produced by the Holy Spirit. True repentance cannot occur apart from such a genuine sorrow over one’s sin. 

Repentance is at the very heart of and proves one’s salvation: unbelievers repent of their sin initially when they are saved, and then as believers, repent of their sins continually to keep the joy and blessing of their relationship to God.

Verse 11 provides a look at how genuine repentance will manifest itself in one’s attitudes. “Diligence.” Better translated, “earnestness” or “eagerness.” It is the initial reaction of true repentance to eagerly and aggressively pursue righteousness. This is an attitude that ends indifference to sin and complacency about evil and deception. “What clearing of yourselves.” A desire to clear one’s name of the stigma that accompanies sin. The repentant sinner restores the trust and confidence of others by making his genuine repentance known. “Indignation.” Often associated with righteous indignation and holy anger. Repentance leads to anger over one’s sin and displeasure at the shame it has brought on the Lord’s name and His people. “Fear.” 

This is reverence toward God, who is the One most offended by sin. Repentance leads to a healthy fear of the One who chastens and judges sin. “Vehement desire.” This could be translated “yearning,” or “a longing for,” and refers to the desire of the repentant sinner to restore the relationship with the one who was sinned against. “Zeal.” This refers to loving someone or something so much that one hates anyone or anything that harms the object of this love. 

“Vindication.” This could be translated “avenging of wrong,” and refers to the desire to see justice done. The repentant sinner no longer tries to protect himself; he wants to see the sin avenged no matter what it might cost him. “To be clear in this matter.” The essence of repentance is an aggressive pursuit of holiness, which was characteristic of the Corinthians. The Greek word for “clear” means “pure” or “holy.” They demonstrated the integrity of their repentance by their purity.




Spiritual Restoration

“Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1).
Those walking by the Spirit are to restore sinning fellow believers.

God never intended that the spiritual walk be an end in itself. Instead, He wants believers to have a positive influence on fellow believers so that the church will be purified and built up. Galatians 6:1reveals how those who walk by the Spirit ought to minister to others within the Body of Christ. Paul says they are to restore other brothers and sisters who might have fallen into sin.

“Caught in any trespass” denotes falling into a sin and becoming bound by it, just as an animal might become caught in a trap. Whenever another believer we know gets ensnared by any sin—no exception—the Holy Spirit wants “you who are spiritual” to seek his or her restoration. The “spiritual” designation does not refer to some elite class of Christians but simply includes anyone who is walking by the Spirit.

The one who is spiritual and is relying on the Spirit’s wisdom and guidance will restore the sinning believer with patience. The Greek verb in Galatians 6:1 translated “restore” strongly implies that spiritual restoration will need to be a methodical, persevering process. (The Greek originally referred to the mending of fishing nets or the realigning of a frame or joint.)

The verse further indicates that we must approach the entire restoration process with “gentleness.” As believers who have this fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23), such an approach should be almost automatic for us. But since we are merely sinners saved by grace, we need Galatians 6:1 and other reminders of the right way to restore a sinning brother or sister: “And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thess. 3:15).

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that your church leaders would be faithful in confronting and seeking to restore those members who fall into sin.

For Further Study
Read Galatians 5:16-26.
* What two things within the believer are at odds early in the passage?
* Record two or three observations that are most striking to you about the contrasts between the individual good and evil character traits listed here.


Guarding Your Mind and Emotions

"Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness" (Eph. 6:14).
True righteousness begins with a right relationship with God.

A Roman soldier would often engage his enemy in hand- to-hand combat. At such times, the weapon of choice was the short sword, with which he sought to penetrate his opponent's vital organs. For his own protection he wore a molded metal breastplate that extended from the base of his neck to the top of his thighs. It helped deflect any attacks aimed at his heart and abdomen.

The Roman breastplate has great symbolism in Paul's analogy because to the Jewish people, the heart represented man's mind and thinking processes; the intestinal area or bowels represented the seat of feelings and emotions. Proverbs 23:7 says, "As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he" (KJV). Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" Jesus added, "From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts" (Mark 7:21).

During spiritual warfare, Satan's primary attacks target your thinking and emotions. If he can condition you to think and feel contrary to God's Word, he has won a significant victory. That's why he attempts to fill your mind with lies, immorality, false doctrine, and half-truths. He tries to blur the line between righteousness and sin by surrounding you with evil influences that increase your tolerance for sin. He clothes offensive sin in the blinding garment of entertainment. He puts it to music and masks it in humor to confuse you and deaden your spiritual senses. Satan wants to corrupt your emotions and draw you into sinful desires.

Putting on the breastplate of righteousness begins with a right relationship with God, who is the source of true righteousness. From that relationship flows the commitment to cultivate righteousness in your own life by learning and applying His Word. Therein lies the protection you need to safeguard your mind and emotions from satanic deceptions.

Suggestions for Prayer
Focus on strengthening your relationship with God today. Commune with Him in prayer. Meditate on His Word. Seek His grace in responding thoughtfully and righteously to the temptations you face.

For Further Study
Read Proverbs 10, noting Solomon's description of righteous people.


The Correct Response of Souls Seeking Jesus

“Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour” (John 1:38–39).

As Andrew and John walked after Him, “Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’” He already knew what the two wanted. The Lord asked the question to challenge them to consider their motives. He did not ask them who they were seeking, but what they were seeking.

By asking “Where are You staying?” Andrew and John were not just asking where He was staying; they were courteously requesting an extended private interview with Him. The question also signaled their willingness to become His disciples.

Jesus’ immediate response, “Come, and you will see,” was the invitation Andrew and John were hoping for. Jesus knew their hearts, that they were honest, sincere seekers.
John does not record what they discussed that memorable evening, but the Lord undoubtedly “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). 

Whatever He said was enough to persuade them that He was indeed Israel’s Messiah, as Andrew’s excited testimony to his brother Peter the next day indicates (John 4:40–41).

In your service to Christ, be sure your motives are pure. Otherwise the Lord will know.

Ask Yourself
“What do you seek?” is a good question for us to ask ourselves as we approach the Lord, challenging our motives. What would you say you are seeking Him for? And if you’re not finding it, is it because you’re seeking amiss or for the wrong reasons—or perhaps seeking something God knows you don’t need?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 19:1–20:6
* Psalm 106:40-48
* Proverbs 25:13
* 2 Corinthians 6:1-18

Isaiah 19:18 five cities. Humanly speaking, the chances of even one Egyptian city turning to the Lord were remote, but divinely speaking, there will be 5 times that many. language of Canaan. Egypt is to speak the language of Judah. Not only are they to fear Judah (v. 17), they are also to convert to Judah’s form of worship. swear by the LORD of hosts. Egypt will “in that day” turn to God in a dramatic way. This prophecy anticipates the personal reign of the Davidic King on earth.

Isaiah 19:25 My people,…the work of My hands. Elsewhere Scripture uses these epithets to speak only of Israel (10:24; 29:23; 43:6, 7; 45:11; 60:21; 64:8; Pss. 100:3; 110:3; 138:8; Jer. 11:4; Hos 1:10; 2:23). In the future kingdom, Israel is to be God’s instrument for drawing other nations into His fold.

2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul emphasized his point by quoting Isaiah 49:8. He was passionately concerned that the Corinthians adhere to the truth because it was God’s time to save and they were messengers for helping to spread that message. now is the day of salvation. Paul applied Isaiah’s words to the present situation. There is a time in God’s economy when He listens to sinners and responds to those who are repentant—and it was and is that time (Prov. 1:20–23; Is. 55:6; Heb. 3:7, 8; 4:7). However, there will also be an end to that time (Gen. 6:3; Prov. 1:24–33; John 9:4), which is why Paul’s exhortation was so passionate.

2 Corinthians 6:7 by the word of truth. The Scriptures, the revealed Word of God (Col. 1:5; James 1:18). During his entire ministry, Paul never operated beyond the boundaries of the direction and guidance of divine revelation. by the power of God. Paul did not rely on his own strength when he ministered (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:1–5; Rom. 1:16). by the armor of righteousness. Paul did not fight Satan’s kingdom with human resources, but with spiritual virtue (10:3–5; Eph. 6:10–18). the right hand…the left. Paul had both offensive tools, such as the sword of the Spirit, and defensive tools, such as the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation, at his disposal.

What did Paul mean by warning believers to not become “unequally yoked together with unbelievers”?
Paul’s use of this phrase in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is an illustration taken from Old Testament prohibitions to Israel regarding the work-related joining together of two different kinds of livestock (Deut. 22:10). By this analogy, Paul taught that it is not right to join together in common spiritual enterprise with unbelievers—a relationship that would be detrimental to the Christian’s testimony within the body of Christ. It is impossible under such an arrangement for things to be done to God’s glory (1 Cor. 5:9–13; 6:15–18; 10:7–21; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15). This was especially important for the Corinthians because of the threats from the false teachers and the surrounding pagan idolatry. But this command does not mean believers should end all associations with unbelievers. That would defy the purpose for which God saved believers and left them on earth (Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 9:19–23).

“And what accord has Christ with Belial?” (v. 15). An ancient name for Satan, the utterly worthless one (Deut. 13:13). This contrasts sharply with Jesus Christ, the worthy One with whom believers are to be in fellowship. “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (v. 16). The temple of God (true Christianity) and idols (idolatrous, demonic false religions) are utterly incompatible. “You are the temple of the living God.” Believers individually are spiritual houses (5:1) in which the Spirit of Christ dwells. “As God has said.” 

Paul supported his statement by referring to a blend of Old Testament texts (Lev. 26:11, 12; Jer. 24:7; 31:33; Ezek. 37:26, 27; Hos. 2:2, 3).
Paul drew from Isaiah 52:11 and elaborated on the command to be spiritually separated. It is not only irrational and sacrilegious but disobedient to be bound together with unbelievers. When believers are saved, they are to disengage themselves from all forms of false religion and make a clean break from all sinful habits and old idolatrous patterns. “Be separate.” This is a command for believers to be as Christ was (Heb. 7:26).




The Spirit and Prayer

“Be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Peter 4:7).

Spending time with God in prayer is another crucial element in walking by the Spirit.
During my regular times in the Word, I often don’t know where Bible study ends and meditation begins, or where meditation turns into prayer. My devotions are definitely a seamless process in which I read Scripture, meditate on it, and pray that God would help me understand it. I’m sure that many of you have had the same experience. It ought to be like that for any believer who is faithful in spending time with the Lord daily.

Along with meditating on Scripture and focusing on God, prayer is an essential component of our strategy to walk by the Holy Spirit. An attitude of moment-by-moment prayer, patterned after 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (“Pray without ceasing”), will greatly help us walk in step with the Spirit.

“Pray without ceasing” obviously does not mean believers are to spend every waking moment in formal prayer. Paul’s command to the Thessalonians refers to recurring prayer, not a ceaseless uttering of words from a certain posture.

To pray as part of our spiritual walk means we bring every temptation before God and ask for His help. It means we thank Him for every good and beautiful experience. It means we ask the Lord to allow us to join the fight against evil. It means when we have an opportunity to witness, we pray that God would help us be faithful and that He would draw the person to Himself. And finally, this kind of prayer means we’ll turn to God as our Deliverer whenever we have trials.

Thus, walking by the Spirit is a lifestyle of continual prayer. All of our thoughts, actions, and circumstances become opportunities to commune with God. And if that is true, we obey Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

Suggestions for Prayer
Take a brief prayer list with you (on an index card) today, and try to pray through it several times during the day.

For Further Study
* Matthew 6:1-8 leads into Jesus’ presentation of the Lord’s Prayer. What general attitude has no place in prayer?
* List the specific things Christ warns against, along with those He commends in this passage.


Pursuing Truthfulness

"Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth" (Eph. 6:14).

Truthfulness is the best defense against Satan’s lies.

The first piece of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:14 is the belt of truth. Roman soldiers of his day wore a tunic, which was a large square piece of material with holes for the head and arms. A belt kept the tunic from flying loosely and getting in the way in the midst of battle. 

The phrase "having girded your loins" was commonly used for gathering up the loose material of one's tunic or robe when preparing for battle or travel. It speaks of preparedness, as in Exodus 12:11, where God tells the children of Israel to gird their loins for their exodus from Egypt. Jesus used it in a figurative sense in Luke 12:35, where He warns us to gird our loins or "be dressed in readiness" for His second coming. Peter said we're to gird our minds for action (1 Pet. 1:13).

The Greek word translated "truth" in Ephesians 6:14 can refer either to the content of that which is true or to an attitude of truthfulness. Both are implied in the verse. In Ephesians 4 Paul combines both aspects in warning us not to be "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (vv. 14-15). Instead, we are to embrace sound doctrine and always speak the truth in love.

The way to defend yourself against the cunning deceptions of Satan is to gird yourself with a thorough knowledge of God's Word and a firm commitment to obedience. Yet many Christians remain vulnerable because they're unwilling to do that.

Just as Paul exhorted the Philippians to excel in knowledge and discernment and to remain sincere and blameless until in Christ's presence (Phil. 1:9-10), so you must also do the same. Never be content with your present level of spirituality. Keep learning and growing. Demonstrate an attitude of truthfulness that reveals your commitment to God's Word and your readiness for battle.

Suggestions for Prayer
Is your life characterized by truthfulness? If not, you're a ready target for Satan's schemes. Confess it to the Lord and ask Him to cleanse your heart and give you a love for His truth. Begin today to apply His Word to your life.

For Further Study
Read verses 1-4 and 13-15 of 2 Corinthians 11, noting the tactics of Satan and his servants.


The Proper Response to the Lamb of God

“Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus” (John 1:35–37).

John looked at Jesus as He walked nearby, and repeated to his disciples what he had proclaimed to the crowds on the previous day: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Having heard their teacher speak again those powerful words, the two disciples followed Jesus. John’s willingness to unhesitatingly hand them over to Him is further evidence of his self-effacing humility and complete acceptance of his subordinate role.

That the two disciples followed Jesus does not imply that they became permanent disciples of His at this time. It is true that the Greek word for “followed” is used in John’s gospel to mean, “to follow as a disciple.” But it can also be used in a general sense. Andrew and John here received their first exposure to Jesus. Later, they became His permanent disciples (Matt. 4:18–22).

Since the Messiah, the Son of God—the Lamb of God—is here, the only proper response is to follow Him.

Having served his purpose as a witness to the true identity of Jesus, John the Baptist now fades from the scene (apart from a brief mention in John 3:23). The rest of the gospel focuses on the ministry of Jesus, something the Baptist himself would have approved of.

You can have the same kind of influence that John did by making sure that in addition to following Christ you also point people to Him.

Ask Yourself
What does “following” Jesus entail—not just in general terms but in real life? What does it mean on Friday nights when you’re alone with your free time, or on Tuesday morning when you’re busy with the usual routine? Think of what needs to change in moments like these if you’re to be a full-time follower.


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 17:1–18:7
* Psalm 106:32-39
* Proverbs 25:11-12
* 2 Corinthians 5:1-21

Isaiah 18:4 I will take My rest. The Lord will wait patiently until the appropriate time to intervene in human affairs, until sunshine and dew have built to an opportune climactic moment.

2 Corinthians 5:10 This describes the believer’s deepest motivation and highest aim in pleasing God—the realization that every Christian is inevitably and ultimately accountable to Him. the judgment seat of Christ. “Judgment seat” metaphorically refers to the place where the Lord will sit to evaluate believers’ lives for the purpose of giving them eternal rewards. It was an elevated platform where victorious athletes (e.g., during the Olympics) went to receive their crowns. The term is also used in the New Testament to refer to the place of judging, as when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate (Matt. 27:19; John 19:13), but here the reference is definitely from the athletic analogy. Corinth had such a platform where both athletic rewards and legal justice were dispensed (Acts 18:12–16), so the Corinthians understood Paul’s reference. the things done in the body. Actions which happened during the believer’s time of earthly ministry. 

This does not include sins, since their judgment took place at the Cross (Eph 1:7). Paul was referring to all those activities believers do during their lifetimes, which relate to their eternal reward and praise from God. What Christians do in their temporal bodies will, in His eyes, have an impact for eternity (1 Cor. 4:3–5; Rom. 12:1, 2: Rev. 22:12). whether good or bad. These Greek terms do not refer to moral good and moral evil. Matters of sin have been completely dealt with by the death of the Savior. Rather, Paul was comparing worthwhile, eternally valuable activities with useless ones.
2 Corinthians 5:19 God was in Christ. God by His own will and design used His Son, the only acceptable and perfect sacrifice, as the means to reconcile sinners to Himself. reconciling the world. God initiates the change in the sinner’s status in that He brings him from a position of alienation to a state of forgiveness and right relationship with Himself. This again is the essence of the gospel. The word “world” should not be interpreted in any universalistic sense, which would say that everyone will be saved or even potentially reconciled. “World” refers rather to the entire sphere of mankind or humanity (Titus 2:11; 3:4), the category of beings to whom God offers reconciliation—people from every ethnic group, without distinction. The intrinsic merit of Christ’s reconciling death is infinite and the offer is unlimited. However, actual atonement was made only for those who believe (John 10:11, 15; 17:9; Acts 13:48; 20:28; Rom. 8:32, 33; Eph. 5:25).

2 Corinthians 5:21 Here Paul summarized the heart of the gospel, explaining how sinners can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. These 15 Greek words express the doctrines of imputation and substitution like no other single verse. who knew no sin. Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God (Gal. 4:4, 5; Luke 23:4, 14, 22, 47; John 8:46; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22–24; 3:18; Rev. 5:2–10). sin for us. God the Father, using the principle of imputation, treated Christ as if He were a sinner though He was not, and had Him die as a substitute to pay the penalty for the sins of those who believe in Him (Is. 53:4–6; Gal. 3:10–13; 1 Pet. 2:24). On the cross, He did not become a sinner (as some suggest), but remained as holy as ever. He was treated as if He were guilty of all the sins ever committed by all who would ever believe, though He committed none. The wrath of God was exhausted on Him and the just requirement of God’s law met for those for whom He died. the righteousness of God. Another reference to justification and imputation. The righteousness that is credited to the believer’s account is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. As Christ was not a sinner, but was treated as if He were, so believers who have not yet been made righteous (until glorification) are treated as if they were righteous.

What does Paul mean when he writes about being “in Christ” and someone being a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17)?

Paul uses the term “in Christ” when he writes about various aspects of our relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. These two words comprise a brief but profound statement of the inexhaustible significance of the believer’s redemption (salvation), which includes the following:
1. The believer’s security in Christ, who bore in His body God’s judgment against sin.
2. The believer’s acceptance in (through) Christ with whom God alone is well pleased.
3. The believer’s future assurance in Him who is the resurrection to eternal life and the sole guarantor of the believer’s inheritance in heaven.
4. The believer’s participation in the divine nature of Christ, the everlasting Word (2 Pet. 1:4).
All of the changes that Christ brings to the believer’s life result in a state that can be rightly called “a new creation.” The terms describe something created at a qualitatively new level of excellence. They parallel other biblical concepts like regeneration and new birth (John 3:3; Eph. 2:1–3; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:23; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 5:4). The expression includes the Christian’s forgiveness of sins paid for in Christ’s substitutionary death (Gal. 6:15; Eph. 4:24).




Focusing on Scripture and the Lord

“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

We must focus on God and His Word as we begin to walk by the Spirit.

Paul’s directive to the Galatians in today’s verse may sound like an impractical platitude. But to the apostle this command was a foundational truth for how all Christians should live their daily lives. The Greek for “walk” could be translated, “keep on continually walking.” Life transpires one day at a time, and believers should routinely take each day one step at a time.

In walking by the Holy Spirit, our chief opposition is our own flesh (Gal. 5:17). Therefore, it is crucial that we possess the scriptural strategy for our spiritual walk and that we know how to practically and effectively carry it out.

The first part of our strategy has to be a daily intake of God’s Word. Psalm 1:2 says that the man who walks on a godly path will “delight . . . in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Meditation (patiently and thoroughly reflecting on a passage of Scripture) helps us effectively seal the Word in our hearts so we can obediently apply it and minister it in accordance with God’s Spirit.

Secondly, if we want to walk by the Spirit, we must focus on God and allow Him to renew our minds. The key is found in Paul’s familiar command: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). The believer who lives that way will undoubtedly walk by the Spirit because he will also be one who worships God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). As one Bible teacher so aptly phrased it, “Find me a worshiper of God, and I will show you a stable man with his mind in control, ready to meet the present hour with refreshment from above.”

Suggestions for Prayer
Pray today that the Lord would help you to begin removing everything from your life that is preventing you from worshiping Him wholeheartedly.

For Further Study
* Joshua 1:8; Psalm 19:7-8; John 8:31-32; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 2:15; and Hebrews 4:12 all refer to God’s Word. Read them and write down all the different things they say about the importance of Scripture.
* What should motivate you to have a better intake of the Word?


Resisting the Devil

"Take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (Eph. 6:13).

Spiritual warfare isn’t as much a frontal attack on Satan’s domain as it is the ability to resist his advances.

Spiritual warfare has become a popular topic in recent years. Books, tapes, and seminars on the subject abound, but there is still much confusion. Some say we must rebuke and bind Satan to thwart his power and influence. Others say we must expel demonic spirits through "deliverance ministries." Still others encourage us to band together to aggressively assault the strongholds of supposed territorial demons.
But spiritual warfare isn't an outright frontal attack on the forces of darkness. Scripture says, "Submit . . . to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7); "Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith" (1 Pet. 5:8-9). The idea that Christians have the authority to rebuke or bind Satan is foreign to Scripture. Even Michael the archangel treated him with more respect than that (Jude 9).

Spiritual victory involves submitting to God, pursuing His will, keeping your spiritual armor on, being on the alert for Satan's attacks, and then standing firm and resisting him "in the evil day" (Eph. 6:13).

"Evil day" is a general reference to the sin that exists in this world. As the "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4), Satan will continue to produce evil until he and his forces are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-15). Then the evil day will give way to an eternal age of righteousness.

Countless people have pastored churches, taught Sunday School classes, led Bible studies, sung in choirs, and been involved in every conceivable area of ministry only to one day abandon their ministries and embrace the world. Somehow they stopped resisting the devil and lost the courage to stand firm.

How about you? Is your commitment strong? Are you willing to stand firm for the Lord today?

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God for the grace to boldly resist whatever might challenge your faith today.

For Further Study
Read 1 Corinthians 9:23-27.
* What was Paul's great fear?
* What measures did he take to insure spiritual victory?
* Are you taking the same measures?


Who Is the Lamb of God?

“The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me”’” (John 1:29–30). 

On the day after he spoke to the delegation, John “saw Jesus coming to him.” In keeping with his role as a herald, John immediately called the crowd’s attention to Him, exclaiming “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

The concept of a sacrificial Lamb was a familiar one to the Jewish people. All through Israel’s history, God had revealed clearly that sin and separation from Him could be removed only by blood sacrifices (cf. Lev. 17:11). They were also aware that Isaiah’s prophecy likened Messiah to “a lamb that is led to slaughter” (Isa. 53:7). Though Israel sought a Messiah who would be a prophet, king, and conqueror, God had to send them a Lamb. And He did.

The title “Lamb of God” foreshadows Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross for “the sin of the world.” With that brief statement John made it clear that the Messiah had come to deal with sin. The Old Testament is filled with the reality that the problem is sin—a problem at the heart of every person (Jer. 17:9). All men are sinful and incapable of changing the future or the present, or of repaying God for the sins of the past.
So who is the Lamb of God? He is Jesus, the only One who has the remedy to your sin problem.

Ask Yourself
We know that our sin, though dealt with ultimately and eternally, continues to be a problem for us to face and address. Are you surprised at the strength and tenacity it still wields within you? How do you go about quieting its ferocious appetite and considering yourself dead to it (See Rom. 6:11)?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 15:1–16:14
* Psalm 106:24-31
* Proverbs 25:8-10
* 2 Corinthians 4:1-18

Isaiah 16:9 I will bewail. Isaiah displayed genuine emotion over the destruction of so rich an agricultural resource. This reflected the Lord’s response, too.

Psalm 106:28 Baal of Peor. Refers to Baal, a god of the Moabites, whose worship occurred at the location of the mountain called Peor (Num. 23:28). sacrifices made to the dead. This most likely refers to sacrifices made to lifeless idols (1 Thess. 1:9). Israel should have been worshiping “the living God” (Deut. 5:26; 1 Sam.17:26, 36; Pss. 42:2; 84:2; Jer. 10:3–10; Dan. 6:20, 26).

Psalm 106:31 accounted to him for righteousness. This was a just and rewardable action, evidencing faith in God. As with Abraham (Gen. 15:6 and Rom.4:3; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23), so it was also with Phinehas. The everlasting covenant of perpetual priesthood through Aaron, from the house of Levi, was first made by God in Leviticus 24:8, 9. This covenant was reaffirmed in Numbers 18:8, 19. In this text, the covenant is further specified to be through the line of faithful Phinehas.

2 Corinthians 4:16 our outward man is perishing. The physical body is in the process of decay and will eventually die. On the surface Paul was referring to the normal aging process, but with the added emphasis that his lifestyle sped up that process. While not an old man, Paul wore himself out in ministry, both in the effort and pace he maintained, plus the number of beatings and attacks he absorbed from his enemies (6:4–10; 11:23–27). inward man. The soul of every believer i.e., the new creation—the eternal part of the believer (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). being renewed. The growth and maturing process of the believer is constantly occurring. While the physical body is decaying, the inner self of the believer continues to grow and mature into Christlikeness (Eph. 3:16–20).

2 Corinthians 4:17 our light affliction…for a moment. The Greek word for “light” means “a weightless trifle” and “affliction” refers to intense pressure. From a human perspective, Paul’s own testimony lists a seemingly unbearable litany of sufferings and persecutions he endured throughout his life (11:23–33), yet he viewed them as weightless and lasting for only a brief moment. eternal weight of glory. The Greek word for “weight” refers to a heavy mass. For Paul, the future glory he would experience with the Lord far outweighed any suffering he experienced in this world (Rom. 8:17, 18; 1 Pet. 1:6, 7).

Why do people not respond to the gospel?
Paul said “if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 4:3). The false teachers accused Paul of preaching an antiquated message. So Paul showed that the problem was not with the message or the messenger, but with the hearers headed for hell (1 Cor. 2:14). The preacher cannot persuade people to believe; only God can do that.

“Whose minds the god of this age has blinded” (v. 4). Satan (Matt. 4:8; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Eph. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:26; 1 John 5:19) is the god of this age—the current world mind-set expressed by the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes, and views of the majority of people. It encompasses the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce. Satan blinds men to God’s truth through the world system he has created. Without a godly influence, man left to himself will follow that system, which panders to the depravity of unbelievers and deepens their moral darkness (Matt. 13:19). Ultimately, it is God who allows such blindness (John 12:40).

“For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus” (v. 5). The false teachers accused Paul of preaching for his own benefit, yet they were the ones guilty of doing so. In contrast, Paul was always humble (12:5, 9; 1 Cor. 2:3); he never promoted himself, but always preached Christ Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 2:2). “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (v. 6). A direct reference to God as Creator, who commanded physical light into existence (Gen. 1:3). The same God who created physical light in the universe is the same God who must create supernatural light in the soul and usher believers from the kingdom of darkness to His kingdom of light (Col. 1:13). That means to know that Christ is God incarnate. To be saved, one must understand that the glory of God shone in Jesus Christ.




The Spirit and God's Will

“‘“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances”’” (Ezekiel 36:27).

The Holy Spirit has always led and will continue to lead believers to know God’s will.

One of the Spirit’s most practical ministries is to help believers know and follow God’s will.

Ezekiel 36:27 plainly indicates that the Spirit has always been available to lead God’s people. And Isaiah reminds us, centuries before Ezekiel’s time, that the Lord “is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them, who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses” (Isa. 63:11-12).

The proceedings at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 wonderfully illustrate how the Spirit gave guidance to the New Testament church. The Council convened to determine what principles of conduct the Jewish-led early church should place on the many new Gentile converts who were now in the fellowship. After much prayerful discussion, the Council made the all-important decision that it was not necessary to adhere to Moses’ law as a means of salvation.

The Council set down its concise recommendations in a letter that was the result of a Spirit-led consensus among the apostles and elders: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you [Gentiles] no greater burden than these essentials” (Acts 15:28). The leaders were confident that their decision was from the mind of the Holy Spirit as reflected in Scripture; therefore they knew it was correct and in accord with God’s will.

Romans 8:14, which says, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God,” encourages us that we also can be certain of the Spirit’s guidance. If we are faithful to hear, read, and study the Word, if we strive to obey it, and if we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, then He will guide us into God’s perfect will for our lives (see Ps. 119:105).

Suggestions for Prayer
* If you have an important decision to make, pray that you would have the discernment to know and follow God’s will.
* If no major decision faces you now, thank God that the Spirit is always present to provide guidance.

For Further Study
Read Proverbs 3:1-6.
* What does this say about the importance of God and His Word in knowing His will?
* Memorize verses 5-6.


Identifying the Real Enemy

"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

Don’t confuse prisoners of war with the enemy.

Sometimes in the heat of battle we might lose perspective on who the real enemy is. Ephesians 6:12reminds us that our struggle isn't against sinful people, but against the evil system and the supernatural forces that influence their attitudes and actions.

In his assault on the kingdom of God, Satan has assembled a highly organized army of fallen angels. Paul categorized them as "rulers . . . powers . . . world forces of this darkness . . . spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

That isn't a detailed description of Satan's hierarchy but simply a general indication of its power and sophistication. Apparently "rulers" and "powers" are high- ranking demons. "World forces of this darkness" are possibly demons who infiltrate various political systems of the world, attempting to direct human leaders to oppose God's plans. An example is a demon called "the prince of the kingdom of Persia" in Daniel 10:13. He withstood God's angelic messenger to Daniel until Michael the archangel came to the rescue.

"Spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" perhaps refers to demons involved in the most vile and perverted kinds of sins: gross immorality, occultic practices, Satan worship, and the like.

Those who reject Christ and God are unwitting prisoners of war—captured and mobilized by the enemy to accomplish his purposes. Tragically, when he's finished with them he'll abandon them to an eternal hell.

You probably know unbelievers who enjoy ridiculing your faith and making life difficult for you. Although that is hard to take, be patient and don't become embittered toward them. Ask God to make you an instrument of His love as you reach out to them. Also pray that God will remove their spiritual blindness so they can see beyond Satan's lies and recognize their need for a Savior.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God for delivering you from the domain of darkness and transferring you into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13).
* Ask Him to use you today to break through Satan's deception in someone's life.

For Further Study
Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-7, noting why people reject the gospel.


John the Baptist Understands His Role

“He said, ‘I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as Isaiah the prophet said’” (John 1:23).

John the Baptist gained great notoriety quickly in Israel with his baptism and his message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. With so many people flocking to him, the Jewish authorities sent a delegation of priests and Levites to investigate him.

First they asked John, “Who are you?” His behavior was certainly not what they would have expected from the son of a priest. John’s response, “I am not the Christ,” only added to their confusion. When John answered in the negative to their questions if he was Elijah or the Prophet, the exasperated members of the delegation then demanded, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” (John 1:19–22).

Rather than claiming to be someone important, he humbly referred to himself merely as “a voice of one crying in the wilderness.” In answering the delegation’s question about his identity, he shifted the focus away from himself and onto Christ. His quote of Isaiah 40:3, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” was a challenge both to the nation and to his questioners to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

The imagery is of a road being leveled and smoothed out in preparation for the visit of an Eastern king. John and Isaiah likened the hearts of Messiah’s people to a desolate wilderness, through which a smooth, level road needed to be prepared for His coming. John was the laborer, preparing the road in advance of the King.

Ask Yourself
As you have opportunity to share the gospel with others, remind them that the road to Jesus is smooth and level—accessible not by special ability but by the calling, inviting grace of God. Thank God for those who pointed the way for you.


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 13:1–14:32
* Psalm 106:19-23
* Proverbs 25:6-7
* 2 Corinthians 3:1-18

Isaiah 14:12–14 fallen from heaven,…be like the Most High. Jesus’ use of v. 12 to describe Satan’s fall (Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:8–10) has led many to see more than a reference to the king of Babylon. Just as the Lord addressed Satan in His words to the serpent (Gen. 3:14, 15), this inspired dirge speaks to the king of Babylon and to the devil who energized him. See Ezekiel 28:12–17 for similar language to the king of Tyre and Satan behind him.

Isaiah 14:12 heaven. The scene suddenly shifts from the underworld to heaven to emphasize the unbridled pride of the king and Satan energizing him. Lucifer, son of the morning. Literally, “Lucifer” means “shining one,” but translators have often rendered it “morning star.” Tradition of the time saw the stars as representing gods battling among themselves for places of preeminence.

Isaiah 14:13, 14 I will. Five “I wills” emphasize the arrogance of the king of Babylon and of Satan from whom he takes his cue.

Proverbs 25:6, 7 In the royal court, as in all of life, self-seeking and pride bring one down. Do not intrude into such a place, for the elevating of the humble is honorable, but the humbling of the proud is disgraceful (Luke 14:8–10; James 4:7–10).

2 Corinthians 3:18 we all. Not just Moses, or prophets, apostles, and preachers, but all believers. with unveiled face. Believers in the New Covenant have nothing obstructing their vision of Christ and His glory as revealed in the Scripture. beholding as in a mirror. Paul’s emphasis here is not so much on the reflective capabilities of the mirror as it is on the intimacy of it. A person can bring a mirror right up to his face and get an unobstructed view. Mirrors in Paul’s day were polished metal, and thus offered a far from perfect reflection. 

Though the vision is unobstructed and intimate, believers do not see a perfect representation of God’s glory now, but will one day (1 Cor. 13:12). being transformed. A continual, progressive transformation. into the same image. As they gaze at the glory of the Lord, believers are continually being transformed into Christlikeness. The ultimate goal of the believer is to be like Christ (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:12–14; 1 John 3:2), and by continually focusing on Him the Spirit transforms the believer more and more into His image. from glory to glory. From one level of glory to another level of glory—from one level of manifesting Christ to another. 

This verse describes progressive sanctification. The more believers grow in their knowledge of Christ, the more He is revealed in their lives (Phil. 3:12–14).

What credentials of his apostleship did Paul give to the Corinthians?
Because Paul did not want to allow the false teachers to accuse him of being proud, he began his defense in 2 Corinthians 3:1 by posing two questions rather than making any overt claims. “Do we begin again to commend ourselves?” The Greek word for “commend” means “to introduce.” Thus Paul was asking the Corinthians if he needed to reintroduce himself, as if they had never met, and prove himself once more. The form of the question demanded a negative answer. “Or do we need, as some others,…letters of commendation from you?” The false teachers also accused Paul of not possessing the appropriate documents to prove his legitimacy. 

Such letters were often used to introduce and authenticate someone to the first-century churches (1 Cor. 16:3, 10, 11). The false teachers undoubtedly arrived in Corinth with such letters, which they may have forged (Acts 15:1, 5) or obtained under false pretenses from prominent members of the Jerusalem church. Paul’s point was that he did not need secondhand testimony when the Corinthians had firsthand proof of his sincere and godly character, as well as the truth of his message that regenerated them.

“You are our epistle written in our hearts” (v. 2). An affirmation of Paul’s affection for the believers in Corinth—he held them close to his heart. “Known and read by all men.” The transformed lives of the Corinthians were Paul’s most eloquent testimonial, better than any secondhand letter. Their changed lives were like an open letter that could be seen and read by all men as a testimony to Paul’s faithfulness and the truth of his message.
“You are an epistle of Christ” (v. 3). The false teachers did not have a letter of commendation signed by Christ, but Paul had the Corinthian believers’ changed lives as proof that Christ had transformed them. “Written not with ink.” 

Paul’s letter was no human document written with ink that can fade. It was a living one. “Spirit of the living God.” Paul’s letter was alive, written by Christ’s divine, supernatural power through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4, 5; 1 Thess. 1:5). “Tablets of stone.” A reference to the Ten Commandments. “Tablets of flesh…of the heart.” More than just writing His Law on stone, God was writing His Law on the hearts of those people He transformed. The false teachers claimed external adherence to the Mosaic Law as the basis of salvation, but the transformed lives of the Corinthians proved that salvation was an internal change wrought by God in the heart.




Empowered for Service

“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us . . .” (Ephesians 3:20).

Through the Holy Spirit, God gives His children all the spiritual power they will ever need to live the Christian life.

It’s a joy to know that spiritual gifts are not like toys whose packages say “batteries required.” What the Spirit provides is not dependent on perishable batteries for power. Instead, when the Spirit secures our new life in Christ, He also empowers and strengthens us with every spiritual resource we’ll ever need to serve Christ and minister to others.

The Holy Spirit draws from an infinite supply of strength and power, as Paul indicates in Ephesians 3:20. In verse 16 he had just prayed that the Ephesians would “be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Paul was certain that God’s Spirit can do far more in the lives of believers than most of us ever imagine. So many of us don’t get past the phrase “to Him who is able,” and with that failure we limit how much the Holy Spirit can do in and through us.

Paul had much more than a theoretical understanding of the Spirit’s infinite power supply—he experienced it firsthand. Even when he was stretched to the limit physically and spiritually, he said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). We can’t attribute his inner perseverance to any other source than the Holy Spirit.

No matter how difficult or discouraging our own circumstances become, we have the very same Spirit. If we’re hindered, we don’t have to be frustrated. If we’re puzzled, we don’t have to be in despair. If we’re persecuted, we don’t have to face it alone. If we’re dying from a physical disease, we can be alive in heart and spirit. Our outer person might be exhausted and hard-pressed, but we have the assurance that our inner self is being renewed with fresh strength daily from the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 4:16).

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God today that even before your life encounters a crisis, you have the Holy Spirit as a source of strength and power to help meet that challenge.

For Further Study
* Moses was uncertain that he could or would be empowered for God’s ministry. Read Exodus 3:1—4:17. What excuses did Moses raise?
* How did God deal with each one?


Maintaining Spiritual Effectiveness

"Stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11).

Satan wants to render you ineffective for Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul says, "A wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries." That's typical of spiritual warfare. The more opportunities you have to serve Christ, the more adversaries you'll face. That's because Satan seeks to hinder your spiritual service.

Often seminary students ask me if ministry becomes easier over the years. In one sense it does because you learn better study skills, time management, and the like. But in a greater sense it becomes more difficult because as you labor in the Word, contend for souls, and struggle against your own weaknesses, Satan opposes you at every turn.

You can sense something of the difficulty of ministry in Paul's words to the Thessalonians: "Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God" (1 Thess. 2:8-9). To the Ephesian elders he said, "Be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears" (Acts 20:31).  Every sphere of ministry is important—whether you're a pastor, homemaker, factory worker, or student. 

Consequently, every ministry encounters opposition as Satan attempts to cause friction and discouragement within families, churches, and work places. Thus, believers must be humble and gentle toward one another, "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). When we do that, the Body of Christ is strengthened and Satan can't gain a foothold.

Ministry is hard work and the obstacles are great, but the victories are even greater. So be faithful, knowing that God will reward you richly.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for the privilege of serving Him—even during the hard times.
* Thank Him for the encouragement you receive from His Spirit, His Word, and your fellow believers.

For Further Study
According to Romans 8:18, what was Paul's perspective on difficulties?


The Impact of the Incarnation

“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:17–18).

God’s Law was permeated with His glory and reflected His holiness and righteousness. Though God was gracious in the Old Testament, the Law was not an instrument of grace because the Law saved no one (Rom. 3:20–22; Gal. 2:16; 3:10–12). It merely convicts sinners of their inability to keep perfectly God’s righteous standards, and condemns them to the eternal punishment of divine justice; thus it reveals their need for the grace of forgiveness.

Jesus Christ, however, brought the full realization of grace and truth. In Him, the truth of God’s salvation was fully revealed and accomplished.

God also was made visible with a clarity never before seen or known. “No one has seen God at any time,” Jesus declared of the years before His appearing (John 6:46), not merely because He is a spirit who is invisible, but more important because to do so would bring instant death. It is through Jesus Christ, the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), that God is revealed.

God, who cannot be known unless He reveals Himself, became most fully known because Jesus “explained Him.” Jesus is the explanation of God. He is the answer to the question, “What is God like?”
Jesus is the only one qualified to interpret God to man, since “no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27).

Ask Yourself
What is something of God that He has “explained” to you recently, some facet of His nature and character that has been “revealed” to you through your interaction with Him? Aren’t you glad He has chosen to make Himself known?


Reading for Today:
* Isaiah 11:1–12:6
* Psalm 106:6-18
* Proverbs 25:3-5
* 2 Corinthians 2:1-17

Isaiah 11:1 stem…roots. With the Babylonian captivity of 586 B.C., the Davidic dynasty appeared as decimated as the Assyrian army. A major difference between the two was the life remaining in the stump and roots of the Davidic line. That life was to manifest itself in new growth in the form of the Rod and Branch. Jesse. Jesse was David’s father through whose line the messianic king was to come (Ruth 4:22; 1 Sam. 16:1, 12, 13). Branch. This is a title for the Messiah (see 4:2).
Isaiah 11:2 The Spirit of the LORD. As the Spirit of the Lord came upon David when he was anointed king (1 Sam 16:13; Ps.51:11), so He will rest upon David’s descendant, Christ, who will rule the world. Spirit…the LORD…Him. This verse refers to the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity (see 6:3).wisdom and understanding…counsel and might…knowledge and…fear of the LORD. These are Spirit-imparted qualifications that will enable the Messiah to rule justly and effectively.

Isaiah 11:10 in that day. The time of universal peace will come in the future reign of the Lord. Gentiles shall seek Him. The Root of Jesse will also attract non-Jews who inhabit the future kingdom (49:6; 52:10; 60:3; 66:18). Paul saw God’s ministry to Gentiles during the church age as an additional implication of this verse (Rom. 15:12).

2 Corinthians 2:2 Although Paul was sensitive to the Corinthians’ pain and sadness from the past confrontation, because of his commitment to purity he would confront them again if necessary. “The one who is made sorrowful” refers to one convicted by his sin. In particular, there was apparently on Paul’s last visit, a man in the church who confronted him with the accusations taken from the false teachers. The church had not dealt with that man in Paul’s defense, and Paul was deeply grieved over that lack of loyalty. The only thing that would bring Paul joy would be repentance from such a one and any who agreed with him, and Paul had been waiting for it.

2 Corinthians 2:17 not, as so many. Or, “not as the majority.” This specifically refers to the false teachers in Corinth and to the many other teachers and philosophers of that day who operated by human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:19, 20). peddling. From a Greek verb that means “to corrupt,” this word came to refer to corrupt hucksters or con men who by their cleverness and deception were able to sell as genuine an inferior product that was only a cheap imitation. 

The false teachers in the church were coming with clever, deceptive rhetoric to offer a degraded, adulterated message that mixed paganism and Jewish tradition. They were dishonest men seeking personal profit and prestige at the expense of gospel truth and people’s souls.

What was Paul’s rationale for forgiveness?
Second Corinthians 2:5–11 is one of the best texts in all of Scripture on the godly motivation for forgiveness. Paul said, “If anyone has caused grief” (v. 5). The Greek construction of this clause assumes the condition to be true—Paul is acknowledging the reality of the offense and its ongoing effect, not on him, but on the church. With this deflection of any personal vengeance, he sought to soften the charge against the penitent offender and allow the church to deal with the man and those who were with him objectively, apart from Paul’s personal anguish or offense.
“This punishment…inflicted by the majority” (v. 6). This indicates that the church in Corinth had followed the biblical process in disciplining the sinning man (Matt. 18:15–20; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14). The Greek word for “punishment,” used frequently in secular writings but only here in the New Testament, denoted an official legal penalty or commercial sanction that was enacted against an individual or group (city, nation). “Is sufficient.” The process of discipline and punishment was enough. Now it was time to show mercy because the man had repented (Matt. 18:18, 23–35; Gal. 6:1, 2; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13; Heb. 12:11).

“You ought rather to forgive and comfort him” (v. 7). It was time to grant forgiveness so the man’s joy would be restored (Ps. 51:12,14; Is. 42:2,3). Paul knew there was—and is—no place in the church for man-made limits on God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness toward repentant sinners. Such restrictions could only rob the fellowship of the joy of unity (Matt. 18:34, 35; Mark 11:25, 26). “Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.”




We Need One Another

“To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

The Holy Spirit uses believers to minister to other believers.
Right in line with modern culture’s emphasis on personal independence, it’s often easy for one to say, “If I have the all-sufficient Holy Spirit living within me, that’s all I need to live my Christian life.” That is true, but because you are not completely sanctified, you do not always allow the Spirit to fully do His work. Therefore, God needs to use other believers to minister the Spirit’s correction, exhortation, or encouragement.

The Bible is very clear about this. The Epistle to the Hebrews says God wants followers who do not waver in their profession of faith. And a primary way Christians will fulfill that is by regularly meeting together and seriously stimulating one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:23-25).

We don’t have to look far for the proper setting in which to meet regularly and encourage one another. It’s any Bible-believing local church that is exercising its spiritual gifts. These special gifts are simply the loving channels through which the Holy Spirit ministers to those within the fellowship of believers. Today’s verse suggests that each of us has a gift, and this truth is explained a little more in verse 11: “One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” Here the apostle Paul reveals yet one more way in which the Holy Spirit sovereignly helps us and others to become more mature.

What’s remarkable about the Spirit’s working through us is that we become extensions of His voice. Perhaps you’ve thought of that comparison at times when you’ve shared the gospel with the lost. But the analogy fits equally well when you reach out and minister to someone within your church. The idea of being an extension of the Holy Spirit’s ministry ought to encourage you toward greater faithfulness in using your spiritual gifts to help other believers. Likewise, it should make you more sensitive to the Spirit’s correcting and edifying work in your life as others come alongside and minister to you (Col. 3:12-13).

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask the Lord to keep you always faithful to the commands of Hebrews 10:23-25.

For Further Study
Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.
* What kind of example did the Macedonians set regarding aid to other believers?
* How should that motivate us (v. 7)?


Attacks on God's People

"Stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11).

Satan wants to catch you off-guard.
Satan attacks God's Word. Today we will see how he attacks God's people. Persecution, peer pressure, and preoccupation are three weapons he employs with great effectiveness.

Persecution should never take Christians by surprise because Scripture repeatedly warns us that it will come. For example, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Yet such warnings are often overlooked in the health, wealth, and prosperity climate of contemporary Christianity.

As the greed perpetuated by such a movement continues its assault on Christian virtue, many professing believers have come to expect a pain-free, trouble-free life. When trials come, they're caught off guard and often disillusioned with the church or with God Himself. Some prove to be phony believers, whom Jesus described in His parable of the four soils: people who initially respond to the gospel with joy, yet fall away when affliction or persecution arises because of the Word (Matt. 13:21).

Satan also uses peer pressure as an effective weapon. Many people never come to Christ for fear of losing their friends or being thought of as different. For them the cost of discipleship is too great. Even Christians sometimes struggle with peer pressure, compromising God's standards to avoid offending others.

Another weapon is preoccupation with the world. Often the hardest place to live the Christian life is in the easiest place. For example, becoming a Christian in America isn't the life-threatening choice it is in some parts of the world. Some who stand boldly against persecution or peer pressure might falter in a climate of acceptance. Often that's when the danger of spiritual complacency and preoccupation with the world is greatest.

To guard against those attacks, remember that God uses persecution to mature you and bring glory to Himself. Also, make a conscious choice each day to please God rather than people. Finally, evaluate your priorities and activities carefully. Fight the tendency to become preoccupied with things unrelated to God's kingdom.

Suggestions for Prayer