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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?


October 17 - 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 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?


October 16 - 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 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.

DAY 16: 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.


October 15 - 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 15:1–9 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).

DAY 15: 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 10:10 says 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?


October 14 - 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).

DAY 14: 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).




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?


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?


October 13 - 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).

DAY 13: 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?


October 12 - 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 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).

DAY 12: 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?


October 11 - 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 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.

DAY 11: 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?


October 10 - Christ’s Concern for Souls

“‘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 5:10 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.

DAY 10: 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.




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?


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?


October 9 - 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 3:14 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).

DAY 9: 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).




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.


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)?


October 8 - 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 1:5 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.”

DAY 8: 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).




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?


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.


October 7 - 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 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).

DAY 7: 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.




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.


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.


October 6 - 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 63:7 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.

DAY 6: 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.




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.


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.


October 5 - 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.

DAY 5: 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?


October 4 - 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 59:15, 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.

DAY 4: 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?


October 3 - 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 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.

DAY 3: 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).




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.


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?

Reading for Today:


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).

DAY 2: 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).


October 2 - 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 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).

DAY 2: 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).




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?


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.


October 1 - 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 53:6 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.

DAY 1: 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.




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.


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)?


September 30 - 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 51:6 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).

DAY 30: 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.)




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 6:10 to 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?


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?


September 29 - 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 49:8 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).

DAY 29: 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.”




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?


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?


September 28 - 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 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.

DAY 28: 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.




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 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?


September 27 - 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 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.

DAY 27: 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).




The Spirit Brings Understanding

“‘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).

We understand truth thanks to the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture makes it clear that the disciples and all subsequent believers would need additional divine assistance to understand all of God’s teachings. Jesus Himself knew that, as we saw in yesterday’s lesson. And the apostle Paul alludes to that fact in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Just as it is written, ‘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.’” Our human minds and senses by themselves can’t give us an understanding of God’s truth. That’s why we need the Holy Spirit.

In John 16:25 Jesus says, “An hour is coming when I . . . will tell you plainly.” That reference is to the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured forth to permanently indwell the disciples and all other believers. Therefore, Jesus is saying that the Spirit will help us understand God’s truth, even the veiled mysteries and figurative statements in His Word.

We know and understand all that we do about God only because His Spirit is our teacher. The Holy Spirit is the one who knows the mind of God and teaches us the deep things of God from Scripture (1 Cor. 2:10-14). All the New Testament epistles were written to plainly explain Christ’s teachings to us. At times the Spirit teaches us directly through the Word, and other times He uses people to teach us and unveil what was previously a mystery. But it’s all His working, it’s reliable, and we can thank Him every day for granting us spiritual understanding.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • If there is a Scripture passage that has been unclear to you, pray that God would clarify it for you as you study it again, or that He would lead you to someone who can help you understand it.
  • Pray for an unbeliever who has been struggling with accepting God’s truth. Ask the Spirit to draw that person to the Lord and unlock Scripture’s truths.

For Further Study

Read Acts 8:26-38.

  • What does this passage teach about the importance of obeying the Spirit’s direction?
  • How did Philip and the Ethiopian exhibit different aspects of that obedience?


Satan Opposes God's Word

"Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17).

Despite Satanic opposition, God’s Word will accomplish its work in His people.

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the seed: "Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. And others fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up. . . . But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop" (vv. 3-8).

Jesus went on to explain that the seed is the truth of God's Word. Satan and his demonic forces can snatch it away from those who hear it yet don't understand what it means. They can bring affliction and persecution against those who have an emotional commitment only, thereby causing them to lose heart and fall away. In some cases they choke out the Word with worry and the deceitfulness of riches (vv. 19-22).

But truly repentant sinners receive and nurture the gospel truth, just as prepared soil receives and nurtures seed. They hear it, understand it, receive it, and produce spiritual fruit (v. 23).

Proclaiming the gospel is an important aspect of taking the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). As you do, others are saved and join God's army. But be warned: Satan never gives up territory without a fight. Some of the people you witness to will forget what you tell them. Others will refuse to turn from worldly influences. Still others may respond emotionally, but without a genuine commitment to serving Christ and forsaking sin.

Those spiritual battles should compel you to bathe your evangelism in prayer and undergird it with a clear gospel presentation. If people understand precisely what it means to receive Christ, and if their hearts are prepared by the Holy Spirit, they'll not be so easily victimized by satanic opposition.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to give you an opportunity to share Christ with someone today, or to encourage a struggling believer.

For Further Study

Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8.

  • What was Paul's concern for the Thessalonian believers?
  • What did he do to eliminate his concern?


September 26 - An Old Testament Illustration of Salvation

“‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life’” (John 3:14–15).

To emphasize for Nicodemus that there was no excuse for him to be ignorant of the way of salvation, Jesus appealed to a familiar incident in the Old Testament (Num. 21:5–9).

The event took place during Israel’s forty years of wilderness wandering after leaving Egypt and before entering the Promised Land. As a judgment on the people’s incessant complaining, the Lord sent venomous snakes to infest their camp. In desperation, the Israelites begged Moses to intercede on their behalf. And God answered Moses’ prayerful petition by showing mercy to His rebellious people. He instructed Moses to make a bronze replica of a snake and raise it above the camp on a pole. Those who were bitten would be healed if they but looked at it, thereby acknowledging their guilt and expressing faith in God’s forgiveness and healing power.

The point of Jesus’ analogy is that just “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (crucified; cf. 8:28; 12:32, 34). The term “must” emphasizes that Christ’s death was a necessary part of God’s plan of salvation. He had to die as a substitute for sinners. The stricken Israelites were cured by obediently looking to the elevated serpent, apart from any works or righteousness of their own, in complete hope and dependence on God’s Word. In the same way, whoever looks in faith alone to the crucified Christ will be cured from sin’s deadly bite and “will in Him have eternal life.”

Ask Yourself

The use of analogies and common knowledge is most effective in sharing gospel truth with others. What are some of the most compelling ones God has registered in your heart? Be deliberate about getting these down, grounding them biblically, then having them mentally available to share.


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 43:25 I, even I…not remember your sins. This verse is probably the high point of grace in the Old Testament. In spite of Israel’s utter unworthiness, the Lord in His grace has devised a way that He can forgive their sins and grant righteousness, without compromising His holiness. This He would accomplish through the work of His Servant (53:6). In spite of her failures, Israel will always be God’s chosen people.

Isaiah 44:28 Cyrus,…My shepherd. The prophecy—given a century and a half before Cyrus lived and became king of Persia—predicted God’s use of the Persian king to gather the faithful remnant of Israel back to the land. In this role, Cyrus prefigured the Lord’s Servant, who will shepherd the sheep of Israel in their final regathering (Mic. 5:4). The title “shepherd” applied to kings as leaders of God’s people (2 Sam. 5:2; Jer. 3:15). In Acts 13:22, Paul compares David to the standard of Cyrus’s obedience. Jerusalem…the temple. In 538 B.C., Cyrus decreed the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 1:1, 2; 6:3), thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. The returning Jews completed the work in 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:15).

Galatians 4:4 the fullness of the time. In God’s timetable, when the exact religious, cultural, and political conditions demanded by His perfect plan were in place, Jesus came into the world. God sent forth His Son. As a father set the time for the ceremony of his son becoming of age and being released from the guardians, stewards, and tutors, so God sent His Son at the precise moment to bring all who believe out from under bondage to the law—a truth Jesus repeatedly affirmed (John 5:30, 36, 37; 6:39, 44, 57; 8:16, 18, 42; 12:49; 17:21, 25; 20:21). That the Father sent Jesus into the world teaches His preexistence as the eternal second member of the Trinity. born of a woman. This emphasizes Jesus’ full humanity, not merely His virgin birth (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:20–25). Jesus had to be fully God for His sacrifice to be of the infinite worth needed to atone for sin. But He also had to be fully man so He could take upon Himself the penalty of sin as the substitute for man. under the law. Like all men, Jesus was obligated to obey God’s law. Unlike anyone else, however, He perfectly obeyed that law (John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5). His sinlessness made Him the unblemished sacrifice for sins, who “fulfilled all righteousness,” i.e., perfectly obeyed God in everything. That perfect righteousness is what is imputed to those who believe in Him.

Galatians 4:5 those…under the law. Guilty sinners who are under the law’s demands and its curses and in need of a Savior. the adoption as sons. “Adoption” is the act of bringing someone who is the offspring of another into one’s own family. Since unregenerate people are by nature children of the devil, the only way they can become God’s children is by spiritual adoption.

DAY 26: How does Psalm 110 exalt Jesus Christ?

This psalm contains one of the most exalted prophetic portions of Scripture presenting Jesus Christ as both a holy king and a royal high priest—something that no human monarch of Israel ever experienced. It, along with Psalm 118, is by far the most quoted psalm in the New Testament (Matt. 22:44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; Luke 20:42, 43; 22:69; Acts 2:34, 35; Heb. 1:13; 5:6; 7:17, 21; 10:13). While portraying the perfect king, the perfect high priest, and the perfect government, Psalm 110 declares Christ’s current role in heaven as the resurrected Savior (110:1) and His future role on earth as the reigning Monarch (110:2–7). This psalm is decidedly messianic and millennial in content. Jesus Christ (Matt. 22:43, 44) verifies the Davidic authorship.

“The LORD said to my Lord” (v. 1). Refers to the divine/human King of Israel—the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s humanity descended from David, which is demanded by the Davidic promise of 2 Samuel 7:12. Using this passage, Christ also declared His deity in the Gospels (Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42–43) by arguing that only God could have been lord to King David. “My right hand.” God the Father invited God the Son in His ascension to sit at the place of honor in the heavenly throne room (Acts. 2:22–36; Heb. 10:10–12). “Your enemies Your footstool.” Footstool was an ancient Near Eastern picture of absolute victory portraying the idea that one’s enemy was now underfoot (Pss. 8:6, 7; 47:3; Is. 66:1; 1 Cor. 15:27).

“You are a priest” (v. 4).The first time in the history of Israel when a king simultaneously served as high priest. Christ (a.k.a. “Branch,” Is. 4:2; Jer. 23:5, 6; Zech. 3:8; 6:12, 13) will build the temple at which the world will worship God (2 Sam. 7:13; Is. 2:2–4; Ezek. 40–48). “Forever.” Christ represents the final and foremost high priest in the history of Israel. “The order of Melchizedek.” This high priest could not be of Aaron’s lineage in that he would not be eternal, not be of Judah, not be a king, and not be of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–33; Heb. 8,9). Melchizedek, which means “king of righteousness,” served as the human priest/king of Salem in Genesis 14:17–20 and provides a picture of the order of Christ’s priesthood (Heb. 5:6; 7:17, 21).




The Need for Understanding

“‘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 6:53-58 speaks 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?


September 25 - 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 41:4 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).

DAY 25: 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?


September 24 - 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).

DAY 24: 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).




Taking the Offensive

"Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17).

God’s Word is your primary offensive spiritual weapon.

All the armor Paul lists in Ephesians 6 is defensive, with one exception: the sword of the Spirit. That's your offensive weapon for defeating Satan.

We've seen that Roman soldiers carried two swords: the large broadsword and the small dagger. The Greek word translated "sword" in verse 17 refers to the dagger, which was anywhere from six to eighteen inches in length and was carried in a sheath or scabbard at the soldier's side.

The dagger was a common weapon. The Roman soldiers who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were each armed with one (Matt. 26:47). Peter used one to cut off the ear of the high priest's servant (Matt. 26:51). A dagger was used to kill James, the brother of John (Acts. 12:2). Hebrews 11:37 tells us that such a weapon was used against the heroes of the faith.

"The sword of the Spirit" isn't a direct reference to the Holy Spirit as such. The implications is that since our enemy is spiritual, our weapons also must be spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4). Our sword is spiritual because it is the Word given by the Holy Spirit. He inspired its writing and through it convicts and redeems sinners (John 16:8; Heb. 4:12-13). The Word abides in you and transforms you. It supplies everything you need for a godly, victorious life. It builds you up and produces holiness (Acts 20:32). And it equips you for good works by teaching, reproving, correcting, and training you in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Bible is a powerful and effective weapon. The question is, Do you know how to use it? Do you diligently study it and apply its principles to your life? Do you have a storehouse of biblical truth to draw from in the heat of battle?

The Roman dagger was a precision weapon aimed at a specific spot to produce a specific result. Similarly, the sword of the Spirit is most effective when you apply specific biblical principles to specific situations in your life. Do you do that?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to increase your desire to know His Word.

Ask for wisdom in applying what you already know to the decisions and situations you'll face today.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 1:22—2:3. How are believers to approach the Word?


Taking the Offensive

"Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17).

God’s Word is your primary offensive spiritual weapon.

All the armor Paul lists in Ephesians 6 is defensive, with one exception: the sword of the Spirit. That's your offensive weapon for defeating Satan.

We've seen that Roman soldiers carried two swords: the large broadsword and the small dagger. The Greek word translated "sword" in verse 17 refers to the dagger, which was anywhere from six to eighteen inches in length and was carried in a sheath or scabbard at the soldier's side.

The dagger was a common weapon. The Roman soldiers who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were each armed with one (Matt. 26:47). Peter used one to cut off the ear of the high priest's servant (Matt. 26:51). A dagger was used to kill James, the brother of John (Acts. 12:2). Hebrews 11:37 tells us that such a weapon was used against the heroes of the faith.

"The sword of the Spirit" isn't a direct reference to the Holy Spirit as such. The implications is that since our enemy is spiritual, our weapons also must be spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4). Our sword is spiritual because it is the Word given by the Holy Spirit. He inspired its writing and through it convicts and redeems sinners (John 16:8; Heb. 4:12-13). The Word abides in you and transforms you. It supplies everything you need for a godly, victorious life. It builds you up and produces holiness (Acts 20:32). And it equips you for good works by teaching, reproving, correcting, and training you in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Bible is a powerful and effective weapon. The question is, Do you know how to use it? Do you diligently study it and apply its principles to your life? Do you have a storehouse of biblical truth to draw from in the heat of battle?

The Roman dagger was a precision weapon aimed at a specific spot to produce a specific result. Similarly, the sword of the Spirit is most effective when you apply specific biblical principles to specific situations in your life. Do you do that?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to increase your desire to know His Word.

Ask for wisdom in applying what you already know to the decisions and situations you'll face today.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 1:22—2:3. How are believers to approach the Word?


September 23 - Jesus Challenges Nicodemus: New Birth

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’” (John 3:3–4).

Jesus’ shocking statement was far more than Nicodemus had expected. Incredulous, Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Nicodemus did not misinterpret Jesus’ words; he replied in the context of the Lord’s analogy. How could he start all over, go back to the beginning? Jesus was telling him that entrance to God’s salvation was not a matter of adding something to all his efforts but rather cancelling everything and starting all over again.

At the same time, Nicodemus clearly could not grasp the full meaning of what this meant. Jesus was making entrance into the kingdom contingent on something that could not be obtained through human effort. If spiritual rebirth, like physical rebirth, was impossible from human effort, then where did that leave this self-righteous Pharisee, since the system in which he had placed his hope was powerless to save?

Far from minimizing the demands of the gospel, Jesus challenged this most religious Jew to admit his spiritual bankruptcy and abandon everything he was trusting in for salvation.

Be sure as you proclaim the gospel that you challenge your listeners to give up what they think will get them to heaven.

Ask Yourself

On one hand, adherence to the law (as Nicodemus saw it) seems like a long-forgotten pursuit. But there are plenty of folks down the street or within the sound of your voice who are clinging to the hopes of their good works. How does this show itself? How can you counteract it as you witness to them?


Reading for Today:

Isaiah 37:1–38:22

Psalm 109:14-20

Proverbs 26:1

Galatians 1:1-24


Isaiah 37:29 hook in your nose…bridle in your lips. In judging Sennacherib, the Lord treated him as an obstinate animal with a ring in his nose and/or a bridle in his mouth. Some ancient sources indicate that captives were led before a king by a cord attached to a hook or ring through the upper lip and nose. Thus, he was to be brought back to his own country.

Isaiah 37:36 the angel of the LORD. This was Isaiah’s only use of a title that is frequent in the Old Testament, one referring to the Lord Himself. killed. Secular records also mention this massive slaughter of Assyrian troops, without noting its supernatural nature, of course.

Galatians 1:12 neither received it from man, nor was I taught it. In contrast to the Judaizers, who received their religious instruction from rabbinic tradition. Most Jews did not study the actual Scriptures; instead they used human interpretations of Scripture as their religious authority and guide. Many of their traditions not only were not taught in Scripture but also contradicted it (Mark 7:13). through the revelation. This refers to the unveiling of something previously kept secret—in this case, Jesus Christ. While he knew about Christ, Paul subsequently met Him personally on the road to Damascus and received the truth of the gospel from Him (Acts 9:1–16).

Galatians 1:17 Jerusalem…Arabia,…Damascus. Rather than immediately travel to Jerusalem to be instructed by the apostles, Paul instead went to Nabatean Arabia, a wilderness desert that stretched east of Damascus down to the Sinai peninsula. After being prepared for ministry by the Lord, he returned to minister in nearby Damascus.

Galatians 1:18 three years. The approximate time from Paul’s conversion to his first journey to Jerusalem. During those years he made a visit to Damascus and resided in Arabia, under the instruction of the Lord. This visit is discussed in Acts 9:26–30. up to Jerusalem. Travelers in Israel always speak of going up to Jerusalem because of its higher elevation. see. Better translated, “to become acquainted with.” Peter. The apostle who was the personal companion of the Lord and the most powerful spokesman in the early years of the Jerusalem church (Acts 1–12).

DAY 23: What was so shocking to Paul about the Galatians?

That the Galatians were “turning away” (1:6). This is better translated “deserting.” The Greek word was used of military desertion, which was punishable by death. The form of this Greek verb indicates that the Galatian believers were voluntarily deserting grace to pursue the legalism taught by the false teachers. “So soon.” This Greek word can mean either “easily” or “quickly” and sometimes both. No doubt both senses characterized the Galatians’ response to the false teachers’ heretical doctrines. “Called you.” This could be translated, “Who called you once and for all” (2 Thess. 2:13, 14; 2 Tim. 1:8, 9; 1 Pet. 1:15), and refers to God’s effectual call to salvation. “Grace of Christ.” God’s free and sovereign act of mercy in granting salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ, totally apart from any human work or merit. “Different gospel.” The Judaizers’ perversion of the true gospel. They added the requirements, ceremonies, and standards of the Old Covenant as necessary prerequisites to salvation.

“Some who trouble you” (v. 7). The Greek word could be translated “disturb” and means “to shake back and forth,” meaning to agitate or stir up. Here, it refers to the deep emotional disturbance the Galatian believers experienced. “Pervert.” To turn something into its opposite. By adding law to the gospel of Christ, the false teachers were effectively destroying grace, turning the message of God’s undeserved favor toward sinners into a message of earned and merited favor. “The gospel of Christ.” The good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Throughout history God has devoted certain objects, individuals, and groups of people to destruction or to be “accursed” (Josh. 6:17, 18; 7:1, 25, 26). Here the Judaizers are identified as members of this infamous company. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven” (v. 8). Paul’s point is hypothetical, calling on the most unlikely examples for false teaching—himself and holy angels. The Galatians should receive no messenger, regardless of how impeccable his credentials, if his doctrine of salvation differs in the slightest degree from God’s truth revealed through Christ and the apostles. “Accursed.” The translation of the familiar Greek word anathama, which refers to devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell (Rom. 9:3; 1 Cor. 12:3; 16:22).




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?


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.


September 22 - 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).

DAY 22: 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.


September 21 - 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.

DAY 21: 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 8:29-30 assures 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?


September 20 - 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.


September 20 - 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 i




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.


September 19 - 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.

DAY 19: 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?


September 18 - 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.

DAY 18: 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?


September 17 - 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).

DAY 17: 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).




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 . . . 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 21:9 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 19:18 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).







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 6:1 reveals 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.


September 14 - 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.

DAY 14: 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.


September 13 - 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.

DAY 13: 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?


September 12 - 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).

DAY 12: 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 6:12 reminds 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.


September 11 - 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).

DAY 11: 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.




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?


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?


September 10 - 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.

DAY 10: 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.

Yesterday we saw how 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

Ask God to keep you spiritually alert throughout this day so the enemy doesn't catch you off guard.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 26:31-56. What might the disciples have done to avoid being caught off guard?


September 9 - The Witnesses to the Incarnation

“John testified about Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.”’ For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:15–16).

John brought in other witnesses to the truth about the divine, preexistent, incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. He first called on John the Baptist.

That John “cried out” speaks of the bold, public nature of his witness to Jesus; he was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!’” (Matt. 3:3). He was the herald, proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah, and calling people to repent and prepare their hearts to receive Him. Acknowledging Jesus’ preeminence, John said of Him, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.” Jesus, the Expected (literally, “coming”) One (Luke 7:19–20) came after John in time; He was born six months later and began His public ministry after John began his. Yet, as John acknowledged, Jesus had “a higher rank than” he did, “for He existed before” him. This is a reference to Jesus’ eternal preexistence.

The apostle also points to the witness of all believers, who “have all received” the fullness of blessing from the one who is “full of grace and truth” (v. 14). You can add your voice to that testimony by faithfully living out and proclaiming the truth of the gospel.

Ask Yourself

Spend some time today reflecting on all you have received from Christ, how “grace upon grace” has been added, multiplied, and stacked one on top of another in your life—day after day, year after year. Celebrate His grace and goodness with the measure it has been poured out on you.


Reading for Today:

Isaiah 9:1–10:34

Psalm 106:1-5

Proverbs 25:1-2

2 Corinthians 1:1-24


Isaiah 9:6 Child…Son. These terms elaborate further on Immanuel, the child to be born to the virgin (7:14). The virgin’s child will also be the royal Son of David, with rights to the Davidic throne (9:7; Matt. 1:21; Luke 1:31–33; 2:7, 11). government. In fulfillment of this verse and Psalm 2:9, the Son will rule the nations of the world (Rev. 2:27; 19:15). Wonderful, Counselor. The remaining 3 titles consist of two words each, so the intention was probably that each pair of words indicate one title: “Wonderful Counselor.” In contrast to Ahaz, this King will implement supernatural wisdom in discharging His office (2 Sam. 16:23; 1 Kin. 3:28). Mighty God. As a powerful warrior, the Messiah will accomplish the military exploits mentioned in 9:3–5. Everlasting Father. The Messiah will be a Father to His people eternally. As Davidic King, He will compassionately care for and discipline them (40:11; 63:16; 64:8; Pss. 68:5, 6; 103:13; Prov. 3:12). Prince of Peace. The government of Immanuel will procure and perpetuate peace among the nations of the world (2:4; 11:6–9; Mic. 4:3).

Isaiah 9:7 throne of David. The virgin’s Son will be the rightful heir to David’s throne and will inherit the promises of the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:12–16; Ps. 89:1–37; Matt. 1:1).

2 Corinthians 1:4 tribulation. This term refers to crushing pressure, because in Paul’s life and ministry there was always something attempting to weaken him, restrict or confine his ministry, or even crush out his life. But no matter what confronted him, Paul knew God would sustain and strengthen him (12:9, 10; Rom. 8:31–38; Phil. 1:6). that we may be able to comfort. Comfort from God is not an end in itself. Its purpose is that believers also might be comforters. Having humiliated and convicted the Corinthians, God used Paul to return to them with a strengthening message after he himself had received divine strengthening (6:1–13; 12:6–11; Luke 22:31, 32).

2 Corinthians 1:8 trouble which came to us in Asia. This was a recent occurrence (following the writing of 1 Corinthians) that happened in or around the city of Ephesus. The details of this situation are not known. despaired even of life. Paul faced something that was beyond human survival and was extremely discouraging because he believed it threatened to end his ministry prematurely. The Greek word for “despaired” literally means “no passage,” the total absence of an exit (2 Tim. 4:6). The Corinthians were aware of what had happened to Paul, but did not realize the utter severity of it, or what God was doing through those circumstances.

2 Corinthians 1:9 the sentence of death. The word for “sentence” is a technical term that indicated the passing of an official resolution, in this case the death sentence. Paul was so absolutely sure he was going to die for the gospel that he had pronounced the sentence upon himself. not trust in ourselves but in God. God’s ultimate purpose for Paul’s horrible extremity. The Lord took him to the point at which he could not fall back on any intellectual, physical, or emotional human resource (12:9,10). who raises the dead. A Jewish descriptive term for God used in synagogue worship language. Paul understood that trust in God’s power to raise the dead was the only hope of rescue from his extreme circumstances.

DAY 9: Why did Paul write a second book to the Corinthians?

Paul’s association with the church of Corinth began on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1–18), when he spent 18 months (Acts 18:11) ministering there. After leaving Corinth, Paul heard of immorality in the Corinthian church and wrote a letter (since lost) to confront that sin, referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9. During his ministry in Ephesus, he received further reports of trouble in the Corinthian church in the form of divisions among them (1 Cor. 1:11). In addition, the Corinthians wrote Paul a letter (1 Cor. 7:1), asking for clarification of some issues. Paul responded by writing the letter known as 1 Corinthians. Planning to remain at Ephesus a little longer (1 Cor. 16:8, 9), Paul sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10, 11). Disturbing news reached the apostle (possibly from Timothy) of further difficulties at Corinth, including the arrival of self-styled false apostles.

To create the platform to teach their false gospel, the false apostles began by assaulting the character of Paul. They had to convince the people to turn from Paul to them if they were to succeed in preaching demon doctrine. Temporarily abandoning the work at Ephesus, Paul went immediately to Corinth. The visit (known as the “painful visit,” 2 Cor. 2:1) was not a successful one from Paul’s perspective—someone in the Corinthian church even openly insulted him (2:5–8, 10; 7:12). Saddened by the Corinthians’ lack of loyalty to defend him, seeking to spare them further reproof (1:23), and perhaps hoping time would bring them to their senses, Paul returned to Ephesus. From Ephesus, Paul wrote what is known as the “severe letter” (2:4) and sent it with Titus to Corinth (7:5–16). Leaving Ephesus after the riot sparked by Demetrius (Acts 19:23–20:1), Paul went to Troas to meet Titus (2:12, 13). But Paul was so anxious for news of how the Corinthians had responded to the “severe letter” that he could not minister there though the Lord had opened the door (2:12; 7:5). So he left for Macedonia to look for Titus (2:13). To Paul’s immense relief and joy, Titus met him with the news that the majority of the Corinthians had repented of their rebellion against Paul (7:7). Wise enough to know that some rebellious attitudes still smoldered under the surface and could erupt again, Paul wrote the Corinthians the letter called 2 Corinthians. In this letter, though the apostle expressed his relief and joy at their repentance (7:8–16), his main concern was to defend his apostleship (chaps. 1–7), exhort the Corinthians to resume preparations for the collection for the poor at Jerusalem (chaps. 8, 9), and confront the false apostles head on (chaps. 10–13). He then went to Corinth, as he had written (12:14; 13:1, 2). The Corinthians’ participation in the Jerusalem offering (Rom. 15:26) implies that Paul’s third visit to that church was successful.




The Spotlight Stays on Christ

“‘When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me’” (John 15:26).

After He has drawn us to Christ, the Holy Spirit helps us give Christ the preeminence.

In the spiritual realm it is important that our attention be kept focused in the right direction—toward the object of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, through the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, helps us understand what such focus is all about: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (12:1-2).

John 15:26 is one of two references in the Gospel of John in which the Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ (see also John 16:14-15). Commentator Leon Morris tells us, “This bearing of witness was not an end in itself. Behind it was the purpose ‘that all might believe through him.’” It has always been the Spirit’s desire that people recognize Christ’s authority and submit to His will (Phil. 2:9-13). Thus Paul further reminds us that “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

We saw yesterday that the power and wisdom of the Spirit are crucial if any individual is to be transformed from spiritual condemnation to spiritual life. After that, it is just as necessary that we rely on the Holy Spirit to keep us focused on Jesus Christ and our ongoing responsibilities of obedience and service to Him. How foolish it is for any of us who profess Christ to then follow Him by looking to our own strength rather than His glory. We forget that the Spirit has given us a clear view of the freedom involved in following Jesus as Lord: “But whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:16-17).

Suggestions for Prayer

If you have tended to focus more on yourself than on Christ, confess that sin and ask that God would renew your focus on His Son.

For Further Study

Read the following passages from John’s Gospel, and identify the witness to Christ in each one: 1:6-8; 5:31-37; 8:18; 10:25; 12:17.


Attacks on God's Character

"Stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11).

One of Satan’s most effective tactics is to challenge God’s credibility.

Paul's exhortation to "stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11) refers to the various tactics Satan employs in spiritual warfare. One of his tactics is to call God's character and motives into question by raising doubts about His Word.

He used that approach in the Garden of Eden, when he said to Eve, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" (Gen. 3:1). In one brief statement Satan disputed and distorted God's Word. God didn't forbid them to eat from any tree. They could eat freely from every tree except one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:16-17).

Satan followed his distortion with an outright denial of God's Word: "You surely shall not die!" (3:4). He implied that God lied when He said that sin will result in death. Satan then went on to tell Eve that if she ate the fruit, she would in fact become like God Himself (v. 5). The implication is that God was withholding something good from Eve, and to keep her from seeking it, He intimidated her with empty threats of death and judgment.

Do you see the insidious nature of Satan's approach? Tragically, Eve didn't. Rather than trusting and obeying God, she believed Satan's lies and concluded that the tree was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. Then "she took from its fruit and ate" (v. 6).

Satan deceives and spreads his lies from generation to generation (2 Cor. 11:14). Although he is subtle, his attempts to discredit God by disputing, distorting, and denying His Word should be obvious to discerning Christians.

Don't be victimized by Satan's attacks. Become strong in the Word through systematic Bible study. Yield to the Spirit's control through prayer and obedience to biblical principles.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the discernment to recognize Satanic deceptions, and the wisdom to pursue truth.

Pray for God's enabling as you discipline yourself for diligent Bible study.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 2:12-14. How did John describe those who are strong in the Word?


September 8 - The Nature of the Incarnation

“The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

John 1:14 is the most concise biblical statement of the Incarnation. The first four words, “the Word became flesh,” express the reality that in the incarnation God took on humanity; the infinite became finite; eternity entered time; the invisible became visible (cf. Col. 1:15); the Creator entered His creation. God revealed Himself to man in the creation (Rom. 1:18–21), in the Old Testament Scriptures (1 Cor. 2:7–14), and, supremely and most clearly, in Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1–2).

Jesus Christ, God’s final “Word” to mankind (Heb. 1:1–2), “became flesh.”

That He actually “became” flesh affirms Jesus’ full humanity.

When John says He became flesh, this does not mean Christ ceased being the eternal Word when He became a man. In the Incarnation the unchangeable (Heb. 13:8) God did become fully man, yet remained fully God. Think of it—He entered the realm of creatures who are limited by time and space, and experienced life as it is for those He created.

No wonder Paul wrote of the Incarnation, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).

Ask Yourself

Is the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation merely a subject for scholarly textbooks and sermons? Or does it have bearing on the everyday of every man and woman? How does the Incarnation affect your life and cement your salvation?


Reading for Today:

Isaiah 7:1–8:22

Psalm 105:37-45

Proverbs 24:30-34

1 Corinthians 16:1-24


Isaiah 7:18 fly…bee. Egypt was full of flies, and Assyria was a country noted for beekeeping. These insects represented the armies from the powerful countries which the Lord would summon to overrun Judah and take the people into exile.

Isaiah 8:10 God is with us. The Hebrew is Immanuel. The name of the virgin’s child (7:14) guaranteed the eventual triumph of the faithful remnant of Israel.

Isaiah 8:19 seek the dead. People of Isaiah’s day were using spiritualists to communicate with the dead as King Saul did through the medium at En Dor (1 Sam. 28:8–19).The law strictly forbade such consultations (Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10, 11).

1 Corinthians 16:1 collection. An offering for destitute believers in the overpopulated, famine stricken city of Jerusalem (see Acts 11:28). Paul had previously solicited funds from the churches of Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia (Rom. 15:26; Luke 10:25–37; 2 Cor. 8:1–5; 9:12–15; Gal. 6:10; 1 John 3:17).

1 Corinthians 16:2 as he may prosper. No required amount or percentage for giving to the Lord’s work is specified in the New Testament. All giving to the Lord is to be freewill giving and completely discretionary (Luke 6:38; 2 Cor. 9:6–8).This is not to be confused with the Old Testament required giving of 3 tithes (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:21–26; Deut. 14:28, 29; Mal. 3:8–10), which totaled about 23 percent annually to fund the national government of Israel, take care of public festivals, and provide welfare. Modern parallels to the Old Testament tithe are found in the taxation system of countries (Rom. 13:6). Old Testament giving to God was not regulated as to amount (see Ex. 25:1, 2; 35:21; 36:6; Prov. 3:9, 10; 11:24).

1 Corinthians 16:9 many adversaries. Perhaps no New Testament church had such fierce opposition as the one in Ephesus. In spite of that opposition, the door for the gospel was open wide (2 Cor. 2:12, 13 where Paul also had an open door, but no heart to remain and preach) and Paul stayed. At the end of the experience of opposition described in 2 Corinthians 1:8–10, he wrote 1 Corinthians.

DAY 8: From Isaiah 7 and 8, list a few of the many prophecies from Isaiah that were fulfilled in the New Testament.

In Isaiah 7:14, since Ahaz refused to choose a sign, the Lord chose His own sign, whose implementation would occur far beyond Ahaz’s lifetime. “The virgin.” This prophecy reached forward to the virgin birth of the Messiah, as the New Testament notes (Matt. 1:23).The Hebrew word refers to an unmarried woman and means “virgin” (Gen. 24:43; Prov. 30:19; Song 1:3; 6:8), so the birth of Isaiah’s own son (8:3) could not have fully satisified the prophecy. “Shall call His name Immanuel.” The title, applied to Jesus in Matthew 1:23, means “God with us.”

Isaiah 8:14.“Sanctuary…stone of stumbling.” Isaiah found encouragement in the Lord as his holy place of protection from his accusers. The New Testament applies this verse to corporate Israel in her ongoing rejection of Jesus as Messiah (Luke 2:34; Rom.9:32, 33; 1 Pet. 2:8).“Both the houses of Israel.” They will be collapsed until the return of the Messiah to the earth restores them.

Isaiah 8:15. “Many…shall stumble.” Another prediction anticipated the stumbling of Israel, which included her rejection of her Messiah at His first advent (Luke 20:18; Rom. 9:32; 28:16).

Isaiah 8:17. “Wait on…hope.” The speaker is Isaiah whose disposition was to await the Lord’s deliverance, the national salvation promised the faithful remnant (40:31; 49:23).

Isaiah 8:18.“I and the children.” In their historical setting, the words refer to Isaiah and his two sons, whose names had prophetic significance (i.e., as “signs and wonders”). In Hebrews 2:13, these verses emphasize the point that Christ had fully identified Himself with mankind by taking a human nature. And He demonstrated the reality of His human nature by His reliance upon God during His earthly sojourn.




Freedom from Condemnation

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2).

The moment the Holy Spirit places us in Christ, He also frees us from the power of sin and death.

The third stanza of Charles Wesley’s great hymn “And Can It Be?” describes the composer’s thoughts regarding the Holy Spirit’s saving work in his life:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay 

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night. 

Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray: 

I woke—the dungeon flamed with light! 

My chains fell off, my heart was free, 

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Romans 8:2 makes it clear that every Christian can and should share Wesley’s exhilaration. The instant we by faith embrace Jesus Christ, the Spirit frees us from spiritual condemnation. Essentially, we become free to start a new life, different from anything we have known.

The Lord Jesus was certain that saving faith would work such a complete transformation (John 5:24). And the apostle Paul leaves no doubt that every person whom the Holy Spirit has sovereignly drawn into the Body of Christ has also been freed from the power of sin and death: “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. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:8-11).

As you actively apply this freedom you have in Christ (see Col. 3:3-10), you will have the joyous reassurance that the Holy Spirit—“the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”—will always be there to enable you to defeat sin and obey God.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His grace that has enabled you to achieve what you could not on your own—victory over spiritual death.

For Further Study

Read Colossians 3:3-17.

What sins are we to put off?

What new traits are we to put on?

What resources does the Lord provide for us (vv. 15-16)?


The Extent of Satanic Opposition

"Stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11).

Satan opposes everything God does.

The believer's conflict with the forces of darkness is rightly called spiritual warfare since Satan and his evil world system are hostile toward everything God does. By nature they are anti-God and anti-Christ.

Satan is the antithesis of every godly attribute. God is holy; Satan is evil. God is love; Satan is the embodiment of hatred. God redeems His children; Satan damns his. Jesus reveals grace and truth (John 1:17), but Satan "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" (John 8:44).

God gives life, whereas Satan breeds death (Heb. 2:14). God produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Satan produces immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and the like (vv. 19-21).

God uses trials to prove the genuineness of your faith and increase your joy and spiritual endurance (James 1:3). Satan uses temptation in an attempt to destroy your faith and silence your testimony. God grants freedom from the bondage of sin, while Satan wants to enslave you to sin for all eternity (2 Tim. 2:26).

Jesus is your advocate, pleading your cause before the Father (1 John 2:1). Satan is your accuser, blaming you incessantly for things God has already forgiven (Rev. 12:10).

As Satan opposes everything God does, he'll also oppose God's children. When he does, don't be overly concerned or think of it as odd or unfair. Expect trials, be prepared, and rejoice because they show you're a threat to Satan's system and an asset to Christ's kingdom.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the joy of knowing Christ and being free from sin's bondage.

Ask Him to use you today in a powerful way for His glory.

For Further Study

Read Romans 14:17 and 1 John 2:16-17. What characterizes the kingdom of God? The evil world system of Satan?


September 7 - The Apostles Chosen to Have an Impact

“Jesus . . . gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness” (Matthew 10:1).

Jesus granted the twelve disciples God’s divine authority to do exactly what He Himself had been doing. To do the kinds of works Jesus did would demonstrate they were sent by Him, just as what He did demonstrated He was sent by the Father. The book of Acts catalogs the very works Jesus gave them the authority to accomplish.

The apostles cast out many unclean spirits and healed every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Peter and John healed a lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple (Acts 3:2–8). Their ministry became widespread: “At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people. . . . Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed” (Acts 5:12, 16). To the man in Lystra “who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked,” Paul said, “‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And he leaped up and began to walk” (Acts 14:8, 10).

The apostles manifested the kind of kingdom power that their Lord had mani-fested, and by their faithful obedience they turned Jerusalem and then the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Jesus promised they would do even “greater works” than His (in extent, not power), and His words began to be fulfilled.

Ask Yourself

Are your words and expressions of faith pointing others to Christ? Are they reflective of His distinct power and the presence of His Holy Spirit within you? If you sense yourself burning low in the power tank, where do you think the leak is occurring? Be sure that what you do points to Christ.


Reading for Today:

Isaiah 5:1–6:13

Psalm 105:23-36

Proverbs 24:28-29

1 Corinthians 15:29-58


Isaiah 5:2 good grapes,…wild grapes. The owner made every conceivable provision for the vine’s productivity and protection, illustrating the Lord’s purely gracious choice of Israel. Justifiably, He expected a good yield from His investment, but the vine’s produce was “sour berries,” inedible and fit only for dumping.

1 Corinthians 15:29 This difficult verse has numerous possible interpretations. Other Scripture passages, however, clarify certain things which it does not mean. It does not teach, for example, that a dead person can be saved by another person’s being baptized on his behalf, because baptism never has a part in a person’s salvation (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 3:28; 4:3; 6:3, 4). A reasonable view seems to be that “they…who are baptized” refers to living believers who give outward testimony to their faith in baptism by water because they were first drawn to Christ by the exemplary lives, faithful influence, and witness of believers who had subsequently died. Paul’s point is that, if there is no resurrection and no life after death, then why are people coming to Christ to follow the hope of those who have died?

1 Corinthians 15:42b–44 Focusing directly on the resurrection body, Paul gives 4 sets of contrasts to show how the new body will differ from the present one (v. 54; Phil. 3:20, 21):1) no more sickness and death (“corruption”); 2) no more shame because of sin (“dishonor”); 3) no more frailty in temptation (“weakness”); and 4) no more limits to the time/space sphere (“natural”).

1 Corinthians 15:52 twinkling of an eye. This was Paul’s way of showing how brief the “moment” will be. The Greek word for “twinkling” refers to any rapid movement. Since the eye can move more rapidly than any other part of our visible bodies, it seems to well illustrate the sudden transformation of raptured believers. trumpet will sound. To herald the end of the church era, when all believers will be removed from the earth at the rapture (1 Thess. 4:16). dead…raised. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, they are first and the living saints follow.

DAY 7: Describe Isaiah’s vision of heaven.

In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah says that he “saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up.” The prophet became unconscious of the outside world and with his inner eye saw what God revealed to him. This experience recalls the experience of John’s prophetic vision in Revelation 4:1–11. The throne was greatly elevated, emphasizing the Most High God. His “train” refers to the hem or fringe of the Lord’s glorious robe that filled the temple. Though Isaiah may have been at the earthly temple, this describes a vision which transcends the earthly. The throne of God is in the heavenly temple (Rev. 4:1–6; 5:1–7; 11:19; 15:5–8).

The seraphim above the throne (v. 2) are an order of angelic creatures who bear a similarity to the 4 living creatures of Revelation 4:6, which in turn resemble the cherubim of Ezekiel 10:1ff. “Six wings.” Two wings covered the faces of the seraphim because they dared not gaze directly at God’s glory. Two covered their feet, acknowledging their lowliness even though engaged in divine service. With two they flew in serving the One on the throne. Thus, 4 wings related to worship, emphasizing the priority of praise.

“One cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy’ ” (v. 3). The seraphs were speaking to each other in antiphonal praise. The primary thrust of the 3-fold repetition of God’s holiness is to emphasize God’s separateness from and independence of His fallen creation, though it implies secondarily that God is 3 Persons. The earth is the worldwide display of His immeasurable glory, perfections, and attributes as seen in creation (Rom. 1:20). Fallen man has nevertheless refused to glorify Him as God (Rom. 1:23). “And the posts of the door were shaken…smoke” (v. 4). The shaking and smoke symbolize God’s holiness as it relates to His wrath and judgment (Ex. 19:16–20; Rev. 15:8).

Isaiah’s vision made him painfully aware of his sin and broke him; in this way God has prepared him for his cleansing and his commission. “Woe is me…I am a man of unclean lips” (v. 5). If the lips are unclean, so is the heart. This vision of God’s holiness vividly reminded the prophet of his own unworthiness which deserved judgment. Job (Job 42:6) and Peter (Luke 5:8) came to the same realization about themselves when confronted with the presence of the Lord (Ezek. 1:28–2:7; Rev. 1:17). The hot coal taken from the altar of incense in heaven (Rev. 8:3–5) is emblematic of God’s purifying work (v. 6). Repentance is painful. Spiritual cleansing for special service to the Lord, not salvation, is in view (v. 8).




The Reality of the Promise

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

The unity of the church is the best proof that the Holy Spirit has come.

Many people today look for some kind of evidence of reality—science and technology, New Age thought, Eastern religions, various brands of experience-oriented Christianity, or “seeker friendly” mega-church enterprises. But as I have said and written countless times before, Scripture alone points us toward a genuine, secure spiritual reality.

The fulfilled promise of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring is one of the truest indicators of authentic spiritual activity. And 1 Corinthians 12:13 tells us how to recognize that He is truly ministering in our midst. In this verse Paul gives us a near perfect commentary on what occurred so spectacularly at Pentecost and has gone on less visibly ever since—the Spirit placed all believers into the Body of Christ, and all believers now have the same Holy Spirit.

The process of gathering believers into the church is a combined ministry of the Lord Jesus and the Spirit. In using the phrase “by one Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul is saying that the Holy Spirit was Christ’s agent in making us children of God. That means we don’t need to look to other mystical signs and experiences to verify the Spirit’s activity in ourselves or others. Jesus wants us simply to understand His words in John 7:37-39, “‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive.”

Whenever we see people being saved and then maturing in Christ, we can be certain that the promised Spirit is at work. The reality of the promise is thus a constant reminder of the faithfulness and consistency of a sovereign God who is working to provide us with life’s greatest sense of comfort, joy, and spiritual assurance.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that your local church would maintain the unity of the Spirit and thereby testify to outsiders of His working.

For Further Study

Make a list from Ephesians 3:14-21 of the privileges and benefits believers should know if they are experiencing Christian unity.


Standing Firm

"Stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11).

Keep your spiritual armor on at all times.

Every battle has an offensive and defensive strategy. Paul outlines the Christian's offensive strategy in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: "Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."

Our defensive strategy is to rely on Christ's strength and put on our spiritual armor (Eph. 6:10-11). Paul was probably chained to a Roman soldier when he wrote to the Ephesians, so he had a ready illustration of spiritual armament at hand. But unlike Roman soldiers, who removed their armor when off duty, Christians must remain fully protected at all times. That thought is captured in the Greek word translated "put on" in Ephesians 6:11, which carries the idea of permanence—putting it on once and for all.

"Stand firm" in verse 12 translates a military term that speaks of holding your ground while under attack. When properly employed, your spiritual armor serves as a lifelong companion that enables you to fight against the forces of evil and do so without retreat. Just as Jesus personally instructed the churches in Thyatira and Philadelphia to hold fast until He returns (Rev. 2:25; 3:11), so He also instructs us to stand our ground without wavering.

Similar New Testament exhortations call us to hold fast to biblical truth (1 Cor. 15:2), to that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21), to our confidence in Christ (Heb. 4:6), and to our confession of faith (Heb. 4:14). Those are marks of a strong and stable believer against whom the schemes of Satan have little effect.

Suggestions for Prayer

Is there an area of your Christian life in which you're not standing as firm as you should—perhaps prayer, Bible study, or personal ministry? If so, confess it to the Lord and begin to strengthen that area today. Don't give Satan a weakness to attack.

For Further Study

Memorize 1 John 4:4 as a reminder of God's power in your life.


September 6 - The Apostles Sovereignly Commissioned

“Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority” (Matthew 10:1).

When Jesus summoned His twelve disciples, He was making more than a casual request. The word Matthew used is an intense term that means to call someone to oneself in order to confront him face-to-face. It is used of God’s calling the Gentiles to Himself through the gospel (Acts 2:39) and of His calling His chosen men and entrusting them to proclaim the gospel (Acts 13:2; 16:10). The vocabulary implies that this summoning was connected to an official commissioning to the Lord’s service.

Behind Jesus’ commissioning and training of the twelve disciples are several foundational facts. First, these men were chosen sovereignly by God. None of the twelve initiated the idea of following Jesus and becoming His disciples, much less His apostles. It was entirely God’s planning and doing. Mark tells us that Jesus “summoned those whom He Himself wanted” (Mark 3:13), and near the end of His earthly ministry Jesus reminded them, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you” (John 15:16).

The men themselves were not consulted nor were any other men. Jesus’ only consultation was with His heavenly Father. Like Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and all the prophets, the twelve disciples were chosen by God’s sovereign will and for His sovereign purpose, being foreordained to His service before the foundation of the world. That has always been God’s way. He divinely chose Israel, He divinely chose His prophets and His apostles, and He divinely chooses those today who become the leaders of His own Body, the church.

Ask Yourself

Have you routinely thought of God’s calling on your life as having this kind of urgency, intention, and purpose? Are there other priorities that are siphoning off the importance you should be placing on the tasks God has called you to accomplish in His service?


Reading for Today:

Isaiah 3:1–4:6

Psalm 105:7-22

Proverbs 24:26-27

1 Corinthians 15:1-28


Isaiah 3:8 Jerusalem…Judah. The fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. was only a partial fulfillment of this prophecy. The final fulfillment awaits the times just prior to Christ’s Second Coming. against the LORD. The root of Zion’s problem surfaces: overt rebellion against the Lord. The people sinned shamelessly; they made no effort to conceal it (3:9).

Isaiah 4:2 Branch. This messianic title occurs also in Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12. The thought behind the title relates to 2 Samuel 23:5, that of growth. The life of the Branch will bear spiritual fruit (John 15:4, 5).

Psalm 105:8 a thousand generations. A reference to an exceedingly long time (a generation is normally 40 years) which would encompass the remainder of human history; i.e., forever (Deut. 7:9; 1 Chr. 16:15).

1 Corinthians 15:5–7 The testimony of eyewitnesses, recorded in the New Testament, was added to support the reality of the resurrection. These included: 1) John and Peter together (John 20:19, 20), but probably also separately before (Luke 24:34); 2) the 12 (John 20:19, 20; Luke 24:36; Acts 1:22); 3) the 500, only referred to here, had all seen the risen Christ (Matt. 28:9; Mark 16:9, 12, 14; Luke 24:31–39; John 21:1–23); 4) James, either one of the two so-named apostles (son of Zebedee or son of Alphaeus; Mark 3:17, 18) or even James the half brother of the Lord, the author of the epistle by that name and the key leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13–21); and 5) the apostles (John 20:19–29). Such unspecified appearances occurred over a 40-day period (Acts 1:3) to all the apostles.

1 Corinthians 15:25 all enemies under His feet. This figure comes from the common practice of kings always sitting enthroned above their subjects, so that when the subjects bowed or kneeled, they were lower than the sovereign’s feet. With enemies, the monarch might put his foot on the neck of a conquered ruler, symbolizing that enemy’s total subjugation. In the millennial kingdom, Christ’s foes will be in subjection to Him.

1 Corinthians 15:26, 27 last enemy…death. Christ has broken the power of Satan, who held the power of death (Heb. 2:14), at the Cross. But Satan will not be permanently divested of his weapon of death until the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:1–10). At that point, having fulfilled completely the prophecy of Psalm 8:6 (v. 27a), Christ then will deliver the kingdom to His Father, and the eternal glory of Revelation 21 and 22 will begin.

DAY 6: What difference would it make if the Resurrection of Christ never really happened?

“How do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12). The Corinthian Christians believed in Christ’s resurrection, or else they could not have been Christians (John 6:44; 11:25; Acts 4:12; 2 Cor. 4:14; 1 Thess. 4:16). But some had particular difficulty accepting and understanding the resurrection of believers. Some of this confusion was a result of their experiences with pagan philosophies and religions. A basic tenet of much of ancient Greek philosophy was dualism, which taught that everything physical was intrinsically evil; so the idea of a resurrected body was repulsive and disgusting (Acts 17:32). In addition, perhaps some Jews in the Corinthian church formerly may have been influenced by the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection even though it is taught in the Old Testament (Job 19:26; Pss. 16:8–11; 17:15; Dan. 12:2). On the other hand, New Testament teaching in the words of our Lord Himself was extensive on the resurrection (John 5:28, 29; 6:44; 11:25; 14:19), and it was the theme of the apostolic preaching (Acts 4:1, 2). In spite of that clarity, the church at Corinth was in doubt about the resurrection.

In vv. 13–19, Paul gives 6 disastrous consequences if there were no resurrection: 1) preaching Christ would be senseless (v. 14); 2) faith in Christ would be useless (v. 14); 3) all the witnesses and preachers of the resurrection would be liars (v. 15); 4) no one would be redeemed from sin (v. 17); 5) all former believers would have perished (v. 18); and 6) Christians would be the most pitiable people on earth (v. 19).




Need for the Promise

“‘But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth’” (John 16-13).

The Holy Spirit has to come alongside believers because they can’t minister by their own strength.

As a Christian, you can be orthodox and correct about every detail of theology. You might even show a certain willingness and ability to minister. But unless and until you rely on the Holy Spirit for all you do, your efforts will be ineffective. Think of a new car that has the most polished exterior and the finest of accessories but no engine. It will look great, but it certainly won’t run.

Unfortunately, that illustration applies all too often to contemporary believers. They tend to overlook or minimize the Holy Spirit’s role—either by overreacting to charismatic extravagances or by focusing most of their attention on man-centered ministry techniques and “innovative” approaches. But the Lord impressed upon the disciples’ hearts and minds on more than one occasion their need for the Holy Spirit’s power and resources—from routine daily tasks like fishing (Luke 5:4-9) to more imposing ministry challenges like casting an evil spirit out of a man’s son (Mark 9:14-29).

Because God has purposefully promised and sent the Spirit within the larger panorama of His sovereignty, we should have the same conviction about the need for the promised Helper as the disciples did shortly after Christ ascended. In conclusion, notice Peter’s confidence in God’s plan, as set forth in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost: “This Man [Jesus Christ], delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. And God raised Him up again. . . . Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:23, 33).

Suggestions for Prayer

Confess any attitudes and actions that may have kept you from seeing the need to rely on the Holy Spirit.

Pray that you would walk in greater dependence on Him this week.

For Further Study

Acts 1 marked a time of preparation for the coming of the promised Spirit. Read the chapter, and jot down ways in which the disciples prepared and previewed their faith in the promise.


Overcoming Satanic Opposition

"Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might . . . . For 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. 6:10, 12).

Spiritual warfare can be intense, but God’s grace enables you to prevail against Satan’s attacks.

Through the ages Satan has accused, besieged, and battered believers in an effort to prevent them from living to the glory of God. He attempts to snatch the gospel message from a person's heart even before salvation occurs (Matt. 13:19). He bombards believers with false doctrine, trying to confuse and distract them from biblical truth (Eph. 4:14).

Martin Luther reported that his conflict with Satan became so intense that at one point it was as if he could see him. In anger over Satan's incessant attacks, Luther picked up his inkwell and threw it at him. It hit the wall with a resounding crash, splattering ink throughout the room. The stains remained for many years, reminding all who saw them of how vivid spiritual conflict can be.

You may not have experienced anything like the intensity of Martin Luther's conflict, but spiritual warfare is just as real for you as it was for him. You are in mortal combat with Satan and his evil forces. That's why Paul said, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against . . . spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

"Struggle" in that verse speaks of life-and-death, hand-to-hand combat—the kind Jesus Himself experienced while on earth. He met opposition and persecution at every turn. The same was true of Paul and the other apostles as they dealt with Jewish religionists, heathens, sorcerers, and demon-possessed people who tried in vain to thwart their missionary efforts.

Satan's onslaughts may seem overwhelming at times, but don't be discouraged. See them for what they are: a defeated foe's last-ditch efforts to inflict damage on the conquering army. The Lord will strengthen and protect you, just as He has protected all believers before you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for being your protector and the source of spiritual victory.

For Further Study

Read Acts 4:1-22.

What kind of opposition did Peter and John face?

How did they respond to the Jewish Council's order not to preach the gospel?


September 5 - Prayer for Harvest Workers

“‘Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:38).

“The Lord of the harvest” is a title of God that represents His role as the Judge of the unsaved—those who will stand before Him in the last day and be condemned to hell. We are to plead for Him to send workers who will lovingly warn them so they may be a part of those harvested to eternal glory.

The Christian’s first responsibility is not to go and start working as soon as he sees a need but to come to the Lord in prayer. Waiting on the Lord is a crucial part of serving Him. Before the disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they were not prepared to witness for Christ, and He therefore instructed them “not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me’” (Acts 1:4).

It is possible to pray regularly for the salvation of a loved one, a neighbor, a friend, or a fellow employee and then to let our concern stop with our prayer. But when we earnestly pray for the Lord to send someone to those unsaved people, we can’t help becoming open to being that someone ourselves. It is possible to pray for someone’s salvation while keeping them at arm’s length. But when we sincerely beg the Lord to send someone to witness to them, we place ourselves at His disposal to become one of His “workers” in that ministry. Be prepared to take on that role.

Ask Yourself

Who among your family, your friends, or the associates among whom you’re thrust each day is in need of Christ’s saving touch? Name them in prayer today . . . and at every remembrance of them. And pray that the Lord would send someone His Spirit can use to bring conviction to their souls, even if that someone is you.


Reading for Today:

Isaiah 1:1–2:22

Psalm 105:1-6

Proverbs 24:23-25

1 Corinthians 14:21-40


Isaiah 1:11 I have had enough…I do not delight. God found all sacrifices meaningless and even abhorrent if the offerer failed in obedience to His laws. Rebellion is equated to the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness to iniquity and idolatry.

Isaiah 1:14 My soul hates. It is impossible to doubt the Lord’s total aversion toward hypocritical religion. Other practices God hates include robbery for burnt offering (61:8), serving other gods (Jer. 44:4), harboring evil against a neighbor and love for a false oath (Zech. 8:16), divorce (Mal. 2:16), and the one who loves violence (Ps. 11:5).

Isaiah 1:18 scarlet,…crimson. The two colors speak of the guilt of those whose hands were “full of blood” (v. 15). Fullness of blood speaks of extreme iniquity and perversity (59:3; Ezek. 9:9, 10; 23:37, 45). white as snow;…as wool. Snow and wool are substances that are naturally white, and therefore portray what is clean, the blood-guilt (v. 15) having been removed (Ps. 51:7). Isaiah was a prophet of grace, but forgiveness is not unconditional. It comes through repentance as v. 19 indicates.

Isaiah 2:19 holes of the rocks,…caves of the earth. Revelation 6:12,15,16 uses this passage and 2:21 to describe man’s flight from the terrors of tribulation during the period before Christ’s personal return to earth. This shows that the final fulfillment of this prophecy will be during Daniel’s 70th week.

1 Corinthians 14:33 confusion. Here is the key to the whole chapter. The church at worship before God should reflect His character and nature because He is a God of peace and harmony, order and clarity, not strife and confusion (Rom. 15:33; 2 Thess. 3:16; Heb. 13:20). as in all the churches. This phrase does not belong in v. 33, but at the beginning of v. 34, as a logical introduction to a universal principle for churches.

DAY 5: Who was Isaiah the prophet?

Isaiah, the son of Amoz, ministered in and around Jerusalem as a prophet to Judah during the reigns of 4 kings of Judah: Uzziah (called “Azariah” in 2 Kings), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), from ca. 739 to 686 B.C. He evidently came from a family of some rank, because he had easy access to the king (7:3) and intimacy with a priest (8:2). He was married and had two sons who bore symbolic names: “Shear-Jashub” (“a remnant shall return,” 7:3) and “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” (“hasting to the spoil, hurrying to the prey,” 8:3).When called by God to prophesy, in the year of King Uzziah’s death (ca. 739 B.C.), he responded with a cheerful readiness, though he knew from the beginning that his ministry would be one of fruitless warning and exhortation (6:9–13). Having been reared in Jerusalem, he was an appropriate choice as a political and religious counselor to the nation.

Isaiah was a contemporary of Hosea and Micah. His writing style has no rival in its versatility of expression, brilliance of imagery, and richness of vocabulary. The early church father Jerome likened him to Demosthenes, the legendary Greek orator. His writing features a range of 2,186 different words, compared to 1,535 in Ezekiel, 1,653 in Jeremiah, and 2,170 in the Psalms. Second Chronicles 32:32 records that he wrote a biography of King Hezekiah, also. The prophet lived until at least 681 B.C. when he penned the account of Sennacherib’s death (37:38). Tradition has it that he met his death under King Manasseh (ca. 695–642 B.C.) by being cut in two with a wooden saw (Heb. 11:37).




The Promised Holy Spirit

“‘I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth’” (John 14:16-17).

Jesus ministered by the power of the Holy Spirit, and He has promised the same Spirit to all believers.

The fluctuating economy of the 1990s and its changing workplace have left many workers with the sense that they’ll probably have to change jobs several times during their careers.

Even though economies may enter new phases and leave people with uncertainties, God’s promises remain completely reliable. His promise, made through His Son, our Lord and Savior, to send the Holy Spirit is one such pledge. This very important scriptural promise was first given in today’s text, which Jesus gave to the disciples during the first part of His Upper Room discourse. His words, coming on the eve of His death, gave much comfort to the disciples; but the promise is also part of Christ’s rich legacy to Christians today.

This promise consists of four elements. First, Jesus promises a supernatural Helper. He called Him “another” Helper, which means “another who is identical.” He is sending us exactly the sort of Helper He was, except the Spirit lives in us (John 14:17).


Second, the promise means supernatural life for us. When we are saved and have the Holy Spirit, we become sensitive to Christ’s working in the world, and we begin to see things from a divine perspective (John 14:19).

Third, the Spirit comes as a supernatural Teacher (John 14:26). This is one of the most vital aspects of the Spirit’s ministry because it reminds us of our complete dependence on Christ.

Finally, Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit brings a supernatural peace (John 14:27). This is a peace that aggressively and positively deals with our daily troubles and turns them into joy (Phil. 4:7).

If you know and love the Lord Jesus and are obeying Him, the promise of the Spirit, with all its implications, is available for you to apply and enjoy (John 14:21; 15:5).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the promise of the Spirit, and pray that you would fully realize every aspect of that promise.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 5:1-7.

What does this passage say about the interrelationship of love for God and obedience to His commands?

What are the basic characteristics of love and obedience?


The Balanced Approach to Spiritual Victory

"Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God" (Eph. 6:10-11).

Spiritual victory is not passive; it involves the discipline of daily obedience to Christ and His Word.

When I was a child, my father and I watched a boxing match on television. After going through the ritual of punching the air, kicking his feet, and putting rosin on his shoes, one of the fighters knelt in the corner and crossed himself. I asked my dad if that helped. He said, "It does if he can punch. If he can't punch, it doesn't help at all."

That illustrates a point we touched on yesterday and will explore further today: God's part and our part in spiritual warfare. Many Christians believe that spiritual victory comes simply by surrendering more completely to God. They quote verses like 2 Chronicles 20:15 to support their view: "The battle is not yours but God's." "Stop struggling and striving," they say. "Instead, yield and completely surrender yourself to God. He alone does the fighting and gives the victory."

Such people are often called "Quietists" because they view the Christian's role in spiritual warfare as passive or quiet. Their anthem is "Let go and let God."

But Scripture gives a very different view of the believer's role. It pictures the Christian life as a war, a race, and a fight. We depend on God's energy, power, and strength, but are by no means passive. We're commanded to apply ourselves to good deeds, resist the devil, bring our bodies under subjection, walk in wisdom, press toward the prize, cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and perfect holiness in the fear of God. Those are calls to fervent action.

In Ephesians 6:10-11 Paul says, "Be strong in the . . . strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God." That's the balance. God supplies the resources; we supply the effort.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the strength He gives for spiritual victory.

Ask for His wisdom in living a balanced Christian life.

For Further Study

Read 2 Peter 1:3-7.

What does God supply for Christian living?

What must you as a believer supply?


September 4 - Jesus Identifies Harvest Workers

“‘Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:38).

The primary problem that hindered Jesus’ ministry as He taught, preached, and healed in Palestine is the primary problem that hinders our ministry today: “the workers are few.”

The workers Jesus is referring to are the people who would work in a field that was soon to be harvested—that is what the Lord is calling the disciples to do. This was the first part of our Lord’s training method with the Twelve. His disciples learned that the need for the gospel to be brought into a world that is headed for judgment far surpasses the outreach itself.

Who can reach the lost, hell-bound world of sinful, hurting people who need to hear and believe the gospel? Who will tell them of their plight and lead them to the way of escape?

In His own days on earth, Christ’s workers were few, and they still are today. The first need in His ministry is for workers, and one of the most important things those workers must understand is that their shortage of numbers can be increased only by God’s provision and power.

God’s people need to look at their world the way Jesus looked out at the multitudes in Galilee and over the city of Jerusalem. We need to observe the people around us as Ezra observed his fellow Israelites on the way from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 8:15) and the way Nehemiah inspected the walls of Jerusalem before he began to rebuild them (Neh. 2:13).

Ask Yourself

Why are the active, evangelistic servants of God in such short supply these days? What are the causes for our silence, our indifference, our unconcern for the woeful plight of every lost man or woman we meet? As Jesus commanded, make this a specific focus of your prayer—and of your obedience.


Reading for Today:

Song of Solomon 7:1–8:14

Psalm 104:31-35

Proverbs 24:21-22

1 Corinthians 14:1-20


Song of Solomon 8:6, 7 For love. This represents the 1 Corinthians 13:1–8 of the Old Testament. Four qualities of love appear: 1) love is unyielding in marriage, as death is to life; 2) love is intense like the brightest flame, perhaps as bright as the glory of the Lord; 3) love is invincible or unquenchable, even when flooded by difficulty; and 4) love is so priceless that it cannot be bought, only given away.

Proverbs 24:21 the king. Loyalty to the king is proper because he is the agent of the Lord’s wisdom (Deut. 17:14–20; Rom. 13:1–7). That loyalty includes having no part with rebels who seek to subvert or overthrow him (“change”). Peter draws on this verse in his call to good citizenship in 1 Peter 1:17; 2:17.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love. A command for every believer. Because lovelessness was a root spiritual problem in the Corinthian church, the godly love just described should have been sought after by them with particular determination and diligence. desire spiritual gifts. Love does not preclude the use of these enablements. Since Paul has addressed not desiring showy gifts (12:31) and not elevating one over the other (12:14–25), some might think it best to set them all aside for unity’s sake. Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, are sovereignly bestowed by God on each believer and necessary for the building of the church (12:1–10). Desire for them, in this context, is in reference to their use collectively and faithfully in His service—not a personal yearning to have an admired gift that one did not possess. As a congregation, the Corinthians should be wanting the full expression of all the gifts to be exercised. “You” is plural, emphasizing the corporate desire of the church. especially…prophesy. This spiritual gift was desirable in the life of the church to serve in a way that tongues cannot, namely, by edifying the entire church (v. 5).

1 Corinthians 14:18 I speak with tongues more than you all. Paul emphasized that by writing all of this, he was not condemning genuine tongues (plural). Nor, as some may have thought to accuse him, was he envious of a gift he did not possess. At that point, he stopped speaking hypothetically about counterfeit tongue-speaking. He actually had more occasions to use the true gift than all of them (though we have no record of a specific instance). He knew the true gift and had used it properly. It is interesting, however, that the New Testament makes no mention of Paul’s actually exercising that gift. Nor does Paul in his own writings make mention of a specific use of it by any Christian.

DAY 4: What was at the heart of Paul’s concern for the use of the gift of tongues in the church in Corinth?

In the section of 1 Corinthians 14:2–39, although it is not indicated consistently in some translations, the distinction between the singular tongue and the plural tongues is foundational to the proper interpretation of this chapter. Paul seems to use the singular to distinguish the counterfeit gift of pagan gibberish and the plural to indicate the genuine gift of a foreign language (v. 2). It was perhaps in recognition of that, that the King James Version (KJV) translators added consistently the word “unknown” before every singular form (see vv. 2, 4, 13, 14, 19, 27). The implications of that distinction will be noted as appropriate. Against the backdrop of carnality and counterfeit ecstatic speech learned from the experience of the pagans, Paul covers 3 basic issues with regard to speaking in languages by the gift of the Holy Spirit: 1) its position, inferior to prophecy (vv. 1–19); 2) its purpose, a sign to unbelievers not believers (vv. 20–25); and 3) its procedure, systematic, limited, and orderly (vv. 26–40).

“He who speaks in a tongue” (v. 2). This is singular, indicating that it refers to the false gibberish of the counterfeit pagan ecstatic speech. The singular is used because gibberish can’t be plural; there are not various kinds of non-language. There are, however, various languages; hence, when speaking of the true gift of language, Paul uses the plural to make the distinction (vv. 6, 18, 22, 23, 29). The only exception is in vv. 27, 28, where it refers to a single person speaking a single genuine language. “No one understands him;…in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” The carnal Corinthians using the counterfeit ecstatic speech of paganism were not interested in being understood, but in making a dramatic display. The spirit by which they spoke was not the Holy Spirit, but their own human spirit or some demon. And the mysteries they declared were the type associated with the pagan mystery religions, which was espoused to be the depths that only the initiated few were privileged to know and understand. Those mysteries were totally unlike the ones mentioned in Scripture (e.g., Matt. 13:11; Eph. 3:9), which are divine revelations of truths previously hidden (12:7; Eph. 3:3–6). “Does not speak to men but to God.” This is better translated, “to a god.” The Greek text has no definite article. Their gibberish was worship of pagan deities. The Bible records no incident of any believer ever speaking to God in any other than normal human language.




The Spirit of Transformation

“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” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Holy Spirit’s transforming work is a central part of the believer’s sanctification.

The children’s fable The Ugly Duckling wonderfully illustrates the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in believers. The story is about an ugly young bird who can’t fit in with any of the other animals. It’s not until he encounters the beautiful swans that his life starts changing. The swans are an irresistible attraction for the duckling, something he can’t forget after they leave for the winter. Finally he makes the amazing discovery the following spring that in spite of his feelings of inferiority, he is not a duck but a swan, just like those creatures he has admired.

The days immediately following our conversion to Christ are often similar to the ugly duckling’s final experiences. We have a great sense of sinful unworthiness and yet a powerful attraction to Jesus Christ. We respond that way because we now know that character-wise He represents all we were created to be. And we soon come to realize that it’s both a humbling and exciting process to be transformed into Christ’s image.

Today’s Scripture, my favorite verse, is an excellent short description of the Spirit’s transforming work. We won’t see the glory of the Lord perfectly right away, but we begin to see it with greater clarity once we know Jesus Christ by faith.

Paul is referring to our basic sanctification, which is a progressive process by which the Spirit changes us from one level of Christlikeness to another. The end result will be our glorified position in Heaven, which is the Holy Spirit’s goal for us and the reason for our hope. The Spirit reveals what we will be in Christ: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. 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

Pray that you would focus more on Christ and less on yourself as the Spirit transforms your life.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 40:1-10.

What general attitude does David have in that passage?

How many times does he mention God there?


Your Resources in Christ

"Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:10-11).

In Christ you have every resource necessary for spiritual victory.

Satan opposes God and wants to prevent believers from glorifying Him. One way he does that is by convincing them that he is either so formidable they could never defeat him, or so weak they can fight him on their own strength.

Second Corinthians 10:4 says, "The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses." Human resources alone can never defeat a spiritual enemy, but divine resources can. That's why it's crucial to understand the resources you have in Christ that insure spiritual victory.

In Ephesians 1:3 Paul says you have received all the blessings of heaven through Christ. That includes being forgiven and redeemed (vv. 6-7), and receiving knowledge, understanding, and wisdom (vv. 17-18). Within you resides the Holy Spirit (v. 13), who strengthens you and accomplishes more than you can ask or think (3:16, 20).

Believers represent the awesome power of God in this world—the same power that raised Christ from the dead, seated Him at the right hand of the Father, and subjected all things under His feet (Eph. 1:19-22). He is the Sovereign Lord against whom no one can successfully stand. That's why Paul exhorted us to "be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might" (Eph. 6:10, emphasis added). We find this strength by putting on the armor He has supplied: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word, and prayer. Then, no matter what direction the enemy approaches from, or how subtle his attacks may be, we'll be able to stand firm.

Satan's attacks are complex and subtle. His ways of working in this world are cunning and deceitful. Since it's impossible to analyze and anticipate his every offense, focus on strengthening your defenses by understanding your spiritual resources and using them each day.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to increase your understanding of spiritual warfare.

Seek wisdom in applying your resources in the most effective ways.

When you face spiritual battles, confide in a Christian friend who will pray with you and encourage you.


September 3 - Coming Harvest Includes Impending Judgment

“‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few’” (Matthew 9:37).

As Jesus changes the metaphor from shepherding to harvesting, He gives another motive for His ministry. He ministered because people face God’s final judgment.

Jesus ministered compassionately and tirelessly because He could see the ultimate consummation of divine judgment toward which every person was headed—every one in the multitudes who did not trust in Him. Paul said, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11).

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul paints a vivid picture of God’s judgment: “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. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (1:7–9).

It is easy to lose awareness of the imminence and the inevitability of God’s judgment, but the Christian who loses sight of that judgment loses a major portion of his motive for witnessing.

When Jesus saw the crowds, He taught them, preached to them, and healed them—all for the ultimate purpose that they might come to Him and escape the harvest of judgment they could not otherwise avoid.

Ask Yourself

Think of the cost that sin has already extracted from you, here where God’s mercy is still available and the promise of His restorative forgiveness is actively in force. Imagine its cost on those who will be paying its price forever. Be sure that as you witness, you don’t minimize the cost sin brings.


Reading for Today:

Song of Solomon 5:1–6:13

Psalm 104:24-30

Proverbs 24:19-20

1 Corinthians 13:1-13


Song of Solomon 5:1 I have. While the guests feasted, the couple consummated their marriage (Gen. 29:23; Deut. 22:13–21) and Solomon announced the blessing (Gen. 2:25). Eat, O friends! Given the intimate and private nature of sexual union, it seems difficult to understand anyone but God speaking these words (Prov. 5:21). This is the divine affirmation of sexual love between husband and wife as holy and beautiful.

1 Corinthians 13:1–13 Spiritual gifts were present in Corinth (1:7); right doctrine was even in place (11:2); but love was absent. This led to the quarrels and exhibitions of selfishness and pride that plagued the church—notably in the area of spiritual gifts. Instead of selfishly and jealously desiring showy gifts which they don’t have, believers should pursue the greatest thing of all—love for one another. This chapter is considered by many the greatest literary passage ever penned by Paul. It is central to his earnestly dealing with spiritual gifts (chaps. 12–14), because after discussing the endowment of gifts (chap. 12) and before presenting the function of gifts (chap. 14), he addresses the attitude necessary in all ministry in the church (chap. 13).

1 Corinthians 13:1 tongues of men. That this gift was actual languages is established in Acts 2:4–12, affirmed in this text by Paul’s calling it “of men”—clearly a reference to human language. This was the gift which the Corinthians prized so highly, abused so greatly, and counterfeited so disastrously. God gave the ability to speak in a language not known to the speaker, as a sign with limited function (14:1–33). tongues…of angels. The apostle was writing in general hypothetical terms. There is no biblical teaching of any special angelic language that people could learn to speak. love. Self-giving love that is more concerned with giving than receiving (John 3:16; 14:1;Matt. 5:44, 45; John 13:1, 34, 35; 15:9; Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:4–7; Phil. 2:2; Col. 3:14; Heb. 10:24). Without love, no matter how linguistically gifted one is to speak his own language, other languages, or even (hypothetically) the speech of angels, his speech is noise only. In New Testament times, rites honoring the pagan deities Cybele, Bacchus, and Dionysius included ecstatic noises accompanied by gongs, cymbals, and trumpets. Unless the speech of the Corinthians was done in love, it was no better than the gibberish of pagan ritual.

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 In the previous comments (vv. 1–3), the focus is on the emptiness produced when love is absent from ministry. In these verses, the fullness of love is described, in each case by what love does. Love is action, not abstraction. Positively, love is patient with people and gracious to them with generosity. Negatively, love never envies, or brags, or is arrogant, since that is the opposite of selfless service to others. Never rude or overbearing, love never wants its own way, is not irritated or angered in personal offense, and finds no pleasure in someone else’s sin, even the sin of an enemy. On the positive side again, love is devoted to truth in everything. With regard to “all things” within God’s righteous and gracious will, love protects, believes, hopes, and endures what others reject.

DAY 3: What about interpretations of Song of Solomon that allergorize it to mean God’s love for Israel or Christ’s love for the church?

The Song has suffered strained interpretations over the centuries by those who use the “allegorical” method of interpretation, claiming that this song has no actual historical basis, but rather that it depicts God’s love for Israel and/or Christ’s love for the church. The misleading idea from hymnology that Christ is the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys results from this method (2:1). The “typological” variation admits the historical reality, but concludes that it ultimately pictures Christ’s bridegroom love for His bride the church.

A more satisfying way to approach Solomon’s Song is to take it at face value and interpret it in the normal historical sense, understanding the frequent use of poetic imagery to depict reality. To do so understands that Solomon recounts phases of his relationship with the Shulamite: 1) his own days of courtship, 2) the early days of his first marriage, followed by 3) the maturing of this royal couple through the good and bad days of life. The Song of Solomon expands on the ancient marriage instructions of Genesis 2:24, thus providing spiritual music for a lifetime of marital harmony. It is given by God to demonstrate His intention for the romance and loveliness of marriage, the most precious of human relations and “the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7).




Two Spirits or One?

“There is one body and one Spirit just as also you were called in one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:4).

Although there were distinctions of ministry, one and the same Holy Spirit has been at work in both the Old and New Covenants.

The famous radio broadcast of October 30, 1938, in which Orson Welles and his fellow actors fooled many of the American people into thinking an actual invasion from Mars was occurring, is a classic example of how miscommunication can drastically distort people’s understanding of the facts. Because many listeners failed to hear the disclaimer about the fictional nature of the War of the Worlds dramatization, thousands were panicked into believing that Martians were beginning to invade New York City and the rest of the East Coast. Not many hours after the program ended, most people realized it was not a broadcast of actual events. Nevertheless, apologies and clarifications were necessary in subsequent days.

Scriptural truth is seldom miscommunicated with that same kind of sensational result. But that doesn’t mean we never need to correct previous thinking about certain doctrines. One of these concerns the Holy Spirit. Due to popular teaching on the dissimilarities between the Old and New Covenants, many Christians have understood the Spirit’s Person and role as being sharply different between the Testaments.


But the apostle Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 4:4 that there is but one Spirit (also see 1 Cor. 12:11, 13). Paul also knew that since the Holy Spirit is God, He is therefore unchanging; the same Spirit has been at work throughout redemptive history. We can believe with certainty that the Holy Spirit will always be the saving agent who draws people to the Lord. That’s what Jesus taught when He instructed the Jewish teacher Nicodemus about the new birth (John 3:5-10).

There are important distinctives between the Holy Spirit’s Old Covenant and New Covenant roles (see Acts 1:5). His New Covenant work is more intimate and personal for believers, but His essential character has always been the same.

We should rejoice that there is no confusion between two Spirits, but that there is one Holy Spirit who has been active in God’s plan, from Genesis 1:1 right to the present and for all eternity.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for giving you a clear understanding of the Holy Spirit’s oneness.

For Further Study

Read John 3:1-15.

What should Nicodemus already have understood about the new birth?

How far back does Jesus reach to make an analogy about God’s method of salvation?


Preparing for Battle

"Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:10-11).

Adequate preparation is the key to spiritual victory.

The Gulf War introduced some highly sophisticated weapons that had never been proven under live battle conditions. Most of the troops hadn't experienced war either. Yet troops and machinery combined in a display of military conquest unparalleled in history.

Thorough preparation proved to be an indispensible element in that overwhelming victory. That included developing and testing high-tech weaponry, recruiting and training troops, and engaging in mock battles. Generals know that if they dare enter a battlefield ill-prepared, they're destined for defeat. Consequently, they do everything possible to prepare their troops for victory.

Similarly, your success in spiritual warfare is directly proportional to your preparedness. You must "be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might" (Eph. 6:10), and also put on your armor (v. 11). God is your strength and source of victory, but you must trust Him and appropriate your spiritual resources. As Oliver Cromwell said, "Trust in God and keep your powder dry."

If you delay preparation until the battle is upon you, then it's too late. If your armor isn't in place, you're vulnerable to the arrows of the enemy. If you neglect prayer, worship, Bible study, accountability, and the other disciplines of faith, you can't expect to prevail when spiritual skirmishes arise.

No soldier who values his own life would step onto a battlefield unprepared. How much more should soldiers of Christ prepare themselves to fight against Satan's forces? Be diligent. Christ guarantees ultimate victory, but you can lose individual battles if you're unprepared. It's even possible to lapse into periods of spiritual lethargy, indifference, impotency, and ineffectiveness, but that's utterly inconsistent with your mandate to fight the good fight (1 Tim. 1:18).

Don't be caught off guard! Keep your armor on and remain alert to the advances of the enemy.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to keep you alert to the reality of spiritual warfare and the need to be prepared at all times for battle.

Thank Him for the times He protected you when your armor wasn't as secure as it needed to be.

For Further Study

Memorize 2 Timothy 2:4 as a reminder to be spiritually prepared at all times.


September 2 - The Religious Leaders’ False Solution

“They were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

The scribes and Pharisees offered a religion that only added burdens instead of lifting them. For them, the common people were the object of disdain, not compassion; individuals to be exploited, not served. In that sense the scribes and Pharisees were true descendents of the false shepherds against whom the Lord railed centuries earlier through Ezekiel (34:2–4).

Many religious leaders today are still endeavoring to keep people out of the kingdom by distorting and contradicting God’s Word and perverting the way of salvation. By telling people they are already saved because “a good God would never condemn anyone to hell,” they lead people to be content with themselves and to see no need for repentance and salvation—thereby shutting tight the gracious door God has provided. Similarly, when people are told they can work their way into God’s favor by avoiding certain sins or by performing certain good deeds or participating in some prescribed ritual, they are likewise deceived and left in their lost condition.

How wonderfully refreshing it must have been to hear Jesus say, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30). What a contrast those words were from the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees.

Ask Yourself

You may not mean to do it, but does the gospel you present to others involve more requirements than Jesus Himself placed on it? Make sure the gospel you proclaim is all about lifting their burden of sin, not loading them with more than they’re carrying already.


Reading for Today:

Song of Solomon 3:1–4:16

Psalm 104:10-23

Proverbs 24:17-18

1 Corinthians 12:1-31


Song of Solomon 3:5 As in 2:7, the beloved knows that the intensity of her love for Solomon cannot yet be experienced until the wedding, so she invites the daughters of Jerusalem to keep her accountable regarding sexual purity. Up to this point, the escalating desire of the Shulamite for Solomon has been expressed in veiled and delicate ways as compared to the explicit and open expressions which follow, as would be totally appropriate for a married couple (4:1ff.).

1 Corinthians 12:1 spiritual gifts. The NKJV translators italicized “gifts” to indicate that the word is not in the original but is implied by the context (vv. 4, 9, 28, 30, 31; 14:1). The Greek literally means “pertaining to the Spirit,” referring to that which has spiritual qualities or characteristics or is under some form of spiritual control. Spiritual gifts are divine enablements for ministry that the Holy Spirit gives in some measure to all believers and that are to be completely under His control and used for the building of the church to Christ’s glory (Rom. 12:4–8). These had to be distinguished from the mystical experiences called “ecstasy” (supernatural, sensuous communion with a deity) and “enthusiasm” (divination, dreams, revelations, visions) that were found in the pagan religions of Corinth.

1 Corinthians 12:2 Gentiles. That is, non-Christian pagans (1 Thess. 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:12). carried away. Incredibly, some church members were mimicking certain dramatic and bizarre practices of the mystery religions in which they had been formerly involved. The practice of ecstasy, considered to be the highest expression of religious experience, involved supposed supernatural interaction with a deity, induced through frenzied hypnotic chants and ceremonies. The practice frequently included drunkenness (Eph. 5:18) and sexual orgies, to which the devotees willfully yielded themselves to be led into gross sin.

1 Corinthians 12:3 accursed. This is the most severe kind of condemnation. Some of the Corinthians were fleshly and given over to ecstasies that were controlled by demons. In that condition, they actually claimed to be prophesying or teaching in the Spirit while demonically blaspheming the name of the Lord whom they were supposed to be worshiping. They had been judging the use of gifts on the basis of experience and not content. Satan always assaults the Person of Christ. It is possible that the curser of Christ was a Gentile claiming to be a Christian, but holding to a philosophy that all matter was evil, including the human Jesus (i.e., pregnosticism). They might have said that the Christ spirit left the human Jesus before His death, and therefore Jesus died a cursed death as a mere man. Jesus is Lord. The validity of any speaking exercise is determined by the truthfulness of it. If the speaker affirms the lordship of Jesus, it is the truth from the Holy Spirit. What a person believes and says about Jesus Christ is the test of whether he speaks from the Holy Spirit. He always leads people to Christ’s lordship (2:8–14; John 15:26; 1 John 5:6–8).

DAY 2: How does Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians help resolve the controversy over the sign gifts discussed in chapters 12–14?

Three chapters in this letter are devoted to the subject of spiritual gifts in the church. Paul knew that the subject was controversial but vital to a healthy church. The atmosphere of false religions that abounded in Corinth caused counterfeit spiritual manifestations that had to be confronted. Paul informed the church and challenged the believers in Corinth to regulate their behavior by the truth and the Spirit.

The categories of giftedness in these verses do not refer to natural talents, skills, or abilities. Believers and unbelievers alike possess such resources. No, these gifts are sovereignly and supernaturally bestowed by the Holy Spirit on all believers (12:7,11), enabling them to spiritually edify each other effectively and thus honor the Lord.

The varieties of spiritual gifts fall roughly into two general types: 1) speaking gifts, and 2) serving gifts (12:8–10; Rom. 12:6–8; 1 Pet. 4:10, 11). The speaking or verbal gifts (prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, teaching, and exhortation) and the serving, nonverbal gifts (leadership, helps, giving, mercy, faith, and discernment) are all permanent and will operate throughout the church age. Their purpose is to build up the church and glorify God. The list here and in Romans 12:3–8 is best seen as representative of categories of giftedness from which the Holy Spirit draws to give each believer whatever kind or combination of kinds He chooses (12:11). Some believers may be gifted in similar ways to others but are personally unique because the Spirit suits each grace gift to the individual.

A special category made up of miracles, healing, languages, and the interpretation of languages, served as a set of temporary sign gifts limited to the apostolic age and have, therefore, ceased. Their purpose was to authenticate the apostles and their message as the true word of God. Once God’s Word was complete and became self-authenticating, they were no longer required.




What About the Holy Spirit?

“The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us” (1 John 3:24).

Because the Holy Spirit affects every area of the Christian life, it is vital that we have a balanced and correct view of His role.

The church’s understanding of the Spirit’s Person and ministry has been seriously distorted over the past few decades. Charismatics have given an undue emphasis to certain pentecostal gifts so that subjective experience is often elevated over objective scriptural truth.

At the same time, many non-charismatics have overreacted to charismatic excesses by almost ignoring the Holy Spirit. For most, an in-depth study of the Spirit does not fit with the pragmatic, psychological approach to solving spiritual problems.

But we can’t afford to go to either extreme; otherwise we’ll miss out on what it really means to know the Spirit and to minister by His power. He is indispensable in saving us, enabling us to obey Jesus Christ, and ultimately perfecting us in glory. Paul urged the Galatian believers not to abandon the Holy Spirit but to lean completely on Him. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3).

Too many Christians are wasting time looking to seminars, gimmicks, counselors, and novel interpretations of old truths to uncover “the secret” to the abundant Christian life. But the key to such living is not a mystery or a secret. The sufficiency of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, as revealed through the pages of God’s fully reliable Word, is all the information and resources we’ll ever need to live fruitful and prosperous spiritual lives.

In today’s verse, the apostle John is speaking of Christ’s indwelling presence in the believer’s life, which the Holy Spirit reveals to us. Therefore the Spirit is working with the Lord Jesus in encouraging you, guiding you, enlightening you, and empowering you for every good work (see John 14:1620; 16:13). By understanding the Spirit’s role and allowing Him to work in you daily, you’ll begin to see your life becoming more like Christ each day.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would grant you and everyone in your church a proper and balanced understanding of the Spirit’s role.

For Further Study

Jesus is portrayed as the Good Shepherd in John 10. Read that chapter, and list the major characteristics He has as our Shepherd.


The Reality of Spiritual Warfare

"Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For 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. 6:10-12).

Victory in battle comes when you identify the enemy, resist his attacks, and then take the initiative against him.

Our nation has known many wars, but Vietnam was an especially frustrating campaign. Thick jungle terrain made the enemy hard to find and guerrilla warfare made him hard to fight. Many Vietnamese who peacefully worked the rice paddies by day donned the black garb of the Viet Cong soldier by night and invaded unsuspecting U.S. forces camped nearby. American public opinion was strongly anti-war and morale among our troops was often low.

Spiritual warfare has similar parallels. Subtly and deceitfully, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and "prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). His emissaries disguise themselves as apostles of Christ and servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15). It takes wisdom and discernment to identify them and defend yourself against their attacks.

Most people are defenseless, however, because they scoff at the supernatural and deny the reality of spiritual warfare. They think Satan may be fine for movie plots and book sales, but assume only the superstitious and credulous take him seriously. Unfortunately, many Christians have succumbed to their ridicule and forsaken the battle.

Ephesians 6:10-24 reminds us that spiritual warfare is real and that God has given us all the resources we need— not only to defend ourselves, but also to take the initiative and win the victory over the forces of darkness.

I pray that our studies this month will encourage you in the battle and challenge you to always have on "the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11).

Suggestions for Prayer

Seek discernment and grace to identify the enemy and stand against him courageously.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 6:10-24. What armor has God supplied to protect you in spiritual warfare?


September 1 - Mankind’s Lost Condition

“They were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

One of Jesus’ main motives for ministry was the knowledge of man’s lost condition. He saw the people He lived among in the reality of their need. He was moved by their diseases and sickness, and He healed every one of them (v. 35). But He was moved even more deeply by the deepest need that most of the multitude did not even know they had—to be freed from their bondage to sin. He saw their hearts, and He knew that inwardly “they were distressed and dispirited.”

Jesus saw the multitudes as being inwardly devastated by their sinful and hopeless condition. The idea behind “dispirited” is to be thrown down prostrate and utterly helpless. Jesus saw the dispirited multitudes as sheep without a shepherd to protect and care for them.

Those who claimed to be the shepherds of the multitude were the scribes and Pharisees, yet it was those very shepherds who were largely responsible for the people’s confusion and hopelessness. The people were spiritually led by uncaring, unloving leaders who should have been meeting their spiritual needs. That’s why Jesus calls the people “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6)—God’s chosen people who had been left to perish.

Ask Yourself

Begin to develop Jesus’ motive for ministry as your own. Take every opportunity to introduce others to the Great Shepherd.


Reading for Today:

Song of Solomon 1:1–2:17

Psalm 104:1-9

Proverbs 24:15-16

1 Corinthians 11:17-34


Song of Solomon 2:7 I charge you. This refrain, which is repeated before the wedding (3:5) and also afterward (8:4), explicitly expresses the Shulamite’s commitment to a chaste life before and during marriage. She invites accountability to the daughters of Jerusalem.

Psalm 104:4 spirits…flame of fire. Hebrews 1:7 attributes these characteristics to angels describing their swiftness and destructiveness, as God’s instruments of judgment.

1 Corinthians 11:17–34 The early church love feasts (Jude 12) usually closed with observance of the Lord’s Supper. The worldly, carnal church at Corinth had turned those sacred meals into gluttonous, drunken revelries. Beyond that, wealthy believers brought ample food and drink for themselves but refused to share, letting their poorer brethren go away hungry (v. 21).

1 Corinthians 11:27, 29 in an unworthy manner. I.e., ritualistically, indifferently, with an unrepentant heart, a spirit of bitterness, or any other ungodly attitude.

1 Corinthians 11:30 sleep. I.e., are dead. The offense was so serious that God put the worst offenders to death, an extreme but effective form of church purification (Luke 13:1–5; Acts 5:1–11; 1 John 5:16).

DAY 1: What is the central theme of the Song of Solomon?

Solomon, who reigned over the united kingdom 40 years (971–931 B.C.), appears 7 times by name in this book (1:1, 5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11, 12). In view of his writing skills, musical giftedness (1 Kin. 4:32), and the authorial, not dedicatory, sense of 1:1, this piece of Scripture could have been penned at any time during Solomon’s reign. Knowing that this portion of Scripture comprises one song by one author, it is best taken as a unified piece of poetic, Wisdom literature rather than a series of love poems without a common theme or author.

Two people dominate this true-life, dramatic love song. Solomon, whose kingship is mentioned 5 times (1:4, 12; 3:9, 11; 7:5), appears as “the beloved.” The Shulamite maiden (6:13) remains obscure; most likely she was a resident of Shunem, 3 miles north of Jezreel in lower Galilee. Some suggest she is Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kin. 3:1), although the Song provides no evidence for this conclusion. Others favor Abishag, the Shunammite who cared for King David (1 Kin. 1:1–4, 15). An unknown maiden from Shunem, whose family had possibly been employed by Solomon (8:11), seems most reasonable. She would have been Solomon’s first wife (Eccl. 9:9), before he sinned by adding 699 other wives and 300 concubines (1 Kin. 11:3).

In contrast to the two distorted extremes of ascetic abstinence and lustful perversion outside of marriage, Solomon’s ancient love song exalts the purity of marital affection and romance. It parallels and enhances other portions of Scripture which portray God’s plan for marriage, including the beauty and sanctity of sexual intimacy between husband and wife. The Song rightfully stands alongside other classic Scripture passages which expand on this theme (Gen. 2:24; Ps. 45; Prov. 5:15–23; 1 Cor. 7:1–5; 13:1–8; Eph. 5:18–33; Col. 3:18, 19; 1 Pet. 3:1–7). Hebrews 13:4 captures the heart of this song: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”




Seeking God's Kingdom

“‘. . . All these things shall be added to you’” (Matthew 6:33).

God will provide for those who seek what is eternal.

What did Jesus mean when He said we are to seek God’s kingdom first? It means our top priority in life should be to seek what is eternal. That was the priority for the apostle Paul. In Acts 20 he was ready to leave for Jerusalem to defend the faith, not knowing if he might be put in prison or lose his life. The prospect of persecution did not deter him, for he said, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself” (v. 24). He was not concerned about how long he would live or worried about what he would eat or wear. Instead, he wanted to “finish [his] course, and the ministry which [he] received from the Lord Jesus” (v. 24).

Seeking the kingdom means you want Christ’s rule to be manifest in your life as righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). So, when the lost see those spiritual qualities in your life instead of worry, they know the kingdom of God is there. That is an attractive testimony that the Lord can use to bring the lost to Himself. Seeking God’s kingdom means desiring to extend His kingdom.

Seeking the kingdom also means you long for Jesus to return in His millennial glory. We will be joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:1-7), reign with Him forever (Rev. 22:5), live in a new heaven and earth throughout all eternity (21:1), and have all the majesty and riches of eternal Heaven (21:1—22:5). There’s no need to be preoccupied or worried about material things since the whole earth is going to be destroyed and the Lord is going to make a new one.

Instead of seeking riches, “seek . . . His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Pursue godliness and holiness, and “all these things shall be added to you” (v. 33). God will provide for those who live a righteous life.

Suggestions for Prayer

According to Matthew 6:33, are the priorities of your life in the right order?

Confess and forsake any sin, and thank the Lord for the privilege of serving Him.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 34:9-10. What is the promise to those who fear and seek the Lord?


Rejecting the World

"Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).

The world is opposed to everything God stands for.

Loving the world begins with thinking that God doesn't know what's best for you and is trying to cheat you out of something you deserve. That thought soon blossoms into a willingness to disregard God's warnings altogether and take whatever Satan has to offer.

Love of the world started in the Garden of Eden and continues to this day. Genesis 3:6 says, "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate." What made them think the fruit was good for food or able to make them wise? God didn't tell them that. In fact, He warned them that they would die if they ate the fruit (Gen. 2:17). But Eve believed the serpent's lie and Adam followed suit.

Satan continues to propagate his lies but you needn't fall prey to them if you love God and remember that the world is opposed to everything He stands for. It is spiritually dead; void of the Spirit (John 14:17); morally defiled; and dominated by pride, greed, and evil desires. It produces wrong opinions, selfish aims, sinful pleasures, demoralizing influences, corrupt politics, empty honors, and fickle love.

You can't love the world and God at the same time because love knows no rivals. It gives its object first place. If you love God, He will have first place in your life. If you love the world, the love of the Father isn't in you (1 John 2:15).

Galatians 1:3-5 explains that Jesus says that "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore." Christ died to deliver us from Satan's evil system. What greater motivation could there be to reject the world and live to God's glory?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for greater wisdom and grace to resist the world's influences.

For Further Study

According to Ephesians 6:10-18, how can you as a believer protect yourself against Satan's evil system?


August 31 - Examples of Jesus’ Compassion

“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them” (Matthew 9:36).

Examples in the gospels of Jesus’ compassion are notable. When He saw Mary and others weeping for the deceased Lazarus, “He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled” (John 11:33) and wept with them (v. 35). The phrase “deeply moved in spirit” connotes physical as well as emotional and spiritual anguish. As He saw Lazarus’s friends and family grieving, He entered into real crying with them.

When arrested in the garden, Christ was more concerned about the disciples than Himself: “If you [soldiers] seek Me, let these go their way” (John 18:8). While on the cross He still had concern for His mother: “He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’” (19:26).

In one of His most poignant expressions of deep compassion for others, Jesus lamented, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37; cf. Luke 19:41–42).

Commenting on two familiar verses about Jesus’ compassion and sympathy (Heb. 4:15; 5:8), Paul Brand said,

A stupefying concept: God’s Son learning through His experiences on earth. Before taking on a body, God had no personal experience of physical pain or of the effect of rubbing against needy persons. But God dwelt among us and touched us, and His time spent here allows Him to more fully identify with our pain.

Ask Yourself

What does Christ’s compassion inspire in you? How could you be more daring and deliberate about taking His heart with you into your world of need, touching others with the love and mercy of Jesus?


Reading for Today:

Ecclesiastes 11:1–12:14

Psalm 103:15-22

Proverbs 24:13-14

1 Corinthians 11:1-16


Psalm 103:17, 18 the mercy of the LORD. Those who appeal to God’s mercy by proper fear (v. 17) and obedience (v. 18) will overcome the shortness of physical life with eternal life. Luke 1:50 quotes Psalm 103:17.

Psalm 103:19 His throne in heaven. From everlasting to everlasting God has always ruled over all things (Pss. 11:4; 47:1–9; 148:8–13).This universal kingdom is to be distinguished from God’s mediatorial kingdom on earth.

1 Corinthians 11:4 covered, dishonors. Literally, “having down from head,” is probably a reference to men wearing a head covering, which seems to have been a local custom. Jews began wearing head coverings during the fourth century A.D., although some may already have been wearing them in New Testament times. Apparently, Corinthian men were doing the same, and Paul informs them that it is a disgrace. Paul is not stating a universal law from God, but acknowledging a local custom, which did reflect divine principle. In that society, a man’s uncovered head was a sign of his authority over women, who were to have their heads covered. For a man to cover his head was to suggest a reversal of proper roles.

1 Corinthians 11:5 woman who prays or prophesies. Paul makes clear directives that women are not to lead or speak in the services of the church (14:34; 1 Tim. 2:12), but they may pray and proclaim the truth to unbelievers, as well as teaching children and other women (1 Tim. 5:16; Titus 2:3, 4). Wherever and whenever women do pray and proclaim the Word appropriately, they must do so maintaining a proper distinction from men. uncovered. In the culture of Corinth, a woman’s covered head while ministering or worshiping was a symbol to signify a subordinate relationship to her husband. The apostle is not laying down an absolute law for women to wear veils or coverings in all churches for all time, but is declaring that the symbols of the divinely established male and female roles are to be genuinely honored in every culture. As in the case of meat offered to idols (chaps. 8; 9), there is nothing spiritual about wearing or not wearing a covering. But manifesting rebellion against God’s order was wrong. dishonors her head. “Head” may refer to her own self being disgraced by refusing to conform to recognized symbols of submission, or to her husband, who is disgraced by her behavior.

DAY 31: How does Solomon balance enjoyment in life with the coming judgment?

In Ecclesiastes 11:9–12:8, Solomon crystallizes the book’s message. Death is imminent and with it comes retribution. Enjoyment and judgment, though strange partners, come together in this section because both clamor for man’s deepest commitment. Surprisingly, one does not win out over the other. In a world created for enjoyment but damaged by sin, judgment and enjoyment/pleasure are held in tension. With too much pleasure, judgment stands as a threatening force; with too much judgment, enjoyment suffers. In the final analysis, both are prominent themes of life that are resolved in our relationship to God, the primary issue of life and this book.

“Rejoice…judgment” (11:9). The two terms seem to cancel out the other. How can this be explained? Enjoy life but do not commit iniquity. The balance that is called for insures that enjoyment is not reckless, sinful abandonment. Pleasure is experienced in faith and obedience, for as Solomon has said repeatedly, one can only receive true satisfaction as a gift from God.

“Fear God” (12:13, 14).Solomon’s final word on the issues raised in this book, as well as life itself, focuses on one’s relationship to God. All of the concern for a life under the sun, with its pleasures and uncertainties, was behind Solomon. Such things seemed comparatively irrelevant to him as he faced the end of his life. But death, in spite of the focused attention he had given to it in Ecclesiastes, was not the greatest equalizer. Judgment/retribution is the real equalizer as Solomon saw it, for God will bring every person’s every act to judgment. Unbelievers will stand at the Great White Throne judgment (Rev. 20:11–15) and believers before Christ at the Bema judgment (1 Cor. 3:10–15; 2 Cor. 5:9, 10). When all is said and done, the certainty and finality of retribution give life the meaning for which David’s oft-times foolish son had been searching. Whatever may be one’s portion in life, accountability to the God, whose ways are often mysterious, is both eternal and irrevocable.




Living One Day at a Time

“‘Do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’” (Matthew 6:34).

The believer is not to worry about his future.

British pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Although it is very right to think about the future, it is very wrong to be controlled by it.” He was right, because worry is a tremendous force that will endeavor to defeat you. It will try to destroy you today by making you upset and anxious. But if it loses today, it will take you into the future until it finds something to make you worry about. In Matthew 6:34 Jesus says that you have enough to deal with today. Take the resources of today for the needs of today, or you will lose the joy of today.

Lack of joy is a sin too. Many people lose their joy because of worry about tomorrow, and they miss the victory God gives them today. That is not fair to Him. God gives you a glorious and blissful day today; live in the light and fullness of the joy of that day, and use the resources God supplies. Don’t push yourself into the future and forfeit the joy of today over some tomorrow that may never happen. Learn this one little statement: fear is a liar. It will cause you to lose the joy of today. What’s more, God gives strength for only one day at a time. He doesn’t give you grace for tomorrow until tomorrow.

When the Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8), it means He will be doing the same thing tomorrow that He was doing yesterday. If you have any questions about the future, look at the past. Did He sustain you then? He will sustain you in the future. Since there is no past, present, or future with Him, there is no need for you to worry.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for being the same yesterday, today, and forever.

For Further Study

Read Lamentations 3:21-24.

What never ceases and never fails (v. 22)?

What does that say about God (v. 23)?

What does that give you (v. 21)?


The Love God Hates

"Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).

If you love the world, you’re engaging in a love God hates.

Satan, from the very beginning of his rebellious activities, has been developing an invisible spiritual system of evil designed to oppose God and enslave people to sin. The apostle John identified that system as "the world," and warned us not to love it.

Satan has had many centuries to develop his evil system, so it is very effective on those who reject Christ. First John 5:19 explains that while we as Christians belong to God, "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one," whom Jesus called, "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31). In John 8:44 He identified certain unbelievers as children of their father, the devil, who is a murderer and the father of lies. That's how completely unbelievers are identified with Satan.

As a believer, you are identified with God. You have been delivered out of the domain of darkness and placed into the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13). You are from God and have overcome the evil one because the Holy Spirit who indwells you is greater than he who controls the world (1 John 4:4).

Sadly, Christians sometimes flirt with the very things they've been saved from. Don't do that. Satan and his system have nothing to offer you. They are doomed! First John 2:17 says, "The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever."

Suggestions for Prayer

If you've been flirting with the world, ask God's forgiveness.

Praise God that someday Satan and his evil system will be vanquished.

For Further Study

Read the epistle of 1 John, noting the contrasts between the children of God and the children of Satan.


August 30 - Christ’s Saving Compassion

“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Jesus felt compassion for the crowds as only the Son of God could feel. It is among God’s attributes to love and care because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The term for “felt compassion” literally refers to the intestines, and most often occurs in Scripture with the figurative reference to the emotions, the way we use “heart” today. But Jesus’ concern was not just symbolic. He no doubt physically felt the symptoms of genuine caring—ones such as aching and nausea when encountering the agony of people’s struggles with sin and hardship. In order to fulfill prophecy, “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases” (Matt. 8:17).

Of course Jesus did not physically contract people’s diseases and infirmities. But in deep, heartfelt compassion and sympathy, He physically and emotionally suffered with all who approached Him for relief. He was not unlike the concerned father who becomes ill from worry about a desperately sick child, or for one in danger or difficulty.

After Jesus had been in a boat following the death of John the Baptist, crowds sought Him and He “felt compassion for them and healed their sick” (Matt. 14:14). Shortly after that, Jesus told the Twelve of His real concern for the masses who had no food on hand (15:30–32). But our Lord’s omniscience saw an infinitely greater need in people’s lives—the profound, pervasive nature of their sin and their desperate plight of spiritual blindness and lostness. Of this horrific condition He was most compassionate of all.

Ask Yourself

Without already knowing Him, this is not what most of us would expect from the One who created the universe and continues to sustain it by His mere word. A God who cares? Worship Him today for this gracious quality of His.


Reading for Today:

Ecclesiastes 8:1–10:20

Psalm 103:6-14

Proverbs 24:10-12

1 Corinthians 10:19-33


Ecclesiastes 8:15 enjoyment. In no way does Solomon commend unbridled, rampant indulgence in sin, which is implied in Christ’s account of the man whose barns were full. That man may have justified his sin by quoting this passage (Luke 12:19). His focus here is on the resolve to enjoy life in the face of the injustice which surrounded him.

Proverbs 24:12 He who weighs the hearts. God is the One who knows the truth about the motives of the heart and the excuses for failing to do what is right (James 4:17). render to each man according to his deeds. v. 29; Job 34:11; Jer. 25:14; 50:29.

1 Corinthians 10:19,20 Idols and the things sacrificed to them have no spiritual nature or power in themselves (8:4, 8), but they do represent the demonic. If pagan worshipers believe an idol is a god, demons act out the part of the imagined god (2 Thess. 2:9–11). There is not a true god in the idol, but there is a satanic spiritual force (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37).

1 Corinthians 10:23–30 Paul gives 4 principles for Christian liberty: 1) edification over gratification (v. 23); 2) others over self (v. 24); 3) liberty over legalism (vv. 25–27); and 4) condescension over condemnation (vv. 28–30).

DAY 30: What are the different kinds of Psalms?

The Psalms cover the full breadth of human experience. Some express in general terms while others express in very specific terms the shifting events of life. There’s a psalm for almost any kind of day. One way to categorize the Psalms groups them by five general types:

1. Wisdom Psalms—instructions for wise living (1; 37; 119)

2. Lamentation Psalms—meditations on the pangs of life (3; 17; 120)

3. Penitential Psalms—meditations on the pangs of sin (51)

4. Kingship Psalms—meditations on God’s sovereign rule (2; 21; 144)

5. Thanksgiving Psalms—praise and worship offered to God (19; 32; 111)




Our All-Knowing God

“‘Do not be anxious then, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “With what shall we clothe ourselves?” For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things’” (Matthew 6:31-32).

To worry is to be like an unbeliever.

For us as believers, worry is needless because of God’s bounty, senseless because of God’s promise to provide, useless because of our inability to do anything, and faithless because by doing so we put ourselves in the same category as an unbeliever. In Matthew 6:32 the Greek term translated “Gentiles” can also be translated “pagans” or “heathen” and speaks of people without God and Christ. The Gentiles are consumed with seeking material gratification because they are ignorant of God’s supply and can’t claim His promise to provide. Instead of looking to God, they anxiously try to meet their needs on their own. But for a Christian to be preoccupied with material possessions and worry about the basics of life is a serious sin and uncharacteristic of his Christian faith.

The Christian faith says that God will supply all your needs and that you can trust Him (cf. Phil. 4:19). To worry about your food or your physical welfare or your clothing is to have a worldly mind. What about you? Do you face life like a Christian or an unbeliever? When things are difficult or the future is insecure, how do you react? Does your Christian faith affect your view of life? You should place everything in your life in the context of your faith—every trial, every anticipation of the future, and every present reality.

The Christian faith also says that “your heavenly Father knows” your needs (Matt. 6:32). If He knows your life and your needs, all you need to know is that He cares. And if He knows and cares, there’s no need for you to worry about anything. Your Heavenly Father has all the resources and love to provide for you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise your Father for knowing, caring, and providing for you.

For Further Study

Read and meditate on Psalm 145. Notice especially what God does in verses 14-16.


Seven Things God Hates

"There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers" (Prov. 6:16-19).

God is clear about the things that displease Him.

God hates sin in any form, but Proverbs 6:17-19 lists seven that are especially loathsome to Him. First is haughty eyes (v. 17), which pictures a proud and arrogant person with his nose in the air and his eyes uplifted. The pride in his heart is reflected in his mannerisms.

Pride is perhaps listed first because it is at the heart of all rebellion against God—beginning with Lucifer himself, who cried out against God, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High" (Isa. 14:13-14).

God also hates a lying tongue (v. 17). Men often toy with truth, denying or distorting it to gain some supposed advantage. But God can't tolerate deception of any kind. He expects us to live according to His truth.

Third, He hates murderous hands (v. 17). That speaks of people whose hatred and greed are so strong they will kill rather than be denied what they want. God created life and established its sanctity. That's why He ordained that murderers be put to death (Gen. 9:6).

God also hates a wicked heart and malevolent feet (v. 18). Sometimes people fall into sin inadvertently. But these people carefully plot their sinful activities, then hurry to execute their plans.

Finally, God hates a false witness and a divisive spirit (v. 19). Bearing false witness is telling lies about an innocent party. That can obstruct justice, destroy a reputation, and even destroy a life. A divisive spirit is one who creates divisions where there should be unity.

Those sins characterize unbelievers, but Christians aren't immune from them. So be on guard not to stray into attitudes and actions that God hates.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you are practicing any of those things, confess it and repent.

For Further Study

According to Philippians 2:1-5, how should Christians treat one another?


August 29 - The Blind Men Reach Out

“Jesus sternly warned them: ‘See that no one knows about this!’ But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land” (Matthew 9:30–31).

Usually believers need to say more, not less, about the gospel of Jesus Christ. But here our Lord had definite reasons for commanding the people to whom He had ministered most directly not to publicize what had occurred.

He did not forbid them from speaking simply because He did not want their specific healing made known or because He did not want His miracles in general to be proclaimed. The miracles were evidence of His deity and legitimate mission. Christ commanded silence because it was not time to widely publicize His messiahship, lest the news stir up premature opposition to Him or encourage revolutionary Jews to rally around Him as a political deliverer.

Jesus also did not want to overemphasize His miracles. While they were a key element of His ministry, they were not the primary reason for His incarnation. Many already were not understanding the miracles rightly: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26).

Another reason why the Lord may not have wanted the men heralding His messiahship was because He wanted others, especially the Jews, to look to Scripture for the fulfillment of prophecy about the Messiah.

But in spite of Jesus’ command, the blind men still “went out and spread the news about Him.” This was disobedient of them and was the wrong response. However, it was the sort of sin that only grateful, eager new converts would commit. The men could not resist telling everyone of their miraculous deliverance.

Ask Yourself

How much of your everyday conversation is taken up with what the Lord has done for you? Is it because you’re trying to be sensitive to the unsaved around you? Or is it more because you just haven’t thought about it that much?


Reading for Today:

Ecclesiastes 7:1–29

Psalm 103:1-5

Proverbs 24:7-9

1 Corinthians 10:1-18


Psalm 103:2 forget not all His benefits. These earthly gifts from God included: 1) forgiveness of sin (v. 3); 2) recovery from sickness (v. 3); 3) deliverance from death (v. 4); 4) abundant lovingkindness and mercy (v. 4); and 5) food to sustain life (v. 5).

Psalm 103:5 youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The mysterious way of the long-lived eagle symbolized strength and speed (Ex. 19:4; Jer. 48:40), which also characterizes human youth. As a general rule, a person blessed of God will grow weak and slow down less rapidly than otherwise (Is. 40:29–31, which uses the same language).

1 Corinthians 10:4 that spiritual Rock. The Jews had a legend that the actual rock Moses struck followed them throughout their wilderness wanderings, providing water for them. Paul says they have a Rock providing all they need, but it is Christ. Rock (petra) refers to a massive cliff, not simply a large stone or boulder, signifying the preincarnate Messiah (Christ), who protected and sustained His people.

1 Corinthians 10:6 our examples. They died in the wilderness because of their failure of self-discipline and consequent indulgence of every desire (9:27). Four major sins characterized them: idolatry (v. 7); sexual immorality (v. 8); testing God (v. 9); and complaining (v. 10).

1 Corinthians 10:16 cup of blessing. The proper name given to the third cup during the Passover Feast. At the last Passover with the disciples, Jesus used the third cup as the symbol of His blood shed for sin. That cup became the one used to institute the Lord’s Supper. He set the cup apart as a token of salvation blessing before passing it to the 12. communion. Means “to have in common, to participate and have partnership with.” The same Greek word is used in 1:9; 2 Corinthians 8:4; Philippians 2:1; 3:10.Commemorating the Lord’s Supper was a regular and cherished practice in the early church, by which believers remembered their Savior’s death and celebrated their common salvation and eternal life which reflected their perfect spiritual oneness. the blood of Christ. A vivid phrase used to represent Christ’s sacrificial death and full atoning work. the bread. This symbolized our Lord’s body as the cup symbolized His blood. Both point to His death as a sacrifice for the salvation of men.

DAY 29: When Ecclesiastes encourages readers to “enjoy life,” is that unconditional?

Solomon balanced his enjoyment theme with repeated reminders of divine judgment. Even the best moments in life ought not to cut a person off from awareness of God as Provider to whom all will give an account. Solomon declared that the possibility of enjoyment was based on faith (Eccl. 2:24–26).

Part of Ecclesiastes reports the king’s experiment in trying to enjoy life without regard for the fear of God’s judgment. Solomon discovered that such an effort was in vain. In the end, he came to grasp the importance of obedience.

The tragic results of Solomon’s personal experience, coupled with the insight of extraordinary wisdom, make Ecclesiastes a book from which all believers can receive warnings and lessons in their faith (2:1–26).This book demonstrates that a person who sees each day of existence, labor, and basic provision as a gift from God, and accepts whatever God gives, will actually live an abundant life. However, anyone who seeks to be satisfied apart from God will live with futility regardless of personal successes.




Observing the Flowers

“‘And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?’” (Matthew 6:28-30).

Observing the flowers is a way to remember that God cares for you.

In Matthew 6, some of the people to whom Jesus spoke perhaps had little clothing, no more than one set of coverings for their bodies. To assure them that God would provide for their basic needs, Jesus asked them to observe “the lilies of the field” (v. 28). That is a general term for all the wild flowers that graced the rolling hills of Galilee. There were many, including the anemones, gladioli, irises, narcissus, lilies, and poppies.

The people were also to observe how the flowers grow. They grow easily, freely, gorgeously; they flourish effortlessly. And flowers don’t toil or spin. They don’t make fancy thread to adorn themselves but have a texture and form and design and substance and color that man with all his ingenuity cannot even touch. Even King Solomon could not make a garment as fine as the petal of a flower. It has a beauty that only God can give.

Despite their beauty, however, flowers do not last long. They are alive today but tomorrow are cast into an oven (v. 30). A woman in that part of the world used a clay oven primarily for baking. If she wanted to hurry the baking process, she would build a fire inside the oven as well as under it. Fuel for the inside fire was usually dried grass and flowers, which she would gather from nearby fields. Jesus’ point was this: If God lavishes such beauty on a flower that is here today and gone tomorrow, how much more will He clothe and care for you, one of His own children who will live forever.

Suggestions for Prayer

To attack anxiety, ask the Lord to help you “set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).

For Further Study

According to 1 Peter 5:5, how should you clothe yourself?


Holy Hatred

"Hate evil, you who love the Lord" (Ps. 97:10).

God’s hatred for evil is an extension of His love.

After spending this month exploring fifteen characteristics of godly love, it might seem odd to shift suddenly to the topic of hatred. Additionally, "holy hatred" will sound like a contradiction in terms to those who view all hatred as evil. But love and hate are inseparable. You can't truly love something and be complacent about the things that oppose or threaten it.

If you love your spouse, you hate anything that would defile or injure him or her. If you love your children, you hate anything that would harm them. If you love good, you hate evil. If you love unity, you hate discord. If you love God, you hate Satan. That's why Scripture says, "Hate evil, you who love the Lord" (Ps. 97:10) and, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I [God personified] hate" (Prov. 8:13).

Unquestionably God is a God of love. First John 4 says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. . . . And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (vv. 7-8, 11, 16).

How are we to respond to that love? The psalmist wrote, "From Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. . . . I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Thy law. . . . I esteem right all Thy precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way. . . . I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Thy law" (Ps. 119:104, 113, 128, 163).

Is that your prayer? Do you hate the things that oppose God? Are you offended by what offends Him? Remember, holy hatred is as much a part of godly love as any of its other characteristics. If you love God, you must necessarily hate evil.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to increase your love for Him and your hatred for evil.

For Further Study

Meditate on Psalm 119:101-104 and commit it to memory.


August 28 - Jesus Meets Blind Men’s Needs

“The blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘It shall be done to you according to your faith.’ And their eyes were opened” (Matthew 9:28–30a).

Sometimes at conversion, the Lord wants sinners to give a more public profession of their trust in Him, in keeping with Paul’s teaching, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). This was the kind of confession Jesus drew out of the blind men, and it testified to the eyewitnesses of what He requires for salvation. “Yes” indicated they believed He could do what they requested of Him, and “Lord” set forth their faith that He was the promised Messiah and coming Savior, who was now in their midst.

The men’s testimony proved that their understanding of Jesus was biblical, unlike many misguided and insincere followers. It distinguished them from those who thought Jesus was only a military and political deliverer, those who believed Jesus was merely a competent and charismatic human leader. Their confession emphasized that Christ was primarily a spiritual leader, whose first concern was saving people from their sins. Though His compassion for physical suffering was genuine, it was far greater for lost souls.

Jesus prompted the blind men to openly confess their faith in Him, not so much for curing their physical blindness but for the sake of their spiritual sight. They acknowledged Him as Son of David and came asking Him for spiritual mercy and salvation, and thus they received a gift far greater than simple restoration of their eyes.

Ask Yourself

Test the strength of your concern for others’ spiritual state. Is it as strong as it should be? Does your grief over their lost condition extend to your active pursuit of their repentance and trust in Jesus? What would it take to fan the flames of your evangelistic passion?


Reading for Today:


Ecclesiastes 6:2 God does not give him power to eat. The Lord gives and takes away for His own purposes. So, the blessings of God cannot be assumed or taken for granted. But they should be enjoyed with thankfulness while they are available.

Psalm 102:25–27 Eternal God created the heavens and earth, which will one day perish (v. 26). Hebrews 1:10–12 applies this passage to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is superior to the angels because: 1) He is eternal, while they had a beginning; and 2) He created, but they were created.This passage clearly affirms the eternality and deity of Christ. The unchangeable God will outlast His creation, even into the new creation (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17; 2 Pet. 3; Rev. 21; 22).

1 Corinthians 9:24 race. The Greeks enjoyed two great athletic events, the Olympic games and the Isthmian games, and because the Isthmian events were held in Corinth, believers there were quite familiar with this analogy of running to win.

1 Corinthians 9:26 not with uncertainty. Four times Paul has mentioned his goal of winning people to salvation (vv. 19,22). beats the air. Paul changes the metaphor to boxing to illustrate the point that he was no shadow boxer, just waving his arms without effect (1 Tim. 1:18).

DAY 28: How is Jesus Christ seen in the Psalms?


New Testament Quote



Acts 4:25, 26; 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5

Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection


1 Cor. 15:27, 28; Eph. 1:22; Heb. 2:5–10



Acts 2:24–31; 13:35–37

Death, Resurrection


Matt. 27:35–46; John 19:23, 24; Heb. 2:12; 5:5

Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection


Heb. 10:5–9



John 13:18, 21


45:6, 7

Heb. 1:8, 9



Eph. 4:8

Ascension, Enthronement

69:20, 21, 25

Matt. 27:34, 48; Acts 1:15–20

Betrayal, Crucifixion



Millennial Kingship

78:1, 2, 15

Matt. 13:35; 1 Cor. 10:4

Theophany, Earthly Teaching Ministry


Acts 2:30

Millennial Kingship


Heb. 1:10–12

Creation, Eternality


Acts 1:15–20



Matt. 22:43–45; Acts. 2:33–35; Heb. 1:13; 5:6–10; 6:20; 7:24

Deity, Ascension, Heavenly Priesthood, Millennial Kingship

118:22, 23

Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10, 11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:8–12; 1 Pet. 2:7

Rejection as Savior


Acts 2:30

Millennial Kingship




Living Life to the Fullest

“‘Which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span?’” (Matthew 6:27).

You can worry yourself to death, but not to life.

Dr. Charles Mayo of the renowned Mayo Clinic wrote, “Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands and the whole nervous system. I have never met a man or known a man to die of overwork, but I have known a lot who died of worry.” We live in a day when people worry about how long they will live. That’s a harmful practice because you can worry yourself to death, but not to life.

In Matthew 6:27 Jesus said that worry cannot “add a single cubit” to a person’s life span. A cubit was the distance from the elbow to the tips of the fingers—about eighteen inches. He was saying, “Which of you by worrying can lengthen your life?” Exercise and good health can help you function better while you’re living your span, but you can’t worry yourself into a longer life.

The quest for living longer is not new. In the early sixteenth century, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon set out to find the fountain of youth, a spring whose waters had the power to restore youth. Although no such fountain exists, there is something far better: a fountain of life. Proverbs 14:27 says, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.” By fearing the Lord you will experience life to the fullest and not worry. Proverbs 9:10-11 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.” I believe the Lord has sovereignly determined each person’s life span—He has designed how long you will live. And He gives you the gift of life because He wants you to enjoy it to the fullest by fearing and obeying Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord that you may enjoy life fully by fearing Him.

For Further Study

According to John 10:10, why did Jesus come?


The Triumph of Love

"[Love] endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:7).

Love triumphs over opposition.

Endurance is the final characteristic of love that Paul mentions in this passage. The Greek word translated "endures" in verse 7 is a military term that speaks of being positioned in the middle of a violent battle. It refers not to withstanding minor annoyances, but incredible opposition. Love does that without ceasing to love.

Stephen is a good example of enduring love. He preached God's message without compromise, but his enemies stoned him to death. His last act was to fall on his knees, crying out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" (Acts 7:59). A lesser man might have hated his tormentors, but not Stephen. He forgave them and beseeched God to do likewise, following the example of his Lord, who on the cross prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). That's the endurance of godly love.

Love bears all hurts, sins, and disappointments. It never broadcasts them but makes every attempt to reconcile and restore sinners. Love believes the best about others and is never cynical or suspicious. Even when it's under severe attack, it forgives and clings to the hope of God's power and promises. That kind of love should characterize every believer.

Your love may not be perfect, but it should be obvious. If you're struggling with implementing love in some area of your life, remember these five keys:

Acknowledge that love is a command (Rom. 13:8-10).

Agree that you have the spiritual resources to love others as God loves you (Rom. 5:5).

Understand that loving others is normal Christian behavior (1 John 4:7-10).

Realize that love is the Spirit's work (Gal. 5:22).

Be fervent in your love for others (1 Pet. 1:22; 4:8).

Godly love should be your highest purpose and greatest joy (Matt. 22:36-40). As you love others, you glorify Christ and make Him known to the world.

Suggestions for Prayer

Review the fifteen characteristics of love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, asking God to increase each of them in your life.

For Further Study

Reread each reference in the five keys for implementing love in your life, and commit at least one to memory.


August 27 - A Right Attitude Toward Jesus

“Two blind men followed Him, crying out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’” (Matthew 9:27).

The attitude of the heart that Christ honors and accepts is one in which the sinner understands his or her personal unworthiness. That was the attitude of the two blind men as they came to Him. They realized they didn’t deserve Jesus’ help, but they also must have known that “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:8–9; cf. Joel 2:13).

It seems reasonable to suggest that the two men came to our Lord not only for physical healing but to receive His forgiving mercy. They were no doubt burdened by a spiritual need that they knew only Jesus could meet. They approached Him with real humility, publicly throwing themselves on His abundant grace. Their attitude was perfectly aligned with that of the tax collector who mourns over his unworthiness and cries out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13).

It is noteworthy that Jesus initially showed no response to the men’s pleas. But as He moved along with the multitude, the blind men kept pouring out the desire of their hearts with persistence and determination. It’s as if the Lord tested their faith, letting it extend to its extremity and prove its sincerity. But theirs was a Savior of mercy, granting healing and salvation to all who come with a humble, believing attitude.

Ask Yourself

How often do your prayers and faith begin to flag after one or two attempts at asking for help? What are some of God’s reasons for requiring persistence in our pursuit of Him?


Reading for Today:

Ecclesiastes 3:1–22

Psalm 102:12-17

Proverbs 24:3-4

1 Corinthians 8:1-13


Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 a season, a time. Not only does God fix the standard and withhold or dispense satisfaction (2:26), but He also appoints “seasons” and “times.” Earthly pursuits are good in their proper place and time, but unprofitable when pursued as the chief goal (vv. 9, 10).

Ecclesiastes 3:11 everything. Every activity or event for which a culmination point may be fixed. beautiful. Fitting or appropriate. The phrase echoes “God saw…it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).Even in a cursed universe, activity should not be meaningless. Its futility lies in the fickle satisfaction of man and his failure to trust the wisdom of sovereign God. put eternity in their hearts. God made men for His eternal purpose, and nothing in post-Fall time can bring them complete satisfaction.

1 Corinthians 8:1 things offered to idols. The Greeks and Romans were polytheistic (worshiping many gods) and polydemonistic (believing in many evil spirits). They believed that evil spirits would try to invade human beings by attaching themselves to food before it was eaten, and that the spirits could be removed only by the food’s being sacrificed to a god. The sacrifice was meant not only to gain favor with the god but also to cleanse the meat from demonic contamination. Such decontaminated meat was offered to the gods as a sacrifice. That which was not burned on the altar was served at wicked pagan feasts. What was left was sold in the market. After conversion, believers resented eating such food bought out of idol markets, because it reminded sensitive Gentile believers of their previous pagan lives and the demonic worship. we all have knowledge. Paul and mature believers knew better than to be bothered by such food offered once to idols and then sold in the marketplace. They knew the deities didn’t exist and that evil spirits did not contaminate the food. love edifies. Knowledge mingled with love prevents a believer from exercising freedoms that offend weaker believers and, rather, builds the others up in truth and wisdom (13:1–4).

1 Corinthians 8:7 conscience…is defiled. The consciences of some newer converts were still accusing them strongly with regard to allowing them to eat idol food without feeling spiritually corrupted and guilty. They still imagined that idols were real and evil. A defiled conscience is one that has been violated, bringing fear, shame, and guilt.

1 Corinthians 8:12 you sin against Christ. A strong warning that causing a brother or sister in Christ to stumble is more than simply an offense against that person. It is a serious offense against the Lord Himself.

DAY 27: In Ecclesiates, what reflections does Solomon give on Genesis?

Toward the end of his life, the penitent King Solomon pondered life in the wake of the Fall and the outworking of man’s sin. Solomon drew the following conclusions, possibly from his own study of Genesis:

1. God created the heavens and earth with laws of design and regularity (Eccl. 1:2–7; 3:1–8; Gen. 1:1–31; 8:22).

2. Man is created from dust and returns to dust (Eccl. 3:20; 12:7; Gen. 2:7; 3:19).

3. God placed in man His life-giving breath (Eccl. 12:7; Gen. 2:7).

4. As God ordained it, marriage is one of life’s most enjoyable blessings (Eccl. 9:9; Gen. 2:18–25).

5. Divine judgment results from the Fall (Eccl. 3:14–22; 11:9; 12:14; Gen. 2:17; 3:1–19).

6. The effect of the curse on creation is “vanity,” i.e., futility (Eccl. 1:5–8; Gen. 3:17–19).

7. Labor after the Fall is difficult and yields little profit (Eccl. 1:3, 13; 2:3; 3:9–11; Gen. 3:17–19).

8. Death overcomes all creatures after the Fall (Eccl. 8:8; 9:4, 5; Gen. 2:17; 3:19).

9. After the Fall, man’s heart is desperately wicked (Eccl. 7:20, 29; 8:11; 9:3; Gen. 3:22; 6:5; 8:21).

10. God withholds certain knowledge and wisdom from man for His wise, but unspoken, reasons (Eccl. 6:12; 8:17; Gen. 3:22).




A Lesson from Nature

“‘Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?’” (Matthew 6:26).

If God provides for the birds, how much more will He provide for you.

I can imagine our Lord standing on a hillside in Galilee, looking down over the beautiful north end of the sea, the breeze rippling across the water, the sun bright in the sky. The people were all gathered at His feet. As He was speaking to them, some birds might have flown across the sky.

Our Lord gives life to every bird of the sky and also sustains each one. He doesn’t say to the birds, “I have given you life; now you figure out how to keep it.” And birds don’t get together and say, “We have to come up with a strategy to keep ourselves alive.” Birds have no self-consciousness, no cognitive processes, no ability to reason. But God has given them an instinct so that they have a divine capacity to find what is necessary to live. God doesn’t just create life—He also sustains it.

In Matthew 6:26 Jesus asked the people, “Are you not worth much more than [the birds]?” He was arguing from the lesser to the greater. No bird was ever created in the image of God or designed to be a joint-heir with Christ throughout eternity. Jesus was saying, “If God sustains the life of a bird (the lesser), don’t you think He will take care of you (the greater)?” God’s provision, of course, is no excuse for man’s laziness. A bird has to work for its food, and you have to work for yours. That’s because God has designed that man should eat bread by the sweat of his face (cf. Gen. 3:19). If you don’t work, you don’t eat (cf. 2 Thess. 3:10). Just as God provides for the bird through its instinct, so God will provide for you through your effort.

Suggestions for Prayer

When you see the birds of the air, remind yourself of the Lord’s teaching, and thank Him for His faithfulness to you.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 104, which tells of God’s care over all His creation.


Hoping in God

"[Love] hopes all things" (1 Cor. 13:7).

Love refuses to take human failure as final.

Even when faith falters, hope comes to the rescue. It is that long rope that keeps us linked to the sovereignty and power of God.

The apostle Peter wrote to believers who were experiencing severe trials. To encourage them he began, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3).

Our hope is a living hope because our God is a living God. No matter how bleak your situation might seem, God is at work to accomplish His purposes. As Christ hung on the cross, it seemed as if sin had finally triumphed over righteousness. But sin's finest hour became its death knell when Christ arose from the grave as Lord of life and Redeemer of His people. Now "He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal [body] through His Spirit who indwells you" (Rom. 8:11). Trials and death have no power over you. They simply bring you closer to Christ.

When ministering to others, hope gives you confidence that as long as there is life, human failure is never final. God refused to accept Israel's failures; Jesus refused to accept Peter's; and Paul refused to accept that of the Corinthians. When your attempts to cover the sins of others have failed or your righteous expectations have been shattered, hope says, "Don't give up. God can still work this out for good."

Hope is illustrated in the true story of a dog who was abandoned at the airport of a large city. He stayed there for over five years, waiting for his master to return. People at the airport fed and cared for him, but he refused to leave the spot where he last saw his master. If a dog's love for his master can produce that kind of hope, how much more should your love for God produce abiding hope?

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His sovereignty and power, and for the hope that is yours in Christ.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 42, noting how the psalmist related the distressing circumstances of his life to his hope in God.


August 26 - Right Knowledge of Jesus

“Two blind men followed Him, crying out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’” (Matthew 9:27).

That the blind men called Jesus the “Son of David” means they recognized Him as the Christ. Son of David was one of the most common Jewish titles for Messiah. It was also a royal title indicating that Messiah would come from the family of King David and have a right to rule over the promised divine kingdom.

God first promised that the Deliverer for His people would be a man, the seed of a woman (cf. Gen. 3:15). Later in the Old Testament, the prophet Nathan firmly establishes the extraordinary person and work of the Son of David (2 Sam. 12–14a, 16; cf. Gen. 12:3; 21:12; 49:10). The New Testament reaffirms this great truth at the angel’s Nativity announcement: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:32–33; cf. vv. 68–69; 2:4).

The reality and knowledge of Jesus’ true identity stands out most vividly during His triumphal entry when the people laid branches and garments before Him and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 21:9).

Thus all the onlookers who heard the blind men call Jesus “Son of David” knew it was a clear confession of His messiahship. And the men’s affirmation accompanied their desire for personal deliverance. Genuine salvation is available to all who have a similar right knowledge of Him.

Ask Yourself

Think of the names you use to refer to Christ—Lord, Savior, Redeemer, Friend. Spend a few minutes thinking through what these terms actually mean. When you speak of Him by these names in prayer, let the weight of their glory fill your words with depth and texture.


Reading for Today:

Ecclesiastes 1:1–2:26

Psalm 102:1-11

Proverbs 24:1-2

1 Corinthians 7:20-40


Ecclesiastes 1:13 wisdom. Solomon’s use of the term, in typical Hebrew fashion, is more practical than philosophical and implies more than knowledge. It carries notions of ability for proper behavior, success, common sense, and wit. burdensome task. Man’s search to understand is at times difficult, yet God-given (2:26; 3:10; 5:16–19; 6:2; 8:11,15; 9:9; 12:11).God. The covenant name, “LORD,” is never used in Ecclesiastes. However, “God” is found almost 40 times. The emphasis is more on God’s sovereignty in creation and providence than on His covenant relationship through redemption.

Psalm 102:10, 11 a shadow that lengthens. The time of sunset is used to describe the psalmist’s desperate sense that his life will end shortly because God has punished him by withdrawing His presence and strength.

1 Corinthians 7:25–40 Having already established that both marriage and singleness are good and right before the Lord (vv. 1–9), and for the person who has the gift of singleness (v. 7), that state has many practical advantages, Paul continued to answer the questions about which the Corinthians had written him. Paul gives 6 reasons for never marrying, in relationship to the downside of marriage, but remaining single (virgins): 1) pressure from the system (vv. 25–27); 2) problems of the flesh (v. 28); 3) passing of the world (vv. 29–31); 4) preoccupations of marriage (vv. 32–35); 5) promises from fathers (vv. 36–38); and 6) permanency of marriage (vv. 39, 40).

1 Corinthians 7:26 present distress. An unspecified, current calamity. Perhaps Paul anticipated the imminent Roman persecutions which began within 10 years after this epistle was written. remain as he is. Persecution is difficult enough for a single person to endure, but problems and pain are multiplied for those who are married, especially if they have children.

1 Corinthians 7:33, 34 how he may please his wife…husband. Here is a basic and expected principle for a good marriage—each seeking to please the other.

DAY 26: How does the author’s declaration that “all is vanity” relate to the message of Ecclesiastes?

By stating one of his conclusions in the opening lines, the author of Ecclesiastes challenges readers to pay attention. The word translated “vanity” is used in at least three ways throughout the book. In each case, the term refers to the nature and value of human activity “under the sun”:

1.“Vanity”refers to the “fleeting” nature of human accomplishments that James later described as like a vapor (James 4:14).

2.“Vanity” can mean “futile” or “meaningless,” which points to the cursed condition of the universe and the debilitating effects it has on human earthly experience.

3.“Vanity” can represent “incomprehensible” or “enigmatic,” which gives consideration to life’s unanswerable questions. Solomon found that the word applied to his entire experiment.

While the context in each of the 37 appearances of “vanity” helps determine the particular meaning Solomon had in mind, his most frequent usage conveyed the idea of “incomprehensible” or “unknowable.” He was expressing the human limits when faced with the mysteries of God’s purposes. Solomon’s final conclusion to “fear God and keep His commandments” (12:13, 14) represents more than the book’s summary; it states the only hope of the good life and the only reasonable response of faith and obedience to the sovereign God. God precisely superintends all activities under the sun, each in its time according to His perfect plan, while He discloses only as much as His perfect wisdom dictates. All people remain accountable. Those who refuse to take God and His Word seriously are doomed to lives of the severest vanity.




The Giver of Life

“‘Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on’” (Matthew 6:25).

God gives you life and sustains your life.

If you were living in Palestine during the time of Jesus, you might have been concerned about having the basics of life. That’s because there were times when the snows didn’t come to the mountains, and as a result the streams didn’t run. When the streams dried up, there was no water. Crops didn’t always produce either. They were subject to the onslaught of insects, disease, and weather. When the crops didn’t produce, there was famine in the land. And when there was famine, there was also no income. When there was no income, there was no purchase of clothing.

When Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 6:25 to those people on the edge of a parched desert who were totally dependent upon natural resources, it must have been a shocking statement. Our Lord recognized that man, in whatever time he lives, becomes obsessed with the externals.

The externals that Jesus mentioned—food, drink, and clothing—all pertain to the body. The world believes that man lives because of his body, and man therefore lives for his body. But Jesus asked, “Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?” (v. 25). In other words, your body does not give you life but is given life by God, who is the source of all life. Jesus is arguing from the greater to the lesser. If God gives you life (the greater), will He not also provide what you need for life (the lesser)? God gives you life and also sustains your life by providing food, drink, and clothing. Therefore, there’s no reason for you to worry.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for giving you life and sustaining your life.

For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 19:1-8. How did the Lord provide for the prophet Elijah?


Expecting the Best

"[Love] believes all things" (1 Cor. 13:7).

Love always expects the best of others.

In Luke 15 Jesus tells a parable about a father who had two sons. The younger son asked for his share of the family inheritance, then left home and squandered it on sinful pursuits. When he realized his folly, he decided to return home and ask his father's forgiveness. So "he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry'" (vv. 20-23).

That's a beautiful illustration of love's eagerness to forgive, but it also implies another characteristic of love. While the son was still far away, the father saw him coming. How could that be? Because he was watching for his son— anticipating and longing for his return. Love forgives when wrongs are committed against it, but it also expects the best of others. That's what it means to believe all things (1 Cor. 13:7). That son had hurt his father deeply, but his father never lost hope that his son would return.

I know a Christian woman who has been married to an unbelieving husband for thirty years. Yet she continues to say, "He will come to Christ someday." She isn't blind to the situation, but her love for her husband has transformed her earnest desire into an expectation. She believes he will turn to Christ because love always expects the best.

Perhaps you have a spouse or child who is an unbeliever or has drifted away from the Lord. Don't lose heart! Expect the best and let that expectation motivate you to pray more fervently and set a godly example for your loved ones to follow.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to guard your heart from cynical and suspicious attitudes toward others.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 9:1-13, noting the attitudes of the Jewish scribes and Pharisees toward Jesus.


August 25 - Christ’s Ultimate Power over Death

“When Jesus came into the official’s house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder, He said, ‘Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.’ And they began laughing at Him. But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. This news spread throughout all that land” (Matthew 9:23–26).

Unlike those in the contemporary Western world, funerals in most ancient cultures, including the Jewish one of Jesus’ time, were not events with reverent music and quiet whispers. Instead funerals featured much loud wailing by professional mourners and dissonant music played by hired musicians. Because Jairus was the top leader of the local synagogue and a wealthy man, he probably hired a large number of mourners and musicians for his daughter’s funeral.

Jesus surprised and annoyed the mourners by telling them to leave, claiming that the girl was not dead but asleep (cf. John 11:11). That the people’s weeping turned so quickly to harsh, derisive laughter—the kind by those feeling superior to another—showed that their mourning was indeed an insincere, paid action devoid of genuine sorrow or any real faith that the Lord could raise Jairus’s daughter.

Mark’s account of this episode adds these details: Jesus “entered the room where the child was. Taking the child by the hand, He said to her, ‘Talitha kum!’ (which translated means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). Immediately the girl got up and began to walk” (Mark 5:40c–42a). Christ easily could have resuscitated her by a mere word, but His intimate interaction displayed a healing compassion far more than what was minimally necessary. And it convincingly showed His power over every enemy of mankind, including “the final enemy” of death and hades (cf. Rev. 1:18).

Ask Yourself

We can always expect faith to be met by doubters and revilers, even among those in the church—sometimes especially by those in the church. What kind of an impact does this have on your willingness to believe? Are you ever the cold water on anyone else’s spiritual passion?


Reading for Today:

Job 41:1–42:17

Psalm 101:5-8

Proverbs 23:31-35

1 Corinthians 7:1-19


Job 41:1 Leviathan. This term appears in 4 other Old Testament texts (Job 3:8; Pss. 74:14; 104:26; Is. 27:1). In each case Leviathan refers to some mighty creature who can overwhelm man but who is no match for God. Since this creature lives in the sea among ships (Ps. 104:26), some form of sea monster, possibly an ancient dinosaur, is in view. Some feel it was a crocodile, which had scaly hide (v. 15), terrible teeth (v. 14), and speed in the water (v. 32). But crocodiles are not sea creatures, and clearly this one was (v. 31). Some have thought it was a killer whale or a great white shark, because he is the ultimate killer beast over all other proud beasts (v. 34).

Job 42:1–6 Job’s confession and repentance took place finally. He still did not know why he suffered so profoundly, but he was done complaining, questioning, and challenging God’s wisdom and justice. He was reduced to such utter humility, crushed beneath the weight of God’s greatness, that all he could do was repent for his insolence. Without answers to all of his questions, Job quietly bowed in humble submission before his Creator and admitted that God was sovereign (Is. 14:24; 46:8–11). Most importantly for the message of the book, Job was still diseased and without his children and possessions, and God had not changed anything (except for the humbling of the heart of His servant). Satan had been proven completely wrong in the charges he brought against Job and in thinking he could destroy true saving faith; Job’s companions were completely wrong in the charges they brought against him; but most critically, Job himself was completely wrong in the charges he had raised against God. He expressed his own sorrowful regret that he had not just accepted God’s will without such ignorant complaints and questions.

Job 42:5 have heard…now my eye sees You. At last, Job said he understood God whom he had seen with the eyes of faith. He had never so well grasped the greatness, majesty, sovereignty, and independence of God as he did at that moment.

1 Corinthians 7:2 sexual immorality. There is a great danger of sexual sin when single (Matt. 19:12). Marriage is God’s only provision for sexual fulfillment. Marriage should not be reduced simply to that, however. Paul has a much higher view and articulates it in Ephesians 5:22, 23. He is, here, stressing the issue of sexual sin for people who are single.

1 Corinthians 7:5 deprive. Literally, “stop depriving each other!” This command may indicate that this kind of deprivation was going on among believers, perhaps reacting to the gross sexual sins of their past and wanting to leave all that behind. Husbands and wives may abstain temporarily from sexual activity, but only when they mutually agree to do so for intercession, as a part of their fasting. come together again. Sexual intercourse is to be soon renewed after the spiritual interruption. so that Satan does not tempt. After the agreed-upon “time” of abstinence, sexual desires intensify and a spouse becomes more vulnerable to sinful desire.

DAY 25: How does Paul address the issue of divorce for the Corinthian church?

Paul taught about divorce in the context of answering a number of questions that the church had sent to him. The first of those questions had to do with marriage, an area of trouble due to the moral corruption of the surrounding culture that tolerated fornication, adultery, homosexuality, polygamy, and concubinage.

The apostle reminded the believers that his teaching was based on what Jesus had already made clear during His earthly ministry (Matt. 5:31, 32; 19:5–8). Jesus Himself based His teaching on the previously revealed word of God (Gen. 2:24; Mal. 2:16).

Paul’s departure point for teaching affirmed God’s prohibition of divorce. He wrote that in cases where a Christian has already divorced another Christian except for adultery (1 Cor. 7:10, 11), neither partner is free to marry another person. They should reconcile or at least remain unmarried.

Paul then added some helpful direction on the issue of marital conflicts created in cases where one spouse becomes a believer (vv. 12–16).First, the believing spouse lives under orders to make the best of the marriage, seeking to win his or her spouse to Christ. If the unbelieving spouse decides to end the marriage, Paul’s response is “let him depart” (v. 15). This term refers to divorce (vv. 10, 11). When an unbelieving spouse cannot tolerate the partner’s faith and wants a divorce, it is best to let that happen in order to preserve peace in the family (12:18). Therefore, the bond of marriage is broken only by death (7:2), adultery (Matt. 19:9), or an unbeliever’s departure.

When the bond of marriage is broken in any of those ways, a Christian is free to marry another believer (Rom. 7:15). Throughout Scripture, whenever legitimate divorce occurs, remarriage is an assumed option. When divorce is permitted, so is remarriage.

In general, conversion and obedience to Christ should lead us to greater faithfulness and commitment in every relationship. This extended passage (vv. 1–24) plainly repeats the basic principle that Christians should willingly accept the marital condition and social situations into which God has placed them and be content to serve Him there until He leads them elsewhere.




The Sin of Worry

“‘Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on’” (Matthew 6:25).

To worry about the future is to sin against God.

Someone has said, “You can’t change the past, but you can ruin a perfectly good present by worrying about the future.” Worry does ruin the present, but even more important for the believer is to recognize that worry is sin. Let’s look at why that is so.

Worry means you are striking out at God. Someone might say, “Worry is a small, trivial sin.” But that’s not true. More important than what worry does to you is what it does to God. When you worry, you are saying in effect, “God, I just don’t think I can trust You.” Worry strikes a blow at God’s integrity and love for you.

Worry means you are disbelieving Scripture. You can say, “I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of every word,” and then just live your life worrying. You are saying you believe the Bible, but then worry about God fulfilling what He says in it.

Worry means you are being mastered by circumstances. Let the truths of God’s Word, not your circumstances, control your thinking. By worrying, you make the circumstances and trials of life a bigger issue than your salvation. If you believe God can save you from eternal Hell, also believe He can help you in this world as He has promised.

Worry means you are distrusting God. If you worry, you’re not trusting your Heavenly Father. And if you’re not trusting Him, perhaps it’s because you don’t know Him well enough. Study God’s Word to find out who He really is and how He has been faithful to supply the needs of His people in the past. Doing so will help give you confidence for the future. Allow His Word to indwell you richly so that you aren’t making yourself vulnerable to Satan’s temptations to worry.

Suggestions for Prayer

Review the four points given above, and confess any sin to God.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7. What antidote to worry do both verses give?


Covering Sin

"[Love] bears all things" (1 Cor. 13:7).

Love confronts sin but protects the sinner.

In 1 Corinthians 13:7 Paul mentions four qualities of love that are closely related: bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things. That might sound like love is indiscriminate and accepting of anything that comes along, but "all things" in that verse is qualified by the context. Love rejects jealousy, bragging, arrogance, and so on (vv. 4-6), but it bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things that are within the parameters of God's Word.

"Love bears all things" speaks of love's willingness to cover sins and protect sinners from further harm. That's opposite our tabloid-mentality society in which gossip is big business and people seemingly have an insatiable appetite for exposes and "true confessions."

Love seeks to protect, not expose. It confronts and disciplines sin but never broadcasts failures or wrongs. It feels the pain of those it loves and is willing to take that pain upon itself when necessary—as Christ did when He suffered for our sins.

In the Old Testament, the mercy seat was the place where the blood of atonement was sprinkled to cover the sins of the people (Lev. 16:14). That covering prefigured the perfect covering of sin that Christ brought through His death on the cross (Rom. 3:25-26). All who trust in Him are forever covered with the mantle of God's love.

You cannot cover sins in the redemptive sense, but you can help protect and restore its victims. Proverbs 10:12 says, "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions." First Peter 4:8 says, "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins."

When you hear of someone's sin, what is your first reaction? Do you think the worst of him or even gloat over his failures? Or do you expect the best and want to protect him from further exposure, ridicule, or harm? Are you willing to confront sin when necessary and even help bear the burden that person might be carrying? How you react indicates the quality of your love.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for covering your sins with Christ's blood.

Commit yourself to loving others in a way that truly bears all things.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 53:3-12.

How is Christ pictured?

What did He endure on your behalf?


August 24 - The Redemptive Element of Jesus’ Impartial Healings

“‘Your faith has made you well’” (Matthew 9:22).

In many instances in the gospels, the words translated “healed,” “made well,” or similar variations, are from the Greek word meaning salvation or saved from sin. For instance, when blind Bartimaeus came to Jesus to regain his sight, the Lord told him, “Go; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:52). That Bartimaeus repeatedly called Jesus “Son of David,” a common messianic title, suggests that his physical healing included spiritual salvation.

In the account of the ten lepers, Luke reports that all of them “were cleansed” (Luke 17:14), but this was from a word that means essentially physical cleansing. However, of the one who glorified God and returned to give thanks, Jesus used the same expression (see v. 19) as He did to Bartimaeus and the woman with the hemorrhage. Ten men received cleansing, but only one obtained salvation. This indicates that salvation and physical healing were sometimes linked, even if in the example of the ten lepers, only one man realized both.

In addition to a strong redemptive element, Jesus’ healings were impartial. That Christ ministered equally to the leading synagogue elder and the outcast woman clearly proves this. The woman’s touching His garment with unclean hands did not offend Him. Nor did her presumption to obtain His help while He worked through the crowd to reach Jairus’s daughter bother Him. True needs never interfered with our Lord’s sovereign and impartial approach to ministry. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

Ask Yourself

Would you describe your feelings and interactions with others as being impartial? Are there people who (though you might never admit it aloud) are considered beneath you and unworthy of your notice and attention? Confess this as sin before the Father, and model Jesus’ brand of ministry.


Reading for Today:

Job 39:1–40:24

Psalm 101:1-4

Proverbs 23:29-30

1 Corinthians 6:1-20


Job 40:15–24 behemoth. While this is a generic term used commonly in the Old Testament for large cattle or land animals, the description in this passage suggests an extraordinary creature. The hippopotamus has been suggested by the details in the passage (vv. 19–24). However, the short tail of a hippo is hardly consistent with v. 17, where tail could be translated “trunk.” It could refer to an elephant, who could be considered “first” or chief of God’s creatures whom only He can control (v. 19). Some believe God is describing His most impressive creation of land animals, the dinosaur species, which fit all the characteristics.

Psalm 101:2 perfect way. As the king goes, so go his followers (v. 6). when will You come to me? This is not an eschatological expectation, but rather a personal expression of David’s need for God’s immanent involvement in his earthly kingship. my house. The king first starts with his own personal life (v. 7) and then looks beyond to his kingdom (vv. 5, 8).

Proverbs 23:30 mixed wine. Lingering long at the wine is indicative of constant drinking so as to induce drunkenness (1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7). Searching for more to drink indicates the same pursuit.

1 Corinthians 6:2 judge the world. Because Christians will assist Christ to judge the world in the millennial kingdom (Rev. 2:26, 27; 3:21; Dan. 7:22), they are more than qualified with the truth, the Spirit, the gifts, and the resources they presently have in Him to settle small matters that come up among themselves in this present life.

1 Corinthians 6:15 members. The believer’s body is not only for the Lord here and now (v. 14) but is of the Lord, a part of His body, the church (Eph.1:22, 23). The Christian’s body is a spiritual temple in which the Spirit of Christ lives (12:3; John 7:38, 39; 20:22; Acts 1:8; Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 6:16); therefore, when a believer commits a sexual sin, it involves Christ with a harlot. All sexual sin is harlotry. Certainly not! These words translate the strongest Greek negative—“may it never be so.”

DAY 24: Who does Paul list among those who will not inherit God’s kingdom?

First Corinthians 6:9,10 provides a list of people who will “not inherit the kingdom.” The kingdom is the spiritual sphere of salvation where God rules as king over all who belong to Him by faith. All believers are in that spiritual kingdom, yet are waiting to enter into the full inheritance of it in the age to come. While believers can and do commit these sins, they do not characterize them as an unbroken life pattern. When they do, it demonstrates that the person is not in God’s kingdom. True believers who do sin, repent of that sin and seek to gain the victory over it (Rom. 7:14–25).

“Fornicators.” All who indulge in sexual immorality, but particularly unmarried persons. “Idolaters.” Those who worship any false god or follow any false religious system. “Adulterers.” Married persons who indulge in sexual acts outside their marriage. “Homosexuals…sodomites.” These terms refer to those who exchange and corrupt normal male-female sexual roles and relations. Transvestism, sex changes, and other gender perversions are included (Gen. 1:27; Deut. 22:5). Sodomites are so-called because the sin of male-male sex dominated the city of Sodom (Gen. 18:20; 19:4, 5). This sinful perversion is condemned always, in any form, by Scripture (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom.1:26, 27; 1 Tim. 1:10).

“Thieves…covetous.” Both are guilty of the same basic sin of greed. Those who are covetous desire what belongs to others; thieves actually take it. “Revilers.” People who try to destroy others with words. “Extortioners.” Swindlers and embezzlers who steal indirectly, taking unfair advantage of others for their own financial gain.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that “such were some of you” (v. 11). Though not all Christians have been guilty of all those particular sins, every Christian is equally an ex-sinner, since Christ came to save sinners (Matt. 9:13; Rom. 5:20).




Maintaining Doctrinal Purity

"[Love] rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6).

Love never compromises God’s Word.

Paul has just given us a list of things that love does not do: become jealous, brag, act arrogantly or unbecomingly, seek its own, become provoked, keep track of wrongs suffered, or rejoice in unrighteousness. Now he comes to the first of five things love does: "[Love] rejoices with the truth" (v. 6).

The contrast in verse 6 is between love's inability to rejoice in unrighteousness and its joy when truth prevails. "Truth" refers to God's Word, which is the standard of righteousness. Paul could have said, "Love doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with righteousness," but he went beyond the mere deeds of righteousness and addressed its standard and motive.

Love won't tolerate false doctrine or sinful behavior, but it rejoices when God's Word is taught and obeyed. The psalmist said, "O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies. . . . I have more insight than all my teachers . . . . I understand more than the aged. . . . I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Thy word. I have not turned aside from Thine ordinances, for Thou Thyself hast taught me. How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way" (Ps. 119:97-104). That's the testimony of one who rejoices in the truth.

Often Christians are willing to compromise sound doctrine for the sake of loving others. They believe that doctrinal precision is somehow divisive and unloving. But Scripture says, "This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. . . . For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward" (2 John 6-8).

Biblical love always operates within the parameters of God's Word and spiritual discernment (Phil. 1:9-10). The most loving thing you can do is live according to biblical truth. Doctrinal compromise simply diminishes the quality of love and plays into the hands of the evil one.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for wisdom and discernment to keep your love within its proper biblical bounds.

For Further Study

Memorize Philippians 1:9-11.


Letting the Fog Lift

“‘Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on’” (Matthew 6:25).

God’s Word commands us not to worry.

A story I once read reminded me that worry is like fog. According to the article, dense fog covering seven city blocks a hundred feet deep is composed of less than one glass of water—divided into sixty billion droplets. In the right form, a few gallons of water can cripple a large city. Similarly, the object of a person’s worry is usually quite small compared to the way it can cripple his thinking or harm his life. Someone has said, “Worry is a thin stream of fear that trickles through the mind, which, if encouraged, will cut a channel so wide that all other thoughts will be drained out.”

All of us have to admit that worry is a part of life. The Bible commands us, however, not to worry. To break that command is sin. Worry is the equivalent of saying, “God, I know You mean well by what You say, but I’m just not sure You can pull it off.” Worry is the sin of distrusting the promises and providence of God; yet we do it all the time.

We don’t worry about anything as much as we worry about the basics of life. In that regard we are similar to the people whom Jesus addressed in Matthew 6:25-34. They were worried about having sufficient food and clothing. I suppose if they were to try and legitimize their worry, they would say, “After all, we’re not worrying about extravagant things. We’re just worrying about our next meal, a glass of water, and something to wear.” But there is no reason for a believer to worry about the basics of life since Jesus says He will provide for him. You are neither to hoard material possessions as a hedge against the future (vv. 19-24) nor be anxious about your basic needs (vv. 25-34). Instead of letting the fog of worry roll in, it’s time to let it lift.

Suggestions for Prayer

“Rejoice in the Lord always. . . . Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:4, 6).

For Further Study

What counsel does 1 Peter 5:7 give?


August 23 - Jesus Touches an Untouchable

“A woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, ‘If I only touch His garment, I will get well.’ But Jesus turning and seeing her said, ‘Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’ At once the woman was made well” (Matthew 9:20–22).

When the godly Sir James Simpson was on his deathbed, a friend said to him, “Well, James, soon you will be able to rest on the bosom of Jesus.” But Simpson replied, “I don’t know that I can quite do that, but I do think I can take hold of His garment.”

In her shame at being ostracized from her family and being ceremonially unclean, the woman here wanted to be unnoticed. She merely desired to touch Jesus’ garment, confident that such contact was enough to receive healing. In keeping with such confidence, she received immediate healing from her defilement.

Our Lord became aware of what had happened only as He realized that divine power had gone out from Him (Luke 8:46)—a realization that happened before He humanly knew of the woman specifically. His statement, “your faith has made you well,” simply assured her and the crowd that miraculous healing had occurred. Jesus did not care that her touching Him would make Him ceremonially unclean to the Jews. The Lord was touchable even by an untouchable.

Even though the woman’s expectations were likely not fully informed by Scripture—she might have superstitiously thought Christ’s clothes had inherent healing powers—He spoke to her caringly and compassionately: “Daughter, take courage.” In spite of other factors, the woman’s faith was genuine and acceptable to the Lord. It was enough to make her well.

Ask Yourself

Part of the balance of Christian faith is realizing that we are unworthy to touch the hem of His garment, yet are welcomed into His full embrace as an adopted member of His family. How do these two seeming incongruities come together and balance out in your worship?


Reading for Today:

Job 37:1–38:41

Psalm 100:1-5

Proverbs 23:26-28

1 Corinthians 5:1-13


Job 38:1 the LORD. Yahweh, the covenant “LORD,” was the name used for God in the book’s prologue, where the reader was introduced to Job and his relationship with God. However, in chapters 3–37, the name “Yahweh” is not used. God is called “El Shaddai,” God the Almighty. In this book that change becomes a way of illustrating that God has been detached and distant. The relationship is restored in rich terms as God reveals Himself to Job using His covenant name. out of the whirlwind. Job had repeatedly called God to court in order to verify his innocence. God finally came to interrogate Job on some of the comments he had made to his own accusers. God was about to be Job’s vindicator, but He first brought Job to a right understanding of Himself.

Job 38:3 I will question you. God silenced Job’s presumption in constantly wanting to ask the questions of God by becoming Job’s questioner. It must be noted that God never told Job about the reason for his pain, about the conflict between Himself and Satan, which was the reason for Job’s suffering. He never gave Job any explanation at all about the circumstances of his trouble. He did one thing in all He said. He asked Job if he was as eternal, great, powerful, wise, and perfect as God. If not, Job would have been better off to be quiet and trust Him.

Psalm 100:3 Know. In the sense of experiencing and being completely assured of the truth. the LORD, He is God. A confession that Israel’s covenant God, Yahweh, is the only true God. made us. Though God’s actual creation of every human being is understood here, this phrase seems to refer to God’s making and blessing Israel as a nation (Deut. 32:6, 15; Ps. 95:6; Is. 29:22, 23; 44:2). His people…His pasture. The shepherd image is often ascribed to the king of Israel, as well as to the Lord (Ps. 78:70–72; Is. 44:28; Jer. 10:21; Zech. 10:3; 11:4–17). The figure suggests intimate care (Luke 15:3–6). According to the New Testament, the Lord is also the Shepherd of saints in the church age (John 10:16).

1 Corinthians 5:1 sexual immorality. This sin was so vile that even the church’s pagan neighbors were doubtless scandalized by it. The Corinthians had rationalized or minimized this sin which was common knowledge, even though Paul had written them before about it (v. 9). The Greek for “immorality” is the root of the English word “pornography.” his father’s wife. The man’s stepmother, with whom having sexual relations bore the same sinful stigma as if between him and his natural mother. Incest was punishable by death in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:7, 8, 29; Deut. 22:30) and was both uncommon (“not even named”) and illegal under Roman law.

DAY 23: Why doesn’t God answer all of Job’s (and our) questions?

This question assumes that if God answered all our questions, it would be easier to believe. This is not true. Trust goes beyond answers. Sometimes, questions become a way to avoid trust.

Take, for example, a little girl invited to jump off the stairs into her father’s waiting hands. She asks, “Will you catch me, Daddy?” He answers, “Yes, I will!” She may jump or she may proceed to ask endless versions of her first question. If she does jump, it will be more because of whom she knows her father to be than because of his answer to one of her questions. The fact that she jumps does not mean that she has run out of fears or questions; it means that her trust is greater than her fears or questions.

In the end, we must trust God more than our capacity to understand God’s ways. The lesson from Job’s experience does not forbid us from asking questions. Often these questions will lead us to the reasons for our suffering. But Job’s experience also warns us that we may not be able to understand all our suffering all the time, or even any of it some of the time.

God doesn’t answer all of our questions because we are simply unable to understand many of His answers.




Rejoicing in Righteousness

"[Love] does not rejoice in unrighteousness" (1 Cor. 13:6).

Love never justifies sin.

To most Christians, the idea of rejoicing over unrighteousness is repulsive because it suggests enjoying deliberate, wanton sin. We've seen sin's tragic effects on mankind and know how it offends God, so how could we ever rejoice in such a thing? But rejoicing in unrighteousness includes any attempt to justify sin in your own life or the lives of others, so it can be a very subtle thing.

There are many ways to rejoice in unrighteousness. One is to exchange right for wrong. That's what the prophet Isaiah condemned when saying, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness" (Isa. 5:20). In our society, for example, virtues such as virginity and fidelity in marriage are branded as old-fashioned and prudish, while promiscuity and adultery are heralded as contemporary and liberating. Social pressures can cause undiscerning or weak Christians to yield to confused and godless moral standards.

Another way to rejoice in unrighteousness is to be undiscerning about what you expose yourself to. The humanistic philosophies and blatant immorality of our society can quickly dull your moral and spiritual senses. Therefore you must carefully evaluate what you read, view, and listen to. Do they denigrate God and exalt violence, crime, immorality, slander, and the like? If so, and you find them entertaining, you are rejoicing in sin.

Some believers actually do rejoice over the sins of others. That's what Jonah did when he refused to preach at Nineveh for fear the people would repent and God would forgive them. He preferred to see them continue in sin rather than reconcile with God. That attitude is not so far removed from today as we'd like to think. I've known professing Christians who wanted out of their marriages so badly that they hoped their spouses would commit adultery so they would feel justified in getting a divorce. What a convoluted perspective!

True love cannot rejoice in sin, but glories whenever righteousness prevails. If you love God, the things that please Him will please you, and the things that offend Him will offend you. Let that always be your standard.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the grace to live a life that pleases Him.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 18:15-20, carefully noting the procedure for confronting a sinning Christian.


Materialistic Christians

“‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth’” (Matthew 6:19).

You cannot pursue both God and riches.

Ours is a society consumed with material things. Status, success, and importance are all too often measured by a person’s financial worth. Those with wealth flaunt it; those without wealth fake it. People often rack up huge debts in their desperate and futile pursuit of happiness through accumulating material things.

Sadly, that same materialistic mind-set permeates the church. Instead of offering an alternative, that of being distinct from the world, the church joins the world in its pursuit of riches. Most tragically of all, the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is lost in the process.

It is not wrong to have possessions. Job, Abraham, and Solomon were among the wealthiest men of their day. But it is wrong to covet, to make the pursuit of material things the main goal of your life, to serve mammon instead of God. “Do not love the world,” wrote the apostle John, “nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). James addressed these scathing words to those whose focus is on material things: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Behind much of the pursuit of riches in the church is a lack of trust in God’s provision. Instead of finding security in His promise to supply all our needs (Phil. 4:19), we seek it in a house, a bank account, or a stock portfolio. God did not give us our money and possessions so we wouldn’t have to trust Him. He gave them to us to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17) and to test the legitimacy of our spirituality (Luke 16:11).

Whether you are rich or poor, your attitude toward your possessions and how you handle them is a test of your spirituality. How are you doing?

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray with Agur, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, lest I be full and deny Thee and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Prov. 30:8-9).

For Further Study

What do the following verses teach about our attitude toward wealth: Psalms 49:5-9; 52:7; 62:10?


August 22 - Jesus’ Availability to Jairus

“Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples” (Matthew 9:19).

Jesus was always willing to go out of His way to serve others in the Father’s name. This trait was certainly evident as Christ reached out to Jairus with accessibility and availability. There were certainly many other needy people in the region near Jairus, but the urgency of the synagogue leader’s circumstances demanded that Jesus go to Jairus’s home. From a distance the Lord could have sent the power to raise the man’s daughter from the dead. He chose, however, to manifest selfless love and compassion by following the grieving Jairus to his home.

God is sensitive not only to the needs of the many but to the cry of individuals in need. The Holy Spirit’s work through Philip in Acts 8 illustrates this principle. In the midst of a highly profitable ministry in Samaria, an angel dispatched the evangelist to Gaza (v. 26). Right away Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch, the royal official who served the queen of Ethiopia. When the Holy Spirit prompted Philip to approach the man, the evangelist found an eager seeker about the things of God and was able to lead him to saving faith in Christ (vv. 35–37).

God sometimes leads us, as He often led His own Son and the early disciples, to temporarily set aside a larger ministry to focus on the need of one person—and He wants us to be available. After all, Jesus did promise that every single individual who genuinely “comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

Ask Yourself

Who comes to mind when you think of someone God has called you to influence at this point in time? Avoid the temptation to withhold yourself from others, not wanting to get involved in the messiness of their needs and problems, when Jesus has called you to compassion.


Reading for Today:

Job 35:1–36:33

Psalm 99:1-9

Proverbs 23:22-25

1 Corinthians 4:1-21


Job 35:1–16 Elihu again referred to Job’s complaints, first of all his thinking that there appeared to be no advantage to being righteous (v. 3), which Job had said, as recorded in 21:15 and 34:9. The first part of his answer is that Job gained nothing by sinning or not sinning because God was so high that nothing men do affects Him (vv. 5–7). It only affects other men (v. 8). Job had also complained that God did not answer his prayers when he cried under this oppression (see 24:12; 30:20). Elihu coldly gave 3 reasons why Job’s prayers had not been heard: pride (vv. 10, 12), wrong motives (v. 13), and lack of patient trust (v. 14). Again, all this theoretical talk missed Job’s predicament completely because he was righteous. Elihu was no more help than the other counselors.

Job 36:15 opens their ears in oppression. This was a new insight and perhaps the most helpful thing Elihu said. He went beyond all that had been said about God’s using suffering to chasten and bring repentance. He was saying that God used suffering to open men’s ears, to draw them to Himself. But as long as Job kept complaining, he was turning to iniquity rather than drawing near to God in his suffering (vv.16–21).

Psalm 99:5 His footstool. In general, this is a metaphor for the temple in Jerusalem (Is. 60:13; Lam. 2:1); but more specifically, for the ark of the covenant (1 Chr. 28:2). Footstools were included with the thrones of the kings of Israel (2 Chr.9:18).

Psalm 99:9 His holy hill. This is the hill in Jerusalem where the temple was (Pss. 15:1; 24:3), and where it will be located in the future messianic kingdom (Is. 24:23).

Proverbs 23:23 Buy the truth. Obtain the truth at all costs. Then never relinquish it at any price.

1 Corinthians 4:8 full!…rich!…reigned. In a severe rebuke, Paul heaps on false praise, sarcastically suggesting that those Corinthians who were self-satisfied had already achieved spiritual greatness. They were similar to the Laodiceans (Rev. 3:17). reign. Yet, Paul genuinely wished it really were the coronation time of the Millennium, so that they all might share in the glory of the Lord.

DAY 22: How did Paul want to be regarded by the Corinthians?

“Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). Paul wanted everyone to view him and his fellow ministers only as the humble messengers God ordained them to be (3:9, 22). “Servants.” Paul expresses his humility by using a word literally meaning “under rowers,” referring to the lowest, most menial, and most despised galley slaves, who rowed on the bottom tier of a ship. “Stewards.” Paul defines his responsibilities as an apostle by using a word originally referring to a person entrusted with and responsible for his master’s entire household: e.g., buildings, fields, finances, food, other servants, and sometimes even children of the owner. “Mysteries of God.” “Mystery” is used in the New Testament to refer to divine revelation previously hidden. Here the word is used in its broadest sense as God’s fully revealed truth in the New Testament. It was all that truth which Paul had to oversee and dispense as God’s servant and steward.

The most essential quality of a servant or steward is obedient loyalty to his master (vv. 2, 17; 7:25; Matt. 24:45–51; Col. 1:7; 4:7). Because of that, Paul said that “it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court” (v. 3). Paul is not being arrogant or saying that he is above fellow ministers, other Christians, or even certain unbelievers. He is saying that a human verdict on his life is not the one that matters, even if it was his own.

“For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this” (v. 4). Paul was not aware of any unconfessed or habitual sin in his own life, but his limited understanding assumed that his was not the final verdict. Paul’s own sincere evaluation of his life did not acquit him of all failures to be faithful. The Lord is the ultimate and only qualified Judge of any man’s obedience and faithfulness (2 Tim. 2:15). Since final rewards will be based not just on outward service but on inward devotion (10:31), only God can give the praise each deserves. He will “bring to light the hidden things of darkness…counsels of the hearts” (v. 5).




A Little Piece of Bread

“Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for [the Lord] Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

God promises to provide for all your needs.

In World War II the death of many adults left many orphans. At the close of the war, the Allies provided some camps to feed the orphans and to try and find a place to relocate them. The children began to develop and grow, receiving the finest food and care. But in one of the camps, the officials became perplexed because the children couldn’t sleep. They would eat three good meals, but at night they would lie awake. The camp authorities brought in some doctors to do a study of these orphans to find out why they couldn’t sleep.

The doctors came up with a solution. Every night when the little children were put to bed, someone would come down the row of beds and place in each little hand a piece of bread. So the last thing the children experienced at night was grasping a piece of bread. In a matter of days they were all sleeping through the night. Why? Even though they were fed to the full during the day, experience had taught them that there was no hope for tomorrow. When they had that bread tucked in their hands, they knew that at least they would have breakfast the next day.

Similarly, God has given you a piece of bread for your hand. That bread is this promise: “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). If you have that piece of bread in your hand, you can sleep.

You don’t need to stockpile for the future. God is the owner of everything in the world, and He controls all the assets to provide for you because you are His child. Life for the Christian consists not in the abundance of things he possesses (Luke 12:15), but in being content with the things that he has (Heb. 13:5).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His promise to provide for all your needs.

For Further Study

In Psalm 37:25, what was David’s testimony about the Lord?


Forgiving Others

"[Love] does not take into account a wrong suffered" (1 Cor. 13:5).

If you love someone, you won’t keep a record of their offenses.

It is reported that when the Moravian missionaries first went to the Eskimos, they couldn't find a word in their language for forgiveness. They had to combine a series of shorter words into one compound word: Issumagijoujungnainermik. Although the word appears formidable, its meaning is beautiful, being translated: "Not-being-able-to-think-about-it-anymore."

You've probably noticed that unforgiving people usually have good memories. Some can hold a grudge for a lifetime. But love never keeps a record of wrongs committed against it. It forgives and is unable to think about them anymore.

That's what Paul had in mind when he said that love "does not take into account a wrong suffered" (1 Cor. 13:5). The Greek word translated "take into account" was used of the entries in a bookkeeper's ledger. Those entries helped the bookkeeper remember the nature of each financial transaction. In contrast, love never keeps a record or holds others accountable for the wrongs they've committed against it.

The greatest example of that kind of love is God Himself. Romans 4:8 says, "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account." Second Corinthians 5:19 adds, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them."

Every sin we commit as believers is an offense against God, but He never charges them to our account. We are in Christ, who bore our penalty on the cross. When we sin, we are immediately forgiven.

If you love others, you'll forgive them as God has forgiven you. Instead of holding them accountable for their offenses, you'll look beyond their sin to their potential in Christ. You'll heed Paul's admonition to "be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32). That's the character of true love.

Suggestions for Prayer

Is there someone from whom you've been withholding forgiveness? If so, recognize it as sin and confess it to the Lord. Then be reconciled to that person right away.

Thank God that He doesn't keep an account of your sins (cf. Ps. 130:3).

For Further Study

What does Matthew 18:21-35 say about forgiving others?


August 21 - Jairus’s True Faith

“A synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live’” (Matthew 9:18).

Jairus’s belief that the Lord Jesus could honor his request to revive his daughter from death is especially extraordinary because Jesus had not yet performed a resurrection miracle. He had performed many healing miracles, but up to this point He had not brought someone back from the dead. So there was no precedent for such a request, yet Jairus asked it in faith.

Jairus’s faith surpassed that of the centurion, who believed Christ could “speak” his servant well prior to death (Matt. 8:9–10). It also topped that of Martha, who believed Jesus could have kept her brother Lazarus from dying, but relinquished hope once he died, even when Jesus said he would rise again (John 11:21, 23–24). With such unsurpassed faith that the Lord could resurrect his daughter by a mere touch, Jairus undoubtedly trusted Him for forgiveness of sins and newness of spiritual life, for salvation.

This episode also demonstrates that Jesus was not a religious guru with servants doing His every bidding, or a monk removed from everyday life, or a potentate at the top of a religious hierarchy who received people only through several layers of intermediaries. Instead He was the true Son of God who “became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and ministered personally and directly to meet believing requests of men such as Jairus.

Ask Yourself

Is your faith limited to the precedent of what you’ve seen Jesus do in the past? Or are you willing to believe Him for more than your eye has seen or your ear has heard? Bring a big need before Him today—in believing faith—and continue to watch for His answer.


Reading for Today:

Job 33:1–34:37

Psalm 98:4-9

Proverbs 23:19-21

1 Corinthians 3:1-23


Job 34:1–37 Elihu addressed Job and his accusers. His approach was to quote Job directly (vv. 5–9), then respond to his complaints, but at times he misinterpreted Job’s remarks, and at other times he put the words of the accusers in Job’s mouth. The most obvious example of the latter wrongdoing was in saying that Job claimed to be sinlessly perfect (v. 6). Job never claimed that; in fact, Job acknowledged his sin (7:21; 13:26). Elihu didn’t know it, but God had pronounced Job innocent (1:8; 2:3). In answer to Job’s complaints that God seemed unjust, Elihu reminded Job that God was too holy to do anything wrong (v. 10), fair in dealing with people (vv. 11, 12), powerful (vv. 13, 14), just (vv. 17, 18), impartial (vv. 19, 20), omniscient (vv. 21, 22), the Judge of all (v. 23), and the Sovereign who does what He wills to prevent evil (vv. 24–30).

Psalm 98:4 Shout joyfully. A great cheer, greeting and welcoming a king (Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:4–9). break forth. The idea is that of an eruption of praise which could not be contained (Is. 14:7; 44:23; 55:12).

Psalm 98:8 rivers clap their hands. Different parts of nature are pictured as rejoicing in this universal scene of joy (Is. 35:1, 2; Rom. 8:19–21).

1 Corinthians 3:12 if anyone builds. This is, first of all, in reference to the evangelists and pastors (v. 9), and then to all believers who are called to build the church through faithful ministry. gold, silver, precious stones. His quality materials represent dedicated, spiritual service to build the church. wood, hay, straw. Inferior materials implying shallow activity with no eternal value. They do not refer to activities that are evil.

1 Corinthians 3:13 the Day. Refers to the time of the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). revealed by fire. The fire of God’s discerning judgment (Job 23:10; Zech. 13:9; 1 Pet. 1:17, 18; Rev. 3:18). Second Corinthians 5:10 indicates that the wood, hay, and straw are “worthless” things that don’t stand the test of judgment fire.

DAY 21: What does it mean to be “carnal”?

The cause of problems in the Corinthian church was more than external, worldly influence. It was also internal carnality (1 Cor. 3:1). The pressures of the world were combined with the weakness of the flesh. Although Corinthian believers were no longer “natural,” they were not “spiritual” (fully controlled by the Holy Spirit). In fact, they were “carnal” (controlled by the fallen flesh). Though all believers have the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9), they still battle the fallen flesh (Rom. 7:14–25; 8:23).

Paul calls them “babes in Christ.” The carnality of those believers was indicative of their immaturity. They had no excuse for not being mature, since Paul implied that he should have been able to write to them as mature, in light of all he had taught them (v. 2). He could only feed them with “milk” (v. 2). Not a reference to certain doctrines, but to the more easily digestible truths of doctrine that were given to new believers. “Solid food” is the deeper features of the doctrines of Scripture. The difference is not in the kind of truth, but degree of depth. Spiritual immaturity makes one unable to receive the richest truths.

Carnality produces the attitude of envy, a severe form of selfishness, which produces the action of strife and the subsequent divisions (v. 3). They end up acting as “mere men.” Apart from the will of Spirit, hence carnal, not spiritual. Factionalism was the divisive product of carnality, aligning themselves with “Paul…Apollos” (v. 4). Paul reminds them that all the human instruments God uses to produce salvation life are equally considered and rewarded for their willingness to be used by God. But all the glory goes to Him, who alone saves. Because of that, the silly favoritism is condemned (vv. 5–8).




The Lord Who Provides

“Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, ‘In the mount of the Lord it will be provided’” (Genesis 22:13-14).

When God provides for a believer, He’s being true to His name.

The Old Testament gives God many names, but one of the most lovely is Jehovah-Jireh, translated in verse 14 of today’s passage as “The Lord Will Provide.” It is so much a characteristic of God that it’s His name. We would never question that God is love and great and mighty and holy and just and good. But some question whether God provides. They doubt and are afraid that God isn’t going to meet their needs. That is exactly what the Lord speaks to in Matthew 6:25-34 when He says, in summary, “Don’t worry about what to eat, drink, or wear.” The Lord is still Jehovah-Jireh. That is His name, and it is synonymous with one of His attributes.

God is a God who provides, and that is why David said, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread” (Ps. 37:25). The world digs and scratches and claws to make sure it has enough. Unlike the world, your Father knows your needs, and He will always give you what you need.

You don’t have to own everything, and you don’t have to control everything to meet your needs. You can receive what God gives you to invest in His eternal kingdom and put away all anxiety about your needs. Worship God with your life, and rest assured in His promise to provide for you.

Suggestions for Prayer

First Timothy 6:8 says, “If [you] have food and covering, with these [you] shall be content.” Does contentment characterize your life? If not, confess that to the Lord, and thank Him for the many ways He so faithfully provides for you every day.

For Further Study

Read the following passages, which show God’s faithfulness to provide: Deuteronomy 2:7; 1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 4:1-7. In what different ways does He give that provision?


Godly Anger Versus Selfish Anger

"[Love] is not provoked" (1 Cor. 13:5).

Self-centered anger cannot coexist with love.

The great eighteenth-century preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards had a daughter with an uncontrollable temper. When a young man asked Dr. Edwards for his daughter's hand in marriage, he said no. The young man was crushed. "But I love her and she loves me," he pleaded. "That makes no difference," Edwards replied, "she isn't worthy of you." "But she is a Christian, isn't she," the young man argued. "Yes," said Edwards, "but the grace of God can live with some people with whom no one else could ever live."

That may seem harsh, but Jonathan Edwards knew what his would-be son-in-law hadn't yet learned: the presence of selfish anger indicates the absence of genuine love. "Love," said Paul, "is not provoked." It isn't given to sudden outbursts of emotion or action. It doesn't respond in anger to offenses committed against it.

Paul wasn't talking about anger over sin and its terrible consequences. That's righteous indignation, which Christians are expected to have. When Jesus drove the merchants and moneychangers out of the temple (John 2:14-15), He was genuinely angry because His Father's house was being desecrated. But He never reacted that way when He was personally attacked or maligned. In the same way, it's right for you to be angry when others are mistreated, when God is offended, or when His Word is misrepresented. But love always bears up under personal attacks.

Such graciousness is foreign to our society, which teaches us to fight for our personal rights and retaliate when we don't get what we think we deserve. That has produced greedy and loveless people who want little more than personal success and comfort. Anyone who dares to stand in their way is in danger of incurring their wrath.

As a Christian, you must resist such influences by focusing on your spiritual duty rather than your rights. If you expect nothing from the world, you won't be angered or disappointed when nothing comes. Remember, God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). So humble yourself before Him and He will exalt you at the proper time (James 4:10).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the grace to forgive those who wrong you.

For Further Study

According to Ephesians 4:26-27, how should you deal with anger?


August 20 - Jairus’s Sense of Need

“A synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live’” (Matthew 9:18).

The accounts of this incident by Mark (5:22) and Luke (8:41) identify the synagogue official as Jairus. And everything he did in this encounter with Jesus demonstrated his humility and sincerity. His request of the Lord was a selfless one for something humanly impossible, and by making it he respected Christ’s power, compassion, and grace. Seemingly unworried about the reaction of his fellow religious leaders, he knew that only Jesus could help his daughter who had just died.

The Holy Spirit had obviously already worked in Jairus’s heart to bring him to this point. His request shows absolute faith that Jesus was able to do what was asked: “come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” Jairus’s sense of need was so urgent that he swallowed his fear and pride and came to Jesus without hesitation or doubt.

Often some tragedy such as this drives a person to Jesus Christ. Those who, unlike Jairus, are unaware of need in their lives will usually have no hunger for God. That’s why in evangelism, it is important to show someone their need of salvation and therefore of Christ as the only way to receive it. Jairus saw the emptiness of human resources in this situation and now knew Jesus was his last best hope. He may not have approached the Lord out of the purest motive, because his prime concern was his daughter’s life and his own despair. So his first thought was not solely to glorify Christ, but he did trust Jesus for help in bringing his child back—and he found Him truly accessible.

Ask Yourself

What needs do those around you have, perhaps without even knowing it? Identify several of them. As you go about your day, be aware of the needs they’re expressing. And as opportunities for spiritual conversation arise, show them the answer to their need in Christ Jesus.


Reading for Today:

Job 31:1–32:22

Psalm 98:1-3

Proverbs 23:17-18

1 Corinthians 2:1-16


Job 31:35 my Prosecutor had written a book. Job wished that God, the perfect Prosecutor who knows the allegations perfectly, had written a book that would have revealed God’s will and wisdom and the reasons for Job’s pain. This would have cleared him of all charges by his friends.

Psalm 98:1 right hand…holy arm. These are symbols of power. the victory. The Lord is often pictured in the Old Testament as a divine warrior (Ex. 15:2, 3; Pss. 18; 68:1–8; Is. 59:15ff.). According to the prophets, Christ will begin His millennial reign following His victory over the nations of the world which will gather against Israel in the end times (Zech. 14:1–15; Rev. 19:11–21).

Proverbs 23:18 there is a hereafter. Anyone who might envy sinners needs to know that their prosperity is brief. They will die (“be cut off”); then there will be a time when all iniquities will be dealt with and divine justice will prevail (Ps. 37:28–38).The righteous will live forever.

1 Corinthians 2:7 mystery. This term does not refer to something puzzling, but to truth known to God before time, that He has kept secret until the appropriate time for Him to reveal it. for our glory. The truth God established before time and revealed in the New Testament wisdom of the gospel is the truth that God will save and glorify sinners.

DAY 20: How do we receive spiritual truth?

From 1 Corinthians 2:10–16, it is clear that the wisdom that saves, which man’s wisdom can’t know, is revealed to us by God. He makes it known by revelation, inspiration, and illumination. Revelation (vv. 10, 11) and inspiration (vv. 12, 13) were given to those who wrote the Bible. Illumination (vv. 14–16) is given to all believers who seek to know and understand that divinely written truth. In each case, the Holy Spirit is the divine agent doing the work (2 Pet. 1:21).

“God has revealed them” (v. 10). By the Holy Spirit, God disclosed His saving truth (Matt. 11:25; 13:10–13). The Spirit alone was qualified because He knows all that God knows, Himself being God. “To us.” As with the “we’s” in vv. 6, 7 and vv. 12, 13, Paul is, first of all, speaking of himself, and, in a sense, of believers who have been given the Word as recorded by the apostles and their associates who wrote the New Testament.

“We have received” (v. 12).The “we” and “us” refer to the apostles and other writers of the Word of God. The means was inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21), by which God freely gave the gift of His Word. It was this process of inspiration that turned the spiritual thoughts into spiritual words (v. 13) to give life (Matt. 4:4).

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” (v. 14). This refers to the unconverted, who lack supernatural life and wisdom. “Because they are spiritually discerned.” Through illumination of the Word, the Holy Spirit provides His saints the capacity to discern divine truth, which the spiritually dead are unable to comprehend (John 5:37–39; 1 John 2:20, 27).The doctrine of illumination does not mean we know everything (Deut. 29:29), that we do not need teachers (Eph. 4:11, 12), or that understanding does not require hard work (2 Tim. 2:15).




The Generosity of Love

"[Love] does not seek its own" (1 Cor. 13:5).

Love transforms selfish people into self-sacrificing people.

From the time of Adam and Eve, replacing God with self has been at the root of all sin. Our first parents had only one restriction: "From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17). But Eve believed the serpent's lie that God was trying to keep her from realizing her full potential (Gen. 3:5). She ate the forbidden fruit, gave some to Adam, and together they plunged the human race into sin and death.

Christ changed all that when He came, not "to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). Unlike Adam and Eve, He didn't seek His own comfort or gain, but made whatever sacrifices were necessary to redeem lost sinners.

It is reported that the inscription on a tombstone in a small English cemetery reads,

Here lies a miser who lived for himself, And cared for nothing but gathering wealth. Now where he is or how he fares, Nobody knows and nobody cares.

How tragic to spend your entire life enslaved to your selfishness. In contrast, a tombstone in the courtyard of St. Paul's Cathedral in London reads, "Sacred to the memory of General Charles George Gordon, who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God." The first tombstone testifies to the futility of greed and selfishness; the second to the glory of generosity and self-sacrifice.

Christ is the perfect example of self-sacrifice. If you love Him, you should be characterized by the same quality. Then others will see your genuineness and commitment to them, and by God's grace be drawn to your Lord.

What epitaph might your family and friends write about you? I pray it is one that glorifies God for the selfless love He demonstrated through you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for those who have made significant sacrifices toward your spiritual growth. Seek to imitate their love.

For Further Study

List the fifteen qualities of love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, then determine how self-sacrifice relates to each one.


Dare to Be a Daniel

“‘Thine is the dominion, O Lord, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all’” (1 Chronicles 29:11-12).

Trust God, who controls everyone and everything.

In Daniel 6, King Darius chose 120 princes to help him govern his kingdom. Over the princes he appointed three presidents, with Daniel being the first president. The princes and other two presidents were jealous of Daniel, so they devised a scheme against him. They told the king that he should make a law requiring every person to make his requests only to the king for the next thirty days. They said, “Anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you . . . shall be cast into the lions’ den” (v. 7). The king approved the idea and signed it into law. The princes and two presidents were glad because they knew Daniel prayed daily to his God (cf. v. 10).

As soon as Daniel’s opponents found him praying, they reported the matter to the king. Although Darius did not want harm to come to Daniel, the king could not reverse his law. As a result, Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. When the king went to the den early the next morning, Daniel said to Darius, “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me” (v. 22). “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God” (v. 23). Daniel trusted God because he knew that He was in control of everything.

Since God both owns and controls everyone and everything, don’t put your hope in riches or fear for your needs. God will take care of you. In his book Trusting God, Jerry Bridges wrote, “God . . . so directs and controls all events and all actions of His creatures that they never act outside of His sovereign will. We must believe this and cling to this . . . if we are to glorify God by trusting Him.” Dare to be a Daniel: trust God, who controls all and promises to care for you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for being in sovereign control of your life.

For Further Study

What does Lamentations 3:37-38 say about God’s control?


August 19 - Marks of the True Believer

“‘They put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved’” (Matthew 9:17b).

Like new wine poured into fresh wineskins, everything stays spiritually fresh for the true believer. First, he or she leads a life of unquestioning obedience and follows the Lord without conditions or excuses. Not long before His ascension, Jesus told Peter, “‘Follow Me!’ Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them . . . So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’” (John 21:19–22). Christians don’t question Christ’s will or unwisely compare themselves to other believers.

Second, like Matthew who invited sinners to his house to see Jesus, true saints have compassion on the unsaved. They want to see them saved, even though at times that desire gets supplanted by selfish concerns. Because they know “the fear of the Lord, [they] persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). The love of Christ will prompt them to witness to others (v. 14).

Finally, if we are truly Christ’s children, we will not follow any sort of legalism or ritualism as the scribes and Pharisees did. We’ll realize soon enough that these are utterly incompatible with the new life in Jesus Christ. It should also be clear to us that what was begun in the Spirit cannot be finished in the flesh (Gal. 3:3). The new wine of salvation and sanctification has no place back in the old wineskins of our life before conversion.

Ask Yourself

Is your life devoid of some of these freedoms? Does your heart often—or perhaps incessantly—cause Christian faith to feel as though it’s just another burden or pressure rather than the pure expression of who you are? What’s standing between you and abundant life?


Reading for Today:

Job 29:1–30:31

Psalm 97:7-12

Proverbs 23:15-16

1 Corinthians 1:1-31


Job 29:5 When the Almighty was yet with me. Job felt abandoned by God. But God would demonstrate to Job, by addressing his criticisms, that God was with him all throughout this ordeal.

Job 29:12, 13 poor…fatherless…perishing man…widow’s. All over the ancient Near Eastern world, a man’s virtue was measured by his treatment of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. If he protected and provided for this group, he was respected as being a noble man. These things, which Job had done, his accusers said he must not have done or he wouldn’t be suffering (see 22:1–11).

1 Corinthians 1:10 speak the same thing. Paul is emphasizing the unity of doctrine in the local assembly of believers, not the spiritual unity of His universal church. Doctrinal unity, clearly and completely based on Scripture, must be the foundation of all church life (John 17:11, 21–23; Acts 2:46, 47). Both weak commitment to doctrine and commitment to disunity of doctrine will severely weaken a church and destroy the true unity. In its place, there can be only shallow sentimentalism or superficial harmony. joined together. The basic idea is that of putting back together something that was broken or separated so it is no longer divided. The term is used in both the New Testament and in classical Greek to speak of mending such things as nets, broken bones or utensils, torn garments, and dislocated joints. same mind…same judgment. Philippians 3:15, 16. The demand is for unity internally in their individual minds and externally in decisions made among themselves—unified in truth by beliefs, convictions, standards, and in behavior by applied principles of living (Acts 4:32; Eph. 4:3). The only source of such unity is God’s Word which establishes the standard of truth on which true unity rests.

1 Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? No human leader, not even an apostle, should be given the loyalty that belongs only to the Lord. Such elevation of leaders leads only to contention, disputes, and a divided church. Christ is not divided and neither is His body, the church. Paul depreciates his worth in comparison to the Lord Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:18 message of the cross. God’s total revelation, i.e., the gospel in all its fullness, which centers in the Incarnation and Crucifixion of Christ (2:2); the entire divine plan and provision for the redemption of sinners, which is the theme of all Scripture, is in view. foolishness. Translates the word from which “moron” is derived. perishing…being saved. Every person is either in the process of salvation (though not completed until the redemption of the body; see Rom. 8:23; 13:11) or the process of destruction. One’s response to the cross of Christ determines which. To the Christ-rejectors who are in the process of being destroyed (Eph. 2:1, 2) the gospel is nonsense. To those who are believers it is powerful wisdom.

DAY 19: Describe the church in Corinth.

The church in Corinth was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1ff.). As usual, his ministry began in the synagogue, where he was assisted by two Jewish believers, Priscilla and Aquila, with whom he lived for a while and who were fellow tradesmen. Soon after, Silas and Timothy joined them and Paul began preaching even more intensely in the synagogue. When most of the Jews resisted the gospel, he left the synagogue, but not before Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, his family, and many other Corinthians were converted (Acts 18:5–8).

After ministering in Corinth for over a year and a half (Acts 18:11), Paul was brought before a Roman tribunal by some of the Jewish leaders. Because the charges were strictly religious and not civil, the proconsul, Gallio, dismissed the case. Shortly thereafter, Paul took Priscilla and Aquila with him to Ephesus. From there he returned to Israel (vv. 18–22).

Unable to fully break with the culture from which it came, the church at Corinth was exceptionally factional, showing its carnality and immaturity. After the gifted Apollos had ministered in the church for some time, a group of his admirers established a clique and had little to do with the rest of the church. Another group developed that was loyal to Paul, another claimed special allegiance to Peter (Cephas), and still another to Christ alone (see 1:10–13; 3:1–9).

The most serious problem of the Corinthian church was worldliness, an unwillingness to divorce the culture around them. Most of the believers could not consistently separate themselves from their old, selfish, immoral, and pagan ways. It became necessary for Paul to write to correct this, as well as to command the faithful Christians not only to break fellowship with the disobedient and unrepentant members, but to put those members out of the church (5:9–13).




Recognizing God's Ownership

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24:1).

God owns everyone and everything.

One day when John Wesley was away from home, someone came running to him, saying, “Your house has burned down! Your house has burned down!” Wesley replied, “No, it hasn’t, because I don’t own a house. The one I have been living in belongs to the Lord, and if it has burned down, that is one less responsibility for me to worry about.”

John Wesley viewed his material possessions from a biblical perspective, for Scripture makes clear that God owns everything. In 1 Chronicles 29:11 David prayed, “All that is in heaven and in earth is Yours” (NKJV). God is the sole owner of everything, including you, your family, your house, and your car. Therefore, if you lose a possession, you don’t really lose it because you never owned it.

Although God does own everything, He entrusts us to be wise stewards of all that He gives to us. Theologian Walter Kaiser wrote, “Material things, goods, and natural resources are in and of themselves ‘good,’ for they are all made by God: that is the constant refrain in the creation narrative of Genesis 1—‘and God saw that it was good.’ . . . The misuse of goods comes from unholy people. Forgetting that: (1) these are creations by God, (2) God gave men and women the ability to earn these possessions, and (3) goods must not be exalted to the level of ultimate or absolute concern and worth, people begin to worship the created realm rather than the Creator himself. Such idolizing of the things of this world violates the first commandment and leads to an inversion of values in life.” We should worship God as the owner of all things, thank Him for whatever He entrusts to us, and never allow our possessions to be a cause to forget Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you be always mindful that He owns everything and to view the possessions He gives you in a way that honors Him.

For Further Study

Read the following verses, which show that God owns everything: Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 25:23; Psalm 50:10-11; 89:11; Haggai 2:8.


Treating Others with Consideration

"[Love] does not act unbecomingly" (1 Cor. 13:5).

Considerate behavior demonstrates godly love and adds credibility to your witness.

When I was a young child, I loved to slurp my soup. I didn't see any harm in it even though my parents constantly objected. Then one evening I ate with someone who slurped his soup. He was having a great time but I didn't enjoy my meal very much. Then I realized that proper table manners are one way of showing consideration for others. It says, "I care about you and don't want to do anything that might disrupt your enjoyment of this meal."

On a more serious note, I know a couple who got an annulment on the grounds that the husband was rude to his wife. She claimed that his incessant burping proved that he didn't really love her. The judge ruled in her favor, stating that if the husband truly loved her, he would have been more considerate. That's a strange story but true, and it illustrates the point that love is not rude.

"Unbecomingly" in 1 Corinthians 13:5 includes any behavior that violates acceptable biblical or social standards. We could paraphrase it, "Love is considerate of others." That would have been in stark contrast to the inconsiderate behavior of the Corinthians—many of whom were overindulging at their love feasts and getting drunk on the Communion wine (1 Cor. 11:20-22). Some women were overstepping bounds by removing their veils and usurping the role of men in the church (1 Cor. 11:3-16; 14:34-35). Both men and women were corrupting the worship services by trying to outdo one another's spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:26).

Undoubtedly the Corinthians justified their rude behavior—just as we often justify ours. But rudeness betrays a lack of love and is always detrimental to effective ministry. For example, I've seen Christians behave so rudely toward non-Christians who smoke that they destroyed any opportunity to tell them about Christ.

Be aware of how you treat others—whether believers or unbelievers. Even the smallest of courtesies can make a profound impression.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to monitor your behavior and convict you of any loveless actions. As He does, be sure to confess and forsake them.

For Further Study

Read Luke 7:36-50. How did Jesus protect the repentant woman from the Pharisee's rudeness?


August 18 - Of Wine and Wineskins

“‘No one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved’” (Matthew 9:16–17).

Whenever repairing clothing or attaching a new patch to an old garment, the tailor or seamstress must be careful to follow particular guidelines and avoid certain mistakes. In like manner, believers cannot combine outmoded and external traditions of self-righteousness and ritual with the gospel of grace and forgiveness.

With these words, Jesus illustrates the truth that the old way cannot contain His new way: “Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined.” Old wineskins eventually dry up and crack, and if you try to pour new wine into them, they will burst and spill the wine. Fresh wine requires a fresh skin. By analogy, the only life that can contain genuine holiness is the regenerate life granted by God when the Spirit draws a person to faith and repentance, when he or she trusts Christ as Lord and Savior.

The old wineskins refer not to God’s law and the Old Testament but to the rabbinical traditions that supplanted and contradicted God’s truth. Thus Jesus’ bringing in His new teachings in place of some old or unbiblical teachings does not mean He sets aside the divine law for some kind of ill-defined, licentious, anything-goes form of grace. The Lord unmistakably declares that He came to fulfill the Father’s law, not destroy it. Law and grace, rightly understood, have always been compatible with the believer’s benefit and blessing.

Ask Yourself

The subtext for this passage is that the self-righteous are focused on the value of their “wineskins,” while the true believer places his worth in the value of the “new wine.” What’s the difference?


Reading for Today:

Job 27:1–28:28

Psalm 97:1-6

Proverbs 23:13-14

Romans 16:1-27


Psalm 97:1 multitude of isles. Refers to all the continents as well as islands of the world (Is. 42:10; Dan. 2:34, 35, 44; Zech. 14:9).

Psalm 97:2 Clouds and darkness. Such a description emphasizes the terrifying effect of the Lord’s presence, both in the past (Ex. 19:16–18) and in the future Day of the Lord (Joel 2:2; Zeph. 1:15; Matt. 24:29, 30).

Psalm 97:3 burns up His enemies. The Lord will utterly destroy His enemies in the future Day of the Lord (Zech. 14:12).

Romans 16:1 Phoebe. Means “bright and radiant,” which aptly fits Paul’s brief description of her personality and Christian character. servant. The term from which we get “deacon” and “deaconess” (1 Tim. 3:10, 11, 13). In the early church, women servants cared for sick believers, the poor, strangers, and those in prison. They instructed the women and children (Titus 2:3–5). Whether Phoebe had an official title or not, she had the great responsibility of delivering this letter to the Roman church. When they had served faithfully and become widowed and destitute, such women were to be cared for by the church (1 Tim. 5:3–16).

Romans 16:16 holy kiss. Kissing of friends on the forehead, cheek, or beard was common in the Old Testament. The Jews in the New Testament church carried on the practice, and it became especially precious to new believers, who were often outcasts from their own families because of their faith, because of the spiritual kinship it signified.

Romans 16:26 prophetic Scriptures made known. God had told Israel that He would not only call her to righteousness, but appoint her as a light (of the gospel) to the nations (Is. 42:6; 49:6; 1 Pet. 1:10, 11; Gen. 12:3; Ex. 19:6; Is. 49:22; 53:11; 60:3–5; Jer. 31:31, 33).

DAY 18: What wise conclusion did Job come to regarding his debate with his friends?

Job said to his friends, “I will teach you about the hand of God” (27:11). Job had pinpointed the issue between him and his friends. They disagreed on the outworking of God’s retribution. They agreed that God was powerful, wise, and sovereign. But because Job knew there was no cherished sin in his life that would bring upon him such intense suffering, Job was forced to conclude that the simplistic notion that all suffering comes from sin and all righteousness is rewarded, was wrong. At the outset, Job himself probably believed as the comforters still did, but he had seen that his friends’ limitation of God’s action was drastically in need of revision; in fact, it was nonsense.

“God understands its way, and He knows its place” (28:23).These are perhaps the most important thoughts in the chapter for the debates. Job and his friends have probed God’s wisdom for 3 court rounds and basically have arrived nowhere near the truth. Finally, Job made the point clearly that the divine wisdom necessary to explain his suffering was inaccessible to man. Only God knew all about it, because He knows everything (v. 24). True wisdom belongs to the One who is the Almighty Creator (vv. 25, 26). One can only know it if He declares it to him (Deut. 29:29).

“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom” (28:28). Job had made the connection that the others would not. While the specific features of God’s wisdom may not be revealed to us, the alpha and omega of wisdom is to revere God and avoid sin (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Eccl. 12:13, 14), leaving the unanswered questions to Him in trusting submission. All we can do is trust and obey (Eccl. 12:13), and that is enough wisdom. One may never know the reasons for life’s sufferings.




Finding True Contentment

“To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

True contentment is found only in Christ.

There has never been a society in the history of the world that has had as many commodities as Americans have. We are living in affluence that is unheard of in the world’s history. The key philosophy behind it all is this: only as you accumulate enough assets to satisfy your particular lifestyle can you really be happy.

Sad to say, Christians have bought into that philosophy. Now, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with commodities, but it is wrong to think you’ll find true happiness in them. If God chooses to give you material possessions, it’s because of His good pleasure. But if you make those possessions the love of your life, you’re being deceived about true contentment.

In Philippians 4:11-12 the apostle Paul says, “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” He was saying, “I have contentment that is absolutely and totally unrelated to possessions.”

Where did Paul find his contentment? In Philippians 1:21 he says, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He found it in Christ, not in material possessions. Professor Howard Vos said of Paul, “Christ is all to him, he lives only to serve Christ, he has no conception of life apart from Christ. . . . Christ’s goals, Christ’s orientation to life and society and mission, are his.” If you want to be like Paul and have true contentment, make Christ the love of your life, not material possessions.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you are seeking happiness apart from the Lord, confess your sin and forsake it. Acknowledge that contentment is found only in Him

For Further Study

Read Ecclesiastes 2:18-26. What conclusions did the Preacher reach about daily contentment?


Becoming an Effective Minister

"Love . . . is not arrogant" (1 Cor. 13:4).

Love is the key to effective ministry.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4 Paul says, "Love does not brag and is not arrogant." We often equate bragging and arrogance, but in this passage there is a subtle difference. The Greek word translated "brag" emphasizes prideful speech or actions; "arrogant" emphasizes the attitude of pride motivating those actions.

The prideful attitudes of the Corinthians were evident in several areas. In 1 Corinthians 4:18-21 Paul says, "Some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power. . . . What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?" (1 Cor. 4:18- 21). Apparently, some thought they no longer needed his instruction. "After all," they reasoned, "we've had the best teachers—Apollos, Peter, and even Paul himself (1 Cor. 1:12)—so what need do we have for more instruction?" The fact was, they had just enough knowledge to inflate their egos, but they were woefully ignorant of love (1 Cor. 8:1).

It was arrogance that led the Corinthian church to condone gross immorality: "It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife [incest]. And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst" (1 Cor. 5:1- 2). They were too prideful to confront and correct that situation, so they bragged about it instead. Even pagans wouldn't tolerate that kind of behavior!

That's a tragic picture of people so blinded by pride that they refused to discern between good and evil. Consequently, all their spiritual activities were counterproductive. They were gifted by the Spirit and even flaunted their gifts, but lacked the love that transforms a gifted person into an effective minister.

Learn from the Corinthians' mistakes. Never settle for mere spiritual activities. Let love motivate everything you do. Then God can honor your ministries and make them truly effective for His purposes.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to make you a more effective minister and to protect you from the blindness of arrogance.

For Further Study

What do the following proverbs say about pride: Proverbs 8:13; 11:2; and 29:23?


August 17 - The Right Perspective on Fasting

“‘But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast’” (Matthew 9:15).

Fasting is meaningless if done merely from habit and if it doesn’t derive from a deep concern over some spiritual need. And as we saw yesterday, even the best and most foundational spiritual practices, if not done with sincere motives and right purposes, are only hypocritical and pretentious.

Jesus was obviously referring to His crucifixion when He said He would be taken away from the disciples. From that time on, it would be fitting to fast and mourn. Fasting naturally comes from a broken and mourning heart, but if it is performed as a shallow, mechanical ritual only, it is displeasing to God.

Jesus’ emphasis on internal matters such as forgiveness shows us that fasting must be held in the proper context of what’s truly important. It also demonstrates that He brought us radically different teachings and practices from those of traditional Judaism or any other religious traditions—Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, any sects and cults—that can stress externalism, ritualism, or any man-centered habits. When we fast, Jesus wants us to do so in light of His new covenant—not the old with its forms and shadows—and in a way that increases our compassion for others, causes us to be more humble and sacrificial, and gives Him all the praise and glory.

Ask Yourself

Are there ways to fast besides abstaining from food? In what other ways could you experience the spiritual benefits of fasting—the clarity of communication with God, the taming of selfish desires, the renewal of priorities?


Reading for Today:

Job 26:1–14

Psalm 96:11-13

Proverbs 23:10-12

Romans 15:25-33


Job 26:7 hangs the earth on nothing. A statement that is accurate, given in ancient time, before scientific verification. This indicates the divine authorship of Scripture.

Job 26:10 a circular horizon. This describes the earth as a circular globe, another scientifically accurate statement at a time when many thought the world was flat.

Job 26:13 His Spirit. Job 33:4. The Holy Spirit worked mightily in creation (Gen.1:2).the fleeing serpent. This is figurative language for the idea that God brought all constellations into subjection under His authority (26:12). “Serpent” could be translated “crooked” and refer to any wayward stars or planets being brought under control by His mighty power.

Psalm 96:13 He is coming. The rule of the Lord described in this psalm is not the present universal kingdom (Ps. 93), but one which will be established when Christ returns to earth.

Proverbs 23:11 Redeemer. In a normal situation the near kinsman would rescue the one who had fallen upon hard times (Lev. 25:25; Ruth 2:20; 3:12, 13; 4:1–12) or avenge in the case of a murder (Num. 35:19).“Redeemer” is applied to God as the Savior of His people (e.g., Gen. 48:16; Ex. 6:6; Job 19:25; Ps. 19:14; Is. 41:14; 43:14; 44:24) since the helpless had no voice.

DAY 17: Who was Paul the apostle, and why does he seem to have two names?

Paul (Greek name) the apostle was also known as Saul, which was his Hebrew name. Along with his double name, Paul was also able to exercise dual citizenship as a Jewish descendant from the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5) and as a Roman (Acts 16:37; 22:25). Paul was born about the time of Christ’s birth, in Tarsus, located in modern Turkey (Acts 9:11).

Young Saul spent much of his early life in Jerusalem as a student of the celebrated rabbi (teacher) Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Like his father before him, Paul was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), a member of the strictest Jewish sect (Phil. 3:5). He actively resisted those who followed Jesus. His first appearance in Scripture occurs in Acts 7:58 as he observed the martyrdom of Stephen.

Miraculously converted while on his way to Damascus (about A.D. 33–34) to persecute Christians, Paul immediately began proclaiming the gospel (Acts 9:20). After narrowly escaping Damascus (Acts 9:23–25; 2 Cor. 11:32, 33), Paul spent three years in the wilderness (Gal. 1:17, 18). During those years, he received much of his doctrine as direct revelation from the Lord (Gal. 1:11, 12).

More than any other individual, Paul was responsible for the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. He made three missionary journeys along the north side of the Mediterranean Sea, tirelessly preaching the gospel he had once tried to destroy (Acts 26:9). Eventually he was arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27–31), appealed for a hearing before Caesar, and finally reached Rome (chaps. 27; 28). Later, he was released for a short time of ministry then arrested again and martyred at Rome in about A.D. 65–67.

Though physically unimpressive (2 Cor. 10:10; Gal. 4:14), Paul possessed an inner strength granted him through the Holy Spirit’s power (Phil. 4:13).The grace of God proved sufficient to provide for his every need (2 Cor. 12:9, 10), enabling this noble servant of Christ to successfully finish his spiritual race (2 Tim. 4:7).




Serving Your Master

“‘No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon’” (Matthew 6:24).

The believer is to serve God, not riches.

When reading Matthew 6:24, many people say, “I believe that you can serve two masters. I work two jobs.” The reason they say that is they don’t understand the Greek word translated “serve.” It refers not to an employee in an 8-to-5 job but to a slave. A slave is one who is constantly and entirely devoted to his master. Romans 6:17-18 says that though you were once a slave of sin, God has freed you to become a slave of righteousness. You can serve God only with entire and exclusive devotion, with single-mindedness. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus is saying that if you try to serve two masters, God and riches, you will love one but hate the other.

The orders of these two masters are diametrically opposed. One commands to walk by faith, the other by sight; one commands to be humble, the other to be proud; one commands to set your affection on things above, the other on things of the earth; one commands to look at things unseen and eternal, the other at things seen and temporal; one commands to be anxious for nothing, the other to be anxious about everything. You can’t obey both orders, and you can’t serve two masters.

In 1905 Mary Byrne translated an Irish poem into prose, which was then set to music by Eleanor Hull. Today we know the poem as the hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” One stanza of this hymn tells us how to view riches correctly.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise—

Thou mine inheritance, now and always;

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart—

High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

May the words of the hymn be the song of your heart and the conviction of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank Christ for being your Master who loves you perfectly and provides for your every need.

For Further Study

Read Exodus 5. How does this picture the conflict between serving God’s interests and man’s? Explain.


Exalting Others

"Love does not brag" (1 Cor. 13:4).

Love exalts others; pride exalts self.

Most of us shy away from people who have an inflated view of themselves or place themselves at the center of every conversation. Yet perhaps you too struggle with the temptation to spend most of your conversations talking about yourself. Even if you would never openly brag about yourself, might you at times secretly resent others for not acknowledging your accomplishments? That's the subtlety of pride.

Boasting always violates love because it seeks to exalt itself at the expense of others—to make itself look good while making others look inferior. It incites jealousy and other sins. Sadly, boasting exists even in the church. That's why Paul exhorted us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, "but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3). The context of that statement is spiritual gifts, which can lead to pride if not governed by humility and love.

The Corinthians were spiritual show-offs—each vying for attention and prominence. Consequently their worship services were chaotic. First Corinthians 14:26 says, "When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation." Apparently they all were expressing their spiritual gifts at the same time with no regard for anyone else. That's why Paul concluded, "Let all things be done for edification."

Their lack of love was obvious because people who truly love others don't exalt themselves. They regard others as more important than themselves, just as Christ did when He humbled Himself and died for our sins (Phil. 2:3-8).

Boasting about our spiritual gifts is absurd because we did nothing to earn them. They don't reflect our capabilities; they reflect God's grace. That's why Paul asked the Corinthians, "What do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7). That applies to physical capabilities as well as spiritual enablements. Everything you have is a gift from God. Therefore, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:31).

Suggestions for Prayer

Each day acknowledge your total dependence on God's grace.

Praise Him for the gifts He has entrusted to you.

For Further Study

Note what God has to say about haughtiness in Proverbs 6:16-17; 16:18; 18:12; 21:3-4; and 21:24.


August 16 - The Danger of Wrongly-Based Rituals

“Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they?’” (Matthew 9:14–15).

Religious ritual and routine, if not handled appropriately, will always threaten true godliness. Some practices, such as praying to saints or lighting candles for the dead, are heretical. But even biblical practices, when their forms become the center of attention, can become barriers to true righteousness. Church attendance, Bible reading, saying grace before meals, and singing hymns can become lifeless habits that exclude true worship and praise. When we apply good things such as these the wrong way, they can keep us from faithful obedience . . . and keep unbelievers from trusting in God.

Alms, prescribed prayer, and fasting were the three major expressions of piety the Jews performed in Jesus’ time. The leaders took these matters quite seriously and were meticulous to practice them publicly so as to impress others with their piety (cf. Matt. 6:2, 5, 16). Thus these practices became badges of pride and hypocrisy rather than marks of humble and genuine religion before God.

Jesus’ point in mentioning the bridegroom and his attendants is to show how out of place it is for His followers (attendants) to mourn and fast while He (the Bridegroom) is with them in person. Pharisaical manners and rituals are always wrong for Christians, but even good practices (such as sincere fasting), if not done properly, can hinder what the Lord wants to accomplish in our midst.

Ask Yourself

Should our answer to this kind of hypocrisy be the removal of all forms, disciplines, and ritual practices from our worship? Or is there value in these kinds of expressions? What would go missing from our worship if it was all spur-of-the-moment, with no cherished repetitions?


Reading for Today:

Job 23:1–25:6

Psalm 96:7-10

Proverbs 23:9

Romans 15:1-24


Job 24:18–21 Again Job referred to the opinions of his counselors, saying that, if their views were correct, all the wicked should be experiencing punishment. But it is obvious they were not.

Psalm 96:10 firmly established. Instead of the continuance of international chaos in human history, the world will be settled and efficiently managed by the Messiah in the millennial kingdom (Ps. 2;Mic. 4:1–5). judge the peoples righteously. Not only will the Lord establish international peace and stability in the future messianic kingdom, but He will also rule the world with impeccable justice (v. 13; Is. 11:1–5).

Romans 15:1 to bear. The word means “to pick up and carry a weight.” It is used of carrying a pitcher of water (Mark 14:13), of carrying a man (Acts 21:35), and figuratively of bearing an obligation (Acts 15:10). The strong are not to simply tolerate the weaknesses of their weaker brothers; they are to help the weak shoulder their burdens by showing loving and practical consideration for them (Gal. 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:19–22; Phil. 2:2–4).

DAY 16: How does Paul exemplify a “minister of Jesus Christ”?

Paul calls himself a “minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles” in Romans 15:16.“Minister”was a general Greek term used of public officials. But in the New Testament it is used most often of those who serve God in some form of public worship (e.g., Phil. 2:17; Heb. 1:7, 14; 8:1, 2, 6), including that of a priest (Luke 1:23). Although Paul’s practice was always to present the gospel to the Jews first in every city he visited, his primary apostolic calling was to the Gentiles (11:13; Acts 9:15). Having referred to himself as a minister, a word with priestly overtones, Paul explains that his priestly ministry is to present to God an offering of a multitude of Gentile converts.

“Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus” (v. 17). Literally, “to boast.” Paul never boasted in his accomplishments as an apostle, but only in what Christ had accomplished through him (1 Cor. 1:27–29, 31; 2 Cor. 10:13–17; 12:5, 9; Gal. 6:14; 1 Tim. 1:12–16). In Paul’s case, his preaching was accompanied with “signs and wonders” (v. 19). God used them to authenticate true preaching and teaching. “From Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” The region that roughly corresponds to the former European country of Yugoslavia, spanning some 1,400 miles.

Paul’s goal was to reach those who had never heard the gospel (v. 20)—the primary function of a New Testament evangelist (Eph. 4:11). But for pastor-teachers, building on the foundation laid by such an evangelist is the crucial part of their ministry (1 Cor. 3:6).




Seeing Clearly

“‘The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!’” (Matthew 6:22-23).

Generous giving brings spiritual understanding.

When people see, their body is filled with the light that comes in from the world their eyes perceive. But if their eye is dark (blind), there is no light and they perceive nothing. The eye is like a window—if a window is clean and clear, light floods the building; if a window is blacked out, no light enters. In Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus is saying the heart is like the eye. If your heart is toward God, your entire spiritual being is enlightened; but if your heart is toward material things and treasures of the world, you do not see spiritually as you should.

In verse 22 the Greek word translated “clear” is from a root word that means “generous.” If your heart is generous, your whole spiritual life will be flooded with understanding. In contrast to the clear eye is the “bad” eye (v. 23). A bad or evil eye is a Jewish colloquialism used regularly in the Greek Old Testament and the New Testament to mean “grudgingly.” Proverbs 28:22 says, for example, “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth.” If you hurry to be rich, you will be ungenerous, grudging, and selfish.

Let me simplify Matthew 6:22-23 to one statement: How you handle your money is the key to your spiritual perception. If your heart is in Heaven, you will have a generous spirit. If your treasure is on earth, you will be blind because of your greed. How total is the darkness of one who should see spiritually but is blind because of his own covetousness (v. 23)! Jesus’ call to you and me is to see clearly by devoting ourselves to Him and laying up treasure in Heaven.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you see opportunities where you can give generously to help extend His kingdom.

For Further Study

According to 2 Corinthians 9:6-12, what are some rewards for generosity?


Overcoming Jealousy

"Love . . . is not jealous" (1 Cor. 13:4).

Jealousy thrives in a climate of selfish ambition.

Jealousy is an insidious sin that cries out, "I want what you have, and furthermore, I don't want you to have it." It replaces contentment with resentment and spawns a myriad of other sins.

The Corinthians, in truth, were jealous of one another's spiritual gifts. First Corinthians 12:31 literally says, "You are earnestly desiring the showy gifts, but I show you a more excellent way." The word translated "earnestly desiring" is translated "jealous" in 1 Corinthians 13:4. It means "to boil" and speaks of the inner seething that comes from wanting something that someone else has. In 1 Corinthians 3:3 Paul rebukes them for the jealousy and strife that existed among them.

Paul knew what it meant to be victimized by jealous people. During one of his imprisonments he candidly wrote, "Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment" (Phil. 1:15-17).

Paul's attitude toward those who envied him was exemplary: "Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice" (v. 18). He wasn't motivated by personal comfort or selfish ambition. He loved Christ deeply and wanted as many people as possible to hear the gospel. As long as Christ was being proclaimed, Paul was happy—regardless of his own circumstances or the motives of others. That should be your perspective too.

Love is the antidote for jealousy. When godly love governs your heart, you can rejoice in the spiritual successes of others, even when you know their motives are wrong. But if you seek prominence and selfish gain, you become an easy target for jealousy and resentment.

Suggestions for Prayer

Confess any jealousy you might be harboring toward others.

Ask God to deepen your love for Christ so jealousy can't gain a foothold in your heart in the future.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 11:2. Is there such a thing as godly jealousy? Explain.


August 15 - Christ Calls All Sinners to Repentance

“‘I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Matthew 9:13).

Everyone who is repentant, who acknowledges his or her sin and turns from it, is the object of Jesus’ call. The familiar Greek word (kaleo-) rendered here “to call” is also used of inviting someone to your home to enjoy good hospitality. This implies that Jesus did not invite the Pharisees to a meal with other sinners for the same reason He does not call any self-righteous person to salvation. In both cases, the people do not see themselves as needy, do not want to associate with those considered lower than themselves, and therefore can’t identify themselves with the Lord Jesus.

Later on, Jesus told three parables to further illustrate His concern for penitent sinners. Parables of the lost sheep and lost coin show that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). The poignant story of the prodigal son especially illustrates the Lord’s point that the Father rejoices over every person who repents, and He grieves over everyone who thinks he has no need (see Luke 15:11–32).

Christ’s teaching is clear: the person who believes he or she is spiritually safe without Him has no part in His kingdom. Our Lord came to earth to call sinners to repentance, but He cannot seek and save (Luke 19:10) those who will not recognize they are lost—and the self-righteous need to reexamine their hearts concerning salvation before it’s too late.

Ask Yourself

We never outgrow our need, though we can easily outgrow our awareness of it. What can you do to help ensure that your utter dependence on God is never far from your thoughts and attitudes?


Reading for Today:

Job 21:1–22:30

Psalm 96:1-6

Proverbs 23:6-8

Romans 14:1-23


Psalm 96:1 a new song. This new song was intended for the future inauguration of the millennial rule of the Lord over the earth (Pss. 144:9; 149:1; Rev. 5:9; 14:3).

Psalm 96:3 His glory…nations. The glory of the Lord is more than just His majestic splendor. It includes all of the reasons for admiring and praising Him, such as His acts of creation (Ps. 19:2) and redemption (v. 2).

Romans 14:15 grieved. The Greek word refers to causing pain or distress. A weak believer may be hurt when he sees a brother do something he believes is sinful. But still worse, the strong believer may cause his weaker brother to violate his own conscience (1 Cor. 8:8–13). love. Love will ensure that the strong Christian is sensitive and understanding of his brother’s weaknesses (1 Cor. 8:8–13). destroy. This refers to complete devastation. In the New Testament, it is often used to indicate eternal damnation (Matt. 10:28; Luke 13:3; John 3:16; Rom. 2:12). In this context, however, it refers to a serious devastation of one’s spiritual growth (Matt. 18:3, 6, 14).

Romans 14:17 kingdom of God. The sphere of salvation where God rules in the hearts of those He has saved. eating and drinking. Nonessentials and external observances. righteousness. Holy, obedient living (Eph. 6:14; Phil. 1:11). peace. The loving tranquillity, produced by the Spirit, that should characterize believers’ relationships with God and each other (Gal. 5:22). joy in the Holy Spirit. Another part of the Spirit’s fruit, this describes an abiding attitude of praise and thanksgiving regardless of circumstances, which flows from one’s confidence in God’s sovereignty (Gal. 5:22; 1 Thess. 1:6).

DAY 15: How is unity maintained within the church when there is so much diversity?

Reading through Romans 14:1–12, it is clear that the diversity of the church displays Christ’s power to bring together dissimilar people in genuine unity. Yet Satan often works on man’s unredeemed flesh to create division and threaten that unity. The threat to unity Paul addresses in this passage arises when mature (strong) believers—both Jews and Gentiles—conflict with immature (weak) believers. The strong Jewish believers understood their freedom in Christ and realized the ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic Law were no longer binding. The mature Gentiles understood that idols are not gods and, therefore, that they could eat meat that had been offered to them. But in both cases the weaker brothers’ consciences were troubled, and they were even tempted to violate their consciences, become more legalistic under the feelings of guilt, or even to sin. Knowing that the mature Jews and Gentiles would be able to understand these struggles, Paul addresses most of his comments to them.

The secret to unity begins with the willingness to “receive one who is weak in the faith” (v. 1). The Greek word refers to personal and willing acceptance of another. This characterizes those believers who are unable to let go of the religious ceremonies and rituals of their past. The weak Jewish believer had difficulty abandoning the rites and prohibitions of the Old Covenant; he felt compelled to adhere to dietary laws, observe the Sabbath, and offer sacrifices in the temple. The weak Gentile believer had been steeped in pagan idolatry and its rituals; he felt that any contact with anything remotely related to his past, including eating meat that had been offered to a pagan deity and then sold in the marketplace, tainted him with sin. Both had very sensitive consciences in these areas and were not yet mature enough to be free of those convictions.

Neither one should “despise…judge” the other (v. 3). “Despise” indicates a contempt for someone as worthless, who deserves only disdain and abhorrence. “Judge” is equally strong and means “to condemn.” Paul uses them synonymously: The strong hold the weak in contempt as legalistic and self-righteous; the weak judge the strong to be irresponsible at best and perhaps depraved. “To his own master he stands or falls” (v. 4). How Christ evaluates each believer is what matters, and His judgment does not take into account religious tradition or personal preference.




Being Devoted to God

“‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’” (Matthew 6:21).

The believer is to have a single-minded devotion to God.

British pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones told the story of a farmer who one day went happily to his wife and family to report that their best cow had given birth to twin calves, one brown and one white. The farmer said, “I suddenly had an impulse that we must dedicate one of these calves to the Lord. We will sell one and keep the proceeds; the other we will also sell, but give the proceeds to the Lord’s work.” His wife asked him which one he was going to dedicate to the Lord. He replied, “There is no need to bother about that now. We will treat them both the same way, and when the time comes, we will do as I say.” And off he went. A few months later the farmer entered his kitchen looking unhappy. When his wife asked him what was troubling him, he answered, “I have bad news to give you. The Lord’s calf is dead.”

We laugh at the story because we all tend to lay up treasure on earth. We want to be rich toward self but poor toward God. Jesus speaks directly to that wrong thinking by saying “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). Your heart and your treasure go together—they both need to be in Heaven. Our Lord is speaking of a single-minded devotion to God and His cause that is undistracted by the world.

Jesus is not saying that if you put your treasure in the right place, your heart will then be in the right place, but that the location of your treasure indicates where your heart already is. Spiritual problems are always heart problems. God’s principle for His people has always been, “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Prov. 3:9-10). What about you? Is that the principle by which you live?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you have a single-minded devotion to His kingdom.

For Further Study

Read Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians 9:6. What is the common principle in both verses?


Showing Kindness

"Love is kind" (1 Cor. 13:4).

Kindness repays evil with good.

Two men going opposite directions on a narrow mountain trail met each other head on. With a steep cliff on one side and sheer rock on the other, they were unable to pass. The harder they tried to squeeze past one another the more frustrated they became. The situation seemed hopeless until one of them, without saying a word, simply laid down on the trail, allowing the other man to walk over him. That illustrates kindness, which doesn't mind getting walked on if it benefits someone else.

The Greek word translated "kind" in 1 Corinthians 13:4 literally means "useful," "serving," or "gracious." It isn't simply the sweet attitude we usually associate with kindness; it's the idea of being useful to others. It's the flip side of patience. Patience endures abuses from others; kindness repays them with good deeds.

God committed the supreme act of kindness when He provided salvation for lost sinners. Titus 3:3-5 says, "We also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us."

Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light" (Matt. 11:29-30). The word translated "easy" is translated "kind" in 1 Corinthians 13:4. Jesus was saying, "Trust in Me and I'll redeem you and show you My kindness."

Since "you have tasted the kindness of the Lord" (1 Pet. 2:3), you should be anxious to show kindness to others. That's what Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to do. He knew they had the capacity, but they needed to repent of their selfish ways and allow love to dominate their lives.

Suggestions for Prayer

The evil world in which we live gives abundant opportunity for you to express kindness to others. Ask the Lord to help you take full advantage of every opportunity to do so today.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 5:38-48, noting the practical expressions of kindness Jesus instructed His followers to pursue.


August 14 - Jesus Urges Compassion

“‘But go and learn what this means: “I desire compassion, and not sacrifice”’” (Matthew 9:13).

Jesus never shied away from speaking directly and bluntly if the situation demanded such talk. Here He pins the Jewish leaders to the wall by quoting from their own most honored scriptural authorities. Their own prophets rebuke them for their spiritual ignorance and their lack of obedience to God’s clear commands.

Jesus paraphrases Hosea’s prophetic and divinely inspired words: “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). The perfect Word of God should have been the Pharisees’ supreme concern, as it should be ours, rather than the flawed words and ideas of humanity. Without true and godly compassion, all the Pharisees’ rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices were worth nothing to God. The person who is indifferent toward other people verifies that he or she is also indifferent toward God, no matter how correct their theology or impeccable their morality.

Ritual separated from righteousness and a concern for the downtrodden and lost has always been an affront to God. Through the prophet Amos, the Lord declared, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23–24).

Ask Yourself

In what ways have you let duty and religious reputation become elevated in importance beyond genuine love and compassion for others? What is so empty about the former . . . and so rejuvenating about the latter?


Reading for Today:

Job 19:1–20:29

Psalm 95:6-11

Proverbs 23:4-5

Romans 13:1-14


Job 19:20 skin of my teeth. This was the origin of a common slang phrase, referring to skin that is thin and fragile. The idea is that he had escaped death by a very slim margin. The loss of all his family, as well as the abuse of his friends was added to the terror of God-forsakeness which had gripped him.

Job 19:23–29 At the point of Job’s greatest despair, his faith appeared at its highest as he confidently affirmed that God was his Redeemer. He wanted that confidence in the record for all to know (vv. 23, 24). Job wished that the activities of his life were put into words and “inscribed in granite,” so all would know that he had not sinned to the magnitude of his suffering. God granted his prayer. God was his Redeemer (Ex. 6:6; Ps. 19:14; 72:14; Is. 43:14; 47:4; 49:26; Jer. 50:34),who would vindicate him in that last day of judgment on the earth when justice was finally done (Jer. 12:1–3; John 5:25, 29; Rev. 20:11–15).

Psalm 95:9 tested Me. This is a reference to the same event (v. 8), also called “Massah” (translated “testing”), when God brought water out of the rock (Ex. 17:7; Deut. 6:16; 9:22; 33:8). The writer to the Hebrews applies the principle of this event to his readers, suggesting that their inclination to doubt the Lord and return to Judaism was parallel with their fathers’ inclination to doubt the Lord and go back to Egypt.

Proverbs 23:4, 5 Rather than wearing oneself out pursuing wealth, pursue the wisdom of God and what glorifies Him, and He will bless with prosperity as He chooses.

Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ. This phrase summarizes sanctification, the continuing spiritual process in which those who have been saved by faith are transformed into His image and likeness (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; Phil. 3:13, 14; Col. 2:7; 1 John 3:2, 3). The image Paul uses to describe that process is taking off and putting on clothing, which is symbolic of thoughts and behavior. no provision. This word has the basic meaning of planning ahead or forethought. Most sinful behavior results from wrong ideas and lustful desires we allow to linger in our minds (James 1:14, 15).

DAY 14: How should a Christian respond to the government?

In Romans 13:1, Paul says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.” This Greek word was used of a soldier’s absolute obedience to his superior officer. Scripture makes one exception to this command: when obedience to civil authority would require disobedience to God’s word (Ex. 1:17; Dan. 3:16–18; 6:7, 10; Acts 4:19, 20; 5:28, 29). Every position of civil authority without regard to competency, morality, reasonableness, or any other caveat (1 Thess. 4:11, 12; 1 Tim. 2:1, 2; Titus 3:1, 2). “For there is no authority except from God.” Since He alone is the sovereign ruler of the universe (Pss. 62:11; 103:19; 1 Tim. 6:15), He has instituted 4 authorities on earth: 1) the government over all citizens; 2) the church over all believers; 3) the parents over all children; and 4) the masters over all employees. Human government’s authority is “appointed” and is defined by God. He instituted human government to reward good and to restrain sin in an evil, fallen world.

Since all government is God-ordained, disobedience is rebellion against God (v. 2) and will be met with judgment. Not God’s judgment, but punishment from the government for breaking the law. Even the most wicked, godless governments act as a deterrent to crime. Peaceful, law-abiding citizens need not fear the authorities. Few governments will harm those who obey their laws. In fact, governments usually commend such people.

“For because of this you also pay taxes” (v. 6). The Greek word referred specifically to taxes paid by individuals, particularly those living in a conquered nation to their foreign rulers—which makes the tax even more onerous. That tax was usually a combined income and property tax. In this context, however, Paul uses the term in the broadest possible sense to speak of all kinds of taxes. Jesus explicitly taught that taxes are to be paid—even to the pagan Roman government (Matt. 22:17–21). He also set an example by willingly paying the temple tax (Matt. 17:24–27). “Render…to all their due” (v. 7). “Render” translates a Greek word signifying the payment of something owed—not a voluntary contribution—and is reinforced by the word “due.” The apostle reiterates that paying taxes is mandatory.




Giving Generously to the Lord

“‘Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven’” (Matthew 6:20).

The believer is to be generous in his giving.

The early church was not interested in accumulating great wealth for itself. In Acts 2, for example, thousands of pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. When Peter preached the gospel on that day, 3,000 persons became believers, and soon afterward thousands more were added to the church. The pilgrims who became believers didn’t want to return to their former homes since they were now part of the church. So the believers in Jerusalem had to absorb them. Since many of the inhabitants were undoubtedly poor, the early church had to give to meet their needs. As a result, believers “began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45). The early church illustrates what it means to lay up treasure in Heaven.

Like the early church, we are to lay up for ourselves treasure in Heaven (Matt. 6:20). What is our treasure in Heaven? In a broad sense it is “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). We could say that, above all, our treasure in Heaven is Christ.

In a specific sense, Jesus is referring in Matthew 6:20 to money, luxury, and wealth. He is saying that to lay up treasure in Heaven is to be generous and ready to share the riches God has given to us, instead of hoarding and stockpiling them. By being generous, you expose yourself to the full potential of all that eternal life can mean. First Timothy 6:18-19 says you are “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for [yourself] the treasure of a good foundation for the future.” The more you send into Heaven, the greater the glory when you arrive. The greater the investment, the greater the reward. Make it your aim to invest for eternity, where you will never lose your reward.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you be generous toward others who are in need.

For Further Study

According to Galatians 6:10, to whom are we to do good?


Winning Through Non-Retaliation

"Love is patient" (1 Cor. 13:4).

Love does not retaliate.

We usually think of patience as the ability to wait or endure without complaint—whether it's with people or circumstances. But the Greek word translated "patience" in 1 Corinthians 13:4 refers specifically to patience with people. It literally means "to be long tempered," and speaks of one who could easily retaliate when wronged but chooses not to.

That kind of patience is a spiritual virtue reflective of God Himself (cf. Gal 5:22). It can't be duplicated on a purely human level. But for Christians, it's to be a way of life. Paul said, "I . . . entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love" (Eph. 4:1-2).

God Himself is the supreme example of patience. Peter said, "[He] is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). Those who reject His grace are despising "the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience" (Rom. 2:4).

In the Greco-Roman world of Paul's day, retaliating for a personal insult or injury was considered a virtue. Non- retaliation was interpreted as a sign of weakness. Our society is much the same. Our heroes tend to be those who fight back with physical strength or litigation. But that isn't God's perspective, nor was it Christ's in praying for His killers, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

As you consider your own patience, remember that retaliation isn't always blatant and forceful. It's often subtle—like withholding affection from your spouse when he or she has wronged you, or withdrawing from a friend who has hurt you. But godly love never retaliates. It cares more for the feelings of others than for its own.

Remember the Lord's patience toward you, and allow His Spirit to produce similar patience in you.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you are harboring resentment toward someone who has wronged you, confess it to the Lord and do everything you can to reconcile with that person.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 50:15-21.

What fear did Joseph's brothers have?

How did Joseph react to their plea for forgiveness?

How did God use the brothers' sin to accomplish His own purposes?


August 13 - The Sick Need a Physician

“When Jesus heard this, He said, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick’” (Matthew 9:12).

Basic human logic and common sense tells us that physically sick people need treatment from a doctor. Here Jesus simply answers the Pharisees’ cynical question with the plain statement that the spiritually sick also need treatment. It’s as if He said to the Jews, “If you’re really so spiritually healthy, you don’t need a spiritual physician. But if by their own confession, the sinners I’m eating with are the spiritually needy who must have the gospel presented, then that’s why I’m ministering to them. I’m the Great Physician who can bring spiritual healing—salvation—to those who recognize their desperate need.”

By analogy, no credible physician would spend all his or her time among healthy people and refuse to be with the sick. By implication, Jesus was asking the Pharisees if they—the self-proclaimed theological and religious “experts” who had all the answers for the unenlightened—were refusing to give them that medicine. This was an incredible indictment of the self-righteous, hard-hearted religionists.

The Pharisees were hypocrites who carefully fussed about the most minute matters of the law but neglected the bigger issues such as “justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23). They loved themselves but hated others and revealed themselves to be without the compassion and mercy God’s law requires.

We have to ask, How could the Pharisees resent the healing of those sinners God Himself desired to heal? With such an attitude they proved themselves to be sickest of all—actually dead spiritually.

Ask Yourself

How are we guilty of spending an undue percentage of our time providing care and attention for the spiritually sound? What is this an indicator of? What can you do to avoid this imbalance in your church and personal ministry?


Reading for Today:

Job 17:1–18:21

Psalm 95:1-5

Proverbs 23:1-3

Romans 12:1-21


Psalm 95:1 Rock of our salvation. This metaphor for God was especially appropriate in this psalm, which refers (vv. 8, 9) to the water that came from the rock in the wilderness (Ex. 17:1–7; Num. 20:1–13; 1 Cor. 10:4).

Psalm 95:3 the great King above all gods. This is a poetic way of denying the existence of other gods (96:5), which existed only as statues, not persons (Jer. 10:1–10).

Psalm 95:4 deep places of the earth. This refers to the depths of the seas, valleys, and caverns, and contrasts with the hills. The point (v. 5) is that God was not a local god like the imaginary gods of the heathens, usually put up in high places, but the universal Creator and Ruler of the whole earth.

Romans 12:1 present your bodies a living sacrifice. Under the Old Covenant, God accepted the sacrifices of dead animals. But because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, the Old Testament sacrifices are no longer of any effect (Heb. 9:11, 12). For those in Christ, the only acceptable worship is to offer themselves completely to the Lord. Under God’s control, the believer’s yet unredeemed body can and must be yielded to Him as an instrument of righteousness. reasonable service. “Reasonable” is from the Greek for “logic.” In light of all the spiritual riches believers enjoy solely as the fruit of God’s mercies (Rom. 11:33, 36), it logically follows that they owe God their highest form of service. Understood here is the idea of priestly, spiritual service, which was such an integral part of Old Testament worship.

Romans 12:2 do not be conformed. “Conformed” refers to assuming an outward expression that does not reflect what is really inside, a kind of masquerade or act. The word’s form implies that Paul’s readers were already allowing this to happen and must stop. this world. Better translated, “age,” which refers to the system of beliefs, values—or the spirit of the age—at any time current in the world. This sum of contemporary thinking and values forms the moral atmosphere of our world and is always dominated by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). transformed. The Greek word, from which the English word “metamorphosis” comes, connotes a change in outward appearance. Matthew uses the same word to describe the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2). Just as Christ briefly and in a limited way displayed outwardly His inner, divine nature and glory at the Transfiguration, Christians should outwardly manifest their inner, redeemed natures, not once, however, but daily (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 5:18). renewing of your mind. That kind of transformation can occur only as the Holy Spirit changes our thinking through consistent study and meditation of Scripture (Ps. 119:11; Col. 1:28; 3:10, 16; Phil. 4:8). The renewed mind is one saturated with and controlled by the Word of God.

DAY 13: How has God gifted believers to fulfill His purposes?

Romans 12:6–8 describes the general categories of spiritual gifts. These come to us “according to the grace…given”—undeserved and unmerited. The gift itself (1 Cor. 12:4), the specific way in which it is used (1 Cor. 12:5), and the spiritual results (1 Cor. 12:6) are all sovereignly chosen by the Spirit completely apart from personal merit (1 Cor. 12:11).

“Prophecy.” This Greek word means “speaking forth” and does not necessarily include prediction of the future or any other mystical or supernatural aspects. Although some prophets in Acts did make predictions of future events (11:27, 28; 21:10, 11), others made no predictions but spoke the truth of God to encourage and strengthen their hearers (15:32; vv. 22–31). The evidence does suggest, however, that in the first century, before the New Testament was complete and the sign gifts had ceased (1 Cor. 13:8; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:3, 4), this word may have had both nonrevelatory and revelatory facets. In its nonrevelatory sense, the word “prophecy” simply identifies the skill of public proclamation of the word of God (1 Cor. 14:3, 24, 25; 1 Pet. 4:11).“In proportion to our faith.” Literally, “the faith,” or the fully revealed message or body of Christian faith (Jude 3; 2 Tim. 4:2). The preacher must be careful to preach the same message the apostles delivered.

“Ministry” (v. 7). From the same Greek word as “deacon” comes from, it refers to those who serve. This gift, similar to the gift of helps (1 Cor. 12:28), has broad application to include every kind of practical help (Acts 20:35; 1 Cor. 12:28). “Teaching.” The ability to interpret, clarify, systematize, and explain God’s truth clearly (Acts 18:24, 25; 2 Tim. 2:2). Pastors must have the gift of teaching (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9; 1 Tim. 4:16); but many mature, qualified laymen also have this gift. This differs from preaching (prophecy), not in content, but in the unique skill for public proclamation.

“Exhortation” (v. 8).The gift which enables a believer to effectively call others to obey and follow God’s truth. It may be used negatively to admonish and correct regarding sin (2 Tim. 4:2) or positively to encourage, comfort, and strengthen struggling believers (2 Cor. 1:3–5; Heb. 10:24, 25). “Gives, with liberality.” This denotes the sacrificial sharing and giving of one’s resources and self to meet the needs of others (2 Cor. 8:3–5, 9; 11; Eph. 4:28). The believer who gives with a proper attitude does not do so for thanks and personal recognition, but to glorify God (Matt. 6:2; Acts 2:44, 45; 4:37–5:11; 2 Cor. 8:2–5). “Leads.” Literally, “standing before.” Paul calls this gift “administrations” (1 Cor. 12:28), a word that means “to guide” and is used of the person who steers a ship (Acts 27:11; Rev. 18:17). Again, the church’s leaders must exercise this gift, but it is certainly not limited to them. “Shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” One who actively shows sympathy and sensitivity to those in suffering and sorrow and who has both the willingness and the resources to help lessen their afflictions. Frequently, this gift accompanies the gift of exhortation. This attitude is crucial to ensure that the gift of mercy becomes a genuine help, not a discouraging commiseration with those who are suffering (Prov. 14:21, 31; Luke 4:18, 19).




Keeping the Treasure Safe

“‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal’” (Matthew 6:19).

Heaven is the only safe place for treasure.

In the Orient during biblical times, wealth was basically preserved in three ways. There was no paper, there were no bank books, there was nothing to match the kind of system we have. Wealth was identified in literal commodities: garments, grain, and gold or precious metals.

Garments in the Bible were always an expression of wealth. In Judges 14:12 Samson told the Philistines that if they could answer his riddle, he would give them “thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes.” But there is one problem with garments—moths eat them. Have you ever noticed that moths don’t eat what you wear, only what you store? We tend to hoard, and a lot of our treasure is invested in our garments, waiting for moths to destroy them.

Grain was another source of wealth. The rich fool said he would tear down his barns and build larger ones to store all his grain and goods (Luke 12:18). In Matthew 6:19 the Greek word translated “rust” literally means “eating.” The problem with grain is that mice, rats, worms, and vermin like to eat it.

The third commodity was gold or precious metal. The problem with this one is, where can a person hide it? He might keep it in his house, but a thief could break in and steal it. Therefore, it was common to find a secret place in a field and in the dark of night dig a hole and bury it. But thieves would lurk around at night and watch where men would bury their treasure, then later dig it up.

Nothing you own is completely safe from destruction or theft. And even if you keep your possessions perfectly secure during your entire life, you are certainly separated from them at death. That’s why Jesus said you should lay up treasures in Heaven “where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (v. 20). What about you? Are you putting your treasure in a safe place?

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for providing a secure and eternal place where you can invest for His glory.

For Further Study

Read James 5:1-3. What happened to the commodities there?


Love in Action

"Love is patient . . . kind . . . not jealous . . . does not brag . . . is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly . . . does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Love is difficult to define, but it can be described by the behavior it produces.

Paul painted a portrait of the kind of love Jesus wants to produce in every believer. It is, in fact, a portrait of Christ Himself, who is love's highest expression. Unlike most English translations, which include several adjectives, the Greek forms of all those properties are verbs. They do not focus on what love is so much as on what love does and does not do.

Set against the backdrop of the Corinthians' self- promoting behavior, Paul's words are a strong rebuke. He says in effect, "Love is patient, but you are impatient. Love is kind, but you are unkind toward those who disagree with you. Love is not jealous, but you envy those with certain spiritual gifts. Love does not brag, but you are proud of your theology. Love is not arrogant and does not act unbecomingly, but often you are rude and ill-mannered toward one another.

"Love does not seek its own, but you are self-centered. Love is not provoked, but you quarrel among yourselves. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered, but you hold grudges against each other. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but you delight in one another's failures. Love rejoices with the truth, but you distort and disobey God's Word.

"Love bears all things, but you are defensive and resentful. Love is eager to believe the best about someone, but you are quick to assume the worst. Love never gives up and can tolerate incredible opposition, but you are weak and intolerant."

Paul wanted the Corinthians to see the deficiencies in their love in light of the truth and make the needed corrections. You and I must do the same. So as we explore each of love's characteristics, ask the Holy Spirit to purify your heart so others will clearly see Paul's portrait of love on display in you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, substituting "Jesus" for "love." Then praise Him for all His excellencies.

For Further Study

What does 1 John 3:13-18 teach about love?


August 12 - The Pharisees’ Negative Response

“Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?’” (Matthew 9:10–11).

Prideful resentment can lead to the most negative response to the person and ministry of Jesus. Such was the case with the Pharisees here who were angry and humiliated that He associated so personally with sinners and yet had not extended to them, the religious elite, the same sort of social favor. Surely they, the pillars of proper behavior and religious purity, at least deserved a banquet from this newer Teacher, didn’t they?

The Pharisees’ question about Jesus’ eating with sinners (or “undesirable people”) was more a rhetorical rebuke than a sincere question. They were merely venting their hostility and again attempting to put Jesus on the spot. They did not even have the courage to ask their question directly of the Lord, but hovered outside the banquet house to find out what sort of response the disciples would get from their Master.

The Pharisees were becoming more and more bitter and vindictive, realizing they were at odds with practically everything Jesus was teaching. They were so convinced of their own orthodoxy and superiority that anything perceived as contrary to their worldview was by definition heretical and unrighteous. These men were furious that Christ snubbed them yet maintained friendly relations with sinners and outcasts.

The Pharisees’ negative response to Jesus, and their misguided, unscriptural “religion” that worked at cross-purposes to His divine ministry of redemption, is completely the opposite of Christianity, the true and biblical religion.

Ask Yourself

Do you sense any hint of spiritual superiority in your heart—even the slightest impression that your tenure as a Christian, your knowledge of the Word, or your familiarity with church decorum makes you a little more special to God than others are?


Reading for Today:

Job 15:1–16:22

Psalm 94:20-23

Proverbs 22:28-29

Romans 11:19-36


Job 15:14–16 A strong statement with regard to the sinfulness of man (Rom. 3:23) that attacked Job’s claim to righteousness. Verse 15 refers to holy angels who fell and brought impurity into the heavens (Rev. 12:1–4). The truth is accurate, that all men are sinners—but irrelevant in Job’s case, because his suffering was not due to any sin.

Romans 11:20 unbelief…faith. Branches were broken off and others grafted in based solely on the issue of faith, not race, ethnicity, social or intellectual background, or external morality. Salvation is ever and always by faith alone (1:16, 17; Eph. 2:8, 9). fear. (See 1 Cor. 10:12; 2 Cor. 13:5.) God will judge the apostate church (Rev. 2:15, 16; 3:16) just as surely as He judged apostate Israel.

Romans 11:22 consider the goodness and severity. All of God’s attributes work in harmony. There is no conflict between His goodness and love, and His justice and wrath. Those who accept His gracious offer of salvation experience His goodness (2:4); those who reject it experience His severity (2:5). those who fell. The unbelieving Jews described in vv.12–21. “Fell” translates a Greek word meaning “to fall so as to be completely ruined.” Those who reject God’s offer of salvation bring upon themselves utter spiritual ruin. if you continue. Genuine saving faith always perseveres (John 8:31; 15:5, 6; Col. 1:22, 23; Heb.3:12–14; 4:11; 1 John 2:19). cut off. From the same Greek root word translated “severity” earlier in the verse. God will deal swiftly and severely with those who reject Him.

Romans 11:33 wisdom. (See Ps. 104:24; Dan. 2:20; Eph. 3:10; Rev. 7:12.) knowledge. God’s omniscience (1 Sam. 2:3; 1 Kin. 8:39; Ps. 44:21; 147:5). judgments. God’s purposes or decrees, which are beyond human understanding (Ps. 36:6). ways. The methods God chooses to accomplish His purposes (Job 5:9; 9:10; 26:14).

DAY 12: How did Job’s friends fail him?

“I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all!” (Job 16:1). Job’s friends had come to comfort him. In spite of 7 blissful days of silence at the outset, their mission had failed miserably, and their comfort had turned into more torment for Job. What started out as Eliphaz’s sincere efforts to help Job understand his dilemma had turned into rancor and sarcasm. In the end, their haranguing had heightened the frustrations of all parties involved. If the matter were reversed and Job was comforter to his friends, he would never treat them as they have treated him. He would have strengthened and comforted them.

“He tears me in His wrath, and hates me; He gnashes at me with His teeth” (v. 9). “I was at ease, but He has shattered me” (v. 12).These poignant thoughts from Job lamented his suffering as severe judgment from God, who had worn him out, withered his strength, and chewed him up by severe scrutiny (“sharpens His gaze,” v. 9). Job refers to God as “my Adversary,” who had shattered, shaken, shot at, and sliced him (vv. 12–14).

He had no one to turn to in his sorrow, except God (v. 19), who was silent and had not vindicated him. “My friends scorn me” (v. 20), when they should have comforted him. “Oh, that one might plead for a man with God” (v. 21). The pleading would be for a verdict of innocence on behalf of a friend or neighbor in a court setting before the judge/king. God anticipated the need of an advocate, and He has provided One in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5; 1 John 2:1, 2).




Martyrdom Without Love

"If I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3).

Wrong motives rob even the greatest sacrifice of its spiritual benefit.

So far in his denunciation of loveless ministries, Paul has addressed what we say, what we know, what we believe, and how we give. Now he comes to the apex of his argument: how we die. Many Christians have made the ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom, but even that is useless without love.

In Paul's time, many slaves were branded with a hot iron to identify them as belonging to their master. For that reason, some interpreters believe Paul was referring to becoming a slave when he spoke of delivering his body to be burned (1 Cor. 13:3). Others think he was speaking of burning at the stake—a death that many Christians suffered at the hands of their persecutors.

Although death by burning wasn't a common form of persecution until after Paul wrote to the Corinthians, I believe that's what he had in mind in this passage. In verses 1-2 he used extremes to make his point: speaking with the tongues of angels; knowing all mysteries and knowledge; having all faith, and giving all one's possessions to feed the poor. The horrible, agonizing pain associated with death by fire is consistent with those extremes.

Jesus called martyrdom the highest expression of love (John 15:13). But it isn't always a godly or loving thing to do. Many people have died for lesser reasons. You may recall stories of the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II, or more recently of monks or students who burned themselves in protest of some political or social injustice.

Even Christians aren't exempt from wrong motives. It is reported that many Christians in the early church developed a martyr complex, wanting to die for the faith so they could become famous like the martyrs before them. Many deeds that look sacrificial on the surface are really the products of pride.

If the ultimate sacrifice is useless without love, so is every lesser sacrifice. But love sanctifies them all. So let God's love govern everything you do!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Romans 5:8 as a reminder to praise God for the many sacrifices He has made for you.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 2:1-7.

What strengths did the church in Ephesus have?

What did the Lord say about its one glaring weakness?


Living Unselfishly

“‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth’” (Matthew 6:19).

The believer is to use his possessions unselfishly.

Some years ago I happened to have contact with two quite wealthy men during the same week. One was a former professor at a major university who through a series of investments made possibly a hundred million dollars. In the process, however, he lost his family, his happiness, and his peace of mind and had aged far beyond his years. The other man, a pastor, also made some investments and acquired great wealth but was not preoccupied with his investments. Because of his financial independence, he gave to his church over the years more than it paid him for being its pastor. He is one of the happiest, most contented, and most godly persons I have ever met. The difference between the two men was not their wealth, but their contrasting views about wealth.

In Matthew 6:19 Jesus taught the right way to view wealth by saying you are not to lay up treasure for yourselves. When you accumulate possessions simply for yourself—whether to hoard or to spend selfishly and extravagantly—those possessions become idols. Jesus is saying, “People in my kingdom shouldn’t amass fortunes or stockpile things for themselves.” Colossians 3:5 says, “Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to . . . greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Covetousness is idolatry.

What about you? Are you consumed with extending God’s kingdom instead of accumulating possessions for yourself? Do you desire to invest in eternity and God’s causes, or are you being greedy and miserly? First Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Glorify Him by investing in His kingdom and living unselfishly.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you use your possessions unselfishly for His glory.

For Further Study

What warning does Jesus give in Luke 12:15?


August 11 - Matthew’s Positive Response

“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he got up and followed Him” (Matthew 9:9).

Matthew’s gospel has already established that Jesus offered His forgiveness to the least-loved outcasts of society. It seems evident from the context of this verse that one of those outcasts, Matthew the tax collector (this gospel’s author), had been under real conviction of sin and spiritual need. He would have been very aware of Jesus’ ministry in and around Capernaum, even though he might not have personally heard Him preach or had seen Him do a miracle.

Matthew likely yearned for the forgiveness that was permanently denied to him by unbelieving Judaism, which viewed him as the worst kind of reprobate and traitor. So when Christ called him, Matthew without hesitation “got up and followed Him.”

Luke’s account describes the moment this way: Matthew “left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him” (Luke 5:28). Our Lord’s simple but profoundly urgent call was sufficient reason for him to forsake everything he once was and owned. Matthew knew that once he left his tax collector’s position he could never return to it. Of all the Twelve, he no doubt sacrificed the most in wealth to follow Jesus. Like Paul later, he affirmed that “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:7).

Ask Yourself

If it’s been too long since the significance and honor of Jesus’ call swept over you, see the excitement in Matthew’s reaction to Christ. Watch him lunge at the chance to be one of Jesus’ disciples. Remember again the thrill of being in your Master’s service.


Reading for Today:

Job 13:1–14:22

Psalm 94:12-19

Proverbs 22:26-27

Romans 11:1-18


Job 13:15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Job assured his accusers that his convictions were not self-serving, because he was ready to die trusting God. But still he would defend his innocence before God and was confident that he was truly saved and not a hypocrite (v. 16).

Job 13:23 How many are my iniquities and sins? Job wanted to know how many so that he could determine if his measure of suffering matched the severity of his sin, and he could then repent for sins he was unaware of.

Psalm 94:14 will not cast off His people. God has a permanent commitment to His people, Israel, established through a covenant based on His abiding love (Gen. 15; Jer. 12:15; Mic. 7:18). This important truth serves as a doctrinal basis for Pss. 93–100 and was intended to encourage the nation during difficult times. Paul refers to this in Romans 11:1 as he assures the future salvation of Israel.

Romans 11:1 cast away. To thrust away from oneself. The form of the question in the Greek text expects a negative answer. Despite Israel’s disobedience (9:1–13; 10:14–21), God has not rejected His people (1 Sam. 12:22; 1 Kin. 6:13; Pss. 89:31–37; 94:14; Is. 49:15; 54:1–10; Jer. 33:19–26). Certainly not! The strongest form of negation in Greek.

Romans 11:17 branches were broken off. Some, but not all, of the branches of Israel were removed. God always preserved a believing remnant (vv. 3, 4). a wild olive tree,…grafted in. Olives were an important crop in the ancient world. Although trees often lived for hundreds of years, individual branches eventually stopped producing olives. When that happened, branches from younger trees were grafted in to restore productivity. Paul’s point is that the old, unproductive branches (Israel) were broken off and branches from a wild olive tree (Gentiles) were grafted in. the root and fatness. Once grafted in, Gentiles partake of the richness of God’s covenant blessings as the spiritual heirs of Abraham (4:11; Gal. 3:29). the olive tree. The place of divine blessing—God’s covenant of salvation made with Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3; 15:1–21; 17:1–27).

DAY 11: What kind of relationship did Job have with God?

Job’s biography begins with a 4-part description of his character: “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (1:1).He prayed for his children and was concerned about their relationship with God (v. 5). He was successful and wealthy—the stereotype of a blessed man. In fact, God adds His own glowing approval of Job, using the same traits that open the book (v. 8).

Faced with the sudden, crushing loss of everything—children, servants, herds—Job’s initial response was to grieve and recognize God’s sovereignty. “‘The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (vv. 21b, 22).

Under the harsh judgments of his friends, Job eventually struggled to understand why God seemed unwilling to settle matters. Once God did speak, at least part of Job’s problem becomes clear—he confused a relationship with God with familiarity with God. The Lord did not rebuke Job’s faith or sincerity; instead, God questioned Job’s insistence on an answer for his difficulties. By allowing Job to hear just a little of the extent of his ignorance, God showed Job that there was a great deal of knowledge he would never understand. As a creature, Job simply had no right to demand an answer from his Creator. Job’s final words are filled with humility and repentance: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5, 6).

Job spent his last days enjoying the same kind of relationship he had earlier with God. He prayed for his friends and raised another family of godly children. He lived a full life.