ENCOURAGEMENT TODAY, CONQUERING DOUBT PART 34












02/28/20


God's Glory in Christ


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


Christ displayed God’s glory on earth and will again when He comes back. After seeing His glory in Scripture, we should respond in worship and righteousness.


From eternity past Christ had the glory of God. He “is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3), and He prayed, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5).


Christ also displayed God’s glory on earth. Most often He looked like an ordinary man, but one night He appeared in great glory to Peter, James, and John (Luke 9:28-36). “While He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming” (v. 29). Moses and Elijah came and spoke to Him, and the disciples “saw His glory” (v. 32).


When He comes again, He will come “on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30), to the joy of His people and to the terror of those who reject Him. His glory will fill the whole earth (Num. 14:21), and all creation will worship Him.


What should be our response to God’s glory? Like the angels who sing, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14), we should give Him praise. Also, as we see His glory we should change: “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 Cor. 3:18). As we look at God, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and helps us grow and live righteous lives. As “children of God,” we “appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).


The purpose of all creation is to glorify God. As a mirror reflects light, we are to reflect His glory to Him and to a sinful world. Seek to live a holy life so this reflection shines as brightly as possible, and make it your desire to glorify Him in everything you do.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for the hope of glory we have as we wait for Christ’s return (Titus 2:13). Ask that your life would brightly reflect God’s glory today.


For Further Study


Read about God’s glory in Heaven in Revelation 21:1—22:5. How is His glory displayed?



Acknowledging the Ultimate Source of Everything


"Joyously giving thanks to the Father" (Col. 1:11-12).


Joyous thanksgiving acknowledges God as the giver of every good gift.


The inseparable link between joy and thanksgiving was a common theme for Paul. In Philippians 4:4-6 he says, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! . . . 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 "rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:16- 18).


As often as Paul expressed thanks and encouraged others to express theirs, he was careful never to attribute to men the thanks due to God alone. For example in Romans 1:8 he says, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world." He thanked God, not the Roman believers, because he knew that faith is a gift from God.


That doesn't mean you can't thank others for the kindnesses they show, but in doing so you must understand that they are instruments of God's grace.


Thanking Him shows humility and acknowledges His rightful place as the Sovereign Lord and the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Those who reject His lordship and refuse to give Him thanks incur His wrath (Rom. 1:21).


Only those who love Christ can truly give thanks because He is the channel through which thanks is expressed to the Father. As Paul says in Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Hebrews 13:15 adds, "Through [Christ] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name."


As one who is privileged to know the God of all grace, be generous in your praise and thanksgiving today. See everything as a gift from His hand for your joy and edification.


Suggestions for Prayer


Recite Psalm 136 as a prayer of praise to God.


For Further Study


From Psalm 136 list the things that prompted the psalmist's thanksgiving. How can that psalm serve as a model for your own praise?



Satisfying Your Spiritual Hunger


“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’” (Matthew 5:6).


The all-important result for any believer hungering and thirsting after righteousness is to “be satisfied.” The verb translated “satisfied” frequently refers to the feeding of animals until they want no more. In a parallel to this, Jesus declares that people who hunger and thirst for righteousness will gain complete satisfaction. This satisfaction comes from God. Our part is to seek; His is to satisfy us.


Paradoxically, Christians continually seek God’s righteousness, always wanting more and never getting their fill in this life. Yet the Lord still satisfies them. Again, we can make the analogy to food. We can eat our fill of our favorite dishes, yet our taste for those foods remains. The satisfaction we derive only makes us want more. Believers who crave God’s righteousness will find it so satisfying that they will always want more.


Psalms speaks repeatedly about God’s satisfying our spiritual hunger. The most well-known psalm opens, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and later says, “You prepare a table before me … my cup overflows” (23:1, 5). A later psalm assures us that God “has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good” (Ps. 107:9; cf. 34:10).


Jesus on another occasion told the crowds, many of whom were among the five thousand fed, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35). Our spiritual hunger will always be satisfied (cf. John 4:14).


Ask Yourself


It may not happen all at once, but Jesus will always reward your hunger for righteousness with the deep satisfaction reserved for the humbly obedient. How has He satisfied you in the past? Think of a time when you and He celebrated what sanctification was accomplishing in you.



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 25:1–55

Psalm 28:6-9

Proverbs 10:19-21

Mark 6:30-56


Notes:


Leviticus 25:8–55 The Year of Jubilee involved a year of release from indebtedness (vv.23–38) and bondage of all sorts (vv. 39–55). All prisoners and captives were set free, slaves released, and debtors absolved. All property reverted to original owners. This plan curbed inflation and moderated acquisitions. It also gave new opportunity to people who had fallen on hard times.


Psalm 28:9 Your inheritance. God amazingly considers His people a most precious possession (see Deut. 7:6–16; 9:29; 1 Sam 10:1; Pss. 33:12; 94:5; Eph. 1:18).


Mark 6:44 five thousand men. The Greek word for “men” means strictly males, so the numerical estimate did not include women and children (see Matt. 14:21). The women and children were traditionally seated separately from the men for meals. When everyone was added, there could have been at least 20,000.


Mark 6:50 Be of good cheer! This command, always linked in the Gospels to a situation of fear and apprehension (see 10:49; Matt. 9:2, 22; 14:27; Luke 8:48; John 16:33; Acts 23:11), urged the disciples to have a continuing attitude of courage. It is I. Literally, “I AM.” This statement clearly identified the figure as the Lord Jesus, not some phantom. It echoed the Old Testament self-revelation of God (see Ex. 3:14).



GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 




02/27/20


God's Glory


“The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1).


God’s glory is the radiance of all He is.


In Isaiah’s vision of Heaven, angels called out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa. 6:3). What exactly is the glory of God? It encompasses all that He is, the radiance of His attributes and divine nature.


Moses said to God, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” (Ex. 33:18), and the Lord answered, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (v. 19). Moses was not allowed to see God’s face, which is the essence of His being: “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (v. 20). But Moses was allowed to see God’s back, which represents the afterglow of His glory.


Perhaps God’s afterglow is like the radiance of the sun. We only see the light that comes off the sun. If we got too close to it, we would be consumed. If the sun is so brilliant, what must God be like? His glory seen in creation is only a dim reflection of His character.


God displayed His glory many times in Scripture. He represented Himself as a great white cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night as He led Israel through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21). After the Tabernacle was built, “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34). Years later, He filled the temple in a similar way (1 Kings 8:10-11). This manifestation of God’s glory served as the focal point of worship for Israel.


God takes His glory very seriously. He said, “I will not give My glory to another” (Isa. 42:8). We must not steal God’s glory by becoming proud and taking credit for the good things He has done. Instead of taking God’s glory, say with David, “I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Thy name forever” (Ps. 86:12).


Suggestions for Prayer


Praise God for His glory and majesty.


For Further Study


Read Daniel 4, the story of a powerful man who did not give God the glory. What characterized Nebuchadnezzar in verses 30 and 37?



Attaining Spiritual Stability


"Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience" (Col. 1:11).


God always empowers you to do what He commands you to do.


An alarming number of Christians seem to lack spiritual stability. Many are "carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (Eph. 4:14). Others lack moral purity. Many are driven by their emotions rather than sound thinking. Increasingly, therapists and psychologists are replacing pastors and biblical teachers as the heroes of the faith. While we still proclaim a sovereign, all- powerful God, our conduct often belies our creed.


Despite our inconsistences, the power for spiritual stability is ours in Christ as we allow the knowledge of His will to control our lives. Paul describes the working of that power in Colossians 1:11. There the Greek words translated "strengthened" and "power" speak of inherent power that gives one the ability to do something.


The phrase "according to" indicates that the power for spiritual stability is proportional to God's abundant supply—and it is inexhaustible! The literal Greek says you are being "empowered with all power according to the might of His glory." That thought is akin to Philippians 2:12-13, where Paul says that the power for working out your salvation comes from God, who is at work in you to will and to work for His good pleasure.


In Colossians 1:11 the result of God's enabling is "the attaining of all steadfastness and patience." "Steadfastness" speaks of endurance regarding people; "patience" speaks of endurance regarding things or circumstances. When you are steadfast and patient, you are spiritually stable. Your responses are biblical, thoughtful, and calculated; not worldly, emotional, or uncontrolled. You bear up under trials because you understand God's purposes and trust His promises.


Paul said, "Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might" (Eph. 6:10). That is possible when you trust God and rely on the infinite power that is yours in Christ.


Suggestions for Prayer


Perhaps you know someone who is struggling with spiritual instability. Pray for him or her and ask God to use you as a source of encouragement.


For Further Study


Psalm 18 is a psalm of victory that David wrote after God delivered him from Saul. Read it, then answer these questions:


What characteristics of God did David mention?

How might those characteristics apply to situations you are facing?



Spiritual Hunger’s Second Object—Sanctification


“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’” (Matthew 5:6).


For the Christian, the object of hungering and thirsting is growth in sanctification, which is a crucial mark of the genuine believer. No one who follows Christ attains complete sanctification until heaven, and to claim otherwise would be the height of presumption. Thus saints in this life always need to strive for more holiness, which will be seen in their lives through obedience to the Word. Paul prayed that the Philippian believers might “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that [they] may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:9–10).


The Greek grammar Matthew used in quoting Jesus indicates that righteousness is the unqualified and unlimited object of “hunger and thirst.” Our Lord is describing people who earnestly desire all the righteousness there is (cf. Matt. 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15–16).


In the original text the definite article appears before “righteousness,” which means that Jesus is not speaking of just any general righteousness, but the righteousness—the true one that comes from God. In fact, it is the Father’s very own righteousness that the Son also possesses.


Because we as believers cannot possibly have our longing for godliness satisfied during our earthly lives, we must continually hunger and thirst until the glorious day when we receive the complete clothing of Jesus Christ’s righteousness.


Ask Yourself


Not on Sunday morning but on Tuesday afternoon, on Thursday morning, on Friday night in front of the television—are you hungering for “all the righteousness there is”? Does the call of Christ’s holiness register at off times of day?



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 23:1–24:23

Psalm 28:1-5

Proverbs 10:17-18

Mark 6:1-29


Notes:


Leviticus 23:2 proclaim to be holy convocations. These festivals did not involve gatherings of all Israel in every case. Only the feasts of 1) Unleavened Bread; 2) Weeks; and 3) Tabernacles required that all males gather in Jerusalem (see Ex. 23:14–17; Deut. 16:16, 17).


Mark 6:11 shake off the dust. A symbolic act that signified complete renunciation of further fellowship with those who rejected them. When the disciples made this gesture, it would show that the people had rejected Jesus and the gospel and were hence rejected by the disciples and by the Lord. more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah. People who reject Christ’s gracious, saving gospel will face a fate worse than those pagans killed by divine judgment on the two Old Testament cities.


Mark 6:13 anointed with oil…sick. In Jesus’ day olive oil was often used medicinally (see Luke 10:34). But here it represented the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and was used symbolically in relation to supernatural healing (see Is. 11:2; Zech. 4:1–6; Matt. 25:2–4; Rev. 1:4, 12). As a well-known healing agent, the oil was an appropriate, tangible medium the people could identify with as the disciples ministered to the sick among them.


Mark 6:15 “It is Elijah.” This identification of Jesus, which probably had been discussed repeatedly among the Jews, was based on the Jewish expectation that the prophet Elijah would return prior to Messiah’s coming. the Prophet…one of the prophets. Some saw Jesus as the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15, the messianic prophecy that looked to the One who, like Moses, would lead His people. Others were willing to identify Jesus only as a great prophet, or one who was resuming the suspended line of Old Testament prophets. These and the other opinions, although misplaced, show that the people still thought Jesus was special or somehow supernatural.


What is the relationship of unbelief and Jesus’ working in people’s lives?


Although the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth were “astonished” by Jesus’ wisdom and mighty works (Mark 6:2), their initial reaction gave way to skepticism and a critical attitude toward Jesus. They still thought of Jesus as a carpenter and the son of Mary with brothers and sisters (v. 3). The residents of Nazareth were deeply offended at Jesus’ posturing Himself as some great teacher because of His ordinary background, His limited formal education, and His lack of an officially sanctioned religious position.


In the face of this, Jesus “could do no mighty work there” (v. 5). This is not to suggest that His power was somehow diminished by their unbelief. It may suggest that because of their unbelief people were not coming to Him for healing or miracles the way they did in Capernaum and Jerusalem. Or, more importantly it may signify that Christ limited His ministry both as an act of mercy, so that the exposure to greater light would not result in a worse hardening that would only subject them to greater condemnation, and a judgment on their unbelief. He had the power to do more miracles, but not the will, because they rejected Him. Miracles belonged among those who were ready to believe.


“He marveled because of their unbelief” (v. 6).“Marveled” means Jesus was completely astonished and amazed at Nazareth’s reaction to Him, His teaching, and His miracles. He was not surprised at the fact of the people’s unbelief, but at how they could reject Him while claiming to know all about Him.


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





02/26/20


God Is Faithful to Keep Us


“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).


God is faithful in forgiving our sins and securing our salvation.


We have learned that God protects us from temptation, but what happens when we don’t rely on God and give in to sin? John has the answer: “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). The Lord says in Jeremiah 31:34, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” God has promised to forgive, and He is faithful to do so.


God’s faithfulness stands out especially in His preserving His people for glory. He secures our salvation. Paul says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God will preserve us so that we may be “without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” because He is “faithful” (1 Thess. 5:23-24).


There was once a boy whose dad left him on a downtown street corner and told him to wait there until he returned in about half an hour. But the father’s car broke down, and he could not get to a phone. Five hours went by before the father managed to get back, and he thought his son would be in a state of panic. But when the father returned, the boy was standing in front of the corner dime store, looking in the window and rocking back and forth on his heels. The father threw his arms around him, apologized, and said, “Weren’t you worried? Did you think I was never coming back?” The boy replied, “No, Dad. I knew you were coming. You said you would.”


God is always faithful to His promises. The father in the story was unable to keep his promise because of circumstances out of his control. But God is able to overcome any circumstances to keep His word. With a simple faith like that boy’s, we can always say, “I knew you would do it, God. You said you would.”


Suggestions for Prayer


Ask God for simple faith to trust Him whatever the situation.


For Further Study


David rejoices in God’s faithfulness in Psalm 103. Make a list of all the ways God demonstrates His faithfulness in this psalm.



Enjoying a Bountiful Harvest


"Bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10).


Your fruitfulness is directly related to your knowledge of divine truth.


Every farmer who enjoys a plentiful harvest does so only after diligent effort on his part. He must cultivate the soil, plant the seed, then nurture it to maturity. Each step is thoughtful, disciplined, and orderly.


Similarly, bearing spiritual fruit is not an unthinking or haphazard process. It requires us to be diligent in pursuing the knowledge of God's will, which is revealed in His Word. That is Paul's prayer in Colossians 1:9, which he reiterates in verse 10.


The phrase "increasing in the knowledge of God" (v. 10) can be translated, "increasing by the knowledge of God." Both renderings are acceptable. The first emphasizes the need to grow; the second emphasizes the role that knowledge plays in your spiritual growth.


As your knowledge of God's Word increases, the Holy Spirit renews your mind and transforms your thinking. As you gaze into the glory of the Lord as revealed in Scripture, you "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory" (2 Cor. 3:18). You have "put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him" (Col. 3:10).


One of Satan's ploys to retard spiritual productivity is getting Christians preoccupied with humanistic philosophy and other bankrupt substitutes for God's truth. That's why he planted false teachers at Colosse to teach that knowing God's will is inadequate for true spirituality. Paul refuted that claim by affirming that Christ is the fullness of deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9). In Him are "hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3). He is all you need!


Scripture commands you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Is that characteristic of your life? Are you looking forward to a bountiful spiritual harvest?


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for the privilege of knowing His will and studying His Word.

Prayerfully guard your mind from sinful influences. Saturate it with God's truth.

For Further Study


Read the following passages, noting the effects of God's Word: Psalms 119:9, 105; Acts 20:32; Romans 10:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 2:14.



Spiritual Hunger's First Object—Salvation


“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’” (Matthew 5:6).


The first objective of spiritual hunger by the lost sinner is salvation. The righteousness the unbeliever begins to hunger for—after he or she sees their sin, mourns over it, and gently submits self to God—is the righteousness that repents of sin and submits to the lordship of Christ.


In the Old Testament, righteousness is often a synonym for salvation. Through Isaiah, God declared, “My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth” (Isa. 51:5). Daniel said, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).


In Jesus’ day, the great obstacle to receiving the gospel for so many members of His Jewish audience was self-righteousness—their confidence in their own works to achieve a self-styled holiness. They believed that as members of God’s chosen nation of Israel, they were assured of entrance into heaven. But Christ taught them that they would not find the path to salvation unless they hungered and thirsted for the Father’s righteousness instead of their own. And that is the case for everyone today, no matter what race, religion, or economic status.


Ask Yourself


It’s easy for the wonder and majesty of our salvation to be lost on us as time goes by. Let today be another opportunity to realize how empty you were before and how full He has made you in Christ. Put your worship into prayerful words.



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 21:1–22:33

Psalm 27:11-14

Proverbs 10:13-16

Mark 5:21-43


Notes:


Leviticus 21:16–23 defect. Just as the sacrifice had to be without blemish, so did the one offering the sacrifice. As visible things exert strong impressions on the minds of people, any physical impurity or malformation tended to distract from the weight and authority of the sacred office, failed to externally exemplify the inward wholeness God sought, and failed to be a picture of Jesus Christ, the Perfect High Priest to come (see Heb. 7:26).


Proverbs 10:13 rod. This first reference to corporal punishment applied to the backside (see 19:29; 26:3) recommends it as the most effective way of dealing with children and fools. See also 13:24; 18:6; 19:29; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 26:3; 29:15.


Mark 5:26 suffered many things from many physicians. In New Testament times, it was common practice in difficult medical cases for people to consult many different doctors and receive a variety of treatments. The supposed cures were often conflicting, abusive, and many times made the ailment worse, not better. (Luke, the physician, in Luke 8:43 suggested the woman was not helped because her condition was incurable.)


Mark 5:38 wept and wailed. In that culture, a sure sign that a death had occurred. Because burial followed soon after death, it was the people’s only opportunity to mourn publicly. The wailing was especially loud and mostly from paid mourners.


What do the healings of Mark 5 teach us about faith?


Upon hearing about Jesus, the woman with the flow of blood said to herself, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” (v. 28). Her faith in Jesus’ healing powers was so great that she believed even indirect contact with Him through His garments would be enough to produce a cure. Jesus’ response to her touch and healing was that “your faith has made you well” (v. 34). The form of the Greek verb translated “has made you well,” which can also be rendered “has made you whole,” indicates that her healing was complete. It is the same Greek word often translated “to save” and is the normal New Testament word for saving from sin, which strongly suggests that the woman’s faith also led to spiritual salvation.


Jesus’ response to the announced death of Jairus’s daughter was simply, “Do not be afraid; only believe” (v. 36). The verb is a command for present, continuous action urging Jairus to maintain the faith he had initially demonstrated in coming to Jesus. Christ knew there was no other proper response to Jairus’s helpless situation, and He was confident of faith’s outcome (Luke 8:50). Even in the face of ridicule, Jesus said, “The child is not dead, but sleeping” (v. 39).With this figurative expression, Jesus meant that the girl was not dead in the normal sense, because her condition was temporary and would be reversed (see note on Matt. 9:24; see John 11:11–14; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 1 Thess. 4:13, 14).


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





02/25/20


God Is Faithful to Care for Us


“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).


God is completely faithful to do what He has promised.


We live in a day of unfaithfulness, don’t we? Some husbands and wives are unfaithful to their marriage vows. Children are often unfaithful to the principles taught by their parents. Parents are often unfaithful to meet the needs of their children. And all too frequently we are unfaithful to God.


Only God is always faithful, a fact often celebrated in Scripture: “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God” (Deut. 7:9). “Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Thy faithfulness reaches to the skies” (Ps. 36:5). “Great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:23).


Let’s look at several areas in which God is faithful to us. First, He’s faithful in taking care of us. Peter says, “Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19). The word translated “entrust” is a banking term that speaks of a deposit for safekeeping. We’re to give our lives to our “faithful Creator,” who is best able to care for us because He created us. “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).


God is also faithful in helping us resist temptation: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). No believer can legitimately claim that he was overwhelmed by temptation or that “the Devil made me do it.” When our faithfulness is tested, we have God’s own faithfulness as our resource. “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3).


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for His faithfulness in taking care of you and protecting you from temptation.


For Further Study


God had promised Abraham a son, and He finally gave him Isaac. But God made a strange request. Read Genesis 22:1-18 and Hebrews 11:17-19. How did Abraham demonstrate his trust?

In what areas do you have trouble trusting God?



Living in a Worthy Manner


"So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects" (Col. 1:10).


Your manner of life should be consistent with Christ’s.


In Colossians 1:9 Paul speaks of being controlled by the knowledge of God's will. In verse 10 he speaks of walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. There is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between those verses. When you are controlled by the knowledge of God's will, you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.


The Greek word translated "walk" means "to order one's behavior." It's a common New Testament metaphor for one's lifestyle. Paul made a similar plea to the Thessalonians: "Walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:12).


The thought of being worthy of the Lord might raise some eyebrows because we usually relate worthiness to merit or something deserved. But that isn't Paul's point at all. The Greek word translated "worthy" in Colossians 1:10 speaks of something that weighs as much or carries the same value as something else. He isn't saying we deserve Christ, but that our conduct should be consistent with His.


That is Peter's point in 1 Peter 2:21: "You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." John said, "The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6). He added in 2 John 6, "Walk according to His commandments." That's how you demonstrate your love for Christ (John 14:15) and please Him in every respect.


As a word of encouragement, a worthy walk is not a walk of sinless perfection. That won't happen until you are fully glorified. But each day you are growing in godliness as a result of the Spirit's transforming work in you (2 Cor. 3:18). Be faithful to that process. Set your affections on Christ, look to His Word, and rejoice in the privilege of becoming more like Him today.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for the power and guidance of His Spirit in your life.

Be diligent to confess your sin when you stray from a worthy walk.

For Further Study


Read Ephesians 4:1-3 and Philippians 1:27-30.


What specific attitudes are involved in a worthy walk?

Does a worthy walk eliminate the possibility of suffering or persecution? Explain.



The Meaning and Necessity of Spiritual Hunger


“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’” (Matthew 5:6).


The “hunger and thirst” Jesus speaks of here are far more intense than even strong physical pangs for food and drink, which come when we miss several meals. All true followers of Christ have a continuing hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will regularly long for holiness. Jesus’ analogy shows us that righteousness is necessary for spiritual life just as food and water are necessary for physical life.


But sadly, most people are by nature starved for spiritual life. The tendency of such unbelievers is to turn toward their physical appetites and the world’s ways rather than toward spiritual life (cf. Prov. 26:11; 2 Peter 2:22). Apart from divine revelation and the Spirit’s promptings, these people don’t recognize their spiritual needs or know what will truly satisfy them.


Seeking satisfaction for our spiritual hunger only in God and His gracious provision identifies us as members of His kingdom. Such people sincerely want their sin to be replaced with virtue and their disobedience with obedience.


The first three beatitudes are essentially negative and require costly and painful personal sacrifice to accomplish, even with the help of God’s Spirit. This fourth one, however, is more positive, coming about when we possess the other three. When we have put aside self and our enslavement to sin and turned to the Lord, we will have a genuine, growing desire for righteousness. The true Christian desires to obey God, even though he or she still struggles with unredeemed humanness (cf. Rom. 8:23).


Ask Yourself


What spiritual hungers are growling the loudest in your heart right now? When you have sought to satisfy them in disobedience or in any way other than God intends, what has always been the result? How do you intend to see them fed now?



 Reading for Today:


Leviticus 19:1–20:27

Psalm 27:4-10

Proverbs 10:10-12

Mark 5:1-20


Notes:


Leviticus 19:2 I the LORD your God am holy. This basic statement, which gives the reason for holy living among God’s people, is the central theme in Leviticus (see 20:26). See 1 Peter 1:16. Israel had been called to be a holy nation, and the perfectly holy character of God (see Is. 6:3) was the model after which the Israelites were to live (see 10:3; 20:26; 21:6–8).


Leviticus 19:26 divination…soothsaying. Attempting to tell the future with the help of snakes and clouds was a common ancient way of foretelling good or bad future. These were forbidden forms of witchcraft which involved demonic activity.


Psalm 27:8, 9 “Seek My face,”…“Your face,”…Your face. God’s “face” indicates His personal presence or simply His being (Pss. 24:6; 105:4); and seeking His face is a primary characteristic of true believers who desire fellowship with God (see Deut. 4:29; 2 Chr. 11:16; 20:4; Ps. 40:16; Jer. 50:4; Hos. 3:5; Zech. 8:22).


Mark 5:5 crying out and cutting himself with stones. “Crying out” describes a continual unearthly scream uttered with intense emotion. The “stones” likely were rocks made of flint with sharp, jagged edges.


Mark 5:9 “What is your name?” Most likely, Jesus asked this in view of the demon’s appeal not to be tormented. However, He did not need to know the demon’s name in order to expel him. Rather, Jesus posed the question to bring the reality and complexity of this case into the open. Legion. A Latin term, by then common to Jews and Greeks, that defined a Roman military unit of 6,000 infantrymen. Such a name denotes that the man was controlled by an extremely large number of militant evil spirits, a truth reiterated by the expression “for we are many.”


What does the term “type of Christ” mean when used to describe someone in the Old Testament?


Certain persons and practices recorded in the Old Testament serve as hints, clues, and preillustrations of what Jesus Christ would accomplish by His life, death, and resurrection. In most cases, the similarities or parallels are pointed out in the New Testament. The following people are some of those mentioned as representing, in a narrow way, what Christ accomplished perfectly: (1) Adam (Rom.5:14; 1 Cor. 15:45); (2) Abel (Gen. 4:8,10; Heb. 12:24); (3) Aaron (Ex. 28:1; Heb. 5:4, 5; 9:7, 24); (4) David (2 Sam. 8:15; Phil. 2:9); (5) Jonah (Jon. 1:17;Matt. 12:40); (6) Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18–20;Heb. 7:1–17); (7) Moses (Num. 12:7; Heb. 3:2); (8) Noah (Gen. 5:29; 2 Cor. 1:5); (9) Samson (Judg. 16:30; Col. 2:14–15); (10) Solomon (2 Sam. 7:12, 13; 1 Pet. 2:5).


The following events and practices also prefigure Christ: (1) Ark (Gen. 7:16; 1 Pet. 3:20, 21); (2) Atonement sacrifices (Lev. 16:15, 16; Heb. 9:12, 24); (3) Bronze serpent (Num. 21:9; John 3:14, 15); (4) Mercy seat (Ex. 25:17–22; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 4:16); (5) Passover lamb (Ex. 12:3–6, 46; John 19:36; 1 Cor. 5:7); (6) Red heifer (Lev. 3:1; Eph. 2:14, 16); (7) Rock of Horeb (Ex.17:6; 1 Cor.10:4); (8) Scapegoat (Lev.16:20–22); (9) Tabernacle (Ex. 40:2; Heb. 9:11; Col. 2:9); (10) Veil of the tabernacle (Ex. 40:21; Heb. 10:20).


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 




02/24/20


God Is Truth


“‘He who has received His witness has set his seal to this, that God is true’” (John 3:33).


Since God is true in everything He does, we can trust Him and His Word.


God’s truthfulness is taught often in Scripture. Balaam, though no righteous man, got this right: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it?” (Num. 23:19). Samuel said to King Saul that God “will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind” (1 Sam. 15:29). Paul tells us, “God . . . cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), and “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Rom. 3:4). Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).


Because God is true, and “all Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16), it follows that His Word is completely true. The psalmist says, “The sum of Thy word is truth” (Ps. 119:160), and Jesus says, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).


The Bible, and therefore God Himself, is constantly under attack by critics. They say God doesn’t exist. But the Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). They say the world came into being by itself. But Scripture says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). They say the miracles in the Bible never happened. But God’s Word says that Jesus came “with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him” (Acts 2:22).


Always treat the Bible for what it is: the very words of God. Never deny its truthfulness, neither in your thinking nor in your living. Instead, “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).


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God that He and His Word are absolutely true and trustworthy.

If you have denied the truthfulness of the Bible, either in your thoughts or in your life, pray for forgiveness and for understanding in what the Bible has to say.

For Further Study


Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. What useful qualities are inherent in God’s Word? Meditate on these, and think of ways they can and should affect your behavior.



 Understanding God's Will


"We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col. 1:9).


Godly living results from being controlled by the principles of God’s Word.


Paul's prayer for the Philippians (Phil. 1:9-11) is closely paralleled by his prayer for the Colossians (Col. 1:9-12). Both epistles were written from the same Roman prison at about the same time in Paul's life. Both prayers focus on godly living, but each approaches it from a slightly different perspective.


The Philippians were gracious people who needed to exercise greater knowledge and discernment in their love. The Colossians also were gracious but their devotion to Christ was being challenged by heretics who taught that Christ is insufficient for salvation and godly living. True spirituality, the false teachers said, is found in Christ plus human philosophy, religious legalism, mysticism, or asceticism. Paul encouraged the Colossian believers and refuted the false teachers by showing the utter sufficiency of Christ.


At the outset of his prayer Paul stressed the importance of being controlled by the knowledge of God's will (which is revealed in His Word). That's the meaning of the Greek word translated "filled" in verse 9. "Knowledge" translates a word that speaks of a deep, penetrating knowledge that results in behavioral change. "Spiritual wisdom and understanding" refers to knowledge that cannot be known through human reasoning or philosophy. It is imparted by the Holy Spirit Himself.


In effect Paul was saying, "I pray that you will be continually controlled by the life-transforming knowledge of God's will, which the Holy Spirit imparts as you prayerfully study and meditate on God's Word."


Scripture supplies the principles you need to live a godly life. The Spirit gives you the power to do so. Many false teachers will try to divert you from the simplicity of devotion to Christ by offering you philosophy, psychology, and a myriad of other hopeless alternatives. Don't be victimized. In Christ you have everything you need!


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for His all-sufficient Son and for the resources that are yours in Him.

Ask for wisdom to apply those resources to every situation you face today.

For Further Study


Read Colossians 1:15—2:23.


What was Christ's role in creation?

What was Paul's goal as a minister?

What warnings and commands did Paul give?



Why Gentleness Is Necessary


“‘Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth’” (Matthew 5:5).


Four basic reasons prove the necessity for people to demonstrate Jesus’ trait of gentleness. First, genuine spiritual gentleness is necessary for salvation. Jesus later instructed His listeners that “unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3; cf. Ps. 149:4).


Second, gentleness is necessary because God commands it. James exhorts his readers, “Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Centuries earlier, the prophets agreed with James’s concern (e.g., Zeph. 2:3), knowing that without a gentle, humble spirit we can’t even hear God’s Word correctly, much less grasp and apply it.


Third, gentleness is a necessity for effective witnessing. Peter tells us, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). Pride will always be a barrier between us and those we talk to.


Lastly, gentleness is necessary because it always glorifies God. Pride wants its own glory, but gentleness wants God’s. Gentleness in relation to fellow believers especially glorifies Him: “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5–6).


Ask Yourself


Oh, what we lose by not choosing a life of gentleness, by not letting the Lord grow in us what (for some) is perhaps the most unnatural of His character traits. What temptations work the hardest against your desire to personify the meekness of Christ?



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 17:1–18:30

Psalm 27:1-3

Proverbs 10:9

Mark 4:21-41


Notes:


Leviticus 17:11 life of the flesh is in the blood. This phrase is amplified by “Its blood sustains its life” (17:14). Blood carries life-sustaining elements to all parts of the body; therefore it represents the essence of life. In contrast, the shedding of blood represents the shedding of life, i.e., death (see Gen. 9:4). New Testament references to the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ are references to His death. blood that makes atonement. Since it contains the life, blood is sacred to God. Shed blood (death) from a substitute atones for, or covers, the sinner, who is then allowed to live.


Leviticus 18:21 Molech. This Semitic false deity (god of the Ammonites) was worshiped with child sacrifice (see Lev. 20:2–5; 1 Kin. 11:7; 2 Kin. 23:10; Jer. 32:35). Since this chapter deals otherwise with sexual deviation, there is likely an unmentioned sexual perversion connected with this pagan ritual. Jews giving false gods homage gave foreigners occasion to blaspheme the true God.


Psalm 27:1 light. This important biblical word picture with exclusively positive connotations pictures the light of redemption in contrast to the darkness of condemnation (see Pss. 18:28; 36:9; 43:3; Is. 60:1, 19, 20; Mic. 7:8; John 8:12; 12:46; 1 John 1:5).


Mark 4:31 a mustard seed. A reference to the common black mustard plant. The leaves were used as a vegetable and the seed as a condiment. It also had medicinal benefits. smaller than all. The mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds in existence, but it was in comparison to all the other seeds the Jews sowed in Palestine.


Why would Jesus’ own disciples fear Him?


In Mark 4:35, Jesus and His disciples were on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. To escape the crowds for a brief respite, Jesus wanted to go to the eastern shore, which had no large cities and therefore fewer people. But as they crossed the lake, they were caught in a “great windstorm” (v. 37). Wind is a common occurrence on that lake, about 690 feet below sea level and surrounded by hills. The Greek word can also mean “whirlwind.” In this case, it was a storm so severe that it took on the properties of a hurricane. The disciples, used to being on the lake in the wind, thought this storm would drown them (v. 38).


Meanwhile, Jesus was asleep (v. 38). He was so exhausted from a full day of healing and preaching, even that storm could not wake Him up. Thus they woke Him. He then rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” Literally, it means to “be silent, be muzzled.” Storms normally subside gradually, but when the Creator gave the order, the natural elements of this storm ceased immediately (v. 39).


At that point, we are told “they feared exceedingly” (v. 41). This was not fear of being harmed by the storm, but a reverence for the supernatural power Jesus had just displayed. The only thing more terrifying than having a storm outside the boat was having God in the boat! “Who can this be…”This statement betrayed the disciples’ wonderment.


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





02/23/20


God's Wrath


“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).


God hates sin and will judge unrepentant sinners.


We now come to a topic that is perhaps unpleasant to discuss, but it is essential if we are to have a right understanding of God: His wrath. The idea of a wrathful God goes against the wishful thinking of fallen human nature. Even much evangelism today speaks only of the joys and blessings of salvation without mentioning that those who are without God are under His wrath (Eph. 2:3).


God’s attributes are balanced in divine perfection. If He had no righteous anger, He would not be God, just as He would not be God without His gracious love. He perfectly loves righteousness and perfectly hates evil (Ps. 45:7).


But God’s wrath isn’t like ours. The Greek word used for God’s wrath in the New Testament refers to a settled, determined indignation. God does not “fly off the handle,” whereas we tend to be emotional and uncontrolled in our anger.


Many times God expressed His wrath to sinful mankind in past ages. He destroyed all mankind except Noah and his family in the great Flood (Gen. 6—7). He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins (Gen. 18—19). The Lord told unfaithful Israel, “Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched” (Jer. 7:20).


Some people today foolishly think the God of the Old Testament was a God of wrath and the New Testament God was a God of love, but His wrath is just as clearly taught in the New Testament. Jesus says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). In the end-times Jesus will return “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8). God is the same God, and He will always hate sin.


Suggestions for Prayer


Praise God for His righteous hatred of sin.


For Further Study


Read more about God’s wrath in Romans 1:18—2:16.


What specifically causes His wrath?

How does He display His wrath to the unrighteous?



Realizing Our Ultimate Priority


"To the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:11).


To glorify God is to reflect His character in your words and deeds.


Paul's prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 closes with a reminder that love, excellence, integrity, and righteousness bring glory and praise to God.


God's glory is a recurring theme in Paul's writings, and rightly so because that is the Christian's highest priority. But what is God's glory and what does it mean to bring Him glory? After all, He is infinitely glorious in nature, so we can't add anything to Him. His glory is never diminished, so it doesn't have to be replenished or bolstered.


In Exodus 33:18-19 Moses says to God, "'I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!' And [God] said, 'I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.'" In effect God was telling Moses that His glory is the composite of His attributes.


That suggests we can glorify God by placing His attributes on display in our lives. When others see godly characteristics like love, mercy, patience, and kindness in you, they have a better picture of what God is like. That honors Him. That's why it's so important to guard your attitudes and actions. Paul admonished Timothy to be exemplary in his speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Tim. 4:12). That should be true of every believer!


Another way to glorify God is to praise Him. David said, "Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array. . . . In His temple everything says, 'Glory!'" (Ps. 29:1- 2, 9).


You cannot add to God's glory, but you can proclaim it in your words and deeds. What picture of God do others see in you? Does your life bring glory to Him?


Suggestions for Prayer


In 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 David instructs Asaph and Asaph's relatives on how to glorify God. Using that passage as a model, spend time in prayer glorifying God.


For Further Study


Reread 1 Chronicles 16:8-36, noting any specific instructions that apply to you.



The Result of Gentleness


“‘Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth’” (Matthew 5:5).


God rewards the gentle with His own joy and gladness. But more specifically, He allows such saints to “inherit the earth.” In the future the Father will completely reclaim earth, and believers will rule it with Him. Because only believers are truly gentle, Jesus could confidently proclaim “they shall inherit the earth.”


“Inherit” denotes the receiving of one’s allotted portion and correlates perfectly with Psalm 37:11—“the humble will inherit the land.” We sometimes wonder why the godless seem to prosper while the godly suffer, but God assures us that He will ultimately make things right (cf. Ps. 37:10). We must trust the Lord and obey His will in these matters. He will settle everything in the right way at the right time. Meanwhile, we can trust His promise that we, as those who are gentle, will inherit the earth. This promise also reminds us that our place in Christ’s kingdom is forever secure (cf. 1 Cor. 3:21–23).


The promise of a future inheritance also gives us hope and happiness for the present. More than a century ago George MacDonald wrote, “We cannot see the world as God means it in the future, save as our souls are characterized by meekness. In meekness we are its only inheritors. Meekness alone makes the spiritual retina pure to receive God’s things as they are, mingling with them neither imperfection nor impurity.”


Ask Yourself


Yes, it often seems as though everyone “inherits the earth” but us mild-mannered believers. But what truly makes life enjoyable on the earth? And why do the curt and the coarsest among us not really get to experience its simple pleasures?



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 15:1–16:34

Psalm 26:6-12

Proverbs 10:8

Mark 4:1-20


Notes:


Leviticus 16:12 inside the veil. The veil separated all from the holy and consuming presence of God. It was this veil in Herod’s temple that was torn open from top to bottom at the death of Christ, signifying access into God’s presence through Jesus Christ (see Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45).


Leviticus 16:20–22 This “sin offering of atonement” (Num. 29:11) portrayed Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice (vv. 21, 22) with the result that the sinner’s sins were removed (v. 22). Christ lived out this representation when He cried from the cross, “My God,My God, why have You forsaken Me?”(Matt. 27:46).


Leviticus 16:30 clean from all your sins. (See Ps. 103:12; Is. 38:17; Mic. 7:19.) This day provided ceremonial cleansing for one year, and pictured the forgiveness of God available to all who believed and repented. Actual atonement was based on cleansing through the sacrifice of Christ (see Rom. 3:25, 26; Heb. 9:15).


Mark 4:2 parables. A common method of teaching in Judaism, which Jesus employed to conceal the truth from unbelievers while explaining it to His disciples.


What does the parable of the soils warn us about our heart?


Jesus made it clear that as the sower sows his seed, some of those seeds fall to the “wayside” (Mark 4:4)—either a road near a field’s edge or a path that traversed a field, both of which were hard surfaces due to constant foot traffic. Other seed falls on “stony ground” (v. 5), where beds of solid rock lie under the surface of good soil. They are a little too deep for the plow to reach, and too shallow to allow a plant to reach water and develop a decent root system in the small amount of soil that covers them. Other seed falls among “thorns” (v. 7)—tough, thistle-bearing weeds that use up the available space, light, and water which good plants need.


Jesus warns in vv. 13-20 that our heart may be hard, like the stony ground, and the “word of God” never takes root in the soul and never transforms our life—there is only a temporary, surface change. Bring along the suffering, trials, and persecutions which result from one’s association with God’s Word and we fall away (John 8:31; 1 John 2:19). Then there are the “cares of this world,” or “the distractions of the age.” A preoccupation with the temporal issues of this present age blinds a person to any serious consideration of the gospel (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15, 16). And “the deceitfulness of riches” come our way. Not only can money and material possessions not satisfy the desires of the heart or bring the lasting happiness they deceptively promise, but they also blind those who pursue them to eternal, spiritual concerns (1 Tim. 6:9, 10).


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





02/22/20


Being Merciful


“‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful’” (Luke 6:36).


Since we have received mercy from God, we are obligated to show mercy to those with physical or spiritual needs.


Jesus demonstrated His mercy many times as He went about healing people and casting out demons. Two blind men cried out, “‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’ . . . And moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight, and followed Him” (Matt. 20:30, 34). He was also deeply moved in spirit and wept when He saw the sorrow that Lazarus’s death caused (John 11:33-36).


His greatest mercy was shown, though, to those with spiritual needs. Not only did He heal a paralytic, but He forgave his sins (Luke 5:18-25). He also prayed for His executioners, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).


We can show mercy by our physical acts. John says, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:17-18).


We must also show mercy spiritually. Because we have experienced God’s mercy, we should have great concern for those who have not. We show spiritual mercy by proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to the unsaved and by praying that God would show His mercy to them.


We also demonstrate spiritual mercy by lovingly confronting sinning Christians: “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Sinning Christians bring reproach on Christ and His church and will fall under God’s discipline. In such cases it is wrong to say nothing and let the harm continue.


God has promised us in Matthew 5:7 that we will receive mercy from Him if we are merciful to others. If we have received unlimited mercy from our loving God, if we have been lifted from our poor, sinful, wretched state to become citizens of heaven, how can we withhold mercy from others?


Suggestions for Prayer


Pray that you would be sensitive to opportunities to show mercy today.


For Further Study


Read Matthew 23:37-39.


What was Jerusalem’s condition in verse 37?

How does that intensify the nature of Christ’s compassion and mercy toward His people?



Cultivating the Fruit of Righteousness


"Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:11).


Bearing spiritual fruit is the acid test of a true believer.


After facing life-threatening situations, people often say, "I saw my entire life flash before my eyes." That's the picture we get in Philippians 1:11.


"The fruit of righteousness" refers to what is produced in you as you operate in love, pursue excellence, and maintain your integrity. It includes every attitude and action consistent with God's standard of what is right.


"Having been filled" speaks of something that happened in the past with continuing results. At your salvation the seed of righteousness was planted within you. It bears righteous fruit throughout your lifetime. On the day of Christ that fruit will confirm your salvation.


Fruitfulness has always been the acid test of true salvation. Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine" (John 8:31). When John the Baptist admonished his followers to "bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance" (Luke 3:8), he was speaking of good deeds (vv. 10-14). Paul said we are God's workmanship, "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10) John said that all who profess Christ should live as He lived (cf. 1 John 2:6).


Bearing spiritual fruit is not something you can achieve on your own. It "comes through Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:11). Jesus Himself said, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5).


You were redeemed to glorify God through righteous deeds. Make that your priority today.


Suggestions for Prayer


Psalm 71 is a psalm of praise to God for His righteousness and faithful provisions. Read it and meditate on its truths. Then praise God for His righteousness toward you.

Ask for opportunities to demonstrate righteousness to others today.

For Further Study


Read Proverbs 11:1-9, 15:8-9, and 21:2-3, noting the characteristics and benefits of righteousness.



Gentleness as Defined by Jesus


“‘Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth’” (Matthew 5:5).


In this verse, “gentle” (a word often rendered “meek” in other translations) means mild or soft. Looking ahead to His triumphal entry, the prophet hailed Christ this way: “Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey” (Matt. 21:5; cf. Zech. 9:9).


From Old Testament times, gentleness has been God’s way for mankind. The book of Job says God “sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety” (5:11; cf. Ps. 25:9). “Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3).


Gentleness does not connote weakness, but rather a way of utilizing all its resources and emotions appropriately (cf. Prov. 16:32; 25:28). The gentle person has died to self and therefore does not resort to violence to defend himself, knowing his person has nothing to commend before God. Gentleness is not cowardice, lack of conviction, or niceness. It is the spirit of Christ, who defended the Father’s glory, not His own, and left us an example: He “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:22–23).


Christ’s gentleness, however, did not mean He was passive in defending righteousness. He guarded the temple against the moneychangers (John 2:14–15), denounced the hypocritical religious leaders (Matt. 23:1–33), and warned the disobedient of judgment (Matt. 25:45–46). His gentleness was power completely surrendered to God’s control.


Ask Yourself


What’s been your interpretation of “meekness” or “gentleness”? Is this a quality you value and aspire to? If gentleness was more a part of your demeanor, what bene-fits would you begin to see in your daily life?



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 14:1–57

Psalm 26:1-5

Proverbs 10:6-7

Mark 3:20-35


Notes:


Leviticus 14:18 put on the head. This would not have been understood as an anointing for entry into an office, but rather as a symbolic gesture of cleansing and healing. There could be a connection with the New Testament directive to anoint the sick for healing (Mark 6:13; 16:18; James 5:14).


Psalm 26:1 Vindicate me. Literally, “Judge me!” This refers to exoneration of some false accusations and/or charges under the protection of the covenant stipulations of the theocratic law (see Pss. 7:8; 35:24; 43:1). my integrity. Again, this is not a claim to perfection, but of innocence, particularly as viewed within the context of ungrounded “legal” charges (see Ps. 7:8; Prov. 10:9; 19:1; 20:7; 28:6).


Mark 3:21 His own people. In Greek, this expression was used in various ways to describe someone’s friends or close associates. In the strictest sense, it meant family, which is probably the best understanding here. lay hold of Him. Mark used this same term elsewhere to mean the arrest of a person (6:17; 12:12; 14:1, 44, 46, 51). Jesus’ relatives evidently heard the report of v. 20 and came to Capernaum to restrain Him from His many activities and bring Him under their care and control, all supposedly for His own good. out of His mind. Jesus’ family could only explain His unconventional lifestyle, with its willingness for others always to impose on Him, by saying He was irrational or had lost His mind.


Mark 3:35 Jesus made a decisive and comprehensive statement on true Christian discipleship. Such discipleship involves a spiritual relationship that transcends the physical family and is open to all who are empowered by the Spirit of God to come to Christ in repentance and faith and enabled to live a life of obedience to God’s Word.


How did Mark come to write one of the gospels if he wasn’t one of the original disciples?


Although Mark was not one of the original apostles of Jesus, he was involved in many of the events recorded in the New Testament. He traveled as a close companion of the apostle Peter and appears repeatedly throughout the Book of Acts, where he is known as “John whose surname was Mark” (Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37, 39). When Peter was miraculously freed from prison, his first action was to go to Mark’s mother’s home in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).


John Mark was also a cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), and he joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:5). But Mark deserted the mission team while in Perga and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Later, when Barnabas wanted to give Mark another opportunity to travel with Paul’s second missionary team, Paul refused. The resulting friction between Paul and Barnabas led to their separation (Acts 15:38-40).


Eventually, Mark’s youthful vacillation gave way to great strength and maturity. In time, he proved himself even to the apostle Paul. When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he told them that if John Mark came, they were to welcome him (Col. 4:10). Paul even listed Mark as a fellow worker (Philem. 24). Later, Paul told Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).


John Mark’s restoration to useful ministry and preparation for writing his Gospel was due, in part, to his extended close relationship with Peter (1 Pet. 5:13). The older apostle was no stranger to failure, and his influence on the younger man was no doubt instrumental. Mark grew out of the instability of his youth and into the strength and maturity he would need for the work to which God had called him. Mark’s Gospel represents


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





02/21/20


God's Great Mercy


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


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


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


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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer


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


For Further Study


Luke 15:11-32 contains the well-known parable of the prodigal son, a moving illustration of God’s loving compassion. What was the son’s condition when he returned?

What was his father’s reaction?

How does God respond to us when we turn to Him in repentance and humility?



Maintaining Spiritual Integrity


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


Seek to have a life that bears scrutiny.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God that He is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in His presence blameless with great joy (Jude 24).

Prayerfully guard your heart and mind from the subtle evil influences that can erode your integrity and make you ineffective for the Lord.

For Further Study


Read Genesis 39.


How was Joseph's integrity challenged?

How did God honor Joseph's commitment to integrity?



Are You Mourning as Christ Commands?


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


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


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


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


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


Ask Yourself


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



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 13:1–59

Psalm 25:16-22

Proverbs 10:4-5

Mark 3:1-19


Notes:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





02/20/20


The Measure of Grace


“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).


God will lavish grace upon sinners who are truly repentant.


Did you ever sin so terribly that you felt, I really blew it this time. There’s no way God would want to forgive me now? It’s easy sometimes to let our past sins be a constant burden to us, even after we’ve confessed and repented. Paul has comfort for those who feel this way, and that comfort is founded on the power and measure of God’s grace to us. Before his conversion, Paul (then known as Saul) persecuted the church mercilessly (see Acts 8:3 and 9:1-2). He was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13; see also Gal. 1:13). If anyone could be beyond grace, it was Paul.


But God intervened and saved him (Acts 9:3-19). Why? “For this reason,” Paul says, “I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). If God would forgive Paul, He will forgive anyone who will confess their sins and repent. If He would show abundant grace to a violent unbeliever, He will also shower grace upon His penitent children.


God is not stingy with grace. Paul celebrates God’s saving “grace, which He freely bestowed on us” (Eph 1:6), and “the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (vv. 7-8). Speaking of sustaining grace, Paul says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8). Notice the words Paul uses: “all grace,” “abound,” “all sufficiency,” “everything,” “abundance,” “every good deed.” God’s grace is inexhaustible and is given so freely that words cannot express it fully.


Great sins require great grace, but God will give super-abundant grace to those who seek forgiveness, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). Don’t let your past sins weigh you down; learn to rest upon God’s super-abundant grace.


Suggestions for Prayer


Ask God to teach you to understand His grace more fully and help you forget “what lies behind” (Phil. 3:13).


For Further Study


Read Romans 6.


What is Paul’s argument here?

How are we to live now that we have received God’s grace?



Pursuing Excellence


"So that you may approve the things that are excellent" (Phil. 1:10).


In a world of mediocrity and confusion, God calls you to excellence and discernment.


There's the story of a pilot who came on the loudspeaker mid flight and said, "I have some good news and bad news. The bad news is we've lost all our instrumentation and don't know where we are. The good news is we have a strong tail wind and are making great time." That's an accurate picture of how many people live: they have no direction in life but they're getting there fast!


We as Christians are to be different because we have divine guidance and eternal goals. Our lives are to be marked by a confident trust in God and a pursuit of spiritual excellence.


"Excellent" in Philippians 1:10 speaks of things that are worthwhile and vital. Approving what is excellent refers to testing things as one would test a precious metal to determine its purity and value. It goes beyond knowing good from evil. It distinguishes between better and best. It involves thinking biblically and focusing your time and energy on what really counts. It involves cultivating spiritual discipline and not being controlled by your emotions, whims, moods, or circumstances.


Many organizations and businesses have adopted the motto, "Commitment to Excellence" to convey their desire to provide the finest product or service possible. If secular-minded people strive for that level of achievement, how much more should Christians pursue excellence for the glory of God!


Look at your life. Is it filled with godly love, discernment, and the pursuit of excellence—or has worldly trivia crowded out those virtues?


Suggestions for Prayer


Read Isaiah 12:1-6 as a psalm of praise to the God of excellence.

Ask God to give you a heart constantly set on pursuing excellence for His glory.

For Further Study


Daniel was a man who pursued excellence. Read Daniel 1:1—2:21.


What was Daniel's decision regarding the king's food and wine, and how did he handle the situation?

How did Daniel and his three friends compare in wisdom and understanding to the magicians and conjurers?

What principles do you see in those two chapters that apply to your life?



Hindrances to True Mourning: Presumption and Procrastination


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


We talked yesterday about two specific sins that hinder biblical mourning. Let’s consider two others today. The sin of presumption is actually a form of pride. Presumption is satisfied with cheap grace and expects God to forgive just a little bit because it sees so little to be forgiven. It leads us to think our sins are not really bad enough for us to confess them, repent of them, and forsake them. But Isaiah exhorts sinners as follows: “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). The kind of gospel (so popular today) that omits any need for repentance and mourning is a false, unscriptural gospel—or as Paul calls it, “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6).


Procrastination, as the term suggests, hinders true mourning simply by putting it off. We tend to think when things are better and the time is more convenient, we will ask God to cleanse and forgive our sins. But that is foolish and risky because “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). If we do not deal with sin sooner rather than later, we can’t be sure God’s comfort will ever come.


The best and surest way to eliminate hindrances to mourning is to look, through prayer and the Word, to the holiness of God and Christ’s great atoning sacrifice for sins.


Ask Yourself


Unlike some of our sins, these tend to be more subtle and soft-pedaled. But sins of all kinds are capable of blinding us to our utter dependence on God and His forgiveness. Ask Him to reveal to you any hidden sins, wanting to bring to the surface everything that dishonors Him.



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 11:1–12:8

Psalm 25:8-15

Proverbs 10:1-3

Mark 2:1-28


Notes:


Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith. The aggressive, persistent effort of the paralytic’s friends was visible evidence of their faith in Christ to heal. “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” Many Jews in that day believed that all disease and affliction was a direct result of one’s sins. This paralytic may have believed that as well; thus he would have welcomed forgiveness of his sins before healing. The Greek verb for “are forgiven” refers to sending or driving away (see Ps. 103:12; Jer. 31:34; Mic. 7:19). Thus Jesus dismissed the man’s sin and freed him from the guilt of it.


Mark 2:24 what is not lawful on the Sabbath. Rabbinical tradition had interpreted the rubbing of grain in the hands (see Luke 6:1) as a form of threshing and forbidden it. Reaping for profit on the Sabbath was forbidden by Mosaic Law (Ex. 34:21), but that was obviously not the situation here. Actually the Pharisees’ charge was itself sinful since they were holding their tradition on a par with God’s Word.


Mark 2:27 The Sabbath was made for man. God instituted the Sabbath to benefit man by giving him a day to rest from his labors and to be a blessing to him. The Pharisees turned it into a burden and made man a slave to their myriad of man-made regulations.


Mark 2:28 also Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus claimed He was greater than the Sabbath, and thus was God. Based on that authority, Jesus could in fact reject the Pharisaic regulations concerning the Sabbath and restore God’s original intention for Sabbath observance to be a blessing not a burden.


Does God expect us to be holy?


In Leviticus 11:44, 45, God says “consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.” In all of this, God is teaching His people to live antithetically. That is, He is using these clean and unclean distinctions to separate Israel from other idolatrous nations who have no such restrictions, and He is illustrating by these prescriptions that His people must learn to live His way. Through dietary laws and rituals, God is teaching them the reality of living His way in everything. They are being taught to obey God in every seemingly mundane area of life, so as to learn how crucial obedience is. Sacrifices, rituals, diet, and even clothing and cooking are all carefully ordered by God to teach them that they are to live differently from everyone else. This is to be an external illustration for the separation from sin in their hearts. Because the Lord is their God, they are to be utterly distinct.


In v. 44, for the first time the statement “I am the LORD your God” is made as a reason for the required separation and holiness. After this verse, that phrase is mentioned about 50 more times in this book alone, along with the equally instructive claim, “I am holy.” Because God is holy and is their God, the people are to be holy in outward ceremonial behavior as an external expression of the greater necessity of heart holiness. The connection between ceremonial holiness carries over into personal holiness. The only motivation given for all these laws is to learn to be holy because God is holy. The holiness theme is central to Leviticus (see 10:3; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:6–8).


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 






02/19/20


The Meaning of Grace


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for His grace in saving and sustaining you.


For Further Study


Read Genesis 9:8-19.


How did God extend grace to Noah and his family?

What was the visible sign or symbol?



Avoiding Indiscriminate Love


"This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment" (Phil. 1:9).


Christian love operates within the parameters of Biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment.


As a Christian, you are a repository of divine love. More than anything else, your love for God and for other believers marks you as a true disciple of Jesus Christ (John 13:35).


In addition to possessing God's love, you have the privilege and responsibility of expressing it to others on His behalf. That's a sacred trust. Paul qualifies it in Philippians 1:9, which tells us love is to operate within the sphere of biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment. Those are the parameters that govern God's love.


No matter how loving an act or word might seem, if it violates knowledge and discernment, it is not true Christian love. Second John 5-11 illustrates that principle. Apparently some believers who lacked discernment were hosting false teachers in the name of Christian love and hospitality. John sternly warned them, saying, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring [sound doctrine], do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds" (vv. 10-11). That might sound extreme or unloving but the purity of God's people was at stake.


In 2 Thessalonians 3:5-6 after praying for the Thessalonians' love to increase, Paul then commanded them to keep aloof from so- called Christians who were disregarding sound teaching. That's not contradictory because Christian love guards sound doctrine and holy living.


Unfortunately, today it is common for Christians to compromise doctrinal purity in the name of love and unity, or to brand as unloving some practices that Scripture clearly commands. Both are wrong and carry serious consequences if not corrected.


Be thoughtful in how you express your love. Abundantly supply it in accord with biblical knowledge and discernment. Excellence and righteousness will result (Phil. 1:10-11).


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for the love He has given you through His Spirit (Rom. 5:5).

Ask for opportunities to demonstrate Christ's love to others today.

Pray that your love will always be governed by deep convictions grounded in God's truth.

For Further Study


What do the following passages teach about love? How can you apply them to your life? Romans 12:9-10; 5:5; 1 John 4:7-10; Galatians 5:22; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8.



Hindrances to True Mourning: Love of Sin


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


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


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


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


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


Ask Yourself


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



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 9:1–10:20

Psalm 25:1-7

Proverbs 9:13-18

Mark 1:23-45


Notes:


Psalm 25:6, 7 Remember…Do not remember…remember. These are not concerns about God forgetting something, but the psalmist’s prayer reminders about God’s gracious covenant promises and provisions, all of which are grounded upon His “goodness‘ sake” (see v. 11, “Your name’s sake”).


Mark 1:24 What have we to do with You…? Or, possibly, “Why do You interfere with us?” The demon was acutely aware that he and Jesus belonged to two radically different kingdoms, and thus had nothing in common. That the demon used the plural pronoun “we” indicates he spoke for all the demons. the Holy One of God. See Psalm 16:10; Daniel 9:24; Luke 4:34; Acts 2:27; 3:14; 4:27; Revelation 3:7. Amazingly, the demon affirmed Jesus’ sinlessness and deity—truths which many in Israel denied and still deny.


Mark 1:40 leper. Lepers were considered ceremonially unclean and were outcasts from society (Lev. 13:11). While the Old Testament term for leprosy included other skin diseases, this man may have actually had true leprosy (Hansen’s Disease), or else his cure would not have created such a sensation (v. 45).


Mark 1:41 compassion. Only Mark records Jesus’ emotional reaction to the leper’s desperate plight. The Greek word appears only in the synoptic Gospels and (apart from parables) is used only in reference to Jesus. touched him. Unlike rabbis, who avoided lepers lest they become ceremonially defiled, Jesus expressed His compassion with a physical gesture.


What was the incident with Nadab and Abihu about?


In Leviticus 9:23, it states that “the glory of the LORD appeared.” The Bible speaks often of the glory of God—the visible appearance of His beauty and perfection reduced to blazing light. His glory appeared to Moses (Ex. 3:1–6; 24:15–17; 33:18–23). The glory of God also filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), led the people as a pillar of fire and cloud (Ex. 40:35–38), and also filled the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kin. 8:10, 11). When Aaron made the first sacrifice in the wilderness, as a priest, the “glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.” In these manifestations, God was revealing His righteousness, holiness, truth, wisdom, and grace—the sum of all He is.


Nadab and Abihu were the two oldest sons of Aaron (10:1). The vessel in which the incense was burned in the Holy Place was to be used only for holy purposes. Though the exact infraction is not detailed, instead of taking the incense fire from the bronze altar, they had some other source and thus perpetrated a “profane” act, especially considering the descent of the miraculous fire they had just seen. The same divine fire that accepted the sacrifices (9:24) consumed the errant priests. The sons of Aaron were guilty of violating both requirements of God’s absolute standard: “regarded as holy…be glorified” (10:3). That was not unlike the later deaths of Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:6, 7) or Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 10).


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 


MAXIMILIANO 





02/18/20


God's Glory in Christ


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


Christ displayed God’s glory on earth and will again when He comes back. After seeing His glory in Scripture, we should respond in worship and righteousness.


From eternity past Christ had the glory of God. He “is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3), and He prayed, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5).


Christ also displayed God’s glory on earth. Most often He looked like an ordinary man, but one night He appeared in great glory to Peter, James, and John (Luke 9:28-36). “While He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming” (v. 29). Moses and Elijah came and spoke to Him, and the disciples “saw His glory” (v. 32).


When He comes again, He will come “on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30), to the joy of His people and to the terror of those who reject Him. His glory will fill the whole earth (Num. 14:21), and all creation will worship Him.


What should be our response to God’s glory? Like the angels who sing, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14), we should give Him praise. Also, as we see His glory we should change: “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 Cor. 3:18). As we look at God, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and helps us grow and live righteous lives. As “children of God,” we “appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).


The purpose of all creation is to glorify God. As a mirror reflects light, we are to reflect His glory to Him and to a sinful world. Seek to live a holy life so this reflection shines as brightly as possible, and make it your desire to glorify Him in everything you do.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for the hope of glory we have as we wait for Christ’s return (Titus 2:13). Ask that your life would brightly reflect God’s glory today.


For Further Study


Read about God’s glory in Heaven in Revelation 21:1—22:5. How is His glory displayed?



Acknowledging the Ultimate Source of Everything


"Joyously giving thanks to the Father" (Col. 1:11-12).


Joyous thanksgiving acknowledges God as the giver of every good gift.


The inseparable link between joy and thanksgiving was a common theme for Paul. In Philippians 4:4-6 he says, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! . . . 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 "rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:16- 18).


As often as Paul expressed thanks and encouraged others to express theirs, he was careful never to attribute to men the thanks due to God alone. For example in Romans 1:8 he says, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world." He thanked God, not the Roman believers, because he knew that faith is a gift from God.


That doesn't mean you can't thank others for the kindnesses they show, but in doing so you must understand that they are instruments of God's grace.


Thanking Him shows humility and acknowledges His rightful place as the Sovereign Lord and the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Those who reject His lordship and refuse to give Him thanks incur His wrath (Rom. 1:21).


Only those who love Christ can truly give thanks because He is the channel through which thanks is expressed to the Father. As Paul says in Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Hebrews 13:15 adds, "Through [Christ] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name."


As one who is privileged to know the God of all grace, be generous in your praise and thanksgiving today. See everything as a gift from His hand for your joy and edification.


Suggestions for Prayer


Recite Psalm 136 as a prayer of praise to God.


For Further Study


From Psalm 136 list the things that prompted the psalmist's thanksgiving. How can that psalm serve as a model for your own praise?



Satisfying Your Spiritual Hunger


“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’” (Matthew 5:6).


The all-important result for any believer hungering and thirsting after righteousness is to “be satisfied.” The verb translated “satisfied” frequently refers to the feeding of animals until they want no more. In a parallel to this, Jesus declares that people who hunger and thirst for righteousness will gain complete satisfaction. This satisfaction comes from God. Our part is to seek; His is to satisfy us.


Paradoxically, Christians continually seek God’s righteousness, always wanting more and never getting their fill in this life. Yet the Lord still satisfies them. Again, we can make the analogy to food. We can eat our fill of our favorite dishes, yet our taste for those foods remains. The satisfaction we derive only makes us want more. Believers who crave God’s righteousness will find it so satisfying that they will always want more.


Psalms speaks repeatedly about God’s satisfying our spiritual hunger. The most well-known psalm opens, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and later says, “You prepare a table before me … my cup overflows” (23:1, 5). A later psalm assures us that God “has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good” (Ps. 107:9; cf. 34:10).


Jesus on another occasion told the crowds, many of whom were among the five thousand fed, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35). Our spiritual hunger will always be satisfied (cf. John 4:14).


Ask Yourself


It may not happen all at once, but Jesus will always reward your hunger for righteousness with the deep satisfaction reserved for the humbly obedient. How has He satisfied you in the past? Think of a time when you and He celebrated what sanctification was accomplishing in you.



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 25:1–55

Psalm 28:6-9

Proverbs 10:19-21

Mark 6:30-56


Notes:


Leviticus 25:8–55 The Year of Jubilee involved a year of release from indebtedness (vv.23–38) and bondage of all sorts (vv. 39–55). All prisoners and captives were set free, slaves released, and debtors absolved. All property reverted to original owners. This plan curbed inflation and moderated acquisitions. It also gave new opportunity to people who had fallen on hard times.


Psalm 28:9 Your inheritance. God amazingly considers His people a most precious possession (see Deut. 7:6–16; 9:29; 1 Sam 10:1; Pss. 33:12; 94:5; Eph. 1:18).


Mark 6:44 five thousand men. The Greek word for “men” means strictly males, so the numerical estimate did not include women and children (see Matt. 14:21). The women and children were traditionally seated separately from the men for meals. When everyone was added, there could have been at least 20,000.


Mark 6:50 Be of good cheer! This command, always linked in the Gospels to a situation of fear and apprehension (see 10:49; Matt. 9:2, 22; 14:27; Luke 8:48; John 16:33; Acts 23:11), urged the disciples to have a continuing attitude of courage. It is I. Literally, “I AM.” This statement clearly identified the figure as the Lord Jesus, not some phantom. It echoed the Old Testament self-revelation of God (see Ex. 3:14).



GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





02/17/20


God's Unfailing Love


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


God’s love is unconditional and righteous.


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


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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer


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


For Further Study


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



How to Lose Your Joy


"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Phil. 4:11).


Discontent and ingratitude will steal your joy.


True joy is God's gift to every believer, yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? Did God fail them? No. As with peace, assurance, and other benefits of salvation, joy can be forfeited for many reasons: willful sin, prayerlessness, fear, self-centeredness, focusing on circumstances, and lack of forgiveness are the main culprits.


Two of the most common joy-thieves are dissatisfaction and ingratitude. Both are by-products of the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality of our day. It has produced a generation of Christians who are more dissatisfied than ever because their demands and expectations are higher than ever. They've lost their perspective on God's sovereignty and have therefore lost the ability to give thanks in all things.


In marked contrast, when Jesus taught about contentment and anxiety (Matt. 6:25-34), He spoke of food and clothing—the basic necessities of life. But preferences, not necessities, are the issue with us. We're into style, personal appearance, job satisfaction, earning power, bigger homes, and newer cars. In the name of greater faith we even demand that God supply more miracles, more wealth, and more power.


Amid all that, Paul's words sound a refreshing note of assurance and rebuke: "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Phil. 4:11). He made no demands on God but simply trusted in His gracious provision. Whether he received little or much made no difference to him. In either case he was satisfied and thankful.


Don't be victimized by the spirit of our age. See God's blessings for what they are and continually praise Him for His goodness. In doing so you will guard your heart from dissatisfaction and ingratitude. More important, you will bring joy to the One who is worthy of all praise.


Suggestions for Prayer


Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in you a joy and contentment that transcends your circumstances.

Make it a daily practice to thank God for specific blessings and trials, knowing that He uses both to perfect His will in you.

For Further Study


Read 1 Kings 18:1—19:8.


How did Elijah deal with the false prophets of Baal?

How did he deal with Jezebel's threat?

What caused Elijah's shift from a spiritual high to a spiritual low?



True Happiness vs. Worldly Happiness


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


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


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


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


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


Ask Yourself


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



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 5:1–6:30

Psalm 24:1-6

Proverbs 9:7-9

Matthew 28:1-20

Notes:


Leviticus 5:5 he shall confess. Confession must accompany the sacrifice as the outward expression of a repentant heart which openly acknowledged agreement with God concerning sin. Sacrifice minus true faith, repentance, and obedience was hypocrisy (see Ps. 26:4; Is. 9:17; Amos 5:21–26).


Psalm 24:4 These sample qualities do not signify sinless perfection, but rather basic integrity of inward motive and outward manner.


Matthew 28:1 as the first day of the week began to dawn. Sabbath officially ended with sundown on Saturday. At that time the women could purchase and prepare spices (Luke 24:1). The event described here occurred the next morning, at dawn on Sunday, the first day of the week.


Matthew 28:4 became like dead men. This suggests that they were not merely paralyzed with fear, but completely unconscious, totally traumatized by what they had seen. The word translated “shook” has the same root as the word for “earthquake” in v. 2.The sudden appearance of this angel, at the same time the women arrived, was their first clue that anything extraordinary was happening.


Matthew 28:18 All authority. See 11:27; John 3:35. Absolute sovereign authority—lordship over all—is handed to Christ, “in heaven and on earth.” This is clear proof of His deity. The time of His humiliation was at an end, and God had exalted Him above all (Phil. 2:9–11).


How are the Old Testament sacrifices compared to Christ’s sacrifice?


Leviticus


Hebrews


1. Old Covenant (temporary)


Hebrews 7:22; 8:6, 13; 10:20


Christ’s sacrifice

1. New Covenant (permanent)


2. Obsolete promises


Hebrews 8:6–13


Christ’s sacrifice

2. Better promises


3. A shadow


Hebrews 8:5; 9:23, 24; 10:1


Christ’s sacrifice

3. The reality


4. Aaronic priesthood (many)


Hebrews 6:19–7:25


Christ’s sacrifice

4. Melchizedekian priesthood (one)


5. Sinful priesthood


Hebrews 7:26, 27; 9:7


Christ’s sacrifice

5. Sinless priest


6. Limited-by-death priesthood


Hebrews 7:16, 17, 23, 24


Christ’s sacrifice

6. Forever priesthood


7. Daily sacrifices


Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 25, 26; 10:9, 10, 12


Christ’s sacrifice

7. Once-for-all sacrifice


8. Animal sacrifices


Hebrews 9:11–15, 26; 10:4–10, 19


Christ’s sacrifice

8. Sacrifice of God’s Son


9. Ongoing sacrifices


Hebrews 10:11–14, 18


Christ’s sacrifice

9. Sacrifices no longer needed


10. One-year atonement


Hebrews 7:25; 9:12, 15; 10:1–4, 12


Christ’s sacrifice

10. Eternal propitiation


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





02/16/20


The Comfort of God's Omniscience


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


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


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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for knowing and caring about your struggles.


For Further Study


Read Job 42:1-6.


What did Job acknowledge about God?

What did that lead him to do?



The Joy of Pleasing God


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


Your love for God brings Him joy.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for the privilege of bringing Him joy.

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

For Further Study


Read 1 Kings 3:3-15.


What did Solomon request of God?

What was God's response?



What Did Jesus Mean by Mourning?


Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. - Matthew 5:4


If you have spiritual poverty and true humility, they will lead you to godly sorrow. That’s what Jesus meant by “mourn” here in this second beatitude. Paul told the Corinthians about this kind of sorrow: “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you” (2 Cor. 7:10–11).


Of the nine different New Testament words that indicate the commonness of human sorrow, the one Matthew used here is the most severe. Usually it was used only to denote the grieving over the death of a loved one (cf. Mark 16:10; Rev. 18:11, 15). It conveys the notion of deep, inner agony that is not necessarily expressed by outward weeping or wailing.


Yet genuine, biblical mourning produces results that are surprisingly wonderful because God does something tangible in response to it—the forgiveness of your sins—a holy infusion of real happiness that breathes into you a sigh of relief.


Therefore, this is not simply a psychological or an emotional experience that makes you feel better. No, this mourning is met by blessedness. Genuine spiritual mourning invites communion with the true God, to which He responds with an objective reality—the reality of forgiveness that David knew: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (Ps. 32:1–2).


Ask Yourself


When was the last time the gravity of your sins fell around you, burying you under its full weight? If it’s been awhile, you’re missing out on the sweet awareness of God’s forgiveness.



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 3:1–4:35

Psalm 23:1-6

Proverbs 9:1-6

Matthew 27:55-66


Notes:


Leviticus 3:1–17 See 7:11–36 for the priests’ instructions. The peace offering symbolizes the peace and fellowship between the true worshiper and God (as a voluntary offering). It was the third freewill offering resulting in a sweet aroma to the Lord (3:5), which served as the appropriate corollary to the burnt offering of atonement and the grain offering of consecration and dedication. It symbolized the fruit of redemptive reconciliation between a sinner and God (see 2 Cor. 5:18).


Psalm 23:4 the valley of the shadow of death. Phraseology used to convey a perilously threatening environment (see Job 10:21, 22; 38:17; Pss. 44:19; 107:10; Jer. 2:6; Luke. 1:79). Your rod and Your staff. The shepherd’s club and crook are viewed as comforting instruments of protection and direction, respectively.


Matthew 27:56 Mary Magdalene. She had been delivered from 7 demons (Luke 8:2); the other “Mary” (“wife of Clopas,” John 19:25—a variant of Alphaeus) was the mother of the apostle known as “James the Less” (Mark 15:40). the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Salome (Mark 15:40), mother of James and John. From John 19:26, we learn that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also present at the Cross—possibly standing apart from these 3, who were “looking on from afar” (v. 55), as if they could not bear to watch His sufferings, but neither could they bear to leave Him.


Matthew 27:57 Joseph. Mark 15:43 and Luke 23:50, 51 identify him as a member of the Sanhedrin, though Luke says “he had not consented to their decision and deed” in condemning Christ. Joseph and Nicodemus (John 19:39), both being prominent Jewish leaders, buried Christ in Joseph’s own “new tomb” (v. 60), thus fulfilling exactly the prophecy of Is. 53:9. Arimathea. A town about 15–20 miles northwest of Jerusalem.


DAY 16: Why are there so many uncomfortable expressions in the Psalms—for example in Psalms 23 and 139?


Because the Psalms genuinely reflect real life, we should expect that they will be uncomfortable in the same places that life is uncomfortable. According to the best-known Psalm 23, life isn’t just about green pastures and still waters; it also includes death and enemies. The psalmists were convinced they knew the only true God. When someone was picking on them or their people, they would at times cry out for very specific judgment to be applied by God on their enemies. An amazing fact about the Psalms is their unblushing record of these cries to God that, if we are honest, echo some of our deepest hidden complaints before God.


In David’s case, the role that he filled as the king and representative of God’s people often blurs with his individual self-awareness. At times it is difficult to tell whether he is speaking for himself alone or for the people as a whole. This explains some of the vehemence behind the curse-pronouncing psalms. They unabashedly invoke God’s righteous wrath and judgment against His enemies.


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 







02/14/20


Our Response to God's Power


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer


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


For Further Study


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



The Joy of Glorification


God will perfect His work in you "until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6).


Someday God will glorify and reward every believer.


For Christians there's an element of truth to the bumper sticker that reads, "Please be patient, God isn't finished with me yet." We aren't what we used to be, but there's much to be done to make us all He wants us to be. Yet God's work within us is so sure and so powerful, Scripture guarantees its completion.


Pondering that guarantee led Bible expositor F.B. Meyer to write, "We go into the artist's studio and find there unfinished pictures covering large canvas, and suggesting great designs, but which have been left, either because the genius was not competent to complete the work, or because paralysis laid the hand low in death; but as we go into God's great workshop we find nothing that bears the mark of haste or insufficiency of power to finish, and we are sure that the work which His grace has begun, the arm of His strength will complete" (The Epistle to the Philippians [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1952], p. 28).


The completion of God's work in you will come at a future point in time that Paul calls "the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). Scripture also speaks of "the day of the Lord," which is the time of God's judgment on unbelievers, but "the day of Christ Jesus" refers to when believers will be fully glorified then rewarded for their faithful service (cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15). All your earthly cares will be gone and God's promise to keep you from stumbling and make you stand in His presence blameless with great joy will be fully realized (Jude 24).


Concentrating on what is wrong in your life might depress you, but focusing on the glorious day of Christ should excite you. Don't be unduly concerned about what you are right now. Look ahead to what you will become by God's grace.


Suggestions for Prayer


Reflect on the joy that is yours because you belong to an all-powerful God who is working mightily in you. Express your joy and praise to Him.

Read 1 Chronicles 29:11-13 as a prayer of praise to God.

For Further Study


Read Revelation 7:9-17 and 22:1-5. What glimpses do those passages give you of the activities of glorified believers in heaven?



Recognizing Our Humility, Part 1


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


The Puritan Thomas Watson, in his book The Beatitudes, discusses many principles to help the believer recognize his or her humility—those spiritual fruits that enable us to determine whether or not humility is actually growing within us. Here are three.


First, if we are truly humble, we will be weaned from ourselves and have no more constant self-preoccupation. Paul expresses it beautifully this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).


Second, if we are really humble we will be lost in the wonder of Jesus Christ. We will contemplate “as in a mirror the glory of the Lord … being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). We’ll look forward to the day when we’ll be just like our Lord.


And third, no matter how bad life’s situations get, we will not complain. We’ll understand that we deserve far worse than anything we experience in this life. When tragedy comes, our first response won’t be, “Why me, Lord?” Instead, we’ll fully appreciate that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).


Ask Yourself


Could you honestly say you’re detecting growth in these three areas? It’s not “proud” to recognize it, to give God glory for what He’s producing in you by His Spirit. If you’re not seeing this kind of spiritual development, ask yourself what needs to change.



Reading for Today:


Exodus 39:1–40:38

Psalm 22:16-21

Proverbs 8:22-31

Matthew 27:1-26


Notes:


Psalm 22:16 They pierced My hands and My feet. The Hebrew text reads “like a lion,” i.e., these vicious attacking enemies, like animals, have torn me. Likely, a messianic prediction with reference to crucifixion (see Is. 53:5; Zech. 12:10).


Psalm 22:18 They divide…they cast. All 4 Gospel writers appeal to this imagery in describing Christ’s crucifixion (Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24).


Proverbs 8:27 circle on the face of the deep. The Hebrew word for circle indicates that the earth is a globe; therefore the horizon is circular (see Is. 40:22). This “deep” that surrounds the earth was the original world ocean that covered the surface of the earth before it was fully formed and given life (cf. Gen.1:2).


Matthew 27:26 scourged. The whip used for scourging consisted of several strands of leather attached to a wooden handle. Each strand had a bit of metal or bone attached to the end. The victim was bound to a post by the wrists, high over his head, so that the flesh of the back would be taut. An expert at wielding the scourge could literally tear the flesh from the back, lacerating muscles, and sometimes even exposing the kidneys or other internal organs. Scourging alone was fatal in some cases.


Does Matthew include any material not found in the other Gospels?


Matthew includes nine events in Jesus’ life that are unique to his Gospel:


1. Joseph’s dream (1:20–24).

2. Visit of the wise men (2:1–12).

3. Flight into Egypt (2:13–15).

4. Herod kills the children (2:16–18).

5. Judas repents (27:3-10, but see Acts 1:18, 19).

6. The dream of Pilate’s wife (27:19).

7. Other resurrections (27:52).

8. The bribery of the soldiers (28:11–15).

9. The Great Commission (28:19, 20).


GOD'S BLESSEDNESS REST UPON YOU, HIS DIVINE FAVOR. 

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 


MAXIMILIANO 





02/13/20


“What is the flesh?"


John Knox (c. 1510–1572) was a Scottish clergyman, a leader of the Protestant Reformation, and a man who is considered to be the founder of the Presbyterian denomination in Scotland. Knox has been admired by contemporary theologians as someone who personified a zeal for God and a commitment to the truth of Scripture and holy living. Yet, as he grew close to death, this saint of God admitted his own personal battle with the sin nature he inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12). Knox said, “I know how hard the battle is between the flesh and the spirit under the heavy cross of affliction, when no worldly defense but present death doth appear. I know the grudging and murmuring complaints of the flesh..."


Knox’s statement sounds remarkably like that of the apostle Paul who openly acknowledged a personal struggle with his sin nature: "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:14-24).


Paul states in his letter to the Romans that there was something “in the members” of his body that he calls “my flesh,” which produced difficulty in his Christian life and made him a prisoner of sin. Martin Luther, in his preface to the book of Romans, commented on Paul’s use of “flesh” by saying, “Thou must not understand ‘flesh,’ therefore, as though that only were ‘flesh’ which is connected with unchastity, but St. Paul uses ‘flesh’ of the whole man, body, and soul, reason, and all his faculties included, because all that is in him longs and strives after the flesh.” Luther’s comments point out that “flesh” equates to affections and desires that run contrary to God, not only in the area of sexual activity, but in every area of life.


To get a solid understanding of the term “flesh” requires examining its usage and definition in Scripture, how it manifests in the life of both believers and unbelievers, the consequences it produces, and how it can ultimately be overcome.


A Definition of the “Flesh”

The Greek word for “flesh” in the New Testament is sarx, a term that can often in Scripture refer to the physical body. However, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature describes the word this way: “the physical body as functioning entity; in Paul’s thought esp., all parts of the body constitute a totality known as flesh, which is dominated by sin to such a degree that wherever flesh is, all forms of sin are likewise present, and no good thing can live.”


The Bible makes it clear that humanity did not start out this way. The book of Genesis says that humankind was originally created good and perfect: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’ . . . God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). Because God is perfect, and because an effect always represents its cause in essence [that is, a totally good God can only create good things, or as Jesus said, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18)], both Adam and Eve were created good and without sin. But, when Adam and Eve sinned, their nature was corrupted, and that nature was passed along to their offspring: "When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth" (Genesis 5:3, emphasis added).


The fact of the sin nature is taught in many places in Scripture, such as David’s declaration, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). David does not mean he was the product of an adulterous affair, but that his parents passed along a sin nature to him. In theology, this is sometimes called the “Traducian” (from the Latin term meaning “from a branch”) view of human nature The Traducian view is that a person’s soul is created via his parents, with the child inheriting their fallen nature in the process.


The Bible’s view of human nature differs from that of Greek philosophy in that Scripture says the physical and spiritual nature of humankind was originally good. By contrast, philosophers such as Plato saw a dualism or dichotomy in humanity. Such thinking eventually produced a theory that the body (the physical) was bad, but a person’s spirit was good. This teaching influenced groups such as the Gnostics who believed the physical world was mistakenly created by a demi-god called the “Demiurge.” The Gnostics opposed the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation because they believed God would never take on a physical form, since the body was evil. The apostle John encountered a form of this teaching in his day and warned against it: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:1-3).


Further, the Gnostics taught that it did not matter what a person did in his body, since the spirit was all that mattered. This Platonic dualism had the same effect back in the first century as it does today—it leads either to asceticism or licentiousness, both of which the Bible condemns (Colossians 2:23; Jude 4).


So contrary to Greek thought, the Bible says that humanity’s nature, both the physical and spiritual, were good, yet both were adversely affected by sin. The end result of sin is a nature often referred to as the “flesh” in Scripture—something that opposes God and seeks sinful gratification. Pastor Mark Bubek defines the flesh this way: “The flesh is a built-in law of failure, making it impossible for natural man to please or serve God. It is a compulsive inner force inherited from man’s fall, which expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God and His righteousness. The flesh can never be reformed or improved. The only hope for escape from the law of the flesh is its total execution and replacement by a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ.”


The Manifestation and Struggle with the Flesh

How does the flesh manifest itself in human beings? The Bible answers the question this way: "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).


Examples of the flesh’s outworking in the world are evident. Consider a few sad facts taken from a recent survey on the effect of pornography in America. According to the study, every second in the U.S.:


• $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography

• 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography

• 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines


And every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is being created in the United States. Such statistics underscore the statement made by the prophet Jeremiah who mourned that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).


The Consequences of the Flesh


The Bible says that living in the flesh produces a number of unfortunate consequences. First, Scripture states that those who live according to the flesh, and who never desire change or repent from their sinful behavior, will experience separation from God both in this life and the next:


• "Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the [sinful practices] of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death" (Romans 6:21)


• "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:13)


• "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8)


Further, a person also becomes a slave to his/her fleshly nature: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). This slavery always leads to a destructive lifestyle and deteriorated living. As the prophet Hosea said, "For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).


The fact of the matter is that obeying the flesh always results in breaking God’s moral law. Nevertheless, in a very real sense, a person can never break God’s moral law, although he can certainly disobey it. For example, a person can climb up on a roof, tie a cape around his neck, and leap off the roof in hopes of breaking the law of gravity. However, he will quickly learn that he cannot fly; he cannot break the law of gravity, and the only thing he breaks in the end is himself, while proving the law of gravity in the process. The same is true of moral actions: a person may disobey God’s moral law through fleshly living, but he will only prove the moral law of God true by breaking himself in some way via his own behavior.


Overcoming the Flesh

The Bible provides a three-step process for overcoming the flesh and restoring oneself to a right relationship with God. The first step is a walk of honesty where a person acknowledges his sinful behavior before God. This involves agreeing with what the Bible says about everyone born of human parents: people are sinners and enter the world in a broken relationship with the God who made them:


• "If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3)


• "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. . . . If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10)


The next step is a walk in the Spirit, which involves calling out to God for salvation and receiving His Holy Spirit who empowers a person to live rightly before God and not obey the flesh’s desires. This transformation and new walk of life is described in several places in Scripture:


• “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20)


• "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:11)


• "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16)


• "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)


• "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." (Romans 13:14)


• "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18)


• "Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11)


The last step is a walk of death, where the flesh is starved of its desires so that it eventually dies. Even though a person is born again through the Spirit of God, he must understand he still possesses the old nature with its desires that war with the new nature and the desires that come from the Spirit. From a practical standpoint, the Christian purposely avoids feeding the old, fleshly nature and instead practices new behaviors that are driven by the Spirit:


• "But flee from [sinful actions], you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11)


• “Now flee from youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22)


• "But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.“ (1 Corinthians 9:27)


• "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)


• "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24)


• "Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6)


• "But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." (Ephesians 4:20-24)


Conclusion

Susanna Wesley, mother to the great preachers and hymn writers John and Charles Wesley, described sin and the flesh this way: "Whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things, in short—if anything increases the authority and the power of the flesh over the Spirit, that to you becomes sin however good it is in itself.” One of the goals of the Christian life is the victory of the Spirit over the flesh and a change of life, which manifests in righteous living before God.


Although the struggle will be very real (which the Bible makes clear), Christians have assurance from God that He will bring them eventual success over the flesh. "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).





02/12/20


The Joy of Intercession


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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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

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



PART II


What Is Poverty of Spirit?


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

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

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

“In spirit” expresses the understanding that poverty of spirit can’t be merely a hypocritical, outward act. Being a genuine spiritual beggar reflects true humility, not some phony, pretentious, mild-mannered behavior. Real poverty of spirit is what the prophet said the Lord looks for and affirms: “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2; cf. Pss. 34:1851:17).

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

Ask Yourself

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



PART III


God Is Always with Us


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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


PARTY IV


Reading for Today:

  • Exodus 33:1–34:35
  • Psalm 21:8-13
  • Proverbs 8:1-5
  • Matthew 26:1-25

Notes:

Exodus 33:12–17 Again Moses entered earnestly and confidently into the role of intercessor before God for the nation whom he again referred to as “Your people” (vv. 13, 16). Moses clearly understood that without God’s presence they would not be a people set apart from other nations, so why travel any further? Moses’ favored standing before the Lord comes out in the positive response to his intercession (v. 17).

Matthew 26:2 Passover. This was God’s chosen time for Christ to die. He was the antitype to which the Passover Lamb had always referred. Christ had always avoided His enemies’ plots to kill Him (Luke 4:29, 30; John 5:18; 10:39), but now it was His time. The true Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Matthew 26:11 For you have the poor with you always. Jesus certainly was not disparaging ministry to the poor—especially so soon after the lesson of the sheep and goats judgment (see 25:35, 36). However, He revealed here that there is a higher priority than any other earthly ministry, and that is worship rendered to Him. This would be an utter blasphemy for anyone less than God, so yet again He was implicitly affirming His deity.


How does Moses’ veiled face represent the inadequacy of the Old Covenant?

The first time on Mount Sinai (Ex. 24:12–32:14), unlike the second time (34:29–35), had not left Moses with a face which was reflecting some radiance associated with being in the presence of the Lord for an extended period of time.

The second time, in comparison with the first, was not interrupted by the Lord’s sending Moses away because of sin in the camp (32:7–10). A compliant and not defiant people feared the evidence of God’s presence. When not speaking to the Lord or authoritatively on His behalf to the people, Moses veiled his face.

The apostle Paul advised that the veil prevented the people from seeing a fading glory and related it to the inadequacy of the Old Covenant and the blindness of the Jews in his day (2 Cor. 3:7–18). Paul says that “we all,” not just Moses, or prophets, apostles, and preachers, but all believers are “with unveiled face.” Believers in the New Covenant have nothing obstructing their vision of Christ and His glory as revealed in the Scripture. Though the vision is unobstructed and intimate (“beholding as in a mirror”), believers do not see a perfect representation of God’s glory now, but will one day (see 1 Cor. 13:12). 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 (see 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 manifesting Christ to another. The more believers grow in their knowledge of Christ, the more He is revealed in their lives (see Phil. 3:12–14).





02/11/20


The Joy of Recollection


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

Suggestions for Prayer


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


PART II


God Is Everywhere


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


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

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


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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer

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


For Further Study

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



PART III


Distinctiveness of the Beatitudes


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


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


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


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


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

Ask Yourself


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



PART IV



Reading for Today:


Notes:

Exodus 32:4 a molded calf. The young bull, which Aaron caused to be fashioned, was a pagan religious symbol of virile power. A miniature form of the golden calf, although made of bronze and silver, was found at the site of the ancient Philistine city of Ashkelon. Since it dates to about 1550 B.C. it indicates that calf worship was known not only in Egypt, but also in Canaan prior to the time of Moses. In worshiping the calf, the Israelites violated the first 3 commandments (20:3–7).


Exodus 32:6 rose up to play. The Hebrew word allows for the inclusion of drunken and immoral activities so common to idolatrous fertility cults in their revelry. Syncretism had robbed the people of all ethical alertness and moral discernment (see 1 Cor. 10:7).


Exodus 32:32 blot me out of Your book. Nothing more strongly marked the love of Moses for his people than his sincere willingness to offer up his own life rather than see them disinherited and destroyed. The book to which Moses referred, the psalmist entitled “the book of the living” (Ps. 69:28).Untimely or premature death would constitute being blotted out of the book. The apostle Paul displayed a similar passionate devotion for his kinsmen (Rom. 9:1–3).


Psalm 21:3 You set a crown of pure gold upon his head. This is symbolic of superlative blessing (note the reversal in Ezek. 21:25–27).


Did Jesus Christ believe in everlasting punishment for the wicked?


Look at His words in Matthew 25:46.“And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” The same Greek word is used in both instances. The punishment of the wicked is as never-ending as the bliss of the righteous. The wicked are not given a second chance, nor are they annihilated. The punishment of the wicked dead is described throughout Scripture as “everlasting fire” (v. 41); 


“unquenchable fire” (3:12); “shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2); a place where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched”(Mark 9:44–49); a place of “torments” and “flame” (Luke 16:2324); “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9); a place of torment with “fire and brimstone” where “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever” (Rev. 14:1011); and a “lake of fire and brimstone ”where the wicked are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).


Here Jesus indicates that the punishment itself is everlasting—not merely the smoke and flames. The wicked are forever subject to the fury and the wrath of God. They consciously suffer shame and contempt and the assaults of an accusing conscience—along with the fiery wrath of an offended deity—for all of eternity. Even hell will acknowledge the perfect justice of God (Ps.76:10); those who are there will know that their punishment is just and that they alone are to blame (see Deut. 32:3–5).





02/10/20


The Joy of God's Peace


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


Suggestions for Prayer

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


For Further Study



PART II


God Doesn't Change


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


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


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

What about those verses that say God changed His mind (e.g., Amos 7:36Jonah 3:10)? Let’s look at an example. 


Jonah warned the wicked city of Nineveh of impending judgment. The city immediately repented, and “when God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it” (3:10). Who changed? The people of Nineveh! 


God’s nature to punish evil and reward good remained the same, but the object changed.


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


What does God’s unchanging character mean? To unbelievers, it means judgment. When God says, “The person who sins will die” (Ezek. 18:20) and “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), He means it. When He says Hell is eternal (Matt. 25:46Rev. 20:1013-15), then it is.


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


Suggestions for Prayer

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


For Further Study

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



PART III


This Sermon Is for Today


“He opened His mouth and began to teach them” (Matthew 5:2).


Because of the Sermon on the Mount’s seemingly impossible demands and behavioral standards that are counter to everything the world practices and holds dear, many Christians have taught that the Sermon applies only to the millennial age. If it were not just for a future kingdom era, the argument goes, Jesus would not have commanded believers to be perfect, just as their “heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).


But such an argument is invalid, for a number of reasons. First, and most obvious, the body of Jesus’ sermon nowhere indicates or even implies that its message should be set aside for a future age. Second, Jesus was delivering these instructions to people of the present age—His original hearers and us—not those living in the Millennium. Furthermore, many of the teachings become meaningless if we apply them to the Millennium. (For instance, there will be no persecution of Christians at that time; see Matt. 5:10–1244.)


The fourth reason these teachings have to apply now is that every principle and command Jesus sets forth is further applied by the writers of the New Testament epistles, directed to believers both then and now. And fifth, many other New Testament passages teach us standards that are equally unattainable as those in the Sermon on the Mount. Only with aid of the indwelling Spirit can these be done, even part of the time (cf. Phil. 1:9–10Col. 3:1–21 Peter 1:15–16).


Jesus’ sermon certainly does apply to us, marking out the distinctive lifestyle we should display to all those around us.


Ask Yourself

Which of the individual teachings from the Sermon on the Mount have you basically dismissed as being unattainable? Why have you classified one or more in this way? What could this deliberate refusal to obey tell you about the condition of your heart?


PART IV


Reading for Today:


Notes:

Exodus 29:45 I will dwell. That He would be God of the children of Israel and they would be His people was one thing, but that He would also dwell or tabernacle with them was a very important reality in the experience of the new nation. They were to understand not only the transcendence of their God, whose dwelling place was in the heaven of heavens, but also the immanence of their God, whose dwelling place was with them. Their redemption from Egypt was for this purpose (v. 46).


Psalm 20:7 Some trust in… Trust, boast, and praise must not be directed to the wrong objects but only to God Himself (see, e.g., Deut. 17:1620:1–4Lev. 26:78Ps. 33:1617Is. 31:1–3Jer. 9:2324Zech. 4:6).

Proverbs 7:8 took the path. Against the advice of Proverbs 4:1415, he put himself right in the harlot’s place. 


“Fleeing immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18) starts by not being in the harlot’s neighborhood at night.


Matthew 25:15 talents. A talent was a measure of weight, not a specific coin, so that a talent of gold was more valuable than a talent of silver. A talent of silver (the word translated “money” in v. 18 is literally silver) was a considerable sum of money. The modern meaning of the word “talent,” denoting a natural ability, stems from the fact that this parable is erroneously applied to the stewardship of one’s natural gifts.


What do the parables of the 10 virgins and of the talents tell us about Christ’s second coming?


The parable of the 10 virgins (Matt. 10:25:1–13) is given to underscore the importance of being ready for Christ’s return in any event—even if He delays longer than expected. The wedding would begin at the bride’s house when the bridegroom arrived to observe the wedding ritual. 


Then a procession would follow as the bridegroom took the bride to his house for the completion of festivities. For a night wedding, “lamps,” which were actually torches, were needed for the procession. For those not prepared when He does return, there will be no second chances (vv. 11, 12).


The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30) illustrates the tragedy of wasted opportunity. The man who goes on the journey represents Christ, and the servants represent professing believers given different levels of responsibility. Faithfulness is what he demands of them (v. 23), but the parable suggests that all who are faithful will be fruitful to some degree. Both the man with five talents and the man with two received exactly the same reward, “the joy of your lord,” indicating that the reward is based on faithfulness, not results. The slothful servant (v. 24) does not represent a genuine believer, for it is obvious that this man had no true knowledge of the master. This fruitless person is unmasked as a hypocrite and utterly destroyed (v. 30).




02/09/20


The Joy of Spiritual Unity

"To the saints . . . including the overseers and deacons" (Phil. 1:1).

Faithful spiritual leaders are worthy of your appreciation and esteem.

Paul's salutation includes the "overseers and deacons" at Philippi. That probably is not a reference to elders and deacons as we know them, but a general reference to all the Philippian saints, which included spiritual leaders (overseers) and those who followed (servants).

That implies unity and submission within the church, which brings joy to leaders and followers alike. Hebrews 13:17 emphasizes that point: "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."

Spiritual leadership is a sacred responsibility. Leaders are to lead, feed, and guard the flock of God, which Christ purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). They are accountable to God Himself for the faithful discharge of their duties.

You have a sacred responsibility as well: to obey and submit to your leaders. Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith." Paul adds in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, "Appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and . . . esteem them very highly in love because of their work."

Sadly, our society encourages criticism and mistrust of anyone in authority. Verbal assaults and character assassinations are common. Many within the church have adopted that attitude toward their spiritual leaders, whom they view as functionaries or paid professionals. Consequently many churches today are weak and ineffective from disunity and strife. Many pastors suffer untold grief from disobedient and ungrateful people.

You must never succumb to that mentality. Your leaders deserve your appreciation and esteem not because they are exceptionally talented or have winsome personalities, but because of the sacred work God called them to do.

Your godly attitude toward spiritual leaders will contribute immeasurably to unity and harmony within your church and will allow your leaders to minister with joy, not grief.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for your spiritual leaders. Pray for them and encourage them often.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 9:3-14.

  • What right was Paul discussing?
  • What illustrations did he use?


PART II


Becoming Holy

“But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

God requires holiness and in Christ provides us the means to attain it.

As we have learned, God is holy, and absolute holiness is the standard for anyone who wishes to be in His presence. “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). In the same way, men who reject God are sent “into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).

How then can anyone become holy? There’s only one way: through faith in Jesus Christ. It is through Christ’s sacrifice for us that God can credit holiness to our account (2 Cor. 5:21). First Corinthians 6:11 says, “But you were washed, but you were sanctified [made holy], but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” We are now called saints, and the Greek word for this in Scripture actually means “holy ones.”

So, by God’s grace we are positionally holy. By contrast, however, we are too often unholy in practice. But the Bible says, “Be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Peter 1:15) and “Let every one who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness” (2 Tim. 2:19). We need to be separate from the way the world lives. We need to let others know there is a difference in how Christians live.

When we live holy lives, we will have peace. “There is no peace . . . for the wicked” (Isa. 57:21), but God “disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Heb. 12:10). And that discipline “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v. 11). If you lack peace, you may well have let sin come between you and God. If so, follow David’s example in Psalm 51:9-10 and pray for a clean heart. You should also spend time with those who lead holy lives (Prov. 13:20; compare 1 Cor. 15:33).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God again that He has made you positionally holy in Christ.
  • Confess any sins you are aware of, and pray that you would live righteously today.

For Further Study

Answer the following questions, based on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21:

  • What did Christ do for us on the cross?
  • What happened to us when we were saved?
  • How should we live as a result?

PART III

Sermon on the Mount’s Significance

“When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him” (Matthew 5:1).

The gospel of the kingdom’s foundational truth (contained in the Sermon on the Mount) has had an impact for two thousand years on all who read and hear it. At least five reasons come to mind as to why Jesus’ greatest of sermons is so important.

First, the Sermon demonstrates the necessity of the new birth. In order for us to recognize our sin, Jesus made a fuller, clearer presentation of the law, followed by His offer of salvation. Jesus’ message here clarifies the reasons for sin’s curse and shows that we have no righteousness of our own to survive God’s scrutiny. Only those who have a new nature through Christ can meet the law’s demands. By no other way but saving faith can we have righteous attitudes as well as actions and be fully right with God.

Second, the Sermon points all listeners to their dependence on Christ’s enabling power to meet God’s standards.

Third, Jesus’ message gives us the Father’s pattern for true happiness and peace (cf. John 14:27Phil. 4:7). It provides the real pathway to the believer’s sanctification.

Next, the principles in the Sermon on the Mount are some of the greatest scriptural resources for evangelism. If you as a Christian personify these truths, your life will attract others to the Lord.

Last, the life that is obedient to the Sermon’s teachings is the only one that truly pleases God—and that is the highest, noblest objective of the Christian life.

Ask Yourself

Embarking on a devotional study of something as monumental as the Sermon on the Mount, you’re always sure to discover truths and insights you’ve never noticed before. Which one or two of the five statements above do you think you’re most ready to hear more about?

PART IV


Reading for Today:

Notes:

Exodus 27:9 the court of the tabernacle. The dimensions of the rectangular courtyard space, bordered by curtains and poles around the tabernacle were also precisely given (vv. 9–19; 150 feet by 75 feet). The outer hangings were high enough, 5 cubits or 7.5 feet, to block all view of the interior of the courtyard (v. 18). Entry into the courtyard of God’s dwelling place was not gained just generally and freely from all quarters.

Exodus 28:1 minister to Me as priest. The 3-fold repetition of this phrase in the opening words about Aaron’s priestly wardrobe would appear to stress the importance of his role in the religious life of the nation. Aaron’s sons were part of the priesthood being set up. The Hebrew text groups the sons in two pairs, the first pair being Nadab and Abihu, both of whom died because of wanton disregard of God’s instructions (Lev. 10:12). Aaron and his descendants, as well as the tribe of Levi, were selected by God to be Israel’s priests—they did not appoint themselves to the position. The law clearly defined their duties for worship and the sacrifices in the tabernacle and for the individual worshiper and the nation’s covenantal relationship to God.

Proverbs 7:2 apple of your eye. This expression refers to the pupil of the eye which, because it is the source of sight, is carefully protected (see Deut. 32:10Ps. 17:8Zech. 2:8). The son is to guard and protect his father’s teachings because they give him spiritual and moral sight.

Matthew 24:37 as the days of Noah were. Jesus’ emphasis here is not so much on the extreme wickedness of Noah’s day (Gen. 6:5), but on the people’s preoccupation with mundane matters of everyday life (“eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage”—v. 38), when judgment fell suddenly. They had received warnings, in the form of Noah’s preaching (2 Pet. 2:5)—and the ark itself, which was a testimony to the judgment that was to come. But they were unconcerned about such matters and therefore were swept away unexpectedly in the midst of their daily activities.


How should Jesus’ prophetic statements, many of which are found in Matthew 24 and 25, be interpreted?

The prophetic passages present a particular challenge for those seeking to understand a correct interpretation of Jesus’ words. The Olivet discourse (Matthew 24; 25), for example, contains some details that evoke images of the violent destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Jesus’ words in 24:34 have led some to conclude that all these things were fulfilled—albeit not literally—in the Roman conquest of that era. This view is known as “preterism.” But this is a serious interpretive blunder, forcing the interpreter to read into these passages spiritualized, allegorical meanings unwarranted by normal exegetical study methods. The grammatical-historical hermeneutical approach to these passages is the approach to follow, and it yields a consistently futuristic interpretation of crucial prophecies.



02/08/20


God's Holiness Revealed


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


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


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


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


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


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


His judgment on sin is a reflection of His holiness; He must punish it.

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


God’s holiness is so infinite, and our unholiness is so great, that only the sacrifice of the God-man could pay for the enormity of our sin.


Suggestions for Prayer

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


For Further Study

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


PART II


Healings’ Extraordinary Confirmations


“Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond Jordan” (Matthew 4:25).


The healing miracles of Jesus accomplished things that surpassed and were far more significant than the obvious, immediate benefit to those healed. 


First, they demonstrated He was the Son of God, since no mere man could do such feats. Jesus later instructed Philip and the other disciples, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves” (John 14:11).

Second, the marvelous healings revealed that God, through Christ, was and is compassionate to all who suffer: “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him” (Matt. 20:34).


Third, Jesus’ healings proved He was the predicted Messiah of the Old Testament. Jesus directly told John the Baptist’s disciples, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:4–5; cf. Isa. 35:5–1061:1–3).


Finally, the healing miracles proved that God’s kingdom is a reality (cf. Matt. 9:3510:7–8). Perhaps even more marvelous for us is that Jesus’ healings were a foretaste of a future kingdom: “The eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy” (Isa. 35:5–6; cf. Ps. 96:10).


Ask Yourself

Certainly, many in the “large crowds” came for what they viewed as a sideshow, an entertaining diversion from the humdrum. But are we often guilty of following while expecting nothing? Are you still willing to believe God for the unexplainable?


PART III


Reading for Today:


Notes:

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


Exodus 25:31 lampstand. Situated opposite the table of showbread on the south side of the Holy Place stood an ornate lampstand, or menorah, patterned after a flowering almond tree. It provided light for the priests serving in the Holy Place. Care was taken, according to God’s instructions (27:20, 21; 30:7, 8; Lev. 24:1–4), to keep it well supplied with pure olive oil so that it would not be extinguished. The lampstand is seen as typifying the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the true Light which came into the world (John 1:6–98:12).


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


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


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


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


Because at least some parts of the tabernacle hold special significance—the ark representing God’s covenant with His people—students of Scripture have looked for other possible deeper meanings. Ingenuity in linking every item of furniture and every piece of building material to Christ may appear most intriguing; but if New Testament statements and allusions do not support such linkage and typology, students ought to proceed with caution. 


The beauty and efficiency of the tabernacle’s design presents a tribute to God’s creative character, but those who look for hidden meaning in every tent peg and covering stitch run the risk of missing the big picture in the details. The New Testament points repeatedly to the awesome fact of God’s presence with people as represented in the Tabernacle. Other New Testament lessons (particularly the Book of Hebrews) help identify the intended symbols and deeper meanings.




02/07/20


The Joy of Sainthood


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

Every Christian is a saint.


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


PART II


God Is Holy


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


Suggestions for Prayer

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


For Further Study

Read the Book of Habakkuk.

  • What are the prophet’s questions?


PART III


Healings Validate Jesus’ Earthly Ministry


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


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


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


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


Ask Yourself

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



PART IV


Reading for Today:


Notes:

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


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


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


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


What broke Jesus’ heart about His people?

Read Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37: “I wanted to gather your children together,…but you were not willing!” God is utterly sovereign and therefore fully capable of bringing to pass whatever He desires (see Is. 46:10)—including the salvation of whomever He chooses (Eph. 1:45). Yet, He sometimes expresses a wish for that which He does not sovereignly bring to pass (see Gen. 6:6Deut. 5:29Ps. 81:13Is. 48:18). Such expressions in no way suggest a limitation on the sovereignty of God or imply any actual change in Him (Num. 23:19). But these statements do reveal essential aspects of the divine character: He is full of compassion, sincerely good to all, desirous of good, not evil—and therefore not delighting in the destruction of the wicked (Ezek. 18:3233:11).


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


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



02/06/20


"There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.  - 1 Samuel 2:2


God's holiness means He transcends everything else and is completely ratios and separated from evil.


Holiness is arguably God’s most significant attribute. The angels don’t sing, “Eternal, eternal, eternal” or “Faithful, faithful, faithful” or “Mighty, mighty, mighty.” Rather, they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty” (Rev. 4:8; compare Isa. 6:3). His holiness sums up all He is. The psalmist says, “Holy and awesome is His name” (Ps. 111:9). 


Moses sings, “Who is like Thee among the gods, O Lord? Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?” (Ex. 15:11). And Hannah prays, “There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides Thee, nor is there any rock like our God” (1 Sam. 2:2).


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


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


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


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

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


Suggestions for Prayer

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


For Further Study

Read the Book of Habakkuk.

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



The Joy of Sainthood

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


Every Christian is a saint.


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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



Healings Validate Jesus’ Earthly Ministry


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


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


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


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


Ask Yourself

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



Reading for Today:


Notes:

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


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


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


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


What broke Jesus’ heart about His people?

Read Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37: “I wanted to gather your children together,…but you were not willing!” God is utterly sovereign and therefore fully capable of bringing to pass whatever He desires (see Is. 46:10)—including the salvation of whomever He chooses (Eph. 1:45). Yet, He sometimes expresses a wish for that which He does not sovereignly bring to pass (see Gen. 6:6Deut. 5:29Ps. 81:13Is. 48:18). 


Such expressions in no way suggest a limitation on the sovereignty of God or imply any actual change in Him (Num. 23:19). But these statements do reveal essential aspects of the divine character: He is full of compassion, sincerely good to all, desirous of good, not evil—and therefore not delighting in the destruction of the wicked (Ezek. 18:3233:11).


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

“Your house is left to you desolate” (v. 38). A few days earlier, Christ had referred to the temple as His Father’s “house”(21:13). But the blessing and glory of God were being removed from Israel (see 1 Sam. 4:21). 


When Christ “departed from the temple” (24:1), the glory of God went with Him. Ezekiel 11:23 described Ezekiel’s vision of the departure of the Shekinah glory in His day. The glory left the temple and stood on the Mount of Olives, exactly the same route Christ followed here (see 24:3).


GOD BLESS YOU DEARLY


MAXIMILIANO






02/05/20


The Joy of Faithful Service


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


A faithful slave fulfills the will of his master.


The metaphor of Christians as slaves to Christ is common in Paul's writings. It is one his readers would have readily understood because of the prevalence of slavery in the Roman Empire.


Peter, James, John, and Jude used the same metaphor of their own ministries, as did Jesus in Mark 10:45: "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." In Philippians 2:7 Paul refers to Christ as a bond-servant who set aside the glory He was due and humbled Himself to the point of death.


The Greek word translated "bond-servant" in Philippians 1:1 was commonly used of those who, out of devotion to their masters, chose to remain as slaves when having the opportunity to be released. They were also known as love slaves because they served out of love, not compulsion.

That is a beautiful picture of the believer. We are God's bond-servants (Rev. 1:1), having been freed from sin and enslaved to Him (Rom. 6:22).


While slavery brings to mind deprivation and inhumane treatment of one's fellow man, slaves in the Roman Empire usually were treated with dignity and respect. Although most had no personal possessions, their masters supplied everything they needed for life and health. Additionally, many were entrusted with significant responsibilities in their master's home.


A disobedient or self-willed slave was of no use to his master, but faithful slaves, who set aside their personal interests to accomplish their master's will, were a precious possession.

Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work" (John 4:34). As God's bond-servant that should be your goal as well. Be faithful so God can use you mightily.


Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the privilege of serving Him.
  • Seek wisdom to appropriate your spiritual resources as you perform the tasks God has entrusted to you.


For Further Study

Philemon is a letter Paul wrote to accompany Onesimus, a runaway slave, whom Paul had led to the Lord and was now returning to his master, Philemon.

  • Read Philemon.
  • What was Paul's desire for Onesimus?
  • What does this letter reveal about Philemon's character?


PART II


God Is Three


“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).


Though there is only one God, He exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.


God is one, but He exists in three distinct Persons. We call this the Trinity, a contraction of “tri-unity,” meaning “three in one.” The word Trinity doesn’t appear in the Bible, but God’s existence as three Persons in one God is clear from Scripture.


Old Testament evidence of God’s plurality can be found in the very first verse: “In the beginning God . . .” (Gen. 1:1). The Hebrew word used for God is Elohim, which is a plural noun. Isaiah 42:1 speaks of the Messiah: “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” 


The Messiah says in Isaiah 48:16, “The Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.”

The New Testament is more explicit about God’s triune nature. After Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit of God descended upon Him as a dove, and the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are together in the same scene.


Jesus says, “And 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). Paul closes 2 Corinthians by saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (13:14). Peter declares that believers are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2).


So God is one, but God is three. This is a profound mystery that no human illustration can adequately describe and no scientific explanation can prove. The Trinity is something we have to take on faith, because God has taught it in Scripture.


Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God that He is so far above our finite understanding, yet has chosen to reveal Himself to us.


For Further Study

Read John 14—16.

  • What does Jesus teach about His relationship with the Father and the Spirit?
  • What do you learn here about the different functions or ministries of each member of the Trinity?


PART III


Kingdom Good News and Jesus’ Healings



“Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23).


Gospel means “good news,” and it was the good news of God’s kingdom—around which all of Jesus’ teaching revolved—that He preached throughout Galilee. His emphasis never veered off into politics, economics, social activism, or resolution of personal disputes, which is as it should be for any faithful gospel messenger.


Jesus’ primary teaching was always the divine good news—God’s gracious offer to deliver sinners “from the domain of darkness . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son” where they are saved and forgiven of their sins (Col. 1:13–14).


Initially, synagogues were the places where Jesus proclaimed the good news, the places where sincere, God-fearing Jews came to worship and hear God’s Word. Essentially, it was in those facilities that Jesus expected to find receptive audiences to His words, but He did not restrict His outreach to the people of Israel. The basic message of entering the sphere of God’s rule by faith in the saving gospel was and always has been open to anyone who trusts Christ’s invitation.


Jesus’ powerful, eternal words were unlike the words any other teacher had ever proclaimed. Even His fellow residents of Nazareth knew this and “were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips” (Luke 4:22). People at Capernaum also “were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority” (v. 32). Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God and His subsequent healings were the surest credentials that the Father had sent Him.


Ask Yourself

Jesus’ priorities were plainly obvious by the way He conducted Himself and the activities He chose to involve Himself in on a typical day. How would you enumerate your own priorities? And what day-to-day actions of yours back this up?


PART IV


Reading for Today:


Notes:

Exodus 22:22 widow or fatherless child. God reserved His special attention for widows and orphans who often had no one to care for them. He also reserved a special reaction, His wrath, for those abusing and exploiting them. This wrath would work out in military invasions as the sword reduced the abusers’ families to the same status of being without spouse or parents.


Exodus 22:25 interest. One way in which the people showed their concern for the poor and needy was to take no business advantage of them. Charging interest was allowable (Lev. 25:35–37Deut. 23:1920), but not when it was exorbitant or worsened the plight of the borrower. The psalmist identified a righteous man as one who lends money without interest (Ps. 15:5).


Proverbs 6:26 crust of bread. Here the smallest piece of bread demonstrates how the prostitute reduces the life of a man to insignificance, including the loss of his wealth, freedom, family, purity, dignity, and even his soul (v. 32).

Matthew 23:5 phylacteries. Leather boxes containing a parchment on which is written in 4 columns (Ex. 13:1–1011–16Deut. 6:4–911:13–21). 


These are worn by men during prayer—one on the middle of the forehead and one on the left arm just above the elbow. The use of phylacteries was based on an overly literal interpretation of passages like Exodus 13:910

Evidently the Pharisees would broaden the leather straps by which the phylacteries were bound to their arms and foreheads, in order to make the phylacteries more prominent. the borders of their garments. I.e., the tassels. Jesus Himself wore them, so it was not the tassels themselves that He condemned, only the mentality that would lengthen the tassels to make it appear that one was especially spiritual.


Why did Jesus have such a hard time with the Pharisees?

Throughout Matthew 23, the words Jesus uses to characterize the Pharisees exposes their true nature. To say they “sit in Moses’ seat” (v. 2) is an expression equivalent to a university’s “chair of philosophy.” It meant they had the highest authority to instruct people in the law. The expression here may be translated,“[they] have seated themselves in Moses’ seat”—stressing the fact that this was an imaginary authority they claimed for themselves. There was a legitimate sense in which the priests and Levites had authority to decide matters of the law (Deut. 7:9), but the scribes and Pharisees had gone beyond any legitimate authority and were adding human tradition to the Word of God (Matt. 15:3–9). For that Jesus condemned them (vv. 8–36).


As regards the Pharisees, Jesus tells the multitude to “observe and do” (v. 3) only what accords with the Word of God. The Pharisees were prone to bind “heavy burdens” (v. 4) of extra-biblical traditions and put them on others’ shoulders. Jesus explicitly condemned that sort of legalism. The Pharisees would even widen their “phylacteries” and lengthen their “tassels” to make it appear that they were especially spiritual.


Jesus warns against using the titles of “Rabbi…father…teachers” (vv. 8–10). Here Jesus condemns pride and pretense, not titles per se. Paul repeatedly speaks of “teachers” in the church, and even refers to himself as the Corinthians’ “father” (1 Cor. 4:15). Obviously, this does not forbid the showing of respect either (see 1 Thess. 5:11121 Tim.5:1). 


Christ is merely forbidding the use of such names as spiritual titles, or in an ostentatious sense that accords undue spiritual authority to a human being, as if he were the source of truth rather than God.



02/04/20


God Is Spirit


“‘God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth’” (John 4:24).


God is a person, but He has no physical characteristics.


As we begin our study of God, we must understand first of all that He is a person, not some unknowable cosmic force. In His Word, God is called Father, Shepherd, Friend, Counselor, and many other personal names. God is always referred to as “He,” not “it.” He also has personal characteristics: He thinks, acts, feels, and speaks.


We will learn three aspects of God’s person in the next several days: God is spirit, God is one, and God is three. First, God has no physical body as we have: “God is spirit” (John 4:24), and “a spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). Paul says He is “invisible” (1 Tim. 1:17). God represented Himself as light, fire, and cloud in the Old Testament and in the human form of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. But such visible revelations did not reveal the totality or fullness of God’s nature.


You may wonder about verses like Psalm 98:1, “His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him,” and Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place.” These descriptions are called anthropomorphisms, from the Greek words for “man” and “form.” They picture God as though He were a man because God has chosen to describe Himself in a way we can comprehend. If He did not accommodate His revelation to our finite level, we would have no hope of understanding Him. You should not take anthropomorphisms literally, however. Otherwise you will have a false view of God that robs Him of His real nature and His true power. Look at Psalm 91:4: “Under His wings you may seek refuge.” God is certainly not a bird, and “God is not a man” (Num. 23:19). He is spirit.


Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that He has enabled physical creatures like us to know Him.


For Further Study

Even though God is invisible, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Rom. 1:20). Read the response of a godly man to God’s natural revelation in Psalm 104.


PART II


The Joy of Exalting Christ


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


PART III


Qualities of Fishermen/Evangelists


“He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Matthew 4:19).


Our Lord did not merely command His new disciples to become “fishers of men,” He promised to help them catch people’s souls. He would remind them many times that they would never be effective disciplers—or successful disciples at all—if they didn’t rely on His power: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).


Certain qualities that make a person a good fisherman also can make Christians good evangelists. Consider the following four fisherman traits and how they can apply to evangelism.


First, a fisherman knows he often must be patient to locate a school of catchable fish. Second, a good fisherman must have perseverance in going from place to place, sometimes repeatedly, until he finds the fish. Third, effective fishermen have good instincts about being in the right place at the right time for dropping their line or net. Poor timing has lost many catches, both of fish and people. Finally, a good fisherman stays out of sight as much as possible. Similarly, the effective evangelist does not get in the way of his or her witnessing, so as not to be a hindrance to sinners coming to Christ.


Following Christ’s example and realizing the qualities of good evangelists, our churches must not only call us to evangelism but continually encourage us in that calling (cf. Matt. 28:18–19).


Ask Yourself

How much “fishing” have you been doing lately? This is not a job for the trained and educated but for all who have been called by God into His service. You won’t always come away with a catch, but you can know you were faithful to drop your line into the water.


PART IV


Reading for Today:


Notes:

Exodus 18:13–27 Jethro’s practical wisdom was of immense benefit to Moses and Israel and has been lauded as an example of delegation and management organization by efficiency experts for centuries—and still is. Woven into Jethro’s advice were statements about God and the virtues of godly men that cause one to respect this man as having his newfound faith well integrated into his thinking. Indeed, he fully recognized that Moses needed divine permission to enact his advice (v. 23). Moses apparently did not immediately implement Jethro’s solution, but waited until the law had been given (see Deut. 1:9–15).


Matthew 22:13 outer darkness. This would describe the darkness farthest from the light, i.e., outer darkness. weeping and gnashing of teeth. This speaks of inconsolable grief and unremitting torment. Jesus commonly used the phrases in this verse to describe hell (see 13:42, 50; 24:51).


Matthew 22:16 Herodians. A party of the Jews who supported the Roman-backed Herodian dynasty. The Herodians were not a religious party, like the Pharisees, but a political party, probably consisting largely of Sadducees (including the rulers of the temple). By contrast, the Pharisees hated Roman rule and the Herodian influence. The fact that these groups would conspire together to entrap Jesus reveals how seriously both groups viewed Him as a threat. Herod himself wanted Jesus dead (Luke 13:31), and the Pharisees were already plotting to kill Him, as well (John 11:53). So they joined efforts to seek their common goal.


DAY 3: Why was Moses’ rod so important as Joshua went into battle? Did it have magic powers?

Joshua, the name of Moses’ aide-de-camp, or personal minister (24:13; 33:11; Josh. 1:1), appears for the first time in Exodus 17:9. His assignment to muster a task force was part of his being groomed for military leadership in Israel. Actually, at this stage his name was still Hoshea, which later changed to Joshua at Kadesh just before the reconnaissance mission in Canaan (Num. 13:16). 


At this stage, Israel could not be described as a seasoned army and was not even militarily well prepared and trained.  The staff, or “the rod of God,” that Moses held up in his hands was no magic wand. Rather, it had been previously used to initiate, via God’s chosen leader, the miracles that God did and about which He had informed Moses in advance. It became, therefore, the symbol of God’s personal and powerful involvement, with Moses’ outstretched arms perhaps signifying an appeal to God.


The ebb and flow of battle in correlation with Moses’ uplifted or drooping arms imparted more than psychological encouragement as the soldiers looked up to their leader on the hilltop, and more than Moses’ interceding for them. It demonstrated and acknowledged their having to depend upon God for victory in battle and not upon their own strength and zeal. It also confirmed the position of Moses both in relation to God and the nation’s well-being and safety. They had angrily chided him for their problems (Ex. 17:2), but God confirmed His appointment as leader.


LORD BLESS HIS ELECT

My Royal Family


LOVINGLY IN THE LOVE OF OUR LORD JESUS

E+1DAY



MAXIMILIANO



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