ENCOURAGEMENT TODAY, CONQUERING DOUBT PART 34









03/25/20


Practical Humility


“Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5).


Real humility will have a forbearance that is gracious toward others and content with its own circumstances.


Some Greek words have various meanings that are hard to translate into just one English word. This is true of “forbearing” in today’s verse. It can refer to contentment, gentleness, generosity, or goodwill toward others. Some commentators say it means having leniency toward the faults and failures of others. Other scholars say it denotes someone who is patient and submissive toward injustice and mistreatment—one who doesn’t lash back in angry bitterness. It reminds us very much of what we have been considering for the past week—humility.


The humble believer trusts God and does not hold a grudge even though others have unfairly treated him, harmed him, or ruined his reputation. Such a person does not demand his rights. Instead, he will pattern his behavior after his Lord Jesus, who in supreme humility manifested God’s grace to us (Rom. 5:10).


If you are conscientiously following Christ, your behavior will go against the existentialism of modern society. Existentialism claims the right to do or say anything that makes one feel good. Today’s existentialist unbeliever has a twisted logic that says, “If something makes you feel good but hurts me, you can’t do it. But if something makes me feel good but hurts you, I can do it.”


Unhappily, many believers have been caught up in that kind of thinking. They don’t call it existentialism—self-esteem or positive thinking are the preferred terms—but the results are much the same. Such Christians do what satisfies their desires, often at the expense of other people. At its core, this kind of attitude is simply sinful self-love.


In contrast to such self-love, Philippians 4:5 exhorts us to exhibit humble forbearance and graciousness to others. Other Scriptures command us to love our enemies and show mercy to those who sin (Matt. 5:44; 1 Peter 4:8). Such qualities allowed the apostle Paul to say, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11). God wants us to be just as humble and content with our circumstances.


Suggestions for Prayer


Ask the Lord to help you remain content in the midst of all that happens to you today.


For Further Study


Read Jesus’ parable about mercy and compassion in Matthew 18:21-35.


What parallels do you find between the parable and our study of forbearance?

What kind of priority does Jesus give these issues?


PART II


APPRECIATING GOD'S GIFT



"Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11).


God is the source of every good gift.


God has given us everything good to enjoy, including rain to make things grow, minerals to make the soil fertile, animals for food and clothing, and energy for industry and transportation. Everything we have is from Him, and we are to be thankful for it all.


Jesus said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matt. 7:11). James 1:17 says, "Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow." Paul added, "Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim. 4:4-5).


Sadly, unbelievers don't acknowledge God's goodness, though they benefit from it every day. They attribute His providential care to luck or fate and His gracious provisions to nature or false gods. They do not honor Him as God or give Him thanks (Rom. 1:21).


The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson wrote, "If all be a gift, see the odious ingratitude of men who sin against their giver! God feeds them, and they fight against him; he gives them bread, and they give him affronts. How unworthy is this! Should we not cry shame of him who had a friend always feeding him with money, and yet he should betray and injure him? Thus ungratefully do sinners deal with God; they not only forget his mercies, but abuse them. 'When I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery [Jer. 5:7].' Oh, how horrid is it to sin against a bountiful God!—to strike the hands that relieve us!" (The Lord's Prayer [London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972], p. 197).


How sad to see such ingratitude, yet how thrilling to know that the infinite God cares for us and supplies our every need. Don't ever take His provisions for granted! Look to Him daily and receive His gifts with a thankful heart.


Suggestions for Prayer


Be generous with your praise for God's abundant blessings.


For Further Study


Read Genesis 1:29-31, noting the variety of foods God created for your enjoyment.


PART III


March 25 - The Function of Salt


“‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men’” (Matthew 5:13).


Salt has always been valuable in human society, often much more so than it is today. But the particular characteristics of salt that Jesus was referring to in this passage have resulted in various suggestions.


Some interpreters point out that salt is white and therefore represents purity. As the “pure in heart” (v. 8), Jesus’ disciples are to be pure before the world and are to be God’s means of helping purify the rest of the world.


Others emphasize the characteristic of flavor. Just as many foods are tasteless without salt, the world is drab and tasteless without the presence of Christians.


Because salt stings when placed on a wound, some interpreters believe Jesus meant to illustrate that Christians are to sting the world, prick its conscience, and thus make it uncomfortable in the presence of God’s gospel.


Salt also creates thirst. So others believe God intends for His people to live before the world in such a way that others will be made aware of their spiritual dehydration.


While all of these interpretations are reasonable, it’s likely Jesus was primarily referring to salt as a preservative. Christians are a preserving influence in the world; they retard moral and spiritual spoilage. As God’s children and as temples of His Holy Spirit, we represent God’s presence in the earth. We are the salt that prevents the entire earth from degenerating even faster than it already is.


Ask Yourself


In what ways are you and your church personifying the various properties of salt, whether by words, actions, or outreaches? Think very specifically. Which of these examples are proving to be the most effective at this, and why?


PART IV


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 11:1–12:32

Psalm 37:18-22

Proverbs 12:12-14

Luke 2:1-24

Notes:


Deuteronomy 11:24 Every place…your foot treads. In response to the obedience of Israel (vv. 22, 23), the Lord promised to give to Israel all of the land they personally traversed to the extent of the boundaries that He had given. This same promise was repeated in Joshua 1:3–5. Had Israel obeyed God faithfully, her boundaries would have been enlarged to fulfill the promise made to Abraham (Gen. 15:18). But because of Israel’s disobedience, the complete promise of the whole land still remains, to be fulfilled in the future kingdom of the Messiah (Ezek. 36:8–38).


Proverbs 12:14 fruit of his mouth. This deals with the power of words; the reward of wise words is like the reward for physical labor (10:11; 15:4; 18:4).


Luke 2:11 city of David. I.e., Bethlehem, the town where David was born—not the City of David, which was on the southern slope of Mt. Zion (2 Sam. 5:7–9). a Savior. This is one of only two places in the Gospels where Christ is referred to as “Savior”—the other being John 4:42, where the men of Sychar confessed Him as “Savior of the world.” Christ. ”Christ” is the Greek equivalent of “Messiah”. Lord. The Greek word can mean “master”—but it is also the word used to translate the covenant name of God. Here (and in most of its New Testament occurrences), it is used in the latter sense, as a title of Deity.



DAY 25: Why was there an emphasis on prescribed places of worship in the Old Testament?


In Deuteronomy 12:1–32, Moses begins by repeating his instructions concerning what to do with the false worship centers after Israel had taken possession of the land of the Canaanites (see 7:1–6). They were to destroy them completely. In v. 2, he speaks about “the high mountains…hills…every green tree.” The Canaanite sanctuaries to be destroyed were located in places believed to have particular religious significance. The mountain or hill was thought to be the home of a god; and by ascending the mountain, the worshiper was in some symbolic sense closer to the deity. Certain trees were considered to be sacred and symbolized fertility, a dominant theme in Canaanite religion. And in v. 3, Moses addresses “their altars,…pillars,…wooden images…carved images.” These were elements of Canaanite worship, which included human sacrifice (v. 31). If they remained, the people might mix the worship of God with those places (v. 4).


In contrast to false worship centers, the Israelites are told “you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place” (v. 5). Various places of worship were chosen after the people settled in Canaan, such as Mt. Ebal (27:1–8; Josh. 8:30–35), Shechem (Josh. 24:1–28), and Shiloh (Josh. 18:1), which was the center of worship through the period of Judges (Judg. 21:19). The tabernacle, the Lord’s dwelling place, was located in Canaan, where the Lord chose to dwell. The central importance of the tabernacle was in direct contrast to the multiple places (see v. 2) where the Canaanites practiced their worship of idols. Eventually, the tabernacle was brought to Jerusalem by David (2 Sam. 6:12–19).


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 






03/24/20


Jesus' Humility in Death


“He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).


In His suffering and death, Jesus is our supreme example of humility.


We naturally react to injustice with deep hurt and an assertion of our rights. But Jesus’ response to His accusers did not include one word of angry defensiveness. Matthew 27:12-14 tells us: “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He made no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?’ And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so that the governor was quite amazed.”


Later on, during His sham trial, Jesus continued to humble Himself. He accepted sinful men’s abuse when they whipped Him, stripped off His robe, planted a crown of thorns on His head, mocked Him, spat on Him, and beat on Him with a reed. Christ did not even demand His rights when He was condemned to death and forced to walk to Calvary half-naked with a cross on His back.


Today’s verse underscores the most shocking aspect of Christ’s humiliation: the kind of death He died. He endured crucifixion, the cruelest form of death ever devised. The Romans used it to execute rebellious slaves and the worst criminals. Because He was King of the Jews, Jesus’ death on the cross was seen as especially horrible by His people. The Jews had long known what the Law of Moses said: “He who is hanged [on a tree] is accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23). From everyone’s standpoint, the Son of God suffered the ultimate in human degradation.


But in spite of the detestable treatment He suffered, Christ graciously and lovingly died for sinners like you and me. Such an example of selfless humility ought to motivate us, His followers, as we minister to others, “since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).


Suggestions for Prayer


Give thanks that Jesus’ example of humility extended all the way to His willingness to redeem you.


For Further Study


Read one of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ suffering and death (Matt. 26—27; Mark 14—15; Luke 22—23; John 18—19). Record some observations about His general attitude during the ordeal.

In what situations and ways does He show humility?

If you have time, compare and contrast two of the accounts.


PART II


Receiving God's Provisions


"Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11).


God is glorified when He meets your needs.


In America, praying for our daily bread hardly seems necessary. Most people need to pray for self-control to avoid overeating! But Matthew 6:11 isn't talking about food only. It is a statement of dependency on God and an acknowledgment that He alone provides all of life's basic necessities.


Sad to say, however, many people today have reduced prayer to a means of self-fulfillment. Recently a woman sent me a booklet and wrote, "I don't think you understand the true resource we have in prayer. You should read this booklet." The booklet repeatedly emphasized our right as Christians to demand things of God. But that misses the point of prayer altogether, which is to glorify God (John 14:13). We are to give God the privilege of revealing His glory by meeting our needs in whatever way He chooses. If we demand things of Him, we are likely to become frustrated or to question Him when we don't get what we want. That's a serious sin!


David G. Myers, in his book The Human Puzzle (N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1978) said, "Some petitionary prayers seem not only to lack faith in the inherent goodness of God but also to elevate humankind to a position of control over God. God, the Scriptures remind us, is omniscient and omnipotent, the sovereign ruler of the universe. For Christians to pray as if God were a puppet whose strings they yank with their prayers seems not only potentially superstitious but blasphemous as well.


"When prayer is sold as a device for eliciting health, success, and other favors from a celestial vending machine, we may wonder what is really being merchandised. Is this faith or is it faith's counterfeit, a glib caricature of true Christianity?"


Guard your prayers! Always be aware of the enormous privilege you have to approach the infinite God and receive His gracious provisions. Yet always do so with His glory as your highest goal.


Suggestions for Prayer


Read Proverbs 30:8-9. What attitude toward God do those verses convey? Is that your attitude in prayer?


For Further Study


Read Matthew 6:19-34 and James 4:3. How might you respond to someone who says Christians have the right to demand favors from God?


PART III


March 24 - Salt and Light—the Nature of Believers


“‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 5:13–16).


In these four verses the Lord summarizes the function of believers in the world—influence. This is a mandate for Christians to influence the world. The Beatitudes are not to be lived in isolation or only among fellow believers, but everywhere we go.


In verses 13 and 14, the pronoun “you” is emphatic. The idea is, “You are the only salt the earth knows and the only light the world sees.” The world’s corruption won’t be retarded and its darkness won’t be illumined unless God’s people are its salt and light. “You” in both verses is plural; that means the whole body, the church, is called to be the world’s salt and light.


By definition, an influence must be different from that which it influences, and Christians must be different from the world they are called to influence. We cannot influence the world for God if we are worldly ourselves, nor can we give light to it if we retreat to places and ways of darkness ourselves.


Ask Yourself


Is there anything that’s currently taking the bite out of your saltiness, or dimming the brightness of your light? Deal openly with the Lord about these things, asking Him to rid you of their influence so that you can be used of God to influence others.


PART IV


March 24


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 9:1–10:22

Psalm 37:12-17

Proverbs 12:11

Luke 1:57-80

Notes:


Deuteronomy 9:3 a consuming fire. The Lord was pictured as a fire which burned everything in its path. So the Lord would go over into Canaan and exterminate Canaanites. destroy them quickly. Israel was to be the human agent of the Lord’s destruction of the Canaanites. The military strength of the Canaanites would be destroyed quickly (Josh. 6:1–11:23), though the complete subjugation of the land would take time (7:22; Josh. 13:1).


Deuteronomy 9:4 Because of my righteousness. Three times in vv. 4–6, Moses emphasized that the victory was not because of Israel’s goodness, but was entirely the work of God. It was the wickedness of the Canaanites that led to their expulsion from the land (see Rom. 10:6).


Deuteronomy 10:16 Therefore circumcise…your heart. Moses called the Israelites to cut away all the sin in their hearts, as the circumcision surgery cut away the skin. This would leave them with a clean relationship to God (see 30:6; Lev. 26:40, 41; Jer. 4:4; 9:25; Rom. 2:29).


Luke 1:80 was in the deserts. Several groups of ascetics inhabited the wilderness regions east of Jerusalem. One was the famous Qumran community, source of the Dead Sea Scrolls. John’s parents, already old when he was born, might have given him over to the care of someone with ties to such a community. In a similar way, Hannah consecrated Samuel to the Lord by entrusting him to Eli (1 Sam. 1:22–28). However, there is nothing concrete in Scripture to suggest that John was part of any such group. On the contrary, he is painted as a solitary figure, in the spirit of Elijah.



DAY 24: For whom did Luke write?


Luke, like Mark, and in contrast to Matthew, appears to target a Gentile readership. He identified locations that would have been familiar to all Jews (4:31; 23:51; 24:13), suggesting that his audience went beyond those who already had knowledge of Palestinian geography. He usually preferred Greek terminology over Hebraisms (e.g., “Calvary” instead of “Golgotha” in 23:33). The other Gospels all use occasional Semitic terms such as “Abba” (Mark 14:36), “rabbi” (Matt. 23:7, 8; John 1:38, 49), and “hosanna” (Matt. 21:9; Mark 11:9, 10; John 12:13)—but Luke either omitted them or used Greek equivalents.


Luke quoted the Old Testament more sparingly than Matthew; and when citing Old Testament passages, he nearly always employed the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Furthermore, most of Luke’s Old Testament citations are allusions rather than direct quotations, and many of them appear in Jesus’ words rather than Luke’s narration (2:23, 24; 3:4–6; 4:4, 8, 10–12, 18, 19; 7:27; 10:27; 18:20; 19:46; 20:17, 18, 37, 42, 43; 22:37).


Luke, more than any of the other Gospel writers, highlighted the universal scope of the gospel invitation. He portrayed Jesus as the Son of Man, rejected by Israel, and then offered to the world. He repeatedly related accounts of Gentiles, Samaritans, and other outcasts who found grace in Jesus’ eyes. This emphasis is precisely what we would expect from a close companion of the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13).


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 







03/23/20


Jesus' Humble Identification with Sinners


“. . . Emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).


Except for sin, Jesus experienced the everyday things of a normal man; but He was often not appreciated as the God-man.


Jesus could understand what people around Him were dealing with because He lived under the same conditions. He can also identify with us today. It is true that He never married, never went to college, and never used a computer or a VCR. But He still has perfect knowledge about such things, and more. The point is, Christ knows firsthand about our basic physical and emotional needs because He actually lived and worked in a world affected by the Fall.


But there was one element of our world Jesus did not partake in: sin. The conclusion of Hebrews 4:15 says He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Even though Jesus never sinned, He knows the struggles and temptations we face daily. Otherwise, He could not be the sympathetic High Priest that the first part of verse 15 mentions.


Although Jesus was a man who identified profoundly with those He came to serve, people around Him did not naturally see the most important thing about Him. Philippians 2:8 views Jesus from the perspective of those people. It says His human appearance was so authentic that most of them didn’t know that He was also God. Many of them simply could not accept that a man like Jesus could also be higher than them: “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” (John 6:42).


Christ’s close identification with mankind elicited a tragic response for people such as those in John 6. But for us, His humility is a great model and a heart-felt reassurance that He was perfectly man and perfectly God.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God that you can freely approach Him in prayer through Jesus, who can identify so closely with all our struggles as human beings.


For Further Study


Read John 11:1-45, which describes the death and resurrection of Lazarus. How did Jesus demonstrate His humanity and deity to the disciples and other eyewitnesses?



PART II


Praying Aggressively


"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).


Praying for God’s will to be done on earth is an aggressive prayer.


Many people assume that somehow everything that happens is God's will. But that's not true. Lives destroyed by murderous aggressors and families broken by adultery aren't God's will. Children and adults ravaged by abuse or crippled by disease aren't God's will. He uses sin and illness to accomplish His own purposes (Rom. 8:28), but they aren't His desire.


Eventually God will destroy all evil and fulfill His will perfectly (Rev. 20:10-14), but that hasn't happened yet. That's why we must pray for His will to be done on earth. We can't afford to be passive or indifferent in prayer. We must pray aggressively and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).


That's how David prayed. His passion for God's will compelled him to pray, "Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, so I will meditate on Thy wonders. . . . I shall run the way of Thy commandments, for Thou wilt enlarge my heart. Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, and I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, and keep it with all my heart. Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, for I delight in it" (Ps. 119:27, 32-35).


But David also prayed, "Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before God. But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; yes, let them rejoice with gladness" (Ps. 68:1-3). He loved God's will, but he also hated everything that opposed it.


When you truly pray for God's will to be done, you are aggressively pursuing His will for your own life and rebelling against Satan, his evil world system, and everything else that is at odds with God's will.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for David's example and for others who demonstrate a passion for God's will.

Ask for wisdom to see beyond your circumstances to what God wants to accomplish through them.

For Further Study


Read Psalm 119.


How can God's Word help you to know and obey God's will?

What was the psalmist's attitude toward the Word?



PART III


March 23 - Reasons for Gladness


“‘Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’” (Matthew 5:12).


Jesus provides us with two reasons for our rejoicing and being glad when we are persecuted for His sake.


First, He says, “Your reward in heaven is great.” Whatever we do for the Lord now, including suffering for Him—especially suffering for Him—reaps eternal divi-dends.


But God’s dividends aren’t ordinary dividends. They are not only “eternal” but also “great.” We often hear, and perhaps are tempted to think, that it is unspiritual and crass to serve God for the sake of rewards. But that is one of the motives God Himself gives for serving Him. We first of all serve and obey Christ because we love Him, just as on earth He obeyed the Father because He loved Him. But it was also because of “the joy set before Him” that Christ Himself “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). It is neither selfish nor unspiritual to do the Lord’s work for a motive that He Himself gives and has followed.


Second, we are to rejoice because the world “persecuted the prophets who were before” us in the same way that it persecutes us. Persecution is a mark of our faithfulness just as it was a mark of the prophets’ faithfulness. When we suffer for Christ’s sake, we know beyond a doubt that we belong to God because we are experiencing the same reaction from the world that the prophets experienced. So realize that if you are persecuted, you belong in the line of that great company of righteous servants.


Ask Yourself


What’s your immediate reaction to the idea that we labor for the “reward” of God’s blessing? God knows our hearts. He has given us desires to register our growth and progress in the faith. As long as the reward we seek is more of Jesus and to see Him glorified, should we be averse to wanting return on our faithful investment?



PART IV


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 7:1–8:20

Psalm 37:5-11

Proverbs 12:9-10

Luke 1:39-56

Notes:


Deuteronomy 7:2 utterly destroy them. All the men, women, and children were to be put to death. Even though this action seems extreme, the following needs to be kept in mind: 1) the Canaanites deserved to die for their sin (9:4, 5; see Gen. 15:16); 2) the Canaanites persisted in their hatred of God (7:10); and 3) the Canaanites constituted a moral cancer that had the potential of introducing idolatry and immorality which would spread rapidly among the Israelites (20:17, 18).


Deuteronomy 7:6 a holy people to the LORD your God. The basis for the command to destroy the Canaanites is found in God’s election of Israel. God had set apart Israel for His own special use, and they were His treasured possession. As God’s people, Israel needed to be separated from the moral pollution of the Canaanites.


Deuteronomy 8:11 do not forget the LORD your God. Sufficient food would lead to the satisfaction of Israel in the land (vv. 10, 12). This satisfaction and security could lead to Israel forgetting God. Forgetting God means no longer having Him in the daily thoughts of one’s life. This forgetfulness would lead to a disobedience of His commandments. Whereas, in the wilderness, Israel had to depend on God for the necessities of life, in the rich land there would be a tempting sense of self-sufficiency.


Luke 1:47 my Savior. Mary referred to God as “Savior,” indicating both that she recognized her own need of a Savior, and that she knew the true God as her Savior. Nothing here or anywhere else in Scripture indicates Mary thought of herself as “immaculate” (free from the taint of original sin). Quite the opposite is true—she employed language typical of someone whose only hope for salvation is divine grace. Nothing in this passage lends support to the notion that Mary herself ought to be an object of adoration.



DAY 23: Is Deuteronomy simply Moses’ version of the secular covenants and treaties of his day, or does it represent a unique revelation from God?


The format that Moses used in recording not only the material in Deuteronomy but also the rest of the Pentateuch bears some resemblance to other official documents from a particular time in history. This fact can be used by historians in trying to establish a date for the book. This fact can also be used by those who question God’s unique revelation when they claim that Moses must have merely been copying the style of other nations of his time.


The people whom God enlisted to record His revelation did not shed their personalities, education, or style as they wrote for God. Moses had the equivalent of advanced degrees in the best training Egypt had to offer young princes (Acts 7:22). If we think of the Pentateuch as Moses’ God guided journaling during the wilderness wanderings, it will not seem unusual that his writing style bears similarities to the official and political writings of his day. What sets Moses’ writings, along with the rest of Scripture, apart is not so much the style but their authoritative and God-inspired content.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 







03/22/20


The Humility of Jesus' Servanthood


“Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7).


Jesus is the role model of the suffering servant.


Jesus not only gave up His divine privileges when He emptied Himself, but He also became a servant. For us, this is the next phase in His supreme example of humility. Paul’s phrase “the form of a bond-servant” can also be translated “the essence of a slave.” Christ’s servanthood was not just external—it extended to the essential, down-to-earth role of a bond-slave doing the will of His Father.


We would expect Jesus, the God-man, to be a servant only in the truest fashion. His servitude was not performed like a stage player putting on and taking off the costume of a servant. Jesus truly became a servant. He perfectly fulfilled everything Isaiah predicted about Him (52:13-14). Jesus was the Messiah who was a suffering servant.


Christ’s entire earthly ministry is the yardstick by which we can measure servanthood. As God, He owned everything; as the servant, He had to borrow everything: a place to be born, a boat in which to cross the Sea of Galilee and preach from, a donkey (itself a symbol of humility and servitude) to ride into Jerusalem for His triumphal entry, a room to celebrate His final Passover in, and a grave to be buried in.


Our Savior acknowledged His role as a servant very simply: “I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27). And it was all done with love, with consistency, with humility, without the pretense of outward form.


As we continue to look to our Lord Jesus as the role model of humility, the challenge for us is to follow His attitude and practice. Paul instructs those who would be servants of Christ, “Let love be without hypocrisy. . . . Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:9-11).


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank and praise the Lord that Jesus was such a humble but willing servant on your behalf.


For Further Study


Isaiah 52:13—53:12 is known as the Suffering Servant passage. As you read it, write down the various ways it describes Jesus’ suffering.

How is His humility in evidence?



PART II


Praying with Commitment


"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).


Your prayers make a difference!


Matthew 6:10 literally says, "Whatever you wish to have happen, let it happen immediately. As your will is done in heaven, so let it be done on earth." That's a prayer of active commitment to God's will.


Many people don't pray like that because they don't understand God's character. They think their prayers don't matter and that God will impose His will on them no matter what they do. They tend to pray with passive resignation, indifference, or resentment.


I remember praying such a prayer. After my freshman year in college, I was in a serious auto accident. The driver lost control of the car at about seventy-five miles per hour and it rolled several times before coming to a stop. I was thrown clear of the vehicle and ended up sliding down the highway on my backside for about 100 yards. I lost a lot of skin and had some third-degree burns and other injuries, but fortunately I didn't break any bones.


I was conscious during the entire ordeal and vividly remember thinking, All right God. If you're going to fight this way, I give up! I can't handle this! I knew God was calling me into the ministry, but I was focusing my life in another direction.


I think God used that experience to get my attention, and my prayer of passive resignation soon turned to active commitment as He refined my heart and drew me to Himself.


Perhaps God has dealt severely with you, too. If so, it's only because He loves you and wants to produce the fruit of righteousness in you (Heb. 12:11). Don't despise His chastening, and don't be fatalistic or resentful in your prayers. Godly prayers make a difference (James 5:16), so commit yourself to praying expectantly, knowing that God is gracious and wise and always responds for His glory and your highest good (Rom. 8:28).


Suggestions for Prayer


If you tend to pray with indifference, passive resignation, or resentment, ask God's forgiveness. Study His character and cultivate deep communion with Him through disciplined, trusting prayer.


For Further Study


Read Luke 18:1-8.


Why did Jesus tell this parable?

What principles do you see that apply to your life?



PART III


March 22 - Posture for Gladness


“‘Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’” (Matthew 5:12).


The Christian’s response to persecution and affliction should not be to retreat and hide. Jesus told us we are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13–14). For our salt to flavor the earth and our light to lighten the world, we must be active in the world. The gospel is not given to be hidden but to enlighten. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (v. 16).


When we become Christ’s salt and light, our salt will sting the world’s open wounds of sin, and our light will irritate its eyes that are accustomed to darkness. But even when our salt and light are resented, rejected, and thrown back into our face, we should “rejoice, and be glad.”


The meaning of “be glad” is to exult, to rejoice greatly, to be overjoyed. Jesus used the imperative mood, thus commanding us to be glad. Not to be glad when we suffer for Christ’s sake is to be untrusting and disobedient.


The world can take away a great deal from God’s people, but it cannot take away their joy and their happiness. When people attack us for Christ’s sake, they are really attacking Him (cf. Gal. 6:17; Col. 1:24). And their attacks can do us no more permanent damage than they can do to Him.


So rejoice in the privilege we have been given to be salt and light, no matter the reaction.


Ask Yourself


Gladness joins many of the other qualities that make up the beatitudes, character traits that are unnatural enough to be impossible without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. So, what does it tell you when gladness bubbles up from within you? How can fear of persecution rival the joy of knowing that Christ is living and active in your heart?



PART IV


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 5:1–6:25

Psalm 37:1-4

Proverbs 12:8

Luke 1:21-38

Notes:


Deuteronomy 5:22 and He added no more. These Ten Commandments alone were identified as direct quotations by God. The rest of the stipulations of the covenant were given to Moses, who in turn gave them to the Israelites. These basic rules, which reflect God’s character, continue to be a means by which God reveals the sinful deeds of the flesh (see Rom. 7:7–14; Gal. 3:19–24; 5:13–26). They are also a holy standard for conduct that the saved live by through the Spirit’s power, with the exception of keeping the Sabbath (see Col. 2:16, 17).


Luke 1:27 a virgin. The importance of the virgin birth cannot be overstated. A right view of the incarnation hinges on the truth that Jesus was born of a virgin. Both Luke and Matthew expressly state that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived (Matt. 1:23). The Holy Spirit wrought the conception through supernatural means (v. 35; Matt. 1:18). The nature of Christ’s conception testifies of both His deity and His sinlessness.


Luke 1:34 I do not know a man. I.e., conjugally. Mary understood that the angel was speaking of an immediate conception, and she and Joseph were still in the midst of the long betrothal or engagement period (Matt. 1:18), before the actual marriage and consummation. Her question was born out of wonder, not doubt, nor disbelief, so the angel did not rebuke her as he had Zacharias (v. 20).


Luke 1:38 Let it be to me according to your word. Mary was in an extremely embarrassing and difficult position. Betrothed to Joseph, she faced the stigma of unwed motherhood. Joseph would obviously have known that the child was not his. She knew she would be accused of adultery—an offense punishable by stoning (Deut. 22:13–21; see John 8:3–5). Yet she willingly and graciously submitted to the will of God.



DAY 22: What was the greatest of God’s commandments?


Deuteronomy 6:4–9, known as the Shema (Hebrew for “hear”), has become the Jewish confession of faith, recited twice daily by the devout, along with 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD…LORD is one!” (v. 4). The intent of these words was to give a clear statement of the truth of monotheism, that there is only one God. Thus, it has also been translated “The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.” The word used for “one” in this passage does not mean “singleness,” but “unity.” The same word is used in Genesis 2:24, where the husband and wife were said to be “one flesh.” Thus, while this verse was intended as a clear and concise statement of monotheism, it does not exclude the concept of the Trinity.


“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (v. 5). First in the list of all that was essential for the Jew was an unreserved, wholehearted commitment expressed in love to God. Since this relationship of love for God could not be represented in any material way as with idols, it had to be demonstrated in obedience to God’s law in daily life. See 11:16–21; Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27.


“These words…in your heart”(v. 6).The people were to think about these commandments and meditate on them so that obedience would not be a matter of formal legalism, but a response based upon understanding. The law written upon the heart would be an essential characteristic of the later New Covenant (Jer. 31:33). And “teach them diligently to your children” (v. 7). The commandments were to be the subject of conversation, both inside and outside the home, from the beginning of the day to its end.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 








03/21/20


The Humility of Jesus' Servanthood


“Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7).


Jesus is the role model of the suffering servant.


Jesus not only gave up His divine privileges when He emptied Himself, but He also became a servant. For us, this is the next phase in His supreme example of humility. Paul’s phrase “the form of a bond-servant” can also be translated “the essence of a slave.” Christ’s servanthood was not just external—it extended to the essential, down-to-earth role of a bond-slave doing the will of His Father.


We would expect Jesus, the God-man, to be a servant only in the truest fashion. His servitude was not performed like a stage player putting on and taking off the costume of a servant. Jesus truly became a servant. He perfectly fulfilled everything Isaiah predicted about Him (52:13-14). Jesus was the Messiah who was a suffering servant.


Christ’s entire earthly ministry is the yardstick by which we can measure servanthood. As God, He owned everything; as the servant, He had to borrow everything: a place to be born, a boat in which to cross the Sea of Galilee and preach from, a donkey (itself a symbol of humility and servitude) to ride into Jerusalem for His triumphal entry, a room to celebrate His final Passover in, and a grave to be buried in.


Our Savior acknowledged His role as a servant very simply: “I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27). And it was all done with love, with consistency, with humility, without the pretense of outward form.


As we continue to look to our Lord Jesus as the role model of humility, the challenge for us is to follow His attitude and practice. Paul instructs those who would be servants of Christ, “Let love be without hypocrisy. . . . Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:9-11).


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank and praise the Lord that Jesus was such a humble but willing servant on your behalf.


For Further Study


Isaiah 52:13—53:12 is known as the Suffering Servant passage. As you read it, write down the various ways it describes Jesus’ suffering.

How is His humility in evidence?



PART II


Praying with Commitment


"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).


Your prayers make a difference!


Matthew 6:10 literally says, "Whatever you wish to have happen, let it happen immediately. As your will is done in heaven, so let it be done on earth." That's a prayer of active commitment to God's will.


Many people don't pray like that because they don't understand God's character. They think their prayers don't matter and that God will impose His will on them no matter what they do. They tend to pray with passive resignation, indifference, or resentment.


I remember praying such a prayer. After my freshman year in college, I was in a serious auto accident. The driver lost control of the car at about seventy-five miles per hour and it rolled several times before coming to a stop. I was thrown clear of the vehicle and ended up sliding down the highway on my backside for about 100 yards. I lost a lot of skin and had some third-degree burns and other injuries, but fortunately I didn't break any bones.


I was conscious during the entire ordeal and vividly remember thinking, All right God. If you're going to fight this way, I give up! I can't handle this! I knew God was calling me into the ministry, but I was focusing my life in another direction.


I think God used that experience to get my attention, and my prayer of passive resignation soon turned to active commitment as He refined my heart and drew me to Himself.


Perhaps God has dealt severely with you, too. If so, it's only because He loves you and wants to produce the fruit of righteousness in you (Heb. 12:11). Don't despise His chastening, and don't be fatalistic or resentful in your prayers. Godly prayers make a difference (James 5:16), so commit yourself to praying expectantly, knowing that God is gracious and wise and always responds for His glory and your highest good (Rom. 8:28).


Suggestions for Prayer


If you tend to pray with indifference, passive resignation, or resentment, ask God's forgiveness. Study His character and cultivate deep communion with Him through disciplined, trusting prayer.


For Further Study


Read Luke 18:1-8.


Why did Jesus tell this parable?

What principles do you see that apply to your life?



PART III


March 22 - Posture for Gladness


“‘Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’” (Matthew 5:12).


The Christian’s response to persecution and affliction should not be to retreat and hide. Jesus told us we are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13–14). For our salt to flavor the earth and our light to lighten the world, we must be active in the world. The gospel is not given to be hidden but to enlighten. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (v. 16).


When we become Christ’s salt and light, our salt will sting the world’s open wounds of sin, and our light will irritate its eyes that are accustomed to darkness. But even when our salt and light are resented, rejected, and thrown back into our face, we should “rejoice, and be glad.”


The meaning of “be glad” is to exult, to rejoice greatly, to be overjoyed. Jesus used the imperative mood, thus commanding us to be glad. Not to be glad when we suffer for Christ’s sake is to be untrusting and disobedient.


The world can take away a great deal from God’s people, but it cannot take away their joy and their happiness. When people attack us for Christ’s sake, they are really attacking Him (cf. Gal. 6:17; Col. 1:24). And their attacks can do us no more permanent damage than they can do to Him.


So rejoice in the privilege we have been given to be salt and light, no matter the reaction.


Ask Yourself


Gladness joins many of the other qualities that make up the beatitudes, character traits that are unnatural enough to be impossible without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. So, what does it tell you when gladness bubbles up from within you? How can fear of persecution rival the joy of knowing that Christ is living and active in your heart?



PART IV


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 5:1–6:25

Psalm 37:1-4

Proverbs 12:8

Luke 1:21-38

Notes:


Deuteronomy 5:22 and He added no more. These Ten Commandments alone were identified as direct quotations by God. The rest of the stipulations of the covenant were given to Moses, who in turn gave them to the Israelites. These basic rules, which reflect God’s character, continue to be a means by which God reveals the sinful deeds of the flesh (see Rom. 7:7–14; Gal. 3:19–24; 5:13–26). They are also a holy standard for conduct that the saved live by through the Spirit’s power, with the exception of keeping the Sabbath (see Col. 2:16, 17).


Luke 1:27 a virgin. The importance of the virgin birth cannot be overstated. A right view of the incarnation hinges on the truth that Jesus was born of a virgin. Both Luke and Matthew expressly state that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived (Matt. 1:23). The Holy Spirit wrought the conception through supernatural means (v. 35; Matt. 1:18). The nature of Christ’s conception testifies of both His deity and His sinlessness.


Luke 1:34 I do not know a man. I.e., conjugally. Mary understood that the angel was speaking of an immediate conception, and she and Joseph were still in the midst of the long betrothal or engagement period (Matt. 1:18), before the actual marriage and consummation. Her question was born out of wonder, not doubt, nor disbelief, so the angel did not rebuke her as he had Zacharias (v. 20).


Luke 1:38 Let it be to me according to your word. Mary was in an extremely embarrassing and difficult position. Betrothed to Joseph, she faced the stigma of unwed motherhood. Joseph would obviously have known that the child was not his. She knew she would be accused of adultery—an offense punishable by stoning (Deut. 22:13–21; see John 8:3–5). Yet she willingly and graciously submitted to the will of God.



DAY 22: What was the greatest of God’s commandments?


Deuteronomy 6:4–9, known as the Shema (Hebrew for “hear”), has become the Jewish confession of faith, recited twice daily by the devout, along with 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD…LORD is one!” (v. 4). The intent of these words was to give a clear statement of the truth of monotheism, that there is only one God. Thus, it has also been translated “The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.” The word used for “one” in this passage does not mean “singleness,” but “unity.” The same word is used in Genesis 2:24, where the husband and wife were said to be “one flesh.” Thus, while this verse was intended as a clear and concise statement of monotheism, it does not exclude the concept of the Trinity.


“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (v. 5). First in the list of all that was essential for the Jew was an unreserved, wholehearted commitment expressed in love to God. Since this relationship of love for God could not be represented in any material way as with idols, it had to be demonstrated in obedience to God’s law in daily life. See 11:16–21; Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27.


“These words…in your heart”(v. 6).The people were to think about these commandments and meditate on them so that obedience would not be a matter of formal legalism, but a response based upon understanding. The law written upon the heart would be an essential characteristic of the later New Covenant (Jer. 31:33). And “teach them diligently to your children” (v. 7). The commandments were to be the subject of conversation, both inside and outside the home, from the beginning of the day to its end.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 







03/20/20


No Pride of Position


“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:5-6).


Christ’s coming to earth is the supreme example to us of humility.


We can usually identify with what someone else has experienced when we have gone through the same thing. Even if we haven’t been through what the other person has, we can perhaps relate because we might someday have a similar experience.


However, it is much harder to comprehend what Christ experienced when He stooped from His lofty position at the right hand of God to come to earth as a man. We’ll never understand the magnitude of that descent because we never were and never will be God. Nevertheless, today’s passage presents, as a pattern for us, Jesus’ attitude in coming to this world.


As a Spirit-filled believer (Eph. 1:3-5, 13), the Lord has lifted you out of your sin and given you the privilege of being His adopted child. He thereby allows you to recognize and appreciate a little more what humility is all about. Like Jesus, you will have to descend from an exalted level when you reach out in humility to those who don’t know Him.


Jesus further set the standard for us when He did not view His high position “a thing to be grasped.” Loftiness of calling should never be something we clench as a prized personal possession to exploit for our own benefit. That is the attitude we would expect to see in worldly people of influence. But it should not characterize those who claim to follow Jesus’ standard.


In contrast, if you are Christ’s disciple you will see more and more of His humility in your life. That will occur as you continually exercise a selfless attitude toward the privileges and possessions He has given you. By not clinging to these benefits, you will truly exemplify Jesus’ attitude and more effectively serve others: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10).


Suggestions for Prayer


Pray that, starting today, God would grant you more and more of a Philippians 2:5-6 attitude.


For Further Study


As Ephesians 1 spells out, you have much to be thankful for as a child of God. Read the entire chapter, and list the many spiritual benefits Paul describes. Try memorizing several verses that are particularly striking to you.



Building God's Kingdom


"Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10).


Conversion to Christ involves three elements: invitation, repentance, and commitment.


Someday Christ will return to earth to reign in His kingdom. In the meantime He rules in the hearts of those who love Him.


Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave us a mandate to evangelize the lost and teach them His Word (Matt. 28:19- 20). When we do, sinners are converted and transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13). That's how His kingdom grows.


Conversion is a work of the Spirit in the heart of unbelievers. He uses a myriad of people and circumstances to accomplish that work, but common to every true conversion are three key elements: invitation, repentance, and commitment.


In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus, by way of a parable, invites people to come into His kingdom. As an evangelist, you too should not only present the gospel, but also invite others to respond to what they've heard.


In Mark 1:14-15 we read, "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'" Repentance is feeling sorrow over your sin and turning from it (2 Cor. 7:9-11).


True repentance results in a commitment to respond to the righteous demands of the gospel. In Mark 12:34 Jesus says to a wise scribe, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." The scribe had all the information necessary for entering the kingdom. What he lacked was a commitment to act on what he knew. Luke 9:62 says, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." You might know everything about the kingdom, but Christ's rule is not established in your heart until you've made a complete commitment to it.


When you pray for Christ's kingdom to come, you are praying an evangelistic prayer that you take part in answering. Be faithful to proclaim the gospel and make intercession for unbelievers a regular part of your prayers.


Suggestions for Prayer


Pray for unbelieving family and friends.

Ask the Lord for the opportunity to share Christ with an unbeliever today.

For Further Study


Read John 4.


How did Jesus broach the subject of salvation with the Samaritan woman?

Did He extend an invitation to her? Explain.

How did the townspeople react to her report about Jesus?



Foreseeing False Accusations


“‘Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me’” (Matthew 5:11).


Faithfulness to Christ will bring enemies of the gospel who will “falsely say all kinds of evil against” us. Whereas “insults” are abusive words said to our faces, these “evil” things are primarily abusive words said behind our backs.


Jesus’ critics said of Him, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matt. 11:19). If the world said that of the sinless Christ, what things can His followers expect to be called and accused of?


Slander behind our backs is harder to take, partly because it is harder to defend against than direct accusations. It has opportunity to spread and be believed before we have a chance to correct it. Those who slander us can do much harm to our repu-tations before we’re even aware that we’ve been slandered.


We can’t help regret being slandered, but we shouldn’t grieve about it. Instead, we should count ourselves blessed, as our Lord assures us we will be, when the slander is “because of Me.” We have no surer evidence of the Lord’s blessing than to be cursed for His sake. It should not seriously bother us when men’s curses fall on the head that Christ has eternally blessed.


Are you prepared to accept the slander you might receive because you are a Christian?


Ask Yourself


We can sometimes invite persecution by being unduly abrasive and difficult, so that others do not persecute us as much for our faith as for the tacky way we express it. How can we tell the difference? Are people being offended by Christ or just by us? There is certainly no blessing in being obnoxious.



Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 1:1–2:37

Psalm 36:1-6

Proverbs 12:4-6

Mark 16:1-20

Notes:


Deuteronomy 1:7, 8 the land. The land which the Lord set before Israel to go in and possess was clearly described here. The mountains of the Amorites referred to the hill country to the west of the Dead Sea. The plain (Arabah) was the land in the rift valley from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south. The mountains were the hills that run through the center of the land north and south. These hills are to the west of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. The lowland referred to the low rolling hills that sloped toward the Mediterranean coast (Shephelah). The south (Negev) described the dry wasteland stretching southward from Beersheba to the wilderness. The seacoast referred to the land along the Mediterranean Sea. The boundaries of the land of the Canaanites were given in Numbers 34:1–15. Lebanon to the north marked the northwestern boundary on the coast. The northeast boundary of the land was the Euphrates River. See Numbers 34:1–12.


Deuteronomy 1:10 the stars of heaven. The Lord had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:5; 22:17).The nation’s growth proved both God’s intention and ability to fulfill His original promises to Abraham.


Mark 16:3 Who will roll away the stone…? Only Mark records this discussion on the way to the tomb. The women realized they had no men with them to move the heavy stone (v. 4) away from the entrance to the tomb. Since they had last visited the tomb on Friday evening, they did not know it had been sealed and a guard posted, which took place on Saturday (Matt. 27:62–66).


Mark 16:4 the stone had been rolled away. This was not to let Jesus out, but to let the witnesses in. When the angel rolled away the stone (Matt. 28:2), the earthquake may have affected only the area around the tomb, since the women apparently did not feel it.



Were the last 12 verses of Mark 16 originally in the Gospel?


The external evidence strongly suggests these verses were not originally part of Mark’s Gospel. While the majority of Greek manuscripts contain these verses, the earliest and most reliable do not. A shorter ending also existed, but it is not included in the text. Further, some that include the passage note that it was missing from older Greek manuscripts, while others have scribal marks indicating the passage was considered spurious. The fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Jerome noted that almost all of the Greek manuscripts available to them lacked vv. 9–20.


The internal evidence from this passage also weighs heavily against Mark’s authorship. The grammatical transition between vv. 8 and 9 is abrupt and awkward. The vocabulary in these verses does not match the rest of Mark. Even the events and people mentioned in these verses appear in awkward fashion. For example, Mary Magdalene is introduced as if she were a new person on the scene rather than someone Mark had mentioned three times (v. 1; 15:40, 47). Clearly, Mark16:9–20 represents an early attempt to complete Mark’s Gospel.


While for the most part summarizing truths taught elsewhere in Scripture, these verses should always be compared with the rest of Scripture, and no doctrines should be formulated based solely on them. Further, in spite of all these considerations of the likely unreliability of this section, it is possible to be wrong on the issue. It is good to consider the meaning of this passage and leave it in the text, just as with John 7:53–8:11.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 






03/19/20


“What are some of the signs of genuine saving faith?"


This is one of the most important questions in the Christian life. Many believers doubt their salvation because they don’t see signs of genuine faith in their lives. There are those who say we should never doubt our decision to follow Christ, but the Bible encourages us to examine ourselves to see if we are truly “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Thankfully, God has given us ample instruction for how we can know for sure that we have eternal life. The first epistle of John was actually written for that purpose, as it states in 1 John 5:13, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." 


There is a series of tests in 1 John that we can use to examine ourselves and our faith. As we look at them, remember that no one will perfectly fulfill all of them all the time, but they should reveal a consistent trend that characterizes our lives as we grow in grace.


1. Do you enjoy having fellowship with Christ and His redeemed people? (1 John 1:3)

2. Would people say you walk in the light, or walk in the darkness? (1 John 1:6-7)

3. Do you admit and confess your sin? (1 John 1:8)

4. Are you obedient to God's Word? (1 John 2:3-5)

5. Does your life indicate you love God rather than the world? (1 John 2:15)

6. Is your life characterized by "doing what is right"? (1 John 2:29)

7. Do you seek to maintain a pure life? (1 John 3:3)

8. Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life? (1 John 3:5-6) [Note: this refers to not continuing in sin as a way of life, not a total absence of sin.]

9. Do you demonstrate love for other Christians? (1 John 3:14)

10. Do you "walk the walk," versus just "talking the talk"? (1 John 3:18-19)

11. Do you maintain a clear conscience? (1 John 3:21)

12. Do you experience victory in your Christian walk? (1 John 5:4)


If you are able to truthfully answer "Yes" to these questions (or a majority of them, and are working on the others), then your life is bearing the fruit of true salvation. Jesus said that it is by our fruits that we are known as His disciples (Matthew 7:20). Fruitless branches—professing believers who do not display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) are cut off and thrown into the fire (John 15:6). A genuine faith is one that not only believes in God (the devils themselves do that - James 2:19), but leads to open confession of sin and obedience to Christ's commands. Remember, we are saved by grace through faith, not by our works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but our works should display the reality of our salvation (James 2:17-18). Genuine saving faith will always produce works; a faith that is perpetually without works is no faith at all and saves no one.


In addition to these confirmations, we need to remember God's promises and the reality of the war we are in. Satan is just as real as Jesus Christ, and he is a formidable enemy of our souls. When we turn to Christ, Satan will look for every opportunity to deceive and defeat us. He will try to convince us that we are unworthy failures or that God has given up on us. When we are in Christ, we have the assurance that we are kept by Him. Jesus Himself prayed for us in John 17:11 that the Father would "protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one." Again in verse 15, He prayed, "keep them from the evil one."


In John 10:27-29, Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." If you hear and obey the voice of Jesus, then you are one of His sheep, and He will never let you go. Jesus gave a wonderful word picture here of Christians securely held within His loving hands and the Father's almighty hands wrapping themselves around His, giving us a double assurance of eternal security.


PART II 

Question: "What does it mean to walk by faith not by sight?"


Answer: Second Corinthians 5:6–7 says, "So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight" (ESV, emphasis added). Other versions use the word live, rather than walk. The "walk" here is a metaphorical reference to the way a person conducts his or her life. We still use the phrase "all walks of life" to mean a variety of lifestyles or cultures.


The apostle Paul reminds his readers that followers of Christ must not build their lives around things that have no eternal significance. Rather than pursuing the same things the world pursues, a Christian should focus on the unseen realities such as Jesus and heaven. Paul goes on to say, "So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Corinthians 5:9–10). Jesus instructed us to store up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19–20; Luke 12:33). He promised rewards to everyone who does His will (Matthew 16:27; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 22:12) and punishment for those who reject Him (Matthew 25:24–46; John 3:16–18).


Walking by faith means living life in light of eternal consequences. To walk by faith is to fear God more than man; to obey the Bible even when it conflicts with man’s commands; to choose righteousness over sin, no matter what the cost; to trust God in every circumstance; and to believe God rewards those who seek Him, regardless of who says otherwise (Hebrews 11:6).


Rather than loving the things of this world (1 John 2:15–16), Christians should spend their lives glorifying God in everything they do (1 Corinthians 10:31). It requires faith to live this way because we cannot see, hear, or touch anything spiritual. When we base our lives on the truth of God’s Word, rather than on the popular philosophy of our day, we are going against our natural inclinations. Our natural instincts may be to horde money, but walking by faith says we should "give to those in need" (Luke 11:41; Ephesians 4:28). Society may say that sexual immorality is acceptable, but those who walk by faith base their standards on the unchangeable nature of God’s Word, which says any sex outside of marriage is sin (1 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 5:3; Galatians 5:19). To walk by faith requires that we tune our hearts to the voice of the Holy Spirit and the truth of His Word (John 10:27; 16:13). We choose to live according to what God reveals to us, rather than trust our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5–6).


PART III 

Question: "What does it mean that the Bible should be our sole authority for faith and practice?"


Answer: The statement “the Bible is our only rule for faith and practice” appears in many doctrinal statements. Sometimes, it takes a similar form, stating that the Bible is “the final authority,” “the only infallible rule,” or “the only certain rule.” This sentiment, whatever the wording, is a way for Bible-believing Christians to declare their commitment to the written Word of God and their independence from other would-be authorities.


The statement that the Bible is the “only rule for faith and practice” is rooted in the sufficiency of Scripture, as revealed in 2 Timothy 3:16–17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Because God is sovereign, His Word is the absolute authority in our lives, and by it God equips us for His service. As A. A. Hodge wrote, “Whatever God teaches or commands is of sovereign authority. . . . The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the only organs through which, during the present dispensation, God conveys to us a knowledge of his will about what we are to believe concerning himself, and what duties he requires of us” (Outlines of Theology, chapter 5).


When we say, “The Bible is our only rule for faith and practice,” we mean that we hold the Bible, God’s Holy Word, to be our ultimate guide for what we believe (“faith”) and what we do (“practice”). We mean that the Bible trumps man’s authority, church tradition, and our own opinions. We mean we will allow nothing that opposes God’s Word to dictate our actions or control our thinking. We mean that we agree with the Reformers’ cry of sola scriptura.


When the Bible clearly reveals a truth, we believe it with all our hearts. When the Bible clearly commands us to do something, we make sure we are doing it. For example, the Bible says that Jesus is coming back again (John 14:3; Revelation 19:11–16). Since the Bible is our “only rule for faith,” we have no choice but to believe that Jesus is returning some day. Also, the Bible says that we are to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Since the Bible is our “final authority for practice,” we are bound to abstain from immorality (as defined by the Bible).


We believe following the Bible as our only rule of faith and practice is the safest position, theologically. Fidelity to Scripture keeps us from being “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14). As the noble Bereans taught us (Acts 17:11), all doctrines are to be examined in light of the Bible, and only what conforms to biblical truth should be accepted.


Following the Bible is also the most sensible position, because the Word of God “is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89) and “the law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).


PART IV


Question: "Who were Hymenaeus and Alexander, and what does it mean that their faith was shipwrecked?"


Answer: Hymenaeus and Alexander were men in the early church in Ephesus who had “suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” and so were “handed over to Satan” by the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 1:19–20). Hymenaeus and Alexander are thus examples of those who reject the true doctrine and follow the false. Later, Hymenaeus is mentioned with Philetus, another false teacher (2 Timothy 2:17). An opponent of Paul named Alexander the metalworker is mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:15–16, but whether or not this is the same Alexander mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:19 is unknown.


Paul writes to his apprentice, Timothy, for the express purpose of exhorting him to “fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:18–19) while pastoring a church. Paul begins his epistle with a warning against false doctrine and myths (verses 3–4) and a charge to remain true to “sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel” (verses 10–11). Paul then provides the names of Hymaneaus and Alexander as examples of what can happen when someone does not fight the good fight and keep the faith and a clear conscience.


Here is the passage that mentions Hymenaeus and Alexander: “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:18–20).


Paul does not expound on the error of Hymenaeus and Alexander. Timothy obviously knew who they were and knew their situation well. Second Timothy 2:18 gives a little more detail, saying that Hymanaeus and his new partner in sin, Philetus, “have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.” Paul likens their false doctrine to a gangrene that spreads corruption and destroys life (verse 17).


The idea of the “shipwrecked” faith of Hymenaeus and Alexander in 1 Timothy 1:19 is that they had veered off course, away from good teaching, and drifted into the dangerous rocks of false teaching. They had wrecked their faith. Paul clearly links faith with a good conscience (and the righteous behavior that comes with good conscience) in 1 Timothy 1:5 and 19. Interestingly, the word translated “rejected” in verse 19 is a nautical term meaning “thrown overboard.” Hymenaeus and Alexander had tossed out the good conscience that comes with proper belief—in other words, they loved sin. The “ship” of their faith, not having the ballast it needed, went out of control and wrecked. So those who accept false teachings and ignore their conscience will suffer spiritual damage, like a ship that hits the rocks and is broken up.


It seems that Hymenaeus and Alexander must have professed faith in Christ at one point, since it is their “faith” that was shipwrecked. But they refused to follow the dictates of their conscience. They walked according to the flesh and not the Spirit (see Romans 8:5–9), claiming the name of Christ while behaving like unbelievers. As commentator Albert Barnes wrote, “People become infidels because they wish to indulge in sin. No man can be a sensualist, and yet love that gospel which enjoins purity of life. If people would keep a good conscience, the way to a steady belief in the gospel would be easy. If people will not, they must expect sooner or later to be landed in infidelity” (Notes on the Bible, commentary on 1 Timothy 1:19). Hymenaeus and Alexander did not lose their salvation; either they were pretenders exposed for what they were or they were straying believers disciplined by a loving God (see Hebrews 12:6).


Paul says that he had delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander “to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:19). There is one other time when Paul had delivered a person to Satan: a man who professed to believe in Jesus but simultaneously living an immoral lifestyle was delivered “over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5). Note that the reason Paul metes out such a harsh apostolic judgment is the benefit of all those involved. The church would be purified, and the erring individuals would be brought to repentance. The goal for the man in Corinth was that he would submit to God and be saved from spiritual ruin. The goal for Hymenaeus and Alexander was that they “be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20).


Paul himself had been a blasphemer at one time (1 Timothy 1:13), but, praise God, he testified that “the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (verse 14). Paul’s desire for the shipwrecked Hymenaeus and Alexander is that they would also learn not to blaspheme and come to know the grace and mercy of the Lord.


GOD BLESSED YOU!





03/18/20


Placing Others Above Yourself


“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (Philippians 2:3).


One important way to prevent factionalism in the church is to regard other members as more important than yourself.


“Humility of mind” is a distinctive New Testament expression. There were similar terms in secular writings, but none that exactly fit the purposes of the New Testament writers. One form of the Greek word was used to describe the mentality of a slave. It was a term of derision, signifying anyone who was considered base, common, shabby, or low. Among pagans before Christ’s time, humility was never a trait to be sought or admired. Thus the New Testament introduced a radically new concept.


In Philippians 2:3 Paul defines “humility of mind” simply as seeing others as more important than yourself. But how often do we really consider others that way? Frequently, even within the church, we think just the opposite of what Paul commands. For example, we are sometimes prone to criticize those with whom we minister. It is naturally easier for us to speak of their faults and failures than it is to refer to our own.


But Paul’s attitude was different. He knew his own heart well enough to call himself the worst of sinners: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15). The apostle was also humble enough to realize that in his own strength he was not worthy of the ministry to which he had been called: “I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9).


Your knowledge of others’ sins and graces is based on their outward words and actions, not on what you can read from their hearts. But you, like Paul, do know your own heart and its sinful shortcomings (cf. Rom. 7). That ought to make it much easier to respect and honor others before yourself. And when you do that, you are helping prevent factionalism in your church and contributing to the edification of fellow believers.


Suggestions for Prayer


Examine your life and ask God to help you turn from anything that would be keeping you from “humility of mind.”


For Further Study


Read Genesis 13, and notice what happened between Abraham and his nephew Lot. How did God reassure Abraham after his graciousness toward Lot?



Praying for Christ's Rule


"Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10).


When you pray, “Thy kingdom come,” you are praying for Christ to reign on earth as He already does in Heaven.


When we hear the word kingdom we tend to think of medieval castles, kings, knights, and the like. But "kingdom" in Matthew 6:10 translates a Greek word that means "rule" or "reign." We could translate the phrase, "Thy reign come." That gives a clearer sense of what Christ meant. He prayed that God's rule would be as apparent on earth as it is in heaven.


God's kingdom was the central issue in Christ's ministry. He proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23) and instructed His followers to make the kingdom a priority in their own lives (Matt. 6:33). He told parables about its character and value (Matt. 13) and indicted the scribes and Pharisees for hindering those who sought to enter it (Matt. 23:13). After His death and resurrection, He appeared for forty days giving the disciples further instruction about the kingdom (Acts 1:2-3).


When we pray "Thy kingdom come," we are praying for Christ's sovereign rule to be as established on earth as it is in heaven. In one sense the kingdom is already here—in the hearts of believers. It consists of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). But in another sense the kingdom is yet future. In Luke 17:21 Jesus says, "Behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst" (cf. John 18:36). Their King was present but they rejected Him. Someday He will return again to establish His kingdom on earth and personally reign over it. That's the aspect of the kingdom we pray for in Matthew 6:10.


Sin and rebellion are now rampant, but when Christ's kingdom comes, they will be done away with (Rev. 20:7-9). In the meantime, the work of the kingdom continues and you have the privilege of promoting it through your prayers and faithful ministry. Take every opportunity to do so today and rejoice in the assurance that Christ will someday reign in victory and will be glorified for all eternity.


Suggestions for Prayer


Praise God for the glorious future that awaits you and all believers.

Pray with anticipation for the coming of Christ's eternal kingdom.

For Further Study


Read Matthew 13:1-52. What parables did Jesus use to instruct His disciples about the kingdom of heaven?



Anticipating Physical Persecution


“‘Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:10).


The Greek word that is translated “persecuted” and “persecute” in Matthew 5:10–12 has the basic meaning of chasing, driving away, or pursuing. From that meaning developed the connotations of physical persecution, harassment, abuse, and other unjust treatment.


The believer who possesses the qualities described in the first seven beatitudes will be willing to face persecution “for the sake of righteousness.” He will have an attitude of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ. He is exemplified by a lack of fear and shame and the presence of courage and boldness. The tense of the Greek verb indicates that the believer has a continuous willingness to endure persecution if it is the price of godly living.


Under the demands of this beatitude many Christians break down in their obedience to the Lord; here is where the genuineness of their response to the other beatitudes is most strongly tested. It is where we are most tempted to compromise the righteousness we have hungered and thirsted for. It is here where we find it convenient to lower God’s standards to accommodate the world and thereby avoid conflicts and problems we know obedience will bring.


But God does not want His gospel altered under pretense of its being less demanding, less righteous, or less truthful than it is. He does not want witnesses who lead the unsaved into thinking that the Christian life costs nothing.


Do a spiritual inventory and make sure you are willing to pay the cost for the sake of righteousness.


Ask Yourself


What causes us to wish that Christian faith weren’t so costly? When our hearts lead us to compromise in order to avoid detection and possible derision, what lies are we really telling ourselves? And why doesn’t the secretive safety provided by these actions leave us feeling satisfied?



Reading for Today:


Numbers 33:1–34:29

Psalm 35:9-16

Proverbs 12:2

Mark 15:1-24


Notes:


Numbers 33:56 I will do to you as I thought to do to them. If Israel failed to obey God, she would be the object of God’s punishment in exactly the same way as the Canaanites were.


Psalm 35:10 LORD, who is like You…? This had become a canonized expression of awe at the uniqueness of Israel’s great God (see Ex. 15:11; Mic. 7:18).


Mark 15:7 Barabbas. A robber (John 18:40) and murderer (Luke 23:18,19) in some way involved as an anti-Roman insurrectionist. Whether his involvement was motivated by political conviction or personal greed is not known. It is impossible to identify the specific insurrection in question, but such uprisings were common in Jesus’ day and were precursors of the wholesale revolt of A.D. 66–70.


Mark 15:17 clothed Him with purple;…crown of thorns. “Purple” was the color traditionally worn by royalty. The “crown of thorns” was in mockery of a royal crown. The callous soldiers decided to hold a mock coronation of Jesus as king of the Jews.


Mark 15:21 Condemned prisoners were required to carry the heavy crossbeam of their cross to the execution site. Exhausted from a sleepless night and severely wounded and weakened by His scourging, Jesus was unable to continue. The Roman guards conscripted Simon, apparently at random, to carry Jesus’ crossbeam the rest of the way. Simon, from the North African city of Cyrene, was on his way into Jerusalem. The identification of him as “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Rom. 16:13) is evidence of Mark’s connection with the church at Rome.



What are some general, time-tested principles that will help rightly interpret Proverbs?


One of the most common characteristics of Proverbs is the use of parallelism—placing truths side by side so that the second statement expands, completes, defines, and emphasizes the first. Sometimes a logical conclusion is reached; at other times, a logical contrast is demonstrated.


The following tools will assist a student in gaining greater confidence as he or she interprets these Proverbs: 1) determine what facts, principles, or circumstances make up the parallel ideas in that proverb—what two central concepts or persons are being compared or contrasted; 2) identify the figures of speech and rephrase the thought without those figures—for example, restate the idea behind “put a knife to your throat”(23:1–3); 3) summarize the lesson or principle of the proverb in a few words; 4) describe the behavior that is being taught or encouraged; and 5) think of examples from elsewhere in Scripture that illustrate the truth of that proverb.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 






03/17/20


The Deity of Christ


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


Christ possesses the very nature of God.


In the second part of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christiana and her children travel toward the Celestial Country. During their pilgrimage, Interpreter introduces them to one of his male servants, whose name is Great-heart. When Christiana asks Great-heart to explain the nature of Christ’s forgiveness, part of his answer is: “He [Christ] has two natures in one Person, easy to distinguish but impossible to divide. 


There is a righteousness that belongs to both of these natures, and each righteousness is essential to that nature, so that one might as easily kill that nature as to separate its righteousness from it.” Bunyan was affirming through his character Great-heart what Scripture says of Christ: He is God.


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


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


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


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


Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


PART II


Jesus: Our Great High Priest


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


Suggestion for Prayer

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


For Further Study

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


PART III


Meekness from Jesus, Comfort for the Weak


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


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


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

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


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


Ask Yourself

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


PART IV

Reading for Today:


Notes:

Daniel 8:3–9 This imagery unfolded historically. The ram pictures the Medo-Persian Empire as a whole, its two horns standing for the two entities (the Medes and the Persians) that merged into one. The history of this empire is briefly noted in v. 4, as it is seen conquering from the east to the west, south and north, under Cyrus, as predicted also by Isaiah 150 years earlier (Is. 45:1–7).The higher horn, which appeared last, represents Persia. The goat (v. 5) represents Greece with its great horn Alexander, who with his army of 35,000 moved with such speed that he is pictured as not even touching the ground. 


The broken horn is Alexander in his death; the 4 horns are generals who became kings over 4 sectors of the Grecian Empire after Alexander (7:6). The small horn is Antiochus Epiphanes, who rose from the third empire to rule the Syrian division in 175–164 B.C. and is the same king dominant in 11:21–35. In 7:8, 24–26, a similar “little horn” clearly represents the final Antichrist. The reason both are described as “little horns” is because one prefigures the other.


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


2 Peter 3:3 knowing this first. “First” here means the preeminent matter, not the first in a list. Peter’s priority in this section of his letter is to warn Christians about how the false teachers would try to deny this judgment and steal the hope of believers. scoffers will come. False teachers argue against the Second Coming of Christ or any teaching of Scripture through ridicule (Is. 5:19Jude 18). in the last days. 


This phrase refers to that entire period of time from the arrival of the Messiah to His return (Acts 2:17Gal. 4:42 Tim. 3:1Heb. 1:21 Pet. 1:201 John 2:1819James 5:3Jude 18).The entire age will be marked by saboteurs of the Christian truth and especially the hope of Christ’s return.


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


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


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


When accurate prophecy and possible miracles are discounted by definition as unacceptable, proving Daniel’s value becomes challenging. But the problem has little to do with lack of evidence and much to do with willful unbelief. Skeptical interpreters, unwilling to acknowledge supernatural prophecies in Daniel that came to pass (over 100 in chapter 11 alone that were fulfilled), attempt to replace miraculous foresight with simple observation. They assume that the writer of Daniel was actually living in the time of Antiochus and reported current events in prophetic form. 


That is, the writer wrote as though he was predicting certain events, when, in reality, he was writing after the events had occurred. For scholars like these, no amount of fulfilled prophecy will be enough to convince them. They actually become a reminder to believers that people are not argued into the kingdom of God. The most compelling evidence as well as the most resistant people both need the assistance of God’s Spirit in arriving at genuine faith.


GOD BLESSES YOU!






03/16/20


Threats to Humility: Doctrine and Hypocrisy


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


Avoid pride in your position, intelligence, or spirituality.


Years ago, when my children were young, my son Mark told my youngest child, Melinda, to take something out of the room. She said, “You’re not my boss.” Mark replied, “Dad is the boss of Mom, Mom is the boss of Matt, Matt is the boss of Marcy, Marcy is the boss of me, and I am the boss of you.” So Melinda obeyed. After that, Melinda decided she was the boss of the dog, and the dog was boss of nobody. No one wants to be on the bottom rung of the ladder!


Everyone holds a certain position in life, and everyone is tempted to take advantage of it. Look at Herod in Acts 12:21-22: “Herod, having put on his royal apparel . . . began delivering an address to them. And the people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’” He loved the attention. What happened? “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died” (v. 23).


Intellectual pride can also be a stumbling block. It’s easy for Christians to think their theology is perfect and they have all the answers. But the more I study the Bible, the more I realize how little I know. I feel like a child who fills a pail in the ocean. My learning is only a small bucket of water compared to the vast sea of knowledge. I know very little, and I’m still learning.


The worst type of pride is external spirituality without internal holiness. Jesus reserved His greatest condemnations for those who had such pride: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:27-28). You may look spiritual on the outside, going to church and acting “Christianly,” but your heart may be full of sin.


Suggestions for Prayer


Examine your heart, and confess any pride in your position, intelligence, or spirituality.


For Further Study


Read in Daniel 5 about what happened to a king who took pride in his position. Notice how God humbled him. Such sin wasn’t trivial to God; it shouldn’t be to us either.



Hallowing God's Name


"Hallowed be Thy name" (Matt. 6:9).


God is holy and deserves your highest respect and your humble obedience.


To most people the word hallowed elicits thoughts of Halloween, ivy-covered walls, or starchy religious traditions. But those are all far from its biblical meaning. "Hallowed" in Matthew 6:9 translates a Greek word that means "holy." When Christ said, "Hallowed be Thy name," He was saying in effect, "May Your name be regarded as holy." When you hallow God's name, you set it apart from everything common and give Him the place He deserves in your life.


Throughout Scripture, holiness is attributed to persons or things that are consecrated to God's service. The Sabbath day, for example, was to be kept holy—set apart from the other days (Ex. 20:8). The Israelite priests were to be considered holy because they rendered special service to the Lord (Lev. 21:8). As believers in Christ we are to be holy because we belong to God (1 Pet. 1:15).


Holiness also speaks of moral excellence and purity. God is called the "Holy One" (1 Pet. 1:15) not only because He is set apart from His creation, but also because He is pure and sinless in His character. That's why Isaiah pronounced a curse on himself when he saw the Lord and heard the angels crying out, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isa. 6:3- 5). He was overcome with a sense of his own human sinfulness in the presence of a holy God.


Such a God deserves your highest respect and reverence. He is your gracious and loving Father, but He is also the sovereign, majestic God of the universe. Consequently, you must guard against thinking of Him as a buddy or addressing Him flippantly.


Additionally, He deserves your humble obedience. You hallow His name only when your life is marked by righteousness and moral excellence.


May that be true of you today, and may you seek to honor Him in all that you do!


Suggestions for Prayer


Always approach God with a sense of respect and reverence.

Think of specific ways that you can hallow His name today. Ask Him for the grace to do so.

For Further Study


Read each of these verses, noting the specific ways you can glorify God: Joshua 7:19; Psalm 50:23; John 15:8; Romans 15:5-6; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Philippians 2:9-11; and 2 Thessalonians 3:1.



The Nature of Persecution


“‘Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’” (Matthew 5:10–12).


Our Lord’s teaching on the beatitudes climaxes with this great and sobering truth: those who faithfully live according to the first seven beatitudes are guaranteed at some point to experience the eighth. Godliness generates hostility and antagonism from the world. Holy people are singularly blessed, but they pay a price for it.


However, persecution is one of the surest and most tangible evidences of salvation. If we never experience ridicule, criticism, or rejection because of our faith, we have reason to examine the genuineness of it. “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:29–30).


To live a redeemed life to its fullest is to invite and expect resentment and reaction from the world. When Christians are not persecuted in some way by society, it generally means they are reflecting rather than confronting that society. And when we please the world, we can be sure that we grieve the Lord (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17). Make sure you are living apart from the world and its allurements.


Ask Yourself


How do you experience persecution in your life, perhaps at work, within your family (including parents and in-laws), or among the various people you routinely associate with? How do you typically respond to it—if not directly, at least in the thoughts you entertain?



Reading for Today:


Numbers 29:1–30:16

Psalm 34:15-22

Proverbs 11:30-31

Mark 14:27-54


Notes:


Psalm 34:18 broken heart,…contrite spirit. These are graphic idioms that describe dependent disciples (see Pss. 51:17; 147:3; Is. 57:15; 61:1; 66:2; Matt. 5:3).


Proverbs 11:30 wins souls. Literally, “to take lives,” in the sense of doing them good or influencing them with wisdom’s ways (see Luke 5:10). The word is also used for capturing people for evil purposes as in 6:25; Psalm 31:13; Ezekiel 13:18.


Proverbs 11:31 recompensed. God’s final blessing and reward to the “righteous” and His judgment and punishment of the “ungodly and the sinner” come after life on this earth has ended. But there are foretastes of both during life on the earth, as the righteous experience God’s personal care and goodness, while the wicked are void of it.


Mark 14:32 Gethsemane. The name means “oil press” and referred to a garden filled with olive trees on a slope of the Mt. of Olives. Jesus frequented this spot with the disciples when He wanted to get away from the crowds to pray (John 18:12; Matt. 26:36).


Mark 14:36 Abba. An endearing, intimate Aramaic term that is essentially equivalent to the English word “Daddy” (see Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). all things are possible. Jesus knew that it was in the scope of God’s power and omniscience to provide an alternate plan of salvation, if He desired. cup. This was the cup of divine wrath referred to in the Old Testament (Ps. 75:8; Is. 51:17; Jer. 49:12). Christ was to endure the fury of God over sin, Satan, the power of death, and the guilt of iniquity. not what I will, but what You will. This reveals Jesus’ total resolution and resignation to do the will of God. He came into the world to do God’s will, and that remained His commitment while here (Matt. 26:39; John 6:38–40).


Who was involved in the arrest of Jesus?


“Judas, one of the twelve,” was the betrayer (Mark 14:43). All the Gospel writers refer to him this way (vv. 10, 20; Matt. 26:14, 47; Luke 22:47; John 6:71); and in so doing, they display remarkable restraint in describing and evaluating Judas. Especially in this context, such a simple description actually heightens the evil of his crime more than any series of derogatory epithets or negative criticisms could do. It also points out the precise fulfillment of Jesus’ announcement in vv. 18–20.


“A great multitude with swords and clubs” also was there. This “multitude” was a carefully selected group whose sole purpose was arresting Jesus so He could be put to death. A cohort (600 men at full strength) of Roman soldiers (John 18:3, 12) was in this crowd because the Jewish leaders (see Luke 22:52) who organized the throng needed permission from Rome to carry out the death penalty and feared the crowds. The “swords” were the regular small hand weapons of the Romans, and the wood “clubs” were ordinary weapons carried by the Jewish temple police.


Then there were the “chief priests…scribes…elders.” Although 3 distinct sections of the Sanhedrin, they were acting in unity. These Jewish leaders had evidently for some time hoped to accuse Jesus of rebellion against Rome. Then, His execution could be blamed on the Romans and the leaders could escape potential reprisals from those Jews who admired Jesus. The Sanhedrin likely had hurried to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, to ask immediate use of his soldiers, or perhaps acted on a prearranged agreement for troop use on short notice. Whatever the case, the leaders procured the assistance of the Roman military from Fort Antonia in Jerusalem.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 


MAXIMILIANO 




03/15/20


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

Our possessions and positions in life are from God; we can’t take credit for them.


Many today take pride in their economic status. They boast about their riches and trust their money, thinking they must be great for acquiring all they have. But remember what Moses said to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land: “You may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth” (Deut. 8:1718). Everything you have, God gave to you. Don’t parade your possessions as if you obtained them through your self-created abilities.


A related area is pride in one’s class, which involves looking down on those in “lower” levels of society. Such people don’t want lower-class people in their neighborhoods and certainly wouldn’t invite them to dinner. If you are guilty of this sort of pride, keep in mind that God loves poor people. Jesus Himself was poor in this world and spent most of His time ministering to the poor.


Sometimes in moving up the social ladder, people may demand a certain kind of treatment. They expect the best of everything and get offended when they don’t receive it. One of the things Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees for was this: “They love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi” (Matt. 23:6-7). Resist the temptation to seek worldly honor, glamour, and privileges.


Advertisers today continually entice us to draw attention to ourselves by what we wear. But undue attention to appearance can make people haughty, boastful, and indulgent, trying to show themselves as better than others. God hates that sin (Isa. 3:16-26).


John said, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. . . . The world is passing away, and also its lusts” (1 John 2:15, 17). Don’t let the world tell you what you should seek or value. Remember instead that “the one who does the will of God abides forever” (v. 17).


Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to give you contentment with your present status and to help you reach out to those not so blessed.


For Further Study

Read Luke 14:8-10; 1 Timothy 2:9-10; and James 2:2-8 and see if you are guilty of materialism or social pride.



"Hallowed be Thy name" (Matt. 6:9).


Prayer should always exalt God.

The Disciples' Prayer illustrates the priority that God should hold in our prayers. Jesus began by exalting the Father: "Hallowed be Thy name" (v. 9), then requested that the Father's kingdom come and His will be done (v. 10). He concluded with an anthem of praise: "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen" (v. 13). His prayer literally begins and ends with God.


"Hallowed be Thy name" exalts the name of the Lord and sets a tone of worship and submission that is sustained throughout the prayer. Where God's name is hallowed, He will be loved and revered, His kingdom eagerly anticipated, and His will obeyed.


"Thy name" speaks of more than a title such as "God," "Lord," or "Jehovah." It speaks of God Himself and is the composite of all His attributes. The Hebrews considered God's name so sacred they wouldn't even speak it, but they missed the point. While meticulously guarding the letters of His name, they slandered His character and disobeyed His Word. Because of them the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles (Rom. 2:24).


Psalm 102:15 says, "The nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory." It's not the letters of God's name that the nations fear; it's the embodiment of all He is. As Jesus prayed, "I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me" (John 17:6). He did that by revealing who God is. John 1:14 says, "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." Jesus told Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus is the manifestation of all who God is.

Manifesting the priority of God in your prayers involves acknowledging who He is and approaching Him with a reverent, humble spirit that is yielded to His will. As you do that, He will hallow His name through you.


Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for His holiness.
  • Ask Him to use you today to demonstrate His holiness to others.


For Further Study

Read Numbers 20. How did Moses show irreverence for God's name?



“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).


The result of peacemaking is eternal blessing as God’s children in God’s kingdom. Peacemakers “shall be called sons of God.”


Most of you are thankful for your heritage, your ancestors, your parents, and your family name. It is especially gratifying to have been influenced by godly grandparents, parents, or both. But even the greatest human heritage cannot match our heritage in Christ (Rom. 8:17). After all, what could compare to being a child of God?


Peacemaking is a hallmark of God’s children. Only God determines who His children are, and He has determined that we are to be humble, penitent over sin, gentle, seekers of righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and ultimately peacemakers.


As the next beatitude makes abundantly clear, we often don’t have peace in the world; we have persecution instead. In Christ we have forsaken the false peace of the world, and consequently we won’t find much peace with it. But as God’s children we can always have peace within, even while we are in the world—the peace of God, which the world can’t give and the world can’t take away.

Today begin to live as a peacemaking child of God—it is your calling.


Ask Yourself

Review the beatitude summaries mentioned in today’s reading—those qualities of life that distinguish the sons and daughters of God from others. Is anything worth keeping you from exemplifying these characteristics? Can anything rival being known as a child of God?



Reading for Today:

  • Numbers 27:1–28:31
  • Psalm 34:8-14
  • Proverbs 11:29
  • Mark 14:1-26


Notes:


Numbers 27:18 lay your hand on him. Joshua already had the inner endowment for leadership. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. This inner endowment was to be recognized by an external ceremony. Moses publicly laid his hands upon Joshua. This act signified the transfer of Moses’ leadership to Joshua. The laying on of hands can accompany a dedication to an office (see Num. 8:10).


Numbers 27:21 Eleazar…shall inquire before the LORD for him. Moses had been able to communicate directly with God (12:8), but Joshua would receive the word from the Lord through the high priest. Urim. See Exodus 28:30 for this part of the high priest’s breastplate (Ex. 39:8–21) as a means of determining God’s will (see Deut. 33:8; 1 Sam. 28:6).


Proverbs 11:29 inherit the wind. The one who mismanages his house will see all he has blown away, and he will have nothing left in the end. He will serve the one who manages well (15:27).


Mark 14:12 Unleavened Bread. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were so closely associated that both terms were used interchangeably to refer to the 8-day celebration that began with the Passover. Although Unleavened Bread is used here, Mark’s clear intention is the preparation for Passover. killed the Passover lamb. The lambs were killed on 14 Nisan at twilight (Ex. 12:6), a Hebrew term meaning, “between the two evenings,” or between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. 


After the lamb was slaughtered and some of its blood sprinkled on the altar, the lamb was taken home, roasted whole, and eaten in the evening meal with unleavened bread, bitter herbs, charoseth (a paste made of crushed apples, dates, pomegranates, and nuts, into which they dipped bread), and wine.


Why did Mary’s anointing of Jesus spark a controversy?


In Mark 14:3, Jesus was in the home of Simon the leper at Bethany. “A woman,” who is identified in John 12:3 as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, brought an alabaster flask—a long-necked bottle made out of a special variety of marble, a material which proved to be the best container for preserving expensive perfumes and oils. 


The flask contained “spikenard,” which represents two words in the Greek that could be translated “pure nard.” The oil was derived from the nard plant, which was native to India. That it was pure meant it was genuine and unadulterated, which is what made it so costly. She may have simply broken the neck of the bottle so that she could pour out the contents more quickly, an expression of her sincere and total devotion to the Lord.


Some who were there became indignant (v. 4). John 12:4, 5 says that Judas was the instigator, and Matthew 26:8 indicates that all the disciples, following Judas’s lead, were angry with Mary’s waste of a very valuable commodity. It was valued at three hundred denarii (v. 5). Since a denarius was a day’s wage for a common laborer, it represented almost a year’s work for such a person. This money could have been “given to the poor.” While 11 of the disciples would have agreed to this use of the money, the fact is the poor may never have seen it. 


Since Judas was in reality a thief masquerading as the treasurer of the 12, he could have embezzled all of it (John 12:6).


In any case, Jesus‘ answer was that “you have the poor with you always” (v. 7).Opportunities to minister to the poor are “always” available, but Jesus would be in their presence for only a limited time. This was not a time for meeting the needs of the poor and the sick—it was a time for sacrificial worship of the One who would soon suffer and be crucified.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 


MAXIMILIANO 





03/14/20


Threats to Humility: Strength and Boasting


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


Satan will tempt us to be proud of our abilities and accomplishments, but we must remember that every good thing we have is from God.


We’ve just studied three steps to humility. Let’s look at the issue from another angle: What kinds of pride threaten to destroy our humility? Where will we struggle to be humble? There are several areas in which Satan will attack us.


The first area I call ability pride. We’re often tempted to be proud of our strong points, not our weak ones. I’ve never been tempted to boast of my fantastic mathematical ability because I have none. But I am tempted to be proud of my preaching because it is my spiritual gift. Thankfully, the Lord helps me deal with such thoughts. It might come in the form of a letter saying, “I was in your church Sunday, and I violently disagree with everything you said.” Or someone might tell me, “We came to hear you for the first time, but we like our pastor better.” Times like those help me keep the proper perspective.


The key to overcoming ability pride is remembering that every gift you have is from God. All the credit belongs to Him. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7).


Another temptation is verbal pride, or bragging. There is a tendency in human nature to tell people what good we have done or plan to do. People get into a conversation, and soon they’re trying to top each other with their accomplishments. In contrast, Hannah asserts, “Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge; and with Him actions are weighed” (1 Sam. 2:3). God knows the truth about what you have done. Proverbs 27:2 instructs, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth.”


As a test, try to get through an entire week without talking about what you’ve done. Perhaps for a starter, try to last an afternoon. When people don’t talk about themselves, the absence of boasting tells volumes about their character.


Suggestions for Prayer


Repent of any pride in your own abilities or accomplishments.


For Further Study


The apostle Paul had tremendous advantages and abilities but refused to boast about them. Read Philippians 3:4-11. What were Paul’s accomplishments?

How did he consider them?

What was most important to him?



Looking Beyond the Temporal


"Our Father who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9).


With God as your Father, your life has eternal significance.


Author H.G. Wells wrote of a man who had been overcome by the pressure and stress of modern life. His doctor told him that his only hope was to find fellowship with God. The man responded, "What? That—up there—having fellowship with me? I would as soon think of cooling my throat with the Milky Way or shaking hands with the stars." Poet Thomas Hardy said that prayer is useless because there's no one to pray to except "that dreaming, dark, dumb thing that turns the handle of this idle show." Voltaire described life as a bad joke. He added, "Bring down the curtain; the farce is done." Such is the blasphemy and despair of all who insist that God is uninvolved in human affairs.


The Greek and Roman philosophers of Jesus' day rejected the fatherhood of God because it contradicted their philosophical systems. The Stoic philosophers taught that all of the gods were apathetic and experienced no emotions at all. The Epicurean philosophers taught that the supreme quality of the gods was complete calm or perfect peace. To maintain their serenity, they needed to remain totally isolated from the human condition.


Scripture refutes all such heresies by declaring that God is an intimate, caring Father. The significance of that truth is staggering. He conquers your fears and comforts you in times of distress. He forgives your sins and gives you eternal hope. He showers you with limitless resources and makes you recipients of an imperishable inheritance. He grants you wisdom and direction through His Spirit and His Word. He will never leave or forsake you.


When you humbly approach God as your Father, you assume the role of a child who is eager to obey his Father's will and receive all the benefits of His grace. Let that take you beyond your present circumstances and motivate you to dwell on what's eternal.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for the joy and purpose He gives you each day.

Commit yourself to pursuing His will today.

For Further Study


Read Exodus 3:1-5 and Isaiah 6:1-5. What attitude should you have when you pray to God?

What does Hebrews 4:16 say you can receive when you approach God in prayer?



Characteristics of Peacemakers, Part 2


“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).


Continuing from yesterday, let’s look at two more characteristics of peacemakers.


First, a peacemaker helps others make peace with others. Once you see your duty as a peacemaker in the world, you’ll be looking for ways to build bridges between people and God and then to build them between persons.


By definition, a bridge can’t be one-sided. It must extend between two sides or it can never function. And once built, it continues to need support on both sides or it will collapse. In any relationship our first responsibility is to see that our own side has a solid base. But we also have the responsibility to help the one on the other side build his base. Both must be built on righteousness and truth or the bridge will not stand.


Often the first step in the process is to confront others about their sin, which is the supreme barrier to peace (Matt. 18:15–17). Such confrontation usually causes turmoil, yet the way of righteousness is the only way to peace. Sin that is not dealt with is sin that will disrupt and destroy peace.


Finally, a peacemaker finds a point of agreement. God’s truth and righteousness must never be compromised or weakened. But we are to contend without being contentious, to disagree without being disagreeable, and to confront without being abusive. The peacemaker should speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).


When you hunger and thirst for holiness in your own life, you’ll have a passionate desire to see those virtues in the lives of others. That’s a true peacemaker.


Ask Yourself


If the desire for peacemaking is missing from your heart, it points to a deeper problem—that your love for others is not what it should be. Would you say this might be true of you? What are the usual symptoms of a heart that’s grown at least somewhat cold toward others?



Reading for Today:


Numbers 25:1–26:65

Psalm 34:1-7

Proverbs 11:28

Mark 13:21-37


Notes:


Numbers 25:3 joined to Baal of Peor. Israel engaged in acts of sexual immorality with the women of Moab. Since this was part of the pagan cult that was worshiped by the Moabites, the Israelites joined in these idolatrous practices. The Israelites yoked themselves to the false god of the Moabites and the Midianites, referred to as Baal of Peor. This was a violation of the first commandment.


Numbers 25:10–13 Because of Phinehas’s zeal for God’s holiness, the Lord made “a covenant of an everlasting priesthood” with him so that through his family line would come all future legitimate high priests (see Ps. 106:30, 31). This promise will extend even into the millennial kingdom (see Ezek. 40:46; 44:10, 15; 48:11).


Psalm 34:7 The angel of the LORD. A special manifestation of Yahweh Himself at strategic historical junctures (see Gen. 16:7ff,18, 19; 31:11ff.; Josh. 5; Judg. 6; 13). A strong case can be made that these were preincarnate appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Mark 13:26 Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. Jesus will return to earth in the same manner in which He left it (see Acts 1:9–11; Dan. 7:13, 14; Rev. 1:7). The psalmist said that God uses “clouds” as His chariot (Ps. 104:3), and Isaiah 19:1 pictures the Lord riding on a cloud. Although these “clouds” could be natural, they more likely describe the supernatural “glory cloud” that represented God’s presence in Old Testament Israel (Rev. 1:7). While Christ possesses “great power and glory,” His return will be accompanied with visible manifestations of that power and glory (see Rev. 6:15–17; 11:15–19; 16:17–21; 19:11–16)—He will redeem the elect, restore the devastated earth, and establish His rule on earth.


Can anyone know the exact time and day of Christ’s return?


Jesus’ own words could not be clearer: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). The exact day and time of Christ’s return will not be revealed in advance to any man. At this time, it was known only to God the Father. While all the angelic beings enjoy intimacy with God, hover around His throne to do His bidding (Is. 26:2–7), and continually behold Him (Matt. 18:10), they have no knowledge of the time of Christ’s return.


When Jesus spoke these words to the disciples, even He had no knowledge of the date and time of His return. Although Jesus was fully God (John 1:1, 14), when He became a man, He voluntarily restricted the use of certain divine attributes (Phil. 2:6–8). He did not manifest them unless directed by the Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). He demonstrated His omniscience on several occasions (see John 2:25; 3:13), but He voluntarily restricted that omniscience to only those things God wanted Him to know during the days of His humanity (John 15:15). Such was the case regarding the knowledge of the date and time of His return. After He was resurrected, Jesus resumed His full divine knowledge (see Matt. 28:18; Acts 1:7).


Based upon that, a Christian’s role is to “watch and pray” (Mark 13:33). Christ sounded a warning for believers to be on guard in two practical ways: 1) “watch” is a call to stay awake and be alert, looking for approaching danger; and 2) “pray” emphasizes the believer’s constant need for divine assistance in this endeavor. Even believers do not have in themselves sufficient resources to be alert to spiritual dangers that can so easily surprise them.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 




03/13/20


Understanding Who Christ Is


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


We are to walk as Christ walked. Our lack of conformity to His standard ought to make us humble.


What was your most humiliating experience? Life is full of embarrassing moments, but the most truly humbling experience I ever had was preaching through the Gospel of John. For two years—eighty-eight sermons, about one hundred hours of preaching, between two and three thousand hours of study—I was constantly faced with the deity of Jesus Christ. Living with the deity of Christ day after day and comparing yourself continually to Him is one of the healthiest—and most humbling—things you can ever do.


That brings us to another step toward humility: Christ-awareness. When we compare ourselves with ourselves, we get proud. But “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). When you can say, “I’m happy to announce that I now walk as Jesus walked,” then you’ll have a right to be proud. But no one will believe you.


Jesus was the perfect man. He was without sin. He gave all the right answers and had the perfect attitude for every situation. He knew exactly how to help everyone who needed help. Reading the Gospels, we see time after time how Christ handled everything perfectly.


Even seeing His humanness, we realize how small we are. But when we look at His deity, we feel still smaller. He created everything (Col. 1:16). He turned water into wine, calmed storms, cast out demons, healed countless people, and brought the dead to life. After His crucifixion, He rose from the dead and sat at the Father’s right hand (Eph. 1:19-20). 


Someday He will come back, take His people home, and finally destroy all evil.

Despite Jesus’ perfect deity and perfect humanity, He came to serve (Mark 10:45). How can we be proud if Jesus Christ humbled Himself? What righteous thing have we done that compares to His perfect life?


Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you might know Christ better and increasingly be more like Him.


For Further Study

  • Peter got a glimpse of Jesus’ power in Luke 5:1-7. How did Peter’s sudden awareness of who Christ is affect him (v. 8)?
  • What did he do next (vv. 9-11)?


PART II


Praying As Jesus Prayed


"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen'" (Matt. 6:9-15).


Jesus gave six elements that constitute true prayer.


Many people have memorized the Disciples' Prayer so they can recite it often, but as beautiful as it is, it wasn't given for that purpose. In fact, after Jesus gave it, no one in the New Testament recited it—not even Jesus Himself (cf. John 17)!


The disciples didn't ask Jesus to teach them a prayer, but to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). There is a significant difference. Jesus preceded His prayer by saying, "Pray, then, in this way" (v. 9), which literally means, "Pray along these lines." His prayer was a general pattern for all prayer, and although it wasn't recited, its principles are evident in all New Testament prayers.


Christ's model prayer teaches us to ask God for six things: (1) that His name be honored, (2) that He brings His kingdom to earth, (3) that He does His will, (4) that He provides our daily needs, (5) that He pardons our sins, and (6) that He protects us from temptation. Each one contributes to the ultimate goal of all prayer, which is to bring glory to God. The last three are the means by which the first three are achieved. As God provides our daily bread, pardons our sins, and protects us when we are tempted, He is exalted in His name, kingdom, and will.


If you understand and follow Christ's pattern for prayer, you can be assured that you are praying as He instructed, and that whatever you ask in His name, He will do, "that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13).


Suggestions for Prayer

Do your prayers reflect the six elements outlined in the Disciples' Prayer? If not, work on making them a regular part of your prayers.


For Further Study

Read Matthew 6:1-8, where Jesus discusses some of the practices of the Jewish religious leaders.

  • What practices and motives did He mention?
  • How did He feel about their spiritual leadership?


PART III


Peace: Its Ultimate Source and Manifestation


“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).


The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace” (2:13-14). He also told the Colossians, “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (1:19–20).


How did the cross bring peace? At the cross all of man’s hatred and anger was vented against God. On the cross the Son of God was mocked, cursed, spit on, pierced, reviled, and killed. Jesus’ disciples fled in fear, the sky flashed lightning, the earth shook violently, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. Yet through that vio-lence God brought peace. God’s greatest righteousness confronted man’s greatest wickedness, and righteousness won.


The one who does not belong to God through Jesus Christ can neither have peace nor be a peacemaker. God can work peace through us only if He has worked peace in us.

As a Christian, you might be enduring great turmoil and strife. But in your deepest being you have peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:8). Many live in favorable circumstances, but without God they will never find peace, while those who cling to God in the worst of circumstances need never lack peace.


Ask Yourself

This peace that “passes all understanding”—when have you experienced that before? Recall a time when God’s peace was every bit as real as the circumstance was dire. The next time you find yourself over your head in strife and conflict, call out for His incomprehensible peace, and expect to receive it.


PART IV


Reading for Today:


Notes:

Numbers 22:5 Balaam. Balaam was from Pethor, a city on the Euphrates River, perhaps near Mari, where the existence of a cult of prophets whose activities resembled those of Balaam have been found. Balaam practiced magic and divination (24:1) and eventually led Israel into apostasy (31:16). Later Scripture identifies Balaam as a false prophet (Deut. 23:3–6Josh. 13:2224:910Neh. 13:1–3Mic. 6:52 Pet. 2:1516Jude 11Rev. 2:14).


Mark 12:28 Which is the first commandment...? The rabbis had determined that there were 613 commandments contained in the Pentateuch, one for each letter of the Ten Commandments. Of the 613 commandments, 248 were seen as affirmative and 365 as negative. Those laws were also divided into heavy and light categories, with the heavy laws being more binding than the light ones. The scribes and rabbis, however, had been unable to agree on which were heavy and which were light. This orientation to the law led the Pharisees to think Jesus had devised His own theory. So the Pharisees asked this particular question to get Jesus to incriminate Himself by revealing His unorthodox and unilateral beliefs.


Mark 12:40 devour widows’ houses. Jesus exposed the greedy, unscrupulous practice of the scribes. Scribes often served as estate planners for widows, which gave them the opportunity to convince distraught widows that they would be serving God by supporting the temple or the scribe’s own holy work. In either case, the scribe benefited monetarily and effectively robbed the widow of her husband’s legacy to her. long prayers. The Pharisees attempted to flaunt their piety by praying for long periods. Their motive was not devotion to God, but a desire to be revered by the people.


DAY 12: Wasn’t it idol worship for the Israelites to look at the bronze serpent in Numbers 21:4–9?

The circumstances leading up to the casting of the bronze serpent were all too familiar. The people were tired and discouraged. They were angry with God and complained to Moses. They were convinced that things couldn’t get any worse, but God showed them otherwise. He sent “fiery serpents” among the people and some of the Israelites died. Others suffered excruciating bites.


Realizing their mistake, the people came in repentance to Moses and begged for help. They were not worshiping the bronze serpent but were acting in faith, in obedience to God’s and Moses’ directions.


In John 3:14, Jesus said, “So must the Son of Man be lifted up.” This is a veiled prediction of His death on the cross. It is in reference to the story of where the Israelite people who looked at the serpent lifted up by Moses were healed. The point of this illustration or analogy is in the “lifted up.” Just as Moses lifted up the snake on the pole so that all who looked upon it might live physically, those who look to Christ, who was “lifted up” on the cross for the sins of the world, will live spiritually and eternally.


LORD BLESS HIS ELECT

My Royal Family


LOVINGLY IN THE LOVE OF OUR LORD JESUS

E+1DAY





03/12/20


Understanding Who Christ Is


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


We are to walk as Christ walked. Our lack of conformity to His standard ought to make us humble.


What was your most humiliating experience? Life is full of embarrassing moments, but the most truly humbling experience I ever had was preaching through the Gospel of John. For two years—eighty-eight sermons, about one hundred hours of preaching, between two and three thousand hours of study—I was constantly faced with the deity of Jesus Christ. Living with the deity of Christ day after day and comparing yourself continually to Him is one of the healthiest—and most humbling—things you can ever do.


That brings us to another step toward humility: Christ-awareness. When we compare ourselves with ourselves, we get proud. But “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). When you can say, “I’m happy to announce that I now walk as Jesus walked,” then you’ll have a right to be proud. But no one will believe you.


Jesus was the perfect man. He was without sin. He gave all the right answers and had the perfect attitude for every situation. He knew exactly how to help everyone who needed help. Reading the Gospels, we see time after time how Christ handled everything perfectly.


Even seeing His humanness, we realize how small we are. But when we look at His deity, we feel still smaller. He created everything (Col. 1:16). He turned water into wine, calmed storms, cast out demons, healed countless people, and brought the dead to life. After His crucifixion, He rose from the dead and sat at the Father’s right hand (Eph. 1:19-20). Someday He will come back, take His people home, and finally destroy all evil.


Despite Jesus’ perfect deity and perfect humanity, He came to serve (Mark 10:45). How can we be proud if Jesus Christ humbled Himself? What righteous thing have we done that compares to His perfect life?


Suggestions for Prayer


Pray that you might know Christ better and increasingly be more like Him.


For Further Study


Peter got a glimpse of Jesus’ power in Luke 5:1-7. How did Peter’s sudden awareness of who Christ is affect him (v. 8)?

What did he do next (vv. 9-11)?



Praying As Jesus Prayed


"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen'" (Matt. 6:9-15).


Jesus gave six elements that constitute true prayer.


Many people have memorized the Disciples' Prayer so they can recite it often, but as beautiful as it is, it wasn't given for that purpose. In fact, after Jesus gave it, no one in the New Testament recited it—not even Jesus Himself (cf. John 17)!


The disciples didn't ask Jesus to teach them a prayer, but to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). There is a significant difference. Jesus preceded His prayer by saying, "Pray, then, in this way" (v. 9), which literally means, "Pray along these lines." His prayer was a general pattern for all prayer, and although it wasn't recited, its principles are evident in all New Testament prayers.


Christ's model prayer teaches us to ask God for six things: (1) that His name be honored, (2) that He brings His kingdom to earth, (3) that He does His will, (4) that He provides our daily needs, (5) that He pardons our sins, and (6) that He protects us from temptation. Each one contributes to the ultimate goal of all prayer, which is to bring glory to God. The last three are the means by which the first three are achieved. As God provides our daily bread, pardons our sins, and protects us when we are tempted, He is exalted in His name, kingdom, and will.


If you understand and follow Christ's pattern for prayer, you can be assured that you are praying as He instructed, and that whatever you ask in His name, He will do, "that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13).


Suggestions for Prayer


Do your prayers reflect the six elements outlined in the Disciples' Prayer? If not, work on making them a regular part of your prayers.


For Further Study


Read Matthew 6:1-8, where Jesus discusses some of the practices of the Jewish religious leaders.



Peace: Its Ultimate Source and Manifestation


“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).


The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace” (2:13-14). He also told the Colossians, “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (1:19–20).


How did the cross bring peace? At the cross all of man’s hatred and anger was vented against God. On the cross the Son of God was mocked, cursed, spit on, pierced, reviled, and killed. Jesus’ disciples fled in fear, the sky flashed lightning, the earth shook violently, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. Yet through that vio-lence God brought peace. God’s greatest righteousness confronted man’s greatest wickedness, and righteousness won.


The one who does not belong to God through Jesus Christ can neither have peace nor be a peacemaker. God can work peace through us only if He has worked peace in us.


As a Christian, you might be enduring great turmoil and strife. But in your deepest being you have peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:8). Many live in favorable circumstances, but without God they will never find peace, while those who cling to God in the worst of circumstances need never lack peace.


Ask Yourself


This peace that “passes all understanding”—when have you experienced that before? Recall a time when God’s peace was every bit as real as the circumstance was dire. The next time you find yourself over your head in strife and conflict, call out for His incomprehensible peace, and expect to receive it.



Reading for Today:


Numbers 21:1–22:41

Psalm 33:10-17

Proverbs 11:25-26

Mark 12:28-44


Notes:


Numbers 22:5 Balaam. Balaam was from Pethor, a city on the Euphrates River, perhaps near Mari, where the existence of a cult of prophets whose activities resembled those of Balaam have been found. Balaam practiced magic and divination (24:1) and eventually led Israel into apostasy (31:16). Later Scripture identifies Balaam as a false prophet (Deut. 23:3–6; Josh. 13:22; 24:9, 10; Neh. 13:1–3; Mic. 6:5; 2 Pet. 2:15, 16; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14).


Mark 12:28 Which is the first commandment...? The rabbis had determined that there were 613 commandments contained in the Pentateuch, one for each letter of the Ten Commandments. Of the 613 commandments, 248 were seen as affirmative and 365 as negative. Those laws were also divided into heavy and light categories, with the heavy laws being more binding than the light ones. The scribes and rabbis, however, had been unable to agree on which were heavy and which were light. This orientation to the law led the Pharisees to think Jesus had devised His own theory. So the Pharisees asked this particular question to get Jesus to incriminate Himself by revealing His unorthodox and unilateral beliefs.


Mark 12:40 devour widows’ houses. Jesus exposed the greedy, unscrupulous practice of the scribes. Scribes often served as estate planners for widows, which gave them the opportunity to convince distraught widows that they would be serving God by supporting the temple or the scribe’s own holy work. In either case, the scribe benefited monetarily and effectively robbed the widow of her husband’s legacy to her. long prayers. The Pharisees attempted to flaunt their piety by praying for long periods. Their motive was not devotion to God, but a desire to be revered by the people.


Wasn’t it idol worship for the Israelites to look at the bronze serpent in Numbers 21:4–9?


The circumstances leading up to the casting of the bronze serpent were all too familiar. The people were tired and discouraged. They were angry with God and complained to Moses. They were convinced that things couldn’t get any worse, but God showed them otherwise. He sent “fiery serpents” among the people and some of the Israelites died. Others suffered excruciating bites.


Realizing their mistake, the people came in repentance to Moses and begged for help. They were not worshiping the bronze serpent but were acting in faith, in obedience to God’s and Moses’ directions.


In John 3:14, Jesus said, “So must the Son of Man be lifted up.” This is a veiled prediction of His death on the cross. It is in reference to the story of where the Israelite people who looked at the serpent lifted up by Moses were healed. The point of this illustration or analogy is in the “lifted up.” Just as Moses lifted up the snake on the pole so that all who looked upon it might live physically, those who look to Christ, who was “lifted up” on the cross for the sins of the world, will live spiritually and eternally.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





03/11/17


Understanding Who We Are


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


The first step to humility is understanding our sinfulness.


I’ll never forget a meeting I had at my house with some seminary students. One student asked me, very seriously, “John, how did you finally overcome pride?” I said jokingly, “Well, it was two years ago when I finally licked it, and it’s never been a problem since then. It’s so wonderful to be constantly humble.” Of course, I have not completely overcome pride; it’s a battle I face every day. Satan makes sure we always struggle with it.


Overcoming pride in even one area is difficult, but Ephesians 4:2 requires “all humility.” Having some humility isn’t enough. We must have total, complete humility in every relationship, every attitude, and every act.


So we all have a lot of work to do. But where do we start? How can we become humble?


Humility begins with self-awareness. We need to look at ourselves honestly. We can mask who we really are and convince ourselves that we’re something wonderful. But we are sinners and need to confess our sins daily before God (cf. 1 John 1:9). Even Paul called himself the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and realized he had not yet reached the goal of Christlikeness (Phil. 3:12-14). Whenever you’re tempted to be proud, remember you haven’t arrived yet spiritually.


And don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Paul said, “We are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (2 Cor. 10:12). If we’re to be honest with ourselves and with God, we need to evaluate ourselves by an outside standard—God’s standard. Humility starts when we take off the rose-colored glasses of self-love so we can see ourselves as unworthy sinners. We must recognize our faults and confess our sins daily.


Suggestions for Prayer


Confess any known sins to God, and ask for help in overcoming them.

Ask God to keep you from comparing yourself to others instead of to His perfect standard.

For Further Study


Many consider Paul to be the greatest Christian who ever lived, but he viewed himself very differently. Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. How did he see himself?

As he saw his sinfulness, what was his response to God?



Praying for God's Glory


"O Lord, in accordance with all Thy righteous acts, let now Thine anger and Thy wrath turn away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people have become a reproach to all those around us. So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplications, and for Thy sake, O Lord, let Thy face shine on Thy desolate sanctuary.


"O my God, incline Thine ear and hear! Open Thine eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Thy name; for we are not presenting our supplications before Thee on account of any merits of our own but on account of Thy great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name" (Dan. 9:16-19).


God’s glory must be the ultimate goal of every prayer request we make.


Someone once said, "Show me your redeemed life and I might believe in your Redeemer." That's a fair request! As Christians, we are Christ's ambassadors to a dying world. With His Spirit in our hearts and His Word in our hands, we are to speak His truth in love and live a life that lends credibility to what we say.


When we fail to do that, we dishonor God and provide ammunition for those who seek to discredit His work. That was certainly true of Israel. They were God's chosen people yet His name was blasphemed among the Gentiles because of their unbelief and disobedience (Rom. 2:24).


Daniel knew Israel didn't deserve mercy, but he asked God to forgive and restore them to their homeland for His own name's sake. Therein would He be glorified.


When you pray according to God's will, fervently confessing your sins and interceding for others, you're following in the godly tradition of Daniel and every other saint who sought God's glory above all else. May it be so today!


Suggestions for Prayer


Pray for the nation of Israel, that God might redeem many Jewish people for His name's sake (cf. Rom. 10:1).


For Further Study


Read Ezekiel 36:16-38.


Why did God scatter Israel? Why will He regather her?

How will the Gentile nations react to her regathering?



The Great Enemy of Peace


“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).


The great enemy of peace is sin. Sin separates people from God and causes disharmony and enmity with Him. To talk of peace without establishing the need for repentance from sin is foolish. The corrupt religious leaders of ancient Israel proclaimed, “Peace, peace,” but there was no peace, because they and the rest of the people were not “ashamed because of the abomination they had done” (Jer. 8:11–12).


To be an effective peacemaker, you must recognize that any conflict is the result of sin. If you separate conflicting parties from each other but don’t confront their sin, at best you will create only a temporary truce. You can’t circumvent sin; it is the source of every conflict.


In what appears on the surface to be the antithesis of the seventh beatitude, Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). His meaning is clear: the peace He brings is not peace at any price. The sword Christ uses is His Word—the sword of truth and righteousness. Like the surgeon’s scalpel, it must cut before it heals, because peace cannot exist where sin remains.


To be a peacemaker you must live a holy life and call others to embrace the gospel of holiness.


Ask Yourself


How have you seen sin decimate and destroy relationships? How has your own sin contributed to whatever strain exists between you and another person? If you have not yet repented of a sin that has caused distance between you and someone else, choose repentance today. If others need correction, ask for the Lord’s grace and supply in seeking it.



Reading for Today:


Numbers 19:1–20:29

Psalm 33:1-9

Proverbs 11:22-24

Mark 12:1-27


Notes:


Numbers 20:8 Speak to the rock. Though God told Moses to take his rod with which He had performed many wonders in the past (Ex. 4:1–5; 7:19–21; 14:16; 17:5, 6), he was only to speak to the rock for it to yield water.


Numbers 20:10 you rebels. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses spoke to the people, accusing them of being rebels against God. By his actions, Moses joined the people in rebellion against God (see 27:14).


Psalm 33:3 a new song. I.e., a new occasion and impulse for expressing fresh praise to God (see Pss. 96:1; 98:1; 149:1).


Psalm 33:6 host. This designation refers to stellar and planetary bodies (see Is. 40:26; 45:12) and/or heaven’s complement of angels (see Ps. 103:20–22). The former emphasis is more prominent in the immediate context.


Mark 12:24 the power of God. The Sadducees’ ignorance of the Scriptures extended to their lack of understanding regarding the miracles God performed throughout the Old Testament. Such knowledge would have enabled them to believe in God’s power to raise the dead.


What is the Christian response to taxes?


In Mark 12:13, the Pharisees and the Herodians came together to try to catch Jesus off guard by a seemingly sincere question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” The Herodians were a political party of Jews who backed Herod Antipas, who in turn was but a puppet of Rome. The Greek word for “taxes” was borrowed from the Latin word that gives us the English word “census.” The Romans counted all the citizens and made each one pay an annual poll tax of one denarius.


Jesus was fully aware of their hypocrisy, using a feigned interest in His teaching to hide their true intention to trap Him. “Why do you test Me?” (v. 15), He asked, and His response was to ask for a denarius. This small silver coin, minted by the Roman emperor, was the equivalent of a day’s wage for a common laborer or soldier. On one side of the denarius was likely the image of the current emperor, Tiberius. If the coin was minted by Tiberius, it would have read, “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, the son of the Divine Augustus” on one side and “Chief Priest” on the other.


Based on the image on the denarius, Jesus answered, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” The Greek word for “render” means “to pay or give back,” which implies a debt. All who lived within the realm of Caesar were obligated to return to him the tax that was owed him. It was not optional. Thus Jesus declared that all citizens are under divine obligation to pay taxes to whatever government is over them (see Rom. 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:13–17).


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 







03/10/20


Humility on Display


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


Christ showed us humility by becoming a man and living as a servant.


Humility is not a very popular concept in our society, is it? We are taught to pursue honor and recognition from a young age. When my children were young, they stacked up trophies to the point of absurdity. Award shows are commonplace on television. We seem to have prizes for everything.


Humility is an elusive quality. The moment you think you are humble is the moment you forfeit it. But humility is the heart of the worthy walk; that’s why Paul listed it here first. No matter how elusive it is, we must keep striving for it.


The Greek word for humility is a compound word. The first part means “low.” In a metaphorical sense it was used to mean “poor” or “unimportant.” The second part of the word means “to think” or “to judge.” The combined meaning is to think of yourself as lowly or unimportant.


Did you know this word never appears in classical Greek? It had to be coined by Christians. The Greeks and Romans had no word for humility because they despised that attitude. They mocked and looked down on anyone who thought of himself as lowly.


In contrast, Christ taught the importance of humility and was our greatest example of that virtue. The exalted Lord Jesus was born in a stable. During His ministry He never had a place to lay His head. He owned only the garments on His body. He washed His disciples’ feet, doing the job of a slave (John 13:3-11). When He died, He was buried in a borrowed tomb.


When the evangelical Moravian Brethren of Germany heard about slavery in the West Indies, they were told it was impossible to reach the slave population there because the slaves were separated from the ruling classes. In 1732 two Moravians offered to go and be slaves on the plantations and teach other slaves about Christ. They toiled at the sides of their fellow slaves, and the slaves listened because the two Moravians had humbled themselves. In a small way, that illustrates what Christ did for us: He humbled Himself by becoming a man so we could be saved.


Suggestions for Prayer


Ask God to help you walk in Christlike humility.


For Further Study


Read about Christ’s example of humility in Philippians 2:5-11. What was His attitude toward Himself, and how can you emulate His humility?



Relying on God's Character


"Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments. . . . righteousness belongs to Thee. . . . To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness" (Dan. 9:4, 7, 9).


God’s attributes authenticate your prayers.


Prior to the Babylonian Captivity God had warned His people not to adopt the idolatrous ways of their captors. Their gods were idols that could neither hear nor deliver them from distress (Isa. 46:6-7).


In marked contrast, our God loves us and delivers us from evil. When we confess our sins and intercede for others, He hears and responds. In Isaiah 45:21-22 He says, "There is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other."


In his prayer Daniel mentions several attributes of God that have a direct bearing on answered prayer. In verse 4 he calls Him "the great and awesome God." That speaks of His power and majesty. You can pray with confidence because God is powerful enough to change your circumstances when it serves His purposes.


God's faithfulness is reflected in the phrase "who keeps His covenant" (v. 4). He always keeps His promises. He made a covenant with Israel that if they repented He would forgive them (Deut. 30:1-3). He promised never to forsake them (Deut. 31:6; cf. Heb. 13:5).


God's love is seen in His acts of mercy toward those who love Him (v. 4). His justice and holiness are inherent in the phrase "righteousness belongs to Thee" (v. 7). God's actions are always loving and righteous. He never makes a mistake (Gen. 18:25).


Verse 9 mentions two final attributes: compassion and forgiveness. Compassion is a synonym for mercy. Forgiveness means He pardons your wrongdoings by canceling the penalty sin has charged to your account. He reconciles you to Himself in sweet communion.


What a gracious God we serve! Rejoice in His love and lean on His promises. He will never fail you.


Suggestions for Prayer


Praise God for His attributes of power, majesty, faithfulness, love, holiness, compassion, and forgiveness.


For Further Study


Read Isaiah 44 which contains a stern warning for Israel to avoid the idolatry of Babylon during the Babylonian Captivity.


What promises did God make to Israel?

How did God characterize idolaters?



Jesus’ Definition of Peace


“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).


One of the most obvious facts of world history is that peace does not characterize man’s earthly existence. Yet two thousand years ago Jesus instructed God’s people to be peacemakers. He gave us a special mission to help restore the peace lost at the Fall.


The peace of which Christ speaks is unlike anything the world knows or strives for. His peace is not concerned with resolving conflict between governments and nations, with righting the wrongs of human oppression. His peace is the inner, personal peace that only He can give to the soul of man, a peace that only His children can emulate.


What makes Jesus’ kind of peace different? Instead of focusing on the absence of conflict and strife, Jesus’ peace produces righteousness, for only righteousness can bring two antagonistic parties together. It is what brings the unsaved person to God. It is God who reconciles a person to Himself, imputes Christ’s righteousness to him, and makes peace with him or her.


Only righteousness can usher in harmony and true well-being. James confirms the nature of God’s peace when he writes, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17). Peace cannot be divorced from holiness. “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” is the beautiful expression of Psalm 85:10. Where there is true peace, there is righteousness, holiness, and purity. May those things characterize you as you strive to be a peacemaker.


Ask Yourself


What situations in your own life are in desperate need of peace and restoration? How do you think God wants to use you as a peacemaker in the midst of it? You’ve surely tried. You’ve wanted to see righteousness and justice returned. Pray that the Lord would show you how to exhibit His brand of peace in fresh, new ways.



Reading for Today:


Numbers 17:1–18:32

Psalm 32:6-11

Proverbs 11:19-21

Mark 11:20-33


Notes:


Numbers 17:8 the rod of Aaron. God had stated that the stick of the man He had chosen would blossom (17:5). The stick of Aaron had not only blossomed, but had yielded ripe almonds. Thus God had exceeded the demands of the test, so there would be no uncertainty of the fact that Aaron had been chosen as high priest.


Numbers 18:19 a covenant of salt forever. Salt, which does not burn, was a metaphor to speak of durability. As salt keeps its flavor, so the Lord’s covenant with the priesthood was durable. The Lord would provide through the offerings of His people for His priests forever.


Mark 11:20 abomination. Defined throughout Scripture as attitudes, this involves words and behaviors which God hates.


Mark 11:25 stand praying. The traditional Jewish prayer posture (see 1 Sam. 1:26; 1 Kin. 8:14, 22; Neh. 9:4; Matt. 6:5; Luke 18:11, 13). Kneeling or lying with one’s face on the ground were used during extraordinary circumstances or for extremely urgent requests (see 1 Kin. 8:54; Ezra 9:5; Dan. 6:10; Matt. 26:39; Acts 7:60). anything against anyone. An all-inclusive statement that includes both sins and simple dislikes, which cause the believer to hold something against another person. “Anyone” incorporates believers and unbelievers. forgive. Jesus states the believer’s ongoing duty to have a forgiving attitude. Successful prayer requires forgiveness as well as faith.



How does one’s faith move mountains?


When an amazed Peter noted to Jesus that the fig tree had withered, Jesus’ response was simply that they should “have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). This was a gentle rebuke for the disciples’ lack of faith in the power of His word. Such faith believes in God’s revealed truth, His power, and seeks to do His will (see 1 John 5:14; Matt. 21:21).


The expression Jesus used, “this mountain…into the sea” (v. 23), was related to a common metaphor of that day, “rooter up of mountains,” which was used in Jewish literature of great rabbis and spiritual leaders who could solve difficult problems and seemingly do the impossible. Obviously, Jesus did not literally uproot mountains. In fact, He refused to do such spectacular miracles for the unbelieving Jewish leaders (Matt. 12:38). Jesus’ point is that, if believers sincerely trust in God and truly realize the unlimited power that is available through such faith in Him, they will see His mighty powers at work (see John 14:13, 14).


“Whatever thing you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (v. 24). This places no limits on a believer’s prayers, as long as they are according to God’s will and purpose. This therefore means that man’s faith and prayer are not inconsistent with God’s sovereignty. And it is not the believer’s responsibility to figure out how that can be true, but simply to be faithful and obedient to the clear teaching on prayer, as Jesus gives it in this passage. God’s will is being unfolded through all of redemptive history by means of the prayers of His people—as His saving purpose is coming to pass through the faith of those who hear the gospel and repent. See James 5:16.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 




03/09/20


Honor for the Humble


“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).


God graciously bestows every spiritual blessing on the humble.


Those who are scripturally humble will recognize their unworthiness when they come before God. They will be like the prophet Isaiah who, in seeing God, cursed himself: “Woe is me, for I am ruined [damned]! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). Whenever you see who God really is—infinitely holy, sovereign, mighty, majestic, and glorious—all you can see about yourself is your own sin.


Every time Isaiah or any other person in the Old Testament came face to face with the reality of God’s holy presence, he was overwhelmed with fear. A sinner in the presence of a holy God is overpowered by his sense of exposed sinfulness and has every reason to fear. It was the same in the New Testament, such as when the disciples were afraid after Jesus stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee: “And they became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” (Mark 4:41). If we are humble before the true God, we’ll have the same response.


But God does not leave us bowed down in awe or cowering in fear. James promises us that the Lord will exalt the humble. And if we are humble in spirit and saved by grace, we will be sanctified and ultimately glorified. The apostle Paul summarizes this so well in Ephesians 2:4-7, “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 (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God today for His holiness and His sovereign control over all things, especially how He is leading you to spiritual maturity.


For Further Study


Read Isaiah 6.


What is the focal point of God’s nature in this chapter?

What could help you to be as willing as Isaiah was to serve God (v. 8)?



Praying for Others


"We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commandments and ordinances. . . . We have not listened to Thy servants the prophets. . . . Open shame belongs to us, O Lord . . . because we have sinned against Thee. . . . Indeed all Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside, not obeying Thy voice. . . . Thy people have become a reproach to all those around us" (Dan. 9:5-16).


Others should be the primary focus of your prayers.


In verses 5-16 Daniel identifies with his people and intercedes on their behalf. That's a common practice in Scripture. For example, Moses interceded for the Israelites after they sinned by worshiping the golden calf (Ex. 32:11- 13).


All Paul's recorded prayers are intercessions. In Ephesians 6:18 he instructs us to "be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints." In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 he says, "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."


Similarly, the Lord's prayers are replete with intercessions. Even when hanging in agony on the cross, He prayed for His persecutors: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).


When God placed us into the Body of Christ, He made us dependent on one another. When one member suffers, all suffer with it. When one is honored, all rejoice with it (1 Cor. 12:26). That's why Jesus instructed us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts. . . . And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:11-13, emphasis added).


Let your prayers reflect a corporate and selfless mentality that embraces the needs of others.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for the people who have prayed for you over the years. Be aware of those for whom you should be praying.

Sometimes the demands of prayer can seem overwhelming because there's so much to pray for, but be faithful, knowing that your prayers are a delight to the Lord (Prov. 15:8).

For Further Study


Read John 17, noting how Jesus interceded for His disciples.



Results of Obtaining Holiness


“‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’” (Matthew 5:8).


The great blessing of those who are pure in heart is “they shall see God.” Notice that it is only “they”—the pure in heart—who shall see God. Intimate knowledge of and fellowship with God is reserved for the pure.


When our hearts are purified at salvation, we begin to live in the presence of God. We begin to see and comprehend Him with our new spiritual eyes. Like Moses, who saw God’s glory and asked to see more (Ex. 33:18), the one who is purified by Jesus Christ sees again and again the glory of God.


To see God was the greatest hope of the Old Testament saints. Like Moses, David wanted to see more of God: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:1–2).


Purity of heart cleanses the eyes of the soul so that God becomes visible. One sign of an impure heart is ignorance, because sin obscures the truth (John 3:19–20). Other signs of an impure heart are self-centeredness (Rev. 3:17), pleasure in sin (2 Tim. 3:4), unbelief (Heb. 3:12), and hatred for purity (Mic. 3:2). But if you belong to God, you will exchange all of those things for integrity and purity.


Ask Yourself


How have you “seen” God during long stretches of faithful, obedient living? If this is not your current experience, don’t you long to return to this kind of lifestyle—to the daily joys of animated, refreshing, ongoing interaction with your Lord and Savior? Take steps toward a fresh start with Him today.



Reading for Today:


Numbers 15:1–16:50

Psalm 32:1-5

Proverbs 11:16-18

Mark 11:1-19


Notes:


Numbers 16:22 the God of the spirits of all flesh. This phrase appears only here and in 27:16. Moses called on omniscient God, who knows the heart of everyone, to judge those who had sinned, and those only.


Numbers 16:30 a new thing. This supernatural opening of the earth to swallow the rebels was a sign of God’s wrath and the vindication of Moses and Aaron.


Mark 11:10 the kingdom of our father David. This tribute, recorded only by Mark, acknowledges Jesus as bringing in the messianic kingdom promised to David’s Son. The crowd paraphrased the quote from Psalm 118:26 (v. 9) in anticipation that Jesus was fulfilling prophecy by bringing in the kingdom.


Why did Jesus curse the fig tree in Mark 11:12–14?


Fig trees were common as a source of food. Three years were required from planting until fruit bearing. After that, a tree could be harvested twice a year, usually yielding much fruit. The figs normally grew with the leaves. This tree had leaves but, strangely, no fruit. That this tree was along the side of the road (see Matt. 21:19) implies it was public property. It was also apparently in good soil because its foliage was ahead of season and ahead of the surrounding fig trees. The abundance of leaves held out promise that the tree might also be ahead of schedule with its fruit. That it was “not the season for figs” (v. 13) recognizes that the next normal fig season was in June, more than a month away. This phrase, unique to Mark, emphasizes the unusual nature of this fig tree.


Jesus’ direct address to the tree personified it and condemned it for not providing what its appearance promised. “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again” (v. 14). This incident was not the acting out of the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6–9), which was a warning against spiritual fruitlessness. 


Here, Jesus cursed the tree for its misleading appearance that suggested great productivity without providing it. It should have been full of fruit, but was barren. The fig tree was frequently an Old Testament type of the Jewish nation (Hos. 9:10; Nah. 3:12; Zech. 3:10)—and the barren fig tree often symbolizes divine judgment on Israel because of her spiritual fruitlessness despite an abundance of spiritual advantages (Jer. 8:13; Joel 1:12). In this instance Jesus used the tree by the road as a purposeful divine object lesson concerning Israel’s spiritual hypocrisy and fruitlessness, exemplified in the rejection of their Messiah. It was not an impetuous act of frustration as some have stated.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 






03/08/20


Realizing the Need for Seriousness


“Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9b).


The humble individual will come to see that sin is not a laughing matter.


Humor has always had a place in popular culture. But in recent decades a more worldly side to humor has emerged. Situation comedies dominate the list of top-rated TV shows, but many are far from what’s really best for people to view. The shows’ contents so often pander to the immoral and tend to put down scriptural values. Meanwhile, the world also runs headlong after activities that stress fun and self-indulgence. Most people just want to enjoy life and not take anything too seriously.


God’s Word acknowledges that there is a proper time and place for joy and laughter: “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccles. 3:4). The psalmist tells of one appropriate time for laughter and happiness: “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with joyful shouting” (Ps. 126:1-2).


But the Lord requires that anyone who would have a relationship with Him must begin on a sober, serious, humble note. In today’s Scripture, James urges sinners to exchange worldly laughter and frivolity for godly mourning and gloom over their sin. The laughter spoken of here is the kind that indicates a leisurely indulging in human desires and pleasures. It pictures people who give no serious thought to God, to life, death, sin, judgment, or God’s demands for holiness. Without mincing words, it is the laughter of fools who reject God, not that of the humble who pursue Him.


James’s message is that saving faith and proper humility consist of a serious, heartfelt separation from the folly of worldliness as well as a genuine sorrow over sin. If these characteristics are present in your life, it is fairly safe evidence that you are one of the humble (see 1 John 2:15-17).


Suggestions for Prayer


Seek forgiveness for any thoughts and actions that have kept you from a serious attitude in your walk with God.


For Further Study


Read 1 John 2:15-17.


Think of several examples under each of the categories of worldliness in verse 16. Which of these are problems for you?

What steps can you take, with God’s help, to overcome them?



Confessing Your Sins


"I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed" (Dan. 9:4).


Confession brings forgiveness and guards God’s character.


Confessing your sins means you agree with God that you have offended His holy character, are worthy of punishment, and in need of forgiveness. That's exactly what we see Daniel doing in verses 5-16. Verse 20 summarizes his prayer: "I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God."


Unlike some who suffer God's chastening, Daniel didn't shift the blame for Israel's calamity. Instead he admitted that his people had willfully disobeyed God's Word and ignored His prophets, thereby bringing judgment upon themselves. Once they were a nation blessed by God; now they were aliens and captives in a foreign land. God had kept His promise to curse them if they disobeyed Him (Deut. 28:15).


In verses 12-15 Daniel analyzes the consequences of Israel's sin, which included her captivity and the guilt she bore for her arrogance and reluctance to repent.


Verse 14 reflects perhaps the most important aspect of confession: Daniel's affirmation that "the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done." The Gentile nations knew that the Israelites were God's chosen people. Surely the fall of Jerusalem raised questions about God's character: What kind of God would stand idly by while His people are ravaged and His Temple plundered? What is the benefit of having a God like that? This, in effect, is Daniel's response: "God is righteous in everything He does. We deserve this punishment, so don't accuse Him of acting unjustly."


Confession therefore serves a dual purpose: it brings forgiveness and frees God to chasten us without bringing accusations of inequity or injustice upon Himself.


Daniel's prayer came at a special time in Israel's history, but undoubtedly confession was a regular part of his life. That should be your pattern as well. Don't wait until disaster strikes before you confess your sin. Make it a daily practice.


Suggestions for Prayer


If you have not developed a systematic approach to prayer, the "ACTS" format is a good way to start.


Adoration—praising God

Confession—confessing sin

Thanksgiving—thanking God

Supplication—praying for others

For Further Study


Read about David's sin in 2 Samuel 11:1—12:25 and his confession in Psalm 51. What are the similarities and differences between David's confession and Daniel's?



The Way to Holiness


“‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’” (Matthew 5:8).


Throughout the history of the church, many have thought the best way to achieve spiritual purity and holiness is by living apart from the normal cares and distractions of the world and devoting oneself entirely to meditation and prayer. The problem with sin, however, is not primarily the world around us but the worldliness within us, which we cannot escape by living in isolation from other people.


But God always provides for what He demands, and He has provided ways for us to live purely. First, we must realize that we are unable to live a single holy moment without the Lord’s guidance and power. “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” (Prov. 20:9). The obvious answer is, “No one.” Cleansing begins with recognition of weakness, which in turn reaches out for the strength of God.


Second, we must stay in God’s Word. It is impossible to stay in God’s will apart from His Word. Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).


Third, it is essential to be controlled by and walking in the will and way of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”


Fourth, we must pray. We cannot stay in God’s will or understand and obey His Word unless we stay near Him. With David we cry, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10).


Begin to pursue the right ways to develop holiness in your life.


Ask Yourself


How is impurity showing itself most visibly in your heart—or perhaps disguising itself most subtly? Realize afresh that holy living is impossible outside of a living, active relationship with Christ and the ongoing enablement of the Holy Spirit. Commit yourself to surrendering all to follow Him in righteousness.



Reading for Today:


Numbers 13:1–14:45

Psalm 31:19-24

Proverbs 11:15

Mark 10:32-52


Notes:


Numbers 13:1 the LORD spoke to Moses. According to Deuteronomy 1:22, 23, the people had first requested the spies be sent out after Moses challenged them to take the land. Here, the Lord affirmed the peoples’ desire and commanded Moses to send them.


Psalm 31:23 love the LORD. Biblical love includes an attitudinal response and demonstrated obedience (see Deut.6:4, 5;10:12; John 14:15, 21;15:10; 2 John 6).The assurance of both reward and retribution is a biblical maxim (e.g., Deut. 7:9, 10).


Mark 10:45 Son of Man did not come to be served. Jesus was the supreme example of servant leadership (see John 13:13–15). The King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16) relinquished His privileges (Phil. 2:5–8) and gave His life as a selfless sacrifice in serving others. ransom for many. “Ransom” refers to the price paid to free a slave or a prisoner; “for” means “in place of.” Christ’s substitutionary death on behalf of those who would put their faith in Him is the most glorious, blessed truth in all of Scripture (see Rom. 8:1–3; 1 Cor. 6:20; Gal. 3:13; 4:5; Eph. 1:7; Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19). The ransom was not paid to Satan, as some erroneous theories of the atonement teach. Satan is presented in Scripture as a foe to be defeated, not a ruler to be placated. The ransom price was paid to God to satisfy His justice and holy wrath against sin. In paying it, Christ “bore our sins in His own body on the [cross]” (1 Pet. 2:24).


If the report of the spies was true, why was it a “bad report”?


The spies were specifically called to explore the land that God had promised to Israel. This exploration gave valuable information to Moses for the conquest ahead. And while it was true that the land was flowing with milk and honey, it was also true that “the descendants of Anak” were in the fortified city of Hebron (Num. 13:22). Anak was probably the ancestor of Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai. They were noted for their height and strength (Deut. 2:21; 9:2). And “the people…are strong” (v. 28), as in too strong to be conquered (v. 31). “Giants” were in the land (v. 33). This term was used in Genesis 6:4 for a group of strong men who lived on the earth before the Flood. The descendants of Anak were, in exaggeration, compared to these giants, which led the spies to view themselves as grasshoppers before them.


In v. 30, Caleb concurred with the report of the other spies, but called the people to go up and take the land, knowing that with God’s help they were able to overcome the strong people. The report of the 10 spies was evil because it exaggerated the dangers of the people in the land, sought to stir up and instill fear in the people of Israel, and, most importantly, it expressed their faithless attitude toward God and His promises (v. 32). The result was that “all the congregation…wept” over the circumstances (14:1) and “complained” to the point that they wished they had died in Egypt or the wilderness (v. 2). It was such a “bad report” that they were prepared to “select a leader and return to Egypt” (v. 4).


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 


MAXIMILIANO 




03/07/20


Having True Sorrow for Sin


“Be miserable and mourn and weep” (James 4:9a).


Spiritual humility will be marked by a true sorrow over sin.


Modern culture does everything possible to avoid pain, to put off thinking about unpleasant subjects, to maximize comfort, and to feel good about circumstances.


That philosophy is the reflection of a proud and self-centered attitude, not the humble and God-centered attitude we have been examining during the past week. Today we continue our look at humility in the Epistle of James. The apostle urges people to “be miserable” concerning their sin. The demands of the gospel begin at this point. James is not denying the joy that will come when the gospel is sincerely received. He is simply saying that sinners have to feel bad before they can feel good. The word misery in this sense refers to the inner feelings of shame over sin, the deep sorrow it causes, and the spirit of penitence the humbled sinner will have as a result.


The humble person will also mourn over his sin. This reminds us of what the Lord Jesus says in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). Mourning is a brokenness of spirit that will cause the humble person’s heart to ache when he realizes his total spiritual bankruptcy because of sin.


The word James uses for “mourn” is closely related to the concept of sorrow. But this sorrow is not just any ordinary sorrow or sadness that all people feel during the course of life. James uses a strong word that usually referred to the grieving over a loved one’s death. James thus urges the humble sinner to have a funeral mourner’s lament or grief regarding his sinfulness.


Weeping is often the physical response that the sincerely humble mourner will have to his circumstances. Tears are God’s gift to us that allow release for our aching hearts, as Peter discovered after he betrayed the Lord (Mark 14:72).


Misery, mourning, and weeping all point to a genuine sorrow over sin, what Paul calls “godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10-11). If you are among the humble, this attitude will be yours as you enter God’s kingdom (James 4:9) and as you live the Christian life (Matt. 5:3-4).


Suggestions for Prayer


Pray that God would give you the proper sense of sorrow over all sin in your life—even over that which seems insignificant.



DENYING YOURSELF 


"I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed" (Dan. 9:4).


God will not respond to self-righteous prayers.


In Luke 18 Jesus told a parable to people who were trusting in their own self-righteousness. He said, "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'


"But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'


"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (vv. 10-14).


Apart from God's mercy we cannot enter into God's presence. The tax-gatherer knew that and pled for forgiveness. The Pharisee missed the point and went away without forgiveness.


Like the tax-gatherer, Daniel approached God with an attitude of confession and self-denial. He could have reminded God of his years of faithful service while in Babylon, but that didn't enter his mind. He knew that in himself there was nothing to commend him to God. His only thought was for mercy for himself and his people, that God's purposes could be realized through them.


As a Christian, you have the wonderful privilege of boldly entering into God's presence "with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:22). That privilege is rooted in God's grace through Christ's sacrifice and leaves no room for presumption or self-righteousness. Always guard your attitude in prayer so that you don't unwittingly slip into a Pharisaic mentality.


Suggestions for Prayer


Memorize Psalm 117:1-118:1 and recite it often as a hymn of praise to the Lord.


For Further Study


Jesus had much to say about the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees of His day. Read Matthew 23, noting His scathing denunciations of their hypocritical attitudes and practices.



Purity Is More than Sincerity


“‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’” (Matthew 5:8).


Purity of heart is much more than sincerity. A motive can be sincere yet can easily lead to worthless and sinful things. The pagan priests who opposed Elijah demonstrated great sincerity when they lacerated their bodies to induce Baal to send fire down to consume their sacrifices (1 Kings 18:28). But their sincerity did not produce the desired results, and it did not enable them to see the error of their paganism because their sincere trust was in that very paganism.


Even genuinely good deeds that do not come from a genuinely good heart are of no spiritual value. A person may be extremely religious and constantly engaged in doing good things, yet he or she cannot please God unless their heart is right with Him.


The ultimate standard for purity of heart is perfection of heart. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). One hundred percent purity is God’s standard for the heart, which makes God Himself the standard.


You can’t be pleasing to God until you are pure as He is pure—until you are holy as He is holy and perfect as He is perfect. Only purity of heart through Jesus Christ will reconcile people to God. What standard of purity are you following?


Ask Yourself


To what extent is your measure of purity defined by culture or others’ opinions or anything other than the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ? Check yourself in this, for if staying a few shades cleaner than current society makes you feel pure by comparison, your standards will do nothing but slip over time.



Reading for Today:


Numbers 11:1–12:16

Psalm 31:15-18

Proverbs 11:12-14

Mark 10:1-31


Notes:


Numbers 11:17 the Spirit. This refers to the Spirit of God. It was by means of the Holy Spirit that Moses was able to lead Israel. In v. 25, the Lord gave the Spirit to the 70 men in fulfillment of the word He gave to Moses.


Numbers 11:29 that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them! Moses desired and anticipated the day when all of God’s people would have His Spirit within them. By this, he looked forward to the New Covenant. (See Ezek. 36:22–27; Jer. 31:31ff.; Joel 2:28.)


Mark 10:21 Jesus…loved him. Jesus felt great compassion for this sincere truth-seeker who was so hopelessly lost. And out of that great love He told the rich young man to sell whatever you have. Jesus was not making either philanthropy or poverty a requirement for salvation, but He was exposing the young man’s heart. He was not blameless, as he maintained (v. 20), since he loved his possessions more than his neighbors (see Lev. 19:18). More importantly, he refused to obey Christ’s direct command, choosing to serve riches instead of God (Matt. 6:24). The issue was to determine whether he would submit to the lordship of Christ no matter what He asked of him. So, as he would not acknowledge his sin and repent, neither would he submit to the Sovereign Savior. Such unwillingness on both counts kept him from the eternal life he sought. treasure in heaven. Salvation and all its benefits, given by the Father who dwells there, both in this life and the life to come (see Matt. 13:44–46).


Is salvation harder for those who have riches?


Watching the rich young ruler walk away sorrowful in Mark 7:23, Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” “Hard” in this context means impossible (see v. 25). “Riches” tend to breed self-sufficiency and a false sense of security, leading those who have them to imagine they do not need divine resources (see Luke 16:13; contra. Luke 19:2; see 1 Tim. 6:9, 17, 18).


Jesus adds that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (v. 25). The Persians expressed impossibility by saying it would be easier to put an elephant through the eye of a needle. This was a Jewish colloquial adaptation of that expression denoting impossibility (the largest animal in Palestine was a camel). Many improbable interpretations have arisen that attempt to soften this phrase, but Jesus’ use of this illustration was to explicitly say that salvation by human effort is impossible—it is wholly by God’s grace.


The Jews believed that with alms a man purchased salvation (as recorded in the Talmud), so the more wealth one had, the more alms he could give, the more sacrifices and offerings he could offer, thus purchasing redemption. The disciples’ question, “Who then can be saved?” (v. 26), makes it clear that they understood what Jesus meant—that not even the rich could buy salvation. Jesus’ emphatic teaching that even the rich could not be saved by their own efforts left the bewildered disciples wondering what chance the poor stood. “With men it is impossible, but not with God,” Jesus added (v. 27). It is impossible for anyone to be saved by his own efforts, since salvation is entirely a gracious, sovereign work of God.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 


MAXIMILIANO 





03/06/20


Cleansing Our Hands and Hearts


“Cleanse your hands . . . and purify your hearts” (James 4:8).


Clean hands and a pure heart will always characterize the humble.


Hands represent our behavior, the pattern of our outward actions. Scripture uses that symbol when it encourages people to abandon their sinful behavior: “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you, yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of bloodshed” (Isa. 1:15).


Today’s verse uses “hands” in reference to the Jewish ceremonial requirements. The priests were required to wash their hands before they entered the presence of God in the tabernacle and temple (Ex. 30:19-21). Therefore, a call to have clean hands was not just a strange figure of speech for James’s audience. As Jews, they would know that a person needed to go through a cleansing process and have a clean life if he wanted to be close to the Lord.


This cleansing process, however, includes more than correcting the outward behavior and lifestyle represented by the hands. The inward dimension of the heart must also be involved, which is why James 4:8 says, “Purify your hearts.” The heart is what’s inside a person—his thoughts, motives, and desires—the essence of his being. The apostle James is telling anyone who would be genuinely humble and want to be right with God that he must deal with his real self, the heart that is so corrupted and deceived by sin. The humble sinner will hear and obey words such as Ezekiel’s: “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” (Ezek. 18:31).


Clean hands and a pure heart are essential traits for anyone who would be counted among the humble. If you have not submitted yourself to God, you won’t have these traits, and you need to heed James’s commands. If you are one of the humble, you will want to maintain a close relationship with the Lord. For you, therefore, it is crucial to remember what the apostle John promises in 1 John 1:9—“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


Suggestions for Prayer


Pray that all your thoughts and actions today would be pure and pleasing to the Lord.


For Further Study


Read Isaiah 55.


What does it say about the transformed heart and life?

Commit verses 6-7 to memory.



Praying with Fervency


"I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Dan. 9:3).


The more you understand God’s holiness, the more you’ll recognize your own sinfulness.


People view prayer differently. For some it is a last resort after all human options have been exhausted: "All I can do now is pray for you!" Others liken it to a spiritual spare tire—something used only in the event of an emergency. Many who should thrive on prayer have been lulled into complacency by an affluent and godless society.


Daniel, however, saw prayer as an opportunity to express the passion and fervency of his heart to the God he loved and served. In Daniel 9:3 he says, "I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him." That implies he set apart a specific time to devote to thoughtful, earnest, and fervent prayer. That is further supported by the way he prepared himself through fasting and donning sackcloth and ashes—symbols of humility and deep contrition over sin.


It might seem unusual for a man of Daniel's spiritual stature to be overwhelmed by his sense of sin, but the closer one draws to God, the more aware he is of his sinfulness. We see that in Paul, who called himself the foremost of all sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). That might seem like a ridiculous statement to us but Paul saw sin for what it was. So did Daniel.


The title "Lord God" in verse 3 emphasizes God's sovereign rule over all things. Daniel knew that God had permitted the Babylonian Captivity and that He alone could deliver His people from it. Consequently, Daniel gave the Lord his undivided attention as he prayed and sought mercy for himself and his people.


Daniel's fervency is a rebuke to much of the flippancy we hear in prayer today. It was profound because it was generated by God's Word and grounded in His will.


James 5:16 says, "The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (KJV). Be like Daniel—a righteous person who prays fervently with great effect.


Suggestions for Prayer


Ask God to give you a greater sense of fervency in prayer.

Be sensitive to any sin that might be hindering your prayers.

For Further Study


Read Luke 11:5-13.


What parable did Jesus tell to illustrate the benefits of humble, persistent prayer?

How did Jesus contrast earthly fathers with their heavenly Father?



Significance of the Heart


“‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’” (Matthew 5:8).


Throughout Scripture the heart is used metaphorically to represent the inner person, the seat of motives and attitudes, the center of personality. But in Scripture it also includes the thinking process, particularly the will. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (kjv). The heart is the control center of the mind and will, as well as emotion.


Jesus said that it is in the inner person, in the core of our very being, that God requires purity. This was not a new truth but an old one long forgotten in ceremony and tradition. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life,” counseled the writer of Proverbs 4:23.


God has always been concerned above all else with the condition of a person’s heart. When the Lord called Saul to be Israel’s first king, “God changed his heart” (1 Sam. 10:9). Until then Saul had been handsome and athletic, but not much more. Soon the new king began to revert to his old heart patterns. He refused to live by the new heart God had given him.


Consequently, the Lord took the kingdom from Saul and gave it to David because David was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). David’s deepest desire was, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14). May that be your desire as well.


Ask Yourself


What are some things you’ve learned about your heart over the years? What motivates it to action? How trustworthy is it? Where does it usually like to lead you? When do its passions most vividly fire into flame? How inclined is it to purity?



Reading for Today:


Numbers 9:1–10:36

Psalm 31:6-14

Proverbs 11:7-11

Mark 9:30-50


Notes:


Numbers 9:15 tabernacle…raised up. The presence of the Lord arrived when the tabernacle was completed and erected on the first day of the first month of the second year after they had come out of Egypt.


Numbers 9:16 cloud…fire. The presence of the Lord which was seen in the cloud by day became a fire that was seen at night (see Lev. 16:2).


Psalm 31:6 I have hated. See Psalm 26:5 on the proper basis for such hatred (see Ps. 139:21). useless idols. This is a common designation for false gods (see Deut. 32:21; 1 Kin. 16:13; Jer. 10:15; 14:22; 16:19; 18:15; Jon. 2:8). On the “idiocy” of idolatry, see Habakkuk 2:18–20.


Mark 9:43 cut it off. Jesus’ words are to be taken figuratively. No amount of self-mutilation can deal with sin, which is an issue of the heart. The Lord is emphasizing the seriousness of sin and the need to do whatever is necessary to deal with it. life. The contrast of “life” with “hell” indicates that Jesus was referring to eternal life. hell. The Greek word refers to the Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem, a garbage dump where fires constantly burned, furnishing a graphic symbol of eternal torment. the fire that shall never be quenched. That the punishment of hell lasts for eternity is the unmistakable teaching of Scripture (see Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 14:10, 11; 20:10).


Mark 9:50 Salt is good. Salt was an essential item in first-century Palestine. In a hot climate, without refrigeration, salt was the practical means of preserving food. Have salt in yourselves. The work of the “word of Christ” (Col. 3:16) and the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23) produce godly character, enabling a person to act as a preservative in society.


What essential element is Christ looking for in our character?


To be directly confronted by Christ with sin in your heart, as the disciples were in Mark 9:33, must have been powerfully convicting and embarrassing. We are told that “they kept silent”—they were speechless at His inquiry. They were caught in a dispute over “who would be the greatest” (v. 34), possibly triggered by the privilege granted Peter, James, and John to witness the Transfiguration. The disciples’ quarrel highlights their failure to apply Jesus’ explicit teaching on humility (Matt. 5:3) and the example of His own suffering and death (vv. 31, 32; 8:30–33). It also prompted them to ask Jesus to settle the issue, which He did—though not as they had expected.


Jesus “sat down” (v. 35)—rabbis usually sat down to teach—and said that “if anyone desires to be first,” as the disciples undeniably did (v. 34; see 10:35–37), “he shall be last of all and servant of all.” The disciples’ concept of greatness and leadership, drawn from their culture, needed to be completely reversed. Not those who lord their position over others are great in God’s kingdom, but those who humbly serve others (see 10:31, 43–45; Matt. 19:30–20:16; 23:11, 12; Luke 13:30; 14:8–11; 18:14; 22:24–27).


Then Jesus took “a little child”—the Greek word indicates an infant or toddler. If the house they were in was Peter’s, this may have been one of his children. The child became in Jesus’ masterful teaching an example of believers who have humbled themselves and become like trusting children.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





03/05/20


The Nearness of God


“He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).


God will come near to the truly humble, who have by faith sought to be close to Him.


One of the greatest promises in the Bible is that God responds to the humble and draws near to them. Such people will yearn for a closeness to God by which they can know Him, love Him, learn His Word, praise Him, pray to Him, and fellowship with Him. In summary, the humble will be true worshipers, those who “worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).


John 4:23 concludes with the statement, “for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” This strongly implies that God wants to have a relationship with the humble, which means He will respond to us. This idea of the Lord reaching out to us and responding to our humble obedience is also found in the Old Testament, when David instructed Solomon: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chron. 28:9).


The principle of God’s drawing near to the humble is illustrated by Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). First, the prodigal son manifests humility and repentance: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (vv. 18-19). Next, his behavior pictures a longing to draw near to God: “he got up and came to his father” (v. 20). Finally, there is the picture of God drawing near to us: “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him” (v. 20).


You might not find yourself in the same predicament as the prodigal son did, but you will experience the same response from God if you have humbly drawn near to Him in faith and worshiped Him in spirit and in truth.


Suggestions for Prayer


Pray that God would help you be a true worshiper of Him.


For Further Study


Read and meditate on Psalm 40. What things did David find true about God’s nearness?



Praying According to God's Will


"The word of the Lord [came] to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem" (Dan. 9:2).


Effective prayer is always consistent with God’s will.


It is characteristic of God's people to identify with God's purposes and conform their will to His. Learning to pray according to His will is a major step in that process because it drives you to the Word and demonstrates a humble, submissive heart.


Jesus emphasized the priority of God's will when He said, "I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38). He accomplished that goal, saying to the Father, "I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do" (John 17:4). Even when facing the horror of the cross, Jesus didn't waver. Instead He prayed, "Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42).


Jesus taught His disciples the same priority, instructing them to pray, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10).


Daniel knew what it meant to pray according to God's will. After reading the prophecy of a seventy-year Babylonian Captivity, he immediately accepted it as God's will and began to pray for its fulfillment. His prayer wasn't passive resignation to some act of fate beyond his control. It was active participation in God's plan as revealed in Scripture. He wasn't trying to change God's will but was doing everything he could to see it come to pass. That's the essence of praying according to God's will.


When you pray according to God's will, you can be confident that He hears you and will grant your requests (1 John 5:14-15). Live in that confidence today!


Suggestions for Prayer


Be a diligent student of the Word so you will know God's will.

Ask God to reveal areas in which your will is not conformed to His. As He does, take immediate steps to deal with them.

For Further Study


Read Revelation 22:6-21, noting God's will for Christ's return, and how we're to respond to it.



What Results from Mercy?


“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).


When we are merciful and we receive mercy, we experience God’s cycle of mercy. God is merciful to us by saving us through Christ; in obedience we are merciful to others; and God in faithfulness gives us even more mercy, pouring out blessing for our needs and withholding severe chastening for our sin.


But only those who are merciful qualify to receive mercy. David said of the Lord, “With the kind You show Yourself kind” (2 Sam. 22:26). Yet James says, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13). The emphatic truth is that God will respond with chastening for an unforgiving disciple.


Jesus is not speaking, however, of our mercy gaining us salvation. We cannot earn salvation by being merciful. We must be saved by God’s mercy before we can truly be merciful. We cannot work our way into heaven even by a lifetime of merciful deeds, any more than by good works of any sort. God does not give mercy for merit; He gives mercy in grace. He gives mercy because it is needed, not because it is earned.


If we have received from a holy God unlimited mercy that cancels our unpayable debt of sin, it surely follows that we should be merciful to others.


Ask Yourself


At several points along the way, we’ve paused to celebrate the immensity of our salvation. Here at the end of our look at mercy, let’s drop to our knees again in awe and thanksgiving, realizing the depths He has pulled us from and imagining the glories that await us—all because of His grace and love through Christ.



Reading for Today:


Numbers 7:1–8:26

Psalm 31:1-5

Proverbs 11:4-6

Mark 9:1-29


Notes:


Numbers 7:89 He spoke to him. With the completion of the tabernacle, the Lord communicated His word to Moses from the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies (see Lev. 1:1, Num. 1:1).


Psalm 31:5 Into Your hand. This is applied to both the lesser David and the Greater David (Luke 23:46). Here it involves the common denominator of trust. This is a metaphor depicting God’s power and control (see v. 15a; contra. vv. 8, 15b).


Proverbs 11:4 day of wrath. Money buys no escape from death in the day of final accounting to God, the divine Judge (see Is. 10:3; Ezek. 7:19; Zeph. 1:18; Luke 12:16–21).


Mark 9:22 to destroy him. This demon was an especially violent and dangerous one. Open fires and unfenced bodies of water were common in first-century Palestine, providing ample opportunity for the demon’s attempts to destroy the child. The father’s statement added to the pathos of the situation. The boy himself was probably disfigured from burn scars, and possibly further ostracized because of them. His situation also created a hardship for his family, who would have had to watch the boy constantly to protect him from harm.


What was the purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration?


Matthew and Mark place the Transfiguration “six days” after Jesus’ promise that some disciples would “see the kingdom of God present with power”(Mark 9:1). Peter, James, and John, as the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, were allowed to witness this great event on “a high mountain” (Mark 9:2), most likely Mt. Hermon, the highest mountain in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi (see 8:27). Jesus was “transfigured,” meaning “to change in form” or “to be transformed,” in front of them. In some inexplicable way, Jesus manifested some of His divine glory to the 3 disciples (see 2 Pet. 1:16). The divine glory emanating from Jesus made even His clothing radiate brilliant white light (Mark 9:3). Light is often associated with God’s visible presence (see Ps. 104:2; Dan. 7:9; 1 Tim. 6:16; Rev. 1:14; 21:23).


Also appearing with Jesus were “Elijah…with Moses” (Mark 9:4). They were symbolic of the Prophets and the Law, the two great divisions of the Old Testament. They “were talking with Jesus,” and the subject was His coming death (Luke 9:31). Then “a cloud…overshadowed them” (v. 7). This is the glory cloud, Shekinah, which throughout the Old Testament was symbolic of God’s presence (Ex. 13:21; 33:18–23; 40:34, 35; Num. 9:15; 14:14; Deut. 9:33). And “a voice came out of the cloud,” which was the Father’s voice, saying, “This is My beloved Son”—repeating the affirmation of His love for the Son first given at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11). “Hear Him!” says the Father. Jesus, the One to whom the Law and Prophets pointed (see Deut. 18:15), is the One whom the disciples are to listen to and obey (see Heb. 1:1, 2).


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





03/04/20


Seeking a Closeness to God


“Draw near to God” (James 4:8).


The sincerely humble will want a closer relationship with God.


The expression “draw near” was originally associated with the priesthood in Israel. Under the regulations of the Old Covenant, the priests represented the people before God. Prior to coming near God’s presence, the priest had to be washed physically and be ceremonially clean. That meant he had to bathe, wear the proper garments, and offer sacrifices that made his own heart right with God. Then he could draw near to God on the people’s behalf.


Eventually the Hebrew word for drawing near meant anyone who approached the presence of God in worship and prayer. The term became synonymous even of those whose hearts were far from God when they “worshiped” Him. For example, Isaiah 29:13 says, “This people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”


But the sincere believer, one who has truly humbled himself before God, knows that God wants worshipers to draw near with true and pure hearts: “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). This applies the language of the Old Testament ceremonial system to us and says that as the priests prepared themselves to be near God, we also should prepare ourselves spiritually to worship Him.


So far this month we have seen that the humble person will come to God for salvation, submit to Him as Lord, and take a stand against the Devil. But the truly humble person will see that his relationship to God is inherently more than those actions. If you claim to be one of the humble, one who has a saving relationship to the Father through the Son, be sure you can also agree with the psalmist Asaph: “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Thy works” (Ps. 73:28).


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for His grace and mercy in salvation that make it possible for us to have a close relationship with Him.


For Further Study


Read Hebrews 4.


What sort of rest is the writer referring to?

How does it compare to the rest that the people of Israel sought during Joshua’s time?



Praying According to God's Word


"I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications" (Dan. 9:2-3).


God’s sovereignty doesn’t eliminate the need for prayer.


Have you ever wondered if it's biblical to pray for things that God has already promised in His Word to do? Is it proper to pray, say, for the salvation of sinners, knowing that God will redeem all the elect anyway, or for Christ's return, knowing that it is a sure thing? Daniel gives us a clear answer.


God prophesied through Jeremiah that the Babylonian Captivity would last seventy years (Jer. 25:11-12). When Daniel read that prophecy, he realized that the time was near for his people to return to their homeland. That inspired him to pray fervently.


In Daniel 9:19 he cries out, "O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my God, do not delay." He was in tune with God's Word and understood that somehow his prayers were part of God's plan.


The exact relationship between God's sovereignty and our prayers is a mystery, but it is clear that somehow God's Word and our prayers are co-laborers in achieving God's will.


Like Daniel, you and I live in a time when many of God's promises seem near to fulfillment. Never before have world events pointed so dramatically to the nearness of the return of our Lord. Consequently, this is not the time for complacency or over-enthusiastic speculation. It is the time for careful Bible study and fervent prayer.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for His faithfulness and the sure promises of His Word.

Ask Him for spiritual wisdom and insight to discern His will and then live accordingly.

For Further Study


Jeremiah 24:1—25:13 gives some background to Judah's captivity in Babylon. After reading those verses, answer these questions:


To what kind of fruit did God liken Judah?

What did God say would happen to King Zedekiah?

What warning did the prophets give to Judah?

What was Judah's response?

How would God deal with Babylon?



Devotionals


Practicing Mercy


“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).


The most obvious way we can show mercy is through physical acts. Jesus specifically commands us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and offer any other practical help to those who need it. When we serve others in need, we demonstrate a heart of mercy.


The way of mercy did not begin in the New Testament. The Old Testament law taught, “You shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks” (Deut. 15:7–8).


Mercy is also to be shown in our attitudes. Mercy does not hold a grudge, harbor resentment, capitalize on another’s failure or weakness, or publicize another’s sin.


Mercy is also to be shown spiritually. First, it is shown through pity. The sensitive Christian will grieve more for lost souls than for lost bodies. Second, we are to show spiritual mercy by confrontation. Paul says that, as Christ’s servants, we should gently correct “those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). Third, we are to show spiritual mercy by praying. The sacrifice of prayer for those without God is an act of mercy. Finally, we are to show mercy by proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the most merciful thing we can do.


Ask Yourself


How has your life been transformed by being the blessed recipient of these various acts and expressions of mercy? What might occur in the lives of your children, your spouse, your parents, your friends—anyone to whom you begin to show consistent compassion?



Reading for Today:


Numbers 5:1–6:27

Psalm 30:8-12

Proverbs 11:1-3

Mark 8:22-38


Notes:


Numbers 6:2 the vow of a Nazirite. The word “vow” here is related to the word “wonder,” which signifies something out of the ordinary. “Nazirite” transliterates a Hebrew term meaning “dedication by separation.” The Nazirite separated himself to the Lord by separating himself from 1) grape products (6:3, 4), 2) the cutting of one’s hair (6:5), and 3) contact with a dead body (6:6, 7). The high priest was also forbidden 1) to drink wine while serving in the tabernacle (Lev. 10:9) and 2) to touch dead bodies (Lev. 21:11). Further, both the high priest’s crown (Ex. 29:6; 39:30; Lev. 8:9) and the Nazirite’s head (6:9, 18) are referred to by the same Hebrew word. The Nazirite’s hair was like the high priest’s crown. Like the high priest, the Nazirite was holy to the Lord (6:8; Ex. 28:36) all the days (6:4, 5, 6, 8) of his vow.


Proverbs 11:2 pride. From a root meaning “to boil,” or “to run over,” indicating an overwhelmingly arrogant attitude or behavior. It is used of ordinary men (Deut. 17:12, 13); kings (Neh. 9:10); Israel (Neh. 9:16, 29); false prophets (Deut. 18:20); and murderers (Ex. 21:14). the humble. A rare word, which appears in Micah 6:8: “walk humbly with your God.” This humble and teachable spirit is first of all directed toward God (see 15:33; 16:18, 19; 18:12; 22:4).


Mark 8:23 spit on his eyes. This action and Jesus’ touching his eyes with His hands (v. 25) were apparently meant to reassure the blind man (who would naturally depend on his other senses, such as touch) that Jesus would heal his eyes (see 7:33; John 9:6).


Mark 8:30 tell no one. Jesus’ messianic mission cannot be understood apart from the Cross, which the disciples did not yet understand (see vv. 31–33; 9:30–32). For them to have proclaimed Jesus as Messiah at this point would have only furthered the misunderstanding that the Messiah was to be a political-military deliverer. The fallout was that the Jewish people, desperate to be rid of the yoke of Rome, would seek to make Jesus king by force (John 6:15; see 12:12–19).


What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?


In Mark 8:34, Jesus Christ makes it clear that no one who is unwilling to “deny himself” can legitimately claim to be a disciple. When He adds that one must “take up his cross,” He reveals the extent of self-denial—to the point of death, if necessary. The extent of desperation on the part of the penitent sinner who is aware he can’t save himself reaches the place where nothing is held back as He follows Jesus Christ (see Matt. 19:21, 22).


Jesus says that whoever “loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (v. 35). This paradoxical saying reveals an important spiritual truth: those who pursue a life of ease, comfort, and acceptance by the world will not find eternal life. On the other hand, those who give up their lives for the sake of Christ and the gospel will find it.


To have all that the world has to offer yet not have Christ is to be eternally bankrupt. All the world’s goods will not compensate for losing one’s soul eternally (v. 36). It is the “soul,” the real person, who will live forever in heaven or hell. Those who reject the demands of discipleship prove themselves to be ashamed of Jesus Christ and the truth He taught.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 




03/03/20


Standing Against the Devil


“Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7b).


Anyone who possesses scriptural humility will take an uncompromising stand against Satan.


The successful diplomat or politician is quite adept at the art of compromise and finding the middle ground on various issues. But such skill is a hindrance when it comes to determining your position before God. If you humbly, by faith and repentance, submit yourself to God’s authority, you will immediately find yourself the enemy of Satan. You are either in God’s kingdom and under His lordship, or you are in Satan’s kingdom and under his lordship. It is impossible to have one foot in each kingdom and to be serving both kingdoms’ rulers.


To “resist the devil” gives us insight into what it means to be an enemy of Satan. “Resist” means “to take a stand against” the person of Satan and his entire system, which includes everything he does and represents. Such resistance is the complete opposite of the position you had before you submitted to God. Ephesians 2:1-2 reminds us of what that position was: “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan].” At that time, you had no power to resist the Devil and no desire to serve God, because you were slaves to Satan and his system (Heb. 2:14-15).


But all of that can and will change if you humbly switch your allegiance from Satan’s kingdom to God’s kingdom. In today’s verse the apostle James is promising you that as a part of that changed loyalty, you will automatically be in a position to take a stand against Satan. The minute you forsake Satan’s mastery he will flee from you.


Many Christians wrongly assume that Satan is much more powerful than he really is. But if you understand James’s promise you will know you have abundant spiritual resources to handle Satan’s empty threats. Being humble before God doesn’t mean being weak before Satan. God enables you to stand firm and resist.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for the wealth of spiritual resources He provides for you to stand against the Devil.


For Further Study


Read Ephesians 6:10-18.


Make a list of the spiritual weapons God has given us.

Pick one of these, and do some additional reading and study to improve your application of it.



Uncompromising Prayer


“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus . . . I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer” (Dan. 9:1-3).


Uncompromising prayer brings glory to God.


Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9:1-19 illustrates the key elements of effective intercessory prayer. Those elements will serve as the focus of our studies for several days, but first some background to Daniel’s prayer will be helpful.


Verse 1 says that Daniel prayed in the first year of the reign of King Darius, the first great king of the Medo-Persian Empire. About sixty-five years earlier, God had punished the sinful kingdom of Judah by allowing King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to conquer Jerusalem and take Israelite captives back to Babylon.


Subsequently the Babylonian Empire fell to the Medo-Persian Empire. Darius conquered Babylon on the night King Belshazzar threw a drunken festival at which God wrote the doom of his kingdom on the wall (Dan. 5:24-28). 


Daniel was among the captives originally transported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Throughout the lengthy captivity period, he never forgot he was God’s child and always represented God properly despite his difficult circumstances. He was a man of uncommon wisdom and courage. His trust in God was unwavering and his commitment to prayer uncompromising—even when his prayers could have cost him his life (Dan. 6:4-11).


As a result, God protected him, exalted him, and was glorified through him—as evidenced by King Darius’ decree that everyone in the kingdom was to fear and tremble before Daniel’s great God (Dan. 6:26).


Since Daniel understood the priority of prayer, he refused to be intimidated or distracted from it. His commitment is worthy of imitation. Can that be said of you? If everyone followed your pattern of prayer, would God’s Kingdom be strengthened?


Suggestions for Prayer


Consistency is important in prayer. You might try praying for different requests on specific days. For example, on Mondays you could pray for your governmental leaders, on Tuesdays for your pastor and the ministries of your church, etc.


For Further Study


Read Daniel 6.


What rank did Daniel hold?

Why did King Darius want to promote Daniel?

What was the reaction of the commissioners and satraps to Daniel’s popularity?

How did they deceive the king?

How did God protect Daniel?



God the Source of Mercy


“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).


Pure mercy is a gift of God that comes with the new birth. People can be merciful only when they have experienced God’s mercy.


God has both absolute and relative attributes. His absolute attributes—such as love, truth, and holiness—have characterized Him from all eternity. But His relative attributes—like mercy, justice, and grace—were not manifested until man, whom He created in His own image, sinned and became separated from his Creator. Apart from sin and evil, mercy, justice, and grace have no meaning.


When man fell, God extended His love to His fallen creatures in mercy. Only when they receive His mercy can they reflect His mercy. Thus God is the source of mercy. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness [mercy] toward those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:11). It is because we have the resource of God’s mercy that Jesus commanded, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).


We cannot have the blessing apart from the Blesser. We cannot even meet the condition apart from the One who set the condition. We are blessed by God when we are merciful to others, and we are able to be merciful to others because we have already received salvation’s mercy. Furthermore, when we share the mercy we have received, we will receive even more mercy.


Ask Yourself


When we talk about Christ’s character being formed in us, we understand the concept in theory. But what are some of the telltale signs that He is actually working His will through us in our interactions with others? How do you know when it’s Him, not you—when it’s the Spirit of God bearing fruit in your life?



Reading for Today:


Numbers 3:1–4:49

Psalm 30:1-7

Proverbs 10:30-32

Mark 8:1-21

Notes:


Numbers 3:1 Aaron and Moses. Because Aaron and his sons are emphasized in this chapter, Aaron is named first. Mount Sinai. The Lord had first communicated to Moses His choice of Aaron and his sons as priests in Exodus 28:1–29:46, while he was in the midst of the cloud on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 24:18).


Numbers 3:4 Eleazar and Ithamar. All of the future priests of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant were descendants of these two sons of Aaron. Eleazar and his descendants would later be singled out for great blessing (see Num. 25:10–13).


Psalm 30:2, 3 You healed me. God alone is the unique healer (see Ex. 15:26; Deut. 32:39; Ps. 107:20). David is extolling God for bringing him back from a near-death experience.


Psalm 30:5 This stark contrast constitutes one of the most worshipful testimonies from the Scriptures (see the principle in Is. 54:7, 8; John 16:20–22; 2 Cor. 4:17).


Mark 8:2 I have compassion. Only here and in the parallel passage (Matt. 15:32) did Jesus use this word of Himself. When He fed the 5,000, Jesus expressed “compassion” for the people’s lost spiritual condition (6:34). Here, He expressed “compassion” for people’s physical needs. Jesus could empathize with their hunger, having experienced it Himself (Matt. 4:2).


What was the “leaven of the Pharisees and…of Herod” that Jesus warned about?


The skeptical Pharisees asked for a “sign from heaven” in Mark 8:11, demanding further miraculous proof of Jesus’ messianic claims. Not content with the countless miracles He had performed on earth, they demanded some sort of astronomical miracle. Having already given them more than enough proof, Jesus refused to accommodate their spiritual blindness. The supreme sign verifying His claim to be the Son of God and Messiah was to be His resurrection (Matt. 16:39, 40).


Jesus warned the disciples about “the leaven of the Pharisees and…of Herod.” “Leaven” is a yeast that multiplies quietly and permeates all that it contacts. In the New Testament, “leaven” most often symbolizes the evil influence of sin. The “leaven” of the Pharisees included both their false teaching (Matt. 16:12) and their hypocritical behavior (Luke 12:1). The “leaven” of Herod Antipas was his immoral, corrupt conduct (see 6:17–29). The Pharisees and the Herodians were allied against Christ (3:6).


To Jesus’ amazement, the disciples completely missed His point, thinking He was talking about physical bread. He was concerned with spiritual truth, not mundane physical matters. Jesus asks them, “Is your heart still hardened?” (v. 17), which implies that they were rebellious, spiritually insensitive, and unable to understand spiritual truth. And He also reminded them of His ability to provide anything they might lack.


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 



03/02/20


Coming Under God's Authority


“Submit therefore to God” (James 4:7a).


The truly humble will submit to God’s authority.


Most people understand the basic requirements of military service. The first thing anyone experiences when he enlists is his rank within the chain of command under the commanding officer. Implicit in such lining up under the leadership of a superior is that the soldier, sailor, airman, or marine will obediently carry out all he is commanded to do.


However, the military is not the only context in which the concept of submission applies. James 4:7 uses the term “submit” in the far more important arena of our relationship to God. We are to submit to Him and come under the sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the basic requirement for anyone who would be humble before God. Since Scripture often uses military terms to describe our service to God (Phil. 2:25; 2 Tim. 2:3), it is appropriate to see ourselves as enlisting in God’s army, willingly obeying His commands, and following His leadership.


This kind of humble, willing submission to God’s authority is what Jesus meant when He told the disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). This concept of submission simply means doing God’s will from the heart, no matter what the cost.


The story of the rich young ruler provides a good measuring rod of our submissiveness to God. After the young man professed obedience to God’s law, Jesus tested him further by commanding him to “go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21). At that point the young man was not willing to obey Jesus. Instead, “his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property” (v. 22).


How would you have reacted? Would you have willingly obeyed Jesus’ command, or would you have allowed your pride to keep you from submitting to Him? If you have humbly lined up under God’s authority, the proper response is not difficult.


Suggestions for Prayer


Ask the Lord to remind you throughout this day of your need to submit all you do to His authority.


For Further Study


Read the Acts 9:1-22 account of the apostle Paul’s conversion to Christ.


What do you notice about his obedience and humility?

What is noteworthy about Ananias’ behavior?



Unlimited Prayer


"Men ought always to pray" (Luke 18:1, KJV).


Prayer should never be limited to certain times, places, or circumstances.


As a child I was taught to pray with my head bowed, eyes closed, and hands folded. Even as a young man I thought that was the only acceptable mode of prayer.


In my seminary days I sang in a quartet that traveled to various churches throughout the United States. The first time I traveled with them we had a prayer meeting in the car, and the driver prayed with his eyes open. All of us were glad he did, but I wondered if God really heard his prayer.


I have since learned that praying with my eyes closed is a helpful way to avoid distractions, but it isn't mandated in Scripture—nor are most of the other limitations people often place on prayer. For example, some people want to limit prayer to a certain posture, but Scripture tells of people praying while standing, sitting, kneeling, looking upward, bowing down, and lifting up their hands.


Some try to limit prayer to certain times of the day, such as morning or evening. But in the Bible people prayed at all times: morning, evening, three times a day, before meals, after meals, at bedtime, at midnight, day and night, in their youth, in their old age, when troubled, and when joyous.


Similarly, Scripture places no limits on the place or circumstances of prayer. It tells of people praying in a cave, in a closet, in a garden, on a mountainside, by a river, by the sea, in the street, in the Temple, in bed, at home, in the stomach of a fish, in battle, on a housetop, in a prison, in the wilderness, and on a cross.


The point is clear: there is no specific correct mode or kind of prayer, and prayer isn't limited by your location or circumstances. You are to pray always. That includes any kind of prayer, on any subject, and at any time of the day or night.


Suggestions for Prayer


Make a list of your current plans, thoughts, and concerns. Have you made each of them a matter of prayer? Commit yourself to sharing every aspect of your life with God.


For Further Study


Read Psalm 136. Note how the Lord is intimately involved in the lives of His people.



March 2 - Mercy and Justice


“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).


The relationship of mercy and justice is a confusing one because on the surface they seem the exact opposite. Justice gives exactly what is deserved; mercy gives less punishment and more help than is deserved. So the great question is: How can God be both just and merciful at the same time? The truth is God does not show mercy without punishing sin. For Him to offer mercy without punishment would negate His justice.


Mercy that ignores sin is false mercy and is all too common today. Some think it is unloving and unkind to hold people responsible for their sins. That is what is known as cheap grace—which is neither merciful nor just, nor does it offer punishment or pardon for sin. Because it overlooks sin, it leaves sin untouched and unforgiven. The one who relies on this sort of mercy is left in his sin.


The good news of the gospel, however, is that Christ paid the penalty for all sins so that God might be merciful to all sinners. On the cross Jesus satisfied God’s justice. And when a person trusts in His sacrifice, God opens the floodgates of His mercy. God did not gloss over sin and compromise justice. The good news is that in the shedding of Christ’s blood, He satisfied His justice, forgave sin, fulfilled righteousness, and made His mercy available. There is never an excuse for sin, but there is always a remedy.


Ask Yourself


What is true of God’s mercy should be true of ours. Rather than simply letting people get away with abuse, mistreatment, or destructive habits, we must realize that for mercy to truly be merciful, it must lead others toward health and holiness. Mercy is tougher than we think. How then might it look in practice?



Reading for Today:


Numbers 1:1–2:34

Psalm 29:7-11

Proverbs 10:26-29

Mark 7:14-37

Notes:


Numbers 1:2 a census. In Exodus 30:11–16, the Lord had commanded that a census of the males in Israel over 20 (excluding the Levites) be taken for the purpose of determining the ransom money for the service of the tabernacle. The result of that census is recorded in Exodus 38:25–28. The total number, 603,550 (Ex. 38:26), equals the number in 1:46.


Numbers 1:3 go to war. The purpose of this census was to form a roster of fighting men. The Book of Numbers looks ahead to the invasion of the land promised to Abraham (see Gen. 12:1–3).


Numbers 1:51 The outsider. This word often refers to the “alien” or “stranger.” The non-Levite Israelite was like a “foreigner” to the transporting of the tabernacle and had to keep his distance lest he die.


Mark 7:19 Since food is merely physical, no one who eats it will defile his heart or inner person, which is spiritual. Physical pollution, no matter how corrupt, cannot cause spiritual or moral pollution. Neither can external ceremonies and rituals cleanse a person spiritually. thus purifying all foods. By overturning the tradition of hand washing, Jesus in effect removed the restrictions regarding dietary laws.


Mark 7:20 What comes out of a man. A person’s defiled heart is expressed in both what he says and what he does.


Did Moses perhaps inflate the numbers of Jews in the wilderness?


Twice during the wilderness wanderings a census of the people of Israel was taken (Numbers 1:46; 26:51). Each time the resulting total count of fighting men exceeded 600,000.These numbers indicate a population for Israel in the wilderness of around 2.5 million people at any time. Viewed naturally, this total appears too high to sustain in wilderness conditions.


Before concluding that Moses inflated the numbers, several factors must be considered. First, the Lord supernaturally took care of Israel for 40 years (Deut. 8:1–5). Miraculous provision of food was a daily event. Second, God also spelled out sanitary practices that prevented the kind of health crises that might have occurred under those conditions. Third, while Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, they only moved camp about 40 times. Spending about a year in each campsite allowed for some normal life without creating a permanent settlement. This preserved some grazing for the herds while keeping the people’s pollution to a manageable amount. Each census was meant to be an accurate accounting of God’s people. They ought to be taken at face value..


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 





03/01/20


Grace to the Humble


“He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6).


A person cannot be saved unless he comes to God with a humble attitude.


Today’s verse is a challenge and a promise to anyone who is not sure about his salvation, or who thinks he is saved but does not measure up to the tests of faith in James’s letter. Even the worst sinful character traits—relying on worldly wisdom, having enmity against God, lusting after fleshly and selfish desires—are no match for God’s abundant grace.


The kind of grace James is referring to here is simply God’s saving grace—His undeserved favor of forgiveness and love bestowed on all sorts of sinners. Included within that favor is the Lord’s promise of the Holy Spirit, an understanding of God’s Word, Heaven, and all spiritual blessings. Such grace is available to all who will come in faith to Christ. Nothing in this universe can prevent the truly humble and repentant person from receiving grace—not the strength of sin and depravity, not the might of Satan, not the pull of the flesh, not even the power of death.


Scripture often links humility with saving faith. That’s why James quoted from Proverbs 3:34 (“God is opposed to the proud”) to support his point in verse 6. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (18:3).


If you are confused or doubtful regarding your salvation, just ask yourself, “Have I humbly submitted myself to God in faith and repentance?” If you have humbled yourself before God, rejoice! You are by definition a believer, one of the humble. Otherwise, you need to pray with the attitude of the tax gatherer in Luke 18:13, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” and receive His abundant grace.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for His continual grace, which He pours out to those who are humble before Him.


For Further Study


Read James 1—2.


What tests of true faith are discussed there?

How are we to respond to each of them?

Reflect on your response to these issues in the past. How could you improve?



Unceasing Prayer


"Pray at all times in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18).


Spiritual victory is directly related to the quality of your prayer life.


Prayer is communication with God, and like all communication, it can be developed to maximum efficiency or allowed to languish. Which you choose will determine the quality of your spiritual life.


Ironically, the freedom of worship we enjoy in our society and our high standard of living make it easy to become complacent about prayer and presume on God's grace. Consequently, many who say they trust in God actually live as if they don't need Him at all. Such neglect is sinful and leads to spiritual disaster.


Jesus taught that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1, KJV). "Faint" speaks of giving in to evil or becoming weary or cowardly. Paul added that we should pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and petition, and "be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).


First Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing." That doesn't mean to do nothing but pray. It simply means living in a constant state of God-consciousness. If you see a beautiful sunrise or a bouquet of flowers, your first response is to thank God for the beauty of His creation. If you see someone in distress, you intercede on his or her behalf. You see every experience of life in relation to God.


God wants you to be diligent and faithful in prayer. With that goal in mind we will devote this month to a study of prayer from two texts: Daniel's prayer in Daniel 9:1-19, and the disciples' prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Both are models of majestic, effective prayer.


As we study those passages together, be aware of your own pattern of prayer. Examine it carefully for strengths and weaknesses. Be prepared to make any necessary changes.


Suggestions for Prayer


Thank God for the privilege of communing with Him in prayer.

Ask Him to reveal any areas in your praying that need to be strengthened.

For Further Study


Read Daniel 9:1-19.


What prompted Daniel's prayer?

What was Daniel's attitude toward God? Toward himself and his people?

What did Daniel request?



Mercy Compared to Forgiveness, Love, and Grace


“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).


To understand the significance of mercy, let’s compare it to three amazing attributes of God. First, mercy has much in common with forgiveness, although it is distinct from it. God’s forgiveness of our sins flows from His mercy. But mercy is greater than forgiveness, because God is merciful to us even when we do not sin, just as we can be merciful to those who have never done anything against us. God’s mercy does not just forgive our transgressions but reaches to all our weaknesses and needs.


Just as forgiveness flows out of mercy, mercy flows out of love: “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. 2:4–5). Love is greater than mercy—it can manifest itself even when there is no wrong to forgive or need to meet.


Finally, mercy is also related to grace, which flows out of love. Grace and mercy have the closest possible relationship, yet they are different. Mercy deals with the consequences of sin, while grace deals with sin itself. Mercy offers relief from punishment; grace offers pardon for the crime.


Just look at what the Good Samaritan did. When he found a Jewish traveler who had been robbed and beaten, he held no animosity toward him. Love motivated him to show the man mercy when he bound up his wounds. And when he took him to an inn and cared for him, he showed grace. Such is the expression of mercy working with forgiveness, love, and grace.


Ask Yourself


Is there someone to whom you need to show God’s mercy, expressed through your love, your grace, your forgiveness? Think of how you can turn your merciful intentions into practical action.



Reading for Today:


Leviticus 26:1–27:34

Psalm 29:1-6

Proverbs 10:22-25

Mark 7:1-13


Notes:


Leviticus 26:9 make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you. What God commanded at creation and repeated after the Flood was contained in the covenant promise of seed (Gen. 12:1–3), which He will fulfill to the nation of Israel as promised to Abraham (Gen. 15:5, 6).


Leviticus 26:12 your God…My people. The promise of an intimate covenant relationship with the God of the universe is given (see 2 Cor. 6:16).


Leviticus 26:30 high places. These were natural shrines for the worship of idols. Solomon disobeyed God by worshiping Him on the high places (1 Kin. 3:4); and not long afterward, he was serving the gods of his foreign wives (1 Kin. 11:1–9).


Psalm 29:1 mighty ones. Literally, “sons of God” (see Ps. 89:6 in its context of vv. 5–10; see the plural form of “gods” in Ex. 15:11). The reference here in Psalm 29 is most likely to Yahweh’s mighty angels.


Proverbs 10:22 rich. While having more than one needs is not the object of wisdom, it is generally the result (see Deut. 6:11–15; 1 Kin. 3:10–14). no sorrow. None of the sorrow that is associated with ill-gotten wealth (see 13:11; 15:6; 16:19; 21:6; 28:6) is associated with wealth provided by the Lord.


What did the washing of hands have to do with spirituality?


In Mark 7:1, a delegation of leading representatives of Judaism came from Jerusalem perhaps at the request of the Galilean Pharisees. They immediately found fault with the disciples of Jesus, accusing them of eating with hands that had not been ceremonially cleansed and, thus, that had not been separated from the defilement associated with their having touched anything profane (v. 2). This washing had nothing to do with cleaning dirty hands but with a ceremonial rinsing. The ceremony involved someone pouring water out of a jar onto another’s hands, whose fingers must be pointing up. As long as the water dripped off at the wrist, the person could proceed to the next step. He then had water poured over both hands with the fingers pointing down. Then each hand was to be rubbed with the fist of the other hand. This was according to the “tradition of the elders”—a body of extra-biblical laws and interpretations of Scripture that had in actuality supplanted Scripture as the highest religious authority in Judaism.


The Pharisees and scribes went to the disciples’ Master for an explanation of the disciples’ allegedly disgraceful conduct. In reality, they were accusing Jesus of teaching His disciples to disobey the tradition of the elders (v. 5). Jesus’ reply was to quote Isaiah 29:13, whose prophecy perfectly fit the actions of the Pharisees. Not only were their hearts far from God but they were “hypocrites,” or spiritual phonies (v. 6). They followed the traditions of men because such teaching required only mechanical and thoughtless conformity without a pure heart. And in doing so, they had abandoned all the commandments contained in God’s Word and substituted a humanly designed standard for God’s standard (v. 8).


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

HAVE A BLESSED DAY! 






02/29/20


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?


PART II


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?


PART III


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.


PART IV


Reading for Today:


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. 7:6–169:291 Sam 10:1Pss. 33:1294:5Eph. 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. 9:22214:27Luke 8:48John 16:33Acts 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).


LOVINGLY IN THE LOVE OF OUR LORD JESUS

E+1DAY





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 rejoi