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Jeremiah 31:3

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; 

Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.


Finding True Contentment

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

True contentment is found only in Christ.

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Becoming an Effective Minister

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

Love is the key to effective ministry.

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

What do the following proverbs say about pride: Proverbs 8:1311:2; and 29:23?


The Right Perspective on Fasting

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

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

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

Proverbs 23:11 Redeemer. In a normal situation the near kinsman would rescue the one who had fallen upon hard times (Lev. 25:25Ruth 2:203:12134:1–12) or avenge in the case of a murder (Num. 35:19).“Redeemer” is applied to God as the Savior of His people (e.g., Gen. 48:16Ex. 6:6Job 19:25Ps. 19:14Is. 41:1443:1444:24) since the helpless had no voice.

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

Paul (Greek name) the apostle was also known as Saul, which was his Hebrew name. Along with his double name, Paul was also able to exercise dual citizenship as a Jewish descendant from the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5) and as a Roman (Acts 16:3722:25). Paul was born about the time of Christ’s birth, in Tarsus, located in modern Turkey (Acts 9:11).

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

Miraculously converted while on his way to Damascus (about A.D. 33–34) to persecute Christians, Paul immediately began proclaiming the gospel (Acts 9:20). After narrowly escaping Damascus (Acts 9:23–252 Cor. 11:3233), Paul spent three years in the wilderness (Gal. 1:1718). During those years, he received much of his doctrine as direct revelation from the Lord (Gal. 1:1112).

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

Though physically unimpressive (2 Cor. 10:10Gal. 4:14), Paul possessed an inner strength granted him through the Holy Spirit’s power (Phil. 4:13).The grace of God proved sufficient to provide for his every need (2 Cor. 12:910), enabling this noble servant of Christ to successfully finish his spiritual race (2 Tim. 4:7).

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Serving Your Master

The believer is to serve God, not riches.

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

The believer is to serve God, not riches.

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

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

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

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise—
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart—
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

May the words of the hymn be the song of your heart and the conviction of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank Christ for being your Master who loves you perfectly and provides for your every need.

For Further Study

Read Exodus 5. How does this picture the conflict between serving God’s interests and man’s? Explain.


Exalting Others

"Love does not brag" (1 Cor. 13:4).

Love exalts others; pride exalts self.

Most of us shy away from people who have an inflated view of themselves or place themselves at the center of every conversation. Yet perhaps you too struggle with the temptation to spend most of your conversations talking about yourself. Even if you would never openly brag about yourself, might you at times secretly resent others for not acknowledging your accomplishments? That's the subtlety of pride.

Boasting always violates love because it seeks to exalt itself at the expense of others—to make itself look good while making others look inferior. It incites jealousy and other sins. Sadly, boasting exists even in the church. That's why Paul exhorted us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, "but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3). The context of that statement is spiritual gifts, which can lead to pride if not governed by humility and love.

The Corinthians were spiritual show-offs—each vying for attention and prominence. Consequently their worship services were chaotic. First Corinthians 14:26 says, "When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation." Apparently they all were expressing their spiritual gifts at the same time with no regard for anyone else. That's why Paul concluded, "Let all things be done for edification."

Their lack of love was obvious because people who truly love others don't exalt themselves. They regard others as more important than themselves, just as Christ did when He humbled Himself and died for our sins (Phil. 2:3-8).

Boasting about our spiritual gifts is absurd because we did nothing to earn them. They don't reflect our capabilities; they reflect God's grace. That's why Paul asked the Corinthians, "What do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7). That applies to physical capabilities as well as spiritual enablements. Everything you have is a gift from God. Therefore, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:31).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Each day acknowledge your total dependence on God's grace.
  • Praise Him for the gifts He has entrusted to you.

For Further Study

Note what God has to say about haughtiness in Proverbs 6:16-1716:1818:1221:3-4; and 21:24.


The Danger of Wrongly-Based Rituals

“Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they?’” (Matthew 9:14–15).

Religious ritual and routine, if not handled appropriately, will always threaten true godliness. Some practices, such as praying to saints or lighting candles for the dead, are heretical. But even biblical practices, when their forms become the center of attention, can become barriers to true righteousness. Church attendance, Bible reading, saying grace before meals, and singing hymns can become lifeless habits that exclude true worship and praise. When we apply good things such as these the wrong way, they can keep us from faithful obedience . . . and keep unbelievers from trusting in God.

Alms, prescribed prayer, and fasting were the three major expressions of piety the Jews performed in Jesus’ time. The leaders took these matters quite seriously and were meticulous to practice them publicly so as to impress others with their piety (cf. Matt. 6:2516). Thus these practices became badges of pride and hypocrisy rather than marks of humble and genuine religion before God.

Jesus’ point in mentioning the bridegroom and his attendants is to show how out of place it is for His followers (attendants) to mourn and fast while He (the Bridegroom) is with them in person. Pharisaical manners and rituals are always wrong for Christians, but even good practices (such as sincere fasting), if not done properly, can hinder what the Lord wants to accomplish in our midst.

Ask Yourself

Should our answer to this kind of hypocrisy be the removal of all forms, disciplines, and ritual practices from our worship? Or is there value in these kinds of expressions? What would go missing from our worship if it was all spur-of-the-moment, with no cherished repetitions?


Reading for Today:


Job 24:18–21 Again Job referred to the opinions of his counselors, saying that, if their views were correct, all the wicked should be experiencing punishment. But it is obvious they were not.

Psalm 96:10 firmly established. Instead of the continuance of international chaos in human history, the world will be settled and efficiently managed by the Messiah in the millennial kingdom (Ps. 2;Mic. 4:1–5). judge the peoples righteously. Not only will the Lord establish international peace and stability in the future messianic kingdom, but He will also rule the world with impeccable justice (v. 13; Is. 11:1–5).

Romans 15:1 to bear. The word means “to pick up and carry a weight.” It is used of carrying a pitcher of water (Mark 14:13), of carrying a man (Acts 21:35), and figuratively of bearing an obligation (Acts 15:10). The strong are not to simply tolerate the weaknesses of their weaker brothers; they are to help the weak shoulder their burdens by showing loving and practical consideration for them (Gal. 6:21 Cor. 9:19–22Phil. 2:2–4).

DAY 16: How does Paul exemplify a “minister of Jesus Christ”?

Paul calls himself a “minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles” in Romans 15:16.“Minister”was a general Greek term used of public officials. But in the New Testament it is used most often of those who serve God in some form of public worship (e.g., Phil. 2:17Heb. 1:7148:126), including that of a priest (Luke 1:23). Although Paul’s practice was always to present the gospel to the Jews first in every city he visited, his primary apostolic calling was to the Gentiles (11:13Acts 9:15). Having referred to himself as a minister, a word with priestly overtones, Paul explains that his priestly ministry is to present to God an offering of a multitude of Gentile converts.

“Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus” (v. 17). Literally, “to boast.” Paul never boasted in his accomplishments as an apostle, but only in what Christ had accomplished through him (1 Cor. 1:27–29312 Cor. 10:13–1712:59Gal. 6:141 Tim. 1:12–16). In Paul’s case, his preaching was accompanied with “signs and wonders” (v. 19). God used them to authenticate true preaching and teaching. “From Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” The region that roughly corresponds to the former European country of Yugoslavia, spanning some 1,400 miles.

Paul’s goal was to reach those who had never heard the gospel (v. 20)—the primary function of a New Testament evangelist (Eph. 4:11). But for pastor-teachers, building on the foundation laid by such an evangelist is the crucial part of their ministry (1 Cor. 3:6).

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Seeing Clearly

“‘The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!’” (Matthew 6:22-23).

Generous giving brings spiritual understanding.

When people see, their body is filled with the light that comes in from the world their eyes perceive. But if their eye is dark (blind), there is no light and they perceive nothing. The eye is like a window—if a window is clean and clear, light floods the building; if a window is blacked out, no light enters. In Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus is saying the heart is like the eye. If your heart is toward God, your entire spiritual being is enlightened; but if your heart is toward material things and treasures of the world, you do not see spiritually as you should.

In verse 22 the Greek word translated “clear” is from a root word that means “generous.” If your heart is generous, your whole spiritual life will be flooded with understanding. In contrast to the clear eye is the “bad” eye (v. 23). A bad or evil eye is a Jewish colloquialism used regularly in the Greek Old Testament and the New Testament to mean “grudgingly.” Proverbs 28:22 says, for example, “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth.” If you hurry to be rich, you will be ungenerous, grudging, and selfish.

Let me simplify Matthew 6:22-23 to one statement: How you handle your money is the key to your spiritual perception. If your heart is in Heaven, you will have a generous spirit. If your treasure is on earth, you will be blind because of your greed. How total is the darkness of one who should see spiritually but is blind because of his own covetousness (v. 23)! Jesus’ call to you and me is to see clearly by devoting ourselves to Him and laying up treasure in Heaven.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you see opportunities where you can give generously to help extend His kingdom.

For Further Study

According to 2 Corinthians 9:6-12, what are some rewards for generosity?


Overcoming Jealousy

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

Jealousy thrives in a climate of selfish ambition.

Jealousy is an insidious sin that cries out, "I want what you have, and furthermore, I don't want you to have it." It replaces contentment with resentment and spawns a myriad of other sins.

The Corinthians, in truth, were jealous of one another's spiritual gifts. First Corinthians 12:31 literally says, "You are earnestly desiring the showy gifts, but I show you a more excellent way." The word translated "earnestly desiring" is translated "jealous" in 1 Corinthians 13:4. It means "to boil" and speaks of the inner seething that comes from wanting something that someone else has. In 1 Corinthians 3:3 Paul rebukes them for the jealousy and strife that existed among them.

Paul knew what it meant to be victimized by jealous people. During one of his imprisonments he candidly wrote, "Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment" (Phil. 1:15-17).

Paul's attitude toward those who envied him was exemplary: "Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice" (v. 18). He wasn't motivated by personal comfort or selfish ambition. He loved Christ deeply and wanted as many people as possible to hear the gospel. As long as Christ was being proclaimed, Paul was happy—regardless of his own circumstances or the motives of others. That should be your perspective too.

Love is the antidote for jealousy. When godly love governs your heart, you can rejoice in the spiritual successes of others, even when you know their motives are wrong. But if you seek prominence and selfish gain, you become an easy target for jealousy and resentment.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Confess any jealousy you might be harboring toward others.
  • Ask God to deepen your love for Christ so jealousy can't gain a foothold in your heart in the future.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 11:2. Is there such a thing as godly jealousy? Explain.


Christ Calls All Sinners to Repentance

“‘I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Matthew 9:13).

Everyone who is repentant, who acknowledges his or her sin and turns from it, is the object of Jesus’ call. The familiar Greek word (kaleo-) rendered here “to call” is also used of inviting someone to your home to enjoy good hospitality. This implies that Jesus did not invite the Pharisees to a meal with other sinners for the same reason He does not call any self-righteous person to salvation. In both cases, the people do not see themselves as needy, do not want to associate with those considered lower than themselves, and therefore can’t identify themselves with the Lord Jesus.

Later on, Jesus told three parables to further illustrate His concern for penitent sinners. Parables of the lost sheep and lost coin show that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). The poignant story of the prodigal son especially illustrates the Lord’s point that the Father rejoices over every person who repents, and He grieves over everyone who thinks he has no need (see Luke 15:11–32).

Christ’s teaching is clear: the person who believes he or she is spiritually safe without Him has no part in His kingdom. Our Lord came to earth to call sinners to repentance, but He cannot seek and save (Luke 19:10) those who will not recognize they are lost—and the self-righteous need to reexamine their hearts concerning salvation before it’s too late.

Ask Yourself

We never outgrow our need, though we can easily outgrow our awareness of it. What can you do to help ensure that your utter dependence on God is never far from your thoughts and attitudes?


Reading for Today:


Psalm 96:1 a new song. This new song was intended for the future inauguration of the millennial rule of the Lord over the earth (Pss. 144:9149:1Rev. 5:914:3).

Psalm 96:3 His glory…nations. The glory of the Lord is more than just His majestic splendor. It includes all of the reasons for admiring and praising Him, such as His acts of creation (Ps. 19:2) and redemption (v. 2).

Romans 14:15 grieved. The Greek word refers to causing pain or distress. A weak believer may be hurt when he sees a brother do something he believes is sinful. But still worse, the strong believer may cause his weaker brother to violate his own conscience (1 Cor. 8:8–13). love. Love will ensure that the strong Christian is sensitive and understanding of his brother’s weaknesses (1 Cor. 8:8–13). destroy. This refers to complete devastation. In the New Testament, it is often used to indicate eternal damnation (Matt. 10:28Luke 13:3John 3:16Rom. 2:12). In this context, however, it refers to a serious devastation of one’s spiritual growth (Matt. 18:3614).

Romans 14:17 kingdom of God. The sphere of salvation where God rules in the hearts of those He has saved. eating and drinking. Nonessentials and external observances. righteousness. Holy, obedient living (Eph. 6:14Phil. 1:11). peace. The loving tranquillity, produced by the Spirit, that should characterize believers’ relationships with God and each other (Gal. 5:22). joy in the Holy Spirit. Another part of the Spirit’s fruit, this describes an abiding attitude of praise and thanksgiving regardless of circumstances, which flows from one’s confidence in God’s sovereignty (Gal. 5:221 Thess. 1:6).

DAY 15: How is unity maintained within the church when there is so much diversity?

Reading through Romans 14:1–12, it is clear that the diversity of the church displays Christ’s power to bring together dissimilar people in genuine unity. Yet Satan often works on man’s unredeemed flesh to create division and threaten that unity. The threat to unity Paul addresses in this passage arises when mature (strong) believers—both Jews and Gentiles—conflict with immature (weak) believers. The strong Jewish believers understood their freedom in Christ and realized the ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic Law were no longer binding. The mature Gentiles understood that idols are not gods and, therefore, that they could eat meat that had been offered to them. But in both cases the weaker brothers’ consciences were troubled, and they were even tempted to violate their consciences, become more legalistic under the feelings of guilt, or even to sin. Knowing that the mature Jews and Gentiles would be able to understand these struggles, Paul addresses most of his comments to them.

The secret to unity begins with the willingness to “receive one who is weak in the faith” (v. 1). The Greek word refers to personal and willing acceptance of another. This characterizes those believers who are unable to let go of the religious ceremonies and rituals of their past. The weak Jewish believer had difficulty abandoning the rites and prohibitions of the Old Covenant; he felt compelled to adhere to dietary laws, observe the Sabbath, and offer sacrifices in the temple. The weak Gentile believer had been steeped in pagan idolatry and its rituals; he felt that any contact with anything remotely related to his past, including eating meat that had been offered to a pagan deity and then sold in the marketplace, tainted him with sin. Both had very sensitive consciences in these areas and were not yet mature enough to be free of those convictions.

Neither one should “despise…judge” the other (v. 3). “Despise” indicates a contempt for someone as worthless, who deserves only disdain and abhorrence. “Judge” is equally strong and means “to condemn.” Paul uses them synonymously: The strong hold the weak in contempt as legalistic and self-righteous; the weak judge the strong to be irresponsible at best and perhaps depraved. “To his own master he stands or falls” (v. 4). How Christ evaluates each believer is what matters, and His judgment does not take into account religious tradition or personal preference.

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Being Devoted to God

“‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’” (Matthew 6:21).

The believer is to have a single-minded devotion to God.

British pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones told the story of a farmer who one day went happily to his wife and family to report that their best cow had given birth to twin calves, one brown and one white. The farmer said, “I suddenly had an impulse that we must dedicate one of these calves to the Lord. We will sell one and keep the proceeds; the other we will also sell, but give the proceeds to the Lord’s work.” His wife asked him which one he was going to dedicate to the Lord. He replied, “There is no need to bother about that now. We will treat them both the same way, and when the time comes, we will do as I say.” And off he went. A few months later the farmer entered his kitchen looking unhappy. When his wife asked him what was troubling him, he answered, “I have bad news to give you. The Lord’s calf is dead.”

We laugh at the story because we all tend to lay up treasure on earth. We want to be rich toward self but poor toward God. Jesus speaks directly to that wrong thinking by saying “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). Your heart and your treasure go together—they both need to be in Heaven. Our Lord is speaking of a single-minded devotion to God and His cause that is undistracted by the world.

Jesus is not saying that if you put your treasure in the right place, your heart will then be in the right place, but that the location of your treasure indicates where your heart already is. Spiritual problems are always heart problems. God’s principle for His people has always been, “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Prov. 3:9-10). What about you? Is that the principle by which you live?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you have a single-minded devotion to His kingdom.

For Further Study

Read Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians 9:6. What is the common principle in both verses?


Showing Kindness

"Love is kind" (1 Cor. 13:4).

Kindness repays evil with good.

Two men going opposite directions on a narrow mountain trail met each other head on. With a steep cliff on one side and sheer rock on the other, they were unable to pass. The harder they tried to squeeze past one another the more frustrated they became. The situation seemed hopeless until one of them, without saying a word, simply laid down on the trail, allowing the other man to walk over him. That illustrates kindness, which doesn't mind getting walked on if it benefits someone else.

The Greek word translated "kind" in 1 Corinthians 13:4literally means "useful," "serving," or "gracious." It isn't simply the sweet attitude we usually associate with kindness; it's the idea of being useful to others. It's the flip side of patience. Patience endures abuses from others; kindness repays them with good deeds.

God committed the supreme act of kindness when He provided salvation for lost sinners. Titus 3:3-5 says, "We also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us."

Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light" (Matt. 11:29-30). The word translated "easy" is translated "kind" in 1 Corinthians 13:4. Jesus was saying, "Trust in Me and I'll redeem you and show you My kindness."

Since "you have tasted the kindness of the Lord" (1 Pet. 2:3), you should be anxious to show kindness to others. That's what Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to do. He knew they had the capacity, but they needed to repent of their selfish ways and allow love to dominate their lives.

Suggestions for Prayer

The evil world in which we live gives abundant opportunity for you to express kindness to others. Ask the Lord to help you take full advantage of every opportunity to do so today.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 5:38-48, noting the practical expressions of kindness Jesus instructed His followers to pursue.


Jesus Urges Compassion

But go and learn what this means: I desire compassion, and not sacrifice”’” (Matthew 9:13).

Jesus never shied away from speaking directly and bluntly if the situation demanded such talk. Here He pins the Jewish leaders to the wall by quoting from their own most honored scriptural authorities. Their own prophets rebuke them for their spiritual ignorance and their lack of obedience to God’s clear commands.

Jesus paraphrases Hosea’s prophetic and divinely inspired words: “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). The perfect Word of God should have been the Pharisees’ supreme concern, as it should be ours, rather than the flawed words and ideas of humanity. Without true and godly compassion, all the Pharisees’ rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices were worth nothing to God. The person who is indifferent toward other people verifies that he or she is also indifferent toward God, no matter how correct their theology or impeccable their morality.

Ritual separated from righteousness and a concern for the downtrodden and lost has always been an affront to God. Through the prophet Amos, the Lord declared, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23–24).

Ask Yourself

In what ways have you let duty and religious reputation become elevated in importance beyond genuine love and compassion for others? What is so empty about the former . . . and so rejuvenating about the latter?


Reading for Today:


Job 19:20 skin of my teeth. This was the origin of a common slang phrase, referring to skin that is thin and fragile. The idea is that he had escaped death by a very slim margin. The loss of all his family, as well as the abuse of his friends was added to the terror of God-forsakeness which had gripped him.

Job 19:23–29 At the point of Job’s greatest despair, his faith appeared at its highest as he confidently affirmed that God was his Redeemer. He wanted that confidence in the record for all to know (vv. 23, 24). Job wished that the activities of his life were put into words and “inscribed in granite,” so all would know that he had not sinned to the magnitude of his suffering. God granted his prayer. God was his Redeemer (Ex. 6:6Ps. 19:1472:14Is. 43:1447:449:26Jer. 50:34),who would vindicate him in that last day of judgment on the earth when justice was finally done (Jer. 12:1–3John 5:2529Rev. 20:11–15).

Psalm 95:9 tested Me. This is a reference to the same event (v. 8), also called “Massah” (translated “testing”), when God brought water out of the rock (Ex. 17:7Deut. 6:169:2233:8). The writer to the Hebrews applies the principle of this event to his readers, suggesting that their inclination to doubt the Lord and return to Judaism was parallel with their fathers’ inclination to doubt the Lord and go back to Egypt.

Proverbs 23:45 Rather than wearing oneself out pursuing wealth, pursue the wisdom of God and what glorifies Him, and He will bless with prosperity as He chooses.

Romans 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ. This phrase summarizes sanctification, the continuing spiritual process in which those who have been saved by faith are transformed into His image and likeness (2 Cor. 3:18Gal. 4:19Phil. 3:1314Col. 2:71 John 3:23). The image Paul uses to describe that process is taking off and putting on clothing, which is symbolic of thoughts and behavior. no provision. This word has the basic meaning of planning ahead or forethought. Most sinful behavior results from wrong ideas and lustful desires we allow to linger in our minds (James 1:1415).

DAY 14: How should a Christian respond to the government?

In Romans 13:1, Paul says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.” This Greek word was used of a soldier’s absolute obedience to his superior officer. Scripture makes one exception to this command: when obedience to civil authority would require disobedience to God’s word (Ex. 1:17Dan. 3:16–186:710Acts 4:19205:2829). Every position of civil authority without regard to competency, morality, reasonableness, or any other caveat (1 Thess. 4:11121 Tim. 2:12Titus 3:12). “For there is no authority except from God.” Since He alone is the sovereign ruler of the universe (Pss. 62:11103:191 Tim. 6:15), He has instituted 4 authorities on earth: 1) the government over all citizens; 2) the church over all believers; 3) the parents over all children; and 4) the masters over all employees. Human government’s authority is “appointed” and is defined by God. He instituted human government to reward good and to restrain sin in an evil, fallen world.

Since all government is God-ordained, disobedience is rebellion against God (v. 2) and will be met with judgment. Not God’s judgment, but punishment from the government for breaking the law. Even the most wicked, godless governments act as a deterrent to crime. Peaceful, law-abiding citizens need not fear the authorities. Few governments will harm those who obey their laws. In fact, governments usually commend such people.

“For because of this you also pay taxes” (v. 6). The Greek word referred specifically to taxes paid by individuals, particularly those living in a conquered nation to their foreign rulers—which makes the tax even more onerous. That tax was usually a combined income and property tax. In this context, however, Paul uses the term in the broadest possible sense to speak of all kinds of taxes. Jesus explicitly taught that taxes are to be paid—even to the pagan Roman government (Matt. 22:17–21). He also set an example by willingly paying the temple tax (Matt. 17:24–27). “Render…to all their due” (v. 7). “Render” translates a Greek word signifying the payment of something owed—not a voluntary contribution—and is reinforced by the word “due.” The apostle reiterates that paying taxes is mandatory.

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“‘Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven’” (Matthew 6:20).

The believer is to be generous in his giving.

The early church was not interested in accumulating great wealth for itself. In Acts 2, for example, thousands of pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. When Peter preached the gospel on that day, 3,000 persons became believers, and soon afterward thousands more were added to the church. The pilgrims who became believers didn’t want to return to their former homes since they were now part of the church. So the believers in Jerusalem had to absorb them. Since many of the inhabitants were undoubtedly poor, the early church had to give to meet their needs. As a result, believers “began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45). The early church illustrates what it means to lay up treasure in Heaven.

Like the early church, we are to lay up for ourselves treasure in Heaven (Matt. 6:20). What is our treasure in Heaven? In a broad sense it is “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). We could say that, above all, our treasure in Heaven is Christ.

In a specific sense, Jesus is referring in Matthew 6:20 to money, luxury, and wealth. He is saying that to lay up treasure in Heaven is to be generous and ready to share the riches God has given to us, instead of hoarding and stockpiling them. By being generous, you expose yourself to the full potential of all that eternal life can mean. First Timothy 6:18-19 says you are “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for [yourself] the treasure of a good foundation for the future.” The more you send into Heaven, the greater the glory when you arrive. The greater the investment, the greater the reward. Make it your aim to invest for eternity, where you will never lose your reward.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you be generous toward others who are in need.

For Further Study

According to Galatians 6:10, to whom are we to do good?


Winning Through Non-Retaliation

"Love is patient" (1 Cor. 13:4).

Love does not retaliate.

We usually think of patience as the ability to wait or endure without complaint—whether it's with people or circumstances. But the Greek word translated "patience" in 1 Corinthians 13:4 refers specifically to patience with people. It literally means "to be long tempered," and speaks of one who could easily retaliate when wronged but chooses not to.

That kind of patience is a spiritual virtue reflective of God Himself (cf. Gal 5:22). It can't be duplicated on a purely human level. But for Christians, it's to be a way of life. Paul said, "I . . . entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love" (Eph. 4:1-2).

God Himself is the supreme example of patience. Peter said, "[He] is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). Those who reject His grace are despising "the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience" (Rom. 2:4).

In the Greco-Roman world of Paul's day, retaliating for a personal insult or injury was considered a virtue. Non- retaliation was interpreted as a sign of weakness. Our society is much the same. Our heroes tend to be those who fight back with physical strength or litigation. But that isn't God's perspective, nor was it Christ's in praying for His killers, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

As you consider your own patience, remember that retaliation isn't always blatant and forceful. It's often subtle—like withholding affection from your spouse when he or she has wronged you, or withdrawing from a friend who has hurt you. But godly love never retaliates. It cares more for the feelings of others than for its own.

Remember the Lord's patience toward you, and allow His Spirit to produce similar patience in you.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you are harboring resentment toward someone who has wronged you, confess it to the Lord and do everything you can to reconcile with that person.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 50:15-21.

  • What fear did Joseph's brothers have?
  • How did Joseph react to their plea for forgiveness?
  • How did God use the brothers' sin to accomplish His own purposes?


The Sick Need a Physician

“When Jesus heard this, He said, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick’” (Matthew 9:12).

Basic human logic and common sense tells us that physically sick people need treatment from a doctor. Here Jesus simply answers the Pharisees’ cynical question with the plain statement that the spiritually sick also need treatment. It’s as if He said to the Jews, “If you’re really so spiritually healthy, you don’t need a spiritual physician. But if by their own confession, the sinners I’m eating with are the spiritually needy who must have the gospel presented, then that’s why I’m ministering to them. I’m the Great Physician who can bring spiritual healing—salvation—to those who recognize their desperate need.”

By analogy, no credible physician would spend all his or her time among healthy people and refuse to be with the sick. By implication, Jesus was asking the Pharisees if they—the self-proclaimed theological and religious “experts” who had all the answers for the unenlightened—were refusing to give them that medicine. This was an incredible indictment of the self-righteous, hard-hearted religionists.

The Pharisees were hypocrites who carefully fussed about the most minute matters of the law but neglected the bigger issues such as “justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23). They loved themselves but hated others and revealed themselves to be without the compassion and mercy God’s law requires.

We have to ask, How could the Pharisees resent the healing of those sinners God Himself desired to heal? With such an attitude they proved themselves to be sickest of all—actually dead spiritually.

Ask Yourself

How are we guilty of spending an undue percentage of our time providing care and attention for the spiritually sound? What is this an indicator of? What can you do to avoid this imbalance in your church and personal ministry?


Reading for Today:


Psalm 95:1 Rock of our salvation. This metaphor for God was especially appropriate in this psalm, which refers (vv. 8, 9) to the water that came from the rock in the wilderness (Ex. 17:1–7Num. 20:1–131 Cor. 10:4).

Psalm 95:3 the great King above all gods. This is a poetic way of denying the existence of other gods (96:5), which existed only as statues, not persons (Jer. 10:1–10).

Psalm 95:4 deep places of the earth. This refers to the depths of the seas, valleys, and caverns, and contrasts with the hills. The point (v. 5) is that God was not a local god like the imaginary gods of the heathens, usually put up in high places, but the universal Creator and Ruler of the whole earth.

Romans 12:1 present your bodies a living sacrifice. Under the Old Covenant, God accepted the sacrifices of dead animals. But because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, the Old Testament sacrifices are no longer of any effect (Heb. 9:1112). For those in Christ, the only acceptable worship is to offer themselves completely to the Lord. Under God’s control, the believer’s yet unredeemed body can and must be yielded to Him as an instrument of righteousness. reasonable service. “Reasonable” is from the Greek for “logic.” In light of all the spiritual riches believers enjoy solely as the fruit of God’s mercies (Rom. 11:3336), it logically follows that they owe God their highest form of service. Understood here is the idea of priestly, spiritual service, which was such an integral part of Old Testament worship.

Romans 12:2 do not be conformed. “Conformed” refers to assuming an outward expression that does not reflect what is really inside, a kind of masquerade or act. The word’s form implies that Paul’s readers were already allowing this to happen and must stop. this world. Better translated, “age,” which refers to the system of beliefs, values—or the spirit of the age—at any time current in the world. This sum of contemporary thinking and values forms the moral atmosphere of our world and is always dominated by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). transformed. The Greek word, from which the English word “metamorphosis” comes, connotes a change in outward appearance. Matthew uses the same word to describe the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2). Just as Christ briefly and in a limited way displayed outwardly His inner, divine nature and glory at the Transfiguration, Christians should outwardly manifest their inner, redeemed natures, not once, however, but daily (2 Cor. 3:18Eph. 5:18). renewing of your mind. That kind of transformation can occur only as the Holy Spirit changes our thinking through consistent study and meditation of Scripture (Ps. 119:11Col. 1:283:1016Phil. 4:8). The renewed mind is one saturated with and controlled by the Word of God.

DAY 13: How has God gifted believers to fulfill His purposes?

Romans 12:6–8 describes the general categories of spiritual gifts. These come to us “according to the grace…given”—undeserved and unmerited. The gift itself (1 Cor. 12:4), the specific way in which it is used (1 Cor. 12:5), and the spiritual results (1 Cor. 12:6) are all sovereignly chosen by the Spirit completely apart from personal merit (1 Cor. 12:11).

“Prophecy.” This Greek word means “speaking forth” and does not necessarily include prediction of the future or any other mystical or supernatural aspects. Although some prophets in Acts did make predictions of future events (11:27, 28; 21:10, 11), others made no predictions but spoke the truth of God to encourage and strengthen their hearers (15:32; vv. 22–31). The evidence does suggest, however, that in the first century, before the New Testament was complete and the sign gifts had ceased (1 Cor. 13:82 Cor. 12:12Heb. 2:34), this word may have had both nonrevelatory and revelatory facets. In its nonrevelatory sense, the word “prophecy” simply identifies the skill of public proclamation of the word of God (1 Cor. 14:324251 Pet. 4:11).“In proportion to our faith.” Literally, “the faith,” or the fully revealed message or body of Christian faith (Jude 32 Tim. 4:2). The preacher must be careful to preach the same message the apostles delivered.

“Ministry” (v. 7). From the same Greek word as “deacon” comes from, it refers to those who serve. This gift, similar to the gift of helps (1 Cor. 12:28), has broad application to include every kind of practical help (Acts 20:351 Cor. 12:28). “Teaching.” The ability to interpret, clarify, systematize, and explain God’s truth clearly (Acts 18:24252 Tim. 2:2). Pastors must have the gift of teaching (1 Tim. 3:2Titus 1:91 Tim. 4:16); but many mature, qualified laymen also have this gift. This differs from preaching (prophecy), not in content, but in the unique skill for public proclamation.

“Exhortation” (v. 8).The gift which enables a believer to effectively call others to obey and follow God’s truth. It may be used negatively to admonish and correct regarding sin (2 Tim. 4:2) or positively to encourage, comfort, and strengthen struggling believers (2 Cor. 1:3–5Heb. 10:2425). “Gives, with liberality.” This denotes the sacrificial sharing and giving of one’s resources and self to meet the needs of others (2 Cor. 8:3–5911Eph. 4:28). The believer who gives with a proper attitude does not do so for thanks and personal recognition, but to glorify God (Matt. 6:2Acts 2:44454:37–5:112 Cor. 8:2–5). “Leads.” Literally, “standing before.” Paul calls this gift “administrations” (1 Cor. 12:28), a word that means “to guide” and is used of the person who steers a ship (Acts 27:11Rev. 18:17). Again, the church’s leaders must exercise this gift, but it is certainly not limited to them. “Shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” One who actively shows sympathy and sensitivity to those in suffering and sorrow and who has both the willingness and the resources to help lessen their afflictions. Frequently, this gift accompanies the gift of exhortation. This attitude is crucial to ensure that the gift of mercy becomes a genuine help, not a discouraging commiseration with those who are suffering (Prov. 14:2131Luke 4:1819).

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Keeping the Treasure

“‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal’” (Matthew 6:19).

Heaven is the only safe place for treasure.

In the Orient during biblical times, wealth was basically preserved in three ways. There was no paper, there were no bank books, there was nothing to match the kind of system we have. Wealth was identified in literal commodities: garments, grain, and gold or precious metals.

Garments in the Bible were always an expression of wealth. In Judges 14:12 Samson told the Philistines that if they could answer his riddle, he would give them “thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes.” But there is one problem with garments—moths eat them. Have you ever noticed that moths don’t eat what you wear, only what you store? We tend to hoard, and a lot of our treasure is invested in our garments, waiting for moths to destroy them.

Grain was another source of wealth. The rich fool said he would tear down his barns and build larger ones to store all his grain and goods (Luke 12:18). In Matthew 6:19 the Greek word translated “rust” literally means “eating.” The problem with grain is that mice, rats, worms, and vermin like to eat it.

The third commodity was gold or precious metal. The problem with this one is, where can a person hide it? He might keep it in his house, but a thief could break in and steal it. Therefore, it was common to find a secret place in a field and in the dark of night dig a hole and bury it. But thieves would lurk around at night and watch where men would bury their treasure, then later dig it up.

Nothing you own is completely safe from destruction or theft. And even if you keep your possessions perfectly secure during your entire life, you are certainly separated from them at death. That’s why Jesus said you should lay up treasures in Heaven “where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (v. 20). What about you? Are you putting your treasure in a safe place?

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for providing a secure and eternal place where you can invest for His glory.

For Further Study

Read James 5:1-3. What happened to the commodities there?


Love in Action

"Love is patient . . . kind . . . not jealous . . . does not brag . . . is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly . . . does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Love is difficult to define, but it can be described by the behavior it produces.

Paul painted a portrait of the kind of love Jesus wants to produce in every believer. It is, in fact, a portrait of Christ Himself, who is love's highest expression. Unlike most English translations, which include several adjectives, the Greek forms of all those properties are verbs. They do not focus on what love is so much as on what love does and does not do.

Set against the backdrop of the Corinthians' self- promoting behavior, Paul's words are a strong rebuke. He says in effect, "Love is patient, but you are impatient. Love is kind, but you are unkind toward those who disagree with you. Love is not jealous, but you envy those with certain spiritual gifts. Love does not brag, but you are proud of your theology. Love is not arrogant and does not act unbecomingly, but often you are rude and ill-mannered toward one another.

"Love does not seek its own, but you are self-centered. Love is not provoked, but you quarrel among yourselves. Love does not take into account a wrong suffered, but you hold grudges against each other. Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but you delight in one another's failures. Love rejoices with the truth, but you distort and disobey God's Word.

"Love bears all things, but you are defensive and resentful. Love is eager to believe the best about someone, but you are quick to assume the worst. Love never gives up and can tolerate incredible opposition, but you are weak and intolerant."

Paul wanted the Corinthians to see the deficiencies in their love in light of the truth and make the needed corrections. You and I must do the same. So as we explore each of love's characteristics, ask the Holy Spirit to purify your heart so others will clearly see Paul's portrait of love on display in you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, substituting "Jesus" for "love." Then praise Him for all His excellencies.

For Further Study

What does 1 John 3:13-18 teach about love?


The Pharisees’ Negative Response

“Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?’” (Matthew 9:10–11).

Prideful resentment can lead to the most negative response to the person and ministry of Jesus. Such was the case with the Pharisees here who were angry and humiliated that He associated so personally with sinners and yet had not extended to them, the religious elite, the same sort of social favor. Surely they, the pillars of proper behavior and religious purity, at least deserved a banquet from this newer Teacher, didn’t they?

The Pharisees’ question about Jesus’ eating with sinners (or “undesirable people”) was more a rhetorical rebuke than a sincere question. They were merely venting their hostility and again attempting to put Jesus on the spot. They did not even have the courage to ask their question directly of the Lord, but hovered outside the banquet house to find out what sort of response the disciples would get from their Master.

The Pharisees were becoming more and more bitter and vindictive, realizing they were at odds with practically everything Jesus was teaching. They were so convinced of their own orthodoxy and superiority that anything perceived as contrary to their worldview was by definition heretical and unrighteous. These men were furious that Christ snubbed them yet maintained friendly relations with sinners and outcasts.

The Pharisees’ negative response to Jesus, and their misguided, unscriptural “religion” that worked at cross-purposes to His divine ministry of redemption, is completely the opposite of Christianity, the true and biblical religion.

Ask Yourself

Do you sense any hint of spiritual superiority in your heart—even the slightest impression that your tenure as a Christian, your knowledge of the Word, or your familiarity with church decorum makes you a little more special to God than others are?


Reading for Today:


Job 15:14–16 A strong statement with regard to the sinfulness of man (Rom. 3:23) that attacked Job’s claim to righteousness. Verse 15 refers to holy angels who fell and brought impurity into the heavens (Rev. 12:1–4). The truth is accurate, that all men are sinners—but irrelevant in Job’s case, because his suffering was not due to any sin.

Romans 11:20 unbelief…faith. Branches were broken off and others grafted in based solely on the issue of faith, not race, ethnicity, social or intellectual background, or external morality. Salvation is ever and always by faith alone (1:16, 17; Eph. 2:89). fear. (See 1 Cor. 10:122 Cor. 13:5.) God will judge the apostate church (Rev. 2:15163:16) just as surely as He judged apostate Israel.

Romans 11:22 consider the goodness and severity. All of God’s attributes work in harmony. There is no conflict between His goodness and love, and His justice and wrath. Those who accept His gracious offer of salvation experience His goodness (2:4); those who reject it experience His severity (2:5). those who fell. The unbelieving Jews described in vv.12–21. “Fell” translates a Greek word meaning “to fall so as to be completely ruined.” Those who reject God’s offer of salvation bring upon themselves utter spiritual ruin. if you continue. Genuine saving faith always perseveres (John 8:3115:56Col. 1:2223Heb.3:12–144:111 John 2:19). cut off. From the same Greek root word translated “severity” earlier in the verse. God will deal swiftly and severely with those who reject Him.

Romans 11:33 wisdom. (See Ps. 104:24Dan. 2:20Eph. 3:10Rev. 7:12.) knowledge. God’s omniscience (1 Sam. 2:31 Kin. 8:39Ps. 44:21147:5). judgments. God’s purposes or decrees, which are beyond human understanding (Ps. 36:6). ways. The methods God chooses to accomplish His purposes (Job 5:99:1026:14).

DAY 12: How did Job’s friends fail him?

“I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all!” (Job 16:1). Job’s friends had come to comfort him. In spite of 7 blissful days of silence at the outset, their mission had failed miserably, and their comfort had turned into more torment for Job. What started out as Eliphaz’s sincere efforts to help Job understand his dilemma had turned into rancor and sarcasm. In the end, their haranguing had heightened the frustrations of all parties involved. If the matter were reversed and Job was comforter to his friends, he would never treat them as they have treated him. He would have strengthened and comforted them.

“He tears me in His wrath, and hates me; He gnashes at me with His teeth” (v. 9). “I was at ease, but He has shattered me” (v. 12).These poignant thoughts from Job lamented his suffering as severe judgment from God, who had worn him out, withered his strength, and chewed him up by severe scrutiny (“sharpens His gaze,” v. 9). Job refers to God as “my Adversary,” who had shattered, shaken, shot at, and sliced him (vv. 12–14).

He had no one to turn to in his sorrow, except God (v. 19), who was silent and had not vindicated him. “My friends scorn me” (v. 20), when they should have comforted him. “Oh, that one might plead for a man with God” (v. 21). The pleading would be for a verdict of innocence on behalf of a friend or neighbor in a court setting before the judge/king. God anticipated the need of an advocate, and He has provided One in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:51 John 2:12).

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

The believer is to use his possessions unselfishly.

Some years ago I happened to have contact with two quite wealthy men during the same week. One was a former professor at a major university who through a series of investments made possibly a hundred million dollars. In the process, however, he lost his family, his happiness, and his peace of mind and had aged far beyond his years. The other man, a pastor, also made some investments and acquired great wealth but was not preoccupied with his investments. Because of his financial independence, he gave to his church over the years more than it paid him for being its pastor. He is one of the happiest, most contented, and most godly persons I have ever met. The difference between the two men was not their wealth, but their contrasting views about wealth.

In Matthew 6:19 Jesus taught the right way to view wealth by saying you are not to lay up treasure for yourselves. When you accumulate possessions simply for yourself—whether to hoard or to spend selfishly and extravagantly—those possessions become idols. Jesus is saying, “People in my kingdom shouldn’t amass fortunes or stockpile things for themselves.” Colossians 3:5 says, “Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to . . . greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Covetousness is idolatry.

What about you? Are you consumed with extending God’s kingdom instead of accumulating possessions for yourself? Do you desire to invest in eternity and God’s causes, or are you being greedy and miserly? First Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Glorify Him by investing in His kingdom and living unselfishly.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you use your possessions unselfishly for His glory.

For Further Study

What warning does Jesus give in Luke 12:15?


Martyrdom Without Love

"If I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3).

Wrong motives rob even the greatest sacrifice of its spiritual benefit.

So far in his denunciation of loveless ministries, Paul has addressed what we say, what we know, what we believe, and how we give. Now he comes to the apex of his argument: how we die. Many Christians have made the ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom, but even that is useless without love.

In Paul's time, many slaves were branded with a hot iron to identify them as belonging to their master. For that reason, some interpreters believe Paul was referring to becoming a slave when he spoke of delivering his body to be burned (1 Cor. 13:3). Others think he was speaking of burning at the stake—a death that many Christians suffered at the hands of their persecutors.

Although death by burning wasn't a common form of persecution until after Paul wrote to the Corinthians, I believe that's what he had in mind in this passage. In verses 1-2 he used extremes to make his point: speaking with the tongues of angels; knowing all mysteries and knowledge; having all faith, and giving all one's possessions to feed the poor. The horrible, agonizing pain associated with death by fire is consistent with those extremes.

Jesus called martyrdom the highest expression of love (John 15:13). But it isn't always a godly or loving thing to do. Many people have died for lesser reasons. You may recall stories of the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II, or more recently of monks or students who burned themselves in protest of some political or social injustice.

Even Christians aren't exempt from wrong motives. It is reported that many Christians in the early church developed a martyr complex, wanting to die for the faith so they could become famous like the martyrs before them. Many deeds that look sacrificial on the surface are really the products of pride.

If the ultimate sacrifice is useless without love, so is every lesser sacrifice. But love sanctifies them all. So let God's love govern everything you do!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Romans 5:8 as a reminder to praise God for the many sacrifices He has made for you.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 2:1-7.

  • What strengths did the church in Ephesus have?
  • What did the Lord say about its one glaring weakness?


Matthew’s Positive Response

“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he got up and followed Him” (Matthew 9:9).

Matthew’s gospel has already established that Jesus offered His forgiveness to the least-loved outcasts of society. It seems evident from the context of this verse that one of those outcasts, Matthew the tax collector (this gospel’s author), had been under real conviction of sin and spiritual need. He would have been very aware of Jesus’ ministry in and around Capernaum, even though he might not have personally heard Him preach or had seen Him do a miracle.

Matthew likely yearned for the forgiveness that was permanently denied to him by unbelieving Judaism, which viewed him as the worst kind of reprobate and traitor. So when Christ called him, Matthew without hesitation “got up and followed Him.”

Luke’s account describes the moment this way: Matthew “left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him” (Luke 5:28). Our Lord’s simple but profoundly urgent call was sufficient reason for him to forsake everything he once was and owned. Matthew knew that once he left his tax collector’s position he could never return to it. Of all the Twelve, he no doubt sacrificed the most in wealth to follow Jesus. Like Paul later, he affirmed that “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:7).

Ask Yourself

If it’s been too long since the significance and honor of Jesus’ call swept over you, see the excitement in Matthew’s reaction to Christ. Watch him lunge at the chance to be one of Jesus’ disciples. Remember again the thrill of being in your Master’s service.


Reading for Today:


Job 13:15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Job assured his accusers that his convictions were not self-serving, because he was ready to die trusting God. But still he would defend his innocence before God and was confident that he was truly saved and not a hypocrite (v. 16).

Job 13:23 How many are my iniquities and sins? Job wanted to know how many so that he could determine if his measure of suffering matched the severity of his sin, and he could then repent for sins he was unaware of.

Psalm 94:14 will not cast off His people. God has a permanent commitment to His people, Israel, established through a covenant based on His abiding love (Gen. 15; Jer. 12:15Mic. 7:18). This important truth serves as a doctrinal basis for Pss. 93–100 and was intended to encourage the nation during difficult times. Paul refers to this in Romans 11:1 as he assures the future salvation of Israel.

Romans 11:1 cast away. To thrust away from oneself. The form of the question in the Greek text expects a negative answer. Despite Israel’s disobedience (9:1–13; 10:14–21), God has not rejected His people (1 Sam. 12:221 Kin. 6:13Pss. 89:31–3794:14Is. 49:1554:1–10Jer. 33:19–26). Certainly not! The strongest form of negation in Greek.

Romans 11:17 branches were broken off. Some, but not all, of the branches of Israel were removed. God always preserved a believing remnant (vv. 3, 4). a wild olive tree,…grafted in. Olives were an important crop in the ancient world. Although trees often lived for hundreds of years, individual branches eventually stopped producing olives. When that happened, branches from younger trees were grafted in to restore productivity. Paul’s point is that the old, unproductive branches (Israel) were broken off and branches from a wild olive tree (Gentiles) were grafted in. the root and fatness. Once grafted in, Gentiles partake of the richness of God’s covenant blessings as the spiritual heirs of Abraham (4:11; Gal. 3:29). the olive tree. The place of divine blessing—God’s covenant of salvation made with Abraham (Gen. 12:1–315:1–2117:1–27).

DAY 11: What kind of relationship did Job have with God?

Job’s biography begins with a 4-part description of his character: “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (1:1).He prayed for his children and was concerned about their relationship with God (v. 5). He was successful and wealthy—the stereotype of a blessed man. In fact, God adds His own glowing approval of Job, using the same traits that open the book (v. 8).

Faced with the sudden, crushing loss of everything—children, servants, herds—Job’s initial response was to grieve and recognize God’s sovereignty. “‘The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (vv. 21b, 22).

Under the harsh judgments of his friends, Job eventually struggled to understand why God seemed unwilling to settle matters. Once God did speak, at least part of Job’s problem becomes clear—he confused a relationship with God with familiarity with God. The Lord did not rebuke Job’s faith or sincerity; instead, God questioned Job’s insistence on an answer for his difficulties. By allowing Job to hear just a little of the extent of his ignorance, God showed Job that there was a great deal of knowledge he would never understand. As a creature, Job simply had no right to demand an answer from his Creator. Job’s final words are filled with humility and repentance: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5, 6).

Job spent his last days enjoying the same kind of relationship he had earlier with God. He prayed for his friends and raised another family of godly children. He lived a full life.

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Being a Wise Manager

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

Wealth comes from God, and we are to manage it wisely for Him.

John Wesley was a godly man who devoted his life to serving the Lord. What is not as well known perhaps is that he was rich, gaining most of his wealth from his published hymns and other works. At one point in his life he gave away 40,000 pounds sterling—a fortune in those days. When he died, his estate was worth only twenty-eight pounds, for he had given nearly everything to the Lord’s work.

It is not wrong for Wesley, or any other believer, to own possessions or be wealthy. Both the Old and New Testaments recognize the right to material possessions, including money, land, animals, houses, clothing, and every other thing that is honestly acquired. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “It is [God] who is giving you power to make wealth.” God gives us the abilities and resources to obtain wealth. Job, known mostly for his suffering, was a wealthy man. Theologian Gleason Archer wrote, “Job was reputed to be the richest man of his time in all the region. . . . He was the largest stockholder on Wall Street, so to speak. Thus it could be said that this godly man had proved to be a good businessman, a fine citizen, and a father of a large family. As such he enjoyed the highest standing of any man in his community.” In 1 Corinthians 4:7 the apostle Paul asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” The implication is that we receive everything, including our material possessions, from God.

You are right to provide for your family, make reasonable plans for the future, make sound investments, have money to carry on a business, give to the poor, and support the Lord’s work. But you are wrong if you are dishonest, greedy, covetous, stingy, and miserly about possessions. To honestly earn, save, and give is wise; to hoard and spend only on yourself is unwise and sinful.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for providing for your temporal needs.

For Further Study

Read 1 Timothy 6:17.

  • What are the rich instructed not to do?
  • What does God richly supply you with? Why?


Benevolence Without Love

"If I give all my possessions to feed the poor . . . but do not have love, it profits me nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3).

Love is characterized by self-sacrifice, but not all self-sacrifice is an act of love.

If you've ever donated to your church or another charitable organization out of obligation, peer pressure, legalism, guilt, a desire for recognition, or simply a tax deduction, you know what it means to give without love. In our society it's easy to fall prey to that kind of giving because the needs are so great and fund raisers appeal to every conceivable motive. In addition, many cults and false religions encourage the giving up of possessions and other sacrificial gestures as a supposed means of earning God's favor. But God is more interested in why you give than what you give.

Paul's hypothetical illustration in 1 Corinthians 13:3 is of someone who sacrificed everything he had to feed the poor. The Greek word translated "to feed" means "to dole out in small quantities." Apparently this guy didn't simply write out a check for a food distribution program; he was personally involved in a long-term, systematic program that would eventually consume every resource he had.

Paul doesn't mention motives—only that this person lacked love. Consequently, the benefits of his benevolence were limited to the physical realm. Any spiritual benefits were forfeited.

Jesus, making a similar point, said, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 6:1). If your motive for giving is to gain the approval of men, their accolades will be your only reward. If you're motivated by love for God, He will reward you abundantly (vv. 2-4).

When you give to the Lord, what is your motive? Do you want others to think more highly of you? Do you feel obligated? Those are subtle influences, so be sure to guard your motives carefully. Remember, the only acceptable motive is love.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you sensitive to the needs of others, enabling you always to give out of genuine love.

For Further Study

Read Luke 18:9-14.

  • How did the Pharisee's prayer differ from the tax-gatherer's?
  • How did God respond to each prayer?


Reverential Fear

“But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (Matthew 9:8).

The word rendered “awestruck,” although often translated “fear,” most commonly refers to reverential awe in the New Testament. It is how someone feels who is in the presence of another, infinitely superior person.

“Awestruck” describes the reaction to numerous significant events we read about in the gospels and Acts: the shepherds hearing of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:9), the apostles when their Lord walked on water (Matt. 14:26), the guards at the tomb when the angels rolled away the stone (Matt. 28:2–4), the people in the early church right after Pentecost (Acts 2:43), and the reaction to the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:511).

Reverential awe of God is an essential part of the genuine Christian life (see 2 Cor. 7:110–11Phil. 2:121 Peter 3:2). This attitude must undergird all important aspects of worship, ministry, love, respect, and even biblical church discipline (see 2 Cor. 5:11Eph. 5:211 Tim. 5:20).

The awe-filled response by most of the people in the crowd as they witnessed what Jesus did for the paralytic was certainly the right one, especially since it resulted in their giving glory to God. Such an attitude should never be far from us as we strive to faithfully worship and serve the Lord (cf. Acts 9:31).

Ask Yourself

How magnificent of a revelation does it take for you to be “awestruck” at God’s splendor and glory? What simple, basic, everyday things are ready examples of His greatness, though disguised as something ordinary and insignificant?


Reading for Today:


Job 12:2–4 you are the people, and wisdom will die with you! Job responded with cutting sarcasm directed at his know-it-all friends (v. 2) and then reminded them that he understood the principles of which they had spoken (v. 3), but they were irrelevant to his situation. On top of that, he despaired at the pain of becoming a derision to his friends, though he was innocent (v. 4).

Psalm 94:1 to whom vengeance belongs. Vengeance from God is not in the sense of uncontrolled vindictiveness, but in the sense of just retribution by the eternal Judge for trespasses against His law. shine forth. Make an appearance. He may even be asking for a theophany (Pss. 50:280:1).

Romans 10:4 Christ is the end of the law. Although the Greek word translated “end” can mean either “fulfillment” or “termination,” this is not a reference to Christ’s having perfectly fulfilled the law through His teaching (Matt. 5:1718) or through His sinless life (2 Cor. 5:21). Instead, as the second half of the verse shows, Paul means that belief in Christ as Lord and Savior ends the sinner’s futile quest for righteousness through his imperfect attempts to save himself by efforts to obey the law (3:20–22Is. 64:6Col. 2:1314).

Romans 10:9 confess…the Lord Jesus. Not a simple acknowledgment that He is God and the Lord of the universe, since even demons acknowledge that to be true (James 2:19). This is the deep personal conviction, without reservation, that Jesus is that person’s own master or sovereign. This phrase includes repenting from sin, trusting in Jesus for salvation, and submitting to Him as Lord. This is the volitional element of faith. God has raised Him from the dead. Christ’s resurrection was the supreme validation of His ministry (John 2:18–21). Belief in it is necessary for salvation because it proved that Christ is who He claimed to be and that the Father had accepted His sacrifice in the place of sinners (4:24Acts 13:32331 Pet. 1:34).Without the resurrection, there is no salvation (1 Cor. 15:14–17).

DAY 10: How was Zophar’s argument right and wrong regarding Job’s situation?

In Job 11:1–20, Zophar the Naamathite stepped in to interrogate Job. He chose to pound Job with the same law of retaliation. Job must repent, he said, not understanding the reality. He was indignant at Job’s protests of innocence. And he moved the allegations against Job to a new level. Not only was Job guilty and unrepentant, he was also an empty talker (vv. 2,3). In fact, Job’s long-winded defense of his innocence and God’s apparent injustice was sin worthy of rebuke, in Zophar’s mind.

In v. 4, Zophar claimed that Job had said, “I am clean in your eyes.” Job never claimed sinlessness; in fact, he acknowledged that he had sinned (7:2113:26). But he still maintained his innocence of any great transgression or attitude of unrepentance, affirming his sincerity and integrity as a man of faith and obedience to God. This claim infuriated Zophar (v. 5).

Zophar was correct that Job would have been much wiser if he had only known the unknowable secrets of God (v. 6). In this case, the scene in heaven between God and Satan would have clarified everything. But Job couldn’t know the secret wisdom of God (vv. 7–9). Zophar should have applied his point to himself. If God’s wisdom was so deep, high, long, and broad, how was it that he could understand it and have all the answers? Like his friends, Zophar thought he understood God and reverted to the same law of retaliation, the sowing and reaping principle, to again indict Job. He implied that Job was wicked (vv. 10, 11) and thought he was wise, though actually he was out of control as if he were a “wild donkey man” (v. 12).

Zophar set out 4 steps of Job’s repentance in vv. 13, 14: 1) devote your heart to God; 2) stretch your hands to Him in prayer for forgiveness; 3) put your sin far away; and 4) don’t allow any sin in your tent. If Job did these things, he would be blessed (vv. 15–19). If Job didn’t repent, he would die (v. 20). Zophar was right that the life of faith in God is based on penitence and obedience. He was right that God blesses His people with hope, security, and peace. But, like his friends, he was wrong in not understanding that God allows unpredictable and seemingly unfair suffering for reasons not known to us. He was wrong in presuming that the answer for Job was repentance.

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Handling Possessions Properly

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

A true believer is not to hoard earthly possessions.

You may remember this old adage: “The miser says coins are flat that they may rest in stacks; the spendthrift says they are round that they may roll.” In Matthew 6:9Jesus is specifically talking about the miser. The Greek verb translated “lay up” is thesaurizete, from which we get the word thesaurus—a treasury of words. Jesus is using a play on words by saying, “Do not treasure up treasures for yourselves.” The context of the passage shows that He is referring to stockpiling or hoarding.

The Greek also conveys the idea of stacking or placing something horizontally, as one stacks coins. When something is stacked, it is not being used—it is in a passive condition. Conversely, whenever the Greek has the idea of a vertical sense, it speaks of an active use—being invested for some worthwhile purpose or goal. Jesus is here referring to wealth that is being placed in stacks—simply being stored for safekeeping; it is stored that way to make a show of wealth or to create an environment of lazy indulgence (cf. 
Luke 12:16-21).

It’s clear from this passage, as well as from many others in Scripture, that Jesus is not advocating poverty as a means to spirituality. He only once told a person to “sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Matt. 19:21). In that particular case, the young man’s wealth was a barrier between him and the lordship of Christ. It was a test to see if he was fully committed to turning over the control of his life to Christ. His response proved he was not (v. 22).

Unlike the rich young man, you are a follower of Christ and are to be fully committed to Him, no matter what it may cost you. If you have that kind of commitment, you will seek God’s kingdom first instead of hoarding earthly possessions (cf. Matt. 6:33).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you live unselfishly, not hoarding earthly possessions.

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 3:913-158:101916:16. What virtues are better than temporal riches?


Faith Without Love

"If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2).

Loveless faith is useless faith.

In Matthew 17:19 the disciples came to Jesus wanting to know why they couldn't cast a demonic spirit from a child. Jesus responded, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you" (v. 20). He repeated the same principle in Matthew 21:21: "Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall . . . say to this mountain [the Mount of Olives], 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' [and] it shall happen."

Those passages have puzzled many people because they've never seen anyone move a mountain. But Jesus wasn't speaking literally. Moving mountains would cause all kinds of ecological problems and would be a pointless miracle. The expression "able to move mountains" was a common figure of speech in that day, meaning "to surmount great obstacles." Jesus was speaking of those who have the gift of faith—who can move the hand of God through unwavering prayer.

The gift of faith is the ability to believe that God will act according to His will, no matter the circumstances. People with that gift are prayer warriors and tend to stand as rocks when others around them are falling apart. They see God's power and purposes at work and trust Him even when others doubt.

But, says Paul, even if you have such faith, if you don't have love, you are nothing. That's a harsh rebuke, but it places the emphasis where it belongs: on our motives. The Corinthians' motives were evident in their selfish pursuit of the showy gifts.

What motivates you? Remember, without love it doesn't matter what gifts you have, how eloquent your speech is, what you know, or what you believe. Only love can validate your service to Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for a greater capacity to trust Him, and the motivation to pray more fervently.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 11, drawing from the examples of the people of great faith mentioned there.


True Authority over Sin

“‘But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, pick up your bed and go home.’ And he got up and went home” (Matthew 9:6–7).

It’s not unheard of for people to trap themselves by their own theology and logic. That’s what happened with the scribes and Pharisees during this episode. They believed that disease and physical suffering were results of sin, and that removing the disease would equate with removing the sin that caused it. By that reasoning, all healing would have to include at least some forgiveness of sin—which only God can give. Jesus used this logic to prove a crucial point.

The point is clear—“the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Essentially the Lord says, “I will again demonstrate My power to heal disease. There may be no tangible results of My forgiveness, but there are tangible, visible results when I heal.” If in the minds of the Jews disease and sin are always connected, then it follows that healing and forgiveness are always connected. Therefore, so they might know He could forgive sin in the heart, which is unseen, Christ would do what they could see—heal the physical side-effects of sin, as represented by the paralytic.

Causing the man to walk would be proof to everyone present of Jesus’ complete authority over sin and its effects—less spectacular but just as convincing as was seeing demon-filled swine run off the cliff and into the sea at our Lord’s behest.

At Christ’s command the man “got up and went home,” an action that was a living proof of the Son’s authority over infirmities and sin.

Ask Yourself

How does Jesus continually prove to you that His forgiveness of your sins is authentic and complete? What Scriptures give you assurance when your feelings tell you otherwise?


Reading for Today:


Job 9:15, 20 though I were righteous. He means here, not sinless, but having spiritual integrity, i.e., a pure heart to love, serve, and obey God. He was affirming again that his suffering was not due to sins he was not willing to confess. Even at that, God found something to condemn him for, he felt, making it hopeless, then, to contend with God.

Job 9:32 that we should go to court together. Job acknowledged that, as a mere man, he had no right to call on God to declare his innocence or to contend with God over his innocence. Job was not arguing that he was sinless, but he didn’t believe he had sinned to the extent that he deserved his severe suffering. Job held on to the same simplistic system of retribution as that of his accusers, which said that suffering was always caused by sin. And he knew he was not sinless, but he couldn’t identify any unconfessed or unrepented sins. “Where is mercy?” he wondered.

Job 9:33–35 any mediator between us. A court official who sees both sides clearly, as well as the source of disagreement, so as to bring resolution was not found. Where was an advocate, an arbitrator, an umpire, or a referee? Was there no one to remove God’s rod and call for justice?

Romans 9:2021 Using the familiar Old Testament analogy of the potter (Is. 64:6–8Jer. 18:3–16), Paul argues that it is as irrational, and far more arrogant, for men to question God’s choice of certain sinners for salvation as for a piece of pottery to question the purposes of the potter.

Romans 9:2223 These verses are not intended to identify the origin of evil or explain fully why God has allowed it, but they do provide 3 reasons He has permitted its presence and contamination: 1) to demonstrate His wrath; 2) to make His power known; and 3) to put the riches of His glorious mercy on display. No one is treated unfairly: Some receive the justice they earn and deserve (6:23); others graciously receive mercy.

DAY 9: Why do righteous and innocent people suffer?

Of course, no human being is truly righteous or innocent. The Bible clearly states that all have sinned (Rom. 3:23). And all sinners deserve to be punished, eternally. That’s what makes God’s grace so amazing!

In understanding that truth, however, it must be admitted that on a relative human scale, righteous and innocent people exist. That is, some people are more moral and virtuous than others and some are more innocent. Consider, for example, a person who strives to live out the Golden Rule, or another who gives generously to the poor. And certainly most consider small children to have a naive innocence. So this question could be rephrased: “Why do little children and people who live exemplary lives suffer?”

This question reveals the assumption that there is a direct connection between righteousness and innocence on the one hand and pain-free living on the other. There may be a connection, but it is not direct. Indeed, sin eventually does lead to suffering, but suffering is not an infallible indicator of sin. Job’s friends could not see beyond this point. For them, a person’s suffering was always an effect whose only cause could be that person’s sin.

The righteous and the innocent do indeed suffer for a variety of reasons: 1) Sometimes righteous actions in a sinful world involve suffering—as when a righteous person sacrifices his or her life for another; 2) Sometimes the sins of others involve the righteous in suffering—a child may be deeply hurt as a result of his or her parent’s actions; 3) The righteous and innocent are not exempt from the painful situations which arise in life in an imperfect and sinful world—like toothaches and smashed fingers; and 4) People sometimes suffer for no specific reason that can be clarified. Job is a perfect illustration of this last experience.

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Proof of Greed's Dangers

“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang” (1 Timothy 6:10).

There’s no doubt that the sinful effects of loving money actually occur in some people.

It is hard to imagine a sin that has not been committed for the sake of greed. It can lead to self-indulgence, flaunting of possessions, lying, stealing, murder, distortion of justice, and abusing the poor.

Today we return to 1 Timothy 6:10 to note how the apostle Paul proves that loving money is indeed dangerous. He knew that some were actually “longing for it [money]” or reaching after it as far as they could figuratively stretch their arms and hands. That means such people would have been passionately pursuing money. Paul does not give any names, but it is reasonable to think he was referring to ones such as Demas, who was perhaps beginning to pursue worldly things even as Paul wrote this letter (see 2 Tim. 4:10).

Such people “wandered away from the faith” or departed from the body of Christian truth (see Jude 3). Like Demas, they were exposed to truth, but they eventually chose material goods and comforts in preference to God. Those apostates were in effect proving what we noted earlier this month: you can’t serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24).

Such lovers of the temporal and the material also “pierced themselves with many a pang.” The word “pierced” originally referred to running a skewer through an animal as it was placed on a spit. Those who love money more than God impale their own souls and end up experiencing much grief—a condemning conscience, an unfulfilled heart, and complete disillusionment with life (see Ps. 32:10).

So, what does all this teaching about the love of money mean for us? Simply that we must live our Christian lives pursuing God, not money and material possessions. Like David, we should desire to say, “As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake” (Ps. 17:15).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for all the resources He has blessed you with, and recommit them to His service.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 27:3-10 for more about the tragic consequences of Judas’ love for money.

  • How sympathetic were the Jewish leaders to his plight?
  • What positive things can we learn from the aftermath of this episode (see Acts 1:15-26)?


Balancing Knowledge and Love

"If I . . . know all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2).

True knowledge is always governed by love.

Christians should never take knowledge for granted. The ability to learn of Christ and grow in His truth is a blessing beyond measure. Paul prayed that we would be "filled with the knowledge of [God's] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col. 1:9). That's what enables us to live in a way that pleases God (v. 10).

But knowledge must be governed by love, just as love must be governed by knowledge. In Philippians 1:9 Paul says, "This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment." In 1 Corinthians 13:2 he says that knowledge without love is nothing. That's a God-ordained balance you must maintain if you want to be effective for the Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 13:2 Paul uses a hypothetical illustration to emphasize the importance of love: "If I . . . know all mysteries and all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing." The Greek word translated "mysteries" in that verse is used throughout the New Testament to speak of redemptive truth that once was hidden but now revealed. For example, Scripture speaks of the mystery of God in human flesh (Col. 2:2-3), of Christ's indwelling in us (Col. 1:26-27), and of the church as Christ's Body (Eph. 3:3-69).

"Knowledge" in 1 Corinthians 13:2 refers to facts that can be ascertained by investigation. It's impossible to know every mystery and every fact in existence in the universe, but even if you did, without love your knowledge would be useless. Knowledge alone breeds arrogance, but love builds others up (1 Cor. 8:1).

Maintaining a balance of knowledge and love is a practical principle that influences the decisions you make every day. For example, if you have a choice between going to a Bible class or helping a neighbor with some immediate need, the better choice is to help your neighbor. You will have other opportunities to learn the Word, but it might be some time before you have a chance to show Christian love to your neighbor.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the wisdom to keep knowledge and love in proper balance.

For Further Study

Read Luke 10:25-37.

  • How did the lawyer try to justify himself to Jesus?
  • How did Jesus illustrate love for one's neighbor?


Jesus Stands Against Sin’s Effects

“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .’” (Matthew 9:4–6).

Because He is the Son of God, Jesus “did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:25). Christ knows all about every sin, even the unseen ones (cf. 1 Sam. 16:71 Chron. 28:9), and stands firmly against them. Before God punished Ananias and Sapphira for their deception, He asked them through Peter, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3).

Similarly, in this situation, Jesus knew what His enemies were thinking and was ready to expose the evil behind their thoughts and the error of their logic regarding authority to forgive. Because sin and its symptoms are inseparable, Jesus would have to deal with sin or else He could not deal with the effects.

The Jewish leaders had no good reply or sound argument against Jesus and His divine capabilities. However, it was and is obvious: our Lord can deal with both sin and its consequences, and human beings can do neither. Only God can heal disease with a few words and forgive sins with another few words.

Christ’s response to His opponents here came down to the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” In other words, saying something that cannot be verified is always easier than doing something that can be. Jesus’ foes could not verify the paralytic’s forgiveness, but they were about to see proof of his healing, which forces any reasonable person to concede that Jesus does deal with sin and its effects.

Ask Yourself

Jesus knows our thoughts. As people redeemed from eternal punishment and freed to walk in abundant life, we need not fear this as a source of constant guilt. But how can we use this knowledge to discipline our hearts and purify our motives?


Reading for Today:


Job 7:19 till I swallow my saliva. This strange statement was an Arabic proverb, indicating a brief moment. Job was asking for a moment “to catch his breath,” or in the case of the proverb, “swallow his saliva.”

Job 8:3 Almighty pervert justice. Bildad took Job’s claims for innocence and applied them to his simplistic notion of retribution. He concluded that Job was accusing God of injustice when God must be meting out justice to Job. Job tried to avoid outright accusations of this sort, but the evidence led Bildad to this conclusion because he had no knowledge of the heavenly facts.

Psalm 92:10 my horn…anointed with fresh oil. This figure is based on a practice of making an animal’s horns gleam by rubbing oil on them. Thus God, in effect, had invigorated the psalmist (Pss. 23:5133:2).

Romans 9:4 Israelites. The descendants of Abraham through Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel (Gen. 32:28). adoption. Not in the sense of providing salvation to every person born a Jew (8:15–23; 9:6), but sovereignly selecting an entire nation to receive His special calling, covenant, and blessing and to serve as His witness nation (Ex. 4:2219:6Hos. 11:1Is. 46:34). glory. The glory cloud (Shekinah) that pictured God’s presence in the Old Testament (Ex. 16:1024:161729:4243Lev. 9:23). His glory was supremely present in the Holy of Holies in both the tabernacle and the temple, which served as the throne room of Yahweh, Israel’s King (Ex. 25:2240:341 Kin. 8:11). covenants.A covenant is a legally binding promise, agreement, or contract. Three times in the New Testament the word “covenants” is used in the plural (Gal. 4:24Eph. 2:12). All but one of God’s covenants with man are eternal and unilateral—that is, God promised to accomplish something based on His own character and not on the response or actions of the promised beneficiary. The 6 biblical covenants include: 1) the covenant with Noah (Gen. 9:8–17); 2) the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3); 3) the covenant of law given through Moses at Sinai (Ex. 19–31; Deut. 29; 30); 4) the priestly covenant (Num.25:10–13); 5) the covenant of an eternal kingdom through David’s greatest Son (2 Sam. 7:8–16); and 6) the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34Ezek. 37:26Heb. 8:6–13). All but the Mosaic Covenant are eternal and unilateral. It is neither, since Israel’s sin abrogated it and it has been replaced by the New Covenant (Heb. 8:7–13).

DAY 8: Describe what Job was going through?

In Job 7:1, he said, “Is there not a time of hard service for man on earth?” He felt like a slave under tyranny of his master, longing for relief and reward (vv. 1, 2); he was sleepless (v. 3, 4); he was loathsome because of worms and scabs, dried filth and new running sores (v. 5); he was like a weaver’s shuttle, tossed back and forth (v. 6); he was like a breath or cloud that comes and goes on its way to death (vv. 7–10). In this discourse, Job attempted to reconcile in his own mind what God was doing.

Job’s Living Death

1. Painful boils from head to toe (2:7,13; 30:17)

2. Severe itching/irritation (2:7,8)

3. Great grief (2:13)

4. Lost appetite (3:24; 6:6,7)

5. Agonizing discomfort (3:24)

6. Insomnia (7:4)

7. Worm- and dust-infested flesh (7:5)

8. Continual oozing of boils (7:5)

9. Hallucinations (7:14)

10. Decaying skin (13:28)

11. Shriveled up (16:8; 17:7; 19:20)

12. Severe halitosis (19:17)

13. Teeth fell out (19:20)

14. Relentless pain (30:17)

15. Skin turned black (30:30)

16. Raging fever (30:30)

17. Dramatic weight loss (33:21)

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Harmful Desires

“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).

The sin of loving money is also dangerous because of its harmful effects.

The sanctioning of new state lotteries over the past twenty years, officially done to “enhance revenues” and create new jobs, not only sustains many persons’ addiction to gambling but also draws many others into a willingness to spend money they don’t have. It illustrates how greed results in sinful entrapment for many people.

Scripture warns against becoming entrapped by material things: “The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deut. 7:25).

In the first part of 1 Timothy 6:9, Paul’s wording indicates a premeditated, settled desire for money. By their consuming drive and passion for more, the greedy are continually caught like animals in a trap. Their sinful love of money ends up controlling their lives and making them the unhappy victims of their own evil lusts.

The all-consuming pursuit of riches will ultimately ruin someone’s spiritual life. In the conclusion of today’s verse, Paul presents the image of one’s entire person (body and soul) being destroyed. That’s what, if left unchecked, a preoccupation with acquiring more and more money will do to us.

God’s Word contains vivid examples of those devastated by money-love. Because Achan disobediently hid some wealth, Israel lost a battle, and Achan and his family were killed (Josh. 7:1-26). Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and ended up committing suicide (Matt. 27:3-5). Ananias and Sapphira did not give the Lord the entire proceeds from the sale of their property and were struck dead for lying (Acts 5:1-11).

If you are at all tempted to discount greed’s harmful effects or to rely on money for security, consider the prophet’s sobering assertion: “Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the Lord’s wrath” (Zeph. 1:18).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that all your friends and family, believers and unbelievers, would understand and avoid the bad effects of loving money.

For Further Study

Read James 5:1-5.

  • When will the full consequences of greed become evident?
  • How do James’s words compare to the rebukes Jesus issued against the Pharisees?


Speaking the Truth in Love

"If I have the gift of prophecy . . . but do not have love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2).

Love is an indispensable ingredient in the learning process.

I have the privilege of spending time each week with hundreds of young people who attend The Master's College. As I observe their progress, I see the impact godly teachers have had on their lives, and I'm convinced that students learn best when they know their teachers genuinely care about them.

Isn't that true in any relationship? Don't you respond more readily to those who love you and have your best interests at heart? That's certainly true in ministry. Think of the pastors and teachers who have meant the most to you over the years. They're probably the ones who have loved and ministered to you in special ways.

Whether it's a pastor, teacher, family member, or friend, whoever speaks to people on behalf of God must do so with genuine love and concern. That's the positive side of Paul's negative statement in 1 Corinthians 13:2. Jeremiah was such a man. He loved the people of Israel deeply and was grieved at their apostasy and impending judgment. "Oh, that my head were waters," he said, "and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" (Jer. 9:1). That's the spirit of a loving prophet, and typical of Jeremiah's lament over his people's sin.

Loveless preaching and teaching misrepresent God's character and hinder the gospel; loving proclamation is winsome and effective. That doesn't mean all who hear you will respond positively—quite the contrary. The people of Judah didn't listen to Jeremiah so they incurred severe judgment. Similarly, some to whom you speak will politely reject what you say; others will react with hostility. But those who respond in faith will appreciate your loving concern for their spiritual well-being.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for those who have ministered to you in love. Seek to follow their example as you reach out to others.

For Further Study

Read Acts 20:1931Romans 9:2-3; and 2 Corinthians 2:4, noting the things that prompted Paul to weep for the people he ministered to.


Stubborn Fury Against Jesus

“And some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This fellow blasphemes’” (Matthew 9:3).

To charge someone with blasphemy was truly a serious statement for ones to make in the religious culture in which Jesus ministered. But that was the outlandish accusation against Him brought by the scribes because they rejected His claim to forgive sins (Luke 5:21; cf. Mark 2:7). They knew that forgiveness comes only from God (Isa. 43:25Mic. 7:18–19), but because they didn’t believe Jesus was God’s Son, they had to conclude He was blaspheming.

Unlike the paralytic and his friends, the scribes felt no need for forgiveness—they considered themselves already righteous. They rejected Jesus’ authority to forgive and further believed it wrong for someone simply to ask in faith that he or she be forgiven. For the Jewish leaders, real forgiveness came only by self-righteous and legalistic efforts to earn it.

The scribes’ furious opposition to Jesus was part of a growing pattern of persecution of Him by the establishment—a situation that led to His death. The Jews themselves, ironically, were guilty of blaspheming their Messiah when they accused Him of being satanic: “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons” (Matt. 9:34).

Every miracle that proved who Jesus was served only to harden the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees and drive them further from belief and repentance. We can thank God that His Spirit spared us from such a condition, and pray always that our hearts remain soft toward Him.

Ask Yourself

Has anything occurred in your life lately to cause you to doubt God’s goodness or feel unsure about His faithfulness? Why is such a conclusion always incorrect? How can you guard yourself against being subject to this kind of spiritual confusion?


Reading for Today:


Job 5:17 happy is the man whom God corrects. Eliphaz put a positive spin on his advice by telling Job that enviable or desirable is the situation of the one God cares enough to chasten. “If only Job admitted his sin, he could be happy again” was the advice.

Job 6:10 the words of the Holy One. Job had not been avoiding the revelation of God that he had received. The commands of the Holy One were precious to him and he had lived by them. This was confusing to him, as he couldn’t find any sinful source for his suffering. He would rejoice in his pain if he knew it would soon lead to death, but he couldn’t see any hope for death or deliverance in himself (vv. 11–13).

Proverbs 22:16 These two vices reflect the same selfish attitude: withholding from the poor to keep what one has and giving to the rich to induce them to give one more. Both are unacceptable to God and incur punishment.

Romans 8:35–39 This list of experiences and persons that can’t separate the believer from God’s love in Christ was not just theory to Paul. It was rather a personal testimony from one who had personally survived assaults from these entities and emerged triumphant.

Romans 8:35 the love of Christ. Not our love for Christ, but His love for us (John 13:1), specifically here as He demonstrated it in salvation (1 John 4:910). tribulation. Here the word probably refers to the kind of adversity common to all men. distress. This refers to being strictly confined in a narrow, difficult place or being helplessly hemmed in by one’s circumstances. persecution. Suffering inflicted on us by men because of our relationship with Christ (Matt. 5:10–12).

DAY 7: Explain the process Paul refers to in Romans 8:28–30 and 9:6–29.

With these words, God reveals in human terms His divine role in the process of salvation. Paul’s description offends the human spirit because it minimizes our role. Yet only those who see their own helplessness in the face of sin can come to see how gracious God has been in acting and choosing ahead of time. We never surprise God; He always anticipates us! “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

The term “foreknew” (8:29) does not simply refer to God’s omniscience—that in eternity past He knew who would come to Christ. Rather, it speaks of a predetermined choice by God to set His love on us and establish an intimate relationship. The term “election” (9:11) refers to the same action on God’s part (1 Pet. 1:1220). Salvation is not initiated by human choice. Even faith is a gift of God (Rom. 1:16John 6:37Eph. 2:89).

The term “predestined” (8:29) literally means “to mark out, appoint, or determine beforehand.” Those God chooses, He destines for His chosen end—that is, likeness to His Son (Eph. 1:4511). The goal of God’s predestined purpose for His own is that they would be made like Jesus Christ.

The reality and security of our standing with God rests ultimately in His character and decision, not ours. Paul summarized his teaching about the believer’s security in Christ with a thundering litany of questions and answers that haunt believers. They reach their peak with “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (8:35). Paul’s answer is an almost poetic expression of praise for God’s grace in bringing salvation to completion for all who are chosen and believe—it is a hymn of security.

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Material Distraction

“And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:8).

God wants believers’ lives to be simplified, free from the burdens of material cares.

Today’s verse declares how Christians ought to be free from material distractions. The apostle Paul asserts that life’s basic needs should be adequate to satisfy believers. He does not say it is wrong to own nice things, especially if God providentially allows you to have them. What is wrong is to have a selfish craving for money because you are discontent. The highest goal of the Christian life is to love God and glorify Him forever, not to pile up material goods. Even if you have wealth, the Lord wants you to use and manage it from a motivation that puts God first.

The problem you and I continually face is that our fast-paced, complex, technological societies place materialism first. Objects and things come before people; entertainment options replace conversations with members of our family. All this has so often caused us to lose the simple joys of life’s relationships, which are the essence of Christian fellowship.

To keep those simple but essential joys primary, I’d invite you to apply the following principles. I’ve found them helpful in keeping my own life simplified and free from materialism.

First, evaluate every purchase as to how it would make your ministry more effective.

Second, since God owes you nothing, everything you receive from Him should make you thankful.

Third, learn to distinguish wants from needs, and thereby increase the amount of money you have available for the Lord.

Fourth, discipline yourself to spend less than you earn and save the rest for worthwhile causes and needs that arise. Do not amass credit card debt.

Lastly, learn to give sacrificially to God’s kingdom.

If you implement these and other sound principles of Christian stewardship, you’ll experience much joy and realize anew that the simple life means accepting what God provides and avoiding covetousness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would motivate you to be faithful in the five principles of good stewardship listed in the lesson. If you have not been following any of them, ask the Lord to help you start today.

For Further Study

  • Matthew 6:24-33 is one of Jesus’ clearest statements on living the simple life. Is His discussion comprehensive? How so?
  • Write down two or three ways in which you can seek His kingdom first.


Prophecy Without Love

"If I have the gift of prophecy . . . but do not have love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2).

Love motivated God to communicate with fallen humanity. That must be your motivation too.

The word prophecy as used in 1 Corinthians 13:2 is the ability to publicly proclaim God's truth accurately and authoritatively. It's a greater gift than tongues because tongues were given as a sign to unbelieving Israel in the first century (1 Cor. 14:21-22), whereas prophecy instructs and edifies believers throughout the centuries. Paul said, "one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation [and] edifies the church (1 Cor. 14:3-4).

Prophecy has two aspects: revelation and reiteration. When an Old or New Testament prophet received new information directly from God, that was revelation. Whenever that information was repeated through preaching or teaching, it was reiteration. For example, the sermons of Peter and Paul combine new revelation with a reiteration of Old Testament truth. That's a common element in New Testament preaching.

With the close of the New Testament canon, direct revelation from God ceased. All preaching and teaching today is reiteration. New Testament prophets policed one another to ensure that every prophecy was truly from God (1 Cor. 14:32). Today, Scripture itself is the standard by which we test someone's message. As the prophet Isaiah said, "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no [light]" (Isa. 8:20).

Paul is saying 1 Corinthians 13:2, "If I have the ability to speak direct revelation from God, or to reiterate divine truth forcefully and dramatically, but lack love, my ministry is meaningless." In its broadest sense, that principle applies to every believer because we all are proclaimers of God's Word. You might not teach a class or preach a sermon, but whenever you tell someone about Christ or share a biblical principle, you're reiterating divine truth. That's why you must always speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Then the Holy Spirit can empower your words to minister to others.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you guard your words so that everything you say will be clothed in His love.

For Further Study

Read Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:20-22.

  • What tests did Moses give for determining false prophets?
  • What punishment did false prophets receive?


Forgiveness: The Greatest of All Miracles

“‘Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven’” (Matthew 9:2).

Jesus’ ultimate words to the paralytic, “your sins are forgiven,” represent the greatest of all divine miracles and definitely the most desirable for the one who hears them. This is the holy Son of God forgiving the sins of an unholy man. He could control nature with a word, and with these words He dismissed the man’s sins and graciously made him right with God.

The verb translated “are forgiven” means send away or do away with. David declares, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12; cf. Mic. 7:19). “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance,” Paul asserts, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15). That means Jesus came to forgive sinners who trust in Him.

Sin is hostility and rebellion against God and His law (Lev. 26:271 Tim. 1:91 John 3:4). It is incurable by human power (Jer. 13:23), affects all people (Rom. 3:23), affects the total person (Eph. 2:1–3), and subjects people to hell if they do not repent (2 Thess. 1:9).

Such a bleak portrait means the best news anyone can ever receive is the word that his or her “sins are forgiven.”

Ask Yourself

As you pray through a particular issue of need in your life right now, what are you really seeking? Are you only wanting the resolution of a conflict, the alleviation of pain, the mending of a relationship? Or does God want your eyes on even greater spiritual matters?


Reading for Today:


Job 3:25,26 the thing I greatly feared. Not a particular thing but a generic classification of suffering. The very worst fear that anyone could have was coming to pass in Job’s life, and he is experiencing severe anxiety, fearing more.

Job 4:7 who ever perished being innocent? Eliphaz, recognizing Job’s “reverence” and “integrity” (v. 6), was likely encouraging Job at the outset by saying he wouldn’t die because he was innocent of any deadly iniquity, but must be guilty of some serious sin because he was reaping such anger from God. This was a moral universe and moral order was at work, he thought. He had oversimplified God’s pattern of retribution. This simple axiom, “the righteous will prosper and the wicked will suffer,” does not always hold up in human experience. It is true that plowing and sowing iniquity reaps judgment, so Eliphaz was partially right (Gal. 6:7–91 Pet. 3:12), but not everything we reap in life is the result of something we have sown (2 Cor. 12:7–10). Eliphaz was replacing theology with simplistic logic. To say that wherever there is suffering, it is the result of sowing sin is wrong (Ex. 4:11John 9:1–3).

Psalm 91:14 set his love upon Me. God Himself is the speaker in this section (vv. 14–16), and He describes the blessing He gives to those who know and love Him. The word for “love” means a “deep longing” for God or a “clinging” to God.

Romans 8:1 therefore. The result or consequence of the truth just taught. Normally it marks the conclusion of the verses immediately preceding it. But here it introduces the staggering results of Paul’s teaching in the first 7 chapters: that justification is by faith alone on the basis of God’s overwhelming grace. no condemnation. Occurring only 3 times in the New Testament, all in Romans (5:16, 18), “condemnation” is used exclusively in judicial settings as the opposite of justification. It refers to a verdict of guilty and the penalty that verdict demands. No sin a believer can commit—past, present, or future—can be held against him, since the penalty was paid by Christ and righteousness was imputed to the believer. And no sin will ever reverse this divine legal decision. those…in Christ Jesus. I.e., every true Christian; to be in Christ means to be united with Him.

Romans 8:15 spirit of bondage…to fear. Because of their life of sin, unregenerate people are slaves to their fear of death (Heb. 2:1415) and to their fear of final punishment (1 John 4:18). Spirit of adoption. Not primarily a reference to the transaction by which God adopts us (Eph. 1:5Gal. 4:5–7), but to a Spirit-produced awareness of the rich reality that God has made us His children, and, therefore, that we can come before Him without fear or hesitation as our beloved Father. It includes the confidence that we are truly sons of God. Abba. An informal, Aramaic term for Father that conveys a sense of intimacy. Like the English terms “Daddy” or “Papa,” it connotes tenderness, dependence, and a relationship free of fear or anxiety (Mark 14:36).

DAY 6: What kind of relationship does Satan have with God in the Book of Job?

Satan may be God’s sworn enemy, but they are not equals. Satan is a creature; God is the Creator. Satan was an angel unwilling to serve in his exalted role, and he rebelled against God.

The continual conflict between Satan and God is illustrated when Satan states that righteous people remain faithful to God only because of what they get. They trust in God only as long as God is nice to them. Satan challenged God’s claims of Job’s righteousness by calling it untested, if not questionable. Apparently Satan was convinced that he could destroy Job’s faith in God by inflicting suffering on him.

Satan suffered another defeat as God demonstrated through Job’s life that saving faith can’t be destroyed no matter how much trouble the believer suffers or how incomprehensible and undeserved the suffering seems.

After failing to destroy Job, Satan disappears from the story. He remains God’s defeated enemy, still raging against God’s inevitable triumph.

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Loving Money Focuses on the Temporal

“For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:7).

Temporal concerns must not crowd out the believer’s focus on eternal things.

In Charles Dickens’s memorable story A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge learns through a series of dreams that life consists of far more important values than his selfish preoccupation with business and finance. In essence, Scrooge learns a lesson that reminds us of Jesus’ sobering question, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Dickens’s story also dovetails well with today’s verse, which reminds us how a temporal focus on greed robs us of an eternal perspective.

People who are enslaved to money-love spend all their time dealing with what is locked into time and space. They overlook and ignore that which has eternal value. Also, such people seem oblivious to the warning that “riches are not forever” (Prov. 27:24) and to the old expression that hearses do not pull trailers.

The Old Testament further instructs us of the fleeting nature of money and material possessions. Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there” (1:21; see also Eccles. 5:15).

Jesus taught the disciples much about how foolish it is to focus on temporal wealth (see Matt. 6:19-21). Perhaps His sternest warning is in the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:15-21). In it God condemns the smug self-confidence the man placed in his abundant crops: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (vv. 20-21).

A scenario like the rich man’s is much more probable in today’s materialistic societies. Perhaps that’s why Jesus’ parable is still so relevant and a potent reminder that any obsession with temporal riches, which causes us to miss God’s eternal riches, is the height of folly.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that today, in the midst of your normal responsibilities, God would keep your primary focus an eternal one.

For Further Study

Read Acts 19:18-41.

  • How did many of the new converts demonstrate their commitment to the eternal over the temporal?
  • In contrast, what did the anxiety of some of the unbelieving Ephesians lead to? Why?
  • How was the disturbance finally brought to an end?


Languages Without Love

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1).

Love distinguishes true communication from useless chatter and meaningless noises.

Paul begins his discourse on love by stating the futility of languages without love. The Corinthians were enamored with the showy spiritual gifts, apparently to the neglect of those they deemed less spectacular (see 1 Cor. 12:12-31). One of the gifts they prized most highly was tongues, which was the Spirit-given ability to declare God's truth in a language unknown to the speaker but known to others who heard.

Tongues were a sign to provoke unbelieving Jewish people to consider the gospel (1 Cor. 14:21-22). Its first occurrence was on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit enabled those assembled in the upper room to proclaim the mighty deeds of God in the native languages of the Jews gathered in Jerusalem at the time (Acts 2:4-11).

The "tongues of angels" Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 13:1 isn't the gift of tongues, as some suppose. He was simply using an exaggeration to emphasize his point, saying in effect, "If I had the ability to communicate with angels, it wouldn't do any good without love."

In Paul's day, the worship of Cybele and Dionysus, two pagan gods, incorporated speaking in ecstatic languages accompanied by blaring trumpets, smashing gongs, and clanging cymbals. I believe Paul was drawing from that well-known practice to say that whenever Christians attempt to minister apart from the Spirit and His love, it's no different than a pagan rite. It may look and sound like the real thing, but it's meaningless and useless for any spiritual benefit.

You should take advantage of every opportunity to minister your spiritual gifts to others. But as you do, be sure it's with love, in the energy of the Spirit, and in accordance with God's Word. Then you'll have a maximum impact as Christ uses your efforts for His glory.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to convict you whenever you attempt to exercise your spiritual gifts without love.

For Further Study

Read Romans 12:1-21.

  • What does Paul say about spiritual gifts?
  • How are Christians to express brotherly love to one another


Undaunted Faith

"Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven’” (Matthew 9:1–2).

Christianity’s most distinctive message is the truth that God can forgive sin. The essence of the gospel is that Christ’s atoning death can free people from the penalty of sin. If Jesus can heal diseases and disabilities, He can surely provide cleansing for the consequences of sin. The men who brought the paralytic to the Lord undoubtedly believed this very strongly.

Those with crippling disabilities have always had to endure social stigma and neglect. But in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day and much earlier, the stigma was especially pronounced because everyone believed chronic ailments stemmed directly from someone’s sin. Bildad told Job, “If your sons sinned against Him, then He delivered them into the power of their transgression” (Job 8:4; cf. 4:7John 9:1–2).

The paralytic here likely had the same understanding concerning sin and disease, thus he was determined at any cost to see Jesus for forgiveness and a resultant physical healing. Christ saw the determination of his faith as his friends worked through the crowd to get the paralytic in front of Him. That aggressive approach revealed their hearts of faith. In all his physical ugliness and spiritual neediness, the man threw himself upon Jesus’ mercy.

The paralyzed man came to the Lord in true humility and poverty of spirit, which God requires of all seeking hearts (Matt. 5:3). Jesus sometimes healed people of little faith, but He was especially willing to heal those of great faith, as with the men and his friends.

Ask Yourself

Why does God choose to work through our faith? Why would He want to include our cooperation as part of His healing activity? What might He be requiring of you as He deals with a certain need in your life?


Reading for Today:


Job 1:1–2:13 This section identifies the main persons and sets the stage for the drama to follow. Uz. Job’s home was a walled city with gates (29:7, 8), where he held a position of great respect. The city was in the land of Uz in northern Arabia, adjacent to Midian, where Moses lived for 40 years (Ex. 2:15). Job. The story begins on earth with Job as the central figure. He was a rich man with 7 sons and 3 daughters, in his middle years with a grown family. He was good, a family man, rich, and widely known. blameless…upright,…feared God… shunned evil. 1:8. Job was not perfect or without sin (6:247:219:20). However, it appears from the language that he had put his trust in God for redemption and faithfully lived a God-honoring, sincere life of integrity and consistency personally, maritally (2:10), and parentally (1:4, 5).

Job 1:6 sons of God. Job’s life is about to be caught up in heavenly strategies as the scene moves from earth to heaven where God is holding council with His heavenly court. Neither Job nor his friends ever knew about this. The angelic host (38:7; Pss. 29:189:7Dan. 3:25) came to God’s throne to render account of their ministry throughout the earth and heaven (1 Kin. 22:19–22). Like a Judas among the apostles, Satan was with the angels. Satan. Emboldened by the success he had with the unfallen Adam in paradise (Gen. 3:6–12,17–19), he was confident that the fear of God in Job, one of a fallen race, would not stand his tests. And he had fallen himself (see Is. 14:12). As opposed to a personal name, Satan as a title means “adversary,” in either a personal or judicial sense. This demon is the ultimate spiritual adversary of all time and has been accusing the righteous throughout the ages (Rev. 12:10).

Job 2:3 he holds fast to his integrity. God affirmed that Job had won round one. without cause. God uses the same expression the adversary used in Job 1 “for nothing (1:9)…without cause (2:3).” The message behind God’s turn of words is that the adversary is the guilty party in this case, not Job who had suffered all the disaster without any personal cause. He had done nothing to incur the pain and loss, though it was massive. The issue was purely a matter of conflict between God and Satan. This is a crucial statement, because when Job’s friends tried to explain why all the disasters had befallen him, they always put the blame on Job. Grasping this assessment from God—that Job had not been punished for something, but suffered for nothing related to him personally—is a crucial key to the story. Sometimes suffering is caused by divine purposes unknowable to us.

Romans 7:6 delivered from the law. Not freedom to do what God’s law forbids (6:1, 15; 8:4; 3:31), but freedom from the spiritual liabilities and penalties of God’s law. Because we died in Christ when He died, the law with its condemnation and penalties no longer has jurisdiction over us (vv. 1–3). serve. This is the verb form of the word for “bondservant,” but here it is parallel to being slaves of righteousness (6:22), emphasizing that this service is not voluntary. Not only is the believer able to do what is right, he will do what is right. the newness of the Spirit. A new state of mind which the Spirit produces, characterized by a new desire and ability to keep the law of God. oldness of the letter. The external, written law code that produced only hostility and condemnation.

DAY 5: In Romans 7:7–25, is Paul describing his own experience as a believer or unbeliever?

Paul uses the personal pronoun “I” throughout this passage, using his own experience as an example of what is true of unredeemed humanity (7:7–12) and of true Christians (7:13–25). Some interpret this chronicle of Paul’s inner conflict as describing his life before Christ. They point out that Paul describes the person as “sold under sin” (7:14), as having “nothing good” in him (7:18), and as a “wretched man” trapped in a “body of death” (7:24). Those descriptions seem to contradict Paul’s earlier description of the believer (6:2, 6, 7, 11, 17, 18, 22).

It is correct, however, to understand Paul here to be speaking about a believer. This person desires to obey God’s law and hates sin (7:15, 19, 21). He is humble, recognizing that nothing good dwells in his humanness (7:18). He sees sin in himself, but not as all that is there (7:17, 20–22). And he serves Jesus Christ with his mind (7:25). Paul has already established that none of those attitudes ever describe the unsaved (1:18–21, 32; 3:10–20). Paul’s use of the present tense verbs in 7:14–25 strongly supports the idea that he was describing his current experience as a Christian.ven those who agree that Paul was speaking as a genuine believer, however, still find room for disagreement. Some see a carnal, fleshly Christian under the influence of old habits. Others see a legalistic Christian, frustrated by his feeble attempts in his own power to please God by keeping the Mosaic Law. But the personal pronoun “I” refers to the apostle Paul, a standard of spiritual health and maturity. This leads to the conclusion that Paul, in 7:7–25, must be describing all Christians—even the most spiritual and mature—who, when they honestly evaluate themselves against the righteous standard of God’s law, realize how far short they fall. Notice, particularly, Paul’s honesty and transparency in the four laments (7:14–17, 18–20, 21–23, 24–25).

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Loving Money Ignores True Gain

“But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6).

True wealth is found in contentment, not in monetary gain.

Love of money and contentment are mutually exclusive. An ancient Roman proverb says, “Money is like seawater; the more you drink, the thirstier you get.” Ecclesiastes 5:10 summarizes the point this way: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.”

History has also demonstrated that no amount of riches can compensate for a lack of contentment. Millionaire financier John D. Rockefeller said, “I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness.” That wealthiest of industrialists, Henry Ford, was quoted as saying, “I was happier doing mechanic’s work.”

The Cynic and Stoic philosophers of Paul’s day were probably more content than any of the modern corporate tycoons. Those philosophers viewed the contented person as one who was self-sufficient, unflappable, and unmoved by outside circumstances. But true Christians have the best understanding of contentment because they know it comes from God. Paul told the Corinthian church, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5; see also 9:8).

The genuine believer, therefore, sees contentment as more than merely a noble human virtue. For him, it derives from the sufficiency God the Father and Christ the Son provide (Phil. 4:19). Thus a godly person is not motivated by the love of money but by the love of God (see Ps. 63:1-5).

The richest person is the one who needs nothing else because he is content with what he has. He adheres to the philosophy of Proverbs 30:8-9, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, lest I be full and deny Thee and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.”

Loving money deprives us of the contentment the writer of Proverbs alluded to and Paul wrote about. Such greed also leaves us spiritually impoverished and ignores the great gain that comes from true godliness—hardly the end result any of us should settle for simply because the love of money dominates our life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that His daily and weekly provision has been and always will be sufficient for your needs.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 63:1-5.

  • What attitudes result from the psalmist’s efforts?
  • What additional insights does the prophet add in Isaiah 55:2 and 58:11?


The Source of True Love

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God. . . . We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:719).

True love cannot be generated on the human level. It’s a gift from God.

Scripture often makes seemingly impossible demands of us. For example, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). That's easy to say, but how is it possible? Our natural tendency is to love our friends and hate our enemies. But Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (vv. 46-47).

Israel viewed tax-gatherers as traitors, and Gentiles as spiritual outcasts. Yet even traitors and outcasts show love and kindness to those who reciprocate. Jesus calls us to a much higher standard of love—one that is impartial, like God demonstrates when He “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (v. 45). As we see from God Himself, it extends even to those who aren't worthy: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Despite generations of rebellion and slander against His holy will and name, God sacrificed His beloved Son, thereby providing the means by which sinners can be saved. Out of love, Jesus willingly endured the pain and shame of the cross and paid the price of our redemption. Now that's divine love in action!

God commands you to love as He loves: impartially and sacrificially. That may sound impossible on the human level but remember that God never requires you to do anything He hasn't already enabled you to do. At the moment of your salvation, the Holy Spirit took up residence within you and began producing the fruit of love (Gal. 5:22). You don't have to muster it up on your own. All you have to do is invite the Spirit to take control, allowing Him to govern your thoughts and actions. As you do, His precious fruit will be multiplied in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the love of the Spirit He has placed within you.
  • Ask Him for opportunities today to learn how to love more perfectly.

For Further Study

Memorize Galatians 5:22-23.


Opposition to Jesus

“The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region” (Matthew 8:33–34).

It’s startling to realize that some people do not respect Jesus as much as the demons do. But that was exactly the case for this city (probably ancient Gerasa). The populace wanted nothing to do with the Lord but actually begged Him to leave their area. Mark’s account of the incident gives us more clues to their attitudes: “the people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind . . . and they became frightened” (Mark 5:14–15). As much as any hostility they may have had, they were simply scared.

As unregenerate sinners, the Gerasenes were no doubt bewildered and intimidated by Jesus. They saw His ability to control demons and animals and to restore crazed minds to sanity—and the result was complete opposition to Christ.

In sharp contrast to the attitude of the city people, one of the delivered men implored Jesus to let him go with Him (Mark 5:18). He manifested a great faith, love, and adoration for the Lord—so much so that he could not bear the thought of sepa-ration. But Jesus commanded him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). The man was to be an evangelist to his own people, testifying that despite their present opposition to Jesus, the Son of God did not want them to perish spiritually.

Ask Yourself

Are there people in your life whose rejection of and opposition to Christ are totally baffling to you—going against all logic and every example of God’s reality? How should you respond to such hardheadedness?


Reading for Today:


Esther 9:1 twelfth month. During the period February-March. Here is a powerful statement with regard to God’s providential preservation of the Jewish race in harmony with God’s unconditional promise to Abraham (Gen. 17:1–8). This providential deliverance stands in contrast to God’s miraculous deliverance of the Jews from Egypt; yet in both cases the same end had been accomplished by the supernatural power of God.

Esther 10:3 Mordecai…was second. Mordecai joined the top echelon of Jewish international statesmen like Joseph, who ranked second in the Egyptian dynasty (Gen. 41:37–45), and Daniel, who succeeded in both the Babylonian (Dan. 2:46–495:29) and Medo-Persian Empires (Dan. 6:28). speaking peace. Less than 10 years later (ca. 465 B.C.), Ahasuerus was assassinated. There are no further details concerning Esther and Mordecai. What Mordecai did for less than a decade on behalf of Israel, Jesus Christ will do for all eternity as the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:67Zech. 9:910).

Psalm 91:1 secret place of the Most High. An intimate place of divine protection. The use of “Most High” for God emphasizes that no threat can ever overpower Him. shadow of the Almighty. In a land where the sun can be oppressive and dangerous, a “shadow” was understood as a metaphor for care and protection.

Romans 6:3 baptized into Christ Jesus. This does not refer to water baptism. Paul is actually using the word “baptized” in a metaphorical sense, as we might in saying someone was immersed in his work or underwent his baptism of fire when experiencing some trouble. All Christians have, by placing saving faith in Him, been spiritually immersed into the Person Christ, that is, united and identified with Him (1 Cor. 6:1710:2Gal. 3:271 Pet. 3:211 John 1:3Acts 2:38). Certainly water baptism pictures this reality, which is the purpose—to show the transformation of the justified. into His death. This means that immersion or identification is specifically with Christ’s death and resurrection.

DAY 4: In verses such as Romans 5:12 and 6:23, to what kind of death is Paul referring?

The word “death” has three distinct manifestations in biblical terminology: 1) spiritual death or separation from God (Eph. 2:12418); 2) physical death (Heb. 9:27); and 3) eternal death (also called the second death), which includes not only eternal separation from God, but eternal torment in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11–15).

When sin entered the human race through Adam, all these aspects of death came with it. Adam was not originally subject to death; but through his sin, death became a grim certainty for him and his posterity. The “death” referred to in Romans 6:23 includes the first and third descriptions above. That verse establishes two inexorable absolutes: 1) spiritual death and eternal separation from God make up the paycheck for every person’s slavery to sin; and 2) eternal life is a free gift God gives undeserving sinners who believe in His Son (Eph. 2:8,9).

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The Love of Money

“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).

There are specific indicators that warn us if we are loving money.

Today’s verse is a classic reference and contains the overarching scriptural principle concerning our attitude toward money. In referring to the love of money, Paul is essentially talking about the sin of greed. That sin is a serious offense in God’s eyes, which means we ought to desire with all our hearts to have victory over it. And we can begin to achieve such victory by recognizing the major warning signs of greed or money-love.

There are at least five major behavior and attitude symptoms that reveal the presence of greed in one’s life. First, if you are truly a lover of money, you will be more concerned with acquiring it than with giving an honest, quality effort in everything you do. Believers are to pursue truth and excellence first of all, and God will see to it that we receive the proper monetary rewards.

Second, if you are greedy, you will feel that you never have enough money. Your attitude will be like the leech’s daughters who constantly say, “Give,” “Give” (Prov. 30:15).

Third, if you love money, you will tend to flaunt what it can buy. You will be unduly eager to show off clothing, your new car or truck, or the new property you just purchased.
Fourth, if you are a slave to greed, you will resent giving your money to support worthwhile causes or help other people. You will want to keep everything to spend on your own selfish desires.

Finally, if you are in love with money, it is likely you will sin to obtain more. That could include cheating on your income tax return or expense account report or shortchanging customers.

If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut. 6:4-5Matt. 22:35-38), none of those symptoms will be in your life to hinder your pursuit of Him. That’s what Jesus meant when He said we can’t love and serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would make the allure of money so faint for you that you would never be a slave to greed.

For Further Study

Write out and memorize Philippians 4:11. Carry it with you, and quote it to counteract the greedy thoughts of dissatisfaction that arise periodically.


Filling up an Empty Word

"I show you a still more excellent way" (1 Cor. 12:31).

Biblical love is characterized by humility, obedience to God, and self-sacrifice.

In our society, love is a common word but an uncommon experience. Often those who use the word most understand it least. Many who think they've found love have really settled for something far less than God intended for them.

For many, love means a romantic or sexual relationship. While Scripture has much to say about intimacy within marriage, the word love takes on a different meaning in the New Testament. Even Ephesians 5:25 ("Husbands, love your wives") doesn't refer to romantic love.

Other common errors include equating love with emotionalism or sentimentality, or confusing it with a friendly spirit of tolerance and brotherhood toward others—often apart from any consideration for doctrinal purity or biblical convictions. But biblical love is none of those.

The "more excellent way" Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 12:31 is love that comes from God Himself and conforms to His holy attributes. We have no capacity to generate it on our own. The Greek word for that kind of love is agapé, and it is characterized by humility, obedience to God, and self-sacrifice. John 13:1 says of Christ's love for His disciples, "He loved them to the end." That literally means He loved them to perfection—to the limits of love. In verses 4-5 He demonstrates His love by washing their feet. Love is humble. It focuses on meeting needs.

In addition, love is obedient and willing to make sacrifices for others. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). God made the supreme sacrifice for us in that He "so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16).

First Corinthians 13 applies to Christians of every generation because we all face the danger of misusing our spiritual gifts. As we study it and other passages about love, ask yourself if your love is all that God wants it to be. If not, take note of what changes you need to make in light of what you're learning.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for loving you.
  • Ask Him for wisdom and grace to understand and walk in love.

For Further Study

Read John 14:23-24, noting how Jesus described those who love Him.


Supremacy over Demons

“And He said to them, ‘Go!’ And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters” (Matthew 8:32).

Our Lord Jesus will always have the upper hand over demonic forces. But we should never forget that demons, as fallen angels, still possess tremendous power and strength (cf. Dan. 10:21Rev. 12:4). For example, when God sent an angel with a message for Daniel, a demon named “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” delayed the angel for three weeks, and God had to send Michael the archangel to help the other divine messenger (Dan. 10:13).

Wicked angels are superior to humans in many ways: intelligence (Ezek. 28:3–4), strength (Mark 5:4Acts 19:16), powers to do “signs and false wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9), and in experience (having existed much longer than mankind). As spirit beings, they are not bound by time, space, or form. Thus only Christ has sufficient power to bruise Satan’s head and cast him and his forces into the lake of fire and brimstone forever (Rev. 20:310). It required tremendous supernatural power to expel so many demons from the two men and into the pigs, yet He accomplished the feat in an instant.

Knowing all this, we as God’s children must remember that only with His armor, especially the shield of faith, can we withstand attacks from demons (Eph. 6:16) and be victorious over their schemes.

Ask Yourself

How have you been taught to deal with the forces of darkness and evil? By taking them on in direct spiritual confrontation? By ignoring them or acting as if they don’t exist? Let Jesus be your total confidence in all such matters of warfare.


Reading for Today:


Esther 8:1 the house of Haman. Property of a traitor by Persian custom returned to the king. In this case, he gave it to his queen, Esther, who put Mordecai over it (8:2). The outcome for Haman’s wife, Zeresh, and his wise men is unknown (5:14; 6:12,13).Haman’s 10 sons later died (9:7–10).

Esther 8:17 many…people…Jews. The population realized that the God of the Jews greatly exceeded anything that the pantheon of Persian deities could offer (Ex. 15:14–16Ps. 105:38Acts 5:11), especially in contrast to their recent defeat by the Greeks.

Psalm 90:12 number our days. Evaluate the use of time in light of the brevity of life. heart of wisdom. Wisdom repudiates autonomy and focuses on the Lord’s sovereignty and revelation.

Psalm 90:17 the beauty of the LORDThe Lord’s beauty implies His delight, approval, and favor. establish the work of our hands. By God’s mercy and grace, one’s life can have value, significance, and meaning (1 Cor. 15:58).

Romans 5:3 tribulations. A word used for pressure, like that of a press squeezing the fluid from olives or grapes. Here they are not the normal pressures of living (8:35), but the inevitable troubles that come to followers of Christ because of their relationship with Him (Matt. 5:10–12John 15:202 Cor. 4:171 Thess. 3:32 Tim. 3:121 Pet. 4:19). Such difficulties produce rich spiritual benefits (vv. 3,4). perseverance. Sometimes translated “patience,” this word refers to endurance, the ability to remain under tremendous weight and pressure without succumbing (15:5; Col. 1:22232 Thess. 1:4Rev. 14:12).

Romans 5:4 character. A better translation is “proven character.” The Greek word simply means “proof.” It was used of testing metals to determine their purity. Here the proof is Christian character (James 1:12). Christians can glory in tribulations because of what those troubles produce.

Romans 5:5 love of God…poured out. God’s love for us (v. 8) has been lavishly poured out to the point of overflowing within our hearts. Paul moves from the objective aspects of our security in Christ to the internal, more subjective. God has implanted within our hearts evidence that we belong to Him in that we love the One who first loved us. Spirit who was given. A marvelous testimony to God’s love for us.

DAY 3: What are the results of being justified by faith?

Having proven that God justifies sinners on the basis of faith alone, Paul now counters the notion that, although believers receive salvation by faith, they will preserve it by good works (Rom. 5:1–11). He argues that they are bound eternally to Jesus Christ, preserved by His power and not by human effort (Is. 11:5Ps. 36:5Lam. 3:23Eph. 1:18–202 Tim. 2:13Heb. 10:23). “Having been justified by faith” (v. 1).The Greek construction—and its English translation—underscores that justification is a one-time legal declaration with continuing results, not an ongoing process. “We have peace with God.” Not a subjective, internal sense of calm and serenity, but an external, objective reality. God has declared Himself to be at war with every human being because of man’s sinful rebellion against Him and His laws (v. 10; 1:18; 8:7; Ex. 22:24Deut. 32:2122Ps. 7:11John 3:36Eph. 5:6). But the first great result of justification is that the sinner’s war with God is ended forever (Col. 1:2122). Scripture refers to the end of this conflict as a person’s being reconciled to God (vv. 10, 11; 2 Cor. 5:18–20).

“Through whom also we have access by faith” (v. 2). Used only twice elsewhere in the New Testament (Eph. 2:183:12), this word always refers to the believer’s access to God through Jesus Christ. What was unthinkable to the Old Testament Jew is now available to all who come (Jer. 32:3840Heb. 4:1610:19–22Matt. 27:51). “Grace in which we stand.” This refers to the permanent, secure position believers enjoy in God’s grace (v. 10; 8:31–34; John 6:37Phil. 1:62 Tim. 1:12Jude 24). “And rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Unlike the English word “hope,” the New Testament word contains no uncertainty. It speaks of something that is certain, but not yet realized. The believer’s ultimate destiny is to share in the very glory of God (8:29, 30; John 17:222 Cor. 3:18Phil. 3:20211 John 3:12), and that hope will be realized because Christ Himself secures it (1 Tim. 1:1). Without the clear and certain promises of the Word of God, the believer would have no basis for hope (15:4; Ps. 119:81114Eph. 2:12Jer. 14:8).

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The Right Attitude Toward Money

“But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Believers should not have a self-centered preoccupation with money.

With all the attention modern society gives to money, what it can buy, and the dividends it can earn, Christians are continually challenged to view it properly. But Scripture provides us with much help and guidance in this area. It is replete with warnings and admonitions about how we are to act and think concerning money and wealth.

There are at least eight basic, biblical guidelines that when believed and followed will give us a God-centered view of money. First, having money in itself is not wrong (1 Sam. 2:7). Second, we ought to recognize that money is a gift from God and comes to us through His providence (Deut. 8:11-18). Third, we must be willing to lose our money, if that’s God’s will for us. Job said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). Fourth, we must not be partial toward those who have lots of money (James 2:1-10). Fifth, we must not arrogantly seek security from money (Prov. 11:281 Tim. 6:17). Sixth, money-making pursuits should never be our highest priorities in life (Matt. 6:33). Seventh, we ought to use money for eternal purposes, namely, leading others to the Lord (Luke 16:9). Finally, we must not selfishly hoard or foolishly spend money. On the contrary, true generosity should characterize every believer (Prov. 11:24-25Luke 6:38).

Just like a firearm, money can be used for good purposes and evil purposes, which means there is nothing inherently wrong with it. Therefore, the real issue does not concern money itself, but what our attitude is toward it. The Lord wants us to view money as He did and be content with what we have.

Suggestions for Prayer

Confess your sinful attitude in one or more of the eight areas mentioned today. Pray that God would replace those sinful attitudes toward money with His righteous attitudes.

For Further Study

Read Deuteronomy 8:11-18.

  • What divine favors does God remind the Israelites of?
  • What sin is sure to befall any believer who forgets that God is the One who makes wealth possible


A Hymn of Love

"I show you a still more excellent way" (1 Cor. 12:31).

Without love, spiritual gifts are meaningless.

First Corinthians 13 has been called the hymn of love, a lyrical interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, and the Beatitudes set to music. It's a beautiful portion of Scripture that comes as a breath of fresh air in a book dealing with one problem after another.

This chapter has often been isolated from its context, but its real power lies in the balance and correction it gives to the rest of the book. The Corinthians, like all Christians, had been gifted by God at the moment of salvation to benefit the church in a special way. But many were abusing their gifts, seeking prominence for themselves rather than ministering to one another. So in chapter 12 Paul discusses the concept of spiritual gifts, in chapter 14 their proper use, and in chapter 13 the need to minister them in love.

Like many Christians today, the Corinthians forgot that spiritual gifts can operate effectively only in a person who is truly spiritual. They had the gifts of the Spirit but they weren't displaying the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), the first of which is love.

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul begins, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing." Love must be the motive and driving force behind everything we do!

How has God gifted you for ministry? Are you ministering your gifts in love?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to purify your love and make you a more effective minister of the gifts He has given to you.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 12.

  • Who distributes spiritual gifts?
  • Which gifts did Paul mention?
  • What is their purpose?


Jesus vs. Demons

“When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who weredemon-possessed met Him . . . and they cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” (Matthew 8:28–29).

Demons can attack people mentally, physically, or spiritually. Spiritually, they oppose true religion, promote the false, and control the occult. Intellectually, they advocate false ideologies, insanity, and masochism. Our Lord always recognized demonized people as being victims of powers beyond their control and in need of deliverance, not condemnation or exhortation.

By calling Jesus “Son of God,” the demons controlling the Gadarene men showed they knew His true identity. They recognized Him as their spiritual antagonist who had the full authority to destroy them at will. Their question “Have You come here to torment us before the time?” further recognized that there is a God-ordained schedule, not yet completed, when He will relegate them to eternal damnation. As in other subjects, the demons had a correct doctrine of last things. But such belief is mere recognition, not acceptance. James reveals that even they tremble at the consequences of unbelief: “the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19).

Demons despise everything about God and His Son. Yet they can’t do anything but pay Jesus the greatest deferential respect when in His presence. That supports Paul’s teaching that one day at the name of Christ, “every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11).

Ask Yourself

Seeing the demons so obviously in fear of Christ’s dominance should encourage us that He is more than able to handle any situation. Have you been withholding a need from Him, not sure He cared or could do anything about it? Bring it boldly to Him today.


Reading for Today:


Esther 6:1 the book. Five years had intervened since Mordecai’s loyal but as yet unrewarded act (2:23). At exactly the proper moment, God providentially intervened so that the king suffered insomnia, called for the book of records, read of Mordecai’s unrewarded deeds 5 years past, and then desired to reward him (Dan. 6:18).

Esther 6:13 you have begun to fall. Neither divine prophecy (Ex. 17:14) nor biblical history (1 Sam. 15:89) stood in Haman’s favor. Haman’s entourage seemed to have some knowledge of this biblical history.

Psalm 90:Title. Moses the man of God. Moses the prophet (Deut. 18:15–22) was unique in that the Lord knew him “face to face” (Deut. 34:10–12). “Man of God” (Deut. 33:1) is a technical term used over 70 times in the Old Testament, always referring to one who spoke for God. It is used of Timothy in the New Testament (1 Tim. 6:112 Tim. 3:17).

Psalm 90:3 You turn man to destruction. The unusual word for destruction has the idea of crushed matter. Though different from the “dust” of Genesis 3:19, this phrase is no doubt a reference to that passage. Humanity lives under a sovereign decree of death and cannot escape it.

Romans 4:3 A quotation of Genesis 15:6, one of the clearest statements in all Scripture about justification. believed. Abraham was a man of faith (1:164:18–21Gal. 3:679Heb. 11:8–10). But faith is not a meritorious work. It is never the ground of justification—it is simply the channel through which it is received and it, too, is a gift. accounted. vv. 5, 9, 10, 22. Also translated “imputed” (vv. 6, 8, 11, 23, 24). Used in both financial and legal settings, this Greek word means to take something that belongs to someone and credit to another’s account. It is a one-sided transaction—Abraham did nothing to accumulate it; God simply credited it to him. God took His own righteousness and credited it to Abraham as if it were actually his. This God did because Abraham believed in Him.

Romans 4:11,12 the father of all those who believe. Racially, Abraham is the father of all Jews (circumcised); spiritually, he is the father of both believing Jews (v. 12) and believing Gentiles (uncircumcised; v. 11).

DAY 2: Why do Esther and Mordecai appear so secular in their lifestyles?

In contrast to their near contemporaries Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel, the central people in Esther seem worldly. The lack of references to God is most obvious in Esther and Mordecai’s conversations. Are these all subtle indications that Esther and Mordecai were people whose faith had little or no effect on their daily lives?

The Book of Esther does not settle this question. There are several important factors, however, that might hold us back from jumping to conclusions about Esther and Mordecai. Primary among these is the fact that the book has a limited scope. Only a few key events are recorded. Few if any details of the inner life of either main character are revealed. Yet the integrity of their actions ought to incline us toward giving them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to faith (4:13–16).

Here are a few other considerations regarding this question: 1) While Mordecai’s caution about announcing his and Esther’s heritage publicly might be questioned, it must also be pointed out that others were also cautious about this same matter (Neh. 2:1–8 makes no mention of God in Nehemiah’s conversation with Artaxerxes); 2) Public events such as Passover had fallen out of practice during the captivity, meaning that there were fewer occasions in which faith was practiced in the open (this doesn’t mean however that the Jews were not a marked people, since they could be identified for the purpose of Haman’s law); 3) When it was appropriate, Esther did openly identify her Jewish heritage (7:3,4). These considerations do not remove the charge that Esther and Mordecai seem less devoted to God than, for example, Daniel. But the fact that God did work out His purposes in their lives comes through clearly in the book.

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A Society of Things

“‘For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’” (Matthew 6:21).

In wealthy countries, where the focus is on material things, believers must strive for the right perspective on possessions.

Today’s text answers the simple but age-old question, Where is your heart? When our Lord answers the question, it is clear He is referring to all of life’s major preoccupations and investments—anything that receives most of our thinking, planning, and expenditure of energy.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had their hearts in the wrong places. Among their many other sins, the Pharisees were thing-oriented—covetous, greedy, avaricious, and manipulative. Matthew 6:21 is right in the middle of a portion of the Sermon on the Mount that deals with the Pharisees’ misplaced priorities regarding material possessions. The verse fits with Christ’s overall purpose in the Sermon, which was to affirm His standard of righteous living in contrast to the Pharisees’ inferior, hypocritical standard (Matt. 5:20).

Matthew 6:19-24 tells us how believers should view their luxuries and wealth. Most of us live in cultures that constantly challenge us with their emphases on materialism. We all spend some time thinking about those things, whether it be a house, a car, furniture, investment portfolios, computers, our wardrobes, or whatever. And many people become slaves to consumerism and greed. Therefore we need to deal with these issues and have a biblical viewpoint concerning the many material comforts we have.

Above all, if we want the same perspective on wealth that Jesus had, our view must far exceed that of the Pharisees with their proud, earthbound viewpoint. They were focusing all of their time and devotion on selfishly laying up worldly treasures. Theirs is not the godly standard of those who want to exemplify Christ in the midst of a materialistic society.

Suggestions for Prayer

What thoughts and activities occupy most of your extra time? Pray that they would not be merely about things, but about the things of God.

For Further Study

  • You need to have a right view of yourself before any other area of life is properly understood. Read again the familiar opening passage of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:1-12.
  • Memorize or meditate on one verse or more that ministers to a need you have.


The Antidote for Sin

"Let all that you do be done in love" (1 Cor. 16:14).

The more you love God, the less you will sin.

Scripture and personal experience teach us that sin always has its consequences. When you harbor unconfessed sin, you dishonor God and forfeit the blessings and joy He desires for you. Prolonged sin might even bring His chastening through pain or illness.

That's what happened to Corinthian believers who partook of the Lord's Table in a sinful manner (1 Cor. 11:27-30). Paul warned the rest of the congregation to take careful spiritual inventory of themselves to avoid incurring a similar punishment. In chapter 13 he reveals the root of their problem, saying in effect, "Some of you are physically ill because you're sinning. Start loving God and one another as you should, and your ailments will disappear."

Love is the antidote for sin. When a Pharisee asked Jesus which of the commandments was greatest, Jesus replied, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40). If you love the Lord and your fellow man, you won't sin against them. That's why Paul said, "He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:8-10).

Love is your highest calling and the greatest contribution you can make to others. But it's possible to neglect it or misunderstand its characteristics. That's why we're going to spend this month exploring true love and how it functions. As we do, pray that your love for God and others will increase each day.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for a greater capacity to love Him, then demonstrate your love by obeying His Word.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 13, noting the characteristics of love.


The Apostles Marvel at Jesus’ Power

“The men were amazed, and said, ‘What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’” (Matthew 8:27).

There are no realities more overwhelming than a glimpse of God’s glory or the sense of His presence. Such occurrences make it impossible not to be utterly dumbfounded before Him.

The disciples realized after Christ stilled the storm that He indeed was God standing in their boat with them. Peter displayed the same reaction of awe and terror when he briefly walked on water after his Lord did. A storm surged up and caused Peter to panic. When Jesus rescued the disciple and calmed the storm, all the disciples in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” (Matt. 14:33; cf. vv. 28–32). That is simply the proper reaction any believer should have when getting a firsthand glimpse of the Lord’s power in this world.

God’s servants in Scripture had far more astounding earthly encounters with His magnificence than we ever will, but their examples are instructive. Daniel, for example, after beholding the Almighty, remarked, “No strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor” (Dan. 10:8; cf. Isa. 6:15). When the risen Christ halted Paul (Saul of Tarsus) on his way to Damascus, “he fell to the ground” (Acts 9:4).

Our daily dependence on God and sense of His presence should be no less important for us than for the prophets and apostles of old. Isaac Watts’ lyrics capture this concept well:

On thee each moment we depend,
If Thou withdraw we die.
O may we ne’er that God offend,
Who is forever nigh.

Ask Yourself

Pause long enough to marvel at the glory of your ever-present God. Put your feelings of awe into words of worship.


Reading for Today:


Esther 3:4 he was a Jew. It seems evident from Haman’s fury and attempted genocide that there were strong anti-Semitic attitudes in Shushan, which seems to explain Mordecai’s reluctance to reveal his true ethnic background.

Esther 4:14 relief and deliverance. Mordecai exhibited a healthy faith in God’s sovereign power to preserve His people. He may have remembered the Lord’s promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:317:1–8). you…will perish. Mordecai indicated that Esther would not escape the sentence or be overlooked because of her prominence (4:13). such a time as this. Mordecai indirectly appealed to God’s providential timing.

Psalm 89:46 hide Yourself forever. By God’s seeming refusal to answer prayer and restore the Davidic kingship, it seemed as though God was hiding Himself. Of course, the discipline of disobedient kings had been foretold (v. 32). According to the prophets, God would eventually restore Israel and the Davidic throne in an earthly kingdom (Hos. 3:45). Never in the Old Testament is there a sense that this Davidic promise would be fulfilled by Christ with a spiritual and heavenly reign.

Romans 3:2 oracles. This Greek word is logoin, a diminutive form of the common New Testament word logos, which is normally translated “word.” These are important sayings or messages, especially supernatural ones. Here Paul uses the word to encompass the entire Old Testament—the Jews received the very words of the true God (Deut. 4:126:12Mark 12:24Luke 16:29John 5:39). The Jews had a great advantage in having the Old Testament, because it contained the truth about salvation (2 Tim. 3:15) and about the gospel in its basic form (Gal. 3:8). When Paul said “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2), he meant the “oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11) recorded in Scripture.

Romans 3:11 none…understands. Man is unable to comprehend the truth of God or grasp His standard of righteousness (Pss. 14:253:31 Cor. 2:14). Sadly, his spiritual ignorance does not result from a lack of opportunity, but is an expression of his depravity and rebellion (Eph. 4:18). none…seeks. This verse clearly implies that the world’s false religions are fallen man’s attempts to escape the true God—not to seek Him. Man’s natural tendency is to seek his own interests (Phil. 2:21), but his only hope is for God to seek him (John 6:3744). It is only as a result of God’s work in the heart that anyone seeks Him (Ps. 16:8Matt. 6:33).

DAY 1: As sinners, how are we justified before God?

In Romans 3:24, the verb “justified” is a legal or forensic term that comes from the Greek word for “righteous” and means “to declare righteous.” This verdict includes pardon from the guilt and penalty of sin and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer’s account, which provides for the positive righteousness man needs to be accepted by God. God declares a sinner righteous solely on the basis of the merits of Christ’s righteousness. God imputed a believer’s sin to Christ’s account in His sacrificial death (Is. 53:451 Pet. 2:24), and He imputes Christ’s perfect obedience to God’s law to Christians (5:191 Cor. 1:302 Cor. 5:21Phil. 3:9).The sinner receives this gift of God’s grace by faith alone (3:22, 25; 4:1–25). Sanctification, the work of God by which He makes righteous those whom He has already justified, is distinct from justification but without exception always follows it (8:30).

“Justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Justification is a gracious gift God extends to the repentant, believing sinner, wholly apart from human merit or work. The imagery behind the Greek word for “redemption” comes from the ancient slave market. It meant paying the necessary ransom to obtain the prisoner’s or slave’s release. The only adequate payment to redeem sinners from sin’s slavery and its deserved punishment was “in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:61 Pet. 1:1819) and was paid to God to satisfy His justice.

“Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood” (v. 25).This great sacrifice was not accomplished in secret, but God publicly displayed His Son on Calvary for all to see. Crucial to the significance of Christ’s sacrifice, a propitiation carries the idea of appeasement or satisfaction—in this case Christ’s violent death satisfied the offended holiness and wrath of God against those for whom Christ died (Is. 53:11Col. 2:11–14). The Hebrew equivalent of this word was used to describe the mercy seat—the cover to the ark of the covenant—where the high priest sprinkled the blood of the slaughtered animal on the Day of Atonement to make atonement for the sins of the people. In pagan religions, it is the worshiper—not the god—who is responsible to appease the wrath of the offended deity. But in reality, man is incapable of satisfying God’s justice apart from Christ, except by spending eternity in hell.

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The Blessings of Assurance

“For as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10).

Assurance of salvation lets us enjoy earthly blessings.

It is encouraging that scriptural assurance results in specific, practical blessings in the Christian life. Here are six I’d like to share with you today.

Assurance makes you praise God. There is no way you can be filled with praise and gratitude to God if you’re not sure you’re saved.

Assurance adds joy to your earthly duties and trials. No matter what happens to you, you can be certain that all will work out well in the end. Difficulties are easier to handle when you know they’re temporary.

Assurance makes you zealous in obedience and service. If you’re doubtful about your salvation, you will be apathetic and discouraged. But if you’re sure, you will be hard-working and encouraged in serving the Lord.

Assurance gives you victory in temptation. When you are confident about your salvation, you can overcome the strongest temptation (see 1 Cor. 10:13). Even if you stumble occasionally, you will know that those events have not changed your standing before God. But you will be depressed and discouraged by temptation if you have no assurance. You’ll doubt your ability to cope with temptations and will wonder if falling victim to one or two will send you to Hell.

Assurance gives contentment in this life. You’ll rest secure in the promise that you have a glorious heavenly inheritance to look forward to. At the same time, you will be happy and satisfied that God “shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). But if you lack assurance of salvation, you’ll scramble and reach for all the world’s material goods and feel cheated when you don’t obtain them.

Assurance removes the fear of death. If you know you’re a child of God, you can be sure that the moment you die you will enter Heaven. If you don’t have that assurance, however, you’ll be even more afraid to die than one who has never heard of Christ.

If you are growing spiritually, you will have assurance, and that will let you enjoy these and other blessings as you look forward to being with the Lord for all eternity.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would help you share the blessings of assurance with someone else.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 138.

  • What was David thankful for?
  • What reassurances are there for every believer?


Your Present Deliverance

"Obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet. 1:9).

Your present deliverance sets you free from the penalty and power of sin.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul says that "the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (emphasis added). That emphasizes the marvelous reality of the believer's present deliverance from sin. Peter stressed the same truth in 1 Peter 1:8, where he says that believers obtain as the outcome of their faith the salvation of their souls.

The Greek word translated "obtaining" in 1 Peter 1:18literally means "presently receiving for yourselves." It speaks of obtaining something that is due you as a result of your faith in Christ. "Outcome of your faith" refers to the logical result or end of faith. "Souls" speaks of the whole person. The entire verse could be translated, "You rejoice because you have and continue to hold onto the logical result of your proven faith—your ongoing deliverance from sin."

You need ongoing deliverance because sin is an ongoing problem. You have new life in Christ, are a new creature in Him, and are no longer a slave to the penalty and power of sin, but you're not yet fully glorified. Consequently you're still subject to sin's influence. Paul personalized that struggle in Romans 7, where he says, "The good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. . . . I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (vv. 19, 21, 24). The victory comes in verse 25, which says, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Jesus is the Great Deliverer, through whom you have victory over sin, death, and hell. That's the last spiritual privilege in Peter's brief list, but it's by no means the least. As you love and trust Him, you'll know the joy of present deliverance.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for your deliverance from sin's bondage.

For Further Study

Review all the spiritual privileges and sources of Christian joy we've discussed this month. Keep them fresh in your mind as you face the challenges of each new day.


Tension between Faith and Doubt

“Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, ‘What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’” (Matthew 8:26–27).

If you have been a believer for very long, you realize that knowing about the Lord’s love and powerful concern and trusting in them do not always go hand in hand. Even when we trust, it is not always complete or without trepidation. When the disciples witnessed Jesus calming the storm and waves, they were no doubt relieved but also still very much unnerved. Matthew says they “were amazed,” and Mark says they were “very much afraid” (Mark 4:41). They were now perhaps more afraid of the One who had just stilled the storm than they had been of the storm itself.

Our human frailties are so much a part of us that even after God has rescued us or done something amazing on our behalf, we still have doubts and fears. Like the apostles and the greats of the Old Testament, we can be most perplexed and fearful right after experiencing God’s greatness and mercy.

Our faith needs continual strengthening, as the disciples came to realize when they implored, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5; cf. Mark 9:24). We know the Lord can and will provide according to His perfect will and timing, but we easily can fail to trust in that reality. If we rely on mere “little faith” rather than complete faith, we will be afraid, timid, and doubtful when difficulties arise.

Ask Yourself

What is a proper response to God’s care, even when it arrives in undeniable power and an uncanny arrangement of events? What should gratitude be growing in us each time we see Him working on our behalf and for His kingdom’s cause?


Reading for Today:


Esther 1:9 Queen Vashti.Greek literature records her name as Amestris. She gave birth (ca. 483 B.C.) to Ahasuerus’s third son, Artaxerxes, who later succeeded his father Ahasuerus on the throne (Ezra 7:1).

Esther 2:5 Mordecai. He was among the fourth generation of deported Jews. KishMordecai’s great-grandfather who actually experienced the Babylonian deportation. After Babylon fell to Medo-Persia (ca. 539 B.C.), Jews were moved to other parts of the new kingdom. Kish represents a Benjamite family name that could be traced back (ca. 1100 B.C.) to Saul’s father (1 Sam. 9:1).

Proverbs 22:6 way he should go. There is only one right way, God’s way, the way of life. That way is specified in great detail in Proverbs. Since it is axiomatic that early training secures lifelong habits, parents must insist upon this way, teaching God’s Word and enforcing it with loving discipline consistently throughout the child’s upbringing.

Romans 2:6–10 Although Scripture everywhere teaches that salvation is not on the basis of works (4:1–4; Eph. 2:89), it consistently teaches that God’s judgment is always on the basis of a man’s deeds (Is. 3:10,11Jer. 17:10John 5:28291 Cor. 3:82 Cor. 5:10Gal. 6:7–9Rom. 14:12). Paul describes the deeds of two distinct groups: the redeemed (vv. 7, 10) and the unredeemed (vv. 8, 9). The deeds of the redeemed are not the basis of their salvation but the evidence of it. They are not perfect and are prone to sin, but there is undeniable evidence of righteousness in their lives (James 2:14–2026).

Romans 2:11 partiality. Literally, “to receive a face,” that is, to give consideration to someone simply because of his position, wealth, influence, popularity, or appearance. Because it is God’s nature to be just, it is impossible for Him to be anything but impartial (Acts 10:34Gal. 2:6Eph. 6:78Col. 3:251 Pet. 1:17).

DAY 31: Why isn’t God directly mentioned in Esther?

The question naturally arises when reading the book. Even the usual clues about God’s presence seem absent. No one refers to the Law of God, sacrifices, worship, or prayer. God does not appear to receive public or private recognition for the preservation of the Jews. When it comes to God, Esther seems strangely silent.

In fact, the silence is so obvious that it becomes an argument. Esther challenges the tendency to demand that God prove His power and presence. Must God be apparent? All too quickly we expect God to demonstrate in unmistakable ways His identity. Yet God has repeatedly resisted human ultimatums. God reveals Himself for His own purposes, not human requirements.

Throughout history, God has more readily operated behind the scenes than in plain sight. The Scriptures are filled with unusual circumstances in which God worked obviously. But Esther comes close to revealing God’s standard procedure. God’s fingerprints are all over Esther’s story. His superficial absence points to a deeper presence. God chose to be subtle, but He was there. The events in Esther give us a model for hope when God works in less than obvious ways in our lives.

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Spiritual Growth and Rewards

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:10-11).

The pursuit of virtue results in assurance now and eternal reward later.

Assurance is a great blessing, as Peter tells us in verse 10 of today’s passage. However, it is not the only thing you will enjoy if you are pursuing godly virtues. Years ago a Jewish teenager named Marvin learned about the additional blessing of rewards from the lady who led him to Christ. Before he left home to join the Marines as a struggling, often persecuted believer, she told him: “You’re a true Christian, Marvin. . . . One day when your earthly life ends you will go to Heaven because of what the Messiah has done for you. But if, when you get to Heaven, there is a great big parade and if in the front of the parade there is a great big band—if you don’t change your way of living, you’ll be so far back in the line that you won’t even hear the music.” Marvin got the message and eventually became a dedicated Christian teacher and evangelist.

You and I also must be living our lives in light of eternity—laying up treasures in Heaven, pursuing the virtues symbolized by gold, silver, and precious stones, not giving attention to those lesser things represented by wood, hay, and straw (see 1 Cor. 3:10-15). Those of us who earnestly pursue the virtues of 2 Peter 1 will receive a superabundant reward. And that’s not a crass motive for good works, because all believers will one day place their crowns (rewards) before God’s throne as an act of homage (see 2 Tim. 4:7-8Rev. 4:10).

Examine yourself to see if there’s any moral virtue in your life. If you see none, you can’t assume you’re saved. If you see some and it’s growing, though not perfectly, you can be “certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10). And you can be confident His reward “will be abundantly supplied to you” (v. 11).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for the eternal rewards that await those believers who have been faithful.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 1:182:7; and 1 Timothy 6:17. What do those verses say about God’s blessings and rewards?


Enjoying Fellowship with Christ

"Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Pet. 1:8).

Fellowship with Christ is built on love, trust, and obedience.

The recipients of 1 Peter, like us, had never seen Christ but they enjoyed fellowship with Him just the same. And their fellowship was genuine because it was marked by love, trust, and obedience.

The love Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1:8 isn't shallow emotionalism or sentimentality. It's the love of the will— the love of choice. His readers had chosen to love Christ despite never having seen Him physically. Such love is marked by obedience, as Jesus affirms in John 14: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. . . . He who does not love Me does not keep My words" (vv. 15, 24). To have fellowship with Christ is to love and obey Him.

Another element of fellowship is trust. After hearing reports about Christ's resurrection, the disciple Thomas declared that he would trust Jesus only after seeing and touching Him. Jesus honored his wishes, saying, "Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing" (John 20:27). But then Jesus said, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed" (v. 29). We as Christians are among those who believe in Christ, not having seen Him.

The result of loving and trusting Christ is "joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Pet. 1:8). This joy is something beyond the ability of speech and thought to convey. That's obvious even on the human level—as evidenced by the thousands of songs that have attempted to communicate the joy of being in love. "Full of glory" refers to the divine element in Christian joy. It's a supernatural endowment bestowed and energized by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

Enjoying fellowship with Christ is one of the supreme privileges of your Christian life. Strengthen and enrich that fellowship by learning the Word and relying on the Spirit. As you do, you will learn to love and trust Christ more deeply.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to teach you how to love and trust Him more faithfully. Thank Him for the joy that comes as you do.

For Further Study

Memorize Matthew 22:37.


Jesus Rebukes the Faithless Disciples

“‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’” (Matthew 8:26).

Sometimes events seem so obvious to us, we wonder why others don’t see the problems or difficulties just as clearly. During the storm the disciples wondered two things: why Jesus could ask them what was so frightening, and how He could not be afraid Himself. In the midst of chaos, any other response seemed absurd. They even accused Him of insensitivity: “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

But Christ had to rebuke His men because their fear sprang from faithlessness. He basically asked them, “Haven’t you been with Me long enough to see what I can do and to know you are perfectly safe? Even if you should drown, that would mean instant heaven. There’s nothing to worry about.” They should have remembered Psalm 89:8–9, “O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. You rule the swelling of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them” (cf. 46:1–3; 107:23–30).

For the disciples, Jesus would literally fulfill the psalm. And for believers today, who are aware of His power and love, there is still no need to be afraid of anything. God will see us through the most tumultuous of life’s storms because He can and will take care of His children.

Ask Yourself

When was the last time you despaired of life and safety, feeling as though there was no escape from your current situation without divine intervention? In fact, how many of these has God allowed you to live through—and to see His capable deliverance?


Reading for Today:


Romans 1:17 The just shall live by faith. Paul intends to prove that it has always been God’s way to justify sinners by grace on the basis of faith alone. God established Abraham as a pattern of faith (4:22–25; Gal. 3:67) and thus calls him the father of all who believe (4:11, 16). Elsewhere, Paul uses this same phrase to argue that no one has ever been declared righteous before God except by faith alone (Gal. 3:11) and that true faith will demonstrate itself in action (Phil. 2:1213). This expression emphasizes that true faith is not a single event, but a way of life—it endures. That endurance is called the perseverance of the saints (Col. 1:2223Heb. 3:12–14). One central theme of the story of Job is that no matter what Satan does, saving faith cannot be destroyed.

Romans 1:18 wrath of God. This is not an impulsive outburst of anger aimed capriciously at people whom God does not like. It is the settled, determined response of a righteous God against sin.

Romans 1:20 they are without excuse. God holds all men responsible for their refusal to acknowledge what He has shown them of Himself in His creation. Even those who have never had an opportunity to hear the gospel have received a clear witness about the existence and character of God—and have suppressed it. If a person will respond to the revelation he has, even if it is solely natural revelation, God will provide some means for that person to hear the gospel (Acts 8:26–3910:1–4817:27).

Romans 1:21 knew God. Man is conscious of God’s existence, power, and divine nature through general revelation (vv. 19, 20). they did not glorify Him. Man’s chief end is to glorify God (Lev. 10:31 Chr. 16:24–29; Ps. 148; Rom.15:56), and Scripture constantly demands it (Ps. 29:121 Cor. 10:31Rev. 4:11). To glorify Him is to honor Him, to acknowledge His attributes, and to praise Him for His perfections (Ex. 34:5–7). It is to recognize His glory and extol Him for it. Failing to give Him glory is man’s greatest affront to his Creator (Acts 12:2223). nor were thankful. They refused to acknowledge that every good thing they enjoyed came from God.

DAY 30: How did Paul maintain his commitment to the gospel?

Paul tells us in Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” He had been imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:2324), chased out of Thessalonica (Acts 17:10), smuggled out of Berea (Acts 17:14), laughed at in Athens (Acts 17:32), regarded as a fool in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:1823), and stoned in Galatia (Acts 14:19), but Paul remained eager to preach the gospel in Rome—the seat of contemporary political power and pagan religion. Neither ridicule, criticism, nor physical persecution could curb his boldness.

“For it is the power of God.” The English word “dynamite” comes from this Greek word. Although the message may sound foolish to some (1 Cor. 1:18), the gospel is effective because it carries with it the omnipotence of God. Only God’s power is able to overcome man’s sinful nature and give him new life (5:6; 8:3; John 1:121 Cor. 1:1823–252:1–44:201 Pet. 1:23).

“The power of God to salvation.” Used 5 times in Romans (the verb form occurs 8 times), this key word basically means “deliverance” or “rescue.” The power of the gospel delivers people from lostness (Matt. 18:11), from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9), from willful spiritual ignorance (Hos. 4:62 Thess. 1:8), from evil self-indulgence (Luke 14:26), and from the darkness of false religion (Col. 1:131 Pet. 2:9). It rescues them from the ultimate penalty of their sin, i.e., eternal separation from God and eternal punishment (Rev. 20:6).

“For everyone who believes.” To trust, rely on, or have faith in. When used of salvation, this word usually occurs in the present tense (“is believing”) which stresses that faith is not simply a one-time event, but an ongoing condition. True saving faith is supernatural, a gracious gift of God that He produces in the heart (Eph. 2:8) and is the only means by which a person can appropriate true righteousness. Saving faith consists of 3 elements: 1) mental: the mind understands the gospel and the truth about Christ (10:14–17); 2) emotional: one embraces the truthfulness of those facts with sorrow over sin and joy over God’s mercy and grace (6:17; 15:13); and 3) volitional: the sinner submits his will to Christ and trusts in Him alone as the only hope of salvation.

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Spiritual Amnesia

“For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9).

If you don’t practice spiritual virtues now, you’ll forget their significance later.

Physical nearsightedness and mental amnesia both are unwanted conditions. Nearsightedness (myopia) causes people’s eyes to focus the parallel rays of light in front of the retina. They can clearly see things right in front of them, but the farther out they look, the more out of focus objects become.

Amnesia, of course, is memory loss. Sometimes it’s selective, but usually it’s total—everything prior to a certain time or incident. It often causes people to forget their name, their family, and everything about their identity and background.

Those two impairments should be even less welcome on the spiritual level. Professed believers who are unfruitful become spiritually nearsighted. They focus on temporal fads and passing earthly fashions. By the time they try to look ahead to eternity, it is so out of focus for them that they can’t see it.

Those with spiritual amnesia, because they see no increase of spiritual virtue in their lives, forget they were supposed to be saved from their sinful lifestyles. They don’t remember the spiritual “purification” (catharsis) that should have occurred in their lives—a reference to a deep internal purging or cleansing.

If you are not diligently pursuing spiritual virtue and moral excellence, you will have a very fuzzy view of your true condition. You may connect an outward action or emotional experience with the time you professed Christ, but you will not have a sense of assurance. Commentator Richard Bauckham explained it this way: “The ‘knowledge of Jesus Christ’ [v. 8], received at conversion, came as illumination to those who were blind in their pagan ignorance (2 Cor. 4:4), but Christians who do not carry through the moral implications of this knowledge have effectively become blind to it again.”

Regarding 1 Peter 1:5-9, it all comes down to this: if you are seeing your life grow in moral virtue, you have proof of salvation and a reason for assurance. If you are not seeing your life grow in virtue, you have no proof of salvation and no reason for assurance. Be diligent to avoid spiritual myopia and amnesia in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you would have clear spiritual vision at all times.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 6:1-12. How can this passage help you avoid spiritual amnesia?


The Joy of Anticipated Reward

Your future reward is directly related to your present service.

"That the proof of your faith . . . may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:7).

Your future reward is directly related to your present service.

The joy you experience after your faith has been tested and proven genuine is largely due to your present blessings and assurance of salvation. But there's a future aspect as well: the joy of anticipating the reward you'll receive from Jesus when you see Him face to face and hear "Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matt. 25:21, NIV). Peter described it as the "praise and glory and honor [you'll receive] at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:7).

"Praise" in that text speaks of verbal commendation. To receive "glory" is to be made like Christ. Jesus is the incarnation of God's glory (John 1:14) and "we know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is" (1 John 3:2). Paul spoke of those who "by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality" (Rom. 2:7). As a result they will receive what they seek (v. 10).

Peter probably used "honor" as a synonym for rewards, which God will grant to all who faithfully serve Him. I believe those rewards are various capacities for heavenly service and are directly related to the believer's service in this life. Jesus said, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done" (Rev. 22:12, emphasis added). Paul said, "He who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1 Cor. 3:8, emphasis added).

God alone is worthy of praise, glory, and honor, but He will give you all three because you'll be in the image of Jesus Christ—sinless and fully glorified (1 John 3:2). Until that time, "watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward" (2 John 8).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for the joy of anticipating your future reward.

For Further Study

Peter spoke of a time when Jesus will reward believers. What do these verses teach about that time: Romans 8:181 Corinthians 1:7-82 Thessalonians 1:5-10, and 1 Peter 4:10-13?


Faith out of Desperation

“And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing!’ He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’” (Matthew 8:25–26).

Sometimes God has to bring us to a point of desperate need before He can get us to turn to Him. That’s what happened to the disciples when the storm was about to swamp their boat. They had no other human solutions for their emergency and had to come to Jesus with teir need. If He could cleanse lepers and heal every other sort of disease, maybe He could control nature.

Even the greatest believers in redemptive history have wavered in their faith in their most difficult circumstances. The psalmist asked, “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1; cf. 44:22–23). Isaiah even wondered why God seemed not able to help His people: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago” (Isa. 51:9). Much like the disciples on the lake, the prophet could not see why God was asleep when His people were dying.

God wants people to turn to Him, especially for salvation when it’s a matter of spiritual life and death. We can often get out of dire situations involving finances, health, or family relations without the Lord’s direct intervention. But when it comes to spiritual salvation, there is no other resource but God. After we are saved, the Father still wants to hear from us—in that way we show we have not forgotten Him, even in desperate circumstances.

Ask Yourself

What do we forget on ordinary days, times when we feel like we can manage well enough on our own without God’s help or provision? What would desperate faith look like on a typical, average day?


Reading for Today:


Nehemiah 10:28 who had separated themselves. These are those who 1) had followed the demand of Ezra and Nehemiah to divorce pagan spouses or 2) had been left in the land but never joined themselves to any heathen, thus remaining separate. Intermarriage with the nations had previously precipitated an influence in Israel which had culminated in Babylonian slavery, thus playing a major role in Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant.

Nehemiah 10:35–37 firstfruits…firstborn…firstborn. These laws required the firstfruits of the ground (Ex. 23:1934:26Deut. 26:2), the firstfruits of the trees (Lev. 19:24Num. 18:13), the firstborn sons redeemed by the estimated price of the priest (Num. 18:15), and the firstborn of the herds and flocks (Ex. 13:12Num. 18:1517). All of this was kept at the storehouses near the temple and distributed for the support of the priests and Levites. The Levites then gave a tenth of what they received to the priests (Num. 18:26).

Psalm 89:27 My firstborn. The firstborn child was given a place of special honor and a double portion of the inheritance (Gen. 27; 2 Kin. 2:9). However, in a royal grant covenant, a chosen person could be elevated to the level of firstborn sonship and thus have title to a perpetual gift involving dynastic succession (Ps. 2:7). Though not actually the first, Israel was considered the firstborn among nations (Ex. 4:22); Ephraim the younger was treated as the firstborn (Gen. 48:13–20); and David was the firstborn among kings. In this latter sense of prominent favor, Christ can be called the firstborn over all creation (Col. 1:15), in that He is given the preeminence over all created beings.

Acts 28:8 sick of a fever and dysentery. The gastric fever (caused by a microbe found in goat’s milk) that was common on Malta. Dysentery, often the result of poor sanitation, was widespread in the ancient world.

Acts 28:16 centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard. Many Greek manuscripts omit this phrase. If part of the original text, it indicates either that Julius delivered the prisoners to his commanding officer or to the commander of the Praetorian Guard. dwell by himself…guarded. Possibly through Julius’s intervention, Paul was allowed to live under guard in his own rented quarters (v. 30).

DAY 29: How does Nehemiah fit into the time line of world history?

It is unclear how Nehemiah became King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer, but the fact that Esther was the king’s stepmother may have inclined the king to consider a Jew for such a trusted position. When Nehemiah carried out his mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the Persian Empire had been dominant for almost 100 years. King Cyrus’s decree of repatriation given back in 539 B.C. had instigated a group of Jews to return to Israel under Zerubbabel. Their desperate state almost a century later spurred Nehemiah into action.

Ancient Egyptian documents (Elephantine papyri) dated around the 5th century B.C. independently confirm part of Nehemiah’s account. Sanballat the governor of Samaria (2:19), Jehohanan (6:18; 12:23) and Nehemiah himself receive mention.

The events recorded in Nehemiah, along with Malachi’s prophecies, make up the final inspired writings of the Old Testament. God chose to then remain silent for 400 years. That silence ended with the announcements of John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ births.

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“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8).

If you are a Christian, your life will produce spiritual fruit.

If you want to enjoy assurance of salvation in all its richness, you need to faithfully pursue all the virtues we have been studying this past week. The reason is simple—they produce fruit in the Christian life, and nothing is a better indicator of true salvation than that. It was the criterion Christ used to distinguish between the true and false believer (Matt. 7:15-20).

The reasonable question that ought to arise next is, what is fruit? The New Testament says it encompasses many righteous activities. Paul says winning souls to Christ is fruit (Rom. 1:13). The apostle calls the house of Stephanas “the first fruits of Achaia” (1 Cor. 16:15). In Philippians 4:17 Paul refers to money given in the support of ministry as fruit. The writer of Hebrews says praise is the fruit of our lips (Heb. 13:15). The act of praying is also a spiritual fruit.

Behind every one of those righteous actions is the right attitude, because “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). If you act without a godly attitude, it is only legalism, not genuine spiritual fruit.

All the Spirit-endowed virtues, actions, and attitudes we have discussed, if they are in your life, will assure you that you’ll be “neither useless nor unfruitful.” “Useless” is also used in James 2:20 in relation to dead faith. If you incorporate into your life the virtues of 2 Peter 1:5-7, your faith will not be dead or ineffective.

“Unfruitful” is also used in Matthew 13:22 of the person with a weedy heart and of false, apostate teachers in Jude 12. When you don’t live a virtuous life, you are the same as an apostate or a worldly hanger-on in the church.

“In the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” refers to true believers, those who possess truth as opposed to error. Because you know Christ, you have the ability to live a virtuous life (see Eph. 1:32 Peter 1:3). When you do, God will give you true assurance.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would strengthen any of the virtues that are weak in your life.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 7:13-23.

  • What is the first essential for fruitfulness (vv. 13-14)?
  • What will happen to many who do good works (vv. 22-23)?


Proving Your Faith

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:6-7).

Proven faith brings joy and confidence.

Although some Christians fear that trials and persecutions can only rob them of their joy, Peter taught just the opposite. In fact, he said that joy comes not in spite of trouble but because of trouble. That's because it's easy to lose your joy if you doubt your salvation, but when your faith has been tested and proven to be genuine, doubts will disappear and you'll have joy and assurance.

Every trial you face is designed to test and perfect your faith, and God carefully controls their parameters to accomplish that purpose. Verse 6 specifies that they are temporary, necessary, distressing, and multi-faceted, but they should never diminish your joy. He won't allow you to undergo more than you can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).

Peter used the analogy of an assayer or goldsmith to illustrate the purging process that produces proven faith (v. 7). The fire symbolizes trials and the gold symbolizes your faith. Just as the refiner's fire burns away the dross and leaves only pure gold, so God purges you through trials to reveal the purity of your faith.

That's an appropriate analogy because gold was the most precious of metals and the standard for all monetary transactions. But as valuable as gold is, proven faith is infinitely more precious. Gold is temporal and perishable; proven faith is eternal.

So don't fear trials when they come your way. Welcome them as opportunities to prove that your faith is real. Be encouraged that "after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you" (1 Pet. 5:10).

Suggestions for Prayer

If you are currently going through a time of testing, ask God for the grace and wisdom to pass the test. Thank Him in advance for the joy and confidence you'll gain when the test is over.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, noting the trials Paul endured for His faith in Christ.


True Commitment

“Another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead’” (Matthew 8:21–22).

Like the scribe, this second man disappears from the record after approaching Jesus. Evidently the Lord’s discipleship demands were too strict and the appeal of discipleship vanished (cf. Matt. 19:16–22). Christ’s instruction to follow Him simply means, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24).

The Lord Jesus always made it clear that commitment must be complete or not at all. Consider this:

I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (Matt. 10:34–38)

This is not speaking of Christian service but of salvation. God won’t save anyone who comes to him with strings attached.

People have long admired Christ for His authority, moral teaching, ethical standards, love and healing, even His deity. But in spite of all that, they have failed to submit themselves to Him. J. C. Ryle has written, “The saddest road to hell is the one that runs under the pulpit, past the Bible, and through the middle of warnings and invitations.”

Ask Yourself

How have you suffered rejection and disdain for your Christian faith? What would still be lacking in your life if you had the acceptance of others but not the acceptance of Christ?


Reading for Today:


Nehemiah 9:1 this month. Tishri (Sept./Oct.), 445 B.C. (7:73b; 8:2). with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust. The outward demonstration of deep mourning and heaviness of heart for their iniquity seems to have been done in the spirit of the Day of Atonement which was normally observed on the tenth day of the seventh month (Lev. 16:1–3423:26–32).

Nehemiah 9:2 separated themselves from all foreigners. This call for divorcing all lawful wives taken from among the heathen was needed, since the last time, prompted 13 years before by Ezra, had only been partially successful. Many had escaped the required action of divorce and kept their pagan wives. Perhaps new defaulters had appeared, also, and were confronted for the first time with this necessary action of divorce. Nehemiah’s efforts were successful in removing this evil mixture.

Nehemiah 9:3 they stood…read…confessed and worshiped. The succession of events helped to reestablish the essential commitment of Israel to God and His law. They read for 3 hours about the sins of their fathers and for 3 more hours confessed that they had been partakers of similar evil deeds. In response to all of this, they worshiped.

Proverbs 21:29 The wicked become obstinate, maintaining what suits them without regard for others or the truth, while good people proceed with integrity.

Acts 27:27 fourteenth night. Since they sailed from Fair Havens (v. 13).Adriatic SeaThe central Mediterranean Sea, not the present Adriatic Sea located between Italy and Croatia. The modern Adriatic was known in Paul’s day as the Gulf of Adria. sensed. The sailors probably heard the sound of waves breaking on a shore.

Acts 27:28 took soundings. With a weight attached to a length of rope they measured the depth of the sea. twenty fathoms…fifteen fathoms. 120 feet…90 feet. The decreasing depth of the water confirmed the ship was approaching land.

Acts 27:42 the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners. Knowing they could face punishment or death if their prisoners escaped (12:1916:27).

DAY 28: How do repentance from sin and rejoicing go together?

In response to the people’s request, Ezra brought the Law of the Lord to the people (Nehemiah 8:1).At this time, the Law was a scroll, as opposed to a text consisting of bound pages. Such a reading was required every 7 years at the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 31:10–13), even though it had been neglected since the Babylonian captivity until this occasion.

From daybreak to noon, a period of at least 6 hours, the Law was read and explained. Other men, probably priests, stood with Ezra to show agreement, and all of the people stood, as well (Neh. 8:5).This was in respect for God’s Word, as though they were in the presence of God Himself. Some of the Levites assisted Ezra with the people’s understanding of the Scripture by reading and explaining it (vv. 7, 8). This may have involved translation for people who were only Aramaic speakers in exile, but more likely it means “to break down” the text into its parts so that the people could understand it. This was an exposition or explanation of the meaning and not just translation.

When the people heard and understood God’s law, they wept (v. 9). Not tears of joy, but penitent sorrow (v. 10) came forth as they were grieved by conviction (v. 11) over the distressing manifestations of sin in transgressing the Lord’s commands and the consequent punishments they had suffered in their captivity.

The event called for a holy day of worship to prepare them for the hard days ahead (12:43), so they were encouraged to rejoice. The words they had heard did remind them that God punishes sin, but also that God blesses obedience. That was reason to celebrate. “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (8:10). They had not been utterly destroyed as a nation, in spite of their sin, and were, by God’s grace, on the brink of a new beginning. That called for celebration.

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Agape Love

“. . . And in your brotherly kindness, Christian love” (2 Peter 1:7).

Sacrificial love proves genuine faith.

Classical Greek had three common terms for love. As we saw yesterday, phileo (philadelphia) is the love of give and take, best expressed in friendship. Eros is the love that takes—one loves another strictly for what he or she can get out of that person. It is typical of the world’s sexual and lustful desires, which are always bent toward self-gratification. Agape is the love that gives. It is completely unselfish, with no taking involved. This is the highest form of love, which all the other virtues in 2 Peter 1 ultimately lead to. It seeks another’s supreme good, no matter what the cost. Agape was exemplified perfectly by Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.

But what does this highest type of love look like? A brief survey of the one anothers in the New Testament gives an excellent picture. We are commanded to:

Edify one another (Rom. 14:19). 
“Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). 
“Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). 
Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21). 
Forgive one another (Col. 3:13). 
Instruct one another (Col. 3:16). 
“Comfort one another” (1 Thess. 4:18). 
Rebuke one another (Titus 1:13). 
Encourage one another to do good (Heb. 10:24-25). 
Confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). 
“Pray for one another” (James 5:16). 
“Be hospitable to one another” (1 Peter 4:9-10).

The Lord Jesus Christ was involved with individuals. He was a true friend who caringly, lovingly, and sensitively interacted with feeble, needy, and unimportant people and made them eternally important.

Nevertheless we still find people spiritualizing love into a meaningless term. “I love so-and-so in the Lord” really means, “He irks me, but I guess I have to love him if he’s a believer.” Don’t let yourself say that. Instead, display genuine love.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that Christ showed agape love toward you on the cross.

For Further Study

Memorize one of the verses in the list of one anothers, and apply it at every appropriate opportunity.


Rejoicing in Your Inheritance

"In this you greatly rejoice" (1 Pet. 1:6).

Contemplating your eternal inheritance should give you joy that transcends any temporal circumstance.

Joy is a major theme in Scripture. The psalmist said, "Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright" (Ps. 33:1); "My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to Thee; and my soul, which Thou hast redeemed" (Ps. 71:23).

Even creation itself is said to rejoice in the Lord: "Thou dost make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy. . . . Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all it contains; let the field exalt, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord. . . . Let the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord; for He is coming to judge the earth" (Ps. 65:896:11-1398:8-9).

Joy is the special privilege of every believer, regardless of his or her circumstances. You might suffer untold heartache and persecution for your faith in Christ, but amid the severest trials, God wants you to know profound joy. That's why Peter said, "To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation" (1 Pet. 4:13).

First Peter 1:6-9 identifies five elements of your Christian life that should bring you joy amid trials. The first is your protected inheritance. That's what Peter referred to when he said, "In this you greatly rejoice" (v. 6, emphasis added). Other elements include a proven faith, a promised honor, a personal fellowship, and a present deliverance (vv. 6-9), which we will explore in coming days.

The Greek word translated "greatly rejoice" in 1 Peter 1:6 is not the usual Greek word for "rejoice." Peter used a more expressive and intense word, which speaks of one who is happy in a profound spiritual sense rather than a temporal or circumstantial sense. That's the quality of joy God grants to those who trust in Him and look beyond their temporal trials to the glory of their eternal inheritance. Let that be your focus as well.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the joy that transcends circumstances.

For Further Study

Read John 16:16-22.

  • According to Jesus, why would the disciples lament?
  • What would bring them joy?
  • What does their experience teach you about the basis for your joy as a Christian?


The Barrier of Personal Riches

“Another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead’” (Matthew 8:21–22).

This man, perhaps a hanger-on who had followed Jesus around the countryside for a while, makes what seems at first to be a reasonable statement. His seeking permission to go and bury his father, however, did not mean his parent was already dead. It was and is a common Middle Eastern figure of speech referring to a child’s (mainly a son’s) responsibility to help with the family business until the father dies and the inheritance is available. Such a commitment can conceivably take a long time to fulfill. It’s the same as saying, “I need to wait until I receive my inheritance.”

This superficial disciple did not want devotion to Jesus to get in the way of receiving what was coming to him. He was okay with associating with the Lord by name, but his personal prosperity and well-being came ahead of serving Christ.

Jesus’ reply was right on the mark with another proverbial saying, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” In other words, “Let the world take care of the things of the world.” We should let the spiritually dead manage their own affairs.

Believers must not pattern their thinking after the world’s ways, but be disciples of Christ and bring the good news of eternal life to the world, relying on His grace and enabling.

Ask Yourself

Are there any plans and hopes and dreams you are still holding on to that may not square with the will of God for your life? If you had to surrender any of these for the cause of Christ, how do you think you’d react?


Reading for Today:


Nehemiah 6:5 open letter. Official letters were typically rolled up and sealed with an official signet by the letter’s sender or one of his assisting officials. An open or unsealed letter was not only a sign of disrespect and open criticism, but also suggested the information therein was public knowledge. The goal of this document was to intimidate Nehemiah into stopping the work.

Nehemiah 6:10 secret informer. When the open letter failed to intimidate Nehemiah into stopping the work and coming to a meeting, his enemies decided to try intimidation from within. They hired a false prophet (v. 12), Shemaiah, to lure Nehemiah into the Holy Place in the temple for refuge from a murder plot. To enter and shut himself in the Holy Place would have been a desecration of the house of God and would have caused people to question his reverence for God. Shemaiah was the son of a priest who was an intimate friend of Nehemiah. This plan would give them grounds to raise an evil report against Nehemiah, who was not a priest and had no right to go into the Holy Place (6:13). It could also make the people question his courage (v. 11).

Nehemiah 6:16 this work was done by our God. While modern readers might be tempted to exalt the leadership qualities which brought the work to completion, Nehemiah’s conclusion was seen through the eyes of his enemies, i.e., God works through faithful people, but it is God who works.

Acts 27:1 we. The use of the pronoun “we” marks the return of Paul’s close friend Luke, who has been absent since 21:18. He had likely been living near Caesarea so he could care for Paul during his imprisonment. Now he rejoined the apostle for the journey to Rome. centurion of the Augustan Regiment. A cohort (regiment) of that name was stationed in Palestine during the reign of Agrippa II. Julius may have been on detached duty, performing such tasks as escorting important prisoners.

Acts 27:10 end with disaster. Because of the lateness of the season and the difficulties they had already experienced, Paul wisely counseled them to spend the winter at Fair Havens.

Acts 27:17 used cables to undergird the ship. A procedure known as frapping. The cables, wrapped around the hull and winched tight, helped the ship endure the battering of the wind and waves. Syrtis. A region of sandbars and shoals off the coast of Africa, much feared as a graveyard of ships. struck sail. This phrase could best be translated “let down the sea anchor.” The sailors undoubtedly did both, since putting out an anchor with the sails up would be self-defeating.

DAY 27: What parts of the Old Testament and what people were active in the events surrounding the return of the Jews from exile?

Five historical books (1 and 2 Chr., Ezra, Neh., and Esth.) come from or cover events after the exile. Three prophetic books (Hag., Zech., and Mal.) come from the same period. The term “postexilic” is often used to describe these books and people.

First and Second Chronicles provide a summary of history viewed from the final days of the exile. Ezra and Nehemiah journal the thrilling and trying days of the return to Judah and the rebuilding of the nation. Haggai and Zechariah were prophets active during the time recorded in Ezra 4–6 when the temple was under reconstruction. Malachi wrote and prophesied during Nehemiah’s revisit to Persia (Neh. 13:6).

Although part of the purpose of these books confirms God’s continued covenant with the house of David and the unbroken kingly line, the emphasis shifts from royalty to other servants of God. A scribe, a cupbearer, and prophets become God’s central agents. Even Esther, although a queen, had to rely on God rather than her position and power to accomplish God’s role for her in preserving the Jews in Persia.

All of this sets the stage for the mixed expectations that surrounded the birth of Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s covenant with David, God’s personal involvement in the history of salvation.

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Brotherly Love

“And in your godliness, brotherly kindness . . .” (2 Peter 1:7).

Real Christian discipleship will include practical brotherly love.

A genuine love for God will invariably lead to a love for others. That’s what Jesus said of the two great commandments (Matt. 22:36-40) that summarize the Ten Commandments. The apostle John also related love for God and love for others: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

The kind of love that’s called “brotherly kindness” in today’s verse is very practical. It’s a translation of the Greek philadelphia, which might best be rendered “friendship.” We are to be affectionate toward one another. But that does not always happen, especially for those attending big churches. There I fear many people sit on the periphery without developing any relationships. They come to the morning service and then go their way. But that’s not Christian discipleship; we’re to add friendships to our faith and be involved in others’ lives.
People in many different churches want to know more about discipleship, as if it were some complex program surrounded in mystery. But discipleship is simply friendship with a spiritual perspective. Disciples will talk about God, the Scripture, ministry opportunities, and prayer requests—not merely sports, the weather, gardening, or home remodeling. Each is concerned how the other handles the daily affairs and important matters of life. I would encourage you to build friendships and be a part of a Bible study and fellowship group—but make sure your small group does not become exclusive and keep out newcomers.

I once talked to a pastor who had attended one of the annual pastors’ conferences at my church. I asked him what impressed him most about the conference, and he said, “The love of the people for each other. I was drawn to tears when I sensed them worshiping God in the midst of genuine love.” He had seen an application of Jesus’ words, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). You can’t get more practical about Christian love than that!

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for other members of your small group. If you’re not in one, ask God to lead you to a group.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 4:7-19.

  • With whom does love originate?
  • What are the results of that love?


Your Secure Inheritance

"To obtain an inheritance which is . . . reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:4-5).

Your eternal inheritance is doubly secure: it is reserved for you, and you are reserved for it.

When Peter wrote his first epistle, attitudes toward Christians in the Roman Empire were not at all favorable. Because they would not worship the emperor as a god, or enter into other sinful pagan practices, Christians were looked upon with suspicion and disdain. In addition, Nero had blamed them for burning Rome (an act he himself perpetrated), so anger and hatred toward them was at its peak.

Peter wrote to encourage them—and all believers—to live out their faith amid persecution, just as Jesus had done when He suffered unjustly (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21-23). He reminded them that despite the sufferings they might endure in this life, God will reward them with an inheritance that is eternally secure because it is reserved in heaven for them.

"Reserved" in 1 Peter 1:4 indicates an inheritance that already exists, is presently protected, and will continually be protected. The place of its protection is heaven, where "neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal" (Matt. 6:20), and where "nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever [enter], but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27). There is no safer place!

Not only is your inheritance protected for you, but also you are protected for it! That's what Peter meant when he said that it is "reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:4-5). The omnipotent, sovereign power of God will continually protect you until His work is fully accomplished in your life. Then He will grant you glorification: the fullness of the salvation for which He redeemed you.

You needn't fear the loss of your inheritance. Instead, rejoice in the protection of our gracious God.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His protection and for the assurance of your inheritance.

For Further Study

What do these verses teach about the security of your salvation: Romans 8:31-39Philippians 1:6, and Jude 24?


Not Counting the Cost

“Then a scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’” (Matthew 8:19–20).

There is no record that the eager scribe ever counted the cost of discipleship. When considering various costs such as self-denial, homelessness, and maybe suffering, the man disappears. No doubt Christ’s words struck where he was most vulnerable, and he could not overcome loyalty to himself and his comfort.

Jesus never watered down the gospel message as many evangelistic appeals do today. That only compromises God’s Word and does a severe disservice to those who hear such a message. The Lord, by contrast, did not mince words with the apostles: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16). And He continued that tone at the end of His ministry: “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God” (John 16:1–2). Neither did Paul waver from stern words of reminder that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Knowing and following Jesus Christ includes thrills and joys unlike any others, but they are not the kind the world can understand or appreciate (cf. John 14:27). Living the Christian life is not simply adding Jesus on to your own lifestyle, but it entails the renouncing of your ways for His and being ready to pay the price He may require (cf. Matt. 16:24).

Ask Yourself

What have been some of the major costs of discipleship in your own life? How have you responded to them? Have they ultimately drawn you closer to Christ, or have you often allowed them to drive a wedge between you and the Lord?


Reading for Today:


Psalm 89:3 covenant with My chosen. The Davidic Covenant, culminating in Messiah’s reign, was established in 2 Samuel 7 (1 Kin. 8:23; 1 Chr. 17; 2 Chr. 21:7; Pss. 110; 132). The covenant was in the form of a royal grant covenant as God, the Great King, chose David as His servant king. In this type of covenant, the person with whom the Lord established the covenant could violate the terms of the covenant and the Lord would still be obligated to maintain the covenant.

Psalm 89:4 seed…forever…throne. The covenant with David was extended to his descendants. The throne promise guaranteed that the rightful heir to the throne would always be a descendant of David (vv. 29, 36; see also 2 Sam. 7:131618Luke 1:31–33). The genealogies of Jesus qualify Him for the throne (Matt. 1:1–17Luke 3:23–38).

Acts 26:24 you are beside yourself! Festus was astonished that a learned scholar like Paul could actually believe that the dead would live again—something no intelligent Roman would accept. Unable to contain himself, he interrupted the proceedings, shouting that Paul’s tremendous learning had driven him insane (Mark 3:21John 8:485210:20).

Acts 26:26 not done in a corner. The death of Jesus and the Christians’ claim that He rose from the dead were common knowledge in Palestine.

Acts 26:27 do you believe the prophets? Paul’s shrewd question put Herod in a dilemma. If he affirmed his belief in the prophets, he would also have to admit that what they taught about Jesus’ death and resurrection was true—an admission that would make him appear foolish before his Roman friends. Yet to deny the prophets would outrage his Jewish subjects.

Acts 26:28 You almost persuade me. A better translation is “Do you think you can convince me to become a Christian in such a short time?” Recognizing his dilemma, Agrippa parried Paul’s question with one of his own.

DAY 26: Why did Nehemiah denounce the nobles and rulers?

In Nehemiah 5:1–5, the people were fatigued with hard labor, drained by the relentless harassment of enemies, poor and lacking the necessities of life, lacking tax money and borrowing for it, and working on the wall in the city rather than getting food from the country. On top of this came complaints against the terrible exploitation and extortion by the rich Jews who would not help, but forced people to sell their homes and children, while having no ability to redeem them back. Under normal conditions, the law offered the hope of releasing these young people through the remission of debts which occurred every 7 years or in the 50th year of Jubilee (Lev. 25). The custom of redemption made it possible to “buy back” the enslaved individual at almost any time, but the desperate financial situation of those times made that appear impossible.

So Nehemiah “rebuked the nobles and rulers” (v. 7).They had become the enemy from within. “Exacting usury.” Usury can refer to normal interest or it can signify excessive interest. According to Mosaic Law, the Jews were forbidden to take interest from their brothers on the loan of money, food, or anything else. If the person was destitute, they should consider it a gift. If they could pay it back later, it was to be without interest (Lev. 25:3637Deut. 23:1920). Such generosity marked the godly (Ps. 15:5Jer. 15:10Prov. 28:8). Interest could be taken from foreigners (v. 20). Interest loans were known to exceed 50 percent at times in ancient nations. Such usury took advantage of people’s desperation and was virtually impossible to repay, consuming their entire family assets and reducing the debtors to permanent slavery.

Nehemiah denounced with just severity the evil conduct of selling a brother by means of usury. He contrasted it with his own action of redeeming with his own money some of the Jewish exiles, who through debt had lost their freedom in Babylon (v. 8). Nehemiah set the example again by making loans, but not in exacting usury (v. 10). To remedy the evil that they had brought, those guilty of usury were to return the property they had confiscated from those who couldn’t pay the loans back, as well as returning the interest they had charged (v. 11).



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Perseverance and Godliness

“. . . And in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness” (2 Peter 1:6).

Godly perseverance is a sure evidence of true salvation.

Commentator Michael Green has this to say about the believer who displays biblical perseverance: “The mature Christian does not give up. His Christianity is like the steady burning of a star rather than the ephemeral brilliance (and speedy eclipse) of a meteor.” The Greek word translated “perseverance” in today’s verse (hupomone) refers to consistent endurance in righteousness and faithfulness in resisting temptation.

The precise meaning for hupomone is hard to pinpoint. There is no exact English equivalent, and it’s not common in classical Greek; but the Bible often uses it in reference to the toils and troubles that are unwelcome in life and produce inconvenience and harm. This word even includes the idea of death, as in the Jewish writings in which hupomone speaks of spiritual stamina that empowers people to die for their faith in God.

Despite its scriptural associations with painful difficulties and death, hupomone has a positive meaning. William Barclay notes, “Hupomone does not simply accept and endure; there is always a forward look in it. It is said of Jesus . . . that for the joy set before him, he endured the Cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2). That is hupomone, Christian steadfastness. It is the courageous acceptance of everything that life can do to us and the transmuting of even the worst event into another step on the upward way.”

Godliness is at the heart of scriptural perseverance. The Greek for “godliness” (eusebeia) denotes a practical awareness of God in every area of life—a God-consciousness. The word could also be translated “true religion” or “true worship.” It gives God His rightful place by worshiping Him properly, something that is not often done in the contemporary church. Genuine public worship is more than “relevant” programs, new rituals, or catchy music—it contains much reverence for God.

If you are truly a Christian, you will also revere God in your devotional life and obediently persevere in His will daily. You will rejoice and be aware of God in every detail of life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to increase both your perseverance and godly worship.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 2:8-113:7-13. What are the results and benefits of faithful perseverance?


Your Incorruptible Inheritance

"To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away" (1 Pet. 1:4).

Unlike earthly treasures, your eternal inheritance can never be taken away from you.

Despite the benefits of bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and a myriad of other investment opportunities, every earthly inheritance eventually is lost. If someone doesn't steal it, or if it doesn't lose its value in a stock market crash or recession, death will separate it from you. It's inevitable! That's why Jesus said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal" (Matt. 6:19-20).

The influence of sin and corruption doesn't apply only to finances—it affects everything. Paul said, "The creation was subjected to futility . . . in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now" (Rom. 8:20-22). Nothing on earth escapes sin's corruption.

But your eternal inheritance is not like earthly treasures. It is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Pet. 1:4). "Imperishable" means it is incorruptible and unable to decay. The Greek word used describes a land that had never been ravaged or plundered by an invading army. The idea is that your spiritual inheritance is secure and can never be violated by an intruder—not even Satan himself. "Undefiled" speaks of something unpolluted by sin. "Will not fade away" suggests a supernatural beauty that time cannot impair. Peter used the same word in 1 Peter 5:4 to speak of the unfading crown of glory that faithful church leaders will receive when Christ returns.

Your inheritance is unique among treasures. No one can steal it, and nothing can corrupt or diminish it in any way. It's yours to enjoy to its fullest throughout all eternity. Don't let the pursuit of perishable things distract you from the joy of eternal riches.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you keep a proper perspective on what is of greatest value in His eyes.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 6:19-34.

  • Why shouldn't you worry about the necessities of life?
  • What priorities should you have?


Jesus Challenges the Scribe

“Then a scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’” (Matthew 8:19–20).

Superficially, Jesus’ expression “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” has nothing to do with the scribe’s confident words. In proverbial style He simply wanted to caution the man that even though He was God’s Son, His ministry did not include comfortable living—He actually had fewer amenities than some animals.

Christ wanted the scribe to assess the sincerity of his assertion. It’s easy to make a bold, impressive profession of loyalty, especially if you don’t first think about the cost of commitment. Early in His ministry, our Lord knew that many did not have a genuine faith: He “was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men. . . . He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24–25). Many were committed only to the thrill of following Jesus around and seeing miracles performed, not to His Person and saving work. They were examples of the seed that had no root but fell away soon because of adversity (Matt. 13:5–620–21).

Bible commentator R. C. H. Lenski once noted that people with eager but uncertain vows of allegiance to Christianity are like those who view “the soldiers on parade, the fine uniforms, and the glittering arms and [are] eager to join, forgetting the exhausting marches, the bloody battles, the graves, perhaps unmarked.”

Ask Yourself

Are we guilty of trying to make Christian faith so attractive that we disguise its demands and difficulties? What are the logical consequences of such a tactic on those who come to Christ without counting the cost?


Reading for Today:


Nehemiah 1:4 sat down and wept, and mourned for many days. Although Nehemiah was neither a prophet nor a priest, he had a deep sense of Jerusalem’s significance to God and was greatly distressed that affairs there had not advanced the cause and glory of God.

Nehemiah 1:11 the king’s cupbearer. As an escort of the monarch at meals, the cupbearer had a unique advantage to petition the king. Not only did the king owe him his life since the cupbearer tested all the king’s beverages for possible poison, thus putting his own life at risk, but he also became a close confidant. God sovereignly used this relationship between a Gentile and Jew to deliver His people, such as He did with Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and Mordecai.

Nehemiah 2:2 dreadfully afraid. Nehemiah feared that either his countenance, his explanation, or his request would anger the king and thus lead to his death (Esth. 4:11 with 5:1–3).

Nehemiah 2:10 Sanballat…Tobiah. These men were probably also behind the opposition described in Ezra 4:7–23 which stopped the work in Jerusalem. Sanballat served as governor of Samaria and Tobiah, of the region east of the Jordan. These district magistrates were leaders of Samaritan factions (see chap. 6) to the north and east. They had lost any recourse to prevent Judah from rebuilding since God’s people were authorized to fortify their settlement against attack from enemies such as these two officials. To overtly attack or oppose the Jews would be to oppose the Persian king.

Acts 25:13 King Agrippa. Herod Agrippa II, son of the Herod who killed James and imprisoned Peter (12:1). He was the last of the Herods, who play a prominent role in New Testament history. His great-uncle, Herod Antipas, was the Herod of the Gospels (Mark 6:14–29Luke 3:113:31–3323:7–12), while his great-grandfather, Herod the Great, ruled at the time Jesus was born (Matt. 2:1–19Luke 1:5). Though not the ruler of Judea, Agrippa was well versed in Jewish affairs (26:3). Bernice. Not Agrippa’s wife, but his consort and sister. (Their sister, Drusilla, was married to the former governor, Felix). Their incestuous relationship was the talk of Rome, where Agrippa grew up. Bernice for a while became the mistress of Emperor Vespasian, then of his son, Titus, but always returned to her brother.

Acts 25:26 I have nothing certain. Since Festus did not understand the nature of the charges against Paul, he did not know what to write in his official report to Nero. For a provincial governor to send a prisoner to the emperor with no clear charges against him was foolish, if not dangerous. especially before you, King Agrippa. Festus hoped Herod’s expertise in Jewish affairs (26:3) would enable him to make sense of the charges against Paul.

DAY 25: What leadership qualities does Nehemiah illustrate in his life?

Like many biblical leaders, Nehemiah demonstrated an understanding of God’s call over his life. Whether as cupbearer to a king or as the rebuilder of Jerusalem, Nehemiah pursued his goals with commitment, careful planning, strategic delegation, creative problem solving, focus on the task at hand, and a continual reliance on God, particularly regarding areas beyond his control. Each of the leadership qualities above can be illustrated from Nehemiah’s successful completion of the effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

First, Nehemiah demonstrated his commitment by his interest and his deep concern over the condition of his fellow Jews in Judah. Next,Nehemiah prayed and planned. He claimed God’s promise to bring His people back to the Promised Land, but he didn’t assume that he would be part of God’s action. He declared himself available (1:11; 2:5).

Even when he arrived in Jerusalem, Nehemiah personally inspected the need before he revealed his plans. Then he enlisted the help of the local leadership. He challenged them to take responsibility for the common good. He placed before them a very specific goal—to rebuild the wall. Workers were assigned to work on the wall where it ran closest to their own homes. That way they could see the benefit in having the protective barrier near where they lived.

As the work sped forward, Nehemiah did not allow himself to be distracted by attacks of various kings or tricks from enemies. He took threats seriously enough to arm the people but not so seriously that the work came to a halt. At every turn, we find Nehemiah conferring in prayer with God, placing every decision before the ultimate Decider. Nehemiah succeeded because he never lost sight of the true reasons for the work and the source of power with which to do the work.



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“And in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance . . .” (2 Peter 1:6).

Personal self-control demonstrates the certainty of your salvation.

In Peter’s day, the word translated “self-control” was used to describe athletes. The successful ones abstained from sexual activity and an unhealthy diet for the sake of disciplined training exercises. You practice personal self-control when you control your desires and don’t allow them to control you.

Let me share some practical tips that have helped me with self-control.

1. Start small. For example, begin by cleaning your bedroom or office, then extend that discipline to the rest of your home.

2. Be on time. This is more than good advice; it’s based on Scripture (see Eccles. 8:6Eph. 5:15-16). Learn to budget your time, and discipline your desires so you can arrive at places on time.

3. Organize your life. Use a schedule book, or make a daily list of things you need to do. Don’t let circumstances control your time.

4. Practice self-denial. Periodically refrain from something that is all right just to remind yourself who’s in charge. Sometime when you want a hot fudge sundae, have a glass of iced tea instead.

5. Do the hardest job first. Doing this will keep you from letting the difficult tasks slide by undone.

6. Accept correction. Constructive criticism helps you become more disciplined because it shows you what to avoid. Acknowledge the courage of the one who corrects you. It’s almost always easier to keep silent, but that person, especially if he or she is a believer, spoke up because he or she likely had your best interest at heart.

7. Welcome responsibility. If you’re qualified for a task or assignment that arises, such as opportunities at church, volunteer occasionally. That will prompt you to be disciplined and organized.

Some of the items on my list may not seem very spiritual and may even sound silly. However, I’ve found that pursuing discipline in the secular realm often carries over to the spiritual. Any theology that separates faith from practical conduct is heresy. Self-control is a great Christian virtue and solid proof that one’s salvation is genuine.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you get better control of an area in which you lack discipline.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 9:251 Timothy 3:2Titus 1:82:2. How do those verses underscore the importance of self-control? Explain.


Inheriting Heaven or Hell

"[God] caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3).

Everyone receives an eternal inheritance—either Heaven or Hell.

We have seen several aspects of the believer's inheritance, and will see more in future days. But realize that unbelievers also will receive an inheritance, for Jesus will say to them, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matt. 25:4146).

Only Christians have eternal life and a royal inheritance. When you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you became a new creation in Christ and your life began to center on Him rather than yourself. The Holy Spirit indwelt you and began to transform your attitudes and actions. That's the new birth! It's like starting all over again, only this time you're pursuing God's glory rather than worldly pleasures or goals.

Also, when you were saved you became an heir of God and a fellow heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). So the new birth was the means of your salvation and your eternal inheritance.

Having said that, I must admonish you, just as Paul admonished the Corinthians, to "test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?" (2 Cor. 13:5). You never want to be deluded about your relationship with Christ. When you trust in the living Lord, you have a living hope and a glorious eternal inheritance. Anything less results in an inheritance of eternal damnation.

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies" (John 11:25). Be sure your faith is firmly fixed on Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for family and friends who don't know Christ. Ask the Lord to redeem them so He will be glorified, and they will become joint heirs with Christ.

For Further Study

What do these verses teach about the new birth: John 1:12-13John 3:3, and 1 Peter 1:23?


Strong Profession Is Not Always Sincere

“Then a scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’” (Matthew 8:19–20).

The issue of commitment is one to be evaluated very carefully. The scribe here was an authority on Jewish law and a close ally of the Pharisees. As such he would have broken with his allies had he become one of Jesus’ true disciples. He knew a decision like that would be costly, and thus he might have been testing Jesus’ reaction to his words.

Normally the scribes were teachers, not followers of other teachers. And one such as this man would have been reluctant to follow a rabbi like Jesus, who was not from the scholarly class, not educated in a rabbinic school, and not loyal to Jewish religious traditions.

For this scribe to address Jesus as he did was quite out of the ordinary and probably impressive to the apostles and the crowds, since he issued the claim as a Jewish leader. It’s not certain that the man ever really believed in Jesus, but he probably felt sincere in his own mind with what he professed. He was likely just as convinced as Peter that he would always follow the Lord (Matt. 26:3335), but neither could be sure about that, as Peter’s temporary denial illustrates.

Unlike today’s evangelical church, always eager to instantly embrace a prominent person who professes Christ, Jesus knew that every strong profession does not necessarily translate to strong commitment. Hence He compared His living situation to the foxes and birds as a testing of the man’s true dedication, which ought to be a self-examining device for us too.

Ask Yourself

Think of the bold promises you’ve made to the Lord before and the many times you’ve failed to follow through. Have your past inabilities kept you from making such statements anymore? Is that what God wants you to learn from these experiences?


Reading for Today:


Ezra 9:1 When these things were done. This refers to the implementation of the different trusts and duties committed to him. priests…Levites. As was the case before the Assyrian and Babylonian deportations, the spiritual leadership defaulted along with the people (Is. 24:2Jer. 5:30316:13–15Hos. 3:9Mal. 2:1–92 Tim. 4:2–4). abominations. The reason for this exclusiveness was to keep the people pure. In the first settlement, Israel was warned not to make covenants with the nations, which would result in intermarriages and inevitably the worship of foreign gods (Ex. 34:10–17Deut. 7:1–5). To a great extent, the continual violation of this precipitated the 70-year exile from which they had just returned. Ezra found out it had happened again and called for immediate repentance. Nehemiah (Neh. 13:23–27) and Malachi (Mal. 2:14–16) later encountered the same sin. It is unthinkable that the Jews would so quickly go down the same disastrous path of idolatry. Neither wrath from God in the exile to Babylon nor grace from God in the return was enough to keep them from defecting again.

Ezra 9:5–15 Ezra’s priestly prayer of intercession and confession is like Daniel’s (Dan. 9:1–20) and Nehemiah’s (Neh. 1:4–11), in that he used plural pronouns that identified himself with the people’s sin, even though he did not participate in it. The use of “we,” “our,” and “us” demonstrates Ezra’s understanding that the sin of the few is sufficient to contaminate the many.

Ezra 10:1 praying…confessing, weeping, and bowing down. Ezra’s contrite spirit before the people was evident and they joined him. These extreme expressions of contrition demonstrated the seriousness of the sin and the genuineness of their repentance.

Acts 24:3 Felix. Governor of Judea from A.D. 52 to 59. Felix was a former slave whose brother (a favorite of Emperor Claudius) had obtained for him the position as governor. He was not highly regarded by the influential Romans of his day and accomplished little during his term as governor. He defeated the Egyptian and his followers (21:38), but his brutality angered the Jews and led to his ouster as governor by Emperor Nero two years after Paul’s hearing (v. 27).

Acts 24:24 Drusilla. The youngest daughter of Agrippa I (12:1) and Felix’s third wife. Felix, struck by her beauty, had lured her away from her husband. At the time of Paul’s hearing, she was not yet 20 years old.

Acts 24:25 righteousness, self-control, and the judgment. God demands “righteousness” of all men, because of His holy nature (Matt. 5:481 Pet. 1:1516).For men and women to conform to that absolute standard requires “self-control.” The result of failing to exhibit self-control and to conform oneself to God’s righteous standard is (apart from salvation) “judgment.” Felix was afraid. Living with a woman he had lured away from her husband, Felix obviously lacked “righteousness” and “self-control.” The realization that he faced “judgment” alarmed him, and he hastily dismissed Paul. when I have a convenient time. The moment of conviction passed, and Felix foolishly passed up his opportunity to repent (2 Cor. 6:2).

DAY 24: How does Ezra’s handling of the intermarriage situation fit into the overall pattern of biblical teaching?

Ezra 9 and 10 record a critical time in the reestablishment of the Jewish people in their homeland. In the years before Ezra arrived from Persia, many of the returned Jewish men intermarried with pagan women from the area. This practice reflects no circumstances like we find in the marriages of Rahab or Ruth, Gentiles who became believers in God. The pagan background of these women was not taken into account by their husbands. Ezra received this news as part of the report when he reached Jerusalem.

For Ezra, this was almost the worst possible news. Intermarriage with pagans had historically been a key in the repeated downfalls of the nation. These marriages were an act of disobedience. Ezra was overwhelmed with shame and distress over the situation (Ezra 9:34). His grief was open and convicting.

Eventually, the people themselves confessed their error and decided that those who had married pagan women would have to “put away” (divorce) these wives.

God had not changed His mind about divorce. Malachi, who lived in this time period, declared that God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16).

Several important notes can be made about this passage in Ezra. It does not establish a norm about divorce. It is also easy to overlook the fact that while the solution of divorce was a group decision, each of these marriages was examined individually. Presumably, cases in which the women had become believers were treated differently than cases in which the women involved saw questions of faith as violation of the marriage agreement.

In the humility of the guilty and the care in confronting these issues, a great deal of God’s mercy comes through. A strict interpretation of the law could have led to the stoning death of all involved. The eagerness to set things right opened the doorway for a solution, even though in some of the cases it involved the grief and sadness of divorce.



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“. . . in your moral excellence, knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5).

Moral excellence cannot develop in an intellectual vacuum.

It’s a frightening thing to realize the extent to which our culture downplays knowledge in favor of emotions. These days people are more likely to ask, “How will it make me feel?” instead of, “Is it true?” Sadly, the church has bought into the spirit of the age. Many people go to church, not to learn the truths of God’s Word, but to get an emotional high. The focus of theological discussion also reflects the contemporary hostility to knowledge. To a shocking extent, truth is no longer the issue; the questions being asked today are, “Will it divide?” or “Will it offend?” To ask if a theological position is biblically correct is considered unloving, and those who take a stand for historic Christian truth are labeled as divisive.

But knowledge is inseparable from moral excellence and Christian growth. It should be obvious that people can’t put into practice truths they don’t know; we must first understand the principles of God’s Word before we can live them out.

Peter knew well the importance of knowledge in developing a stable Christian walk and the assurance of salvation that accompanies it. Therefore, he urged his readers to add knowledge to their moral excellence. Gnosis (“knowledge”) refers to insight, discernment, and proper understanding of truth. Lacking such knowledge, believers become “children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). The resulting turmoil is not conducive to spiritual growth or the development of a settled assurance of salvation.

The Bible commends child-like (i.e., trusting, humble) faith, but not childish faith. Paul exhorted the Corinthians, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking . . . in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20). “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord,” urged Hosea. When we do so, “He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hos. 6:3).

I pray with the apostle Paul, “that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would enable you to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 23:7 and Philippians 4:8. What do those verses teach about the importance of godly thinking?


God's Motive for Your Inheritance 

"According to His great mercy" (1 Pet. 1:3).

"According to His great mercy" (1 Pet. 1:3).

Every dimension of life, whether physical or spiritual, is a testimony to God’s mercy.

When God saved you and granted you an eternal inheritance, it wasn't because you were special or more deserving of His love and grace than others. It was because He sovereignly chose to love you and extend His great mercy to you. That's why Paul said, "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)" (Eph. 2:4-5). He "saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy" (Titus 3:5).

Because of His great mercy, God addresses the pitiful condition of mankind. Unregenerate people are totally depraved, dead in trespasses, enslaved to sin, cursed to eternal damnation, unable to help themselves, and in desperate need of someone to show them mercy and compassion. That's the good news of the gospel: God loves sinners and extends mercy to anyone willing to trust in Him.

Mercy tempers God's justice. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said, "Mercy sweetens all God's other attributes . . . . When the water was bitter, and Israel could not drink, Moses cast a tree into the waters, and then they were made sweet. How bitter and dreadful were the other attributes of God, did not mercy sweeten them! Mercy sets God's power [at] work to help us; it makes his justice become our friend; it shall avenge our quarrels" (A Body of Divinity [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1978], p. 94).

The very fact that God permits us to live at all speaks of His mercy. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, "It is because of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness" (KJV).

No matter what your situation is, God's mercy is more than sufficient for you. It "is great above the heavens" (Ps. 108:4, KJV). So be encouraged and look to Him always.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His great mercy, for by it you have received eternal life and an eternal inheritance.

For Further Study

Read Mark 10:46-52. How did Jesus' healing ministry demonstrate God's mercy?


Jesus Christ’s Amazing Ministry

“This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases’” (Matthew 8:17).

Even excluding the miraculous healings, Jesus’ ministry was unprecedented and amazing. “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks” (John 7:46). The man born blind, whom Jesus healed, told the Jewish leaders, “Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man [Christ] were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:32–33).

When Jesus healed the paralytic, the onlookers “were awestruck, and glorified God” (Matt. 9:8), and after He expelled a demon they said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel” (v. 33). When He stood before Pilate, Jesus did not say a word in His own defense, “so the governor was quite amazed” (Matt. 27:14).

Everything about our Lord was astonishing, excellent, and humanly beyond explanation. It is hard to understand how anyone who witnessed His preaching and miracles, or has even just read about Him in the gospels, can still refuse to accept and obey Him. Some are drawn by His charisma and power, and they marvel at the things He taught and did, but they still take nothing to heart and don’t believe. Sometimes they are willing to call themselves Christians, but they need a commitment that is more than superficial—one that perseveres in faith to the end.

Ask Yourself

Think of all the things that are truly amazing about Christ. If you were asked what you love the most about Him, what would you say? You never want to be at a loss to share the specific ways He makes life distinctly abundant.


Reading for Today:


Ezra 7:6 a skilled scribe. Ezra’s role as a scribe was critical to reinstate the nation since the leaders had to go back to the law and interpret it. This was no small task because many aspects of life had changed in the intervening 1,000 years since the law was first given. Tradition says Ezra had the law memorized and could write it from recall. the hand of the LORD his God upon him. This refrain occurs throughout the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Its resounding presence assures the reader that it was not by the shrewd leadership skills of a few men that Judah, with its temple and walls, was rebuilt in the midst of a powerful Medo-Persian Empire. Rather it was the sovereign hand of the wise and powerful King of the universe that allowed this to happen.

Ezra 7:10 seek…do…teach. The pattern of Ezra’s preparation is exemplary. He studied before he attempted to live a life of obedience, and he studied and practiced the law in his own life before he opened his mouth to teach that law. But the success of Ezra’s leadership did not come from his strength alone, but most significantly because “the good hand of his God [was] upon him” (7:9).

Ezra 8:21–23 I proclaimed a fast. The people of Israel would soon begin the long journey. Such travel was dangerous, for the roads were frequented by thieves who robbed for survival. Even messengers traveled with caravans to ensure their safety. Ezra and the people did not want to confuse the king regarding their trust in God’s protection so they entreated Him for safety with a prayerful fast. God honored their prayer of faith with His protection.

Psalm 88:4 go down to the pit. “Pit” is one of several references to the grave in this psalm (the dead, vv. 5, 10; the grave, vv. 3, 5, 11; place of destruction, v. 11).

Acts 23:16 Paul’s sister’s son. The only clear reference in Scripture to Paul’s family. Why he was in Jerusalem, away from the family home in Tarsus, is not known. Nor is it evident why he would want to warn his uncle, since Paul’s family possibly disinherited him when he became a Christian (Phil. 3:8). entered the barracks and told Paul. Since Paul was not under arrest, but merely in protective custody, he was able to receive visitors.

Acts 23:27 having learned that he was a Roman. Actually, Lysias did not find this out until after he arrested Paul (22:25, 26). Lysias sought to portray himself in the best possible light before the governor. For that reason, he also neglected to mention his order to have Paul scourged (22:24) and his mistaken assumption that he was the notorious Egyptian assassin (21:38).

DAY 23: How can Luke’s authorship of Acts be defended when his name is not mentioned in the book?

Lack of the author’s name is not an unusual challenge in establishing the authorship of a Bible book. Many books of the Bible come to us without obvious human authorship. In most cases, however, internal and external clues lead us to reasonable confidence in identifying the author. One benefit created by initial anonymity involves recognizing that the Bible books originated by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It may take some effort to discover whom God used in writing one of those books, but the original Author is not in question.

The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles share numerous marks of common human authorship. They are addressed to the same person—Theophilus (Luke 1:3Acts 1:1). They are parallel in style. The second book claims to be an extension of the first.

Luke was in a unique position to record Acts of the Apostles. He was Paul’s close friend, traveling companion, and personal physician (Col. 4:14). His work indicates that he was a careful researcher (Luke 1:1–4) and an accurate historian, displaying an intimate knowledge of Roman laws and customs. His records of the geography of Palestine, Asia Minor, and Italy offer flawless details.

In writing Acts, Luke drew on written sources (15:23–29; 23:26–30). He, also, no doubt, interviewed key figures, such as Peter, John, and others in the Jerusalem church. Paul’s 2-year imprisonment at Caesarea (24:27) gave Luke ample opportunity to interview Philip and his daughters (important sources of information on the early days of the church). Finally, Luke’s frequent use of the first person plural pronouns “we” and “us” (16:10–17; 20:5–21:18; 27:1–28:16) 



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Diligence and Excellence

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence” (2 Peter 1:5).

God’s provision does not preclude our responsibility.

There are some who believe that since God has provided everything needed for the Christian life, believers should expect Him to do everything for them. Their motto is, “Let go and let God!” If Peter had a motto for the Christian life, it would have been more along the lines of the popular World War II song, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!” Peter knew the Christian life is a struggle in which believers need to expend the maximum effort to equip themselves with godly virtues—the virtues that, when present in our lives, produce assurance of salvation. He therefore prefaces the list of those virtues in verse 5 by saying, “Now for this very reason also,” thus pointing us back to God’s provision of salvation in verses 1-4. That provision is not meant to eliminate our efforts in living the Christian life but to enable and encourage them. We must, says Peter, live our Christian lives by “applying all diligence” to develop godly virtues.

Heading the list of virtues that should characterize our lives is “moral excellence.” The Greek term arete can also be translated “virtue.” In classical Greek literature, it often referred to the ability to perform heroic deeds. It refers to the quality that makes someone or something stand out as excellent. An arete knife was one that was sharp and cut well; an arete horse was one with speed and endurance; an arete singer was one who sang well.

“Moral excellence,” it should be noted, is not an attitude but an action. In fact, some suggest the meaning “moral energy” for it—the moral energy that gives us the power to do excellent deeds. Our model for that kind of active excellence is Jesus Christ, who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

Never waver in your pursuit of excellence. In the words of Paul to the Thessalonians, “Excel still more” (1 Thess. 4:1).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for supplying everything you need to live the Christian life.
  • Ask Him to help you to be diligent to develop godly virtues in your life.

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 4:238:1712:2713:421:5. What do those passages teach about the importance of diligence?


Praising God for Your Eternal Inheritance

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:3).

God has blessed you richly and is worthy of your praise.

The source of your eternal inheritance is God, whom Peter described in several ways. First, He is our blessed God (1 Pet. 1:3). The Greek word translated "blessed" in that verse speaks of that which is worthy of blessing, adoration, praise, or worship. Peter's praise for God is an example for us to follow. Our God is especially worthy of our praise in light of the glorious inheritance He has granted us in His Son (v. 4).

"Father" to the Jewish people of Peter's day was one designation for God. The most common Jewish blessings emphasized God as Creator of all things and Redeemer of His people from Egypt, but not as Father (e.g., Gen. 14:2024:27Ex. 18:10). Yet now through Christ, we "have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! [Daddy!] Father!'" (Rom. 8:16).

As wonderful a reality as the fatherhood of God is, Peter's reference was not primarily to God as our Father, but as Christ's Father. Their unique relationship affirms Christ's deity (cf. John 10:30-33). God is the Father of believers in a secondary sense because He has redeemed us through Christ and adopted us into His family (Gal. 4:4-6).

In referring to Christ as "our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:3), Peter amplifies His redemptive work. "Lord" speaks of His sovereign rulership; "Jesus" is His name as God in human flesh; and "Christ" identifies Him as the Messiah, the anointed King.

Peter's final description of God is seen in the pronoun "our." He is "our Lord Jesus Christ," a personal Lord and Savior—not some distant, impersonal deity. He created and redeemed you because He loves you and wants to be intimately involved in every aspect of your life.

What a glorious God we serve! Worship Him today as He deserves to be worshiped.

Suggestions for Prayer

Bless God, who is your Father, your Redeemer, your constant companion, and the source of your eternal inheritance.

For Further Study

Read John 4:1-26. What did Jesus say about the fatherhood of God?


The Convincing Nature of Jesus’ Healing Ministry   


“This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases’” (Matthew 8:17).

Jesus Christ died for the sins of all who trust Him, yet believers still sin. By His resurrection He conquered death, yet Christians still die. He overcame suffering and illness, yet believers still have pain and disease. Jesus’ main purpose in the atonement was to conquer sin and death, not just to conquer physical suffering. That latter fulfillment is still in the future (cf. Rom. 8:22–2513:11).

It is hard to argue that Jesus’ healing ministry and crucifixion now mean that Christians should no longer expect illness. If that argument is true, then we should expect not to die—but that’s false. Again, the gospel is all about forgiveness from sin, not deliverance from disease (cf. 1 Peter 2:24).

In view of the convincing nature of Jesus’ healing ministry, it’s hard to understand why anyone who heard or saw any of those miracles would not receive Him. It is especially hard to fathom that God’s own people, with all their special blessings—the law, the prophets, the covenant—would mostly reject the Son of their God. But from the outset of Christ’s incarnation, John speaks of this rejection: “Those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).

Any denial of Jesus flies in the face of the facts, whether such unbelief was by people in Jesus’ day or by skeptics today. As His healing ministry progressed, the proofs of His divinity, power, mercy, and goodness became obvious beyond contradiction. They all demand a saving faith in the one true Savior and Lord.

Ask Yourself

How do you think you would have responded to the ministry of Christ, had you been there to witness it firsthand? Are the reasons for doubting Him today any different than they were then?


Reading for Today:


Ezra 5:1 Haggai and Zechariah. The Book of Haggai is styled as a “royal administrative correspondence” (Hag. 1:13) sent from the Sovereign King of the Universe through the “LORD’s messenger,” Haggai (Hag. 1:13). Part of its message is addressed specifically to Zerubbabel, the political leader, and Joshua, the religious leader, telling them to take courage and work on the temple because God was with them (Hag. 2:4). These two prophets gave severe reproaches and threats if the people did not return to the building and promised national prosperity if they did. Not long after the exiles heard this message, the temple work began afresh after a 16-year hiatus.

Ezra 5:5 But the eye of their God was upon the elders. God’s hand of protection which led this endeavor allowed the work to continue while official communication was going on with Darius, the Persian king.

Ezra 6:14 the commandment of the God of Israel…the command of Cyrus. This is not the normal term for commandment, but it is the same word translated “decree” or “administrative order” throughout the book. The message here is powerful. It was the decree from God, the Sovereign of the universe, which gave administrative authority to rebuild the temple. The decrees (same word) of 3 of the greatest monarchs in the history of the ancient Near East were only a secondary issue. God rules the universe and He raises up kings, then pulls them from their thrones when they have served His administration.

Ezra 6:22 turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them. By turning the heart of the king in their favor in allowing them to complete the rebuilding, God encouraged His people. They understood the verse, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD” (Prov. 21:1) better through this ordeal. The title “King of Assyria” was held by every king who succeeded the great Neo-Assyrian Empire regardless of what country they may have come from.

Acts 23:2 high priest Ananias. Not the Annas of the Gospels, this man was one of Israel’s cruelest and most corrupt high priests. His pro-Roman policies alienated him from the Jewish people, who murdered him at the outset of the revolt against Rome (A.D. 66). commanded…to strike him. An illegal act in keeping with Ananias’s brutal character. The verb translated “strike” is used of the mob’s beating of Paul (21:32) and the Roman soldiers’ beating of Jesus (Matt. 27:30). It was no mere slap on the face, but a vicious blow.

Acts 23:3 whitewashed wall. Ezekiel 13:10–16Matthew 23:27contrary to the law. Outraged by the high priest’s flagrant violation of Jewish law, Paul flared up in anger. When Jesus was similarly struck in violation of the law, He reacted by calmly asking the reason for the blow (John 18:23). Paul’s reaction was wrong, as he would shortly admit (v. 5). Although an evil man, Ananias still held a Godordained office and was to be granted the respect that position demanded.

Acts 23:7 a dissension arose. There were major social, political, and theological differences between the Sadducees and Pharisees. By raising the issue of the resurrection, Paul appealed to the Pharisees for support on perhaps the most important theological difference. Since the resurrection of Jesus Christ is also the central theme of Christianity, this was no cynical ploy on Paul’s part to divide the Sanhedrin over a trivial point of theology.

DAY 22: How does Psalm 87 describe God’s love for Jerusalem?

This psalm describes the Lord’s love for Jerusalem and exalts this city as the religious center of the world in the coming messianic kingdom (Ps. 48).Though the nations of the world (even including some of Israel’s former enemies) will worship the Lord then, Israel will still be the favored nation (Is. 2:2–419:23–2545:22–2556:6–8Zech. 8:20–2314:16–19).

“His foundation is in the holy mountains” (v. 1). “His foundation” means “His founded city,” namely Jerusalem, located in the hill country of Judea. “The LORD loves the gates of Zion” (v. 2). Zion is a poetic description of Jerusalem, seemingly used by the Old Testament writers when special spiritual and religious significance was being attached to the city. Though God certainly loved other cities in Israel, He did not choose any of them to be His worship center. The gates represent the access of the potential worshiper into the city where he could come into a special worshiping relationship with God. “More than all the dwellings of Jacob.” The other cities in Israel were not chosen by God to be the place of His special dwelling.

“Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God!” (v. 3). Jerusalem was God’s city because there God met His people in praise and offerings. “I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon” (v. 4). Rahab was a monster of ancient pagan mythology and symbolized Egypt in the Old Testament (Ps. 89:10Is. 30:751:9). Two of the superpowers of the ancient world, fierce enemies of Israel, will one day worship the Lord in Zion (Is. 19:19–25). “Philistia…Tyre…Ethiopia” (Ps. 87:4).Three more Gentile nations, ancient enemies of Israel, whose descendants will worship the Lord in Jerusalem (Is. 14:28–3218:1–7).This multinational worship is pictured as a great joy to the Lord Himself. “This one was born there” (Ps. 87:6). To be born in Jerusalem will be noted as a special honor in the messianic kingdom (vv. 5, 6; also Zech. 8:20–23).

“All my springs are in you” (v. 7). “Springs” is a metaphor for the source of joyful blessings. Eternal salvation, including the death and resurrection of Christ, is rooted in Jerusalem. The prophets also tell of a literal fountain flowing from the temple in Jerusalem which will water the surrounding land (Joel 3:18Ezek. 47:1–12).



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Reminders of Assurance

“Therefore, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you” (2 Peter 1:12).

Remembering where you’ve been is the key to getting where you want to go.

The summer of 1980 was a turning point in my ministry. After nearly a dozen years as pastor of Grace Community Church, I took a three-month sabbatical. In my heart I wasn’t sure if I would come back. I felt I had taught my congregation all I knew, and I feared boring them by reiterating the same old things.

But during that summer the Lord taught me a spiritual truth that revitalized my ministry. He showed me the importance of reminding believers of truth they already know. As I read and studied 2 Peter 1, I realized the Lord had called Peter to that same ministry. The more I thought about it, the more important I realized such a ministry is, for it is all too easy to forget spiritual truth. The tragic story of Israel, whose forgetfulness of spiritual truth led to disaster, is a sobering warning.

One of the primary purposes of Communion y is to remember the glorious truths about our Lord and His sacrifice on our behalf. Remembrance is also an essential aspect of assurance of salvation.

What are we in danger of forgetting? As he begins his second epistle, Peter lists several key truths Christians must not forget. He reminds us of the realities of our salvation and of the saving faith God graciously granted us based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1), resulting in grace, peace, and knowledge of Him (v. 2). As a result, we have “everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (v. 3).

Having reminded us of the glorious truths of our salvation, Peter then calls us to remember several key virtues that need to be manifest in our lives. As we study them over the next several days, I pray that God will help you to remember what you know and thereby grow in your assurance of salvation.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the unsearchable riches of His salvation.

For Further Study

Begin a program of Scripture memorization today to saturate your mind with the truths of God’s Word.


Remembering Your Inheritance

"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, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

Victory over present circumstances comes when you focus on your eternal inheritance and praise God for it.

One amazing privilege you have as a Christian is to be the beneficiary of a rich and exciting spiritual inheritance. Jesus gave us a glimpse of its magnitude when He said, "The King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'" (Matt. 25:34). The kingdom itself is part of your inheritance!

This inheritance is shared by every child of God. Hebrews 9:15 says that Christ "is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that . . . those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." Jesus commissioned Paul to preach to the Gentiles "so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [Him]" (Acts 26:18).

No one can fully understand "all that God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9). Consequently, at times you might forget that you're a child of the King and begin to act like this world is all you have to live for. God may even have to discipline you from time to time to correct your behavior. But someday you will be all God created you to be and will know the full glory of your inheritance. In the meantime, be diligent to "set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth" (Col. 3:2). Focus on your inheritance and praise God for it. That will help you see beyond your present circumstances to the glory that awaits you when Jesus calls you home.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the rich inheritance that is yours in Christ.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter chapter 1.

  • What spiritual privileges did Peter mention?
  • What commands did he give?
  • Is there any connection between those privileges and commands? Explain. 


Healings and the Existence of Disease

“When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases’” (Matthew 8:16–17).

Jesus performed healing miracles for reasons far more profound than to wipe out all disease, which did happen in Palestine while He ministered. First, He healed to personally participate in humanity’s suffering and illness. He knew people’s inner feelings of agony, bewilderment, despair, and frustration because of disease, and He wanted to sympathize. He vicariously experienced those elements, “for we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).

Second, Christ healed people because He experienced the awful effects of disease’s root cause, sin. He could not see the pain of disease and death without feeling sin’s pain. Jesus wept for Lazarus (John 11:34–36) not from sadness but from feeling the sting of sin and evil that brings death to everyone. Sin and sickness both operate as effects of the Fall, and only divine power can cure either.

Third, our Lord “took our infirmities and carried away our diseases” as a preview of His kingdom’s most wonderful elements—the permanent removal of sin, sorrow, and disease (cf. Rev. 21:1–4). His redeeming work to remove the penalty and guilt of sin for His own would be complete. Just as with His transfiguration, in which He pulled back the veil over His flesh and gave three disciples a glimpse of His divine glory, Jesus gave those healed and all who witnessed a gracious preview of His eternal kingdom.

Ask Yourself

The question is not whether or not Jesus can heal, but rather why He chooses to sometimes withhold the healing we seek. When He does, what eternal purposes might He have in mind?


Reading for Today:


Ezra 3:12 the first temple. The temple built by Solomon (1 Kin. 5–7).wept with a loud voice. The first temple had been destroyed 50 years earlier. The old men, who would have been about 60 years or older, knew that this second temple did not begin to match the splendor of Solomon’s temple nor did the presence of God reside within it (Hag. 2:1–4Zech. 4:910). The nation was small and weak, the temple smaller and less beautiful by far. There were no riches as in David and Solomon’s days. The ark was gone. But most disappointing was the absence of God’s Shekinah glory. Thus the weeping. shouted…for joy. For those who did not have a point of comparison, this was a great moment. Possibly Psalm 126 was written and sung for this occasion.

Ezra 4:6–23 This section represents later opposition which Ezra chose to put here as a parenthetical continuation of the theme “opposition to resettling and rebuilding Judah.” He first referred to the opposition from Israel’s enemies under King Ahasuerus (a regal title) or Xerxes (ca. 486–464 B.C.), who ruled at the time of Esther (4:6). Ezra 4:7–23 then recounts opposition in Nehemiah’s day under Artaxerxes I (ca. 464–423 B.C.) expressed in a detailed letter of accusation against the Jews (vv. 7–16). It was successful in stopping the work, as the king’s reply indicates (vv. 17–23). Most likely, this opposition is that also spoken of in Nehemiah 1:3. All this was the ongoing occurrence of severe animosity between the Israelites and Samaritans, which was later aggravated when the Samaritans built a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim (John 4:9). The opposition to Zerubbabel picks up again at 4:24–5:2 during the reign of Darius I, who actually reigned before either Ahasuerus or Artaxerxes.

Ezra 4:21 Now give the command. No small order for one or two workers, but rather the efforts of 50,000 were called to a halt. The king was commissioning a decree of great significance. The original language calls for the difference. This decree would not lose its authority until the king established a new decree.

Acts 22:3 I am indeed a Jew. A response to the false charges raised by the Asian Jews. born in Tarsus. Tarsus was the chief city of Cilicia. brought up in this city. Paul was born among the Hellenistic Jews of the Diaspora, but had been brought up in Jerusalem. Gamaliel. That Paul had studied under the most celebrated rabbi of that day was further evidence that the charges against him were absurd. fathers’ law. As a student of Gamaliel, Paul received extensive training both in the Old Testament law and in the rabbinic traditions. Also, though he did not mention it to the crowd, he had been a Pharisee. In light of all that, the charge that Paul opposed the law was ridiculous.

Acts 22:21–23 Paul’s insistence that the Lord had sent him to minister to the despised Gentiles was too much for the crowd. They viewed the teaching that Gentiles could be saved without first becoming Jewish proselytes (thus ranting them equal status with the Jewish people before God) as intolerable blasphemy.

DAY 21: Who were the people who made so much trouble for those Jews who returned from captivity?

In Ezra 3:3, it mentions “the people of those countries.” These were the settlers who had come to occupy the land during the 70 years of Israel’s absence. They were deportees brought in from other countries by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. These inhabitants saw the Jews as a threat and quickly wanted to undermine their allegiance to God (4:1,2). These are called “the adversaries”—Israel’s enemies in the region, who resisted their reestablishment of the temple.

These enemies came to the Jews offering their assistance, saying, “We have sacrificed to Him” (v. 2).This false claim represented the syncretistic worship of the Samaritans, whose ancestry came from intermarriage with foreign immigrants in Samaria after 722 B.C. (4:10). In the British Museum is a large cylinder; and inscribed on it are the annals of Esarhaddon, an Assyrian king (ca.681–669 B.C.), who deported a large population of Israelites from Palestine. A consequent settlement of Babylonian colonists took their place and intermarried with remaining Jewish women and their descendants. The result was the mongrel race called Samaritans. They had developed a superstitious form of worshiping God (2 Kin. 17:26–34).

Idolatry had been the chief cause for Judah’s deportation to Babylon, and they wanted to avoid it altogether. While they still had their spiritual problems (Ezra 9; 10), they rejected any form of mixed religion, particularly this offer of cooperation which had sabotage as its goal (vv.4, 5).“King Cyrus…commanded us.” This note gave authority to their refusal.

Nevertheless, the enemies hired counselors who managed to “frustrate” the work on the temple. This caused a 16-year delay (ca. 536–520 B.C.). As a result, the people took more interest in their personal affairs than in spiritual matters (Hag. 1:2–6).



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Rejection Because of Your Faith

“Not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:12-13).

Christians are rejected by the world but accepted by God.

An ancient proverb states that you can judge a man’s character by who his enemies are. That is also true in the spiritual realm. The world loves its own, but since Christ chose believers out of the world, the world hates them (John 15:19).

That this is true should come as no surprise to any student of God’s Word. After all, the world hated Jesus so much that it killed Him. We, as His followers, can also expect hostility. “If the world hates you,” Jesus said in John 15:18, “you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” “If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul,” He added in Matthew 10:25, “how much more the members of his household!”

From the beginning of history, the unrighteous have hated the righteous. The apostle John noted the tragic story of unrighteous Cain, who murdered his righteous brother Abel in a fit of jealous rage (1 John 3:12Gen. 4:1-8). In Acts 7:52 Stephen asked his accusers, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.” Stephen’s accusation aptly summarized the sad history of Israel, “who kill[ed] the prophets and ston[ed] those who [were] sent to her” (Matt. 23:37). 
Peter noted the reason for the world’s hostility to Christians when he wrote, “[Unbelievers] are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you” (1 Peter 4:4). Christians’ lives are a threat because they rebuke unbelievers’ sin and remind them of coming judgment.

Have you experienced the world’s hostility, opposition, prejudice, rejection, or even persecution for your stand for Jesus Christ? If so, that’s evidence that you belong to the One who also suffered rejection by the world.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would enable you to rejoice in the face of persecution (Acts 5:41).

For Further Study

Read Philippians 1:28. What should your attitude be when you are rejected by the world?


Proclaiming the Excellencies of God

"That you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9).

You are an ambassador of the living God.

The privilege of proclaiming the excellencies of God takes us back to 1 Peter 2:9, but we consider it here because it summarizes the purpose of all our Christian privileges.

The Greek word translated "proclaim" is an unusual word used only here in the New Testament. It means "to advertise" or "publish," and refers to making something known that would otherwise be unknown. "Excellencies" speak of powerful and heroic deeds. You are an ambassador of Christ, having the great privilege of proclaiming what God has done for His people.

That was an intrinsic part of Hebrew worship. For example, Psalm 103 says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit; who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord performs righteous deeds, and judgments for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness" (vv. 2-8).

It would be an honor to be an ambassador of the United States, representing this country's power and capabilities to other countries. But you have an even greater honor: to represent the power and capabilities of the living God. When you have an opportunity to speak for Him, you can rightly say, "I have the privilege of announcing the mighty and heroic deeds of the living God, who has called me into His service."

Because you are in Christ, you have glorious privileges that include union with God, access to the Father, spiritual sacrifices, security, affection, dominion, possession, holiness, illumination, and compassion. What greater honor can there be than to proclaim the excellencies of the One who has granted you such marvelous privileges?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for calling you as His ambassador.
  • Ask Him for the courage and integrity to represent Him well always.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 147, noting all the mighty deeds of God there proclaimed.


Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law

“When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him” (Matthew 8:14–15).

Through the centuries, most male Jews have displayed much preju-dice toward women, as evidenced by the old prayer, “Lord, I thank Thee that I was not born a slave, a Gentile, or a woman.” But here Jesus, just as with the leper and the Gentile centurion, shows mercy and compassion to an outsider—a woman—someone not favored by the Jewish establishment. He cuts through the unscriptural attitude of proud Jewish men to demonstrate again that physical health, race, status, or a person’s sex gained no advantage with Him.

When Jesus arrived at Peter’s home with some of the disciples, Peter’s mother-in-law was ill, and Mark adds, “Immediately they spoke to Jesus about her” (Mark 1:30). Luke the physician notes that she had “a high fever” (Luke 4:38), though none of the narratives says what caused her illness. That the fever was high suggests she was seriously ill and maybe in danger of death.

Christ once again responded without delay and healed Peter’s mother-in-law immediately. She was not only a woman but also a Jew, which meant that although the Lord had warned the Jews about presuming upon salvation, He had not completely forsaken them, as ministry to Peter’s relative powerfully showed. The fact that salvation was available to faithful Gentiles did not mean it was now unavailable to faithful Jews. Paul later wrote, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. . . . In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Rom. 11:25).

Ask Yourself

Among all religions, none has a higher view of women than does Christianity. And yet, it’s fair to ask ourselves if chauvinism is present within our hearts. Christ honored women. So should we.


Reading for Today:


Ezra 1:5 whose spirits God had moved. The primary underlying message of Ezra and Nehemiah is that the sovereign hand of God is at work in perfect keeping with His plan at His appointed times. The 70 years of captivity were complete, so God stirred up not only the spirit of Cyrus to make the decree, but His own people to go and build up Jerusalem and the temple (1:1).

Ezra 2:2 Zerubbabel. This man was the rightful leader of Judah in that he was of the lineage of David through Jehoiachin (1 Chr. 3:17). He did not serve as king (the curse on Jehoiachin’s line, Jer. 22:24–30), but was still in the messianic line because the curse was bypassed (Matt. 1:12Luke 3:27).The curse of the messianic line for Christ was bypassed in Luke’s genealogy by tracing the lineage through David’s son Nathan. His name means “offspring of Babylon,” indicating his place of birth. He, rather than Cyrus’s political appointee Sheshbazzar (1:11), led Judah according to God’s will. Jeshua. The high priest of the first return whose name means “Yahweh saves.” He is called Joshua in Haggai 1:1 and Zechariah 3:1. His father Jozadak (Ezra 3:2) had been exiled (1 Chr. 6:15). He came from the lineage of Levi, Aaron, Eleazar, and Phinehas; thus he was legitimately in the line of the high priest (Num. 25:10–13).

Acts 21:24 be purified. Having just returned from an extended stay in Gentile lands, Paul was considered ceremonially unclean. He therefore needed to undergo ritual purification before participating (as their sponsor) in the ceremony marking the end of the 4 men’s vows. pay their expenses. For the temple ceremony in which the 4 would shave their heads and the sacrifices associated with the Nazirite vow. Paying those expenses for another was considered an act of piety; and by so doing, Paul would give further proof that he had not forsaken his Jewish heritage. shave their heads. A practice commonly associated with a Nazirite vow (Num. 6:18).

Acts 21:28 the people, the law, and this place. Paul’s enemies leveled 3 false charges against him. They claimed that he taught Jews to forsake their heritage—the same lie told by the Judaizers. The second charge, that Paul opposed the law, was a very dangerous one, albeit false, in this setting. Originally, Pentecost was a celebration of the firstfruits of the harvest. But by this time, it had become a celebration of Moses’ receiving the law on Mt. Sinai. Thus, the Jewish people were especially zealous for the law during this feast. The third charge, of blaspheming or defiling the temple, had helped bring about the deaths of Jesus (Mark 14:5758) and Stephen (Acts 6:13). All 3 charges were, of course, totally false.

Acts 21:30 doors were shut. This was done by the temple guards, since Paul’s death on the temple grounds would defile the temple (2 Kin. 11:15). They made no effort, however, to rescue the apostle from the crowd, which was intent on beating him to death.

DAY 20: How did God sovereignly restore the Jews to the land?

It was through a proclamation by Cyrus king of Persia. The Lord had prophesied through Isaiah, who said of Cyrus, He is My shepherd,…saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ’Your foundation shall be laid’” (Is. 44:28). The historian Josephus records an account of the day when Daniel read Isaiah’s prophecy to Cyrus, and in response he was moved to declare the proclamation of Ezra 1:2–4 (538 B.C.).“That the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.” Jeremiah had prophesied the return of the exiles after a 70-year captivity in Babylon (Jer. 25:1129:10–14Dan. 9:2). This was no isolated event, but rather an outworking of the covenant promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3.

We are told that “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus.” A strong expression of the fact that God sovereignly works in the lives of kings to effect His purposes (Prov. 21:1Dan. 2:214:17). Cyrus made a proclamation, which was the most common form of spoken, public communication, usually from the central administration. The king would dispatch a herald, perhaps with a written document, into the city. In order to address the people, he would either go to the city gate, where people often congregated for social discourse, or gather the people together in a square, occasionally by the blowing of a horn. The herald would then make the proclamation to the people. A document called the Cyrus Cylinder, recovered in reasonably good condition by archeologists, commissions people from many lands to return to their cities to rebuild the temples to their gods, apparently as some sort of general policy of Cyrus. Whether or not this document was an extension of the proclamation made to the exiles in this passage must remain a matter of speculation.

It is possible that Daniel played a part in the Jews’ receiving such favorable treatment (Dan. 6:25–28). According to the Jewish historian Josephus, he was Cyrus’s prime minister who shared Isaiah’s prophecies with Cyrus (Is. 44:2846:1–4). The existence of such documents, written over a century before Cyrus was born, led him to acknowledge that all his power came from the God of Israel and prompted him to fulfill the prophecy.



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Discernment Between Truth and Error

“Beloved, 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. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-3).

God’s children are able to discern false doctrine.

A sure mark of every false religious system is doctrinal error, particularly about the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Those systems deny that He is Savior and Lord, God in human flesh, the only way to the Father (John 14:6) because salvation comes only through Him (Acts 4:12).

A sure mark, then, of all true children of God is that they believe the truth about Jesus Christ and do not deviate into doctrinal error. Although they may be temporarily duped by false teaching, they will not be permanently deceived by it. The apostle John wrote, “[False teachers] are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:5-6).

When you were saved, you were clear about who Christ was. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ,” writes John, “is born of God” (1 John 5:1). Had you not passed that doctrinal test, you wouldn’t have been saved. God’s children distinguish spiritual truth from doctrinal error because the Spirit of truth (John 14:16) indwells them.

“O Timothy,” Paul exhorted his beloved son in the faith, “guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’” (1 Tim. 6:20). I pray that you will guard the precious treasure of truth entrusted to you in the Scriptures and so assure your heart that you belong to the God of truth.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for revealing His truth to us in the Bible.

For Further Study

Read John 1:1Philippians 2:5-11Colossians 2:9. What do they teach about the Person of Christ?


Receiving Compassion

"You once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Pet. 2:10).

Because of God’s compassion, He withholds the just punishment of your sin.

Hosea had a unique role among the prophets. God used him and his adulterous wife, Gomer, as living illustrations of His love for unfaithful Israel. When Gomer gave birth to a daughter, the Lord told Hosea to name her Lo-ruhamah, which means "No mercy," because His mercy for Israel would soon come to an end. When Gomer later gave birth to a son, the Lord said to call him Lo-ammi, which means "Not mine," for He no longer considered Israel His people. Yet He offered this hope, saying, "It will come about that, in the place where it is said to them, 'You are not My people,' it will be said to them, 'You are the sons of the living God'" (Hos. 1:10).

In our Scripture for today, Peter applied that Old Testament text to the New Testament church, just as Paul did in Romans 9:25-26: "I will call those who were not My people, 'My people,' and her who was not beloved, 'Beloved.' And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' there they shall be called sons of the living God." God rejected unbelieving Israel, but extended His compassion to anyone willing to trust in Christ. It is particularly true that Gentiles in the church were once not the people of God, but now have received mercy and are God's beloved children.

God's mercy includes His general providential care for all mankind, but Hosea, Peter, and Paul were speaking of His special compassion—first in salvation, then in daily blessings—for those who belong to Him. By it He withholds the punishment we deserve for our sins and grants us His lovingkindness instead.

As you reflect on God's mercy in your own life, let Psalm 136:1 be the song of your heart: "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever" (KJV).

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Psalm 59:16-17. Recite it often in praise to the Lord.

For Further Study

What do these verses teach about God's mercy: Psalm 103:112 Corinthians 1:3, and Titus 3:5?


Jesus’ Reality Check on Salvation

“‘I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 8:11–12).

Jesus’ words to the Jews in Capernaum shattered their proud spiritual worldview, contradicting everything the rabbis had taught about salvation. Their apocryphal literature pictured a great heavenly feast in which only Jews would be present in the end.

Jesus, however, drastically revised that scene and declared that many Gentiles would be included and many Jews excluded. His Jewish listeners thought they still had exclusive possession of God’s kingdom promises and privileges. But because many of them rejected Messiah when He came, they disqualified themselves from salvation blessings and destined themselves to the condemnation of outer darkness. (Part of the frightening supernatural quality of hell is that it is a place of pain, torment, and fire that lasts for eternity in total darkness—a combination not found in the present world.)

The Jews enjoyed many blessings (Rom. 3:1–2), but being physical descendants of Abraham did not guarantee salvation. True salvation is for all who are children of Abraham’s spiritual faith, those whom God adopts as His children (Rom. 8:14–17Gal. 3:7–926–29). When many Jews, especially the leaders, rejected Jesus as Messiah, they proved they were not true, spiritual children of Abraham, but actually children of the devil (John 8:42–44). As such, Jesus in effect said, they forfeited God’s promised blessings and any hopes of entering heaven, unless they repented. That was the radical, sobering clarification Christ brought to the Jews’ profound misunderstanding of the nature of salvation.

Ask Yourself

Again, we must look within to isolate any self-righteous tendencies that place others in categories and inflate our inherent worth before God. Ask Him to bring such sins of pride and presumption to the surface, where they can be identified and disposed of.


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 35:3 the holy ark. The ark of the covenant which was to remain in the Most Holy Place had been removed, probably by Manasseh who set a carved image in its place (33:7). The law for the carrying of the ark during the tabernacle days, when it was portable, called for poles to be place through rings on the sides and Levites (Kohathites) to carry it by the poles without touching it (Ex. 25:1415). Now that the temple was built and the ark had a permanent place, it no longer needed to be transported in the old way.

Chronicles 35:21 God commanded me. Necho is referring to the true God—whether he had a true revelation or not is unknown. Josiah had no way to know either, and it is apparent he did not believe that Necho spoke the word of God. There is no reason to assume his death was punishment for refusing to believe. He probably thought Necho was lying and, once victorious with Assyria over Babylon, they would together be back to assault Israel.

2 Chronicles 36:11–21 The reign of Zedekiah, a.k.a. Mattaniah (ca. 597–586 B.C.). Jeremiah prophesied during this reign (Jer. 1:3) and wrote Lamentations to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C. Ezekiel received his commission during this reign (Ezek. 1:1) and prophesied from 592 B.C. to his death in 560 B.C.

Acts 21:2 finding a ship…Phoenicia. Realizing he would never reach Jerusalem in time for Pentecost if he continued to hug the coast, Paul decided to risk sailing directly across the Mediterranean Sea to Tyre (v. 3).The ship they embarked on would have been considerably larger than the small coastal vessels on which they had been sailing. The ship that later took Paul on his ill-fated voyage to Rome held 276 people (27:37); this one was probably of comparable size.

Acts 21:9 virgin daughters. That they were virgins may indicate that they had been called by God for special ministry (1 Cor. 7:34).The early church regarded these women as important sources of information on the early years of the church. prophesied. Luke does not reveal the nature of their prophecy. They may have had an ongoing prophetic ministry or prophesied only once. Since women are not to be preachers or teachers in the church (1 Cor. 14:34–361 Tim. 2:1112), they probably ministered to individuals.

DAY 19: Why did Paul not heed all the warnings about going to Jerusalem?

The church in Tyre had been founded by some of those who fled Jerusalem after Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 11:19)—a persecution Paul himself had spearheaded. When Paul arrived there, the disciples there told Paul “to not to go up to Jerusalem” (21:4). This was not a command from the Spirit for Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Rather, the Spirit had revealed to the believers at Tyre that Paul would face suffering in Jerusalem. Understandably, they tried to dissuade him from going there. Paul’s mission to Jerusalem had been given him by the Lord Jesus (20:24); the Spirit would never command him to abandon it.

Later, a prophet named Agabus (11:28) met Paul in Caesarea. Although it was located in Judea, the Jews considered Caesarea, seat of the Roman government, to be a foreign city. Old Testament prophets sometimes acted out their prophecies (1 Kin. 11:29–39Is. 20:2–6Jer. 13:1–11; Ezek. 4; 5), and Agabus’s action of binding his hands and feet with Paul’s belt foreshadowed Paul’s arrest and imprisonment by the Romans (Acts 21:11).Though falsely accused by the Jews (vv. 27, 28), Paul was arrested and imprisoned by the Romans (vv. 31–33).

Hearing these warnings, it is not surprising that both Paul’s friends (Luke and the others traveling with him) and the Caesarean Christians pleaded with Paul to not go. Paul’s response is to say, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 13). Jesus’ name represents all that He is. That said from Paul, his friends response was, “The will of the Lord be done” (v. 14)—a confident expression of trust that God’s will is best (1 Sam. 3:18Matt. 6:10Luke 22:42James 4:13–15).


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The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13).

Experiencing the ministry of the Holy Spirit is evidence of genuine saving faith.

In John 14:26, Jesus described the Holy Spirit as “the Helper.” One of the most important ways He helps us is by assuring us that we belong to God. Several works of the Holy Spirit, if present in our lives, give evidence of the genuineness of our salvation. In 1 Corinthians 12:3Paul writes, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Apart from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, you would not know who Christ was, nor would you confess Him as Savior and Lord. If you have experienced that work of the Holy Spirit, that is evidence you are a true child of God.

Another essential ministry of the Spirit is that of illuminating Scripture. First John 2:27 says, “The anointing which you received from Him abides in you . . . His anointing teaches you about all things.” Do you understand the Bible when you read it? Does it convict you of sin? Does it lead you to rejoice and worship God? If so, that is evidence of the Spirit’s illuminating work in your life.

Do you long for intimate fellowship with God? That, too, is the result of the Spirit’s work in your life (Gal. 4:6). Do you feel compelled to praise God? The filling of the Spirit produces praise (Eph. 5:19). Does your life manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)? Are one or more of the gifts of the Spirit operating in your life (1 Cor. 12)? Those, too, are evidences of the Spirit’s work in your life.

All of those ministries of the Holy Spirit are the way He “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). If they are manifest in your life, they provide evidence that you abide in God and He in you (1 John 4:13). Let the Holy Spirit’s work in your life dispel the dark shadows of doubt.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would help you examine your life for evidence of the Spirit’s work.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 3:24.

  • What is our part in obtaining assurance?
  • Are there any commandments you are willfully violating? If so, confess them, repent of them, and begin to experience the blessedness of assurance.


Illuminated by the Spirit

"That you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9).

God has granted you the ability to understand the truth and live accordingly.

In the natural realm, darkness can be a debilitating and frightening thing. The story is told of a missionary who was on board ship one dark night when suddenly he was awakened by the frantic cry of "Man overboard!" Immediately he arose from his bunk, grabbed the portable lamp from its bracket, and held it at the window of his cabin.

He couldn't see anything, but the next morning he was told that the flash of his lamp through the porthole emitted just enough light to enable those on deck to see the missing man clinging to a rope. They rescued him seconds before his strength would have given out. The light had shone just in time to save the man's life.

In the spiritual realm, darkness is even more devastating because it represents sin with all its disastrous consequences. First John 1:5-6 says, "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth."

Unbelievers are characterized as children of darkness. They are enslaved to Satan, the prince of darkness, who blinds their minds so they don't see the light of Christ's glorious gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). They love darkness and reject light because they don't want their evil deeds to be exposed (John 3:19-20).

Christians, however, have been called out of darkness into God's marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). That refers to God's taking the initiative to save us. As an unredeemed sinner, you could never have turned from darkness on your own because you had neither the ability nor the desire to do so. God had to grant you saving grace and the illumination of His Spirit so you could recognize truth and respond accordingly.

That blessed privilege is known only to Christians. What a joy—not only to recognize God's truth, but also to walk in it daily!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for illuminating your mind and enabling you to see spiritual truth. Pray diligently for others to be so illuminated.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 1:5—2:11. Contrast the children of darkness with the children of light.


Jesus’ Testimony of a Centurion’s Faith

“Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’ . . . Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel’” (Matthew 8:7–810).

The centurion here—an officer in charge of a hundred soldiers—was undoubtedly a God-fearing Gentile. Jesus knew his heart and did not need to hear a direct request from anyone for healing of the servant. And indeed the centurion was so humble, he felt unworthy to have Jesus come into his house.

That the centurion twice called Jesus “Lord” shows a lot more than simple courtesy. The soldier was affirming that Christ was the Son of God, able to heal the man’s paralyzed servant. He knew that only a powerful word from Jesus, uttered inside or outside the house, would be adequate.

In His humanity Jesus was amazed that the Roman centurion showed more real faith than He had found in many Jews. Although a number of Jews had already believed in the Lord, none had manifested the kind of sincerity, sensitivity, humility, love, and deep faith this Gentile had just displayed. On several occasions Jesus would reprimand even the Twelve for their lack of faith (Matt. 8:26John 14:9).

The good news of salvation originated from Israel (Matt. 1:1–23). But that benefit comes to all who believe, not just to a certain ethnic group. God ordained in His redemptive plan that the Savior, His own Son, be born, live, and die as a Jew. But the fact that any Jew makes it to heaven will not be because he or she was a Jew like Jesus, but because of saving faith. This principle applies to everyone of every nationality.

Ask Yourself

How do you respond to the call for greater faith—especially like that of someone in a different class or station than you? Are you resentful of the implication? Convinced you can never be that way? Or are you driven to your knees in a prayerful appeal for faith at all costs?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 32:30 A 1,700-foot-long tunnel cut through solid rock (below Jerusalem) redirected water from the spring Gihon outside of Jerusalem (to the east) toward the south of Jerusalem into the pool of Siloam within the city to provide water in time of siege. The tunnel was a remarkable feat of engineering and boring skill, often 60 feet below the ground and large enough to walk through. It was discovered in 1838, but not until 1909 was it cleared of the debris left by the destruction of Jerusalem back in 586 B.C. This may not have been the first water shaft, since David may have entered Jerusalem 300 years earlier through a water shaft (2 Sam. 5:6–8).

2 Chronicles 33:12,13 Manasseh. This king was very wicked and idolatrous, a murderer of his children, and a desecrater of the temple. God graciously forgave this “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15) when he repented. He did what he could to reverse the effect of his life (vv. 15–17). Although the people worshiped God and not idols, they were doing it in the wrong place and wrong way. God had commanded them to offer sacrifices only in certain places (Deut. 12:1314) to keep them from corrupting the prescribed forms and to protect them from pagan religious influence. Disobedience to God’s requirements in this matter surely contributed to the decline under the next king, Amon (vv. 21–23), whose corruption his successor, Josiah, had to eliminate (34:3–7).

Psalm 85:9 salvation…who fear Him. Only those who renounce their sinful autonomy and put their complete trust in the living God will participate in the blessings of salvation and the future kingdom (John 3:3–5).glory may dwell in our land. The departure of the glory of God, which signified His presence, is described in Ezekiel 10; 11. He withdrew His glory because of the apostasy of the nation immediately preceding the Babylonian exile (Ezek. 8–11). The return of the glory of the Lord in the future millennial temple is foretold in Ezekiel 43:1–4.

Psalm 85:10 Mercy…truth…righteousness…peace. These 4 spiritual qualities, characterizing the atmosphere of the future kingdom of Christ, will relate to each other in perfect harmony and will saturate kingdom life (vv. 10, 13).

Acts 20:19 with many tears. Paul wept because of: 1) those who did not know Christ (Rom. 9:23); 2) struggling, immature believers (2 Cor. 2:4); and 3) the threat of false teachers (v. 29, 30). plotting of the Jews. Ironically, it was the plot of the Jews at Corinth that allowed the Ephesian elders this opportunity to spend time with Paul.

Acts 20:22 bound in the spirit. Paul’s deep sense of duty toward the Master who had redeemed him and called him to service drove him onward despite the threat of danger and hardship (v. 23).

Acts 20:23 Holy Spirit testifies. Paul knew he faced persecution in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:31), though he would not know the details until he heard Agabus’s prophecy (21:10, 11).Why should the church always be on guard?

Paul told the Ephesians that he had declared to them “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). The entire plan and purpose of God for man’s salvation in all its fullness: divine truths of creation, election, redemption, justification, adoption, conversion, sanctification, holy living, and glorification. And now that he was leaving, he gives them a warning.

False teachers were already plaguing the churches of Galatia (Gal. 1:6) and the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 11:4). “Take heed to yourselves” (v. 28), a warning that proved true by later events at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3–719206:2021Rev. 2:2). Paul repeated this call to self-examination to Timothy when his young son in the faith served as pastor of the Ephesian congregation (1 Tim. 4:162 Tim. 2:2021). The “overseers” are the same as elders and pastors. The word stresses the leaders’ responsibility to watch over and protect their congregations—an appropriate usage in the context of a warning against false teachers. Church rule, which minimizes the biblical authority of elders in favor of a cultural, democratic process, is foreign to the New Testament (1 Thess. 5:1213Heb. 13:17).

He warns of “savage wolves” (v. 29)—a term borrowed from Jesus (Matt. 7:1510:16). This metaphor stresses the extreme danger false teachers pose to the church. “From among yourselves” (v. 30). Even more deadly than attacks from outside the church are the defections of those (especially leaders) within the church (1 Tim. 1:202 Tim. 1:152:17Jude 3410–13). These wolves would speak “perverse things.” The Greek word means “distorted” or “twisted.” False teachers twist God’s Word for their own evil ends (13:102 Pet. 3:16).

“So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up” (v. 32). The Scriptures, the record of God’s gracious dealings with mankind, is the source of spiritual growth for all Christians. And since the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), its leaders must be familiar with that truth.

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Answered Prayer

“And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).

The answers to believers’ prayers bring assurance of salvation.

Another reliable way to know if you are a Christian is if God answers your prayers. The apostle John gives us the infallible reasoning for this statement. First, you can know your prayers will be answered if you keep His commandments (1 John 3:22). And second, John says the only way you can obey God’s commandments is if you belong to Him (v. 24). Therefore, an obedient believer proves He is abiding in Christ and receives further assurance when his prayers are answered.

However, the only prayers God answers are the ones prayed according to His will. If you are an obedient believer, you will fashion your prayers in line with what Scripture says about His will. The answered prayer that follows will bring you confidence and assurance (see 1 John 5:13-15).

Some believers miss out on that assurance because of their skimpy prayer life, which obviously results in few answered prayers. How sad for them, and how disappointing for God, because He would do so much more for those Christians if they would only ask Him.
What about you? Has it been a pattern of your life to experience answered prayer? Ask yourself questions like the following: Have you prayed for someone’s difficult situation and seen God turn it around to one of joy and blessing? Have you seen an unsaved person for whom you prayed come to Christ? Has God filled a void in your life after you prayed that He would? Have you ever prayed that God would help you in teaching His Word and then experienced much grace in presenting it with clarity? Have you prayed for boldness and power to proclaim the gospel and seen God work through you? Have you asked for contentment during a trial and received God’s peace? Have you known forgiveness and a clear conscience after you prayed to that end?

If you can answer yes to those questions or ones like them, you have good reason to believe that you belong to the Lord and He belongs to you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His power through prayer and for the answers He’s granted you.

For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 17:118:41-46.

  • What does the second passage reveal about Elijah’s prayer life?
  • How does that support James 5:16b-18?


Possessed by God

"You are . . . a people for God's own possession" (1 Pet. 2:9).

Since God paid the price to redeem you, you belong to Him.

When Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me" (John 10:14), He stated a truth that has been especially dear to me since the early years of my theological education. One of the pleasant memories from my seminary days is sitting in chapel and singing the hymn by the nineteenth-century lyricist Wade Robinson "I Am His and He Is Mine." I may never fully comprehend the depths of what it means to belong to Christ, but I will forever glory in it.

The Greek word translated "possession" in 1 Peter 2:9means "to purchase" or "acquire for a price." Paul used it in Ephesians 1:14 to speak of "the redemption of God's own possession." Everyone is His by creation, but we as Christians are uniquely His because He paid the price to redeem us from the bondage of sin and death.

God's ownership of believers is emphasized throughout Scripture. Paul admonished elders to "shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). He said to the Corinthians, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Titus 2:14 says that Christ "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem [or purchase] us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession."

Isaiah 43:21 says, "The people whom I formed for Myself, will declare My praise." That was to be Israel's purpose, and it is yours as well. God chose you as His own possession and gave His Son to purchase your salvation. You are His eternally, so live accordingly and rejoice in such a glorious privilege!

Suggestions for Prayer

Make it your practice to praise God abundantly for the privilege of belonging to Him.

For Further Study

Read John 10:1-33.

  • What characterizes the Good Shepherd?
  • What did Jesus claim about His relationship with God the Father?
  • How did the Jewish leaders react to His teaching?


Physical Healings and Spiritual Cleansing

“‘. . . as a testimony to them’” (Matthew 8:4).

Christ’s miraculous healings were significant in His earthly ministry. They displayed genuine concern for human need and testified that He was God. But several times Jesus stated, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:5–6; cf. Mark 2:9Luke 5:23). The healing miracles simply illustrated the cleansing of sin, which was Jesus’ primary purpose within God’s redemptive plan.

Curing leprosy was an especially powerful illustration, because its physical destructiveness parallels sin’s spiritual destructiveness. The Lord’s healing of leprosy restored people to human fellowship, just as His cleansing of sin restores them to divine fellowship.

The church today often fails to confront individuals with the horrible destructiveness of their sin. Instead of “coming to Christ” by making an emotional, feel-good decision, people need to realize their sins and bring them to God for cleansing. True conversion occurs when, like the leper, sinners confess their need and humbly seek His restoration. Like the leprous man, sinners flee to Christ as their only hope for rescue from their helpless condition of lostness.

Paralleling the healing again, Jesus’ first requirement for new converts is their obedience to His Word. Only after demonstrating a new life of righteousness can they give proper testimony to what the Savior has done.

Ask Yourself

Is it fair to say that sinfulness is often a precursor to sickness? There is certainly no universal answer to this question, but how can you use times of limitation, weakness, or confinement to let God examine your heart and deepen your desire to follow Him?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 30:6 return. The nation was required by law to annually celebrate 3 feasts in Jerusalem: 1) Passover; 2) Pentecost; and 3) Tabernacles (Ex. 23; Lev. 23; Num. 28; 29; Deut. 16). God would have returned to bless the people of the northern apostate and idolatrous kingdom of Israel if they had returned to Him.

2 Chronicles 30:1–27 Hezekiah reached back to restore the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover (Ex. 12:1–20Lev. 23:1–8), which apparently had not been properly and regularly observed in some time, perhaps since the division of the kingdom 215 years earlier (v. 5). The Passover would later be revived again by Josiah (2 Chr. 35:1–9) and Zerubbabel (Ezra 6:19–22). It celebrated God’s forgiveness and redemption of His believing people.

2 Chronicles 30:26 nothing like this. A telling statement about the spiritual degeneracy of the divided kingdom since the time of Solomon over 215 years earlier.

2 Chronicles 31:6 tithe. Since the priests and Levites served the nation, they were to be supported by the people through the taxation of the tithe. According to Leviticus 27:30–33 and Numbers 18:2124, the people were to give the tenth (tithe) to supply all the needs of the Levites. Malachi 3:8 says they were robbing God when they did not give the tithe. Deuteronomy 12:67called for a second tithe that was to support the nation’s devotion to the temple by being used for the national festivals at the temple in Jerusalem. This was called the festival tithe. Deuteronomy 14:2829 called for a third tithe every 3 years for the poor. The sum of this tax plan totaled about 23 percent annually.

Acts 20:3 three months. Most or all of it were likely spent in Corinth. Jews plotted against him. Tragically, most of the opposition to Paul’s ministry stemmed from his fellow countrymen (2 Cor. 11:26). The Jewish community of Corinth hated Paul because of its humiliating debacle before Gallio (18:12–17), and the stunning conversions of two of its most prominent leaders, Crispus (18:8) and Sosthenes (18:171 Cor. 1:1). Luke does not record the details of the Jews’ plot, but it undoubtedly involved murdering Paul during the voyage to Palestine. The apostle would have been an easy target on a small ship packed with Jewish pilgrims. Because of that danger, Paul canceled his plans to sail from Greece to Syria. Instead, he decided to go north into Macedonia, cross the Aegean Sea to Asia Minor, and catch another ship from there. That delay cost Paul his opportunity to reach Palestine in time for Passover, but he hurried to be there in time for Pentecost (v. 16).

Acts 20:9 young man. The Greek word suggests he was between 7 and 14 years old. His youth, the fumes from the lamps, and the lateness of the hour (v. 7) gradually overcame his resistance. He dozed off, fell out of the open window, and was killed.

Acts 20:10 his life is in him. This does not mean that he had not died, but that his life had been restored. As a physician, Luke knew whether someone had died, as he plainly states (v. 9) was the case with Eutychus.

Why did the church gather to worship on Sunday?

“Now on the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). Sunday was the day the church gathered for worship, because it was the day of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 28:1Mark 16:29Luke 24:1John 20:1191 Cor. 16:2). The writings of the early church fathers confirm that the church continued to meet on Sunday after the close of the New Testament period. Scripture does not require Christians to observe the Saturday Sabbath:

1. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 31:1617Neh. 9:14Ezek. 20:12), whereas Christians are under the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8);
2. there is no New Testament command to keep the Sabbath;
3. the first command to keep the Sabbath was not until the time of Moses (Ex. 20:8);
4. the Jerusalem Council (chap. 15) did not order Gentile believers to keep the Sabbath;
5. Paul never cautioned Christians about breaking the Sabbath; and
6. the New Testament explicitly teaches that Sabbath keeping was not a requirement (Rom. 14:5Gal. 4:1011Col. 2:1617).

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Love For Other Christian

“The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10).

Loving other Christians gives assurance to your own faith.

Loving fellow Christians is instinctive for genuine believers. Paul told the Thessalonians, “Now as to the love of the brethren . . . you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). He further encouraged them to “excel still more” in love (v. 10) because there is always room for believers to love one another more completely. Nevertheless, if we are truly saved we will show love, since love is inherent in our new nature (see Rom. 5:5).

Jesus said this about love among believers: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). If we are truly Christians, we will “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Love is a test of our divine life and signifies that we have crossed over from darkness to light (1 John 3:14-15).

The apostle John goes on to define love as being sacrificial and practical: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 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” (vv. 16-18).

Therefore, you should ask yourself some basic questions: Do you care about other believers, or are you cold and indifferent? How do you respond to opportunities to give of yourself in various ministries? Do you look forward to having fellowship with other Christians—talking with them, discussing the things of God, studying the Word together, and praying with them? When you encounter a friend at church who has a need, are you willing to provide money, time, prayer, resources, service, or even a sympathetic ear?

If you can answer yes to those questions, you have great reason to be assured of your salvation. Like Peter, you can appeal to the love God sees in your heart (John 21:17). That love won’t be perfect, but it’s there and will manifest itself to others.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that your love will grow stronger and be more consistent.

For Further Study

Read John 21:15-17.

  • What should Peter’s love result in?
  • How does Galatians 6:10 support that?


Set Apart for God

"You are . . . a holy nation" (1 Pet. 2:9).

Holiness involves the decreasing frequency of sin and the increasing frequency of righteousness.

Christians are a holy nation—a people set apart from sin and hell to an intimate relationship with God. Originally Israel was God's holy nation, but by unbelief she forfeited that privilege. Now the church, which consists of both Jew and Gentile, is His unique people, and will remain so until the nation of Israel repents and receives her Messiah at His return (Zech. 12:10).

Biblical holiness (sanctification) is often misunderstood, but it needn't be. When the Holy Spirit delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you into the kingdom of Christ, you became His special possession. That doesn't mean you're sinlessly perfect, but it does mean you're no longer a slave to sin, the devil, and death. That's positional sanctification. Practical sanctification is the decreasing frequency of sin and the increasing frequency of righteousness as you progress in your Christian walk.

Sanctification should not be confused with false standards of holiness, adopted by those who, like the Pharisees, attempt to be holy through external means; or, like the Stoics, have a passionless devotion to duty; or, like monks, isolate themselves from the world; or, like the quasi-Christian psychologists, replace sanctification with introspection, self-analysis, and improvement of one's self-image.

True holiness begins with a love for Christ Himself. That's what compels you toward greater sanctification. Peter said that you were "chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:1-2). Christ Himself became to you "wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). In Him you were saved, which is the beginning of sanctification, and in Him you have every resource necessary for progressing in holiness.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for your positional holiness in Christ, for by it you are perfect in His sight.
  • Thank Him for the Spirit's power in your life, which enables you to live in a manner pleasing to Him.

For Further Study

What do these passages say about sanctification: Acts 15:7- 91 Thessalonians 4:3Hebrews 10:14, and 1 Peter 1:15-16?


A Testimony to the Jews

“Jesus said to him, ‘See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them’” (Matthew 8:4).

Following times of greatest blessing and triumph, our Lord often tests us to see if our faith is obedient. In the case of the cleansed leper, Jesus commanded him to fulfill the ritual requirements of the law and let the priests attest to his healing (cf. Lev. 14). This responsibility had to precede any celebrations of his newfound health or telling others about his cure.

Perhaps Jesus told the man not to tell others of this healing so that people would not merely give adulation to Him as a miracle worker. Furthermore, He would not have wanted this event to encourage any speculation that He was a political deliverer. Christ was still in His period of humiliation, and any exaltation of Him by the crowd would have been premature within the Father’s plan.

However, the major reason for Jesus’ command to the healed man to respect the Mosaic requirements was to testify to the crowd, particularly the Jewish leaders. He blasted their hypocrisy, superficiality, and unscriptural methods, but He did not want to communicate that He had no regard for God’s law at all. When the priest declared the man healed—and the evidence would be obvious—it would allow Jesus’ miracle to be verified by the Jewish establishment. That would give added weight to His credibility as Messiah, as One who “did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17).

Ask Yourself

How would you describe your spiritual state after a season of great accomplishment or at the culmination of a long struggle that has ended in victory? Is this a time when you deliberately focus on the basics of Christian faith, or when you decide to take a break for a while?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 28:9 Oded. An otherwise unknown prophet, with the same name as an earlier Oded (15:1, 8). The prophet said that Israel had won the victory because God was judging Judah. But he protested the viciousness of the killing and the effort to enslave them (v. 10) and warned them of God’s wrath for such action (v. 11). Amazingly the apostate and hostile Israelites complied with the prophet’s warning (vv. 12–15).

2 Chronicles 29:3 first year…first month. Hezekiah addressed the spiritual problems first, which reflected his life priorities. Hezekiah correctly diagnosed Judah’s ills—she had abandoned the true worship of God. So the king stepped in to reverse the policy of his father (28:22–25) and to repair the temple and return proper temple worship as God had prescribed in His Word (vv. 3–7). He knew such a revival of devotion to God would turn God’s wrath away from Judah (v. 10).

Psalm 84:9 behold our shield. A metaphor for the king, who also would have participated in a festival at the temple (Ps. 47:9Hos. 4:18). the face of Your anointed. The king is regularly described as God’s “anointed” (Pss. 2:218:5020:628:889:3851). The psalmist thus prays that God would look upon the king with favor, blessing his reign with prosperity.

Acts 19:21 I must also see Rome. Paul had not visited the Imperial capital; but because of the strategic importance of the church there, he could stay away no longer. In addition, Paul intended to use Rome as a jumping-off point for ministry in the strategic region of Spain (Rom.15:22–24).This simple declaration marked a turning point in Acts—from this point on, Rome became Paul’s goal. He would ultimately arrive there as a Roman prisoner (28:16).

Acts 19:31 officials of Asia. Known by the title “Asiarchs,” these members of the aristocracy were dedicated to promoting Roman interests. Though only one Asiarch ruled at a time, they bore the title for life. That such powerful, influential men were Paul’s friends shows that they did not regard him or his message as criminal. Hence, there was no legitimate cause for the riot.

Acts 19:33 Alexander. Probably not the false teacher later active at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:20) or the individual who opposed Paul at Rome (2 Tim. 4:14), since the name was common. He was either a Christian Jew or a spokesman for Ephesus’s Jewish community. Either way, the Jews’ motive for putting him forward was the same—to disassociate themselves from the Christians and avoid a massacre of the Jews. make his defense. Either of the Christians, or the Jews, depending on which group he represented.

DAY 16: How profound an impact can the gospel have on a society?

Reading Acts 19:1–20, it is clear that the gospel made a tremendous impact on Ephesus. Paul’s two years of ministry here along with “unusual miracles,” the very public deliverance of a man from an evil spirit, and burning of magic books had left there mark. “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (v. 20).

So much so that Demetrius, a silversmith, took action against them. He was a maker of “silver shrines of Diana” (v. 24), the goddess Diana (also known as Artemis). These shrines were used as household idols and in the worship at the temple of Diana. Worship of her, centered at the great temple of Diana at Ephesus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), was widespread throughout the Roman Empire. It is likely that the riot described in this passage took place during the annual spring festival held in her honor at Ephesus. The statement “brought no small profit” suggests Demetrius may have been the head of the silversmiths’ guild—which would explain his taking the lead in opposing the Christian preachers.

Demetrius cleverly played upon his hearers’ fears of financial ruin, religious zeal, and concern for their city’s prestige. The Christian preachers, he argued, threatened the continued prosperity of Ephesus. His audience’s violent reaction shows they took the threat seriously (v. 28). That was the impact of the gospel on their daily lives. The frenzied mob gathered in the theater clearly threatened the lives of Gaius and Aristarchus because of their role in the delivery of the Christian message.

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A Decreasing Frequency of Sin

“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).

A decreasing pattern of sin in a believer’s life means his faith is genuine.

A sinful life pattern is incompatible with salvation. If you could continue in the same sinful pattern after being saved from sin, that would mean salvation is ineffective. Therefore, 1 John 3 deals with the saving work of Christ and reveals just how effective it is.

Verse 5 says Christ “appeared in order to take away sins.” If you say someone who has had the work of Christ applied to him is continuing in sin just as before, you are denying the purpose for which Christ came. He died to take away the pattern of sin as well as the penalty.

Therefore, if you are truly a believer you will relate to God in a totally new way, because the Christian “abides in Him” (v. 6). You are no longer a perpetual slave to sin, but you now have the option and ability to do good (see Rom. 6:1417-18). You will always be acutely sensitive to sin (Rom. 7; 1 John 1:8-9); yet, because of Christ’s abiding in you, your struggle will decrease over the years, and sin will be less and less a pattern in your life.

That brings us to 1 John 3:9, which is a reminder that believers have been born anew by the Holy Spirit. Your new nature or new disposition of life is the “seed” verse 9 speaks of. Just as the seed of a plant, when placed in the soil, produces a distinct kind of life, the divine seed produces a righteous life in you that ends sin’s dominance. And that seed will never die—1 Peter 1:23says it is “imperishable.”

What does all this mean to you if you’re a genuine believer? It means you will see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life because you now have holy affections. It doesn’t mean sin will be eliminated, because your unredeemed flesh is still present. It means the more you practice righteousness—with its right motives, right desires, right words, and right actions—the less you sin, and the more you can be assured you’re a child of God.

Suggestions for Prayer

If there is a frequent sin you struggle with, ask God to help you defeat it.

For Further Study

Record at least five truths contained in Romans 6:1-11. How do they help give victory over sin?


Sharing Christ's Dominion

"You are . . . a royal priesthood" (1 Pet. 2:9).

Christians serve the King and will someday reign with Him in His Kingdom.

In Exodus 19:5-6 God says to Israel, "If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples . . . and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." They were to be both priests and royalty, but they violated the covenant and forfeited those privileges. Now, according to Peter, Christians are the royal priesthood of God.

The Greek word translated "royal" in 1 Peter 2:9 was used of a royal palace, sovereignty, crown, or monarchy. In this context it refers to royalty in general. We speak of the royal house of England or France, meaning not a building but a sphere of dominion. So it is with God's spiritual house (v. 5). Believers serve the King and will also reign with Him in His sphere of dominion.

That is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture. In the book of Revelation we read, "Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth" (Rev. 5:10); and, "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him" (Rev. 20:6).

Your royal position has some practical implications for the way you live each day. For example, when dealing with the problem of litigation among Christians, Paul said: "Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life?" (1 Cor. 6:1-3).

Never forget who you are in Christ, and don't let sin or the world distract you from your priestly role.

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize 1 Timothy 4:12. Ask God to make you a better example of one who represents His royal priesthood.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 14:18-20 and Hebrews 7:1-17. Who was Melchizedek and what was unique about his priesthood?


Jesus’ Touch and Instantaneous Healing

“Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:3).

The Mosaic law forbade the Jews from touching lepers, because they were unclean (Lev. 5:3) and would expose healthy people to ceremonial and physical contamination. But lepers, in their social ostracism, yearned for even a brief, up-close contact with another person besides a fellow leper.

Jesus could have healed this man with just a single word, but He made a point of touching him. This action was truly amazing—not in a spectacular, sensational manner, but simply because the Son of Man would lovingly reach out and reach down to touch an outcast of outcasts as no one else would.

The Lord bestowed instantaneous healing: “immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” When He touched the man’s defiled body, his disease simply disappeared. (Christ could have chosen to heal in stages, as He sometimes did [Mark 8:22–26John 9:6–7], but there was no necessity to do so.) The picture for the eyewitnesses would have been dramatic. A bent-over, withered derelict, with skin ravaged by scaly, ugly sores, would suddenly stand up. His limbs were now perfectly normal, his face smooth and unscarred, his eyes clear and bright, and his voice strong and confident.

Modern medical science, with all its wonderful expertise and abilities to cure, can never equal the miraculous restoration Jesus provided.

Ask Yourself

Are there certain people you are wary of touching—either by physical embrace or even eye contact? What gives us the right of being too good or polished or educated or privileged to look lovingly into the face of another, to offer ourselves and our acceptance?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 25:7 man of God. This is a technical term used about 70 times in the Old Testament, always referring to one who spoke for God. He warned Amaziah not to make idolatrous Israel his ally because the Lord was not with Ephraim, i.e., Israel, the capital of idolatry.

2 Chronicles 25:8 God has power. The man of God reminded the king sarcastically that he would need to be strong, since God wouldn’t help.

2 Chronicles 25:14–16 Amaziah did the unthinkable from both a biblical and political perspective—he embraced the false gods of the people whom he had just defeated. Perhaps he did this because he was seduced by the wicked pleasures of idolatry and because he thought it would help him in assuring no future threat from Edom. However, it only brought destruction to the king, who just wanted to silence the voice of God.

Acts 19:13 itinerant Jewish exorcists. Simon Magus (8:9–25) and Bar-Jesus (13:6–12) were other possible examples of such charlatans (Matt. 12:27). In contrast to the absolute authority exercised by Jesus and the apostles over demons, those exorcists sought to expel the demons by attempting to call on a more potent spirit being—in this case the Lord Jesus.

Acts 19:15 Jesus…Paul I know. Recognizing that the exorcists had no authority over him (unlike Jesus and Paul), the demon rejected their attempt to expel him from his victim. This confirms that the power to cast out demons belonged to Jesus and the apostles and no one else. Even the demons give testimony to that.

Acts 19:19 books. Of secret magical spells. Burning them proved the genuineness of the magicians’ repentance. Having destroyed these books, they could not easily resume their practices. fifty thousand pieces of silver. Fifty thousand days’ wages for a common laborer—an astonishing sum of money given to indicate how widespread the practice of magic was in Ephesus.

DAY 15: How could the “disciples” of Acts 19:1 not have received the Holy Spirit?

Coming to Ephesus, Paul found “some disciples.” They were of John the Baptist (v. 3), hence Old Testament seekers. That they did not yet fully understand the Christian faith is evident from their reply to Paul’s question (v. 2). The word “disciple” means “learner,” or “follower,” and does not always refer to Christians (Matt. 9:1411:2;Mark 2:18Luke 5:337:181911:1John 1:356:66). Followers of John the Baptist, like this group, existed into the second century.

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (v. 2). The question reflects Paul’s uncertainty about their spiritual status. Since all Christians receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation, their answer revealed they were not yet fully Christians. They had not yet received Christian baptism (having been baptized only “into John’s baptism”), which further evidenced that they were not Christians. These disciples did not realize Jesus of Nazareth was the One to whom John’s baptism pointed. Paul gave them instruction not on how to receive the Spirit, but about Jesus Christ. “They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 5). They believed Paul’s presentation of the gospel and came to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (2:41). Although required of all Christians, baptism does not save.

Then “Paul…laid hands on them” (v. 6). This signified their inclusion into the church. Apostles were also present when the church was born (chap. 2), and when the Samaritans (chap. 8) and Gentiles (chap. 10) were included. In each case, God’s purpose was to emphasize the unity of the church. And they “spoke with tongues and prophesied.” This served as proof that they were part of the church. They also needed tangible evidence that the Holy Spirit now indwelt them, since they had not heard that He had come (v. 2).

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Anticipation of Christ's Return?

“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

True Christians long for the return of their King.

The words of the old hymn, “This world is not my home,” express the attitude of every true child of God. True Christians have a hope in their heart, a hope focused on the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like the apostle Paul, we long to be set “free from the body of this death” (Rom. 7:24); we “groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). We long for the day when “just as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49).

Our hope is a sanctifying one. John writes, “Every one who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3), while Paul reminded Titus that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:11-13). Our hope is a sensible one, leading to godly, responsible living. It does not justify careless living (2 Thess. 3:6-15); there is no such thing as someone who is so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good.

Do you find yourself longing for Christ to return and “transform the body of [your] humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21)? If so, take heart. That’s another evidence that your salvation is genuine.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray with the apostle John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

For Further Study

In Philippians 3:20 Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven,” while in Colossians 3:1-2 the apostle commands us to focus on heavenly things. Where is your focus? What do you spend your time on? Rearrange your priorities and schedule to give first place to eternal realities.


Elect in Christ

"You are a chosen race" (1 Pet. 2:9).

Election is the spiritual privilege from which all others flow.

Unlike those who are destined to destruction because of their rejection of Christ (1 Pet. 2:8), Christians are an elect race of people, bound together by God's redeeming grace. That's cause for great celebration!

First Peter 2:9 is an allusion to Deuteronomy 7:6-9, which says, "You are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God."

Like Israel, the church is the redeemed community of God, "chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit" (1 Pet. 1:1- 2). Before the foundation of the world, God placed His love on you, then brought you into His kingdom by granting you saving grace. That's the doctrine of election.

Many people misunderstand election, but it's a wonderful doctrine that brings marvelous benefits. It exalts God by demonstrating His love and grace toward miserable sinners. It eliminates pride by affirming that you are totally dependent on God's grace. It should promote such gratitude in your heart that you long to live in holiness and serve Him at any price. It should also give you joy and strength, knowing that God will never let you go and His purposes will be accomplished in you. You can face any challenge with utmost confidence in His provisions.

Rejoice in your election. Worship God and yield to His Spirit's leading so His choice of you will be evident to all who know you.

Suggestions for Prayer

What has the spiritual privilege of being chosen by God meant in your life? Express your answer to God in prayer, thanking Him for His wondrous grace.

For Further Study

Read Romans 5. What benefits of election does Paul mention?


Jesus and the Leper, Part 2

“When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean’” (Matthew 8:1–2).

Several more striking features marked the leper who came to Jesus. The man came expectantly but not demandingly, therefore he approached the Lord with humility. It’s clear he wanted to be healed, but he did not explicitly ask Jesus for this miraculous favor. That was almost too much for the leper to presume, hence his statement, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” What a contrast to the attitude of those in some religious circles today who boastfully claim divine healing as if God should automatically grant it.

The leprous man also came in sincere faith—one that displays the firm conviction that God is able to work on our behalf, but yet a conviction accompanied by submission to His sovereign will. He knew that although Jesus was able to instantly cure his leprosy, He was not obligated. The man’s faith was much like that of Daniel’s friends who told the king, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan. 3:17–18). In the same way, the leper would also accept whatever outcome Jesus provided.

Ask Yourself

“Expectantly but not demandingly.” How would this posture change the way you’re currently praying over a pressing matter—not by discounting faith and being guilty of doubt and double-mindedness, but by boldly placing yourself and others under Christ’s capable safekeeping?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 23:3 as the LORD…said. This is one of the most dramatic moments in messianic history. The human offspring of David have been reduced to one—Joash. If he had died, there would have been no human heir to the Davidic throne, and it would have meant the destruction of the line of the Messiah. However, God remedied the situation by providentially protecting Joash (2 Chr. 22:10–12) and eliminating Athaliah (1 Chr. 23:12–21).

2 Chronicles 24:15,16 Jehoiada. This man was the high priest of Athaliah’s and Joash’s reigns (2 Chr. 23:1–24:16), who championed God’s cause of righteousness during days of evil by: 1) leading the fight against idols; 2) permitting the coup against Athaliah; and 3) granting the throne to Joash to bring about the subsequent revival.

Psalm 83:18 know…Most High. The purpose of the maledictions against the hostile nations is neither personal nor national, but spiritual: that the nations may know and glorify God. whose name alone is the LORD. “Alone” should precede “are” in the next phrase. The Gentile nations need to know that the God of the Bible is the only God.

Acts 18:1 Corinth. The leading political and commercial center in Greece. It was located at a strategic point on the isthmus of Corinth, which connected the Peloponnesian peninsula with the rest of Greece. Virtually all traffic between northern and southern Greece had to pass through the city. Because Corinth was a trade center and host to all sorts of travelers, it had an unsettled population that was extremely debauched. It also housed the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. One thousand temple priestesses, who were ritual prostitutes, came each evening into the city to practice their trade.

Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue. The conversion of this respected leader must have sent shock waves throughout the Jewish community.

Acts 18:13 contrary to the law. While Judaism was not an official religion, it was officially tolerated in the Roman world, and Christianity was viewed as a sect of Judaism. The Jews in Corinth claimed that Paul’s teaching was external to Judaism and therefore should be banned. Had Gallio ruled in the Jews’ favor, Christianity could have been outlawed throughout the empire.

DAY 14: How did Aquila and Priscilla help Apollos?

In Acts 18:24, Apollos came to Ephesus and clearly was an Old Testament saint and follower of John the Baptist (v. 25). He came from Alexandria, an important city in Egypt located near the mouth of the Nile. In the first century, it had a large Jewish population. Thus Apollos, though born outside of Israel, was reared in a Jewish cultural setting. It states that he was “mighty in the Scriptures,” referring to Apollos’s knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures. That knowledge, combined with his eloquence, allowed him to crush his Jewish opponents in a later debate (v. 28).

He had been instructed in “the way of the Lord” (v. 25).This did not include the Christian faith (v. 26). The Old Testament uses the phrase to describe the spiritual and moral standards God required His people to observe. “He knew only the baptism of John.” Despite his knowledge of the Old Testament, Apollos did not fully understand Christian truth. John’s baptism was to prepare Israel for the Messiah’s arrival. Apollos accepted that message, even acknowledging that Jesus of Nazareth was Israel’s Messiah. He did not, however, understand such basic Christian truths as the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the church as God’s new witness people. He was a redeemed Old Testament believer (v. 24).

Fortunately, Aquila and Priscilla completed Apollos’s training in divine truth by instructing him in the fullness of the Christian faith (v. 26).After further instruction, he became a powerful Christian preacher. His ministry profoundly influenced the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:12). Aquila and Priscilla were a husband and wife team who became Paul’s close friends and even risked their lives for him (Rom. 16:34).

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Rejection of the World

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

Genuine believers love God and reject the world and all its philosophies.

As the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), Satan has designed a system that the Bible simply calls “the world.” The Greek term (kosmos) refers to a system encompassing false religion, errant philosophy, crime, immorality, materialism, and the like. Of it the apostle John wrote, “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17). While the world and its fleshly preoccupations are but temporary realities, the true believer has eternal life and will abide forever.

When someone becomes a Christian, he acquires a new set of goals and motivations; the world and its lusts no longer attract but repel him. He no longer loves “the world, nor the things in the world” (v. 15). At times he may be lured into worldly pursuits, but he is doing not what he loves but what he hates (cf. Rom. 7:15). That’s because new life in Christ gives the believer a love for God and the things of God.

Jesus said those who follow Him are not of the world, just as He was not of the world. We still move about in it to do His will, but we are not of it. That’s why Jesus specifically asked the Father to keep us from the evil one (John 17:14-16). We’re vulnerable to being sucked into this evil world’s system now and then, but our love is toward God. That love is what will redirect our focus toward heavenly priorities.

Do you reject the world and its false religions, damning ideologies, and godless pursuits? Instead, do you love God, His truth, His kingdom, and all that He stands for? If you reject the world and its devilish desires, that is a strong indication you have new life in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to reveal to you ways you may still be clinging to the world. When He does, sever those connections.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 4:4Ephesians 2:1-3; and James 4:4. What is Satan’s ultimate goal in pulling people into his system?


Rejecting Christ

"For those who disbelieve, 'the stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,' and, 'a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense'; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed" (1 Pet. 2:7-8).

Rejecting Christ leads to spiritual damnation.

Israel was a unique nation, chosen by God to be the guardian of His Word and proclaimer of His kingdom. The Old Testament records His miraculous and providential care for her throughout the centuries, and the prophets told of One who would come as her great Deliverer. Israel eagerly awaited the promised Messiah.

But the story has a surprise ending. In the Person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah finally came and presented Himself to Israel. The religious leaders examined Him carefully, measuring Him in every way they could. But He didn't fit their blueprint. They expected a reigning political Messiah who would instantly deliver them from Roman oppression. They felt no need for a spiritual deliverer, so they rejected Him and tossed Him aside like a worthless rock.

That rejected cornerstone is precious to believers but remains a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to unbelievers. A "stone of stumbling" was a stone on which someone tripped while walking along the road. A "rock of offense" was a rock large enough to crush a person. The point: rejecting Christ brings spiritual devastation of enormous proportions.

All who reject Christ do so because they are disobedient to the Word. Rebellion against the written Word inevitably leads to rejection of the living Word. Of such people Peter said, "To this doom they were also appointed" (v. 8). They weren't appointed to reject Christ, but to receive the judgment that their rejection demands. That's a frightening reality that should motivate you to take every opportunity to evangelize the lost.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you have family or friends who are rejecting Christ, pray for them often, asking God to grant them saving faith.

For Further Study

Read Romans 9:30-10:17, noting Israel's false standard of righteousness and Paul's prayer for her salvation.


Jesus and the Leper, Part 1

“When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean’” (Matthew 8:1–2).

Leprosy was a most feared and contagious disease in the ancient world. Spongy, tumor-like swellings grew on the face and body, and eventually leprosy affected the internal organs and bones.

In ancient Israel lepers were vivid object lessons regarding sin. Like leprosy, sin infects the entire person (cf. Eph. 2:1) and is ugly, corrupting—incurable without extraordinary means.

Several things stand out about the leper who came to Jesus for healing. First, he came to Him with confidence. He obviously sensed Jesus’ love and tenderness and somehow knew the Lord did not mind associating with him. The leper’s primary concern was his tremendous need and Christ’s all-sufficient ability and willingness to meet it.

Second, the leprous man approached Jesus with reverence. His boldness in calling out to Jesus and coming near derived not from presumption but from humble adoration. The word rendered “bowed down” means to prostrate oneself and is also translated “worship” in the New Testament (cf. Acts 7:43Rev. 4:10). The leper’s attitude suggests he addressed Jesus as Lord, not simply as “sir” but in recognition of His deity. He knew that as God’s Son, Jesus could heal his horrible disease.

Ironically, this man is a striking contrast to the Jewish leaders. They were always clean and lavishly attired, but inwardly were corrupt and unbelieving. The man with leprosy, on the other hand, was outwardly repulsive in appearance, but inwardly he was worshipful and full of sincere faith.

Ask Yourself

Noting the analogy between sin and leprosy, imagine if sin’s effects actually did show themselves on our faces and skin. How would this affect our behavior and obedience? What does that tell us about the deceitfulness of sin and how to counteract it?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 21:11 led Judah astray. Undoubtedly he was influenced by his marriage to Ahab’s daughter (v. 6) and was influenced in the alliance just like his father (2 Chr. 18:1). They had not learned from Solomon’s sinful example (1 Kin. 11:34). His wicked wife, Athaliah, later became ruler over Judah and tried to wipe out David’s royal line (2 Chr. 22:10).

2 Chronicles 21:12–15 Elijah, best known for his confrontations with Israel’s Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kin.17–2 Kin. 2:11), confronted prophetically Jehoram’s sins of idolatry and murder (21:13). The consequences from God’s judgment extended beyond himself to his family and the nation (21:14,15). This event undoubtedly occurred in the early years of Jehoram’s coregency with his father Jehoshaphat and shortly before Elijah’s departure to heaven, ca. 848 B.C. (2 Kin. 2:1112).

Psalm 83:4 cut them off. The hostile nations, under Satan’s influence, repudiated God’s promise to preserve forever the nation of Israel (Gen. 17:78Ps. 89:34–37).

Acts 17:18 Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Epicurean philosophy taught that the chief end of man was the avoidance of pain. Epicureans were materialists—they did not deny the existence of God, but they believed He did not become involved with the affairs of men. When a person died, they believed his body and soul disintegrated. Stoic philosophy taught selfmastery—that the goal in life was to reach a place of indifference to pleasure or pain. babbler. Literally, “seed picker.” Some of the philosophers viewed Paul as an amateur philosopher—one who had no ideas of his own but only picked among prevailing philosophies and constructed one with no depth.

Acts 17:28 in Him we live and move and have our being. A quote from the Cretan poet Epimenides.

Acts 17:29 the offspring of God. A quote from Aratus, who came from Paul’s home region of Cilicia. not…like gold or silver. If man is the offspring of God, as the Greek poet suggested, it is foolish to think that God could be nothing more than a man-made idol. Such reasoning points out the absurdity of idolatry (Is.44:9–20).

DAY 13: How did Paul address the philosophers of Athens?

In preaching to them Jesus and the resurrection, Paul was brought to the Areopagus (Acts 17:19). This was a court named for the hill on which it once met. Paul was not being formally tried; only being asked to defend his teaching.

Paul immediately mentioned the inscription on one other object of worship: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. The Athenians were supernaturalists—they believed in supernatural powers that intervened in the course of natural laws. They at least acknowledged the existence of someone beyond their ability to understand who had made all things. Paul thus had the opportunity to introduce them to the Creator-God who could be known. When evangelizing pagans, Paul started from creation, the general revelation of God (14:15–17). When evangelizing Jews, he started from the Old Testament (vv. 10–13).

Declaring to them the “God, who made the world” (v. 24) flatly contradicted both the Epicureans, who believed matter was eternal and therefore had no creator, and the Stoics, who as pantheists believed God was part of everything and could not have created Himself. And adding that “He has made from one blood every nation of men” (v. 26) also confronted them directly. All men are equal in God’s sight since all came from one man, Adam. This teaching was a blow to the national pride of the Greeks, who believed all non-Greeks were barbarians. “And has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” God sovereignly controls the rise and fall of nations and empires (Dan. 2:36–45Luke 21:24). God is responsible for establishing nations as to their racial identity and their specific geographical locations (Deut. 32:8) and determining the extent of their conquests (Is. 10:12–15).

God’s objective for man in revealing Himself as the creator, ruler, and controller of the world was that they “should seek the Lord” (v. 27). Men have no excuse for not knowing about God because He has revealed Himself in man’s conscience and in the physical world (Rom. 1:19202:15).

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Obedience to God's Word

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3).

True believers obey God’s commandments.

Before Jesus ascended to Heaven after His resurrection, He gave the following Great Commission to His disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Notice that a true disciple was to observe, or obey, all of Christ’s commands.

The apostle John understood well the Lord’s instruction. He knew that obedience to the commands of God produces assurance—the confidence of knowing for sure “that we have come to know Him” (1 John 2:3). The Greek word for “keep” in that verse refers to watchful, careful, thoughtful obedience. It is not an obedience that is only the result of external pressure; it is the eager obedience of one who “keeps” the divine commandments as if they were something precious to guard. Such obedience is motivated by love, as John indicates in verse 5: “Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.” That’s supported by the word translated “commandments,” which refers specifically to the precepts of Christ rather than laws in general. Legal obedience demands perfection or penalty, while 1 John 2:3 is a call to gracious obedience because of the penalty Christ has already paid.

However, those who claim to know God and yet despise His commandments John calls liars: “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (v. 4). “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16).

How can you determine if you are a true Christian? Not by sentiment, but by obedience. If you desire to obey God out of gratitude for all Christ has done for you, and if you see that desire producing an overall pattern of obedience, you have passed an important test indicating the presence of saving faith.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you have found your obedience is predicated more on the act of obedience than on gratitude for God, confess that now and seek to change your attitude.

For Further Study

Memorize 1 Samuel 15:22 as motivation for the right spirit of obedience.


Loving Christ

"This precious value, then, is for you who believe" (1 Pet. 2:7).

Love for Christ is the primary characteristic of a true believer.

First Peter 2:7 speaks of the believer's affection for Christ as contrasted to an unbeliever's rejection of Him. The first part of that verse could be translated, "To you who believe, He is precious." "Precious" means "valuable," "costly," "without equal," or "irreplaceable." Christ is all that, but only believers recognize His supreme value and regard Him with affection.

Affection for Christ is the bottom-line characteristic of true believers. Believing in Him and loving Him are inseparable. In John 16:27 Jesus says, "The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed." In Matthew 10:37 He says, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." Believers have a compelling and surpassing love for Christ.

To His antagonists Jesus declared, "If God were your Father, you would love Me" (John 8:42). Anyone who truly loves God will love Christ. Those antagonists claimed to be children of God, but their deception was revealed when they tried to kill Jesus for preaching God's truth. They were in fact children of the devil (v. 44).

In John 14 Jesus adds, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. . . . He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him. . . . If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words" (vv. 15, 21, 23- 24).

Many people are confused about what it means to be a Christian. But you have the privilege of clarifying the issue as you esteem Christ highly, love Him deeply, and demonstrate your love by obeying His Word. May God bless you richly as you pursue that goal today.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you opportunities to demonstrate Christ's love in specific ways to those around you.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 4:7-5:3.

  • How did John characterize God?
  • What affect should your love for God have on your relationships with others?
  • How did John define love?


Response to the Greatest Sermon

“When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28–29).

The response to the best and most astounding preaching ever—the Sermon on the Mount—was in itself very remarkable. Likely some among our Lord’s audience that day believed in Him for salvation. But quite probably the number converted was small, affirming Jesus’ assertion about the narrow gate: “there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:14).

The verb translated “were amazed” means to be struck out of oneself, or to be beside oneself with astonishment. The crowd was utterly flabbergasted by the power, comprehensiveness, and extraordinary insight of Christ’s words. Never had people heard such a penetrating description of true righteousness or such a relentless condemnation of self-righteousness.

Even more remarkable is the way Jesus spoke with a power (“authority”) that proved and reflected His sovereignty. Unlike the Jewish teachers, who quoted the rabbis words and additional sacred writings, He quoted only Scripture and spoke as the final authority on truth.

The Sermon on the Mount is important for everyone to hear. But the response to it must not conclude with mere amazement but real, saving faith. If we have read it and meditated upon its instructions and imperatives, we also need to move from astonishment to obedience. Such obedience entails moving from intellectual knowledge of the narrow gate and way to actually entering the gate by faith and following the way to eternal life.

Ask Yourself

Think back on the many lessons taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Which have struck you with new force? Which are your children in greatest need of hearing? Don’t let His Word grow quiet within you.


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 19:1–3 Having faced possible death that was diverted by God (18:31), Jehoshaphat was rebuked because of his alliances. The prophet condemned the king’s alliance with God’s enemy, Ahab (1 Kin. 22:2), yet there was mercy mingled with wrath because of the king’s concern personally and nationally for the true worship of God.

Psalm 82:1 congregation of the mighty. The scene opens with God having called the world leaders together. among the gods. Some have taken this psalm to be about demons or false pagan gods. The best interpretation is that these “gods” are human leaders, such as judges, kings, legislators, and presidents (Ex. 22:8928Judg. 5:89).God the Great Judge presides over these lesser judges.

Psalm 82:6 I said. Kings and judges are set up ultimately by the decree of God (Ps. 2:6). God, in effect, invests His authority in human leaders for the stability of the universe (Rom. 13:1–7). But God may revoke this authority (v. 7). “You are gods.” Jesus, in quoting this phrase in John 10:34, supported the interpretation that the “gods” were human beings. In a play on words, He claims that if human leaders can be called “gods,” certainly the Messiah can be called God.

Psalm 82:8 You shall inherit all nations. The psalmist prayerfully anticipates the future when God will set up His kingdom and restore order and perfect justice to a sin-cursed world (Pss.96; 97; Is.11:1–5).

Acts 17:7 contrary to the decrees of Caesar. One of the most serious crimes in the Roman Empire was to acknowledge allegiance to any king but Caesar (John 19:15).

Acts 17:15 Athens. The cultural center of Greece. At its zenith, Athens was home to the most renowned philosophers in history, including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, who was arguably the most influential philosopher of all. Two other significant philosophers taught there: Epicurus, founder of Epicureanism, and Zeno, founder of Stoicism—two of the dominant philosophies in that day (v. 18).

DAY 12: How did Jehoshaphat express his faith in the face of adversity?

Second Chronicles 20:1–30 is one of the great stories of faith in the Old Testament. Attacked by a great multitude from Moab and Ammon, Jehoshaphat made the appropriate spiritual response, i.e., the king and the nation appealed to God in prayer and fasting. The fast was national, including even the children (v. 13). Jehoshaphat stood in the redecorated center court praying for the nation, appealing to the promises, the glory, and the reputation of God which were at stake since He was identified with Judah (vv. 5–12). In his prayer he acknowledged God’s sovereignty (v. 6), God’s covenant (v. 7), God’s presence (vv. 8, 9), God’s goodness (v. 10), God’s possession (v. 11), and their utter dependence on Him (v. 12).

The Lord responded immediately, sending a message of confidence through the prophet Jahaziel. “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them…. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD” (v. 15–17).

Here was the praise of faith (vv. 18–21). They were confident enough in God’s promise of victory to begin the praise before the battle was won. So great was their trust that the choir marched in front of the army, singing psalms. People were appointed who should “praise the beauty of holiness” (v. 21). The Lord is beautiful in holiness (Ex. 15:11Ps. 27:4), but the text here would better be translated “in holy attire,” which was referring to the manner in which the Levite singers were clothed in symbolic sacred clothing (1 Chr. 16:29) in honor of the Lord’s holiness.

Similar to God’s intervention in Gideon’s day (Judg. 7:15–23), God caused confusion among the enemy, who mistakenly turned upon themselves and slaughtered each other (vv. 22–24). Some think this may have been done by angels who appeared and set off this uncontrolled and deadly panic. The destruction was complete before Jehoshaphat and his army ever met the enemy (v. 24).

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A Sensitivity to Sin

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:6-10).

True believers are sensitive to their sin and confess it.

Throughout Scripture, light is used as a metaphor for truth—both intellectual and moral truth (cf. Ps. 119:105130Prov. 6:23). When the apostle John writes, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), he is stating that the Lord is absolutely sinless since light and darkness cannot coexist.

Some claim to have fellowship with God (v. 6), to have no sin (v. 8), and even to have never sinned (v. 10). But they are living in darkness; it is characteristic of unbelievers to be oblivious to the sins in their lives. But that is not true of genuine believers. They have a right sense of sin: they “walk in the light as He Himself is in the light” (v. 7), and they “confess [their] sins” (v. 9). True believers know that if they want to commune with God, they need to confess their sins and turn to Christ as their “Advocate” before God (2:1).

The apostle Paul was very sensitive to the sinful realities of his life (Rom. 7:14-25). What about you? Are you aware of the spiritual battle raging within you? Do you realize you must live a holy life to have fellowship with God? Are you willing to confess and forsake any sin in your life? Do you realize you can choose not to sin? Are you weary of doing battle with the sin in your life (cf. Rom. 7:24)? If these things are true of you, rejoice in the assurance of your salvation.

Suggestions for Prayer

Confess any known sin to God right now, then forsake it.

For Further Study

Read Romans 7:14-25.

  • Make a list of all the ways Paul was sensitive to his sin.
  • How many of those can you relate to?
  • How should you respond?


Security in Christ

"This is contained in Scripture: 'Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed'" (1 Pet. 2:6).

Christ is the fulfillment of all Messianic promises, and in Him you are eternally secure.

First Peter 2:6 is a paraphrase of Isaiah 28:16, which says, "Thus says the Lord God, 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.'" Isaiah was speaking of the Messiah—the coming Christ of God. Peter, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, applied Isaiah's prophecy to Jesus.

In Isaiah's prophecy, "Zion" refers to Jerusalem, which stands atop Mount Zion. Mount Zion is sometimes used figuratively in Scripture to refer to the New Covenant of grace, whereas Mount Sinai represents the Old Covenant of law. Isaiah was saying that God would establish the Messiah as the cornerstone of His New Covenant Temple, the church.

The analogy of believers as stones and Christ as the cornerstone would have great meaning for the Jewish people. When the Temple in Jerusalem was built, the stones used in its construction were selected, cut, and shaped in the stone quarry according to precise plans (1 Kings 6:7). Only then were they taken to the building site and set into place. The most important stone was the cornerstone, to which the various angles of the building had to conform.

God used a similar process to build His New Covenant Temple. Its stones (individual believers) are elect and shaped by the Holy Spirit to fit into God's master plan for the church. Jesus Himself is the precious cornerstone, specially chosen and prepared by the Father to be the standard to which all others conform. He is the fulfillment of all Messianic promises, and the One in whom you can trust without fear of disappointment. That means you are secure in Him!

Live today in the confidence that Christ cannot fail. He will always accomplish His purposes.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for keeping His promises and for giving you security in Christ.

For Further Study

Read Galatians 4:21-31.

  • Who was the bondwoman and what did she represent?
  • To whom did Paul liken believers?


Differences in Withstanding the Storm

“‘The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. . . . The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against the house; and it fell—and great was its fall’” (Matthew 7:2527).

Everyone’s religion, whether true or false, will be tried one day. That test will determine with great finality who are the wheat and who are the tares—in other words, the unredeemed will be revealed from the redeemed. When the storm of final test comes, those whose houses are on the bedrock of Jesus Christ and His Word will be spared “from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). However, those whose houses are on the sand will not be spared, but, like the goats in Jesus’ prophecy of the end times, “will go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46; cf. Ex. 12:23Rev. 20:1215).

The house of the wise man—the life and ministry of the genuine believer—is spared because he has built carefully and faithfully, with a sense of substance and divine importance. After obediently doing all that God commands, he humbly realizes he was only doing his duty (Luke 17:10).

The house of the foolish man—the life and ministry of the pseudo-believer—suffers a devastating judgment from the storm and is destined for eternal punishment. Because of this inevitability, everyone who claims to be a Christian must carefully heed James’s words: “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

The greatest difference between “wise” and “foolish” resides in what promise from God they can claim. To the wise He says, in the words of the hymn, “Though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake!”

Ask Yourself

Those who are foolish in planning and preparation are often foolish as well in their assessment of the damage. Why do some whose lives are falling apart not seem to notice? How can you help one you know?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 17:3–9 Jehoshaphat made three strategic moves, spiritually speaking: 1) he obeyed the Lord (17:3–6); 2) he removed false worship from the land (17:6); and 3) he sent out teachers who taught the people the Law of the Lord (17:7–9).

2 Chronicles 17:1213 These verses indicate the massive wealth that developed under divine blessing (18:1), as well as formidable military power (vv. 14–19).

Psalm 81:16 honey from the rock. This phrase was first used by Moses in his song of praise (Deut. 32:13). Though honey is sometimes found in the clefts of rocks, the intent of the figure here is more likely to valuable food provided from unlikely places.

Proverbs 20:27 the lamp of the LORD. The “spirit” represents the conscience of man which searches every secret place.

Acts 16:24 inner prison…in the stocks. The most secure part of the prison. The jailer took further precautions by putting their feet “in the stocks.” This particular security measure was designed to produce painful cramping so the prisoner’s legs were spread as far apart as possible.

Acts 16:27 prison doors open…about to kill himself. Instead of waiting to face humiliation and a painful execution. A Roman soldier, who let a prisoner escape, paid for his negligence with his life (12:19; 27:42).

Acts 16:31 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. One must believe He is who He claimed to be (John 20:31) and believe in what He did (1 Cor. 15:34Rom. 1:16). you and your household. All of his family, servants, and guests who could comprehend the gospel and believe heard the gospel and believed.

DAY 11: How did Roman law affect Paul and the preaching of the gospel?

The city of Philippi, which was located 10 miles inland from Neapolis, was named for Philip II of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great). It was a Roman colony (Acts 16:2). Philippi became a Roman colony in 31 B.C., so it carried the right of freedom (it was self-governing and independent of the provincial government), the right of exemption from tax, and the right of holding land in full ownership.

In Acts 16:21, Paul and those with him are accused before the city magistrates as troublemakers who “teach customs…not lawful for us…Romans.” It was technically true that Roman citizens were not to engage in any foreign religion that had not been sanctioned by the state. But it was a false charge that they were creating chaos. Every Roman colony had two magistrates serving as judges. In this case, they did not uphold Roman justice: They did not investigate the charges, conduct a proper hearing, or give Paul and Silas the chance to defend themselves. Instead, the magistrates had them beaten with rods. This was an illegal punishment since they had not been convicted of any crime. The officers (v. 35) under the command of the magistrates administered the beating with rods tied together in a bundle. Paul received the same punishment on two other occasions (2 Cor. 11:25).

Later, when Paul told them they were “Romans” (v. 37), it was a real problem. To inflict corporal punishment on a Roman citizen was a serious crime and made more so since Paul and Barnabas did not receive a trial. As a result, the magistrates faced the possibility of being removed from office and having Philippi’s privileges as a Roman colony revoked.

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Fellowship with Christ

“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

Enjoying communion with both God and Jesus Christ is solid proof that one’s salvation is real.

When we hold baptisms in the church I pastor, invariably every person who gives their testimony will describe the overwhelming sense of forgiveness they now feel and the new purpose they have for their lives. They are expressing a wonderful result of salvation in Christ, of which Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly” (John 10:10). By saying that life could be abundant, Jesus was saying that salvation would result in more than a change of position—it is a change of experience! The Christian life is a rich life in which we are meant to experience joy, peace, love, and purpose.

The abundant life in Christ begins with a close communion and fellowship with the living God and the living Christ. The apostle Paul says, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). In Galatians 2:20 Paul describes what that fellowship meant to him personally: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” Great intimacy with Christ belongs to all genuine believers.

Have you experienced communion with God and Christ? Have you sensed Their presence? Does your love for Them draw you into Their presence? Have you experienced the exhilarating joy of talking in prayer to the living God? And have you experienced the thrill of discovering a new truth in His Word? If you have, then you have experienced the abundant life that Jesus promised to all who put their trust in Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Much like God asked Israel to recount the great works He had done for them, meditate on the many ways God has made your life richer as a result of knowing Him.

For Further Study

Read Romans 8:152 Corinthians 1:3Ephesians 5:19Philippians 4:19Hebrews 4:16; and 1 Peter 5:10.

  • What does each verse teach about your relationship with God?
  • In what ways is your life abundant as a result?


The Sacrifice of Praise

"Offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).

Praise consists of reciting God’s attributes and mighty works.

"Praise the Lord" is a common expression today. Some see it as a catchy slogan, others commercialize it, still others reduce it to nothing more than "P.T.L." But despite such attempts to trivialize it, praising the Lord remains the believer's expression of love and gratitude to a God who has been abundantly gracious to him. That was the cry of David's heart when he said, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together" (Ps. 34:1-3). That will be the song of believers for time and eternity!

God desires and deserves your praise. That's why Hebrews 13:15 says, "Through [Christ] . . . let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." But what is praise? Is it merely saying "praise the Lord" over and over again, or is there more to it?

Two aspects of praise are obvious in Scripture. First is reciting God's attributes. That was the typical means of praise in the Old Testament. For example, Psalm 104 says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with splendor and majesty, covering Thyself with light as with a cloak" (vv. 1-2).

The second aspect of praise is reciting God's works. Psalm 107:21-22 says, "Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing."

Praise involves reciting God's attributes from a heart of love, giving Him honor and reverence for who He is. It also involves reciting what He has done on behalf of His people. Your praise should follow the same pattern so it will be an acceptable spiritual sacrifice to your loving God.

Suggestions for Prayer

Read Psalm 103 as a prayer of praise to God.

For Further Study

Scripture mentions other spiritual sacrifices that believers should offer. Read Romans 15:16Ephesians 5:2Philippians 4:10-18Hebrews 13:16, and Revelation 8:3, noting what those sacrifices are.


Differences in Houses

“‘The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. . . . The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against the house; and it fell—and great was its fall’” (Matthew 7:2527).

With most tasks in life, it comes down to two choices: doing it the easy, convenient way, or choosing the difficult but rewarding way. In Jesus’ illustration, the foolish man chooses the easy way to build his house, but the wise man chooses the hard way. The former settles for a convenient section of sand in a desirable location, but the latter searches diligently for a rock foundation on which to build.

Why is the easy way so attractive? First, it is appealing to those in a hurry who want only to please themselves. Within the church, the foolish don’t care how their methods line up with God’s Word. They just want quick results—simple to see and easy to measure. Thus the foolish are satisfied with easy evangelism and cost-free discipleship.

Second, people prefer the easy way because they are superficial. Such ministry requires little planning and effort and not much concern for quality results. That house is all about instant gratification rather than the enduring reward found in plumbing the spiritual depths.

Jesus had another description of the superficial, foolish person as one “who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matt. 13:20–21). By contrast, the genuine believer counts the cost, builds the wise house, and then “work[s] out [his] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

Ask Yourself

Think of an “easy way” you’ve taken in your life. What convinced you to do it? Think also of a time when you truly did things the “right way.” Examine the difference in results.


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 15:1 Spirit of God. An act of the Holy Spirit, common in the Old Testament, enabling servants of God to speak or act uniquely for Him. Azariah. This man was a prophet mentioned only here, who met Asa as he returned from the victory and spoke to him before all his army.

2 Chronicles 15:2 The spiritual truth here is basic, namely that God is present and powerful in defense of His obedient people. While good Asa ruled for 41 years, 8 wicked kings ruled in Israel, including Jeroboam, who, along with the others, was a negative illustration of this truth.

2 Chronicles 16:7 Hanani. God used this prophet to rebuke Asa 1) for his wicked appropriation of temple treasures devoted to God to purchase power, and 2) for his faithless dependence on a pagan king instead of the Lord, in contrast to before when opposed by Egypt (2 Chr. 14:9–15).army of the king of Syria has escaped. Asa forfeited by this sin the opportunity of gaining victory not only over Israel, but also Syria. This could have been a greater victory than over the Ethiopians, which would have deprived Syria of any future successful attacks on Judah. Though God had delivered them when they were outnumbered (13:3ff.; 14:9ff.), the king showed his own spiritual decline both in lack of trust and in his treatment of the prophet of God who spoke truth (v. 10).

Acts 16:1 a certain disciple…Timothy. A young man (late teens or early 20s) of high regard, a “true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:22 Tim. 1:2), who eventually became Paul’s right-hand man (1 Cor. 4:171 Thess. 3:2Phil. 2:19). In essence, he became John Mark’s replacement. After being commissioned by the elders of the local church (1 Tim. 4:142 Tim. 1:6), he joined Paul and Silas. his father was Greek. The grammar likely suggests his father was dead. By being both Jew and Gentile, Timothy had access to both cultures—an indispensable asset for missionary service.

Acts 16:3 circumcised him. This was done to aid his acceptance by the Jews and provide full access to the synagogues he would be visiting with Paul and Silas. If Timothy had not been circumcised, the Jews could have assumed he had renounced his Jewish heritage and had chosen to live as a Gentile.

Acts 16:6 Holy Spirit…Asia. Paul was not allowed to fulfill his intention to minister in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and to such cities as Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Colosse, Sardis, Pergamos, and Thyatira.

Acts 16:9 Macedonia. The region located across the Aegean Sea on the mainland of Greece. The cities of Philippi and Thessalonica were located there. Most significantly, going there was to take the gospel from Asia into Europe.

DAY 10: How did Lydia and the demon-possessed girl in Philippi respond differently to the gospel?

When Paul arrived in Philippi (Acts 16:12), evidently the Jewish community did not have the minimum of 10 Jewish men who were heads of households required to form a synagogue. In such cases, a place of prayer under the open sky and near a river or sea was adopted as a meeting place. Most likely this spot was located where the road leading out of the city crossed the Gangites River. Paul spoke “to the women who met there” (v. 13). In further evidence of the small number of Jewish men, it was women who met to pray, read from the Old Testament law, and discuss what they read.

Lydia was from the city of Thyatira, which was located in the Roman province of Lydia, thus the name “Lydia” was probably associated with her place of origin. She was a “seller of purple” (v. 14). Because purple dye was extremely expensive, purple garments were usually worn by royalty and the wealthy. As a result, Lydia’s business turned a nice profit, which enabled her to have a house large enough to accommodate the missionary team (v. 15) and the new church at Philippi (v. 40). “Who worshiped God.” Like Cornelius, she believed in the God of Israel but had not become a full proselyte (10:2).The Lord opened her heart, and she and her household were baptized.

Also in Philippi was a slave girl “possessed with a spirit of divination” (v. 16), literally, “a python spirit.” That expression comes from Greek mythology. Python was a snake that guarded the oracle at Delphi. Essentially, this girl was a medium in contact with demons who could supposedly predict the future. For several days she followed Paul and rightly cried out in the streets, “These men are the servants of the Most High God” (v. 17). El Elyon, the Absolutely Sovereign God, is an Old Testament title (used about 50 times) for the God of Israel (Gen. 14:18–22Ps. 78:35Dan. 5:18). But the spirit was wrong, and Paul finally turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” (v. 18). The demon left the girl in obedience to Paul’s command and his apostolic authority. The ability to cast out demons was a special ability of Christ’s apostles (Mark 3:152 Cor.12:12).

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Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 


In Order That You May Know

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

The apostle John presents eleven objective and subjective tests for assurance of salvation.

The New Testament epistles are filled with enough material on assurance to fill volumes of commentaries. Yet there is one small epistle, 1 John, that was written to deal exclusively with the issue of assurance. The apostle John states his reason for writing this letter in our verse for today: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (emphasis added). John did not want his readers to doubt their salvation; he wanted them to have full assurance of it. 

Certainly what John wrote in this epistle will not disturb genuine believers, but it will alarm anyone who has a false sense of assurance. In fact, he directed his letter to those who have placed their faith in Christ, which is the bedrock of all assurance: “I have written to you who believe.” There is no place for self-examination outside of faith in Christ. That’s why everything John says about assurance is predicated on faith in Christ and the promises of Scripture.

Throughout his epistle, John maintains a delicate balance between the objective and subjective grounds of assurance. The objective evidence makes up a doctrinal test, while the subjective evidence provides a moral test. John moves in and out between the two kinds of tests as he presents a total of eleven criteria that will indicate whether one possesses eternal life.

As you study through these tests for the next eleven days, they will confirm for you, if you are a genuine believer, the reality of your salvation. But if you have been given a false assurance, you will know where you stand and what you need to do.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you are a true believer, ask God to use these upcoming days to give you a greater love for Him. If you’re not sure if you truly know our great Lord and Savior, ask Him to reveal Himself to you so that these next few days will be life-changing ones.

For Further Study

Read John 20:31. How would reading through the Gospel of John also provide assurance of salvation? Begin such a reading plan.


A Living Sacrifice

"Offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).

Every faculty you have is to be used for God’s glory.

In Romans 12:1 Paul pleads with believers to present their bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice, which is an appropriate and acceptable act of worship. But as someone has rightly said, the problem with living sacrifices is they tend to crawl off the altar. That's because sacrificial living demands spiritual discipline and constant dependence on the Holy Spirit. We as Christians aren't always willing to do that.

According to Paul, the motivation and ability for self-sacrifice are found in the mercies we've already experienced in Christ. In Romans 1-11 he mentions several, including love, grace, peace, faith, comfort, power, hope, patience, kindness, glory, honor, righteousness, forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, security, eternal life, freedom, resurrection, sonship, intercession, and the Holy Spirit. Because you've received all that, you should gladly surrender every faculty you have for holy purposes.

"Body" in Romans 12:1 also includes your mind. Verse 2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." A transformed mind is the key to transformed behavior.

Prior to your salvation, you had neither the desire nor the ability to make such a sacrifice. But because you are a new creation in Christ, you are not to "go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but . . . as instruments of righteousness to God" (Rom. 6:13). One practical implication? Abstain from sexual immorality. Know how to possess your own body in sanctification and honor (1 Thess. 4:3-4).

You are a holy priest, and your priestly work begins with presenting yourself as a living and holy sacrifice. Is that your desire? Are you a faithful priest?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His bountiful mercies toward you.
  • Commit this day to Him, asking for the grace to live a holy life.

For Further Study

Read Romans 6.

  • What choices do you have as a believer that you didn't have as an unbeliever?
  • What is the benefit of being God's slave?


Differences in Foundations

“‘Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. . . . Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand’” (Matthew 7:2426).

Differences between wise and foolish builders are more important than the similarities. The greatest differences are the types of foundations the builders choose. One selects a solid expanse of bedrock—stable and unmovable. The other selects sand—unstable and very movable.

The house built on a foundation of rock is a life that believes and obeys Jesus’ sermon and places all its hope in God. The sand, by contrast, represents paying little or no attention to the Word. The house built on that foundation is a life that relies on self-righteousness and trusts in changeable human opinions.

The indicator of real discipleship is not merely hearing and professing, but believing and doing. True converts fit James’s picture: “One who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). False disciples, however, fit the other picture James paints: “merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was” (vv. 22–24).

We can be assured of salvation only when we build on the rock of truth and obedience, not on the standards of human opinions and speculations.

Ask Yourself

Do you have a current undertaking—no matter how large or small—that’s tempting you to hurry up and build without spending much time on the foundation? What will every effort or enterprise suffer from if more thought is given to wallpaper than to substructure?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 13:15 God struck Jeroboam and all Israel. At the time of certain defeat, with 400,000 troops behind and the same number in front, Judah was saved by divine intervention. What God did is unknown, but the army of Israel began to flee (v. 16), and the soldiers of Judah massacred 500,000 of them in an unimaginable blood bath (v. 17).

2 Chronicles 13:17 Before the battle, Jeroboam outnumbered Abijah two to one (13:3). After the fray, in which the Lord intervened on behalf of Judah, Abijah outnumbered Jeroboam 4 to 3.

Psalm 81:3 New Moon…full moon. The seventh month of Israel’s year (Tishri; Sept./Oct.) culminated the festival year with a succession of celebrations. The month began with the blowing of the trumpets, continued with the Day of Atonement on the tenth day, and celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth day when the moon was full. The Feast of Tabernacles praised God for His care in the wilderness wanderings and also pointed to the coming kingdom (Matt. 17:1–4).

How did a godly king respond to crises?

Second Chronicles 14:1–16:14 records the reign of Asa in Judah (ca. 911–870 B.C.). First Kings 15:11 says that Asa did as his forefather David had done—honoring God while building the kingdom (vv. 6–8). Times of peace were used for strengthening. “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of LORD his God” (v. 2). He removed elements of false worship that had accumulated over the years of Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijah (1 Kin.15:1213). Apparently, he did not remove all the high places or, once removed, they reappeared (1 Kin. 15:141 Chr. 15:6). His son Jehoshaphat later had to remove them (2 Chr. 17:6), although not completely (1 Chr. 20:33).This was done in an effort to comply with Deuteronomy 12:23.

Asa had an army of 580,000 men “who carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty men of valor” (v. 8). Yet a major threat developed from Zerah, the Ethiopian, probably on behalf of the Egyptian Pharaoh, who was attempting to regain control as Shishak had during the days of Rehoboam (2 Chr. 12:78), ca. 901–900 B.C. The Ethiopians came against them with “an army of a million men and three hundred chariots” (v. 9).

Asa’s appeal to God centered on God’s omnipotence and reputation and is well worth memorizing. “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us,…O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” (v. 11). God’s response was to strike the Ethiopian army and overthrow them. “And they carried away very much spoil” (v. 13). It appears that this great horde was a nomadic people who moved with all their possessions and had set up their camp near Gerar. The spoils of Judah’s victory were immense.

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Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 


Joy in God

“We also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).

The final link in the chain that eternally binds believers to Christ is their joy or exultation in God.

Perhaps nowhere outside of Scripture has Christian joy been expressed more beautifully than in these stanzas from Charles Wesley’s hymn “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”:

O for a thousand tongues to sing 
My great Redeemer’s praise, 
The glories of my God and King, 
The triumphs of His grace!

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb, 
Your loosened tongues employ; 
Ye blind, behold your Savior come; 
And leap, ye lame for joy!

Galatians 5:22 says that “joy” is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, and as such it is one of the great securities of salvation. The Greek for “joy” means “to exult,” “to rejoice jubilantly,” or “to be thrilled.” What is our motivation to be so thrilled? Paul says it’s because we received reconciliation from Christ. God gives us abundant joy both in our salvation and ultimately for who God is. Thus our present sense of internal joy is an additional guarantee of our future salvation.

One of the reasons David was a man after God’s own heart was his rejoicing in the Lord for the Lord’s own sake. He said, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Ps. 34:3). Other psalmists echoed that same joy. One wrote, “For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name” (Ps. 33:21), while another said, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and upon the lyre I shall praise Thee, O God, my God” (Ps. 43:4). As you make God the focus of your joy, He will grant you an assurance only He can give.

Suggestions for Prayer

How often do you exult in what God has accomplished for you? Ask God to give you a greater joy in Him as you learn more about Him from His Word.

For Further Study

  • Look up “joy” in a concordance and determine the percentage of the references that refer to joy in one’s salvation.
  • What significant application can you make from those verses?


Offering Spiritual Sacrifices

"You . . . are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).

Spiritual sacrifices are acts of praise and worship offered to God through Jesus Christ.

The primary mission of a Hebrew priest was to offer acceptable sacrifices to God. That's why God gave detailed instructions regarding the kinds of sacrifices He required. For example, if a lamb was offered, it had to be perfect—without deformity or blemish. Then it had to be sacrificed in a prescribed manner. It was a serious offense to offer sacrifices in an unacceptable manner—a mistake that cost Aaron's sons their lives (Lev. 10:1-2).

The Old Testament sacrificial system pictured the supreme sacrifice of Christ on the cross. When He died, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple split in two, signifying personal access to God through Christ. From that moment on, the Old Testament sacrifices ceased to have meaning. As the writer of Hebrews said, "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. . . . For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:10-14).

Christ's sacrifice was complete. Nothing further is needed for salvation. The spiritual sacrifices that believers are to offer aren't sacrifices for sin, but acts of praise and worship that flow from a redeemed life. They're the fruit of salvation and are acceptable to God because they're offered through His Son.

Since Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, your access to God is through Him alone. Anything that pleases Him is acceptable to the Father. Seeking His will, His plans, and His kingdom all are aspects of offering up acceptable spiritual sacrifices. In effect, your entire life is to be one continuous sacrifice of love and praise to God. May it be so!

Suggestions for Prayer

When you pray, be sure everything you say and every request you make is consistent with Christ's will.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 10:1-18, noting how Christ's sacrifice differed from Old Testament sacrifices.


Similarities Between Wise and Foolish Builders

“‘Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. . . . Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand’” (Matthew 7:2426).

An important way to discern between true believers and those who merely profess faith in Christ is to consider Jesus’ illustration of the hearers and builders. The crucial element to understand is the foundations upon which people build hopes. While there are clear distinctions, there are also some interesting similarities. First, both kinds of builders hear the gospel. They both outwardly recognize the way of salvation.

Second, hearing the gospel both groups build a house, which represents their lives. Each type of builder has confidence that his or her house will stand. Each also believes their manner of living is right and pleasing to the Lord—“Christian” in form and manner.

Third, both parties erect their houses in the same general location. That is, their life situations are basically the same. Perhaps they are members of the same church, hear the same preaching, attend the same Bible study, and have fellowship with the same friends.

In summary, so much seems to be alike for the builders Jesus describes. By inference, we could say both live much the same sorts of lives—morally respectable, acceptably religious, theologically orthodox, good supporters and servants in their church, and even good community citizens. But the ultimate outcome of life will be radically different for the two.

Ask Yourself

How do these similarities cloud people’s awareness of spiritual need? What distinctions should be visible and obvious when comparing the lives of believers and unbelievers?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 12:2–5 Shishak. He ruled over Egypt ca. 945–924 B.C. An Egyptian record of this invasion written on stone has been found, recording that Shishak’s army penetrated all the way north to the Sea of Galilee. He wanted to restore Egypt’s once-great power, but was unable to conquer both Israel and Judah. However, he was able to destroy cities in Judah and gain some control of trade routes. Judah came under Egyptian control.

2 Chronicles 12:6,7 humbled themselves. In the face of the Egyptian conqueror, the leaders responded to the word of God through the prophet (v. 5) and repented, so that God would end His wrath worked through Shishak.

2 Chronicles 12:8 Nevertheless. A fitting punishment arose to remind the Jews of their heritage in relationship to Egypt. This was the first major military encounter with Egypt since the Exodus had ended hundreds of years of slavery there. A taste of being enslaved again to a people from whom God had given liberation was bitter. The message was crystal clear—if the Jews would forsake the true worship of God, they would also lose His protective hand of blessing. It was much better to serve God than to have to serve “kingdoms of the nations.”

Psalm 80:17 son of man. In this context, this phrase is primarily a reference to Israel. In a secondary sense, the “son of man” may allude to the Davidic dynasty and even extend to the Messiah, since He is so frequently called by that title in the New Testament.

Proverbs 20:21 gained hastily. This implies an unjust method in gaining the inheritance, so that it will be lost by the same unjust ways or by punishment.

Acts 15:19 we should not trouble. The Greek word for “trouble” means “to throw something in the path of someone to annoy them.” The decision of the Jerusalem Council, after considering all the evidence, was that keeping the law and observing rituals were not requirements for salvation. The Judaizers were to cease troubling and annoying the Gentiles.

DAY 8: Why is the first church council in Acts 15 the most important ever held?

Throughout its history, the church’s leaders have met to settle doctrinal issues. Historians point to 7 ecumenical councils in the church’s early history, especially the Councils of Nicea (A.D. 325) and Chalcedon (A.D. 451). Yet the most important council was the first one—the Jerusalem Council—because it established the answer to the most vital doctrinal question of all: “What must a person do to be saved?” The apostles and elders defied efforts to impose legalism and ritualism as necessary prerequisites for salvation. They forever affirmed that salvation is totally by grace through faith in Christ alone.

The Judaizers were false teachers who were self-appointed guardians of legalism. They taught a doctrine of salvation by works through the act of circumcision (v. 1). In answer to this, Peter rose up and gave the first of 3 speeches at the Council that amount to one of the strongest defenses of salvation by grace through faith alone contained in Scripture. Peter began his defense by reviewing how God saved Gentiles in the early days of the church without a requirement of circumcision, law keeping, or ritual—referring to the salvation of Cornelius and his household (10:44–48; 11:17,18). If God did not require any additional qualifications for salvation, neither should the legalists.

The Judaizers could have argued that Cornelius and the others could not have been saved because they did not meet the legalistic requirements. To thwart that potential argument, Peter reiterates that God gave them the Holy Spirit, thus proving the genuineness of their salvation (v. 8). Peter warns the Judaizers that they are putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples—a description of the law and the legalism of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:4Luke 11:46). The legalists expected the Gentiles to carry a load they themselves were unwilling to bear. “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” (v. 11). His declaration is a resounding affirmation of salvation by grace through faith alone.

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Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 


Certainty of Deliverance

“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9-10).

Jesus Christ delivers His brethren not only from sin and its judgment, but also from uncertainty and doubt about that deliverance.

God is a God of wrath. But the wrath due to be poured out on all mankind, Christ took on Himself. That’s what the apostle Paul meant when he said that those who put their faith in Him have been “justified by His blood” and are assured of being “saved from the wrath of God through [Christ]” (Rom. 5:9). As a result of Christ’s atoning work, all Christians are identified with Christ, are adopted as God’s children through Him, and are no longer “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).

But Paul doesn’t stop there because the ongoing intercessory work of Christ has great significance for every believer and the security of his salvation. In Romans 5:10 Paul argues from the greater to the lesser to show that it was a much greater work of God to bring sinners to grace than to bring them to glory. Since God brought us to Himself when we were enemies, we will be reconciled continually now that we are His friends. When God first reconciled us, we were wretched, vile, and godless sinners. Since that was not a barrier to His reconciling us then, there is nothing that can prevent the living Christ from keeping us reconciled.

This truth has great ramifications for our assurance. If God already secured our deliverance from sin, death, and future judgment, how could our present spiritual life possibly be in jeopardy? How can a Christian, whose past and future salvation are guaranteed by God, be insecure in the intervening time? If sin in the greatest degree could not prevent our becoming reconciled, how can sin in lesser degree prevent our staying reconciled? Our salvation can’t be any more secure than that.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to reveal to you how you might even now be insecure about your salvation. Then ask Him to make the intercessory work of Christ more real to you each day.

For Further Study

Read John 5:2610:28-2914:19Romans 8:34-39Colossians 3:3-4Hebrews 7:25; and Revelation 1:18.

  • List all the securities you can find.
  • How does Christ save you by His life?


Your Priestly Service

"You . . . are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).

Christians share common spiritual characteristics with Old Testament priests.

Peter identified believers as holy priests, but many Christians don't really know what that means because priests aren't part of our culture as a whole.

The primary purpose of an Old Testament priest was to offer acceptable sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. Priests were chosen by God Himself, specially cleansed through prescribed ceremonies, clothed in a prescribed manner, and anointed with oil as symbolic of God's Spirit upon them. They were expected to obey God, love His Word, and walk with Him.

Faithful priests had a positive impact on believers and unbelievers alike. Malachi 2:6 says they "turned many back from iniquity." Verse 7 adds that "the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts."

Those qualifications are paralleled in Christians, whom God regards as the only true priests. You were chosen by Him from before the foundation of the world and cleansed by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. You are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Your purpose is "to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).

Scripture tells you therefore to present your body a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Rom. 12:1). Obedience, love for the Word, and communion with God should characterize your life; saints and sinners alike should see Christ in you and be affected by what they see.

The priesthood of believers is a high and holy calling to which no one is suited apart from God's grace and power. But be assured that He who called you will accomplish His good pleasure in you. Be committed to that goal each day as you lean on His resources and trust in His sufficiency.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the priesthood He has entrusted to you. Ask Him to use you today to influence others in godly ways.

For Further Study

Read Leviticus 8 and 9, which tell of the consecration and inauguration of the Aaronic priesthood.


Jesus’ Response to Empty Words

“‘Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”’” (Matthew 7:22–23).

On first reading, these are some of the most startling, convicting words Jesus ever uttered. The key issue for Him is obedience to His Word and will. He later declared, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31; cf. Rom. 6:16Col. 1:22–23Heb. 5:9).

All the empty words and professions of respect for Christ and the shallow works of supposed dedication now come to condemn all disobedient claimers to the Lord. When Jesus tells them, “I never knew you,” it does not mean He didn’t know their identities, but in essence, “I didn’t know you as My disciples, and you didn’t really know Me as Lord and Savior. You chose your kingdom, but it wasn’t My kingdom.”

A life that professes to be a Christian but in no way actually reflects His holiness does not possess true salvation. Such a profession comes from a dead faith that results in no good works (James 2:17).

It’s not that faithful disciples will not stumble and sin sometimes; otherwise Jesus would not have taught about forgiveness of debts (Matt. 6:12) and confession of sins (cf. 1 John 1:9). Believers cannot expect perfection in this life, but they should expect to be heading in that direction.

Those who persist in lawlessness show that they are not Christians. No matter how orthodox and outwardly fervent, religious activity that doesn’t stem from repentance of sin and manifest a desire for obedience to Christ is still rebellion against God’s law.

Ask Yourself

It’s not bragging on ourselves but on Christ when we admit to areas of spiritual growth and victory over sin. In what ways are you seeing yourself increasingly conformed to the nature of Christ?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 9:29 In later years, Solomon turned away from God; and, due to the influence of his wives, he led the nation into idolatry. This split the kingdom and sowed the seeds that led to its defeat and dispersion. The Chronicles do not record this sad end to Solomon’s life because the focus is on encouraging the returning Jews from Babylon with God’s pledge to them for a glorious future in the Davidic Covenant.

Psalm 80:8 vine out of Egypt. The vine is a metaphor for Israel, whom God delivered out of Egypt and nurtured into a powerful nation (Is. 5:1–727:2–6Matt. 21:33–40).

Proverbs 20:16 Garments were common security for a loan but they always had to be returned by sundown (Ex. 22:2627Deut. 24:10–13). “Seductress” is more likely “foreigner.” Anyone who foolishly has taken on the responsibility for the debt of a stranger or an immoral woman will likely never be paid back, so he will never pay his creditor unless his own garment is taken as security.

Acts 14:4 apostles. Barnabas was not an apostle in the same sense as Paul and the 12 since he was not an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ nor had he been called by Him. It is best to translate “apostles” here as “messengers” (2 Cor. 8:23Phil. 2:25).The verb means “to send.” The 12 and Paul were “apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:131 Thess. 2:6), while Barnabas and others were “apostles of the churches” (2 Cor. 8:23).

Acts 14:15–17 Because the crowd at Lystra was pagan and had no knowledge of the Old Testament, Paul adjusted his message to fit the audience. Instead of proclaiming the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he appealed to the universal and rational knowledge of the One who created the world (17:22–26; Jon. 1:9).

Acts 14:17 did not leave Himself without witness. God’s providence and His creative power testify to man’s reason of His existence (Rom. 1:18–20), as does man’s own conscience, which contains His moral law (Rom. 2:13–15).

DAY 7: How does Acts 14 demonstrate the varied reactions for preaching the gospel of Christ?

The city of Iconium was a cultural melting pot of native Phrygians, Greeks, Jews, and Roman colonists. A great multitude came to faith as Paul and Barnabas spoke “boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (v. 3). Acts of such divine power confirmed that Paul and Barnabas spoke for God. Nevertheless, the gospel message divided the city and a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them (v. 5). This proves that their Jewish opponents were the instigators, since stoning was a Jewish form of execution, usually for blasphemy.

Fleeing Iconium, they went to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia (v. 6). Lycaonia was a district in the Roman province of Galatia.Lystra was about 18 miles from Iconium and was the home of Lois, Eunice, and Timothy (16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5).The strange reaction by the people of Lystra to the healing of the cripple, who had never walked (v. 8), had its roots in local folklore. According to tradition, the gods Zeus and Hermes visited Lystra incognito, asking for food and lodging. All turned them away except for a peasant named Philemon and his wife, Baucis. The gods took vengeance by drowning everyone in a flood. But they turned the lowly cottage of Philemon and Baucis into a temple, where they were to serve as priest and priestess. Not wanting to repeat their ancestors’ mistake, the people of Lystra believed Barnabas to be Zeus and Paul to be Hermes.

“Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there…they stoned Paul…supposing him to be dead” (v. 19). Paul did not die from the stoning as some claim, who link it to his third-heaven experience in 2 Corinthians 12. “Supposing” usually means “to suppose something that is not true.” The main New Testament use of this word argues that the crowd’s supposition was incorrect and that Paul was not dead. Another argument in favor of this position is that if Paul was resurrected, why didn’t Luke mention it? Also, the dates of Paul’s third-heaven experience and the time of the stoning do not reconcile.

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Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 


The Love of God

“The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:5-8).

Salvation ushers believers into a love relationship with God that lasts throughout eternity.

The eighteenth-century hymn writer William Cowper wrote in “There Is a Fountain”:

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die.

Perhaps the most overwhelming concept in all Christianity is that God loved us so much “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And more than that, God even graciously imparts His love to us—He pours it “out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Paul here reveals that in Christ we are given subjective evidence of salvation. God Himself implants that evidence deep within us. As a result, we love the One who first loved us (1 John 4:7-10).

The idea that God “poured out” His love refers to a lavish outpouring. God didn’t just squeeze out His love in little drops—He poured it out in immeasurable torrents. And that is seen in perhaps the greatest manifestation of God’s love in all eternity: when we were ungodly sinners totally incapable of bringing ourselves to God, He sent His Son to die for us who were completely unworthy of such love.

Think of how God’s love impacts your assurance. Now that you are saved, you can never be as wretched as you were before your conversion, and He loved you totally then. Because God loved you so completely, you can be secure in your salvation.

Suggestions for Prayer

Confess those times you have taken for granted God’s love for you, then meditate on Romans 5:8.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 3:14-19. How does the Holy Spirit help us to “know the love of Christ”?


Access to God

"You . . . are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).

Christ’s death provided access to the Father for all believers.

Throughout history, false gods have been portrayed as remote, indifferent, and apathetic to human needs and generally unapproachable by the common masses. Out of fear, a man might attempt to appease his idols but he has no desire or capacity to draw near to them.

Even those in Old Testament times who worshiped the true God had limited access to Him. The average Jewish person could commune with God through prayer, but was forbidden to approach Him physically. Only the high priest was allowed to enter into God's presence in the Holy of Holies—but only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Even then he had to go through a ceremonial washing and offer a sacrifice for his own sin. If he failed to prepare himself properly, he could forfeit his life.

Anyone daring to usurp the office of a priest was also in danger of severe punishment by God: King Azariah (also called Uzziah) was afflicted with leprosy, King Saul's lineage was cursed, and Korah and his rebellious followers were destroyed when the ground opened and swallowed them.

However, we as Christians enjoy unlimited access to the Father through Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:19-22 says, "Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith."

As a member of God's royal priesthood, you can approach Him with confidence, knowing He loves and welcomes you into His presence just as He welcomes His own Son. Take full advantage of that access by communing with Him in prayer and offering each day as a spiritual sacrifice to Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise Jesus for shedding His precious blood so you can have access to the Father.
  • Praise the Father for being a personal and approachable God.

For Further Study

Read Exodus 19.

  • What did God tell Moses?
  • What were the people to prepare themselves for?
  • Was God approachable to the people?


An Empty Profession of Faith

“‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter’” (Matthew 7:21).

Here Jesus is speaking of the devotedly religious who think they are saved but aren’t. The Lord will continue these warnings later about spiritual self-deception—the foolish, unprepared virgins (Matt. 25:1–12) and the goats who did not really serve Him (Matt. 25:32–3341–46).

Many factors deceive people regarding salvation. First, some have a false assurance. They rely on past “decisions for Christ,” apart from the Spirit’s convicting work. But our salvation is made secure by increasing evidences of fruitfulness (2 Peter 1:3–11).

Second, many fail to examine themselves (cf. 2 Cor. 13:51 John 1:8–9), instead gliding through life unconcerned about sins. One who has no desire to come to God for continued cleansing is likely not saved.

Third, a person can be deceived even in the midst of much religious activity. Hearing sermons, reading the Bible, and attending Bible studies are good, but such things may insulate someone from true worship.

Fourth, many attempt to rationalize their salvation, thinking that their good deeds outweigh their bad ones. But apart from God, we cannot do anything righteous (Pss. 14:1–353:1–3Rom. 3:12).

We could mention many other spiritual delusions, all of which involve failure to enter the narrow gate with repentance, submission to Christ, humility, and a desire for holiness. The important thing, however, is not to wonder about all those possibilities but to enter God’s one true way to salvation.

Ask Yourself

Is the validity of your salvation ever in doubt in your mind? Do you see yourself in any of the examples given above? Then anchor your faith today in the sure word and promises of God, and walk in the confidence of eternal life, bought and paid for by Jesus Christ.


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 7:17, 18 if…then. If there was obedience on the part of the nation, the kingdom would be established and they would have “a man as ruler.” Their disobedience was legendary and so was the destruction of their kingdom and their dispersion. When Israel is saved (Rom. 11:25–27Zech. 12:14), then their King Messiah will set up this glorious kingdom (Rev. 20:1ff.).

2 Chronicles 8:11 the daughter of Pharaoh. First Kings 3:1 mentions the marriage and the fact that Solomon brought her to Jerusalem until he could build a house for her. Until that palace was built, Solomon lived in David’s palace, but did not allow her to do so, because she was a heathen and because the ark of God had once been in David’s house. He surely knew his marriage to this pagan did not please God (Deut. 7:34). Eventually his pagan wives caused tragic consequences (1 Kin. 11:1–11).

Acts 13:29,30 tree…tomb…God raised. The Old Testament predicted the crucifixion of Christ on a cross (Ps. 22; Deut. 21), at the time when this particular form of execution was not used. His burial in a “tomb” was also prophesied (Is. 53:9), yet victims of crucifixions were commonly tossed into mass graves. The climax of Paul’s message was the resurrection of Christ, the ultimate proof that Jesus is the Messiah and the fulfillment of 3 specific prophecies (vv. 33–35).

Acts 13:39 justified from. This is better translated “freed from.” you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Keeping the Law of Moses did not free anyone from their sins (Rom. 3:281 Cor. 1:30Gal. 2:163:11Phil. 3:9).  But the atoning death of Jesus completely satisfied the demands of God’s law, making forgiveness of all sins available to all who believe (Gal. 3:16Col. 2:1314). Only the forgiveness Christ offers can free people from their sins (Rom. 3:2022).

Acts 13:43 devout proselytes. Full converts to Judaism who had been circumcised. continue in the grace of God. Those who are truly saved persevere and validate the reality of their salvation by continuing in the grace of God (John 8:3115:1–6Col. 1:21–231 John 2:19). With such encouragement, Paul and Barnabas hoped to prevent those who were intellectually convinced of the truths of the gospel, yet had stopped short of saving faith, from reverting to legalism rather than embracing Christ completely.

Acts 13:51 shook off the dust from their feet. The Jews’ antagonism toward Gentiles extended to their unwillingness to even bring Gentile dust into Israel. The symbolism of Paul and Barnabas’s act is clear that they considered the Jews at Antioch no better than heathen. There could have been no stronger condemnation.

DAY 6: How does a verse such as 2 Chronicles 7:14relate to country such as America?

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Unlike ancient Israel, America is not a covenant nation. God has made no promise to our physical ancestors that guarantees our national status. If Israel had to fulfill the conditions for divine blessing, even though God had covenanted with them as His chosen people, America certainly has no inviolable claim on the blessing of God. As long as unbelief and disobedience to the Word of God color the soul of our nation, we simply cannot expect the blessing of God. Israel didn’t get it in her unbelief.

But for those of us who are Christians, the covenant blessings do apply. “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). All the promises of salvation, mercy, forgiveness of sins, and spiritual prosperity are ours to claim as long as we remain faithful to God.

That is why the spiritual state of the church in our nation is the key to the blessing of the nation as a whole. If God is going to bless America, it will not be for the sake of the nation itself. He blesses the nation, and has always done so, for the sake of His people. If we who are called by His name are not fulfilling the conditions for divine blessing, there is no hope whatsoever for the rest of the nation.

On the other hand, if the church is fit to receive God’s blessing, the whole nation will be the beneficiary of that, because the Word of God will be proclaimed with power, God will add to His church, and spiritual blessings of all kinds will result. And those are the truest blessings of all.

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Hope of Glory

“We exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:2-5).

God promises all believers that one day they will receive Christ’s glory.

The security that every believer desires in his or her salvation is founded on the very fact that God is the author of salvation—every aspect of it is solely His work, and thus it cannot be lost. The final piece of God’s great work is the ultimate glorification of every Christian: “Whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom. 8:29-30).

This third link in the chain that eternally binds believers to Christ completes the three aspects of salvation. Paul already established that salvation is anchored in the past because Christ made peace with God. It is anchored in the present because Christ continually intercedes for every believer and establishes our standing in grace. Here Paul proclaims that salvation is also anchored in the futurebecause God promises His children that one day they will be clothed with the glory of His Son.

The Greek word for “exult” in Romans 5:2 refers to jubilation and rejoicing. Every believer ought to rejoice in the future rather than fearing it, because Jesus Christ secured the hope that his ultimate destiny is to share in the very glory of God. Christ is the guarantee of our hope because He Himself is our hope (1 Tim. 1:1).

We also have another reason to rejoice in the hope of glory: our tribulations contribute to our present blessing and ultimate glory. Paul states in Romans 5:3-5 that our afflictions for Christ’s sake produce increasing levels of maturity in handling the trials of life. As you continue to pursue holiness, the more you will be persecuted and troubled, but the greater will be your hope as you see God sustain you through His all-powerful grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you His perspective on your trials and show you how to focus on your future glory in the process.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 5:10-12Romans 8:182 Corinthians 4:17; and 1 Peter 4:19.

  • How should you view your trials?
  • When they come, what should you do?


Union with Christ

"You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house" (1 Pet. 2:5).

Christ is your life, and you are an integral part of what He is accomplishing in the world.

The Jewish culture of Peter's time centered on the Temple in Jerusalem. Apparently drawing from that picture, Peter used vivid language to teach that God no longer dwells in an earthly, material, temporal house, but in a spiritual house. Christ is the cornerstone, and the spiritual house He is building is comprised of individual believers.

That analogy introduces us to the first spiritual privilege Christians enjoy: union with Christ Himself. That makes Christianity utterly unique among religions. Buddhists are not said to be in Buddha. Muslims are not in Muhammad. A Confucianist is not in Confucius. Only Christians are united with and receive their spiritual life from the object of their worship.

When you came to Christ, the living stone, you also became a living stone yourself. You possess His resurrection life and draw from His spiritual resources. That's what Peter meant when he said that God "has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4).

Ephesians 2:19-22 adds, "You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." Christ is the cornerstone of the church, built on the foundation of biblical truth, which is the divine revelation given through the apostles and prophets. Rejoice in the privilege of being united with Christ and learning from His Word!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for selecting you as one of His spiritual stones. Seek His wisdom and grace in living each day to His glory.

For Further Study

Read Acts 17:241 Timothy 3:15, and Hebrews 3:6, noting what they teach about God's spiritual house.


Discerning False Prophets: Seeing Their Converts

“‘Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits’” (Matthew 7:19–20).

We can spot false prophets by the kind of people they attract. Their converts will have the same kind of superficial, self-centered, unbiblical orientation as they do. Of this sort of attraction Peter says, “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned” (2 Peter 2:2). Many folks gravitate to false teachers because those men propagate what the majority of people want to hear and believe (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3).

God has not ordained false prophets, but within His will He allows them to exist. And it is within His purpose that false factions develop. “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1 Cor. 11:19). Factions often attract followers of false teachers. And in a sense, this protects genuine saints by separating the chaff from the wheat in the church.

Ultimately, the Lord makes sure that the converts of false prophets, who do not bear good fruit, get cut down and thrown into the fire of judgment. Peter says they are “bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1; cf. Jer. 23:30–40John 15:26). A watchful, discerning, vigilant believer, armed with the Word of truth, will be able to isolate false teachers and withdraw from them, because he or she “will know them by their fruits.”

Ask Yourself

Discussions like these often get us labeled as haughty and narrow-minded. How do you handle these kinds of accusations? Why will some people never understand your concern for the church’s purity?


Reading for Today:


2 Chronicles 5:13,14 the glory of the LORD. The Lord’s presence indwelt the temple and the first service of worship was held. In the same manner He descended on the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–38). He will do likewise on the millennial temple (Ezek. 43:1–5). His glory is representative of His Person (Ex. 33), and entering the temple signified His presence.

Acts 13:6 Paphos. The capital of Cyprus and thus the seat of the Roman government. It also was a great center for the worship of Aphrodite (Venus), and thus a hotbed for all kinds of immorality. a certain sorcerer…a Jew. “Sorcerer” is better translated “magician.” Originally it carried no evil connotation, but later was used to describe all kinds of practitioners and dabblers in the occult. This particular magician put his knowledge to evil use.

Acts 13:15 reading of the Law and the Prophets. The reading of the Scriptures. This occupied the third part in the liturgy of the synagogue, after the recitation of the shema (Deut. 6:4) and further prayers, but before the teaching, which was usually based on what had been read from the Scriptures. rulers of the synagogue. Those who had general oversight of the synagogue, including designating who would read from the Scriptures.

Acts 13:22 a man after My own heart. Some would question the reality of this designation for David since he proved to be such a sinner at times (1 Sam. 11:1–412:921:10–22:1). No man after God’s own heart is perfect; yet he will recognize sin and repent of it, as did David (Pss. 32; 38; 51).

DAY 5: How does Acts 13 mark a change in the Book of Acts?

Chapter 13 marks a turning point in Acts in that the first 12 chapters focus on Peter while the remaining chapters revolve around Paul. With Peter, the emphasis is the Jewish church in Jerusalem and Judea; with Paul, the focus is the spread of the Gentile church throughout the Roman world, which began at the church in Antioch. In this church were certain “prophets” (v. 1). These men had a significant role in the apostolic church (1 Cor. 12:28Eph. 2:20).They were preachers of God’s Word and were responsible in the early years of the church to instruct local congregations. On some occasions, they received new revelation that was of a practical nature (11:28; 21:10), a function that ended with the cessation of the temporary sign gifts.Their office was also replaced by pastor-teachers and evangelists (Eph. 4:11).

The leaders in the church in Antioch “ministered to the Lord” (v. 2). This is from a Greek word which in Scripture describes priestly service. Serving in leadership in the church is an act of worship to God and consists of offering spiritual sacrifices to Him, including prayer, oversight of the flock, plus preaching and teaching the Word. And they “fasted.” This is often connected with vigilant, passionate prayer (Neh. 1:4Ps. 35:13Dan.9:3Matt. 17:21Luke 2:37) and includes either a loss of desire for food or the purposeful setting aside of eating to concentrate on spiritual issues (Matt. 6:1617).

While they worshiped, the Holy Spirit issued the first missionary outreach: “Separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (v. 2). Saul and Barnabas chose to begin their missionary outreach in Cyprus because it was Barnabas’s home, which was only a two-day journey from Antioch and had a large Jewish population. Here Paul established the custom of preaching to the Jews first whenever he entered a new city because he had an open door, as a Jew, to speak and introduce the gospel. Also, if he preached to Gentiles first, the Jews would never have listened to him.

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Standing in Grace

“Through [Christ] also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:2).

It is God’s grace, not the believers’ faith, which enables them to stand firm in their salvation.

In Old Testament times, the notion of having direct access or “introduction” to God was unthinkable, because if anyone was to look at Him they would surely die. After the tabernacle was built, only the high priest could enter the holy of holies, where God would manifest His divine presence, and only once a year for just a brief time.

But Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross ushered in a New Covenant that made access to God possible for any person, Jew or Gentile, who trusts in His sacrifice. All of us who believe can now “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Because of our faith in Him, Christ escorts us “into this grace in which we stand.” The Greek word for “stand” refers to permanence, standing firm and immovable. Certainly faith is necessary for salvation, but it is God’s grace and not our faith that has the power to save us and maintain that salvation. What God did initially through grace, we cannot preserve through our efforts. That would be a mockery of God’s grace and an indication of our lack of trust in His desire and power to preserve our salvation. Paul said, “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).

In spite of our effort to avoid it, all of us will fall into sin, but our sin is not more powerful than God’s grace. Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins. If the sins we committed prior to our salvation were not too great for Christ’s atoning death to cover, surely none of those we have committed since then or will commit are too great for Him to cover (Rom. 5:10). A dying Savior ushered us into God’s grace; we all need to depend on the fact that a living Savior will keep us in His grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His preserving grace.
  • Confess any distrust in His power to preserve your salvation.

For Further Study

Read Romans 8:31-34. Why is God worthy of your trust? GHow does Christ support that truth?


Christ: The Precious Cornerstone

"Coming to [Christ] as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God" (1 Pet. 2:4).

God’s view of Christ is the only accurate standard by which to measure Christ’s worth.

I once read about a conversation in the Louvre Museum in Paris. One of the curators of the museum, a man with great appreciation for art, overheard two men discussing a masterpiece. One man said to the other, "I don't think much of that painting." The curator, feeling obliged to reply to the man's statement, said to him, "Dear sir, if I may interrupt, that painting is not on trial; you are. The quality of that painting has already been established. Your disapproval simply demonstrates the frailty of your measuring capability."

Similarly, Jesus is not on trial before men; men are on trial before Him. He has already been approved by the Father. Those who arrogantly dismiss Him as unworthy of their devotion simply demonstrate their inability to recognize the most precious treasure of all.

Peter said, "This is contained in Scripture: 'Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed.' This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, 'The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,' and, 'a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense'" (1 Pet. 2:6-8). By God's standards, Jesus is the perfect cornerstone. But the leaders of Israel had faulty standards of measurement. They inspected Him closely but rejected Him because He didn't fit their concept of a Savior. Sadly, millions of men and women throughout history have followed their lead.

As you tell others about Christ, many will evaluate Him by the wrong standard and reject Him. Others will evaluate Him according to God's standard and find Him precious beyond measure. In either case be a faithful witness, knowing that someday His full value will be proclaimed by all (Phil. 2:10-11).

Suggestions for Prayer

Make a list of Christ's attributes that are especially meaningful to you. Use each attribute as a focal point of prayer and worship.

For Further Study

Read Acts 4:1-13, noting how Peter applied the principles found in 1 Peter 2:4-8 to the Jewish leaders.


Discerning False Prophets: The Test of Creed

“‘A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit’” (Matthew 7:18).

Careful examination of a false prophet’s teachings will always reveal unscriptural ideas and an absence of a solid, coherent theology. Often he will teach a combination of truth and error. But sooner rather than later his teachings will prove the sort of teacher he really is. As Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Matt. 12:34–35).

The creed of the false prophet cannot withstand any careful scrutiny by the pure light of the Word. The prophet Isaiah confirms this: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isa. 8:20).

False shepherds talk much about God’s love, but not His wrath and holiness; much about how deprived of good things people are, but not about their depravity; much about God’s universal fatherhood toward everyone, but not much about his unique fatherhood toward all who believe in His Son; much about what God wants to give to us, but nothing about the necessity of obedience to Him; much about health and happiness, but nothing about holiness and sacrifice. Their message is full of gaps, the greatest of which leaves out a biblical view of the saving gospel.

Ask Yourself

What makes us susceptible to the appealing messages of the false teachers? What are people looking for when they begin embracing error? How can we guard against this ourselves?