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Jeremiah 31:3

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; 

Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.


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 "What is the power of the Holy Spirit?"

The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God. The Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, has appeared throughout Scripture as a Being through and by whom great works of power are made manifest. His power was first seen in the act of creation, for it was by His power the world came into being (Genesis 1:1–2Job 26:13). The Holy Spirit also empowered men in the Old Testament to bring about God’s will: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1 Samuel 16:13; see also Exodus 31:2–5Numbers 27:18). Although the Spirit did not permanently indwell God’s people in the Old Testament, He worked through them and gave them power to achieve things they would not have been able to accomplish on their own. All of Samson’s feats of strength are directly attributed to the Spirit coming upon him (Judges 14:61915:14).

Jesus promised the Spirit as a permanent guide, teacher, seal of salvation, and comforter for believers (John 14:16-18). He also promised that the Holy Spirit’s power would help His followers to spread the message of the gospel around the world: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The salvation of souls is a supernatural work only made possible by the Holy Spirit’s power at work in the world.

When the Holy Spirit descended upon believers at Pentecost, it was not a quiet event, but a powerful one. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1–4). Immediately afterward, the disciples spoke to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. These people hailed from a variety of nations and therefore spoke many different languages. Imagine their surprise and wonder when the disciples spoke to them in their own tongues (verses 5–12)! Clearly, this was not something the disciples could have accomplished on their own without many months—or even years—of study. The Holy Spirit’s power was made manifest to a great number of people that day, resulting in the conversion of about 3,000 (verse 41).

During His earthly ministry, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), led by the Spirit (Luke 4:14), and empowered by the Spirit to perform miracles (Matthew 12:28). After Jesus had ascended to heaven, the Spirit equipped the apostles to perform miracles, too (2 Corinthians 2:12Acts 2:433:1–79:39–41). The power of the Holy Spirit was manifest among all the believers of the early church through the dispensation of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, teaching, wisdom, and more.

All those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are immediately and permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). And, although some of the spiritual gifts have ceased (e.g., speaking in tongues and prophecy), the Holy Spirit still works in and through believers to accomplish His will. His power leads us, convicts us, teaches us, and equips us to do His work and spread the gospel. The Holy Spirit’s powerful indwelling is an amazing gift we should never take lightly




The Plague of Plagues

“But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:23).

Sin is the deadliest plague ever to affect mankind.

Throughout history, deadly plagues have ravaged the human race. In just three years (1348-1350), the infamous “Black Death” (an outbreak of bubonic plague) killed half the population of Europe. In our own times, diseases such as AIDS have reached epidemic proportions.

But there is one plague that is far deadlier than all the others combined: sin. Sin has affected everyone who has ever lived (Rom. 3:1923). And unlike other plagues, sin kills everyone it infects (Rom. 5:12).

While sin invariably causes physical and (apart from faith in Christ) spiritual death, it has many other devastating consequences. Sin corrupts the mind (Jer. 17:9Eph. 4:17-19), the will (cf. Jer. 44:16-17), and the affections (John 3:191 John 2:15). Sin brings people under the control of Satan (John 8:44Eph. 2:2) and makes them the objects of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:3). Sin robs people of peace (Isa. 48:22) and replaces it with misery (Job 5:7Rom. 8:20).

Although as Christians we experience God’s gracious forgiveness, sin still has serious consequences in our lives. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), causes God not to answer our prayers (1 Peter 3:7), limits our ability to serve God (2 Tim. 2:20-21), or even disqualifies some from Christian service (1 Cor. 9:27). It also renders our worship hypocritical and unacceptable (Ps. 33:1Isa. 1:14), causes God to withhold blessing (Jer. 5:25), robs us of joy (Ps. 51:12), subjects us to God’s chastening (Heb. 12:5-11), hinders our spiritual growth (1 Cor. 3:13), and pollutes our fellowship with Him (1 Cor. 10:21). Most significantly, sin causes our lives to dishonor Him (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Every true Christian despises sin and yearns to be free from it. Do you realize the deadly nature of sin? I pray that the cry of your heart would echo that of Paul’s: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for delivering you from sin, and pray that He would give you a holy hatred for it.

For Further Study

Read Romans 7—8.

  • How did Paul view his struggle with sin?
  • What was the key to overcoming it?


Programming Your Spiritual Computer

"Be filled with the knowledge of [God's] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord" (Col. 1:9-10).

Godly behavior is the result of godly thinking.

Perhaps you've heard computer buffs use the term G.I.G.O.: "Garbage In, Garbage Out." Input determines output. What you feed into a computer is what you'll get out.

Similarly, what you program into your mind will eventually influence your behavior. That's why you must expose your mind to things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). As one preacher put it, "You should be so saturated with God's Word that your blood is 'bibline.' If you cut yourself, you should bleed Bible verses!" His exaggeration reveals his passion for God's truth—a passion every believer should share.

Paul prayed that we would "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; [and be] strengthened with all power . . . for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father" (Col. 1:10-12).

Those are marvelous Christian characteristics, but how are they achieved? Verse 9 gives us the answer: "Be filled with the knowledge of [God's] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." The Greek word translated "filled" speaks of influence or control. It's the same word Paul uses in Ephesians 5:18: "Be filled [controlled by] the Holy Spirit." When you're filled with the Spirit, He governs our choices. Similarly, when you're filled with the knowledge of God's will, your choices reflect godly wisdom and understanding.

The phrase "spiritual wisdom and understanding" indicates more than merely knowing God's Word. It speaks of applying it to your life under the Spirit's power and direction.

As you prayerfully saturate your mind with God's Word, it begins more and more to control your thinking and behavior. And the Spirit uses the Word to renew your mind and protect you from conformity to worldly attitudes and actions (Rom. 12:2).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to control every aspect of your life today.
  • Be diligent to apply the appropriate biblical principles to every circumstance you face.

For Further Study

Memorize Philippians 4:8 as a reminder to feed your mind with the things that produce godliness.


Christ’s Unity with the Father and the Spirit

“‘He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure’” (John 3:33–34).

Although the majority of people reject Jesus’ message, not everyone does. There are some who accept His testimony, believing in Him for eternal life. In the ancient world, people set their seal to something, often with a signet ring, as a sign of complete acceptance and approval. Those who have received Christ’s testimony thereby verify their belief that “God is true” when He speaks through His Son.

Unlike human teachers, whose words sometimes agree with divine truth and sometimes do not, Jesus always spoke in complete harmony with the Father. Thus, those who profess to believe in God yet reject Jesus Christ are deceived. Jesus is one with the Father (John 10:30)—“He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (5:23)—and the Father said of Him, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matt. 17:5). He is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (John 14:6). To reject Jesus, then, is to call God a liar (1 John 5:10).

Jesus is also one with the Holy Spirit. Jesus infallibly spoke “the words of God” because God gave the Spirit to Him “without measure.” Since “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9), there were no limits to the Spirit’s power working through Him.

Ask Yourself

When are we guilty of calling God a liar—perhaps not in regards to the salvation He’s given us, but in other matters of expectation and belief? What are the great hazards of doubting His Word and discounting His truthfulness?


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 55:1 Everyone. The Servant’s redemptive work and glorious kingdom is for the benefit of all who are willing to come (53:6). The prophet invites his readers to participate in the benefits obtained by the suffering of the Servant in chapter 53 and described in chapter 54. no money,…without money and without price. Benefits in the Servant’s kingdom will be free because of His redemptive work (53:6, 8, 11; Eph. 2:89). wine and milk. Symbols for abundance, satisfaction, and prosperity (Song 5:1Joel 3:18).

Isaiah 55:6, 7 Here is one of the clearest Old Testament invitations to salvation now and kingdom blessing later. It gives an excellent example of how people were saved during the Old Testament period. Salvation grace and mercy were available to the soul that was willing to 1) seek the Lord (Deut. 4:292 Chr. 15:4) and 2) call on Him while He is still available (65:1; Ps. 32:6Prov. 8:17Matt. 25:1–13). Such true seeking in faith is accompanied by repentance, which is described as forsaking ways and thoughts and turning from sinful living to the Lord. A sinner must come, believing in God, recognizing his sin, and desiring forgiveness and deliverance from that sin. At the same time he must recognize his own inability to be righteous or to satisfy God and cast himself on God’s mercy. It is then that he receives a complete pardon. His sin has been covered by the substitution of the Messiah in his place (chap. 53).

Psalm 113:9 the barren woman. Sarah (Gen. 21:2), Rebekah (Gen. 25:21), and Rachel (Gen. 30:23) would be the most significant since the outcome of the Abrahamic Covenant depended on these childless women being blessed by God to be mothers.

Ephesians 4:12 equipping. This refers to restoring something to its original condition, or its being made fit or complete. In this context, it refers to leading Christians from sin to obedience. Scripture is the key to this process (2 Tim. 3:1617John 15:3). saints. All who believe in Jesus Christ. the work of ministry. The spiritual service required of every Christian, not just of church leaders (1 Cor. 15:58). the edifying of the body of Christ. The spiritual edification, nurturing, and development of the church (Acts 20:32).

Ephesians 4:14 carried about with every wind of doctrine. Spiritually immature believers who are not grounded in the knowledge of Christ through God’s Word are inclined to uncritically accept every sort of beguiling doctrinal error and fallacious interpretation of Scripture promulgated by deceitful, false teachers in the church. They must learn discernment (1 Thess. 5:2122). The New Testament is replete with warnings of such danger (Acts 20:30,31Rom. 16:1718Gal. 1:671 Tim. 4:1–72 Tim. 2:15–182 Pet. 2:1–3).

DAY 2: Define the spiritually gifted men Christ calls to serve His church in Ephesians 4:11.

“Apostles.” A term used particularly of the 12 disciples who had seen the risen Christ (Acts 1:22), including Matthias, who replaced Judas. Later, Paul was uniquely set apart as the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:15–17) and was numbered with the other apostles. Those apostles were chosen directly by Christ, so as to be called “apostles of Christ” (Gal. 1:11 Pet. 1:1). They were given 3 basic responsibilities: 1) to lay the foundation of the church (2:20); 2) to receive, declare, and write God’s Word (3:5; Acts 11:2821:1011); and 3) to give confirmation of that Word through signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12Acts 8:67). The term “apostle” is used in more general ways of other men in the early church, such as Barnabas (Acts 14:4), Silas, Timothy, and others (Rom. 16:7Phil. 2:25). They are called “apostles of the churches” (2 Cor. 8:23) rather than “apostles of Jesus Christ” like the 13. They were not self-perpetuating nor was any apostle who died replaced.

“Prophets.” Not ordinary believers who had the gift of prophecy but specially commissioned men in the early church. The office of prophet seems to have been exclusively for work within a local congregation. They were not “sent ones” as were the apostles (Acts 13:1), but, as with the apostles, their office ceased with the completion of the New Testament. They sometimes spoke practical direct revelation for the church from God (Acts 11:21–28) or expounded revelation already given (implied in Acts 13:1).Their messages were to be judged by other prophets for validity (1 Cor. 14:32) and had to conform to the teaching of the apostles (v. 37). Those two offices were replaced by the evangelists and teaching pastors.

“Evangelists.” Men who proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to unbelievers. The related verb translated “to preach the gospel” is used 54 times and the related noun translated “gospel” is used 76 times in the New Testament.

“Pastors and teachers.” This phrase is best understood in context as a single office of leadership in the church. The Greek word translated “and” can mean “in particular” (1 Tim. 5:17). The normal meaning of pastor is “shepherd,” so the two functions together define the teaching shepherd. He is identified as one who is under the “great Pastor” Jesus (Heb. 13:20211 Pet. 2:25). One who holds this office is also called an “elder” (Titus 1:5–9) and “bishop” (1 Tim. 3:1–7).

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Man's Biggest Problems

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sin is pervasive and deadly.

When the early church father Chrysostom remarked, “I fear nothing but sin,” he correctly identified sin as the greatest threat any person faces. Sin mars all the relationships people are involved in: with other people, with themselves, and, most significantly, with God. Sin causes suffering, disease, and death in the physical realm and also causes spiritual death—eternal separation from God in Hell.

Because sin is so deadly, we need to carefully define it, so we can understand and avoid it. First John 3:4 sums up the essence of sin when it says, “Sin is lawlessness.” Sin is refusing to obey God’s law; it is rejecting God’s standards; it is, in fact, living as if God did not exist.

In 1 John 5:17, the apostle John adds to his definition of sin, describing it as “unrighteousness.” James defines sin as failing to do what is good (James 4:17). Paul defines it as lack of faith (Rom. 14:23). Sin is the ultimate act of ingratitude toward the God “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).

Sin pollutes the sinner, prompting Paul to refer to it as that “defilement of flesh and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:1) from which sinners are in desperate need of cleansing. No amount of human effort, however, can cleanse a person of sin. Such self-effort is as futile as attempting to change the color of one’s skin (Jer. 13:23). Only through the death of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:12), is forgiveness and cleansing available (1 John 1:7).

Sin is the only thing that God hates (cf. Jer. 44:4), and so must believers (Ps. 97:10Amos 5:15). The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson noted that a prerequisite for sanctification is such hatred for sin. Renew your commitment today to grow in your relationship with the Lord by hating evil (Prov. 8:13).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for yourself and others that you would not be deceived by the subtleness of sin (Heb. 3:13).

For Further Study

  • Identify the sins you struggle with the most.
  • Using a concordance and other study tools, find out what the Bible says about those sins.
  • Form a biblical plan of attack to combat them.


How to Be Noble Minded

"[The Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).

God honors spiritual discernment.

On his second missionary journey, Paul, accompanied by Silas, preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in the city of Thessalonica. They weren't there long before the gospel took root and many turned from their idolatry to serve the true and living God (1 Thess. 1:9). In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul says, "We also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God." Their open response to God's Word made them an example to all the believers in that area (1 Thess. 1:7).

But as exemplary as the Thessalonians were, their fellow believers in Berea were even more so. God called them "noble- minded" (Acts 17:11). They were eager to hear what Paul and Silas had to say, but tested it against God's prior revelation in the Old Testament before receiving it as a message from God. They had learned to examine everything carefully and hold fast to the truth (1 Thess. 5:21).

The church today, however, has an appalling lack of that kind of discernment. Many believers are duped by novel teachings and outright heresies. They're "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). We desperately need a new breed of Bereans who will raise high the banner of sound doctrine and never compromise it.

With that goal in mind, our studies this month will focus on the character and benefits of God's Word. You'll learn that it's the source of spiritual growth, spiritual service, blessing, victory, truth, and knowledge. You'll see its infallibility, inerrancy, authority, inspiration, and sufficiency.

I pray that by this month's end, your commitment to learning and applying biblical truth will be stronger than ever, and you will indeed be a modern-day, noble-minded Berean.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you a greater love for His wonderful Word.

For Further Study

Read Acts 17:1-15.

  • Why did Paul and his companions leave Thessalonica and Berea?
  • What do Paul's experiences tell you about what you might expect as you share Christ with others?


Christ the Son Knows the Truth

“‘He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony’” (John 3:31–32).

Jesus Christ is the one “who descended from heaven” (3:13). As such, He is “above all”—Christ is sovereign over the universe in general, and the world of humanity in particular.

In the old covenant, “God . . . spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets” (Heb. 1:1). But in the new covenant God “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (v. 2). Jesus’ teaching is superior to anyone else’s because His knowledge is not secondhand. He is the source of divine revelation. What “He has seen and heard” in the heavenly realm, “of that He testifies” with certainty.

Yet despite Jesus’ powerful, authoritative proclamation of the truth, “no one receives His testimony.” The world in general rejects Jesus and His teaching. The apostle John noted this in the Prologue to his gospel: “[Jesus] was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (1:9–11). Unbelievers willfully reject Jesus’ testimony to the truth because they are dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) and blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4).

Ask Yourself

When there are so many situations in which we think we know best, not to mention so many other people who have their own judgments and opinions, how do we train ourselves to keep in mind that what God says is what’s true? When do you sense His authority challenged the most in your life?


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 53:6 All we…every one,…us all. Every person has sinned (Rom. 3:923), but the Servant has sufficiently shouldered the consequences of sin and the righteous wrath deserved by sinners (1 Tim. 2:564:101 John 2:2). The manner in which God laid our iniquity on Him was that God treated Him as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe, though He was perfectly innocent of any sin. God did so to Him, so that wrath being spent and justice satisfied, God could then give to the account of sinners who believe, the righteousness of Christ, treating them as if they had done only the righteous acts of Christ. In both cases, this is substitution.

Isaiah 53:10 it pleased the LORDThough the Servant did not deserve to die, it was the Lord’s will for Him to do so (Matt. 26:39Luke 22:42John 12:27Acts 2:23). an offering for sin. Fulfilled by the Servant as the Lamb of God (v. 7; John 1:29). Christ is the Christian’s Passover (1 Cor. 5:7). This conclusively eliminates the error that Christ’s atonement provides present-day healing for those who pray in faith. His death was an atonement for sin, not sickness. see His seed,…prolong His days. To see His seed, the Servant must rise from the dead. He will do this and live to reign forever.

Ephesians 3:19 to know the love of Christ. Not the love believers have for Christ, but the love of and from Christ that He places in their hearts before they can truly and fully love Him or anyone else (Rom. 5:5). which passes knowledge. Knowledge of Christ’s love is far beyond the capability of human reason and experience. It is only known by those who are God’s children (Phil. 4:7). filled with all the fullness of God. To be so strong spiritually, so compelled by divine love, that one is totally dominated by the Lord with nothing left of self. Human comprehension of the fullness of God is impossible, because even the most spiritual and wise believer cannot completely grasp the full extent of God’s attributes and characteristics—His power, majesty, wisdom, love, mercy, patience, kindness, and everything He is and does. But believers can experience the greatness of God in their lives as a result of total devotion to Him. Note the fullness of God, here; the fullness of Christ in 4:13; and the fullness of the Spirit in 5:18.

DAY 1: How explicit does Isaiah 53 get regarding the Messiah?

Isaiah begins in v. 1 by saying, “Who has believed our report?” The question implied that, in spite of these and other prophecies, only a few would recognize the Servant when He appeared. This anticipation found literal fulfillment at Christ’s First Advent. Israel did not welcome Him at His First Advent (John 1:9–1112:38). Paul applied the same prophecy to the world at large (Rom.10:16). At His First Coming, the nation did not recognize the mighty, incarnate power of God in the Person of Jesus, their Deliverer.

Yet Messiah Jesus was observed carefully by God (“before Him”, v. 2), who ordered every minute circumstance of His life. “Dry ground…no beauty that we should desire Him.” The Servant will arise in lowly conditions and wear none of the usual emblems of royalty, making His true identity visible only to the discerning eye of faith.

“Despised…rejected…despised” (v. 3). The prophet foresees the hatred and rejection by mankind toward the Messiah/Servant, who suffered not only external abuse, but also internal grief over those He came to save. “We hid…we did not esteem.” By using the first person, the prophet spoke for his unbelieving nation’s aversion to a crucified Messiah and their lack of respect for the incarnate Son of God.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (v. 4). Isaiah was saying that the Messiah would bear the consequences of the sins of men, namely the griefs and sorrows of life, though incredibly the Jews who watched Him die thought He was being punished by God for His own sins. Matthew found an analogical fulfillment of these words in Jesus’ healing ministry (Matt. 8:1617), because sickness results from sin for which the Servant paid with His life. In eternity, all sickness will be removed, so ultimately it is included in the benefits of the atonement.

“He was wounded for our transgressions…bruised for our iniquities” (v. 5). The Servant suffered not for His own sin, since He was sinless (Heb. 4:157:26), but as the substitute for sinners. The emphasis here is on Christ being the substitute recipient of God’s wrath on sinners (2 Cor. 5:21Gal. 1:34Heb. 10:910). “Chastisement for our peace.” He suffered the chastisement of God in order to procure our peace with God. “By His stripes we are healed.” The stripe that caused His death has brought salvation to those for whose sins He died. Peter confirms this in 1 Peter 2:24.

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Using Spiritual Gifts

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

To be effective, spiritual gifts must be used in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in the power of the flesh.

One of the constant battles all believers face is to avoid ministering their spiritual gifts in the power of the flesh. Even those of us who are called to be preachers (prophets) need to subject our spirits to other mature believers (1 Cor. 14:32). As a pastor, I am not spiritual just because I stand behind a pulpit and preach. Paul instructs us, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let others pass judgment” (1 Cor. 14:29). Those who teach God’s Word are not infallible; therefore, they must allow other qualified believers to verify the truth of what they proclaim.

Whenever Christians rely on their own strength, wisdom, and desire to minister, whatever they accomplish is a mockery and a waste. But whenever they minister by the Spirit’s power, the result is pleasing to God and has lasting value (“gold, silver, precious stones. . . . If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward,” 1 Cor. 3:1214). Essentially, all a believer needs to pray is, “Spirit of God, use me,” and divine energy will activate and flow through his or her ministry to fellow believers and unbelievers.

You can use your spiritual gift effectively by faithfully following three basic steps: Pray—continually confess and turn from your sins (1 John 1:9) and ask God to use you in the Holy Spirit’s power. Yield yourself—always determine to live according to God’s will, not the world’s (Rom. 6:1612:12). Be filled with the Spirit—let the Spirit control all of your thoughts, decisions, words, and actions. Commit everything to Him, and He will minister through you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Confess any and all times lately that you have counted on your human ability rather than on the Spirit’s power to minister to others.
  • Pray that this week God would give you a clear opportunity to exercise your spiritual gift for His glory.

For Further Study

Read 1 Samuel 15:1-23.

  • In what way did King Saul use his own insight rather than follow God’s command?
  • What can be the consequence of such disobedience (vv. 22-23; see also 1 Sam. 13:8-14)?


Principles for Spiritual Victory

"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might" (Eph. 6:10).

You can be victorious!

This month we've learned many things about spiritual warfare that I pray will better equip you for victory in your Christian life. In concluding our brief study of Ephesians 6:10-18, here are some key principles I want you to remember:

  1. Remember that Satan is a defeated foe. Jesus came to destroy his works (1 John 3:8) and will someday cast him into eternal hell (Rev. 20:10).
  2. Remember the power of Christ in your life. John said, "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). The same power that defeated Satan indwells you. Consequently, you are never alone or without divine resources.
  3. Remember to resist Satan. You have the power to resist him, so don't acquiesce to him by being ignorant of his schemes or deliberately exposing yourself to temptation.
  4. Keep your spiritual armor on at all times. It's foolish to enter combat without proper protection.
  5. Let Christ control your attitudes and actions. The spiritual battle we're in calls for spiritual weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-4), so take "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (v. 5). Feed on the Word and obey its principles.
  6. Pray, pray, pray! Prayer unleashes the Spirit's power. Be a person of fervent and faithful prayer (cf. James 5:16).

God never intended for you to live in spiritual defeat. I pray you'll take advantage of the resources He has supplied that your life might honor Him. Enjoy sweet victory every day!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His promise of ultimate victory in Christ.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 6:10-18.

  • Review each piece of armor.
  • Is any piece missing from your personal defense system? If so, determine what you will do to correct the deficiency.


Belief Contrasted with Unbelief

“‘He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God’” (John 3:18–21).

Although God graciously has offered the world salvation through the work of Christ, that salvation is not appropriated except by penitent faith. The lost are condemned because they have “not believed in [literally, “believed into”] the name of the only begotten Son of God.” While the final sentencing of those who reject Christ is still future (cf. 5:28–29), their judgment will merely consummate what has already begun.

Jesus described judgment by contrasting light and darkness. Christ is the Light—He came into the world and “enlightens every man” (John 1:9). But people refuse to come to the Light because they love the darkness where their evil deeds will not be exposed. The Light reveals their sin. But as a result, they seal their own condemnation because they reject the only One who can save them from their spiritual darkness.

In contrast, believers hate their sin and love righteousness (1 John 2:3–6), so they willingly come to the light because they have nothing to hide and no reason to fear what the light will reveal.

Ask Yourself

How many times a day do you participate in activities you hope no one else knows about? Aspire to the freedom of being the same person in private that you are in public—unashamed at and unexposed by the Light.


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 51:6 heavens will vanish…earth will grow old. This begins to take place in the time of tribulation (Rev. 6:12–148:121316:8–1021), setting the stage, along with the earthly judgments on land, sea, and fresh water (Rev. 6:148:6–1116:3–5), for a renewed earth during the Millennium. The actual “uncreation” or destruction of the present universe, of which Peter wrote (2 Pet. 3:10–13), occurs at the end of Christ’s millennial reign on the earth, when a new heaven and a new earth will replace the present creation (2 Pet. 3:10Rev. 21:1).

Isaiah 52:14 His visage was marred. The Servant must undergo inhuman cruelty to the point that He no longer looks like a human being. His appearance is so awful that people look at Him in astonishment (53:2, 3; Ps. 22:6Matt. 26:6727:30John 19:3).

Isaiah 52:15 sprinkle many nations. In His disfigured state, the Servant will perform a priestly work of cleansing not just Israel but many outside the nation (Ex. 29:21Lev. 4:68:1114:7Num. 8:719:1819Heb. 9:13). shut their mouths. At His exaltation, human leaders in the highest places will be speechless and in awe before the once-despised Servant (Ps. 2). When He takes His throne, they will see the unfolding of power and glory such as they have never heard. Paul applied the principle in this verse to his apostolic mission of preaching the gospel of Christ where Christ was yet unknown (Rom. 15:21).

Ephesians 2:1 dead in trespasses and sins. A sobering reminder of the total sinfulness and lostness from which believers have been redeemed. “In” indicates the realm or sphere in which unregenerate sinners exist. They are not dead because of sinful acts that have been committed but because of their sinful nature (Matt. 12:3515:1819).

Ephesians 2:21 a holy temple in the Lord. Every new believer is a new stone in Christ’s temple, the church, Christ’s body of believers (1 Pet. 2:5). Christ’s building of His church will not be complete until every person who will believe in Him has done so (2 Pet. 3:9).

DAY 30: How were Gentiles brought into the family of God?

Historically, the Gentiles (the “uncircumcision”) experienced two types of alienation. The first was social, resulting from the animosity that had existed between Jews and Gentiles for thousands of years. Jews considered Gentiles to be outcasts, objects of derision and reproach. The second and more significant type of alienation was spiritual, because Gentiles as a people were cut off from God in 5 different ways (Eph. 2:1112): 1) they were “without Christ,” the Messiah, having no Savior and Deliverer and without divine purpose or destiny. 2) They were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” God’s chosen people, the Jews, were a nation whose supreme King and Lord was God Himself, and from whose unique blessing and protection they benefitted. 3) Gentiles were “strangers from the covenants of promise,” not able to partake of God’s divine covenants in which He promised to give His people a land, a priesthood, a people, a nation, a kingdom, and a King—and to those who believe in Him, eternal life and heaven. 4) They had “no hope” because they had been given no divine promise. 5) They were “without God in the world.” While Gentiles had many gods, they did not recognize the true God because they did not want Him.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”(v.13). “Far off” was a common term in rabbinical writings used to describe Gentiles, those who were apart from the true God (Is. 57:19Acts 2:39). Every person who trusts in Christ alone for salvation, Jew or Gentile, is brought into spiritual union and intimacy with God. This is the reconciliation of 2 Corinthians 5:18–21.The atoning work accomplished by Christ’s death on the cross washes away the penalty of sin and ultimately even its presence. “He Himself” (v. 14). Through His death, Christ abolished Old Testament ceremonial laws, feasts, and sacrifices which uniquely separated Jews from Gentiles. God’s moral law (as summarized in the Ten Commandments and written on the hearts of all men, Rom. 2:15) was not abolished but subsumed in the New Covenant, however, because it reflects His own holy nature (Matt. 5:17–19.)

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Spiritual Gifts

“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

God wants every Christian to understand spiritual gifts and use his or hers wisely.

A spiritual gift is a channel through which the Holy Spirit ministers to the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:11). The day we were born again into God’s family, His Spirit distributed to us a spiritual gift. Therefore, having a spiritual gift does not mean a believer is “spiritual.” What we really must ask is, “Is the channel clear?” Hypothetically, someone could have all the recorded spiritual gifts and not be using any of them. Or that believer could be greatly abusing some gifts. In either case, such a person would not be spiritual.

It is also incorrect to equate a natural ability with a spiritual gift. Someone might say, “My gift is baking pies”; another might say, “I’m good at playing the piano.” Those are wonderful and useful abilities, but they are natural abilities, not spiritual gifts.

Paul illustrates the difference between abilities and gifts. He could have used his knowledge of philosophy and literature to write and deliver great orations. However, this is what he said to the Corinthians: “I did not come with superiority of speech or wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). The Holy Spirit uses the abilities of people like Paul and speaks through them, but He expresses Himself in a supernatural way, which is not necessarily related to the person’s natural skills.

If we rely on our own ability to produce spiritual fruit, we hinder what the Spirit wants to do in us. Instead, ponder what Peter says about using your gift: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for the special spiritual gift He has given you. Ask that He would help you use it faithfully, to its full potential.

For Further Study

Read Romans 12:4-8 and list the spiritual gifts mentioned there. What does 1 Corinthians 12, especially verses 12-31, emphasize regarding the use of the various gifts within the church?


Praying for Others

"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).

God wants you to look beyond your own problems and pray for the needs of others.

The great preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, "Before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in Barcelona, Madrid and other places, there were psychological clinics with large numbers of neurotics undergoing drug treatments and others attending regularly for psychoanalysis and such like. They had their personal problems, their worries, their anxieties, their temptations, having to go back week after week, month after month, to the clinics in order to be kept going.

"Then came the Civil War; and one of the first and most striking effects of that War was that it virtually emptied the psychological and psychiatric clinics. These neurotic people were suddenly cured by a greater anxiety, the anxiety about their whole position, whether their homes would still be there, whether their husbands would still be alive, whether their children would be killed.

"Their greater anxieties got rid of the lesser ones. In having to give attention to the bigger problem they forgot their own personal and somewhat petty problems" (The Christian Soldier: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10to 20 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], p. 357).

That's a negative illustration of a positive principle: your own problems pale as you pray in the Spirit on behalf of others. Praying "in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18) is praying in concert with the Holy Spirit—in harmony with His Person and will. It's synonymous with praying according to God's will (1 John 5:14).

As the Holy Spirit intercedes for you (Rom. 8:26-27), you are to intercede for others. That's not always easy in our contemporary religious environment where self- centeredness is praised rather than shunned, and more and more professing Christians are embracing the health, wealth, and prosperity heresy. But God's mandate is for us to love one another, pray for one another, and look out for one another's interests (Phil. 2:3-4). Let that mandate govern all your relationships.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Make a list of people you want to intercede for.
  • Spend time praying for each person, asking God to show you specific ways to minister to his or her needs.

For Further Study

Read Philippians 2:1-11.

  • What should be your attitude toward other believers?
  • How did Christ set an example of proper attitudes?


The Offer of Salvation

“‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him’” (John 3:16–17).

God’s gracious gift of salvation is freely available to whoever believes in Christ. The free offer of the gospel is broad enough to encompass the vilest sinner (1 Tim. 1:15), yet narrow enough to exclude all who reject Christ (John 3:18). But to those who come to Him on His terms, Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37)—they will never perish.

To “perish” is to face God’s eternal judgment. It is true that “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world.” Jesus Himself declared in John 12:47, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Yes, God will ultimately judge those who reject His Son, but this was not the mission of the Son in His first coming.

Furthermore, the point of Jesus’ coming was not to redeem Israel and condemn the Gentiles, “but that the world might be saved through Him.” God’s gracious offer of salvation extended beyond Israel to all mankind. Once again, Nicodemus should have known this, for in the Abrahamic covenant God declared, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Gentile salvation was always God’s purpose.

Ask Yourself

Are you ever troubled that your salvation is perhaps still in doubt, eligible for recall if you don’t toe a certain line or achieve a base level of righteousness? Take heart in the promise that coming to Christ equates to never being “cast out.”


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 49:8 acceptable time…day of salvation. The Messiah is represented as asking for the grace of God to be given to sinners. God gives His favorable answer in a time of grace (61:1) when salvation’s day comes to the world (Gal. 4:45Heb. 4:7). At His appointed time in the future, the Lord will, by His Servant, accomplish the final deliverance of Israel. Paul applied these words to his ministry of proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace to all people (2 Cor. 6:2). a covenant to the people. When the Lord saves and regathers Israel, they will return to the land, to which Joshua brought their ancestors after their exit from Egypt, now restored and glorious (44:26; Josh. 13:1–8).

Isaiah 50:6 My back…My cheeks…My face. The Servant remained obedient though provoked to rebel by excessively vile treatment. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy by remaining submissive to the Father’s will (Matt. 26:6727:2630Mark 14:6515:19Luke 22:63John 18:22).

Isaiah 50:7 set My face like a flint. So sure was He of the Lord God’s help that He resolutely determined to remain unswayed by whatever hardship might await Him (Ezek. 3:89). Jesus demonstrated this determination in setting His face to go to Jerusalem to be crucified (Luke 9:51).

Ephesians 1:13, 14 sealed with the Holy Spirit. God’s own Spirit comes to indwell the believer and secures and preserves his eternal salvation. The sealing of which Paul speaks refers to an official mark of identification placed on a letter, contract, or other document. That document was thereby officially under the authority of the person whose stamp was on the seal. Four primary truths are signified by the seal: 1) security (Dan. 6:17;Matt. 27:62–66); 2) authenticity (1 Kin. 21:6–16); 3) ownership (Jer. 32:10); and 4) authority (Esth. 8:8–12). The Holy Spirit is given by God as His pledge of the believer’s future inheritance in glory (2 Cor. 1:21).

Ephesians 1:19, 20 exceeding greatness of His power. God’s great power, that very power which raised Jesus from the dead and lifted Him by ascension back to glory to take His seat at God’s right hand, is given to every believer at the time of salvation and is always available (Acts 1:8Col. 1:29). Paul therefore did not pray that God’s power be given to believers but that they be aware of the power they already possessed in Christ and use it (3:20).

DAY 29: Why does Paul use the word “mystery” so often in his letter to the Ephesians?

Paul actually uses the word “mystery” six times in this letter (1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:326:19). By comparison, the word appears twice in Romans, once in 1 Corinthians, four times in Colossians, once in 1 Timothy, and nowhere else. Contrary to our use of “mystery” as a series of clues to be figured out, Paul’s use of the word points to mystery as a heretofore unrevealed truth that has been made clear. The word “mystery” preserves the sense that the revealed truth has such awesome implications that it continues to amaze and humble those who accept it.

Ephesians introduces various aspects of the “mystery.” Paul explained his use of the word in 3:4–6 by saying, “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” When the unsearchable riches of Christ are preached among the Gentiles, one result is an understanding of the “fellowship of the mystery” (3:9). And when God’s plan for human marriage is used to explain the unique relationship between Christ and His bride, the church, Paul reminded his readers that the real subject is a great mystery (5:32). And finally, Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him that he would be able “boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (6:19).The gospel is not mysterious because it is hard to understand. It is mysterious because it is unexpected, unmerited, and free. Though Paul didn’t use the word in this passage, his summary of the mystery for the Ephesians can be found in 2:8,9:“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

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A Healthy Church

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

God has given every believer certain gifts and functions to contribute to the health of the church and enable it to communicate the gospel to the world.

God fervently desires to reach the whole world with the gospel’s truth (Acts 1:8). Therefore, the Holy Spirit has specially energized members of Christ’s Body, the church, to fulfill God’s great desire for the world. In Old Testament times, Israel was God’s agency to reach other peoples. During New Testament history, Christ and the apostles were the outreach vehicles God used. Today the church is the channel God uses to tell the world about His nature and His truth.

The Lord wants this collection of believers to be strong and functioning well. Besides providing the gifted church leaders mentioned in today’s verses, it is God’s plan to equip every member with a specific gift that will help the church grow and be a healthy witness to its community. Just as a human body has a variety of organs that must function and interact properly for the vitality of the entire body, any believer’s consistent use of his gift helps to build up the church.

Spiritual gifts are not showered randomly, but God gives believers differing gifts so the church might display a composite reflection of Christ’s character. Therefore, believers will never begin to reach their full spiritual maturity unless all the gifts are being ministered among members of the church.

For instance, if a pastor ministers by preaching, his people should communicate more effectively. If someone ministers the gift of mercy, another believer receives the direct benefit but also learns how to show mercy. As spiritual gifts are used, everyone is built up to be more like Christ and manifest His character traits. By this process, the Holy Spirit helps the church to reflect the total Person of Christ. How are you doing in contributing your gift to God’s plan?

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that the leaders and all the members of your church would consistently display a unified, solidly biblical testimony to the community.

For Further Study

Read Acts 1:12-142:1-437-47.

  • How did the early believers demonstrate their unity?
  • What were the primary results of the Spirit’s ministry on the Day of Pentecost?

Knowing God

"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).

Your desire to know God should motivate you toward fervent prayer.

Man's highest purpose is to know God. Jesus prayed to the Father, saying, "This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Of us He said, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me" (John 10:14). John added that "we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 5:20).

Every Christian knows God through salvation, but beyond that lies an intimate knowledge of God. That should be the quest of every believer. Moses prayed, "Let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight" (Ex. 33:13). David entreated his son Solomon to "know the God of [his] father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind" (1 Chron. 28:9). Even the apostle Paul, who perhaps knew Christ more intimately than any human being thus far, never lost his passion for an even deeper knowledge (Phil. 3:10).

Such passion is the driving force behind powerful prayer. Those who know God best pray most often and most fervently. Their love for Him compels them to know and serve Him better.

How about you? Is your knowledge of God intimate? Does the character of your prayers reveal that you're in the process of knowing God?

Paul's admonitions to "pray at all times in the Spirit" and "be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18) presuppose that you know God and desire to see His will fulfilled in His people. If not, you'll never appreciate the importance of interceding on behalf of others.

Suggestions for Prayer

The martyred missionary Jim Elliot once prayed, "Lord, make my life a testimony to the value of knowing you." Let that be your prayer each day.

For Further Study

Read 1 Chronicles 28.

  • What did God forbid David to do?
  • What would happen to Solomon if he failed to know and serve God?


The Only Begotten Son

“‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life’” (John 3:16).

There are no words in human language that can adequately express the magnitude of God’s saving gift to the world. Even the apostle Paul refused to try, declaring this gift to be “indescribable” (2 Cor. 9:15). The Father “gave His only begotten Son”—His unique, one-of-a-kind Son. He is the one of whom He declared, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17); the one whom He “loves . . . and has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35); the one whom He “highly exalted . . . and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9); the one with whom He had enjoyed intimate fellowship from all eternity (John 1:1). The Father sent Him to die as a sacrifice on behalf of sinful men. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,” wrote Paul, “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

By “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Just as the supreme proof of Abraham’s love for God was his willingness to sacrifice his son (cf. Gen. 22:1216–18), so also—but on a far grander scale—the Father’s offering of “His only begotten Son” was the supreme manifestation of His love for lost sinners.

Ask Yourself

The heart of the good news is always worth returning to and reminding ourselves of, causing us to fall down in reverential awe at every fresh glimpse of this astounding grace. As you read this cherished verse of Scripture again, let each word resonate in your spirit. Into your needy heart has come the gift of God’s Son. Never get over it.


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 48:6 new things. From this point onward, the prophecies of the Messiah’s First and Second Coming and the restoration of Israel have a new distinctiveness. Babylon becomes the Babylon of Revelation (v. 20), and God uses Isaiah to communicate truths about the messianic kingdom on earth and the new heavens and new earth that follow it (e.g., 11:1–5; 65:17). Verse 7 indicates that God had never before revealed these features about the future.

Isaiah 48:10, 11 refined…tested. Since Isaiah’s time, Israel’s testings have included the Babylonian captivity and present worldwide dispersion from her land; unlike silver purged in the furnace, the purging of Israel is not complete, and they are not refined. But God keeps up the afflictions until they are, so His name is not defamed through the destruction of Israel. The nation will be purged (Zech. 13:1). God’s plan is such that He alone, not man or manmade idols, will receive credit for Israel’s salvation (42:8; Rom. 11:25–2733–36). The adversaries of God are never to be given legitimate reasons for scoffing at God and His work.

Galatians 6:8 sows to his flesh. Here it means pandering to the flesh’s evil desires. corruption. From the Greek word for degeneration, as in decaying food. Sin always corrupts and, when left unchecked, always makes a person progressively worse in character (Rom. 6:23). sows to the Spirit. To walk by the Holy Spirit. everlasting life. This expression describes not only a life that endures forever but, primarily, the highest quality of living that one can experience (Ps. 51:12John 10:10Eph. 1:318).

Galatians 6:10 opportunity. This Greek word refers to a distinct, fixed time period rather than occasional moments. Paul’s point is that the believer’s entire life provides the unique privilege by which he can serve others in Christ’s name. especially…the household of faith. Our love for fellow Christians is the primary test of our love for God.

DAY 28: How do we restore a believer overtaken in sin?

In Galatians 6:1, Paul addresses the situation where someone is overtaken in a sin, which may imply the person was actually seen committing the sin or that he was caught or snared by the sin itself. Those believers who are walking in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, and evidencing the fruit of the Spirit are to “restore” such a one. This is sometimes used metaphorically of settling disputes or arguments. It means “to mend” or “repair” and was used of setting a broken bone or repairing a dislocated limb (Heb. 12:1213Rom. 15:11 Thess. 5:14). The basic process of restoration is outlined in Matthew 18:15–20. “In a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The Greek form strongly emphasizes a continual, diligent attentiveness.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (v. 2). “Burdens” are extra heavy loads, which here represent difficulties or problems people have trouble dealing with. “Bear” connotes carrying something with endurance. The law of love which fulfills the entire law (John 13:34Rom. 13:810).

“But let each one examine his own work” (v. 4). Literally, “to approve something after testing it.” Believers first must be sure their lives are right with God before giving spiritual help to others (Matt. 7:3–5). “Have rejoicing in himself.” If a believer rejoices or boasts, it should be only boasting in the Lord for what God has done in him (2 Cor. 10:12–18), not for what he supposedly has accomplished compared to other believers.

“For each one shall bear his own load” (v. 5). This is not a contradiction to v. 2. “Load” has no connotation of difficulty; it refers to life’s routine obligations and each believer’s ministry calling (Matt. 11:301 Cor. 3:12–152 Cor. 5:10). God requires faithfulness in meeting those responsibilities.

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The Spirit Unveils the New Covenant

“Whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:15-16).

One of the most important truths the Holy Spirit unveils for us is the glory of the New Covenant.

The Old Testament contains many veiled statements, types, prophecies, and parables. The Israelites didn’t understand most of those things because the Old Testament didn’t have plainness of speech. Its glory was veiled and was even described as fading away (2 Cor. 3:13-14).

In contrast to the Old Covenant, the present New Covenant age is characterized by the clarity of all the key doctrinal and practical passages in the New Testament. This progress from the veiled glory of the previous era to the unveiled glory of the present era occurred when the Holy Spirit came in the Book of Acts. All that God wants us to know and do is clearly brought into focus now because of the teaching ministry of the indwelling Spirit.

The Spirit guides and enlightens New Covenant believers as they read and study God’s Word. Therefore, there is no longer any need, for example, to unscramble the pictures and prophecies regarding Christ. Thus Paul can say, “We use great plainness of speech” (2 Cor. 3:12, KJV). He goes on to say in verses 17-18, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Those verses describe the essence of the Christian life: becoming like Jesus Christ. The only way to do that is to know well the unveiled glory of the New Covenant and allow the Holy Spirit to change you more and more into the Savior’s image.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • As you go through this day, ask the Lord to remind you often of the glory, clarity, and freedom you have under the New Covenant.
  • Pray that all your actions would reflect this truth.

For Further Study

  • Hebrews 8 begins a discussion and outline of the superiority of the New Covenant. Read this chapter, and record what it says are differences and improvements from the Old to the New Covenant.
  • Who mediates the New Covenant?


Always Praying

"With all prayer and petition pray at all times" (Eph. 6:18).

Make prayer an ongoing part of your day.

As important as prayer is to your Christian life, you might expect Paul to list it as another piece of spiritual armor, but he doesn't. Instead, he makes it all-pervasive by instructing us to pray at all times. That's our spiritual lifeline—the air our spirits breathe. The effectiveness of each piece of armor is directly related to the quality of our prayers.

We see the importance of prayer throughout the New Testament. Jesus instructed His disciples to be on the alert at all times, praying so that they would have strength to face the trials and temptations that lie ahead (Luke 21:36). The apostles devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 6:4), as did godly people like Cornelius (Acts 10:2). Every Christian is to be continually devoted to prayer (Rom. 12:12).

In Philippians 4:6 Paul says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." He told the Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17) and instructed men everywhere to "pray, lifting up holy hands" (1 Tim. 2:8).

Jesus and Paul not only exhorted believers to pray, but also modeled diligent prayer in their own lives. Jesus often went for extended periods of time alone to pray. Paul wrote often of his own fervent prayers on behalf of others (cf. Col. 1:9; Philem. 4).

As a child, you may have been taught that prayer is reserved for mealtimes, bedtime, or church services. That's a common misconception many children carry into their adult years. But believers are to be in constant communication with God, which is simply the overflow of seeing all of life from His perspective. Just as you would discuss your everyday experiences and feelings with a close friend, so you're to discuss them with God.

God loves you and wants to share your every joy, sorrow, victory, and defeat. Be conscious of His presence today and take advantage of the sweet communion He offers.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He's always available to hear your prayers.
  • Ask Him to give you a desire to commune with Him more faithfully.

For Further Study

What do these verses say about the most appropriate times for prayer: Psalm 55:16-17Daniel 6:10Luke 6:12, and 1 Timothy 5:5?


The World

“‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life’” (John 3:16).

John 3:16 is undoubtedly the most familiar and beloved verse in all of Scripture. The first thing you notice is God’s motive for giving Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 9:15)—because He loved the evil, sinful world of fallen humanity. There was nothing in man that attracted God’s love. Rather He loved because He sovereignly determined to do so.

It is important to note that “world” is a nonspecific term for humanity in a general sense. The statement in verse 17, “that the world might be saved through Him,” proves that it does not mean everyone who has ever lived, since all will not be saved. Verse 16 cannot be teaching universal salvation, since the context promises that unbelievers will perish in eternal judgment (vv. 16–18). Our Lord is saying that for all in the world there is only one Savior (1 John 2:2), but only those who are regenerated by the Spirit and who believe in His gospel will receive salvation and eternal life through Him.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:19, used “world” in a similar way: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” The reason God was reconciling the world to Himself is that the world has no other reconciler. That not all will believe and be reconciled is clear from Paul’s plea in verse 20: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Ask Yourself

How else might you respond to someone who believes that “a loving God would not send anyone to hell” and therefore everyone will be saved in the end? What does this probably tell you about the person making this claim?


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 45:1 His anointed. This word is the one translated from the Hebrew by the transliteration—“Messiah.” It is the word used for the messianic Redeemer King in Psalm 2:2 and Daniel 9:2526, but here refers to Cyrus, as the king set apart by God’s providence for divine purposes. Though not a worshiper of the Lord, the Persian monarch played an unusual role as Israel’s shepherd (44:28) and God’s anointed judge on nations.

Isaiah 45:21 there is no other…There is none. The Lord restated the truth expressed by Moses in Deuteronomy 4:35. The scribe who asked Jesus about the greatest commandment cited this same principle in agreeing with Jesus’ answer to his question (Mark 12:32).

Isaiah 45:23 every knee shall bow. In the kingdom age, all nations will worship the one true God of Israel. A further meaning, justified by the New Testament, applies this verse to believers’ accountability to God when He evaluates their works (Rom. 14:11). In assigning the words another meaning, Paul relates the words to the coming universal acknowledgment that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:1011).

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast. Stay where you are, Paul asserts, because of the benefit of being free from the law and the flesh as a way of salvation and the fullness of blessing by grace. free. Deliverance from the curse that the law pronounces on the sinner who has been striving unsuccessfully to achieve his own righteousness (3:13, 22–26; 4:1–7), but who has now embraced Christ and the salvation granted to him by grace. entangled again. Better translated “to be burdened by,” “to be oppressed by,” or “to be subject to,” because of its connection with a yoke. yoke of bondage. “Yoke” refers to the apparatus used to control a domesticated animal. The Jews referred to the “yoke of the law” as a good thing, the essence of true religion. Paul argued that for those who pursued it as a way of salvation, the law was a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:6 neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything. Nothing done or not done in the flesh, even religious ceremony, makes any difference in one’s relationship to God. What is external is immaterial and worthless, unless it reflects genuine internal righteousness (Rom. 2:25–29). faith working through love. Saving faith proves its genuine character by works of love. The one who lives by faith is internally motivated by love for God and Christ (Matt. 22:37–40), which supernaturally issues forth in reverent worship, genuine obedience, and self-sacrificing love for others.

DAY 27: Describe the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit are the godly attitudes that characterize the lives of only those who belong to God by faith in Christ and possess the Spirit of God. The Spirit produces fruit which consists of 9 characteristics or attitudes that are inextricably linked with each other and are commanded of believers throughout the New Testament.

“Love.” One of several Greek words for love, agape, is the love of choice, referring not to an emotional affection, physical attraction, or a familial bond, but to respect, devotion, and affection that leads to willing, self-sacrificial service (John 15:13Rom. 5:81 John 3:1617).“Joy.” A happiness based on unchanging divine promises and eternal spiritual realities. It is the sense of well-being experienced by one who knows all is well between himself and the Lord (1 Pet. 1:8). Joy is not the result of favorable circumstances, and even occurs when those circumstances are the most painful and severe (John 16:20–22). Joy is a gift from God, and as such, believers are not to manufacture it but to delight in the blessing they already possess (Rom.14:17Phil. 4:4). “Peace.” The inner calm that results from confidence in one’s saving relationship with Christ. The verb form denotes binding together and is reflected in the expression “having it all together.” Like joy, peace is not related to one’s circumstances (John 14:27Rom. 8:28Phil. 4:679).

“Longsuffering.” Patience which refers to the ability to endure injuries inflicted by others and the willingness to accept irritating or painful situations (Eph. 4:2;Col. 3:121 Tim.1:15,16). “Kindness.” Tender concern for others, reflected in a desire to treat others gently, just as the Lord treats all believers (Matt. 11:282919:13142 Tim. 2:24). “Goodness.” Moral and spiritual excellence manifested in active kindness (Rom. 5:7). Believers are commanded to exemplify goodness (6:102 Thess. 1:11). “Faithfulness.” Loyalty and trustworthiness (Lam. 3:22Phil. 2:7–91 Thess. 5:24Rev. 2:10).

“Gentleness.” Better translated “meekness.” It is a humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while having no desire for revenge or retribution. In the New Testament, it is used to describe 3 attitudes: submission to the will of God (Col. 3:12), teachability (James 1:21), and consideration of others (Eph. 4:2). “Self-control.” This refers to restraining passions and appetites (1 Cor. 9:252 Pet. 1:56). “No law.” When a Christian walks by the Spirit and manifests His fruit, he needs no external law to produce the attitudes and behavior that please God (Rom.8:4).

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The Spirit Brings Understanding

“‘These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will speak no more to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father’” (John 16:25).

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

Scripture makes it clear that the disciples and all subsequent believers would need additional divine assistance to understand all of God’s teachings. Jesus Himself knew that, as we saw in yesterday’s lesson. And the apostle Paul alludes to that fact in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’” Our human minds and senses by themselves can’t give us an understanding of God’s truth. That’s why we need the Holy Spirit.

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read Acts 8:26-38.

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


Satan Opposes God's Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8.

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


An Old Testament Illustration of Salvation

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

Isaiah 44:28 Cyrus,…My shepherd. The prophecy—given a century and a half before Cyrus lived and became king of Persia—predicted God’s use of the Persian king to gather the faithful remnant of Israel back to the land. In this role, Cyrus prefigured the Lord’s Servant, who will shepherd the sheep of Israel in their final regathering (Mic. 5:4). The title “shepherd” applied to kings as leaders of God’s people (2 Sam. 5:2Jer. 3:15). In Acts 13:22, Paul compares David to the standard of Cyrus’s obedience. Jerusalem…the temple. In 538 B.C., Cyrus decreed the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 1:126:3), thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. The returning Jews completed the work in 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:15).

Galatians 4:4 the fullness of the time. In God’s timetable, when the exact religious, cultural, and political conditions demanded by His perfect plan were in place, Jesus came into the world. God sent forth His Son. As a father set the time for the ceremony of his son becoming of age and being released from the guardians, stewards, and tutors, so God sent His Son at the precise moment to bring all who believe out from under bondage to the law—a truth Jesus repeatedly affirmed (John 5:3036376:3944578:16184212:4917:212520:21). That the Father sent Jesus into the world teaches His preexistence as the eternal second member of the Trinity. born of a woman. This emphasizes Jesus’ full humanity, not merely His virgin birth (Is. 7:14Matt. 1:20–25). Jesus had to be fully God for His sacrifice to be of the infinite worth needed to atone for sin. But He also had to be fully man so He could take upon Himself the penalty of sin as the substitute for man. under the law. Like all men, Jesus was obligated to obey God’s law. Unlike anyone else, however, He perfectly obeyed that law (John 8:462 Cor. 5:21Heb. 4:157:261 Pet. 2:221 John 3:5). His sinlessness made Him the unblemished sacrifice for sins, who “fulfilled all righteousness,” i.e., perfectly obeyed God in everything. That perfect righteousness is what is imputed to those who believe in Him.

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

DAY 26: How does Psalm 110 exalt Jesus Christ?

This psalm contains one of the most exalted prophetic portions of Scripture presenting Jesus Christ as both a holy king and a royal high priest—something that no human monarch of Israel ever experienced. It, along with Psalm 118, is by far the most quoted psalm in the New Testament (Matt. 22:4426:64Mark 12:3614:62Luke 20:424322:69Acts 2:3435Heb. 1:135:67:172110:13). While portraying the perfect king, the perfect high priest, and the perfect government, Psalm 110 declares Christ’s current role in heaven as the resurrected Savior (110:1) and His future role on earth as the reigning Monarch (110:2–7). This psalm is decidedly messianic and millennial in content. Jesus Christ (Matt. 22:4344) verifies the Davidic authorship.

“The LORD said to my Lord” (v. 1). Refers to the divine/human King of Israel—the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s humanity descended from David, which is demanded by the Davidic promise of 2 Samuel 7:12. Using this passage, Christ also declared His deity in the Gospels (Matt. 22:44Mark 12:36Luke 20:42–43) by arguing that only God could have been lord to King David. “My right hand.” God the Father invited God the Son in His ascension to sit at the place of honor in the heavenly throne room (Acts. 2:22–36Heb. 10:10–12). “Your enemies Your footstool.” Footstool was an ancient Near Eastern picture of absolute victory portraying the idea that one’s enemy was now underfoot (Pss. 8:6747:3Is. 66:11 Cor. 15:27).

“You are a priest” (v. 4).The first time in the history of Israel when a king simultaneously served as high priest. Christ (a.k.a. “Branch,” Is. 4:2Jer. 23:56Zech. 3:86:1213) will build the temple at which the world will worship God (2 Sam. 7:13Is. 2:2–4; Ezek. 40–48). “Forever.” Christ represents the final and foremost high priest in the history of Israel. “The order of Melchizedek.” This high priest could not be of Aaron’s lineage in that he would not be eternal, not be of Judah, not be a king, and not be of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–33; Heb. 8,9). Melchizedek, which means “king of righteousness,” served as the human priest/king of Salem in Genesis 14:17–20 and provides a picture of the order of Christ’s priesthood (Heb. 5:67:1721).

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“‘These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will speak no more to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father’” (John 16:25).

Jesus’ teaching in figurative language revealed the need for further enlightenment by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus left His disciples a storehouse of valuable information that would require additional teaching from the Holy Spirit to make it understandable. The “figurative language” our Lord sovereignly used was made up of many veiled but pointed statements, filled with rich meaning. Even Christ’s closest followers, when they first heard Him, often understood only the basics of His teachings.

Jesus used various veiled statements whose deeper meanings were not revealed until the Holy Spirit gave believers special insight. One such statement is John 2:19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The truth that Jesus was teaching—His death and resurrection—became clearer later on. John 6:53-58speaks of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood. Many of the Jews took this teaching literally and did not understand that Jesus was referring to believers’ intimate, spiritual communion with Himself.

In addition to those and other figurative expressions (see John 6:358:12), the Lord knew His disciples would not understand certain truths right away (John 16:12). They were spiritually ignorant and unable to grasp every teaching prior to Christ’s death. But once He died and rose again and the Holy Spirit came, they would understand Jesus’ teaching about His relationship to the Father, as the end of today’s verse indicates.

Whenever Christ used figurative language, it was clear enough to make it meaningful, but veiled just enough so the Spirit could reveal more profound truth later on. Having access to that unveiled truth is the blessed privilege we have today, thanks to the indwelling Holy Spirit who has come as our teacher, just as Jesus promised in John 14:26 and 16:13. We need to take full advantage of the Spirit’s teaching ministry every time we hear the Word expounded or read or study it for ourselves.

Suggestions for Prayer

When you study the Word, ask the Lord and His Spirit to help you see beneath the surface and understand as much biblical truth as possible.

For Further Study

Read John 6:32-58.

  • What does the Bread of Life provide?
  • How is it better than manna?
  • What made some of the Jews stumble at Jesus’ words?


Butterfly, Botanist, or Bee?

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

Your attitude toward Scripture will determine your effectiveness in spiritual battle.

I remember enjoying the observations of a perceptive man who was gazing at a beautiful garden. First he saw a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. It spent a few seconds on the edge of each, but derived no particular benefit from any of them.

Next he saw a botanist with large notebook and microscope in hand. As the botanist carefully observed each flower and plant, he made copious entries in his book. But after hours of meticulous study, most of what he learned was shut up in his book. Very little remained in his mind.

Then came a little bee. When it entered a flower, it emerged laden with pollen. It had left the hive that morning empty, but would return full.

When it comes to Bible study, some people are like butterflys, going from one favorite verse to another, one seminar to another, or one book to another. They're very busy and expend much energy but have little to show for their efforts. They remain unchanged in any significant way because they never really delve into the Word wholeheartedly. They're content to simply flutter around the edges.

Others, like the botanist, may study in great depth but never apply it to their lives. I know of entire commentaries written by unbelievers. In some cases their grasp of Scripture is exceptional, but they know nothing of true love for God and obedience to biblical truth. What a tragedy! But you don't have to be a biblical scholar to make that mistake. You need only to fail to apply what you learn to your life.

Rather, strive to be like the bee, spending time in the Word—reading, studying, taking notes, then emerging fuller than when you began. Your mind will be filled with wisdom and biblical insights. Your life will be sweeter and purer because the Word has done its work (1 Cor. 2:13).

Are you a butterfly, a botanist, or a bee?

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the opportunities He gives you to study His Word. Take full advantage of them.

For Further Study

According to James 1:22-25, what's the difference between someone who merely hears the Word and someone who obeys it?


Nicodemus’ Doubt

“Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?’” (John 3:9–10).

Although he was a renowned, recognized, and established teacher in Israel, Nicodemus was a poor learner. His question “How can these things be?” indicates he had made little progress. Despite Jesus’ further clarification, Nicodemus still could not accept what he was hearing. He could not let go of his legalistic religious system and realize that salvation was a sovereign, gracious work of God’s Spirit.

Because of his position as the teacher of Israel, Nicodemus could have been expected to understand the things Jesus had said. In fact, his lack of understanding was inexcusable considering his exposure to the Old Testament. Jesus found it indefensible that this prominent scholar was not familiar with the foundational new covenant teaching, housed in the Old Testament, regarding the only way of salvation (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15). Sadly, Nicodemus serves as a clear example of the numbing effect that external, legalistic religion has on a person’s spiritual perception—even to the point of obscuring the revelation of God.

Although nothing in this passage suggests Nicodemus was converted that evening (and verse 11 strongly implies that he was not), he never forgot his discussion with Jesus. Later, he boldly defended Him before the Sanhedrin (7:50–51), and helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare His body for burial (19:38–39)—actions that indicate the presence of genuine faith in his life. Somewhere after that memorable evening he spent with Jesus but before the crucifixion, Nicodemus came to understand sovereign grace and experience the reality of the new birth.

Ask Yourself

Perhaps there’s someone (or several people) you’ve been talking to and praying for, deeply concerned about their spiritual condition, perhaps even a little perturbed at their stubborn resistance to the gospel. Don’t give up. Don’t quit asking. There is more than one Nicodemus who said no, no, no, before finally succumbing to grace.


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 41:4 first…last. He existed before history and will exist after it (44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:172:822:13). am He. It is legitimate to translate the two Hebrew words thus represented by “I am” (see also 42:8; 43:10, 13; 46:4), a messianic title appropriated by Jesus frequently as explicit testimony to His deity (e.g., Mark 13:614:62Luke 21:8John 8:285813:19).The title comes originally from the Lord’s self-revelation to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

Galatians 3:1 foolish. This refers not to lack of intelligence, but to lack of obedience (Luke 24:251 Tim. 6:9Titus 3:3). Paul expressed his shock, surprise, and outrage at the Galatians’ defection. Who…? The Judaizers, the Jewish false teachers were plaguing the Galatian churches. bewitched. Charmed or misled by flattery and false promises. The term suggests an appeal to the emotions by the Judaizers. clearly portrayed. The Greek word describes the posting of official notices in public places. Paul’s preaching had publicly displayed the true gospel of Jesus Christ before the Galatians. crucified. The crucifixion of Christ was a onetime historical fact with continuing results into eternity. Christ’s sacrificial death provides eternal payment for believers’ sins (Heb. 7:25) and does not need to be supplemented by any human works.

Galatians 3:2 Did you receive the Spirit…? The answer to Paul’s rhetorical question is obvious. The Galatians had received the Spirit when they were saved (Rom. 8:91 Cor. 12:131 John 3:244:13), not through keeping the law, but through saving faith granted when hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:17). The hearing of faith is actually hearing with faith. Paul appealed to the Galatians’ own salvation to refute the Judaizers’ false teaching that keeping the law is necessary for salvation.

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Incredulous at how easily the Galatians had been duped, Paul asked a second rhetorical question, again rebuking them for their foolishness. begun in the Spirit,…by the flesh. The notion that sinful, weak, fallen human nature could improve on the saving work of the Holy Spirit was ludicrous to Paul.

Galatians 3:28 you are all one in Christ Jesus. All those who are one with Jesus Christ are one with one another. This verse does not deny that God has designed for racial, social, and sexual distinctions among Christians, but it affirms that those do not imply spiritual inequality before God. Nor is this spiritual equality incompatible with the God-ordained roles of headship and submission in the church, society, and at home. Jesus Christ, though fully equal with the Father, assumed a submissive role during His incarnation (Phil. 2:5–8).

DAY 25: Who is the “Servant” of Isaiah 42?

Others deserve the title “my servant” (v. 1), but this personal Servant of the Lord is the Messiah, who was chosen (Luke 9:351 Pet. 1:20Rev. 13:8) because the Lord delights in Him (Matt. 3:1717:5) and puts His Spirit upon Him (11:2; 59:21; Matt. 3:16Luke 4:18). “He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” At His Second Coming, Christ will rule over a kingdom in which justice prevails throughout the world. The millennial kingdom is not for Israel alone, though the Messiah will reign on the throne of David in Jerusalem, and Israel will be the glorious people. In fact, all the nations of the world will experience the righteousness and justice of the Messiah King.

“He will not cry out…in the street” (v. 2). The quiet and submissive demeanor of Christ at His first advent fulfilled this prophecy (Matt. 11:28–301 Pet. 2:23). “A bruised reed…smoking flax” (v. 3). The Servant will bring comfort and encouragement to the weak and oppressed (Matt. 12:18–20). “Till He has established justice in the earth” (v. 4). Isaiah looked beyond the First Coming of Christ to His Second Coming. Jesus fulfilled vv. 1a, 2, 3 at His First Coming and will fulfill vv. 1b, 4 at His Second Coming, when He rules the earth in perfect justice with “a rod of iron” (Ps. 2:89Rev. 2:27).

“I, the LORD,…will…give you as a covenant to the people” (v. 6). The Servant is a covenant in that He personifies and provides the blessings of salvation to God’s people Israel. He is the Mediator of a better covenant than the one with Moses, i.e., the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34Heb. 8:610–12). “As a light to the Gentiles.” Simeon saw the beginning of this fulfillment at Christ’s First Coming (Luke 2:32). He came as the Messiah of Israel, yet the Savior of the world, who revealed Himself to a non-Jewish immoral woman by the well in Samaria (John 4:2526) and commanded His followers to preach the gospel of salvation to everyone in the world (Matt. 28:1920). Certainly the church, made up mostly of Gentiles grafted into the trunk of blessing (Rom. 9:24–3011:11–24), fulfills this promise, as does the future kingdom on earth when the Servant will use Israel to shine and enlighten all the nations of the earth (49:6; 19:24).

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The Spirit's Intercession

“But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

Because He understands our struggles in this life, the Holy Spirit continually prays for us before the Father’s throne.

In the midst of life’s many difficulties and stressful times, there is hardly anything more comforting than knowing you have a friend—someone on your side. In the legal realm, an attorney formally argues your case when you need to settle a judicial or financial dispute. This concept of friend and advocate is right at the heart of the Holy Spirit’s role as our Paraclete, one called alongside to help (John 14:16).

Paul’s words in today’s passage comfort us with the knowledge that the Spirit is fulfilling the promise of John 14 by being on our side and shepherding us toward Heaven. In the process He is continuously ensuring the security of our salvation and interceding for us and all believers, just as Christ does (see Luke 22:31-32Heb. 7:25).

We would be at an eternal loss if the Holy Spirit did not intercede for us. He understands our sinful frailties and knows that, by our own wisdom, we don’t know how to pray properly for ourselves or how to consistently maintain our walk with the Lord. This intercession is done “with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).

Those “groanings” refer to divine communications between the Father and the Spirit that transcend any human language. They are more like sighs that can’t be put into words. That means we can’t know precisely what the Holy Spirit says when he intercedes on our behalf, but we can be certain that He is praying for us.

The Spirit’s lofty ministry of intercession reminds us again of how utterly dependent we are on Him to support us and help us with our daily discipleship. As the Christian writer A.W. Pink once said, “Only by His [the Spirit’s] strengthening of the heart are we delivered from being engrossed in the things around us, and our earthbound affections are drawn to things above.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that when you are perplexed or confused and unsure how to pray, the Spirit will already be interceding for you.

For Further Study

Jesus’ most notable time of intercession for His disciples came in John 17. Read this chapter, and record the items that compose His intercessory list. How do these apply to us?


Learning from Christ's Example

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

To wield the sword of the Spirit is to apply specific Biblical principles to specific situations.

Jesus gave us the perfect example of skillful and precise use of the sword of the Spirit. Following His baptism, "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread'" (Matt. 4:1-3).

Satan was challenging Christ's trust in His heavenly Father's power and provisions. God had just announced that Jesus was His Son (Matt. 3:17). Would He now abandon Jesus to starve in the wilderness? Satan urged Jesus to take matters into His own hands and supply for His own needs. After all, Satan implied, doesn't the Son of God deserve better than this?

Jesus might have acted on His own authority or demanded that God give Him what He deserved. Instead, He demonstrated His trust in God and rebuked Satan for his evil intents: "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'" (v. 4). That's a specific verse applied to a specific situation. Jesus responded the same way to Satan's other temptations (vv. 7, 10).

Scripture gives many general principles for Christian living, but the sword of the Spirit is a precise weapon. We must learn to apply the appropriate biblical principles to any given situation. That's what the psalmist meant when he wrote, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word. . . . Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee" (Ps. 119:911).

Do you know where to go in the Bible to defend yourself against sorrow, discouragement, apathy, lust, or pride? If not, you're attempting to do spiritual battle unarmed.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His precious Word and the study resources that are available to Bible students today.
  • Renew your commitment to daily systematic Bible study.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 119:97-105. Is that your attitude toward Scripture?


Water and Spirit; Flesh and Spirit

“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again”’” (John 3:5–7).

Jesus answered Nicodemus’s objection by elaborating on the truth He introduced in verse 3: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” “Water” and “Spirit” often refer symbolically in the Old Testament to spiritual renewal and cleansing.

It was surely Ezekiel 36:24–27 that Jesus had in mind, which shows regeneration to be an Old Testament truth with which Nicodemus should have been acquainted. Christ’s point was unmistakable: Without the spiritual washing of the soul, a cleansing accomplished only by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) through the Word of God (Eph. 5:26), no one can enter God’s kingdom.

Jesus continued by further emphasizing that this spiritual cleansing is wholly a work of God and not the result of human effort: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Just as only human nature can beget human nature, so also only the Holy Spirit can effect spiritual transformation.

Even if a physical rebirth were possible, it would produce only flesh. Thus only the Spirit can produce the spiritual birth required for entrance into God’s kingdom. Regeneration is entirely His work, unaided by any human effort (cf. Rom. 3:25).

Ask Yourself

What have you needed washing from your heart in the last several days or weeks? How have you gone about seeking the Lord’s cleansing and renewal? How have you experienced the reality of His refreshment?


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 40:1, 2 Comfort,…comfort. The prophecy addressed God’s prophets, instructing them to emphasize the theme of comfort to a captive people in a foreign land many miles from their home city of Jerusalem. God has good plans for great blessing to Israel in the future because they are His covenant people, who are never to be permanently cast away (Rom. 11:2).

Isaiah 40:3, 4 Prepare the way. The remnant of Israel could remove obstacles from the coming Messiah’s path through repentance from their sins. John the Baptist reminded his listeners of this necessity (Matt. 3:2), as did Jesus (Matt. 4:17Mark 1:15). These verses reflect the custom of some eastern monarchs to send heralds before them to clear away obstacles, make causeways, straighten crooked roads and valleys, and level hills (45:1, 2). John had the task of getting people ready for the Messiah’s arrival.

Isaiah 40:13, 14 directed the Spirit of the LORDIsaiah pointed to the incomparable wisdom of God. Paul alluded to this verse in connection with God’s wisdom in dealing with Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 11:34) and with God’s impartation of wisdom to the spiritual believer (1 Cor. 2:16).

Isaiah 40:28 Neither faints nor is weary. God was not too weak to act on their behalf, nor was fatigue an obstacle for the Creator in caring for His people (vv. 29, 30). Though even the young and strong become tired and fall, the Ancient of Days never does. unsearchable. To the human mind, God’s wisdom is not fully comprehensible in how He chooses to fulfill His promises to deliver Israel. Paul saw a further illustration of this truth in God’s plan for the final restoration of Israel (Rom. 11:33; see Is. 40:13).

Isaiah 40:31 wait on the LORDThere is a general principle here that patient, praying believers are blessed by God with strength in their trials (2 Cor.12:8–10).The Lord also expected His people to be patient and await His coming in glory at the end to fulfill the promises of national deliverance, when believing Israel would become stronger than they had ever been.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. When a person trusts in Christ for salvation, he spiritually participates with the Lord in His crucifixion and His victory over sin and death. no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The believer’s old self is dead, having been crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:35).The believer’s new man has the privilege of the indwelling Christ empowering him and living through him (Rom. 8:910). gave Himself for me. The manifestation of Christ’s love for the believer through His sacrificial death on the cross (John 10:1718Rom. 5:6–8Eph. 5:25–30).

DAY 24: What led Paul to confront Peter with his hypocrisy?

It took place in the first Gentile church, which was at Antioch, where we are told that Peter “stood condemned” (Gal. 2:11). Peter had been in Antioch for some time, eating with Gentiles. When Judaizers came, pretending to be sent by James (v. 12), they lied, giving false claims of support from the apostles. Peter had already given up all Mosaic ceremony (Acts 10:9–22); nevertheless, he “withdrew.” The Greek term refers to strategic military withdrawal. The verb’s form may imply that Peter’s withdrawal was gradual and deceptive. To eat with the Judaizers and decline invitations to eat with the Gentiles, which he had previously done, meant that Peter was affirming the very dietary restrictions he knew God had abolished (Acts 10:15) and thus striking a blow at the gospel of grace. “Fearing those…of the circumcision”—the true motivation behind Peter’s defection. He was afraid of losing popularity with the legalistic, Judaizing segment of people in the church, even though they were self-righteous hypocrites promoting a heretical doctrine.

The Jewish believers in Antioch followed Peter’s example and “played the hypocrite” (v. 13). This Greek word refers to an actor who wore a mask to depict a mood or certain character. In the spiritual sense, it refers to someone who masks his true character by pretending to be something he is not (Matt. 6:1–6). They were committed to the gospel of grace, but pretended to accept Jewish legalism. By withdrawing from the Gentile Christians, Peter and the other Jewish believers were not walking in line, “straightforward,” with God’s Word (v. 14). Before his gradual withdrawal, Peter regularly had fellowship and ate with the Gentiles, thus modeling the ideal of Christian love and liberty between Jew and Gentile. By his Judaizing mandate, he was declaring theirs was the right way.

Paul’s rebuke of Peter in vv. 15, 16 serves as one of the most dynamic statements in the New Testament on the absolute and unwavering necessity of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. Peter’s apparent repentance acknowledged Paul’s apostolic authority and his own submission to the truth (2 Pet. 3:1516).

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Guaranteed Heavenly Glory

“And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17).

The Holy Spirit confirms within our hearts the hope of eternal glory.

I believe people today instinctively know they are devoid of glory (see Rom. 1:18-21), but they explore all the wrong avenues in seeking to regain it. They look for personal glory by building successful careers, spending many hours in community service, being generous to charities, and so forth. But such efforts only lead to jealousy and pride. Unregenerate men and women simply cannot know the glory that was present before the Fall.

However, there is coming a day when believers will be transformed fully into Christ’s likeness, having a complete reflection of God’s glory. We will receive a perfect, radiant glory that is far better than the glory Adam and Eve knew in the Garden of Eden before they sinned.

Glorification completes the reality of salvation. From before the foundation of the world, the Lord planned to save those who believe and conform them to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29-30). Therefore, every believer lives in the hope of future glory, a hope best summarized by the following two verses: “As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake” (Ps. 17:15). “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

The Holy Spirit guides us through different levels of glory while we are still on earth. As we consider the glory of the Lord, the Spirit gradually restores the honor we lost in the Fall. He encourages us by restoring our dignity. Salvation is the path to glory, and once we start down that path we will come to its final goal, which is being fully conformed to the image and glory of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you would be content in allowing the Spirit to help you realize God’s glory.

For Further Study

Mark 9:1-8 contains an account of Christ’s transfiguration.

  • How was this event a preview of future glory?
  • How was it unlike anything the disciples had seen (v. 3)?
  • How did Peter reflect the other disciples’ amazement (vv. 5-6)?


Taking the Offensive

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

God’s Word is your primary offensive spiritual weapon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to increase your desire to know His Word.
  • Ask for wisdom in applying what you already know to the decisions and situations you'll face today.

For Further Study

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


Jesus Challenges Nicodemus: New Birth

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

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

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

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

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

That the Galatians were “turning away” (1:6). This is better translated “deserting.” The Greek word was used of military desertion, which was punishable by death. The form of this Greek verb indicates that the Galatian believers were voluntarily deserting grace to pursue the legalism taught by the false teachers. “So soon.” This Greek word can mean either “easily” or “quickly” and sometimes both. No doubt both senses characterized the Galatians’ response to the false teachers’ heretical doctrines. “Called you.” This could be translated, “Who called you once and for all” (2 Thess. 2:13142 Tim. 1:891 Pet. 1:15), and refers to God’s effectual call to salvation. “Grace of Christ.” God’s free and sovereign act of mercy in granting salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ, totally apart from any human work or merit. “Different gospel.” The Judaizers’ perversion of the true gospel. They added the requirements, ceremonies, and standards of the Old Covenant as necessary prerequisites to salvation.

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

Throughout history God has devoted certain objects, individuals, and groups of people to destruction or to be “accursed” (Josh. 6:17187:12526). Here the Judaizers are identified as members of this infamous company. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven” (v. 8). Paul’s point is hypothetical, calling on the most unlikely examples for false teaching—himself and holy angels. The Galatians should receive no messenger, regardless of how impeccable his credentials, if his doctrine of salvation differs in the slightest degree from God’s truth revealed through Christ and the apostles. “Accursed.” The translation of the familiar Greek word anathama, which refers to devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell (Rom. 9:31 Cor. 12:316:22).

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The Spirit and Adoption

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14-16).

The Holy Spirit confirms in our hearts the reality of adoption into God’s family.

In first-century Rome, people did not practice adoption exactly the same as they do today. A father sometimes adopted a young man outside the family to be the primary heir of the father’s name and estate. If the father considered his natural sons unworthy, he would find someone else with the qualities he wanted in a son. The adopted son would then take precedence over any of the real sons in the inheritance process. Thus the new son received many rights and privileges he would not have had otherwise; he was not merely a second-class citizen rescued from homelessness.

Likewise, it requires more than a natural birth process for us to become members of God’s family. We become God’s children because He sovereignly chose to grant us spiritual rebirth (John 1:12-13). That’s the substance of biblical adoption.

Therefore, adoption and regeneration are both terms that describe how God brought us to Himself (see 2 Cor. 5:17). Regeneration makes us sons and daughters and prepares us for our eternal inheritance. Adoption names us “sons of God” and actually gives us the title to our inheritance. Once this occurs, all our former debts (sins) are canceled, and we have a right to be in God’s presence without condemnation.

The entire process of adoption is superintended by the Holy Spirit, who repeatedly confirms its reality in our hearts. He transfers us from an alien family into God’s family and thus “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). If you are a Christian, you can, by the indwelling Spirit, know that you are legally and eternally God’s child.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to give you a renewed sense of joy and thanksgiving throughout this day as you remember the blessings of being his adopted child.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 12:1-8.

  • What commands and promises did God make?
  • Had Abraham known God in the same way prior to this passage?
  • Does God’s promise in any sense parallel the concept of adoption? Explain.


Dealing with Despair

"Take the helmet of salvation" (Eph. 6:17).

Your helmet of salvation protects you from discouragement and despair.

We've seen how Satan attacks believers with his two-edged sword of doubt and discouragement. But he doesn't stop there. He tries to take you beyond discouragement to despair by robbing you of hope. Unless you're careful, his attacks will be successful when you're battle-weary.

The prophet Elijah is an illustration of that truth. The highlight of his ministry came atop Mount Carmel, where he slew 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Yet immediately after that great victory, he fled for his life because Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him (1 Kings 19:1- 3).

He ran from Mount Carmel into the wilderness of Beersheba, where he "sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, 'It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers'" (v. 4). He went on to moan, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away" (v. 10).

Elijah lost hope because he failed to see his circumstances through the eyes of faith; he was attempting to fight the battle on his own. He allowed himself to become emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent, and became overwhelmed with self-pity. He felt utterly alone.

But God hadn't abandoned Elijah. He was still in control and His people were numerous (v. 18). But Elijah had, in effect, removed his helmet of salvation and received a near-fatal blow to his confidence in God's blessing on his life.

There may be times when, like Elijah, you lose your confidence and doubt God's faithfulness. At such times, putting on the helmet of salvation means taking your eyes off your circumstances and trusting in God's promises. You may not always sense His presence or understand what He's doing, but be assured He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5) and His purposes will always be accomplished Rom. 8:28).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His unchanging character and irrevocable promises.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 40:29-31 and Galatians 6:9.

  • What promises are given in those passages?
  • In what specific ways do they apply to your life?


Nicodemus’s Inquiry: What Is the Kingdom?

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:1-3).

Nicodemus came to Jesus as one of those superficial believers mentioned in John 2:23–25. But the Lord refused to accept Nicodemus’s profession, which was based on the signs he had witnessed (v. 2).

Jesus went straight to the real issue—the transformation of Nicodemus’s heart by the new birth, which is the act of God by which He imparts eternal life to those who are “dead in . . . trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Jesus answered his unasked question, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

By the “kingdom of God,” Jesus is speaking specifically of the kingdom of salvation, the spiritual realm where those who have been born again by divine power through faith now live under the rule of God mediated through His Son. Nicodemus, like his fellow Jews, eagerly anticipated that glorious realm. But they believed that being descendants of Abraham, observing the law, and performing external religious rituals would gain them entrance into that kingdom. As Jesus made clear, no matter how religiously active someone might be, no one can enter the kingdom without experiencing the personal regeneration of the new birth.

Ask Yourself

What are some questions you commonly hear that purport to be genuine interest toward Christian discipleship, but in reality are dodges and smokescreens that disguise a rebellious, disinterested heart? What’s the best way to respond to comments like these? What can you learn from Jesus’ dealings with Nicodemus?


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 35:6 lame…sing. God’s restoration in the millennial age is to include physical restoration to the afflicted. Jesus’ First Coming gave a foretaste of that future day (Matt. 11:512:22Mark 7:37Luke 7:21Acts 3:8).

Isaiah 35:8 Highway of Holiness. This refers to the way leading the redeemed back to Jerusalem, the throne of the Messiah, literally and spiritually. Christ Himself is to be the leader on that way, called in 40:3, the “way of the LORD.”

Isaiah 36:10 The LORD said. Rabshakeh’s boastful claim of the authority from Judah’s God for his mission may have been a ploy on his part to get a surrender, but it aligned with Isaiah’s prophecy that the Assyrians would be His instrument to punish His people (8:7, 8; 10:5, 6). The Assyrians may have heard this from partisans or may not have known this, but Judah did.

Proverbs 25:28 city broken down. Such are exposed and vulnerable to the incursion of evil thoughts and successful temptations.

2 Corinthians 13:12 a holy kiss. A sign of greeting in biblical times (Matt. 26:49Luke 7:45), much like the modern handshake. For Christians, it further expressed brotherly love and unity (Rom. 16:161 Cor. 16:201 Thess. 5:261 Pet. 5:14).

DAY 22: What was Paul’s final warning to the Corinthians?

In 2 Corinthians 12:2021, it is clear that when he visited them, Paul did not want to find the Corinthians in the same sorry spiritual condition as on his last visit (the “painful visit,” 2:1). If he found that they were not what he wished (i.e., still practicing the sins he listed), they would find him not as they wished—he would have had to discipline them (13:2). To find the Corinthians still living in unrepentant sin would both humiliate and sadden Paul. This warning (and the one in 13:2) was designed to prevent that from happening.

“I will not spare” (v. 2). Paul informed the Corinthians that he would deal biblically with any sin he found in Corinth. Those Corinthians still seeking proof that Paul was a genuine apostle would have it when he arrived (v. 3). They may have gotten more than they bargained for, however, for Paul was going to use his apostolic authority and power to deal with any sin and rebellion he found there. Christ’s power was to be revealed through Paul against the sinning Corinthians (1 Cor.11:30–32). Paul was to come to Corinth armed with the irresistible power of the risen, glorified Christ (v. 4).

In vv. 5, 6, the Greek grammar places great emphasis on the pronouns “yourselves” and “you.” Paul turned the tables on his accusers. Instead of presuming to evaluate his apostleship, they needed to test the genuineness of their faith (James 2:14–26). He pointed out the incongruity of the Corinthians’ believing (as they did) that their faith was genuine and his apostleship false. Paul was their spiritual father (1 Cor. 4:15). If his apostleship was counterfeit, so was their faith. The genuineness of their salvation was proof of the genuineness of his apostleship.

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The Spirit and Assurance

“You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9).

The indwelling Holy Spirit gives us an assurance of salvation.

Assurance of salvation is essential to our Christian lives, and I can’t imagine living without it. And we must have clarity about it from a truly biblical standpoint. This begins with realizing that a genuine believer is in the Spirit and has been given a new nature (see John 3:6). If the Holy Spirit lives in you, you are no longer controlled by the sinful tendencies of the flesh, as Paul suggests in Romans 8:9. The Greek term for “dwells” indicates that the Holy Spirit makes His home in you and in every believer.

But today’s verse also points out that if someone does not have the Holy Spirit within him, he doesn’t belong to Christ. From time to time—perhaps for you it’s the first time—we need to be warned about that. Being in the Spirit is not merely professing Jesus, having a pious appearance, or attending church. No matter what we claim, if we aren’t fulfilling God’s law, desiring to walk by the Spirit, and wholeheartedly seeking the things of the Spirit, He is not in us.

Second Corinthians 13:5 exhorts, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” You can do this by looking for evidences of the Holy Spirit in your life. Have you sensed the presence of the Spirit’s fruit in your life (Gal. 5:22-23)? Do you struggle with sin and have a desire to be free from all its influences (Rom. 7:14-25Gal. 5:16-17)? Have you experienced the actions and attitudes the Holy Spirit brings to your daily life, as we studied earlier this month? Do you yearn for a closer communion with God and a deeper fellowship with other believers? If you can answer yes to these questions, you have solid reasons to be sure the Spirit lives in you and to know for certain that you belong to Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the reminders His Spirit gives you that you belong to Christ.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 5:1-12.

  • What indicators does John give us that would also provide us with an assurance of salvation?
  • What role does the Holy Spirit have in this passage?


Conquering Doubt

"Take the helmet of salvation" (Eph. 6:17).

The key to conquering doubt is to focus on the preserving power of God.

Doubt comes to Christians in many ways. After you've sinned, your conscience might hiss at you, saying, "Surely you're not a Christian. Why would God save you anyway? You don't deserve His mercy. You're not good enough. How presumptuous to think God could ever use you!" Such doubts are common among Christians who focus on their performance rather than God's power.

All too often we're quick to acknowledge God's power to save us but slow to understand His power to keep us. To complicate matters, many Christians believe they can lose their salvation, so they live in constant fear of falling away from the faith. Still others have never learned what Scripture teaches about their security in Christ. They're so intent on pleasing God through their own efforts that they lose sight of grace and drift into a subtle works- righteousness mentality.

Your performance doesn't determine your standing in Christ; your standing in Christ determines your performance. Good works are the necessary result of salvation (Eph. 2:10) but they don't save you or keep you saved. That's God's work.

Jude said, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy" (v. 24). "Able" in that verse translates a Greek word that speaks of power. "Keep" literally means "to secure in the midst of an attack." "Stumbling" refers to falling into sin. Together they say that God is powerful enough to prevent you from stumbling into sin and falling away from Him—no matter how intense Satan's attacks might be. He will continue to protect and cleanse you until the day you enter His glorious heaven perfected.

Sin is a serious issue and you should never take it lightly. But when you do sin, remember that as a believer you're immediately cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). So always confess your sins and turn from them, but never doubt God's power or willingness to keep you saved. Trust in His grace, not in your ability to perform.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for continually cleansing your sin.

For Further Study

Memorize Jude 24-25 and recite it often as a reminder of God's power and majesty.


 Spurious vs. Saving Faith

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:23–25).

After the Passover, Jesus remained in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During His stay He performed a number of miracles not recorded in Scripture. As a result of those miracles, John says, “Many believed in His name.”

But this faith was shallow, superficial, and disingenuous. It was not true saving faith, as John’s play on words indicates. “Believed” in verse 23 and “entrusting” in verse 24 both come from the same Greek verb. Though they believed in Jesus, Jesus did not believe in them; He had no faith in their faith.

Although many claimed to believe, Jesus knew that mere intellectual assent proves nothing; even the demons have such faith (James 2:19). Jesus did not embrace the false faith manifested by those who witnessed His signs, because “He knew all men,” and therefore “did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” He knows the true state of every heart. He saw in Nathanael the heart of an honest, true seeker (1:47); He saw in these people a superficial façade—a mere outward attraction to spectacular signs (cf. 6:2). Genuine saving faith goes far beyond that. It demands wholehearted commitment to Jesus as the Lord of one’s life (Matt. 16:24–26Rom. 10:9). Is that the state of your heart?

Ask Yourself

It’s certainly fine to admire godly people and aspire to be like them. But if you haven’t noticed already, these same ones will eventually do or say something to spoil your image of them. We will too, if others look up to us. When you see Jesus in someone, don’t strive to be like them but to be like Him.


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 33:17 King in His beauty. The prophecy moves beyond Hezekiah in his sackcloth, oppressed by his enemy, to the Messiah in His beauty. Seeing Him in glory is another reward of the righteous. The near-future deliverance from Sennacherib anticipates a more distant wonder when the Messiah will sit on His throne.

Proverbs 25:26 murky spring. The righteous one who sins muddies the water for the wicked who see him and for whom he should serve as an example of righteousness (Ps. 17:5).

2 Corinthians 12:2–4 Since it took place 14 years before the writing of 2 Corinthians, the specific vision Paul relates cannot be identified with any incident recorded in Acts. It probably took place between his return to Tarsus from Jerusalem (Acts 9:30) and the start of his missionary journeys (Acts 13:1–3). caught up to the third heaven…caught up into Paradise. Paul was not describing two separate visions—“the third heaven” and “Paradise” are the same place (Rev. 2:7, which says the tree of life is in Paradise, with Rev. 22:14, which says it is in heaven). The first heaven is the earth’s atmosphere (Gen. 8:2Deut. 11:111 Kin. 8:35); the second is interplanetary and interstellar space (Gen. 15:5Ps. 8:3Is. 13:10); and the third the abode of God (1 Kin. 8:302 Chr.30:27Ps. 123:1).

2 Corinthians 12:8 I pleaded…three times. Paul, longing for relief from this painful hindrance to his ministry, went to his Lord, begging Him (the use of the definite article with “Lord” shows Paul’s prayer was directed to Jesus) to remove it. The demons are only subject to His authority. The 3-fold repetition of Paul’s request parallels that of Jesus in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–41). Both Paul and Jesus had their requests denied, but were granted grace to endure their ordeals.

2 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you. The present tense of the verb translated “is sufficient” reveals the constant availability of divine grace. God would not remove the thorn, as Paul had requested, but would continually supply him with grace to endure it (1 Cor. 15:10Phil. 4:13Col. 1:29). My strength is made perfect in weakness. The weaker the human instrument, the more clearly God’s grace shines forth.

DAY 21: To what was Paul referring by the term “thorn in the flesh”?

Paul began his account about the “thorn in the flesh” by indicating the reason it was given to him—“lest I should be exalted above measure.” The assault was painful, but purposeful. As with Job, Satan was the immediate cause, but God was the ultimate cause. God was allowing Satan to bring this severe trouble in the church for the purpose of humbling Paul who, having had so many revelations, including a trip to heaven and back, would have been proud.

Paul’s use of the word “messenger” (Greek, angellos, or angel) from Satan suggests the “thorn in the flesh” (literally, “a stake for the flesh”) was a demon, not a physical illness. Of the 188 uses of the Greek word angellos in the New Testament, at least 180 are in reference to angels. This angel was from Satan, a demon afflicting Paul.

Possibly, the best explanation for this demon was that he was indwelling the ring leader of the Corinthian conspiracy, the leader of the false apostles. Through them he was tearing up Paul’s beloved church and thus driving a painful stake through Paul. Further support for this view comes from the context of chapters 10–13, which is one of fighting adversaries (the false prophets). The verb translated “buffet” always refers to ill treatment from other people (Matt. 26:67Mark 14:651 Cor. 4:111 Pet. 2:20). Finally, the Old Testament describes Israel’s personal opponents as thorns (Num. 33:55Josh. 23:13Judg. 2:3Ezek. 28:24).

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Fulfilling God's Law

“In order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).

If the Holy Spirit resides within us, we will be able to fulfill the demands of God’s law.

Augustine once said, “Grace was given, in order that the law might be fulfilled.” When God saves us He, by His Spirit, creates within us the ability to obey His perfect law. Because we now live “according to the Spirit”—walking by the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit—we are able to do the righteous things God’s law requires.

Isn’t it wonderful that the Lord no longer expects His law to be lived out only by means of an external code of ethics? Now holiness, righteousness, and obedience to the law are internal, the products of the indwelling Holy Spirit (see Ezek. 11:19-20).

God’s salvation is more than a spiritual transaction by which He imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. It is more than a forensic action by which He judicially declared us righteous. As great and vital as those doctrines are, they were not applied to us apart from God’s planting His Spirit within our hearts and enabling our lives to manifest the Spirit’s fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

We need to remind ourselves regularly that God’s purpose for us after He redeemed us was that we might live a holy life filled with good works (Eph. 2:10Titus 2:14). Whenever you are disobedient to God’s will and purpose, you are quenching the Holy Spirit and fighting against yourself and what you know is right. Such disobedience makes about as much sense as the person who holds his breath for no reason and therefore makes his lungs resist their natural function. The believer who disobeys, especially one who persists in a sin, prevents the Spirit from naturally leading him along the path of holiness.

We are not perfect after our salvation—that won’t happen until glorification (1 John 3:2-3)—but the Holy Spirit will empower us to live in ways pleasing to God, which is the kind of righteousness that fulfills His law.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord that you don’t have to meet the demands of the law solely by your own strength.

For Further Study

Read Romans 6.

  • What happened to your old self at the time of your conversion?
  • How must that affect the way you live?


Repelling Discouragement and Doubt

"Take the helmet of salvation" (Eph. 6:17).

Discouragement and doubt are deflected when you know you’re secure in Christ.

The Roman soldier's helmet was a crucial piece of armor designed to deflect blows to the head—especially the potentially lethal blow of a broadsword. Soldiers of that day carried a swift and precise dagger designed for close- quarter hand-to-hand combat. But they also carried a giant broadsword, which was a two-edged, three to four-foot long sword. It had a massive handle that, similar to a baseball bat, was held with both hands. With it they could take broad swipes from side to side or deliver a crushing blow to an opponent's skull.

To protect us from Satan's crushing blows, Paul tells us to "take the helmet of salvation." Now considering all he's been telling us so far, he was not saying, "Oh, by the way, go get saved." Paul was addressing believers. Unbelievers don't have to put on spiritual armor. They aren't even in the battle. Satan doesn't attack his own forces.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 Paul describes the helmet of salvation as "the hope of salvation." That implies Satan's most fierce and powerful blows are directed at the believer's assurance and security. Therefore Paul was encouraging believers to have confidence in the salvation they already possess. He knew that doubting their security in Christ would render them ineffective in spiritual warfare—just as a blow to the head renders one's physical body incapable of defending itself.

As a believer, you should have the assurance that you are secure in Christ. If you don't, you haven't put your helmet on, and that makes you vulnerable to discouragement and doubt. Romans 8:29-30 assures us that all whom God justifies, He sanctifies and glorifies. No one is lost in the process.

Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28). That's a wonderful promise. So don't let your enemy rob you of the joy and assurance of knowing you belong to Christ, for the Lord will never let you go (Heb. 13:5).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for your eternal security in Christ!

For Further Study

Read John 6:37-40.

  • Who receives eternal life?
  • How does Christ respond to those who come to Him?


Sign of the Resurrection

“The Jews then said to Him, ‘What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (John 2:18–22).

The Jewish authorities completely missed the point of Jesus’ statement, incorrectly applying it to the Herodian temple. But as John points out, Jesus “was speaking of the temple of His body.”

The sign He would give was His own resurrection, which even His disciples did not immediately understand (cf. 12:16). It was not until “He was raised from the dead [that] His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” His death as the ultimate sacrificial Lamb would render the Jerusalem temple obsolete (cf. 4:21); and His resurrection as the triumphant Lord would lay the foundation for a new, spiritual temple in its place—namely the church (1 Cor. 3:16–172 Cor. 6:16Eph. 2:19–22).

It was not until after the resurrection that everything came into focus for the disciples. Only then did they recognize Jesus’ power of resurrection as convincing proof of His deity.

Ask Yourself

Have you been confused recently by a section of Scripture that puzzles you with its mystery, or seems to scrape against other things you’ve been taught in the past? If your heart is set on learning and obeying, rather than arguing or resisting, be sure that the Holy Spirit will reveal truth as you seek Him for it.


Reading for Today:Notes:

Isaiah 30:1 not of Me…not of My Spirit. Hezekiah’s advisers urged him to turn to the Egyptians, not to God, for help against the invading Assyrians. Isaiah denounced this reliance on Egypt rather than God, who had forbidden such alliances.

Isaiah 30:33 Tophet. Literally, a place of abomination. Idolatrous Israel had burned to death human victims in this valley just south of Jerusalem, an area sometimes called the Valley of Hinnom (2 Kin. 23:10Jer. 19:6). Later it became known as Gehenna, the place of refuse for the city, with constantly burning fires, symbolizing hell. The defeat was to be so complete that the fire burns continually.

2 Corinthians 11:19–21 These verses contain some of the most scathing sarcasm Paul ever penned, demonstrating the seriousness of the situation at Corinth and revealing the jealous concern of a godly pastor. Paul did not view his disagreement with the false apostles as a mere academic debate; the souls of the Corinthians and the purity of the gospel were at stake.

2 Corinthians 11:20 brings you into bondage. The Greek verb translated by this phrase appears elsewhere in the New Testament only in Galatians 2:4, where it speaks of the Galatians’ enslavement by the Judaizers. The false apostles had robbed the Corinthians of their freedom in Christ (Gal. 5:1). devours you. Or “preys upon you.” This probably refers to the false teachers’ demands for financial support (the same verb appears in Luke 20:47 where Jesus denounces the Pharisees for devouring widows’ houses). takes from you. Better translated “takes advantage of you.” The false apostles were attempting to catch the Corinthians like fish in a net (Luke 5:56). exalts himself. This refers to one who is presumptuous, puts on airs, acts arrogantly, or lords it over people (1 Pet. 5:3). strikes you on the face. The false apostles may have physically abused the Corinthians, but the phrase is more likely used in a metaphorical sense (1 Cor. 9:27) to speak of the false teachers’ humiliation of the Corinthians. To strike someone on the face was a sign of disrespect and contempt (1 Kin. 22:24Luke 22:64Acts 23:2).

What had being a minister of Christ cost the apostle Paul?

Contrasting his ministry to the false apostles in 2 Corinthians 11:23, Paul spoke of “in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.” This is a general summation of Paul’s sufferings for the gospel. The next few verses give specific examples, many of which are not found in Acts.

“Forty stripes minus one” (v. 24). Deuteronomy 25:1–3set 40 as the maximum number that could legally be administered. In Paul’s day the Jews reduced that number by one to avoid accidentally going over the maximum. Jesus warned that His followers would receive such beatings (Matt. 10:17).

“Beaten with rods” (v. 25). Refers to Roman beatings with flexible sticks tied together (Acts 16:2223). “Once I was stoned”—at Lystra (Acts 14:19,20). “Three times I was shipwrecked.” Not including the shipwreck on his journey as a prisoner to Rome (Acts 27), which had not yet taken place. Paul had been on several sea voyages up to this time, giving ample opportunity for the 3 shipwrecks to have occurred. “A night and a day I have been in the deep.” At least one of the shipwrecks was so severe that Paul spent an entire day floating on the wreckage, waiting to be rescued.

“In perils” (v. 26). Those connected with his frequent travels. “Waters” (rivers) and “robbers” posed a serious danger to travelers in the ancient world. Paul’s journey from Perga to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14), for example, required him to travel through the robber-infested Taurus Mountains and to cross two dangerous, flood-prone rivers. Paul was frequently in danger from his “own countrymen” (Acts 9:232913:4514:21917:518:612–1620:31921:27–32) and, less often, from “Gentiles” (Acts 16:16–4019:23–20:1). “False brethren.” Those who appeared to be Christians, but were not, such as the false apostles (v. 13) and the Judaizers (Gal. 2:4).

And far worse than the occasional physical suffering Paul endured—weariness and toil, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, fastings, and cold—was the constant, daily burden of concern for the churches that he felt (v. 28). Those who were “weak” (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8) in faith or were “made to stumble” into sin caused him intense emotional pain.

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Spirit-Filled Submission

“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

Spirit-filled believers will submit to one another.

To the world, submission implies personal weakness or the coercive dominance of one person by another stronger, more intimidating individual. Such perspectives, however, are unbiblical. The noted expositor Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes submission’s original meaning in a military context, which helps us understand its scriptural definition:

It is the picture of soldiers in a regiment, soldiers in a line under an officer . . . and if he [the soldier] begins to act on his own, and independently of the others, he is guilty of insubordination and will be punished accordingly. Such is the word the Apostle uses; so what he is saying amounts to this—that we who are filled with the Spirit are to behave voluntarily in that way with respect to one another. We are members of the same regiment, we are units in this same great army. We are to do that voluntarily which the soldier is “forced” to do.

In addition to Ephesians 5:21, the New Testament repeatedly expresses the importance of submitting to one another. Philippians 2:3-4 tell us how mutual submission ought to operate: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” And Hebrews 13:17 commands us to submit to our spiritual leaders: “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

The only way we can possess any of those traits or exhibit any of that behavior is to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit. Then we will be able to voluntarily and joyfully submit to the Lord and one another in love, just as the apostle John urges: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

Suggestions for Prayer

Examine your heart and see if your attitude has been a biblically submissive one.

Ask God’s Spirit to reveal and correct any sinful shortcomings you’ve had in that regard.

For Further Study

Read Romans 12:101 Corinthians 4:71 Timothy 5:21James 2:1. List comparisons and contrasts between these verses and what Philippians 2:3-4 says about mutual submission.


Extinguishing Satan's Fiery Darts

"In addition to all, [take] up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16).

Don’t elevate Satan’s will above God’s will in your life.

In Ephesians 6:13 Paul characterizes Satan as "the evil one" who attacks believers with flaming missiles. The Greek word translated "evil one" literally means "bad," "vile," or "wretched." All are apt descriptions of the archenemy of our souls, who seeks to maim and destroy us spiritually.

The term "flaming missiles" pictures one of the Roman weapons of Paul's day: arrows that had pitch-soaked cotton material affixed to their tips. In battle they were set on fire and shot at the enemy. As the arrow hit its target, flaming pitch spread onto clothing and other flammable surfaces. Under such attacks a Roman soldier without a shield was in a perilous situation indeed.

Satan's flaming arrows come in many forms: solicitations to impurity, selfishness, doubt, fear, disappointment, greed, vanity, covetousness, and the like. But whatever the specific form, all are seducing temptations aimed at eliciting ungodly responses.

Your faith protects you from such attacks when you elevate God's will above Satan's in your life. When tempted by Satan, Jesus responded by saying in effect, "I will not violate my Father's will by yielding to your devious schemes. In His own time He will feed Me, anoint Me as Messiah, and give Me the kingdoms of the world. I will not elevate your will and timing above His" (Matt. 4:1-11).

Jesus could have created food. He is the Messiah and the sovereign Lord over the kingdoms of the world. But He trusted the Father and yielded to His will, even though it meant personal discomfort and, eventually, the cross. When Satan saw that Jesus' trust in the Father was unshakable, he left Him (v. 11). That's the power of faith.

I pray you will show similar strength in times of testing. Satan will flee from you if you "resist him, firm in your faith" (1 Pet. 5:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise Jesus for His sinless character and His example of how to triumph over temptation.

For Further Study

Memorize James 4:7 as a reminder of the importance of resisting Satan.


The Significance of Temple Cleansing

“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house will consume me’” (John 2:13–17).

The Feast of Passover in Jerusalem each year meant big business for Jerusalem-based merchants. They sold animals necessary for the sacrifices at inflated prices to Jewish pilgrims who found it impractical to bring their own from their homes in distant lands.

Also, every Jewish male twenty years of age or older had to pay the annual temple tax (Matt. 17:24–27). But it could be paid only by using Jewish or Tyrian coins, so foreigners had to exchange their money for acceptable coinage. Because they held a monopoly, money changers charged an exorbitant fee.

What should have been a place of sacred reverence and adoration had become a place of abusive commerce and excessive overpricing.

Realizing that the purity of temple worship was a matter of honor to God, Jesus took swift and decisive action. The intensity of His righteous indignation was unmistakable—Christ would not tolerate any mockery of the spirit of true worship.

Ask Yourself

Are there instances in which we have turned the worship of God into something less than it should be—perhaps into something it should never be? What kind of heart do you intend to bring with you the next time you join with others in the Lord’s house for worship?


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 29:10 spirit of deep sleep. Because Israel refused to hear her true prophets initially, their ability to hear has been impaired. God gave them up judicially to their own hardness of heart. Paul applied this verse specifically to the general condition of Israel’s blindness during the age of the church (Rom. 11:8). prophets…seers. False prophets and seers have blinded their listeners with their false prophecies.

Isaiah 29:13 hearts far from Me. Empty ritualism does not bring closeness to God. Jesus used this verse to describe the Judaism of His day (Matt. 15:7–9Mark 7:67).

Isaiah 29:22 redeemed Abraham. God delivered Abraham from his pagan background when He brought him from beyond the Euphrates River into the land of Canaan (Josh. 24:23). Paul elaborates on this theme in Romans 4:1–22not now be ashamed. Israel in her history had frequently suffered disgrace, but the personal presence of the Messiah is to change that (45:17; 49:23; 50:7; 54:4). After the salvation of Israel in the end time, the children of Jacob will no longer cause their forefathers to blush over their wickedness.

Proverbs 25:2122 As metals are melted by placing fiery coals on them, so is the heart of an enemy softened by such kindness. Contrast the coals of judgment in Psalm 140:10. Paul quotes this proverb in Romans 12:20.

2 Corinthians 11:7 free of charge. Greek culture measured the importance of a teacher by the fee he could command. The false apostles therefore accused Paul of being a counterfeit, since he refused to charge for his services (1 Cor. 9:1–15). They convinced the Corinthians to be offended by Paul’s refusal to accept support from them, offering that as evidence that he did not love them (v. 11). Paul’s resort to manual labor to support himself (Acts 18:1–3) also embarrassed the Corinthians, who felt such work to be beneath the dignity of an apostle. With biting irony Paul asked his accusers how foregoing his right to support could possibly be a sin. In fact, by refusing support he had humbled himself so they could be exalted, i.e., lifted out of their sin and idolatry.

2 Corinthians 11:13–15 No longer speaking with veiled irony or defending himself, Paul bluntly and directly exposed the false apostles for what they were—emissaries of Satan. Not only was their claim to apostleship false, so also was their doctrine. As satanic purveyors of false teaching, they were under the curse of Galatians 1:89. Paul’s forceful language may seem harsh, but it expressed the godly jealousy he felt for the Corinthians. Paul was unwilling to sacrifice truth for the sake of unity.

Why was Paul so emotional about the Corinthians’ spiritual welfare?

In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul said, “I am jealous for you with godly jealousy.” Paul was concerned to the point of jealousy, a zeal for their spiritual purity. Jealousy inspired by zeal for God’s causes, and thus similar to God’s own jealousy for His holy name and His people’s loyalty (Ex. 20:534:14Deut. 4:245:96:1532:1621Josh. 24:19Ps. 78:58Ezek. 39:25Nah.1:2). “I have betrothed you to one husband.” As their spiritual father (12:14; 1 Cor. 4:159:12), Paul portrayed the Corinthians like a daughter, whom he betrothed to Jesus Christ (at their conversion). “A chaste virgin to Christ.” Having betrothed or pledged the Corinthians to Christ, Paul wanted them to be pure until the marriage day finally arrived (Rev. 19:7).

Paul compared the danger facing the Corinthian church to Eve’s deception by Satan (v. 3). He feared the Corinthians, like Eve, would fall prey to satanic lies and have their minds corrupted. The tragic result would be the abandonment of their simple devotion to Christ in favor of the sophisticated error of the false apostles. Paul’s allusion to Genesis 3 implies that the false apostles were Satan’s emissaries—a truth that he later made explicit (vv. 13–15).

The false apostles came into the Corinthian church from the outside—just as Satan did into the Garden (v. 4). It is likely that they were Palestinian Jews (v. 22; Acts 6:1) who allegedly sought to bring the Corinthians under the sway of the Jerusalem church. They were in a sense Judaizers, seeking to impose Jewish customs on the Corinthians. Unlike the Judaizers who plagued the Galatian churches (Gal. 5:2), however, the false apostles at Corinth apparently did not insist that the Corinthians be circumcised. Nor did they practice a rigid legalism; in fact, they apparently encouraged licentiousness (12:21). Their fascination with rhetoric and oratory (10:10) suggests they had been influenced by Greek culture and philosophy.

Though their teaching may have differed from the Galatian Judaizers, it was just as deadly. “Another Jesus…a different spirit…a different gospel” (v. 4). Paul’s quarrel with the false apostles was not personal, but doctrinal. Those who adulterated the true gospel received Paul’s strongest condemnation (Gal. 1:6–9). Paul’s fear that the Corinthians would embrace the damning lies of the false apostles prompted his jealous concern for them.

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Spirit-Filled Gratitude

“Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:20).

Sincere thanks to God will result at all times if we are truly filled with the Spirit.

I’m convinced that gratitude is the single greatest act of personal worship we can render to God. And today’s verse plainly asserts that thankfulness should be a well-rounded, consistent response to whatever God allows to happen in our lives (see 1 Thess. 5:18). Such a thankful attitude is impossible in our own strength, but as the Holy Spirit indwells us, He graciously and mercifully enables us to be thankful at all times, without exception.

It follows that if a Spirit-filled believer is enabled to give thanks at all times, he will also be strengthened to give thanks “for all things.” Implicit in Paul’s words are the hard things (see also James 1:2-51 Peter 2:20-21); but there are also dozens of blessings that we must not neglect to be grateful for. Here are some primary examples: God’s goodness and mercy (Ps. 106:1), the gift of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 9:15), the gospel’s triumph (2 Cor. 2:14), and victory over death (1 Cor. 15:56-57).

The Spirit-filled Christian will always display his gratefulness in the name of Christ to God the Father. We could not be thankful at all if it were not for the Person and work of Jesus Christ. So to be thankful in His name simply means it will be consistent with His character and deeds (see Eph. 1:5-811-12).

God is the ultimate object of all our thanksgivings, and Father is the name that highlights His loving benevolence and the constant flow of His gracious gifts that come to those who know Him (see James 1:17). We just can’t escape the importance of our continually offering thanks to God on every occasion, for everything. Hebrews 13:15 presents us with this excellent summary: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Think of something you have not thanked God for in the past. Confess that neglect, and begin thanking Him for it regularly from now on.

For Further Study

Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-23.

  • How was that opportunity for gratitude different from those mentioned in the lesson?
  • How did Jehoshaphat demonstrate His trust in God?


Trusting God

"In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16).

Intense spiritual warfare calls for intense trust in God.

An on-duty Roman soldier was always dressed for battle but didn't employ his shield, helmet, and sword until the fighting started. But we as Christians must be ready for battle at all times because our enemy is relentless. We can't afford to overlook a single piece of armor or slip into complacency or neglect.

In that regard, Ephesians 6:16 says in effect, "Now that you've prepared for battle by girding your loins with truth, protecting your vital organs with the breastplate of righteousness, and securing your feet with the gospel of peace, don't forget to take up your shield."

Two types of shields were commonly used by Roman soldiers. One was a small, lightweight, round shield that was strapped to the soldier's left forearm and used to parry blows during hand-to-hand combat. The other, which Paul refers to here, was a large shield measuring about four-and- a-half-feet high and two-and-a-half-feet wide. It was made of sturdy wood covered with metal and a thick layer of oil- treated leather. The metal deflected arrows while the oily leather extinguished the fiery pitch that arrows were commonly swabbed with. That type of shield was ideal for full-body protection.

In the initial stages of a battle, the front-line soldiers knelt behind their large shields to protect themselves and provide a defense barrier for the troops behind them who were firing offensive weapons. The goal was to inch their way forward as a human wall until they could engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

As a believer, the shield that protects you is your faith in God. If you never question His character, power, or Word, you'll never fall victim to Satan's attacks. That doesn't mean he won't beseige you—but when he does, his assaults will be ineffective.

Suggestions for Prayer

Faith is a precious gift from God (Phil. 1:29). Thank Him for it and ask for wisdom to apply it properly when spiritual struggles come (James 1:5).

For Further Study

Read Romans 8:31-39.

  • Meditate on the victory you have in Christ.
  • What effect should that have on your daily living?


The Importance of the Miracle at Cana

“This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11).

When Jesus turned water into wine, His purpose was not to amaze His audience with His power. His miracles met specific needs, such as opening blind eyes or deaf ears, delivering those oppressed by demons, feeding hungry people, or calming a threatening storm. This miracle met the genuine need of the family and their guests.

But even more important, this first of Jesus’ signs manifested His glory (cf. 1:14)—He put His deity on display. Jesus’ signs were not simply powerful displays of compassion, but were designed to reveal who He really was, since they unmistakably manifest God at work. Signs, miracles, and wonders nevertheless do not necessarily convince people to believe in the Lord and the gospel.

Amazingly, Jesus seems to have left Cana with only the disciples who had come there with Him, despite having performed a miracle, the likes of which had not happened since God created flour and oil in the days of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:8–162 Kings 4:1–7). The obvious deduction that He was the Messiah escaped the people; they saw the sign, but missed what it pointed to.

His disciples, however, believed in Him. Having heard John the Baptist’s testimony that Jesus was the Messiah (1:34), having heard Jesus’ own words (1:39) and believed in Him (1:41), they now saw firsthand miraculous confirmation of that faith.

Ask Yourself

There is not a need He hasn’t met in your life, even though it may appear so at times. If a “need” goes unmet, it’s only because there is reason to wait or because we have incorrectly categorized our desire as a demand. As you bring your needs before Him today, you can be sure He hears you and responds.


Reading for Today:Notes:

Isaiah 28:16 stone for a foundation,…a sure foundation. The Lord God contrasted the only sure refuge with the false refuge of relying on foreigners (v. 15).This directly prophesied the coming of the Messiah (Matt.21:42Mark 12:10Luke 20:17Acts 4:11Rom.9:33Eph.2:201 Pet.2:6–88:1415Ps. 118:22). will not act hastily. The Greek Old Testament interprets this Hebrew verb for “hurry” in the sense of “put to shame,” furnishing the basis of the New Testament citations of this verse (Rom. 9:3310:111 Pet. 2:6).

Isaiah 28:23 Give ear. The parable of a farmer underlined the lessons of judgment threats in vv. 18–22. As the farmer does his different tasks, each in the right season and proportion, so God adopts His measures to His purposes: now mercy, then judgment; punishing sooner, then later. His purpose was not to destroy His people, any more than the farmer’s object in his threshing or plowing is to destroy his crop.

Proverbs 25:20 vinegar on soda. Pouring vinegar on an alkali (e.g., baking soda) produces a reaction like boiling or turning tranquility into agitation. So is the effect of singing joyful songs without sympathy to the sorrowful.

2 Corinthians 10:4 our warfare. The motif of the Christian life as warfare is a common one in the New Testament (6:7; Eph. 6:10–181 Tim. 1:182 Tim. 2:344:7). carnal. Human. strongholds. The metaphor would have been readily understandable to the Corinthians since Corinth, like most ancient cities, had a fortress in which its residents could take refuge. The formidable spiritual strongholds manned by the forces of hell can be demolished only by spiritual weapons wielded by godly believers—singularly the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17), since only the truth of God’s Word can defeat satanic falsehoods. This is the true spiritual warfare. Believers are not instructed in the New Testament to assault demons or Satan, but to assault error with the truth. That is our battle (John 17:17Heb. 4:12).

2 Corinthians 10:5 arguments. Thoughts, ideas, speculations, reasonings, philosophies, and false religions are the ideological forts in which men barricade themselves against God and the gospel (1 Cor. 3:20). every thought into captivity. Emphasizes the total destruction of the fortresses of human and satanic wisdom and the rescuing of those inside from the damning lies that had enslaved them.

DAY 18: Why does the tone of 2 Corinthians change so abruptly between 9:15 and 10:1?

Even a casual reader usually notices the abrupt change in tone that occurs between the ninth and tenth chapters. This apparent difference has prompted various explanations of the relationship between chapters 1–9 and 10–13.

Some argue that chapters 10–13 were originally part of the “severe letter” (2:4), and hence belong chronologically before chapters 1–9. Chapters 10–13 cannot, however, have been written before chapters 1–9, since they refer to Titus’s visit as a past event (12:18; 8:6). Further, the offender whose defiance of Paul prompted the “severe letter” (2:5–8) is nowhere mentioned in chapters 10–13.

Others agree that chapters 10–13 belong after chapters 1–9, but believe they form a separate letter. They assume that Paul, after sending chapters 1–9 to the Corinthians, received reports of new trouble at Corinth and wrote chapters 10–13 in response. A variation of this view is that Paul paused in his writing of 2 Corinthians after chapters 1–9, then heard bad news from Corinth before he resumed writing chapters 10–13.This view preserves the unity of 2 Corinthians; however, Paul does not mention anywhere in chapters 10–13 that he received any fresh news from Corinth.

The best interpretation views 2 Corinthians as a unified letter, with chapters 1–9 addressed to the repentant majority (2:6) and chapters 10–13 to the minority still influenced by the false teachers. The support for this view is that: 1) there is no historical evidence (from Greek manuscripts, the writings of the church fathers, or early translations) that chapters 10–13 ever circulated as a separate letter—all Greek manuscripts have them following chapters 1–9; 2) the differences in tone between chapters 10–13 and 1–9 have been exaggerated (11:1112:14 with 6:11; 7:2); and 3) chapters 10–13 form the logical conclusion to chapters 1–9, as Paul prepared the Corinthians for his promised visit (1:15, 16; 2:1–3).

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Spirit-Filled Song

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual
 songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).

If we are Spirit-filled, we will have songs of praise in our hearts and on our lips.

Once a Christian knows about being Spirit-filled and walking by the Spirit, it is still fair for him or her to ask, “But how can I know if the Holy Spirit is really at work in my life?” Ephesians 5:19 answers this question by declaring one of the unmistakable evidences of the Spirit’s full operation in our lives—we will have a song in our hearts.

The Bible does not give us much detail about the practical use of music and song, but there are enough references so that its significance to God and His people is clear. The Israelites praised God after He rescued them from the Egyptians (Ex. 15). The Psalms are filled with songs and praise, epitomized by the final verse, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (150:6).

In the New Testament, Jesus and the disciples closed the Last Supper by singing a hymn (Matt. 26:30). Paul and Silas sang while they were imprisoned at Philippi (Acts 16:25). During his vision in Revelation 5, the apostle John sees this: “When He [Christ, the Lamb] had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song” (vv. 8-9).

That “new song” John was about to hear sung before God’s throne was not just new chronologically—it was new qualitatively. Here as elsewhere in the New Testament, “new” is used in relation to God’s salvation, which means it makes perfect sense for us to sing a new song—one that is far better than the world’s songs—if we are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. Words of genuine praise should well up in our hearts often and at the appropriate times break forth from our lips as we reflect the joy of the Spirit-filled life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God specifically for some of your favorite hymns.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 5:1-14 for the complete context of John’s new song.

  • What is the song’s theme?
  • How many eventually join in the praises?


Selecting the Proper Shoes

"Stand firm . . . having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:14-15).

Standing firm while in the conflict requires the right kind of spiritual footwear.

I'll never forget a game that took place at the Rose Bowl during my college football days. Being winter time and late in the football season, the field was in bad shape from several days of rain and an entire season of wear and tear. However, the grounds crew painted the field green, so it looked much better than it actually was. I had two pairs of football shoes: one with long spikes for bad turf and one with short spikes for good turf. Thinking the field looked pretty good, I opted to wear the short spikes.

On the opening kick-off I caught the ball on the four- yard line, took two steps, and immediately landed on my backside. That's not unusual after a tackle, but in this case there wasn't an opponent in sight! I slipped in the mud—my shoes betrayed me.

Since proper shoes are important in athletics, how much more so are they when fighting for your life. Roman soldiers took great care in selecting just the right shoe. Typically they wore a thick-soled semi-boot with straps securing it to the leg. On the bottom of the soles were hobnails that protruded like the cleats of a track or baseball shoe. The thick soles protected the feet from injury; the hobnails provided traction when maneuvering on the soil.

The Christian's spiritual footwear is the "gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15). Romans 5:1 says, "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." God has reconciled you to Himself through the death of His Son (v. 10). Once you were His enemy; now you are His child. Once He opposed you; now He is on your side.

No matter how difficult your circumstances may be or how many opponents come against you, realize that the invincible God of the universe is on your side. He makes war against His enemies (Rev. 2:16), and against Him no one can stand. So stand firm in that confidence. Focus on your Great Ally rather than your feeble enemies.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His peace, presence, and protection in your life.

For Further Study

Read Judges 7. How did Gideon demonstrate his confidence that God was on his side?


A New Relationship Between Jesus and Mary
“When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it’” (John 2:3–5).

Returning to the wedding at Cana we come across a major crisis—the wine ran out because the supply was insufficient. This potential embarrassment for the couple and their families could have stigmatized them for the rest of their lives. Mary was apparently helping to oversee the catering of the celebration and became aware of this serious problem. She anxiously said to Jesus, “They have no wine.”

Jesus’ abrupt reply, “Woman, what does that have to do with us?” signaled a major change in their relationship. It was an idiomatic expression that asks rhetorically what the two parties in question have in common, and has the effect of distancing them. By calling Mary “Woman” (a polite, but not intimate, form of address) instead of “Mother,” Jesus politely but firmly informed her that their relationship was no longer to be what it had been while He was growing up. His public ministry had begun, and earthly relationships would not direct His actions. Mary was to relate to Him no longer as her son but as her Messiah, the Son of God, her Savior.

Undeterred by the mild rebuke, and aware that He was not saying no to the request, Mary said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Mary shows us how we should respond to the Lord.

Ask Yourself

Is your relationship with Jesus such that you can receive His rebuke without taking offense or crawling into a corner? Can you respond to His truth—even a hard truth—by adjusting your life to His right way of thinking and then continuing to serve Him as faithfully as before?


Reading for Today:Notes:

Isaiah 25:8 swallow up death. God will swallow up death, which itself functions as a swallower of human beings (5:14Prov. 1:12). Paul notes the fulfillment of this promise in the resurrection of believers (1 Cor. 15:54). wipe away tears. The Lord God will remove the sorrow associated with death (65:19).Revelation alludes to the tender action of this verse twice—once in 7:17 to describe the bliss of the redeemed in heaven, and once in 21:4 to describe ideal conditions in the New Jerusalem. rebuke…He will take away. Israel will be the head of the nations and no longer the tail (Deut. 28:13).

Isaiah 26:3 perfect peace,…trusts in You. A fixed disposition of trust in the Lord brings a peace that the wicked can never know (48:22; 57:21). Such reliance precludes double-mindedness (James 1:6–8) and serving two masters (Matt. 6:24).

Isaiah 26:15 have increased the nation. With prophetic certainty from the perspective of Israel’s future restoration, Isaiah saw the expansion of Israel’s borders as an accomplished fact.

2 Corinthians 9:12 administration of this service. “Administration,” which may also be translated “service,” is a priestly word from which we get “liturgy.” Paul viewed the entire collection project as a spiritual, worshipful enterprise that was primarily being offered to God to glorify Him. supplies the needs of the saints. The Greek word for “supplies” is a doubly intense term that could be rendered “really, fully supplying.” This indicates the Jerusalem church had an extremely great need. Many residents of Jerusalem had undoubtedly lost their jobs in the waves of persecution that came after the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1). However, the Corinthians were wealthy enough (they had not yet suffered persecution and deprivation like the Macedonians) to help meet the huge need with a generous monetary gift.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Paul summarized his discourse by comparing the believer’s act of giving with what God did in giving Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:32), “His indescribable gift.” God buried His Son and reaped a vast harvest of those who put their faith in the resurrected Christ (John 12:24). That makes it possible for believers to joyfully, sacrificially, and abundantly sow and reap. As they give in this manner, they show forth Christ’s likeness (John 12:2526Eph. 5:12).

DAY 17: What does God look for in our financial giving?

“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). The simple, self-evident agrarian principle—which Paul applied to Christian giving—that the harvest is directly proportionate to the amount of seed sown (Prov. 11:242519:17Luke 6:38Gal. 6:7). When a generous believer gives by faith and trust in God, with a desire to produce the greatest possible blessing, that person will receive that kind of a harvest of blessing (Prov. 3:91028:27Mal. 3:10). God gives a return on the amount one invests with Him (Luke 6:38).

“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart” (v. 7). The term translated “purposes” indicates a premeditated, predetermined plan of action that is done from the heart voluntarily, but not impulsively. “Grudgingly.” Literally, “with grief,” “sorrow,” or “sadness,” which indicates an attitude of depression, regret, and reluctance that accompanies something done strictly out of a sense of duty and obligation, but not joy. “Of necessity” or “compulsion.” This refers to external pressure and coercion, quite possibly accompanied by legalism. Believers are not to give based on the demands of others or according to any arbitrary standards or set amounts. “God loves a cheerful giver.” God has a unique, special love for those who are happily committed to generous giving. The Greek word for “cheerful” is the word from which we get “hilarious,” which suggests that God loves a heart that is enthusiastically thrilled with the pleasure of giving.

God possesses an infinite amount of grace, and He gives it lavishly, without holding back (v. 9). Here “grace” does not refer to spiritual graces but to money and material needs. When the believer generously—and wisely—gives of his material resources, God graciously replenishes them so he always has plenty and will not be in need (2 Chr. 31:10). “Always having all sufficiency.” In secular Greek philosophy, this was the proud contentment of self-sufficiency that supposedly led to true happiness. Paul sanctifies the secular term and says that God, not man, will supply everything needed for real happiness and contentment (Phil. 4:19). “May have an abundance for every good work.” God gives back lavishly to generous, cheerful givers, not so they may satisfy selfish, nonessential desires, but so they may meet the variety of needs others have (Deut. 15:1011).

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Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

“Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

God wants every aspect of the believer’s being to be under the complete control of the Holy Spirit.

Pleroo, the basic Greek word for “be filled,” offers three shades of meaning that illustrate what Paul’s command to be Spirit-filled means. First, the word describes the pressure of wind filling a ship’s sails and moving the vessel across the water. That parallels the Holy Spirit’s leading us down the pathway of spiritual obedience. We aren’t primarily motivated by our own plans and desires, but we allow the Spirit’s gracious pressure to move us in the right direction.

The well-known pain reliever Alka-Seltzer effectively illustrates the second meaning, permeation. If you drop two Alka-Seltzers into a glass of water, they immediately fizzle and soon transform themselves into clear bubbles throughout the water and permeate it with a distinct flavor. That’s how God wants the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, so that there will be no doubt in others’ minds that we possess the distinct and pervasive savor of the Spirit.

Pleroo’s third and primary shade of meaning is that of domination or total control. In Luke 6:11 the scribes and Pharisees “were filled with rage” when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. Jesus said, “Sorrow has filled your heart” (John 16:6) when He described the disciples’ reaction to the news that He was soon departing. In those two examples, pleroo denotes an emotion that thoroughly dominated the people’s thoughts and excluded everything else.

In regard to earthly concerns, such overwhelming feelings can be wasteful, foolish, and even harmful. But it is beneficial and completely in agreement with the Lord’s will when we yield every thought, feeling, and action to the absolute domination of the Holy Spirit. This yielding will occur in our Christian lives only when we obey another of Paul’s commands, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” (Col. 3:16). In practice, the Spirit-filled walk is a matter of knowing God’s Word and obeying it.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to forgive you for the times when you have not allowed His Spirit to completely fill and control your life.

For Further Study

Read and compare Isaiah 6 and Revelation 1:9-18.

  • What reactions did the prophet Isaiah and the apostle John both have to the notion of God’s overwhelming power and control?
  • What other general similarities are present in their visions?


A Righteousness That Glorifies God

"Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness" (Eph. 6:14).

A righteous life testifies to God’s transforming power and brings Him glory.

We've seen the importance of donning the breastplate of righteousness, but Scripture also discusses the consequences of failing to do so. These consequences serve as warnings to anyone who is prone to neglect righteousness.

If you're not committed to righteousness, you not only make yourself spiritually vulnerable, but also forfeit some of God's wonderful blessings. David prayed, "Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation" (Ps. 51:13). His sin had robbed him of his joy and assurance. That's true of us as well because joy is directly proportional to obedience. If you're pursuing greater righteousness, you'll know greater joy.

You might also forfeit some of your heavenly reward. John said, "Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward" (1 John 8). I believe that New Testament rewards are various capacities for service in heaven. The greater your reward, the greater your capacity to serve God. Somehow your current righteousness and faithfulness to God affect what you will do for all eternity. Don't allow sin and negligence to diminish your reward!

Without righteousness you will also suffer loss of opportunity to glorify God. When thinking or behaving unrighteously, you violate your reason for existence, which is to glorify God in everything (1 Cor. 10:31). Instead of exalting Him, you bring reproach on His name. Instead of causing others to see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16), you breed confusion and mockery.

Peter says to us, "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that . . . they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Pet. 2:11). When unbelievers scrutinize your life, what do they see? Does your righteousness testify of God's saving and sanctifying grace?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you an increased hunger and thirst for righteousness as you seek to live to His glory today.

For Further Study

Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:21 as a reminder of God's marvelous grace to you.


The Significance of Jesus at Cana

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding” (John 2:1–2).

A wedding was a major social event in first-century Palestine, and the ensuing celebration could last as long as a week. It marked the culmination of the betrothal period, which often lasted for several months. The couple was considered legally man and wife during their betrothal period. They did not, however, live together or consummate the marriage during that time (cf. Matt. 1:18). On the night of the ceremony, the groom and his friends would go to the bride’s house. They would then escort her and her attendants to the groom’s house, where the ceremony and banquet would be held.

John states that a particular wedding was held in Cana. That both Jesus and His mother attended suggests the wedding involved relatives or friends of the family.

By attending this wedding and performing His first miracle there, Jesus sanctified both the institution of marriage and the ceremony itself. Marriage is the sacred union of a man and a woman whereby they become one in the sight of God. The ceremony is an essential element of that union, because that’s when the couple publicly vow to remain faithful to each other.

That Jesus attended the celebration also reveals the marked difference between His ministry and that of John the Baptist. Instead of being a voice in the wilderness, Jesus had the more difficult task of mingling with the crowds and ministering to them in their daily existence.

Ask Yourself

Does your faith travel with you into social settings like this? When your time is your own, when the conversation is light, when you feel a long way from the workweek or the usual pressures of life, are you still looking for opportunities to be used of God and helpful to others?


Reading for Today:Notes:

Isaiah 23:1 Tyre. A Phoenician seaport on the Mediterranean Sea, located about 35 miles north of Mt. Carmel and 28 miles west of Mt. Hermon, Tyre supplied lumber for King Solomon’s temple (1 Kin. 5:17–12) and sailors for his navy (1 Kin. 9:2627). laid waste. Tyre was under siege 5 times between this prophecy and 332 B.C. Only the last of these attacks (in 332 B.C., by Alexander the Great) completely leveled and subdued the city. Ezekiel prophesied this destruction in Ezekiel 26:3–27:36.

Isaiah 24:18 windows from on high. In Noah’s day, God judged with a flood (Gen. 7:11). He will judge again from heaven, but not with a flood. Revelation 6:13148:3–1316:1–21foundations of the earth. Unparalleled earthquakes will mark the future visitation during and after the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70-week prophecy (13:13Matt. 24:7Rev. 6:12148:511:1916:18).

Isaiah 24:23 moon…disgraced…sun ashamed. In the eternal state after Christ’s millennial reign, the glory of God and of the Lamb will replace the sun and moon as sources of light (Rev. 21:23). reign…in Jerusalem. In Revelation 11:15–1719:616 (Luke 1:31–33), John confirmed this clear prophecy of Messiah’s future earthly reign in Jerusalem.

2 Corinthians 8:9 though He was rich. A reference to the eternality and preexistence of Christ. As the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ is as rich as God is rich. He owns everything, and possesses all power, authority, sovereignty, glory, honor, and majesty (Is. 9:6Mic. 5:2John 1:18:5810:3017:5Col. 1:15–182:9Heb. 1:3). He became poor. A reference to Christ’s Incarnation (John 1:14Rom. 1:38:3Gal. 4:4Col. 1:201 Tim. 3:16Heb. 2:7). He laid aside the independent exercise of all His divine prerogatives, left His place with God, took on human form, and died on a cross like a common criminal (Phil. 2:5–8). that you…might become rich. Believers become spiritually rich through the sacrifice and impoverishment of Christ (Phil. 2:5–8).They become rich in salvation, forgiveness, joy, peace, glory, honor, and majesty (1 Cor. 1:453:22Eph. 1:31 Pet. 1:34). They become joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).

2 Corinthians 8:12 willing mind. Paul spoke of a readiness and eagerness to give. God is most concerned with the heart attitude of the giver, not the amount he gives (9:7; Mark 12:41–44). according to what one has. Whatever one has is the resource out of which he should give. That is why there are no set amounts or percentages for giving anywhere stated in the New Testament. The implication is that if one has much, he can give much; if he has little, he can give only little (9:6). not according to what he does not have. Believers do not need to go into debt to give nor lower themselves to a poverty level. God never asks believers to impoverish themselves. The Macedonians received a special blessing of grace from God to give the way they did.

DAY 16: How did the Macedonians exemplify freewill giving?

The generosity of the churches of Macedonia that Paul addresses in 2 Corinthians 8:1 was motivated by God’s grace. Paul did not merely commend those churches for a noble human work, but instead gave the credit to God for what He did through them. Paul’s reference was to the churches at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (Acts 17:11). This was basically an impoverished province that had been ravaged by many wars and even then was being plundered by Roman authority and commerce.

In spite of their difficult circumstances, the churches’ joy rose above their pain because of their devotion to the Lord and the causes of His kingdom. It was through the “abundance of their joy” (v. 2) that it was given despite their “deep poverty.” “Poverty” refers to the most severe type of economic deprivation, the kind that caused a person to become a beggar. “Riches of their liberality.” The Greek word for “liberality” can be translated “generosity” or “sincerity.” It is the opposite of duplicity or being double-minded. The Macedonian believers were rich in their single-minded, selfless generosity to God and to others.

In v. 3, Paul highlighted 3 elements of the Macedonians’ giving which summed up the concept of freewill giving: 1) “according to their ability.” Giving is proportionate—God sets no fixed amount or percentage and expects His people to give based on what they have (Luke 6:381 Cor. 16:2); 2) “beyond their ability.” Giving is sacrificial. God’s people are to give according to what they have, yet it must be in proportions that are sacrificial (Matt. 6:25–34Mark 12:41–44Phil. 4:19); and 3) “freely willing”—literally “one who chooses his own course of action.” Giving is voluntary—God’s people are not to give out of compulsion, manipulation, or intimidation. Freewill giving has always been God’s plan (9:6; Gen. 4:2–48:20Ex. 25:1235:45212236:5–7Num. 18:12Deut. 16:10171 Chr. 29:9Prov. 3:91011:24Luke 19:1–8). Freewill giving is not to be confused with tithing, which related to the national taxation system of Israel (Lev. 27:30) and is paralleled in the New Testament and the present by paying taxes (Matt. 22:21Rom. 13:67).

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Bearing Burdens

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Those who walk by the Spirit will lovingly bear one another’s burdens.

The Lord Jesus presents love for God and love for our neighbor as the great summary of the entire Law (Matt. 22:37-40).

It only makes sense, then, that love will characterize the life of any Christian who is walking by the Spirit. Love will also be an integral part of any Spirit-assisted ministry to others. Paul tells us in today’s verse that when we help other believers hold up their particular burdens, we are obeying “the law of Christ” or the law of love, which James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8).

But what exactly does Galatians 6:2 mean when it commands us to “bear one another’s burdens”? Commentator William Hendriksen gives us this general but helpful observation: “This does not merely mean ‘Tolerate each other,’ or ‘Put up with each other.’ It means: ‘Jointly shoulder each member’s burdens.’”

The actual word burden calls to mind a variety of possible sins, difficulties, and responsibilities; but Paul was using the Greek term that refers to an extremely heavy and unbearable load. It’s a load that one person alone can’t carry, which underscores again that Christians need each other. The Holy Spirit wants each member of the church involved in a ministry of mutual support.

The essence of burden-bearing is spiritual accountability and responsibility. One of the most practical ways we can bear someone else’s burden is to talk and pray regularly with him or her about spiritual issues and measure that person’s progress in overcoming a certain sin or temptation.

Bearing the burdens of another believer is a wonderful, reciprocal learning process in which both individuals can benefit from God’s truth and understand more about His will for their lives (see Gal. 6:6). As we become more sensitive and obedient to Him, the Holy Spirit orchestrates this ministry and gives us the privilege of instructing and upholding others as we continue to walk in Him day by day.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that His Spirit is powerful enough to help us bear the heaviest burdens of fellow believers.

For Further Study

Read the Epistle to Philemon.

  • What things did Paul probably do to bear Onesimus’s burdens?
  • How was the entire letter a form of burden-bearing by Paul for Philemon?


Developing Practical Righteousness

"Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness" (Eph. 6:14).

Practical righteousness is moment-by-moment obedience to God.

We've seen the importance of putting on the breastplate of righteousness as protection against Satan's attempts to pervert your thinking and emotions. But Scripture speaks of three kinds of righteousness: self-righteousness, imputed righteousness, and practical righteousness. Which did Paul have in mind in Ephesians 6:14?

Paul wasn't speaking of self-righteousness because that is what the breastplate of righteousness is designed to protect you from. Self-righteousness deceives a person into thinking, I can please God and reach heaven on my own merit. But Isaiah said, "All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment" (Isa. 64:6). Far from getting you to heaven, self- righteousness will condemn you to eternal hell because it rejects the merits of Christ's atonement.

Similarly, Paul wasn't speaking of imputed righteousness—the righteousness of Christ granted to every believer at the moment of salvation. It's also called "positional righteousness" because it results from your position or standing in Christ. Second Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Christ, "who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Every believer is clothed in the garment of Christ's righteousness. You don't put that on. It's already yours in Christ.

Only practical righteousness remains—that which flows from obedience to God's Word. Although in God's eyes you are righteous in Christ, you must also pursue righteous behavior. In other words, your practice should match your position. That's what Paul meant when he said, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:13). John added that "the one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6).

As you learn to live in obedience to God's Word, you'll be protected by the breastplate of righteousness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Spirit to help you search your heart and reveal any self-righteous attitudes that might be making you vulnerable to Satan's attacks. Confess them, then praise Christ for the true righteousness that is yours in Him.

For Further Study

Read Romans 3:10-23. What kind of righteousness did Paul pursue?


September 15 - Nathanael’s Encounter with Jesus

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel’” (John 1:47–49).

Of all the apostles, Nathanael had one of the more interesting first encounters with Jesus. After Philip told him he had found the Messiah—“Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”—Nathanael was skeptical. His dubious reply, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” reflects his incredulity that the Messiah could come from such an insignificant town. Yet he followed Philip.

As he approached, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’” Jesus recognized that Nathanael’s blunt, honest reply revealed his lack of duplicity and his willingness to examine Jesus’ claims for himself. Nathanael was “an Israelite indeed”—he was a genuine, true disciple from the beginning.

Taken aback by Jesus’ omniscient recognition of him, Nathanael was also surprised by Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of information known only to him. Not only did Jesus supernaturally see Nathanael’s physical location, but He also saw into his heart (cf. Ps. 139:1–4).

Whatever happened under the fig tree, Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of it removed Nathanael’s doubt. Overwhelmed, he acknowledged Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.

Just think—Jesus knows you every bit as intimately as He knew Nathanael. The same acknowledgement of Christ’s deity ought to be on your lips as well.

Ask Yourself

Is Jesus’ intimate knowledge of you a source of fear and anxiety, or is it rather a source of comfort and security? If you’re living in the first state of mind, try putting into words why anything that keeps you from the latter could possibly be worth it.


Reading for Today:Notes:

Isaiah 21:9 Babylon is fallen, is fallen! The watchman proclaimed the tragic end of mighty Babylon, which initially fell to the Assyrians in 689 B.C. and again to the Persians in 539 B.C. Yet Isaiah’s prediction looked forward to the ultimate fall of the great enemy of God, as verified by John’s citation of this verse in Revelation 14:818:2 (Jer. 50:251:849).

Isaiah 22:1 Valley of Vision. This referred to Israel, since God often revealed Himself to Jerusalem in visions. However, the unrepentant inhabitants displayed a marked lack of vision in their oblivion to the destruction that awaited them. What ails you…? The prophet reproached the people for celebrating with wild parties when they should have been in deep repentance because of their sins. Apparently he anticipated a condition that arose in conjunction with Jerusalem’s fall to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. But similar incursions by the Assyrians in either 711 or 701 B.C., from which the Lord delivered the city, had prompted the revelry among the people.

Isaiah 22:13 Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die! Paul cites the same philosophy (1 Cor. 15:32): If there is no resurrection, enjoyment in this life is all that matters. It utterly disregards God’s eternal values.

Isaiah 22:22 key of the house of David. This authority to admit or refuse admittance into the king’s presence evidenced the king’s great confidence in Eliakim. Jesus applied this terminology to Himself as one who could determine who would enter His future Davidic kingdom (Rev. 3:7).

2 Corinthians 7:1 these promises. The Old Testament promises Paul quoted in 6:16–18. Scripture often encourages believers to action based on God’s promises (Rom. 12:12 Pet. 1:3). let us cleanse ourselves. The form of this Greek verb indicates that this is something each Christian must do in his own life. filthiness. This Greek word, which appears only here in the New Testament, was used 3 times in the Greek Old Testament to refer to religious defilement or unholy alliances with idols, idol feasts, temple prostitutes, sacrifices, and festivals of worship. flesh and spirit. False religion panders to the human appetites represented by both “flesh and spirit.” While some believers for a time might avoid succumbing to fleshly sins associated with false religion, the Christian who exposes his mind to false teaching cannot avoid contamination by the devilish ideologies and blasphemies that assault the purity of divine truth and blaspheme God’s name. perfecting holiness. The Greek word for “perfecting” means “to finish” or “to complete” (8:6). “Holiness” refers to separation from all that would defile both the body and the mind. Complete or perfect holiness was embodied only in Christ; thus, believers are to pursue Him (3:18Lev. 20:26Matt. 5:48Rom. 8:29Phil. 3:12–141 John 3:23).

DAY 15: What are the characteristics of true repentance?

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians produced a sorrow in the believers that led them to repent of their sins (2 Cor. 7:9). “Repentance” refers to the desire to turn from sin and restore one’s relationship to God. “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (v. 10). “Godly sorrow” refers to sorrow that is according to the will of God and produced by the Holy Spirit. True repentance cannot occur apart from such a genuine sorrow over one’s sin. Repentance is at the very heart of and proves one’s salvation: unbelievers repent of their sin initially when they are saved, and then as believers, repent of their sins continually to keep the joy and blessing of their relationship to God.

Verse 11 provides a look at how genuine repentance will manifest itself in one’s attitudes. “Diligence.” Better translated, “earnestness” or “eagerness.” It is the initial reaction of true repentance to eagerly and aggressively pursue righteousness. This is an attitude that ends indifference to sin and complacency about evil and deception. “What clearing of yourselves.” A desire to clear one’s name of the stigma that accompanies sin. The repentant sinner restores the trust and confidence of others by making his genuine repentance known. “Indignation.” Often associated with righteous indignation and holy anger. Repentance leads to anger over one’s sin and displeasure at the shame it has brought on the Lord’s name and His people. “Fear.” This is reverence toward God, who is the One most offended by sin. Repentance leads to a healthy fear of the One who chastens and judges sin. “Vehement desire.” This could be translated “yearning,” or “a longing for,” and refers to the desire of the repentant sinner to restore the relationship with the one who was sinned against. “Zeal.” This refers to loving someone or something so much that one hates anyone or anything that harms the object of this love. “Vindication.” This could be translated “avenging of wrong,” and refers to the desire to see justice done. The repentant sinner no longer tries to protect himself; he wants to see the sin avenged no matter what it might cost him. “To be clear in this matter.” The essence of repentance is an aggressive pursuit of holiness, which was characteristic of the Corinthians. The Greek word for “clear” means “pure” or “holy.” They demonstrated the integrity of their repentance by their purity.

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Spiritual Restoration

“Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1).

Those walking by the Spirit are to restore sinning fellow believers.

God never intended that the spiritual walk be an end in itself. Instead, He wants believers to have a positive influence on fellow believers so that the church will be purified and built up. Galatians 6:1 reveals how those who walk by the Spirit ought to minister to others within the Body of Christ. Paul says they are to restore other brothers and sisters who might have fallen into sin.

“Caught in any trespass” denotes falling into a sin and becoming bound by it, just as an animal might become caught in a trap. Whenever another believer we know gets ensnared by any sin—no exception—the Holy Spirit wants “you who are spiritual” to seek his or her restoration. The “spiritual” designation does not refer to some elite class of Christians but simply includes anyone who is walking by the Spirit.

The one who is spiritual and is relying on the Spirit’s wisdom and guidance will restore the sinning believer with patience. The Greek verb in Galatians 6:1translated “restore” strongly implies that spiritual restoration will need to be a methodical, persevering process. (The Greek originally referred to the mending of fishing nets or the realigning of a frame or joint.)

The verse further indicates that we must approach the entire restoration process with “gentleness.” As believers who have this fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23), such an approach should be almost automatic for us. But since we are merely sinners saved by grace, we need Galatians 6:1 and other reminders of the right way to restore a sinning brother or sister: “And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thess. 3:15).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that your church leaders would be faithful in confronting and seeking to restore those members who fall into sin.

For Further Study

Read Galatians 5:16-26.

  • What two things within the believer are at odds early in the passage?
  • Record two or three observations that are most striking to you about the contrasts between the individual good and evil character traits listed here.


Guarding Your Mind and Emotions

"Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness" (Eph. 6:14).

True righteousness begins with a right relationship with God.

A Roman soldier would often engage his enemy in hand- to-hand combat. At such times, the weapon of choice was the short sword, with which he sought to penetrate his opponent's vital organs. For his own protection he wore a molded metal breastplate that extended from the base of his neck to the top of his thighs. It helped deflect any attacks aimed at his heart and abdomen.

The Roman breastplate has great symbolism in Paul's analogy because to the Jewish people, the heart represented man's mind and thinking processes; the intestinal area or bowels represented the seat of feelings and emotions. Proverbs 23:7 says, "As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he" (KJV). Jeremiah 17:9says, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" Jesus added, "From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts" (Mark 7:21).

During spiritual warfare, Satan's primary attacks target your thinking and emotions. If he can condition you to think and feel contrary to God's Word, he has won a significant victory. That's why he attempts to fill your mind with lies, immorality, false doctrine, and half-truths. He tries to blur the line between righteousness and sin by surrounding you with evil influences that increase your tolerance for sin. He clothes offensive sin in the blinding garment of entertainment. He puts it to music and masks it in humor to confuse you and deaden your spiritual senses. Satan wants to corrupt your emotions and draw you into sinful desires.

Putting on the breastplate of righteousness begins with a right relationship with God, who is the source of true righteousness. From that relationship flows the commitment to cultivate righteousness in your own life by learning and applying His Word. Therein lies the protection you need to safeguard your mind and emotions from satanic deceptions.

Suggestions for Prayer

Focus on strengthening your relationship with God today. Commune with Him in prayer. Meditate on His Word. Seek His grace in responding thoughtfully and righteously to the temptations you face.

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 10, noting Solomon's description of righteous people.


September 14 - The Correct Response of Souls Seeking Jesus

“Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour” (John 1:38–39).

As Andrew and John walked after Him, “Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’” He already knew what the two wanted. The Lord asked the question to challenge them to consider their motives. He did not ask them who they were seeking, but what they were seeking.

By asking “Where are You staying?” Andrew and John were not just asking where He was staying; they were courteously requesting an extended private interview with Him. The question also signaled their willingness to become His disciples.

Jesus’ immediate response, “Come, and you will see,” was the invitation Andrew and John were hoping for. Jesus knew their hearts, that they were honest, sincere seekers.

John does not record what they discussed that memorable evening, but the Lord undoubtedly “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Whatever He said was enough to persuade them that He was indeed Israel’s Messiah, as Andrew’s excited testimony to his brother Peter the next day indicates (John 4:40–41).

In your service to Christ, be sure your motives are pure. Otherwise the Lord will know.

Ask Yourself

“What do you seek?” is a good question for us to ask ourselves as we approach the Lord, challenging our motives. What would you say you are seeking Him for? And if you’re not finding it, is it because you’re seeking amiss or for the wrong reasons—or perhaps seeking something God knows you don’t need?


Reading for Today:Notes:

Isaiah 19:18 five cities. Humanly speaking, the chances of even one Egyptian city turning to the Lord were remote, but divinely speaking, there will be 5 times that many. language of Canaan. Egypt is to speak the language of Judah. Not only are they to fear Judah (v. 17), they are also to convert to Judah’s form of worship. swear by the LORD of hosts. Egypt will “in that day” turn to God in a dramatic way. This prophecy anticipates the personal reign of the Davidic King on earth.

Isaiah 19:25 My people,…the work of My hands. Elsewhere Scripture uses these epithets to speak only of Israel (10:24; 29:23; 43:6, 7; 45:11; 60:21; 64:8; Pss. 100:3110:3138:8Jer. 11:4Hos 1:102:23). In the future kingdom, Israel is to be God’s instrument for drawing other nations into His fold.

2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul emphasized his point by quoting Isaiah 49:8. He was passionately concerned that the Corinthians adhere to the truth because it was God’s time to save and they were messengers for helping to spread that message. now is the day of salvation. Paul applied Isaiah’s words to the present situation. There is a time in God’s economy when He listens to sinners and responds to those who are repentant—and it was and is that time (Prov. 1:20–23Is. 55:6Heb. 3:784:7). However, there will also be an end to that time (Gen. 6:3Prov. 1:24–33John 9:4), which is why Paul’s exhortation was so passionate.

2 Corinthians 6:7 by the word of truth. The Scriptures, the revealed Word of God (Col. 1:5James 1:18). During his entire ministry, Paul never operated beyond the boundaries of the direction and guidance of divine revelation. by the power of God. Paul did not rely on his own strength when he ministered (1 Cor. 1:182:1–5Rom. 1:16). by the armor of righteousness. Paul did not fight Satan’s kingdom with human resources, but with spiritual virtue (10:3–5; Eph. 6:10–18). the right hand…the left. Paul had both offensive tools, such as the sword of the Spirit, and defensive tools, such as the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation, at his disposal.

DAY 14: What did Paul mean by warning believers to not become “unequally yoked together with unbelievers”?

Paul’s use of this phrase in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is an illustration taken from Old Testament prohibitions to Israel regarding the work-related joining together of two different kinds of livestock (Deut. 22:10). By this analogy, Paul taught that it is not right to join together in common spiritual enterprise with unbelievers—a relationship that would be detrimental to the Christian’s testimony within the body of Christ. It is impossible under such an arrangement for things to be done to God’s glory (1 Cor. 5:9–136:15–1810:7–21James 4:41 John 2:15). This was especially important for the Corinthians because of the threats from the false teachers and the surrounding pagan idolatry. But this command does not mean believers should end all associations with unbelievers. That would defy the purpose for which God saved believers and left them on earth (Matt. 28:19201 Cor. 9:19–23).

“And what accord has Christ with Belial?” (v. 15). An ancient name for Satan, the utterly worthless one (Deut. 13:13). This contrasts sharply with Jesus Christ, the worthy One with whom believers are to be in fellowship. “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (v. 16). The temple of God (true Christianity) and idols (idolatrous, demonic false religions) are utterly incompatible. “You are the temple of the living God.” Believers individually are spiritual houses (5:1) in which the Spirit of Christ dwells. “As God has said.” Paul supported his statement by referring to a blend of Old Testament texts (Lev. 26:1112Jer. 24:731:33Ezek. 37:2627Hos. 2:23).

Paul drew from Isaiah 52:11 and elaborated on the command to be spiritually separated. It is not only irrational and sacrilegious but disobedient to be bound together with unbelievers. When believers are saved, they are to disengage themselves from all forms of false religion and make a clean break from all sinful habits and old idolatrous patterns. “Be separate.” This is a command for believers to be as Christ was (Heb. 7:26).

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The Spirit and Prayer

“Be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Peter 4:7).

Spending time with God in prayer is another crucial element in walking by the Spirit.

During my regular times in the Word, I often don’t know where Bible study ends and meditation begins, or where meditation turns into prayer. My devotions are definitely a seamless process in which I read Scripture, meditate on it, and pray that God would help me understand it. I’m sure that many of you have had the same experience. It ought to be like that for any believer who is faithful in spending time with the Lord daily.

Along with meditating on Scripture and focusing on God, prayer is an essential component of our strategy to walk by the Holy Spirit. An attitude of moment-by-moment prayer, patterned after 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (“Pray without ceasing”), will greatly help us walk in step with the Spirit.

“Pray without ceasing” obviously does not mean believers are to spend every waking moment in formal prayer. Paul’s command to the Thessalonians refers to recurring prayer, not a ceaseless uttering of words from a certain posture.

To pray as part of our spiritual walk means we bring every temptation before God and ask for His help. It means we thank Him for every good and beautiful experience. It means we ask the Lord to allow us to join the fight against evil. It means when we have an opportunity to witness, we pray that God would help us be faithful and that He would draw the person to Himself. And finally, this kind of prayer means we’ll turn to God as our Deliverer whenever we have trials.

Thus, walking by the Spirit is a lifestyle of continual prayer. All of our thoughts, actions, and circumstances become opportunities to commune with God. And if that is true, we obey Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

Suggestions for Prayer

Take a brief prayer list with you (on an index card) today, and try to pray through it several times during the day.

For Further Study

  • Matthew 6:1-8 leads into Jesus’ presentation of the Lord’s Prayer. What general attitude has no place in prayer?
  • List the specific things Christ warns against, along with those He commends in this passage.


Pursuing Truthfulness

"Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth" (Eph. 6:14).

Truthfulness is the best defense against Satan’s lies.

The first piece of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:14 is the belt of truth. Roman soldiers of his day wore a tunic, which was a large square piece of material with holes for the head and arms. A belt kept the tunic from flying loosely and getting in the way in the midst of battle.

The phrase "having girded your loins" was commonly used for gathering up the loose material of one's tunic or robe when preparing for battle or travel. It speaks of preparedness, as in Exodus 12:11, where God tells the children of Israel to gird their loins for their exodus from Egypt. Jesus used it in a figurative sense in Luke 12:35, where He warns us to gird our loins or "be dressed in readiness" for His second coming. Peter said we're to gird our minds for action (1 Pet. 1:13).

The Greek word translated "truth" in Ephesians 6:14 can refer either to the content of that which is true or to an attitude of truthfulness. Both are implied in the verse. In Ephesians 4 Paul combines both aspects in warning us not to be "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (vv. 14-15). Instead, we are to embrace sound doctrine and always speak the truth in love.

The way to defend yourself against the cunning deceptions of Satan is to gird yourself with a thorough knowledge of God's Word and a firm commitment to obedience. Yet many Christians remain vulnerable because they're unwilling to do that.

Just as Paul exhorted the Philippians to excel in knowledge and discernment and to remain sincere and blameless until in Christ's presence (Phil. 1:9-10), so you must also do the same. Never be content with your present level of spirituality. Keep learning and growing. Demonstrate an attitude of truthfulness that reveals your commitment to God's Word and your readiness for battle.

Suggestions for Prayer

Is your life characterized by truthfulness? If not, you're a ready target for Satan's schemes. Confess it to the Lord and ask Him to cleanse your heart and give you a love for His truth. Begin today to apply His Word to your life.

For Further Study

Read verses 1-4 and 13-15 of 2 Corinthians 11, noting the tactics of Satan and his servants.


The Proper Response to the Lamb of God

“Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus” (John 1:35–37).

John looked at Jesus as He walked nearby, and repeated to his disciples what he had proclaimed to the crowds on the previous day: “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Having heard their teacher speak again those powerful words, the two disciples followed Jesus. John’s willingness to unhesitatingly hand them over to Him is further evidence of his self-effacing humility and complete acceptance of his subordinate role.

That the two disciples followed Jesus does not imply that they became permanent disciples of His at this time. It is true that the Greek word for “followed” is used in John’s gospel to mean, “to follow as a disciple.” But it can also be used in a general sense. Andrew and John here received their first exposure to Jesus. Later, they became His permanent disciples (Matt. 4:18–22).

Since the Messiah, the Son of God—the Lamb of God—is here, the only proper response is to follow Him.

Having served his purpose as a witness to the true identity of Jesus, John the Baptist now fades from the scene (apart from a brief mention in John 3:23). The rest of the gospel focuses on the ministry of Jesus, something the Baptist himself would have approved of.

You can have the same kind of influence that John did by making sure that in addition to following Christ you also point people to Him.

Ask Yourself

What does “following” Jesus entail—not just in general terms but in real life? What does it mean on Friday nights when you’re alone with your free time, or on Tuesday morning when you’re busy with the usual routine? Think of what needs to change in moments like these if you’re to be a full-time follower.


Reading for Today:


Isaiah 18:4 I will take My rest. The Lord will wait patiently until the appropriate time to intervene in human affairs, until sunshine and dew have built to an opportune climactic moment.

2 Corinthians 5:10 This describes the believer’s deepest motivation and highest aim in pleasing God—the realization that every Christian is inevitably and ultimately accountable to Him. the judgment seat of Christ. “Judgment seat” metaphorically refers to the place where the Lord will sit to evaluate believers’ lives for the purpose of giving them eternal rewards. It was an elevated platform where victorious athletes (e.g., during the Olympics) went to receive their crowns. The term is also used in the New Testament to refer to the place of judging, as when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate (Matt. 27:19John 19:13), but here the reference is definitely from the athletic analogy. Corinth had such a platform where both athletic rewards and legal justice were dispensed (Acts 18:12–16), so the Corinthians understood Paul’s reference. the things done in the body. Actions which happened during the believer’s time of earthly ministry. This does not include sins, since their judgment took place at the Cross (Eph 1:7). Paul was referring to all those activities believers do during their lifetimes, which relate to their eternal reward and praise from God. What Christians do in their temporal bodies will, in His eyes, have an impact for eternity (1 Cor. 4:3–5Rom. 12:12Rev. 22:12). whether good or bad. These Greek terms do not refer to moral good and moral evil. Matters of sin have been completely dealt with by the death of the Savior. Rather, Paul was comparing worthwhile, eternally valuable activities with useless ones.

2 Corinthians 5:19 God was in Christ. God by His own will and design used His Son, the only acceptable and perfect sacrifice, as the means to reconcile sinners to Himself. reconciling the world. God initiates the change in the sinner’s status in that He brings him from a position of alienation to a state of forgiveness and right relationship with Himself. This again is the essence of the gospel. The word “world” should not be interpreted in any universalistic sense, which would say that everyone will be saved or even potentially reconciled. “World” refers rather to the entire sphere of mankind or humanity (Titus 2:113:4), the category of beings to whom God offers reconciliation—people from every ethnic group, without distinction. The intrinsic merit of Christ’s reconciling death is infinite and the offer is unlimited. However, actual atonement was made only for those who believe (John 10:111517:9Acts 13:4820:28Rom. 8:3233Eph. 5:25).

2 Corinthians 5:21 Here Paul summarized the heart of the gospel, explaining how sinners can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. These 15 Greek words express the doctrines of imputation and substitution like no other single verse. who knew no sin. Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God (Gal. 4:45Luke 23:4142247John 8:46Heb. 4:157:261 Pet. 1:192:22–243:18Rev. 5:2–10). sin for us. God the Father, using the principle of imputation, treated Christ as if He were a sinner though He was not, and had Him die as a substitute to pay the penalty for the sins of those who believe in Him (Is. 53:4–6Gal. 3:10–131 Pet. 2:24). On the cross, He did not become a sinner (as some suggest), but remained as holy as ever. He was treated as if He were guilty of all the sins ever committed by all who would ever believe, though He committed none. The wrath of God was exhausted on Him and the just requirement of God’s law met for those for whom He died. the righteousness of God. Another reference to justification and imputation. The righteousness that is credited to the believer’s account is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. As Christ was not a sinner, but was treated as if He were, so believers who have not yet been made righteous (until glorification) are treated as if they were righteous.

DAY 13: What does Paul mean when he writes about being “in Christ” and someone being a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17)?

Paul uses the term “in Christ” when he writes about various aspects of our relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. These two words comprise a brief but profound statement of the inexhaustible significance of the believer’s redemption (salvation), which includes the following:

  1. The believer’s security in Christ, who bore in His body God’s judgment against sin.
  2. The believer’s acceptance in (through) Christ with whom God alone is well pleased.
  3. The believer’s future assurance in Him who is the resurrection to eternal life and the sole guarantor of the believer’s inheritance in heaven.
  4. The believer’s participation in the divine nature of Christ, the everlasting Word (2 Pet. 1:4).

All of the changes that Christ brings to the believer’s life result in a state that can be rightly called “a new creation.” The terms describe something created at a qualitatively new level of excellence. They parallel other biblical concepts like regeneration and new birth (John 3:3Eph. 2:1–3Titus 3:51 Pet. 1:231 John 2:293:95:4). The expression includes the Christian’s forgiveness of sins paid for in Christ’s substitutionary death (Gal. 6:15Eph. 4:24).

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Focusing on Scripture and the Lord

“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

We must focus on God and His Word as we begin to walk by the Spirit.

Paul’s directive to the Galatians in today’s verse may sound like an impractical platitude. But to the apostle this command was a foundational truth for how all Christians should live their daily lives. The Greek for “walk” could be translated, “keep on continually walking.” Life transpires one day at a time, and believers should routinely take each day one step at a time.

In walking by the Holy Spirit, our chief opposition is our own flesh (Gal. 5:17). Therefore, it is crucial that we possess the scriptural strategy for our spiritual walk and that we know how to practically and effectively carry it out.

The first part of our strategy has to be a daily intake of God’s Word. Psalm 1:2 says that the man who walks on a godly path will “delight . . . in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Meditation (patiently and thoroughly reflecting on a passage of Scripture) helps us effectively seal the Word in our hearts so we can obediently apply it and minister it in accordance with God’s Spirit.

Secondly, if we want to walk by the Spirit, we must focus on God and allow Him to renew our minds. The key is found in Paul’s familiar command: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). The believer who lives that way will undoubtedly walk by the Spirit because he will also be one who worships God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). As one Bible teacher so aptly phrased it, “Find me a worshiper of God, and I will show you a stable man with his mind in control, ready to meet the present hour with refreshment from above.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray today that the Lord would help you to begin removing everything from your life that is preventing you from worshiping Him wholeheartedly.

For Further Study


Resisting the Devil

"Take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (Eph. 6:13).

Spiritual warfare isn’t as much a frontal attack on Satan’s domain as it is the ability to resist his advances.

Spiritual warfare has become a popular topic in recent years. Books, tapes, and seminars on the subject abound, but there is still much confusion. Some say we must rebuke and bind Satan to thwart his power and influence. Others say we must expel demonic spirits through "deliverance ministries." Still others encourage us to band together to aggressively assault the strongholds of supposed territorial demons.

But spiritual warfare isn't an outright frontal attack on the forces of darkness. Scripture says, "Submit . . . to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7); "Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith" (1 Pet. 5:8-9). The idea that Christians have the authority to rebuke or bind Satan is foreign to Scripture. Even Michael the archangel treated him with more respect than that (Jude 9).

Spiritual victory involves submitting to God, pursuing His will, keeping your spiritual armor on, being on the alert for Satan's attacks, and then standing firm and resisting him "in the evil day" (Eph. 6:13).

"Evil day" is a general reference to the sin that exists in this world. As the "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4), Satan will continue to produce evil until he and his forces are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-15). Then the evil day will give way to an eternal age of righteousness.

Countless people have pastored churches, taught Sunday School classes, led Bible studies, sung in choirs, and been involved in every conceivable area of ministry only to one day abandon their ministries and embrace the world. Somehow they stopped resisting the devil and lost the courage to stand firm.

How about you? Is your commitment strong? Are you willing to stand firm for the Lord today?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the grace to boldly resist whatever might challenge your faith today.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 9:23-27.

  • What was Paul's great fear?
  • What measures did he take to insure spiritual victory?
  • Are you taking the same measures?


September 12 - Who Is the Lamb of God?

“The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me”’” (John 1:29–30).

On the day after he spoke to the delegation, John “saw Jesus coming to him.” In keeping with his role as a herald, John immediately called the crowd’s attention to Him, exclaiming “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

The concept of a sacrificial Lamb was a familiar one to the Jewish people. All through Israel’s history, God had revealed clearly that sin and separation from Him could be removed only by blood sacrifices (cf. Lev. 17:11). They were also aware that Isaiah’s prophecy likened Messiah to “a lamb that is led to slaughter” (Isa. 53:7). Though Israel sought a Messiah who would be a prophet, king, and conqueror, God had to send them a Lamb. And He did.

The title “Lamb of God” foreshadows Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross for “the sin of the world.” With that brief statement John made it clear that the Messiah had come to deal with sin. The Old Testament is filled with the reality that the problem is sin—a problem at the heart of every person (Jer. 17:9). All men are sinful and incapable of changing the future or the present, or of repaying God for the sins of the past.

So who is the Lamb of God? He is Jesus, the only One who has the remedy to your sin problem.

Ask Yourself

We know that our sin, though dealt with ultimately and eternally, continues to be a problem for us to face and address. Are you surprised at the strength and tenacity it still wields within you? How do you go about quieting its ferocious appetite and considering yourself dead to it (See Rom. 6:11)?


Reading for Today:Notes:

Isaiah 16:9 I will bewail. Isaiah displayed genuine emotion over the destruction of so rich an agricultural resource. This reflected the Lord’s response, too.

Psalm 106:28 Baal of Peor. Refers to Baal, a god of the Moabites, whose worship occurred at the location of the mountain called Peor (Num. 23:28). sacrifices made to the dead. This most likely refers to sacrifices made to lifeless idols (1 Thess. 1:9). Israel should have been worshiping “the living God” (Deut. 5:261 Sam.17:2636Pss. 42:284:2Jer. 10:3–10Dan. 6:2026).

Psalm 106:31 accounted to him for righteousness. This was a just and rewardable action, evidencing faith in God. As with Abraham (Gen. 15:6 and Rom.4:3Gal. 3:6James 2:23), so it was also with Phinehas. The everlasting covenant of perpetual priesthood through Aaron, from the house of Levi, was first made by God in Leviticus 24:89. This covenant was reaffirmed in Numbers 18:819. In this text, the covenant is further specified to be through the line of faithful Phinehas.

2 Corinthians 4:16 our outward man is perishing. The physical body is in the process of decay and will eventually die. On the surface Paul was referring to the normal aging process, but with the added emphasis that his lifestyle sped up that process. While not an old man, Paul wore himself out in ministry, both in the effort and pace he maintained, plus the number of beatings and attacks he absorbed from his enemies (6:4–10; 11:23–27). inward man. The soul of every believer i.e., the new creation—the eternal part of the believer (Eph. 4:24Col. 3:10). being renewed. The growth and maturing process of the believer is constantly occurring. While the physical body is decaying, the inner self of the believer continues to grow and mature into Christlikeness (Eph. 3:16–20).

2 Corinthians 4:17 our light affliction…for a moment. The Greek word for “light” means “a weightless trifle” and “affliction” refers to intense pressure. From a human perspective, Paul’s own testimony lists a seemingly unbearable litany of sufferings and persecutions he endured throughout his life (11:23–33), yet he viewed them as weightless and lasting for only a brief moment. eternal weight of glory. The Greek word for “weight” refers to a heavy mass. For Paul, the future glory he would experience with the Lord far outweighed any suffering he experienced in this world (Rom. 8:17181 Pet. 1:67).

DAY 12: Why do people not respond to the gospel?

Paul said “if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 4:3). The false teachers accused Paul of preaching an antiquated message. So Paul showed that the problem was not with the message or the messenger, but with the hearers headed for hell (1 Cor. 2:14). The preacher cannot persuade people to believe; only God can do that.

“Whose minds the god of this age has blinded” (v. 4). Satan (Matt. 4:8John 12:3114:3016:11Eph. 2:22 Tim. 2:261 John 5:19) is the god of this age—the current world mind-set expressed by the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes, and views of the majority of people. It encompasses the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce. Satan blinds men to God’s truth through the world system he has created. Without a godly influence, man left to himself will follow that system, which panders to the depravity of unbelievers and deepens their moral darkness (Matt. 13:19). Ultimately, it is God who allows such blindness (John 12:40).

“For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus” (v. 5). The false teachers accused Paul of preaching for his own benefit, yet they were the ones guilty of doing so. In contrast, Paul was always humble (12:5, 9; 1 Cor. 2:3); he never promoted himself, but always preached Christ Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 2:2). “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (v. 6). A direct reference to God as Creator, who commanded physical light into existence (Gen. 1:3). The same God who created physical light in the universe is the same God who must create supernatural light in the soul and usher believers from the kingdom of darkness to His kingdom of light (Col. 1:13). That means to know that Christ is God incarnate. To be saved, one must understand that the glory of God shone in Jesus Christ.

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The Spirit and God's Will

“‘“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances”’” (Ezekiel 36:27).

The Holy Spirit has always led and will continue to lead believers to know God’s will.

One of the Spirit’s most practical ministries is to help believers know and follow God’s will.

Ezekiel 36:27 plainly indicates that the Spirit has always been available to lead God’s people. And Isaiah reminds us, centuries before Ezekiel’s time, that the Lord “is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them, who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses” (Isa. 63:11-12).

The proceedings at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 wonderfully illustrate how the Spirit gave guidance to the New Testament church. The Council convened to determine what principles of conduct the Jewish-led early church should place on the many new Gentile converts who were now in the fellowship. After much prayerful discussion, the Council made the all-important decision that it was not necessary to adhere to Moses’ law as a means of salvation.

The Council set down its concise recommendations in a letter that was the result of a Spirit-led consensus among the apostles and elders: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you [Gentiles] no greater burden than these essentials” (Acts 15:28). The leaders were confident that their decision was from the mind of the Holy Spirit as reflected in Scripture; therefore they knew it was correct and in accord with God’s will.

Romans 8:14, which says, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God,” encourages us that we also can be certain of the Spirit’s guidance. If we are faithful to hear, read, and study the Word, if we strive to obey it, and if we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, then He will guide us into God’s perfect will for our lives (see Ps. 119:105).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • If you have an important decision to make, pray that you would have the discernment to know and follow God’s will.
  • If no major decision faces you now, thank God that the Spirit is always present to provide guidance.

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 3:1-6.

  • What does this say about the importance of God and His Word in knowing His will?
  • Memorize verses 5-6.


Identifying the Real Enemy

"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

Don’t confuse prisoners of war with the enemy.

Sometimes in the heat of battle we might lose perspective on who the real enemy is. Ephesians 6:12reminds us that our struggle isn't against sinful people, but against the evil system and the supernatural forces that influence their attitudes and actions.

In his assault on the kingdom of God, Satan has assembled a highly organized army of fallen angels. Paul categorized them as "rulers . . . powers . . . world forces of this darkness . . . spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

That isn't a detailed description of Satan's hierarchy but simply a general indication of its power and sophistication. Apparently "rulers" and "powers" are high- ranking demons. "World forces of this darkness" are possibly demons who infiltrate various political systems of the world, attempting to direct human leaders to oppose God's plans. An example is a demon called "the prince of the kingdom of Persia" in Daniel 10:13. He withstood God's angelic messenger to Daniel until Michael the archangel came to the rescue.

"Spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" perhaps refers to demons involved in the most vile and perverted kinds of sins: gross immorality, occultic practices, Satan worship, and the like.

Those who reject Christ and God are unwitting prisoners of war—captured and mobilized by the enemy to accomplish his purposes. Tragically, when he's finished with them he'll abandon them to an eternal hell.

You probably know unbelievers who enjoy ridiculing your faith and making life difficult for you. Although that is hard to take, be patient and don't become embittered toward them. Ask God to make you an instrument of His love as you reach out to them. Also pray that God will remove their spiritual blindness so they can see beyond Satan's lies and recognize their need for a Savior.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for delivering you from the domain of darkness and transferring you into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13).
  • Ask Him to use you today to break through Satan's deception in someone's life.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-7, noting why people reject the gospel.


September 11 - John the Baptist Understands His Role

“He said, ‘I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as Isaiah the prophet said” (John 1:23).

John the Baptist gained great notoriety quickly in Israel with his baptism and his message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. With so many people flocking to him, the Jewish authorities sent a delegation of priests and Levites to investigate him.

First they asked John, “Who are you?” His behavior was certainly not what they would have expected from the son of a priest. John’s response, “I am not the Christ,” only added to their confusion. When John answered in the negative to their questions if he was Elijah or the Prophet, the exasperated members of the delegation then demanded, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” (John 1:19–22).

Rather than claiming to be someone important, he humbly referred to himself merely as “a voice of one crying in the wilderness.” In answering the delegation’s question about his identity, he shifted the focus away from himself and onto Christ. His quote of Isaiah 40:3, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” was a challenge both to the nation and to his questioners to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

The imagery is of a road being leveled and smoothed out in preparation for the visit of an Eastern king. John and Isaiah likened the hearts of Messiah’s people to a desolate wilderness, through which a smooth, level road needed to be prepared for His coming. John was the laborer, preparing the road in advance of the King.

Ask Yourself

As you have opportunity to share the gospel with others, remind them that the road to Jesus is smooth and level—accessible not by special ability but by the calling, inviting grace of God. Thank God for those who pointed the way for you.


Reading for Today:Notes:

Isaiah 14:12–14 fallen from heaven,…be like the Most High. Jesus’ use of v. 12 to describe Satan’s fall (Luke 10:18Rev. 12:8–10) has led many to see more than a reference to the king of Babylon. Just as the Lord addressed Satan in His words to the serpent (Gen. 3:1415), this inspired dirge speaks to the king of Babylon and to the devil who energized him. See Ezekiel 28:12–17 for similar language to the king of Tyre and Satan behind him.

Isaiah 14:12 heaven. The scene suddenly shifts from the underworld to heaven to emphasize the unbridled pride of the king and Satan energizing him. Lucifer, son of the morning. Literally, “Lucifer” means “shining one,” but translators have often rendered it “morning star.” Tradition of the time saw the stars as representing gods battling among themselves for places of preeminence.

Isaiah 14:1314 I will. Five “I wills” emphasize the arrogance of the king of Babylon and of Satan from whom he takes his cue.

Proverbs 25:67 In the royal court, as in all of life, self-seeking and pride bring one down. Do not intrude into such a place, for the elevating of the humble is honorable, but the humbling of the proud is disgraceful (Luke 14:8–10James 4:7–10).

2 Corinthians 3:18 we all. Not just Moses, or prophets, apostles, and preachers, but all believers. with unveiled face. Believers in the New Covenant have nothing obstructing their vision of Christ and His glory as revealed in the Scripture. beholding as in a mirror. Paul’s emphasis here is not so much on the reflective capabilities of the mirror as it is on the intimacy of it. A person can bring a mirror right up to his face and get an unobstructed view. Mirrors in Paul’s day were polished metal, and thus offered a far from perfect reflection. Though the vision is unobstructed and intimate, believers do not see a perfect representation of God’s glory now, but will one day (1 Cor. 13:12). being transformed. A continual, progressive transformation. into the same image. As they gaze at the glory of the Lord, believers are continually being transformed into Christlikeness. The ultimate goal of the believer is to be like Christ (Rom. 8:29Phil. 3:12–141 John 3:2), and by continually focusing on Him the Spirit transforms the believer more and more into His image. from glory to glory. From one level of glory to another level of glory—from one level of manifesting Christ to another. This verse describes progressive sanctification. The more believers grow in their knowledge of Christ, the more He is revealed in their lives (Phil. 3:12–14).

DAY 11: What credentials of his apostleship did Paul give to the Corinthians?

Because Paul did not want to allow the false teachers to accuse him of being proud, he began his defense in 2 Corinthians 3:1 by posing two questions rather than making any overt claims. “Do we begin again to commend ourselves?” The Greek word for “commend” means “to introduce.” Thus Paul was asking the Corinthians if he needed to reintroduce himself, as if they had never met, and prove himself once more. The form of the question demanded a negative answer. “Or do we need, as some others,…letters of commendation from you?” The false teachers also accused Paul of not possessing the appropriate documents to prove his legitimacy. Such letters were often used to introduce and authenticate someone to the first-century churches (1 Cor. 16:31011). The false teachers undoubtedly arrived in Corinth with such letters, which they may have forged (Acts 15:15) or obtained under false pretenses from prominent members of the Jerusalem church. Paul’s point was that he did not need secondhand testimony when the Corinthians had firsthand proof of his sincere and godly character, as well as the truth of his message that regenerated them.

“You are our epistle written in our hearts” (v. 2). An affirmation of Paul’s affection for the believers in Corinth—he held them close to his heart. “Known and read by all men.” The transformed lives of the Corinthians were Paul’s most eloquent testimonial, better than any secondhand letter. Their changed lives were like an open letter that could be seen and read by all men as a testimony to Paul’s faithfulness and the truth of his message.

“You are an epistle of Christ” (v. 3). The false teachers did not have a letter of commendation signed by Christ, but Paul had the Corinthian believers’ changed lives as proof that Christ had transformed them. “Written not with ink.” Paul’s letter was no human document written with ink that can fade. It was a living one. “Spirit of the living God.” Paul’s letter was alive, written by Christ’s divine, supernatural power through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:451 Thess. 1:5). “Tablets of stone.” A reference to the Ten Commandments. “Tablets of flesh…of the heart.” More than just writing His Law on stone, God was writing His Law on the hearts of those people He transformed. The false teachers claimed external adherence to the Mosaic Law as the basis of salvation, but the transformed lives of the Corinthians proved that salvation was an internal change wrought by God in the heart.

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Empowered for Service

“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us . . .” (Ephesians 3:20).

Through the Holy Spirit, God gives His children all the spiritual power they will ever need to live the Christian life.

It’s a joy to know that spiritual gifts are not like toys whose packages say “batteries required.” What the Spirit provides is not dependent on perishable batteries for power. Instead, when the Spirit secures our new life in Christ, He also empowers and strengthens us with every spiritual resource we’ll ever need to serve Christ and minister to others.

The Holy Spirit draws from an infinite supply of strength and power, as Paul indicates in Ephesians 3:20. In verse 16 he had just prayed that the Ephesians would “be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Paul was certain that God’s Spirit can do far more in the lives of believers than most of us ever imagine. So many of us don’t get past the phrase “to Him who is able,” and with that failure we limit how much the Holy Spirit can do in and through us.

Paul had much more than a theoretical understanding of the Spirit’s infinite power supply—he experienced it firsthand. Even when he was stretched to the limit physically and spiritually, he said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). We can’t attribute his inner perseverance to any other source than the Holy Spirit.

No matter how difficult or discouraging our own circumstances become, we have the very same Spirit. If we’re hindered, we don’t have to be frustrated. If we’re puzzled, we don’t have to be in despair. If we’re persecuted, we don’t have to face it alone. If we’re dying from a physical disease, we can be alive in heart and spirit. Our outer person might be exhausted and hard-pressed, but we have the assurance that our inner self is being renewed with fresh strength daily from the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 4:16).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God today that even before your life encounters a crisis, you have the Holy Spirit as a source of strength and power to help meet that challenge.

For Further Study

  • Moses was uncertain that he could or would be empowered for God’s ministry. Read Exodus 3:1—4:17. What excuses did Moses raise?
  • How did God deal with each one?


Maintaining Spiritual Effectiveness

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

Satan wants to render you ineffective for Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul says, "A wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries." That's typical of spiritual warfare. The more opportunities you have to serve Christ, the more adversaries you'll face. That's because Satan seeks to hinder your spiritual service.

Often seminary students ask me if ministry becomes easier over the years. In one sense it does because you learn better study skills, time management, and the like. But in a greater sense it becomes more difficult because as you labor in the Word, contend for souls, and struggle against your own weaknesses, Satan opposes you at every turn.

You can sense something of the difficulty of ministry in Paul's words to the Thessalonians: "Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God" (1 Thess. 2:8-9). To the Ephesian elders he said, "Be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears" (Acts 20:31).

Every sphere of ministry is important—whether you're a pastor, homemaker, factory worker, or student. Consequently, every ministry encounters opposition as Satan attempts to cause friction and discouragement within families, churches, and work places. Thus, believers must be humble and gentle toward one another, "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). When we do that, the Body of Christ is strengthened and Satan can't gain a foothold.

Ministry is hard work and the obstacles are great, but the victories are even greater. So be faithful, knowing that God will reward you richly.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the privilege of serving Him—even during the hard times.
  • Thank Him for the encouragement you receive from His Spirit, His Word, and your fellow believers.

For Further Study

According to Romans 8:18, what was Paul's perspective on difficulties?


The Impact of the Incarnation

“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:17–18).

God’s Law was permeated with His glory and reflected His holiness and righteousness. Though God was gracious in the Old Testament, the Law was not an instrument of grace because the Law saved no one (Rom. 3:20–22Gal. 2:163:10–12). It merely convicts sinners of their inability to keep perfectly God’s righteous standards, and condemns them to the eternal punishment of divine justice; thus it reveals their need for the grace of forgiveness.

Jesus Christ, however, brought the full realization of grace and truth. In Him, the truth of God’s salvation was fully revealed and accomplished.

God also was made visible with a clarity never before seen or known. “No one has seen God at any time,” Jesus declared of the years before His appearing (John 6:46), not merely because He is a spirit who is invisible, but more important because to do so would bring instant death. It is through Jesus Christ, the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), that God is revealed.

God, who cannot be known unless He reveals Himself, became most fully known because Jesus “explained Him.” Jesus is the explanation of God. He is the answer to the question, “What is God like?”

Jesus is the only one qualified to interpret God to man, since “no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27).

Ask Yourself

What is something of God that He has “explained” to you recently, some facet of His nature and character that has been “revealed” to you through your interaction with Him? Aren’t you glad He has chosen to make Himself known?


Reading for Today:Notes:

Isaiah 11:1 stem…roots. With the Babylonian captivity of 586 B.C., the Davidic dynasty appeared as decimated as the Assyrian army. A major difference between the two was the life remaining in the stump and roots of the Davidic line. That life was to manifest itself in new growth in the form of the Rod and Branch. Jesse. Jesse was David’s father through whose line the messianic king was to come (Ruth 4:221 Sam. 16:11213). Branch. This is a title for the Messiah (see 4:2).

Isaiah 11:2 The Spirit of the LORD. As the Spirit of the Lord came upon David when he was anointed king (1 Sam 16:13Ps.51:11), so He will rest upon David’s descendant, Christ, who will rule the world. Spirit…the LORD…Him. This verse refers to the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity (see 6:3).wisdom and understanding…counsel and might…knowledge and…fear of the LORD. These are Spirit-imparted qualifications that will enable the Messiah to rule justly and effectively.

Isaiah 11:10 in that day. The time of universal peace will come in the future reign of the Lord. Gentiles shall seek Him. The Root of Jesse will also attract non-Jews who inhabit the future kingdom (49:6; 52:10; 60:3; 66:18). Paul saw God’s ministry to Gentiles during the church age as an additional implication of this verse (Rom. 15:12).

2 Corinthians 2:2 Although Paul was sensitive to the Corinthians’ pain and sadness from the past confrontation, because of his commitment to purity he would confront them again if necessary. “The one who is made sorrowful” refers to one convicted by his sin. In particular, there was apparently on Paul’s last visit, a man in the church who confronted him with the accusations taken from the false teachers. The church had not dealt with that man in Paul’s defense, and Paul was deeply grieved over that lack of loyalty. The only thing that would bring Paul joy would be repentance from such a one and any who agreed with him, and Paul had been waiting for it.

2 Corinthians 2:17 not, as so many. Or, “not as the majority.” This specifically refers to the false teachers in Corinth and to the many other teachers and philosophers of that day who operated by human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:1920). peddling. From a Greek verb that means “to corrupt,” this word came to refer to corrupt hucksters or con men who by their cleverness and deception were able to sell as genuine an inferior product that was only a cheap imitation. The false teachers in the church were coming with clever, deceptive rhetoric to offer a degraded, adulterated message that mixed paganism and Jewish tradition. They were dishonest men seeking personal profit and prestige at the expense of gospel truth and people’s souls.

DAY 10: What was Paul’s rationale for forgiveness?

Second Corinthians 2:5–11 is one of the best texts in all of Scripture on the godly motivation for forgiveness. Paul said, “If anyone has caused grief” (v. 5). The Greek construction of this clause assumes the condition to be true—Paul is acknowledging the reality of the offense and its ongoing effect, not on him, but on the church. With this deflection of any personal vengeance, he sought to soften the charge against the penitent offender and allow the church to deal with the man and those who were with him objectively, apart from Paul’s personal anguish or offense.

“This punishment…inflicted by the majority” (v. 6). This indicates that the church in Corinth had followed the biblical process in disciplining the sinning man (Matt. 18:15–202 Thess. 3:614). The Greek word for “punishment,” used frequently in secular writings but only here in the New Testament, denoted an official legal penalty or commercial sanction that was enacted against an individual or group (city, nation). “Is sufficient.” The process of discipline and punishment was enough. Now it was time to show mercy because the man had repented (Matt. 18:1823–35Gal. 6:12Eph. 4:32Col. 3:13Heb. 12:11).

“You ought rather to forgive and comfort him” (v. 7). It was time to grant forgiveness so the man’s joy would be restored (Ps. 51:12,14Is. 42:2,3). Paul knew there was—and is—no place in the church for man-made limits on God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness toward repentant sinners. Such restrictions could only rob the fellowship of the joy of unity (Matt. 18:3435Mark 11:2526). “Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.”

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We Need One Another

“To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

The Holy Spirit uses believers to minister to other believers.

Right in line with modern culture’s emphasis on personal independence, it’s often easy for one to say, “If I have the all-sufficient Holy Spirit living within me, that’s all I need to live my Christian life.” That is true, but because you are not completely sanctified, you do not always allow the Spirit to fully do His work. Therefore, God needs to use other believers to minister the Spirit’s correction, exhortation, or encouragement.

The Bible is very clear about this. The Epistle to the Hebrews says God wants followers who do not waver in their profession of faith. And a primary way Christians will fulfill that is by regularly meeting together and seriously stimulating one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:23-25).

We don’t have to look far for the proper setting in which to meet regularly and encourage one another. It’s any Bible-believing local church that is exercising its spiritual gifts. These special gifts are simply the loving channels through which the Holy Spirit ministers to those within the fellowship of believers. Today’s verse suggests that each of us has a gift, and this truth is explained a little more in verse 11: “One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” Here the apostle Paul reveals yet one more way in which the Holy Spirit sovereignly helps us and others to become more mature.

What’s remarkable about the Spirit’s working through us is that we become extensions of His voice. Perhaps you’ve thought of that comparison at times when you’ve shared the gospel with the lost. But the analogy fits equally well when you reach out and minister to someone within your church. The idea of being an extension of the Holy Spirit’s ministry ought to encourage you toward greater faithfulness in using your spiritual gifts to help other believers. Likewise, it should make you more sensitive to the Spirit’s correcting and edifying work in your life as others come alongside and minister to you (Col. 3:12-13).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to keep you always faithful to the commands of Hebrews 10:23-25.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.

  • What kind of example did the Macedonians set regarding aid to other believers?
  • How should that motivate us (v. 7)?


Attacks on God's People

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

Satan wants to catch you off-guard.

Yesterday we saw how Satan attacks God's Word. Today we will see how he attacks God's people. Persecution, peer pressure, and preoccupation are three weapons he employs with great effectiveness.

Persecution should never take Christians by surprise because Scripture repeatedly warns us that it will come. For example, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Yet such warnings are often overlooked in the health, wealth, and prosperity climate of contemporary Christianity.

As the greed perpetuated by such a movement continues its assault on Christian virtue, many professing believers have come to expect a pain-free, trouble-free life. When trials come, they're caught off guard and often disillusioned with the church or with God Himself. Some prove to be phony believers, whom Jesus described in His parable of the four soils: people who initially respond to the gospel with joy, yet fall away when affliction or persecution arises because of the Word (Matt. 13:21).

Satan also uses peer pressure as an effective weapon. Many people never come to Christ for fear of losing their friends or being thought of as different. For them the cost of discipleship is too great. Even Christians sometimes struggle with peer pressure, compromising God's standards to avoid offending others.

Another weapon is preoccupation with the world. Often the hardest place to live the Christian life is in the easiest place. For example, becoming a Christian in America isn't the life-threatening choice it is in some parts of the world. Some who stand boldly against persecution or peer pressure might falter in a climate of acceptance. Often that's when the danger of spiritual complacency and preoccupation with the world is greatest.

To guard against those attacks, remember that God uses persecution to mature you and bring glory to Himself. Also, make a conscious choice each day to please God rather than people. Finally, evaluate your priorities and activities carefully. Fight the tendency to become preoccupied with things unrelated to God's kingdom.

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


The Witnesses to the Incarnation

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:Notes:

Isaiah 9:6 Child…Son. These terms elaborate further on Immanuel, the child to be born to the virgin (7:14). The virgin’s child will also be the royal Son of David, with rights to the Davidic throne (9:7; Matt. 1:21Luke 1:31–332:711). government. In fulfillment of this verse and Psalm 2:9, the Son will rule the nations of the world (Rev. 2:2719:15). Wonderful, Counselor. The remaining 3 titles consist of two words each, so the intention was probably that each pair of words indicate one title: “Wonderful Counselor.” In contrast to Ahaz, this King will implement supernatural wisdom in discharging His office (2 Sam. 16:231 Kin. 3:28). Mighty God. As a powerful warrior, the Messiah will accomplish the military exploits mentioned in 9:3–5. Everlasting Father. The Messiah will be a Father to His people eternally. As Davidic King, He will compassionately care for and discipline them (40:11; 63:16; 64:8; Pss. 68:56103:13Prov. 3:12). Prince of Peace. The government of Immanuel will procure and perpetuate peace among the nations of the world (2:4; 11:6–9; Mic. 4:3).

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

2 Corinthians 1:4 tribulation. This term refers to crushing pressure, because in Paul’s life and ministry there was always something attempting to weaken him, restrict or confine his ministry, or even crush out his life. But no matter what confronted him, Paul knew God would sustain and strengthen him (12:9, 10; Rom. 8:31–38Phil. 1:6). that we may be able to comfort. Comfort from God is not an end in itself. Its purpose is that believers also might be comforters. Having humiliated and convicted the Corinthians, God used Paul to return to them with a strengthening message after he himself had received divine strengthening (6:1–13; 12:6–11; Luke 22:3132).

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

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

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

Paul’s association with the church of Corinth began on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1–18), when he spent 18 months (Acts 18:11) ministering there. After leaving Corinth, Paul heard of immorality in the Corinthian church and wrote a letter (since lost) to confront that sin, referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9. During his ministry in Ephesus, he received further reports of trouble in the Corinthian church in the form of divisions among them (1 Cor. 1:11). In addition, the Corinthians wrote Paul a letter (1 Cor. 7:1), asking for clarification of some issues. Paul responded by writing the letter known as 1 Corinthians. Planning to remain at Ephesus a little longer (1 Cor. 16:89), Paul sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Cor. 4:1716:1011). Disturbing news reached the apostle (possibly from Timothy) of further difficulties at Corinth, including the arrival of self-styled false apostles.

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

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The Spotlight Stays on Christ

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read the following passages from John’s Gospel, and identify the witness to Christ in each one: 1:6-8; 5:31-37; 8:1810:2512:17.


Attacks on God's Character

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God for the discernment to recognize Satanic deceptions, and the wisdom to pursue truth.
  • Pray for God's enabling as you discipline yourself for diligent Bible study.

For Further Study

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


The Nature of the Incarnation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

Isaiah 8:19 seek the dead. People of Isaiah’s day were using spiritualists to communicate with the dead as King Saul did through the medium at En Dor (1 Sam. 28:8–19).The law strictly forbade such consultations (Lev. 19:26Deut. 18:1011).

1 Corinthians 16:1 collection. An offering for destitute believers in the overpopulated, famine stricken city of Jerusalem (see Acts 11:28). Paul had previously solicited funds from the churches of Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia (Rom. 15:26Luke 10:25–372 Cor. 8:1–59:12–15Gal. 6:101 John 3:17).

1 Corinthians 16:2 as he may prosper. No required amount or percentage for giving to the Lord’s work is specified in the New Testament. All giving to the Lord is to be freewill giving and completely discretionary (Luke 6:382 Cor. 9:6–8).This is not to be confused with the Old Testament required giving of 3 tithes (Lev. 27:30Num. 18:21–26Deut. 14:2829Mal. 3:8–10), which totaled about 23 percent annually to fund the national government of Israel, take care of public festivals, and provide welfare. Modern parallels to the Old Testament tithe are found in the taxation system of countries (Rom. 13:6). Old Testament giving to God was not regulated as to amount (see Ex. 25:1235:2136:6Prov. 3:91011:24).

1 Corinthians 16:9 many adversaries. Perhaps no New Testament church had such fierce opposition as the one in Ephesus. In spite of that opposition, the door for the gospel was open wide (2 Cor. 2:1213 where Paul also had an open door, but no heart to remain and preach) and Paul stayed. At the end of the experience of opposition described in 2 Corinthians 1:8–10, he wrote 1 Corinthians.

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

In Isaiah 7:14, since Ahaz refused to choose a sign, the Lord chose His own sign, whose implementation would occur far beyond Ahaz’s lifetime. “The virgin.” This prophecy reached forward to the virgin birth of the Messiah, as the New Testament notes (Matt. 1:23).The Hebrew word refers to an unmarried woman and means “virgin” (Gen. 24:43Prov. 30:19Song 1:36:8), so the birth of Isaiah’s own son (8:3) could not have fully satisified the prophecy. “Shall call His name Immanuel.” The title, applied to Jesus in Matthew 1:23, means “God with us.”

Isaiah 8:14.“Sanctuary…stone of stumbling.” Isaiah found encouragement in the Lord as his holy place of protection from his accusers. The New Testament applies this verse to corporate Israel in her ongoing rejection of Jesus as Messiah (Luke 2:34Rom.9:32331 Pet. 2:8).“Both the houses of Israel.” They will be collapsed until the return of the Messiah to the earth restores them.

Isaiah 8:15. “Many…shall stumble.” Another prediction anticipated the stumbling of Israel, which included her rejection of her Messiah at His first advent (Luke 20:18Rom. 9:3228:16).

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

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

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Freedom from Condemnation

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

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

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

Long my imprisoned spirit lay 
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night. 
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray: 
I woke—the dungeon flamed with light! 
My chains fell off, my heart was free, 
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

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

The Lord Jesus was certain that saving faith would work such a complete transformation (John 5:24). And the apostle Paul leaves no doubt that every person whom the Holy Spirit has sovereignly drawn into the Body of Christ has also been freed from the power of sin and death: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:8-11).

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read Colossians 3:3-17.

  • What sins are we to put off?
  • What new traits are we to put on?
  • What resources does the Lord provide for us (vv. 15-16)?


The Extent of Satanic Opposition

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

Satan opposes everything God does.

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

Satan is the antithesis of every godly attribute. God is holy; Satan is evil. God is love; Satan is the embodiment of hatred. God redeems His children; Satan damns his. Jesus reveals grace and truth (John 1:17), but Satan "does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the joy of knowing Christ and being free from sin's bondage.
  • Ask Him to use you today in a powerful way for His glory.

For Further Study

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


September 7 - The Apostles Chosen to Have an Impact

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

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

The apostles cast out many unclean spirits and healed every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Peter and John healed a lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple (Acts 3:2–8). Their ministry became widespread: “At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people. . . . Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed” (Acts 5:1216). To the man in Lystra “who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked,” Paul said, “‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And he leaped up and began to walk” (Acts 14:810).

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

1 Corinthians 15:29 This difficult verse has numerous possible interpretations. Other Scripture passages, however, clarify certain things which it does not mean. It does not teach, for example, that a dead person can be saved by another person’s being baptized on his behalf, because baptism never has a part in a person’s salvation (Eph. 2:8Rom. 3:284:36:34). A reasonable view seems to be that “they…who are baptized” refers to living believers who give outward testimony to their faith in baptism by water because they were first drawn to Christ by the exemplary lives, faithful influence, and witness of believers who had subsequently died. Paul’s point is that, if there is no resurrection and no life after death, then why are people coming to Christ to follow the hope of those who have died?

1 Corinthians 15:42b–44 Focusing directly on the resurrection body, Paul gives 4 sets of contrasts to show how the new body will differ from the present one (v. 54; Phil. 3:2021):1) no more sickness and death (“corruption”); 2) no more shame because of sin (“dishonor”); 3) no more frailty in temptation (“weakness”); and 4) no more limits to the time/space sphere (“natural”).

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

DAY 7: Describe Isaiah’s vision of heaven.

In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah says that he “saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up.” The prophet became unconscious of the outside world and with his inner eye saw what God revealed to him. This experience recalls the experience of John’s prophetic vision in Revelation 4:1–11. The throne was greatly elevated, emphasizing the Most High God. His “train” refers to the hem or fringe of the Lord’s glorious robe that filled the temple. Though Isaiah may have been at the earthly temple, this describes a vision which transcends the earthly. The throne of God is in the heavenly temple (Rev. 4:1–65:1–711:1915:5–8).

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

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

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

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God Keeps His Promises 


The Reality of the Promise

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Standing Firm

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

Keep your spiritual armor on at all times.

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

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

"Stand firm" in verse 12 translates a military term that speaks of holding your ground while under attack. When properly employed, your spiritual armor serves as a lifelong companion that enables you to fight against the forces of evil and do so without retreat. Just as Jesus personally instructed the churches in Thyatira and Philadelphia to hold fast until He returns (Rev. 2:253:11), so He also instructs us to stand our ground without wavering.

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


September 6 - The Apostles Sovereignly Commissioned

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

When Jesus summoned His twelve disciples, He was making more than a casual request. The word Matthew used is an intense term that means to call someone to oneself in order to confront him face-to-face. It is used of God’s calling the Gentiles to Himself through the gospel (Acts 2:39) and of His calling His chosen men and entrusting them to proclaim the gospel (Acts 13:216:10). The vocabulary implies that this summoning was connected to an official commissioning to the Lord’s service.

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

Isaiah 4:2 Branch. This messianic title occurs also in Jeremiah 23:533:15Zechariah 3:86:12. The thought behind the title relates to 2 Samuel 23:5, that of growth. The life of the Branch will bear spiritual fruit (John 15:45).

Psalm 105:8 a thousand generations. A reference to an exceedingly long time (a generation is normally 40 years) which would encompass the remainder of human history; i.e., forever (Deut. 7:91 Chr. 16:15).

1 Corinthians 15:5–7 The testimony of eyewitnesses, recorded in the New Testament, was added to support the reality of the resurrection. These included: 1) John and Peter together (John 20:1920), but probably also separately before (Luke 24:34); 2) the 12 (John 20:1920Luke 24:36Acts 1:22); 3) the 500, only referred to here, had all seen the risen Christ (Matt. 28:9Mark 16:91214Luke 24:31–39John 21:1–23); 4) James, either one of the two so-named apostles (son of Zebedee or son of Alphaeus; Mark 3:1718) or even James the half brother of the Lord, the author of the epistle by that name and the key leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13–21); and 5) the apostles (John 20:19–29). Such unspecified appearances occurred over a 40-day period (Acts 1:3) to all the apostles.

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

1 Corinthians 15:2627 last enemy…death. Christ has broken the power of Satan, who held the power of death (Heb. 2:14), at the Cross. But Satan will not be permanently divested of his weapon of death until the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:1–10). At that point, having fulfilled completely the prophecy of Psalm 8:6 (v. 27a), Christ then will deliver the kingdom to His Father, and the eternal glory of Revelation 21 and 22 will begin.

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

“How do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12). The Corinthian Christians believed in Christ’s resurrection, or else they could not have been Christians (John 6:4411:25Acts 4:122 Cor. 4:141 Thess. 4:16). But some had particular difficulty accepting and understanding the resurrection of believers. Some of this confusion was a result of their experiences with pagan philosophies and religions. A basic tenet of much of ancient Greek philosophy was dualism, which taught that everything physical was intrinsically evil; so the idea of a resurrected body was repulsive and disgusting (Acts 17:32). In addition, perhaps some Jews in the Corinthian church formerly may have been influenced by the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection even though it is taught in the Old Testament (Job 19:26Pss. 16:8–1117:15Dan. 12:2). On the other hand, New Testament teaching in the words of our Lord Himself was extensive on the resurrection (John 5:28296:4411:2514:19), and it was the theme of the apostolic preaching (Acts 4:12). In spite of that clarity, the church at Corinth was in doubt about the resurrection.

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

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God Keeps His Promises 


Need for the Promise

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

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

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

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

Because God has purposefully promised and sent the Spirit within the larger panorama of His sovereignty, we should have the same conviction about the need for the promised Helper as the disciples did shortly after Christ ascended. In conclusion, notice Peter’s confidence in God’s plan, as set forth in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost: “This Man [Jesus Christ], delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. And God raised Him up again. . . . Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:2333).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Confess any attitudes and actions that may have kept you from seeing the need to rely on the Holy Spirit.
  • Pray that you would walk in greater dependence on Him this week.

For Further Study

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


Overcoming Satanic Opposition

"Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might . . . . For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:1012).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read Acts 4:1-22.

  • What kind of opposition did Peter and John face?
  • How did they respond to the Jewish Council's order not to preach the gospel?


Prayer for Harvest Workers

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

Isaiah 1:18 scarlet,…crimson. The two colors speak of the guilt of those whose hands were “full of blood” (v. 15). Fullness of blood speaks of extreme iniquity and perversity (59:3; Ezek. 9:91023:3745). white as snow;…as wool. Snow and wool are substances that are naturally white, and therefore portray what is clean, the blood-guilt (v. 15) having been removed (Ps. 51:7). Isaiah was a prophet of grace, but forgiveness is not unconditional. It comes through repentance as v. 19 indicates.

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

1 Corinthians 14:33 confusion. Here is the key to the whole chapter. The church at worship before God should reflect His character and nature because He is a God of peace and harmony, order and clarity, not strife and confusion (Rom. 15:332 Thess. 3:16Heb. 13:20). as in all the churches. This phrase does not belong in v. 33, but at the beginning of v. 34, as a logical introduction to a universal principle for churches.

DAY 5: Who was Isaiah the prophet?

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

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

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God Keeps His Promises 


The Promised Holy Spirit

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

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

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

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

This promise consists of four elements. First, Jesus promises a supernatural Helper. He called Him “another” Helper, which means “another who is identical.” He is sending us exactly the sort of Helper He was, except the Spirit lives in us (John 14:17).
Second, the promise means supernatural life for us. When we are saved and have the Holy Spirit, we become sensitive to Christ’s working in the world, and we begin to see things from a divine perspective (John 14:19).

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

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

If you know and love the Lord Jesus and are obeying Him, the promise of the Spirit, with all its implications, is available for you to apply and enjoy (John 14:2115:5).

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read 1 John 5:1-7.

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


The Balanced Approach to Spiritual Victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the strength He gives for spiritual victory.
  • Ask for His wisdom in living a balanced Christian life.

For Further Study

Read 2 Peter 1:3-7.

  • What does God supply for Christian living?
  • What must you as a believer supply?


Jesus Identifies Harvest Workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


Song of Solomon 8:67 For love. This represents the 1 Corinthians 13:1–8 of the Old Testament. Four qualities of love appear: 1) love is unyielding in marriage, as death is to life; 2) love is intense like the brightest flame, perhaps as bright as the glory of the Lord; 3) love is invincible or unquenchable, even when flooded by difficulty; and 4) love is so priceless that it cannot be bought, only given away.

Proverbs 24:21 the king. Loyalty to the king is proper because he is the agent of the Lord’s wisdom (Deut. 17:14–20Rom. 13:1–7). That loyalty includes having no part with rebels who seek to subvert or overthrow him (“change”). Peter draws on this verse in his call to good citizenship in 1 Peter 1:172:17.

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

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

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

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

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

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God Keeps His Promises 


The Spirit of Transformation

“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

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

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

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

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

Paul is referring to our basic sanctification, which is a progressive process by which the Spirit changes us from one level of Christlikeness to another. The end result will be our glorified position in Heaven, which is the Holy Spirit’s goal for us and the reason for our hope. The Spirit reveals what we will be in Christ: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read Psalm 40:1-10.

  • What general attitude does David have in that passage?
  • How many times does he mention God there?


Your Resources in Christ

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

In Christ you have every resource necessary for spiritual victory.

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to increase your understanding of spiritual warfare.
  • Seek wisdom in applying your resources in the most effective ways.
  • When you face spiritual battles, confide in a Christian friend who will pray with you and encourage you.

For Further Study

According to Matthew 4:1-11, how did Jesus deal with Satan's attacks?


September 3 - Coming Harvest Includes Impending Judgment

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

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

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

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul paints a vivid picture of God’s judgment: “The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (1:7–9).

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

1 Corinthians 13:1 tongues of men. That this gift was actual languages is established in Acts 2:4–12, affirmed in this text by Paul’s calling it “of men”—clearly a reference to human language. This was the gift which the Corinthians prized so highly, abused so greatly, and counterfeited so disastrously. God gave the ability to speak in a language not known to the speaker, as a sign with limited function (14:1–33). tongues…of angels. The apostle was writing in general hypothetical terms. There is no biblical teaching of any special angelic language that people could learn to speak. love. Self-giving love that is more concerned with giving than receiving (John 3:1614:1;Matt. 5:4445John 13:1343515:9Rom. 5:10Eph. 2:4–7Phil. 2:2Col. 3:14Heb. 10:24). Without love, no matter how linguistically gifted one is to speak his own language, other languages, or even (hypothetically) the speech of angels, his speech is noise only. In New Testament times, rites honoring the pagan deities Cybele, Bacchus, and Dionysius included ecstatic noises accompanied by gongs, cymbals, and trumpets. Unless the speech of the Corinthians was done in love, it was no better than the gibberish of pagan ritual.

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

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

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

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

My Royal Family



God Keeps His Promises 


Two Spirits or One?

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

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

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

Scriptural truth is seldom miscommunicated with that same kind of sensational result. But that doesn’t mean we never need to correct previous thinking about certain doctrines. One of these concerns the Holy Spirit. Due to popular teaching on the dissimilarities between the Old and New Covenants, many Christians have understood the Spirit’s Person and role as being sharply different between the Testaments.
But the apostle Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 4:4that there is but one Spirit (also see 1 Cor. 12:1113). Paul also knew that since the Holy Spirit is God, He is therefore unchanging; the same Spirit has been at work throughout redemptive history. We can believe with certainty that the Holy Spirit will always be the saving agent who draws people to the Lord. That’s what Jesus taught when He instructed the Jewish teacher Nicodemus about the new birth (John 3:5-10).

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read John 3:1-15.

  • What should Nicodemus already have understood about the new birth?
  • How far back does Jesus reach to make an analogy about God’s method of salvation?


Preparing for Battle

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

Adequate preparation is the key to spiritual victory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to keep you alert to the reality of spiritual warfare and the need to be prepared at all times for battle.
  • Thank Him for the times He protected you when your armor wasn't as secure as it needed to be.

For Further Study

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


The Religious Leaders’ False Solution

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

1 Corinthians 12:2 Gentiles. That is, non-Christian pagans (1 Thess. 4:51 Pet. 2:12). carried away. Incredibly, some church members were mimicking certain dramatic and bizarre practices of the mystery religions in which they had been formerly involved. The practice of ecstasy, considered to be the highest expression of religious experience, involved supposed supernatural interaction with a deity, induced through frenzied hypnotic chants and ceremonies. The practice frequently included drunkenness (Eph. 5:18) and sexual orgies, to which the devotees willfully yielded themselves to be led into gross sin.

1 Corinthians 12:3 accursed. This is the most severe kind of condemnation. Some of the Corinthians were fleshly and given over to ecstasies that were controlled by demons. In that condition, they actually claimed to be prophesying or teaching in the Spirit while demonically blaspheming the name of the Lord whom they were supposed to be worshiping. They had been judging the use of gifts on the basis of experience and not content. Satan always assaults the Person of Christ. It is possible that the curser of Christ was a Gentile claiming to be a Christian, but holding to a philosophy that all matter was evil, including the human Jesus (i.e., pregnosticism). They might have said that the Christ spirit left the human Jesus before His death, and therefore Jesus died a cursed death as a mere man. Jesus is Lord. The validity of any speaking exercise is determined by the truthfulness of it. If the speaker affirms the lordship of Jesus, it is the truth from the Holy Spirit. What a person believes and says about Jesus Christ is the test of whether he speaks from the Holy Spirit. He always leads people to Christ’s lordship (2:8–14; John 15:261 John 5:6–8).

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

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

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

The varieties of spiritual gifts fall roughly into two general types: 1) speaking gifts, and 2) serving gifts (12:8–10; Rom. 12:6–81 Pet. 4:1011). The speaking or verbal gifts (prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, teaching, and exhortation) and the serving, nonverbal gifts (leadership, helps, giving, mercy, faith, and discernment) are all permanent and will operate throughout the church age. Their purpose is to build up the church and glorify God. The list here and in Romans 12:3–8 is best seen as representative of categories of giftedness from which the Holy Spirit draws to give each believer whatever kind or combination of kinds He chooses (12:11). Some believers may be gifted in similar ways to others but are personally unique because the Spirit suits each grace gift to the individual.

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

My Royal Family



God Keeps His Promises 


What About the Holy Spirit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

In today’s verse, the apostle John is speaking of Christ’s indwelling presence in the believer’s life, which the Holy Spirit reveals to us. Therefore the Spirit is working with the Lord Jesus in encouraging you, guiding you, enlightening you, and empowering you for every good work (see John 14:162016:13). By understanding the Spirit’s role and allowing Him to work in you daily, you’ll begin to see your life becoming more like Christ each day.

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


The Reality of Spiritual Warfare

"Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:10-12).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Mankind’s Lost Condition

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

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

1 Corinthians 11:2729 in an unworthy manner. I.e., ritualistically, indifferently, with an unrepentant heart, a spirit of bitterness, or any other ungodly attitude.

1 Corinthians 11:30 sleep. I.e., are dead. The offense was so serious that God put the worst offenders to death, an extreme but effective form of church purification (Luke 13:1–5Acts 5:1–111 John 5:16).

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

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

Two people dominate this true-life, dramatic love song. Solomon, whose kingship is mentioned 5 times (1:4, 12; 3:9, 11; 7:5), appears as “the beloved.” The Shulamite maiden (6:13) remains obscure; most likely she was a resident of Shunem, 3 miles north of Jezreel in lower Galilee. Some suggest she is Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kin. 3:1), although the Song provides no evidence for this conclusion. Others favor Abishag, the Shunammite who cared for King David (1 Kin. 1:1–415). An unknown maiden from Shunem, whose family had possibly been employed by Solomon (8:11), seems most reasonable. She would have been Solomon’s first wife (Eccl. 9:9), before he sinned by adding 699 other wives and 300 concubines (1 Kin. 11:3).

In contrast to the two distorted extremes of ascetic abstinence and lustful perversion outside of marriage, Solomon’s ancient love song exalts the purity of marital affection and romance. It parallels and enhances other portions of Scripture which portray God’s plan for marriage, including the beauty and sanctity of sexual intimacy between husband and wife. The Song rightfully stands alongside other classic Scripture passages which expand on this theme (Gen. 2:24; Ps. 45; Prov. 5:15–231 Cor. 7:1–513:1–8Eph. 5:18–33Col. 3:18191 Pet. 3:1–7). Hebrews 13:4 captures the heart of this song: “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

My Royal Family



God Keeps His Promises 


Seeking God's Kingdom

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

God will provide for those who seek what is eternal.

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

  • According to Matthew 6:33, are the priorities of your life in the right order?
  • Confess and forsake any sin, and thank the Lord for the privilege of serving Him.

For Further Study

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


Rejecting the World

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

The world is opposed to everything God stands for.

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


August 31 - Examples of Jesus’ Compassion

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

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

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

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

Commenting on two familiar verses about Jesus’ compassion and sympathy (Heb. 4:155:8), Paul Brand said,

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


Psalm 103:1718 the mercy of the LORD. Those who appeal to God’s mercy by proper fear (v. 17) and obedience (v. 18) will overcome the shortness of physical life with eternal life. Luke 1:50 quotes Psalm 103:17.

Psalm 103:19 His throne in heaven. From everlasting to everlasting God has always ruled over all things (Pss. 11:447:1–9148:8–13).This universal kingdom is to be distinguished from God’s mediatorial kingdom on earth.

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

1 Corinthians 11:5 woman who prays or prophesies. Paul makes clear directives that women are not to lead or speak in the services of the church (14:341 Tim. 2:12), but they may pray and proclaim the truth to unbelievers, as well as teaching children and other women (1 Tim. 5:16Titus 2:34). Wherever and whenever women do pray and proclaim the Word appropriately, they must do so maintaining a proper distinction from men. uncovered. In the culture of Corinth, a woman’s covered head while ministering or worshiping was a symbol to signify a subordinate relationship to her husband. The apostle is not laying down an absolute law for women to wear veils or coverings in all churches for all time, but is declaring that the symbols of the divinely established male and female roles are to be genuinely honored in every culture. As in the case of meat offered to idols (chaps. 8; 9), there is nothing spiritual about wearing or not wearing a covering. But manifesting rebellion against God’s order was wrong. dishonors her head. “Head” may refer to her own self being disgraced by refusing to conform to recognized symbols of submission, or to her husband, who is disgraced by her behavior.

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

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

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

“Fear God” (12:13, 14).Solomon’s final word on the issues raised in this book, as well as life itself, focuses on one’s relationship to God. All of the concern for a life under the sun, with its pleasures and uncertainties, was behind Solomon. Such things seemed comparatively irrelevant to him as he faced the end of his life. But death, in spite of the focused attention he had given to it in Ecclesiastes, was not the greatest equalizer. Judgment/retribution is the real equalizer as Solomon saw it, for God will bring every person’s every act to judgment. Unbelievers will stand at the Great White Throne judgment (Rev. 20:11–15) and believers before Christ at the Bema judgment (1 Cor. 3:10–152 Cor. 5:910). When all is said and done, the certainty and finality of retribution give life the meaning for which David’s oft-times foolish son had been searching. Whatever may be one’s portion in life, accountability to the God, whose ways are often mysterious, is both eternal and irrevocable.

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Living One Day at a Time

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

The believer is not to worry about his future.

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read Lamentations 3:21-24.

  • What never ceases and never fails (v. 22)?
  • What does that say about God (v. 23)?
  • What does that give you (v. 21)?


The Love God Hates

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

  • If you've been flirting with the world, ask God's forgiveness.
  • Praise God that someday Satan and his evil system will be vanquished.

For Further Study

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


Christ’s Saving Compassion

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

Proverbs 24:12 He who weighs the hearts. God is the One who knows the truth about the motives of the heart and the excuses for failing to do what is right (James 4:17). render to each man according to his deeds. v. 29; Job 34:11Jer. 25:1450:29.

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

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

DAY 30: What are the different kinds of Psalms?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our All-Knowing God

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

To worry is to be like an unbeliever.

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Seven Things God Hates

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

God is clear about the things that displease Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


The Blind Men Reach Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 10:16 cup of blessing. The proper name given to the third cup during the Passover Feast. At the last Passover with the disciples, Jesus used the third cup as the symbol of His blood shed for sin. That cup became the one used to institute the Lord’s Supper. He set the cup apart as a token of salvation blessing before passing it to the 12. communion. Means “to have in common, to participate and have partnership with.” The same Greek word is used in 1:9; 2 Corinthians 8:4Philippians 2:13:10.Commemorating the Lord’s Supper was a regular and cherished practice in the early church, by which believers remembered their Savior’s death and celebrated their common salvation and eternal life which reflected their perfect spiritual oneness. the blood of Christ. A vivid phrase used to represent Christ’s sacrificial death and full atoning work. the bread. This symbolized our Lord’s body as the cup symbolized His blood. Both point to His death as a sacrifice for the salvation of men.

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

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

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

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

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Observing the Flowers

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Holy Hatred

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

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

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

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

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

How are we to respond to that love? The psalmist wrote, "From Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. . . . I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Thy law. . . . I esteem right all Thy precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way. . . . I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Thy law" (Ps. 119:104113128163).

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Jesus Meets Blind Men’s Needs

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

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

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

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


New Testament Quote



Acts 4:252613:33Heb. 1:55:5

Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection


1 Cor. 15:2728Eph. 1:22Heb. 2:5–10



Acts 2:24–3113:35–37

Death, Resurrection


Matt. 27:35–46John 19:2324Heb. 2:125:5

Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection


Heb. 10:5–9



John 13:1821


45:6, 7

Heb. 1:89



Eph. 4:8

Ascension, Enthronement

69:20, 21, 25

Matt. 27:3448Acts 1:15–20

Betrayal, Crucifixion



Millennial Kingship

78:1, 2, 15

Matt. 13:351 Cor. 10:4

Theophany, Earthly Teaching Ministry


Acts 2:30

Millennial Kingship


Heb. 1:10–12

Creation, Eternality


Acts 1:15–20



Matt. 22:43–45Acts. 2:33–35Heb. 1:135:6–106:207:24

Deity, Ascension, Heavenly Priesthood, Millennial Kingship

118:22, 23

Matt. 21:42Mark 12:1011Luke 20:17Acts 4:8–121 Pet. 2:7

Rejection as Savior


Acts 2:30

Millennial Kingship

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Living Life to the Fullest

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


The Triumph of Love

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

Love triumphs over opposition.

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

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

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

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

  • Acknowledge that love is a command (Rom. 13:8-10).
  • Agree that you have the spiritual resources to love others as God loves you (Rom. 5:5).
  • Understand that loving others is normal Christian behavior (1 John 4:7-10).
  • Realize that love is the Spirit's work (Gal. 5:22).
  • Be fervent in your love for others (1 Pet. 1:224:8).

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


A Right Attitude Toward Jesus

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. God created the heavens and earth with laws of design and regularity (Eccl. 1:2–73:1–8Gen. 1:1–318:22).

2. Man is created from dust and returns to dust (Eccl. 3:2012:7Gen. 2:73:19).

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

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

5. Divine judgment results from the Fall (Eccl. 3:14–2211:912:14Gen. 2:173:1–19).

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

7. Labor after the Fall is difficult and yields little profit (Eccl. 1:3132:33:9–11Gen. 3:17–19).

8. Death overcomes all creatures after the Fall (Eccl. 8:89:45Gen. 2:173:19).

9. After the Fall, man’s heart is desperately wicked (Eccl. 7:20298:119:3Gen. 3:226:58:21).

10. God withholds certain knowledge and wisdom from man for His wise, but unspoken, reasons (Eccl. 6:128:17Gen. 3:22).

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A Lesson from Nature

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Hoping in God

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

Love refuses to take human failure as final.

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Right Knowledge of Jesus

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

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

God first promised that the Deliverer for His people would be a man, the seed of a woman (cf. Gen. 3:15). Later in the Old Testament, the prophet Nathan firmly establishes the extraordinary person and work of the Son of David (2 Sam. 12–14a, 16; cf. Gen. 12:321:1249:10). The New Testament reaffirms this great truth at the angel’s Nativity announcement: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:32–33; cf. vv. 68–692:4).

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


Ecclesiastes 1:13 wisdom. Solomon’s use of the term, in typical Hebrew fashion, is more practical than philosophical and implies more than knowledge. It carries notions of ability for proper behavior, success, common sense, and wit. burdensome task. Man’s search to understand is at times difficult, yet God-given (2:263:105:16–19; 6:2; 8:11,15; 9:9; 12:11).God. The covenant name, “LORD,” is never used in Ecclesiastes. However, “God” is found almost 40 times. The emphasis is more on God’s sovereignty in creation and providence than on His covenant relationship through redemption.

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 7:3334 how he may please his wife…husband. Here is a basic and expected principle for a good marriage—each seeking to please the other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Giver of Life

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

God gives you life and sustains your life.

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for giving you life and sustaining your life.

For Further Study

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


Expecting the Best

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

Love always expects the best of others.

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Christ’s Ultimate Power over Death

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


Job 41:1 Leviathan. This term appears in 4 other Old Testament texts (Job 3:8Pss. 74:14104:26Is. 27:1). In each case Leviathan refers to some mighty creature who can overwhelm man but who is no match for God. Since this creature lives in the sea among ships (Ps. 104:26), some form of sea monster, possibly an ancient dinosaur, is in view. Some feel it was a crocodile, which had scaly hide (v. 15), terrible teeth (v. 14), and speed in the water (v. 32). But crocodiles are not sea creatures, and clearly this one was (v. 31). Some have thought it was a killer whale or a great white shark, because he is the ultimate killer beast over all other proud beasts (v. 34).

Job 42:1–6 Job’s confession and repentance took place finally. He still did not know why he suffered so profoundly, but he was done complaining, questioning, and challenging God’s wisdom and justice. He was reduced to such utter humility, crushed beneath the weight of God’s greatness, that all he could do was repent for his insolence. Without answers to all of his questions, Job quietly bowed in humble submission before his Creator and admitted that God was sovereign (Is. 14:2446:8–11). Most importantly for the message of the book, Job was still diseased and without his children and possessions, and God had not changed anything (except for the humbling of the heart of His servant). Satan had been proven completely wrong in the charges he brought against Job and in thinking he could destroy true saving faith; Job’s companions were completely wrong in the charges they brought against him; but most critically, Job himself was completely wrong in the charges he had raised against God. He expressed his own sorrowful regret that he had not just accepted God’s will without such ignorant complaints and questions.

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

1 Corinthians 7:2 sexual immorality. There is a great danger of sexual sin when single (Matt. 19:12). Marriage is God’s only provision for sexual fulfillment. Marriage should not be reduced simply to that, however. Paul has a much higher view and articulates it in Ephesians 5:2223. He is, here, stressing the issue of sexual sin for people who are single.

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

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

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

The apostle reminded the believers that his teaching was based on what Jesus had already made clear during His earthly ministry (Matt. 5:313219:5–8). Jesus Himself based His teaching on the previously revealed word of God (Gen. 2:24Mal. 2:16).

Paul’s departure point for teaching affirmed God’s prohibition of divorce. He wrote that in cases where a Christian has already divorced another Christian except for adultery (1 Cor. 7:1011), neither partner is free to marry another person. They should reconcile or at least remain unmarried.

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

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

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

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Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 


The Sin of Worry

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

To worry about the future is to sin against God.

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Covering Sin

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

Love confronts sin but protects the sinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for covering your sins with Christ's blood.
  • Commit yourself to loving others in a way that truly bears all things.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 53:3-12.

  • How is Christ pictured?
  • What did He endure on your behalf?


The Redemptive Element of Jesus’ Impartial Healings

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

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

1 Corinthians 6:2 judge the world. Because Christians will assist Christ to judge the world in the millennial kingdom (Rev. 2:26273:21Dan. 7:22), they are more than qualified with the truth, the Spirit, the gifts, and the resources they presently have in Him to settle small matters that come up among themselves in this present life.

1 Corinthians 6:15 members. The believer’s body is not only for the Lord here and now (v. 14) but is of the Lord, a part of His body, the church (Eph.1:2223). The Christian’s body is a spiritual temple in which the Spirit of Christ lives (12:3; John 7:383920:22Acts 1:8Rom. 8:92 Cor. 6:16); therefore, when a believer commits a sexual sin, it involves Christ with a harlot. All sexual sin is harlotry. Certainly not! These words translate the strongest Greek negative—“may it never be so.”

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

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

“Fornicators.” All who indulge in sexual immorality, but particularly unmarried persons. “Idolaters.” Those who worship any false god or follow any false religious system. “Adulterers.” Married persons who indulge in sexual acts outside their marriage. “Homosexuals…sodomites.” These terms refer to those who exchange and corrupt normal male-female sexual roles and relations. Transvestism, sex changes, and other gender perversions are included (Gen. 1:27Deut. 22:5). Sodomites are so-called because the sin of male-male sex dominated the city of Sodom (Gen. 18:2019:45). This sinful perversion is condemned always, in any form, by Scripture (Lev. 18:2220:13Rom.1:26271 Tim. 1:10).

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

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

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Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 


Letting the Fog Lift

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

God’s Word commands us not to worry.

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

“Rejoice in the Lord always. . . . Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:46).

For Further Study

What counsel does 1 Peter 5:7 give?


Maintaining Doctrinal Purity

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

Love never compromises God’s Word.

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Memorize Philippians 1:9-11.


Jesus Touches an Untouchable

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

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

Psalm 100:3 Know. In the sense of experiencing and being completely assured of the truth. the LORD, He is God. A confession that Israel’s covenant God, Yahweh, is the only true God. made us. Though God’s actual creation of every human being is understood here, this phrase seems to refer to God’s making and blessing Israel as a nation (Deut. 32:615Ps. 95:6Is. 29:222344:2). His people…His pasture. The shepherd image is often ascribed to the king of Israel, as well as to the Lord (Ps. 78:70–72Is. 44:28Jer. 10:21Zech. 10:311:4–17). The figure suggests intimate care (Luke 15:3–6). According to the New Testament, the Lord is also the Shepherd of saints in the church age (John 10:16).

1 Corinthians 5:1 sexual immorality. This sin was so vile that even the church’s pagan neighbors were doubtless scandalized by it. The Corinthians had rationalized or minimized this sin which was common knowledge, even though Paul had written them before about it (v. 9). The Greek for “immorality” is the root of the English word “pornography.” his father’s wife. The man’s stepmother, with whom having sexual relations bore the same sinful stigma as if between him and his natural mother. Incest was punishable by death in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:7829Deut. 22:30) and was both uncommon (“not even named”) and illegal under Roman law.

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

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

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

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

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

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Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 


Materialistic Christians

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

You cannot pursue both God and riches.

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

What do the following verses teach about our attitude toward wealth: Psalms 49:5-952:762:10?


Rejoicing in Righteousness

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

Love never justifies sin.

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Jesus’ Availability to Jairus

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

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

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

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


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

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

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

Psalm 99:9 His holy hill. This is the hill in Jerusalem where the temple was (Pss. 15:124:3), and where it will be located in the future messianic kingdom (Is. 24:23).

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

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

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

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

The most essential quality of a servant or steward is obedient loyalty to his master (vv. 2, 17; 7:25Matt. 24:45–51Col. 1:74:7). Because of that, Paul said that “it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court” (v. 3). Paul is not being arrogant or saying that he is above fellow ministers, other Christians, or even certain unbelievers. He is saying that a human verdict on his life is not the one that matters, even if it was his own.

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

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Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 


A Little Piece of Bread

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

God promises to provide for all your needs.

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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


Forgiving Others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Is there someone from whom you've been withholding forgiveness? If so, recognize it as sin and confess it to the Lord. Then be reconciled to that person right away.
  • Thank God that He doesn't keep an account of your sins (cf. Ps. 130:3).

For Further Study

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


August 21 - Jairus’s True Faith

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

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

Jairus’s faith surpassed that of the centurion, who believed Christ could “speak” his servant well prior to death (Matt. 8:9–10). It also topped that of Martha, who believed Jesus could have kept her brother Lazarus from dying, but relinquished hope once he died, even when Jesus said he would rise again (John 11:2123–24). With such unsurpassed faith that the Lord could resurrect his daughter by a mere touch, Jairus undoubtedly trusted Him for forgiveness of sins and newness of spiritual life, for salvation.

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

Ask Yourself

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


Reading for Today:


Job 34:1–37 Elihu addressed Job and his accusers. His approach was to quote Job directly (vv. 5–9), then respond to his complaints, but at times he misinterpreted Job’s remarks, and at other times he put the words of the accusers in Job’s mouth. The most obvious example of the latter wrongdoing was in saying that Job claimed to be sinlessly perfect (v. 6). Job never claimed that; in fact, Job acknowledged his sin (7:2113:26). Elihu didn’t know it, but God had pronounced Job innocent (1:8; 2:3). In answer to Job’s complaints that God seemed unjust, Elihu reminded Job that God was too holy to do anything wrong (v. 10), fair in dealing with people (vv. 11, 12), powerful (vv. 13, 14), just (vv. 17, 18), impartial (vv. 19, 20), omniscient (vv. 21, 22), the Judge of all (v. 23), and the Sovereign who does what He wills to prevent evil (vv. 24–30).

Psalm 98:4 Shout joyfully. A great cheer, greeting and welcoming a king (Zech. 9:9Matt. 21:4–9). break forth. The idea is that of an eruption of praise which could not be contained (Is. 14:744:2355:12).

Psalm 98:8 rivers clap their hands. Different parts of nature are pictured as rejoicing in this universal scene of joy (Is. 35:12Rom. 8:19–21).

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

1 Corinthians 3:13 the Day. Refers to the time of the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). revealed by fire. The fire of God’s discerning judgment (Job 23:10Zech. 13:91 Pet. 1:1718