Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
The people in Jesus' day were just like the people in our day. There were some who trusted in God and depended on Him, and there were others who instead relied on their own strength and effort. Ever since the Garden of Eden, Satan has been tempting people to seek equality with God on their own terms. We find it very easy to believe the best about ourselves and to trust that whatever we are doing is the right thing. We find it easy to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, even when we should not. The standard of right and wrong, however, is not set by what we believe or trust, but by what God has said.
On that scale, none of us have any reason to trust in ourselves. Jeremiah reminds us, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). And the psalmist wrote, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8), which applies to us internally as much as it does other people. If we trust in God, He will never fail, but if we trust in ourselves, we will certainly be disappointed. We have a Father in Heaven who never fails. He never lies. He never changes. He is trustworthy. The source of our hope and confidence and expectation must be in Him.
Only when we remember our utter and complete dependence on God can we experience the joy of trusting Him.
And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
Augustus Toplady's father was a member of the British Royal Marines and died in the Caribbean while he was fighting against Spain just a year after his son was born. Toplady was converted to Christ as a teenager after attending a Methodist service held in a barn. He studied for the ministry and spent many years in the pulpits of various churches. But he is best remembered today for his poetry, especially for the hymn Rock of Ages, which he wrote when he was just twenty-three years old. In these lines he highlighted his desperate need of a Savior.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
As believers, we are called to do good works, but we do them as a means of glorifying God—not in atonement for our sins. Nothing we can do earns us God's favor—we receive it by grace alone. Those of us who have been saved for many years must never forget what we were and where we were headed before grace stepped in. We must not lose our joy and gratitude at our salvation, and we must never forget that only God could have provided the forgiveness we needed.
We must never lose sight of the wondrous grace that placed us in the family of God.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus has always been God. He did not stop being God when He became a man. Yet in taking on human form, He intentionally laid aside the glory and honor that were rightfully His and accepted the duty of obedience. He fully obeyed the law of God, and He fully obeyed the will of His Father in Heaven. Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).
Why did the One who had every right to be obeyed become obedient? Because it was necessary. Jesus had to be obedient in order to be qualified to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world, and in order to set an example for us to follow. When Jesus went to where John was baptizing and asked John to baptize Him, John protested that it should be the other way around—that Jesus should baptize him. “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him” (Matthew 3:15).
Every day we face the choice between obedience to God and yielding to the temptations of the world. Each time we stand firm and do what is right, we are following in the footsteps of Jesus. He was tempted just as we are, yet His obedience to the Father never wavered.
To be followers of Jesus Christ, we must adopt His attitude of obedience to all God directs.
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:4-6
On the first day of Creation, God called forth light into existence, and then separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:3–4). There has been a divide between the two ever since. Despite all the efforts that have been made through the centuries to blur that distinction, light and dark remain as divided as ever. The Apostle Paul compared what happened on that first day of Creation with what happens in our hearts when we receive Christ as Savior: we are immediately moved from darkness into light.
Like the moon reflects the light of the sun rather than giving off its own light, we are to reflect the light of God's glory to the world around us. There is no question that we live in a world filled with darkness. Things are not getting better. That is no surprise, for nearly two thousand years ago, Paul warned Timothy that in the last days “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
However, we should not allow ourselves to be discouraged because of the darkness. The growing evil in our world makes the light even brighter by contrast. God is not struggling to overcome Satan. That battle has already been won, and the future is certain. We simply must be faithful to shine as lights in the world for as long as God leaves us here.
The darkness around us gives us even more opportunity to show the light of God's love to the world.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported: “A pair of True Religion’s Super T jeans, identifiable by their over-sized white stitching, cost around $50 a pair to make, were sold wholesale at $152, and retailed for $335. One brand consulting expert noted, 'The cost of creating those things has nothing to do with the price. It is all about who else is wearing them, who designed them, and who is selling them.'”
It isn't on any list of businesses you might find, but much of our world is shaped and directed by the discontent industry. Advertising, media, and public figures all send us the message that what we are or what we have doesn't measure up, and we should be looking for something new. If we just got that car or this house or that perfume or this job, we could be happy, the message tells us. But it is a false promise. A person who is not content with what they have today will not be content with what they get tomorrow, no matter how great or impressive it is.
The only true source of contentment is found in the person of Jesus Christ, who has graciously given us much more than we deserve and who has promised to meet every need that we have. David wrote, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5). Faith believes that God will keep His promises, and that in having Him we already have everything we need. That is our most powerful protection against the sin of covetousness.
Unless our contentment is in Christ, we will never be satisfied—no matter how much we get.
For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
1 Kings 17:14-16
During the great drought that came on Israel because of Ahab's idolatry, Elijah was sent to stay with a widow who was very poor. At a time when most people were struggling, she was literally down to making one last meal for herself and her son. She had reached the end of her rope. Yet when the prophet of a foreign God showed up at her door, she agreed to his request to feed him before her own son—trusting in the promise that he made on God's behalf. The little that she had lasted for the rest of the famine. God is always faithful.
There is no need we will ever face that will cause God to have to take out a loan or scramble for the resources to meet it. He owns everything, and He is able to do whatever is necessary to meet any challenge we may face. Those who trust in the Lord will never be disappointed or abandoned. David wrote, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).
We are tempted to self-reliance and to determine what is possible by what we have. Yet God calls us to live on a different level, to live in faith in His abilities rather than our own. Whether we have a tiny bit or a large amount does not impact His ability or willingness to help in time of need.
Our lack of resources never impacts God's ability to provide for whatever we may need.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
One of the most widespread and pervasive problems in the world today is worry. And Christians are not exempt from the temptation to give in to this deadly disease. Truly there is much around us that is unsettling and uncertain. None of us knows what the future holds. Yet no matter what is going on around us, we have the unfailing assurance that our loving Father in Heaven is aware of our needs and will work to meet them.
Even the necessities of life, something to eat and something to wear, are not too small for God's concern. Jesus told His disciples that the world's people keep their focus on things like this. We can justify such a focus by pointing to the necessity of these items, but that is not how God means for us to live. Instead, He calls us to focus on His kingdom and on living righteously in the world. In return, He promises to meet all of our needs.
Jesus used His creative beauty and glory for even short-lived flowers and the provision He has made even for the smallest birds to illustrate the detail of God's watchful care over His creation. “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7). If we trust God, we need not live with worry.
The God that cares for and helps even birds and flowers is much more concerned with our needs.
There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
Joshua faced the daunting challenge of succeeding the great leader Moses and taking the children of Israel into battle in the Promised Land. To strengthen him for the task, God promised to be present with Joshua in a very real way, just as He had been with Moses. In the New Testament era, each believer has that constant presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit working in his or her life. And it is that presence that empowers us to overcome the enemy and win victories in the battles God places before us to fight.
There must be a constant sense of our need for that closeness with God every single day for us to have victory. Jesus told the disciples in the Upper Room, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4). Will Thompson wrote:
Jesus is all the world to me,
My life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength from day to day,
Without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go,
No other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad, He makes me glad,
He’s my friend.
It is our personal, intimate fellowship with God that gives us the strength to live victoriously.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
In the days before GPS, cell phones, and electronic guidance systems, knowing how to read a map was an important skill to have if you were taking a trip. It was important to know the best path that would take you where you needed to go. But even the best maps sometimes lacked necessary information or had not been updated with changes. In those cases, the best thing to do was to stop and ask someone for directions.
All of us face a world around us without a map. We do not know what is coming next. God intends it that way so that we will be forced to live by faith in Him. Yet He does not abandon us to try to blindly stumble through life. Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16).
In our darkest and most uncertain days, when we don't have any idea what we should do and don't even know what or how to pray, the Holy Spirit will shape and guide our requests to the Father. There is guidance, not from a random stranger who may or may not know what he is talking about, but from the all-knowing Guide who fully understands the path ahead. It is the height of folly for a Christian not to seek that guidance and help.
The wisdom and guidance of God is available to all His children who will seek it from Him.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
On the death of his father in 1643, Louis XIV was named king of France, though he was just four years old. His mother headed a regency council which effectively governed the nation until Louis came of age, but he was the king—and would remain so for seventy-two years. Yet despite his lengthy time on the throne, the Sun King eventually reached the end of his life. He passed the throne on to his son, but his grandson, Louis XVI was deposed and executed in the French Revolution, ending the monarchy for good.
Every human kingdom, empire, and nation is limited. Some of the greatest and most powerful empires of history are now nothing more than footnotes in academic texts. Even in our lifetimes, nations have risen and fallen. All the works and powers of man are temporary at best. In contrast, the Bible repeatedly tells us that God's kingdom has no end. Like Him, it is eternal.
Our focus in this temporal world is meant to be on the eternal. Rather than spending our time building things that will soon vanish, we should be focused on what will last—the kingdom of God. “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13:14). No investment that we make of our time, energy, and resources in God's work will be wasted because it is placed into an eternal kingdom. This is how our lives should be spent.
Only by building the eternal kingdom of God can we do something that will truly last.
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
In our society, it is common for people to blame others for their failures and wrongdoing. Some years ago the popular saying went, “The devil made me do it.” We like to use such excuses because it lets us off the hook and absolves us of responsibility for sin. God sees it differently. He sent the prophet Nathan to confront David directly over his sin. “And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul” (2 Samuel 12:7).
Jesus was tempted just as we are. The devil came to Him at a time when He was tired and hungry, physically weak and vulnerable. As God, Jesus could have simply dismissed Satan from His presence. But that would not have provided a pattern and example we could follow. Instead Jesus responded to each temptation with a quotation from Scripture, using the power of the Word of God, which is available to us as well.
When we are tempted to sin, we always have a choice. Because we still live in a fallen world and fight our flesh, we will never be sinless, but we can have victory in each temptation. The question is not whether a temptation is overwhelming and irresistible. The question is whether we will follow in the steps of Jesus in our response. Each time we do, we will be victorious.
The devil cannot make us sin. He only conquers us with our consent.
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
1 Kings 19:5-7
Elijah displayed great courage in confronting hundreds of false prophets on Mt. Carmel. God sent fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifice on the altar Elijah built, providing a display of divine power to confirm that Elijah was speaking truth when he declared that Jehovah was the only true God. Yet following that great victory, Elijah fell into despair. He heard that Jezebel was trying to kill him, and he ran into the desert alone. But even when no one was around, God still knew where His discouraged prophet was, and came to help him. When the Bible speaks of “the angel of the LORD,” it is speaking of a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.
The Lord Himself came to Elijah, gave him something to eat and drink, and let him rest. He knew what He had in store for the prophet, and He knew that the tasks could not be accomplished in Elijah's own strength and resources—he needed divine help.
Similarly, in the Upper Room, Jesus told the disciples, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). God's work is beyond our ability to accomplish from our own resources. We must have His help. As the old hymn put it, “All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.”
Trying to work for God in our own strength is a recipe for disaster and failure. Relying on His strength is a recipe for victory.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love 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 pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1 John 2:15-17
The best way to determine what makes someone will do in any given situation is to determine where his heart lies. That is why there is so much in the Word of God about where our love and affection is to be focused. When He was asked what the most important of all the commandments was, Jesus replied, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30).
The devil knows the importance of us loving God, so he is constantly offering us alternatives to draw our affections away from the Lord. He really doesn't care what it is that we love as long as it is not God. Anything else will serve his evil purpose. But the reality behind every one of the lures Satan sets before us is that it is only fleeting at best. That truth is why Moses rejected “the pleasures of sin”—because they were only for a short season.
The believer who loves God will never experience the loss of the object of his affection. The believer who falls in love with the things of the world will never experience the fulfillment of the desires he places in them because they are already falling apart even as they enter his grasp. God calls us to rise above the world to love Him.
Nothing that the world offers to us is worthy of the love that belongs to God.
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
The story goes that a neighbor of John Witherspoon came to visit him in his office. Witherspoon, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was president of what is now Princeton University. The man said, “Dr. Witherspoon, you must join me in giving thanks to God for his extraordinary providence in saving my life, for as I was driving from Rocky Hill the horse ran away and the buggy was smashed to pieces on the rocks, but I escaped unharmed!” Witherspoon replied, “I can tell you a far more remarkable providence than that. I have driven over that road hundreds of times. My horse never ran away, my buggy never was smashed, I was never hurt.”
God is always good to us, but we tend to be more appreciative when we see special instances of the provision and protection He provides for us, not because of our merit, but because of His mercy. Yet daily we are the beneficiaries of a loving Father in Heaven who sees every need and every danger and watches over us so we are not destroyed. Each day that we live in a fallen world, we are in need of His mercy, and we should be grateful for receiving it in ways both large and small.
Too often we are like the lepers Jesus healed on His way to Jerusalem. Despite the miracle they received, only one returned to give thanks. “And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17). Ingratitude is an ugly sin against a merciful God.
We should never take God's loving care and protection for granted.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
The churches in Galatia had been flooded with a great deal of false teaching about grace and the law, so when Paul wrote the epistle of Galatians to them, he included a great deal of instruction about godly Christian living. One of the most important things he told them, and us, is that we must be filled with and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit to live as God commands us to live. Though the Holy Spirit is present in the life of each believer, He is not in control of each believer. That depends on our willingness to yield to and obey Him.
Our ability to overcome sin depends utterly on God's power. Any time a Christian is sinning, it is evidence that the Holy Spirit is not in control. Most parents and grandparents have had the experience of placing a young child's hands on the steering wheel of a car and letting them “drive.” The child is not the one in control, and if he or she was, it would lead to disaster. The hands of the adult are guiding the car and making sure it goes where it should.
In the same way, we must allow the Holy Spirit to be in control of our lives. If we take matters into our own hands, disaster is sure to follow. Only when we walk as He directs can we be certain that we are on the path God intends for us to walk.
When we are filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit, sin holds little attraction and has less power.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
All of us want to be victorious over sin, but from time to time we struggle with the temptations we face. We know that we have been given the power to triumph over sin, yet we also have to admit that too often we yield to it instead. There is a pattern God has given us for victory, and we must follow it if we expect to receive the benefits. The process of victorious living does not start with fighting against sin and the devil, but with our relationship with God. It is only after we submit to Him that we have the power to resist Satan.
Jesus warned Peter that he had been made a special target of Satan and was in danger of denying the Lord. Peter relied on his own strength and was confident that he would be faithful. Yet in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus came and found the self-confident disciple sleeping rather than praying. He told Peter, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons to win. The key to defeating the devil is not the strength of our will or our character, but the strength of our relationship with God. We must come to Him on His terms and place our will under the control of His plan for our lives. The strength that He gives only comes to those who seek it from Him. The threat of sin is constantly with us and we must stay on guard against it until we reach Heaven.
The more our hearts are submitted to God, the more strength we will have to resist the devil.
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
The work of Jesus on the cross completely paid for our salvation once and for all. There is nothing else that needs to be done—as He said, “It is finished.” But although His work on earth is complete, He is still doing something that is vitally important. Jesus is interceding for us. The writer of Hebrews compares the work Jesus is doing for us now to that of the high priest in the Old Testament who stood before God once each year on the Day of Atonement as the representative of the people. Yet what Jesus is doing is superior because He has no need to continue sacrifices. That was done once for all. Now by virtue of His sacrifice on the cross, He can present our case directly to the Father.
Jesus is interceding for us now for the same reason that He came to die on the cross. He loves and cares for us that much. There is nothing we face that He does not understand and there will never be a day when He abandons or forsakes us. Frank Graeff wrote:
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song;
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
O, yes, He cares—I know He cares!
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Saviour cares.
We have a loving Savior in Heaven who is standing before the Father on our behalf.
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
The people of Israel in Jeremiah's day observed the outward forms of their religion. The Temple stood in Jerusalem, and the priests offered sacrifices there. Yet for most of them, it was only an empty ritual. Their hearts were not involved in their worship. Instead they were devoted to the other gods and idols they had borrowed from the heathen nations around them. They did not want to completely remove the God of Israel, but they were supplementing Him with other deities. And God brought judgement upon them for their idolatry.
Yet even in the midst of that judgment, God sent the prophet to them with the promise that if they would turn back to Him wholeheartedly, He would listen to their prayers and free them from bondage.
A. W. Tozer wrote, “If we would find God among all the religious externals, we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God reveals Himself to babes and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and prudent. We must simplify our approach to God!” The question each of us much answer is this: how much of our heart is truly devoted to God? Is He our first and foremost love in all things, or is He simply one more item on a checklist of priorities?
We cannot expect to have a close fellowship with God unless our hearts are devoted to Him.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
When Peter Marshall was chaplain of the U. S. Senate, he once opened a session with this prayer: “O Lord, forgive us our ulcers, the badges of our anxieties and insecurities.” We live in a day filled with worry and concern. Everywhere we look, we can see economic upheaval, health risks, political turmoil, and more. There are plenty of things that are real threats and real problems. Yet God tells us that we are not to be filled with worry and concern for the future.
It is important to remember that this command is not given because nothing can or will go wrong in the future. Jesus said, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34). We will have plenty of trouble and things going wrong tomorrow. But we do not need to worry about it because God will be just as faithful when those problems arise in the future as He is today.
Although we do not know what lies before us, God already does. He is never surprised or taken off guard. He never has to adjust His plans because they were derailed by something we do or fail to do. He loves us and cares for us, and He will never stop caring for us and meeting our needs. If we believe His promises, we have no need to worry.
Relief from our worries comes through a focus on our Heavenly Father and His good promises.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
When the tow truck driver pulled a gun on Elliot Scott, he called 9-1-1 to report it. But when Chicago police officers arrived on the scene, they discovered that the story was not quite that simple. Scott had actually been trying to steal the tow truck, and the driver had stopped him. The officers arrested Scott. He was eventually brought before a judge where he confirmed that he had indeed made the call which led to his arrest. He thought that calling the police would help him, but he had deceived himself.
It is easy for us to tell ourselves what we want to hear—and then to believe it. We can convince ourselves of almost anything if we are judging by our own standards, thoughts and emotions. The truth is found in the Word of God, and the more we are reading, studying, meditating, and—most of all—applying Scripture to our lives, the less deceived we will be.
We live in a world filled with deception. This comes as no surprise because the devil has a powerful influence on this world. When the Pharisees refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, He said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).
A close relationship with the truth of God's Word is the only sure defense against self-deception.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:8-11
Charles Spurgeon told how he had once gone to preach in the city of Bristol, England. His schedule called for him to speak at each of the three largest Baptist churches there, and he was expecting to get three hundred pounds as a love offering, which he urgently needed for the children in his orphanage in London. Spurgeon said that as he went to bed that night he was strongly impressed to give that money to George Müller for the work of his orphanages in Bristol. After arguing with God about the need, Spurgeon decided he would give despite his own need. Only then was he able to go to sleep.
When Spurgeon arrived at Müller's orphanage, he found Müller praying on his knees with his Bible open. Spurgeon told him that God had impressed upon him to give three hundred pounds for those orphanages. Müller exclaimed, “Dear Spurgeon, I have been asking the Lord for that very sum!” When Spurgeon got back to London, he found a letter with an even larger sum of money inside. “The Lord has returned my three hundred pounds with interest,” he said.
In every situation, God is able to meet any need that we have. And when we are faithful to Him with the resources He has entrusted to us, He will make sure that all of our needs are met. He is not limited by any lack of ability to meet our needs. But we can cut ourselves off from His blessings if we are unwilling to follow His leading to give generously.
No one has ever suffered loss or lack from giving as God directs and leads.
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
Though we receive immediate and eternal benefits from salvation, God's grace extended to us in offering that gift is not for our benefit alone. He also chose us and saved us so that we would share what we have received from Him with those around us. The production of fruit in our lives is a direct result of our relationship with God. Dr. A. T. Pierson wrote, “A 'fruitful bough whose branches run over the wall' grows from a strong, well-rooted, vigorous, and healthy stock on the other side. The foremost disciples in spiritual life are the foremost in unselfish, persistent, untiring work for souls.”
There are many very helpful tools and tips which we can use to do a better job in sharing our faith with others. But the most important part of being fruitful is being closely connected to the Lord. Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4). All the programs in the world are no substitute for abiding in Christ. No amount of training or tactics can take the place of our personal walk with God. It is not our skill or ability, but the power of the Holy Spirit, built on prayer and Bible reading and fellowship with Him, that makes us fruitful. And that is His purpose for us remaining here on Earth.
The closer our relationship to Jesus is, the more effective our telling others about Him will be.
And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be. There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.
We've all had the experience of an extremely stressful day—when the amount of work seemed to grow rather than get smaller no matter how much effort we expended. When you have such a day, it's easy to feel completely exhausted at the end. By the hour bedtime rolls around, you just collapse with absolutely nothing left. Thankfully not all of our days are like that, but enough of them are to remind us of how urgently we need the refreshing and renewing power of God to continue in our labor for Him. God wants us to remember that we are completely dependent on Him. He meets our needs, including our need for strength, on a daily basis.
Before he died, Moses pronounced a blessing on each of the tribes of Israel, highlighting the way God worked to meet their needs and give them victory. When he came to the tribe of Asher, he described a powerful people, using the metaphor of iron shoes that would trample whatever obstacle they faced. Then he told them that their strength would be equal to the daily challenges. Notice that he did not tell them strength would come all at once, but that it would be renewed as they needed it. D. L. Moody said, "A man can no more take a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs to sustain life for a week to come. We must draw upon God's boundless stores for grace from day to day, as we need it.”
Each day, God provides sufficient grace and strength to those who ask Him.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
So many people in our day are struggling with feelings of depression, discouragement, discontent, and doubt. Christians are not immune from these feelings. Though we have hope in the Lord, we still have problems just like those around us. The pains of life hurt just as much for a believer as they do for the unsaved. The difference is that as Christians we have the divine resources available to us that allow us to deal with them in a different way. When our affections are set on the eternal, we remember that our life is hid with Christ in God. Although we still care about the people around us and still feel the pains that afflict us, we are not defined by them, nor are we held under them.
The English Puritan Richard Baxter wrote, “A heavenly mind is a joyful mind; this is the nearest and truest way to live a life of comfort, and without this you must need be uncomfortable. Can a man be at a fire and not be warm; or in the sunshine and not have light? Can your heart be in heaven, and not have comfort? [On the other hand,] what could make such frozen, uncomfortable Christians but living so far as they do from heaven?… O Christian, get above. Believe it, that region is warmer than this below.”
The more time that we spend with the Lord in His Word and in prayer, the more our thoughts, emotions, and interests will be aligned with the things of God. And the more our affections and desires are oriented toward Him, the less the pains of this world will consume our focus. The Bible tells us Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).
The more in tune with Heaven our hearts are, the more our lives will reflect God's character to those around us.
And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
When Paul was being taken to Rome to stand trial before Caesar, his ship was caught in a terrible storm. At the point when the crew of the ship had given up all hope, Paul came on deck with a message he had received from God—that their lives would all be spared. Looking at the circumstances around them, there was no reason for them to believe Paul. God did not still the storm, and, in fact, it continued to rage right up until they were shipwrecked on an island. But just as God had promised to Paul, none of their lives were lost.
Many times when we are struggling with difficult circumstances, we find it hard to remember to trust the promises of God. When our eyes are telling us there is no hope, when those around us are giving in to despair, we can still be confident and even happy. I read about an elderly lady who always seemed to be in a cheerful mood. Finally someone asked her, “You always seem to be happy. Do you never have clouds in your life?” “Of course I have clouds,” she replied. “You can't have showers of blessing without clouds!”
Nothing happens to us that takes God by surprise, and nothing happens to us that derails God's plan for our lives. Our plans may lie in pieces in the middle of a great storm, but God is still at work. If we are willing to trust Him even when we cannot see the way ahead, we will not be disheartened by the storms.
The stormy seasons of life are just as much a part of God's plan for us as the calm seasons are, and He is always faithful.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
When Esequiel Robles was stopped by police in North Dakota for a traffic violation in January of 2021, he was arrested after they found methamphetamine in his car. In addition, they discovered that he was already out on parole from an earlier drug possession conviction, so they took him to the jail. As he posed for his mug shot, Robles was wearing a rather ironic t-shirt with a message in large red letters across the front that said, “Don't Do Drugs.”
When we come to Christ for salvation, He replaces the rags of our sin with beautiful and spotless garments. John wrote of his vision of Heaven: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Revelation 7:9). We will stand before the throne of God in white robes—not white from our own righteousness, but the dazzling white righteousness of Christ. This righteousness is not something we earn, but it is given to us by faith. When we trust Christ as our Savior, He clothes us in His righteousness.
Yet too many Christians do not live a daily life that is consistent with the spiritual garments they are wearing. Although they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, their actions don't match their garments. Does your conduct match the message of your standing in Christ? Are you glorifying God with your life? Is your behavior befitting to your position as a child of God?
Our lives and actions should be consistent with the robes of righteousness which God has given to us as His children to wear.
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
2 Corinthians 5:19-21
Like all those who have come before throughout the history of the world, we were born as sinners. No one starts out good and then turns bad. We start out with a sinful nature. David wrote, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). That sinful nature prevents us from being able to do anything to earn or deserve the salvation we need. And that is why Jesus came as the sacrifice for sin that allows Him to be the Savior of those who believe.
Oswald Chambers wrote, “God made His own Son to be sin that He might make the sinner a saint. All through the Bible it is revealed that our Lord bore the sin of the world by identification, not by sympathy. He deliberately took upon His own shoulders, and bore in His own Person, the whole massed sin of the human race and by so doing He put the whole human race on the basis of Redemption.”
Only perfect righteousness is enough to allow us to stand in God's presence, but we could never attain it on our own. In grace, God offers the perfect righteousness of Jesus to be applied to our account. This righteousness is only available to us because Jesus took all of our sins and applied them to His account, though He was sinless, and suffered the penalty for those sins so that we do not have to experience Hell.
By accepting the gift of salvation Jesus offers by grace alone, we become righteous and are fully accepted by God.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
1 Timothy 6:12-14
Each year, the members of the Salvation Army would gather for a conference to be inspired and equipped to do more in their work for the Lord. One of the great highlights of the conference was when the founder, William Booth, would address the delegates. In 1912, the event was held at the Royal Albert Hall in London with more than seven thousand people in attendance. Though no one knew it at the time, the elderly William Booth had only three months to live, and this would be the last time he would speak to the group.
His final address ended with these words. “While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight; I’ll fight to the very end!”
Every obedient Christian must fight. We have enemies in the world, the flesh, and the devil against whom we must do battle. We have discouraged Christians around us who need to be strengthened. We have lost friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family who need to be won. But the victories we need won't be dropped in our laps without us doing anything for them. The battles must be fought if they are to be won. In Heaven, we will have rest from our labors, but as long as we are on Earth, we must fight.
We cannot accomplish the work God has placed before us unless we are willing to continue in the spiritual fight by His grace.
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
2 Timothy 2:10-12
Every part of the Christian life revolves around faith. We are saved by grace through faith, and we walk by faith. We win the victory through faith. And there is almost nothing the devil attacks more, because he knows that doubt is deadly, than faith. Faith does not depend on evidence, but that does not mean that is an uncertain foundation. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
God wants us to be settled and certain in our faith. Paul endured great hardship and suffering because of his fearless preaching, but he did not let that keep him from trusting God. When he wrote his final letter to Timothy, he was again in jail in Rome, knowing that his life would soon be ended. Yet even then he could say with confidence that he was persuaded of God's ability to fulfill every promise. Some things in life may be doubtful, but faith in God should not be one of them.
Horatius Bonar said, “Uncertainty as to our relationship with God is one of the most enfeebling and dispiriting of things. It makes a man heartless. It takes the pith out of him. He cannot fight; he cannot run. He is easily dismayed and gives way. He can do nothing for God. But when we know that we are of God, we are vigorous, brave, invincible. There is no more quickening truth than this of assurance.”
Because faith is based on God's character rather than our strength, no circumstance should be allowed to shake it.
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:9-11
If you've ever played Jenga with your children or grandchildren, you know how important the foundation is to keeping the stack of wooden pieces from falling over. You can take out a lot of the structure without it collapsing, but if you try to take away the bottom layer, undermining the foundation, it won't be long until the game is lost. A solid foundation is vital to much more than just games—it is vital to our lives.
We live in a world of relativism and equivocation. Many people even deny that there is such a thing as objective truth. People who do still believe in truth are often labeled as old-fashioned, narrow minded, or even worse. Yet no matter how “out of touch” the world may think we are to believe in absolutes based on the Bible, that doesn't change the reality of truth.
God does not intend for us to live with constant doubt and uncertainty about the foundational things of life. Instead He has given us a solid, unchanging foundation in the person of Jesus Christ. Nothing about Him is uncertain or unsettled. We know there is such a thing as truth because He told us so. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). His truth gives us a stable foundation on which we can build our lives. No matter what storms may come, no matter how the earth under our feet may be shaken, a life that is built on Jesus Christ and the truth of His Word will not collapse.
We must evaluate everything by the truth of the Word of God rather than by what is popular or what feels right to us.
To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
1 Peter 2:4-6
The most famous precious stone in the world is probably the Hope Diamond, which is now on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington. Since being mined at least 350 years ago, it has been bought and sold, stolen at least once, and traveled around the world. In 2003, reporter Ron Edmonds was allowed to hold it. He wrote, “You cradle the 45.5-carat stone—about the size of a walnut and heavier than its translucence makes it appear—turning it from side to side as the light flashes from its facets, knowing it's the hardest natural material yet fearful of dropping it.” The value of any precious stone is determined by its quality, rarity, size, and condition. The estimated value of the Hope Diamond is $350 million.
The Bible speaks of Jesus as being a precious stone—not lifeless and inanimate, but a living stone. His worth cannot be measured. He is the scale by which everything else has to be measured. We have been given a treasure beyond calculation in the person of the Savior. And through His grace as we become part of His family, we also become living stones, taking on the nature of the Lord. That is where our value lies—not in ourselves, but in our position with Him. God regards His children as having great worth because they belong to Him. “And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (Malachi 3:17).
Our worth, our value, and our purpose all spring from our identity as children of God.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
After Moses was rescued from the Nile River, he was brought up in Pharaoh's palace. Yet the exalted position and the privileges of rank did not draw him away from following God. When he was forced to decide, Moses chose the path God had set before him, despite all of the sacrifices and hardships God's purpose entailed. He was willing to suffer rather than to take the easy way, because he had a clear understanding of what mattered most.
The temptations that we face in our day are not new. They are the same lures that the devil has been using for thousands of years. The hardships that we endure are not new. They are the same difficulties and suffering that God's people have faced through the centuries. Peter wrote, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12).
There are people who proclaim a painless path of following Christ. They teach that if we just believe enough or give enough or try hard enough, everything will go smoothly and we will be exempt from the burdens of life. While it is not hard to see why such a message is appealing, it is still a false message. Nowhere in the Bible are we promised that our path through life will be easy if we do right. Instead we are promised that the rewards of doing right outweigh any suffering that we might endure.
The rewards God promises to those who faithfully serve Him make it worth any sacrifice required to do His will.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
There are many uncertainties in life. No matter how carefully or wisely we plan for the future, we often find that there were things we did not expect. Sometimes these are major events we never saw coming. Yet there are also things of which we can certain. One of them is what Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount. No matter what else happens, eventually the rain is going to fall—not a gentle soft rain, but a torrential downpour. And it is in those moments that we discover whether what we believe is real and will stand the test.
The rain Jesus described fell equally on the man with a rock for a foundation and the man who built on the sand. It did not rain because of the way they built. It rained because that is the way the world works. It is easy for us to assume that if we build well, we will avoid difficulty; and if others encounter difficulty, they must have built poorly. While some hardships can be avoided by wisdom, it is not always the case. Often bad things happen simply because we live in a fallen world. To survive the troubles and turmoil of life, we must have a solid foundation. We know hard days are coming, so we must establish our hearts and minds on an unshakable foundation before the rain descends.
If we wait until the storms come, we will not have the foundation we need to survive when the rain comes down.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus a few days before He was crucified, she used a precious and costly bottle of spikenard. Yet not everyone applauded her sacrificial gift. Judas Iscariot complained that they could have sold it instead to use the money for the poor. Generosity, however, was not his true motive. John tells us, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (John 12:6). But at the time, the other disciples were not aware of Judus' sin. They trusted Judas with all their money, not realizing that he was stealing from them.
Like all sins, the sin of Judas was eventually revealed. We may think that we have hidden our sin from everyone in the world, but God sees. We may think that we will be able to avoid the consequences of our sin, but God knows. We may think that we have convinced those around us through our hypocrisy, but God reveals all in His time. As Moses warned long ago, “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
Realizing that the all-seeing God, who knows not just our deeds but our thoughts and motivations, will be our judge should lead us to fear and obey Him. This is the conclusion Solomon reached at the end of his exhaustive search for the meaning and purpose of life. As Christians, we know that we stand completely justified before God. This should lead us to an even greater desire to live in such a way that is honoring to Him and in accordance with His revealed commandments.
Since God sees every secret thing, we should desire from our innermost being to honor Him.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
There are many people today who deny the existence of God, but there is no way for anyone to escape the reality of His existence. The evidence that God exists is all around us. The creation is a testimony to the Creator. People can invent fanciful explanations of billions of years and random chance, but it takes a great more faith to believe that story than to take God at His word. We cannot deny the existence of God without denying the evidence of our own senses as they take in the world around us.
Henry Cope, who came to America from England after training for gospel ministry under Charles Spurgeon, was deeply involved with promoting Sunday schools and evangelism. As General Secretary of the Religious Education Association, he had a syndicated column which appeared in a number of newspapers in the western part of the United State. In 1908, The Oregon Sunday Journal published this statement from Cope: “You may dodge the courts, but you cannot dodge the law of consequences.”
No matter how much people may deny the existence of God, they will one day stand before Him. What is true of the lost is true of the saved as well. We will stand before Him—not to be judged, but to have our work evaluated. Paul wrote, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). Knowing that the day is coming when we will stand before the holy God should motivate us to serve Him faithfully and tell others about Him.
We must never lose sight of the fact that one day we will stand before God and give Him an account of our lives.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
In 1966, in an effort to protect consumers from deceptive advertising and promotion, Congress passed the Fair and Labeling Act. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the law requires them “to issue regulations requiring that all 'consumer commodities' be labeled to disclose net contents, identity of commodity, and name and place of business of the product's manufacturer, packer, or distributor. The Act authorizes additional regulations where necessary to prevent consumer deception (or to facilitate value comparisons) with respect to descriptions of ingredients, slack fill of packages, use of 'cents-off' or lower price labeling, or characterization of package sizes.”
There is no human law requiring truthful and honest descriptions of good and evil, but there is a Divine one. God insists that we call things by their proper name. He judges those who proclaim that wicked things are acceptable, and those who condemn good things as being evil. While absolute truth is under attack in our world today by many, it is still a Divine requirement. God has not changed His standards or His laws. They are still in full effect no matter what those around us may do or say.
Correct labeling is vital for our spiritual well being. We are constantly tempted to water down the morals God has set—to call things by names that make them sound much less serious. But calling a poison a health tonic won't keep it from killing the person who takes it. Changing the name of a sin and calling it okay does not change the true nature of evil.
God's definitions of good and evil do not change. Rather than changing our definitions to please the culture, we should be truthful to the moral standards God has set.
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
There is no rebellion against God in the natural world. Though the impact of sin has marred the original design of creation, everything God made listens to His voice—except for man. When the disciples woke Jesus in terror as the boat they were in was about to sink, He told the winds and waves to cease, and they immediately did. The disciples were astonished at this display of power. “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41).
In contrast to the obedience of the animals and even the weather, mankind continues to live in rebellion against the commandments of God. Despite the grace and goodness that He bestows upon us day after day, we find it easy to go our own way. And while this is true of the lost world, it is all too often true of believers as well. When what God commands us to do seems too hard or to require too great a sacrifice, we simply refuse Him.
There is no context in which saying “No” to what God calls us to do is acceptable. The only possible correct answer to a command from God is “Yes.” He has every right to command us in any way He sees fit. God, as both our Creator and our Redeemer, is doubly justified in issuing instructions rather than requests. When we consider His infinite knowledge and wisdom, it is utterly foolish not to do exactly as He says.
Even a work animal responds with loyalty to its master. How much more should we give our loving obedience to our Creator and our Redeemer?
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
2 Timothy 3:15-17
For more than a century, young boys around the world joined the Boy Scouts as part of their growing up process. Though much has changed about the organization over time, as originally founded, the purpose of the group was “to teach [boys] patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values.” One of the key tools used in the process was the Boy Scout Handbook. Over the years, more than 50,000,000 copies of the book were printed with guidance for each part of the training program, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.
That book has been repeatedly revised through the years, and is currently on its 14th edition. By contrast, the Word of God has never changed. It was thorough and complete before the beginning of the world, and it will never need to be updated. “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). It contains everything that God needs us to know and do in order to live as He has called us to live. The Bible is perfect, and everything that it says to us is true and reliable.
There is nothing more important for us than to be students of the Scriptures. They alone can give us the necessary resources to do the good works God has placed before us. They alone can be trusted as a beacon of unchanging truth in unsettled days. They alone can shield us from sin and lead us to holiness. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9).
The Word of God should be our most-read, most-studied, and best-loved resource for all of life.
Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:
Though God does not have the same kind of covenant relationship with our nation or any modern nation that He had with Israel, it is still true that He judges nations for their conduct. Nations which at least attempt to follow the principles of righteousness and justice will be rewarded. But those nations which condemn good and promote evil can expect to receive His hand of judgment. David wrote, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).
History is littered with the wreckage of once great empires that exercised power and authority over vast stretches of land and huge numbers of people. One by one, they rose to positions of prominence and influence. Yet today only the ruins remain to show where the events recorded in the history books took place. The nations themselves no longer exist, or are merely a shell of what they once were. No country is exempt from God's judgment on their national conduct and character.
There are many who are concerned about the direction their country is taking. The real solution to the problem of a godless nation is not found in the seat of government power. Electing new leaders or passing new laws cannnot transform the hearts of people to do right. The only solution is found in the power of the Gospel to change a nation one person at a time. We must live righteously ourselves, and we must share the good news with those around us—that is the best thing we can do for our country.
The process of making any nation more righteous starts in the hearts and lives of its Christian citizens.
Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
An archaeological excavation near Masada, site of the final battle in the Israeli war of rebellion against Rome in AD 72, turned up an ancient papyrus fragment that details the pay of a soldier named Gaius Messius. He served in the legion that besieged the mountain fortress, and for his service he was paid the sum of 50 denarri. However, like most Roman soldiers of the day, he was also responsible for many of his living expenses. When he summed up the deductions from his pay for food, clothing, and equipment, those also totaled 50 denarri—meaning that his net pay was zero. All of his efforts and labors had not produced anything for Gaius Messius to keep.
When we work without regard for the things of God, we will find that whatever money we may earn will not be enough to satisfy our desires or even meet some needs. But when we labor for Him first and foremost, putting His will and His kingdom ahead of our own desires, we have His promise that He will meet our needs. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). Furthermore, no service for Christ, however great or small, will ever go unnoticed or unrewarded in God's eyes. Jesus said, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41). God's rewards are not temporal; they are eternal, and they are meaningful.
Focus on the things of this world will always lead to disappointment and disillusionment. Living for what is eternal leads to joy and peace.
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.
The crew members of the British fishing boat Galwad-Y-Mor had no hint of trouble. The only unusual thing they noticed was extra tension on the line as they pulled in their crab traps, but they hoped that meant the traps were full. Instead, a huge explosion rocked the boat. The seven men escaped with their lives, although several suffered serious injuries, when the boat sank due to the damage it suffered. The Marine Accident Investigation Board determined that the explosion was the result of “old munitions on the seabed.” The boat had accidentally caught an old mine, and it blew up as they pulled it toward the surface. The past had not stayed hidden beneath the sea.
That never happens with our sins. When God places them in the depths of the sea, they never resurface. There may be consequences and effects of sin that linger, but the sins themselves are buried where they will never be brought up against us again. When the devil accuses us, we have a defense attorney who has already paid the price for those sins. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). His faithfulness ensures that our sins can never be placed back on our account or held against us again. They are in the sea for good.
We should never let guilt or shame over past sins that we have confessed keep us from enjoying fellowship with God.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
1 Peter 5:8-10
In February of 2014, an Ethiopian Airlines 767 was hijacked by the co-pilot. His plan was to fly to Switzerland and request asylum there. Once it became known that the plane was no longer on its original flight plan, Italian Air Force jets responded and followed it as it made its way north. At the border, French Air Force planes took over the escort task. But when the hijacked plane crossed into Swiss airspace, the French planes had to stay with it. It turned out that due to budget cuts and noise regulations, Swiss Air Force planes were only operating during daytime business hours—leaving the nation undefended and forced to rely on others for protection.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, we have an enemy who is active and committed to our destruction. He doesn't work only during business hours. He doesn't take days off. We must be constantly and continually on guard so that we are not taken by surprise. Jesus warned Peter that Satan was after him in a special way, but when He returned, Jesus found Peter sleeping instead of praying. He warned, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
The devil is looking for opportunities to take us down. If you were strong against temptation yesterday, he will still come back today. Through the power of God, it is possible for us to have victory over sin and the devil, but it requires us to be alert and vigilant to resist his temptations.
Victorious Christian living requires constant attention to guarding against the temptations of the devil.
Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
For decades Larry King interviewed some of the most famous people in the world. On both radio and television, he talked to politicians, business leaders, inventors, athletes, and entertainers. King had a gift for asking questions in a way that got people talking, and often they revealed more than they intended. In a special celebrating his fortieth anniversary in the business, King himself was interviewed by Bryant Gumbel. Near the end of their conversation, Gumbel wanted to know what King would ask God if He appeared on King's show. “Do you have a Son?” King replied. Though he was not a Christian, King understood the importance of that question to everything else about life.
The answer to the question is “Yes.” God does have a Son, and His name is Jesus. Jesus was not merely a teacher, an example, a prophet, or a leader. He was Divine. Over and over, the Bible affirms this central truth. God declared it publicly when Jesus was baptized, and He declared it again to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. There is no uncertainty or ambiguity about the claim of Jesus Christ to be the very Son of God.
This is the central truth that underlies everything about our faith. If Jesus was not the Son of God, He could not purchase our salvation. He could never bear the sins of the world unless He were both human and deity at the same time. And that is what He was. We must grasp the nature and character of Jesus to understand the salvation He freely offers.
Every part of the Christian life flows from the proper understanding of who Jesus really is.
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
It has been nearly two thousand years since Jesus left His disciples standing on a hillside looking up into the clouds as He returned to Heaven. Despite His repeated telling them that this would happen, they seem to have been surprised that Jesus had left them. Then, rather than swinging into obedience to do the job He had left them to do, they were still standing around when the angels showed up to prod them into action. That prodding came with an affirmation of the promise that Jesus would one day return.
The passing of centuries has not changed the certainty of that promise. Jesus will come again, and it could be today. There are no events that must take place or prophecies that must be fulfilled before the Lord returns. He could come for us at any moment. Our task is not to try to decode current events or figure our the timing of that return, but to be actively obeying every day so that we are ready for Him. “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).
Dr. John Rice wrote:
Come, dear Lord Jesus, for long we've been watching;
God's children are homesick for Heaven, our home.
Come then, Lord Jesus, come quickly and take us;
The wedding feast waits when the Bridegroom shall come.
Jesus is coming, is coming, is coming
It may be tomorrow, it may be today
Maybe the trumpet sound, maybe the angel's shout
Then “Come up higher” the Saviour shall say.
Knowing that Jesus could return today should govern the way we act and think and use every moment.
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
In his book Flowers of Thought, Phillips Brooks recounted the story of a man who said that he had no time or space in his life for Jesus or Christianity. Brooks responded, “It is as if the engine had said it had no room for the steam. It is as if the tree said it had no room for the sap. It is as if the ocean said it had no room for the tide. It is as if the man had said he had no room for his soul. It is as if the life had said it had no time to live, when it is life. [Christianity] is not something added to life; it is life. A man is not living without it.”
The modern world is packed with things that can quickly expand to fill every moment of every day. Many of these things are not bad in and of themselves, but anything except Jesus which becomes all-encompassing is being used by the devil to distract us from what God has for us to do. It is easy for our days to become fuller and fuller of things that we feel must be done, only for us to realize that for all of the busyness of our lives, we are not actually accomplishing anything meaningful.
When Martha demanded that Jesus step in to correct her sister for not helping her serve their guests, Jesus did not take her side. Instead, He urged her to reevaluate her priorities. “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
No matter how good it is, anything that makes us too busy for God must be laid aside.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
All around us in the world we see reasons to be worried and troubled. Sickness and hatred, disease and difficulty are widespread. Yet these things are not new. They have been part of life ever since the Fall of man. They were present in Jesus' day as well. And the night before He was to go to the cross, Jesus told His disciples not to worry—not because nothing would ever go wrong, but because there was a promised place and a guaranteed future waiting for them. Every person who has trusted Christ as Savior has the hope of Heaven before him.
Dr. Lee Roberson wrote, “Heaven is a promised place. Heaven is an assured place. Heaven is a place beyond the dreams of men. I have preached about Heaven for almost eighty years. The promises of God have never lost their precious appeal. Heaven is eternity. Heaven is real. Heaven is God Himself.” This present world is not all there is. We have a home with God waiting for us that can never be lost or taken away. We have a settled and certain future that is guaranteed for all eternity.
It is no wonder that the world lives with doubt and worry. They have nothing that is truly reliable and dependable. Every human source of comfort and security can be lost. Only the Divine promise of a prepared place offers us an unshakable source of peace. Only the hope of Heaven lets us keep our hearts from being troubled.
When our focus is on Heaven rather than the things of this world, we need not live with worry and fear as our constant companions.
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
When Jesus passed through Jericho on the day He met Zacchaeus, He was on His way to Jerusalem for the final time. In just a few days He would go to the cross, and He would never be returning to Jericho again. No doubt Zacchaeus had heard that one of his fellow tax collectors, Matthew, had become a disciple of Jesus. Because of their collaboration with the Romans and their tendency to vastly overcharge people on taxes to line their own pockets, the tax collectors (called publicans) were hated by their countrymen. Zacchaeus must have reasoned that if Jesus was willing to have Matthew as part of His inner circle, the Lord might also be willing to talk to him, and He was. Zacchaeus seized the opportunity that was before him, not realizing how fleeting it would be.
There are many times when we are tempted to put off something that should be done, thinking that will be easier or more convenient if we wait until later. Yet there are many opportunities that will never come again. We either seize them in that moment or we lose them forever. Dale Carnegie said, “I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” The open doors that are in front of you today—to witness, to encourage, to comfort, to teach—may never come again. We must be diligent not to miss these opportunities.
There is no guarantee that the opportunities before you today will ever be repeated in the future—seize them while you can.
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
God knows how effective the temptation of pride can be, so He reminds us that we are wholly and completely dependent on Him. This is particularly true when it comes to the matter of our salvation. We do not get saved as a result of a long period when we are gradually trying to get closer and closer to God, reforming ourselves. Because of our sin nature, we have no interest in that. Paul wrote, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).
Instead, salvation comes because God sent His Son to seek for us. God's love and mercy and grace are nowhere more clearly displayed than in the salvation of sinners. He wants us to be saved, or no one ever would be. Charles Spurgeon said, “Oh, if He had given up after the first ten years—if He had ceased to care for some of us after fifty different occasions in which we had choked conscience and quenched the Spirit, then we should have been lost! But He would not be turned away.”
In his poem “The Hound of Heaven” English writer Francis Thompson described God's message this way:
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
God's free offer of salvation was the result of His purpose and plan, not of anything that we are or have or can do. He offers it as a gift, and we have only to receive it. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
We must never lose sight of the magnitude of the free gift of salvation—how much we needed it, and how only God provides it.
That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.
In July of 2020, a group of students at a university circulated a petition that demanded the removal of a statue from the school's campus. Thousands of students added their names, joining the call for the change to be made. Such a demand is not new in our society, but this petition was especially ironic. It was issued in Seattle on the campus of the University of Washington, the flagship school in the state of Washington. And yet the petition called for the removal of a statue of George Washington, for whom both the state and the school are named.
While not everything in the past is good, and not everything in the present is bad, when people set out to destroy their heritage and history, they are taking a dangerous step. God commanded monuments and memorials to be built so that the people would remember what had happened in the past and how He had worked on their behalf. It is important for a culture, and especially for a Christian, to not allow the past to be forgotten. Solomon warned, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28).
As the society around us becomes more focused on wiping away the past, it is all the more important for us to remember it. We do this not for the sake of tradition, but for the sake of truth. Things that were true yesterday are still true today and will still be true tomorrow. We must not allow the “stones” that remind us of the things God has done in the past to be removed. Rather, we should continually remind ourselves of God's past works in our lives.
Take time today to remember God's past faithfulness and goodness in your life.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
As we read through the book of Job, we see a faithful man endure hardship and great loss. Job loved God, and even though he did not understand the cause of his suffering and endured the false accusations of his friends, Job remained true to God. But as the trial went on, Job felt forsaken and even targeted by God, and he longed to make his case directly to the Lord: “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:3-4). Yet when God did come, Job's actual response was not argument but submission: “Then Job answered the LORD, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth” (Job 40:3-4).
The transformation in Job's attitude did not occur because God had presented the answer to Job's complaints; in fact, God never explained to Job what was behind his suffering. The transformation in Job's attitude occured when Job saw a demonstration of God's power. God rehearsed the creation of the world and the way He spoke everything into existence. He challengeed Job in a way that revealed the extent of God's power and wisdom and compared them to the limitations of human power and wisdom. We live in a culture that promotes self-reliance and exalts the thoughts and feelings of a person over the truth. But God has not changed. He is still right in everything that He does, and it is the height of folly for us to challenge Him with what we think would be better.
We must not allow the devil to tempt us to think that we are wiser than God or that our ways are better than His.