Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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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. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
Many people today treat the truth like a cafeteria buffet. They pick and choose the things that look appealing and that they think they will enjoy, and they leave the rest behind. That is not the way God's truth works. It is all part of a unified whole. It is all true, and it must all be taken as true. John Newton wrote, “The Word of God is not to be used as a lottery; nor is it designed to instruct us by shreds and scraps, which, detached from their proper places, have no determinate import; but it is to furnish us with just principles, right apprehensions to regulate our judgments and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct.”
We are not equipped or qualified to evaluate which parts of the Bible we should believe and which we should discard. That puts us in a position that can only rightfully be held by God. Instead we are to take the whole of God's truth, read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, and follow what it says. Whether the truth is widely accepted or believed only by a few, it is still truth. And it is all truth. Paul was able to testify that his ministry was not based on picking and choosing, but believing it all. He said, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
All of God's Word is true, and it can and must be trusted and obeyed.
He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
1 John 2:10-11
Though their use dates back many centuries, the idea of using dogs as guides for blind people became much more common in the 1800s. The concept soon entered popular literature. In her lengthy poem Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “The blind man walks wherever the dog pulls.” And in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, part of his description of the awfulness of Ebenezer Scrooge includes these lines: “Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, 'No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!'”
The loss of sight is a huge limitation on life because many of the activities people take for granted can only be performed with some kind of assistance. But at least people who have lost their physical sight are aware of it. There is a kind of spiritual blindness that is just as debilitating and limiting as physical blindness, and yet often we are unaware of it. This blindness comes when we allow bitterness and hatred toward fellow believers to remain in our hearts . As long as there are people, there will be hurt feelings, disappointments, disillusionment, and strife. But we do not have to allow these to fester and grow into hatred.
Instead God commands us to take action to lovingly restore our relationships as a matter of priority. Jesus said, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
We cannot walk in the light if we are walking in bitterness and hatred toward others.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
When the Children of Israel griped and complained about the manna that God was miraculously providing them every day, God sent poisonous snakes into the camp. In desperation, the people came to Moses and confessed their sin. When Moses prayed, God gave him the solution. It was not what the people asked for, the removal of the snakes, but instead a cure. “And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (Numbers 21:9).
As Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, He used this event to illustrate the means of salvation. As a Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus would have been well acquainted with the story. It is a powerful demonstration of God's grace because it shows that deliverance and salvation can only come from Him, and specifically from faith in Him. God did not instruct the people to follow a certain ritual or offer elaborate sacrifices for their healing. Instead they only had to look at the serpent on the pole and their lives would be spared.
We do not get saved because of anything that we do or don't do. We do not get saved because of our bloodlines and heritage, because we belong to a certain church, or because of where we live. We get saved because we look to Jesus in faith for the help that only He can provide. There is no human remedy for the poison of sin. We are utterly without hope unless we accept what Jesus provides.
Salvation only comes by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
After his conversion in a revival meeting at age twelve, Philip Bliss wanted to use his talents for God. For a time he worked as a music teacher, and began writing hymns during that time. A meeting with D. L. Moody inspired Bliss to become part of a full time revival ministry, and he spent the rest of his life leading singing at meetings around the country. Before his death in a train crash at just thirty-eight years of age, Bliss wrote these words:
Free from the law, O happy condition,
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us once for all.
Once for all, O sinner, receive it,
Once for all, O friend, now believe it;
Cling to the cross, the burden will fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.
The matter of our salvation is already settled, just as surely as if we were in Heaven now. No power can take us out of God's hand. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, unlike the yearly offering of the high priests in the Old Testament on the Day of Atonement, only needed to be made once. The power of the blood of Christ is so great that it only had to be offered once to save us forever. We must deal with sin in our lives on a daily basis as part of maintaining the right relationship with God, but our standing as part of His family can never be changed.
There is no reason for a Christian to live with doubt and uncertainty–the future is settled.
I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.
1 John 2:12
Could there be a sweeter word than the word forgiven? That glorious word describes you and me if we have received the forgiveness Christ offers. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross made it possible for God to wipe the sins off of our account while still remaining righteous and holy. God could offer us forgiveness because Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross and because once we trust Him as our Savior, He stands as our heavenly Advocate (1 John 2:1). Despite the pain and torment He was enduring, even on the cross, Jesus was thinking of us rather than Himself. “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots” (Luke 23:34). We are not forgiven by God because we deserve it. We are not forgiven because we earn it. We are forgiven because Jesus paid the price for our sins. No matter how long we may have been saved or how much we have done for God, we could never even begin to be worthy of forgiveness. It only comes to us through Christ—“for His name's sake.”
Having received that forgiveness, we are instructed to in turn to provide it to others. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). We do not have to think that people deserve forgiveness in order to offer it to them. We only have to look in the mirror and see how God treated us, and then treat others the same way. While a relationship cannot be fully restored without issues being addressed, forgiveness can be granted at any point—even without the other person's consent. We do not have to live with bitterness and grudges toward those who have done us wrong. We can give up our right to get even and let them off the hook. We can offer forgiveness in the same way in which we received it—freely and graciously.
The forgiveness we have received from God places upon us a responsibility to be forgiving to others.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
From what we read in the Bible of the life and ministry of Paul, we see a pattern of answered prayer. Paul asked God to do things to further the work of spreading the gospel, and God provided what was needed. Paul healed the sick, survived shipwreck and snake bites, and even raised the dead. Yet when it came to the most personal burden Paul carried, his request was denied. Paul seriously and intently prayed that his thorn in the flesh would be removed, and God refused. Rather than becoming bitter over God not doing what he wanted, Paul rejoiced, seeing that what God had in mind was better than what he had asked the Lord to do.
Many times when we are in difficulty, we pray with a solution in mind. We have figured out how we think things should work, and our prayers are closer to directions than petitions. None of us enjoy going through hardship, yet there are times when the very thing we are asking God to take out of our lives is something that He sent for our good and for His glory. Paul needed the thorn in flesh so that pride would not hinder his ability to serve God faithfully. The thorn was a gift, and its removal would have been a handicap to Paul. We need to be careful as we pray to remember that God knows more than we do, so that we are not inadvertently asking Him to do something that would harm us.
Every prayer must be offered in submission to the will of God and in recognition that He knows what is best.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
Because we are human and our minds are limited, we cannot ever understand the fullness of the measure of the glory, majesty, love, and mercy of God. To help us grasp as much as we can, God inspired the writers of the Bible to use illustrations and metaphors that we can comprehend. David gave us some of the most beautiful word pictures ever written, including his wonderful depiction of the way God not only forgives our sins, but removes them. While there is a North Pole and a South Pole, limiting how far one can go in either of those directions, a journey east or west has no limit or boundary. It is a trip without end. So when God says that He removes our transgressions from us "as far as the east is from the west," that means they farther away from us than can be measured.
Of course David had personal experience with the way God deals with sin. Despite all that God had done for him and given him, David reached a point where he wanted what was not his to take. The resulting adultery and the murder David arranged to try to cover it up were the low point in the life of the great king of Israel. Yet despite the awfulness of what David had done, when he turned to God in genuine repentance and sorrow for his sin, he was forgiven.
Though there were consequences that followed David for the rest of his life, God never held that sin against David or refused restoration and fellowship with him. None of us deserve to be forgiven, yet in God's great mercy, when we confess our sin to Him, we find a full a free pardon through the blood of Jesus Christ.
We should not allow sins God has forgiven to hinder our relationship with Him—He will never bring them up again.
I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
1 John 2:13-14
The Bible often compares our spiritual growth from the time we are new believers until we mature with our physical growth. At each stage of our natural progression from infants to adults, we become capable of doing more and more things. We do not expect babies to be able to do what adults can do. Yet while young believers may not have fully developed their faith and skills for spiritual warfare, that does not have to mean that they will invariably be defeated.
At every stage of the Christian life, whether we are little children, young men, or aged fathers, we are meant to be overcoming and victorious. It is not our strength that wins the victory, but rather God's strength, and the faith and knowledge that are built upon His Word. When Satan came and tempted Jesus, each temptation was met with a verse of Scripture that countered it. Jesus could have simply banished Satan, but instead He provided us an example of how we can overcome the evil one.
The necessity of growth is laid upon us, for the battles become more intense and fierce along the way. But from beginning to end, all the way through the Christian life, we are meant to be victorious. Paul wrote, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). We do not triumph in our might, but in God's might. That power is available to us no matter how long we have been saved.
At every stage of the Christian life, God will give us the victory if we are relying on Him.
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
The life and ministry of Jesus were characterized by compassion for others. When He looked at people, He saw beyond their outward circumstances to their real needs. He did not regard it as a burden to help them. In contrast, even those closest to Jesus often viewed people with needs as a problem—one they wanted to get rid of rather than deal with. Once when a great crowd of people had gathered to hear Jesus and the end of the day was approaching, they came to Him and said, “Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat” (Mark 6:36). Instead of sending the multitudes away, Jesus met their need, working a miracle to feed thousands of people because of His love and compassion for them.
If we are going to truthfully say that we are living like Jesus, our lives must be characterized by the same kind of compassion for others that He had. The missionary David Brainerd wrote, “I care not where I go, or how I live, or what I endure so that I may save souls. When I sleep I dream of them; when I awake they are first in my thoughts…no amount of scholastic attainment, of able and profound exposition of brilliant and stirring eloquence can atone for the absence of a deep impassioned sympathetic love for human souls.” All around us there are people for whom Jesus died who have no concept of the eternity that awaits them. That fact should fill our hearts with compassion and move us to action to help them before it is too late.
Compassion for those in need characterized the life of Christ, and it should characterize our lives as well.
For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
2 Corinthians 5:12-15
Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth was a blistering rebuke of the ungodly behavior and attitudes that were being tolerated and even celebrated within the church. While some people repented and began living right, others instead attacked Paul. Some even said that he had gone crazy. Things are a lot like that in our day. Many times simply pointing out the truth is considered to be an attack that could only come from someone who was “beside himself” as they said of Paul.
It would have been a lot easier for Paul to just let things slide and not point out what was wrong. At least that approach would not have sparked the opposition and slander that he received. If he had not called sin by its rightful name, no one would have thought that he was judgmental and too harsh, even to the point of being mentally unbalanced. So why did Paul insist on making clear the difference between right and wrong?
He said it was the love of Christ that constrained him. If we love Jesus as we should, no criticism or opposition will be able to stop us from standing up for the truth. Jesus laid down His life for us even as He was being mocked and derided by the crowd at the cross. If He was willing to give so much for us, how can we not be willing to give up everything for Him?
The love of Jesus for us and our love for Him compels us to stand for His truth no matter the consequences.
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.
1 John 2:15
The final letter that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write was addressed to his protégé Timothy. From a Roman prison, realizing that the time of execution was approaching, Paul asked Timothy to do everything possible to come and see him as soon as he could. The aged apostle was alone. Some of his companions had been sent on other assignments, but there was one loss that was especially painful to Paul. “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia” (2 Timothy 4:10).
All of us have known people who, like Demas, have become enamored with the things of the world. Over time, that love has drawn them away from the things of God. And we have seen the devastating impact that has on their lives, and often on their families and churches as well. The world is alluring. The temptations of Satan are designed to appeal to us in a powerful way. Just as Eve was enticed by the appearance of the forbidden fruit, we are drawn away from our love for God by the appeal of the world.
Yet if we love God as we should—above all else—we will not find the things of the world overwhelmingly attractive to us. This is the most important of all the commands God has given to us. Moses instructed, “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12). There is no room for us to love the world and the things in it in a damaging way if our whole heart is filled with love for God.
Every Christian who walks away from the things of God has fallen out of love with Him.
And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
When the Children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt, they cried out to God for deliverance. They hated being forced to labor for others, without the freedom to live as they pleased. The conditions of their slavery were harsh, and they got increasingly worse over time. Then God answered those desperate prayers and sent Moses to lead them out. Yet despite their answered prayers and their deliverance, the Israelites did not respond with gratitude. Instead they complained again and again. They did not have enough food, and then when manna fell from Heaven, they grew tired of it. Their complaining became so bitter that they even began longing to be back in slavery again. At one point, they began looking for a leader who would take them back to their former bondage.
We look at that story and find it hard to believe that people could long to be in bondage again after having been freed. Yet we see the same thing in the Christian life in all too many cases. People who have been released from the slavery of sin and should be rejoicing in freedom in Christ instead spend their time looking backward and missing the very thing from which they were delivered. Paul warned about the importance of guarding our liberty, writing to the Galatians, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). The shackles of sin cannot stand against the power of the gospel. We only come back into bondage when we ourselves choose to yield to sin rather than yielding to God.
The deliverance God has given us is precious, and we should not let any sin bring us back into captivity.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 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:
Jesus came into the world to offer salvation to all who would receive it. Yet in His day, as well as in ours, there are many who reject the message. Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem because so many there refused to accept Him as the Messiah. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37).
The natural world accepted the Lord without question. When He spoke to storms, or illness, or food, all did as He commanded. Even the demons were forced to acknowledge His power over them. Yet it was the height of God's creation, the people He had made in His image, who rejected Him. There is no greater tragedy than someone refusing the message of God. It is not in our power to force others to be saved, but we can have the same heart of compassion that Jesus did. “And of some have compassion, making a difference:” (Jude 1:22).
The responsibility that falls on us is not to produce the results, for that is something that only God can do. Our task is to make sure that others know about their need for salvation and the offer of salvation found in Jesus Christ alone. Some will refuse to hear or accept that message, and that is heartbreaking. But others will respond, and that is our joy. All those who are willing to receive Him become children of God.
It is a tragedy when people reject Jesus, but it is an even greater tragedy when they never hear about 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 2:16-17
In 2019, a massive sandcastle was built in the German town of Binz on the Baltic Sea where each year a contest is held for builders who work with sand. Complete with turrets, windows, arches, and walkways, the highly detailed castle was a sight to behold. Measuring nearly sixty feet tall, it was certified as a Guinness World Record holder as the largest sandcastle ever built. However, if you want to see it in person, you are too late. After a few months it was gone. Though it was impressive, it was not built to last.
The world around us is filled with things that may look impressive, but upon examination are revealed to be only temporary at best. Everywhere we look, we see people frantically trying to build the largest sandcastles without any thought of what will happen next. The things of this world are going to pass away. Each of us who are Christians will stand before God and give an account to Him of how we used the time and abilities He has entrusted to us.
There will be no deception in that day. Everything will be revealed for what it really is. “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). It is our responsibility to focus our lives and our efforts on things that matter and things that will last. Only then will our lives not have been lived in vain.
The world tempts us to waste our lives on fleeting things, but God calls us to live for the eternal.
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
There is an old story about a man who couldn't decide which side to fight for in the Civil War. So he put on a blue Union army jacket and gray Confederate army pants. He thought that by doing so he would be accepted by both sides, but instead he found that both sides were shooting at him. Absurd as that story is, it illustrates an important spiritual truth: we can't be on both sides of the spiritual battle. If we want to cling to the things of the world, that places us at enmity with God. He deserves our complete allegiance. If we give Him anything less, we are essentially siding with the world.
The desire to be accepted by the world and receive the praise of men has led many people to lower their commitment to God and the truth, and begin accepting things they should always resist. There is no stopping place once a person starts down that path. There will always be one more thing to give up in order to continue to be considered acceptable. Jesus warned of this danger when He said, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).
Rather than seeking the approval of the world, we should make our allegiance to God firm and unyielding, no matter what happens. John Wesley wrote, “Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.”
A person trying to fit in with both God in the world will end up pleasing neither.
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
The desire of people to be famous and looked up to by others has been with us since the fall of man. Satan's rebellion against God was centered in the sin of pride, and that passed on to all of humanity. In the period after the Flood, the people assembled at what later became Babylon and began building a tower by which they intended to reach up to Heaven itself. At the heart of their purpose was the desire, not to glorify God and lift up His name, but to make a name for themselves so that they would be honored and remembered.
There is no place for pride in the Christian life. We are not here to make sure people know about us and lift up our names in praise, but rather to live in such a way that God is glorified. “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake” (Psalm 115:1). The efforts that we make to build up ourselves in the eyes of others are doomed to failure because doing so places us in opposition to God's purpose for our lives. Any praise and any credit that we receive for what we have done rightfully belongs to God. He gifted us with talents and abilities, and the Holy Spirit gives us power to accomplish the tasks which are set before us.
The purpose of life is not to make a name for ourselves, but to bring honor and glory to God's name.
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
1 John 2:18
When most of us hear the word antichrist, we think of the false Messiah who is described in the book of Revelation. But while that antichrist will be a real person who will appear on the world stage at some point in the future, the spirit of evil that will animate and motivate and empower him is already at work in the world. This is not something that just happened. Even before the final book of the New Testament was written, John was already describing “many antichrists” as he instructed believers then how to live in the “last time.”
There is a real devil, and he is alive and active in the world today. He is not a cartoon character with a forked tail and pitchfork. He is clever and crafty, using every tool at his disposal to deceive the lost world and keep them in darkness, and defeat the saved and keep them from working in God's power. Paul warned the church at Corinth, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Satan stands in total opposition to everything that Christ stands for. He is actively opposing God's plan for the world, and though we know he will ultimately be completely defeated once and for all, that day has not yet come. We need to be on guard every day so that we will not be deceived by his lies or fall into the snares that he sets before our feet. This is not a threat for the far off future, but one that we face right now. There is a spiritual war taking place, and we must be prepared to fight.
A Christian who is not on guard against the attacks of Satan is a Christian who will soon be defeated.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
It is so easy and comforting for us to blame outside forces when we sin. We try so hard to make sure we are not held at fault. Eve blamed the serpent for her choice to eat the forbidden fruit, and Adam blamed Eve for giving it to him. Then Adam blamed God for making Eve in the first place. Such deflection, however, misses the point. When we sin, the origin of sin is not some outward temptation that is so overwhelming that we had no choice but to go along with it. Rather the origin of sin begins with the desires of our own hearts. Those desires are what draw us away from God and take us down the path of sin.
The key to avoiding sin is not to somehow isolate ourselves from any temptation. No matter where we go or what we do, it is our “own lust” that entices us. The devil is skilled at finding specific temptations that are attractive to us. He does not tempt us with things that do not appeal, but with things that are very enticing. When Jesus had been fasting, Satan's first temptation was to acquire food through a misuse of His power. It is not hard to see why bread would be attractive to someone who hadn't eaten for days. Victory over temptation only comes from within—from yielding to the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13).
Rather than blaming others for temptation, turn to God's Word for help to overcome it.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
A lot of people say that if Christians would just stop being against sin people would like them. They call us judgmental and old-fashioned and bigoted. But the real reason the world hates the people of God is not what they believe or preach, but to whom they belong. The world hates us because it hated Jesus, and the more closely we follow Him, the more fiercely their contempt and anger toward us will be.
The history of the early church tells us that all the disciples except for John were martyred, and even he was tortured. The persecution they faced was so intense and the death of believers was so common that Tertullian, one of the earliest writers of theology after the completion of the New Testament said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” Through the centuries that followed, men and women continued to die rather than give up there faith. And though those of us in America and much of the Western world have not experienced it, persecution is still alive and well in many countries today.
Though we should be kind and gracious as Jesus was when we interact with others, we should never expect that they will love us. The only way to achieve the love and praise of the world is to abandon the truth and stop following Jesus. Though there are some churches and some professing Christians who have adopted that approach, we must stand firm for the truth.
We should not expect the world that crucified Jesus to be loving toward those who follow Him.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
1 John 2:19
Those of us who have been saved for any length of time have seen people who were once actively involved in church and who professed their devotion for God turn away from the faith and follow the things of the world instead. Sometimes even pastors and teachers will announce that they have stopped being Christians. That can be a real challenge, especially if it is someone we looked up to and admired. Yet the reality is that no one stops being a Christian. Those who have been genuinely converted, placing their faith in Christ alone for salvation, will not renounce the truth.
It is not a matter of someone losing salvation, because you cannot lose what you never had. Instead it is a matter of what has really been going on in the heart being outwardly revealed. Judas spent three years in close proximity to the other disciples, but not one of them ever suspected that he was not one of them. “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve” (John 6:70-71).
The fact that someone goes to church, prays, sings, or teaches does not make them a believer. God does not call us to be suspicious inspectors of others and question whether they are saved. However, He does command us to do that for our own hearts. “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Peter 1:10). We are not meant to live in fear and doubt regarding our salvation, but we are to make sure of it.
We do not do anything to earn or keep our salvation, but genuine believers will remain committed to following Jesus.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
One of the most compelling examples of Jesus sharing the gospel is the story of the woman at the well. There in Samaria, where Jewish people normally did not go, Jesus spoke to a woman who was shunned by her community because of her immoral lifestyle. He offered her hope and a new life which she gladly received and then went to share with others. Their conversation took place while the disciples had gone to buy food. When they returned and offered it to Jesus, He refused it. “But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:32-24).
When we do God's work with the diligence that it deserves and requires, we will get tired. But when we do, we also have a source of strength and renewal available to us. Most of us will never endure anything close to what Paul experienced, yet he called his suffering “light affliction.” That is not because the pain was not real, but because he was comparing it to something more important. Additionally, he was experiencing inward renewal—being strengthened by the Holy Spirit so that he could continue the work. We have that same resource available to us, so that we can receive the inward strength to keep going on for God no matter what happens.
We do not work for God in our own strength, and when we come to Him, He will provide what we need.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
2 Corinthians 5:9-11
When we look at the life of the Apostle Paul, we see a man who was consumed with a passion for sharing the gospel with others. The man who had once led the persecution of the church was now its greatest missionary voice. Paul traveled across the Roman Empire, facing opposition, danger, persecution, and physical distress for the sake of the gospel. One thing was constantly on his mind—the day on which he would face God to give an account of his service. J. C. Ryle wrote, “We and God must at last meet face to face. We shall have to render an account of every privilege that was granted to us, and of every ray of light that we enjoyed. We shall find that we are dealt with as accountable and responsible creatures, and that to whomsoever much is given, of them much will be required.”
That day of accounting that Paul knew and wrote about is coming for each of us as well. If we have trusted Christ as our Savior, our moment of judgement will not be to determine if we are going to Heaven—that has already been settled. Instead, this judgment will be to determine how well we invested our lives for Christ. The Lord has given us time and talents and resources, and He expects us to use them. In the parable of the talents, Jesus described what His reaction would be to those who do not do so. “His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed” (Matthew 25:26). How devastating it would be to have God describe us as wicked and lazy when we stand before Him. How much better it would be to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21).
Serve the Lord today with an eye on eternity and a desire to hear, "Well done," when you see Him.
But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
1 John 2:20-21
Throughout the Bible we see God instituting means to remind His people of important truths and events. We see it in the feasts that the Israelites were commanded to keep. We see it in the monuments and memorials that they were instructed to erect. And we see it in the Lord's Supper that we are commanded to observe. All of the things that God has done for us and told us must be remembered. It is not enough just to learn the truth once. We need to hear it and be reminded of it again and again.
If we do not do things to make us remember, we will forget. All around the world there are the shattered remnants and ruins of memorials to people and events that once stood proudly, but now have been almost or even completely forgotten. We need to hear the truth again and again. Even if we have heard it before, we need the repetition and reminders. Peter wrote, “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12).
We never outgrow our need for regular reminders of the truth. No matter how long we have been saved or how much we have grown spiritually, we remain in need of having our memories stirred. We must not lose sight of all that God has done in our lives or forget that He is the one who is doing it. We must never lose our appreciation for all that has been given to us. And we must not grow weary of being reminded of the things God wants us to know.
We all need to be reminded of what God has done for us and what the Word of God teaches.
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
In December of 1776, with the outcome of the American Revolution teetering on the brink of defeat after a series of lost battles, Thomas Paine wrote to encourage those who believed in the cause of freedom to stay the course. He said, “These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” There are few things that are more effective in revealing whether or not someone is truly committed than hardship and suffering.
In his day as in ours, there are people who claim devotion to a cause, only to give up when things get tough. The Christian life is not a bed of roses. Becoming a believer does not create a special field of protection around us that keeps anything bad from ever happening. And when things get difficult, we see a separation between those who are truly committed and those who have simply been going along for the ride. Jesus saw this during His ministry. While He was working miracles, healing the sick, and feeding people, many followed Him. But when He began explaining that He was the only way of salvation, that was much less popular. “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). True believers will never turn back from following Jesus.
If we love God as we should, nothing will be able to make us turn back from our commitment to Him.
As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-13
The factor which most determines the outcome of our Christian growth is the way that we view the Bible. When Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, he praised them for the seriousness with which they took the Scriptures. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “The Bible is God's Word. Whatever the Bible says is so.” In an age of relativism when uncertainty is held up as a virtue, it is important that we as God's people hold fast to His Word and live by what it says.
The truth of the Bible is not subject to popular opinion. All around us we see churches going directly against what the Bible says. They are making adjustments to what has been held and practiced for centuries in obedience to Scripture in order to better fit into the world around them. That is a path to destruction. Once we start picking and choosing which parts of the Bible we will take literally and seriously, and which we will interpret away or ignore, there is no stopping point.
The devil delights when we do not take the message of God as authoritative and controlling for our lives. Our opinions or preferences, or those of the world around us, must not be allowed to overrule what God has declared. We must take the Bible as God gave it to us, accepting all of it no matter how much it may conflict with popular opinion.
God has given us His Word to guide every part of our lives, and we must trust and obey all that it says.
Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
1 John 2:22
The central question that every person on earth must answer is the question that Pilate asked when the religious leaders of the Jews brought an obviously innocent man before him, seeking the death penalty. “Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified” (Matthew 27:22). What we think of Jesus, how we view Him, and whether we accept His divinity and trust Him alone for salvation determines our eternal destiny. Charles Spurgeon said, “Depend on it, my hearer, you never will go to Heaven unless you are prepared to worship Jesus Christ as God.”
Many people try to make Jesus less than what He was. They are willing to accept Him as a teacher, a mystic, a miracle worker, or even a prophet, but they will not accept Him as Lord and Savior. Yet there is no other way in which we can approach Him. Unless we believe that He is God and the Messiah, we have no hope of salvation. Addressing a crowd of people who believed they could be saved because of their spiritual heritage and their religious practices, Jesus said, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).
No matter what position he holds or what denomination he belongs to, a person who does not accept that Christ is God and the only way of salvation is not a Christian. No amount of theological training, years in ministry, or good deeds in the community can make up for this defect. We either accept Christ on His terms, or we do not know Him at all. Anyone who denies this truth is working on behalf of the enemy and is not any kind of believer at all.
No one can be saved who is not willing to accept that Jesus is both who He said He is and the only way of salvation.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
I read a humorous story about a man who was loudly complaining to a store manager about his negative experience shopping there. He went on at some length about the failure of the staff to address his needs. Finally, running out of steam, he concluded by declaring that the company had to have a policy that only allowed them to hire complete idiots. To this final comment, the manager asked, “Sir, would you like an application?”
There are many times when we are quick to identify the problems of others while being blind to our own faults. We may think that we have things together, but sometimes that is a matter of self deception rather than honest evaluation. It is easy to listen to the voice of pride that tells us we are better than others. But it is far more valuable to listen to the Holy Spirit and the Bible when they show us where we still are missing the mark.
We all need honest friends who will help us identify areas of our lives where we need to improve. If we rely only on our own evaluation, we are likely to be mislead. In his famous poem "To a Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church," Robert Burns described the progress of a louse crawling over the fancy lace of a rich lady's bonnet as she sat unaware of its presence on her head. He concluded (translated from the Habbie dialect of Scottish to modern English):
Oh, that God would give us the very smallest of gifts
To be able to see ourselves as others see us!
When we see ourselves as God does, we cast away pride and self confidence and rely fully on Him.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
Born into slavery in Virginia, Booker T. Washington was nine years old when the Civil War ended and his family was freed. Throughout his life, he dealt with discrimination and opposition, struggling to find acceptance and a way forward. Despite all that he endured, Washington refused to abandon his faith in God or his determination to treat others properly. He said, “I will not permit any man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”
We sometimes are tempted to use the actions of others or of society as a whole as an excuse for our own bad behavior. But Jesus calls us to a better way of living. Our heart attitude toward others does not have to be dictated by their treatment of us. Even the worst people we know who treat us horribly and say awful things about us are to be loved rather than hated. If we allow ourselves to become bitter toward our enemies, we are failing to show them Christian love and the example of Jesus, and we are damaging our own spiritual health.
While it may be satisfying to let someone have a piece of our mind or to condemn those who oppose us, they are instead to be loved and even pitied. Jesus pointed out that God does not reserve the blessings of the natural world just for His children, but freely gives them to all. In the same manner, we are to demonstrate grace and mercy even to our enemies.
The way we treat those who hate us reveals a great deal about the depth of our obedience to God.
Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
1 John 2:23
Surveys show that religious pluralism—the idea that there are multiple, equally-correct ways to know God and have eternal life—is becoming increasingly widespread in our society. Many people have swallowed the lie that it doesn't matter what people believe because as long as they are sincere in their faith, God will accept them. That thought may be comforting to those who do not want to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus Christ and His exclusive offer of salvation, but it is tragically wrong. Believing this lie means they will reject their only chance of salvation.
Jesus made it clear that there was no other way to reach Heaven than by faith in Him. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:7-9). Everyone who offers an alternative means of salvation is directing people toward Hell rather than Heaven.
The doctrine that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone is not popular, but it is true. There is no other way—no good works, no alternate belief system, no religious affiliation, no heritage—by which sinful men can come to a holy God. The more our society rejects this truth, the more firmly we must hold to it. There is no compromise or accommodation that we can make so that the message becomes more acceptable because any such change destroys the message. And changing the gospel brings judgment on both those who hear the false message and those who spread it. “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).
We must hold fast to the message that Jesus Christ is the only way and hope of salvation.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Anyone who grows fruit or vegetables quickly learns the importance of pruning. If we leave a tree or a plant to grow however it will, it will not long be productive. On the other hand, if we get out the shears and the pruning hooks and shape the plants, removing that which would hinder them being fruitful, we will find a much better harvest. God does the same thing in the spiritual realm. The difference is that a fruit tree will not complain if you lop off some weak branches. Yet too often we protest against the very means God has chosen to make us more like His Son.
Dr. John Rice wrote, “Jesus suffered, so we should not be too much above suffering. And as long as it is the loving hand of God upon us, we should not fret. Do you think the surgeon who wields a knife to take out a cancer is your enemy? Of course not. God may sometimes give us thorns, as he did Paul, who was exalted above measure. When God gives a thorn in the flesh to us as He did to Paul, in order to humble us, is God our enemy? No, God is our best Friend. He loves you and me and He is going to care for us.”
There are things in all of our lives that God sees as hindrances to our growth and development. Thus when we are undergoing purging, we need to guard our hearts against bitterness or anger toward Him. He knows what we need far better than we do. Our faith is not shown to be real when things go well, but when we trust God as we undergo the hardships He allows or brings into our lives.
We must not cling to that which God knows we would be better off not having in our lives.
Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
Maybe you've seen the Peanuts cartoon I came across. Lucy is talking to Charlie Brown. With an angry expression she declares, “I hate everything. I hate everybody. I hate the whole wide world!” Charlie Brown replied, “But I thought you had inner peace.” Lucy then said, “I do have inner peace. But I still have outer obnoxiousness.” There are a lot of people whose lives display a contradiction between what they say they are on the inside and how they appear on the outside. The two are supposed to match. Those who observe our lives should see a consistent, continuing reflection of the love of God. “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10).
While it is possible for people to deceive others for a time, eventually the type of “tree” we are will be revealed by the fruit that we bear. There is no way for an evil tree to bear good fruit. The overflow of what is in our hearts will eventually come out in our words and our actions. The only way to produce good words and good works is to have a good heart. But that is beyond our ability to achieve on our own. We must have divine help. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
Does what others see in your life clearly display the power of God at work within?
Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.
1 John 2:24
The Christian life is a marathon rather than a sprint. Jesus told a parable about the different kinds of soil that produced a different response when the same seed was sown into them. “Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away” (Matthew 13:5-6). The seed in the stony ground initially looked like it would produce a rich harvest as the plants grew quickly. But because the seedlings that sprung up were not well rooted, they shriveled away when the heat of the sun fell on them.
The thing we need is not a dramatic new teaching or doctrine, but rather a commitment to abiding in the way we have already been taught. While we should certainly continue to grow and develop as Christians, becoming more mature and Christlike, we do that not by seeking something beyond what we have been given by God, but by dwelling in it. Every day the Word of God should be filling our hearts and minds. A Christian who only receives spiritual food once or twice a week cannot expect to be healthy and fruitful.
When we abide in the Scriptures daily and allow them to abide in us, we have every reason to expect success in the Christian life. Jesus promised, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). There is a power and effectiveness that comes from a believer spending time in the Word that cannot come from any other source. We must be abiding in the truth day after day to stay on the right path.
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Every year new words come into the language to explain or identify trends and changes in society. One of the relatively recent new words is “adulting.” It is used mostly by young adults to identify ways in which they are acting grown up and responsible. You can even buy “I Adulted” wall calendars. Each one comes with stickers you can place on different dates to mark these events. Some of the stickers that come with the calendar are: I paid a bill on time, I cooked a meal, I kept a secret, I took a shower, I did the laundry, I put away my phone, I matched my socks, and I only took one selfie. The idea of celebrating such things as milestones strikes most Baby Boomers as immature. That's what we were taught to do growing up, and that's what we do everyday—even without getting a sticker for it.
But spiritual adulthood is something that should be cultivated and celebrated. We are not meant to remain as baby Christians. We are commanded to grow and mature and become more like Jesus. It is shameful for someone who has been saved for years to still be a childish Christian. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Hebrews 5:12). Our world desperately needs Christian men and women who are full grown adults in their faith to stand against the rising tide of evil around us.
If we devote our hearts and minds to the Word of God and prayer, our faith will strengthen and grow.
And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
It is easy for Christians to get wrapped up in this world. We live here, have jobs and families, neighbors and friends, hobbies and interests, and all the things that make up the lives of those around us. But we have something they do not, and it should dictate what we love and how we live. Those who are not saved are still “children of this world” but we are “children of the resurrection.” The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ change everything for those who receive His offer of salvation. And we should be far more interested in the eternal than we are in the temporal. We still have to make a living and use what God has given us., but but as the old song puts it: “This world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' through.”
D. L. Moody said, “Surely it is not wrong for us to think and talk about Heaven. I like to find out all I can about it. I expect to live there through all eternity. If I were going to dwell in any place in this country, if I were going to make it my home, I would inquire about its climate, about the neighbors I would have – about everything, in fact, that I could learn concerning it. If soon you were going to emigrate, that is the way you would feel. Well, we are all going to emigrate in a very little while. We are going to spend eternity in another world. Is it not natural that we should look and listen and try to find out who is already there and what is the route to take?”
We should live every day in light of the fact that Heaven is our eternal home.
And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
1 John 2:25
Pretty much all of us are familiar with empty promises. We've seen advertisements for products that will supposedly fix all kinds of problems. We've gotten emails from foreign royalty promising us a fortune in return for a small advance payment. And most of us have experienced the heartbreak of having someone let us down when they had promised to help. The strength of a promise is not in what it offers, but in who makes it. The most glowing promises in the world are empty and meaningless unless they are backed up by someone who is willing and able to fulfill them.
The most precious promise that has ever been made to any of us is the promise of salvation through Christ. It is precious not just because it offers us eternal life in place of the eternal torment we deserve, or because of the wonders of Heaven that are waiting for us in the future, or because it does not require any good works or obligation on our part. It is most precious because it is certain and sure. God has never failed to keep a single promise that He has made. Solomon said, “Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56).
Being the beneficiaries and recipients of such a certain promise lays on us a responsibility. Salvation costs us nothing, but it does bring a desire to live for Him who gave so much for us. Paul wrote, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). The certainty of the promise means that one day we will stand before the Lord and give an account of our lives. What a joy it will be if we can stand before Christ having invested our lives on Earth for Him
Rejoice today in the certainty of God's promise of eternal life, and live today in such a way that you can look forward to His return.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Imagine an army going into battle armed with cap guns. They might be able to march impressively and make some noise, but they would have no chance of victory against an enemy armed with real weapons. That seems like a ludicrous example, but how often do we try to fight spiritual battles with earthly weapons? The result is the same—certain defeat. Yet if we use the spiritual weapons God has provided for us, victory is assured. The battle is real, but the final outcome is already settled.
George Whitefield said, “Since then Christ is praying for us, whom should we fear? And since He has promised to make us more than conquerors, of whom should we be afraid? No, though an host of demons are lined up against us, let us not be afraid; though the hottest persecution should rise up against us, yet let us put our trust in God. Even though Satan, and the rest of his apostate spirits, are powerful, when compared with us; yet, if put in competition with the Almighty, they are as weak as the smallest worms.”
The reason that we yield to temptation and give in to sin is not that is overpowering, but that we are not using the mighty weapons God has made available to us. We know that prayer is essential, yet often we set it aside because we are too busy. We know that the Word of God is our weapon, yet too often it gathers dust while we focus on other things. When we use God's weapons, the victory will be ours.
Spiritual battles can never be fought and won with our own resources—we must use God's weapons.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
1 Timothy 4:1-3
We must never lose sight of the fact that the devil is a master counterfeiter. Through the ages, he has successfully convinced people that the imitations of what God made are just as good as the real thing. So it is no surprise to read in the Bible that the devil also has doctrine. The closer to the truth his imitations are, the easier it is for Satan to convince us that there really isn't any difference. A great deal of false doctrine is not a direct contradiction of what God said, but comes from either adding to or taking away from God's doctrine. The end result is a counterfeit which looks like the real thing but is a deadly lie. God's truth is not up for revision, and it is true regardless of whether or not it is popular and accepted.
The ability to discern the truth does not come from our own strength of mind or wisdom, but from a close and personal relationship with the Word of God. Before we accept any doctrine as true, we must determine whether it lines up with what the Bible says. If it does not, it is one of the devil's doctrines. Paul praised the believers in Berea for their diligent use of the Scriptures to confirm what he was teaching them. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). The more that we know of what God said, the less likely we are to be taken in by the devil's doctrine.
The more we dwell in the Word of God, the less convincing the devil's counterfeits will be.
But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
1 John 2:27
Every Christian receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. It is not something that happens later on after we have started to grow in grace or reach a certain level in the Christian life. He is there from the beginning. Yet while every believer has that anointing and powerful presence, not every believer lives from day to day under the filling and control of the Holy Spirit. This is not something just for preachers or missionaries or other Christian workers, but for everyone who is part of God's family. A. W. Tozer said, “The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.”
The Holy Spirit never leaves us. His presence is the assurance that our eternal destiny is settled. But our choices determine the extent to which He is in control of our lives. There is a constant battle taking place between the new nature and the fleshly nature we had at birth. We are not passive bystanders or observers to that battle. We have a responsibility to yield the control of our lives to the Holy Spirit and follow His direction. There is no way for us to fulfill God's purpose otherwise.
The ultimate direction of our lives is determined by who controls us. Paul asked, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). As we yield to the direction and control of the Holy Spirit, we will produce His fruit in our lives and accomplish the work God has given us to do.
The power of the Holy Spirit is only displayed in the lives of those who have yielded control to Him.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14
The world often looks at Christians as if we were crazy. They don't understand why we do the things we do and avoid the things we don't do. It simply doesn't make sense to them because they lack the spiritual insight that only comes from receiving the Holy Spirit when we are saved. They may read the same verses from the Bible that we do, but the response is not the same. No amount of education can produce a true understanding of the spiritual principles of the Word of God. But with the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, even a young Christian can grasp the truth.
It is this understanding of the Bible as true and authoritative that produces godly Christian living, for it is the Bible that the Holy Spirit uses to guide our steps. Jonathan Edwards wrote, “The purifying influence of the Spirit corrects the taste of the soul; thereby He savors those things that are holy and agreeable to God. Like one with a discriminating taste, He chooses those things that are good and wholesome, and rejects those that are evil. And thus the Spirit of God leads and guides; He enables men to understand the commands and counsels of God’s Word, and rightly to apply them.” Our guiding principle of life should be to love what God loves and hate what God hates. We determine this, not by our culture or by our feelings, but by what He inspired for us to read and follow.
We must be people of the Word because that is the tool the Holy Spirit uses to direct our steps.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
When Isaiah gave his prophecy about the coming of John the Baptist, the events he described were still some seven hundred years in the future. Yet when the “voice crying in the wilderness” appeared on the scene in Israel, everything happened just as Isaiah had foretold. There is nothing mysterious or difficult to understand about this fulfillment of prophecy, because it was based not on Isaiah's ideas or opinions, but on what God had revealed to him about the future. Everything that God has promised has either already happened just as He said, or it will when God's time is right for that promise to be fulfilled. There is no doubt about the truth or validity of the Word of God.
In our day, it is common for books to come out with new editions. Many times the later versions are substantially changed from the original. New information may have come to light, new studies may have been done, and errors in the first version may need to be corrected. That is not true of the Bible. It was exactly right when the Holy Spirit inspired the human authors of Scripture, and it is still exactly right today. It will never change. Jesus declared, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). Despite the fact that things around us change, the Bible never will.
Everything God said in His Word is completely reliable and trustworthy, and we must obey it.
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
Most of us have a memory from childhood of being given an assignment by our parents, which we were supposed to complete before a certain time. Maybe it was something around the house—mowing the lawn or doing the dishes or giving the dog a bath or washing the car. Maybe it was something for school or a church project. But just as we have that memory of being given the job to do, most of us also have the memory of not getting it done. Perhaps we got distracted by a friend or another project that was more to our liking. Perhaps we lost track of the time and didn't begin soon enough. But everyone who has that experience knows what a dismaying thing it was to look up and realize that our parents had returned and found the job undone.
One day Jesus is going to return. None of us knows when that day will be, but we do know that it will happen. Like all the promises of God, the promise that Jesus will come again is certain. We also know that He has given us work to carry out in His absence. Specifically, He has given us the "ministry of reconcilliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18) that we might tell others how they can be reconciled with God. And He has told us that if we will abide in Him, He will bear fruit through us, even as the grape vine abides in the branch and thus bears fruit (John 15:5). If we are abiding in Him, we will be living and serving in such a way that we will be glad to see Him when He returns.
Since we don't know when Jesus is coming back, we must live every day so that we will be ready when He does.
Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep. And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul. And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly, and he became his armourbearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.
1 Samuel 16:19-22
David's family apparently did not hold him in high regard. When Samuel came and told Jesse that one of his sons would be the next king of Israel, Jesse didn't even bother to let David know. It was not until Samuel insisted that David was brought before him and anointed. Even after that shocking event, David just went back to keeping the sheep. Rather than sit around waiting for what the future would bring, he remained faithful to the task of the day. Being anointed as the next king did not give David an inflated sense of his value. He simply followed God's leading from one task to the next.
We must not forget that we are called, equipped, and gifted by God for His work, not so that we can be lifted up and praised, but so that He can be. Jeremiah passed on this warning from the Lord to his helper Baruch. “And seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (Jeremiah 45:5). God is more than able to move us to a larger place of service for Him when it is His time. He doesn't need our help to bring about His purposes. The most important thing is not what might happen in the future, but what task is before us in the present.
Do not let the lure of someday keep you from faithfully fulfilling the responsibilities of today.
Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed. This is the land that yet remaineth: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri,
When Amy Carmichael heard Hudson Taylor speak about his missionary work in China, she felt the call of God on her life to go to the mission field. But during her preparation, her neuralgia became so severe that she was told it would be better for her not to go. When a doctor recommended she travel to India in hopes that the climate would improve her health, Carmichael jumped at the chance. She soon established a work in India to which she gave the rest of her life, rescuing thousands of orphans and teaching them the gospel. Carmichael wrote, “Let us die climbing.”
God has given each of us a work to do for Him. We know that we still have more to do because we are still here. When our work is finished we will be in His presence. No matter what obstacles we face, no matter what circumstances may come, there are always things that we can do for God's work. The prayers that uphold a preacher's arms are as important as the sermon he delivers. The small offering from a limited budget is a larger gift in God's eyes than many others. The kind word of encouragement can literally be the difference between life and death.
No matter how long we have been saved and working for God, there is still more for us to do. We need to be focused on the road ahead, doing all that we can for Him. After many years of powerful and effective ministry, Paul wrote, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,” (Philippians 3:13).
Be content with what God has given you, but never be content with what you have done for Him.
If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
1 John 2:29
In 2007, a company called 23andMe released a new product. For the first time, people could get their DNA tested to determine their ancestry. Since then, millions of people have taken a home DNA test to find out more about their heritage. Many people have built family trees and found relatives they didn't know existed. Because DNA is unique from person to person, but also passed down from parents to their children, it has proven to be an excellent way of identifying family members. The evidence of DNA heritage has even been used by the police to solve cases that were many years old.
Every child of God has a divine DNA—a new nature that is not like the sinful nature with which we are born. There are no perfect Christians, but every Christian has that new nature. And just as children inherit physical characteristics from their parents, we inherit that nature from God, and it will be on display in our lives. James highlighted the importance of our lives backing up what we claim we believe. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
We are not capable of being righteous on our own. Doing right is not in the DNA of a person who was born a sinner. That is why we need the new nature. The nature we receive from God when we are saved is completely unlike what we had before. And just like DNA determines our hair color, height, and so much more, the divine nature that comes at salvation will show up in the way that we live. While we do not receive salvation through good works, they will naturally follow after we come to Christ.
Those who have truly received God's new nature will reflect it in the way that they live.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
3 John 1:2-4
It's natural for us as we go through to life and get older to begin thinking more and more about the future. None of us know what tomorrow will bring, but there are things that we can and should do to prepare for it. Those of us who are parents and grandparents feel a special responsibility to ensure that the truth we have received is not lost in the future generations. This is God's plan—for us to teach those who are coming after us what He has said. “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children” (Psalm 78:5-6).
The faith that we have is not guaranteed to be passed on to those who come after us. As someone said, “God doesn't have any grandchildren.” Each new generation must accept Him for themselves. But while we cannot get saved for those who follow, we can certainly set an example for them that God is real and He is to be loved, feared, and obeyed. We can prepare the way for them to walk in truth, and if we desire that outcome, then it is vital that we walk in truth ourselves. Our children, whether our biological offspring or the spiritual children we have led to Christ, need that from us more than anything else. They need to see that the faith we speak of is real, and that we will follow it to the end of our lives.
The more we live out our faith, the more likely those who come after us are to believe and follow it.
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
Studies show that, depending on age, culture, and setting, most people speak between 7,000 and 20,000 words per day. I'm sure you know someone who is at one of or the other of those extremes. If you asked most people to recount what they talked about during a given day, they would struggle. They might remember part of a few conversations, or a particularly intense exchange they had with someone. But by and large, most of the things over the course of a day are not particularly memorable. Those words may not stand out, but they do reveal what is in our thoughts and what matters to us. And there is one topic that should be most on our lips—revealing what we care about more than anything else—and that is Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). The more that we love Jesus, the more we will talk about Him. And the more we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, the more we will talk about Jesus, for that is what the Spirit speaks of above all else.
Herbert Buffum, Jr. wrote:
Let’s talk about Jesus, the King of kings is He,
The Lord of lords, supreme, throughout eternity
The Great I Am, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Door
Let’s talk about Jesus more and more!
Our love for Jesus should so fill our hearts and minds that talk of Him fills our mouths as well.
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
1 John 3:1
When we think of the people in Jesus' day, it is hard not to wonder why so many of them did not accept and acknowledge Him as the Messiah. Though there were many reasons, one of the biggest hindrances to coming to Christ as the Savior was the feeling that things were fine the way they were—that the people didn't need God's deliverance. There were people who believed their standing with God was secured by their ancestry, but they were wrong. John the Baptist confronted this attitude in his ministry when he preached, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Luke 3:8).
In truth, each one of us is hopelessly and helplessly lost from the moment were are born. We must have God's salvation to have a way to reach Heaven. And He extends the offer of salvation freely to all who believe, not because we are worthy or add something to His kingdom, but simply because of His amazing, overwhelming love for us. There is no earthly love that can compare. It is only Divine love that could provide a means of salvation for us. It is only His mercy, not our merit, that can open the door of Heaven. We must not lose sight of the greatness of God's love toward us. There is no other reason that we have been adopted into His family. And while we know that there will be many who will reject the message, just as they did during His lifetime, that should not stop us from speaking of the love of Jesus and sharing that hope of salvation with those around us.
The love of God is to be reflected to those around us so that they too have a chance to experience it.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
One of the most important doctrines for every believer is the truth that Christ could return at any moment. It is so important because it not only changes the way we live, but the way we work for God. At a conference where they were speaking together, F. B. Meyer asked Evangelist D. L. Moody, “What is the secret of your success?” Moody answered, “For many years I have never given an address without the consciousness that the Lord may come before I have finished.” The Christian who recognizes the reality of the Lord's return will serve Him with diligence.
Every one of us wants our Lord's evaluation of our lives and ministry be a positive one. This is how Jesus described the reception of those who had been faithful in their service to Him: “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21). Those words are not for the gifted or the famous or those whom the world deems to be successful. Those words are for those who have maximized the use of what God has entrusted to them for His service. Those who are awake and alert—diligent in their service for Him—will receive the reward that is reserved for faithfulness. Those who are not will be embarrassed and ashamed when they stand before the Lord.
Jesus is coming back, and we need to serve Him faithfully and diligently in light of that great truth.
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
If you have ever traveled with a group to a foreign country, you've probably had a guide who knew the local language, culture, and historical sites to take you around and make your visit more meaningful. Choosing the right guide is crucial. Imagine being in a nation where you don't speak the language, only to find out that the person who is supposed to be guiding you can't speak it either. That would be a disaster. Wisely choosing a qualified guide adds a great deal to such a trip, but having a guide who doesn't know his way around the country will leave bitter memories.
The same is true in the Christian life. There are lots of people who are happy to give advice as to how we should live and conduct ourselves. But it is vital that before we begin to follow them, we make sure that they actually know what is right and that they themselves are going in that direction. In Paul's day, there were a large number of people who were not guiding people toward Christ but away from Him. Paul warned them that if they followed such guides and examples, they were headed for destruction. Instead, he told them to follow his example and the example of those who were also walking in the same way. Paul was not holding himself out to be a perfect Christian, but rather one who was committed to following Jesus. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
We must be careful to only follow the example of those who themselves are following Jesus Christ.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:2
Thomas Chisholm was twenty-seven years old when he trusted Christ as his Savior in a revival near his home in Kentucky. Chisholm would go on to write a large number of hymns, but one of his earliest, which is still sung today, was written not long after he was saved. It is titled “O To Be Like Thee.”
O to be like Thee! Blessed Redeemer;
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
We know that God's ultimate purpose for us is to be like His Son, and one day in His presence that goal will be accomplished. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). But we must not be content to know that we will eventually be made in His image. It should be our purpose and goal every day to be more and more like Jesus.
We cannot make any progress toward this task in our own strength, but we do not have to. God has given every one of His children the Holy Spirit, who lives within us. As we yield to Him, He will guide us to conform to Jesus' likeness. We cannot spend time with Him without it being apparent to those around us. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Everyone who knows us should be aware from our lives that we are spending time with Jesus.