Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
The fact that we carry the name of Jesus in our world is a wonderful privilege. It is also an awesome responsibility, and God calls us to live up to the name He gave us—to walk worthy of His calling. Jonathan Edwards wrote, “The first and the great work of a Christian is about his heart. Do not be content with seeming to do good in 'outward acts' while your heart is bad, and you are a stranger to the greater internal heart duties. See that your chief study be about your heart—that there God’s image may be planted; that there His interests be advanced; that there the world and flesh are subdued; that there the love of every sin is cast out; that there the love of holiness grows.”
The Christian who walks with a humble heart, loving others and living in the power of the Holy Spirit will bring honor to the name of Christ rather than dishonoring it. It should break our hearts to even think of bringing reproach on the precious name of Jesus. But that is what our sins do. When Nathan confronted David over his sin with Bathsheba he told him that, “by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:14). God calls us to live holy lives as we go through this world so our behavior will accurately reflect His holy nature.
Our actions are a picture of God for good or ill that those around us see.
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
2 Timothy 2:1-4
The practice of training new soldiers before sending them into battle goes back for thousands of years. Untrained soldiers are of little value when it comes time to face the enemy. During the Spanish-American War as new sailors being inducted into the US Navy, they were issued distinctive high boots to wear when they were sent to training camp. Thus the expression “boot camp” came into use to describe a period of preparation, often intense, for a specific endeavor.
The Bible frequently uses military metaphors to describe the Christian life. Just as soldiers must learn the discipline and skills necessary to be an effective fighter for his country, believers must learn the discipline and skills necessary for victory in the spiritual warfare each of us faces. This is not a simple or painless process. It requires focused, intentional work to develop our spiritual muscles to have the endurance and strength to win the battle. “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
If we are not willing to endure the hardship and discipline of training, we will never be able to stand in the day of battle. We should not expect things to be easy. Jesus faced Satan's direct temptation when He was physically exhausted and hungry. Yet in the strength He received from His Father, He rejected every appeal of the devil, responding with the Word of God. He paid the price, and we must as well.
Victory is never a simple and painless process, but it is worth the work required.
Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:
There aren't very many people who love radishes above all other vegetables. While people may like them in salads or as part of a dish, they don't get eaten alone too often. But radishes do have one unique quality—they grow extremely fast. In fact, most varieties of radishes will be ready in just three weeks after the seeds are planted. This quick growth makes them popular for gardeners who want to start bringing in at least something for a harvest early in the season. Radishes are also commonly used to teach children about the growth process because it does not take long to see the results.
The good seed of the gospel message, provided it is understood and believed by the hearer, does not take years and years to bring results. Rather, it produces immediate fruit. Though we go through a growing process for our whole Christian life, we do not need to wait years and years to become fruitful in God's work. In fact, Paul tells us that process should start on the day we hear it. We see this truth illustrated in the story of the Samaritan woman Jesus met at Jacob's well. Upon realizing that He was the promised Messiah, she immediately told others about Him. “The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:28-29).
Growth and development and training are all good and important. It's important for us to sharpen our axes so that our work for God is as effective as we can make it. But our need to continue to grow and develop in the future should never be an excuse to avoid being fruitful today.
Bearing fruit for God is not just for those who have been saved for many years, but for every believer from the start.
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
God places a lifetime calling on us when we become part of His family. His intention and command is for us to not just start out in His work, but also to finish it. The night before He would be crucified, Jesus was able to say to the Father, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). Sometimes people say the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint, but in truth it's even longer than that. The Christian life is an ongoing, continuing race that will never be finished as long as we live. That means to do what we should, we must continue depending on God for the entirety of our Christian life.
Many times when Christians fail to remain faithful and complete their race, they fail because they have been relying on their own strength rather than God's. They reach a point where their resources and strength are exhausted, but because they do not rely on Him, they stop going forward. Whether we feel strong and confident, or weak and discouraged, we should never be running in our own strength. The best that we can do on our own is doomed to fail. Charles Spurgeon said, “Without the Spirit of God we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind or chariots without steeds. Like branches without sap, we are withered. Like coals without fire, we are useless. As an offering without the sacrificial flame, we are unaccepted.”
God's strength never runs out; and if we rely on Him, He will always provide the strength to go on.
And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
The level of freedom we enjoy as believers in America is almost unprecedented in history. We have been able to meet openly, witness publicly, and stand for our beliefs without fear of secret police, prison, torture, or death. Of course, we realize that the freedom we enjoy came at a high price. Through the centuries, men and women have laid down their lives on behalf of their nation, purchasing the freedom we are blessed to experience. We must never forget what it took to get and keep it, and we must also never forget that freedom is not guaranteed to us.
There are no promises in the Word of God that we will not be called on to be faithful to the Lord in times of intense persecution, hardship, and suffering. We have many examples from both Scripture and history of those who have gone before us and could not be stopped from following Jesus or silenced from preaching the gospel.
Richard Wurmbrand, who spent years in Communist prisons because he would not stop preaching the gospel wrote, “Persecution has always produced a better Christian—a witnessing Christian, a soul-winning Christian. Communist persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands. These people cannot understand how anyone can be a Christian and not want to win every soul they meet.” Even as we give thanks for the freedom we enjoy and express our appreciation for those who paid the price for it, we must also commit ourselves to being faithful if it were to be taken away.
If we are not faithful when times are good, we cannot expect that we would be faithful when times are bad.
Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
Leona Helmsley was known in her lifetime for being fabulously wealthy. She was also known for the way she treated other people, coming to be known as the “Queen of Mean.” When she died in 2007, she left most of her family members out of her will—but she did leave $12 million to take care of her dog, Trouble. Despite some efforts that were made to overturn the will, Trouble was chauffeured to vet appointments in a stretch limo and housed in a luxury hotel in Florida. After the Maltese died in 2011, per Helmsley's will, she was cremated and her ashes were placed in Helmsley's mausoleum. Despite the fact that many people thought the will outrageous, the terms were carried out according to her wishes.
When Paul wanted to make the contrast clear between the law and grace, he used the example of a covenant made by man—how once it has been confirmed it does not get changed. God's promises are far more faithful than any that humans can make. They are never changed or altered. When Balaam was hired to curse the Israelites, he blessed them instead, pointing out to the heathen king that God had made promises to them that could never be changed. “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).
Every promise God has made is certain and sure, and no power in or under the earth can change it.
As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;
The world values many things that God does not, and He values many things that the world does not. Where the world holds great wealth in high esteem, God paves the street of Heaven with gold. Where the world values fleeting popularity and amassing followers, God is worshiped eternally by angels too numerous to count. Where the world focuses on talents and abilities, God focuses on faithfulness. Faithfulness does not depend on anything external. Not everyone can sing beautifully, speak dynamically, or teach eloquently. Not everyone can be an inspiring leader, efficient organizer, or meticulous planner. But everyone can be faithful. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “Even an old hound dog can be loyal.”
God does not look for us to serve Him when it is easy or convenient. He is not impressed by those who give up because His work is difficult. He is looking for those who do what is right to the best of their ability, and then keep on doing it over and over and over again. Jesus described His return like an owner who has been away and comes back to check on his employees. Those who are being faithful when the Lord returns will be rewarded. “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” (Luke 12:37).
The devil will try to draw away those who are faithfully working for God. He tempts them to become proud and lose their focus. He tempts them to sin and damage their influence. He tempts them to trade in the rigors of working for God for the promise of pleasure and ease from the world. If we want to hear God say, “Well done” when we stand before Him, we must remain faithful no matter what comes our way.
No matter what anyone else says or thinks, God knows whether we have been faithful, and He will reward those who are.
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
When the steamship Lady Elgin wrecked in a violent storm on Lake Michigan in 1860 with some three hundred people on board, a young student at Northwestern University swam out into the storm and the pounding waves to rescue survivors. Edward Spencer went out again and again, eventually saving the lives of seventeen people. His heroic and courageous act made headlines around the world. Yet though he had risked his life and endured lingering physical affliction as long as he lived because of his exertions, Spencer later told a reporter that not a single one of those he had saved had ever returned to express gratitude.
Christians have every reason to be grateful people. We have been given a priceless gift, not because of anything we have done or deserve, but because of God's grace. Yet all too often we take our blessings for granted, and rather praising God for what we have and giving thanks for what He has done, we gripe and complain about what we lack. Gratitude is not just something we are to feel in our hearts and think in our minds, but rather something we should be expressing with our words. A. W. Tozer wrote, “Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” We should be grateful to God every day of our lives, and we should make sure that others see and hear our gratitude.
There is no shortage of blessings in our lives, and there should be no shortage of gratefulness either.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5
In 2014, an Italian woman named Claudia Moretti received a home left to her in the will of her uncle. In cleaning out the house she discovered a safe which held the equivalent of about $70,000 in old Italian lire. She thought she had made a great find, but when she took the notes to the bank, they told her that because Italy had converted to the Euro in 2002, all lire notes had been required to be exchanged by 2011. Because the deadline had passed, her inherited cash had no value.
There are many things people rely on for the future. Some put their money in the stock market or buy collectible items they hope will become more valuable. Others invest in real estate or purchase annuities. None of these things are wrong, and indeed planning for the future is part of responsible stewardship with what God has given to us. But nothing in this world is truly reliable. Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matthew 6:19).
The promised inheritance we received as children of God is different. It is certain and secure. Nothing can change it. Nothing can make it lose its value. Nothing can take it away from us. The precious treasure of eternal life is guaranteed by the power and faithfulness of God. He never defaults on a promise or changes the currency so that what we once had becomes worthless. We will receive everything that He has said that we would.
The promises and faithfulness of God guarantee that we will receive all He has offered to us.
Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.
Paul had never been to Colosse but he wrote to the believers there expressing his joy at hearing they had believed in Jesus and had banded together to follow Him. The thing that convinced Paul they were truly Christians was the report he received from Epaphras regarding their love. There are many attributes and actions that should characterize us as believers, but the distinguishing mark of a follower of Christ that is apparent to the world is love. The night before Jesus went to the cross, He gave this declaration to His disciples: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
This statement was not random; it is a reference to something that had happened earlier that evening. Just hours away from the death of Jesus on the cross, the disciples were not united in love for Him and each other, but invested in squabbling over which of them was most important. “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Love cures the conflicts that plague our lives. Love shows that we are truly disciples of Jesus. Love is the unmistakable proof that cannot be denied that we are walking in His footsteps.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Love is power. The Holy Spirit, for the most part, works by our affection. Love men to Christ; faith accomplishes much, but love is the actual instrument by which faith works out its desires in the Name of the Lord of love. And I am sure that, until we heartily love our work, and love the people with whom we are working, we shall not accomplish much.” We are called to love each other. We are called to love the people around us. We are called to love the Lord. If we want to do anything truly great for Him, then we must walk in the Holy Spirit Who will produce the fruit of love in our lives.
Love—from God, for God, for other believers, and for the lost—should be the hallmark of our lives as followers of Christ.
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
2 Corinthians 4:1-4
We live in a world filled with darkness. But that is certainly not unique to our generation. When sin entered the world, darkness came with it. In every era of history, the devil has been actively at work, trying to keep people in the dark regarding the way to salvation. God calls us to be lights in that darkness. We are not called to blend in or be invisible, but rather to live in a way that clearly shows we are God's children and brings honor to His name. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
We must never forget that we do not live for ourselves alone. We are God's plan to reach the lost with the good news of the gospel. We are God's plan to create a positive influence and impact on those around us. There were many other things God could have done to accomplish His purposes, but He chose to make us part of His work. That is both a great privilege and a great responsibility, and we must not fail to do our best to be bright lights in a dark world. The devil will do all he can to keep people from seeing the light of the truth, but he cannot stop our witness—only we can do that.
If our light is hidden from view, those in darkness have no place to turn for help and hope.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
2 Corinthians 5:6-9
One of the most precious things we have as believers is the confidence of our eternal destiny. All around us there are people who fear death because they do not know what comes next, but we do. When D. L. Moody wrote his autobiography, he began with these words: “Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body. I was born of the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever.”
Our future in Heaven is already secure. It is not something that will be weighed or judged at the end of our lives, for it is not something that depends on us. The moment we place our faith in Christ alone for salvation, the future is settled. Once we leave this life, no matter when that may be, we will be in the presence of God in Heaven. The proper Christian attitude toward the future is confidence, not fear. We did not save ourselves, and we do not keep ourselves saved. We work not to gain salvation and secure our place in Heaven, but to express our gratitude and gain God's approval for our work.
The Christian has no reason to fear the future, for we know God will keep His promises.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
Orphans in England in the 1830s were truly destitute. And George Müller, a pastor in Bristol, was burdened to do something about the problem. He and his wife opened an orphanage to give them a safe place to stay, nutritious food to eat, and education. In time, this ministry grew until there were five homes filled with orphans. In all, Müller cared for more than ten thousand children without ever asking anyone for money. Instead he prayed, and God worked again and again to meet the needs. One of the truths of prayer that mattered most to Müller was the need to keep on praying until God provided.
George Müller said, “Suppose that we believers in the Lord Jesus make our requests to God. Suppose also that, as far as we can honestly judge, the obtaining of our requests would be for our spiritual good and for the honor of God. We must then continue in prayer until the blessing is given to us. Furthermore, we have to believe that God does hear us and will answer our prayers. Frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained and in not expecting the blessing. As assuredly as any individual uses these points, so assuredly will his requests be granted.”
There are times when the answer to our prayer comes immediately. But there are other times when it is only persistent, consistent, ongoing prayer that brings the answer. The need to pray and keep on praying, not giving up when we are tempted to be discouraged is great. There are people in our lives for whom we should be praying every day as long as we live. We must never give up in prayer.
Keep on praying until the answer comes, no matter how long it takes.
Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
In Greek mythology, the river Lethe that flowed through the underworld had a unique characteristic. People who drank the water from Lethe forgot everything about their lives on earth. All of the things they had done or left undone were wiped away from their minds. Other cultures had similar myths about the way memories of life would be taken away at the end of life. One of the realities of life is that all of us have things we would rather forget. Maybe it was something we did that didn't work out right or something that we should never have done at all. Perhaps it was something we should have done but didn't. Our memories can be painful, even of things we have confessed and tried to make right. The devil uses our guilt and shame against us to cripple us and hinder our work for God.
God never reminds us of sins we have forsaken. If we have made things right with Him and with others to the best of our ability, He will never bring it up again. God doesn't hold grudges for what we did or failed to do in the past. Instead He clears our record once and for all. “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). There may be regrets for the past, but there should never be a sense that God is holding something over our heads. He forgives and then He forgets forever.
We should not allow memories of things God has forgiven and forgotten to hinder our walk with Him.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
For hundreds of years the Israelites brought their sacrifices to the priests at the altar, first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. When they had broken the law God had given through Moses, it was not enough just to feel sorry for their sin. There had to be atonement made for their sin. These sacrifices did provide a temporary way of dealing with sin, but while the sin was covered, it was not taken away. No animal sacrifice could make an atonement for a person's sins. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). A better sacrifice was needed, and that is what Jesus provided in His death on the cross.
The blood of Jesus was not a temporary fix for sin. It was a permanent solution, an offering made once and for all. Peter wrote, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Mark Twain, who wanted nothing to do with Christ, referred to Christianity as a “slaughterhouse religion.” But what he meant as a critique is actually true. It is only through the blood of Jesus that our sins can be taken away never to return. It is only through His precious blood that we become children of God.
Nothing we can do will atone for sins. Salvation is only in the precious blood of Jesus.
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
God does not save us just so that we can escape Hell and spend eternity with Him in Heaven. If that were His only purpose, He could easily take us to be with Him the moment we are saved. God saves us so that we will bring glory to Him by the way we live and produce fruit in our lives for His glory. This is God's plan for every believer, not just a select few. Each of us are called to be active in sharing the gospel, encouraging others and setting an example—being busy about the Lord's work.
J. C. Ryle said, “The Spirit is compared to the wind, and, like the wind, He cannot be seen by our bodily eyes. But just as we know there is a wind by the effect it produces on waves and trees and smoke, so we may know the Spirit is in a man by the effects He produces in the man’s conduct. The Spirit never lies dormant and idle within the soul: He always makes His presence known by the fruit He causes to be borne in heart, character, and life.”
When our lives do not show fruit for God, it is a sign that our relationship with Him is not what it should be. Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). If a child of God is not being fruitful, it is evidence that he is not trusting in God to provide the strength and resources necessary to produce fruit. You do not need to lecture apple or orange trees on the importance of producing fruit. They do it as part of their nature, as a result of being firmly rooted to their source of strength.
Fruitfulness in the Christian life is not the exception but the expectation as we walk in the Holy Spirit.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Though salvation does produce a change that will be apparent on the outside, it is not the result of an outside change. Salvation is an inside change that God makes when we place our faith in Him. “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). The Lord described the new life that follows salvation using the image of a well fed by a spring of water—an artesian well. Such a well is not impacted by what happens above ground. It is not dependent on a pump to bring up the water. Instead the water is forced to the surface by the pressure from underneath.
When Jesus saves us, He places His living water inside of us, and from then on it will come out—it cannot do otherwise. There is no way for it to be contained. This internal life source is what differentiates the follower of Jesus Christ from the rest of the world, and one which the world cannot stop or quench. This is not something limited to a handful of “super Christians” but the normal experience of every child of God. Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
The life Jesus gives flows outward from our lives to impact the lives of those around us.
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
Most of us remember sitting down to take a test in school and being confronted by a question to which we were certain we knew the answer, but couldn't remember what it was. Sometimes there is a difference between the things we know and the things we remember. That never happens with God. He knows the frailty and brevity of our lives. He made us. He knows the hurts we experience and the burdens we carry. He loves us. He knows the fears that haunt us and the uncertainty about the future that can cloud our minds. He guides and protects us.
Most of all, He never forgets us. There are times when it seems like God has lost sight of where we are. We are tempted to wonder if He still loves and cares for us. We question whether He is still working in our lives. David knew this feeling well. All of the hardship he endured because of the jealousy of Saul weighed heavily on him. David spent years with his life at risk, being hunted from place to place. He fought battle after battle against the Philistines. Yet through all of that, David recognized God's goodness to him. Looking back at the way God had worked in his life, David would say, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).
We may not see God's working in the present moment, but we must never think He has forgotten us.
Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
We do not, have not, and never will have in our own strength what we need to do the work to which God has called us. Those who rely on themselves will eventually crumble and fall. Only those who are strengthened by the Lord will be able to fulfill His purpose. When Elijah was discouraged, he was fed by an angel. “And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God” (1 Kings 19:8). God's power is able to meet every need we may face, and it is available to us for the asking, but far too often we do not ask for it.
Dr. A. J. Gordon told the story of an American who was visited by a relative from England. As part of their sightseeing, they went to Niagara Falls. He told his guest, “Come, and I’ll show you the greatest unused power in the world.” When they reached the great waterfall he said, “There is the greatest unused power in the world!” “Ah, no my brother, not so!” said the Englishman. “The greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit of the living God.”
As we look around us, we see churches closing their doors, families falling apart, and a culture that is rapidly going downhill. That does not mean that it is no longer possible to do what is right, live victoriously, and make a positive impact on those around us. It simply means that we need to rely on God's power to strengthen our work for Him. He does not intend for us to do things on our own, but He calls us to come to Him in humble dependance for the power we need to do His work. In this way, we not only receive the strength that we need, but we also develop a close relationship with God. God delights in giving strength to the weak and sustaining us in HIs work. The devil delights in self-reliant Christians, because he knows they will not be able to stand against him for very long.
If we rely on our strength, we will always find ourselves short of the power we need to win the victory.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
Though she was sick for much of her brief life, Elizabeth Clephane devoted her energy to helping others. She was known in her hometown in Scotland as “the sunbeam” for the help she and her sisters provided for the poor. She wrote a number of poems, some of which were set to music by Ira Sankey and then used in D. L. Moody's meetings. Not long before she died, Clephane wrote these words:
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness,
A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat,
And the burden of the day.
The cross is often used as a symbol for Christianity, but it is far more than just a symbol. It is a representation of the literal sacrifice that Jesus made for us and of the sacrificial life He calls us to live for Him. There are no easy shortcuts to walking in the footsteps of Jesus. The path is hard, marked with insults and opposition, and full of difficulty. It was for Jesus, and we should not expect it to be different for us. The Lord said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
The cross is not something to be picked up lightly. Nor is it something to be laid down in the face of persecution and rejection. The more the world rejects the truth, the more important it is for us to stand firm as followers of Jesus Christ.
Those who faithfully bear the cross through this life will receive God's "well done" when they see Him.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
The world views Jesus in a number of different ways. Some see Him as who He said He was—the Savior of the world. Others reject Him as the Messiah but think of Him as a good teacher, a prophet, or a good example. Some view Him as fiction invented by followers bent on creating a new religious system. Others have never even heard His name. The way we look at Jesus is crucial to every part of our lives. We must never lose sight of the fact that He is both fully God and fully man at the same time, even though we cannot completely understand how that is possible.
We know it to be true because that is what the Bible tells us. G. Campbell Morgan said, “He was the God-man. Not God indwelling a man. Of such there have been many. Not a man deified. Of such there have been none save in the myths of pagan systems of thought; but God and man, combining in one personality the two natures, a perpetual enigma and mystery, baffling the possibility of explanation.”
The nature of Jesus matters to us because of our needs. We needed a divine Savior because we are sinners unable to save ourselves. We needed a human example because we must live in a world filled with temptations and sin and triumph over it. Jesus knows exactly what we face. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
The divine-human nature of Jesus gives us hope both for salvation and for victory over sin.
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
Benjamin Franklin did not believe it was right for public officials to be paid for their work. So during the time he served as governor of Pennsylvania, Franklin set aside the salary he received. Following his death in 1790 it was revealed that he had left the sum of 2,000 British pounds, the equivalent of about $1 million in today's money, to the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania. The money came with a catch—most of it could not be spent until two hundred years later. When the money started to be dispersed in 1990, people who had no relationship with Franklin benefited from the inheritance he had left them which they did nothing at all to deserve.
Nothing that we do qualifies us to be made part of God's family and made to inherit His riches and grace. Yet that is exactly what salvation does. Paul wrote, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17). This incredible inheritance is all due to the grace of God. As Augustus Toplady put in “Rock of Ages:”
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.
The longer we are saved the more tempted we are to forget that it was God Who did all the work and granted us the inheritance as a gift. We look at years of service to Him and think that somehow it means we weren't really so bad and only needed a little bit of saving. That is the worst kind of ingratitude, and it positions us to fall to temptation. Instead, we should be continually thanking God for granting us an inheritance with Him which we did not deserve and could never earn.
Thank God continually for His grace and for the inheritance He has given you through salvation.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
Though the concept dates back to the ancient Greeks, the first known use of the expression “seeing is believing” in English appeared in 1639. The phrase is familiar to us, as we all have heard claims made that turned out not to be backed up by reality. When we see something for ourselves, we know that it is real and true. Yet the Bible portrays a different kind of certain knowledge, based not on what we see but on what we believe. We do not have to see God to know that He is real. We do not have to have received all that He has promised to believe that we will. We do not have to understand all God is doing to trust that He is doing what is best.
Our lives are to be governed by faith, not by sight. Paul wrote, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). When the things that we can see are allowed to dictate what we believe to be true rather than the things God has said, we are off the path of faith. Instead of obeying God despite what our circumstances may be, we will only be obedient when it makes sense to us. But we lack the ability to properly see and discern what is happening. From His viewpoint of omniscience, God sees truly, and if we believe what He says and follow Him, we will be walking by faith.
The promises of God are all we need to guide our steps and give victory in the daily battles of life.
(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: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
If I wanted to go to Seattle from where I live in the high desert of California, I would not drive south to get on I-40 and go east. That road doesn't go to Seattle. Instead I would get on I-5 and go north. The road one takes and the direction one drives is determined by where one wants to end up. If we hear someone who keeps talking about how much they long to go to Seattle while continuing to drive toward Texas, we begin to question whether they really want to go north at all. It is the same way with the way we live our lives. If what we say we want to do or accomplish is not matched by how we are acting, there is something wrong.
The way that people live in this world is determined by what they love. If their hearts are set on things of the earth, there is no surprise when that shows up in their choices and actions, and they behave in worldly ways. If their hearts are set on the things of God, there is no surprise when they follow His Word and live in ways that bring honor and glory to Him. The problem when Christians do not live as they should is a heart problem more than anything else. When we tolerate sin in our lives, it shows we don't love God as we should.
If our hearts are right toward God and set on the things of Heaven, right conduct will not be an issue.
And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is. And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!
2 Samuel 18:32-33
David had many good qualities and was described as a man after God's heart, but when it came to his children, David dropped the ball. He did not discipline his children when they were young, and as they grew he continued to let them get by with doing wrong rather than confronting them. Speaking of David's son Adonijah the Bible says, “And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom” (1 Kings 1:6). The rebellion of Absalom against David which led to Absalom's untimely death, had its roots in David's sin with Bathsheba which seems to have affected his refusal to deal with the horrible sin committed by his oldest son Amnon. David wept bitterly when Absalom was killed in battle, but how much better would it have been if he had engaged as a father years earlier?
Fathers bear a great responsibility when it comes to teaching their children to love, fear, and serve God. Charles Spurgeon said, “Schoolmasters are well enough, but godly fathers are, both by order of nature and grace, the best instructors of their sons, nor can they delegate the sacred duty. When fathers are tongue-tied religiously, need they wonder if their children’s hearts remain sin-tied? Religious conversation need not be dull.” No father is going to be perfect, and every child comes to an age when they make their own decisions as to if they will follow God. But while a Christian father has children in his home, he should be committed and dedicated to teaching his children what is right. Paul wrote, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Nothing should be more important to fathers than the spiritual development of their children.
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
People tend to make two mistakes when it comes to dealing with the devil. The first is not taking him seriously. We have a determined and devious adversary who is fully committed to our destruction. The devil is not a cartoon character who walks around in a red suit carrying a pitchfork. He is a raging lion seeking prey to devour. If we are not on guard, we will fall into his snares, damaging both our own lives and the lives of those around us.
The second mistake people tend to make in their understanding of the devil is believing that he has more power than he actually has. Although Satan is powerful, he is not all-powerful, and we must not feel that he cannot be defeated or that we have no hope of resisting him. A. W. Tozer said, “I’m not afraid of the devil. The devil can handle me – he’s got judo I never heard of. But he can’t handle the One to whom I’m joined; he can’t handle the One to whom I’m united; he can’t handle the One whose nature dwells in my nature.” The Lord knows the adversary we face cannot be defeated in our strength and power, so He makes His power available to us. The only way Satan can win is if we fail to use the resources that are available to us to fight against him.
Just before the crucifixion Jesus warned Peter about his coming denial of the Lord. Peter did not take the warning seriously enough, and indeed fell prey to Satan's temptation. “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). When we face Satan, we have God on our side. If we are willing to lean into the resources He provides, we will be victorious, because Jesus has already defeated the devil.
Christ has already overcome Satan and delivered us from the power of darkness. In Christ, we can walk in daily victory.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Though it was not the earliest work of fiction published in English, Daniel Defoe's 1719 book Robinson Crusoe is often considered the first true English novel. The story of a shipwrecked sailor making a life for himself on an island caught the interest of generations of readers, and it remains one of the best-selling and most translated books in the world. What Crusoe made for himself on the island—his house, his tools, his clothing—belonged to him because he was the one who had made it. In the same way, everything in the world is the rightful property of God because He is the Creator of all. David wrote, “The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psalm 24:1-2).
There should never be any dispute about God's right to control every part of our lives. Perhaps you have heard it said that the statement “No, Lord” is a contradiction. If Jesus is Lord (and He is), we have no right to decline His commands. God made the world, and He formed and fashioned us. Men make many wonderful things, but they do not create the raw materials. Instead they use what God has already made. Obedience is not based on understanding and agreement, but on God's inherent right to tell us what to do and our responsibility to do it.
Refusing to do what God demands is a rejection of His rightful ownership over every part of our lives.
And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye? And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land. When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.
Before his death, Joshua divided up the Promised Land among the twelve tribes of Israel. Each tribe was given a region to conquer with the instruction that all the inhabitants were to be expelled from the land. But many of them failed in this assignment. Among those who had not managed to conquer their assigned territory was the tribe of Dan. Instead of continuing to fight, they sent men into further areas of the country to seek a place where they could more easily settle. When the five men reached the northern part of the country, they found a region that was lightly defended. They returned home and issued a challenge—it's time to get up and fight. The people responded, and quickly triumphed over the enemy.
The fact that there are problems we face does not mean that God has forsaken us or that we are somehow uniquely burdened. God's people have always faced obstacles and opposition, and as long as we live in this sin-cursed world, we will too. Rather than letting that discourage us, we should take heart that God is on our side, and He can defeat any foe we face. It's easy to make excuses that focus on the opposition, but our focus instead should be on obedience. There are no victories for the lazy, the fear-bound, or the defeatists. But there are great victories for the believing and courageous.
God gives both strength and victory to those who rely on Him and rise to face the battles of life.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
William Cowper's great hymn “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” is still beloved by many people and is sung in churches around the world.
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
But when it was first published 250 years ago, it was somewhat controversial. Some people thought the language was too graphic and focused too much on blood. Some tried to change the words to downplay the depiction of the suffering of Jesus on the cross. One hymnal even changed the first line to “From Calvary's cross a fountain flows.” The change didn't last long, and soon the original language was restored. But it should come as no surprise that some people are offended by the message that salvation is only available through the blood of Jesus Christ. It was not popular in Jesus' day, in Cowper's day, or in our day.
Ever since Cain, people have been trying to offer things to God in place of what He demands. Elaborate religious rituals have been developed that attempt to find another way of reaching Heaven. There is only one true way to God. Peter said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Nothing that we can do reaches God's perfect holiness. The best that we can offer is flawed and tainted by our sinful nature. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can provide redemption and forgiveness of sin. Those who reject this way of salvation have no hope of eternal life. Yet those who come in faith are not rejected, and they will be saved and kept secure in eternity.
Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed ones of God
Be saved, to sin no more.
We must never be ashamed of proclaiming that Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
The religious leaders of Jesus' day placed great value in their earthly heritage. They were descendants of Abraham, and they believed that gave them special status in God's eyes, no matter how they were living. Jesus highlighted the discrepancy between them and Abraham especially the way he had responded in faith while they rejected the truth. One of the statements they made to Jesus reveals the huge blind spot they had developed—one that impacts many people in our day. They claimed that they were free, having never been enslaved. In others word, they did not need the freedom and salvation Jesus came to provide.
Anyone familiar with the history of the Israelites knows the folly of that claim. They were slaves for centuries in Egypt. The northern part of Israel was conquered by Assyria and scattered. The southern kingdom was conquered and carried away into Babylon. After the return, the land was conquered again and again, by Alexander the Great, and then the squabbling remnants of his empire. At the time they proclaimed their freedom to Jesus, they were subjects of Rome. Worse than that, they were slaves to sin and didn't recognize it.
This is not just a problem that affects lost people. Christians can become blinded to the reality of the chains sin puts on our hearts, minds, and lives. We can feel and claim that we are free when instead we are really in bondage. All of us need the truth, and we must reject the lies that tell us we are fine apart from God.
We need to be alert to Satan's attempts to blind us to the true state of our relationship with God.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
The evidence that God created the world is plainly visible for anyone and everyone to see. There is no part of the world where the evidences of creation cannot be observed. This reality places a responsibility on every person born into the world to acknowledge a Creator. There are no exceptions to this knowledge. Paul wrote, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
Yet despite this evident truth, many people refuse to admit that God made the world. Some deny that He even exists. They do so because acknowledging God as the Creator would place a requirement on them to come to Him on His terms. Their ignorance of God as the Creator is not based in God's negligence to reveal the truth to them; it is based in their preference for ignorance above facing the truth. Peter wrote, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water” (2 Peter 3:5).
When we look at the world around us, we see overwhelming evidence, not just of God's power but also of His love and care for what He made. The beauty of creation is not the product of accidental changes over billions of years, but rather the product of God's nature and character. Every part of our world declares that God is real and that He takes pleasure in His creation.
Seeing creation as a manifestation of God and His power leads to worship and surrender.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
During a raid on an Al Qaeda terrorist cell in the Anbar Province of Iraq in 2007, Navy SEAL Douglas Day was shot multiple times. The ceramic plates in his body armor stopped eleven of the shots fired at him. (He later described it as being like hit with a sledge hammer.) Despite several injuries he sustained, Day continued to fight and help his squad members until the battle was won. The citation for his Silver Star medal reads, “His decisive leadership and mental clarity in the face of his injuries ensured the success of the mission.” If Chief Petty Officer Day had gone into battle without his body armor, he would never have survived.
Every day we face an enemy working to destroy us. That means that every day we need to be armored up and ready for battle. This is not something we can do in our own strength. Before we can be victorious over Satan, we must be prepared with the tools and strength that God provides. When we avail ourselves of these resources, we cannot be defeated. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). As powerful as he is, Satan is forced to run away if we do as we should. This means that every time he wins over us, it is a victory to which we have contributed ourselves. When we triumph over him, it is not in our power, but thanks to the armor of God that defeats his attacks and puts him to flight.
A Christian who does not put on the armor of God is a Christian who is headed for defeat.
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Though God placed many things in the world for us to enjoy, our lives and His creation are not primarily for our purposes and pleasure, but for His. We were not just created by God, but we are also designed to accomplish His will. Paul wrote, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). We will never be perfect, but we should be committed to doing all we can to bring honor and glory to God. A life that brings honor to God is successful, and a life that does not is a failure—regardless of what others may think in either case.
J. C. Ryle wrote, “Just as a parent is pleased with the efforts of his little child to please him, though it be only by picking a daisy or walking across a room, so is our Father in heaven pleased with the poor performances of His believing children. He looks at the motive, principle, and intention of their actions, and not merely at their quantity and quality. He regards them as members of His own dear Son, and for His sake, wherever there is a single eye, He is well-pleased.”
Before we seek to do what will be most pleasing to us, we must consider what will be most pleasing to God. Jesus said, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). People tend to do what is easy and comfortable, but often doing the will of God requires endurance and sacrifice. If our ultimate goal is to do what God wants, then we will find the hardships and sacrifices along the way worth making.
What we do is determined by what we love most and whom we most wish to please.
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
2 Peter 3:11-13
Much in our world is fleeting and temporary. Businesses come and go, nations rise and fall, trends appear and then quickly vanish. But truth is solid and secure and never changes. One of the unchanging truths found in Scripture is that we are going to stand before God one day and give an account to Him of our lives in His service. Those who are faithful will face that day with joy while those who have lived to please themselves will be ashamed when they see the Lord. Knowing that this truth is certain should change the way that we live. It should stir us to lives of holiness and godliness.
Godly living demands commitment. There are always reasons to let down our guard or lower our values. We must reject these temptations and follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Horatius Bonar wrote, “If you are Christians, be consistent. Be Christians out and out; Christians every hour, in every part. Beware of halfhearted discipleship, of compromise with evil, of conformity to the world, of trying to serve two masters—to walk in two ways, the narrow and the broad, at once. It will not do. Halfhearted Christianity will only dishonor God, while it makes you miserable.” Because we do not know when we will see God, whether when the Lord returns or when our lives here have ended, we should live every single day with the thought of giving account for it firmly in our minds. With that goal in mind, we will keep living like Jesus no matter what the world does.
We will stand before God to give an account, and we should invest each day so that will it will be a day of rejoicing.
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him. And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
1 Samuel 3:7-9
Samuel was still very young when Hannah took him to Shiloh in fulfillment of her vow to God. She had promised he would serve God before he was born, and Samuel took up that task. When God first spoke to him, Samuel did not recognize the voice and assumed it was Eli, so he went to see what was wanted from him. Though Eli was not a good father or a fully-faithful priest, he did eventually recognize that God was speaking to the boy, and the instruction he gave Samuel was exactly right—not just for one little boy at the Old Testament Tabernacle, but for each of us. The only proper response when God instructs us to do something is to acknowledge His authority, listen attentively, and then carry out what He says.
God does not speak to us audibly like He did to Samuel, but His Word is alive and powerful, and it contains everything He knows we need to live in a way that pleases Him. Peter wrote, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). Our problems with disobedience do not spring from a lack of information, but from a lack of submission to God and His direction. Those who commit themselves to hearing and doing whatever God tells them will find that their lives are pleasing to Him.
When we know what God wants us to do, the only proper response is wholehearted obedience.
And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
One of the most popular religious fads of the 1700s was deism—the belief that while there was a God Who had created the world, He had then stepped aside to allow it to function on its own. The deists rejected the Bible and its accounts of miracles and God's intervention in the affairs of men. Some of the leading voices in the founding of America, men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, subscribed to some form or degree of deism. The belief was sometimes described with the illustration of a clock maker, who after manufacturing was complete wound the clock and then left it to run on its own.
The Bible paints a different picture of God. Rather than being distant and removed from our world, He is actively involved in everything that happens. Daniel courageously warned the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar that he was not the power—God was. “That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:25).
God cares deeply about what happens to us. He holds everything in this world together day after day. We often do not see the many ways in which He works behind the scenes, but He is there nonetheless. We do not ever need to doubt or worry that He will abandon or forsake us. God loves us and is actively involved in our lives. This truth should lead us to faith and peace, even in the midst of the storms of life. Peter wrote, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). We can trust that God is at work even when we cannot discern what He is doing.
The God who holds the world together cares about you.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The hostility toward most religious belief, and especially toward biblical Christianity, that we see in our day is hardly new. In fact, New Testament churches have faced persecution ever since the Day of Pentecost. Yet in all that time, though millions have been martyred, meetings have been forbidden, buildings have been destroyed, and sharing the gospel made a crime, churches continue all around the world. All of the efforts of Satan to silence the people of God have failed to accomplish His purpose.
This is not because Satan has not worked—and indeed is still working—to accomplish the task, using all of his considerable resources and power. It is because Jesus not only founded and started the local church, but because He also continues to build and strengthen it. The Lord did not begin a project and then walk away without caring how it turned out. He is no longer physically present in the world, but He is still very much active through the work of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus promised. On the night before the crucifixion Jesus told the disciples, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).
Things in this world may get worse. The freedoms we have enjoyed to worship God without fear and tell others about Him may be taken away. But the truth of Jesus building His church is not dependent on circumstances or human governments. There is no power to compare to His, and His promises are faithful and true. We are on the winning side.
God's overcoming power is always available to those who are faithful to do His work.
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
Though Jesus only lived for about thirty-three years in this world, He spent that time wisely. He lived obediently, fulfilling the mission that God had set for Him. The night before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). The next day on the cross Jesus declared again this completion of God's mission. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30).
Yet when Luke begins the book of Acts, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he describes the Gospel which bears his name as a record of what “Jesus began...to do.” That certainly implies a work which is not yet finished. We must understand that while Jesus did complete all of His own responsibilities and assignments, that was only the start of God's plan. Today it is our turn to take up His mission—to carry on the work of reaching others with the good news.
Jesus set the pattern for us to spend our days in obedience to God and in full commitment to His work in the world. He intends for us to keep doing the same works that He did for as long as we live. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).
We are God's plan to do His work and reach those around us with His good news.
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Only three of the disciples got to go with Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration. While Peter, James and John were there, they witnessed a portion of the glory Jesus had left behind to come to this world being revealed. They saw Him talking to two of the greatest of God's servants, Moses and Elijah. In his typical hasty fashion, Peter declared that he wanted to stay there. But God made it very clear where their focus should be. “And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves” (Mark 9:7-8).
Jesus is to be first in everything. He is not just to be part of our lives, but is to be the center of our lives. Whether it is in our families, our careers, our hobbies, or—especially—our churches, Jesus must have preeminence. He alone deserves that exalted place. Nothing can be allowed to come before Him. Sometimes we find it easier and more convenient to put other people on a pedestal. It makes us feel good about them and about ourselves. Yet only Christ deserves that spot.
When we declare that Christ is in first place, our lives should also reflect that statement. Jesus pointed that out when He talked about the importance of actually obeying His commands rather than just hearing them and paying lip service to them. He asked, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). "Lord" is more than just a title or name of Jesus. It is a declaration that He has every right to rule our lives, and it should be a title that expresses our glad submission to His good and kind commands.
Anything that takes the place of Jesus in our lives is wrong, no matter how good it may seem to be.
Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
Relations between the Roman army and the people of the lands they had conquered were frequently hostile. The Romans' presence was often resented, and the fact that they could do things like compel someone to carry their gear for a mile down the road added to the anger. Additionally, the Romans viewed the subject people as beneath them, not bothering to veil their contempt. But there were exceptions to these realities, and one of them was the Roman centurion stationed at Capernaum. He was kind and gracious to the Jewish people, and even provided for a synagogue to be built there. When the Jewish leaders wanted to convince Jesus that he was worth helping despite being a foreigner, they pointed to this investment as proof that he loved their nation.
When we think about love of country, we often think in military terms, highlighting the soldiers who risked and sacrificed so much for freedom. We may think of political involvement or civic duty. But the most important thing we can do for our country is not voting or seeking office or trying to get laws passed, although these can be good ways to engage in the unique freedoms we enjoy in America. The most important thing we can do for our country, however, is to build the work of God. Even in the heathen nation of Babylon, God instructed His people to seek His help for the place they lived. “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7).
Being a good Christian and building God's work is the greatest investment we can make in our nation.
And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
Ruth grew up in Moab, surrounded by people who worshiped the pagan god Chemosh rather than the true God Jehovah. When a Jewish family moved to Moab because of a famine in Bethlehem, Ruth married one of the young men. But soon, her father-in-law, her husband, and her brother-in-law all died. After this tragedy, Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi, decided to return to Israel to be with her people. Though Ruth's sister-in-law Orpah decided to remain in Moab, Ruth insisted on going with Naomi. She declared her intentions in unmistakable terms, stating that she would stay in Israel for the rest of her life. That is exactly what she did, and, in God's grace, she became part of the lineage of Jesus.
The kind of commitment to God that Ruth displayed is what is necessary for us to accomplish anything meaningful for God. She determined to follow the Lord and refused to let anything or anyone distract her from it. Furthermore, she determined at the outset that she would worship Jehovah God for the entirety of the remaining days of her life. God is looking for people who are committed for life, who have no plans to retreat or return to where they were in the past.
Victory comes to those who are fully committed to God's cause and will not turn back no matter what happens.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
Throughout history, different cultures around the world have longed for a visible representation of the various deities they worshiped. Archaeologists find small statues and objects of worship in the ruins of every civilization. Ever since sin brought separation between God and man and Adam and Eve were thrust out of the Garden of Eden, there has been a desire for that personal relationship. The gods worshiped by various peoples were often capricious, selfish, vain, and quick to anger. Having a depiction of such a god in a home might, according to the superstitious beliefs of the time, placate his anger and turn away the distress and destruction that were often attributed to divine action.
The Israelites exhibited this same longing. In the wilderness they asked Aaron to create the golden calf in the absence of Moses. Once they entered the Promised Land, they quickly adopted the various gods worshiped by the people who already lived there. In the time of Israel's great spiritual decline, idols were even set up in the Temple that was dedicated to the worship of Jehovah. They were looking for spiritual help in the wrong place, without realizing who God really is. We do not have to see Him to love Him. But we do need to have a personal relationship through Jesus Christ to know Him rightly.
One of the purposes of Jesus coming to Earth was to let us see and understand God. “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9). Jesus was the physical revelation of the Father. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus was "the express image of his [the Father's] person". You and I will never see Jesus in this life, but there is coming a day when we will stand in His presence. The barrier created by sin will be removed forever and we will see Him face to face.
We know the love of God for us through the life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Worry is a common response to the pressures and troubles of life, but it is always the wrong response. Worry is a declaration that we do not believe God. Either we doubt His ability to meet our needs or we doubt His love for us. Both are slanderous to the nature and character of our loving Heavenly Father. Both are declarations that we know better what should happen and that we cannot fully rely on Him to provide all that we need. Flowers don't worry about how long they will bloom. Birds don't worry about how they will eat. They trust in God, and we should do the same.
Phillips Brooks wrote, “What a vast portion of our lives is spent in anxious and useless forebodings concerning the future, either our own or that of our dear ones! Present joys, present blessings, slip by, and we miss half their sweet flavor, and all for want of faith in Him who provides for the tiniest insect in the sunbeam. Oh, when shall we learn the sweet trust in God our little children teach us every day by their confiding faith in us? We, who are so mutable, so faulty, so irritable, so unjust: and He who is so watchful, so pitiful, so loving, so forgiving! Why cannot we, slipping our hand into His each day, walk trustingly over that day's appointed path, knowing that evening will bring us sleep, peace, and home?”
Worry cannot steal our joy and contentment unless we allow it to do so.
And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear. And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.
1 Samuel 13:3-4
Though it was not God's plan for Israel to have a king like other nations at the time that they insisted on one, He still granted their request for a king. Saul had an imposing physical stature and was someone the people could literally look up to, for he was the tallest man in the nation. But what was more attractive to God was Saul's early humility. Unfortunately, Saul later became very proud. It was at that point that Samuel reminded Saul of the value God places on humility: “And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?” (1 Samuel 15:17).
Over time, being king seems to have infected Saul with pride. He wanted people to think well of him, and he was willing to do anything to achieve that end—even taking credit for a military victory in which he was not involved at all. Instead it was Jonathan's faith and courage that God used to defeat the Philistines, but Saul took credit for it. Pride is a destructive sin, and it is subtle. It creeps in if we drop our guard, and it whispers things we are eager to hear. Yet for all its attractiveness to us, pride is a sin that God hates. Daniel warned the heathen king of Babylon about pride but he refused to listen until God took drastic action to make his point. “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Daniel 4:37).
We must never forget that anything good we accomplish is the result of God's grace, not our strength.
For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
Heaven is filled with the praises of Jesus Christ. He is rightly exalted as the only one Who is worthy of such adulation. When John was shown his vision of the world to come, he saw a vast crowd of people praising Jesus, “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). The world may view Jesus as a joke and use His name as a curse, but He is high and lifted up, and one day they will see Him face to face. In that moment they will no longer mock. They will not stand to fight against Him. Instead when He returns in judgment they will cower in fear. “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16).
For those of us who know Jesus as Lord and Savior, things are very different. We find Him full of beauty and wisdom, gentle and kind, welcoming all who come to Him. Our hearts and mouths should be filled with His praises, as we recognize our utter inability to ever express our gratitude for all that His sacrificial love has provided to us. He is the perfect example for us, having lived without ever violating the commands of God. He is the perfect shepherd for us, providing all that we need to follow Him and please God. He is the perfect Lord for us, guiding the steps of those who will follow Him. Luther Bridgers wrote:
Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting 'neath His sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
Jesus alone deserves first place in our hearts, and Jesus alone deserves our obedience to His Word and His Will.
And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
2 Kings 5:10-12
Naaman was a successful military leader, but that provided him no protection against the dreaded disease of leprosy. He was facing a life of isolation until his early death, but a young Israeli girl who had been taken captive during one of his raids told Naaman's wife that the prophet Elisha could heal the leprosy. It was a measure of desperation for Naaman to go to the prophet of a God he did not worship in a despised enemy country, but he went. Naaman journeyed a great distance to see the prophet, but Elisha didn't even come out to talk to him. Instead he sent a servant with the message that Naaman must go to the Jordan River to be cleansed. The general was irate, but eventually his servants persuaded him to comply, and he was healed.
Many times God does not work the way we expect or prefer to accomplish His purposes in our lives. We ask Him for help, even begging and pleading, yet the help God provides is not attractive to us when it comes. We may be sent to the muddy waters of Jordan instead of the pristine waters of Abana and Pharpar. The important thing is that we do whatever God wants. He is looking for obedience and faith, not for us to pick and choose the means by which He will work.
We must trust God's leading even if His methods are not what we would choose.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
On October 17, 1989, just before the start of Game 3 of the World Series between the Oakland As and the San Francisco Giants, a powerful 6.9 earthquake rocked the region. The damage was widespread in the San Francisco Bay area. Dozens of people were killed, thousands were injured, and homes, buildings, schools, churches, and more were devastated. One of the gripping images of the destruction was the double deck of the Nimitz Bridge collapsed on itself. When the ground shakes, anything that is not anchored securely and built on a firm foundation will be lost.
Our world is filled with doubt, confusion, turmoil, and trouble. In the face of these dangers and threats, it is imperative that we have something stable and reliable on which to base our lives. The only sure foundation we can find is in God and His Word. God never changes, and the Word of God never needs to be revised, updated, or changed to reflect new knowledge. It is eternal and unchanging. Jesus declared, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
As long as we live in this world we will have to face the storms and tests of life. God is not going to remove all of those from our lives. Instead He calls us to trust Him regardless of our circumstances. A faith that is shaken by storms and even earthquakes is a faith that is not properly grounded on a deep and abiding relationship with God and the Bible. He offers refuge from the storms and invites us to come to Him in confident faith that He, the unchanging God, will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. God will always be a place of refuge for those who fully trust Him.
The more our minds are filled with the Bible and our hearts are filled with faith in God, the better we will be able to withstand the shocks of the world.
And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
According to a recent calculation by Forbes, the five richest people in the world are worth a combined total of over 700 billion dollars. If you went out for a meal with that group, no matter what the prices on the menu were, you would not worry about their ability to cover the bill. There is no conceivable cost for food, no matter how rare or exotic, that they would not be able to pay. The resources are there to fully meet every expense. Yet even that almost unimaginable level of wealth pales in comparison to the riches of God's grace provided through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It goes above and beyond anything we can grasp, more than able to cover the sins of all those who believe.
Over the years I've heard people talk about the depths of their sin. Some people have done so much wrong that they despair of ever being saved. What a blessing to be able to tell them that no matter what was in their past, the blood of Jesus Christ was sufficient payment, and that they too could be saved. No one who comes to God is turned aside. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). Every time we present the gospel to someone, we can do it with the full confidence that salvation is available to them. We don't have to sort out all the things they have done and add up the bill to see if the blood will cover it—it will. We simply need to be faithful to share the good news, doing our part to see people reconciled to God.
No sin is beyond the blood of Christ to cover, and no sinner is beyond the grace of Christ to save.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
People find their identity in many things. Some describe themselves in terms of their careers. Others place great emphasis on what they believe or what they do. All of us play different roles in life as children, parents, employees, bosses, neighbors, and citizens. Yet for the children of God, our identity and standing in Him is the most important, and it should be most important to us. Rather than looking to our achievement or accomplishments, we should glory in His love and grace. When He is in first place, all of the other parts of life will fall into place.
Andrew Murray wrote, “Let us ask whether we have learned to regard a reproof, just or unjust, a reproach from friend or enemy, an injury, or trouble, or difficulty into which others bring us, as above all an opportunity of proving how Jesus is all to us, how our own pleasure or honor are nothing, and how humiliation is in very truth what we take pleasure in. It is indeed blessed, the deep happiness of Heaven, to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all.” No matter what we may gain or lose in this life, no matter what we experience or endure, we are His and He is ours. When we view life through this lens, we find it easy to let go of the things of the world and cling to God.
The more we seek the approval of Christ, the less the things of the world will matter to us.
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
In Bible times, those who worked with oxen to plow the fields did not always find the animals cooperative. Merely putting a yoke on an ox did not mean that he would pull the plow. So they devised goads, which could be used to prod the animals. Usually a goad would be seven or eight feet long, and there would be a metal tip of some kind on the end. It was sharp enough to get the animal's attention without causing damage. When an ox was tired of being goaded, it might try to kick the goad to stop the poking sensation. This is the image the Lord used in talking to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus.
One of the most important questions in life is how we respond when God is trying to get our attention and get us to move in a certain direction. We can quickly yield to His prompting, and that will be the end of it. But if we refuse to move forward, we can expect the goad to be used. Trying to kick at God's goads is a painful process that does not produce any good results in our lives. Instead we should be prompt to respond. The more quickly we do what God instructs, the less painful our lives will be. “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Psalm 119:32).
Promptly obeying God's direction spares us the pain of His trying to get our attention.