Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
I remember attending the funeral of a greatly used pastor who had died suddenly at a young age. His death was so unexpected, and it was obvious that his family and the church family had been staggered by the news. Yet despite the sorrow and sadness that were very real, there was also a spirit of hope at this funeral. The people sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." Several of the speakers, including the pastor’s family, talked about the importance of trusting God. As I spoke to the pastor’s wife, she told me how she was trusting God in the storm.
Being a child of God is no guarantee that we will not endure suffering and times of grief. But as children of God, we have a resource of comfort and strength that the world does not know. We have a God who gives us comfort in the midst of our grief. Because Jesus endured suffering, He knows well the pain that we feel. In fact, the Bible calls Him "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3).
It should always be true that our Christian friends and church family will gather around us during difficult times. Yet even if that does not happen and there are dark days when we feel like we are all alone, we are never abandoned or forsaken. The God who gives comfort and peace is always there for His children to help them through the darkest days they face.
If you are burdened or grieving today, turn to the God of all comfort; you will find strength and help.
"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
1 Corinthians 1:17-18
There are many things that are important, but there is one thing that is essential. The heartbeat of the mission of Christ, the driving purpose behind His life, death and resurrection was "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Oswald Smith put it this way, "Oh, my friends, we are loaded down with countless church activities, while the real work of the church, that of evangelizing the world and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected."
Our church is a busy place, and I like it that way. I love that we have programs for fellowship and encouragement and instruction and fun. But I never want us to lose sight of the fact that the primary focus—the most important thing we can do—must be winning the lost to Jesus Christ. There is no greater important priority for us. This is the final command that Jesus left before He returned to Heaven, and we must obey it.
Many times we lose our focus in the busyness of life. There are a thousand things—good things—that can keep us from doing the main thing. And though those things are not bad in and of themselves, they can be used to keep us from doing what matters most. The Bible said of Christ just before He met the woman at the well that He "must needs go through Samaria" (John 4:4). Jews in that day usually travelled around Samaria to avoid the people they looked down on, but Jesus needed to go there—He knew there was a hungry heart who needed a Saviour, and He went where others would not go to reach her.
Take time today to tell someone the Good News. Nothing you can do will matter more.
"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
2 Corinthians 5:18-20
I read about a barber who had just been gloriously saved in an old-fashioned revival meeting. The next morning at work he wanted to share his new faith and witness to the lost. A customer came in, and the barber began to shave him. He was trying to muster up the right words to say. Finally as he stood with his razor poised over the man's throat he asked, "Are you prepared to meet God?"
You may not always find exactly the right words, but God has given to you and every Christian the task of representing Him to a lost and dying world. For thousands of people, today is their last day before they enter eternity. Of course we don't know who those people are. But we do know that God loves the people whose paths we cross and that He has entrusted to us the most important message they can ever hear. The question is whether we will be faithful to share that message with them.
It is said that D. L. Moody made a commitment to God that he would not go to bed without having witnessed to at least one person. On several occasions he went out late at night to find someone with whom he could share the Gospel. There should be a sense of urgency and passion for the lost that drives and motivates us to be effective ambassadors for Jesus Christ.
Share the Gospel with someone today. You never know who may be getting a last chance to hear it.
"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."
1 Corinthians 3:6-9
William Carey, often called the father of modern missions, arrived in India in 1793 with a burden to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who had never heard His name. For seven years he proclaimed the Gospel message faithfully week after week, month after month, with not a single native of India converted to Christ. Carey could have allowed himself to return home defeated and empty-handed.
But he had faith that God would bring the harvest. To his sisters back home in England Carey wrote, "I feel as a farmer does about his crop: sometimes I think the seed is springing, and thus I hope; a little blasts all, and my hopes are gone like a cloud. They were only weeds which appeared; or if a little corn sprung up, it quickly dies, being either choked with weeds, or parched up by the sun of persecution. Yet I still hope in God, and will go forth in His strength, and make mention of His righteousness, even of His only."
Carey established one of the great missionary works in all of history, in great measure because he stayed in the field rather than allowing discouragement to drive him to quit. When we work for the Lord, we will not always see quick results. But just as a farmer remains diligent throughout the spring and summer in hopes of the harvest in the fall, "we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9).
Do not be discouraged if your work and witnessing do not yield immediate results—God will bring the harvest in His time.
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
During the administration of President Ronald Reagan, one of the main international issues facing the United States was a new arms control agreement with the then Soviet Union. As part of his negotiations with Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan refused to agree to a new treaty unless there were significant measures put in place to ensure that both sides complied with its terms. Reagan used an old Russian proverb doveryai, no proveryai—trust, but verify—to drive home his point. When the two men finally did sign the treaty, Reagan used that proverb again, and Gorbachev said, “You say that all the time!”
In our day, there are many who claim to be Christians who are teaching false doctrines and leading people astray. Just because someone uses Bible terms does not mean that their teaching can be accepted without comparing it to Scripture. We need to heed the warning of John when he wrote under the inspiration of God, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1).
Most of us would recognize the devil if he showed up dressed as the cartoon image with a pitchfork and horns and tail. But he is subtle and, as part of his deception, presents himself as a force for good rather than evil. Remember that in the Garden of Eden the serpent tempted Eve by telling her the fruit would make her like God. Is it good to be like God? Of course. But the means proposed by Satan do not lead to that end, so we must be on guard.
Be sure to compare the teaching you hear with the Word of God to determine whether it is true.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
Near the end of his life, Paul wrote to his young protégée Timothy one final letter to encourage him to continue in the ministry and in service to God. The aged missionary knew that his life would soon end. He was being held in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, an underground dungeon where prisoners who had been condemned were held before they were executed.
Yet despite his circumstances, Paul did not complain. He was focused on what was to come—the crown that he would receive from the hand of the Lord for his love of Christ’s appearing. Most of us have never enduring anything like the physical suffering and abuse that Paul experienced for preaching. He was beaten and stoned and persecuted. But the love in his heart kept him going. “The love of Christ constraineth us” he wrote to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 5:14).
I am sure that Paul did not enjoy being chained in a damp, dark underground cell. Yet he regarded his surroundings as an opportunity to witness. Every six hours a new shift of soldiers would arrive to guard him. Clearly that witness bore fruit, because Paul told the church at Philippi about the saints, “that are of Caesar's household” (Philippians 4:22). Rather than focusing on your struggles, focus on your love for the Lord. One day we will see His face, and if we have been faithful to love and serve Him, we will hear Him say, “Well done.”
When we love God as we should, nothing in our circumstances will keep us from continuing to serve Him.
"Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences."
2 Corinthians 5:9-11
We have the certain knowledge that one day we will give an account of our lives to the Lord. That should motivate us to be faithful in obeying His commands, including the final instruction He left to, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). But in addition to obedience, there is another motive for sharing the Gospel—the knowledge that each person must stand before God either saved or lost.
Charles Spurgeon described that day this way: “If you haven’t looked at Christ on the cross, you’ll have to look at Him on the throne—with great trembling. The sacrificial death of Christ will be brought before the eyes of all who refuse to accept His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. In Bethlehem He came in mercy to forgive sin. In the future He will come on the clouds in glory to establish justice. What will we do without a Saviour? On the day of judgment there is nothing we can do if we have not trusted Christ.”
The only hope of salvation is found though faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way to Heaven. And God’s plan for people to hear the Good News and be saved is for His children to tell them. This is a wonderful privilege, but it is also a heavy responsibility. Remembering that judgment is coming, we should do all we can to reach the lost.
Each person you meet today will one day stand before God. Have you warned them of the judgment to come?
"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:57-58
Someone once said, “The men and women who have moved the world have been the men and women the world could not move.” There is something wonderful about a person who takes a stand for God and does not allow anything to shake or change his position. In 1521 the reformer Martin Luther was summoned to appear before Charles V at the Diet of Worms because of his opposition to the false teaching of the Catholic church. Luther was told that he must recant, but he remained committed to the truth even though he was threatened with excommunication and even death.
Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason—for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves—I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant.”
May God give us men and women today who share that passionate commitment to God’s Word. The Bible is under attack on so many fronts, and even the idea that there is such a thing as absolute truth is mocked and scorned by many. Yet despite what man may say or do, the truth abides. And as children of God, when we are committed to standing firm for what is right, we can know that our efforts will be rewarded. Nothing done for God is ever wasted—our work and our sacrifices and our stands are not unseen. The God who gives the victory will bless and reward our efforts.
Take your stand for God, and do not allow anything to move you away from the truth.
And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
1 Corinthians 4:6-7
Recently I came across an excellent quote that says much about how we view the things we have. “The law of rightful ownership says: When we are blessed with money and material things, we are not getting what we deserve, but what God in His grace lovingly allows us to enjoy and care for.” Everything we have belongs to God. The things we have are entrusted to us as stewards to care for on behalf of the rightful Owner.
We like to take credit for our successes and our possessions. Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” That mindset fits well with our world, but it does not fit well with God’s Word. The Bible teaches us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). While it is true that God expects us to work hard and be diligent, it is also true that the very strength and energy that allow us to do that are from Him.
Remembering this truth is especially important when we receive blessings. Though God should receive all of the credit, too often like Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, we boast of what we have done. Far better it is for us to give Him all the glory rather than being judged for our pride.
Rather than being proud because of your possessions, rejoice that God has been so much better to you than you deserve.
"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:"
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
We often think of giving only in financial terms, and that is certainly an important part of it. Yet there is so much more than money involved in having a giving spirit. Giving begins with our attitude, not our checkbook or wallet. When we grasp our possessions and talents tightly, wanting to keep everything we have for ourselves, we are not following the plan of God for our lives.
His grace is meant to turn us into givers, and not just givers, but cheerful and generous givers. Appreciating grace means that we understand that all of the things we have are given to us by God. It also means that we understand the difference between the temporal and the eternal. The great missionary Jim Elliot who was killed in Ecuador in 1956 said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
God does not need our money or our talent or anything else that we have. He owns everything and is all-sufficient. He said, “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (Psalm 50:12). He has designated His work to be supported and carried out by His people because we need to give and work for Him. If we allow His grace to work in our hearts, we will not find it hard to be generous and do what we can to minister to others in need.f
Be a giver today—of your time, your talent and your money—to things that are eternal.
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
I read a beautiful story about a young lady who wanted to join a church. One of the deacons asked, “Were you a sinner before you received the Lord Jesus into your life?” “Yes, sir,” she replied. “Well, are you still a sinner?” “To tell you the truth, I feel I'm a greater sinner than ever,” she admitted. He questioned, “Then what real change have you experienced?” “I don't quite know how to explain it,” she confessed. “I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I am saved, I’m a sinner running from sin!”
The transformation that the Holy Spirit works in our lives when we are saved goes far beyond changing our eternal destiny. He also changes the desires and appetites of our hearts. The sins that once were so attractive are no longer what we seek. As He sanctifies us, we can leave the past behind and move forward “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
Someone once told Charles Spurgeon, “If I believed what you preach about eternal security, I would sin as much as I wanted.” Spurgeon replied, “I sin more than I want to!” Our flesh will never be fully eradicated in this life, but we should be growing and maturing in grace and leaving the sins of the past. The same power that provided our salvation is available to provide our sanctification as well.
Live today in accordance with your new nature as a child of God.
"And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform."
The Christian life cannot be separated from faith. We are saved “by grace…through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). We “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We “live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Yet despite this truth many people do not really understand what faith is. In its simplest form, faith is believing what God says and then acting on it. It is treating what God says as true even before it happens.
Over and over Scripture tells us that nothing is impossible for God. Yet all too often Christians live as if they were orphans, with no Heavenly Father able and willing to work in their lives and meet their needs. George Mueller said, “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.”
Can your life and work for God be fully explained by things that can be seen, or is there something going on that shows God’s power? Do you believe the things that God has said in His Word are true? Are you living as if they are true? When God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, no one had ever been resurrected. Yet Abraham believed that would happen. He went to Mt. Moriah “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19). Let nothing shake your faith today. Every promise of God is certain and true, and you can trust it completely.
Trust God today for things that are beyond your ability to accomplish and believe that He will work.
"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
2 Corinthians 5:20–21
Many years ago, the famed pastor R. G. Lee visited the Holy Land. When he reached the place where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, he wanted to go to the top of the hill. His guide discouraged him from climbing up, but the elderly pastor insisted. When they reached the top the guide asked, “Have you ever been here before?” “Yes,” Dr. Lee replied, “I was here some two thousand years ago.”
Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, but He also died specifically for my sins and for your sins. All that I have done that I should not have done, and all that I have not done that I should have done was placed upon Him while He hung on the cross. Jesus—the perfect and sinless Son of God—became sin because of me so that I could be righteous in the sight of God. What a treasure! What an enormous price!
Though I have been saved since an early age, I never want to lose sight of the fact that my salvation is an unmerited gift of God’s grace that transformed my life and my eternal destiny. I never want to forget that Jesus went to the cross because of my sin. I never want to get so accustomed to my salvation that I lose the wonder and gratitude that God loves me so much. The Christian who has forgotten that he stood at Calvary has lost one of his main sources of joy and one of his main motivations for service.
God’s salvation is a gift beyond price, and we should rejoice and give thanks to Him for it.
"For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."
1 Corinthians 15:9–10
I’ve often heard people describe grace as “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” A. W. Tozer put it this way: “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. Its use to us sinful men is to save us and make us sit together in heavenly places to demonstrate to the ages the exceeding riches of God’s kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
We should not need to be reminded that everything good that we have or do is a direct result of the grace of God. Yet our pride constantly tempts us to take the credit that rightly belongs to God. We would probably never say out loud what Nebuchadnezzar did: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). But too often we look at our accomplishments and achievements as if they were solely the result of our effort and intelligence.
The thing that makes God’s grace so amazing is that it is both completely undeserved and completely free. His grace is given to us because of His great love for us. Rather than focusing our attention on ourselves, the grace we receive should cause us to glorify and praise Him. The realization that it is only because of grace that he was anything at all made it possible for Paul to recognize that the great things he accomplished for God were not because of his efforts in his own strength but because of God’s grace.
Give thanks to God today for all that you do and have, for it is only because of His grace.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
After unwrapping all of her presents, a little girl was asked, "Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?" She thought for a moment and said, "No. But then, it's not my birthday." There is a lot attention paid, and rightly so, to the over-commercialization of Christmas. This is not a season for seeing how much stuff we can pile under the tree and how deeply in debt we can go in order to make sure everybody in the family gets everything they want.
This is a season that celebrates the good gifts that we have received from God. Of course the gift of Jesus is the “unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)—a gift so precious there are no words that can adequately describe it. Yet that is far from the only gift that we received because of Christ’s coming. As David put it, God “daily loadeth us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19). The Hebrew word used here signifies a load that is almost too heavy to carry—that’s a lot of benefits!
It is a measure of how much God loves us that He not only gave us His Son but so much more along with Him. We should never forget all that He has graciously bestowed upon us. The gift giving season of Christmas is a time to share our expressions of love with others, but it is also a time when we should be grateful for all that we have received. If you maintain that focus this Christmas, you will find that you are having a truly merry holiday no matter what is under the tree.
All of the blessings we enjoy as children of God can be traced to the gift of God’s Son on the first Christmas.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Sir Edwin Landseer was one of the most famous painters of the Victorian era. His talent developed early, and he had the first showing of his work at the Royal Academy when he was just thirteen years old. He was commissioned to do a number of official portraits of the royal family, and even gave private drawing lessons to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But he was best known for his depictions of the natural settings and life in the Scottish highlands.
One day as he was visiting a family in an old mansion in Scotland, one of the servants spilled a pitcher of soda water, leaving a large stain on the wall. While the family was out for the day, Landseer remained behind. Using charcoal, he incorporated the stain into a beautiful drawing. When the family returned they found a picture of a waterfall surrounded by trees and animals. He used his skill to make something beautiful out of what had been an unsightly mess.
God works in much the same way in our lives. The things that we think of as weaknesses and handicaps can, through His grace, become our greatest strengths—and the very things He uses the most to bring glory to Himself. Rather than wishing that the “stains” in our lives would go away, we should give thanks to God for our infirmities and seek His grace so that even those things can be used for His purposes. God’s grace provides the strength to meet every challenge and overcome every weakness.
When you allow God’s grace to transform your weaknesses, beautiful things result.
"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
My wife enjoys baking during the Christmas season, but she especially delights in the opportunity it provides for fellowship as loved ones gather together to enjoy the delicious fruit of her labor. One of the precious, although sometimes overlooked, gifts we have through Christ is Christian fellowship. It is impossible to overstate the importance and benefit of Christian fellowship to our walk with God.
One of the keys to the power of the early church was the fact that they spent so much time together. It is a hallmark of genuine believers that they long to be together. Praying and learning the Word of God together strengthens the bonds of unity in the church, but it also strengthens each individual who takes part. The challenges and struggles we face as part of daily life in a fallen world require more strength than any of us has on our own. While we receive strength from God to face these battles (“the inward man is renewed day by day,” 2 Corinthians 4:16), He has also ordained that we encourage and minister strength to each other during difficult times.
Christianity is not meant to be lived in isolation but in groups. Regular fellowship with other believers—both as part of church services or activities and on a personal basis—is meant to be a source of strength and encouragement as we face the challenges and struggles of life. Thank God for the fellowship you have with His people and together enjoy the celebration of His birth.
Build and strengthen your relationships with God’s people. True Christian friendship is a gift from Him.
"Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see."
The city of Nazareth was not held in high regard by the Jewish people of Jesus’ day. It was considered to be a small village not worthy of notice or attention. No one expected much of anything from that source, as evidenced by the question Nathanael asked Philip when he was told about Jesus.
What Nazareth did have was a young woman who was completely yielded to the will and purpose of God. When she was presented with a plan for her life that was impossible and would expose her to ridicule and possibly even death, she did not protest against it. Instead, she praised God for choosing her to be part of His plan. Mary did not have any financial or social advantages. She was not the person we would have immediately identified as the most likely candidate to be the mother of Jesus, but God saw what was in her heart.
In her song of praise to God, Mary said, “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree” (Luke 1:52). Great works of God rarely start in big places or with big people. Instead, they usually start in small places with little people who have a big commitment and a big faith to be used of God. Good things can come from your Nazareth as you follow Mary’s example of dedication and devotion. First Corinthians 1:27 says, “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” God has a plan for you—embrace your role.
God can do great things with your life—beyond what anyone expects—when you are yielded to Him.
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
2 Corinthians 8:9
If you were to make a list of everything you want or hope to receive this Christmas, how many items on your list would be things you couldn’t live without?
In truth, the only One that we cannot live without is the One whose coming we celebrate in this season of gifts. Without Jesus we have no Christmas. Without Jesus, we have no eternal life, no abundant life. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Every need of the human heart can be met in Jesus. First Corinthians 1:30–31 tells us, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
What a miracle of God’s power that He—the Creator of the universe—could clothe Himself in flesh and come to us as a tiny, helpless baby, and that in that coming, He could meet every need of our heart and soul. What love of God to desire to give us eternal life—at His expense. And what love of God to give us full, abundant life through His life!
As you approach Christmas this year, take a moment to reflect on the riches that we have through Jesus Christ. Christmas was God’s most valuable gift delivered to Earth—to you. And in this precious Gift, you have all you need.
Jesus humbled Himself to give us His great riches. Thank Him for His grace.
"And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds."
The angelic host returned to Heaven after announcing the birth of Christ to the shepherds. God could have sent these angels across Israel and even around the world to make the same announcement. Yet instead, the shepherds were the ones who spread the news that Jesus had come. God’s plan for spreading the message of salvation is that those who have heard it will take it to others all around the world.
Writing to the church at Corinth, Paul said that God, “hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). We have a calling to proclaim the Gospel. This task falls not just on those in vocational ministry, but on every believer. The shepherds had no training, but they could tell what they had experienced.
Our focus on the shepherds in the Christmas story often begins with the appearance of the angels and ends with them at the manager, but there is more to it than that. They became messengers for God. This is a wonderful time of year to share the Gospel with others. Even people who are not normally interested in spiritual things may be more open because of the season. Be alert for opportunities to share the true meaning of Christmas and God’s plan of salvation with everyone you can.
One of the best ways to celebrate the meaning and spirit of Christmas is by sharing the Good News with others.
"And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
One of the things that I love about Christmas is that, when we observe it as we should, Jesus is the center and focus of our attention. He deserves all of the praise and glory and worship that we can possibly give Him. Jesus is the Creator of all, yet He left behind the splendor of Heaven and, as Charles Wesley put it in the wonderful old hymn And Can It Be, “emptied Himself of all but love.”
He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
We should worship and give thanks all year long, but at this time of year we focus our attention on the gift of His love in a special way. Salvation is a wonderful gift that we receive only through grace; the gift of Jesus Himself is beyond anything that we could ever imagine.
He had everything, yet He gave it up so that we “through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). As you celebrate Christmas this year, take time to praise our wonderful Lord and Saviour who is the gift of Christmas. His high and holy name is above all others, and it is through His grace and sacrifice that we become the children of God.
Jesus emptied Himself that we might be made complete in Him and filled with all the fullness of God.
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
Imagine what it would be like to have never been able to see. For all of your life you would be dependent on someone else to help make sure that you could get where you needed to go. You would have no ability to choose your path. This is the state of the world apart from God—blind in sin. Paul wrote, “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 4:4).
Jesus came as the Light of the World. Just as He healed a number of people who were physically blind, making it possible for them to see, He offers the light of salvation as the cure for spiritual blindness to all who believe in Him as Saviour. Yet those of us who have come to the Light must never forget what we have been given. Peter warns us: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9). God offers us guidance and direction for life, but if we are not careful, we can lose sight of the changes He has made and the path in which He desires for us to walk.
Never lose sight of the light which God has given to guide your path through life.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
The world around us is filled with people who are living in sin. Sometimes that sin is open and obvious. Other times it is hidden from public view. In either case, that sin is there for a reason, and the reason is that people like it that way. Because of the fallen nature of every man and woman who is born into this world, we have an appetite and desire for sin. Given the choice, people will choose the darkness of sin over the light of the truth, rather than having to confront the reality of sin and the penalty for sin—and even more to avoid having to change.
So often we hear the idea that if people knew better they would do better. This leads to the notion that we can educate people to perfection. But the problem is not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of desire for what is good. Peter described this characteristic well: “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). Often times, people simply don't want to know the truth. When that is the case, all the education in the world won't change that.
The opening of our eyes at salvation gives us a different perspective. Paul wrote, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Only through the Holy Spirit can we develop a desire for the light and truth of God's Word.
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:4-6
On the first day of Creation, God called forth light into existence, and then separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:3–4). There has been a divide between the two ever since. Despite all the efforts that have been made through the centuries to blur that distinction, light and dark remain as divided as ever. The Apostle Paul compared what happened on that first day of Creation with what happens in our hearts when we receive Christ as Savior: we are immediately moved from darkness into light.
Like the moon reflects the light of the sun rather than giving off its own light, we are to reflect the light of God's glory to the world around us. There is no question that we live in a world filled with darkness. Things are not getting better. That is no surprise, for nearly two thousand years ago, Paul warned Timothy that in the last days “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
However, we should not allow ourselves to be discouraged because of the darkness. The growing evil in our world makes the light even brighter by contrast. God is not struggling to overcome Satan. That battle has already been won, and the future is certain. We simply must be faithful to shine as lights in the world for as long as God leaves us here.
The darkness around us gives us even more opportunity to show the light of God's love to the world.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:8-11
Charles Spurgeon told how he had once gone to preach in the city of Bristol, England. His schedule called for him to speak at each of the three largest Baptist churches there, and he was expecting to get three hundred pounds as a love offering, which he urgently needed for the children in his orphanage in London. Spurgeon said that as he went to bed that night he was strongly impressed to give that money to George Müller for the work of his orphanages in Bristol. After arguing with God about the need, Spurgeon decided he would give despite his own need. Only then was he able to go to sleep.
When Spurgeon arrived at Müller's orphanage, he found Müller praying on his knees with his Bible open. Spurgeon told him that God had impressed upon him to give three hundred pounds for those orphanages. Müller exclaimed, “Dear Spurgeon, I have been asking the Lord for that very sum!” When Spurgeon got back to London, he found a letter with an even larger sum of money inside. “The Lord has returned my three hundred pounds with interest,” he said.
In every situation, God is able to meet any need that we have. And when we are faithful to Him with the resources He has entrusted to us, He will make sure that all of our needs are met. He is not limited by any lack of ability to meet our needs. But we can cut ourselves off from His blessings if we are unwilling to follow His leading to give generously.
No one has ever suffered loss or lack from giving as God directs and leads.
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
2 Corinthians 5:19-21
Like all those who have come before throughout the history of the world, we were born as sinners. No one starts out good and then turns bad. We start out with a sinful nature. David wrote, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). That sinful nature prevents us from being able to do anything to earn or deserve the salvation we need. And that is why Jesus came as the sacrifice for sin that allows Him to be the Savior of those who believe.
Oswald Chambers wrote, “God made His own Son to be sin that He might make the sinner a saint. All through the Bible it is revealed that our Lord bore the sin of the world by identification, not by sympathy. He deliberately took upon His own shoulders, and bore in His own Person, the whole massed sin of the human race and by so doing He put the whole human race on the basis of Redemption.”
Only perfect righteousness is enough to allow us to stand in God's presence, but we could never attain it on our own. In grace, God offers the perfect righteousness of Jesus to be applied to our account. This righteousness is only available to us because Jesus took all of our sins and applied them to His account, though He was sinless, and suffered the penalty for those sins so that we do not have to experience Hell.
By accepting the gift of salvation Jesus offers by grace alone, we become righteous and are fully accepted by God.
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:9-11
If you've ever played Jenga with your children or grandchildren, you know how important the foundation is to keeping the stack of wooden pieces from falling over. You can take out a lot of the structure without it collapsing, but if you try to take away the bottom layer, undermining the foundation, it won't be long until the game is lost. A solid foundation is vital to much more than just games—it is vital to our lives.
We live in a world of relativism and equivocation. Many people even deny that there is such a thing as objective truth. People who do still believe in truth are often labeled as old-fashioned, narrow minded, or even worse. Yet no matter how “out of touch” the world may think we are to believe in absolutes based on the Bible, that doesn't change the reality of truth.
God does not intend for us to live with constant doubt and uncertainty about the foundational things of life. Instead He has given us a solid, unchanging foundation in the person of Jesus Christ. Nothing about Him is uncertain or unsettled. We know there is such a thing as truth because He told us so. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). His truth gives us a stable foundation on which we can build our lives. No matter what storms may come, no matter how the earth under our feet may be shaken, a life that is built on Jesus Christ and the truth of His Word will not collapse.
We must evaluate everything by the truth of the Word of God rather than by what is popular or what feels right to us.
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:21-24
There are many today who tell us that declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ, whether from a pulpit to a crowd or in a one on one conversation is no longer effective. They are looking for new methods and means of reaching people. But what was true in Paul's day is still true in ours, and the message of salvation in Jesus Christ is still the only hope of sinners. Charles Spurgeon said, “The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the devil. The preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound that makes all hell tremble.”
Sometimes the Bible uses the word preaching not for a formal sermon from a pastor, but simply meaning to declare or proclaim something as true. And the responsibility for sharing the gospel is not reserved for pastors, missionaries and full time employees of the church—it is given to every believer. Not everyone with whom we share the good news will respond favorably. But it is certain that those with whom we do not share it cannot respond. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost” (2 Corinthians 4:3).
The great gift of salvation which we have received places on us the responsibility of sharing it with others. No matter how the world changes, God's plan for reaching people does not change. He has called His people to declare the gospel to the lost. The problem of a lack of evangelism is not a failure of the way we do it, but a failure of many believers to do it at all, and that is a problem each of us can work to fix.
As Christians we have the only hope for a lost and dying world, and we must share it with those around us.
Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
Under the Mosaic Law, every seven years there was to be a release of all debts that were owed. Anyone who had loaned money to someone who was in difficulty was to forgive the entirety of the debt. Moses gave the people a special caution about refusing to lend to help someone in need because the deadline for forgiveness was coming up. The natural human reaction would be to say that because there was only a little time left until the debt release, the money would be lost—and then to refuse to provide what was needed.
Yet God told the people not to think that way. Instead they were to give assistance to those who needed it, even if it would never be repaid by them. God said that in that case, He would provide the repayment through His blessing. And He warned the people to consider their attitude as they did—not be grudging or resentful about it. Paul gives a similar admonition in his instruction to the church at Corinth about giving: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
God does not need our help to fund His work or meet the needs of others. Nothing we give increases His resources even a tiny amount. But He does offer us the opportunity to join in His work, and commands us to do so from a generous heart.
If our focus is only on ourselves and what we can get and keep, we will never be generous givers as God commands.
He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Though Jesus was constantly teaching His disciples, there is only one thing recorded in Scripture that they specifically asked Him to teach them—to pray. They had seen and heard Jesus talking to His Father, and they wanted to learn how to pray as He did. In response, Jesus gave them what is commonly called the Lord's Prayer, although it would be more accurate to call it a model prayer instead. That well-known prayer begins with these words: “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (Luke 11:2). Jesus was not teaching them something in the abstract. He was not giving them theories or ideas. He was telling them, and us, what matters when we pray.
As Jesus modeled in this prayer and in His own prayer just before Calvary, every prayer must be offered in accordance with the will of God. There are times when we greatly desire a particular outcome to a situation. Yet even in those moments we must not insist on having things our way if God has something else planned for us. Thus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, knowing the physical agony and spiritual torment that awaited Him, yet still praying in perfect submission to the will of the Father.
Prayer is not a means for us to get only answers that we will like. There are times, like Paul experienced when he prayed for the thorn in his flesh to be removed (2 Corinthians 12:9–10), that God uses the hard things for His purpose. Even in the most difficult moments, we must pray for God's will rather than our own.
Asking for God's will to be done is not just repeating words. It must be the desire of our hearts.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
2 Corinthians 6:14-16
Since 1925, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has drawn thousands of students to test their spelling skills. Winners of local competitions come to Washington DC to compete for the title. Over time, words have gotten harder and harder, becoming much more obscure. The first year the winning word was “gladiolus.” Other winners correctly spelled “luge,” “knack,” and “therapy.” But as the years progressed, the words became much harder. In 1987, the winning word was “staphylococci,” and in 1996, it was “vivisepulture.” The 2018 spelling bee was won by Karthik Nemmani, who correct spelled “koinonia.” Scripps issued a press release which defined koinonia as an “intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.”
The word “koinonia” may be uncommon, but the concept should not be. It is actually a transliteration of a Greek word that refers to the fellowship and communion we are to share with God and with other believers. The Christian life is strengthened and supported by the time which we spend together. Yet one of the things that is most destructive to the right kind of fellowship is the wrong kind of fellowship. Just as weeds in a garden compete with the flowers and vegetables for the moisture and nutrients needed to grow, the things of the world attempt to crowd out the things of God. If we are spending our time and allowing our affections to be focused on the things of the world, that wrong fellowship will draw us away from our walk with God. We who love God have nothing in common with the philosophies of the world, and we should draw our sustainance, fellowship, and strength from the Lord and His people.
Our fellowship must be with the Word of God and with other believers for us to truly grow in grace.
Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
When John the Baptist began his ministry of telling the people that the Messiah was about to arrive and that they needed to repent, huge crowds gathered to hear his message. Many of them believed what he said and were baptized. One of the questions John was often asked was what people should do in light of the truth. His answer was always that they should repent and then live accordingly. The notion that there is a repentance that does not produce any kind of change is not what the Bible teaches. Charles Spurgeon said, “Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.”
The world around us may find sin amusing, but God does not. He calls us to a different kind of life. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). While we do not receive God's forgiveness because of what we do, our love for Him leads us to turn away from the sin that was once attractive to us and live in a new way. Only then are we fulfilling His plan and purpose for our lives.
God did not save us so we could continue living in the same old way. He calls us to new life.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
From what we read in the Bible of the life and ministry of Paul, we see a pattern of answered prayer. Paul asked God to do things to further the work of spreading the gospel, and God provided what was needed. Paul healed the sick, survived shipwreck and snake bites, and even raised the dead. Yet when it came to the most personal burden Paul carried, his request was denied. Paul seriously and intently prayed that his thorn in the flesh would be removed, and God refused. Rather than becoming bitter over God not doing what he wanted, Paul rejoiced, seeing that what God had in mind was better than what he had asked the Lord to do.
Many times when we are in difficulty, we pray with a solution in mind. We have figured out how we think things should work, and our prayers are closer to directions than petitions. None of us enjoy going through hardship, yet there are times when the very thing we are asking God to take out of our lives is something that He sent for our good and for His glory. Paul needed the thorn in flesh so that pride would not hinder his ability to serve God faithfully. The thorn was a gift, and its removal would have been a handicap to Paul. We need to be careful as we pray to remember that God knows more than we do, so that we are not inadvertently asking Him to do something that would harm us.
Every prayer must be offered in submission to the will of God and in recognition that He knows what is best.
For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
2 Corinthians 5:12-15
Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth was a blistering rebuke of the ungodly behavior and attitudes that were being tolerated and even celebrated within the church. While some people repented and began living right, others instead attacked Paul. Some even said that he had gone crazy. Things are a lot like that in our day. Many times simply pointing out the truth is considered to be an attack that could only come from someone who was “beside himself” as they said of Paul.
It would have been a lot easier for Paul to just let things slide and not point out what was wrong. At least that approach would not have sparked the opposition and slander that he received. If he had not called sin by its rightful name, no one would have thought that he was judgmental and too harsh, even to the point of being mentally unbalanced. So why did Paul insist on making clear the difference between right and wrong?
He said it was the love of Christ that constrained him. If we love Jesus as we should, no criticism or opposition will be able to stop us from standing up for the truth. Jesus laid down His life for us even as He was being mocked and derided by the crowd at the cross. If He was willing to give so much for us, how can we not be willing to give up everything for Him?
The love of Jesus for us and our love for Him compels us to stand for His truth no matter the consequences.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1 John 2:16-17
In 2019, a massive sandcastle was built in the German town of Binz on the Baltic Sea where each year a contest is held for builders who work with sand. Complete with turrets, windows, arches, and walkways, the highly detailed castle was a sight to behold. Measuring nearly sixty feet tall, it was certified as a Guinness World Record holder as the largest sandcastle ever built. However, if you want to see it in person, you are too late. After a few months it was gone. Though it was impressive, it was not built to last.
The world around us is filled with things that may look impressive, but upon examination are revealed to be only temporary at best. Everywhere we look, we see people frantically trying to build the largest sandcastles without any thought of what will happen next. The things of this world are going to pass away. Each of us who are Christians will stand before God and give an account to Him of how we used the time and abilities He has entrusted to us.
There will be no deception in that day. Everything will be revealed for what it really is. “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). It is our responsibility to focus our lives and our efforts on things that matter and things that will last. Only then will our lives not have been lived in vain.
The world tempts us to waste our lives on fleeting things, but God calls us to live for the eternal.
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
1 John 2:18
When most of us hear the word antichrist, we think of the false Messiah who is described in the book of Revelation. But while that antichrist will be a real person who will appear on the world stage at some point in the future, the spirit of evil that will animate and motivate and empower him is already at work in the world. This is not something that just happened. Even before the final book of the New Testament was written, John was already describing “many antichrists” as he instructed believers then how to live in the “last time.”
There is a real devil, and he is alive and active in the world today. He is not a cartoon character with a forked tail and pitchfork. He is clever and crafty, using every tool at his disposal to deceive the lost world and keep them in darkness, and defeat the saved and keep them from working in God's power. Paul warned the church at Corinth, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Satan stands in total opposition to everything that Christ stands for. He is actively opposing God's plan for the world, and though we know he will ultimately be completely defeated once and for all, that day has not yet come. We need to be on guard every day so that we will not be deceived by his lies or fall into the snares that he sets before our feet. This is not a threat for the far off future, but one that we face right now. There is a spiritual war taking place, and we must be prepared to fight.
A Christian who is not on guard against the attacks of Satan is a Christian who will soon be defeated.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
One of the most compelling examples of Jesus sharing the gospel is the story of the woman at the well. There in Samaria, where Jewish people normally did not go, Jesus spoke to a woman who was shunned by her community because of her immoral lifestyle. He offered her hope and a new life which she gladly received and then went to share with others. Their conversation took place while the disciples had gone to buy food. When they returned and offered it to Jesus, He refused it. “But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:32-24).
When we do God's work with the diligence that it deserves and requires, we will get tired. But when we do, we also have a source of strength and renewal available to us. Most of us will never endure anything close to what Paul experienced, yet he called his suffering “light affliction.” That is not because the pain was not real, but because he was comparing it to something more important. Additionally, he was experiencing inward renewal—being strengthened by the Holy Spirit so that he could continue the work. We have that same resource available to us, so that we can receive the inward strength to keep going on for God no matter what happens.
We do not work for God in our own strength, and when we come to Him, He will provide what we need.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
2 Corinthians 5:9-11
When we look at the life of the Apostle Paul, we see a man who was consumed with a passion for sharing the gospel with others. The man who had once led the persecution of the church was now its greatest missionary voice. Paul traveled across the Roman Empire, facing opposition, danger, persecution, and physical distress for the sake of the gospel. One thing was constantly on his mind—the day on which he would face God to give an account of his service. J. C. Ryle wrote, “We and God must at last meet face to face. We shall have to render an account of every privilege that was granted to us, and of every ray of light that we enjoyed. We shall find that we are dealt with as accountable and responsible creatures, and that to whomsoever much is given, of them much will be required.”
That day of accounting that Paul knew and wrote about is coming for each of us as well. If we have trusted Christ as our Savior, our moment of judgement will not be to determine if we are going to Heaven—that has already been settled. Instead, this judgment will be to determine how well we invested our lives for Christ. The Lord has given us time and talents and resources, and He expects us to use them. In the parable of the talents, Jesus described what His reaction would be to those who do not do so. “His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed” (Matthew 25:26). How devastating it would be to have God describe us as wicked and lazy when we stand before Him. How much better it would be to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21).
Serve the Lord today with an eye on eternity and a desire to hear, "Well done," when you see Him.
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Every year new words come into the language to explain or identify trends and changes in society. One of the relatively recent new words is “adulting.” It is used mostly by young adults to identify ways in which they are acting grown up and responsible. You can even buy “I Adulted” wall calendars. Each one comes with stickers you can place on different dates to mark these events. Some of the stickers that come with the calendar are: I paid a bill on time, I cooked a meal, I kept a secret, I took a shower, I did the laundry, I put away my phone, I matched my socks, and I only took one selfie. The idea of celebrating such things as milestones strikes most Baby Boomers as immature. That's what we were taught to do growing up, and that's what we do everyday—even without getting a sticker for it.
But spiritual adulthood is something that should be cultivated and celebrated. We are not meant to remain as baby Christians. We are commanded to grow and mature and become more like Jesus. It is shameful for someone who has been saved for years to still be a childish Christian. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Hebrews 5:12). Our world desperately needs Christian men and women who are full grown adults in their faith to stand against the rising tide of evil around us.
If we devote our hearts and minds to the Word of God and prayer, our faith will strengthen and grow.
And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
1 John 2:25
Pretty much all of us are familiar with empty promises. We've seen advertisements for products that will supposedly fix all kinds of problems. We've gotten emails from foreign royalty promising us a fortune in return for a small advance payment. And most of us have experienced the heartbreak of having someone let us down when they had promised to help. The strength of a promise is not in what it offers, but in who makes it. The most glowing promises in the world are empty and meaningless unless they are backed up by someone who is willing and able to fulfill them.
The most precious promise that has ever been made to any of us is the promise of salvation through Christ. It is precious not just because it offers us eternal life in place of the eternal torment we deserve, or because of the wonders of Heaven that are waiting for us in the future, or because it does not require any good works or obligation on our part. It is most precious because it is certain and sure. God has never failed to keep a single promise that He has made. Solomon said, “Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56).
Being the beneficiaries and recipients of such a certain promise lays on us a responsibility. Salvation costs us nothing, but it does bring a desire to live for Him who gave so much for us. Paul wrote, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). The certainty of the promise means that one day we will stand before the Lord and give an account of our lives. What a joy it will be if we can stand before Christ having invested our lives on Earth for Him
Rejoice today in the certainty of God's promise of eternal life, and live today in such a way that you can look forward to His return.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Imagine an army going into battle armed with cap guns. They might be able to march impressively and make some noise, but they would have no chance of victory against an enemy armed with real weapons. That seems like a ludicrous example, but how often do we try to fight spiritual battles with earthly weapons? The result is the same—certain defeat. Yet if we use the spiritual weapons God has provided for us, victory is assured. The battle is real, but the final outcome is already settled.
George Whitefield said, “Since then Christ is praying for us, whom should we fear? And since He has promised to make us more than conquerors, of whom should we be afraid? No, though an host of demons are lined up against us, let us not be afraid; though the hottest persecution should rise up against us, yet let us put our trust in God. Even though Satan, and the rest of his apostate spirits, are powerful, when compared with us; yet, if put in competition with the Almighty, they are as weak as the smallest worms.”
The reason that we yield to temptation and give in to sin is not that is overpowering, but that we are not using the mighty weapons God has made available to us. We know that prayer is essential, yet often we set it aside because we are too busy. We know that the Word of God is our weapon, yet too often it gathers dust while we focus on other things. When we use God's weapons, the victory will be ours.
Spiritual battles can never be fought and won with our own resources—we must use God's weapons.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14
The world often looks at Christians as if we were crazy. They don't understand why we do the things we do and avoid the things we don't do. It simply doesn't make sense to them because they lack the spiritual insight that only comes from receiving the Holy Spirit when we are saved. They may read the same verses from the Bible that we do, but the response is not the same. No amount of education can produce a true understanding of the spiritual principles of the Word of God. But with the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, even a young Christian can grasp the truth.
It is this understanding of the Bible as true and authoritative that produces godly Christian living, for it is the Bible that the Holy Spirit uses to guide our steps. Jonathan Edwards wrote, “The purifying influence of the Spirit corrects the taste of the soul; thereby He savors those things that are holy and agreeable to God. Like one with a discriminating taste, He chooses those things that are good and wholesome, and rejects those that are evil. And thus the Spirit of God leads and guides; He enables men to understand the commands and counsels of God’s Word, and rightly to apply them.” Our guiding principle of life should be to love what God loves and hate what God hates. We determine this, not by our culture or by our feelings, but by what He inspired for us to read and follow.
We must be people of the Word because that is the tool the Holy Spirit uses to direct our steps.
And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
1 John 2:28
Most of us have a memory from childhood of being given an assignment by our parents, which we were supposed to complete before a certain time. Maybe it was something around the house—mowing the lawn or doing the dishes or giving the dog a bath or washing the car. Maybe it was something for school or a church project. But just as we have that memory of being given the job to do, most of us also have the memory of not getting it done. Perhaps we got distracted by a friend or another project that was more to our liking. Perhaps we lost track of the time and didn't begin soon enough. But everyone who has that experience knows what a dismaying thing it was to look up and realize that our parents had returned and found the job undone.
One day Jesus is going to return. None of us knows when that day will be, but we do know that it will happen. Like all the promises of God, the promise that Jesus will come again is certain. We also know that He has given us work to carry out in His absence. Specifically, He has given us the "ministry of reconcilliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18) that we might tell others how they can be reconciled with God. And He has told us that if we will abide in Him, He will bear fruit through us, even as the grape vine abides in the branch and thus bears fruit (John 15:5). If we are abiding in Him, we will be living and serving in such a way that we will be glad to see Him when He returns.
Since we don't know when Jesus is coming back, we must live every day so that we will be ready when He does.
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
Studies show that, depending on age, culture, and setting, most people speak between 7,000 and 20,000 words per day. I'm sure you know someone who is at one of or the other of those extremes. If you asked most people to recount what they talked about during a given day, they would struggle. They might remember part of a few conversations, or a particularly intense exchange they had with someone. But by and large, most of the things over the course of a day are not particularly memorable. Those words may not stand out, but they do reveal what is in our thoughts and what matters to us. And there is one topic that should be most on our lips—revealing what we care about more than anything else—and that is Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). The more that we love Jesus, the more we will talk about Him. And the more we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, the more we will talk about Jesus, for that is what the Spirit speaks of above all else.
Herbert Buffum, Jr. wrote:
Let’s talk about Jesus, the King of kings is He,
The Lord of lords, supreme, throughout eternity
The Great I Am, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Door
Let’s talk about Jesus more and more!
Our love for Jesus should so fill our hearts and minds that talk of Him fills our mouths as well.
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
If you have ever traveled with a group to a foreign country, you've probably had a guide who knew the local language, culture, and historical sites to take you around and make your visit more meaningful. Choosing the right guide is crucial. Imagine being in a nation where you don't speak the language, only to find out that the person who is supposed to be guiding you can't speak it either. That would be a disaster. Wisely choosing a qualified guide adds a great deal to such a trip, but having a guide who doesn't know his way around the country will leave bitter memories.
The same is true in the Christian life. There are lots of people who are happy to give advice as to how we should live and conduct ourselves. But it is vital that before we begin to follow them, we make sure that they actually know what is right and that they themselves are going in that direction. In Paul's day, there were a large number of people who were not guiding people toward Christ but away from Him. Paul warned them that if they followed such guides and examples, they were headed for destruction. Instead, he told them to follow his example and the example of those who were also walking in the same way. Paul was not holding himself out to be a perfect Christian, but rather one who was committed to following Jesus. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
We must be careful to only follow the example of those who themselves are following Jesus Christ.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
1 Peter 4:15-17
It is easy for us to look around and find people doing things that are worthy of judgment and condemnation. Most days we only need to watch a few minutes of news before we see someone being praised and held up as an example, not in spite of, but because they are doing something evil. Yet while it is simple to judge “them” for what they are doing or not doing, we must never forget that the first place we should look for problems is not in the lives of others, but in our own. Jesus said, “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).
Often we magnify the faults and flaws of others while giving ourselves a pass. But that self-deception does not change the fact that the sins of our own lives are still real and still need to be dealt with, no matter how we may excuse them. There needs to be a willingness and an honesty to evaluate our own conduct in light of God's truth, rather than relying on the fact that we may not be as bad as someone else to excuse our behavior. Paul wrote, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” 1 Corinthians 11:31).
God expects us to look to His standard rather than the behavior of those around us to determine our obedience to Him.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
In 1997, more than 150 members of the Chen Tao cult moved to Garland, Texas, in response to a prophecy from their leader, Hon-Ming Chen. Chen declared that a flying saucer would arrive to deliver God to Earth—and that he himself was the father of Jesus. Chen's adherents awaited the arrival of March 31, 1998, with eager anticipation. According to a story in The Dallas Morning News, “They dressed in white, wore cowboy hats, and drove luxury cars. They told reporters they had come to Garland to watch God come to Earth and take human form at 10 a.m. on March 31, 1998, at the home of Mr. Chen.” The prophecy failed to come true, and most of the members left the group.
Throughout the centuries, there have been a huge number of false prophets claiming to speak for God or even to be God—just as Jesus foretold would happen. Some of them, like the Chen Tao group, have been ridiculous and easy to spot. Many others, however, have been carefully crafted to be as close to the real thing as possible. Paul warned, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). We must be people of discernment and discretion, not evaulating any doctrine by how it sounds or how it makes us feel, but by comparing it to the Word of God. False teachers are a real threat, but we do not have to be deceived.
We must be on guard because Satan is actively working to deceive us and lead us astray from the truth.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53
No doctrine of the Christian faith is more precious to us than the certain hope that one day we will see Jesus. Whether it be at the Rapture or when we die, we will immediately enter His presence to live with Him forever. All of the future depends on the truth that Jesus rose from the dead, and that by conquering death He guarantees our eternal life. Yet this blessed truth is hardly welcomed with open arms by the world. When Paul preached to the curious crowd in Athens, they were happy to listen to him until he got to the resurrection part of the gospel. “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter” (Acts 17:32).
We cannot enter God's presence as we are. We must be radically transformed even as believers before we can enter His holy presence. The promise of eternal life made by a man would be at best a comforting story to hear. But the promise of eternal life from someone who has conquered death and the grave is a powerful hope. None of us knows how long our lives will be, but we do know what is coming. God has given us a sure guarantee of the future. Paul began his letter to Titus with an expression of this: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2). We can be confident regarding the future—knowing that death is not the end for a Christian—because of the nature and character of God. He has given us the promise, and His promises are certain and sure.
The triumph of Jesus over death and the grave is the guarantee that our future destiny with Him is secure.
And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
When the Children of Israel left Egypt, they knew where they were going, but they didn't know how to get there. There were no marked roads or maps available. They didn't have GPS, Alexa, Siri, or anything else to help guide them. But they had God, and that was all that they needed. The Lord led them through the deserts of the region with an unmistakable sign of His presence. God was providing not only reassurance and guidance, but their physical needs as well. When the daytime sun blazed down on the desert, God was a cloud to provide shelter and shade. When the nighttime chill quickly cooled the desert sands, God was a fire to provide warmth. In every situation, in every need, in every circumstance that we face in life, God is there for us.
When Abraham was ready to offer his promised son Isaac, God provided a ram as a substitute as a beautiful picture of what Jesus would do for us on the cross. In response, Abraham gave that place a new name. “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:14). This special name of God (which is used nowhere else in Scripture) has a double meaning. It means that God provides for our needs, and it means that God Himself is the provision for our needs. This is particulalrly true in our salvation—Jesus provided the payment for our sin through becoming the payment for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). And it is also true throughout our Christian life. In Jesus, we have all that we need. "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power" (Colossians 2:9-10).
Regardless of our need, Jesus is our provision.
All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
1 Corinthians 6:12-14
The Christian is called to live a life that is controlled by God and His Spirit rather than by anything else. The flesh tempts us to indulge our appetites and fulfill them in ways contrary to what God has decreed. This was the heart of Satan's temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 when he tried to get the Lord to do things apart from God's plan. Not all of the those things were inherently wrong. It is certainly not wrong to eat bread, as Satan tempted Jesus to do, but it is wrong to act independently of God's will.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul mentions things that are not inherently sinful but are also not "expedient," or helpful, to our Christian walk because of how they pull us into an old lifestyle of bondage. Make no mistake. Satan does everything he can to hide the eventual cost and outcome of sin, but the price must always be paid. There is no way to avoid the consequences that follow the actions which we choose.
John R. Rice wrote, “Did you notice that the enslavement of habit is always in sinful matters and never in righteous matters? No one ever got in such a habit of praying that he could not stop praying. No one ever got in such a pattern of being honest that it made a slave out of him. No one was ever in such a habit of loving God that he loved God too much. No one ever got in such a habit of attending church or winning souls or helping others that he was enslaved by it. Whatever enslaves your mind, your will, your body so that you cannot control yourself and your desires, is evidently a sin.”
A Christian should never do anything which will limit his freedom to serve God.