October 24: Constantly in Prayer
Ezekiel 47:1–48:35; 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10; Job 39:24–40:2
Desperate circumstances often dictate our prayers. We pray for others when they’re in need, or we thank God for others when they fill our needs. But how often do we thank God for the faith of those around us?
When Paul writes to the believers in Thessalonica, he opens by saying, “We give thanks to God always concerning all of you, making mention constantly in our prayers” (1 Thess 1:2). Paul and his disciples thank God for their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father” (1 Thess 1:3).
Those who appear to be moving along well by our standards may be struggling in their faith. Other believers, just like us, go through ebbs and flows in their journey. It shouldn’t take a catastrophe for us to recognize their need for prayer.
We can learn something from Paul, a church planter and disciple maker who was no doubt keenly aware of the growth and struggles of the believers he mentored. For those of us who are less observant, these struggles may simmer underneath our radar. We should stop and take notice of the faith journeys of the people around us—people in our churches, our schools, and our workplaces. For whom can you thank God today?
Who needs your observant prayers today?
Rebecca Van Noord
FAITH OF OUR FATHERS
Frederick W. Faber, 1814–1863
Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 3)
If you don’t have a cause that is worth dying for, you very likely don’t have anything worth living for.
Often we fail to realize the great price many of our forefathers paid to establish and preserve the Christian faith. It is good for us to be reminded often that the history of the Christian faith is a rich heritage of countless people whose faith in God was considered more dear than life itself. Much could be said about the first century Christians and their persecution by the Roman Empire, or even the religious persecutions of our American forefathers in their quest for a new land where they could enjoy religious freedom.
The “faith of our fathers” referred to in this hymn, however, is the faith of the martyred leaders of the Roman Catholic church during the 16th century. Although he was raised as a Calvinist and later was a minister in the Anglican church, Frederick Faber left the state church and joined the Roman Catholic fold. He became known as Father Wilfrid. Faber began to make it his life’s mission to write hymns that promoted the history and teachings of the Catholic church. Frederick Faber wrote 150 such hymns before his early death at the age of 49. His “Faith of Our Fathers” text first appeared in 1849 in the author’s collection, Jesus and Mary; or Catholic Hymns for Singing and Reading. It was always Faber’s hope that someday England would be brought back to the Papal fold.
The three stanzas found in our hymnals, however, are very usable for evangelical worship and can be reinterpreted to challenge our commitment and loyalty to the gospel that our spiritual fathers often died to defend:
Faith of our fathers, living still in spite of dungeon, fire and sword—O how our hearts beat high with joy whene’er we hear that glorious word!
Our fathers, chained in prisons dark, were still in heart and conscience free; how sweet would be their children’s fate if they, like them, could die for thee!
Faith of our fathers, we will love both friend and foe in all our strife; and preach thee too, as love knows how, by kindly words and virtuous life.
Refrain: Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee till death.
For Today: Psalm 22:4, 5; 1 Timothy 6:13, 14; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 11
Reflect on the great gallery of Old Testament saints listed in Hebrews 11. Ask God to make your Christian faith something that future generations will want to emulate. Carry this tune with you—
Welcome to Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Today’s reading is Second Samuel 11 through 14. Our lesson is from Second Samuel 12:12–14, “ ‘Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.’ Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.’ ” (NASU)
Today’s text is a witness to one of the most tragic and painful moments in the life of David. This incident in David’s life should be a warning to all of us to know that what is done in secret will be revealed. Let’s view three stages of David’s sin.
First, David sinned in secret. One of the obvious things is that David knew of the gravity of his actions and yet he tried to hide it from others. He tried to conceal his behavior from Uriah the Hittite, who was Bathsheba’s husband. David tried to be very cunning in that he told Uriah to go home so that Uriah could have relations with his wife. David thought that this would help in covering his sin. The result was that David’s scheme caused the death of Uriah but his sin did not remain hidden.
Next, David’s sin was revealed. Nathan the prophet was the Lord’s instrument in bringing to the forefront and unearthing David’s secret. Nathan used the illustration of a man who had many sheep. This person took the only sheep that another person had. David reacted in outrage at such a person who would steal someone else’s only sheep. Nathan showed David that he was that man because of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba.
Suddenly David admitted his fault. He repented of his sin and realized he offended the Lord. Tragically, there are consequences of sin that go beyond the action.
Third, David’s sin was judged. Sin and its effects are never just personal in scope. It involves and influences others. Uriah was dead and the Lord judged David and Bathsheba. The child would surely die as prophesized by Nathan.
God can and does forgive sins. However, the consequences of sin extend into many spheres of a person’s life. This is clearly seen in the life of Adam and Eve and the lives of many other biblical characters. Sin is not to be taken lightly.
In conclusion, David sinned in secret. David’s sin was revealed. And David’s sin was judged.
Never allow sin to dominate any area of your life. If there is a secret sin, confess it to the Lord right now. He is the God of forgiveness and restoration!
It has been a pleasure to share with you Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Tomorrow’s Bible reading is Second Samuel 15 through 19. Let’s not forget the words of the psalmist “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Until tomorrow and may God bless you in abundance as you study the Word of God.
|Desiring God’s Word
“[The judgments of the Lord] are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10).
You should value Scripture more than all earthly treasures.
I have a friend who has a beautiful collection of rare Bibles. My favorite is one of the earliest printed copies, dating back to sixteenth-century England. The first time I held it in my hands I noticed that the top third of every page was covered with a dark stain. Tears filled my eyes when I realized it was from the blood of its original owner.
My friend explained that when Bloody Mary ruled England, she delighted in terrorizing Protestants and murdering as many as she could. Her soldiers would execute their victims through some bloody means, then take his or her Bible and dip it into the blood. Some of those Bibles have been preserved and are known as Martyrs’ Bibles. Scientists have confirmed that the dark stains on every page of my friend’s Bible are, indeed, human blood.
That same Bible is well-worn from being studied. And many of its pages have water stains on them—perhaps from tears. Obviously it was someone’s most precious possession, and his or her blood is there to prove it.
Psalm 19:10 captures the heart of such people, extolling the preciousness of God’s Word. To David, Scripture was more valuable than the best gold and the purest honey. Meditating on it meant more to him than the richest and sweetest things in life. He knew its ability to satisfy every spiritual appetite.
As precious as God’s Word is, many Christians take it for granted and become complacent in their studies. Some go for long periods without gaining fresh insights from its pages.
Perhaps you know someone who is in that situation. If so, ask the Lord for wisdom as you gently encourage him or her toward greater faithfulness in the Word. At the same time be careful not to become negligent yourself.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the example of those who have loved His Word to the cost of their lives. ✧ Ask Him to give you the desire to feed on His truth daily and the drive to satisfy that desire.
For Further Study: Read 1 Peter 2:1–2 as a reminder to keep your heart sensitive to the precious gift of God’s Word.
Salt of the World
Scripture reading: Matthew 5:13–16
Key verse: Matthew 5:13
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
Many people on special diets need to limit or even eliminate their intake of salt. To compensate, they search for other ways to spice up their food, from sauces to herb mixes, because some things just taste too bland without it. Salt is used for flavor and as an excellent preservative; no wonder salt remains an important ingredient even today.
It is no surprise, then, that Jesus compared those who belong to Him with salt: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (v. 13 nasb).
You are to be the good, Christlike “flavor” in your world. Just as salt without any taste would be useless in its intended functions, so is a believer who refuses to yield his or her life to Christ. He does not lose his salvation, of course, but he does not keep his ability to flavor his world for the Lord.
Salt is also used as a healing agent. Have you ever exposed an open wound to salt water, in the ocean, for example? It hurts badly, but it usually feels and looks much better afterward. Very often when a believer demonstrates love to a nonbeliever, that love rubs into the open heart wound of the hurting person, causing initial pain. Over time, though, that exposure may bring healing in Jesus.
Dear heavenly Father, make me like salt in this world—a healing agent to those who are hurting.
Trial or Temptation?
Do not lead us into temptation.
Temptation is a common experience of every human being, Christian or not. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that temptations are “common to man.” How we deal with the battle of temptation is a mark of the genuineness of our faith or our lack of it.
The trials that the Lord allows into our lives to strengthen us can also become temptations. They can be solicitations to evil rather than a means to spiritual growth. Every difficult thing that comes into my life either strengthens me because I obey God and stay confident in His care and power, or leads me to doubt God and disobey His Word.
Every trial has the potential to become a temptation. The difference is how you respond to it.
October 24 Faith on Trial
|1 Peter 1:3–9
|1 Peter 1:7
That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Face it. You never will receive all you ask from God.
You will experience suffering that cannot be explained. You will be buffeted by volatile affliction. While on earth, you never will fully understand why you must go through trials. Your faith must be anchored in the eternal. You are assured that one day—maybe not on earth—your faith will be rewarded by your just Lord: “That the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7 nasb).
Faith sees past the physical world into what is invisible and eternal. Faith that rests on visible evidence is not faith at all.
You understand that sin has marred the world and that things will not be set straight until Christ Jesus comes again to establish His reign on earth. When you meet Jesus face–to–face, your wounds and sorrows will be replaced by His perfect peace and joy (Rev. 21:4).
Your faith will be rewarded one day—if not now. It is precious to the Lord, and it is your most valuable weapon in persevering on earth.
Father, each day my faith is on trial. Help me pass the tests, and let my faith result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus returns.
Claim God’s Blessings
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
i want you to notice that this verse is in the past tense. Paul did not say that God is going to bless us with spiritual blessings once we are in heaven, or even once we fulfill certain duties, roles, or commands. Paul wrote that Jesus Christ already has made all of these blessings available to us. They are blessings that are already laid up in God’s storehouse for us to claim.…
You cannot have a need that takes God by surprise. You cannot have a need that is beyond the supply that has already been provided by your heavenly Father and made available to you by Christ Jesus!
“WHO can lay anything to the charge of God’s Elect?” Most blessed challenge! How unanswerable it is! Every sin of the elect was laid upon the great Champion of our salvation, and by the atonement carried away. There is no sin in God’s book against His people. When the guilt of sin was taken away, the punishment of sin was removed. For the Christian there is no stroke from God’s angry hand—nay, not so much as a single frown of justice. The believer may be chastised by his Father, but God the Judge has nothing to say to the Christian, except “I have absolved thee: thou art acquitted.”
The Son of Man will come with the clouds of heaven. In the presence of the Ancient of Days, He will be given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations, and men of every language will worship Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14)
Jesus is my Lord and my God. (John 20:28)
Pause to express your thoughts of praise and worship.
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol
Or sworn by what is false. (Psalm 24:3–4)
Ask the Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of unconfessed sin. Acknowledge these to the Lord and thank Him for His forgiveness.
May the Lord my God be with me as You were with our fathers; may You never leave me nor forsake me. Incline my heart to You, to walk in all Your ways and to keep Your commands and Your statutes and Your judgments, which You commanded our fathers. May all the peoples of the earth know that the Lord is God; there is no other. Let my heart be fully committed to the Lord my God, to walk in Your statutes and keep Your commandments, as at this day. (1 Kings 8:57–58, 60–61)
As one who knows righteousness, who has Your law in my heart, may I not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their revilings. (Isaiah 51:7)
Pause to add your own prayers for personal renewal.
Joseph said to his brothers, “Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves for selling me here, for God sent me before you to save lives. He sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:5, 7–8)
Like Joseph, may I seek your perspective on the circumstances of my life.
Understanding and insight into the word
Understanding my identity in Christ
Who I am
Where I came from
Where I am going
Understanding God’s purpose for my life
My activities for this day
May we be devoted to one another in brotherly love, honoring one another above ourselves. (Romans 12:10)
Those in ministry
Those who are oppressed and in need
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. I cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13)
Those who are rich in this present world should not be arrogant or set their hope on the uncertainty of riches but on God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They should do good, be rich in good works, and be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future, so that they may lay hold of true life. (1 Timothy 6:17–19)
Pause to reflect upon these biblical affirmations.
I will sing to the Lord and give praise to the Lord,
For He has rescued the life of the needy
From the hands of evildoers. (Jeremiah 20:13)
The Lord is good,
A refuge in times of trouble;
He knows those who trust in Him. (Nahum 1:7)
Pause to offer your own expressions of thanksgiving.
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the strong man boast of his strength, and let not the rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23–24)
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I will wait for Him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good to hope silently
For the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:24–26)
Hearing and Doing
Scripture reading: James 1:22–25
Key verse: Romans 9:26
It shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,
“You are not My people,”
There they shall be called sons of the living God.
How you enter church each week will have a great impact on how you exit it. The reference here is to attitude and intention, not to whether you look or act just right.
James told us to be doers and not just hearers of the Word. The only way to be a doer is to be an intense hearer. We must know what to do and how to go about it before we can be doers. It is imperative that we walk into church services having resolved that we will intently, actively listen to the preaching of the Word of God.
Pray for God to prepare your heart for what He wants you to hear from your pastor. Take notes. Pray during the message. Say something like, “Lord, what are You trying to teach me here?” If there is a particular point that God continually is impressing upon your spirit, ask Him, “Father, what am I missing? Reveal what You would have me learn. How can I absorb what I am hearing and apply it to my life?”
Comprehending God’s Word will help you become a doer of God’s Word. This is the truth behind Romans 8:29, in which God would have us to be conformed to the image of His Son. You must comprehend to be conformed, and you must be conformed to effectively communicate in speech and deed the Word of God.
Make me an intense hearer, Lord, so I can be an obedient doer. Conform me to the image of Your Son, so I can effectively communicate Your Word in speech and deed.
I have been cast out of Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.
Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet You, Lord God, will not forget me.
I have forgotten prosperity. So I said, “My strength and my hope have perished from You, Lord.” Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast me off forever. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God”? With a little wrath, for a moment, You hid Your face, but with everlasting kindness You have mercy on me.
When my soul is cast down and my soul is disquieted within me, I will hope in You, Lord God; for I shall yet praise You, the help of my countenance. I am hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; I am perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
I trust You will redeem me and bring beauty out of ashes.
Jonah 2:4; Isaiah 49:14–15; Lamentations 3:17–18; Psalm 44:23; Isaiah 40:27; Isaiah 54:8; Psalm 43:5; 2 Corinthians 4:8–9
Morning, October 24
“The trees of the Lord are full of sap.”
— Psalm 104:16
Without sap the tree cannot flourish or even exist. Vitality is essential to a Christian. There must be life —a vital principle infused into us by God the Holy Ghost, or we cannot be trees of the Lord. The mere name of being a Christian is but a dead thing, we must be filled with the spirit of divine life. This life is mysterious. We do not understand the circulation of the sap, by what force it rises, and by what power it descends again. So the life within us is a sacred mystery. Regeneration is wrought by the Holy Ghost entering into man and becoming man’s life; and this divine life in a believer afterwards feeds upon the flesh and blood of Christ and is thus sustained by divine food, but whence it cometh and whither it goeth who shall explain to us? What a secret thing the sap is! The roots go searching through the soil with their little spongioles, but we cannot see them suck out the various gases, or transmute the mineral into the vegetable; this work is done down in the dark. Our root is Christ Jesus, and our life is hid in him; this is the secret of the Lord. The radix of the Christian life is as secret as the life itself. How permanently active is the sap in the cedar! In the Christian the divine life is always full of energy—not always in fruit- bearing, but in inward operations. The believer’s graces, are not every one of them in constant motion? but his life never ceases to palpitate within. He is not always working for God, but his heart is always living upon him. As the sap manifests itself in producing the foliage and fruit of the tree, so with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally manifested in his walk and conversation. If you talk with him, he cannot help speaking about Jesus. If you notice his actions you will see that he has been with Jesus. He has so much sap within, that it must fill his conduct and conversation with life.
Evening, October 24
“He began to wash the disciples’ feet.”
— John 13:5
The Lord Jesus loves his people so much, that every day he is still doing for them much that is analogous to washing their soiled feet. Their poorest actions he accepts; their deepest sorrow he feels; their slenderest wish he hears, and their every transgression he forgives. He is still their servant as well as their Friend and Master. He not only performs majestic deeds for them, as wearing the mitre on his brow, and the precious jewels glittering on his breastplate, and standing up to plead for them, but humbly, patiently, he yet goes about among his people with the basin and the towel. He does this when he puts away from us day by day our constant infirmities and sins. Last night, when you bowed the knee, you mournfully confessed that much of your conduct was not worthy of your profession; and even tonight, you must mourn afresh that you have fallen again into the selfsame folly and sin from which special grace delivered you long ago; and yet Jesus will have great patience with you; he will hear your confession of sin; he will say, “I will, be thou clean”; he will again apply the blood of sprinkling, and speak peace to your conscience, and remove every spot. It is a great act of eternal love when Christ once for all absolves the sinner, and puts him into the family of God; but what condescending patience there is when the Saviour with much long-suffering bears the oft recurring follies of his wayward disciple; day by day, and hour by hour, washing away the multiplied transgressions of his erring but yet beloved child! To dry up a flood of rebellion is something marvellous, but to endure the constant dropping of repeated offences—to bear with a perpetual trying of patience, this is divine indeed! While we find comfort and peace in our Lord’s daily cleansing, its legitimate influence upon us will be to increase our watchfulness, and quicken our desire for holiness. Is it so? 
Sharpen Your Shovel
Scripture Reading: Proverbs 1
Key Verse: Psalm 19:10
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
If you were an explorer, and you had a guaranteed, accurate map directing you to buried treasure, you would be committed to uncovering it, wouldn’t you? Nothing would deter you from the expedition. You would have a shovel in hand and a single-minded purpose that was not deterred by any difficulty.
Did you know that God’s Word is a treasure? It’s true, and not just in an obscure or abstract way. The Bible is truth, God’s unerring, unfailing, and eternal revelation to mankind. Every principle is rock-solid; you can bank your very life on what it says.
King David, who possessed much wealth, expressed the worth of Scripture in these poetic terms: “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart … They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:7–10 nasb).
These are the words of a rich man, yet he found the Word of the Lord richer still. If you have read the Bible for years, you can certainly testify to its growing sweetness. If you are just beginning to “mine” in Scripture, you need to sharpen your shovel and get ready to dig—you’ll never reach the bottom.
O Lord, sharpen my spiritual shovel. I want to mine the wealth of Your Word. I am ready to dig into Your limitless resources.
Fellow Workers for Christ
I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need.
Epaphroditus was a fellow worker in the body of Christ, which is another reason why Paul was so fond of him. Paul was without question a worker, and he was attracted to others who gave their all to the advancement of the gospel.
In the spirit of love, I must ask you the same thing I ask myself and those whom I pastor in my church: Are you a worker? If you are a Christian, I know you are a brother or sister. But I want to know if you’ve moved beyond that point and become a worker for Christ. Unfortunately, many in the body of Christ today are looking for the church that offers them the most services. Who do they think provides all those services if not workers just like themselves? If they do find a church offering what they are seeking, then they conclude, “This church is large and has everything all together. They don’t need me to do anything.” That perspective reflects a definite lack of knowledge about the church of Jesus Christ and its needs.
Every church needs its members to be workers.
|The Winter of the Soul
Fenelon says “True humility consists in a deep view of our utter unworthiness, and in an absolute abandonment to God, without the slightest doubt that He will do the greatest things in us.” That’s good, isn’t it?
I find this winter of the soul through which I am passing a dreary place, except for my faith in the Divine Gardener, who is, I trust, preparing the ground for an abundant harvest. I changed the word “am sure” to “trust” because it is only by faith that I know it, and “am sure” seemed to imply a more absolute knowledge. Mrs. Caldwell said when I was there that no soul could get into the deepest things without going through this winter, but I wonder if now and then one is not carried over on a wave of glory? Weren’t you?
—To Sarah, March 7, 1881
Now thanks be to God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ. 2 Cor. 2:14.
The viewpoint of a worker for God must not be as near the highest as he can get, it must be the highest. Be careful to maintain strenuously God’s point of view, it has to be done every day, bit by bit; don’t think on the finite. No outside power can touch the viewpoint.
The viewpoint to maintain is that we are here for one purpose only, viz., to be captives in the train of Christ’s triumphs. We are not in God’s showroom, we are here to exhibit one thing—the absolute captivity of our lives to Jesus Christ. How small the other points of view are—‘I am standing alone battling for Jesus’; ‘I have to maintain the cause of Christ and hold this fort for Him.’ Paul says—‘I am in the train of a conqueror, and it does not matter what the difficulties are, I am always led in triumph.’ Is this idea being worked out practically in us? Paul’s secret joy was that God took him, a red-handed rebel against Jesus Christ, and made him a captive, and now that is all he is here for. Paul’s joy was to be a captive of the Lord, he had no other interest in heaven or on earth. It is a shameful thing for a Christian to talk about getting the victory. The Victor ought to have got us so completely that it is His victory all the time, and we are more than conquerors through Him. “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ.” We are enwheeled with the odour of Jesus, and wherever we go we are a wonderful refreshment to God.
Jars of Clay
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:7–18
Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
The apostle Paul knew true success in ministry, but he also knew something about pain and turmoil. During his ministry, he was hunted, imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, and mocked. His fellow Jews branded him a traitor, and he was often scorned or not trusted by his Christian brothers. Paul faced the worst that life had to offer, yet he retained the joy that comes from a relationship with Jesus.
Unfortunately, many new believers assume that the saving work of Christ in their lives will prevent them from experiencing times of trials and troubles. Paul, however, disagreed. In 2 Corinthians 4:7–18, Paul illuminated the pain often associated with discipleship. Dispelling the illusion that Christians are spared hardships, Paul instead praised God for those times in which His power is revealed in human weakness.
In verse 7, Paul wrote about earthen vessels and the power of God. The NIV translates “earthen vessels” as “jars of clay.” The image here is of the unimaginable power of God being poured into fragile, cracked containers: you and me.
God’s glory is not revealed in spite of our brokenness, but rather through our brokenness. Just as a cracked jar will seep water, so will the power of God leak out from our fractured lives.
Do not be ashamed of your “cracks.” Rather, examine yourself to discover how God may be more fully revealed to you and others through your hardships.
Dear heavenly Father, let me realize that the “cracks” in my jar of clay provide openings for Your light to shine through. Reveal Yourself through me today.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven
They say the world has an eagle eye for anything inconsistent, an eye sharp to discover the vagaries and inconsistencies in the defaulty and the unworthy. It has an eagle eye; but the eagle winks before the sun, and the burning iris of its eye shrinks abashed before the unsullied purity of noon. Let your light so shine before men, that others, awed and charmed by the consistency of your godly life, may come to enquire, and to say you have been with Jesus.
|The Fearsome Foursome
“For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.”
Four key terms characterize those who are not in Christ.
In our fallen, cursed world, disasters are commonplace. Fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters happen somewhere every day. Added to those natural disasters are the man–made ones, such as war, acts of terrorism, plane crashes, train wrecks, etc.
But far greater than any of those disasters, and the one from which they all stem, was the entrance of sin into the human race. Sin renders fallen men spiritually dead, cuts them off from fellowship with God, and consigns them to eternal punishment in Hell.
In today’s verse Paul introduces four words that describe man’s unregenerate state: flesh, sin, law, and death. Those four words are interconnected: the flesh produces sin, which is stimulated by the law, resulting in death. Let’s consider each one individually.
The term flesh is used two ways in Scripture. It is sometimes used in a physical sense to speak of human existence. John used it to describe Christ’s incarnation in John 1:14 and 1 John 4:2. But in its moral sense, “flesh” represents the believer’s unredeemed body (Gal. 5:13; Eph. 2:3). While believers are no longer “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:9) as are unbelievers, the flesh is still in us. It is the seat of temptation, the beachhead from which Satan launches his attacks.
Sin (or “sinful passions”) energizes the flesh, which in turn produces further sin. Those “sinful passions,” Paul says, “were aroused by the Law”; they are exposed by the law because fallen man’s rebellious nature makes him desire to do what is forbidden. The end result of this downward spiral is “death”—both physical and spiritual.
What a merciful God we serve, who “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5).
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for the unbelievers in your life, that God would open their hearts to respond to the gospel (Acts 16:14).
For Further Study: What do the following passages teach about the Christian’s relationship to the law—Romans 8:2–4; 10:4; Galatians 3:13; 5:18; Philipians 3:9. ✧ Does that mean believers can live as they please? (See 1 Cor. 9:21.)
Fri, October 24, 2014
A Glorified Man
Sixth, as the knowledge of God becomes more wonderful, greater service to our fellow men will become for us imperative. This blessed knowledge is not given to be enjoyed selfishly. The more perfectly we know God the more we will feel the desire to translate the new-found knowledge into deeds of mercy toward suffering humanity. The God who gave all to us will continue to give all through us as we come to know Him better.
Thus far we have considered the individual’s personal relation to God, but like the ointment of a man’s right hand, which by its fragrance “betrayeth itself,” any intensified knowledge of God will soon begin to affect those around us in the Christian community. And we must seek purposefully to share our increasing light with the fellow members of the household of God.
This we can best do by keeping the majesty of God in full focus in all our public services. Not only our private prayers should be filled with God, but our witnessing, our singing, our preaching, our writing should center around the Person of our holy, holy Lord and extol continually the greatness of His dignity and power. There is a glorified Man on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven faithfully representing us there. We are left for a season among men; let us faithfully represent Him here.
We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.
Not only our private prayers should be filled with God, but our witnessing, our singing, our preaching, our writing should center around the Person of our holy, holy Lord and extol continually the greatness of His dignity and power.
Father, by Your grace and Your power, may we well represent You here on this earth. Amen!
October 24 – John the Baptist’s Testimony to Jesus’ Deity
“‘You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light’” (John 5:33–35).
The purpose of John the Baptist’s ministry was to prepare the nation for the Messiah (1:23), and to point Him out when He came (1:31).
John’s testimony supported Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah. Since he was generally regarded as a prophet (Matt. 21:26; Luke 20:6)—the first one in four centuries—his testimony carried considerable weight.
Jesus, of course, did not depend on human testimony to establish His claim to deity. He cited the testimony of John the Baptist to confirm by the mouth of one already recognized as God’s true prophet that same truth concerning Himself. He did so for the sake of His hearers—that they might be saved on account of John’s faithful witness.
Having mentioned John’s testimony to Him, Jesus in turn gave both a tribute to the Baptist and a rebuke to the Jewish leaders for rejecting his witness. John was “the lamp that was burning and was shining.” His “burning” inner zeal made him a “shining” light in the dark world. Unlike Jesus, who is the Light of the world (8:12), John was a lamp—he was a reflector of the Light. Just as a lamp lights the way for people, so John lit the way to Jesus (1:31).
We are never just standing still. We’re either increasing our resemblance to Christ’s character, or we’re looking more like ourselves—more controlled by our own desires and appetites. What traits would make you a better reflection of the presence of Christ in your life?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, http://www.moodypublishers.com.
Reading for Today:
1 Timothy 3:1-16
Jeremiah 33:15 A Branch. This is the Messiah King in David’s lineage. He is the King whose reign immediately follows the Second Coming when He appears in power (Dan. 2:35, 45; 7:13, 14, 27; Matt. 16:27–28; 24:30; 26:64).
Jeremiah 34:18, 21 cut the calf in two. God will give the guilty over to death before the conqueror, for they denied the covenant ratified by blood (v. 21). In this custom, as in Genesis 15:8–17, two parties laid out parts of a sacrifice on two sides, then walked between the parts. By that symbolic action, each pledged to fulfill his promise, agreeing in effect, “May my life (represented by the blood) be poured out if I fail to honor my part.”
1 Timothy 3:1 desires…desires. Two different Greek words are used. The first means “to reach out after.” It describes external action not internal motive. The second means “a strong passion” and refers to an inward desire. Taken together, these two words aptly describe the type of man who belongs in the ministry—one who outwardly pursues it because he is driven by a strong internal desire. bishop. The word means “overseer” and identifies the men who are responsible to lead the church (5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12; Heb. 13:7). In the New Testament the words “bishop,” “elder,” “overseer,” and “pastor” are used interchangeably to describe the same men (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5–9; 1 Pet. 5:1, 2). Bishops (pastors, overseers, elders) are responsible to lead (5:17), preach and teach (5:17), help the spiritually weak (1 Thess. 5:12–14), care for the church (1 Pet. 5:1, 2), and ordain other leaders (4:14).
1 Timothy 3:6 not a novice, lest…puffed up with pride. Putting a new convert into a leadership role would tempt him to pride. Elders, therefore, are to be drawn from the spiritually mature men of the congregation. fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Satan’s condemnation was due to pride over his position. It resulted in his fall from honor and authority. The same kind of fall and judgment could easily happen to a new and weak believer put in a position of spiritual leadership.
1 Timothy 3:8 deacons. From a word group meaning “to serve.” Originally referring to menial tasks such as waiting on tables (Acts 6:1–4), “deacon” came to denote any service in the church. Deacons serve under the leadership of elders, helping them exercise oversight in the practical matters of church life. Scripture defines no official or specific responsibilities for deacons. They are to do whatever the elders assign them or whatever spiritual ministry is necessary.
DAY 24: What does it mean for an elder to be “the husband of one wife”?
In 1 Timothy 3:2, the Greek is literally a “one-woman man.” This says nothing about marriage or divorce (v. 4). The issue is not the elder’s marital status but his moral and sexual purity. This qualification heads the list, because it is in this area that leaders are most prone to fail. Various interpretations of this qualification have been offered. Some see it as a prohibition against polygamy—an unnecessary injunction since polygamy was not common in Roman society and clearly forbidden by Scripture (Gen. 2:24), the teaching of Jesus (Matt. 19:5, 6; Mark 10:6–9), and Paul (Eph. 5:31). A polygamist could not even have been a church member, let alone a church leader. Others see this requirement as barring those who remarried after the death of their wives. But, as already noted, the issue is sexual purity, not marital status. Further, the Bible encourages remarriage after widowhood (5:14; 1 Cor. 7:39). Some believe that Paul here excludes divorced men from church leadership. That again ignores the fact that this qualification does not deal with marital status. Nor does the Bible prohibit all remarriage after divorce (Matt. 5:31, 32; 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:15). Finally, some think that this requirement excludes single men from church leadership. But if that were Paul’s intent, he would have disqualified himself (1 Cor. 7:8).
A “one-woman man” is one totally devoted to his wife, maintaining singular devotion, affection, and sexual purity in both thought and deed. To violate this is to forfeit blamelessness and no longer be “above reproach” (Titus 1:6,7).
From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, http://www.thomasnelson.com.
Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce – Part Five
Theme: Marriage and Divorce
In this week’s lesson we learn about Jesus’ teachings on divorce.
He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Where do we come in to this picture of marriage and divorce? We can acknowledge the Bible’s high standard and still struggle with how to do what is required. Or we can struggle over what to do when we fail to live up to Jesus’ teaching. Many people are being hurt by situations involving estrangement, divorce or remarriage. I want to close by saying a few things about the application of these standards.
First, these are standards for Christians, not for the world. This means that believers must not try to impose them on other people generally. We believe that following Christian standards would tend on the whole to make men and women happier than they would be apart from them, and we can point with justified alarm to the weakening of the family and the decay of lasting relationships in today’s society. But the majority of people are not Christians, and it would be both wrong and irrational to expect them to lead Christian lives.
Second, because there are many persons who become Christians after they have been married and divorced, sometimes more than once, we must never forget that their previous conduct along With all their past is wiped clean by their conversion to Christ and that they therefore have the right to marry for the first time as Christians. The church at Corinth much have been made up largely of persons in this category, for Paul wrote that many of them were fornicators, adulterers and idolaters before their conversion (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Still he terms them “new creatures” in Christ. When a new creature in Christ meets another new creature in Christ and God leads them to each other, do they not have a right to marry and establish a Christian home regardless of their previous marital history?
Third, there are cases in which one of the spouses is a Christian and the other is not. What is the Christian to do in these circumstances? This was a situation Paul faced not only in Corinth but in other cities, and his advice was this. First, the Christian should remain with the unbelieving spouse if at all possible, for, he says, how do you know that you will not be the means by which God will save your husband or wife (1 Cor. 7:16)? It is possible, however, that the unsaved spouse will not stay with the Christian. If that is the case, Paul’s second point is to let the unbeliever go. How can the Christian stop it in any case? This is mere realism.
Fourth, we live in an imperfect, sinful world and there will always be circumstances in which a Christian will have to choose the lesser of two evils. In some circumstances, this could be a divorce. For instance, we may imagine a woman married to a brute of a husband, a man who spends his money on drinking or gambling and then deserts his wife while she must raise and educate the children. Under the laws of the United States, it is entirely possible that the man might return just when the children are ready to go to college and claim the money the wife has saved and waste it. In a situation like this, I believe it would be right for the wife to initiate the divorce, even if she is a Christian, since her chief responsibility would be to the children and their future at this point.
Finally, it is true that Christians who marry out of God’s will and get divorced often remarry (frequently to Christians) and that God seems in grace often to sanctify and bless the second marriages. Does this mean that God modifies his standards? No. But it does mean that divorce and remarriage, as bad as they may be, are not unforgivable and that God is always willing to begin again with us wherever we are or whatever we have done and bring blessing. The churches should never be closed to such people, and Christians above all persons should be understanding of others and show mercy.
There is hardly a matter in the today’s church that is treated with more laxity than issues of divorce and remarriage. But identifying with and seeking to help people who have failed in their marriages does not mean lowering the standards. We will never be much of a help if we do.1
1 This last section is borrowed with changes from a book of mine: The Sermon on the Mount (Baker, 2006), pp. 139-14].
Why is it inappropriate to hold non-Christians to the standards of marriage presented in this passage?
What does Dr. Boice suggest for the new Christian who is married to a nonbeliever?
Divorce and remarriage, as bad as they may be, are not unforgivable. . ..
Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ who are in difficult marriages that they may depend on the Lord for wisdom and trust His sovereignty.
Art Not Thou Also One of His Disciples? – Part One
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
I want to take you to the Word of God and study with you for a few moments something in the New Testament of what it means to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. In preparation for this sermon, I just took the concordance and looked at every verse in the Bible where the word disciple is found. And after I had them all together, I saw that the word disciple is used in two ways, the loose way and the tight way. The loose way is a wide sense-it refers to those who favor a teacher, who join his party and become his adherents, in a general sense. Then in the smaller, tighter sense, the word disciple is used of those who seek to learn the mind of the one they follow so that they can know their leader and conform their lives and actions to his. The word disciple means follower or learner. It is frequently used in conjunction with the word teacher.
Now it is in the second sense, the tight sense, that I wish to put before you your relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ and show you what the New Testament has to teach to those who are the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps, we can see it by looking in John 9 at the ironic use of the word disciple by the man who had been born blind. You remember that when Jesus healed him, the miracle was so startling that the Pharisees came and tried to dissuade the man from his testimony by making him admit that he had been healed in some other way. And they questioned him, and questioned him about Jesus. In John 9:27, with some degree of sarcasm and irony, the man who had been born blind challenged the Pharisees with, “Will ye also be His disciples?” Of course, this made them furious. For the last thing in the world they wanted was to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. So they reviled the man and claimed, “We are the disciples of Moses.” In that ironic utterance you can see that the disciple is the one who follows, who believes the doctrine of an individual, and conforms himself to his teacher.
Now the question I put to you, without irony, is that question, “Will you be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?” The man had said to the Pharisees, “Will ye also be His disciples? but I stress it: will you also-in addition to your belief in Christ-be His disciples?” For I suppose that if I talked individually to many Christians, each man, woman and child, and asked, “Do you believe in Christ?” they would all say, “Yes, I do.” Then I would ask another question, “In addition to your belief, will you also be His disciples?” You say, “Is there a separation between believing and being His disciple?” Yes, there is. In the Book of Acts, a verse says, “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). But today the question must be asked, “Can the Christians be called disciples?”
Originally the people followed Jesus so closely that when the name “Christian” was invented, it was put upon those who were following Him. People said, “These are Christians. They follow Him. They’re His!” But today, everybody calls himself a Christian. America is even called a Christian nation by some people. Anything that has a vague flavor of Christiandom gets the name. But how few people who call themselves Christians are indeed His disciples. So will you also be His disciple?
Create a definition of disciple in your own words.
Based on your own definition, how do you create disciples? What are some of the most important components of being a disciple?
THANKSGIVING: Thank God for His Eternal Purposes and Counsels Concerning Man’s Redemption
For the eternal purposes and counsels of God concerning man’s redemption.
We ought always to give thanks to you, O God, because you have chosen some to salvation through sanctification by the Spirit: 2 Thessalonians 2:13(ESV) That there is a remnant, chosen by grace, Romans 11:5(ESV) whom God has chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and blameless before you in love, having predestined them for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to yourself, according to the purpose of your will, to the praise of your glorious grace. Ephesians 1:4-6(ESV)
Yours they were, and you gave them to Christ; John 17:6(ESV) and this is your will: that you should lose nothing of all that you have given him, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:39(ESV)
Matthew Henry’s Method for Prayer
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 Osbeck, K. W. (1996). Amazing grace: 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (p. 319). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
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 Jeremiah, D. (2007). Life-Changing Moments With God (p. 319). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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 Jeremiah, D. (2002). Sanctuary: finding moments of refuge in the presence of God (p. 311). Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers.
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