Originally posted on Possessing the Treasure:

by Mike Ratliff

11 The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.  (Psalm 89:11 ESV)

God worked out the circumstances in my walk so that right after I repented and turned from my self-focused religiosity to walking before Him as one bearing his own cross I was drawn into this discernment ministry. Through this I became aware of the decades of apostasy that the visible church was in and how so much of what we call “church” in our time is not. The move away from God-focused Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy in the Church to what we see in the majority of the visible church today into man-centeredness was accomplished mostly in small, behind-the-scenes moves. Why? It is always done this way by Satan’s change agents because what is being done can only be accomplished via deception. If…

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Reading for Today:

Nehemiah 12:1–13:31
Psalm 89:30-37
Proverbs 22:3-4
Romans 1:1-32
Notes:

Romans 1:17 The just shall live by faith. Paul intends to prove that it has always been God’s way to justify sinners by grace on the basis of faith alone. God established Abraham as a pattern of faith (4:22–25; Gal. 3:6, 7) and thus calls him the father of all who believe (4:11, 16). Elsewhere, Paul uses this same phrase to argue that no one has ever been declared righteous before God except by faith alone (Gal. 3:11) and that true faith will demonstrate itself in action (Phil. 2:12, 13). This expression emphasizes that true faith is not a single event, but a way of life—it endures. That endurance is called the perseverance of the saints (Col. 1:22, 23; Heb. 3:12–14). One central theme of the story of Job is that no matter what Satan does, saving faith cannot be destroyed.

Romans 1:18 wrath of God. This is not an impulsive outburst of anger aimed capriciously at people whom God does not like. It is the settled, determined response of a righteous God against sin.

Romans 1:20 they are without excuse. God holds all men responsible for their refusal to acknowledge what He has shown them of Himself in His creation. Even those who have never had an opportunity to hear the gospel have received a clear witness about the existence and character of God—and have suppressed it. If a person will respond to the revelation he has, even if it is solely natural revelation, God will provide some means for that person to hear the gospel (Acts 8:26–39; 10:1–48; 17:27).

Romans 1:21 knew God. Man is conscious of God’s existence, power, and divine nature through general revelation (vv. 19, 20). they did not glorify Him. Man’s chief end is to glorify God (Lev. 10:3; 1 Chr. 16:24–29; Ps. 148; Rom.15:5, 6), and Scripture constantly demands it (Ps. 29:1, 2; 1 Cor. 10:31; Rev. 4:11). To glorify Him is to honor Him, to acknowledge His attributes, and to praise Him for His perfections (Ex. 34:5–7). It is to recognize His glory and extol Him for it. Failing to give Him glory is man’s greatest affront to his Creator (Acts 12:22, 23). nor were thankful. They refused to acknowledge that every good thing they enjoyed came from God.

DAY 30: How did Paul maintain his commitment to the gospel?

Paul tells us in Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” He had been imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:23, 24), chased out of Thessalonica (Acts 17:10), smuggled out of Berea (Acts 17:14), laughed at in Athens (Acts 17:32), regarded as a fool in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:18, 23), and stoned in Galatia (Acts 14:19), but Paul remained eager to preach the gospel in Rome—the seat of contemporary political power and pagan religion. Neither ridicule, criticism, nor physical persecution could curb his boldness.

“For it is the power of God.” The English word “dynamite” comes from this Greek word. Although the message may sound foolish to some (1 Cor. 1:18), the gospel is effective because it carries with it the omnipotence of God. Only God’s power is able to overcome man’s sinful nature and give him new life (5:6; 8:3; John 1:12; 1 Cor. 1:18, 23–25; 2:1–4; 4:20; 1 Pet. 1:23).

“The power of God to salvation.” Used 5 times in Romans (the verb form occurs 8 times), this key word basically means “deliverance” or “rescue.” The power of the gospel delivers people from lostness (Matt. 18:11), from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9), from willful spiritual ignorance (Hos. 4:6; 2 Thess. 1:8), from evil self-indulgence (Luke 14:26), and from the darkness of false religion (Col. 1:13; 1 Pet. 2:9). It rescues them from the ultimate penalty of their sin, i.e., eternal separation from God and eternal punishment (Rev. 20:6).

“For everyone who believes.” To trust, rely on, or have faith in. When used of salvation, this word usually occurs in the present tense (“is believing”) which stresses that faith is not simply a one-time event, but an ongoing condition. True saving faith is supernatural, a gracious gift of God that He produces in the heart (Eph. 2:8) and is the only means by which a person can appropriate true righteousness. Saving faith consists of 3 elements: 1) mental: the mind understands the gospel and the truth about Christ (10:14–17); 2) emotional: one embraces the truthfulness of those facts with sorrow over sin and joy over God’s mercy and grace (6:17; 15:13); and 3) volitional: the sinner submits his will to Christ and trusts in Him alone as the only hope of salvation.

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.

Why are you afraid, you men of little faith? -Matthew 8:26

Sometimes events seem so obvious to us, we wonder why others don’t see the problems or difficulties just as clearly. During the storm the disciples wondered two things: why Jesus could ask them what was so frightening, and how He could not be afraid Himself. In the midst of chaos, any other response seemed absurd. They even accused Him of insensitivity: “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

But Christ had to rebuke His men because their fear sprang from faithlessness. He basically asked them, “Haven’t you been with Me long enough to see what I can do and to know you are perfectly safe? Even if you should drown, that would mean instant heaven. There’s nothing to worry about.” They should have remembered Psalm 89:8–9, “O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. You rule the swelling of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them” (cf. 46:1–3; 107:23–30).

For the disciples, Jesus would literally fulfill the psalm. And for believers today, who are aware of His power and love, there is still no need to be afraid of anything. God will see us through the most tumultuous of life’s storms because He can and will take care of His children.

Ask Yourself

When was the last time you despaired of life and safety, feeling as though there was no escape from your current situation without divine intervention? In fact, how many of these has God allowed you to live through—and to see His capable deliverance?

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.

 

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 22:39

 

Jesus answered the Jewish lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37). In this familiar story, a Jewish man is beaten and left for dead on the road. A compassionate Samaritan rescues the man, even though Samaritans and Jews normally hated one another.

The point of the story is that your neighbor is whoever comes across your path with a need. Would you have reacted the way the Samaritan did if you had encountered the injured man along the side of the road? Hopefully you would not have passed him by, as the priest and Levite did in the story.

The lesson of the parable is not that you must stop and help everyone who has a flat tire, or that you have to give money to every panhandler you meet. But God wants you to be sensitive to such situations and willing to help if you think your assistance is the only aid the person is likely to receive. In other words, follow the Golden Rule: “‘Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them’” (Matt. 7:12).[1]

 

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 231). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”

2 Peter 1:10–11

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The pursuit of virtue results in assurance now and eternal reward later.

Assurance is a great blessing, as Peter tells us in verse 10 of today’s passage. However, it is not the only thing you will enjoy if you are pursuing godly virtues. Years ago a Jewish teenager named Marvin learned about the additional blessing of rewards from the lady who led him to Christ. Before he left home to join the Marines as a struggling, often persecuted believer, she told him: “You’re a true Christian, Marvin…. One day when your earthly life ends you will go to Heaven because of what the Messiah has done for you. But if, when you get to Heaven, there is a great big parade and if in the front of the parade there is a great big band—if you don’t change your way of living, you’ll be so far back in the line that you won’t even hear the music.” Marvin got the message and eventually became a dedicated Christian teacher and evangelist.

You and I also must be living our lives in light of eternity—laying up treasures in Heaven, pursuing the virtues symbolized by gold, silver, and precious stones, not giving attention to those lesser things represented by wood, hay, and straw (see 1 Cor. 3:10–15). Those of us who earnestly pursue the virtues of 2 Peter 1 will receive a superabundant reward. And that’s not a crass motive for good works, because all believers will one day place their crowns (rewards) before God’s throne as an act of homage (see 2 Tim. 4:7–8; Rev. 4:10).

Examine yourself to see if there’s any moral virtue in your life. If you see none, you can’t assume you’re saved. If you see some and it’s growing, though not perfectly, you can be “certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10). And you can be confident His reward “will be abundantly supplied to you” (v. 11).

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Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for the eternal rewards that await those believers who have been faithful.

For Further Study: Read Ephesians 1:18; 2:7; and 1 Timothy 6:17. What do those verses say about God’s blessings and rewards?[1]

 

[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

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Fellowship with Christ is built on love, trust, and obedience.

The recipients of 1 Peter, like us, had never seen Christ, but they enjoyed fellowship with Him just the same. And their fellowship was genuine because it was marked by love, trust, and obedience.

The love Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1:8 isn’t shallow emotionalism or sentimentality. It’s the love of the will—the love of choice. His readers had chosen to love Christ despite never having seen Him physically. Such love is marked by obedience, as Jesus affirms in John 14: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. … He who does not love Me does not keep My words” (vv. 15, 24). To have fellowship with Christ is to love and obey Him.

Another element of fellowship is trust. After hearing reports about Christ’s resurrection, the disciple Thomas declared that he would trust Jesus only after seeing and touching Him. Jesus honored his wishes, saying, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27). But then Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (v. 29). We as Christians are among those who believe in Christ without having seen Him.

The result of loving and trusting Christ is “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). This joy is something beyond the ability of speech and thought to convey. That’s obvious even on the human level—as evidenced by the thousands of songs that have attempted to communicate the joy of being in love. “Full of glory” refers to the divine element in Christian joy. It’s a supernatural endowment bestowed and energized by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

Enjoying fellowship with Christ is one of the supreme privileges of your Christian life. Strengthen and enrich that fellowship by learning the Word and relying on the Spirit. As you do, you will learn to love and trust Christ more deeply.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to teach you how to love and trust Him more faithfully. Thank Him for the joy that comes as you do.

For Further Study: Memorize Matthew 22:37.[1]

 

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 224). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

scripture reading: John 1:1–34

key verse: John 1:4

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John described Jesus as the Light of the World, for “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). In actuality, Christ was God’s first missionary. He was the bearer of redemption, of sins forgiven, and of God’s grace for all humanity.

His words of acceptance and love moved men and women to immeasurable points of commitment to God. Their lives were changed, their hopes renewed, and their hearts made pure, all because they heard the gospel message and believed in God’s Messenger.

When Jesus died on Calvary, His earthly mission was complete. Salvation’s pathway was no longer closed. Instead, all of heaven was opened to everyone who would trust in God’s Son.

As a Christian, you are His chosen light of hope to a world bound in the darkness of sin. You cannot escape the call of His commission. You may not be called to an overseas mission field, but as a child of God, you are called to carry the light of the gospel to those around you.

You are a missionary to the people in your office, in your family, on the commuter train, on the airplane, and in the garden club. Wherever there is darkness, Jesus wants you to shine His light of love and salvation.

Lord, You were a missionary, and Your mission is complete. Help me fulfill my mission. Raise me up to bear the light of Your Word to the darkest recesses of this sinful world.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1998). Enter His gates: a daily devotional. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.

Psalm 27:3

these are the words of a man who has learned how to be sustained in the most difficult, trying times of life. He learned an amazing lesson—in the midst of tragedy, he did not need to live in fear, because God was his defense. Though in a war zone, he could be fully confident that God would protect and sustain him

There is hope for us because God has promised never to leave us or to forsake us. There is hope because we are not alone—we have each other. This is the strength of a nation under attack—a united spirit gaining confidence and determination from each other. But more importantly, learning to rely on our God.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2004). God’s way day by day (p. 227). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

Scripture reading: Matthew 6:25–34

Key verse: Philippians 4:19

My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:25–34 is a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. As we read Christ’s words to those who had gathered along the hillside, we discover a strong calmness emerging from the Son of God.

Essentially, Jesus told those gathered that it was a waste of time to worry. Why? Because God knew their needs, and He promised to provide for each one. The apostle Paul delivered the same message to the Philippian believers (Phil. 4:19).

The thought of God taking care of us is a victorious thought! We know that He has never failed to keep any of His promises. This fact alone should be the end of all doubt and worry, but it rarely is.

Often we become consumed with doubts and fears. When this happens, we have not transferred the ownership of our anxieties to Christ. Instead, we cling to doubt and fear with the hope of doing something to “help” God solve our problems.

If you want to “help God,” try trusting Him. Let Him be God, and you become His faithful servant and friend.

Is there a pressing need in your life? Leave it at the altar of God. God is faithful. He takes into account all that you are facing and all that you will face in the future. He is omniscient, and He loves you perfectly. Whatever you need, God has a plan to solve it.

Lord, I rejoice that You have a plan to solve my every need. You know all I am facing today and in the future. I praise You![1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 221). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:14–16

Key Verse: Philippians 3:8

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

After winning a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, the muscular wrestler was asked if he had any secrets of preparation. “My only secret is that I didn’t let anything hinder my goal of winning,” he related. “I refused to be distracted by any other competition.”

That same zealous pursuit of our relationship with Christ is the highest goal for the believer. Paul termed it “undistracted devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:35 nasb).

That is true for every Christian—married or unmarried, rich or poor, small or great. God will not tolerate competition (Matt. 6:24).

The relevant question then is, Is there anything or anyone in your life who is in competition with Christ’s claim on your life? Does money, marriage, your job, recreation, or your hobby vie for your allegiance to Christ? Do you seek Him first by daily acknowledging His lordship and obeying His will?

When other objects or people distract us from this primary focus to serve and worship the Lord, our spiritual growth is short-circuited. Having undistracted devotion to Christ means putting Christ first in all of our activities, submitting them to His will and guidance. When we do, we always win (2 Cor. 2:14).

Precious Lord, I am easily distracted from the paths of my spiritual journey. Free me from all that competes with Your claims in my life. I want to put You first in all things.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 221). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

Scripture Reading: James 1:1–8

Key Verse: James 1:2

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.

Temptation is an enticement to go beyond the bounds of our God-given desires. While we ourselves have to take responsibility for caving in to such an attraction, it should nonetheless be helpful to recognize the source of all temptation: Satan, the enemy of our souls.

The enemy is crafty and intelligent. He also is savage and relentless. His goal is to alienate you from God, to destroy your fellowship with your Creator and Savior. His purpose is to stunt your growth as a believer and minimize your impact for God’s kingdom. He knows your weaknesses; he also knows how to surprise, stage, and camouflage.

This is why it is imperative for every believer to maintain his or her defense by means of a vibrant, abiding fellowship with Jesus Christ. He is our refuge and rear guard, and His Word is our very effective weapon.

It is a mistake to accuse others for your own failures. For instance, some people attribute their current faults to the mistakes of their parents. While parental influence can be great, every person is responsible for his or her own choices and actions. Even more so, it is an error to try and blame God for the temptations that lure you. God is holy; Satan is evil.

React to temptation with the knowledge that its source is an evil enemy who attempts daily to steal your joy and destroy your effectiveness as a child of God. Then turn to the Lord and ask Him to help you overcome. He is the One who is able and eager to free you and give you victory.

Lord, help me to overcome the temptations of the enemy. Give me the victory and set me free![1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2006). Pathways to his presence (p. 221). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

Scripture reading: Galatians 5:1–3

Key verse: Galatians 5:1

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

In the first verse of Galatians 5 (nasb), the apostle Paul wrote, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” What was Paul talking about?

Many times the things that bind us do not seem harmful at first glance. In this particular entry in God’s Word, we find that the Galatian believers were simply doing what tradition and the Law of Moses had taught them to do: Be circumcised as an outward sign of their allegiance and devotion to God. Yet their wrong theology quickly became a stumbling block to their spiritual growth.

Paul told them, “I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law” (v. 3 nasb). The “whole Law” carried with it a tremendous burden. In fact, the requirements were so great that no one could keep them, which was the point of Christ’s coming.

What we could not do for ourselves, Jesus did for us. He is the Fulfillment of the law and our Doorway to eternal freedom and rest.

When you come to a point in your life where you find yourself striving to earn God’s approval, think of Paul’s admonition to you: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” Never abuse the freedom the Lord has given you. But likewise, never dismiss the fact that when the Son sets you free, you are free indeed!

Thank You for freedom, Lord. Help me never to abuse the freedom You have given me.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2002). Seeking His face (p. 221). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

2 Samuel 22:1–51; Jude 1:1–16; Psalm 147:1–20

Some destructive people don’t realize the carnage they leave in their wake. Others intentionally cause rifts and pain, driven by selfish motives. Jude’s letter, which contains succinct prose, startling imagery, and a swift warning, is unlike anything we read in Scripture. The letter equipped early Christians to deal wisely with false teachers who had entered the church community. Today, it can provide us with wisdom to respond to some of the most difficult people and situations we encounter.

The community that Jude addressed contained destructive false teachers “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). They did not respect authority, but acted out of instinct rather than conviction: “But these persons blaspheme all that they do not understand, and all that they understand by instinct like the irrational animals, by these things they are being destroyed” (Jude 10).

Jude’s metaphors for these false teachers give us a sense of what to look for in destructive people: “hidden reefs at your love feasts, caring for themselves, waterless clouds carried away by winds, late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted, wild waves of the sea foaming up their own shameful deeds, wandering stars, for whom the deep gloom of darkness has been reserved for eternity” (Jude 12–13). He depicts people whose destructive, selfish behavior lacks conviction. Like wayward stars, these false teachers go off course, perhaps taking others with them.

After these descriptions, we expect Jude to warn his readers to stay away from these types of people. But he does the opposite: Jude’s closing warning calls readers to interact with people of this sort—though they must do so with incredible wisdom: “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22–23).

Interacting with people who doubt and wander requires a deep knowledge of our own weaknesses and failures. It requires maturity of faith. Jude gives three specific instructions: that we build ourselves up, pray in the Spirit, and keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21–22). This interaction requires the work of a God “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).

How do destructive people in your life influence you? Based on how they influence you, how should you approach or end the relationship?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]

 

[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A Daily Devotional. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

 

Intro

Welcome to Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Today’s reading is Romans 5 through 8. Our lesson is from Romans 8:26–27, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for {us} with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to {the will of} God.” (NASU)

Lesson

The relationship between believers and the Holy Spirit is the revelation of a mystery. Let’s look at three aspects of the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the believing community that show God’s great care and marvelous concern.

First, the Holy Spirit helps believers. Our text is so practical because there are times that we as believers do not know exactly how to pray. We may know that we must pray but how to pray or what to pray for is hard to discern. The Word tells us that when we pray according to the will of the Father, we receive what we ask for. When the Holy Spirit assists us in our petitions we know it is according to the will of the Father. That’s effective prayer! A major role of the work of the Holy Spirit is that of a guide. He comes along side us to advise and to counsel us. He guides us to pray effective prayers.

Second, the Holy Spirit intercedes for believers. This is another major role of the Spirit. “Intercessor” is one of meanings of the Greek word paracletos for the Holy Spirit. He intercedes before the Lord on our behalf. How comforting to know that God is on our side in the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Last, the Holy Spirit mediates God’s will for believers. Making decisions according to God’s will is not always easy. There are times where our own will interferes with God’s planned best for us. This is where the Holy Spirit is so vital. He comes along side us to help us discern God’s will and purpose in our lives. It is very assuring to know that we are not alone especially in those critical moments of discerning God’s will for us.

In summary, the Holy Spirit helps the believers. The Holy Spirit intercedes for the believers. And the Holy Spirit mediates God’s will for the believers.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that the paracletos, the Holy Spirit, is near to us to help us in our prayer life and in living according to God’s plan for our lives! Take a moment to allow the Holy Spirit to show you God’s will. Ask Him in your own words to show you His perfect will and desires for you.

End

It has been a pleasure to share with you Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Tomorrow’s Bible reading is Romans 9 through 12. 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.[1]

 

[1] Venditti, L., & Venditti, N. (2012). Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

 

Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

Father, I seek to get wisdom! I seek to get understanding! I seek the wisdom that is from above. The deep says, “It is not in me”; and the sea says, “It is not with me.” I was buried with Jesus through baptism into death, that just as He was raised from the dead by Your glory, Father God, I also should walk in newness of life. For if I have been united in the likeness of Jesus’ death, certainly I also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.

So I lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares me, and I run with endurance the race that is set before me. You, Lord God, made me alive with Christ and raised me up, and made me sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

When I say such things I declare plainly that I seek a homeland. So I seek You, Lord God, with all the meek of the earth, who have upheld Your justice. I seek righteousness, I seek humility.

Thank You for showing me the wisdom of seeking after things eternal—Your kingdom, Your righteousness, Your wisdom, Your love.

Colossians 3:1; Proverbs 4:5; James 3:17; Job 28:14; Romans 6:4–5; Hebrews 12:1; Ephesians 2:4–6; Hebrews 11:14; Ephesians 2:3[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2007). Life-Changing Moments With God (p. 229). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

Romans 5:1

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

True peace gives not only a calm exterior, but a very quiet inside as well. Peace seems to be an elusive quality that everyone chases after and few people find.

Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God.” What does that mean? Is God my enemy? Have I been at war with God? God is holy and humans are sinful. They are on different sides. As creatures apart from God, we are at enmity with God.

But the Bible says God provided Jesus Christ that we might have peace with God. I see that picture so beautifully illustrated by the cross itself. Pointing up to heaven, it pictures that Jesus Christ, the God/Man, reached up and took the hand of the Father. Pointing down toward earth, it pictures that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, reached down and took hold of fallen human beings. With one hand in the hand of God and the other hand in the hand of man, the only unique personality who was God and man brought the two together and made peace between God and man. He is our peace. He is the Prince of Peace because He is the One who solved the enmity between us and God. Accept Him and you have peace with God.[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (2002). Sanctuary: finding moments of refuge in the presence of God (p. 221). Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers.

THEME: John’s Trust

In this week’s study we see a contrast in character.

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 14:3-5

For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet.

We have already learned about John’s strange appearance and his message of preparation for Jesus’ work from earlier references to John the Baptist in Matthew. Here we learn several things about John’s character.

1. John was a righteous man. Mark makes this point in his parallel account, explaining that “Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:20). He means that although Herod was far from righteous himself, he recognized righteousness in John and tried to protect him. Matthew shortens Mark’s account and does not mention John’s righteousness explicitly. But he has Herod testify to the same thing indirectly by reporting his fear that John had been raised from the dead and now possessed miraculous powers (v. 2). He imagined that God had thus vindicated the character of his prophet.

2. John was an outspoken man. It is one thing to be righteous, it is another thing to be outspoken about it, especially when standing before the great and powerful of this world. John was both.

Charles Colson tells what he witnessed when he would bring visitors to meet Richard Nixon when Nixon was President of the United States and Colson was Special Legal Counsel to the President. Colson would gather the guests in a room outside the Oval Office, where they would be talking to each other about what they were going to tell the President when they were face to face. “It was always the same,” Colson wrote.

In the reception room they would rehearse their angry lines and reassure one another. “I’ll tell him what’s going on. He’s got to do something.”

When the aid came to escort us in, they’d set their jaws and march toward the door. But once it swung open, the aide announcing, “The president will see you,” it was as if they had suddenly sniffed some intoxicating fragrance. Most became almost self-conscious about even stepping on the plush blue carpet on which was sculpted the Great Seal of the United States. And Mr. Nixon’s voice and presence—like any president’s—filled the room.

Invariably, the lions of the waiting room became the lambs of the Oval Office.1

It is sad to report that none were more meek than the religious leaders. Of all people, they should have been the most outspoken. But they too wilted in the face of worldly power. Such is the awe of majesty that high office evokes. But John the Baptist did not cower before it. He spoke out boldly and continued to do so, repeatedly saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have her” (v. 4).

3. John was a courageous man. John was also courageous, for he could not have failed to know the danger he was placing himself in by continuing to denounce Herod for his marriage. Kings do not like to be confronted. Even more dangerous was the hatred of Herodias that would have boiled behind the scenes. John knew people well enough to be aware of what was happening, but he continued to speak out and eventually died for his convictions.

John’s fate reminds of us of the kind of world we live in. It is a world that has rejected Jesus and will reject his best disciples too. The world does not want to be told that it is sinful, that it has broken the holy law of God, that it needs a Savior who is Jesus. But those who walk in the footsteps of John and of the other saints who have preceded us will be as bold as these men were. How are any persons to be saved if we do not speak the truth about sin and preach the gospel to them boldly?

1 Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, Kingdom in Conflict (Grand Rapids: a joint publication of William Morrow and Zondervan Publishing House, 1987), p. 307.

STUDY QUESTIONS

Give three characteristics of John the Baptist.
Why would Herod fear John for his righteousness?

James Montgomery Boice

There is a Jewish legend which says that the phylacteries of the great Baal Shem Toy, the cabalist, were miraculous. At prayers, when he fastened them to his forehead, the world unrolled before him like a scroll and he saw the doings of men, good and evil. It is told how one morning he left them on his bench in the synagogue and a simple merchant hurried in from the marketplace. His mind filled with his trading, and starting a hasty, perfunctory prayer, he picked up the Baal Shem’s phylacteries and put them on. And behold, all the world of men moved before his astonished eyes, and he saw all the evil on the earth; in a distant place he saw men bent on destroying one another; he saw oppression, and murder, and torture.

He cried out in horror and anguish at what he saw; “Stop them! I cannot bear this,” and turned to find the Baal Shem at his elbow. “If you cannot bear the sight,” said the Baal Shem gently, “you have only to take off the phylacteries.”

Jesus Christ, when He left this earth, directed that the Holy Spirit should come to dwell within the heart of the believer. He gave His Word to be our guide, and to be the revelation of Himself. There are many believers who look through the Word, and who are guided by the Spirit. They see, therefore, the great need of the world. They see the horror of life and know that only the Gospel can reach the need. That is why they are obedient to the command to “preach the word, be instant, in season and out of season . . .”

There are thousands of Christians who have found the vision too exacting and who have torn the Word out of its rightful place in their lives. The result is that they are carnal, sleepy Christians, being carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease. God says (Amos 6) that He hates such case.

There arc also those who look at the world through the Word of God. The burden of lost souls is, therefore, upon them. These will ever be the ones who cry, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel!” These will be the ones who, if they are led of the Lord to stay at home, will be the prayer partners of those who carry the message of salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth. These will be the ones for whom no sacrifice is too great, if only the Word can be spread a little farther abroad.

Such Christians are so few in number because very few believers have a real love for souls. In fact, probably not more than four or five out of each thousand church members ever ask unsaved people to come to hear the preaching of the Gospel. Probably not more than the same number really give sacrificially to the extension of the rule of God over the hearts of men. How many who read this could honestly repeat to God the words of David? “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law” (Ps. 119:136).

Two men in the Bible went much further than this. Moses and Paul told the Lord that they would be willing to go to hell providing unsaved people could be brought to salvation. Here is true love for souls. It is something that cannot be pumped up out of the emotions. It is something that should never be spoken of to men, but we should ask the Lord to search our hearts to reveal to us where we are lacking.

Moses saw the terrible sin of the people and realized that they should be punished. In his prayer to God for grace he could not even finish the sentence. It is perhaps the one unfinished sentence in the Bible. It is a sigh, a groan, a cry. “Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now if Thou wilt forgive their sin . . .” The grace of God cannot be turned by logic. It is sovereign. But Moses continues, in a new sentence: “and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Exod. 32:30-32). It was a prayer to be sent to hell. To be blotted out of the book of God would mean to be a lost soul. Moses wasn’t putting on an act; his heart was bare before God. He loved souls.

Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to give a true account of his love for Israel when he wrote, “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3). To be accursed from Christ would also mean being a lost soul. Paul wasn’t saying pretty words for a sermon illustration. His heart was bare before God. He loved souls.

Christ said, “No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself’ (John 10:18). In laying down His life He showed His love for souls. It was impossible for God to blot Moses out of His book, or to count Paul accursed, but Christ drank the cup of the second death (Matt. 26:39; Heb. 5:7) and became a curse for us (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). He did this because of the joy that was set before Him (Hcb. 12:2). He loved men.

There is only one way to develop a true love for souls. If we study the Word of God and surrender to the life of Christ within, we shall be more like Christ. His life within us can then do its work of loving souls and bringing them to Himself. We can never do it by ourselves.

1. Think of an unbeliever that you know, would you be able to trade places with them?
2. Why do most Christians not take seriously the charge to evangelize and preach the good news?
3. Would the world look any different if the Gospel was being preached by each Christian?

Donald Grey Barnhouse

Then there is the law of concentration. The secret of every successful person is concentration. Take a musician, for example. Most musicians are mediocre because they do not have time to concentrate. They might have greater ability than they are ever able to bring out because other things take their time. But an excellent musician must study and practice five and six hours a day. They must give themselves to it completely and concentrate. . . . Musicians, athletes and scientists may do other things, but they have just one thing to which they are totally committed. Third, there is the law of fascination. This is a little harder to understand, but it is just as real. To be fascinated, according to the dictionary, is to be held spellbound by some irresistable charm. If something does not fascinate us, we can take it or leave it. It is like the various art exhibitions. I can take them or leave them. Some people think a lot of the exhibitions, and I will go if somebody invites me; but I am not fascinated by them. I am not drawn to them by a charm that I cannot break. But in the kingdom of God there is the law of fascination, the law of irresistable charm. Christians who do not know the law will never be anything but half-Christians all their lives. They will always be in the rut. The law of fascination as seen in the world is often a personal tragedy. Being fascinated by something evil, base or unworthy can be a terrible tragedy. . . . Our Lord turns it around and says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened . . . Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). In effect He says, “Come to me and be fascinated by me. Concentrate upon me, surrender to me and yield so completely to me that you can give all to me.”

Verse
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

Thought
Paul concentrated, pressing on. He was fascinated by the heavenward goal in Christ Jesus. For many of us knowing Christ is a goal but not the primary one in life.

Prayer
Lord, knowing You is the primary goal of my life. Forgive me for becoming absorbed in secondary matters.

A. W. Tozer

The sacred writers, too, face up to man’s mutability, but they are healthy men, and there is a wholesome strength in their words. They have found the cure for the great sickness. God, they say, changes not. The law of mutation belongs to a fallen world, but God is immutable, and in Him men of faith find at last eternal permanence. In the meanwhile change works for the children of the kingdom, not against them. The changes that occur in them are wrought by the hand of the in-living Spirit. “But we all,” says the apostle, “with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

In a world of change and decay not even the man of faith can be completely happy. Instinctively he seeks the unchanging and is bereaved at the passing of dear familiar things.

O Lord! My heart is sick,

Sick of this everlasting change;

And life runs tediously quick

Through its unresting race and varied range:

Change finds no likeness to itself in Thee,

And wakes no echo in Thy mute Eternity.

Frederick W. Faber

These words of Faber find sympathetic response in every heart; yet much as we may deplore the lack of stability in all earthly things, in a fallen world such as this the very ability to change is a golden treasure, a gift from God of such fabulous worth as to call for constant thanksgiving. For human beings the whole possibility of redemption lies in their ability to change. To move across from one sort of person to another is the essence of repentance: the liar becomes truthful, the thief honest, the lewd pure, the proud humble. The whole moral texture of the life is altered. The thoughts, the desires, the affections are transformed, and the man is no longer what he had been before. So radical is this change that the apostle calls the man that used to be “the old man” and the man that now is “the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”

Verse
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Thought
Our ability for change is a golden treasure, a gift from God of fabulous worth. For us, the whole possibility of redemption lies in our ability to change.

Prayer
Father, are hearts are eternally grateful for that great gift of change You have given us.

A. W. Tozer

 

The mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it

John 2:3, 4, 5

In asking for temporal blessings, true wisdom lies in putting the matter into the Lord’s hand, and leaving it there. He knows our sorrows, and, if He sees it is good for us that the water should be turned into wine, He will do it. It is not for us to dictate: He sees what is best for us. When we ask for prosperity, perhaps the thing which we should have is trial. When we want to be relieved of a “thorn in the flesh,” He knows what we should have is an apprehension of the fact that His grace is sufficient for us. So we are put into His school, and have to learn the lessons He has to teach us.

  1. Hay Aitken[1]

 

[1] Hardman, S. G., & Moody, D. L. (1997). Thoughts for the quiet hour. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing.

 

Jesus did not commit Himself unto them … for He knew what was in man. John 2:24–25 .

Disillusionment means that there are no more false judgments in life. To be undeceived by disillusionment may leave us cynical and unkindly severe in our judgment of others, but the disillusionment which comes from God brings us to the place where we see men and women as they really are, and yet there is no cynicism, we have no stinging, bitter things to say. Many of the cruel things in life spring from the fact that we suffer from illusions. We are not true to one another as facts; we are true only to our ideas of one another. Everything is either delightful and fine, or mean and dastardly, according to our idea.

The refusal to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering in human life. It works in this way—if we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being what he or she cannot give. There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why Our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because He knows that every relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster. Our Lord trusted no man, yet He was never suspicious, never bitter. Our Lord’s confidence in God and in what His grace could do for any man was so perfect that He despaired of no one. If our trust is placed in human beings, we shall end in despairing of everyone.[1]

 

[1] Chambers, O. (1986). My utmost for his highest: Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering.

Morning, July 30

 

“And when he thought thereon, he wept.”

— Mark 14:72

 

It has been thought by some that as long as Peter lived, the fountain of his tears began to flow whenever he remembered his denying his Lord. It is not unlikely that it was so, for his sin was very great, and grace in him had afterwards a perfect work. This same experience is common to all the redeemed family according to the degree in which the Spirit of God has removed the natural heart of stone. We, like Peter, remember our boastful promise: “Though all men shall forsake thee, yet will not I.” We eat our own words with the bitter herbs of repentance. When we think of what we vowed we would be, and of what we have been, we may weep whole showers of grief. He thought on his denying his Lord. The place in which he did it, the little cause which led him into such heinous sin, the oaths and blasphemies with which he sought to confirm his falsehood, and the dreadful hardness of heart which drove him to do so again and yet again. Can we, when we are reminded of our sins, and their exceeding sinfulness, remain stolid and stubborn? Will we not make our house a Bochim, and cry unto the Lord for renewed assurances of pardoning love? May we never take a dry-eyed look at sin, lest ere long we have a tongue parched in the flames of hell. Peter also thought upon his Master’s look of love. The Lord followed up the cock’s warning voice with an admonitory look of sorrow, pity, and love. That glance was never out of Peter’s mind so long as he lived. It was far more effectual than ten thousand sermons would have been without the Spirit. The penitent apostle would be sure to weep when he recollected the Saviour’s full forgiveness, which restored him to his former place. To think that we have offended so kind and good a Lord is more than sufficient reason for being constant weepers. Lord, smite our rocky hearts, and make the waters flow.

 

Evening, July 30

 

“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

— John 6:37

 

No limit is set to the duration of this promise. It does not merely say, “I will not cast out a sinner at his first coming,” but, “I will in no wise cast out.” The original reads, “I will not, not cast out,” or “I will never, never cast out.” The text means, that Christ will not at first reject a believer; and that as he will not do it at first, so he will not to the last.

 

But suppose the believer sins after coming? “If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” But suppose that believers backslide? “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” But believers may fall under temptation! “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” But the believer may fall into sin as David did! Yes, but he will “Purge them with hyssop, and they shall be clean; he will wash them and they shall be whiter than snow”; “From all their iniquities will I cleanse them.”

 

“Once in Christ, in Christ for ever,

Nothing from his love can sever.”

 

“I give unto my sheep,” saith he, “eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” What sayest thou to this, O trembling feeble mind? Is not this a precious mercy, that coming to Christ, thou dost not come to One who will treat thee well for a little while, and then send thee about thy business, but he will receive thee and make thee his bride, and thou shalt be his for ever? Receive no longer the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption whereby thou shalt cry, Abba, Father! Oh! the grace of these words: “I will in no wise cast out.” [1]

 

[1] Spurgeon, Charles H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

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