Daily Archives: December 3, 2016

December 3, 2016: Verse of the day

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The Mixed Murderers

When they led Him away, (23:26a)

The pronoun they refers to those listed in verse 13, “the chief priests and the rulers and the people.” The chief priests included the Sadducees, who ran the temple operations, and the high priest and the former high priests, who were all related to one another. The rulers were the members of the ruling Sanhedrin, made up predominantly of scribes and Pharisees, along with some Sadducees. The growing crowd that gathered early that Friday morning was orchestrated and manipulated by the religious rulers into demanding the crucifixion of Jesus. Although they are not mentioned, some members of a third Jewish sect, the Herodians (Jews who supported the Idumean dynasty), no doubt also were present. Of course the Roman soldiers who made up the execution squad that performed the actual crucifixion were also present.

Apagō (led away) is sometimes used as a legal term to refer to leading someone to trial, punishment, prison, or execution (Matt. 26:57; 27:2; Mark 14:44; Acts 12:19).
Driven by their self-righteousness and hatred, these murderers orchestrated Jesus’ execution by means of lies, manipulation, intimidation, and threats—thus bringing about the greatest miscarriage of justice the world has ever seen. The mixed multitude that pressed for His death represents all those who reject Jesus Christ in every generation (cf. Heb. 6:4–6).

The Supporting Stranger

they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. (23:26b)

On the way to the place of execution the Roman soldiers in charge of Christ’s crucifixion seized a man and pressed him into service (which they had absolute authority to do; cf. Matt. 5:41). Unlike the Roman soldiers and the centurion, who later believed in Christ (23:47; cf. Matt. 27:54; Mark 15:39), this man’s name is given, Simon, as is the town he was from, Cyrene. Simon was a common Jewish name (there are nine men in the Bible named Simon, including two of the apostles). Cyrene was a city in North Africa, in modern-day Libya. It had a significant Jewish population, according to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus. Visitors from Cyrene were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and heard the apostles preaching in their language (Acts 2:10). There were enough men in Jerusalem from Cyrene that they, along with men from Alexandria (another major North African city), formed their own synagogue (Acts 6:9).

Simon was seemingly chosen at random while coming in from the country to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Unless he had been in the city earlier in the week, he would not necessarily have known anything about Jesus. The soldiers placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. This was not the usual procedure, since the condemned were required to carry their cross to the execution site. Perhaps in His weakened condition from scourging the Lord could no longer carry the cross by Himself and needed help. Or it may be that He was not moving fast enough to suit the soldiers.

Simon was in fact not chosen at random; God was sovereignly reaching down to draw him (cf. John 6:44). Mark 15:21 further describes him as “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” That note obviously meant something to his readers, or Mark would not have included it. According to the traditional view, Mark addressed his gospel to a Gentile audience, initially the church at Rome—of which Simon’s son Rufus was a prominent member (Rom. 16:13). Paul also refers to Rufus’s mother Simon’s wife, as having been like a mother to him.

Here was a stranger, seemingly plucked spontaneously from the crowd to help carry Jesus’ cross. Having gone all the way to Skull Hill with the cross, Simon would undoubtedly have stayed and experienced the full reality of the crucifixion. At some point he embraced the gospel of the Lord whose cross he had carried. His wife and sons also became believers and were known to the church at Rome. One of them, Rufus, was singled out by Paul as a choice servant of the Lord, and Simon’s wife ministered to the apostle (Rom. 16:13). The church at Cyrene, in which Simon undoubtedly played a significant role, developed and grew strong, eventually sending out missionaries to preach the gospel to the Gentiles at Antioch (Acts 11:20). One of its members, Lucius, even served as one of the pastors at the Antioch church when Paul and Barnabas were sent out as missionaries (Acts 13:1).

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

December 3, 2016: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

December 3 Christ’s Deity Defended

“[Christ] existed in the form of God.”

Philippians 2:6

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Scripture makes clear that Christ is God.

The deity of Christ is the heart of the Christian faith. Inevitably when people attack the Christian faith, they attack the deity of Christ. Scripture makes clear, however, that such attacks are unfounded. The apostle John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he began his Gospel by affirming the deity of Christ. John further declared Christ’s deity when he wrote, “All things came into being through [Christ], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (vv. 3–4). In John 8:58 Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I AM.” Jesus appropriated to Himself the name of God, who said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14).

In Colossians 1:15–17 the apostle Paul wrote of Christ’s deity: “He is the image of the invisible God, the first–born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Christ is God, the Creator. The writer of Hebrews says, “[Christ] is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (1:3). Christianity begins with the recognition that Jesus Christ is in essence the eternal God.

Whenever someone confronts you by attacking the deity of Christ, be sure to defend the faith, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching” (Titus 1:9).

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Suggestions for Prayer: At the core of defending God’s Word is an accurate interpretation of Scripture. Ask Him to help you interpret His Word accurately (see 2 Tim. 2:15).

For Further Study: John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word,” which undoubtedly reminded John’s readers of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” What do the following verses demonstrate about Christ: 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:19; Hebrews 1:1–2?[1]


December 3

What Makes You Tick?

I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you.

Colossians 1:25

What motivates you? What takes all your energy, dominates your time, and makes you tick? For the apostle Paul, it was the progress of the gospel. What might happen to his own body or career was of little consequence to him. In Acts 20:24 he said, “Nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus.” He yielded up his life, possessions, clothes, recognition, reputation, and prestige to one goal: “to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (v. 24).

To the church in Rome Paul wrote, “I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also” (Rom. 1:15). And in 1 Corinthians 9:16 he testifies to what compelled him, “Necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.”

Paul was driven to see the gospel move forward—he is a model for every Christian. Is your life like Paul’s?[2]


DECEMBER 3

WHY SUCH IDIOTS?

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

—John 3:17

Without worship we go about miserable; that’s why we have all the troubles we have. You wonder why young people act like such idiots. Some young people have a lot of energy and don’t know what to do with it, so they go out and act like idiots; and that’s why gangsters and communists and sinners of all kinds do what they do. They are endowed by God Almighty with brilliant intelligence and an amazing store of energy, and because they don’t know what to do with it they do the wrong thing. That’s why I’m not angry with people when I see them go off the deep end, because I know that they have fallen from their first estate along with Adam’s brood and all of us together. They haven’t been redeemed and so they have energy they don’t know what to do with; they have capacity they don’t know how to use. They have skills and don’t know where to put them, and so they go wild and police have to arrest sixteen-year-olds and put them in jail. If they had been taught that they came into the world in the first place to worship God and to enjoy Him forever and that when they fell Jesus Christ came to redeem them, to make worshipers out of them, they could by the Holy Ghost and the washing of the blood be made into worshiping saints and things would be so different. WMJ008-009

Lord, it’s so easy to condemn people who “act like such idiots.” Thank You that in Your grace You don’t condemn, but reach out to save! Amen. [3]


December 3

To Speak in Parables

He spoke many things to them in parables.—Matt. 13:3a

The parable was one of the staple teaching tools the Lord Jesus used to convey spiritual truth in an understandable way. The word parable contains the idea of placing something alongside something else to make a comparison. In this way, Jesus would place a moral truth alongside a physical example that people could more easily grasp. By this common form of Jewish teaching, He used a common object or practice to elucidate an intangible truth or principle.

From His earliest teaching sessions, Christ used graphic analogies to instruct on divine truth. He likened believers to salt and light in this world (Matt. 5:13–16), pointed to the example of the birds and flowers concerning life’s essentials (6:26–30), and said Christians must build on the rock-solid foundation of Scripture rather than the loose sand of human philosophy (7:24–27). These and other illustrations contain clear meanings. They resonate with listeners. And they served the purpose of setting the stage for Jesus’ use of full-fledged parables.

Parables and other symbolic and figurative communication methods, when correctly understood, are genuine friends of the student of God’s Word. They make abstract truths more concrete, interesting, easier to remember, and easier to apply to life. Those were always the goals our Lord envisioned as He related any parables, such as the series of kingdom parables.

ASK YOURSELF
What can we learn from Jesus’ teaching style to help us improve our own spiritual Communication, whether in formal lessons and sermons or simply in the ordinary vehicles of conversation?[4]


December 3 Penetrating the Box

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1–2).

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Man can’t discover God on his own; God must reveal Himself to man.

Since the beginning of time, man has deceived himself by thinking he can discover God through various religions. But in reality, man lives in a box enclosed within the walls of time and space. God is outside the box, and man senses He’s there but can’t get to Him. Each new religion is but another futile attempt to penetrate the walls of the box and catch a glimpse of God.

Man’s only hope is for God to enter the box, which Hebrews 1:1–2 declares He did—first by letter (the Old Testament), then in person (in Jesus Christ). Regarding God’s Word David said, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2). Jeremiah added, “The Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth’” (Jer. 1:9). Of Christ, the Apostle John said, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. … No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:14, 18).

The irony of people thinking they can discover God on their own is that apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading, no one really wants to find Him. They merely want to add a cosmic good luck charm to their lives or to satiate their guilty consciences. Paul said, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (Rom. 3:10–11, emphasis added).

God could have left us in our sin and ignorance, but He penetrated the box and revealed everything we need to know in order to have redemption and fellowship with Him. What a privilege we have to study His Word and live by its principles! Be diligent to do so each day.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Praise God for granting you the ability to appreciate His Word.

For Further Study: Read 1 Corinthians 2:6–16, noting how natural (unregenerate) people respond to divine revelation.[5]


DECEMBER 3

LET US TAKE IT PERSONALLY

Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.

Isaiah 26:12

What a difference it makes when we humans cease being general and become pointed and personal in our approach to God! We then come to see that all that God did was for each of us.

It was for me that holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. For me Christ died—and when He arose on the third day, it was for me. When the promised Holy Spirit came, it was to continue in me the work He had been doing for me since the morning of the Creation!

So, I have every right to claim all of the riches of the Godhead in mercy given. What a blessed thought—that an infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children!

He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.

All that He is and all that He has done is for us and for all who share the common salvation.

Thank You, Lord, for all that You have done for me. That You are a personal, caring God is so unlike other religions. Father, glorify Yourself among the nations of the world today.[6]


DECEMBER 3

GOD’S PROMISE WILL OUTLIVE MAN’S VIOLENCE

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

2 PETER 3:17

Those who still read and trust their Bibles in the midst of the nuclear age have found a great truth and a message the rest of the world does not know: after the warlords have shot their last missile and dropped their last bomb there will still be living men inhabiting this globe!

After the world has gone through the meat grinder of Armageddon the earth will still be inhabited by men; not by biological freaks, but by real people like you and me. If the world can escape annihilation only by adopting the ethics of Jesus, as some think, we may as well resign ourselves to the inevitable explosion, for a huge block of the earth’s population is controlled by Communists whose basic ideology is violently anti-Christian and who are determined to extirpate every trace of Christianity from among them. Other large blocks are non-Christian and grimly set to remain so.

The West, it is true, pays lip service to Christianity, but selfishness, greed, ambition, pride and lust rule the rulers of these lands almost to a man. While they will now and then speak well of Christ, yet the total quality of their conduct leaves little doubt that they are not much influenced by His teachings.

All this being true, still we Christians can sing at the foot of the threatening volcano. Things have not gotten out of hand. However bad they look, the Lord sitteth king forever and reigneth over the affairs of men![7]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 364). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[3] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 346). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 350). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[6] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[7] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.