The Historical Jesus
God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
1 John 4:9
Many people doubt whether Jesus ever really existed, but many historians have written about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Around A.D. 114, the Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote that the founder of the Christian religion, Jesus Christ, was put to death by Pontius Pilate in the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (Annals 15.44).
Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to the Emperor Trajan on the subject of Christ and Christians (Letters 10.96-97).
In A.D. 90, the Jewish historian Josephus penned a short biographical note on Jesus: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man, for He was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ” (Antiquities 18.63).
The Talmud refers to Jesus of Nazareth (Sanhedrin 43a, Abodah Zerah 16b–17a).
Jesus was a man in history. And His claims were true. Do you still doubt His ability to save you?
|January 10||Worthy Examples to the World|
“Let love of the brethren continue.”
To be a testimony to the world, Christians need to live what they profess.
The nineteenth–century preacher Alexander Maclaren once said, “The world takes its notion of God most of all from those who say they belong to God’s family. They read us a great deal more than they read the Bible. They see us; they only hear about Jesus Christ.” Sound biblical doctrine, as important a foundation as it is, is inadequate by itself to influence the world toward Christ’s gospel.
Christians today could learn much from the early Christians, whose lives were such a rebuke to the immoral, pagan societies around them. Unbelievers in those cultures found it extremely difficult to find fault with Christians, because the more they observed them, the more they saw believers living out the high moral standards the church professed.
Christians in those days were obedient to Peter’s instruction: “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15). They also heeded Paul’s advice to Titus: “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7–8).
Jesus commanded His original disciples and us, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Of course, Jesus had in mind good works that were genuine and that came from a foundation of good teaching.
These verses ought to remind us, therefore, that doctrine and practice must go hand in hand. The author of Hebrews shifts naturally from doctrine and general exhortation to the specific admonitions of chapter 13. Love among believers is his starting point, and it should be ours as we seek to have a credible and worthy walk before the watching world.
Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to help you maintain a scriptural balance between doctrine and practice. ✧ Pray that He would correct specific areas in which you have been living out of balance.
For Further Study: Memorize James 1:25. Use a Bible with good cross references, and look up other verses that deal with “the law of liberty.”
DAILY GLIMPSES OF HIS GLORY
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
Every emotion has its reaction and every pleasurable experience will dim after a while. The human organism is built that way and there is nothing we can do about it. It is well known that the second year of marriage is often the most critical, for then the first excitement has worn off the relationship and the young couple has not had time to acquire a new set of common interests and to learn to accept a more stable if less emotional kind of life.
Only engrossment with God can maintain perpetual spiritual enthusiasm because only God can supply everlasting novelty. In God every moment is new and nothing ever gets old. Of things religious we may become tired; even prayer may weary us; but God never. He can show a new aspect of His glory to us each day for all the days of eternity and still we shall have but begun to explore the depths of the riches of His infinite being….
The sum of all this is that nothing can preserve the sweet savor of our first experience except to be preoccupied with God Himself. Our little rill is sure to run dry unless we keep it replenished from the fountain. GTM127-129
Lord, every day there is indeed some new glimpse of Your glory. May I enter the day today with a holy anticipation! Amen. 
God’s Plan for Temptation
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.—Matt. 4:1
Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness did not catch His Father by surprise. The Son was specifically “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” The word translated “tempted” is from a morally neutral term that means “to test.” But sometimes, as here, the context clearly indicates that the testing was aimed at enticing one to do evil. That the devil was going to present certain temptations to Jesus thus justifies rendering the word “tempted”—it gives us the negative connotation of Satan’s sinister intentions.
God sometimes uses Satan’s temptations toward evil as part of His larger plan to test believers for good (cf. Job). Whereas the devil wanted to lead Christ into sin and disobedience in the wilderness, God used the circumstances to reconfirm Christ’s holiness and worthiness. This is God’s plan for all His saints (cf. James 1:2–4, 12–13)—that Christ’s righteousness be revealed in us.
Joseph’s severe mistreatment at the hands of his brothers in the Old Testament and his subsequent “misfortunes” in Egypt could have driven him to despair and sinful bitterness, but by faith he recognized God’s sovereign hand in it all (Gen. 50:20). Whether God tests us directly or uses Satan to challenge us, He will always use the situation to eventually produce good fruit in us.
|What positive benefits does temptation serve in your own life? As unwanted and unwelcome as it is, what does its mere presence keep before you, thereby thwarting the aspirations of the enemy? Pray that God would gain His desired objectives in you, even through times of testing.|
GRACE CAN BE COSTLY
For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace…grace be with you all. Amen.
Hebrews 13:9, 25
Christians all around us are trying every shortcut they can think of to get “something for nothing” in the kingdom of God. Talk to them and they will predictably flare up: “Isn’t grace something for nothing?”
That depends upon what kind of grace we are talking about.
Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave his life as a martyr in Hitler’s Germany, but he left a book now known around the world: The Cost of Discipleship. He pointed out a sharp distinction between “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” Although God’s grace has been given freely to humans who do not deserve it, Bonhoeffer believed it rightly could be called “costly grace” because it cost our Lord Jesus Christ even the suffering of death.
Some men and women have actually turned God’s grace into lasciviousness. They do not know what the word grace means—that God gives us out of His rich and full goodness although we are unworthy of it. When I preach about the grace of God and point out that Jesus commanded us to take up our cross and follow Him, those who do not know the meaning of grace respond: “Oh, Tozer is now preaching legalism.”
Father, as I go about the activities of my day today—and for each month of this year—I want to be mindful of Your “costly grace” and desire to grow more deeply in my understanding of it.
|January 10||Living to the Glory of God|
God chose us “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in [His beloved Son]” (Eph. 1:6).
You were created to glorify God.
Henry Martyn, an Englishman, served as a missionary in India and Persia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Upon his arrival in Calcutta he cried out, “Let me burn out for God.” As he watched the people prostrating themselves before their pagan idols and heard blasphemy uttered against Christ, he wrote, “This excited more horror in me than I can well express. … I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified; it would be hell to me, if He were to be always thus dishonored” (John Stott, Our Guilty Silence [Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1967], pp. 21, 22).
Martyn had a passion for God’s glory—and he was in good company. Angels glorify God (Luke 2:14), as do the heavens (Ps. 19:1) and even animals (Isa. 43:20). But as a believer, you glorify God in a unique way because you are a testimony to His redeeming grace.
You were created for the purpose of glorifying God—even in the most mundane activities of life, such as eating and drinking (1 Cor. 10:31). You are to flee immorality so you can glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:18–20). You are to walk worthy of your calling, so “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified” (2 Thess. 1:12).
Glorifying God is an enormous privilege and an awesome responsibility. When others see His character on display in your life, it reminds them of His power, goodness, and grace. But when they don’t, God is dishonored, and His character is called into question.
Aim your life at God’s glory; make it the standard by which you evaluate everything you do.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for the privilege of glorifying Him. ✧ Ask Him to show you any areas of your life that do not honor Him. ✧ Find a trusted Christian friend who will pray with you and hold you accountable for the areas in which you know you need to change.
For Further Study: Read Exodus 33:12–34:9. ✧ What did Moses request? ✧ What was God’s response, and what does this teach us about His glory?
EVERY ONE MUST PRAY AS IF HE ALONE COULD PRAY
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.
Thomas a’ Kempis wrote that the man of God ought to be more at home in his prayer chamber than before the public. It is not too much to say that the preacher who loves to be before the public is hardly prepared spiritually to be before them. Right praying may easily make a man hesitant to appear before an audience.
The man who is really at home in the presence of God will find himself caught in a kind of inward contradiction. He is likely to feel his responsibility so keenly that he would rather do almost anything than face an audience; and yet the pressure upon his spirit may be so great that wild horses could not drag him away from his pulpit.
No man should stand before an audience who has not first stood before God. Many hours of communion should precede one hour in the pulpit. The prayer chamber should be more familiar than the public platform.
Schools teach everything about preaching except the important part, praying. The best any school can do is to recommend prayer and exhort to its practice. Praying itself must be the work of the individual. That it is the one religious work which gets done with the least enthusiasm cannot but be one of the tragedies of our times!
In true prayer, every man must be an original, for true prayer cannot be imitated nor can it be learned from someone else. Everyone must pray as if he alone could pray!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 21). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 18). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.