Get in the Game
Run in such a way that you might win.
1 Corinthians 9:24
Because I was athletic as a boy, I played on many different teams in various sports programs. I remember many boys with little or no athletic ability who would try out for these teams. Every once in a while, a coach would feel sorry for such a boy and place him on the team in spite of his performance. He would give the boy a uniform to make him feel that he was a part of the team even though he would never let the boy play in a game.
Fortunately, the opposite is true in the Christian life. The Lord doesn’t place us on the team just so we can sit on the bench. He intends to send us into the game. It is His grace that calls us to salvation, and it is His will that sends us into the world to witness for Him.
We are all like the boy who had no ability. God graciously puts us on the team, not because of our own ability, but purely by His sovereign grace. And He gives us the ability to play the game. So get in the game and give thanks for the holy privilege of serving Jesus Christ.
|January 17||Gentleness: Power Under Control|
“Walk … with all … gentleness.”
The antidote to our vengeful, violent society is biblical gentleness.
A popular bumper sticker says, “Don’t Get Mad—Get Even.” People demand what they perceive to be their rights, no matter how the demand harms others. Some go to court to squeeze every last cent out of those who hurt them. More and more violent crimes are committed each year. We need a strong dose of biblical truth to cure these attitudes. The biblical solution is gentleness.
The world might interpret gentleness or meekness as cowardice, timidity, or lack of strength. But the Bible describes it as not being vengeful, bitter, or unforgiving. It is a quiet, willing submission to God and others without the rebellious, vengeful self–assertion that characterizes human nature.
The Greek word translated “gentleness” was used to speak of a soothing medicine. It was used of a light, cool breeze and of a colt that had been broken and tamed, whose energy could be channeled for useful purposes. It also describes one who is tenderhearted, pleasant, and mild.
Gentleness is not wimpiness though. It is power under control. The circus lion has the same strength as a lion running free in Africa, but it has been tamed. All its energy is under the control of its master. In the same way, the lion residing in the gentle person no longer seeks its own prey or its own ends; it is submissive to its Master. That lion has not been destroyed, just tempered.
Gentleness is one facet of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). It is also a key to wisdom. James asks, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (3:13). Verse 17 says, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”
Even if gentleness is not valued in our society, it is crucial to our godliness. Seek it diligently and prayerfully.
Suggestions for Prayer: If you tend to be at all vengeful or unforgiving, ask God’s forgiveness and His help to forgive those who hurt you. Seek to be gentle with them instead.
For Further Study: Throughout most of 1 Samuel, King Saul repeatedly tries to capture David and kill him. Read 1 Samuel 24. How did David demonstrate his gentleness in the face of his hostile enemy?
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice: My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
It is part of my belief that God wants to get us to a place where we would still be happy if we had only Him! We don’t need God and something else. God does give us Himself and lets us have other things, too, but there is that inner loneliness until we reach the place where it is only God that we desire.
Most of us are too social to be lonely. When we feel lonely, we rush to the telephone and call Mrs. Yakkety. So we use up thirty minutes, and the buns are burned in the oven. With many, it is talk, talk, talk, and we rush about looking for social fellowship because we cannot stand being alone.
If you will follow on to know the Lord, there comes a place in your Christian life when Mrs. Yakkety will be a pest instead of being a consolation. She won’t be able to help you at all. There will not be a thing that she can do for you. It is loneliness for God—you will want God so badly you will be miserable. This means you are getting close, friend. You are near the kingdom, and if you will only keep on, you will meet God. God will take you in and fill you, and He will do it in His own blessed and wonderful way. COU078-079
Lord, bring me to that place of inner loneliness that David knew, so that when all else is stripped away, I might find satisfaction in You—only You. Amen. 
Jesus Refuses to Test God
Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple.—Matt. 4:5
In confronting our Lord Jesus Christ, Satan persisted in trying to undermine or destroy the Son’s relationship to His Father. This time he goaded Jesus with this statement: “If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” To fortify his challenge and make it more plausible, the adversary—with a subtle and clever twist—quoted Scripture: “For it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone’ ” (from Ps. 91:11–12).
Now Satan surely had Christ backed into a corner, he likely reasoned, using his misguided and evil sense of logic. “If the Messiah lives only according to the Word of God, then I should confront Him with something from that Word.” If Jesus wouldn’t use His own power to help Himself and meet His immediate needs, maybe He would let God work on His behalf—after all, this was a “scriptural test,” according to Satan. Jesus could thus let God fulfill a promise from Psalms and prove to others that He was indeed God’s Son and Messiah.
But no matter how persuasive Satan’s argument—undergirded with a proof text—may have sounded, Jesus did not agree to it, not wanting to presumptuously test God or jump ahead of the divine timetable for the Savior’s redemptive ministry.
|Yes, Scripture can be turned and twisted to suit anyone’s ends. What safeguards do you have in place against misusing the Word of God, while still maintaining a bold, believing faith in its sense of direction? Ask the Spirit to guide you into its truth. That’s His job (John 16:13).|
EXPLORE GOD’S WORD
Thy word have I hid in mine heart.
What a strange paradox! The atheistic freethinker rants and raves about the Bible being a “dangerous” book at the very same time that the Word of God is speaking life to my soul!
Strange indeed that some humans have the idea that the Word of God can only be approached with shivering fears. But that is true only of those who love their sin and hate their Savior.
The blessed truth is that if I hate my sin and love my Savior, the Word of God is a wonderful revelation, indeed, and a trustworthy guide.
We need to be aware always that if we do not keep the Word of God on our side, we will be miserable in our souls continually. It is up to us. What do we sincerely will to do with God and His revealed Word?
Years ago, the saintly George Mueller said he had read the Bible hundreds of times, and then he added: “with meditation!”
Let us see to it that we read the Word. More than that, we should actually explore it!
Thank You, Lord, for giving us Your Word. I pray that it will not only illuminate my own heart, but I pray for those translating the Word into other languages so that it will illumine theirs as well.
|January 17||Praising God for Your Election|
“Having been predestined according to [God’s] purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).
God took the initiative in salvation by choosing you and granting you saving faith.
In Ephesians 1:4 Paul says that God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” In verse 11 he reiterates that marvelous truth by affirming that believers have been predestined to salvation according to God’s own purpose and will.
Many reject the teaching that God chose (“predestined”) believers to salvation. They think believers chose God. In one sense they’re right. Salvation involves an act of the will in turning from sin to embrace Christ. But the issue in predestination goes deeper than that. It’s a question of initiative. Did God choose you on the basis of your faith in Him, or did He, by choosing you, enable you to respond in faith?
The answer is clear in Scripture. Romans 3:11 says that no one seeks for God on his own. Unregenerate people have no capacity to understand spiritual truth; it’s all foolishness to them (1 Cor. 2:14). They are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), blind (2 Cor. 4:4), and ignorant (Eph. 4:18).
How can people in that condition initiate saving faith? They can’t! That’s why Jesus said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him. … All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:44, 37). Paul added, “God … has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:8–9).
God took the initiative. He chose you and gave you saving faith (Eph. 2:8–9). Rejoice in that truth. Rest in His power to conform all things to His will. Draw strength and assurance from His promise never to let you go (John 10:27–29). Then live each day as God’s elected one by shunning sin and following after holiness.
Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for placing His love upon you and for granting you salvation. ✧ Pray for the salvation of others, and seek opportunities to share Christ with them today.
For Further Study: Read Ezekiel 36:22–32. ✧ Why will God one day redeem Israel? ✧ What does that passage teach you about God’s initiative in salvation?
MAN’S FALL CREATED A PERPETUAL MORAL CRISIS
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
The fall of man has created a perpetual crisis. It will last until sin has been put down and Christ reigns over a redeemed and restored world.
Until that time the earth remains a disaster area and its inhabitants live in a state of extraordinary emergency.
Statesmen and economists talk hopefully of “a return to normal conditions,” but conditions have not been normal since “the woman saw that the tree was good for food…and pleasant” and “to be desired to make one wise” and “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” It is not enough to say that we live in a state of moral crisis. That is true, but it is not all, for the Fall has affected every part of man’s nature, moral, intellectual, psychological, spiritual and physical.
Man’s whole being has been deeply injured; the sin in his heart has overflowed into his total life, affecting his relation to God, to his fellow men and to everyone and everything that touches him.
To me, it has always been difficult to understand those evangelical Christians who insist upon living in the crisis as if no crisis existed. They say they serve the Lord, but they divide their days so as to leave plenty of time to play and loaf and enjoy the pleasures of the world as well. They are at ease while the world burns; and they can furnish many convincing reasons for their conduct, even quoting Scripture if you press them a bit.
I wonder whether such Christians actually believe in the Fall of man!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 28). 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. 25). 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. 29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.