A Thankful Heart
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.
A thankful heart is essential for true spiritual service. If you are trying to serve the Lord without gratitude in your heart for what He’s done for you, then you are serving in the flesh with improper motives. One who is thankful realizes that God has a cause for everything that happens. One who serves externally, legalistically, or ritualistically will not find very many things to be thankful for in his life because he is not grateful for the things God has already done for him.
Do you have a thankful heart? Are you overwhelmed with thanksgiving for what God has done? If you are, then you will be free from bitterness or resentment toward God or anyone else.
There is so much to be thankful for. The devil often tempts us by saying, “You deserve better than that. You don’t have to be thankful.” But when he does, make sure you remember how much you have to be thankful for!
|January 24||Forbearing Love|
“… Showing forbearance to one another in love.”
In order to walk worthy, we must forgive our enemies and love them.
The term forbearance is not often used today and is therefore unfamiliar to many of us. The Greek word translated “showing forbearance” means “suppressing with silence.” It carries the idea of throwing a blanket over sin. First Peter 4:8 says, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” and Proverbs 10:12 declares, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” A forbearing person doesn’t trumpet other people’s sins but rather forgives them. Forbearance has room for the failures of others. A forbearing person also loves people in spite of the wrongs they might have done to him.
Agape, the word used for “love” in this verse, is the love that gives but never takes. It’s the kind of love that seeks the highest good for another, no matter what the cost. God showed His agape by giving us His only Son (John 3:16). Jesus said, “Greater love [agape] has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (15:13). Agape is unconquerable benevolence and invincible goodness; it is completely selfless.
Perhaps the greatest description of forbearing love is the summary Jesus gives in Matthew 5:43–45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” We were God’s enemies before He saved us, but He was willing to send His Son anyway (Rom. 5:10). Since we are God’s children, we must also seek our enemies’ highest good, whatever it costs us. Such cost ought to include more than simply enduring slander and persecution from our enemies. Genuine forbearing love will assume the more difficult task of loving those who hate us.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God that He showed forbearing love in sending Christ to die for undeserving sinners. ✧ Pray for your enemies and for strength to love them as you should.
For Further Study: Besides Christ, the clearest example of forbearing love is Stephen’s attitude toward those who stoned him. Read his story in Acts 6–7, and note his love toward his executioners. ✧ Think about people you have a hard time loving, and pray that God would show you specific ways you can show love to them. Then follow through!
BOTH EASY AND DIFFICULT
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
But the God we must see is not the utilitarian God who is having such a run of popularity today, whose chief claim to men’s attention is His ability to bring them success in their various undertakings and who for that reason is being cajoled and flattered by everyone who wants a favor. The God we must learn to know is the Majesty in the heavens, God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, the only wise God our Saviour….
Knowledge of such a Being cannot be gained by study alone. It comes by a wisdom the natural man knows nothing of, neither can know, because it is spiritually discerned. To know God is at once the easiest and the most difficult thing in the world. It is easy because the knowledge is not won by hard mental toil, but is something freely given. As sunlight falls free on the open field, so the knowledge of the holy God is a free gift to men who are open to receive it. But this knowledge is difficult because there are conditions to be met and the obstinate nature of fallen man does not take kindly to them. KOH180-181
Lord, deliver me from viewing You as simply a utilitarian God and give to me the spiritual wisdom that defies my obstinacy and leads me to true knowledge of You. Amen. 
Angels Minister to Jesus
Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.—Matt. 4:11
After Jesus’ greatest foe left, “angels came and began to minister to Him.” It is quite fitting that holy angels should come to care for and comfort Him after the prince of the fallen angels had harassed Him with three major temptations. To provide the benefits of angelic ministry was just another way for the Father to register His approval of the Son and signify the Son’s worthiness.
At the first sign of confrontation with Satan, Christ could easily have summoned help from “more than twelve legions of angels” (Matt. 26:53). But He obediently waited for the Father to send assistance according to the divine schedule. We are not told what kind of ministry the angels performed, but they undoubtedly brought Jesus food to relieve His hunger. And spiritually they would have worshiped the Son and delivered to Him many words of assurance and comfort from His Father.
The devil’s temptations of Jesus failed, whereas God’s testings of His Son succeeded. Time after time, Jesus had answered with the ideal response to each test. The Lord also provides His saints with the power to resist the adversary’s schemes (James 4:7), knowing that Satan will certainly persist in challenging believers, just as he challenged Jesus. But for every new or repeated temptation, God always gives us a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13).
|Perhaps you’re the giving, ministry type. You freely give and share and do and give comfort. But how well do you receive God’s comfort and His ministry to you? How welcome are you to the caring compassions of others? To meet needs is noble, but to admit our own is still necessary.
|January 24||Receiving Spiritual Enlightenment|
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Eph. 1:18).
Spiritual enlightenment doesn’t come through self-effort or introspective meditation but through God’s Holy Spirit.
Our society has been enamored with the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, especially since the influx of Eastern thought into the West during the 1960s. Now we are drowning in a sea of false religions and New Age philosophies.
True enlightenment continues to elude many because they have denied its source and have turned to gurus and teachers who have no light to give. They propagate self-effort and introspective meditation, but spiritual enlightenment doesn’t come through such means. It comes only through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14–16). That’s why Paul prayed that God Himself would enlighten the hearts of the Ephesian believers (Eph. 1:18).
We might expect Paul to pray for enlightened minds rather than hearts, but that’s because we associate the word heart with emotions rather than with thought. But in Hebrew and Greek thinking, the heart was considered the seat of knowledge, thinking, and understanding. For example, Jesus said that evil thoughts come out of the heart (Matt. 15:19). Emotions are important, but they must be guided and controlled by an enlightened mind.
How does the Spirit enlighten you? As you pray and study God’s Word, He transforms and renews your mind (Rom. 12:2) by filling you with “the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). He teaches you to recognize and uphold what is excellent so that you will be “sincere and blameless” before God (Phil. 1:10). He implants Biblical truth into your thinking so that your responses become more and more like Christ’s.
How wonderful to know that each moment of the day God is working within you in such a way. Be diligent to pray and spend time in the Word so that your spiritual progress will be evident to all (1 Tim. 4:15).
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the Spirit’s transforming work within you. ✧ Reaffirm your love for Him, and express your willingness to be changed by His Spirit in any way He sees fit. ✧ Be alert for attitudes or actions that need to be changed. Rely on His grace and strength in doing so.
For Further Study: Read Genesis 27–33, noting how God used the events of Jacob’s life to transform his weak spiritual commitment to one that was strong and unconditional (see especially Gen. 28:20–22; 32:9–12).
BRINGING US TO GLORY
For it became him…bringing many sons unto glory.
As Christian believers (I am assuming you are a believer), you and I know how we have been changed and regenerated and assured of eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning death. On the other hand, where this good news of salvation by faith is not known, religion becomes an actual bondage. If Christianity is known only as a religious institution, it may well become merely a legalistic system of religion, and the hope of eternal life becomes a delusion.
I have said this much about reality and assurance to counter the shock you may feel when I add that God wants to fully prepare you in your daily Christian life so that you will be ready indeed for heaven! Many of us have been in God’s household for a long time. Remember that God has been trying to do something special within our beings day after day, year after year.
Why? Because His purpose is to bring many sons—and daughters too—unto glory!
Dear Jesus, thank You for Your faithfulness in my life—even when I ignore You. Today I want to be especially attuned to Your holy presence in each of my activities.
WALKING A TIGHTROPE BETWEEN TWO KINGDOMS?
…For I do always those things that please him.
We who follow Christ are aware of the fact that we inhabit at once two worlds, the spiritual and the natural. As children of Adam we do live our lives on earth subject to the limitations of the flesh and the weaknesses and ills to which human nature is heir.
In sharp contrast to this is our life in the Spirit. There we enjoy a higher kind of life; we are children of God. We possess heavenly status and enjoy intimate fellowship with Christ!
This tends to divide our total life into two departments, as we unconsciously recognize two sets of actions, the so-called secular acts and the sacred.
This is, of course, the old “sacred-secular” antithesis and most Christians are caught in its trap. Walking the tightrope between two kingdoms they find no peace in either.
Actually, the sacred-secular dilemma has no foundation in the New Testament. Without doubt a more perfect understanding of Christian truth will deliver us from it.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is our perfect example and He lived no divided life. God accepted the offering of His total life and made no distinction between act and act. “I do always the things that please Him” was His brief summary of His own life as related to the Father. We are called upon to exercise an aggressive faith, in which we offer all our acts to God and believe that He accepts them. Let us believe that God is in all our simple deeds and learn to find Him there!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 35). 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. 32). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 36). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.