We were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives.
1 Thessalonians 2:8
I had the privilege of attending seminary to study for the ministry. I learned much from the books I read, the notes I took, and the papers I wrote. But I learned far more from the lives of the men who taught me. Rather than focusing on what they said, I concentrated on why they said it.
That is what Paul did with the Romans. He, in effect, said, “Before I give you my theology, let me give you myself.” Paul is a model for all who serve Christ. Follow Paul’s example and begin giving yourself.
|January 28||Our Unity in the Spirit|
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
All Christians are part of the same Body, with the same Spirit, who is our pledge of eternal life.
Everything God ever designed for the church is based on the unity of believers. Paul emphasizes that by listing seven “ones” in these verses. One is the key; it is the cause of the worthy walk.
How many bodies of Christ are there? There isn’t a Presbyterian body, a Baptist body, and a Methodist body; nor is there a California body, a Utah body, and a Kansas body. There is just one Body, the church. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Whatever your race, creed, nationality, or language, when you become a Christian, you become one with every other believer.
Paul’s next point is that there is only one Spirit, who dwells in every believer. First Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” We “are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). Individually we are the temple of the Spirit; collectively we are the dwelling of the Spirit.
We are also “called in one hope of [our] calling.” We have only one eternal calling, only one eternal destiny, and the Holy Spirit guarantees our heavenly hope. “You were sealed in [Christ] with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13–14). He is our down payment, the first installment of our eternal inheritance.
Ephesians 4:4 focuses on the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us: we are placed into one Body by the Spirit, one Spirit dwells in us, and our one hope is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the church and in your life.
For Further Study: First Corinthians 12 has much to say about church unity. Read it carefully, noting in particular what the Spirit does in the Body and what our responsibility is as individual believers.
RETARDED SPIRITUAL PROGRESS
I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.
Probably the most widespread and persistent problem to be found among Christians is the problem of retarded spiritual progress. Why, after years of Christian profession, do so many persons find themselves no farther along than when they first believed?…
The causes of retarded growth are many. It would not be accurate to ascribe the trouble to one single fault. One there is, however, which is so universal that it may easily be the main cause: failure to give time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God….
The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God….
Progress in the Christian life is exactly equal to the growing knowledge we gain of the Triune God in personal experience. And such experience requires a whole life devoted to it and plenty of time spent at the holy task of cultivating God. God can be known satisfactorily only as we devote time to Him. ROR007-009
In a busy life, Lord, it’s so easy to neglect the important time we need to cultivate our knowledge of You. I devote myself to furthering my spiritual progress by seeking knowledge of You. Amen. 
Christ’s Galilean Ministry Fulfills Prophecy
This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet.—Matt. 4:14
Centuries before the Incarnation, the prophet Isaiah foretold this great truth: “ ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned’ ” (from Isa. 9:1–2).
And eight hundred years later—just as prophesied—the despised, unbelieving Galileans glimpsed the Messiah and, ahead of many of the Jews in Jerusalem, saw the dawning of God’s new covenant.
The Jews in Galilee were less sophisticated and traditional than those in Judea. The Jewish historian Josephus noted that the Galileans “were fond of innovations and by nature disposed to change, and they delighted in seditions.” They even had a regional accent distinct from the Judeans (cf. Matt. 26:73). Jesus likely chose His apostles from Galilee because they too would have been less bound to Jewish tradition and more open to the gospel.
Jesus’ going to Galilee to really begin His ministry shows that salvation was for sinners everywhere, with no distinctions or restrictions. It fulfilled Old Testament truth, which God revealed through the Jews (cf. Rom. 3:1–2). However, it was not an accommodation to the proud, exclusive Judaism prevalent in Jesus’ day. It was no accident that “the Light of the world” (John 8:12) first proclaimed Himself and His message in Galilee.
|As we’ll continue to see, Jesus often went to the least expected, the least admired, the least in the pecking order to administer His grace and reveal His identity. What is your level of concern and compassion for those in the greatest need of the gospel? Pray for a heart that beats like Jesus’ heart did—and does.
|January 28||Striving According to God’s Power|
“These are in accordance with the working of the strength of [God’s] might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead” (Eph. 1:19–20).
In Christ you have all the power you will ever need.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the great hope of believers. Because He lives, we will live also (John 14:19). Peter said that we have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Peter 1:3–4). We and what we have are protected by God’s power (v. 5).
In Ephesians 1:19–20 Paul draws two comparisons. The first is between the power God demonstrated in the resurrection and ascension of Christ and the power He demonstrates on behalf of every believer. That power is described as God’s “working,” “strength,” and “might.” Together those synonyms emphasize the greatness of God’s power, which not only secures our salvation but also enables us to live godly lives.
The second comparison is between our Lord’s resurrection and ascension and ours. The grave couldn’t hold Him, nor can it hold us (1 Cor. 15:54–57). Satan himself couldn’t prevent Christ’s exaltation, nor can he prevent us from gaining our eternal inheritance.
In Christ you have all the power you will ever need. For evangelism you have the gospel itself, which “is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes” (Rom. 1:16). For difficult times you have the assurance that the surpassing greatness of God’s power is at work in you (2 Cor. 4:7). For holy living you have God Himself at work in you “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
No matter how weak or ill-equipped you may at times feel, realize that God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that [you] ask or think, according to the power that works within [you]” (Eph. 3:20). So keep striving according to that power (Col. 1:29), but do so with the confidence that ultimately God will accomplish His good in your life.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God that He can and will accomplish His purposes in your life (Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:24). ✧ Pray for wisdom in how you might best serve Him today.
For Further Study: Read Psalm 145, noting every mention of God’s power David makes. Allow those examples to fill your heart with confidence and praise.
MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH
The house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
1 Timothy 3:15
Not all of the pooled efforts of any church can make a Christian out of a lost man!
The Christian life begins with the individual; a soul has a saving encounter with God, and the new life is born.
All else being equal, every individual Christian will find in the communion of a local church the most perfect atmosphere for the fullest development of his spiritual life. There he will also find the best arena for the largest exercise of those gifts and powers with which God may have endowed him.
Unfortunately, the word “church” has taken on meanings which it did not originally have. The meaning of the word for the true Christian was fixed by our Lord and His apostles, and no man and no angel has authority to change it!
The universal Church is the Body of Christ, the Bride of the Lamb, the habitation of God through the Spirit, the pillar and the ground of the Truth.
Without doubt the most important body on earth is the Church of God, which He purchased with His own blood!
Heavenly Father, equip and empower Your Church to fight the plague of evil rampant in our generation.
GOD’S WILL: LESS OF ME, MORE OF HIM
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Some Christian believers seemingly are committed to endless dialogue about the deeper spiritual life, just as though it were some new kind of fun and games.
Actually, many people want to talk about it as a topic but no one seems to want to know and love God for Himself!
When do we learn that God IS the deeper life?
Jesus Christ Himself is the deeper life and as I plunge on into the knowledge of the triune God, my heart moves on into the blessedness of His fellowship.
This means that there is less of me and more of God thus my spiritual life deepens, and I am strengthened in the knowledge of His will.
I think this is what Paul meant when he penned that great desire, “That I may know Him!” He was expressing more than the desire for acquaintance—he was yearning to be drawn into the full knowledge of fellowship with God which has been provided in the plan of redemption.
God originally created man in His own image so that man could know companionship with God in a unique sense and to a degree which is impossible for any other creature.
Because of his sin, man lost this knowledge, this daily partnership with God, and his heart has been darkened. But God has given sinful man another opportunity in salvation through the merits of a Redeemer, only because he was made in the image of God, and God has expressed His own everlasting love for man through the giving of His Son.
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 39). 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. 36). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 40). 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.