An Obligation to God
I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians; both to the wise and to the unwise.
A young man once asked me what motivates me to study week after week. I told him that sometimes, the Scripture passages are so exhilarating that I can’t wait to get to Sunday to preach. But then there are other times when I battle against priorities that crowd out my study time, and my ministry doesn’t seem that exciting then. I really have to fight my way through those times because I know I have a debt to God.
What if I see a house on fire, and the family inside is unaware of their dire situation? I cannot stand on the curb and wonder if they’re worth saving. Because they are in need and I have the information that can save them, I have an obligation to them.
If you are involved in Christian service only when you feel like doing it, you haven’t learned the kind of service Paul described in today’s verse. When facing a tough period in ministering to people, sometimes all you can rely on is your obligation to God.
|January 30||Our Unity in the Father|
“One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
There is only one God, and we will have a strong testimony by worshiping Him and holding on to what unites us.
The last point of Christian unity Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:4–6 is that Christians have “one God and Father.” In Paul’s day, people believed in many gods; so he emphasizes our God’s uniqueness. No person or object can compare with God because He is “above all,” which means He is the sovereign creator and controller of the universe; He is “through all,” as the providential upholder of the universe; and He is “in all,” which refers to His personal, indwelling presence.
Throughout the Old Testament, God emphasizes His uniqueness: “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other” (Deut. 4:39). “I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God” (Isa. 45:5). The Israelites were surrounded by nations that worshiped many gods, and God had to continually warn them about idolatry and judge them when they practiced it.
Israel’s worship of the only true God was to be their central point of unity. It was to set them apart from the nations around them. By worshiping Him alone, they not only would remain strong as a nation, but would be a witness to the Gentiles of God’s greatness.
As Christians, we have the same Father, and like Israel, our unity is founded on Him, as well as the other “ones” listed in Ephesians 4:4–6: one Body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. When we hold to these, we will be a powerful witness to the world.
Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for His uniqueness, that He alone is above all, through all, and in all.
For Further Study: The Psalms not only are rich with instruction about God but are also excellent means of praising Him. Read one psalm a day for the next several months, and write down what you learn about God. Whenever the psalmist praises God, let that be your prayer as well. When you have finished reading all the Psalms, you will know, honor, and love God more than ever.
THE FIRST STEP DOWN
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.
Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” and goes from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.
The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her. KOH006
Restore to Your Church, Lord, a concept of Your majesty that is worthy of You. Protect us from taking that first step down—or restore us if we are already there. Amen. 
The Gospel’s First Demand—Repentance
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”—Matt. 4:17
The message that Jesus brought to the people—the “great light” He revealed to those “sitting in the land of shadow and death”—was always very clear: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Our Lord thus began with the same basic exhortation that His herald, John the Baptist, had begun with (cf. Matt. 3:2).
Repentance is a crucial but often neglected or omitted element of the gospel. “Repent” means to turn from sin, to change your orientation, and in so turning to seek a new way of life. The person who repents has a radical change of will and heart, and as a result, a change of behavior (cf. Matt. 3:8). The repentant sinner will radically change the way he or she views sin and righteousness.
Repentance was, is, and always will be the foremost demand of the gospel. It is quite simply the first part of the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the sinner’s soul. In his Pentecost sermon, Peter also issued a call for repentance: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Paul reassured Timothy that repentance leads “to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). If repentance was crucial for the people of Jesus’ day, it is even more imperative for everyone today, because the kingdom is nearer than ever.
|Like all of us, you’ve confessed many things, many times before. But today is another good opportunity to take repentance seriously. What sins need its corrective touch in your life? Bring them before the Father. Receive His mercy. Walk away refreshed and in freedom.|
CHRIST WILL RULE
I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:23
I am not surprised that I still meet people who do not believe that Jesus Christ is going to return to earth. In fact, some of them, armed with their own Bibles and interpretations, are insistent on setting me “straight.”
One gentleman has written saying that I have it all wrong, and that Paul did not mean what I had said he meant, as I applied Paul’s statement to everyday life.
I took time to write a reply: “When it comes to saying what he meant, Paul’s batting average has been pretty good up to now. So, I will string along with what Paul plainly, clearly said.”
I did not figure I needed someone to straighten me out—particularly someone who had decided the Bible does not mean what it says.
No one is going to argue me out of my faith in what God has revealed and what God has said. As far as I am concerned, it is a fact that Jesus is coming again! The question I do raise is this: Are we prepared spiritually for His coming? Are we tolerating conditions in our midst that will cause us embarrassment when He does come?
Dear Lord, grant me courage to live today—indeed, every day of my life—as though You were coming back this afternoon.
|January 30||Serving the Supreme One|
God exalted Christ “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet” (Eph. 1:21–22).
Now and forever Christ is the Supreme One!
Yesterday we saw that Christ has both an exalted name and an exalted, authoritative position. In verses 21–22 Paul elaborates on the extent of Christ’s authority, which is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.”
“Rule,” “authority,” “power,” and “dominion” are designations for angelic beings, whether good or evil (cf. Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:16). In His incarnation Christ was made lower in rank than the angels, that He might suffer death on our behalf (Heb. 2:9). Now He has “become … much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:4), and the Father commands all the angels to worship the Son (v. 6).
But Christ’s rule extends far beyond angelic beings. In Ephesians 1:21 the phrase “every name that is named” is a general reference to any form of authority—whether angelic or human, eternal or temporal. Now and forever Christ is the Supreme One! Ultimately every knee will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:10–11).
The implications of that truth are staggering. For example, Christ precedes the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19–20, the heart of Christian evangelism and discipleship, with this significant statement: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
Ultimately your evangelism and discipleship efforts will bear fruit because they are backed by the authority of Christ Himself. Does that encourage you to seize every opportunity to share Christ and His Word with others? It should!
Be faithful today, realizing that you represent the One in whom lies all authority. Nothing can thwart His purposes.
Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to a lost soul or anyone else you can encourage from the Word. Be sensitive to His leading.
For Further Study: Read Colossians 1:15–23. ✧ What was Christ’s role in creation (vv. 15–17)? ✧ What is His role in the church (v. 18)? In salvation (v. 22)? ✧ What place have you given Him in your life?
THE HUMBLE MAN SAYS: “THE MISTAKES ARE MINE”
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
A page in church history reveals that the godly Macarius of Optino was once told that his spiritual counsel had been helpful.
“This cannot be,” Macarius wrote in reply. “Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God; His advice that I happen to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.”
There is an excellent lesson here which we must not allow to go unregarded. It is the sweet humility of the man of God who was enabled to say, “Only the mistakes are mine.”
He was fully convinced that his own efforts could result only in mistakes and that any good that came of his advice must be the work of the Holy Spirit operating within him.
Apparently this was more than a sudden impulse of self-depreciation, which the proudest of men may at times feel; it was rather a settled conviction that gave set and direction to his entire life. His long and humble ministry which brought spiritual aid to many reveals this clearly enough.
It is our belief that the evangelical movement will continue to drift farther and farther from the New Testament position unless its leadership passes from the modern religious star to the self-effacing saint who asks for no praise and seeks no place, happy only when the glory is attributed to God and himself forgotten!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 41). 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. 38). 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. 42). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.