Monthly Archives: February 2017

Discernment Resources Potpourri

Michelle Lesley

discernment

There are scads of fantastic discernment resources out there. Here are a few good ones that have come across my desk in the past few weeks…

deadlydoctrine-01Tim Challies is running a really good series right now called Deadly Doctrines. “In a new series of articles, we will consider false doctrine, sound doctrine, and how to train ourselves to distinguish between them. We will see how God calls us to respond to false and sound doctrine, as well as false and sound teachers.”

download-1Here’s Sinclair Ferguson over at Ligonier with What is Discernment? “We are on our guard against being led astray by false teachers. But there is more to discernment than this. True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between…

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February 28, 2017: Verse of the day

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As on so many other occasions, Simon Peter acted as the spokesman for the Twelve (cf. 13:36–37; Matt. 14:28; 15:15; 16:16, 22; 17:4; 18:21; 19:27; 26:33, 35; Mark 11:21; Luke 5:8; 8:45; 12:41). His declaration, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God,” is reminiscent of his confession of Jesus as the Messiah in Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:16; cf. 14:33). While the crowd was only willing to accept Jesus as a kind of second Moses whom they hoped would supply their material needs, the Twelve saw Him for who He really is. There was no other teacher to whom they could turn, Peter said, for it was Christ alone who has the words of eternal life (cf. v. 63).

Peter’s affirmation in verses 68 and 69 expressed two key marks of true disciples: faith (we have believed)—which marks their spiritual birth—and faithfulness (Lord, to whom shall we go?)—which marks their character. The perfect tense of the verbs translated have believed and have come to know conveys the idea of an act completed in the past, but with ongoing results. The initial faith of true disciples results in continued commitment and loyalty to Christ. Unlike the false disciples who had made a final decision to abandon Jesus, the Twelve (except for Judas) had made a permanent pledge to follow Him. In this way, John contrasted the stark difference between those who are fickle and those who are faithful.

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

67–69 So Jesus turns to the Twelve and puts his call to commitment in a question that expected a negative response: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” It was not a plaintive inquiry but a clear question regarding their allegiance. Peter, the impulsive one, speaks for the group: “Lord, to whom shall we go? There is no other one. You alone have the words that bring eternal life.” Then in a messianic declaration not unlike his confession at Caesarea Philippi (Mk 8:27–30 par.), Peter exclaims, “We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” That both verbs are in the perfect tense indicates that the Twelve had not only come to believe in him and recognize the truth of his claims but also that their faith and confidence was holding steady in this time of decision. Truth calls for commitment. It allows no place for what is false. To accept the truth is to forsake all attempts to find ultimate meaning in the vagaries of human existence.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

February 28, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

February 28

The Accountability Factor

Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.

Hebrews 10:24

 

I have found that the closer I am to the godly people around me, the easier it is for me to live a righteous life because they hold me accountable. If something isn’t right in my life, they point it out to me. God has given me a wife and four grown children who expect me to walk a righteous path. If I stray from it, one or sometimes all five of them will inform me that I am out of line.

It’s easy to begin thinking that if you try your best, you can live a spiritual life without being involved in a church or having close, godly friends. This may be possible, but you’ll have a difficult time growing in your faith. Accountability applies a helpful pressure toward godliness. May today’s verse guide you toward stronger spiritual patterns.[1]

February 28 God’s Glory in Christ

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14

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Christ displayed God’s glory on earth and will again when He comes back. After seeing His glory in Scripture, we should respond in worship and righteousness.

From eternity past Christ had the glory of God. He “is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3), and He prayed, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5).

Christ also displayed God’s glory on earth. Most often He looked like an ordinary man, but one night He appeared in great glory to Peter, James, and John (Luke 9:28–36). “While He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming” (v. 29). Moses and Elijah came and spoke to Him, and the disciples “saw His glory” (v. 32).

When He comes again, He will come “on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30), to the joy of His people and to the terror of those who reject Him. His glory will fill the whole earth (Num. 14:21), and all creation will worship Him.

What should be our response to God’s glory? Like the angels who sing, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14), we should give Him praise. Also, as we see His glory we should change: “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). As we look at God, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and helps us grow and live righteous lives. As “children of God,” we “appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

The purpose of all creation is to glorify God. As a mirror reflects light, we are to reflect His glory to Him and to a sinful world. Seek to live a holy life so this reflection shines as brightly as possible, and make it your desire to glorify Him in everything you do.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the hope of glory we have as we wait for Christ’s return (Titus 2:13). ✧ Ask that your life would brightly reflect God’s glory today.

For Further Study: Read about God’s glory in Heaven in Revelation 21:1–22:5. How is His glory displayed?[2]


FEBRUARY 28

OUR MENTAL IMAGE OF GOD

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

—Ephesians 1:17

The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow. KOH001-002

Lord, give Your Church and its leaders a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that we might indeed have an adequate appreciation of who You are. Amen. [3]


February 28

Satisfying Your Spiritual Hunger

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.—Matt. 5:6

The all-important result for any believer hungering and thirsting after righteousness is to “be satisfied.” The verb translated “satisfied” frequently refers to the feeding of animals until they want no more. In a parallel to this, Jesus declares that people who hunger and thirst for righteousness will gain complete satisfaction. This satisfaction comes from God. Our part is to seek; His is to satisfy us.

Paradoxically, Christians continually seek God’s righteousness, always wanting more and never getting their fill in this life. Yet the Lord still satisfies them. Again, we can make the analogy to food. We can eat our fill of our favorite dishes, yet our taste for those foods remains. The satisfaction we derive only makes us want more. Believers who crave God’s righteousness will find it so satisfying that they will always want more.

Psalms speaks repeatedly about God’s satisfying our spiritual hunger. The most well-known psalm opens, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and later says, “You prepare a table before me … my cup overflows” (23:1, 5). A later psalm assures us that God “has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good” (Ps. 107:9; cf. 34:10).

Jesus on another occasion told the crowds, many of whom were among the five thousand fed, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35). Our spiritual hunger will always be satisfied (cf. John 4:14).

ASK YOURSELF
It may not happen all at once, but Jesus will always reward your hunger for righteousness with the deep satisfaction reserved for the humbly obedient. How has He satisfied you in the past? Think of a time when you and He celebrated what sanctification was accomplishing in you.[4]

FEBRUARY 28

SOLDIERS OF CHRIST

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:3

 

It is possible to be beaten until you are numb. You can smile and praise the Lord and say, “Jesus, I my cross have taken,” for a while. But then you are slowly beaten until you are numb, and you get into a sort of a rut where you cannot fight back.

Timothy had been with Paul a long time, and Paul had been in so much trouble so much of the time. Timothy was tagging along behind in the same trouble, and Paul had noticed a little temptation to be ashamed of the cross. Essentially, Paul was saying, “Don’t be ashamed of the cross. Don’t shrink from the affliction of the gospel. God has not given us the spirit of fear.” Then in Second Timothy 2:3 Paul said, “Endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” It is as though he might have detected in the young man a little temptation to recoil a bit from the hard life he was called into.

 

Lord, teach me self-discipline, that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Help me to be bold for the sake of Your cross.[5]


February 28 Acknowledging the Ultimate Source

“… joyously giving thanks to the Father” (Col. 1:11–12).

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Joyous thanksgiving acknowledges God as the giver of every good gift.

The inseparable link between joy and thanksgiving was a common theme for Paul. In Philippians 4:4–6 he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!. … Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” He told the Thessalonians to “rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16–18).

As often as Paul expressed thanks and encouraged others to express theirs, he was careful never to attribute to men the thanks due to God alone. For example, in Romans 1:8 he says, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” He thanked God, not the Roman believers, because he knew that faith is a gift from God.

That doesn’t mean you can’t thank others for the kindnesses they show, but in doing so you must understand that they are instruments of God’s grace.

Thanking Him shows humility and acknowledges His rightful place as the Sovereign Lord and the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Those who reject His Lordship and refuse to give Him thanks incur His wrath (Rom. 1:21).

Only those who love Christ can truly give thanks because He is the channel through which thanks is expressed to the Father. As Paul says in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Hebrews 13:15 adds, “Through [Christ] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

As one who is privileged to know the God of all grace, be generous in your praise and thanksgiving today. See everything as a gift from His hand for your joy and edification.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Read aloud Psalm 136 as a prayer of praise to God.

For Further Study: From Psalm 136 list the things that prompted the psalmist’s thanksgiving. How can that psalm serve as a model for your own praise?[6]


FEBRUARY 28

RATIONALISM: A DANGER IN TODAY’S CHRISTIANITY

Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?

JOHN 7:19

The theological battle line in our day is not necessarily between the fundamentalist and the liberal.

There is a difference between them, of course. The fundamentalist says, “God made the heaven and the earth.” The liberal says, “Well, that is a poetic way of stating it—but actually, it came up by evolution.”

The warfare, the dividing line today, is between evangelical rationalists and evangelical mystics. I will explain what I mean.

There is today an evangelical rationalism which is the same doctrine held by the Jewish religion in the day of Jesus. They said the truth is in the word, and if you want to know truth, go to the rabbi and learn the word. If you get the word, you have the truth.

That is also the view of evangelical rationalism in our day: “If you learn the text you’ve got the truth!”

This evangelical rationalism will kill the truth just as quickly as liberalism will, though in a more subtle way. The evangelical rationalist wears our uniform but he insists that the body of truth is all you need. Believe the body of truth and you are on your way to heaven and you cannot backslide and you will get a crown in the last day!

I believe the Bible is a living book, a revelation from God. But there must be illumination before revelation can get to your soul. It is not enough that I hold an inspired book in my hands—I must have an inspired heart. Truth has a soul as well as a body![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 71). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 67). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 71). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[7] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

What is spiritual adultery?

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4 (NASB) 

Worship is that vital part of the relationship between God and His people that we see so often corrupted and wrongly focused in our time to the point that the end result is that even if people believe they are “worshiping” God they are actually guilty of spiritual adultery. The division line between what true worship is, that which glorifies and pleases God, and that which is no more than spiritual adultery is actually very easily drawn. Those on the side that is “friends of the world” and are, therefore, making themselves enemies of God, are part of “systems” whose values, loves, and deeds are wholly at odds with what pleases God (1…

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How the Entitlement Mentality Crept into Our Churches

In 1974 Burger King made a bold move to take market share from McDonald’s. At the time, McDonald’s made burgers en masse. If you wanted a special order, you had to wait interminably while it was cooked separately.

I remember. I’m a ketchup-only kind of guy.

So Burger King announced that each order would be cooked at the time of the order the way the customer wanted. Their new slogan was “Have It Your Way.” Burger King, at least at the time, understood the consumer entitlement mentality.

So what does this story have to do with our churches?

It provides a brief historical backdrop of the mentality that has crept into our churches, where many of our members think church is a place where I can always “have it my way.” For now, let me share some key reasons many of our congregations have become more like country clubs than churches, a place where some members demand their way instead of serving and self-sacrificing.

  1. Failure to state clearly the expectations of church membership on the front end. A membership class, or some similar entry point into churches, should not only give information about the church, it should provide expectations about membership. Membership without expectations becomes membership with entitlements.
  2. Failure to make certain as possible that members are Christians. Sadly, we church leaders often neglect to discuss the spiritual conditions of prospective members. Are they truly followers of Christ? As a result, many of our churches have unregenerate members.
  3. Seeking numerical growth at all costs. We certainly should be Great Commission churches. We certainly should be inviting people and sharing the gospel. But if our end goal is numbers, we will make compromising statements to bring people into our churches. We should seek to grow our churches out of obedience to God, not to create our own kingdoms.
  4. Failure to remind the congregation regularly what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. All of us church members have the potential to lapse into self-serving, entitlement members. We all need to be reminded that church membership is not about perks and privileges, but serving and sacrifice. I have been encouraged to see many churches have annual renewal and commitment services.
  5. Allowing the most entitled members into positions of key leadership in the church. One of the more common manifestations of an entitled church member is a person who seeks to gain power and leadership positions in a church so he or she can control and get his or her own way. We yield to them too often because they might be big givers or because we don’t have the fortitude to resist their bullying behavior.
  6. Failure to deal with difficult issues. Church leaders too often are conflict avoiders. And while we shouldn’t pick a fight over every issue of minutia, neither should we allow a pervasive culture of entitlement, bullying, and manipulation to grow unabated. A problem not handled now is a larger problem later.

The biblical mandate for local congregations is counter-cultural. In many passages of the New Testament, such as 1 Corinthians 12, we are clearly taught that members are to be sacrificial, giving, and serving.

Such a mentality goes counter to the culture in which the church ministers.

Church is not about having it our way.

It’s about bringing glory to God by having it His way.

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The Unchanging Gospel

1 Corinthians 15:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:1-4

Code: B170227

John MacArthur

[Note from the Editor: This week’s blog posts are adapted from John MacArthur’s newest book The Gospel According to Paul, and also correlate with our current radio series. Click here to learn more about the book, or here to listen to the radio broadcast.]

There is only one gospel. That theme reverberates throughout the writings of the apostle Paul—literature that makes up almost half of the entire New Testament. While he emphasizes different aspects of the gospel in various passages [The Gospel According to Paul examines several other prominent passages: Romans 3:9–26, 2 Corinthians 5:18–21, Ephesians 2:1–10, Titus 2:11–14], they are all consistent and work together for a full-orbed understanding of the doctrine of salvation.

Consistency and Integrity

Anyone who suggests that Paul introduced an altered or embellished version of the apostolic message would have to contradict every point Paul ever made about the singularity of the true gospel. Although he expounded the gospel far more thoroughly and painstakingly than any other New Testament writer, nothing Paul ever preached or wrote was in any way a departure from what Christ or His apostles had been teaching from the start. Paul’s gospel was exactly the same message Christ proclaimed and commissioned the twelve to take into all the world. There is only one gospel, and it is the same for Jews and Gentiles alike.

It was the false teachers, not Paul, who claimed that God had appointed them to polish or rewrite the gospel. Paul flatly repudiated the notion that the message Christ sent His disciples to preach was subject to revision (2 Corinthians 11).

Paul made it clear that the surest way to twist Scripture to one’s own destruction is by altering the gospel—or even by passively tolerating those who preach a modified gospel. He strictly cautioned readers to beware “if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted” (2 Corinthians 11:4). He said alternative gospels are rooted in the same brand of deception the serpent used to deceive Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3).

And while the one, true gospel is inexhaustible in its breadth and depth, it is at the same time clear enough to be expressed in simple terms through historical events and theological principles.

Core Elements

For anyone familiar with Paul’s writings, one of the first texts that will come to mind as a succinct summary of the gospel is 1 Corinthians 15:1–5. Paul himself identifies this passage as a digest of essential gospel truths.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared.

Verse 3 would be better translated, “I conveyed to you the principal matters.” That’s the true sense of what he is telling them. What Paul clearly has in mind here are the elements of gospel truth that come first in order of importance. He goes on to give an abbreviated outline of historical facts in chronological order. He names four events that constitute the key climactic events of the whole gospel narrative: the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and subsequent appearances of the risen Christ.

This is significant for several reasons. First, it is a reminder that the gospel is grounded in actual history. The Christian faith is not a theory or a speculation. It is not mystical, as if based on someone’s dream or imagination. It is not an abstract philosophy or an idealistic worldview. Much less is it merely a list of sterile doctrines that have been relegated to a formal statement of faith. The gospel of Jesus Christ is divinely revealed truth established in the meticulous historical fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies, documented by mountains of irrefutable evidence, confirmed by a series of public events that no mere mortal could possibly have engineered, and corroborated by an abundance of eyewitness testimony.

On the other hand, by listing facts of history as matters of primary importance, Paul is by no means dismissing or even minimizing the doctrinal content of the gospel message. Nor is he suggesting that the Christian faith rests on bare historical facts and eyewitness testimony alone. Twice in this short passage Paul reminds us that these events happened “according to the Scriptures.” That, of course, is the true ground and foundation of saving faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). It’s not “faith” merely to believe that these events occurred. True saving faith will also embrace the biblical meaning of sin, atonement, divine grace, and other elements of gospel truth—the doctrines that explain why the historical facts are so significant.

Indeed, loaded into the simple statement “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” is everything Scripture teaches about the penalty of sin, the principle of substitutionary atonement, and the sinless perfection that qualified Christ to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In other words, what Paul says here in very few words has significant ramifications for hamartiology (the doctrine of sin), soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), and Christology (the doctrines of the person and work of Christ). So his short list of historical facts in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 is laden with far-reaching doctrinal implications.

The Problem in Corinth

Context is crucial. Paul wrote this chapter to deal with a doctrinal error, not as a dispute about the facts of history. The Corinthians already believed in Christ’s death and resurrection. What they questioned was the future bodily resurrection of believers who die. So Paul was writing to defend that point of doctrine. He does so by outlining the gospel message with a list of historical events that no one in the Corinthian assembly of believers ever would have questioned. “So we preach and so you believed,” he says in 1 Corinthians 15:11 (emphasis added).

His review of commonly believed gospel facts in verses 1–5 was therefore merely a prelude to the central point of the chapter. Paul states his main point plainly in verses 16–17: “If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Conversely, if Christ was raised from the dead, then there’s no reason to be skeptical about the future bodily resurrection of the saints. “If Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12). The whole of chapter 15 is an exposition of that simple argument.

Four Historic Events

What concerns us here, however, is the brief gospel outline Paul gives in verses 3–5. He cites four events from history to construct a firm skeletal framework for the weighty doctrinal substance and spiritual significance of the gospel message. By naming these four historical facts rather than stressing the doctrine, Paul is not suggesting that the gospel’s doctrinal content is irrelevant or inconsequential. Paul would never indulge in that kind of reductionism. (The whole book of Galatians proves how strongly he believed in doctrinal soundness, especially in the matter of gospel preaching.) Here he is merely summarizing and outlining—not truncating—the message. By repeatedly using the phrase “according to the Scriptures,” he makes it clear that a right understanding of and true belief in these four events necessarily entails a proper view of the gospel’s doctrinal implications.

Furthermore, none of this would have been new to the Corinthians. Paul founded that church and pastored it for more than eighteen months before his ministry took him elsewhere (Acts 18:11,18). The Corinthians had received sufficient teaching from Paul so they already knew quite well the crucial doctrinal implications of the statement “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” That, of course, is the first point of the outline Paul constructs.

In the days ahead we’ll examine four events that frame the pivotal doctrine of Christ’s atonement, and how all the other core gospel elements flow out it.

 

(Adapted from The Gospel According to Paul.)

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170227
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Practical magic’s resurgence

The End Time

The NY Times published an article titled The modern charm of practical magic. I found it interesting for many different reasons. I was not saved by grace of the Lord Jesus until I was 42 years old. I spent all of my adulthood prior to the salvation moment, searching for the magic key to the magic in life, the unexplainable, explained. I dabbled in lots of different kinds of magic. Ouija boards, Kirlian aura photography, dreamcatchers, sage burning, Reiki, astral projection, summoning spirits & spirit guides, clairvoyance…

We all want to know what’s on the other side. We do enjoy peeking behind the veil, knowing the unknowable. Because, the unsaved person knows there is a higher power. (Romans 1:19-20). They just deny Who it is. ‘Oh it can’t be God. It must be runes…solstice…labyrinths…”

The NYT article says that they notice more than ever, people seeking answers through magic,

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God’s Sovereignty, Our Suffering (Bridges)

The Reformed Reader

Is God Really in Control?: Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy This is one of the better books I’ve read on suffering and the sovereignty of God: Is God Really in Control by Jerry Bridges.  This book is outstanding because it is very biblical, pastoral, and practical.  You won’t find a detailed philosophical discussion of theodicy in these pages, but you will find hope, comfort, and encouragement in the sovereignty of God’s love in Christ.  As always, Bridges writes in a straightforward manner that most Christians can understand.  You can give this book to a 60-year-old Christian going through a trial or a newly married husband and wife grieving over a miscarriage.  This is truly a book for the church.

Here are a couple of highlights from the book:

“In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith, not of sense.  …We must shape our vision of God by the Bible, not…

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Why I Don’t See ‘Christian’ Movies

Pulpit & Pen has a piece by Matt Sherro that tackles what Hollywood would like us to believe are Christian films. Sherro lists just a few of the heresies taught in so-called Christian movies and books:

“Yea, hath God said…” It’s the oldest trick in the book; bring just enough of the truth to someone to obscure the lie and it is, itself, the reason “Christian movies” are so successful. permit me to digress for a moment.

I was recently having a conversation with a friend, whom we will call Eric in order to protect his privacy, and during that conversation, Eric asked if it was true that, as a rule, I will never go to see a “Christian movie” and I answered in the affirmative. The last allegedly Christian movie that I went to see in a theater was The Passion of the Christ and I probably should have saved my money but that is a different story for a different day. I want to take a few moments to explain why I do not go to see these allegedly Christian movies and why I actively discourage others from doing so as well.

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Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Bible study author, speaker and blogger Michelle Lesley challenges those who claim they’re followers of Jesus Christ to read and study the book He inspired, the inerrant Word of God.  Knowing who God is and His ways prevents believers from getting pulled into a web of deception by the sort of teachers Jesus referred to as “ravenous wolves.” Most of us have played Monopoly so we’re familiar with how the game is played as well as the rules of the game.  Well, Michelle uses that board game to illustrate her point, and we think you’ll agree that she does it brilliantly!

So – with this in mind, listen as Michelle Lesley offers some basic training principles that will help Christians grow in their faith. She writes:

The Bible. Scripture. The Good Book. It used to be so blatantly self-evident that God’s written Word was the foundation and standard for the Christian faith that it was assumed. A given. You learned, “I stand alone on the word of God- the B-I-B-L-E,” when you were three or four years old, you believed it, and you moved on.

But take a look at the Westernized version of Christianity these days. The fruit of abandoning the authority of Scripture is chilling. From the demonic tremoring and barking antics of New Apostolic Reformation “churches” to the rebellion of female “pastors” to the “gay Christian” movement to “Christian” abortion doctors, it’s clear that an astounding number of self-professed Christians and churches don’t submit to Scripture’s mandates for their beliefs and practices.

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Revolutionary Sexuality

Revolutionary sexuality: Where are we?

It is surely beyond all dispute that we live in an age of revolution. This revolutionary upheaval is revealed most dramatically in the area of human sexuality. On all sides in our culture we are witness to the separating of what God has joined and a joining of what he has separated (Mark 10:9). Thus in the first instance we have no-fault divorce, the celebration of sex outside of marriage and abortion as contraception – with not even a pretended desire for holding together, in a moral union, love, sex and child-rearing in the permanent bond of the creational family. In the latter case, we have the promotion and celebration of homosexuality and even the denial of real, normative distinctions between male and female.

This ‘gender mainstreaming’ regards male and female sex as ‘fictive’ and seeks to reinvent humanity in terms of a gender-blending abstraction. The demagogues of revolution go about this subversion of creational norms in the name of liberation and empowerment, but as G. K. Chesterton warned, end up destroying what they claim to set free:

You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature. You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes. Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel. Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end.[1]

The speed with which the demagogues armed with their pagan ideologies have captured our culture, liberating man of his mannishness, is staggering; and it can only be accounted for by the fact that Western society has been rendered morally weak and impotent by its sexual guilt – our resistance to subversion broken down by the sexualisation and pornification of most cultural life. Consequently, speaking of Christian sexual ethics today is not for the faint of heart. To point out the tragic and ruinous dismantling of creational norms in our society is to place yourself at risk of ostracism and exclusion – even among professing Christians.

The contemporary revolution is openly directed against God, and indeed creation itself,which is sustained and upheld by the Word of God. Scripture republishes and explicates that creation Word and is therefore vehemently opposed by the artisans of the new sexual order.

Architects of Revolution: How did we get here?

The rallying cry of Voltaire during the French Revolution was ‘crush the infamy’ – by which he meant the Christian church and the moral order it stood for. The sexual revolutionaries of the twentieth century find the root of their revolutionary spirit in the self-creating illusions of Marxism, with its visceral hatred of both God and the family. As Marx keenly observed, “The secret to the Holy Family is the earthly family. To make the former disappear, the latter must be destroyed, in theory and in practice.”[2]

The past hundred years or so have given us the interrelated evolutionary, existential, technological, revolutionary, Freudian, behaviourist and gender-fluid views of the human person. As Gordon Spykman has pointed out, “The contemporary quests for self-identity degenerate into the many faces of modern man’s self-deception. He re-creates himself into the likeness of his own multi-masked image.”[3] Or in the words of Scripture, those who make idols become like them (Ps. 115:8). The cultural implications of this truth are all around us.

As a result of the many decades of theoretical, social and political assault on Christian sexual ethics, the norms which are part of any society’s operating system are being radically altered. This is doubly troubling for Christians because as this alteration occurs, new social and legal penalties are introduced to protect the new norms – for every society protects sexual norms with penalties. As Gabriele Kuby has explained:

Every culture penalizes violation of its sexual standards. While people previously thought it a feature of primitive societies to have taboos that were enforced by everything from social ostracism to the death penalty, today we are finding that new taboos apply. They gain their validity through social exclusion and gradual criminalization, specifically in the domain that all cultures protect with strict standards – the domain of sexuality. A reversal has taken place. Today the dissolution of moral standards is being enforced and opposition is being punished with exclusion and legal sanctions.[4]

This helps account for recent developments like Canada’s Bill C-16, which having passed a second successful reading in Parliament, and if passed at the Senate, will amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to add gender identity and gender expression to the growing list of prohibited grounds of ‘discrimination’ which already includes ‘sexual orientation.’ According to the government, open criticism or rejection of these expressions and behaviours could be deemed to encourage hatred and may lead to up to two years in prison.[5] This chilling consequence helps to silence all opposition to the revolution’s new sexual orthodoxy.

The catalogue of intellectual leaders for the sexual revolution who have brought us to this cultural moment include formative thinkers like Wilhelm Reich, who combined Marxism with Freudian psychoanalysis, and shaped the thinking of such ‘Frankfurt School’ luminaries as Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, whose influential writings helped produce the student revolution of the 1960s. Their message was essentially to free one’s self from oppressive Christian sexual morality by living out any and all libidinous urges, thereby creating a social paradise free from all ‘domination.’[6]

Seeking liberation from the feelings of guilt and shame that come with sexual immorality, emotionally disturbed and promiscuous men like Freud, and the occultist Carl Jung, provided pseudo-scientific justification for sexual libertinism from the depth dimension of human psychology, whilst the pornographer, paedophile and masochist, Alfred Kinsey, provided bogus research with falsified statistics in order to promote every sexual perversion and the sexualisation of children.[7]

It is worth observing that it is not only men who have sought to undermine and overturn the traditional family structure. The early feminist Simone de Beauvoir championed a radical feminism that rejected all sexual restraint, marriage, motherhood and family. For her the fetus was a parasite and she even set up an abortion centre in her Paris salon whilst it was still illegal.[8] Accordingly, she asserted that heterosexual marriage of men and women and the nuclear family, along with the church that sponsors this arrangement, must be destroyed.

Then with the lesbian radical feminist, Judith Butler, came ‘gender mainstreaming.’ Over against God, Butler claims the authority to change the very fabric of human sexual identity through political and legal measures. This new gender ideology grips our culture today like a vice – even though most people have never even heard the term. This construct means that out go male and female, father and mother, husband and wife, as the two sexes in normative marital relationship. For Butler, these norms are artificial constructs supposedly arising from the ‘incest taboo’ which must be broken.[9]

As the two creational sexes exit the scene, in comes the term ‘gender’ to replace them. According to Butler, sex is an ideal construct. Sexual identities are constructed simply by language. So politically, changing the use of language is central to transforming the gender order of society. This re-ordering of reality is again done in the name of liberation for all, because for the radical feminist, creational Christian norms are all about oppression: “Within the present family structure, individuals learn to accept sexist oppression as natural and are primed to support other forms of oppression including heterosexist domination.”[10]

Essentially Butler and her numerous disciples claim that there are no such realities as ‘men and women’ because the idea of biological sex is a fantasy. Gender is not related to biological sex, but is free-flowing and fluid – there is no such thing as normative sexual identity. Rather your identity is centred in your ‘orientation,’ which is said to be mutable and freely chosen, regardless of whether you are a man or woman. Today’s vocal advocates of the LGBTQ cause are the devotees (conscious or not) of her philosophy. They choose the word ‘queer’ rather than the word ‘homosexuality’ now (which points to its opposite) for anything that is not the God-ordained norm of heterosexual marriage. Scriptural sexual morality and family, with its binary norm, is for Butler and her followers the ‘dictatorship of nature’ (that is, creation) which must be rebelled against and destroyed.[11]

Religious Roots of Revolution

This radical identity crisis afflicting our culture reflects the religious crisis of our time. We must be critically aware that lying behind all these ideas are intuitively-held religious presuppositions, very ancient in origin, which are now being dressed in a new pseudo-scientific garb and applied socially in the most radical way. In contrast to Scripture, ancient Greek mythology set male gods like Ouranos and Zeus against female goddesses like fertility Gaia and Olympian Hera. This suggested a struggle basic to sexual relations that is foreign to the Bible.

Philosophically, the influential school of Plato taught a unisex or androgynous perspective because the “soul substance” in philosophical thought was sexless.[12] This is a religious denial of the binary; of the reality of twoness; of distinction; of the ‘male and female’ that God made from the ‘beginning of creation’ (Matt. 19:4).

The positing of original sexless origins and the primitive androgynous emergence of humankind, as well as a denial of the even more fundamental creator-creature distinction itself, is basic to pagan, humanistic thought. As Peter Jones warns, “once the male-female distinction falls, other creational categories also become irrelevant.”[13] If you can destroy the creational norm of marriage and family then you are destroying the image of the eternal holy family, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and this, it seems, lies at the root of today’s idolatrous war on creation.

 


[1] Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908; reprint, New York: John Lane Company, 1921), 86.

[2] Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels, Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1976), vol. 3, 6.

[3] Gordon J. Spykman, Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 215-216.

[4] Gabriele Kuby, The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the name of Freedom, trans. James Patrick Kirchner (Ohio: LifeSite, 2015), 10.

[5] See “Bill C-16,” Parliament of Canada, last modified May 17 2016, http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8280564, accessed Feb 2 2017: “The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence.”

[6] See, particularly, Wilhelm Reich, The Sexual Revolution, trans. Peter Nevill (London: Vision Press, 1952). The title in Reich’s original German is Die Sexualität im Kulturkampf: zur sozialistischen Umstrukturierung des Menschen, which translates to “sexuality in the culture war: for the socialist restructuring of humans;” Herbert Marcuse: Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966).

[7] Kuby, The Global Sexual Revolution, 31 ff.

[8] Marie Rennard, “The Unfinished Business of Simone de Beauvoir,” Swans Commentary,last modified February 11 2008, http://www.swans.com/library/art14/marier15.html.

[9] See Judith Butler, Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity, (London: Routledge, 1990).

[10] Bell Hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (Boston: South End Press, 1984), 38.

[11] See Butler, Gender Trouble.

[12] See Calvin Seerveld, Cultural Problems in Western Society (Iowa: Dordt College Press, 2014), 106-107.

[13] Peter Jones, The God of Sex: How Spirituality Defines your Sexuality (Colorado: Cook Communications, 2006), 73.

Rev. Dr. Joseph Boot (M.A., Ph.D.) is a cultural theologian, leading Christian apologist, founding pastor of Westminster Chapel in Toronto and founder of the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity (EICC). This is article is used with permission.

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February 27, 2017: Verse of the day

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The message of God to Isaiah in vv. 9–10 is strongly predestinarian. How appropriate, therefore, that the verse preceding them should place such emphasis on the prophet’s responsibility! He is not coerced into service; rather, his will makes its ready response as a grateful reaction to God’s forgiving grace. No doubt Isaiah’s readiness was itself the product of divine grace, but this is not where the stress falls here. Instead, we see him faced with the challenge to personal commitment.

The plural “us” is often linked theologically with v. 3 (see comment) and interpreted in terms of the Trinity. It is an unusual phenomenon, found elsewhere in the OT only in Genesis (Ge 1:26; 11:7; cf. also Isa 41:21–23). Many modern scholars, taking it to be a plural of consultation, see it both here and in Genesis as implying a council of heavenly beings. There are, of course, many biblical passages that picture God as surrounded by the heavenly hosts. In a context that speaks both of waters and mountains (and so of nature) and of nations (and so, by implication, also of history), however, the Lord refutes the notion that he consulted others in his work of creation (40:13–14). If Isaiah 6 and 40 have the same author (see Introduction, pp. 438–48), it seems most unlikely that consultation with a heavenly council is in view here. Moreover in Daniel, what a pagan king may have attributed to “the decree of the watchers” (Da 4:17, KJV) Daniel called “the decree of the Most High” (Da 4:24).

It is true that 1 Kings 22:19–23 pictures God as consulting with heavenly beings, but it is doubtful whether we should interpret literally a highly dramatic vision with details probably chosen to give vividness to a solemn message. GKC (par. 124g, n.2) takes “us” as a plural of self-deliberation. Motyer (1993, in loc.) points out that “the New Testament relates these verses to both the Lord Jesus (Jn. 12:24) and the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25), thus finding here what will yet accommodate the full revelation of the Holy Trinity.”

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

6:8 Us. This plural pronoun does not prove the doctrine of the Trinity, but does strongly imply it (see Ge 1:26). Here am I. Send me! This response evidenced the humble readiness of complete trust. Though profoundly aware of his sin, he was available.

MacArthur Study Bible

6:8 Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? See 1 Kings 22:19–20; Jer. 23:18, 22. Here am I! Send me. Isaiah’s experience of grace has dealt with his problem, confessed in Isa. 6:5. “Us” is like “us” in Gen. 1:26 (“let us make man”): God could be addressing himself (in a way compatible with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity), or he could be addressing his heavenly court (less likely, since only God is doing the sending here). See notes on Gen. 1:26; 1:27.

ESV Study Bible

6:8 who will go for us? The biblical descriptions of God’s heavenly deliberations often include a plural address. The plural can be understood most simply as God addressing the divine beings present in His throne room, and asking them a rhetorical question—knowing Isaiah will respond. A mark of a true prophet was that he had stood in the divine council and received his mission directly from God. See Gen 1:26 and note; Jer 23:18; 1 Kgs 22:19–23.

Faithlife Study Bible

6:8 who will go for us. The Lord invited Isaiah to listen in on the sessions of the royal, heavenly court. From this moment on Isaiah is a servant of God’s court and proclaims God’s message to kings and people alike (cf. 1 Kin. 22:19, 20; Jer. 23:18, 22).

Reformation Study Bible

February 27, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

February 27

Applying the Principles

Grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.

Ephesians 4:15

 

Spiritual growth is simply a matter of applying scriptural principles, but there are many who believe only spiritual giants experience a great increase in faith.

I have read about mystics who knelt and prayed for eight to ten hours, wearing holes in the wood floors. I have read about Robert Murray McCheyne, who would soil the pages of his Bible and the wood of his pulpit with great floods of tears. And I have read Power Through Prayer by E. M. Bounds, who spent countless hours in prayer. As I learned about these people, all I could think of was that I could never reach that level. But God uses each of us in different ways.

Spiritual growth is not some mystical achievement for a select few on a higher spiritual plane. Rather, it is simply a matter of glorifying God by confessing sin, trusting Him, bearing fruit, praising Him, obeying and proclaiming His Word, praying, and leading others to Christ. Those are the qualities every Christian needs in order to mature. When you focus on them, the Spirit of God will change you into the image of Christ, from one level of glory to the next.[1]


February 27 God’s Glory

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”

Psalm 19:1

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God’s glory is the radiance of all He is.

In Isaiah’s vision of Heaven, angels called out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa. 6:3). What exactly is the glory of God? It encompasses all that He is, the radiance of His attri butes and divine nature.

Moses said to God, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” (Ex. 33:18), and the Lord answered, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (v. 19). Moses was not allowed to see God’s face, which is the essence of His being: “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (v.20). But Moses was allowed to see God’s back, which represents the afterglow of His glory.

Perhaps God’s afterglow is like the radiance of the sun. We only see the light that comes off the sun. If we got too close to it, we would be consumed. If the sun is so brilliant, what must God be like? His glory seen in creation is only a dim reflection of His character.

God displayed His glory many times in Scripture. He represented Himself as a great white cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night as He led Israel through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21). After the Tabernacle was built, “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34). Years later, He filled the temple in a similar way (1 Kings 8:10–11). This manifestation of God’s glory served as the focal point of worship for Israel.

God takes His glory very seriously. He said, “I will not give My glory to another” (Isa. 42:8). We must not steal God’s glory by becoming proud and taking credit for the good things He has done. Instead of taking God’s glory, say with David, “I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Thy name forever” (Ps. 86:12).

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Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for His glory and majesty.

For Further Study: Read Daniel 4, the story of a powerful man who did not give God the glory. What characterized Nebuchadnezzar in verses 30 and 37?[2]


FEBRUARY 27

THE COMMON MAN AND THE COMMON GOD

I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.

—Psalm 145:5-6

We also seem to have gotten away from the concept of majesty altogether. This is the age of the common man and along with the common man has come the common god….

The modern Christian has lost a sense of worship along with the concept of majesty, and of course, reverence as well. He has lost his ability to withdraw inwardly and commune in the secret place with God in the shrine of his own hidden spirit. It is this that makes Christianity, and we have all but lost it. Added numbers, yes, but lost fear. Multiplied schools, yes, but lost awareness of the invisible. Tons of literature being poured out, of course, but no consciousness of the divine Presence. Better communication, certainly, but nothing to communicate. Evangelistic organizations, yes, but the concept of majesty and worship and reverence has almost left us. AOG180-181

Oh, God, restore to Your Church a sense of majesty, worship and reverence that sends us to our secret closets in awe. Amen. [3]

February 27

Spiritual Hunger’s Second Object—Sanctification

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.—Matt. 5:6

For the Christian, the object of hungering and thirsting is growth in sanctification, which is a crucial mark of the genuine believer. No one who follows Christ attains complete sanctification until heaven, and to claim otherwise would be the height of presumption. Thus saints in this life always need to strive for more holiness, which will be seen in their lives through obedience to the Word. Paul prayed that the Philippian believers might “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that [they] may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:9–10).

The Greek grammar Matthew used in quoting Jesus indicates that righteousness is the unqualified and unlimited object of “hunger and thirst.” Our Lord is describing people who earnestly desire all the righteousness there is (cf. Matt. 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15–16).

In the original text the definite article appears before “righteousness,” which means that Jesus is not speaking of just any general righteousness, but the righteousness—the true one that comes from God. In fact, it is the Father’s very own righteousness that the Son also possesses.

Because we as believers cannot possibly have our longing for godliness satisfied during our earthly lives, we must continually hunger and thirst until the glorious day when we receive the complete clothing of Jesus Christ’s righteousness.

ASK YOURSELF
Not on Sunday morning but on Tuesday afternoon, on Thursday morning, on Friday night in front of the television—are you hungering for “all the righteousness there is”? Does the call of Christ’s holiness register at off times of day?[4]

FEBRUARY 27

THE END OF THE AGE

All these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be?

2 Peter 3:11

 

Everywhere around us we are experiencing a great new wave of humanity’s interest in spiritism and devil worship. I must take this as one of the signs that God’s age of grace and mercy is approaching the end point. It tells us that the time may be near when God proclaims: “I have seen enough of mankind’s sin and rebellion. It is time for the trumpets of judgment to sound!”

If we are willing to add the appeals from the book of Revelation to the weight of the other Scriptures, we discover God saying to us that the earth on which we live is not self-explanatory and certainly not self-sufficient.

Although the earth on which we spin is largely populated by a rebel race, it had a divine origin. Now God is about to enforce His claim upon it and judge those who are usurpers. He is saying that there is another and better world, another kingdom, that is always keeping an eye on the world we inhabit!

 

Lord, help me to be sensitive to the spiritual realm that coexists with the physical world. Thank You that You are still on the throne of this universe and that You are the One who holds all things together.[5]


February 27 Attaining Spiritual Stability

“… strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience” (Col. 1:11).

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God always empowers you to do what He commands you to do.

An alarming number of Christians seem to lack spiritual stability. Many are “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). Others lack moral purity. Many are driven by their emotions rather than sound thinking. Increasingly, therapists and psychologists are replacing pastors and Biblical teachers as the heroes of the faith. While we still proclaim a sovereign, all-powerful God, our conduct often belies our creed.

Despite our inconsistencies, the power for spiritual stability is ours in Christ as we allow the knowledge of His will to control our lives. Paul describes the working of that power in Colossians 1:11. There the Greek words translated “strengthened” and “power” speak of inherent power that gives one the ability to do something.

The phrase “according to” indicates that the power for spiritual stability is proportional to God’s abundant supply—and that supply is inexhaustible! The literal Greek says you are being “empowered with all power according to the might of His glory.” That thought is akin to Philippians 2:12–13, where Paul says that the power for working out your salvation comes from God, “who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

In Colossians 1:11 the result of God’s enabling is “the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.” “Steadfastness” speaks of endurance regarding people; “patience” speaks of endurance regarding things or circumstances. When you are steadfast and patient, you are spiritually stable. Your responses are Biblical, thoughtful, and calculated—not worldly, emotional, or uncontrolled. You bear up under trials because you understand God’s purposes and trust His promises.

Paul said, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10). That is possible when you trust God and rely on the infinite power that is yours in Christ.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Perhaps you know someone who is struggling with spiritual instability. Pray for him or her, and ask God to use you as a source of encouragement.

For Further Study: Psalm 18 is a psalm of victory that David wrote after God delivered him from Saul. Read it, then answer these questions: ✧ What characteristics of God did David mention? ✧ How might those characteristics apply to situations you are facing?[6]


FEBRUARY 27

TEST YOUR CONDUCT: WHAT ARE YOUR MOTIVES?

But ye denied the Holy One…And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead;…

ACTS 3:14, 15

The test by which all conduct must finally be judged is motive.

As water cannot rise higher than its source, so the moral quality in an act can never be higher than the motive that inspires it. For this reason, no act that arises from an evil motive can be good, even though some good may appear to come out of it.

Every deed done out of anger or spite, for instance, will be found at last to have been done for the enemy and against the Kingdom of God!

In this matter of motive, as in so many other things, the Pharisees afford us clear examples.

They remain the world’s most dismal religious failures, not because of doctrinal error nor because they were careless or lukewarm, nor because they were outwardly persons of dissolute life.

Their whole trouble lay in the quality of their religious motives. They prayed, but they prayed to be heard of men. They gave generously to the service of the temple, but they sometimes did it to escape their duty toward their parents, and this was an evil. They judged sin and stood against it when found in others, but this they did from self-righteousness and hardness of heart. That this is not a small matter may be gathered from the fact that those orthodox and proper religionists went on in their blindness until at last they crucified the Lord of glory with no inkling of the gravity of their crime![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 70). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 66). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 70). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[7] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

February 26, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

February 26

Handling God’s Word

These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Deuteronomy 6:6–7

 

Spiritual growth cannot occur without the regular intake of God’s Word, just as physical growth cannot occur without regular food intake—that’s why eating is a daily necessity! Going to church on Sunday to hear a message and then hoping that it is enough to last for the whole week is like eating dinner on Sunday and expecting it to sustain you until the following Sunday. You need to eat every day of the week. The same is true spiritually: there must be a daily feeding on the Word of God for optimum growth.

Mature Christians know that there is even greater glory in giving out the Word than in feeding on it. As you proclaim the Word, you cement it in your life. In this way, the saying “The more you give away, the more you keep” is true. I have found that I tend to remember the things I teach to others but forget the things I read and never pass on. So give a high priority to passing on to others what you’re learning from God’s Word each day.[1]


February 26 God Is Faithful to Keep Us

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”

1 Thessalonians 5:24

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God is faithful in forgiving our sins and securing our salvation.

We have learned that God protects us from temptation, but what happens when we don’t rely on God and give in to sin? John has the answer: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The Lord says in Jeremiah 31:34, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” God has promised to forgive, and He is faithful to do so.

God’s faithfulness stands out especially in His preserving His people for glory. He secures our salvation. Paul says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God will preserve us so that we may be “without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” because He is “faithful” (1 Thess. 5:23–24).

There was once a boy whose dad left him on a downtown street corner and told him to wait there until he returned in about half an hour. But the father’s car broke down, and he could not get to a phone. Five hours went by before the father managed to get back, and he thought his son would be in a state of panic. But when the father returned, the boy was standing in front of the corner dime store, looking in the window and rocking back and forth on his heels. The father threw his arms around him, apologized, and said, “Weren’t you worried? Did you think I was never coming back?” The boy replied, “No, Dad. I knew you were coming. You said you would.”

God is always faithful to His promises. The father in the story was unable to keep his promise because of circumstances out of his control. But God is able to overcome any circumstances to keep His word. With a simple faith like that boy’s, we can always say, “I knew you would do it, God. You said you would.”

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Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God for simple faith to trust Him whatever the situation.

For Further Study: David rejoices in God’s faithfulness in Psalm 103. Make a list of all the ways God demonstrates His faithfulness in this psalm.[2]


FEBRUARY 26

IF WE’VE LOST MAJESTY

They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.

—Psalm 145:11-12

If you want to pray strategically, in a way which would please God, pray that God might raise up men who would see the beauty of the Lord our God and would begin to preach it and hold it out to people, instead of offering peace of mind, deliverance from cigarettes, a better job and a nicer cottage….

What good is all our busy religion if God isn’t in it? What good is it if we’ve lost majesty, reverence, worship—an awareness of the divine? What good is it if we’ve lost a sense of the Presence and the ability to retreat within our own hearts and meet God in the garden? If we’ve lost that, why build another church? Why make more converts to an effete Christianity? Why bring people to follow after a Savior so far off that He doesn’t own them?

We need to improve the quality of our Christianity, and we never will until we raise our concept of God back to that held by apostle, sage, prophet, saint and reformer. When we put God back where He belongs, we will instinctively and automatically move up again; the whole spiral of our religious direction will be upward. AOG194-195

Lord, may I learn to see You not as a functional God who fulfills my requests but as a beautiful God of glorious majesty. May I hold that concept out for others to see, that they might also behold Your majesty. Amen. [3]


February 26

Spiritual Hunger’s First Object—Salvation

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.—Matt. 5:6

The first objective of spiritual hunger by the lost sinner is salvation. The righteousness the unbeliever begins to hunger for—after he or she sees their sin, mourns over it, and gently submits self to God—is the righteousness that repents of sin and submits to the lordship of Christ.

In the Old Testament, righteousness is often a synonym for salvation. Through Isaiah, God declared, “My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth” (Isa. 51:5). Daniel said, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

In Jesus’ day, the great obstacle to receiving the gospel for so many members of His Jewish audience was self-righteousness—their confidence in their own works to achieve a self-styled holiness. They believed that as members of God’s chosen nation of Israel, they were assured of entrance into heaven. But Christ taught them that they would not find the path to salvation unless they hungered and thirsted for the Father’s righteousness instead of their own. And that is the case for everyone today, no matter what race, religion, or economic status.

ASK YOURSELF
It’s easy for the wonder and majesty of our salvation to be lost on us as time goes by. Let today be another opportunity to realize how empty you were before and how full He has made you in Christ. Put your worship into prayerful words.[4]

FEBRUARY 26

“BE STILL AND KNOW”

Be still, and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

 

Prayer among evangelical Christians is always in danger of degenerating into a glorified “gold rush.” Almost every book on prayer deals mainly with the “get” element. How to get things we want from God occupies most of our space.

Christians should never forget that the highest kind of prayer is never the making of requests.

Prayer at its holiest moment is the entering into God to a place of such blessed union as makes miracles seem tame and remarkable answers to prayer appear something very far short of wonderful, by comparison.

We should be aware that there is a kind of school where the soul must go to learn its best eternal lessons. It is the school of silence. “Be still and know,” said the psalmist (46:10).

It might well be a revelation to some Christians if they were to get completely quiet for a time—a time to listen in the silence for the deep voice of the Eternal God!

 

Heavenly Father, I desire my prayer time to be more than a “wish list.” Help me to spend more time listening for Your voice than making personal requests.[5]


February 26 Enjoying a Bountiful Harvest

“… bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

✧✧✧

Your fruitfulness is directly related to your knowledge of divine truth.

Every farmer who enjoys a plentiful harvest does so only after diligent effort on his part. He must cultivate the soil, plant the seed, and then nurture it to maturity. Each step is thoughtful, disciplined, and orderly.

Similarly, bearing spiritual fruit is not an unthinking or haphazard process. It requires us to be diligent in pursuing the knowledge of God’s will, which is revealed in His Word. That is Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9, which he reiterates in verse 10.

The phrase “increasing in the knowledge of God” (v. 10) can be translated “increasing by the knowledge of God.” Both renderings are acceptable. The first emphasizes the need to grow; the second emphasizes the role that knowledge plays in your spiritual growth.

As your knowledge of God’s Word increases, the Holy Spirit renews your mind and transforms your thinking. As you gaze into the glory of the Lord as revealed in Scripture, you “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). You “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Col. 3:10).

One of Satan’s ploys to retard spiritual productivity is to get Christians preoccupied with humanistic philosophy and other bankrupt substitutes for God’s truth. That’s why he planted false teachers at Colosse to teach that knowing God’s will is inadequate for true spirituality. Paul refuted that claim by affirming that Christ is the fullness of Deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9). In Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). He is all you need!

Scripture commands you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Is that characteristic of your life? Are you looking forward to a bountiful spiritual harvest?

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the privilege of knowing His will and studying His Word. ✧ Prayerfully guard your mind from sinful influences. Saturate it with God’s truth.

For Further Study: Read the following passages, noting the effects of God’s Word: Psalms 119:9, 105; Acts 20:32; Romans 10:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14–17; Hebrews 4:12–13; 1 John 2:14.[6]


FEBRUARY 26

THE IMPORTANCE OF RIGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are children of God.

ROMANS 8:16

Many men and women are seeking counsellors to aid them with their confessed feelings of emptiness and inadequacy. Each seems to have a plea about becoming a “whole person.”

The importance of coming back into right relationship with God cannot be overestimated as we seriously think and study and pray.

By the mysterious operation of the Spirit of God in the new birth, that which is called by Peter “the divine nature” enters the deep-in core of the believer’s heart and establishes residence there. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” for “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:9, 16).

Such a one is a true Christian, and only such. Baptism, confirmation, the receiving of the sacraments, church membership—these mean nothing unless the supreme act of God in regeneration also takes place!

Religious externals may have a meaning for the God-inhabited soul; for any others they are not only useless but may actually become snares, deceiving them into a false and perilous sense of security.

“Keep thy heart with all diligence” is more than a wise saying; it is a solemn charge laid upon us by the One who cares most about us![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 69). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 65). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 69). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[7] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

February 25, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

February 25

Praise for Answers

Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.

1 Thessalonians 5:16–17

 

When God answers prayers about a particular situation, we have the privilege of being a part of His work and of praising Him for it. When we don’t participate through prayer, we miss the opportunity to give Him glory.

Suppose someone came to a prayer meeting and said, “I’ve had the most wonderful thing happen: the lady I’ve been witnessing to has opened her heart to Christ. She is now a believer and is here with us tonight. Thank you for praying for her these last few months.” The people present can praise the Lord, especially those who had been praying for this woman’s conversion.

But there would also be some who, while offering praise, would not have felt a sense of being involved because they had not prayed for the lady. You need to be in on what God is doing so you can offer heartfelt praise.[1]


February 25 God Is Faithful to Care for Us

“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:9

✧✧✧

God is completely faithful to do what He has promised.

We live in a day of unfaithfulness, don’t we? Some husbands and wives are unfaithful to their marriage vows. Children are often unfaithful to the principles taught by their parents. Parents are often unfaithful to meet the needs of their children. And all too frequently we are unfaithful to God.

Only God is always faithful, a fact often celebrated in Scripture: “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God” (Deut. 7:9). “Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Thy faithfulness reaches to the skies” (Ps. 36:5). “Great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:23).

Let’s look at several areas in which God is faithful to us. First, He’s faithful in taking care of us. Peter says, “Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19). The word translated “entrust” is a banking term that speaks of a deposit for safekeeping. We’re to give our lives to our “faithful Creator,” who is best able to care for us because He created us. “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

God is also faithful in helping us resist temptation: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1Cor.10:13). No believer can legitimately claim that he was overwhelmed by temptation or that “the Devil made me do it.” When our faithfulness is tested, we have God’s own faithfulness as our resource. “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3).

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His faithfulness in taking care of you and protecting you from temptation.

For Further Study: God had promised Abraham a son, and He finally gave him Isaac. But God made a strange request. Read Genesis 22:1–18 and Hebrews 11:17–19. How did Abraham demonstrate his trust? ✧ In what areas do you have trouble trusting God?[2]


FEBRUARY 25

A RIGHT CONCEPTION OF GOD

For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods…. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.

—Psalm 95:3, 6

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God….

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.

It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity. KOH001, 003

Lord, establish in me a proper conception of You, our great King, that I will have a strong foundation for my life of faith. Amen. [3]


February 25

The Meaning and Necessity of Spiritual Hunger

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.—Matt. 5:6

The “hunger and thirst” Jesus speaks of here are far more intense than even strong physical pangs for food and drink, which come when we miss several meals. All true followers of Christ have a continuing hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will regularly long for holiness. Jesus’ analogy shows us that righteousness is necessary for spiritual life just as food and water are necessary for physical life.

But sadly, most people are by nature starved for spiritual life. The tendency of such unbelievers is to turn toward their physical appetites and the world’s ways rather than toward spiritual life (cf. Prov. 26:11; 2 Peter 2:22). Apart from divine revelation and the Spirit’s promptings, these people don’t recognize their spiritual needs or know what will truly satisfy them.

Seeking satisfaction for our spiritual hunger only in God and His gracious provision identifies us as members of His kingdom. Such people sincerely want their sin to be replaced with virtue and their disobedience with obedience.

The first three beatitudes are essentially negative and require costly and painful personal sacrifice to accomplish, even with the help of God’s Spirit. This fourth one, however, is more positive, coming about when we possess the other three. When we have put aside self and our enslavement to sin and turned to the Lord, we will have a genuine, growing desire for righteousness. The true Christian desires to obey God, even though he or she still struggles with unredeemed humanness (cf. Rom. 8:23).

ASK YOURSELF
What spiritual hungers are growling the loudest in your heart right now? When you have sought to satisfy them in disobedience or in any way other than God intends, what has always been the result? How do you intend to see them fed now?[4]

FEBRUARY 25

“NOW IT IS THE LORD”

In Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us…sanctification.

1 Corinthians 1:30

 

Is it possible to become so enamored of God’s good gifts that we fail to worship Him, the Giver?

Dr. Albert B. Simpson, the founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, invited to preach in a Bible conference in England, discovered on his arrival that he was to follow two other Bible teachers. All three had been given the same topic, “Sanctification.”

From the pulpit, the first speaker made clear his position that sanctification means eradication—the old carnal nature is removed. The second, a suppressionist, advised: “Sit on the lid and keep the old nature down!”

Dr. Simpson in his turn quietly told his audience that he could only present Jesus Christ Himself as God’s answer.

“Jesus Christ is your Sanctifier, your all and in all! God wants you to get your eyes away from the gifts. He wants your gaze to be on the Giver—Christ Himself,” he said.

This is a wonderful word for those who would worship rightly:

Once it was the blessing;

Now it is the Lord!

 

Father, this morning I praise You for Your holy presence in my life. Glorify Yourself through me today.[5]


February 25 Living in a Worthy Manner

“… so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (Col. 1:10).

✧✧✧

Your manner of life should be consistent with Christ’s.

In Colossians 1:9 Paul speaks of being controlled by the knowledge of God’s will. In verse 10 he speaks of walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. There is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between those verses. When you are controlled by the knowledge of God’s will, you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

The Greek word translated “walk” means “to order one’s behavior.” It’s a common New Testament metaphor for one’s lifestyle. Paul made a similar plea to the Thessalonians: “so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12).

The thought of being worthy of the Lord might raise some eyebrows, because we usually relate worthiness to merit or something deserved. But that isn’t Paul’s point at all. The Greek word translated “worthy” in Colossians 1:10 speaks of something that weighs as much or carries the same value as something else. He isn’t saying we deserve Christ, but that our conduct should be consistent with His.

That is also Peter’s point in 1 Peter 2:21: “You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” John said, “The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). He added in 2 John 6, “Walk according to His commandments.” That’s how you demonstrate your love for Christ (John 14:15) and please Him in every respect.

As a word of encouragement, a worthy walk is not a walk of sinless perfection. That won’t happen until you are fully glorified. But each day you are growing in godliness as a result of the Spirit’s transforming work in you (2 Cor. 3:18). Be faithful to that process. Set your affections on Christ, look to His Word, and rejoice in the privilege of becoming more like Him today.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the power and guidance of His Spirit in your life. ✧ Be diligent to confess your sin when you stray from a worthy walk.

For Further Study: Read Ephesians 4:1–3 and Philippians 1:27–30. ✧ What specific attitudes are involved in a worthy walk? ✧ Does a worthy walk eliminate the possibility of suffering or persecution? Explain.[6]


FEBRUARY 25

THE EARLY DISCIPLES BURNED WITH AN INWARD FIRE

…In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

1 PETER 1:8

If there is any reality within the whole sphere of human experience that is by its very nature worthy to challenge the mind, charm the heart and bring the total life to a burning focus, it is the reality that revolves around the Person of Christ!

If He is who and what the Christian message declares Him to be, then the thought of Him should be the most stimulating to enter the human mind.

God dwells in a state of perpetual enthusiasm. He is delighted with all that is good and lovingly concerned about all that is wrong. No wonder the Spirit came at Pentecost as the sound of a rushing mighty wind and sat in tongues of fire on every forehead. In so doing, He was acting as one of the Persons of the blessed Godhead.

Whatever else happened at Pentecost, one thing that cannot be missed was the sudden upsurging of moral enthusiasm. Those first disciples burned with a steady, inward fire. They were enthusiastic to the point of complete abandon!

But what do we find in our day? We find the contradictory situation of noisy, headlong religious activity carried on without moral energy or spiritual fervor! In the churches it is hard to find a believer whose blood count is normal and whose temperature is up to standard. We look in vain among the professed followers of Christ for the flush and excitement of the soul in love with God.

The low level of moral enthusiasm among us may have a significance far deeper than we are willing to believe![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 68). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 64). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 68). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[7] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.