He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit.
We had a peach tree in our backyard, and one year it went wild with fruit. We had enough peaches to feed the whole neighborhood! Another year, we could find only one tiny, shriveled peach. Some Christians can be like that, exhibiting little evidence of belonging to God—but God wants us to grow and produce much fruit for His glory.
The fruit you bear is the manifestation of your character, and the only way people will know that you are a child of God. He wants to present Himself to the world through what He produces in you, so His character is at stake in your fruit. He wants you to be fruitful far above what the world or the flesh can produce.
|February 19||The Meaning of Grace|
“The Lord, the Lord God, [is] compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.”
God’s grace is His undeserved favor shown to sinners.
God’s grace has always been a focus of praise for believers. Today’s verse is quoted several times in the Psalms and elsewhere in Scripture (for example, Neh. 9:17, 31; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Paul is grateful for God’s abundant grace in 1 Timothy 1:14, and John writes, “For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Today some of our favorite hymns are “Amazing Grace,” “Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord,” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.”
What exactly is grace? It is simply God’s free, undeserved, and unearned favor. It is a gift given by God not because we are worthy of it, but only because God, out of His great love, wants to give it.
Grace is evident to Christians in two main ways. The first is electing, or saving, grace. God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). “By grace [we] have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). This is God’s grace to sinners, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20).
Another grace in our lives is enabling, or sustaining, grace. We didn’t just receive grace to be saved; we now live in grace. It is the grace of God that enables us to live the Christian life. When Paul asked that some debilitating “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) be removed, the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (v. 9). Paul elsewhere says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
Remember, we have earned neither saving nor sustaining grace. Nothing we can do can make us worthy of one more bit of grace. God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious” (Ex. 33:19). This truth should make us all more grateful because He saved us and sustains us despite our sin. It should also make us humble because we have no worthiness to boast about (Eph. 2:9).
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His grace in saving and sustaining you.
For Further Study: Read Genesis 9:8–19. How did God extend grace to Noah and his family? ✧ What was the visible sign or symbol?
SO RICH A TREASURE
But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
The experiential knowledge of God is eternal life (John 17:3), and increased knowledge results in a correspondingly larger and fuller life. So rich a treasure is this inward knowledge of God that every other treasure is as nothing compared with it. We may count all things of no value and sacrifice them freely if we may thereby gain a more perfect knowledge of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This was Paul’s testimony (Philippians 3:7-14) and it has been the testimony of all great Christian souls who have followed Christ from Paul’s day to ours….
To enjoy this growing knowledge of God will require that we go beyond the goals so casually set by modern evangelicals. We must fix our hearts on God and purposefully aim to rise above the dead level and average of current Christianity.
If we do this Satan will surely tempt us by accusing us of spiritual pride and our friends will warn us to beware of being “holier than thou.” But as the land of promise had to be taken by storm against the determined opposition of the enemy, so we must capture new spiritual heights over the sour and violent protests of the devil. TIC083-085
Lord, I’ll set my sights higher and seek a greater experience of You. I’ll not let the enemy stop me. Amen. 
Hindrances to True Mourning: Love of Sin
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.—Matt. 5:4
A general love of sin is the greatest hindrance to true spiritual mourning, because holding on to sins causes our hearts to harden.
One of the less advertised but more common sins is the sin of despair, which is essentially the same as giving up on God and putting ourselves outside His grace—refusing to believe He can save or help us. The prophet Jeremiah wrote this of such people: “But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart’ ” (Jer. 18:12). Despair attempts to hide God’s mercy behind our self-made cloud of doubt.
Another hindrance to mourning is the sin of conceit. It seeks to hide the sin itself and tell us we really have nothing to mourn about. Conceit is analogous to a physician treating cancer as if it were just a common cold. If Christ had to shed His blood on the cross for our sin, then sin must be significant and something over which we must mourn.
To be a true mourner, it’s imperative that you remove all basic, sinful hindrances that keep you from mourning. Otherwise you will grieve the Holy Spirit, question the truth of His Word, and restrict His grace from plowing up your hard heart and leading you to obey Him.
|It’s time to get honest about your sins today, identifying and confessing anything that stands between you and free-flowing fellowship with your Lord and Savior. Is it despair? Conceit? Whatever it is, you probably know it well. Repent of it all. And walk again in the beauty and freedom of holiness.|
GOD’S HIGHEST WILL
Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.
Let us consider three simple things reinforced in the Word of God for those who would discern God’s highest will.
First, be willing to put away known sin!
Second, separate yourself from all of the attractions of the world, the flesh and the devil!
Finally, offer yourself to your God and Savior in believing faith!
God has never yet turned away an honest, sincere person who has come to know the eternal value of the atonement and the peace that is promised through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The only person who will never be cleansed and made whole is the one who insists he or she needs no remedy. The person who comes in faith to God and confesses, “I am unclean; I am sin sick; I am blind,” will find mercy and righteousness and life.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior, the Cleanser. He is the Purifier, the Healer. He is the Sight Giver and the Life Giver. He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life!
Dear Lord, truth seems to be in short supply in our postmodern world today. Help me to be bold but loving in my presentation of Your truth.
|February 19||Avoiding Indiscriminate Love|
“This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9).
Christian love operates within the parameters of Biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment.
As a Christian, you are a repository of divine love. More than anything else, your love for God and for other believers marks you as a true disciple of Jesus Christ (John 13:35).
In addition to possessing God’s love, you have the privilege and responsibility of expressing it to others on His behalf. That’s a sacred trust. Paul qualifies it in Philippians 1:9, which tells us that love is to operate within the sphere of Biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment. Those are the parameters that govern God’s love.
No matter how loving an act or word might seem, if it violates knowledge and discernment, it is not true Christian love. Second John 5–11 illustrates that principle. Apparently some believers who lacked discernment were hosting false teachers in the name of Christian love and hospitality. John sternly warned them, saying, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring [sound doctrine], do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds” (vv. 10–11). That might sound extreme or unloving, but the purity of God’s people was at stake.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:5–6, after praying for the Thessalonians’ love to increase, Paul commanded them to “keep aloof” from so-called Christians who were disregarding sound teaching. That’s not contradictory, because Christian love guards sound doctrine and holy living.
Unfortunately, today it is common for Christians to compromise doctrinal purity in the name of love and unity, or to brand as unloving some practices Scripture clearly commands. Both are wrong and carry serious consequences.
Be thoughtful in how you express your love. Abundantly supply it in accord with Biblical knowledge and discernment. Excellence and righteousness will result (Phil. 1:10–11).
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the love He’s given you through His Spirit (Rom. 5:5). ✧ Ask for opportunities to show Christ’s love to others. ✧ Pray that your love will be governed by convictions grounded in God’s truth.
For Further Study: What do the following passages teach about love? How can you apply them to your life? Romans 12:9–10; 5:5; 1 John 4:7–10; Galatians 5:22; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8.
QUESTION: HOW MUCH MORE COULD I HAVE DONE?
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even her living.
Before the judgment seat of Christ my service will be judged not by how much I have done but by how much I could have done!
In God’s sight, my giving is measured not by how much I have given but by how much I had left after I made my gift.
Not by its size is my gift judged, but by how much of me there is in it. No man gives at all until he has given all! No man gives anything acceptable to God until he has first given himself in love and sacrifice.
While Christ was the perfect example of the healthy, normal man, He yet did not live a normal life. He sacrificed many pure enjoyments to give Himself to the holy work of moral rescue. His conduct was determined not by what was legitimate or innocent, but by our human need.
He pleased not Himself but lived for the emergency; and as He was, so are we in this world!
It is in view of this that all our Christian service must be evaluated.
My old friend Tom Haire, the praying plumber, told me one day that he was going back home for a rest.
“I am preached out,” he said, “and I must wait on the Lord. There are some spiritual matters that I want to get straightened out. I want to appear before the judgment seat now while I can do something about it!”
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 62). 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. 58). 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. 62). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.