The End of Growth
Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies Himself.
1 John 3:3
Second Peter 3:18 commands believers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Your response to this verse is either action or inaction. If you desire to mature in Christ, you will experience blessing, usefulness, and victory by following the biblical path of glorifying God. And as David discovered, you will also experience joy: “I have set the Lord always before me…. Therefore my heart is glad” (Ps. 16:8, 9).
The apostle John summed up the goal of spiritual growth when he said, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). The growth process will end on the day that we see Jesus Christ and become like Him.
|March 3||Standing Against the Devil|
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Anyone who possesses scriptural humility will take an uncompromising stand against Satan.
The successful diplomat or politician is quite adept at the art of compromise and finding the middle ground on various issues. But such skill is a hindrance when it comes to determining your position before God. If you humbly, by faith and repentance, submit yourself to God’s authority, you will immediately find yourself the enemy of Satan. You are either in God’s kingdom and under His lordship, or you are in Satan’s kingdom and under his lordship. It is impossible to have one foot in each kingdom and to be serving both kingdoms’ rulers.
To “resist the devil” gives us insight into what it means to be an enemy of Satan. “Resist” means “to take a stand against” the person of Satan and his entire system, which includes everything he does and represents. Such resistance is the complete opposite of the position you had before you submitted to God. Ephesians 2:1–2 reminds us of what that position was: “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan].” At that time, you had no power to resist the Devil and no desire to serve God, because you were slaves to Satan and his system (Heb. 2:14–15).
But all of that can and will change if you humbly switch your allegiance from Satan’s kingdom to God’s kingdom. In today’s verse the apostle James is promising you that as a part of that changed loyalty, you will automatically be in a position to take a stand against Satan. The minute you forsake Satan’s mastery he will flee from you.
Many Christians wrongly assume that Satan is much more powerful than he really is. But if you understand James’s promise you will know you have abundant spiritual resources to handle Satan’s empty threats. Being humble before God doesn’t mean being weak before Satan. God enables you to stand firm and resist.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the wealth of spiritual resources He provides for you to stand against the Devil.
For Further Study: Read Ephesians 6:10–18. Make a list of the spiritual weapons God has given us. ✧ Pick one of these, and do some additional reading and study to improve your application of it.
AN OVERWHELMING SENSE OF DISMAY
Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
In olden days men of faith were said to “walk in the fear of God” and to “serve the Lord with fear.” However intimate their communion with God, however bold their prayers, at the base of their religious life was the conception of God as awesome and dreadful. This idea of God transcendent runs through the whole Bible and gives color and tone to the character of the saints. This fear of God was more than a natural apprehension of danger; it was a nonrational dread, an acute feeling of personal insufficiency in the presence of God the Almighty.
Wherever God appeared to men in Bible times the results were the same—an overwhelming sense of terror and dismay, a wrenching sensation of sinfulness and guilt. When God spoke, Abram stretched himself upon the ground to listen. When Moses saw the Lord in the burning bush, he hid his face in fear to look upon God. Isaiah’s vision of God wrung from him the cry, “Woe is me!” and the confession, “I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips” [Isaiah 6:5]. KOH110-111
Lord, when do I ever get that sense of sinfulness and guilt, fear and dismay in my encounters with You? Forgive me for my casual approach to You and renew in me a fear and wonder in Your presence. Amen. 
God the Source of Mercy
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.—Matt. 5:7
Pure mercy is a gift of God that comes with the new birth. People can be merciful only when they have experienced God’s mercy.
God has both absolute and relative attributes. His absolute attributes—such as love, truth, and holiness—have characterized Him from all eternity. But His relative attributes—like mercy, justice, and grace—were not manifested until man, whom He created in His own image, sinned and became separated from his Creator. Apart from sin and evil, mercy, justice, and grace have no meaning.
When man fell, God extended His love to His fallen creatures in mercy. Only when they receive His mercy can they reflect His mercy. Thus God is the source of mercy. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness [mercy] toward those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:11). It is because we have the resource of God’s mercy that Jesus commanded, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
We cannot have the blessing apart from the Blesser. We cannot even meet the condition apart from the One who set the condition. We are blessed by God when we are merciful to others, and we are able to be merciful to others because we have already received salvation’s mercy. Furthermore, when we share the mercy we have received, we will receive even more mercy.
|When we talk about Christ’s character being formed in us, we understand the concept in theory. But what are some of the telltale signs that He is actually working His will through us in our interactions with others? How do you know when it’s Him, not you—when it’s the Spirit of God bearing fruit in your life?|
GLORY OF THE TRINITY
Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
1 John 5:7
The more I read my Bible, the more I believe in the triune God!
With the prophet Isaiah, I am stirred by the vision of the heavenly creatures, the seraphim around the throne of God, engrossed in their worship and praise.
I have often wondered why the rabbis and saints and hymnists of the olden times did not come to the knowledge of the Trinity just from the seraphims’ chorus: “Holy! Holy! Holy!”
I am a Trinitarian—I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, begotten of Him before all ages. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified.
Isaiah was an astonished man. He could only manage this witness: “Mine eyes have seen the King” (6:5). Only the King of glory can reveal Himself to the willing spirit of a man so that an Isaiah, or any other man or woman, can say with humility but with assurance, “I know Him!”
Lord, the modern world has all but packed You into a small box and placed You in the corner closet—accessing You only for occasional holidays or special family events. But in reality You are a great God, and I bow before You today.
|March 3||Uncompromising Prayer|
“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus … I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer” (Dan. 9:1–3).
Uncompromising prayer brings glory to God.
Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9:1–19 illustrates the key elements of effective intercessory prayer. Those elements will serve as the focus of our studies for several days, but first some background to Daniel’s prayer will be helpful.
Verse 1 says that Daniel prayed in the first year of the reign of King Darius, the first great king of the Medo-Persian Empire. About sixty-five years earlier, God had punished the sinful kingdom of Judah by allowing King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to conquer Jerusalem and take Israelite captives back to Babylon.
Subsequently the Babylonian Empire fell to the Medo-Persian Empire. Darius conquered Babylon on the night King Belshazzar threw a drunken festival at which God wrote the doom of his kingdom on the wall (Dan. 5:24–28).
Daniel was among the captives originally transported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Throughout the lengthy captivity period, he never forgot he was God’s child and always represented God properly despite his difficult circumstances. He was a man of uncommon wisdom and courage. His trust in God was unwavering and his commitment to prayer uncompromising—even when his prayers could have cost him his life (Dan. 6:4–11).
As a result, God protected him, exalted him, and was glorified through him—as evidenced by King Darius’ decree that everyone in the kingdom was to fear and tremble before Daniel’s great God (Dan. 6:26).
Since Daniel understood the priority of prayer, he refused to be intimidated or distracted from it. His commitment is worthy of imitation. Can that be said of you? If everyone followed your pattern of prayer, would God’s Kingdom be strengthened?
Suggestions for Prayer: Consistency is important in prayer. You might try praying for different requests on specific days. For example, on Mondays you could pray for your governmental leaders, on Tuesdays for your pastor and the ministries of your church, etc.
For Further Study: Read Daniel 6. ✧ What rank did Daniel hold? ✧ Why did King Darius want to promote Daniel? ✧ What was the reaction of the commissioners and satraps to Daniel’s popularity? ✧ How did they deceive the king? ✧ How did God protect Daniel?
SPIRITUAL EXCELLENCE: FREEDOM IN THE SPIRIT
Now the LORD is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty.
2 CORINTHIANS 3:17
The essence of true religion is spontaneity, the sovereign movings of the Holy Spirit upon and in the free spirit of redeemed men. This has through the years of human history been the hallmark of spiritual excellency, the evidence of reality in a world of unreality.
When religion loses its sovereign character and becomes mere form this spontaneity is lost also, and in its place come precedent, propriety, system—and the file-card mentality!
Back of the file-card mentality is the belief that spirituality can be organized. Then is introduced into religion those ideas which never belong there—numbers, statistics, the law of averages and other such natural and human things. And creeping death always follows!
Now a file card is a very harmless little tool and a very useful one for some purposes. Its danger comes from the well-known human tendency to depend upon external helps in dealing with internal things.
Here’s how the file card works when it gets into the Christian life and begins to create mental habits: it divides the Bible into sections fitted to the days of the year and compels the Christian to read according to rule. No matter what the Holy Spirit may be trying to say to a man, still he goes on reading where the card tells him, dutifully checking it off each day. This can be a deadly snare, and often liable to quench the spontaneous operation of the Spirit!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 76). 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. 71). 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. 75). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.