You Really Love?
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple.
Apart from God, nothing could have been dearer to Abraham than his son Isaac. But that was the test: to find out whether he loved Isaac more than God. If we love God supremely, we will thank Him for what He is accomplishing through our trials and sufferings. But if we love ourselves more than God, we will question God’s wisdom and become upset and bitter. If anything is dearer to us than God, then He must remove it for us to grow spiritually.
In today’s verse, Jesus was not indicating that we’re to hate everyone. Rather He meant that if you do not love God to the degree that you willingly, if necessary, cut yourself off from your father, mother, spouse, children, brother, sister, or even your own life, then you don’t love Him supremely. You must determine to do the will of God first and foremost, no matter what appeals others may make to you.
|March 7||Having True Sorrow for Sin|
“Be miserable and mourn and weep.”
Spiritual humility will be marked by a true sorrow over sin.
Modern culture does everything possible to avoid pain, to put off thinking about unpleasant subjects, to maximize comfort, and to feel good about circumstances.
That philosophy is the reflection of a proud and self–centered attitude, not the humble and God–centered attitude we have been examining during the past week. Today we continue our look at humility in the Epistle of James. The apostle urges people to “be miserable” concerning their sin. The demands of the gospel begin at this point. James is not denying the joy that will come when the gospel is sincerely received. He is simply saying that sinners have to feel bad before they can feel good. The word misery in this sense refers to the inner feelings of shame over sin, the deep sorrow it causes, and the spirit of penitence the humbled sinner will have as a result.
The humble person will also mourn over his sin. This reminds us of what the Lord Jesus says in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). Mourning is a brokenness of spirit that will cause the humble person’s heart to ache when he realizes his total spiritual bankruptcy because of sin.
The word James uses for “mourn” is closely related to the concept of sorrow. But this sorrow is not just any ordinary sorrow or sadness that all people feel during the course of life. James uses a strong word that usually referred to the grieving over a loved one’s death. James thus urges the humble sinner to have a funeral mourner’s lament or grief regarding his sinfulness.
Weeping is often the physical response that the sincerely humble mourner will have to his circumstances. Tears are God’s gift to us that allow release for our aching hearts, as Peter discovered after he betrayed the Lord (Mark 14:72).
Misery, mourning, and weeping all point to a genuine sorrow over sin, what Paul calls “godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10–11). If you are among the humble, this attitude will be yours as you enter God’s kingdom (James 4:9) and as you live the Christian life (Matt. 5:3–4).
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that God would give you the proper sense of sorrow over all sin in your life—even over that which seems insignificant.
For Further Study: Read Hebrews 12:15–17. What was lacking in Esau’s response (v. 17)? (Read Gen. 25:27–34 and 27:30–38 for background.)
THE GARDEN OF GOD
Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving … who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.
The heavens and the earth were intended to be a semitransparent veil through which moral intelligences might see the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19-20), but for sin-blinded men this veil has become opaque. They see the creation but do not see through it to the Creator; or what glimpses they do have are dim and out of focus. It is possible to spend a lifetime admiring God’s handiwork without acknowledging the presence of the God whose handiwork it is….
With what joy the Christian turns from even the purest nature poets to the prophets and psalmists of the Scriptures. These saw God first…. Their love of natural objects was deep and intense, but they loved them not for their own sakes but for the sake of Him who created them. They walked through the world as through the garden of God. Everything reminded them of Him. They saw His power in the stormy wind and tempest; they heard His voice in the thunder; the mountains told them of His strength and the rocks reminded them that He was their hiding place. The sun by day and the moon and stars by night… recited the story of their divine birth. OGM139-140
Lord, may I be reminded of Your role as Creator by every created thing I encounter. Amen. 
Purity Is More than Sincerity
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.—Matt. 5:8
Purity of heart is much more than sincerity. A motive can be sincere yet can easily lead to worthless and sinful things. The pagan priests who opposed Elijah demonstrated great sincerity when they lacerated their bodies to induce Baal to send fire down to consume their sacrifices (1 Kings 18:28). But their sincerity did not produce the desired results, and it did not enable them to see the error of their paganism because their sincere trust was in that very paganism.
Even genuinely good deeds that do not come from a genuinely good heart are of no spiritual value. A person may be extremely religious and constantly engaged in doing good things, yet he or she cannot please God unless their heart is right with Him.
The ultimate standard for purity of heart is perfection of heart. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). One hundred percent purity is God’s standard for the heart, which makes God Himself the standard.
You can’t be pleasing to God until you are pure as He is pure—until you are holy as He is holy and perfect as He is perfect. Only purity of heart through Jesus Christ will reconcile people to God. What standard of purity are you following?
|To what extent is your measure of purity defined by culture or others’ opinions or anything other than the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ? Check yourself in this, for if staying a few shades cleaner than current society makes you feel pure by comparison, your standards will do nothing but slip over time.|
THE ETERNAL VERITY
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
There is a great deal of discussion now taking place about the lack of spiritual power in our Christian churches. What about the New Testament patterns?
Brethren, the apostolic method was to provide a foundation of good, sound biblical reasons for following the Savior, for our willingness to let the Spirit of God display the great Christian virtues in our lives.
That is why we come in faith and rejoicing to the eternal verity of Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever!” This proclamation gives significance to every other section of teaching and exhortation in the letter to the Hebrews. In this verse is truth that is morally and spiritually dynamic if we will exercise the faith and the will to demonstrate it in our needy world.
I think this fact, this truth that Jesus Christ wants to be known in His church as the ever-living, never-changing Lord of all, could bring back again the power and testimony of the early church!
Lord, I pray for my pastor and my church, that they will comprehend anew the truth that You are ever-living and never-changing.
|March 7||Denying Yourself|
“I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed” (Dan. 9:4).
God will not respond to self-righteous prayers.
In Luke 18 Jesus told a parable to people who were trusting in their own self-righteousness. He said, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people, swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (vv. 10–14).
Apart from God’s mercy we cannot enter into God’s presence. The tax-gatherer knew that and pled for forgiveness. The Pharisee missed the point and went away without forgiveness.
Like the tax-gatherer, Daniel approached God with an attitude of confession and self-denial. He could have reminded God of his years of faithful service while in Babylon, but that didn’t enter his mind. He knew that in himself there was nothing to commend him to God. His only thought was for mercy for himself and his people, so God’s purposes could be realized through them.
As a Christian, you have the wonderful privilege of boldly entering into God’s presence “with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). That privilege is rooted in God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice and leaves no room for presumption or self-righteousness. Always guard your attitude in prayer so you don’t unwittingly slip into a Pharisaic mentality.
Suggestions for Prayer: Memorize Psalm 117:1–118:1, and recite it often as a hymn of praise to the Lord.
For Further Study: Jesus had much to say about the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees of His day. Read Matthew 23, noting His scathing denunciations of their hypocritical attitudes and practices.
THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE: PROPHETIC, NOT DIPLOMATIC
For Christ sent me…to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:17
We who witness and proclaim the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish goodwill between Christ and the world.
We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, modern education, or the world of sports.
We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum!
God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him.
What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life?
Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself.
Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing.
Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.
Having done this, let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ!
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 80). 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. 75). 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. 79). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.