The First Step
Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is the outward sign of one’s inward faith in Christ. It’s an act of obedience by which a person demonstrates the reality of his salvation. Salvation is not visibly seen but is a supernatural, spiritual transaction. The fruit or result of salvation, however, should be evident.
In the early church, the initial fruit of obedience was baptism, and this same fruit can be expected today. It’s the means by which an individual testifies to his or her union in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3–4). Galatians 3:27 says, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
The Great Commission in Matthew 28 commands us to preach the gospel and baptize others. That means we’re to tell people that salvation is something they should not only believe, but also publicly confess, with baptism as the first step. When someone is reluctant to publicly confess Christ in that way, we have reason to question the genuineness of his faith. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). That is the public confession we all should make.
|March 17||The Danger of Selfishness and Conceit|
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.”
Selfishness and conceit can prevent us from doing God’s will.
Selfishness and conceit are all too common among people today. It seems there is hardly a prominent entertainer or sports figure who doesn’t portray those characteristics to excess. Yet those traits are the very opposite of what should characterize the humble follower of Christ.
“Selfishness” in today’s passage refers to pursuing an enterprise in a factional way. It involves an egotistical, personal desire to push your own agenda in a destructive and disruptive way. “Empty conceit” describes the force behind such overbearing behavior—personal glory. A person driven by such motivation thinks he is always right.
Paul’s opening phrase in Philippians 2:3 has the force of a negative command: believers are never to act out of selfish ambition with the goal of heaping praise upon themselves. To do so inevitably leads to one of the common sin problems in our churches: factionalism, accompanied by jealousy, strife, disharmony, and partisanship. Paul knew what harm factionalism could do within a church. It was the primary problem he addressed in his letter of 1 Corinthians. The apostle summarized the Corinthian church’s condition this way: “For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:3). It is spiritually immature to be jealous of and to cause strife among fellow Christians, and it reveals a fleshly perspective.
Because our flesh (sinfulness) produces selfishness and conceit, it is vitally important to keep it under control (Gal. 5:16). Plans and agendas by themselves are valid, and they are not necessarily incompatible with humility in the Christian life. But if our goals and objectives are driven by selfishness, they become competitive and harmful. One key of dealing with selfishness is realizing that others also have goals and desires. Such a realization will help you go a long way toward killing the monster of selfishness in your life.
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that God’s Spirit would rid your heart and mind of any attitudes of selfishness and conceit.
For Further Study: The beginning of 1 Corinthians deals with the subject of factionalism. Read chapter 1. What perspective does Paul have regarding church divisions? ✧ What does the second half of the chapter offer as a prime reason for divisions within the church?
I FELL ON MY FACE
For our God is a consuming fire.
Just because God cannot tell us what He is He very often tells us what He is like. By these “like” figures He leads our faltering minds as close as they can come to that “light which no man can approach unto” (1 Timothy 6:16). Through the more cumbersome medium of the intellect the soul is prepared for the moment when it can, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, know God as He is in Himself. God has used a number of these similitudes to hint at His incomprehensible being, and judging from the Scriptures one would gather that His favorite similitude is fire. In one place the Spirit speaks expressly, “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). This accords with His revelation of Himself as recorded throughout the Bible. As a fire He spoke to Moses from the burning bush; in the fire He dwelt above the camp of Israel through all the wilderness journey; as fire He dwelt between the wings of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies; to Ezekiel He revealed Himself as a strange brightness of “a fire infolding itself” (Ezekiel 1:4)….
This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake. (1:28) POM098-099
Great God, if I really saw You in all Your majesty I too would fall on my face before You. And this is only a glimpse of what You are! Show me Your glory, I pray. Amen. 
The Cost of Discipleship
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:10
Our Lord made it clear from His earliest teaching that following Him was costly. Those who entered His kingdom would suffer for Him before they would reign with Him.
The cost of discipleship is billed to our account in many different ways. A believer today might be expected to hedge on the quality of his work to increase company profits. To follow one’s conscience in obedience to the Lord might cost him his job or at least a promotion. A Christian housewife who refuses to listen to gossip or to laugh at the crude jokes of her neighbors may find herself ostracized. Some costs will be great and some will be slight. But by the Lord’s and the apostles’ repeated promises, faithfulness always has a cost, which true Christians are willing to pay.
In the early days of the church, the price paid was often the ultimate. To choose Christ might mean choosing death by stoning. To choose Christ could mean torture by any number of excessively cruel and painful methods. That was the very thing Christ had in mind when He identified His followers as those willing to bear their crosses. That is His call to be ready to die, if need be, for the cause of the Lord (Matt. 10:35–39; 16:24–25).
Are you willing to pay that cost?
|What are our usual reasons for not being willing to pay the cost of discipleship? Fear? Reputation? A stronger desire to be liked than to be lumped together with Christ’s followers? Ask yourself, “What makes me more strongly attached to these excuses than to bearing the name of my Lord?”|
RESPONSE TO THE WORD
The word of God is…sharper than any twoedged sword.
Men and women who read and study the Scriptures for their literary beauty alone have missed the whole purpose for which they were given.
God’s Word is not to be enjoyed as one might “enjoy” a Beethoven symphony or a poem by Wordsworth.
The reason: The Bible demands immediate action, faith, surrender, committal. Until it has secured these, it has done nothing positive for the reader, but it has increased his responsibility and deepened the judgment that must follow.
The Bible was called forth by the fall of man. It is the voice of God calling men home from the wilds of sin; it is a road map for returning prodigals. It is instruction in righteousness, light in darkness, information about God and man and life and death and heaven and hell.
Further, the destiny of each individual depends upon the response to that Voice in the Word!
Father, Your Word contains the precious words of life. I pray today that the Word of God will be proclaimed faithfully—and effectively—to people of every language, tribe and nation.
|March 17||Displaying God’s Holiness|
“Hallowed be Thy name” (Matt. 6:9).
Sound theology that results in holy living hallows God’s name.
We have learned that hallowing God’s name requires setting it apart from everything common and giving Him first place in our lives. That starts with believing He exists. Hebrews 11:6 says, “He who comes to God must believe that He is.”
Beyond mere belief, you must also know the kind of God He is. Many people who claim to believe in God aren’t hallowing His name because they have erroneous concepts of who He is. The Israelites thought they were worshiping the true God when they bowed down to the golden calf (Ex. 32:4). The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day thought they worshiped the true God, but Jesus called them children of the Devil because they rejected God’s Word (John 8:44, 47). Sound Biblical doctrine about God is essential to revering God properly.
Hallowing God’s name also involves constantly being aware of His presence. That helps you focus on His priorities and to see every aspect of your life from His perspective. That’s what David meant when he said, “I have set the Lord continually before me” (Ps. 16:8).
Obedience is another way to hallow God’s name. Your theology might be flawless, and you may be constantly aware of His presence, but if you disobey Him, you dishonor Him. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
You are an instrument through whom God displays His holiness in the world. If His name is to be hallowed on earth as it is in Heaven, it must first be hallowed in your life. That occurs when you believe in Him, understand who He really is, maintain an awareness of His presence, and obey His Word.
That high calling sets you apart from every unbeliever (1 Peter 2:9–10). Live today in light of that glorious calling!
Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to help you be aware of His presence in every circumstance you face today. ✧ Pray that your life will manifest His holiness.
For Further Study: Read Exodus 32. ✧ Why did the Israelites build the golden calf? ✧ What was Moses’ response when God threatened to destroy His people?
NO ONE FOR WHOM CHRIST DIED IS WORTHLESS
Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
Contempt for another human being is an affront to God almost as grave as idolatry, for while idolatry is disrespect for God Himself, contempt is disrespect for the being He made in His own image.
Contempt says of a man, “Raca! Fool! This fellow is of no worth. I attach to this person no value whatsoever!” The person guilty of thus appraising a human being is thoroughly bad. The gravity of the situation lies not in the fact that a man can cry “Fool!” but that he can entertain in his heart the contempt which the word expresses.
Contempt is an emotion possible only where there is great pride. The error in moral judgment that undervalues another always springs out of the error that overvalues one’s self. The contemptuous man esteems himself too highly, and for reasons that are invalid. His high opinion of himself is not based upon his position as a being made in God’s image; he esteems himself for fancied virtues which he does not possess. The error in his judgment is moral, not intellectual.
Here is our warning: the Christian believer’s disapprobation of the evil ways of men and women must not betray him into contempt for them as human beings! He must reverence the humanity of every man—for no one for whom Christ died can be common or worthless. To esteem anyone worthless who wears the form of a man is to be guilty of an affront to the Son of Man! We are to hate sin in ourselves and in all men, but never undervalue the man in whom the sin is found.
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 90). 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. 85). 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. 89). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.