The Lost Sheep
There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety–nine just persons who need no repentance.
At the beginning of the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus asks, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety–nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4). Jesus’ point is that any shepherd would seek a lost sheep, for it is not only a matter of duty but also of affection.
After finding the one sheep, the shepherd in this parable went home and invited people over to celebrate with him. The shepherd’s joy was so great he had to share it.
Today’s verse is the conclusion to this parable and a hope for Christians today. Just as a shepherd rejoices over the lost sheep, our Great Shepherd rejoices over the repentant sinner, for He has found His lost sheep.
|March 18||Placing Others Above Yourself|
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.”
One important way to prevent factionalism in the church is to regard other members as more important than yourself.
Humility of mind” is a distinctive New Testament expression. There were similar terms in secular writings, but none that exactly fit the purposes of the New Testament writers. One form of the Greek word was used to describe the mentality of a slave. It was a term of derision, signifying anyone who was considered base, common, shabby, or low. Among pagans before Christ’s time, humility was never a trait to be sought or admired. Thus the New Testament introduced a radically new concept.
In Philippians 2:3 Paul defines “humility of mind” simply as seeing others as more important than yourself. But how often do we really consider others that way? Frequently, even within the church, we think just the opposite of what Paul commands. For example, we are sometimes prone to criticize those with whom we minister. It is naturally easier for us to speak of their faults and failures than it is to refer to our own.
But Paul’s attitude was different. He knew his own heart well enough to call himself the worst of sinners: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15). The apostle was also humble enough to realize that in his own strength he was not worthy of the ministry to which he had been called: “I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9).
Your knowledge of others’ sins and graces is based on their outward words and actions, not on what you can read from their hearts. But you, like Paul, do know your own heart and its sinful shortcomings (cf. Rom. 7). That ought to make it much easier to respect and honor others before yourself. And when you do that, you are helping prevent factionalism in your church and contributing to the edification of fellow believers.
Suggestions for Prayer: Examine your life and ask God to help you turn from anything that would be keeping you from “humility of mind.”
For Further Study: Read Genesis 13, and notice what happened between Abraham and his nephew Lot. How did God reassure Abraham after his graciousness toward Lot?
EMOTION ON A HIGH PLANE
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
Now the Bible teaches that there is something in God which is like emotion. He experiences something which is like our love, something that is like our grief, that is like our joy. And we need not fear to go along with this conception of what God is like. Faith would easily draw the inference that since we were made in His image, He would have qualities like our own. But such an inference, while satisfying to the mind, is not the ground of our belief. God has said certain things about Himself, and these furnish all the grounds we require.
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
This is but one verse among thousands which serve to form our rational picture of what God is like, and they tell us plainly that God feels something like our love, like our joy, and what He feels makes Him act very much as we would in a similar situation; He rejoices over His loved ones with joy and singing.
Here is emotion on as high a plane as it can ever be seen, emotion flowing out of the heart of God Himself. POM110-111
Oh, Lord, do You really rejoice over me with singing? I often give You more cause for grief than for joy. Help me live in a way that is worthy of Your love. Amen. 
Anticipating Physical Persecution
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:10
The Greek word that is translated “persecuted” and “persecute” in Matthew 5:10–12 has the basic meaning of chasing, driving away, or pursuing. From that meaning developed the connotations of physical persecution, harassment, abuse, and other unjust treatment.
The believer who possesses the qualities described in the first seven beatitudes will be willing to face persecution “for the sake of righteousness.” He will have an attitude of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ. He is exemplified by a lack of fear and shame and the presence of courage and boldness. The tense of the Greek verb indicates that the believer has a continuous willingness to endure persecution if it is the price of godly living.
Under the demands of this beatitude many Christians break down in their obedience to the Lord; here is where the genuineness of their response to the other beatitudes is most strongly tested. It is where we are most tempted to compromise the righteousness we have hungered and thirsted for. It is here where we find it convenient to lower God’s standards to accommodate the world and thereby avoid conflicts and problems we know obedience will bring.
But God does not want His gospel altered under pretense of its being less demanding, less righteous, or less truthful than it is. He does not want witnesses who lead the unsaved into thinking that the Christian life costs nothing.
Do a spiritual inventory and make sure you are willing to pay the cost for the sake of righteousness.
|What causes us to wish that Christian faith weren’t so costly? When our hearts lead us to compromise in order to avoid detection and possible derision, what lies are we really telling ourselves? And why doesn’t the secretive safety provided by these actions leave us feeling satisfied?|
THE CROWD TURNS BACK
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Our Lord Jesus Christ called men to follow Him, but He plainly taught that “no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65).
It is not surprising that many of His early followers, upon hearing these words, went back and walked no more with Him. Such teaching cannot but be deeply disturbing to the natural mind. It takes from sinful men much of the power of self-determination. It cuts the ground out from under their self-help and throws them back upon the sovereign good pleasure of God—and that is precisely where they do not want to be!
These statements by our Lord run contrary to the current assumptions of popular Christianity. Men are willing to be saved by grace, but to preserve their self-esteem, they must hold that the desire to be saved originated with them.
Most Christians today seem afraid to talk about these plain words of Jesus concerning the sovereign operation of God—so they use the simple trick of ignoring them!
Dear Lord, I do not want to be counted among those who turn their backs on You. I want to follow You, Lord. Guide me today.
|March 18||Praying for Christ’s Rule|
“Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10).
When you pray, “Thy kingdom come,” you are praying for Christ to reign on earth as He already does in Heaven.
When we hear the word kingdom, we tend to think of medieval castles, kings, knights, and the like. But “kingdom” in Matthew 6:10 translates a Greek word that means “rule” or “reign.” We could translate the phrase, “Thy reign come.” That gives a clearer sense of what Christ meant. He prayed that God’s rule would be as apparent on earth as it is in Heaven.
God’s Kingdom was the central issue in Christ’s ministry. He proclaimed “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) and instructed His followers to make the Kingdom a priority in their own lives (Matt. 6:33). He told parables about its character and value (Matt. 13) and indicted the scribes and Pharisees for hindering those who sought to enter it (Matt. 23:13). After His death and resurrection, He appeared for forty days and gave the disciples further instruction about the Kingdom (Acts 1:2–3).
When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we are praying for Christ’s sovereign rule to be as established on earth as it is in Heaven. In one sense the Kingdom is already here—in the hearts of believers. That Kingdom consists of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). But in another sense the Kingdom is yet future. In Luke 17:21 Jesus says, “Behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (cf. John 18:36). Their King was present, but they rejected Him. Someday He will return again to establish His Kingdom on earth and personally reign over it. That’s the aspect of the Kingdom we pray for in Matthew 6:10.
Sin and rebellion are now rampant, but when Christ’s Kingdom comes, they will be done away with (Rev. 20:7–9). In the meantime, the work of the Kingdom continues, and you have the privilege of promoting it through your prayers and faithful ministry. Take every opportunity to do so today, and rejoice in the assurance that Christ will someday reign in victory and will be glorified for all eternity.
Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for the glorious future that awaits you and all believers. ✧ Pray with anticipation for the coming of Christ’s eternal Kingdom.
For Further Study: Read Matthew 13:1–52. What parables did Jesus use to instruct His disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven?
A BIBLE FACT: A REGENERATED MAN KNOWS GOD
Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
The Bible assumes as a self-evident fact that men can know God with at least the same degree of immediacy as they know any other person or thing that comes within the field of their experience.
The same terms are used to express the knowledge of God as are used to express knowledge of physical things:
“O TASTE and see that the Lord is good.”
“All thy garments SMELL of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.”
“My sheep HEAR my voice.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall SEE God.”
These are but four of countless such passages from the Word of God. And more important than any proof text is the fact that the whole import of the Scripture is toward this belief.
We apprehend the physical world by exercising the faculties given us for the purpose, and we possess spiritual faculties by means of which we can know God and the spiritual world if we will obey the Spirit’s urge and begin to use them.
That a saving work must first be done in the heart is taken for granted here. The spiritual faculties of the unregenerate man lie asleep in his nature; they may be quickened to active life again by the operation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration!
 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. 86). 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. 90). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.