March 23, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

March 23

Fishing for Men

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Matthew 4:19

 

Fishermen in the first century used special tools for catching fish. One was a line and hook (Matt. 17:27). Another was a spear or possibly a type of harpoon (Job 41:26). A third was the dragnet (Matt. 13:47). It was sometimes over three hundred feet long and about eight feet wide. Fishermen buoyed up one side with corks and weighed down the other side with lead sinkers. Sometimes they stretched the net between two boats and rowed in a circle. They would then draw in ropes attached to the bottom of the net, trapping the fish (John 21:6).

In today’s verse, however, Jesus was referring to a casting net, which had a circular form (about fifteen feet in diameter) made of fine mesh and lead sinkers around the edge. Attaching a long piece of line to the center of the net, the fisherman would cast it into shallow water. He then would draw up the center of the net by its cord and wade into the water to secure the catch.

Just as the disciples caught a school of fish within the reaches of their circular net, the Lord wants His contemporary disciples to reach out to the men and women around us.[1]


March 23 Jesus’ Humble Identification with Sinners

“… Emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond–servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:7–8

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Except for sin, Jesus experienced the everyday things of a normal man; but He was often not appreciated as the God–man.

Jesus could understand what people around Him were dealing with because He lived under the same conditions. He can also identify with us today. It is true that He never married, never went to college, and never used a computer or a VCR. But He still has perfect knowledge about such things, and more. The point is, Christ knows firsthand about our basic physical and emotional needs because He actually lived and worked in a world affected by the Fall.

But there was one element of our world Jesus did not partake in: sin. The conclusion of Hebrews 4:15 says He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Even though Jesus never sinned, He knows the struggles and temptations we face daily. Otherwise, He could not be the sympathetic High Priest that the first part of verse 15 mentions.

Although Jesus was a man who identified profoundly with those He came to serve, people around Him did not naturally see the most important thing about Him. Philippians 2:8 views Jesus from the perspective of those people. It says His human appearance was so authentic that most of them didn’t know that He was also God. Many of them simply could not accept that a man like Jesus could also be higher than them: “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” (John 6:42).

Christ’s close identification with mankind elicited a tragic response for people such as those in John 6. But for us, His humility is a great model and a heart–felt reassurance that He was perfectly man and perfectly God.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God that you can freely approach Him in prayer through Jesus, who can identify so closely with all our struggles as human beings.

For Further Study: Read John 11:1–45, which describes the death and resurrection of Lazarus. How did Jesus demonstrate His humanity and deity to the disciples and other eyewitnesses?[2]


MARCH 23

HE ALWAYS WILL BE GOD

But the LORD is the true God…the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

—Jeremiah 10:10

Men and women who think they have all the answers about this life and the next have been mouthing their brave words for generations. They are big, challenging words, but they come from puny, empty hearts and minds. These infidels are too blind to recognize or acknowledge that God does have… a divine plan in which mankind is never permitted to utter the first word or the last….

Humans try to ignore God, continuing to make their own ambitious, selfish plans. In the years before World War I, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm… was exceedingly headstrong. At a chapel service attended by the kaiser, a faithful German minister preached on the coming again of Jesus Christ to establish God’s kingdom of righteousness and peace throughout the earth. Wilhelm was greatly offended and spoke to the minister at the close of the service.

“I never want to hear that kind of a sermon again,” he warned the preacher. “Such an event is not at all in keeping with the plans we have for the future and the glory of our Fatherland!”

But Kaiser Wilhelm and, a generation later, Adolph Hitler are merely fading memories—illustrations of that vain human propensity to make ourselves big and God small. JIV016-018

Lord, I acknowledge that You have the first and last word on all things. I bow before Your wisdom. Amen. [3]


March 23

Reasons for Gladness

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.—Matt. 5:12

Jesus provides us with two reasons for our rejoicing and being glad when we are persecuted for His sake.

First, He says, “Your reward in heaven is great.” Whatever we do for the Lord now, including suffering for Him—especially suffering for Him—reaps eternal dividends.

But God’s dividends aren’t ordinary dividends. They are not only “eternal” but also “great.” We often hear, and perhaps are tempted to think, that it is unspiritual and crass to serve God for the sake of rewards. But that is one of the motives God Himself gives for serving Him. We first of all serve and obey Christ because we love Him, just as on earth He obeyed the Father because He loved Him. But it was also because of “the joy set before Him” that Christ Himself “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). It is neither selfish nor unspiritual to do the Lord’s work for a motive that He Himself gives and has followed.

Second, we are to rejoice because the world “persecuted the prophets who were before” us in the same way that it persecutes us. Persecution is a mark of our faithfulness just as it was a mark of the prophets’ faithfulness. When we suffer for Christ’s sake, we know beyond a doubt that we belong to God because we are experiencing the same reaction from the world that the prophets experienced. So realize that if you are persecuted, you belong in the line of that great company of righteous servants.

ASK YOURSELF
What’s your immediate reaction to the idea that we labor for the “reward” of God’s blessing? God knows our hearts. He has given us desires to register our growth and progress in the faith. As long as the reward we seek is more of Jesus and to see Him glorified, should we be averse to wanting return on our faithful investment?[4]

MARCH 23

HERE FOR OUR TIME

Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther 4:14

 

Just as those who lived in the past had the privilege of being God’s people of faith then, so do we in our own day! It is good to come to the understanding that while God wants us to be holy and Spirit filled, He does not expect us to look like Abraham or to play the harp like David or to have the same spiritual insights given to Paul.

All of the former heroes of the faith are dead. You are alive in your generation. A Bible proverb says that a living dog is better than a dead lion (see Ecclesiastes 9:4). You may wish to be Abraham or Isaac or Jacob, but remember they have been asleep for centuries, and you are still around!

You can witness for our Lord today! You can still pray! You can still give of your substance to help those who are in need!

In this, your own generation, give God all your love, all your devotion. You do not know what holy, happy secret God may want to whisper to your responsive heart!

 

Thank You, Lord, for the encouragement of this devotional today. It is what I needed to hear. Use me to advance Your kingdom, Lord. Whisper, and I will obey.[5]


March 23 Praying Aggressively

“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

✧✧✧

Praying for God’s will to be done on earth is an aggressive prayer.

Many people assume that somehow everything that happens is God’s will. But that’s not true. Lives destroyed by murderous aggressors and families broken by adultery aren’t God’s will. Children and adults ravaged by abuse or crippled by disease aren’t God’s will. He uses sin and illness to accomplish His own purposes (Rom. 8:28), but they aren’t His desire.

Eventually God will destroy all evil and will fulfill His purposes perfectly (Rev. 20:10–14), but that hasn’t happened yet. That’s why we must pray for His will to be done on earth. We can’t afford to be passive or indifferent in prayer. We must pray aggressively and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).

That’s how David prayed. His passion for God’s will compelled him to pray, “Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, so I will meditate on Thy wonders. … I shall run the way of Thy commandments, for Thou wilt enlarge my heart. Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, and I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, and keep it with all my heart. Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, for I delight in it” (Ps. 119:27, 32–35).

But David also prayed, “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before God. But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; yes, let them rejoice with gladness” (Ps. 68:1–3). He loved God’s will, but he also hated everything that opposed it.

When you truly pray for God’s will to be done, you are aggressively pursuing His will for your own life and are also rebelling against Satan, his evil world system, and everything else that is at odds with God’s will.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for David’s example and for others who demonstrate a passion for God’s will. ✧ Ask for wisdom to see beyond your circumstances to what God wants to accomplish through them.

For Further Study: Read Psalm 119. ✧ How can God’s Word help you know and obey God’s will? ✧ What was the psalmist’s attitude toward the Word?[6]


MARCH 23

THE TRUE MINISTER: MAN OF GOD SPEAKING TO MEN

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

2 TIMOTHY 4:5

The Christian minister, as someone has pointed out, is a descendant not of the Greek orator but of the Hebrew prophet!

The differences between the orator and the prophet are many and radical, the chief being that the orator speaks for himself while the prophet speaks for God.

The orator originates his message and is responsible to himself for its content. The prophet originates nothing but delivers the message he has received from God who alone is responsible for it, the prophet being responsible to God for its delivery only. The prophet must hear the message clearly and deliver it faithfully, and that is indeed a grave responsibility; but it is to God alone, not to men!

It is a dubious compliment to a preacher to say that he is original. The very effort to be original has become a snare to many a young man fresh out of seminary, who rejects the pure wheat of the Word and tries to nourish his congregation on chaff of his own manufacture. It may even be golden chaff, but chaff nevertheless that can never feed the soul.

The true preacher is a man of God speaking to men; he is a man of heaven giving God’s witness on earth. Because he is a man of God he can decode the message he receives from heaven and deliver it in the language of earth![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 95). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 91). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 95). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[7] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

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