Daily Archives: February 11, 2018

February 11 The Joy of Intercession

“… always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all” (Phil. 1:4).

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Intercessory prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of a righteous person.

A story is told of a special nurse who knew the importance of intercessory prayer. Because each day she used her hands as instruments of God’s love and mercy toward those in her care, she found it natural to use her hand as a scheme of prayer. Each finger represented someone she wanted to pray for. Her thumb was nearest to her and reminded her to pray for those who were closest and dearest. The index finger was used for pointing, so it stood for her instructors. The third finger was the tallest and stood for those in leadership. The fourth finger was the weakest, representing those in distress and pain. The little finger, which was the smallest and least important, reminded the nurse to pray for her own needs.

Undoubtedly that nurse knew the joy of praying for others. Paul knew it too. Given the same circumstances, a lesser man would be consumed with his own well-being, but Paul modeled what he teaches in Philippians 2:4: “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Such an attitude is the heart of effective intercessory prayer.

Those who lack the joy of the Holy Spirit often harbor negative thoughts toward others, which debilitates compassion and hinders prayer. That’s tragic because intercessory prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of righteous people (James 5:16).

Analyze your own prayers. Are they generous with praise to God for His goodness to others? Do you pray for the needs of others? Practice doing so, and the joy of intercession will be yours.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Pray for specific people and specific needs. ✧ Thank God for what you see Him doing in the lives of others.

For Further Study: John 17 is Christ’s intercessory prayer for His disciples, including us (v. 20). After reading that chapter, complete the following statements ✧ Eternal life is ____________________________. ✧ Christ’s mission on earth was to _______________________________. ✧ The world’s reaction to Christ and His followers is__________________________________. ✧ The best way to convince the world that Christ was sent by the Father is to ________________________.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 54). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

FEBRUARY 11 OUR HEAVENLY ABODE: PART OF GOD’S GOODNESS

…We have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 CORINTHIANS 5:1

The true Christian may safely look forward to a future state that is as happy as perfect love wills it to be! No one who has felt the weight of his own sin or heard from Calvary the Saviour’s mournful cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” can ever allow his soul to rest on the feeble hope popular religion affords. He will—indeed, he must—insist upon forgiveness and cleansing and the protection the vicarious death of Christ provides.

“God has made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” So wrote Paul, and Luther’s great outburst of faith shows what this can mean in a human soul: “O Lord,” cried Luther, “Thou art my righteousness, I am Thy sin!”

Any valid hope of a state of righteousness beyond the incident of death must lie in the goodness of God and the work of atonement accomplished for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. The deep, deep love of God is the fountain out of which flows our future beatitude, and the grace of God in Christ is the channel by which it reaches us!

Even justice is on our side, for it is written, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”[1]


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

‘Gender identity’ does not erase biological reality, columnist insists – despite trans backlash

A columnist for The Times has raised concerns about the promotion of the transsexual agenda, warning against aggressive campaign tactics used by activists.

Keep on reading: ‘Gender identity’ does not erase biological reality, columnist insists – despite trans backlash

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What theory of truth should a Bible-believing Christian accept?

WINTERY KNIGHT

Investigation in progress Investigation in progress

I was just thinking to myself this week about why I keep running into people who identify as Christians who are open and unrepentant about habitual sin. Now, I’m not perfect, but you don’t see me out there in public saying that the Bible is wrong. I would not claim that some behavior that was condemned by all previous generations of Christians is suddenly ok.

So, I thought and thought and thought about it, and here is what I came up with. Somehow, people have come to a view of Christianity that tells them that Christianity is not something that is true about the universe out there. Instead, Christianity is “true” in the sense that it “works for them”.

So they aren’t saying that God actually exists or that Jesus actually rose from the dead, because they don’t know if those things are objectively true. They’re just…

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February 11, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

Simeon’s Proclamation

then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. (2:28–33)

Having met Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, Simeon took Jesus into his arms. It is hard to imagine how thrilled he must have been as he realized that God’s promises had come true. Salvation had come to Israel, and he was holding the consolation of Israel, the Messiah, in his arms. Overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, Simeon blessed God.

His song of praise (cf.1:41–45, 46–55, 67–79; 2:13–14, 38) is known as the Nunc Dimittis (Now Lord), from the first two words of the hymn in Latin. God was releasing His bond-servant to depart (die) in peace, according to His word of promise revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit. His hope fulfilled, his joy complete, his heart at peace, Simeon was content to die. With his own eyes he had seen God’s salvation, personified in the infant Jesus (cf. 1:69; 2:11). He understood that salvation for Israel involved much more than the national deliverance promised by the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, whose blessings will not be fully realized until the millennial kingdom. In the incarnation, Jesus came not to save His people from their enemies, but from their sins (Matt. 1:21; cf. Acts 4:12).

Simeon’s next statement would shock Jewish sensibilities. Fiercely proud of their status as God’s chosen, covenant people, the Jews believed Messiah was their deliverer. They assumed He would establish their kingdom, which would then rule over the infidel Gentiles. The truth that God had prepared salvation in the presence of all peoples, and that Messiah would be a light of revelation to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 26:23), as well as the glory of God’s people Israel (cf. Isa. 46:13; 45:25), ran counter to all their preconceptions. Even after the resurrection, the apostles still did not understand. Shortly before the Lord ascended to heaven “they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ ” (Acts 1:6).

Centuries of animosity toward the idolatrous Gentiles, whose corrupting influence had contributed to Israel’s downfall, was not easily set aside. The Jewish believers in Jerusalem were horrified that Peter “went to uncircumcised men and ate with them” (Acts 11:3) because, as Peter reminded the Gentiles gathered in Cornelius’s house, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him” (Acts 10:28). But salvation is offered to all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, since Christ “made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Eph. 2:14) and “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for [believers] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Thus the Lord directed that “repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47; cf. Matt. 28:19–20).

Speaking prophetically of Messiah’s ministry Isaiah wrote,

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. (Isa. 9:1–2; cf. Matt. 4:12–16)

According to Isaiah 42:6, Messiah would be “a light to the nations,” while in 49:6, the Lord said to Him, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” In Isaiah 51:4–5, God declared, “A law will go forth from Me, and I will set My justice for a light of the peoples. My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, and My arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands will wait for Me, and for My arm they will wait expectantly.” Isaiah 52:10 notes that “the Lord has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God.” In Isaiah 60, God once again addressed His Servant, the Messiah:

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (60:1–3)

With each confirmation of their Son’s true identity, Joseph and Mary’s astonishment grew. After hearing Simeon’s song of praise, they were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. Their son, in every sense a normal human baby, was the Divine Savior of the world, the Messiah who would fulfill all the Old Testament promises of salvation and blessing.[1]


30–32 Simeon does not say, however, that he has seen the Messiah but rather that his eyes have seen God’s salvation. To see Jesus is to see salvation embodied in him—a theme prominent in Luke (cf. 1:69, 71, 77; 19:9, and comments). Luke’s concern for the universal application of the gospel finds support in the words “in the sight of all people” (v. 31). Verse 31 echoes Isaiah 52:10 and Psalm 98:3.

The parallel structure in v. 32 may involve a detailed contrast as well as a larger one. That is, not only are Gentiles and Jews put in contrast, but also the same light (Isa 49:6) that brings “revelation” to pagans (cf. 1:78–79) brings “glory” to Israel (cf. 1:77). Note also “all people” (v. 31) and “your people” (v. 32; cf. comments on 1:77).[2]


2:27–33. The Spirit controlled everything Simeon did. He spied Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ parents, as they entered the temple. They were simply obeying God’s law. Simeon intercepted them and took the child in his arms. He gave them a blessing they did not expect. Praising God (cf. 1:68), Simeon first claimed his dismissal from God’s army. His tour of duty was done. God had fulfilled his promise. Simeon could now die and claim his eternal peace. He had seen God’s salvation. Named Jesus, “Yahweh is salvation” (v. 21) and proclaimed by the angel as Savior (v. 11), Jesus was what Simeon had longed for and looked for all these years—the salvation, the deliverance of his people.

Such salvation is not a human act or human possession. It is God’s salvation. He prepared for it clearly on the stage of world history where all people could see. He made it a light for revelation to the Gentiles. Yes, salvation was more than fulfillment of Israel’s nationalistic hopes. Salvation was a light revealing God and his purposes and ways to all people, Jew and Gentile alike (see Isa. 40:5; 42:6; 46:13; 49:6; 52:9–10). Israel did have a special place. They were your people. In Jesus they received glory, for the Gentiles saw them as the important instrument God used to bring salvation to the whole world.

Shepherds amazed Bethlehem with their message (v. 18). Simeon amazed Joseph and Mary with his. News about Jesus is never ordinary, daily newspaper stuff. News about Jesus leaves the audience wondering: How can this be? Who is this?[3]


2:29–32 The burden of the song is as follows: Lord, now You are letting me depart in peace. I have seen Your salvation in the Person of this Baby, the promised Redeemer, as You promised me. You ordained Him to provide salvation for all classes of people. He will be a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles (His First Advent) and to shine in glory on Your people Israel (His Second Advent). Simeon was prepared to die after he had met the Lord Jesus. The sting of death was gone.[4]


2:32A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles … the glory of Your people Israel: This is the first explicit statement in Luke that includes both Jew and Gentile. Salvation is portrayed as light (1:79). It would be a revelation to Gentiles because they would be able to participate in God’s blessing with a fullness that had not been revealed in the OT (Eph. 2:11–22; 3:1–7). Jesus is the glory of Israel because through Him the nation would see the fulfillment of God’s promises; the nation’s special role in God’s plan would be vindicated (Is. 46:13; 60:1–3; Rom. 9:1–5; 11:11–29).[5]


2:27–32. On seeing the Child and picking Him up, Simeon … praised God, the response of godly people toward the Messiah throughout the Gospel of Luke. He then uttered a psalm of praise extolling God for fulfilling His promise by bringing salvation. The Messiah is the Source of salvation, as His name Jesus indicates. In all three of the hymns of thanksgiving and praise recorded by Luke in his first two chapters (1:46–55, 68–79; 2:29–32) lie the deep significance of the births of John and Jesus for the salvation of Israel and the world. Simeon noted that the Messiah was to be for the Gentiles as well as for Israel. The idea of salvation for the Gentiles is set forth many times in the Gospel of Luke.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2009). Luke 1–5 (pp. 180–182). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 83). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Butler, T. C. (2000). Luke (Vol. 3, p. 32). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1375). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 1253–1254). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] Martin, J. A. (1985). Luke. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 209). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

FEBRUARY 11 WE ARE NOT ORPHANS

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.

Psalm 37:23

I once wrote in an editorial that Christian believers are not orphans in this world, making the point that the divine Shepherd goes before us and that we travel an appointed way.

A reader wrote to question my allusion to our traveling an “appointed” way, asking: “I was brought up a Methodist. In your comments, do you mean this to be foreordination? That is what the Presbyterians believe. Just what did you mean?”

I replied that I had not meant to go down that deep into doctrine—that I had not been thinking of foreordination, predestination or the eternal decrees.

“I was just satisfied that if a consecrated Christian will put himself in the hands of God, even the accidents may be turned into blessings,” I told him.

Anyway, I am sure the Methodist brother can go to sleep at night knowing that he does not have to become a Presbyterian to be certain that God is looking after him!

Dear Lord, in these quiet moments this morning, prepare my mind and heart for the encounters You’ve arranged for me today.[1]


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

February 11 What Is Poverty of Spirit?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:3

Poverty of spirit means recognizing how truly deficient we are apart from God. It means seeing ourselves as we really are: spiritually lost, hopeless, and helpless. Without the gospel of Jesus Christ, everyone is spiritually impoverished, regardless of his or her material accomplishments, educational achievements, or even religious knowledge and church activities.

The “poor in spirit” are people who have recognized their spiritual destitution and their total inability to save themselves—their complete dependence on God. They know their only hope of salvation is to repent and ask for forgiveness, leaning on the sovereign grace and mercy of God. Such a person knows he has no spiritual merit of his own and that his personal strength or wisdom is insufficient to earn him lasting spiritual reward.

“In spirit” expresses the understanding that poverty of spirit can’t be merely a hypocritical, outward act. Being a genuine spiritual beggar reflects true humility, not some phony, pretentious, mild-mannered behavior. Real poverty of spirit is what the prophet said the Lord looks for and affirms: “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2; cf. Pss. 34:18; 51:17).

Augustine in his Confessions says pride was his greatest barrier to salvation. Until he realized that his achievements and possessions were nothing, Christ could do nothing for him. It’s the same for any who would be poor in spirit.

ASK YOURSELF

What specific items or attitudes threaten your ability to remain “poor in spirit”? How does a person maintain a comfort level in God’s presence without losing the perspective of being undeserving of the privilege?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 50). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

February 11 The Success Syndrome

If I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Philippians 2:17

American society is breeding a generation of Christians who primarily want to be successful. Seldom do they have a humble attitude of service. They are unwilling to make sacrifices for the cause of Christ because they have been taught, whether verbally or not, that Christians should be rich, famous, successful, and popular.

Such an orientation toward personal success rather than humble service is the opposite of what glorifies God. Living for the glory of God means knowing you are expendable and being ready to die, if necessary, to accomplish God’s ends. Such a humble attitude glorifies God.

To grow spiritually, we must lose ourselves in the lordship of Christ at the moment of salvation and allow Him to dominate our lives from then on. In doing so, we must seek only His glory—not our own comfort and success. We will not grow when we choose our own way or serve God with the wrong motive.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 54). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

February 11, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

True Repenters Reveal Spiritual Transformation

Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance … Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” (3:8a, 9–14)

Genuine repentance will inevitably manifest itself in changed attitudes and behavior; therefore John challenged those coming to be baptized to bear fruits in keeping with their professed repentance. The apostle Paul also challenged people to prove the reality of their repentance. He described his ministry as one of “declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20). Because the evidence of the repentance that leads to salvation is a changed life, God “will render to each person according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). That does not mean, of course, that people can earn salvation by good works, but rather that good works are the inevitable result of repentance. The repentance that God grants (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25) does not take place in a vacuum, but in the context of the transformation brought about by conversion and regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17). As a result, the redeemed “are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

None of this was new to the Jewish people. In Isaiah 1:4–5 the prophet lamented concerning Israel,

Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him. Where will you be stricken again, as you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint.

In verses 16 and 17, God commanded the people, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” If the presence of those deeds confirmed the genuineness of their repentance, God promised that “though [their] sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool” (v. 18). In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God declared, “[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (cf. Ezek. 33:19; Jon. 3:10).

John followed his exhortation to repent with a warning of the severe consequences of failing to do so. Indeed, he declared, the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Jesus used the same graphic imagery to depict judgment in Matthew 7:19.) God’s judgment was imminent, John warned; His axe was already laid at the root of the trees. And every tree that does not bear good fruit would be cut down and thrown into the fire. Those trees symbolize people whose repentance is demonstrably false, since they do not bear good fruit—the attitudes and actions that manifest righteousness, love for God, and obedience to His word. They will be thrown into the fire; “the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41; cf. 18:8; Jude 6–7).

The judgment pictured here is of individuals, as the singular every tree suggests. But if enough individuals fail to repent, it becomes a national issue. That is what happened in Israel, when the vast majority of the Jewish people rejected Jesus Christ. A few decades later in a.d. 70 the axe of divine judgment fell. The Romans sacked Jerusalem, burned the temple, and slaughtered thousands of Jewish people, who were cast into the fire of eternal damnation. The same axe of divine judgment will fall on all who fail to repent, both Jew and Gentile alike (cf. Joel 3:1–2, 12–14; Zeph. 3:8).

John’s sobering message prompted at least some in the crowd to reflect on their sinful lives. Wanting to know what specific actions they needed to take to manifest genuine repentance, they began questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” John would habitually (as the imperfect tense of the verb translated say indicates) answer them by giving practical advice. He told the crowds in general, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” Though seemingly trivial, sharing such basic necessities as clothing and food with those in need fulfills the command to love one’s neighbor (10:27; cf. Lev. 19:18; Rom. 13:8–10; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8)—which is second in importance only to the command to love God (Matt. 22:37–38).

Luke then recorded the questions of two specific groups. When some tax collectors also came to be baptized and asked him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” John said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” Tax collectors were hated, vilified, and scorned because they collected taxes for the Roman oppressors. Despised as traitors and robbers, they were cut off from Jewish religious life and forbidden to testify in court. John did not order them to give up their jobs, since it is not wrong for a government to collect taxes (Matt. 22:17–21; Rom. 13:7). But he did tell them not to collect any more than what they had been ordered to collect. Tax collectors normally increased their profits by extorting exorbitant tolls beyond what was mandated by Rome (cf. Luke 19:8), and demanding kickbacks and bribes. They could manifest true repentance by treating people fairly and honestly and not abusing their authority. Some of the tax collectors took John’s message to heart and repented (Matt. 21:31–32; Luke 19:1–10).

Soldiers were another group prone to abusing their authority for selfish gain. These soldiers could have been under the authority of Herod Antipas or Rome and may also have included some members of the Judean police. John gave them three ways to manifest genuine repentance. First, they were not to take money from anyone by force. The verb translated take money by force literally means “to shake violently.” The soldiers were not, to use contemporary idiom, to shake people down for money through intimidation or force. Nor were they to accuse anyone falsely. They were not to abuse their authority to twist and pervert the evidence in an attempt to extort money from the innocent. Finally, John charged the soldiers to be content with their wages, since failing to do so might motivate them to abuse their power.

By selecting tax collectors and soldiers as examples of those who repented, John was making the general point that true repentance produces a life that is transformed from being characterized by sin to being benchmarked by virtue.[1]


8–9 The language is picturesque. Two images are presented. First, a tree that does not produce fruit should be chopped down and removed to make way for one that will. Jesus speaks later about appropriate fruit (6:43–45) and also tells a parable about cutting down a barren fruit tree (13:6–9). The imagery may be intended to call to mind the figure of Israel as a fig tree or vine (cf. Isa 5:1–7). Black, 145, suggests a possible wordplay in the original Aramaic that would have included raq and qar (twice) in the words for “flee,” “root,” and “cut down.” The second image, the ax “at the root” (v. 9) symbolizes an impending radical action, the destruction of the whole tree. This imagery draws from Isaiah 10:34, and in intertestamental traditions this verse has been understood in the context of the coming of the Messiah (cf. Richard Bauckham, “The Messianic Interpretation of Isa. 10:34 in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2 Baruch and the Preaching of John the Baptist,” Dead Sea Discoveries 2 [1995]: 202–16). The threat of judgment is heightened through the imagery of fire, a theme reintroduced in the reference to Jesus’ ministry (vv. 16–17).

The theme of Abraham’s “children” (v. 8) is found elsewhere (Jn 8:31–41; Ro 4:12–17; Gal 3:6–9). Mere physical descent from Abraham is not important; God can create his own children out of stones (cf. Isa 51:1–2), just as he can cause inanimate stones to praise his Son in the event that humans remain silent (Lk 19:40). One finds the continuation of Lukan interest in the redrawing of the boundaries of the people of God (cf. Siker, 108–9).[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2009). Luke 1–5 (pp. 218–221). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 90). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The Proof That I Was Pardoned – C.H. Spurgeon

The really pardoned man also desires to be rid of all sin. I know some who can never hope to obtain forgiveness, for they continue in their iniquity. Can a woman expect to find peace with God while she goes on taking her sly drop and becoming intoxicated in private? Can a man find joy in God who still clings to the drunkard’s vice? Will God receive into his favor those who continue to practice dishonesty in trade? Shall sin be fondled and yet pardoned? No one dares to expect it, and yet deceitful hearts attempt to think so. They will condemn other people’s pet sins, and yet excuse their own. They pretend to much sorrow for sin in. general, and yet hold to one favourite sin in particular. Their delicate Agag must live. Kill all the rest, but surely as to this one the bitterness of death has passed!

O sirs, be not deceived; you must be willing for all sin to go. If you desire one sin to live you will not live yourself. The honest-hearted sinner – he whom the Lord absolves of iniquity – desires to see all his sins brought forth and hung up like the kings whom Joshua found in the cave at Makkedah – hung up in the face of the sun that they might die the death.

The dearest idol I have known,  Whate’er that idol be,  Help me to tear it from thy throne,  And worship only thee. 

We are not perfect, but every really pardoned man wishes that he were so. Though there are sins into which we fall there are no sins which we love. Though we come short of the glory of God, yet we do not rest happy in falling short, and we can never be wholly content till it is no longer so with us. Beloved, the pardoned man is cleansed from the guile which would ask for quarter for darling sins.

From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled “Guile Forsaken When Guilt Is Forgiven,” delivered March 25, 1877.

(Source)

Source: The Proof That I Was Pardoned

FEBRUARY 11 A FELLOWSHIP WITHIN A FELLOWSHIP

All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.

—Psalm 45:8

There is a fellowship within a fellowship—a sort of wheel in the middle of a wheel—which gathers to itself all who are of its spirit in every church in every land and every age. Its members are the God-smitten, those who have heard the Voice speaking within them and have caught a glimpse, however fleeting, of the glory of God….

They who compose this fellowship have never been herded into any one organization; they have no earthly head, pay no dues, hold no conventions and keep no minutes, yet they recognize each other instantly when they meet by a kind of secret sign which the Spirit has placed within their hearts.

These have been in the Presence and will never be the same again. They know a holy reverence, a wondrous sense of sacredness that rises at times to transports of delight. Their garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia, a gift from their Bridegroom and King who came walking out of the Ivory Palaces, trailing clouds of glory, to win them for Himself. TET067-068

Lord, allow me to enter that sacred fellowship—give me a “glimpse, however fleeting,” of Your glory. I’m willing to never be the same again, and I want to be permeated with that sweet fragrance that comes from being in Your Presence. Amen.  [1]


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

February 11 God Is Always with Us

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

Psalm 145:18

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Understanding God’s omnipresence should encourage us in times of distress and keep us from sinning.

It is a great comfort as a Christian to know that God is always present in me both essentially and relationally. No matter what the trial, He is there. Sometimes He might seem faraway, but He’s really no further away than He’s ever been. His promise to us is, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

God is always with us to support our service to Him. When God called Moses to proclaim His message and lead Israel out of slavery, Moses protested because of his lack of speaking abilities (Ex. 4:10). But God said, “I … will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (v. 12). Jesus commands us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19–20). If you doubt you have the power to witness, remember that you have the same resource as any evangelist—the presence and power of God!

God’s continual presence is also a shield against sin. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Nothing will ever tempt us without His giving us the strength to resist.

The omnipresence of God should also motivate us to holiness. Most of us prefer to sin with no one else watching. But when we sin—whether in thought, word, or action—we sin in the presence of God. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). “His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness or deep shadow where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves” (Job 34:21–22). Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want God to see, because He’ll see it anyway!

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Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the comfort He brings to you through His continual presence.

For Further Study: Hebrews 13:5 is a quote from Deuteronomy 31:6. Read Deuteronomy 31:1–8. What was the basis for Moses’ admonition to “be strong and courageous”?[1]


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

February 10 Daily Help

MOST of the grand truths of God have to be learned by trouble; they must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction, otherwise we shall not truly receive them. No man is competent to judge in matters of the kingdom, until first he has been tried; since there are many things to be learned in the depths which we can never know in the heights. He shall best meet the wants of God’s people who has had those wants himself; he shall best comfort God’s Israel who has needed comfort; and he shall best preach salvation who has felt his own need of it.[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 45). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

February 10, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

Perfect Love and the Christian’s Confidence in Judgment

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (4:17–21)

Confidence in the day of judgment is the experience of believers who not only know when they have an accurate grasp of the gospel and other biblical doctrines, but also when love is perfected within them (cf. 1 Cor. 13:10–13; Gal. 5:24–25; Eph. 5:15–21; Col. 3:12–17).

The day of judgment refers in the broadest sense to the final time of reckoning before God (cf. 2:28). John says believers can live their lives with confidence (literally, “boldness”) as they look to the day when Christ returns and they stand before God (1 Cor. 3:9–15; 2 Cor. 5:10; cf. James 1:12; Rev. 2:10). In 3:21 John used the same word (parrēsia) to refer to the confidence believers can have that God will grant their prayer requests. In the present verse the apostle declares that boldness and lack of fear should characterize believers (cf. Rom. 5:2; Heb. 6:19) whenever they think ahead to God’s time of judgment (cf. Titus 2:13).

Why can believers have such confidence? Because as He is, so also are we in this world. This stunning statement means the Father treats the saints the same way He does His Son Jesus Christ. God clothes believers with the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 3:21–22; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9), and grants the Son’s perfect love (Matt. 9:36; John 10:11, 14–16; 13:1; 14:21) and obedience (cf. John 4:34; 5:30; 18:37). Someday believers will stand before God’s throne as confidently as their Lord and Savior does. When they reach that final accounting, they will see the fulfillment of 1 John 3:2b, “We [believers] know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”

Those whose perfect (complete, mature) love demonstrates the reality of their salvation need have no fear of the return of Christ or God’s judgment, because perfect love casts out fear. That kind of love dispels fear because fear involves punishment, and believers perfected in love do not face final punishment (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; cf. Eph. 5:6). However, anyone who fears God’s judgment is not perfected in love. Someone who professes Christ but fears His return evidences that something is seriously amiss, because all true saints love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8; cf. James 1:12).

The motive for those who have such confident assurance regarding the future is obvious: we [Christians] love, because He first loved us. It was God’s perfect and eternal love that first sovereignly drew believers to Him (4:10; John 15:9, 16, 19; Acts 13:48; Rom. 5:8; Eph. 1:4), thus enabling them to reflect His love to others.

The apostle repeats his warning (cf. 2:4, 9; 3:10, 17; 4:8) that anyone who claims to love God but does not love others is a deceiver: If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. It is absurd to claim to love the invisible God but at the same time not show love to His people. John counters that hypocritical notion with a closing command: this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. Brotherly love seeks nothing in return; instead it unconditionally forgives (cf. Matt. 18:21–22), bears others’ burdens (Gal. 6:2), and sacrifices to meet their needs (Acts 20:35; Phil. 2:3–4). Yet it is also a righteous love that tolerates neither false doctrine nor habitual sin (1 Tim. 5:20; cf. 2 Thess. 3:15).

God’s perfect love is a blessing for believers to know and a joy for them to manifest to others. Although it enhances and enriches the emotional love they have for other people, perfect love far transcends any kind of feeling the world might experience. It is a complete, mature love that reflects the essence of God and the work of Christ and flows through believers to anybody with a need (3:17; Matt. 25:34–40; 2 Cor. 8:1–7; 9:7–15; James 1:27; cf. Matt. 5:16; Acts 9:36; Titus 3:8), especially others in the family of God (Gal. 6:2, 10; cf. 1 Tim. 5:8; Heb. 6:9–10). This love, which has characterized the triune God from eternity past, is also the mark of His children (John 13:35). Because this love so clearly comes from Him, those who love like Him can be assured that He is their Father. As the hymn “I Am His, and He Is Mine” so aptly expresses:

Loved with everlasting love, Led by grace that love to know;

Gracious Spirit from above, Thou hast taught me it is so!

O, this full and perfect peace! O, this transport all divine!

In a love which cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine.[1]


Love’s Perfection (vv. 17–21)

In verses 13–16 John has developed the first of two ideas introduced for the first time in verse 12, the indwelling of the Christian by God. Now he returns to the second of those two ideas, the perfection of love, and explains what he means practically. Earlier, when he had said, “If we love each other, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us,” the reader might well have been left with the question of how such a thing could be possible. God’s attributes are perfection; he is perfection. Consequently, we might wonder how God’s love could be perfected in us, or anywhere else for that matter. Now John explains his meaning, showing that his emphasis was not so much upon that love that God has in himself (which obviously is already perfect) but rather upon our love both for God and one another. This has its source in God and is brought to completion by him. “Made complete” here does not mean totally without flaw in a moral or any other sense. It means “whole” or “mature,” and it refers to that state of mind and activity in which the Christian is to find himself when the love of God within him, expressing itself in the believer’s own love, has accomplished that which God fully intends it to accomplish.

No doubt there are many aspects of love’s perfection, but from this greater number John singles out two. First, there is confidence in view of God’s coming judgment (vv. 17–18). Second, there is love of the brethren (vv. 19–21).

Confidence

This is the third time in the letter that the word “confidence” (parrēsia) occurs, and it will occur once more. In two of the four instances it refers to confidence before God in reference to prayer (3:21; 5:14). In the other two instances, one of which is this text, it refers to confidence before God in view of Christ’s return and the execution of his righteous judgment against sin (2:28; 4:17).

The idea of God’s judgment is an unpopular one today, but it is not necessarily less popular than it was in John’s time. The problem is simply that men and women do not like the idea of having to account to God for their actions. So they tend to discount the idea, hoping that the day of judgment might just go away. But judgment is the only logical idea of the three ideas usually associated with the end times. In most systems of theology the end events focus around three things: the return of Christ, the resurrection, and the judgment. But neither the return of Christ nor the resurrection is logical. Jesus came once and was rejected. He was crucified. If he never came back, this would be logical; and no one, least of all ourselves, could blame him. Yet against logic he is returning. The resurrection is not logical either, for even the Bible declares of our bodies, “Dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19). Logically no one could expect more. But judgment? That is the most logical event the future holds for any man or woman.

Moreover, the day of judgment is as fixed in God’s eternal timetable as any other day in world history. This is the significance of the word “day.” Technically speaking, the day of judgment is not necessarily a twenty-four-hour period. At all events, it certainly includes a series of judgments upon the earth (Revelation 6–16), the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 19:20), the gentile nations (Joel 3:14; Matt. 25:31–46), Israel (Ezek. 20:33–44), and all individuals at the judgment of the great white throne (Rev. 20:11–15). The reason it is called a “day” is that it is fixed in God’s timetable and will surely come.

In view of this logical and unalterable day in which the thoughts and deeds of men and women are to be judged, an individual might well fear. But John says that in the case of Christians perfect love casts out terror. This does not mean that love for God is the ground of our acceptance before him. The only possible ground is the death of Christ for us and faith in him. It means rather that by love for God any unreasonable fears are quieted and we come to rest in the fact that the one who was for us in Christ will allow nothing to destroy the eternal relationship that the death of Christ established (Rom. 8:31–39).

It is possible to be a Christian and still be filled with fear in view of God’s judgment. Some branches of the Christian church even encourage such fear on the part of their adherents. But the fear is unnecessary, and mature love defeats it. Bengel, in one of his excellent Latin expressions, gives the proper course of progress in the Christian life: “neither love nor fear, fear without love, both fear and love, love without fear.” The sinner must begin by fearing the God against whom he has sinned; but, having believed in Christ who has atoned for sin, he may put away fear and grow in confidence before him.

Love of the Brethren

The second area in which love finds perfection is in reference to our love for the brethren; for it is there, according to John, that real love is to be seen and measured.

John begins this section by a broad statement: “We love because he first loved us.” But lest a person apply this to a love for God exclusive of a love for human beings, John immediately goes on to show that anyone who is attempting to separate the two is a liar, for love cannot be so differentiated. John’s reasoning at this point is interesting. He argues that it is easier to love men than God; therefore, if there is no love for men, love for God is absent also, regardless of what the person professing to love God may say verbally. How many Christians really believe that it is easier to love men than God? Possibly it is a very small number, for our natural inclination is to think that it is easier to love God simply because he is worthy of our love and that it is difficult to love men because they are not lovable or lovely. Yet this passage says exactly the opposite, implying, no doubt, that unless we are really loving our Christian brothers and sisters on the horizontal level, we are deluding ourselves in regard to what we consider to be our love for God on the vertical. Unless we can love men and women, we cannot love God. Unless we actually do love them, we do not love the one who created them and in whose image they were and are created.

We can put this in other terms. Earlier in this book we considered the difference between philia-love and agapē-love; philia-love is strong brotherly affection. It might be described as the highest love of which man in himself is capable. Agapē-love is divine love. It might be described as the love of which only God and those who are indwelt by God are capable. These verses are the equivalent of saying that a person cannot practice agapē-love unless he can first practice philia-love. Without the love of men, the love of God is impossible.

It is possible, moreover, that another conclusion may be drawn from this text. It is the conclusion that it is in learning to love men that we learn to love God. On the one hand, there are undoubtedly those who loudly profess to love God but who do not love their Christian brothers and sisters. John rightly calls such liars. But on the other hand, it is also possible that there are many who recognize that they do not really love God (at least not as much as they would like to) and who wonder how they might learn to love him better. “I cannot see him,” they might argue. “At times he seems so far away and so unreal. How can I learn to love him? How can I make progress in this that I know to be my privilege and Christian duty?” On the basis of these verses we are justified in arguing that John might well reply to such that a Christian learns to love God by loving those he can actually see. This does not replace the revelation of God’s love at the cross of Jesus Christ, of course. It is there that we learn what love is. Nevertheless, it does supplement it practically, for it is by practicing a real and self-sacrificing love for one another that we learn to love the one who sacrificed himself for us.

Conclusion

At the beginning of this chapter the question was asked, Which is the most important of John’s three tests: righteousness, love, or truth? We answered that love was the most important, but at this point we have several additional insights for knowing why.

The first reason is obviously that we need love most, particularly in the so-called evangelical churches. These have sound doctrine, at least to a point. There is a measure of righteousness. But often, sadly, there is very little love. Without it, however, there is no true demonstration of the life of Christ within or true worship of the Father. The second reason is that Jesus himself made love the first and second of the commandments. The first commandment is love for God (Deut. 6:4). The second is love for one another (Lev. 19:18). The two properly belong together. As Jesus said, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:40). The third reason is that it was the realization of this double love in us for both God and man that was the object of Christ’s coming. This is what John seems to speak about in the opening verses of the letter when he says, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1:3). That is, the coming of Christ is proclaimed so that those who hear of his incarnation and death might believe in him and thereby learn to love both God and one another.

The devil is the one who disrupts. The Lord Jesus Christ is the one who draws together. Moreover, in the drawing together into fellowship, love is the key factor. Little surprise then that we have this commandment from him: “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2007). 1, 2, 3 John (pp. 170–172). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2004). The Epistles of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 119–122). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

February 10: Longing for the Ideal

Exodus 24:1–25:40; John 4:43–54; Song of Solomon 3:3–5

Pastors avoid or over-interpret it. We’re often confused by it. But the Song of Solomon is in our Bible. Although we might stumble over the imagery (comparing a woman to a mare would hardly go down well in the modern world), we can’t help but be entranced by the idealism and the tender, rather racy relationship of the joyful couple.

“ ‘Have you seen the one whom my heart loves?’ … I found him whom my heart loves. I held him and I would not let him go” (Song 3:3–4).

Their relationship appeals to what is pristine and ideal—a picture of what God created marriage to be. The lovers physically delight in each other and woo each other with affectionate words. We might brush off this poem like other romantic poetry and literature—ideal, but hardly plausible in our world, which would take pleasure over love. We further deconstruct the purity of the Song of Solomon based on the reality we experience (or at least know about): the lust, sexual abuse, and promiscuous relationships that are rampant in our world (and more rampant than we’d like to think, even in Christian circles).

Despite hesitations, we shouldn’t brush aside the fact that this book is included in the biblical canon. The Song of Solomon shows us that we were created for a different life—for an ideal. We were made by a God who is perfect and intended for us to live bountifully. This realization makes us thankful that we live in the grace that Christ bought. And through the Spirit, we can put to death the sins that entangle us. It can help us look forward to a time when all that is perverted is judged, and when we ourselves are made perfect, purified from all the dross.

How does the relationship depicted in Song of Solomon help you understand what God intended for humanity? How does it turn you to Christ’s sacrifice?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.