Daily Archives: February 18, 2018

February 18 A Prayer for Godliness

“This I pray . . .” (Phil. 1:9).


Your prayers reveal the level of your spiritual maturity.

As we come to our study of godliness in Philippians 1:9–11, we note that this passage is a prayer. Typically, Paul’s prayers reflected his concern that his readers mature spiritually. That is impossible without prayer, because spiritual growth depends on the Holy Spirit’s power, which is tapped through prayer.

Prayer is so vital that Jesus instructed His disciples to pray “at all times” (Luke 18:1). Paul commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Peter said we should be “of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Peter 4:7).

Scripture gives many other commands to pray, but the true test of your spirituality is your compulsion to pray, not simply your obedience to commands. As a Christian you exist in a spiritual realm in which prayer is as natural as breathing is in the natural realm. Just as atmospheric pressure exerts force on your lungs, compelling you to breathe, so your spiritual environment compels you to pray. Resisting either brings devastating results.

The more you see life through God’s eyes, the more you are driven to pray. In that sense your prayers reveal the level of your spiritual maturity. Paul prayed with urgency day and night because he shared God’s love for His people and His concern for their spiritual maturity.

Examine your own prayers. Do you pray from a sense of duty, or are you compelled to pray? Do you pray infrequently or briefly? Do your prayers center on your own needs or the needs of others? Do you pray for the spiritual maturity of others? Those important questions indicate the level of your spiritual maturity and give guidelines for making any needed changes in your pattern of prayer.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the privilege and power of prayer. ✧ If you have neglected prayer, or if your prayers have been centered on yourself rather than others, confess your sin and ask God to give you a sense of holy urgency in praying as you should. ✧ Is there someone for whom you should be praying more consistently?

For Further Study: Read Daniel 6:1–28. ✧ What was Daniel’s pattern of prayer? ✧ What accusation did the political leaders bring against Daniel? ✧ What was the king’s attitude toward Daniel? ✧ How did God honor Daniel’s faith?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 61). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.


…Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.


The Christian is saved from his past sins. With these he simply has nothing more to do; they are among the things to be forgotten as the night is forgotten at the dawning of the day.

The Christian is also saved from the wrath to come. With this also he has nothing to do. The wrath of God exists, but not for him. Sin and wrath have a cause and effect relationship, and because for the Christian sin is canceled, wrath is canceled also. To be engrossed still in what we have been saved from is to live in a state of negation.

We are not called to fellowship with nonexistence. We are called to things that exist in truth, to positive things, and it is as we become occupied with these that health comes to the soul.

Spiritual life cannot feed on negatives. The man who is constantly reciting the evils of his unconverted days is looking in the wrong direction. He is like a man trying to run a race while looking back over his shoulder!

There is an art of forgetting, and every Christian should become skilled in it. Forgetting the things which are behind is a positive necessity if we are to become more than mere babes in Christ.

And here’s the good part: into the empty world vacated by our sins and failures rushes the blessed Spirit of God, bringing with Him everything new. New life, new hope, new enjoyments, new interests, new purposeful toil, and best of all a new and satisfying object toward which to direct our soul’s enraptured gaze![1]

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

February 18, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

John summarized his view of himself in relation to Jesus in perhaps the most humble statement uttered by anyone in Scripture: He must increase, but I must decrease. Leon Morris observes, “It is not particularly easy in this world to gather followers about one for a serious purpose. But when they are gathered it is infinitely harder to detach them and firmly insist that they go after another. It is the measure of John’s greatness that he did just that” (The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979], 242).

Must speaks of divine necessity. It was God’s will for John to give way to Jesus; there was no reason for the crowds to hang around the herald once the king had arrived. Because he understood this, John the Baptist joyously accepted God’s plan for his ministry.[1]

30 With the arrival of Jesus on the scene of history, John’s joy “is now complete” (v. 29). All that he had waited for has come to pass. Messiah has come. As friend of the bridegroom, he shares the joy of the marriage he has arranged. His role has not been insignificant, nor does it matter in the least that with the arrival of the groom the role of the shoshben comes to a close. In words that reveal the magnanimity of a truly remarkable servant of God, the Baptist states with all simplicity, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Were this example followed by all contemporary ministers of the gospel, what a dramatic impact it would make on today’s world![2]

30. Summing up the preceding, the way-preparer states, He must increase, but I must decrease, i.e., he (Jesus) must continue to grow, while I (John) must continue to diminish. Note the must, indicating that this is in accordance with God’s eternal plan. Of what use is a herald after the king has arrived? Why should crowds continue to surround the forerunner after his task has been accomplished? When he lays aside his responsibilities, let the multitude depart. Let them follow the king! Let them realize that the latter is glorious in his origin and has a glorious message. It is the Baptist who continues:[3]

3:30 The entire object of John’s ministry is summarized in this verse. He labored ceaselessly to point men and women to the Lord, and to make them realize His true worth. In doing this, John realized that he must keep himself in the background. For a servant of Christ to seek to attract attention to himself is really a form of disloyalty.

Note the three “musts” in this chapter: for the Sinner (3:7); for the Savior (3:14); and for the Saint (3:30).[4]

3:30 John the Baptist insisted that Jesus Christ had to increase in popularity and that he, John, had to decrease. John explained that Jesus had to increase because of (1) His divine origin (v. 31), (2) His divine teaching (vv. 32–34), and (3) His divine authority (vv. 35, 36). Even though John encouraged his disciples to also follow Jesus, there were still some found many years later in Ephesus (Acts 19).[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (p. 129). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 404). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 1, p. 149). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1481). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1321). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

10 Ways Worry is Robbing You of an Abundant Life in Jesus

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

An abundant life surely entails more money, more possessions, and more everything, right?

If not, what did Jesus mean when He said that He came to give us life, and life more abundantly?

Peace, contentment, and overwhelming joy are the real attributes of an abundant life in Christ. But sadly, the cares of this world often overshadow those beautiful sentiments.

Interestingly, right before Jesus spoke about having life abundant, He reminded His followers about the thief that comes in to steal, kill, and destroy. He didn’t share that to burst their bubble or discourage them. He said it to alert them to a very real and present temptation.

Worry is one way the enemy robs us of enjoying the fruitful life Jesus spoke of. If Satan can get us to focus on the stresses around us, instead of focusing on the Holy Spirit within us, he has succeeded in stealing our abundance in Christ.

Here are 10 ways worry is robbing you of an abundant life in Jesus.

Read more


As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.

John 15:9

We confess, do we not, that we have a Christian responsibility to believe God’s Word and to obey God’s Truth?

Then we should accept the fact that it is our task to practice the Christian virtues in the power of the Holy Spirit as we await the coming of Him who will come.

The great spiritual needs around us should drive us back to the Gospel records of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus. When evil men crucified Jesus, killed Him, they had no power to change Him. They could not alter the Person or the personality of the Son of God. Putting Him on the cross did not drain away any of His divine affection for a lost race.

The best thing we know about our Lord and Savior is that He loves the sinner. He has always loved the outcast—and for that we should be glad, for we too were once outcasts! We are descended from that first man and woman who failed God and disobeyed. They were cast out of the garden, and God set in place a flaming sword to keep them from returning!

Dear Heavenly Father, that You love us at all is amazing. But to think that You came down to earth to redeem us is nearly inconceivable. Such love is worthy of all my praise and obedience.[1]

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

February 18 The Result of Godly Mourning

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.—Matt. 5:4

The positive result for those who mourn is very clear: “they shall be comforted.” God reserves the blessing of His comfort exclusively for the contrite of heart. Those of us who mourn over sin will have our tears wiped away by Jesus’ loving hand.

The Old Testament similarly speaks of God’s comfort for the true spiritual mourners. Isaiah said that Messiah would come “to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isa. 61:2–3; cf. Ps. 23:4).

In one sense, this “comfort” will be realized only when we meet our Messiah face-to-face. In heaven the Lord “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4). Even the most discontented Christian is assured that eternal comfort awaits God’s children in glory.

But God is also the God of present comfort. As we continually mourn over sin, He will continually comfort us. The Scripture declares that “God our Father” has already “given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace” (2 Thess. 2:16; cf. Rom. 15:4; 2 Cor. 1:3). May we walk, therefore, in the light and joy of His blessed comfort, even on this side of its heavenly fulfillment.


Have you given up hope of finding comfort in your here and now? The promise of God’s comfort can be yours to claim as you grieve over sin and surrender your heart to holiness. You needn’t wait to feel relief. It’s as near as your next humble prayer.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 57). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

February 18 Growing by Faith

We walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

Today’s verse refers to the walk of becoming more like Christ. It takes place when we live by faith. When we judge everything by what we see, however, we will have difficulty growing.

Remember the twelve spies Israel sent into Canaan (Num. 13)? Ten came back and said they felt like grasshoppers in a land of giants. Those ten walked by sight. But Joshua and Caleb had faith, knowing that God was on their side. Ten didn’t think God could handle the circumstances, but two knew He is bigger than any situation.

Do you live by faith? If you want to grow spiritually, believe God’s Word and trust Him in every situation.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 61). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

When You’ve Sinned

“Father, I have sinned.”
— Luke 15:18

It is quite certain that those whom Christ has washed in his precious blood need not make a confession of sin, as culprits or criminals, before God the Judge, for Christ has forever taken away all their sins in a legal sense, so that they no longer stand where they can be condemned, but are once for all accepted in the Beloved; but having become children, and offending as children, ought they not every day to go before their heavenly Father and confess their sin, and acknowledge their iniquity in that character?

Nature teaches that it is the duty of erring children to make a confession to their earthly father, and the grace of God in the heart teaches us that we, as Christians, owe the same duty to our heavenly Father. We daily offend, and ought not to rest without daily pardon. For, supposing that my trespasses against my Father are not at once taken to him to be washed away by the cleansing power of the Lord Jesus, what will be the consequence?

If I have not sought forgiveness and been washed from these offences against my Father, I shall feel at a distance from him; I shall doubt his love to me; I shall tremble at him; I shall be afraid to pray to him: I shall grow like the prodigal, who, although still a child, was yet far off from his father. But if, with a child’s sorrow at offending so gracious and loving a Parent, I go to him and tell him all, and rest not till I realize that I am forgiven, then I shall feel a holy love to my Father, and shall go through my Christian career, not only as saved, but as one enjoying present peace in God through Jesus Christ my Lord.

There is a wide distinction between confessing sin as a culprit, and confessing sin as a child. The Father’s bosom is the place for penitent confessions. We have been cleansed once for all, but our feet still need to be washed from the defilement of our daily walk as children of God.


5 Things They Get Wrong About Christianity

Christianity is a great faith that has been integral to America’s success and so perhaps those of us that are Christians should spend a bit more time tackling the misperceptions about our faith that are out there.

1) Christianity Requires Us To Hate People We Disagree With: Christians have been instructed to love the sinner and hate the sin, which is good because we’re all sinners. Christians also frequently have rules we are supposed to follow that we wouldn’t have necessarily come up with ourselves. For example, if I were writing the rules, I’d very selfishly make it morally acceptable to have sex outside of marriage. Nevertheless, sex outside of marriage is a sin regardless of how I may feel about it. Those are just the rules, but there are no rules that require Christians to hate people who disagree with them. Quite the opposite, in fact. Are there Christians who spew venom and hatred at people they disagree with morally anyway?  Of course, because being Christian doesn’t transcend being human and we humans often tend to be petty, hateful creatures.  At least Christianity as it should be practiced tries to get us to transcend our hateful tendencies.

2) Christians Are Anti-Science: I’ve never actually met a Christian in America or, for that matter, anyone I think is fair to call “anti-science.” However, I have met a great number of people who feel very comfortable disregarding scientific evidence when it conflicts with their ideological agenda, policy goals or self-interest. Percentage wise, people of that sort seem to be all over the map with regard to their religion, lack of religion or ideology. Sometimes, people like to claim Christians are anti-science if they disbelieve in evolution. This is quite silly seeing as how if evolution exists, that was merely the manner which God chose to create and change life. As a Christian, I see no scientific conclusions from Big Bang on down that potentially conflict with my faith. The vast majority of us see it the same way.

3) Christians Want A Theocracy: In my 47 years on this earth, I have yet to ever actually meet a Christian who wants a theocracy although I have met quite a few who’ve correctly complained that the 1st Amendment is being incorrectly interpreted to be much more hostile to religion than the Founders ever intended. The idea that devout Christians would like to overthrow our republic to replace it with…oh, I don’t know, the Pope, Franklin Graham and Joel Osteen is quite ridiculous. On the other hand, it is true that Christians do quite often advocate for policies they agree with and the rights they believe they have under the Constitution. Every other group in America does exactly the same thing; so I see no reason why Christians should be any different.

4) Christians Are Intolerant: American culture has grown extremely intolerant and ironically many of the least tolerant people are the ones screaming the loudest about other people’s supposed intolerance.  If Christians are supposed to be intolerant, I guess I’d have to ask, “Compared to whom?” There are violent riots on college campuses to stop alternate viewpoints from being heard. People on the Left and Right habitually disregard all comments from people who disagree with them. Simply holding a conservative view is enough to cost you your job in Hollywood or a newsroom. The mildest disagreements can produce oceans of abuse on social media. Maybe at one point in American history when Christians were dominant, you could claim that we were intolerant, but if anything, far too many Christians are willing to shrug off or ignore insults, offensive policies and even blasphemy.   Christians may be TOO TOLERANT in comparison to the rest of American culture.

5) Christians Are Hypocrites: It’s always a great scandal when someone who professes to be a Christian cheats on his wife, gets caught with a prostitute or otherwise sins. That’s fine as far as it goes. In fact, we’d likely be better off if Americans were more scandalized by the immoral behavior of prominent people, Christian or otherwise. However, there seems to be some sort of expectation that Christians will never do that sort of thing. Christians do not have such expectations. We know better. We know we’re weak; we’re fallible and broken creatures embracing Christianity in an effort to get well. We will NEVER reach our goal. We will never be perfect like Christ. However, a man who shoots at the stars and falls short may still reach the moon. We can’t be perfect, but we can be better.  If this is hypocrisy, be glad of it. The alternative, where people refuse to condemn horrible behavior on the grounds that they may harbor a desire to do such a thing in the darkest corners of their heart would lead to an abominable society that none of us want to live in.

Source: 5 Things They Get Wrong About Christianity

February 18, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

54:4 shame of your youth … reproach of your widowhood. Israel’s sins brought on the Egyptian captivity, the Babylonian exile, and her current dispersion, but the glories of the future kingdom will be so great that they will overshadow past failures.[1]

54:4the reproach of your widowhood. When God withdrew from his unfaithful people during the Babylonian exile, they were like a wife without a husband. God promises complete emotional restoration (cf. 40:1).[2]

54:4You must not fear Often when Yahweh promises salvation and restoration, He also encourages Israel to set aside their fear and trust Him (see 7:4; 8:12; 35:4; 40:9; 41:14; 43:1, 43:5; 44:2, 44:8; 51:7).

the shame of your youth Refers to Israel’s idolatry (see 42:17; 45:16). Jeremiah also acknowledges this shameful behavior had begun in Israel’s earliest days (see Jer 3:24–25). The prophets often likened idolatry to sexual infidelity (see Jer 13:26–27; Ezek 16).

the disgrace of your widowhood Israel’s idolatry caused Yahweh to judge them and temporarily abandon His people. God’s withdrawal of His blessing is compared to a wife without a husband (see Isa 54:5–7; 47:9 and note).[3]

54:4 shame of your youth. Israel’s infidelity led to its oppression by Egypt and Assyria (52:4; Jer. 31:19).

reproach of your widowhood. This figure represents the Babylonian exile (vv. 6–8).[4]

54:4The shame of your youth refers to Israel’s infidelity, that led to the Egyptian and Assyrian oppression (52:4; Jer. 31:19; Ezek. 16:1–6). The reproach of your widowhood refers to the Babylonian exile (vv. 6–8).[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 54:4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1340). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 54:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1030). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[5]The NKJV Study Bible. (2007). (Is 54:4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.


Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

—Hebrews 2:1

Now here is a strange thing. If you talk about mysticism in our day, every fundamentalist throws his hands high in the air with disgust to let you know that he considers the mystics dreamers, those who believe in the emotion and feeling. But all of those old saints and the fathers of whom I have read taught that you must believe God by a naked, cold intent of your will and then the other things follow along.

A naked intent unto God—those old saints were practical men. They have exhorted us to press on in faith whether we feel like it or not. They have exhorted us to pray—when we feel like it and when we don’t. They never taught that we would always be lifted emotionally to the heights. They knew that there are times when your spiritual progress must be by a naked intent unto God.

Oh that we would have this naked intent to know God, to know Jesus Christ! To be able to put the world and things and people beneath our feet and to open our hearts to only one lover, and that the Son of God Himself! ITB075

Lord, give me today a new passion for knowing You, a “naked intent” that compels me to seek You always, no matter what I feel. Amen.[1]

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

February 18 God’s Sacrificial Love

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

John 3:16


God’s love is vicarious and sacrificial.

Today we continue a short study of a topic that brings joy to every Christian: God’s love. Both Paul and John call His love “great” (Eph. 2:4; 1 John 3:1), because only great love would provide such a sacrifice as God did in Christ.

We have already seen that God’s love is unconditional, unrequited, and righteous. God’s love is also vicarious; it bears the pain of others. In a prophecy about Christ, Isaiah wrote: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried” (53:4). Christ bears our earthly sorrows, and, infinitely more significant, He bore the pain and punishment for our sins.

True love is a sacrificial love that gives without expecting anything in return. God gives so many good things to everyone, and He gave the greatest gift of all, His Son. As John 3:16 teaches, love was His motive for sending Christ to die; He wanted to provide salvation for us.

Again we must examine ourselves after seeing God’s love. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Are you encouraging and helping other Christians in difficulty? Also, ask yourself if you love regardless of the sacrifice. Some will “love” up to the point of pain or inconvenience but no further. However, Jesus commands us, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35). Love is not always easy, but it’s always best.

So much more could be said about God’s love. Countless books and hymns have been written about it. We can get only a basic understanding in these few paragraphs. But let this introduction serve as a starting point for a lifelong study of God’s love. It’s one of the greatest themes in the Bible; you can’t miss it.


Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for strength to bear the burdens of others and to love with sacrificial love.

For Further Study: Jesus talks about His love for us in John 15:9–17. In what ways should we respond to God’s love? ✧ Based on these verses, think of specific ways you can demonstrate your love for God and others.[1]

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

February 17 Daily Help

FROM the cross of Calvary, where the bleeding hands of Jesus drop mercy; from the garden of Gethsemane, the cry comes, “Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth.” From Calvary’s summit, where Jesus cries, “It is finished,” I hear a shout, “Look, and be saved.” But there comes a cry from our soul, “Nay, look to yourself! look to yourself!” Ah, look to yourself, and you will be lost. As long as you look to yourself there is no hope for you. It is not a consideration of what you are, but a consideration of what God is, and what Christ is, that can save you.[1]

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 52). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

February 17, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Petition

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, (1:9)

For this reason refers to the favorable report Paul had received from Epaphras (v. 8). Since the day Paul heard that report, he had been praying for the Colossians. It may seem unnecessary to pray for those who are doing well. Much of our prayer time focuses on those who are struggling, facing difficulties, or fallen into sin or physical distress. Paul, however, knew that the knowledge that others are progressing in the faith should never lead us to stop praying for them. Rather, it should encourage prayer for their greater progress. The enemy may reserve his strongest opposition for those who have the most potential for expanding God’s cause in the world.

Such unceasing or recurring prayer (1 Thess. 5:17) demands first of all an attitude of God-consciousness. That does not mean to be constantly in the act of verbal prayer, but to view everything in life in relation to God. For example, if we meet someone, we immediately consider where they stand with God. If we hear of something bad happening, we react by praying for God to act in the situation because we know He cares. If we hear of something good that has happened, we respond with immediate praise to God for it because we know He is glorified. When Paul looked around his world, everything he saw prompted him to prayer in some way. When he thought of or heard about one of his beloved churches, it moved him toward communion with God.

Nehemiah is an example of one who prayed without ceasing. After King Artaxerxes demanded the reason for his sadness, Nehemiah told him of the destruction of Jerusalem. Asked by the king for his request, he prayed a quick, brief prayer before replying (Neh. 2:4). In the midst of a stressful situation, Nehemiah was conscious of God’s character and purposes.

A second aspect of unceasing prayer is people-consciousness. We cannot effectively pray for people unless we are aware of their needs. Paul exhorted the Colossians to keep alert in prayer (4:2), while to the Ephesians he wrote, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

The two elements of praying without ceasing came together in Paul’s prayer life. His love for God led him to seek unbroken communion with Him. His love for people drove him to unceasing prayer on their behalf. The prayers of Paul recorded in his letters are a precious legacy. They reveal his heart and are models for us to emulate. This text records the first of those prayers.

Paul’s petition is that the Colossians be filled with the knowledge of His will.Plēroō (filled) means to be completely filled, or totally controlled. The disciples’ hearts were filled with sorrow when Jesus told them of His departure (John 16:6). Luke 5:26 tells us the crowd was filled with fear after Jesus healed the paralytic. The scribes and Pharisees were filled with rage after Jesus healed on the Sabbath (Luke 6:11). The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31), while Stephen was full of faith (Acts 6:5). In each case they were totally under the control of what filled them.

Paul wants the Colossians to be totally controlled by knowledge.Epignōsis (knowledge) consists of the normal Greek word for knowledge (gnōsis) with an added preposition (epi), which intensifies the meaning. The knowledge Paul wants the Colossians to have is a deep and thorough knowledge.

Knowledge is a central theme in Paul’s writings. He said of the Corinthians, “In everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge” (1 Cor. 1:5). He prayed that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” would give the Ephesians “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17). To the Philippians he wrote, “This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9). In Colossians 2:3 we learn that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. Our new self “is being renewed to a true knowledge” (Col. 3:10). As those verses indicate, true biblical knowledge is not speculative but issues in obedience.

The denial of absolutes, particularly in the area of morals, characterizes our society. Without a source of authority to provide absolute standards, virtually anything goes. What moral values are enforced are often arbitrary, based merely on human opinion. But for the Christian the authoritative Word of God provides absolutes. Those absolutes are the basis upon which all truth about God and all standards of faith and conduct are set. Because knowledge of those absolutes is the basis for correct behavior and ultimate judgment, it is crucial that Christians know God’s revealed truth. Ignorance is not bliss, nor can anyone please God on the basis of principles they do not know.

So the Bible views knowledge of doctrinal absolutes as foundational to godly living. Most of Paul’s letters begin by laying a doctrinal foundation before giving practical exhortations. For example, Paul gives eleven chapters of doctrine in Romans before turning to godly living in chapter 12. Galatians 1–4 are doctrinal, chapters 5 and 6 practical. The first three chapters of Ephesians detail our position in Christ, while the last three urge us to live accordingly. Philippians and Colossians also conform to the same pattern of doctrine preceding practical exhortations. Godly living is directly linked in Scripture to knowledge of doctrinal truth.

The Bible warns of the danger of a lack of knowledge. Proverbs 19:2 says that “it is not good for a person to be without knowledge.” It was for lack of knowledge that Israel went into exile (Isa. 5:13), and God says in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” First Corinthians 14:20 warns us, “Do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.” Ephesians 4:13–14 tells us that lack of knowledge produces “children tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” Verse 18 describes unbelievers as “being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them.”

How does a person obtain knowledge? First, he must desire it. In John 7:17 Jesus says, “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.” That thought is echoed in Hosea 6:3, “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.” Second, he must depend on the Holy Spirit. It is through Him that we know the things God has revealed to us (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10–12). Finally, he must study the Scriptures, for they make the believer “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Perhaps the most graphic text related to the pursuit of divine truth is Job 28.

Paul prays that the knowledge we have would be of His will. God’s will is not a secret; He has revealed it in His Word. For example, it is God’s desire that a person be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Once a person is saved, it is God’s will that he be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:17–18 says, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Furthermore, sanctification is God’s will: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). God also wills that the believer be submissive to the government. Peter writes, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution … for such is the will of God” (1 Pet. 2:13, 15). Suffering may also be God’s will for the believer: “Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Pet. 4:19). Finally, giving thanks is God’s will. Paul writes, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:17).

Having the knowledge of God’s Word control our minds is the key to righteous living. What controls your thoughts will control your behavior. Self-control is a result of mind-control, which is dependent on knowledge. Knowledge of God’s Word will lead to all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Though the terms wisdom and understanding may be synonymous, sophia (wisdom) may be the broader of the two terms. It refers to the ability to collect and concisely organize principles from Scripture. Sunesis (understanding) could be a more specialized term, referring to the application of those principles to everyday life. Both sophia and sunesis are spiritual; they deal in the nonphysical realm and have the Holy Spirit as their source.

Believing, submissive Bible study leads to the knowledge of God’s will. A mind saturated with such knowledge will also be able to comprehend general principles of godly behavior. With that wisdom will come understanding of how to apply those principles to the situations of life. That progression will inevitably result in godly character and practice.[1]

9 At the outset of this section, Paul tells his recipients that from the day he was informed about their response to the gospel in general and their love in the Spirit in particular he has been in perpetual prayer for them. Paul considered prayer to be a vital part of his life in and ministry for Christ (cf. v. 3). To be sure, “Apart from prayer, life as a redeemed bondservant of Christ was both inconceivable and impossible” (W. B. Hunter, “Prayer,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993], 725). Paul informs the fellowship that he has been asking God to fill them “with the knowledge of [God’s] will” (cf. v. 1). More than for factual knowledge about God, Paul has been praying that the Colossians will have a true knowledge of God and will receive direction from God. The knowledge Paul covets for these Christians is characterized by spiritual wisdom and understanding. Language of fullness, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding recurs in Colossians. In fact, the letter contends that divine revelation and spiritual wisdom converge and culminate in Christ. In essence, Paul is prayerful that the Colossian believers will be filled with the fullness of God in Christ. No substitutes or supplements will suffice for the One who “is all, and is in all” (3:11).[2]

1:9 / The request that God fill (lit., “that you might be filled, plērōthēte), suggests that there is some spiritual vacuum that needs to be corrected. It is the same idea expressed in 4:12 with reference to Epaphras, whose concern for the Colossians was that they stand firm, “mature” (peplērophorēmenoi) and fully convinced, in complete obedience to God’s will.

The filling is to be with the knowledge of God’s will and not some type of speculative or intellectual gnōsis (“knowledge”) so characteristic of the false teachers. Wisdom (sophia) and understanding (synesis) likewise are not some abstract intellectual concepts from the Greek world but attributes that God’s Spirit gives. As spiritual gifts from God, they enable God’s people to live abundant, fruitful, and obedient lives in accordance with his will. Paul’s readers need spiritual wisdom to determine God’s will for their lives; they need spiritual understanding to apply God’s will to specific situations in life.[3]

1:9. Paul’s letter to the Colossians began with a prayer of thanksgiving. That prayer, based on the good report of Epaphras, reminded the Colossian believers of the power of the gospel so they would not be seduced by the siren song of heresy. The theme of prayer continues in verses 9–14, but the focus shifts from thanksgiving to intercession. Paul prays that the believers will live lives that are pleasing to God. Does it take deep knowledge, strict living, or a rapturous experience to please God? That’s what the false teachers were telling the Colossians. We, like the Colossians, need to know the truth about what pleases God so we won’t be enchanted by error.

Paul tells us why he prays and what he prays for. When Paul says for this reason, he is looking back to the good report he received from Epaphras. Paul prays for believers who are doing well. He asks that they continue in the process of growth. The focus of much prayer is on those who are struggling and not doing well. While those are good prayers, Paul reminds us of the need to pray for those who are doing well since they are prime targets for enemy attacks. Many of our prayers ask for immediate relief from circumstantial or personal difficulties. While some of these prayers are good, Paul wants us to include prayers for spiritual growth and long-term development.

Paul’s prayer is that God fill believers with the knowledge of his will. Paul wants the Colossians to know God’s will and then let that knowledge control them. God’s will is not a spiritual Easter egg he hides from us. No, God wants us to know his will and so clearly reveals that will in his Word. A mere knowledge of God’s Word is not what will please him. We need to be controlled by that knowledge. The word fill means to control. To be filled with something (an emotion like fear or jealousy) means to be under its controlling influence that causes us to do things we might not do otherwise. Being controlled by God’s will should cause us to do things we might not otherwise do—things like enduring rather than giving up, like being patient with others rather than getting angry with them.

The knowledge and control of God’s will comes through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. This is more than simple intelligence. Wisdom refers to the comprehension of truth, while understanding refers to the application of truth. Being controlled by God’s will means believers comprehend the principles of Scripture and then put them into practice.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 27–30). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 283). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 21–22). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, pp. 280–281). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

February 17: Finding Sustainment

Exodus 39:1–40:38; John 6:52–71; Song of Solomon 5:5–9

Following Jesus isn’t like developing a crisis-aversion system. So often, it’s tempting to treat our faith in this way—relying on Him when things get tough or when others expect us to do so. But He wants us to rely on Him continually.

After Jesus miraculously fed the crowds, He told them that He was the bread of life. But they were fickle. They wanted evidence—another sign. Instead of feeding their transient desires, Jesus delivered hard teaching: “The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me and I in him” (John 6:54–56).

For the Jews, this teaching would have been shocking and strange—drinking blood was forbidden by Old Testament law, and He was speaking about His own body. They followed Jesus because they wanted a sign, a prophet, or a Messiah. A sacrifice was not part of their plan.

But a sacrifice was exactly what they needed. Forgiveness and eternal life were discarded by some, but not by all. Simon Peter’s simple confession is actually quite stunning in the midst of all the confusion: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68–69). The disciples didn’t put hope in a transient sign—in one meal. And although they didn’t always understand Jesus’ teaching, they recognized that He was the true bread of life, and they relied on Him for sustainment even when His teaching seemed strange to their ears.

How are you challenging yourself to accept all the teachings of Jesus—not just the ones that are easy? How can you put your hope in Christ and look to Him for continual support?

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.