Category Archives: Daily Devotional Guide

February 20, 2017: Verse of the day

img_1189

21:1 Sovereignty of God. A king’s decisions are controlled by God. The verse uses synthetic parallelism to develop the point. The first line affirms that the decisions (“heart”) of the king are under the Lord’s control (“in the hand”), and the second explains that God directs the king as he pleases. What clarifies the second line is the simile that the heart is “like a watercourse.” As a farmer channels the water where he wants and regulates its flow, so does the Lord with the king. No human ruler is supreme; to put it another way, the Lord is truly the King of kings. Scripture offers many examples of the truth of this proverb (Ezr 7:21; Isa 10:6–7; 41:2–4; Da 2:21; Jn 19:11).

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

21:1 He turns it. See notes on 16:1, 9, 33; cf. 19:21; 20:24. Note the examples of the divine hand of God in the cases of Artaxerxes (Ezr 7:21–23), Tiglath-pileser (Is 10:5–7), Cyrus (Is 45:1–4), and Nebuchadnezzar (Da 4:34) and Belshazzar (Da 5:23–25).

MacArthur Study Bible

21:1 The stream of water describes water flowing through a channel or an irrigation ditch, which a skillful farmer can turn to flow wherever he wishes.

ESV Study Bible

21:1 in the hand of Yahweh Even though kings hold great power (Prov 14:28; 16:15; 20:2), they are ultimately under the jurisdiction of God’s power over the entire earth.

Faithlife Study Bible

21:1 The king’s heart … Lord. Possibly a reference to the sovereignty of God even over pagan kings who unwittingly do His will (e.g., Cyrus in Is. 45:1), or to the king of Israel, who, like Solomon, received a special endowment of the wisdom of God (16:10 and note).

Reformation Study Bible

February 20, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

img_1190-1

February 20

Types of Spiritual Fruit

Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work.

Colossians 1:10

 

What kind of fruit brings glory to God? Philippians 1:11 says, “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Righteousness, which is doing right, is the fruit God desires in our lives. When we do right, we glorify God; when we do wrong, we dishonor Him. Fruit is synonymous with righteousness.

There are two kinds of spiritual fruit: action fruit—which consists of giving, leading others to Christ, and expressing thanks to God—and attitude fruit. Galatians 5:22–23 describes attitude fruit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self–control.”

How do you get the right attitudes? Verse 25 says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” As you yield control of your life to the Holy Spirit, He will permeate your life and produce the proper fruit.[1]


February 20 The Measure of Grace

“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

Romans 5:20

✧✧✧

God will lavish grace upon sinners who are truly repentant.

Did you ever sin so terribly that you felt, I really blew it this time. There’s no way God would want to forgive me now? It’s easy sometimes to let our past sins be a constant burden to us, even after we’ve confessed and repented. Paul has comfort for those who feel this way, and that comfort is founded on the power and measure of God’s grace to us.

Before his conversion, Paul (then known as Saul) persecuted the church mercilessly (see Acts 8:3 and 9:1–2). He was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13; see also Gal. 1:13). If anyone could be beyond grace, it was Paul.

But God intervened and saved him (Acts 9:3–19). Why? “For this reason,” Paul says, “I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). If God would forgive Paul, He will forgive anyone who will confess their sins and repent. If He would show abundant grace to a violent unbeliever, He will also shower grace upon His penitent children.

God is not stingy with grace. Paul celebrates God’s saving “grace, which He freely bestowed on us” (Eph 1:6), and “the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (vv. 7–8). Speaking of sustaining grace, Paul says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8). Notice the words Paul uses: “all grace,” “abound,” “all sufficiency,” “everything,” “abundance,” “every good deed.” God’s grace is inexhaustible and is given so freely that words cannot express it fully.

Great sins require great grace, but God will give super–abundant grace to those who seek forgiveness, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). Don’t let your past sins weigh you down; learn to rest upon God’s super–abundant grace.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to teach you to understand His grace more fully and help you forget “what lies behind” (Phil. 3:13).

For Further Study: Read Romans 6. What is Paul’s argument here? ✧ How are we to live now that we have received God’s grace?[2]


FEBRUARY 20

INSTANT CHRISTIANITY

Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

—Philippians 3:16

It is hardly a matter of wonder that the country that gave the world instant tea and instant coffee should be the one to give it instant Christianity…. And it cannot be denied that it was American Fundamentalism that brought instant Christianity to the gospel churches….

Instant Christianity tends to make the faith act terminal and so smothers the desire for spiritual advance. It fails to understand the true nature of the Christian life, which is not static but dynamic and expanding. It overlooks the fact that a new Christian is a living organism as certainly as a new baby is, and must have nourishment and exercise to assure normal growth. It does not consider that the act of faith in Christ sets up a personal relationship between two intelligent moral beings, God and the reconciled man, and no single encounter between God and a creature made in His image could ever be sufficient to establish an intimate friendship between them….

Instant Christianity is twentieth-century orthodoxy. I wonder whether the man who wrote Philippians 3:7-16 would recognize it as the faith for which he finally died. I am afraid he would not. TIC023-025

Lord, keep me from falling into the patterns of instant Christianity. I want to participate in an ever-changing, ever-expanding relationship with You. Amen. [3]


February 20

Hindrances to True Mourning: Presumption and Procrastination

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

We talked yesterday about two specific sins that hinder biblical mourning. Let’s consider two others today. The sin of presumption is actually a form of pride. Presumption is satisfied with cheap grace and expects God to forgive just a little bit because it sees so little to be forgiven. It leads us to think our sins are not really bad enough for us to confess them, repent of them, and forsake them. But Isaiah exhorts sinners as follows: “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). The kind of gospel (so popular today) that omits any need for repentance and mourning is a false, unscriptural gospel—or as Paul calls it, “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6).

Procrastination, as the term suggests, hinders true mourning simply by putting it off. We tend to think when things are better and the time is more convenient, we will ask God to cleanse and forgive our sins. But that is foolish and risky because “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). If we do not deal with sin sooner rather than later, we can’t be sure God’s comfort will ever come.

The best and surest way to eliminate hindrances to mourning is to look, through prayer and the Word, to the holiness of God and Christ’s great atoning sacrifice for sins.

ASK YOURSELF
Unlike some of our sins, these tend to be more subtle and soft-pedaled. But sins of all kinds are capable of blinding us to our utter dependence on God and His forgiveness. Ask Him to reveal to you any hidden sins, wanting to bring to the surface everything that dishonors Him.[4]

FEBRUARY 20

EVERY HINDRANCE REMOVED

Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1

 

There are many legal and governmental reasons why lost men and women should not go to heaven!

It should not be difficult for us to acknowledge that a holy and righteous God must run His universe according to holy laws—and we do not belong there because we have broken every one of those holy laws in some way!

Therefore, there must be an effective redemption, a justification of some kind if we are to have God and He is to have us!

Thank God, it has been done!

The New Testament language is as plain as can be—in Christ through His death and resurrection, every legal hindrance has been met and satisfied: taken away! There is nothing that can keep us from assurance except our own selves.

Let us quit trying to think our way in, to reason our way in. The only way to get in is to believe Him with our hearts forevermore!

 

Yes, Lord, thank You so much for providing an “effective redemption” so that we may have unbroken fellowship with You—both now and for all eternity. Praise Your holy and righteous name![5]


February 20 Pursuing Excellence

“… so that you may approve the things that are excellent” (Phil. 1:10).

✧✧✧

In a world of mediocrity and confusion, God calls you to excellence and discernment.

There’s the story of a pilot who came on the loudspeaker midflight and said, “I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is, we’ve lost all our instrumentation and don’t know where we are. The good news is, we have a strong tailwind and are making great time.” That’s an accurate picture of how many people live: they have no direction in life, but they’re getting there fast!

We as Christians are to be different because we have divine guidance and eternal goals. Our lives are to be marked by a confident trust in God and a pursuit of spiritual excellence.

“Excellent” in Philippians 1:10 speaks of things that are worthwhile and vital. “Approv[ing]” what is “excellent” refers to testing things as one would test a precious metal to determine its purity and value. It goes beyond knowing good from evil. It distinguishes between better and best. It involves thinking Biblically and focusing your time and energy on what really counts. It involves cultivating spiritual discipline and not being controlled by your emotions, whims, moods, or circumstances.

Many organizations and businesses have rightly adopted the motto “Commitment to Excellence” to convey their desire to provide the finest product or service possible. If secular-minded people strive for that level of achievement, how much more should Christians pursue excellence for the glory of God!

Look at your life. Is it filled with godly love, discernment, and the pursuit of excellence—or has worldly trivia crowded out those virtues?

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Read Isaiah 12:1–6 as a psalm of praise to the God of excellence. ✧ Ask God to give you a heart constantly set on pursuing excellence for His glory.

For Further Study: Daniel was a man who pursued excellence. Read Daniel 1:1–2:23. ✧ What was Daniel’s decision regarding the king’s food and wine, and how did he handle the situation? ✧ How did Daniel and his three friends compare in wisdom and understanding to the magicians and conjurers? ✧ What principles do you see in those two chapters that apply to your life?[6]


FEBRUARY 20

STRICTER DISCIPLINE FOR GOD’S WILLING CHILDREN

No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness….

HEBREWS 12:1 1

If God has singled you out to be a special object of His grace you may expect Him to honor you with stricter discipline and greater suffering than less favored ones are called upon to endure.

If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian He is not likely to be as gentle as He is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.

To do His supreme work of grace within you He will take from your heart everything you love most. Every thing you trust in will go from you. Piles of ashes will lie where your most precious treasures used to be.

Thus you will learn what faith is; you will find out the hard way, but the only way open to you, that true faith lies in the will, that the joy unspeakable of which the apostle speaks is not itself faith but a slow-ripening fruit of faith. You will learn, too, that present spiritual joys may come and go as they will without altering your spiritual status or in any way affecting your position as a true child of the heavenly Father.

Then you will also learn, probably to your astonishment, that it is possible to live in all good conscience before God and men and still feel nothing of the “peace and joy” you hear talked about so much by immature Christians![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 63). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

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

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

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 59). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

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

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 63). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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

February 19, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0663

The basic meaning of temptation (peirasmos) is simply to test or prove, and has no negative connotation. Whether it becomes a proof of righteousness or an inducement to evil depends on our response. If we resist it in God’s power, it is a test that proves our faithfulness. If we do not resist, it becomes a solicitation to sin. The Bible uses the term in both ways, and I believe that Paul has both meanings in mind here.

When “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1) it is clear that both God and Satan participated in the testing. God intended the test to prove His Son’s righteousness, but Satan intended it to induce Jesus to misuse His divine powers and to give His allegiance to Satan. Job was tested in much the same way. God allowed Job to be afflicted in order to prove His servant was an “upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8). Satan’s purpose was the opposite: to prove that Job was faithful only because of the blessings and prosperity the Lord had given him and that, if those things were taken away, Job would would “surely curse Thee to Thy face” (v. 11).

God’s tests are never a solicitation to evil, and James strongly corrects those who suggest such a thing. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13). “By evil” is the key to the difference between the two types of temptation. In the wilderness God tested Jesus by righteousness, whereas Satan tested Him by evil. A temptation becomes an inducement to evil only when a person “is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (James 1:14–15).

Earlier in his letter James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (1:2). The nouns trials (see also verse 12) and testing (v. 3) are from the same Greek root as the verb tempted in verses 13–14. The context indicates which sense is meant.

God often brings circumstances into our lives to test us. Like Job we usually do not at the time recognize them as tests, certainly not from God. But our response to them proves our faithfulness or unfaithfulness. How we react to financial difficulty, school problems, health trouble, or business setbacks will always test our faith, our reliance on our heavenly Father. If we do not turn to Him, however, the same circumstances can make us bitter, resentful, and angry. Rather than thanking God for the test, as James advises, we may even accuse Him. An opportunity to cheat on our income tax or take unfair advantage in a business deal will either prove our righteousness or prove our weakness. The circumstance or the opportunity is only a test, neither good nor evil in itself. Whether it results in good or evil, spiritual growth or spiritual decline, depends entirely on our response.

In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus says that we should ask God not to “lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). “Evil” is better translated “the evil one,” referring to Satan. In other words we should pray that God will not allow tests to become temptations, in the sense of inducement to evil. The idea is, “Lord, stop us before Satan can turn your test into his temptation.”

Common to man is one word (anthrōpinos) in Greek and simply means “that which is human, characteristic of or belonging to mankind.” In other words, Paul says there is no such thing as a superhuman or supernatural temptation. Temptations are human experiences. The term also carries the idea of usual or typical, as indicated by common. Temptations are never unique experiences to us. We can never have a temptation that has not been experienced by millions of other people. Circumstances differ but basic temptations do not. Even the Son of God was “tempted in all things as we are” (Heb. 4:15), and because of that “He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (2:18). And because temptations are common to us all we are able to “confess [our] sins to one another” (James 5:16) and to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). We are all in the same boat.

Not only are temptations common to men but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. No believer can claim that he was overwhelmed by temptation or that “the devil made me do it.” No one, not even Satan, can make us sin. He cannot even make an unbeliever sin. No temptation is inherently stronger than our spiritual resources. People sin because they willingly sin.

The Christian, however, has his heavenly Father’s help in resisting temptation. God is faithful. He remains true to His own. “From six troubles He will deliver you, even in seven evil will not touch you” (Job 5:19). When our faithfulness is tested we have God’s own faithfulness as our resource. We can be absolutely certain that He will not allow [us] to be tempted beyond what [we] are able. That is God’s response when we pray, “do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). He will not let us experience any test we are not able to meet.

When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked them twice whom they had come for, who was designated on their arrest order. After they answered for the second time, “Jesus the Nazarene,” He said, “If therefore you seek Me, let these go their way” (John 18:4–9). John explains that Jesus prevented the disciples from being arrested with Him in order “that the word might be fulfilled which He spoke, ‘Of those whom Thou hast given Me I lost not one’ ” (v. 9). The disciples were not yet ready for such a test. Had they been arrested, they would have been devastated, and Jesus would not permit it. As best we know from church history, most of those eleven disciples died a martyr’s death. The other, John, was exiled for life on the island of Patmos. All of them went through persecution, imprisonment, and countless hardships for the sake of the gospel. But they did not go though those things until they were ready to handle them.

But with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. The phrase the way is formed by the definite article and a singular noun. In other words, there is only one way. The way of escape from every temptation, no matter what it is, is the same: it is through. Whether we have a test by God to prove our righteousness or a test by Satan to induce to sin, there is only one way we can pass the test. We escape temptation not by getting out of it but by passing through it. God does not take us out; He sees us through by making us able to endure it.

God’s own Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. It was the Father’s will that the Son be there, and Jesus did not leave until all three temptations were over. He met the temptations head–on. He “escaped” the temptations by enduring them in His Father’s power.

God provides three ways for us to endure temptation: prayer, trust, and focusing on Jesus Christ.

“Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation,” Jesus told His disciples (Mark 14:38). If we do not pray, we can be sure a test will turn into temptation. Our first defense in a test or a trial is to pray, to turn to our heavenly Father and put the matter in His hands.

Second, we must trust. When we pray we must pray believing that the Lord will answer and help us. We also trust that, whatever the origin of the trial, God has allowed it to come for our good, to prove our faithfulness. God has a purpose for everything that comes to His children, and when we are tested or tempted we should gladly endure it in His power—for the sake of His glory and of our spiritual growth.

Third, we should focus on our Lord Jesus Christ. “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Heb. 12:3–4). Christ endured more than we could ever be called on to endure. He understands our trials and He is able to take us through them.

In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress Christian and Hopeful fall asleep in a field belonging to giant Despair. The giant finds them and takes them into Doubting Castle, where he puts them in a dark and stinking dungeon, without food or water. On his wife’s advice, the giant first beats them mercilessly and then suggests they commit suicide. After the giant leaves, the two companions discuss what they should do. Finally Christian remembers the key in his pocket. “I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle.” Sure enough, it opened all the doors in the castle and even the gate. “Then they went on, and came to the King’s highway again.”

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

February 19, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

img_0661

February 19

Bearing Fruit

He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit.

John 15:5

 

We had a peach tree in our backyard, and one year it went wild with fruit. We had enough peaches to feed the whole neighborhood! Another year, we could find only one tiny, shriveled peach. Some Christians can be like that, exhibiting little evidence of belonging to God—but God wants us to grow and produce much fruit for His glory.

The fruit you bear is the manifestation of your character, and the only way people will know that you are a child of God. He wants to present Himself to the world through what He produces in you, so His character is at stake in your fruit. He wants you to be fruitful far above what the world or the flesh can produce.[1]


February 19 The Meaning of Grace

“The Lord, the Lord God, [is] compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.”

Exodus 34:6

✧✧✧

God’s grace is His undeserved favor shown to sinners.

God’s grace has always been a focus of praise for believers. Today’s verse is quoted several times in the Psalms and elsewhere in Scripture (for example, Neh. 9:17, 31; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Paul is grateful for God’s abundant grace in 1 Timothy 1:14, and John writes, “For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Today some of our favorite hymns are “Amazing Grace,” “Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord,” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.”

What exactly is grace? It is simply God’s free, undeserved, and unearned favor. It is a gift given by God not because we are worthy of it, but only because God, out of His great love, wants to give it.

Grace is evident to Christians in two main ways. The first is electing, or saving, grace. God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). “By grace [we] have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). This is God’s grace to sinners, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20).

Another grace in our lives is enabling, or sustaining, grace. We didn’t just receive grace to be saved; we now live in grace. It is the grace of God that enables us to live the Christian life. When Paul asked that some debilitating “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) be removed, the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (v. 9). Paul elsewhere says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

Remember, we have earned neither saving nor sustaining grace. Nothing we can do can make us worthy of one more bit of grace. God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious” (Ex. 33:19). This truth should make us all more grateful because He saved us and sustains us despite our sin. It should also make us humble because we have no worthiness to boast about (Eph. 2:9).

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His grace in saving and sustaining you.

For Further Study: Read Genesis 9:8–19. How did God extend grace to Noah and his family? ✧ What was the visible sign or symbol?[2]


FEBRUARY 19

SO RICH A TREASURE

But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

—Philippians 3:13-14

The experiential knowledge of God is eternal life (John 17:3), and increased knowledge results in a correspondingly larger and fuller life. So rich a treasure is this inward knowledge of God that every other treasure is as nothing compared with it. We may count all things of no value and sacrifice them freely if we may thereby gain a more perfect knowledge of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This was Paul’s testimony (Philippians 3:7-14) and it has been the testimony of all great Christian souls who have followed Christ from Paul’s day to ours….

To enjoy this growing knowledge of God will require that we go beyond the goals so casually set by modern evangelicals. We must fix our hearts on God and purposefully aim to rise above the dead level and average of current Christianity.

If we do this Satan will surely tempt us by accusing us of spiritual pride and our friends will warn us to beware of being “holier than thou.” But as the land of promise had to be taken by storm against the determined opposition of the enemy, so we must capture new spiritual heights over the sour and violent protests of the devil. TIC083-085

Lord, I’ll set my sights higher and seek a greater experience of You. I’ll not let the enemy stop me. Amen. [3]


February 19

Hindrances to True Mourning: Love of Sin

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

A general love of sin is the greatest hindrance to true spiritual mourning, because holding on to sins causes our hearts to harden.

One of the less advertised but more common sins is the sin of despair, which is essentially the same as giving up on God and putting ourselves outside His grace—refusing to believe He can save or help us. The prophet Jeremiah wrote this of such people: “But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart’ ” (Jer. 18:12). Despair attempts to hide God’s mercy behind our self-made cloud of doubt.

Another hindrance to mourning is the sin of conceit. It seeks to hide the sin itself and tell us we really have nothing to mourn about. Conceit is analogous to a physician treating cancer as if it were just a common cold. If Christ had to shed His blood on the cross for our sin, then sin must be significant and something over which we must mourn.

To be a true mourner, it’s imperative that you remove all basic, sinful hindrances that keep you from mourning. Otherwise you will grieve the Holy Spirit, question the truth of His Word, and restrict His grace from plowing up your hard heart and leading you to obey Him.

ASK YOURSELF
It’s time to get honest about your sins today, identifying and confessing anything that stands between you and free-flowing fellowship with your Lord and Savior. Is it despair? Conceit? Whatever it is, you probably know it well. Repent of it all. And walk again in the beauty and freedom of holiness.[4]

FEBRUARY 19

GOD’S HIGHEST WILL

Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.

Hebrews 10:9

 

Let us consider three simple things reinforced in the Word of God for those who would discern God’s highest will.

First, be willing to put away known sin!

Second, separate yourself from all of the attractions of the world, the flesh and the devil!

Finally, offer yourself to your God and Savior in believing faith!

God has never yet turned away an honest, sincere person who has come to know the eternal value of the atonement and the peace that is promised through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The only person who will never be cleansed and made whole is the one who insists he or she needs no remedy. The person who comes in faith to God and confesses, “I am unclean; I am sin sick; I am blind,” will find mercy and righteousness and life.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior, the Cleanser. He is the Purifier, the Healer. He is the Sight Giver and the Life Giver. He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life!

 

Dear Lord, truth seems to be in short supply in our postmodern world today. Help me to be bold but loving in my presentation of Your truth.[5]


February 19 Avoiding Indiscriminate Love

“This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9).

✧✧✧

Christian love operates within the parameters of Biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment.

As a Christian, you are a repository of divine love. More than anything else, your love for God and for other believers marks you as a true disciple of Jesus Christ (John 13:35).

In addition to possessing God’s love, you have the privilege and responsibility of expressing it to others on His behalf. That’s a sacred trust. Paul qualifies it in Philippians 1:9, which tells us that love is to operate within the sphere of Biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment. Those are the parameters that govern God’s love.

No matter how loving an act or word might seem, if it violates knowledge and discernment, it is not true Christian love. Second John 5–11 illustrates that principle. Apparently some believers who lacked discernment were hosting false teachers in the name of Christian love and hospitality. John sternly warned them, saying, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring [sound doctrine], do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds” (vv. 10–11). That might sound extreme or unloving, but the purity of God’s people was at stake.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:5–6, after praying for the Thessalonians’ love to increase, Paul commanded them to “keep aloof” from so-called Christians who were disregarding sound teaching. That’s not contradictory, because Christian love guards sound doctrine and holy living.

Unfortunately, today it is common for Christians to compromise doctrinal purity in the name of love and unity, or to brand as unloving some practices Scripture clearly commands. Both are wrong and carry serious consequences.

Be thoughtful in how you express your love. Abundantly supply it in accord with Biblical knowledge and discernment. Excellence and righteousness will result (Phil. 1:10–11).

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the love He’s given you through His Spirit (Rom. 5:5). ✧ Ask for opportunities to show Christ’s love to others. ✧ Pray that your love will be governed by convictions grounded in God’s truth.

For Further Study: What do the following passages teach about love? How can you apply them to your life? Romans 12:9–10; 5:5; 1 John 4:7–10; Galatians 5:22; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8.[6]


FEBRUARY 19

QUESTION: HOW MUCH MORE COULD I HAVE DONE?

For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even her living.

MARK 12:44

Before the judgment seat of Christ my service will be judged not by how much I have done but by how much I could have done!

In God’s sight, my giving is measured not by how much I have given but by how much I had left after I made my gift.

Not by its size is my gift judged, but by how much of me there is in it. No man gives at all until he has given all! No man gives anything acceptable to God until he has first given himself in love and sacrifice.

While Christ was the perfect example of the healthy, normal man, He yet did not live a normal life. He sacrificed many pure enjoyments to give Himself to the holy work of moral rescue. His conduct was determined not by what was legitimate or innocent, but by our human need.

He pleased not Himself but lived for the emergency; and as He was, so are we in this world!

It is in view of this that all our Christian service must be evaluated.

My old friend Tom Haire, the praying plumber, told me one day that he was going back home for a rest.

“I am preached out,” he said, “and I must wait on the Lord. There are some spiritual matters that I want to get straightened out. I want to appear before the judgment seat now while I can do something about it!”[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 62). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

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

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

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 58). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

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

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 62). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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

February 18, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0662

As the great hymn of praise reaches a crescendo, every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them joins in. This all-inclusive statement is reminiscent of Psalm 69:34: “Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them,” and the concluding verse of the Psalms, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (Ps. 150:6). This mighty chorus cries out, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” Endless blessing, endless honor, endless praise,endless glory, and endless worship belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The creation is unable to contain its joy over its imminent redemption (cf. Rom. 8:19–22).

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

February 18, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

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]


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.[2]


FEBRUARY 18

A NAKED INTENT UNTO GOD

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. [3]


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.

ASK YOURSELF
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.[4]

FEBRUARY 18

WE WERE OUTCASTS TOO

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.[5]


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?[6]


FEBRUARY 18

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE CANNOT FEED ON NEGATIVES

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

PHILIPPIANS 3:13

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![7]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 17, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0659

The Reaction

And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God. (24:52–53)

Now that the disciples understood fully the person and work of Christ, there was no other way they could have reacted, other than by worshiping Him. With all their doubts and fears gone, all their questions answered, fully convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, the disciples were ready to preach the gospel—even if it cost them their lives.

After Jesus was gone, they returned to Jerusalem as He had commanded them (v. 49; Acts 1:4) with great joy, which caused them to be continually in the temple praising God. Their training was complete, and they were full of praise, ready to preach, and some of them even prepared to write portions of the New Testament.

The Implications

The amazing implications of the ascension of the Son of God to heaven can be broken down into the following truths.

First, the ascension marked the completion of the work of salvation. After the cross and the resurrection, there was nothing further to be done to provide any aspect of salvation. Jesus’ words from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), signified that He had accomplished the work the Father had given Him to do.

Second, the ascension marked the end of Jesus’ limitations. During His incarnation, He had “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7–8). At the ascension, He returned to the glory He had had with the Father before the world was created (John 17:5). Jesus had left heaven as spirit, but returned as the God-Man, whom He will remain forever.

Third, as noted earlier, the ascension marked Christ’s exaltation and coronation.

Fourth, the ascension signaled the sending of the Holy Spirit, who until then “was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). “It is to your advantage that I go away,” Jesus had told the disciples, “for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).

Fifth, the ascension marked the start of Jesus’ preparing believers’ heavenly home (John 14:1–3).

Sixth, the ascension marked the passing of the work of evangelism to His followers. Christ’s work is both finished and unfinished (Acts 1:1). His work of providing redemption is completed, and nothing can be added to it (John 17:4; 19:30; Heb. 9:12). But His work of proclamation is not finished. The rest of the New Testament describes the continuation of that work by the early church, and it will not be completed until He returns.

Seventh, the ascension signaled the Lord’s sovereign headship over the church (Eph. 1:20–23; Col. 1:18).

Eighth, the ascension marked Christ’s triumph over Satan. As the apostle John wrote, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8; cf. Gen. 3:15; Heb. 2:14).

Ninth, the ascension signaled the Lord’s giving the work of the ministry to gifted men. When He ascended, Jesus sent the Spirit, who not only gave spiritual gifts to individual believers (1 Cor. 12:4–11), but also gifted men to the church (Eph. 4:11–13).

Tenth, the ascension marked the beginning of the merciful and faithful (Heb. 2:17) and sympathetic (Heb. 4:15) high priest’s work of intercession for His people (Heb. 7:25).

Finally, the ascension guarantees and secures Christ’s second coming (Acts 1:11).

All Christians should celebrate all that Jesus accomplished for them, which culminated in the ascension. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” wrote Paul, “that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

February 17, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

February 17

Do You Really Believe God?

[Abraham] did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.

Romans 4:20

 

Professing to believe what God has said is much easier than really trusting Him. For instance, many people who affirm that “God shall supply all your need according to His riches” (Phil. 4:19) become filled with anxiety when financial troubles come their way.

The Bible also says that if we give sacrificially with the proper motives, God will reward us (Matt. 6:3–4). Many say they believe that principle as well, but they find it difficult to put into practice. Many Christians also fear death, even though God has said He will provide us with the grace we need to face it and will take us to heaven afterward.

Believing God means we acknowledge His glory, which is the sum of all His attributes and the fullness of all His majesty. If He is who He says He is, then He is to be believed. You will grow spiritually when you say to God, “If Your Word says it, I will believe it; if Your Word promises it, I will claim it; and if Your Word commands it, I will obey it.”[1]


February 17 God’s Unfailing Love

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

1 John 4:8

✧✧✧

God’s love is unconditional and righteous.

We hear a lot today about love from books, magazines, TV, and movies. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that our society is the most loving on earth. Much of the “love,” though, is nothing more than lust masquerading as love, or selfishness disguised as kindness. But today’s verse tells us that “God is love”; the character of God defines love. To clear up any confusion about love, we need only to look at who God is. And then, of course, we need to seek to love others as God loves us.

First, God’s love is unconditional and unrequited. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God loved us when we were sinners, when we had no righteousness and we didn’t—and couldn’t—love Him back. God doesn’t love us because we deserve it or because we love Him, but because it’s His nature to love.

God’s love doesn’t mean He winks at sin, though. Just as earthly fathers discipline sinning children, “those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). True love doesn’t indulge unrighteousness, it confronts it. This kind of tough love isn’t always fun, but it’s for the best: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v. 11).

We’ll study God’s love more in the next lesson, but now it’s only natural to examine how we ourselves are doing in demonstrating love. Is our love unconditional, or do we withhold love from those who hurt us? Do we love only those who love us back? Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Loving those who love us is easy. Christ loved those at enmity with Him, and He expects us to love our enemies too.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His great love toward us and for its greatest manifestation in the Person of Christ.

For Further Study: First John has much to say about God’s love for us and our love for Him and others. Read the entire book, noting each instance of the word love.[2]


FEBRUARY 17

MORE THAN BY HEARSAY

And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

—Matthew 14:23

There are many in the churches of our day who talk some of the Christian language but who know God only by hearsay. Most of them have read some book about God. They have seen some reflection of the light of God. They may have heard some faint echo of the voice of God, but their own personal knowledge of God is very slight….

When Jesus was here upon the earth, the record shows that He had work to do and He also knew the necessity for activity as He preached and healed, taught and answered questions and blessed the people. He also knew the fellowship of His brethren, those who followed Him and loved Him. But these were the incidental things in Jesus’ life compared to His fellowship with and personal knowledge of the Father. When Jesus went into the mountain to pray and wait on God all night, He was not alone, for He knew the conscious presence of the Father with Him.

In our modern Christian service we are constantly pressed to do this and to do that, and to go here and go there. How often we miss completely the conscious presence of God with the result that we know God only by hearsay! ITB023-024

Lord, draw me away today to spend time alone with You, that I might have a conscious sense of Your presence, knowing you by experience and not by words alone. Amen. [3]


February 17

True Happiness vs. Worldly Happiness

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

The world still operates according to the old popular song lyrics that say, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.” This philosophy basically tells us to hide all our problems and pretend to be happy; and of course people apply this outlook to sin all the time.

Nevertheless Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Godly mourning and confession of sins bring the only kind of happiness worth having—godly happiness that no amount of human effort, optimistic pretense, or positive thinking can produce.

There is a real need in today’s church to cry instead of laugh. The foolishness, frivolity, and embracing of the world’s view of happiness in the name of Christianity should make us mourn, because we know the difference between empty happiness and true happiness. God’s rebuke to the self-satisfied and indulgent happy is strong: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8–10).

True happiness does not ignore sin or make light of it; instead it sorrows over sin, turns from it, and flees to God for genuine forgiveness. And in so doing, it finds lasting joy.

ASK YOURSELF
Does this message sound depressing and cheerless to you? Have you bought the world’s line that happiness can be found only by ignoring sin, not by dealing with it? Aren’t you tired, though, of constantly coming up empty, never quite satisfied? Run weeping into the welcoming arms of God’s forgiveness.[4]

FEBRUARY 17

MAN’S WASTED POTENTIAL

Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

Matthew 25:41

 

God has made it plain that hell is a real place—a final abode for people who do not want to love God and serve Him!

The sadness and the tragedy of this fact are that these are human beings, all dear to God because He created them in His own image. Of nothing else in the Creation is it said that it was created in the likeness of God!

Because fallen and perishing man is still nearer to God’s likeness than any other creature on earth, God offers him conversion, regeneration and forgiveness. It was surely because of this great potential in the human personality that the eternal Word could become flesh and dwell among us.

We are assured in many ways in the Scriptures that God the Creator does not waste human personality, but it is surely one of the stark tragedies of life that human personality can waste itself!

A man by his own sin may waste himself, which is to waste and lose that which on earth is most like God. The man who dies out of Christ is said to be lost, and hardly a word in our language expresses his condition with greater accuracy!

 

Lord, make me sensitive today to opportunities to share Your love with someone who does not have a personal relationship with You.[5]


February 17 How to Lose Your Joy

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11).

✧✧✧

Discontent and ingratitude will steal your joy.

True joy is God’s gift to every believer, and yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? Did God fail them? No. As with peace, assurance, and other benefits of salvation, joy can be forfeited for many reasons. Willful sin, prayerlessness, fear, self-centeredness, focusing on circumstances, and lack of forgiveness are the main culprits.

Two of the most common joy-thieves are dissatisfaction and ingratitude. Both are by-products of the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality of our day. That teaching has produced a generation of Christians who are more dissatisfied than ever because their demands and expectations are higher than ever. They’ve lost their perspective on God’s sovereignty and have therefore lost the ability to give thanks in all things.

In marked contrast, when Jesus taught about contentment and anxiety (Matt. 6:25–34), He spoke of food and clothing—the basic necessities of life. But preferences, not necessities, are the issue with us. We’re into style, personal appearance, job satisfaction, earning power, bigger homes, and newer cars. In the name of greater faith we even demand that God supply more miracles, more wealth, and more power.

Amid all that, Paul’s words sound a refreshing note of assurance and rebuke: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11). He made no demands on God but simply trusted in His gracious provision. Whether he received little or much made no difference to him. In either case he was satisfied and thankful.

Don’t be victimized by the spirit of our age. See God’s blessings for what they are, and continually praise Him for His goodness. In doing so you will guard your heart from dissatisfaction and ingratitude. More important, you will bring joy to the One who is worthy of all praise.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in you a joy and contentment that transcends your circumstances. ✧ Make it a daily practice to thank God for specific blessings and trials, knowing that He uses both to perfect His will in you.

For Further Study: Read 1 Kings 18:1–19:8. ✧ How did Elijah deal with the false prophets of Baal? ✧ How did he deal with Jezebel’s threat? ✧ What caused Elijah’s shift from a spiritual high to a spiritual low?[6]


FEBRUARY 17

LIVE FOR CHRIST? THEN DIE WITH HIM FIRST

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.

ROMANS 6:8

Do you realize that many, many persons now take it for granted that it is possible to live for Christ without first having died with Christ?

This is a serious error and we dare not leave it unchallenged!

The victorious Christian has known two lives. The first was his life in Adam which was motivated by the carnal mind and can never please God in any way. It can never be converted; it can only die (Rom. 8:5–8).

The second life of the Christian is his new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1–14). To live a Christian life with the life of Adam is wholly impossible. Yet multitudes take for granted that it can be done and go on year after year in defeat. Worst of all, they accept this half-dead condition as normal!

Another aspect of this attitude is the effort of many to do spiritual work without spiritual power. David Brainerd once compared a man without the power of the Spirit of God trying to do spiritual work to a workman without fingers attempting to do manual labor. The figure is striking but it does not overstate the facts.

The Holy Spirit is not a luxury meant to make deluxe Christians, as an illuminated frontispiece and a leather binding makes a deluxe book. The Spirit is an imperative necessity. Only the Eternal Spirit can do eternal deeds![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 60). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

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

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

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 56). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

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

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 60). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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

February 16, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0655

The Redeemer

Grace (v. 6a) is the antecedent of which. It is God’s grace (undeserved love and goodness) that He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved, and because we are in Him we have redemption. Jesus Christ is our Redeemer from sin, the Beloved (the word indicates the One who is in the state of being loved by God) who Himself paid the price for our release from sin and death. Because we now belong to Christ, by faith made one with Him and placed in His Body, we are now acceptable to God.

From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry the Father declared Him to be “My beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17). And because we have believed in Him, “He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Because we are now in the Beloved, we, too, are “beloved of God” (Rom. 1:7).

Only Jesus Christ has the inherent right to all the goodness of God. But because we are identified with Him by faith, that goodness is now also our goodness. Because our Savior and Lord is the Beloved of the Father and possesses all the goodness of the Father, we are also the beloved of the Father and possess all His goodness. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father” (John 14:21).

The Father now loves us as He loves Christ and wants us to have everything that Christ has. That is why Paul could say He “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Every Christian is God’s beloved child because the Lord Jesus Christ has become our Redeemer.

The Old Testament concept of a kinsman–redeemer set forth three qualifications: he had to be related to the one needing redemption, able to pay the price, and willing to do so. The Lord Jesus perfectly met these requirements.

A poet has expressed the magnificent reality of redemption in the words,

Near, so very near to God,
Nearer I could not be;
For in the person of His Son,
I’m just as near as He.
Dear, so very dear to God,
Dearer I could not be;
For in the person of His Son,
I’m just as dear as He.

Charitoō (freely bestowed) is from charis (grace, v. 6a), and therefore Paul is saying that God has graced us with His grace. Christians are those who have been graced by God.

The Redeemed

On us, “the saints … who are faithful in Christ Jesus” (v. 1), the Redeemer has freely bestowed His grace. We have the ones who have redemption through His blood

In chapter 2 Paul reminds us of what we were like when God so graciously redeemed us. We “were dead in [our] trespasses and sins”; we “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air”; we “lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath”; and we were without “hope and without God in the world” (vv. 1–3, 12). In chapter 4 he reminds us that we formerly walked in futility of mind, “darkened in [our] understanding, excluded from the life of God,” because of ignorance and hardness of heart (vv. 17–18). Those are the kinds of people (the only kind who exist) that God chose to redeem.

It is of course because men are like that that they need redemption. Good men would not need a Redeemer. That is why Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

Until a person realizes his need for redemption, however, he sees no need for a Redeemer. Until he recognizes that he is hopelessly enslaved to sin, he will not seek release from it. But when he does, he will be freed from the curse of sin, placed in Christ’s Body, and blessed with His every spiritual blessing.

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

February 16, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

February 16

Our Defense Mechanism

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.

Psalm 66:18

 

According to today’s verse, you cannot even commune with God, let alone grow spiritually, if you are harboring sin. That’s why confession is so vital.

You must first be willing to accept God’s chastening for your sin. If you think He is being too rough, you should examine your life to see if you deserve it. For the same reason parents must provide consequences for a child’s misbehavior, God chastens you so that you don’t repeat your mistakes.

God also has placed a system of guilt in you for your own good. Spiritual life without guilt would be like physical life without pain. Guilt is a defense mechanism; it’s like an alarm that goes off to lead you to confession when you sin. That’s when you need to confront your sin and acknowledge to God that it is an affront to Him. That admission must be a part of your life before you can ever grow spiritually, because it eliminates the sin that holds you back.[1]


February 16 The Comfort of God’s Omniscience

“And [Peter] said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ ”

John 21:17

✧✧✧

Since God knows all things, He knows our struggles and will help us through them.

It’s comforting to know that in the vastness of the universe, I’m not lost in insignificance; God knows me personally. Have you ever wondered if He knows you’re there? Some godly people in Malachi’s time wondered that. Malachi spoke words of judgment against the wicked, but the faithful believers feared that God might forget them and that they too would be consumed by God’s wrath. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. ‘And they will be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him’ ” (Mal. 3:16–17). God has a book, and He doesn’t forget who belongs in it. I know that God knows me and that I belong to Him.

David, too, found comfort in God’s omniscience. He said, “Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?” (Ps. 56:8). It was customary for hired mourners at funerals in David’s time to catch their tears in a bottle, perhaps to prove they earned their money. David knew that none of his trials went unnoticed by God. Not only does He know about them, He cares about them too.

You might be frustrated sometimes in your Christian walk as you see sin in your life. But happily for us, God knows that we still love Him in spite of our failings. In John 21, Peter kept trying to convince Christ that he loved Him, although his words and actions didn’t always prove it. Finally Peter said, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You” (v. 17). Peter appealed to the Lord’s omniscience. We can do the same thing when we stumble.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for knowing and caring about your struggles.

For Further Study: Read Job 42:1–6. What did Job acknowledge about God? ✧ What did that lead him to do?[2]


FEBRUARY 16

MORE THAN TO KNOW ABOUT

All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

—Matthew 11:27

The inability of the human mind to know God in a true and final sense is taken for granted throughout the Bible…. God’s nature is of another kind from anything with which the mind is acquainted; hence when the mind attempts to find out God it is confronted by obscurity. It is surrounded with mystery and blinded by the light no man can approach unto….

The Spirit of God is able to make the spirit of man know and experience the awful mystery of God’s essential being. It should be noted that the Spirit reveals God to the spirit of man, not to his intellect merely. The intellect can know God’s attributes because these constitute that body of truth that can be known about God. The knowledge of God is for the spirit alone. Such knowledge comes not by intellection but by intuition.

To know God in the scriptural meaning of the term is to enter into experience of Him. It never means to know about. It is not a knowledge mediated by the intellect, but an unmediated awareness experienced by the soul on a plane too high for the mind to reach. SOS047-048

Thank You, Father, for the ministry of the Spirit in revealing You to Your children. May I no longer simply know about You, but come to know You personally. Amen. [3]


February 16

What Did Jesus Mean by Mourning?

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

If you have spiritual poverty and true humility, they will lead you to godly sorrow. That’s what Jesus meant by “mourn” here in this second beatitude. Paul told the Corinthians about this kind of sorrow: “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you” (2 Cor. 7:10–11).

Of the nine different New Testament words that indicate the commonness of human sorrow, the one Matthew used here is the most severe. Usually it was used only to denote the grieving over the death of a loved one (cf. Mark 16:10; Rev. 18:11, 15). It conveys the notion of deep, inner agony that is not necessarily expressed by outward weeping or wailing.

Yet genuine, biblical mourning produces results that are surprisingly wonderful because God does something tangible in response to it—the forgiveness of your sins—a holy infusion of real happiness that breathes into you a sigh of relief.

Therefore, this is not simply a psychological or an emotional experience that makes you feel better. No, this mourning is met by blessedness. Genuine spiritual mourning invites communion with the true God, to which He responds with an objective reality—the reality of forgiveness that David knew: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (Ps. 32:1–2).

ASK YOURSELF
When was the last time the gravity of your sins fell around you, burying you under its full weight? If it’s been awhile, you’re missing out on the sweet awareness of God’s forgiveness.[4]

FEBRUARY 16

WE SEE GOD’S PURPOSE

That…he might gather together in one all things in Christ…in heaven, and…on earth.

Ephesians 1:10

 

We trust the Word of God—and the inspired revelation makes it plain to the believing Christian that all things in the universe have derived their form from Christ, the eternal Son!

We are assured that even as an architect builder gathers the necessary materials needed to fashion the structure he has designed, so God will ultimately gather all things together under one head, even Christ (see Ephesians 1:9–10).

Everything in the universe has received its meaning by the power of His Word; each has maintained its place and order through Him.

Jesus Christ is God creating!

Jesus Christ is God redeeming!

Jesus Christ is God completing and harmonizing!

Jesus Christ is God bringing together all things after the counsel of His own will!

I can only hope that as we grow and mature and delight in our faith, we are beginning to gain a new appreciation of God’s great eternal purpose!

 

Your master design of the universe is perfect even though mankind has neglected Your creation and Your desire for fellowship. I pray that by Your Spirit our churches will become “like a mighty army” and help lead many people in the world to faith in Christ.[5]


February 16 The Joy of Pleasing God

“The blameless in their walk are [God’s] delight” (Prov. 11:20).

✧✧✧

Your love for God brings Him joy.

Our focus so far this month has been on the joy we experience in knowing and serving Christ. Before we turn our attention to the theme of godliness, I want you to consider two additional aspects of joy: the joy of pleasing God, and how to lose your joy. Pleasing God is our topic for today.

Perhaps you haven’t given much thought to how you can bring joy to God, but Scripture mentions several ways. Luke 15:7, for example, says, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Verse 10 adds, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Repentance brings joy to God.

Faith is another source of joy for God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” That’s the negative side of a positive principle: when you trust God, He is pleased.

In addition to repentance and faith, prayer also brings God joy. Proverbs 15:8 says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.”

Righteous living is another source of joy to God, as David acknowledges in 1 Chronicles 29:17: “I know, O my God, that Thou triest the heart and delightest in uprightness.” Solomon added that those who walk blamelessly are God’s delight (Prov. 11:20).

Repentance, faith, prayer, and righteous living all please God because they are expressions of love. That’s the overarching principle. Whenever you express your love to Him—whether by words of praise or by acts of obedience—you bring Him joy.

Doesn’t it thrill you to know that the God of the universe delights in you? It should! Let that realization motivate you to find as many ways as possible to bring Him joy today.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the privilege of bringing Him joy. ✧ Thank Him for His grace, which enables you to love Him and to express your love in repentance, faith, prayer, and righteous living (cf. 1 John 4:19).

For Further Study: Read 1 Kings 3:3–15. ✧ What did Solomon request of God? ✧ What was God’s response?[6]


FEBRUARY 16

SECULAR MEN CONFUSE TRUTHS WITH “TRUTH”

The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.

PROVERBS 3:19

The celebrated prayer of the great German astronomer, Kepler, has been a benediction to many: “O God, I thank Thee that Thou has permitted me to think Thy thoughts after Thee!”

This prayer is theologically sound because it acknowledges the priority of God in the universe. Whatever new thing anyone discovers is already old, for it is but the present expression of a previous thought of God. The idea of the thing precedes the thing itself; and when things raise thoughts in the thinker’s mind these are the ancient thoughts of God, however imperfectly understood.

Should an atheist, for instance, state that two times two equals four, he would be stating a truth and thinking God’s thoughts after Him, even though he might deny that God exists.

In their search for facts, men have confused truths with truth. The words of Christ, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” have been wrenched from their context and used to stir people to the expectation of being made “free” by knowledge. Certainly this is not what Christ had in mind when He uttered the words.

It is the Son who is the Truth that makes men free. Not facts, not scientific knowledge, but eternal Truth delivers men, and that eternal Truth became flesh to dwell among us![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 59). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

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

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

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 55). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

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

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 59). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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

February 15, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0653

Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (10:22)

Sincere (alēthinos) means genuine, without superficiality, hypocrisy, or ulterior motive. Coming to God with full assurance requires commitment that is genuine.

The nation of Judah, like many individuals, often had come to God with anything but a sincere heart. “ ‘Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 3:10). But a day was to come when His people would change. “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:7).

Simon the magician made a profession of faith in Christ, but his heart became corrupt. He tried to use Christ’s name and power for his own glory and benefit, and was harshly rebuked by Peter. “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:21–22). Paul counseled slaves to be obedient to their masters, “in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ” (Eph. 6:5). From the earliest days of the Old Covenant, God had demanded a sincere heart. “You will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Deut. 4:29). The people who find God are those who seek Him with their whole heart, with total genuineness.

A certain type of faith is built into human nature. Even on the purely human, earthly level, we could not operate without it. We eat food taken from a can or box that we buy in the store, with perfect confidence that it will not harm us. We turn on the faucet, pour a glass of water, and drink it without question. We accept payment in printed paper because we have faith that the government will back its money. Without faith, society could not operate.

But saving faith not only requires faith in a different object, it requires faith from a different source. We can trust in food, water, and money by our own will, our own decision. Faith in Jesus Christ must include our own decision, but it must proceed from God’s decision. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Salvation is a gift of God, and part of that gift is saving faith itself. God plants in the heart the desire and the ability to believe, and the ability to receive the gift of salvation.

When we come to God in faith, our hearts should not only be sincere but also sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. This figure, as we might expect, is taken from the sacrificial ceremonies of the Old Covenant. The priests were continually washing themselves and the sacred vessels in the basins of clear water, and blood was continually being sprinkled as a sign of cleansing. But all the cleansing, whether with water or blood, was external. Only Jesus can cleanse a man’s heart. By His Spirit He cleanses the innermost thoughts and desires.

In Christ our sins are covered in the blood and our lives are transformed. There must be both; together they make up salvation. We might say the first is positional satisfaction and the second is practical sanctification. God is satisfied with the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, and sin is removed and our consciences are free. We are changed on the inside as we are washed by the Word and born again.

Positional Satisfaction

Having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience is a beautiful picture of deliverance, already mentioned in 9:14. Conscience condemns us and reminds us of our guilt; and the guilt cannot be removed until the sin is removed. When Jesus died, His blood removed our sins, and when we embrace Him by faith, our conscience becomes free from guilt—we are cleansed from an evil conscience. We do not condemn ourselves anymore.

Cleansing of our hearts refers to satisfaction of God’s justice, the expiation of our sins, which is required before we can be acceptable to Him.

Practical Sanctification

The other part of the cleansing, having our bodies washed with pure water, does not refer to baptism, but has to do with our living, with how the Holy Spirit changes our lives. It is the same cleansing mentioned by Paul in Titus 3:5 (“the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”) and in Ephesians 5:26 (“the washing of water with the word”).

These two aspects of cleansing are inseparable. When a man comes to Christ, they both take place. Christ’s death pays the penalty of sin for us and God is satisfied; and the cleansing act of the Holy Spirit begins to change us on the inside and He is satisfied. God’s justice and righteousness are both satisfied; and because of this, a believer can come into God’s presence with confidence.

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

February 15, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

February 15

The Necessity of
Repentance

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

 

True confession cannot happen without repentance. Many times we don’t confess our sin because we’re not ready to let go of it. When I was a young Christian, I remember telling the Lord that I was sorry about particular sins I had committed and then thanked Him for already forgiving them. But that was all I did.

I reached a milestone in my spiritual life when I began to say, “Lord, thank You for forgiving those sins. I know they did not please You, and I never want to do them again.” That can be hard to say because sometimes we want to commit certain sins again. But we betray a lack of spiritual maturity when we want to eliminate the penalty of sin but retain the pleasure. For your confession to be genuine, you must turn from your sins.[1]


February 15 God Knows Everything

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.”

Psalm 147:5

✧✧✧

God knows everything, and so He knows our sin.

Our time in history has been called “the Information Age.” Computers work around the clock storing the glut of information from all branches of knowledge. And this flood of data is growing bigger all the time. Without the help of advanced technology, we could process and interpret only a tiny fraction of it.

In contrast, God is omniscient; He knows everything. Our Scripture for today says, “His understanding is infinite.” Isaiah asks, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, and informed Him of the way of understanding?” (40:13–14). The answer to all those questions is, “No one.”

Since His knowledge is infinite, God never learns anything, nor does He forget anything. When you pray, you’re not telling God something He doesn’t know. He merely chooses to work through our prayers.

God knows every detail of our lives. Jesus says, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). God doesn’t have to count them because He intrinsically knows how many there are. He also knows all our thoughts (Isa. 66:18). David says, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all” (Ps. 139:4). In that same psalm, David goes on to say, “Even the darkness is not dark to Thee” (v. 12). You can’t hide anything from the knowledge of God.

God’s omniscience should be a deterrent to our sinning. Think about some of the wrongs you did as a child when your parents weren’t around. You never would have done those things in front of them because you didn’t want to be punished. And you might have gotten away with a few things. But “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Eccles. 12:14). Even though the eternal penalty for sin has been paid by Christ, God still disciplines us when we sin (Heb. 12:5–11). Is there anything in your life you would be ashamed about if God knew? If so, repent, because He does know!

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for His infinite knowledge.

For Further Study: Read David’s praise for God’s omniscience in Psalm 139:1–6. What specific areas of God’s knowledge does he mention?[2]


FEBRUARY 15

BEYOND OUR POWER OF THOUGHT

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

—1 John 4:7

If you are longing after God with the expectation that you are going to be able to think your way through to Him, you are completely mistaken….

The promise is that God will fill the heart, or man’s innermost being. The Word of God makes it very plain that the Church of Jesus Christ will never operate and minister and prosper by the stock of knowledge in the heads of Christian believers but by the warmth and urgency of God’s love and compassion flowing through their beings.

Now, don’t throw your head away—you are going to need it! I am convinced that God has made it plain that man alone, of all the creatures on earth, is created so that he can have fullness of knowledge about the earth and all the wonders and glories that it holds. I believe that through grace man can have a fullness of knowledge even about the works of God—but this certainly does not mean that we find Him and know Him and love Him through thought processes and human wisdom.

It is utterly and completely futile to try to think our way through to knowing God, who is beyond our power of thought or visualization. ITB100-101

Lord, it’s great to know Your works through the intellect, but it is infinitely more wonderful to know Your Person through a relationship with You. Fill my heart today, I pray. Amen. [3]


February 15

Recognizing Our Humility, Part 2

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

Continuing from yesterday, a fourth principle for determining our humility, which Thomas Watson recognizes, is that we will see the strengths and virtues of others as well as our own weaknesses and sins. As the apostle instructs, we will “regard one another as more important than” ourselves (Phil. 2:3) and will “give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10).

Fifth, we will spend a lot of time in prayer. As the physical beggar pleads for earthly sustenance, spiritual beggars ask regularly for spiritual food. Just as when Jacob wrestled with an angel (Gen. 32:24–28), we will not quit until we receive the Lord’s blessing.

Sixth, we will accept Christ on His terms, not ours or any other terms. We will not try to have Him while maintaining our sinful habits. We will not crowd Him aside by our own preferences or traditions, not even by familiar church standards. The Bible alone will be our guide.

And finally, when we have true humility we will praise and thank God for His grace to us. We will gratefully realize that the Father’s grace is “more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:14). We will know above all else that every mercy God showers on us is solely from His love and kindness.

ASK YOURSELF
Remember these seven signposts that point inward to a growing humility. Write them briefly in an appointment calendar or notebook so you can return to them at a later point in time to see how you’re coming along. Humility is worth striving for with that kind of purpose.[4]

FEBRUARY 15

PLAYING AT RELIGION

Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.

1 John 5:4

 

When our faith becomes obedience to our Savior, then it is true faith, indeed! The difficulty we modern Christians face is not misunderstanding the Bible, but persuading our untamed hearts to accept its plain instruction. Our problem is to get the consent of our world-loving minds to make Jesus Lord in fact, as well as in word. For it is one thing to say, “Lord, Lord,” and quite another thing to obey the Lord’s commandments.

We may sing “Crown Him Lord of all,” and rejoice in the tones of the loud organ and the deep melody in harmonious voices, but still we have done nothing until we have left the world and set our faces toward the City of God in hard practical reality.

The world’s spirit is strong, and it can play at religion with every appearance of sincerity. It can have fits of conscience (particularly during Lent)! It will contribute to charitable causes and campaigns on behalf of the poor, but all with its own condition: “Let Christ keep His distance and never assert His lordship.” This it positively will not endure!

 

Dear Lord, I want to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. I don’t want to play “religious games” with my faith.[5]


February 15 The Joy of Affection

“It is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:7–8).

✧✧✧

Often the strongest and deepest relationships are forged in the crucible of Christian ministry.

Undoubtedly there are people who occupy a special place in your heart. Perhaps you seldom see them or talk to them, but they are on your mind and in your prayers often.

That’s how Paul regarded the Philippian believers, and it was right for him to do so because they were such an integral part of his life and ministry. They stood by him in every situation—even during his judicial proceedings and imprisonment in Rome.

The gratitude and joy Paul felt was more than an emotion. It was a moral obligation to praise God for what He had accomplished through them. That’s the meaning of the Greek word translated “right” in verse 7.

“Heart” refers to the center of one’s thoughts and feelings (cf. Prov. 4:23). Paul thought of the Philippians often and eagerly yearned for them with the affection of Christ Himself. In Philippians 4:1 he calls them “my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown.”

The mutual affection between Paul and the Philippians illustrates that often the strongest and deepest relationships are developed within the context of Christian ministry. There’s a special camaraderie among people who work toward life’s most noble goals and see God achieve eternal results through their efforts. Guard those relationships carefully, and cultivate as many as possible.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Make a list of those who share in your ministry. Also list some ways God has worked through you in recent weeks. Spend time thanking Him for both.

For Further Study: Barnabas was a faithful friend and ministry companion to Paul. Read Acts 4:36–37, 9:22–28, 11:19–30, and 13:1–3 and answer these questions: ✧ What does “Barnabas” mean? Did he live up to his name? ✧ How did Barnabas pave the way for Paul’s ministry among the disciples at Jerusalem? ✧ What adventure did Paul and Barnabas share that began at Antioch?[6]


FEBRUARY 15

TRAGEDY: MEN DO NOT KNOW THAT GOD IS HERE

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

GENESIS 28:16

The patriarch Jacob saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.”

Jacob had never been for one small division of a moment outside the circle of that all-pervading Presence. But he knew it not. That was his trouble, and it is ours.

Men do not know that God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew!

The Presence and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son.

If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.

It has been asked, “Why does God manifest His Presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian experience?” We can only reply that the will of God is the same for all—He has no favorites within His household. All he has ever done for any of His children He will do for all of His children. The difference lies not with God but with us![7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 58). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

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

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

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 54). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

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

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 58). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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