Category Archives: John MacArthur

December 31 Desires Balanced by Needs

Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.

Philippians 1:24–25

 

One mark of a spiritual man is that his own desires are balanced by the needs of others. That’s the kind of man who could write, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:3–4, nasb).

The Philippian church needed Paul, as did many other churches. Paul knew they needed him badly enough that their need was likely to determine his future, which he expressed in today’s verse.

Although Paul desired to be with Christ in heaven, he also wanted to remain on earth to help strengthen the church. He knew that if he stayed the church would better glorify Christ, and glorifying Christ was all he desired.

As you contemplate a new year, what is Christ asking you to commit your life to? I hope it’s a desire to meet the needs of others with a humble heart.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 392). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

December 31 The Preeminence of Christ

“[Christ] is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first–born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him.”

Colossians 1:18–19

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Christ has preeminence in everything.

The apostle Paul presents four great truths in Colossians 1:18 about Christ’s relation to the church. The first is that Christ is the head of the church. This concept looks at the church as a living organism, inseparably tied together by the living Christ. He controls every part of it and gives it life and direction (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12–20).

Christ is also the source of the church. The Greek word translated “beginning” (arche) is used here in the twofold sense of source and primacy. The church has its origins in Jesus. God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). As head of the Body, Jesus holds the chief position or highest rank in the church. As the beginning, He is its originator.

Another truth is that Christ is the first–born from the dead. Of all those who have been raised from the dead or ever will be, Christ is the highest in rank. Furthermore, it is Christ who will cause the resurrection of others (John 5:28–29; 6:40).

Finally, Christ is the preeminent One. As a result of His death and resurrection, Jesus has come to have first place in everything. Paul states that truth to drive home as forcefully as he can that Jesus is not merely another emanation from God.

Paul then summarizes his argument by saying that all the fullness of deity dwells in Christ alone (Col. 1:19). It is not spread out in small doses to a group of spirits, as the false teachers were saying. Rather, in Christ, and Him alone, believers are “complete” (2:10).

What should be your response to the glorious truths about Christ in Colossians 1:15–19? Be encouraged to meditate on the glory of Christ as revealed in this passage. Doing so will help you be transformed into Christ’s image and will prepare you to behold His glory in Heaven.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for each of the four truths discussed above.

For Further Study: According to John 1:16, what have you received?[1]


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

December 31 Our Sympathetic High Priest

“Assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:16–18).

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Jesus came to sympathize with us, so He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest.

In his letters to Timothy, Paul counseled and encouraged his young associate about many things—his health, his critics, his moral and spiritual warfare, and so on. His counsel is well summed up in these words: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David” (2 Tim. 2:8).

Like Timothy, we need to be reminded of Christ’s humanity, especially when life becomes particularly tough. Then we can pray, “Lord, You know what You endured while You were here. I’m going through it now.” We can be sure that He knows and will encourage us.

Jesus came not only to save us but also to sympathize with us. He experienced what we experience, so He could be a “merciful and faithful high priest.” After all, “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Jesus felt everything we will ever feel—and more. Most of us will never know the full degree of any given temptation because we usually succumb long before we reach it. But since Jesus never sinned, He took the full measure of every temptation.

Ours is not a cosmic God who is powerful and holy but indifferent. He knows when we hurt, where we are weak, and how we are tempted. Jesus is not only our Savior, but our loving Lord who sympathizes with us. Rejoice in the greatness of His love for us.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to remind you of your need of Him at all times, not just when times are tough.

For Future Study: Memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13 for quick recall whenever you are faced with any trial.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 378). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

December 31 The Parable of the Householder

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”—Matt. 13:51–52

Jesus’ twelve disciples would eventually become His twelve apostles (Matthias replacing Judas, Acts 1:23). Through these men, and later Paul, our Lord entrusted the continued revelation of His Word and the extension of His church. Like “head[s] of a household,” which was analogous to being disciples in Christ’s kingdom, they drew from the old treasures of previous revelation and received additional, new truths. And these faithful men would proclaim both.

“Brings out” conveys the concept of scattering or distributing widely. Here it also connotes generosity—giving out God’s truth of the gospel wisely and liberally. Second only to their Lord, the apostles would be supreme scholars of Scripture, preachers, and teachers—scribes and disciples without equal (cf. Matt. 11:11) and superb evangelists.

With a slightly lesser degree of authority, the Lord’s charge to His apostles applies to every Christian (Matt. 28:16–20), and especially to those pastors, teachers, and missionaries He has called to spread His Word. It is a tremendous responsibility to warn the lost about hell and to offer them salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul stated it this way, “Knowing the fear [terror] of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). The believer’s heart is cold indeed that is not profoundly concerned about those all around who are without Christ and headed for hell. Pray that you would genuinely warm to the task of reaching the lost in your community and beyond with saving gospel treasure.

ASK YOURSELF

 

The end of a year and the dawn of a new is always a time of reflection and renewed hope. What have you gleaned from walking with Jesus through these past months and seasons? What are your priorities for the coming year? May the Lord bless you as you follow Him there.[1]

 


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 374). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

December 30 Absent from the Body, Present with the Lord

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:8

 

When a believer leaves this world, he goes immediately to be in the presence of Christ. There is no “soul sleep” or intermediate waiting place, nor does the Bible teach that there is any place called purgatory. Notice the apostle Paul’s desire was “to depart and be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23, emphasis added).

Today’s verse indicates that when we are absent from the body, which sleeps until the resurrection, our spirits are present with the Lord. Paul also told the Thessalonians that Christ “died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1 Thess. 5:10). Paul’s point is that whether we are physically awake (alive) or physically asleep (dead), as believers we are with Christ. We are in His presence in a spiritual sense now and in a literal sense when our bodies are dead.

You can rejoice in the fact that there is no time in your life as a believer when you will ever be out of the conscious presence of Jesus Christ.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 391). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

December 30 Sustaining the Universe

“[Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

Colossians 1:17

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The eternal Christ sustains His creation.

When the universe began, Christ already existed. The apostle John spoke of Christ’s eternal existence this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1–3). Christ Himself testified of the same truth when He told the Jews, “Before Abraham was born, I AM” (John 8:58). He was saying that He is Yahweh, the eternally existing God. The prophet Micah said of Him, “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic. 5:2). Revelation 22:13 describes Him as “the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Christ has preeminence over all creation because He “is before all things” (Col. 1:17). He already existed when the universe began because He is the eternal God.

Having created the universe, Christ sustains all He has created (v. 17). He maintains the delicate balance necessary to life’s existence. He is the power behind every consistency in the universe and the One who keeps all the entities in space in their motion. He is the energy behind the universe.

Christ, however, will not always sustain our present universe. One day in the future He will dissolve the heavens and earth. The apostle Peter describes that day, when “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Until that time, we can be thankful that Christ continues to sustain it.

How encouraging to know that the eternal God who sustains the entire universe is also watching over you. No detail of your life is too small for His concern; no circumstance is too big for His sovereign control.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for caring for the details of your life while He controls the universe.

For Further Study: According to Hebrews 1:3, what does God uphold? How?[1]


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

December 30 Satan’s Conqueror

“Since … the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:14–15).

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Christ came to break the power of Satan which He did by conquering death.

To be free to live with God and share in all His blessings, someone had to shatter Satan’s death grip on us. Sin is what gives Satan his powerful hold on us, but the power itself is death.

Satan knew that God required death for us because of sin. He knew that all died in Adam—that death became a certain fact of life. And he knew that men, if they remained as they were, would die and go out of God’s presence into Hell forever. So the Devil wants to hang on to men until they die because once they are dead, the opportunity for salvation is gone forever.

To wrest the power of death from Satan’s hand, God sent Christ into the world. If you have a greater weapon than your enemy, his weapon is useless. You can’t fight a machine gun with a bow and arrow. Satan’s weapon is death, but eternal life is God’s weapon, and with it Jesus destroyed death.

How was He able to do it? He rose again, proving He had conquered death. That’s why He said, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). His resurrection provides the believer with eternal life.

Nothing terrifies people more than the fear of death. But when we receive Christ, death in reality holds no more fear for us since it simply releases us into the presence of our Lord. We can say with Paul, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Rejoice that you have placed your hand in the hand of the conqueror of death, who will lead you through death and out the other side.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to give you a greater realization that He has conquered death and is thus able to help you live life more fully to His glory.

For Further Study: Read 1 Corinthians 15:50–58. How are we to live our lives, based on what we know about death?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 377). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

December 30 Perils of the Dragnet, Part 2

… and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.—Matt. 13:50

Continuing from yesterday, we can learn several more biblical truths about hell, the dragnet’s ultimate peril. For example, the lost will suffer hell’s torments in varying degrees. Those who willfully reject Jesus Christ and blatantly scorn His sacrifice will receive far greater punishment than people who had only the light of the Old Testament. The author of Hebrews writes, “Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:28–29; cf. Matt. 11:22–23).

Concerning the slaves who waited for their master’s return, Christ’s parable states that “that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few” (Luke 12:47–48).

Finally, nothing will be as horrible about hell’s torment as its endlessness. The Lord uses “eternal” to describe both heaven’s and hell’s duration: “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). Sadly, people who experience hell will realize a complete absence of hope for all eternity. But rejoice if you are a believer—you have a hope of heaven that will be validated for all eternity.

ASK YOURSELF

 

The sensitive person asks, “How can a loving God doom a person to hell? ” What is your answer to this common question and complaint? How is justice involved? Why would some be spared? Know how to respond to this type of opinion ahead of time.[1]

 


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 373). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

December 29 Choosing Between Heaven and Earth

What I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard–pressed between the two.

Philippians 1:23

 

Every Christian ought to feel the strain of desiring to be with Christ, yet also longing to build His church. If the Lord said to me, “You have five minutes to choose between being in heaven or on earth,” I would have a difficult time making that decision. And I would want to be sure I was choosing for the right reasons. I’d have to ask myself, can I glorify Christ more in heaven or on earth?

Paul found it an impossible choice. Nevertheless, most people would choose to stay on earth. When asked why they would, most would give some selfish reason, such as, “We’re getting a new house,” or “I don’t want to leave my kids.” For Paul, nothing really mattered except glorifying Christ. When faced with the most basic of life’s issues—whether it would be better to live or die—his response was, “I would be thrilled to glorify Christ in heaven or on earth. Given the choice, I can’t choose.” Because glorifying Christ was Paul’s motivation, where he glorified Christ was not the issue. That ought to be true for you as well.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 390). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

December 29 Christ Is the Creator

“In [Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.”

Colossians 1:16

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Christ created everyone and everything.

The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, could hold 1.3 million planets the size of Earth inside it. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions, or even billions, of galaxies.

Who created this awesome universe? According to the false teachers at Colosse, it was not Christ. They viewed Him as the first and most important of the emanations from God; they were convinced it had to be a lesser being who eventually created the material universe. Believing matter to be evil, they argued that neither the good God nor a good emanation would have created the universe.

But the apostle Paul rejected that blasphemy, insisting that Christ made all things, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible. When he mentions thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities (v. 16), he is referring to the various ranks of angels. Far from being an angel, as the false teachers taught, Christ created the angels (cf. Eph. 1:21). Jesus’ relation to the unseen world, like His relation to the visible world, proves He is God, the Creator of the universe.

Man is certainly interested in knowing about the universe that Christ created. That is evident, for example, by his exploration of space. Manned space capsules photographing the earth rising over the lunar horizon and satellites beaming pictures to us of planets at the outer edges of our solar system leave us in awe and wonder. Even more amazing is, not that man has gone into space, but that God came to Earth. In Christ, the invisible God who created everything and everyone became visible to man. How sad that while man looks into space, He refuses to look at the One who came to Earth.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Worship Christ for His awesome work of creation.

For Further Study: Read Psalm 19:1–6. What testimony does this passage give of the Creator?[1]


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