Scripture Reading: John 19
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”
There were seven distinct sayings that Jesus uttered on the Cross. I would encourage you to examine each of these carefully and prayerfully. We will not take the time to look at these in our current devotional thought on “Sir, we would see Jesus,” but they are surely worth the time it will take for you to study them. For our study today, let’s take a look the saying of the Lord Jesus from the Cross just before He “gave up the ghost,” bowed His head and died.
“It is finished.” One could look at that saying and determine that the Lord was saying, “The design of crucifixion in executing the condemned is complete. The time of death is at hand.” But, beloved, so much more was being said in that simple statement of fact. At that point in time, an eternity of planning was coming to fruition. Our Lord’s death on Calvary was the eternal plan of the Godhead even before the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Apostle Peter wrote, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you….” (1 Peter 1:18-20) In Revelation 13:8, John spoke of the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Crucifixion was God’s plan before He ever created the world, and when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He was saying that this eternal plan had been accomplished.
When our Lord said, “It is finished,” He was saying that all that was necessary in order to redeem fallen humanity had been accomplished. Everything required in order for the Lord to purchase His Church had been completed. All that was needed in order to procure your eternal redemption was “finished.” Nothing else was needed. Nothing else is needed today. Salvation was and is made possible through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s Cross! Praise God! There is no more price to be paid, no more sacrifice to be offered. “It is finished!” Amen!
Scripture Reading: John 20:1-18
“Jesus saith unto her, Mary.”
The Lord Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection. When she saw Him, she thought Him to be the gardener who cared for the burial garden. Like the other followers of the Lord Jesus, she did not understand or fully grasp the resurrection. In fact, in Verse 9 we read, “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he should rise again from the dead.” They had been told by Him that He would rise from the dead, (See Matthew 17:9; 20:18-19) but that understanding of that truth seems to have been hidden from them. Upon discovering the body of the Lord missing from the sepulchre, Mary assumed that someone had taken His body away. She was heartbroken and confused. By the way, that is always what happens when we fail to remember the blessed truths given us in the Word of God.
When this supposed “gardener” appeared to the grieving Mary He asked, “Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?” Mary’s full intention was finding the dead body of her Lord and returning it to the sepulchre from whence it had been taken. “Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take Him away.” At this point, Jesus spoke the sweetest, most loving thing to His hurting and confused disciple, “Mary.” He called her gently by her name. How many times do you suppose she had heard the Shepherd’s voice speaking her name? Immediately, her tear filled eyes were opened and she recognized her Lord, her risen Lord. Jesus had said earlier, perhaps in her hearing, “…the sheep hear His voice, and He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.” (John 10:3) When Mary heard her Shepherd call her name, she knew it to be the voice of her Lord. Beloved, we often speak of trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. He is our personal Lord and Savior. When you were saved, He spiritually called you be name. He called, and you heard that call in your heart and responded in faith. As one of His Sheep, you heard the Shepherd calling you; calling you to follow Him. Mary recognized that blessed voice calling her name. She turned facing the Lord and said, “Rabboni,” meaning “Master.” Her “Master” had conquered death through glorious resurrection. He was alive! Praise God for His wondrous resurrection, and for revealing that so vividly to us, His followers. Amen!
Scripture Reading: John 20:19-31
It is most obvious that the Lord Jesus had great understanding and compassion for His confused disciples during and after the Crucifixion. They had “scattered” just as He had pointed out the the prophet had predicted. (Matthew 26:31) As a gentle Shepherd, He regathered His sheep, consoled them and reinstated them in the work He had called them to. We see this vividly in His exchange with Thomas.
Thomas had been absent when Jesus had appeared to the others on resurrection evening. When told of the appearance, Thomas replied, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” The next week the doubter had the opportunity to do just that. Jesus pointedly addressed Thomas in that meeting, “Reach thither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” It wasn’t necessary for Thomas to do those things. Immediately he said, “My Lord and My God.” He knew beyond question Who was standing before him.
Thomas wasn’t the only doubter, just the most persistent one. But, we should be thankful for this. His doubt, and the removal of his doubt, only reaffirms our faith in the Risen Lord. Beloved, none of us have been blessed to physically view the Risen Christ, but we have seen Him through the eyes of our faith. All who have come to Him in faith believing have been blessed with this spiritual sight. Jesus spoke of these when He said, “…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” And, blessed we truly are that have seen the Lord Jesus through faith. We have been blessed with peace in our hearts. Jesus said to His own, “Peace be with you,” and we have truly known that peace. Through the eyes of faith we have been brought to the reality of our glorious position in Christ as His “beloved children.” The Shepherd is a seeker. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He sought out His scattered sheep after the resurrection, and He sought out the doubter to reinstate and renew his faith and commitment to Christ. Precious Shepherd! Precious Savior! Amen!
Scripture Reading: John 21
Have you ever felt like giving up, like simply quitting? Peter did. And so did six others of the disciples. Peter said, “I go a fishing,” and six others decided to go with him. This really represented returning to a former life, a former way of doing things. Jesus had called Peter from his fishing career to make him a “fisher of men.” He, along with Andrew, James and John, had given up the fishing nets to follow Jesus. His “I go a fishing” was an effort to return to an old way of life, not a sinful way, but an old way just the same. These men weren’t successful in their effort. They toiled all night without catching any fish.
The seeking Shepherd was still seeking when He ended up on the shore preparing the weary fishermen their breakfast. “Children have ye any meat?” His inquiry wasn’t necessary for Himself, for He knew of their empty nets. It was really for their benefit. “No!” Just a one-word simple reply. “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.” This they did, resulting in a multitude of fishes. The lessons in that full net were many. Jesus was teaching His own that the only path to happiness and success was complete trust in Him and obedience to His commands. They were learning that without Him they could do nothing. (John 15:5) They were also learning that once one has committed His way to Christ there is no turning back.
Once on shore with their Lord, they enjoyed the meal He had prepared them and then more lessons needed to be learned for Peter and the others. Look carefully at the exchange found in Verses 15 through 19. Peter had denied the Lord Jesus three times on the evening of His arrest. Here a wounded follower needed greatly to be refocused on His commitment and reinstated in the work Jesus had called him to. Three times Peter denied, and three times the Lord inquired, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” Three times the affirmative answer was followed by, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” And it was also followed by, “follow me.” Much was implied in that “follow me.” “Follow me” in days of darkness, dread and fear. “Follow me” when it seems nothing is working. “Follow me” when you don’t understand. “Follow me” whatever comes your way, for the only way you can succeed is to continue to follow. Lord Jesus, help us to ever be found following You. Amen!
Scripture Reading: John 21:25
We have been briefly examining the teachings of the Lord Jesus in order that we might more clearly “see Him.” (John 12:21) I use the word “briefly” for lifetimes have been spent endeavoring to “see Him,” and there is still so much we do not fully understand. John ends his Gospel in an amazing statement concerning the things which Jesus said and did, “…I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” This would include things that His disciples observed that the Holy Spirit did not inspire them to include in their writings. It included things that they did not observe, things that He did prior to their being called to follow Him. It would include things that the Lord Jesus did prior to His incarnation, dating back into eternity past. He spoke of His relationship with the Father dating back in the timeless past, “ (John 17:5,24)
What has our Lord done in your life? What lessons has He taught you? What gentle proddings have you experienced by the Great Shepherd? Just as He dealt personally with His own, as we have clearly seen in this final chapter of John’s Gospel, He has dealt personally with you; comforting you, encouraging and correcting you. For the past two thousand years He has been working in and through His Church, accomplishing His great plan in the world.
Will we ever be able to reach that place where we have fully “seen” the Lord, where we have fully understood Him? Perhaps in that eternal day, but not really before then. The Greeks wanted to “see Jesus,” and we should ever have that desire. We should ever long to know more about the One that gave all that we might be saved. But, admittedly, He is so far beyond our understanding, so gracious, so mighty , so holy that our finite minds will never be able to fully “see Him.” John did give us this hope; “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) Until then, we will continue studying, praying and endeavoring to know more about our Lord. We will continue examining His gracious words, for “never man spake like this man.” (John 7:46) “Sir, we would see Jesus.”
Scripture Reading: Romans 6:14-15
What is the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?” (Romans 6:20,24; 1 Corinthians 16:23; 2 Corinthians 8:9) The famous song says, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Grace has been defined as the unmerited favor of God, and also as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace was, and is, Christ doing for us what we definitely could not do for ourselves. A great Biblical definition is given in 2 Corinthians 8:9; “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” And, He did all this apart from any merit on our parts. Blessed Savior! Amazing grace!
Paul asked a question in Romans 6:15; “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” This question arises naturally, for if we are saved by grace, God’s unmerited favor toward us through Christ, is it alright for us to continue in a life of sin? Interestingly enough, some advocate for that very thing today. Paul’s answer was a resounding, “God forbid.” In the prayer that He taught His disciples as a model, Jesus said, “…but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:13) In Galatians 1:4 we read, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” And, in 2 Timothy 4:18 we read, “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
For the answer to this question, read Verses 15-23. The simple answer is “No, we cannot and must not continue in sin.” “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” When the Lord saved us, He freed us from the power, or dominion, and the penalty of sin. Because of this, sin lost its power over us. Now, it is the will of our Lord that we cease from a life of sin, and pursue relentlessly a life of obedience and righteousness. Are we still sinners? Yes! Are we still tempted to sin? Yes! Do we make mistakes and sin? Yes. John said if we deny that we are deceiving our selves. (See 1 John 1:8-9) But, beloved, sin has no more dominion over us, we do not have to sin, and a life of righteousness is within our grasp through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
Scripture Reading: 1 John 1:1-4
“…that your joy may be full.”
Those six words form the very purpose of the small book of 1 John. Because of this, I encourage you to give special attention to it. Read it. Consider its wisdom, for its design is your full joy. Joy speaks of gladness, calmness and cheerfulness. Joy was bequeathed us by our Lord, given freely and obviously His will for His own. See John 15:11 and 16:24. His will is that His joy be our own, and that our joy from Him be full.
Unfortunately, there are many joy robbers around us laboring tirelessly to keep us from experiencing what our Lord wants for us. Worry is a joy robber, and there are many things we are faced with daily that could raise worry in our hearts. The economy, the turmoil going on in our country, COVID 19 and a host of other things can creep into our minds as thieves of the night to steal our joy. These are admittedly concerns. How can we overcome them? We can overcome them through faith. Our Lord is still in control. None of the things mentioned above are news to Him. He has not lost sleep worrying about what the outcome of all this could be. He already knows, and honestly it is part of His overall plan. We don’t fully know or understand His plan, but He does. Faith simply trusts Him to know what is best.
Sin and temptation can be joy robbers. That’s why it is so important for us to stay just as close to our Lord as possible. “Deliver us from evil” should be part of our daily prayer. “Lord, keep me in the center of Your will. Help me to keep my eyes upon You and Your Word.” Walk with Him daily, and He will lead you in a right path. Beloved, the closer we stay to Him and His will for our lives, the more we can enjoy that joy that He wants to to experience. God’s people ought to be the most excited, cheerful and calm people in all the world. Our Lord isn’t pacing the corridors of heaven in worry and fear, and neither should we be here. He meant for your salvation to be enjoyed, not endured. Seek the full joy He intends for you. Amen!
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21
Paul must have spent a great deal of time praying for the churches that were established through his ministry. He once spoke of the “care of all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:28) Most certainly much of that “care” was spent in time before the throne of grace. (Hebrews 4:16) In our passage today, Paul broke forth in a prayer for the Ephesians in the Church at Ephesus. However, this was the prayer of the Holy Spirit for all of the Church of the Lord Jesus, and therefore is His prayer for each of us.
“…That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” In another place, the Scriptures declare, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10) This is the Lord’s will for our lives. We definitely need that inner strength that comes from Him. There are many things we face daily that could cause us fear, dread and worry, and drain us of our spiritual vitality and victory. We face a powerful enemy who is “seeking whom he may devour,” and we are all in his sights. (1 Peter 5:8) We do not have the strength in ourselves to battle this powerful foe, but the Lord does. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) This One that is greater has the power required to defeat our foe and to grant us victory. For that reason, Paul prayed for the Ephesians to be “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.”
Inner strength, therefore, is an important need in our lives if we are to be victors. We are in a conflict as soldiers of the Cross. We are in a contest. Paul used that analogy in His writings. (See 1 Corinthians 9:24) Athletes train and work diligently in order to be in shape and prepared for competition. So must we. We must exercise regularly through the study of our Bibles and prayer. Regularly attending the House of God builds our spiritual stamina, giving us strength for our battles. If we are spiritually out of shape, we will find ourselves easy prey for our adversary. And, beloved, who wants to be defeated? Who wants to become a POW in this spiritual conflict we are in? If this indeed was the prayer of the Holy Spirit for all of the the Lord’s Church, then it is His prayer for you. It is His will that you be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. It is His will that you be a conqueror, not one who is conquered. (Romans 8:27) Let’s seek that inner strength, and walk in victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
Scripture Reading: Romans 8:31
Paul’s statement in this verse is not saying that there will never be anyone against God’s people. Unfortunately there are many that are ever opposing God’s people and His work in the world. That has been the history of the Church. It has been a persecuted and suffering body. What he is saying is that none will ever succeed in overthrowing or destroying the Lord’s work on earth.
“If God be for us….” Understand that the “If” is not a supposition that the Lord may or may not be “for us.” No, it is a statement of fact that is strengthened in this question, “If God be for us, who can be against us.” In other words, because the Lord is “for us,” none will ever be able to successfully stand against us. Have churches failed? Yes! Have ministries gone “the way of all the earth?” Yes, they have. But the promise made is that the “gates of hell shall never prevail” against the Lord’s work. As long as you, child of God, are sincerely seeking God’s will for your life, and are seeking through His strength to do His bidding, then the affirmation can be applied to you personally; “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
I’m sure you know this, but we must remind ourselves that we are in a spiritual conflict. We are soldiers of the Cross, and we find ourselves in battle against a powerful foe. He is relentless in His attacks. He knows our weaknesses, our times of stress or sickness, and he will capitalize on every opportunity to defeat us. But, notice what Paul said in this same chapter in the Book of Romans, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” I know that you are like me, and would prefer to have no conflicts, attacks or difficulties through our adversary, but that is just not the way this thing works. Brother Ron Naugle, one of our missionaries, served two terms in Vietnam as a Marine. He told me that for the whole time he was in the Vietnam jungles fighting that he never took his helmet off his head, and that he seldom laid down his weapon for anything. He knew the danger he was in and tried to stay prepared for it. So must we, but we do have the assurance that, “If God be for us, who can be against us.” Our adversary will ever try, but he cannot defeat us as long as we walk with the Lord. The challenge to us then is to keep our eyes upon our Savior, walk with Him and trust the victory that He has assured us is ours through His strength.
Scripture Reading: Psalms 23:1
In some ways, he’s the most aggravating of all the animals I have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard him crying out. If the screen door on the basement shuts, he cries. If I walk out the drive toward the barn he cries. When I clear my throat he cries. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard him crying out, and looked to see him with his head stuck through the gate looking in my direction. And when he does yell out, he makes the funniest appearance. His name is Otis. He’s about three years old; a Nubian weathered goat. And, he just might be the favorite.
When Otis bellows out in my direction he’s trying to get my attention. Now, admittedly, he wants me to bring him some feed, but I’ve found that if I’ll just go to him and show him a little attention he’ll be fine. He just wants some petting. So I’ll go to him, love on him a little, rub his head and pat his sides, and he usually will just go on and eat like everything is just fine. Just needing a little loving from the shepherd.
Don’t you ever feel like you need a little loving from the “Shepherd?” Sure you do. There are times you feel like if he would just reach through the gate and rub you on the head everything would be just fine. And, it would be. I stepped into the pasture yesterday and our six Barbados Black Belly Sheep flocked to me, surrounded me and I could hardly walk. They of course were looking to be fed, but they also like the attention from the shepherd. Sometimes I carry some cheap Dollar General crackers in my pocket, and they especially like those; those little “handfuls of purpose.” (Ruth 2:16) I have to be careful though because they have sharp teeth, and in their excitement to get a cracker they sometimes get a finger. They just like coming to the shepherd for goodies.
Our Shepherd is a so much better than I am. He always knows just exactly what we need, and is ever ready to provide that for us. He loves us with an everlasting love. Cares for us intensely. Watches over us daily, and always has our best interest at heart. What we need to do is be like Otis. We need to always be crying out to Him. We need to ever be calling out His name, seeking His strength and just the comfort of His loving hand. And know this child of God, He will never be aggravated when you cry out to Him. He just loves the sound of the voices of His sheep! Amen!
Scripture Reading: Romans 13:11-14
“…knowing the time….” This has been the great mystery through the ages. When speaking of the Second Coming, the Lord Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man….” (Matthew 24:36) Some have professed to know, and they have been proven to be wrong. If you hear that someone knows, just know that they do not. They are probably just trying to sell a book or gather a following.
No, none know that “day and hour,” but we can be aware of “signs” that the day is nearing. So clear are those “signs,” those time indicators, that the Apostle Paul wrote, “But ye, brethren, are not in the darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4) Beloved, there are so many things about us in our world that are screaming that the coming of the Lord is drawing nigh. He may not come in our lifetimes, but there has never been a time when the stage has seemed to be more set for the coming of the Lord than now.
Because of this, we should live our lives as though our Lord may come today. By this I mean that we should be living holy lives, lives that reflect the glory of our Lord and His work in our lives. We should be seeking Him for wisdom in these troublesome days, seeking Him for guidance and courage. Our hearts should be burdened for those about us that are unprepared for His coming. We should ever be earnestly praying that we will not slumber in these most important times, and that our church might continue in a Philadelphian spirit, (See Revelation 3:7-13) and not be caught up in the lukewarmness of this Laodicean age. (See Revelation 13:14-22) On the other hand, we should also be living our lives as though He will not come during our days. This means that we should plan for the future, working as though our path to the presence of our Lord will be through the grave.
The fact is that we do “know the time.” As Paul wrote, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” You are the closest to heaven now, child of God, than you have ever been. We know that it is “time” to live for Christ. As the poem written by C.T. Studd says, “Only one life, t’will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Scripture Reading: Romans 14:1-8
“…whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”
As far back as I can remember, there has been death. One of my earliest memories is going to a funeral service with my mom. We all have lived with death all of our lives, but it seems that recently there has been so much dying. It seems that every day we learn of another life lost to the terrible pandemic that grips our world. And, godly Christians are not exempt. So many good Christians have been claimed by this virus. But we must remind ourselves that our God is still in charge and that “whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”
Paul wrote something that we would do well to consider. “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” (Philippians 1:20) Paul’s desire that Christ be magnified superseded his desire for life. For him, Christ being magnified was more important than him living. I honestly don’t know that I am there, but that certainly should be my goal. If this were truly our philosophy of life, our lives would be so much more meaningful and less stressful. We would be assured that the Lord Jesus was so guiding our lives for His glory, that worry about our lives would be non existent. Whatever came our way, we could just say, “So long as Christ is in control and is magnified.”
The fact is, beloved, we are the Lord’s. He purchased us with His blood and we belong to Him. Paul wrote, “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” (1 Corinthians 7:23) We are the Lord’s, and if we will just realize that, then we can say with the Apostle, “whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” By the way, if we are the Lord’s, and death comes, then we will immediately be with the One that loves us, and that brought us to Himself with His own sacrifice. “O, death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen!
Scripture Reading: Zechariah 13:1
There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s vein,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood.
Lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains.
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood…” (Revelation 1:4-5
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:13
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:13-14
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Romans 5:9
“…And, having made peace through the blood of his cross….” Colossians 1:20
Praise His Name for His cleansing blood! Amen!
Scripture Reading: Malachi 3
“Ye have said, it is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?”
“What do I get out of it?” Some of the people of Malachi’s day were asking that very question about faithfully obeying and serving God. His Word seemed restricting, out of date, written for a former day and an antiquated era. To them, it was just more exciting to follow the more modern thought and lifestyle. The more liberated philosophy of the religious beliefs that were circulating were more gratifying and not nearly as boring as that of their grandparents. “Why should I return to the religious beliefs and practices of the older generations? What do I get out of it?”
Does that sound familiar? Actually it does. Some are asking that same question today. To these, contemporary “Christianity” is so much more exciting than that of past generations. It is less demanding and much more tolerant. There are fewer restrictions and some of the antiquated passages of Scripture that were clearly intended for a former time are simply forgotten. It is a “having your cake and eating too” mentality.
Is it vain to serve God? What profit is there in knowing, loving and serving God, and in faithfully keeping His ordinance? Honestly, there is not enough room in this brief devotion to enumerate all of the benefits of a life lived faithfully for God according to His Blessed Word. There is an inner peace that the world cannot give, and which it cannot take away. Joy that comes without guilt, a close walk and fellowship with the Lord and the calm assurance of having nothing between yourself and the Savior are just a few of the “profits” of a life that is pleasing to Him.
A familiar song of worship used in many churches says, “When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.” Beloved, there is truly no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey, and the profit of such a life lived is beyond measure. Why would we even consider trading that life for one that is without value or profit in the sight of God?
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
What an humbling thought! “…we are labourers together with God….” Paul saw himself, Apollos and other men of God in that day as “laborers together with God.” And, so is every other child of God! That is indeed humbling, that God would call us into His service and allow us to be fellow laborers with Him. Paul spoke of “other my fellowlabourers” in Philippians 4:3. He referred to Aquila and Priscilla as being his “helpers in Christ Jesus.” The dear lady, Phebe was called a “servant of the church which is a Cenchrea.” These and many others were “laborers together with God.” And, so are we.
When the Lord devised His plans for revealing Himself and His will to humanity, and when He set forth to reach lost humanity with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, He could have chosen different ways to do so. He could have used angels. In Hebrews 1:14, angels are referred to as “ministering spirits.” He could have chosen to use angels to present His will to humanity, including having them present the plan of salvation. He did not do so. Rather, He determined to have sinners reach sinners with the Gospel. He chose to have those who have been brought to the light of Christ to share that light with others who are yet in darkness. He could have used different means to establish His Church in the world, but He entrusted that to humanity. Everything that the Lord has and is doing in the world, He has chosen to use human instruments through which to accomplish His plans. We are “labourers together with God.”
If you have ever worked in a situation where there are multiple workers striving together, you know how difficult it can be when one is not “carrying his or her load.” It makes the work much more difficult on all involved if one or more is not working at one hundred percent. Beloved, God has brought us together to be His co-laborers, and as we work together through His power much can be accomplished. Let’s ever pray that He would empower us, guide us in a plain path and enable us to work together for His cause and for His ultimate glory. What a privilege to be his co-worker! Amen!
Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-10
“I have surely seen the affliction of my people….”
There is a comical scene in 1 Kings 18 when Elijah had his contest with the priests of Baal. A great altar was prepared and he instructed them to pray to their false god that he would send down fire from heaven to devour the bullock that had been prepared for sacrifice. They began their prayer in much earnestness, even to the extent of cutting themselves with knives and lancets. Nothing happened! Elijah stood watching as these false god prophets made such a spectacle, and he did so mocking them. “Cry aloud,” he mocked, “for he is a god; either he is taking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” Of course, there were no answers from this false god. Finally, when they had totally exhausted themselves, Elijah had great trenches dug around the altar, had the sacrifice covered with water, even filling the trenches to the full. He then prayed a simple prayer of sixty one words, and fire came down from heaven communing “the burnt sacrfice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” Baal, which really did not exist, was not watching or hearing the cries of his so-called prophets.
The Lord told Moses, “I have seen…I have heard…my people.” The Lord’s eyes are ever upon His own and His ears are ever open to their cry. The song says, “For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” We can know that, beloved. The past couple of years have been trying, and there seems to be little hope of a cure in sight. However, during that time, He has never taken His eyes off His children, and He has never closed His ears to their cries. We can walk in the assurance that He ever knows our state, and is ever concerned fully for our welfare. We are told that the only things that can save us from this pandemic are cloth masks and unproven vaccines. Would it not be appropriate for the leaders of nations to proclaim a fast, and lead the world in a prayer of repentance and supplications to God? It most likely will never happen. But remember this child of God, He knows what you are going through just now. You need not fear. He is in control of all things, and will surely direct your path if you will just keep your eyes upon Him. Bless His Name, He ever sees and hears the cries of His own. “I have seen,” and He has and will. Amen!
Scripture Reading: Genesis 8:22
I’m writing these words in October. The season is changing. Leaves are falling. Winter is headed our way, but right now the world is ablaze with all of the magnificent fall colors that God has used to beautify His creation. The maples around our house, and the dogwoods also, have been bright red. Looking across the mountains surrounding our home looks like a patch-work quilt with all the different colors. The nights are cool, the mornings brisk and the afternoons are warm. This is truly one of my favorite seasons. The only thing I don’t like about fall is knowing what lies ahead; several months of lifeless cold. But even then, right about time everything looks the worse, He drapes the hills and valleys with a blanket of pure white. You know, our Lord does all things well! (Mark 7:37)
Life is like that. We are blessed when God sends us little babies. They are so innocent, so full of promise and life. They enjoy the springtime of their lives. Everything is new, fresh and exciting. Then life matures with its growth and production. New lives are brought forth and nurtured by those who just a short while ago were being carried in their mother’s arms. Then, just like the trees in late summer, there are signs of wear and weariness. But even these days are blessed. The colors begin their change. Hair that was black as pitch resembles more the salt and pepper color, until that is exchanged for the pure white of winter. Those white caps are signs of an approaching exodus for a better shore, a better day, but aren’t they beautiful in their own way? The song says,
“E'en down to old age all my people shall prove
My sov'reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.”
They are blessed who have lived lives long enough to be adorned with the white of the winter season; truly blessed if they have been allowed to live their lives with and for the Lord Jesus Christ. They are blessed with a hope that there is coming an eternal season of springtime when our Lord makes all things new. I can truly say that the greatest blessing of my life has been to know the One that makes life truly worth the living. Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?
Scripture Reading: Acts 10
The Lord Jesus spoke to the Apostle Peter the following words, “…I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven….” Peter used one of those keys in Acts 2 when he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time on the Day of Pentecost. When that message was completed, three thousand precious souls were saved. These were Jews that had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. They did not know that that trip would change their eternity, but in hearing the Gospel and responding in faith, they received the gift of eternal life. This was the first of the keys that had been presented that would open up the door to the “kingdom of heaven” for sinners.
Acts 10 records the second use of the keys that were presented to Peter and the Apostles of our Lord. Cornelius was a Gentile. While there were always Gentiles that converted to the religion of Judaism, the event recorded in this chapter would be the first time that Gentiles were officially invited to respond to the message of the Gospel. This Roman centurion was already a man of faith. He believed in the God of Israel, and through a “vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day” an angel instructed him to send for the Apostle Peter. It would be this Apostle that would explain to Cornelius what was lacking in his life. Please read carefully all of this blessed event recorded in Acts 10. There are so many valuable lessons that can be gleaned from this chapter, but what I would like for you to consider are the words that Cornelius spoke to Peter as follows: “…we are all present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.”
These were the words of an earnest heart that sought to know and understand God the Creator and Redeemer. When I read these words I think of Isaiah’s statement in Isaiah 1:18; “Come now, and let us reason together, Saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Cornelius, and those that were with him, were not turning a deaf, hardened ear to the man of God. They were willing to patiently listen and measure the words of this Apostle. In so doing, they believed his message and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. O, that more would simply listen to the message of the Gospel. If they did, and did so carefully and prayerfully, like Cornelius, they might come to know the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 44:6-8
In the day these words were written, many in Israel had allowed themselves to be charmed by the false gods of their neighbors. These gods were hand hewn pieces of stone and wood (Habakkuk 2:18-20) that could not hear or speak, and they certainly could never bring any lasting peace of heart. They were the products of men’s hands and minds, not really gods at all, but were the representations of evil spirits that had blinded the hearts of the deceived. There are still false gods in our modern world today, and they are still blinding souls and dooming those blinded souls to an eternity of loss.
The Lord’s decree for Isaiah was, “I am the first and the last; and beside me there is no God.” There are not many gods in reality, only the One True God. The great decree of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 still resonates clearly today, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Wealth is no substitute for God. Possessions are poor gods before which to bow, and whatever consumes the thoughts and passions of souls becomes a god. This is easily as tragic as bowing before a block of wood carved into the image of a false deity, or a slab of stone that has been fashioned by the sculptor’s hammer and chisel.
The decree filled the heavens and the earth, “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” Our Lord Jesus echoed this in Revelation 1:8,11; 21: and 22:13; “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” What a blessing it is to know and to serve the only True God. He alone has brought truth and hope to a sin darkened world through His death, burial and resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
On this very day around our world, weary souls will bow before shrines, statues and images of false gods in an effort to find hope and peace. How tragic, for these efforts will be in vain. The false gods of our day are just as those in Isaiah’s; useless, hopeless and void of any benefit at all for their worshippers. Followers of the Lord Jesus Christ will be able to lay their heads on their pillows tonight in perfect peace. (Isaiah 26:3) Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega?
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:10
“But by the grace of God I am what I am….”
The Apostle Paul was such a great man, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Through his ministry, churches were established throughout many important regions of the Roman Empire. Most all of us Gentiles today who are saved can trace our spiritual ancestry back to the ministry of this man of God. The Lord used him to write fourteen of the books of the New Testament, if you include the Book of Hebrews. He was given the “mystery of the Church,” and he was given wonderful revelations concerning the “catching up” of Christ’s Bride. He could honestly say that he bore in his body the marks of his devotion to the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 6:17) He very easily could have found his story recorded in Hebrews 11, that great chapter of the heroes of the faith of God’s Word.
Having said all this, it must be noted that the words found in Hebrews 15:10 were not words of mock humility. Writing under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16), Paul declared, “By the grace of God I am what I am….” He was an extremely well educated man, and certainly a gifted man in all regards. His dedication to the cause of Christ was without question. The epistles that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write are still acknowledged as being some of the world’s most important literature. But it was only by God’s grace that the Apostle Paul was able to accomplish so much. Like all, this man of God was a sinner; a sinner in dire need of a Savior when the Lord invaded his world on the road to Damascas. It was the Lord Jesus that drew Paul to himself, saved him and made him a part of His glorious church. The Lord Jesus called him into the ministry of Apostleship, and it was the Lord that enabled him to accomplish the things that He had called Paul to do. Paul wrote, “I know that in me (that is in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:18) What was it that brought this man from being a staunch adversary of all pertaining to Christ, to being one who devoted himself selflessly to His cause? It was the grace of God! So it is with all who live for Christ and seek to accomplish His will. Salvation is only by His grace, and service is only granted and successful through that same grace. Like Paul we may all say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
Scripture Reading: 1 John 5:1-5
“Who is he that overcometh the world…?”
This thought of “overcoming the world” may seem strange to some, especially the way the word “overcome” is used today. For instance, today’s sports news had the following headline, “Lakers overcome Morants 40 points.” Another headline read, “Blacksburg high grads overcame obstacles.” A book for teens is entitled, “Beating the Odds: A Teen Guide to 75 Superstars Who Overcame Adversity.” What did John mean when he wrote of “he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God” being able to overcome the world. What about the world needs to be “overcome” by the believer of the Lord Jesus Christ? To grasp the meaning, there must be an understanding first of what the Bible is referring to as the “world.” John wrote, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” (1 John 3:13) Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) Thayer defined the world as, “ the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ.” It is that worldly system that is opposed to God, His Word and His Will. Paul used a similar word in Titus 2:12; “Teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” The word “worldly” in this verse is from the root Greek word, “Kosmos.” The word “world” comes from a different Greek word meaning “age,” or “a period of time of significant character. When the Lord spoke of the “world” hating Him and His followers, He was speaking of the worldly system that is opposed to God and all that pertains to God. That World is forever opposed to God, warring against God and His cause and people in the world. One way this is done is through “worldly lusts,” or lustful temptations that are launched against God’s people relentlessly. It is this of which John was speaking when he wrote, “Who is he that overcometh the world…?”
We find ourselves in an interesting dilemma as followers of Christ. We live in the world, confronted with it everyday of our lives. It constantly opposes, lures, attacks and endeavors to draw us away from our Lord and His will for our lives. However, we are promised the power to “overcome” the world through our faith in Christ. See 1John 2:13,14; 4:4; 5:4,5. Be not overcome, but be an overcomer! Amen.!
Scripture Reading: Galatians 3
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.”
Universalism teaches that ultimately all will be reconciled to God. This belief has been present in the world almost from the beginning of the history of the Christian Church. Universalists reject the teaching of eternal punishment for the unregenerate, insisting that God is far to loving to send souls to an eternal place of torment. There are passages of Scripture that, taken out of their context, could be interpreted as teaching universalist doctrine. However, doctrinal truth must be determined by the overall message of the Word of God, and can only be rightly developed by comparing spiritual things with spiritual and by examining the message of all the Bible. (See 2 Timothy 2:15 and 2 Peter 1:19-21) Sound doctrine is determined by “rightly dividing the word of truth,” a task for which all followers of Jesus Christ are responsible.
Unbelieving humanity has ever rejected the entire message of God’s Word, choosing to only accept those passages and portions of the Bible that will fit into their view of right and wrong, and of their concept of the
Almighty. Like the idolaters of old, these have created a god after their own likeness and only accept those portions of His Word that line up with their concept of His being. This can be done when one’s view of the Scripture is that it is the work of man and not God. By believing this, portions of the Bible that cause discomfort, that are contrary to popular opinion or that are “politically incorrect” can easily be rejected as some individual’s opinion based upon what was currently accepted or rejected in the day in which it was written. Does the Bible teach universalism? No, it definitely does not! All are not children of God, and there is a place of eternal torment designed for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41) to which all whose names are not written in the book of life will be banished eternally. (Revelation 20:11-15) Salvation from sin and eternal loss is only possible through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and only those who possess faith in the Lord Jesus are called “the children of God.” “…all are the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.” Has there ever been a time in your life when you were brought to faith in Christ? See the following passages: John 3:16; Acts 16:30; Romans 10:9-13. Reader, today is the day of salvation, and it is a wonderful day for you to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 6
“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall fine rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”
Many of Jeremiah’s messages were unpleasant. In fact, much of his preaching was that of condemnation and pending judgment that would be meted out against Judah through the invasion of the Babylonians. That is exactly what happened, and that during Jeremiah’s lifetime. In spite of this, scattered throughout the prophesies of Jeremiah, there were messages of hope. Verse 16 is one of those hope filled messages.
Jeremiah called the people to view the various “ways” that they could chose to journey in their lives. They could continue in what was at that time the modern thought of religion and religious practice. Idolatry was the way of the modern man, and the idolatrous practices of Jeremiah’s day were exceedingly wicked and vile. With many of these practices being most gratifying to sinful flesh, idolatry had a strong hold on those who were thus ensnared. He cried out, “…ask for the old paths….” What he was preaching was not a call to return to antiquated fads and fashions, but it was a call to return to Biblical truth. The “old paths” were paths of obedience to God’s Word, to holiness and purity, and to a commitment of devotion to God. It was a call to return to rejection of immorality and idolatry.
Soul rest was missing for the people of Judah. The false gods of the day could never provide that. They could only bring confusion, and rob the descendants of Abraham of their position of uniqueness with the One True and Holy God. Only the path of Biblical obedience, righteousness and devotion to the Almighty could be called “the good way,” and it was only by walking in that “good way” that the people could find that much needed “rest” for their souls. This message of Jeremiah is most applicable to our modern era. Many substitutes are offered to humanity, and these are appealing to the flesh. These can never bring lasting peace to the soul. Only the dear Lord Jesus can do that, and through Him is possible a return to the “old paths, where is the good way.” Walking these “old paths” of obedience alone can bring what the soul desperately needs; “rest."
Scripture Reading: Philemon
“Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints….”
The true Church of the Lord Jesus is really a unique thing, a special “organism” created by our Lord. I call it an “organism” rather than an “organization” for a reason. The Church is alive. It is the “body of Christ,” (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12,27) a “spiritual house” made of “living stones” that are joined together through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:2-10) The Church can be identified through its commitment to Jesus Christ, its message of salvation, and its strict adherence to God’s Holy Word. It can also be identified by love; spiritual and Scriptural love for Christ, His Word and for one another. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)
The church that was meeting in the home of Philemon was without doubt a small congregation. Several years ago, I flew with Missionary Todd Bell to a small church he was helping to establish on an island off the cost of Maine. On the Sunday we were there, there were probably a dozen or so folks that had gathered for worship. They were meeting in the living room of the missionary / pastor’s home, seated close together on chairs that had been set up for the service that day. I remember vividly thinking that day that this scene had been repeated many times over the years since the Lord had established His Church on this earth. Another thing I was aware of that day was the feeling of love and excitement that filled that living room on that Sunday morning.
Churches in Paul’s day were similar in many ways to churches in our day. Some were large congregations, like the ones in Jerusalem and in Antioch. Some churches were sound doctrinally, well grounded in God’s Word. Others were not so, like the churches of Galatia. There were churches, like the one in Corinth, that were plagued with division, and even immorality. All true churches have several things in common. They are all doctrinally sound and are Christ honoring in all that they seek to do. One common thread that joins all true churches is love; a sense of love for Christ, His work and Word, and for one another. May the Lord ever permeate His true churches with His great love. Amen!
Scripture Reading: Revelation 1
“…and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
Matthew 5:15-16 “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
1 Peter 2:9-10 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
Good News Baptist Church sits on a hill; not the highest hill around, but a hill nonetheless. Thanks to a concerned member of our congregation, the church is well lighted. There are not many places around the church that are shrouded with darkness during the night hours. So, literally, the church is “set on an hill” and “it giveth light unto all….” Of course, all reading these words are fully aware that that was not what the Lord was talking about in Matthew 5. The “light” of which He was speaking was not that produced by an electrical current flowing through wires in bulb. No, He was speaking of a different kind of light altogether, a light for which our darkened world is in desperate need.
“Ye are the light of the world.” The Lord Jesus can say that because we have been brought to His glorious light. It illuminated our souls, delivering us from the power of darkness. (Colossians 1:13). Because of this, we are now called “the children of light.” (Luke 16:8; John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5) We must remind ourselves occasionally just exactly what it is that lights are supposed to do. I have flashlights scattered all over my house, and it seems often that just the time I need one, I find its batteries to be dead. Lights, in this case flashlights, are designed to shine, to illuminate the darkness. So are we; individually and collectively as a church. Let’s pray that the Lord will ever fill us with His Spirit, and shine through us as His followers and as His church. Amen!
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 11
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”
The family unit is under vicious attack today. Of course, it always has been, but it seems that in recent years, Satan’s attempts at destroying the family has greatly intensified. That is especially true of the Christian family, for the Christian family was designed by the Lord to be a beacon, a light in an otherwise spiritually dark world. The Lord has ever placed a tremendous emphasis on the family, having established that institution from the very beginning. He created Adam, then created Eve and brought her to her husband, and joined them together in a union that was not to be severed. “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6) All through the Bible, the importance of the family unit is unmistakable. This explains Satan’s distaste for family and his efforts to destroy this institution ordained by God.
The story of the flood is a familiar one. It is not a fable, but a genuine fact of the history of the world. Mankind had grown increasingly more vile and wicked, to the point the the Lord declared, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth….” “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (See Genesis 6:1-6) Hebrews 11:7 explains why all humanity did not perish in the flood, and that reason was “grace.” Because of his faith, Noah was blessed by God. And, because of his faith as a husband and a father, Noah’s family was saved from the judgment that destroyed the world that then was with water. He “built an ark to the saving of his house.” Accounts such as this one in Genesis 6 were recorded for our admonition, for our learning. Noah was an example of a husband and father who was living in an extremely wicked day. Do you suppose there were ever discussions between he and Mrs. Noah about concerns for their three boys who were growing up in such a sinful time? How many prayers were prayed for them? Beloved, it wasn’t just the ark that saved Noah’s family. It was his faith! “By faith Noah…prepared an ark to the saving of his house….” Needed: faithful ark builders!
Scripture Reading: Jonah 1
Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. Yes, he was God’s man, a prophet of the Lord. Yes, he was a man of faith and obedience. But rather than obediently going to Nineveh in response to God’s command, this prophet fled “from the presence of the Lord.” Is that really possible? Of course not! Read Psalms 139:7-12. It wasn’t because Nineveh would not have been an amazing place to visit. It was a large modern city in that day. It wasn’t because they were Gentiles, and he a Jew. Jonah’s decision to go in the opposite direction from Nineveh was because he was convinced that if he did go and preach the message that God wanted him to preach, the people of Nineveh would repent and God would spare them. He did not want them to be spared the judgment of God because, as a prophet, Jonah knew that the Lord would use Nineveh to judge the ten northern tribes of Israel. (See 4:1-2)
Jonah wasn’t thinking that thing through. God didn’t have to use him as a prophet to go to Nineveh. He could have used anyone, any other prophet of the day. God didn’t have to use Nineveh to judge Israel. He could have used any nation, large or small. He could have used any force of nature. Surely there was a time later when Jonah smacked himself on the forehead and said, “What was I thinking?” He wasn’t. That’s just it!
What are we thinking when we convince ourselves that all is well when it really isn’t? When we are not right with God, and we know it, but we try to reason out the situation in such a way as to excuse ourselves before the all-seeing eyes of our Lord? Or, when we want something a lot, although knowing that this really can’t be the will of God for our lives? Like Jonah, whatever the cause for our lack of obedience to the will of God, we get smitten with brain fog. Our thinking gets all mixed up.
There is a lesson in Chapter 1; several in fact. You cannot outthink or outrun God. There are no substitutes for trusting and obeying Him. He does not need us, it is our privilege to serve Him. The Lord knows how to bring us back to Himself, and back to the place of honoring and obeying Him. He “prepares” whatever is needed in our lives to convince us that the path of obedience and surrender is always best. May He ever help us to learn these lessons from His Word rather than from personal experience.
Scripture Reading: Daniel 3
“…Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the fire….”
All of God’s children have to go through the fire at times. Peter tells us that we that are saved are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” and for that we “greatly rejoice.” However, he also tells us that “though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations….” None are exempt from those seasons of “heaviness.” These are designed by our Lord for a purpose. Peter wrote that they were designed as a “trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire.” And, he added that this “trial” was so that our faith “might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ….” (See 1 Peter 1:5-7) “Tried by fire.” That is not always a pleasant or desirable thought, but it is for our benefit. It refines the “gold” of our faith, purifying it as a refiner’s fire purifies gold.
Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah had to go through a purifying fire. When they got through the other side of that fire they were in perfect health, and were really better off after the fire than before. Before the fire, they were bound, perhaps with strong fetters, to hinder their movements. When they came out of the fire, the only thing about them that the fire had destroyed was that which had them bound. Nebuchadnezzar said, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire…?” “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the fourth is like the Son of God.” The fetters that had bound them had burned off. We sometimes allow things to bind us spiritually, but the Lord designs a fire through which we must walk to free us.
There is something in this story we would do well to remember. We will never have to go through a fire alone. The fourth Man in the fire is the One Who will ever be with us in every fiery trial we must endure. Because we can know that, we should never be looking for a detour from the fire, or for an escape out of the fire. Rather, we should ever be looking for the fourth Man in the fire. Once we get our eyes upon Him, we can cease worrying about the fire, and simply allow it to do what He designed it for in the first place. Isn’t it a blessing to know that all of our “fires” are ever in His control? He never leaves us, not even when in the furnace. Amen!
Scripture Reading: Joshua 24
“…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
The Bible is full of “one liners;” simple, one line statements that correct, inspire and challenge us. The statement made by an elderly Joshua is just such a statement. He challenged the people of God with a choice, a conscious decision that they alone could make. He said, “choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites,” and implied in that same choice was, “or the Lord.”
All people of all ages are faced with that same choice. We can decide to follow the gods of gold and silver, the gods of fame and popularity, the gods of convenience and ease, or we can determine to serve the Lord. Joshua’s resolve was simple, but firm. He had evidently looked at all the world had to offer, all that the false gods of the people around them offered, and came to the determination that only the Lord was worth living for and serving. Any young people that are reading these words, you are faced with the very same choices. The only difference is, you are perhaps facing the most pressure you will ever face in your life to make wrong choices and decisions. You may have been blessed to have been raised by parents that long ago made a commitment to serve the Lord, but their decision does not exempt you from having to make your own choice. The sooner you make that decision, the better.
We are faced with these types of choices often. The best thing for us to do is to walk closely with our Lord, making sure that we are guided by the light of His Word, and make our decisions through the leadership of the Holy Spirit. When endeavoring to determine God’s will for decisions that must be made, a good verse to remember is found in the Book of Jude, Verse 24; “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy….” Seek the face of God concerning that decision, make a determination of what you feel in your heart is the Lord’s will, then claim that verse. Our Lord, Who is able to keep you from falling, is also able to keep you from making a wrong choice or decision. Like Joshua, we want to ever be sure that we are serving our Lord. May help us in this goal!
Scripture Reading: Proverbs 15
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
Someone has wronged you. They said something to you that was out of line, demeaning or down right condescending. The natural man flares up. Tensions rise. The human answer to such is a biting, “I am going to get even with you,” hateful remark that cuts to the bone. Some people can do that so easily. They are quick on the draw, deadly with their aim, and when they are through and the smoke settles they walk away with a sense of victory. Well, sometimes that seems to be true. But you are a child of God. You are trying to honor Him in all that you do. You have made that verse your goal, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” So, what are you to do when you have been slighted, verbally abused and there is a natural reaction bubbling up inside you that is about to explode? Especially when that has come from someone close, or even from another professed brother or sister in Christ.
The Book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom. This fifteenth chapter is full of sound Biblical advice we would do well to heed. “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge.” “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” And, by the way, “grievous words” spoken of in Verse 1 can really result in sorrow of heart and a broken spirit. With that said, Proverbs gives the best advice for the serious minded follower of Christ when smitten by the arrows of grievous words; “A soft answer.”
A “soft answer” is one that is thought out before being uttered. It has really been planned for some time before needed. A mind has been made up that when “grievous words” that can “stir up anger” are received, anger is not going to rule the day. Rather, through the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit, a “soft answer,” one that is tender and filled with the wisdom of Scripture, will be the response. These responses need to be planned before needed. Make up your mind now before the heat of the moment makes up your mind for you. Usually when that happens, things are said that cannot be unsaid. A “soft answer” is one that is motivated by and governed by the love of God and the wisdom of His Word. You may not think yourself capable of such, but you can do all things through Christ.