Tuesday, April 30, 2019

COSTLY DISCIPLESHIP

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.’”  (Matthew 28:18-20a)

In high school I was taught that all you have to do to be a Christian is to confess your sin and ask Jesus into your life.  I've discovered since then that it's a lie.

At least it's a lie if we stop there.  Certainly confession and invitation are acts of the will as we enter into new life in Christ.  But we're not born again to live as infants.  A spiritual birth without discipleship is a stillbirth.

The primary Christian activity of many is to come together to talk and sing about Jesus.  But talk is cheap and easy.  Discipleship is costly and difficult.  We must choose:  either we are absolutely and radically submitted to the reign of Jesus in our lives, or we're just consumers shopping the religion market.

-- Chuck Shelton in “Voiceless People: InterVarsity Global Issues Bible Studies” 


#4579

Monday, April 29, 2019

BECAUSE JESUS WAS RAISED

"Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we've been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven -- and the future begins now!" (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG).

Others offer life, but no one offers to do what Jesus does -- to reconnect us to His power. But how can we know? How do we know that Jesus knows what He's talking about? The ultimate answer, according to His flagship followers, is the vacated tomb. Did you note the words you just read? "Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we've been given a brand-new life." In the final sum, it was the disrupted grave that convinced the maiden Christians to cast their lots with Christ. "He was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles. After that, Jesus was seen by more than five hundred of the believers at the same time" (1 Corinthians 15:5-6 NCV).

Can Jesus actually replace death with life? He did a convincing job with His own. We can trust Him because He has been there.

-- Max Lucado in “3:16 - The Numbers of Hope”


#4578

Friday, April 26, 2019

OUR SALVATION

“Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)

Christian faith is not only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of His life, death, and resurrection; a recumbency upon Him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us; and, in consequence hereof, a closing with Him, and cleaving to Him, as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” or, in one word, our salvation.

-- John Wesley, from his sermon entitled “Salvation by Faith”


#4577

Thursday, April 25, 2019

AN ETERNAL LOVE RELATIONSHIP

"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths.”  (Micah 4:2 NLT)

God intends that we follow Him. He expects us to get our directions from Him, and He wants to equip us to do the assignment He gives. If we try to spell out all the details of His will in a planning session, we’ll have a tendency to forget the need for a daily, intimate relationship with God. We may accomplish our objectives but forgo the relationship. It is possible to achieve all our goals and yet be outside God’s will. God created us for an eternal love relationship. Life is our opportunity to experience Him at work in us and in our world.

-- Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby and Claude King in “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God”


#4576

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

LIVING IN THE PRESENT

Read Exodus 16:11-21.

God heard [the Israelites], and responded by promising to provide for them. Those of us who attended Sunday school know the story well -- each morning, flakes of bread (manna) appeared on the ground; in the evening, quail covered the camp. But they couldn’t hoard what they gathered, and they couldn’t store it. Moses instructed the Israelites to gather only what they needed for the day -- no more, no less. Tough to do when you’re thinking about what the kids will eat for breakfast!

Why was limiting what they gathered important to God? Because the Israelites needed to understand what we all need to learn -- that we can sustain a relationship with God only in the present.

Our past is nothing more than the story of how we got to where we are, and dwelling on it causes us to become stagnant and unsatisfied. We can’t find God by worrying or dreaming about the future, either, because that just makes us want to control whatever lies ahead.

Yes, we have concerns and hopes and dreams for the future. But this story tells us that we can live out our relationship with God only in the here and now. God longs for us to trust Him every hour and every minute of today.

-- From the “Men’s Devotional Bible”


#4575

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

GOD VISITED THE EARTH

“For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in [Christ], and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”  (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV)

The Gospel has a once-and-for-all quality. It is unique. There is nothing like it in history or in any other world religion…  God visited the earth.

That says it all! God visited the earth in Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose again for our salvation, who ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts and community of Christian believers. That is the Gospel, the Christ-event, the foundation of our faith. It happened once and need not happen again. All that we Christians believe is based on it.

-- Rev. Dr. A. Leonard Griffith in a sermon entitled "The Faith Entrusted to Us" 


#4574

Monday, April 22, 2019

THE RESURRECTION IS THE GAME-CHANGER

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  (Romans 10:9)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the axis around which our faith revolves.  When Jesus rose from the dead, it radically redefined reality.  When He walked out of the tomb under His own power, the word impossible was removed from our vocabulary.  The resurrection is the history-changer, the game-changer.  But the trick is learning to live as if Jesus was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is coming back tomorrow!

The resurrection isn’t something we celebrate once a year by donning an Easter bonnet.  It’s something we celebrate every day in every way…  God raises dreams from the dead.  He resurrects dead relationships.  And no matter what part of your personality has died at the hands of sin or suffering or Satan himself, the Grave Robber came to give you your life back!

-- Mark Batterson in “The Grave Robber”


#4573

Saturday, April 20, 2019

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT THE CROSS

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29b ESV)

There was a cross so that, regardless of our behavior, despite our sins, no matter how bad we are, we could have the shining hope of an eternal residence with the Lamb who took it all away.

That’s why there was a cross. Have you stood near the cross? Have you made a choice for the Savior?

There’s something about the cross… it seems to demand a choice. You either step toward it or away from it. It’s the watershed. It’s the Continental Divide. You are either on one side or the other. A choice is demanded. We can do what we want with the cross. We can examine its history. We can study its theology. We can reflect upon its prophecies. Yet the one thing we can’t do is walk away, neutral. No fence sitting is permitted. The cross, in its absurd splendor, doesn’t allow that.

-- Max Lucado in “The Cross: Selected Writings & Images”


#4572

Friday, April 19, 2019

JESUS BECAME A CURSE FOR US

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us -- for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’ -- so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”   (Galatians 3:13-14 ESV)

Many years ago I was asked by the Quaker community of Pennsylvania, the Society of Friends, to come to one of their meetings and explain to them the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. I talked about the Day of Atonement in Israel and the crucifixion of Christ in the New Testament. As I spoke of Christ becoming cursed, my message was interrupted by a guy in the back who stood up and shouted, "That's primitive and obscene!" I was taken aback, and just to give myself a chance to think I said, "What did you say?" as if I hadn't heard him. (Everybody in the room heard him.)

With great hostility he repeated himself, so I told him that I loved the words he'd chosen. What could be more primitive than killing animals and placing the blood over the throne of God or taking a human being and pouring out his blood as a human sacrifice? One of the things I love about the gospel is that it wasn't written merely for an agnostic elite group of scholars. The drama of redemption is communicated in terms so simple, so crass and primitive, that a child can understand it. I really like the second word he used -- obscene. If there ever was an obscenity that violates contemporary community standards, it was Jesus on the cross. After He became the scapegoat and the Father had imputed to Him every sin of every one of His people, the most intense, dense concentration of evil ever experienced on this planet was exhibited. Jesus was the ultimate obscenity.

-- R.C. Sproul, from “Proclaiming a Cross-centered Theology”


#4571

Thursday, April 18, 2019

JESUS’ HUMBLE ACT

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross.”  (Philippians 2:5-8 NRSV)

When we look again at Jesus' humble act of foot washing [at the Last Supper], we see why the disciples were unable to immediately grasp the significance of the act. Jesus lowered Himself into the position of a lowly slave, He served like a slave, He washed the disciples' feet like a lowest-of-the-low slave, because ultimately He was preparing to die the dehumanizing death of a slave. In essence this is the connection made in Philippians 2:5-8.

As He washed out dirt from between the disciples' toes, Jesus performed a parable of the cross. The disciples could not see the symbolic anticipation, not here, not now. The full explanation for why Jesus washed their feet would only become clear after the substitutionary atonement of the Savior on Good Friday. Then they would look back and understand the act of deep humility in the cross that brought us a once-for-all, head-to-toe, cleansing from our sin.

-- Tony Reinke in an article entitled “The Creator On His Knees”


#4570

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

FOR ONE PURPOSE

Christ came to earth for one reason: to give His life as a ransom for you, for me, for all of us. He sacrificed Himself to give us a second chance. He would have gone to any lengths to do so. And He did. He went to the cross, where man's utter despair collided with God's unbending grace. And in that moment when God's great gift was complete, the compassionate Christ showed the world the cost of His gift…

He who was perfect gave that perfect record to us, and our imperfect record was given to Him. Jesus was "not guilty, but He suffered for those who are guilty to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18). As a result, God's holiness is honored and His children are forgiven.

-- Max Lucado in “The Gift for All People”


#4569

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

MISSING THE MEANING OF THE CROSS

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  (Galatians  2:20)

The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.

The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.” The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.

The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.

-- A. W. Tozer in “Man, the Dwelling Place of God” 


#4568

Monday, April 15, 2019

TRUSTING IN THE SAVIOR

“Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love.”   (1 John 4:14-16 NLT)

If we could save ourselves -- why would we need a Savior?  Jesus didn’t enter the world to help us save ourselves.  He entered the world to save us from ourselves.

As a Boy Scout, I earned a lifesaving merit badge.  The fact is, the only people I saved were other Boy Scouts who didn’t need to be saved.  During training I would rescue other trainees.  We took turns saving each other.  But since we weren’t really drowning, we resisted being rescued.  “Stop kicking and let me save you,” I’d say.

It’s impossible to save those who are trying to save themselves.  You might save yourself from a broken heart or going broke or running out of gas.  But you’re not good enough to save yourself from sin.  You are not strong enough to save yourself from death.  You need a Savior…and because of [Calvary], you have one!

-- Max Lucado


#4567

Friday, April 12, 2019

SANCTIFYING TRUTH

Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”  (John 17:17 NKJV)

What makes some theological works like sawdust to me is the way the authors can go on discussing how far certain positions are adjustable to contemporary thought, or beneficial in relation to social problems, or "have a future" before them, but never squarely ask what grounds we have for supposing them to be true accounts of any objective reality.  As if we were trying to make. rather than to learn.  Have we no Other to reckon with?

-- C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)


#4566

Thursday, April 11, 2019

CONTINUING IN JESUS’ WORD - Part 2 of 2

"If you continue in My word you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31:32)

Continuing in Jesus’ word is… costly. It costs us our pride, for we have to yield to Jesus’ better judgment. It costs us our self-determination, because we must follow Jesus’ word wherever it leads. It may cost us our reputation, because Jesus’ word is neither the reigning popular philosophy nor the philosophy of being popular. It will, in short, cost us everything that binds us to our fallen selves.

But -- and what a contrast it is -- in becoming His disciples we will be made free -- free from error, free from false values, free to be fully as we were intended to be, fully human, fully God’s creation, fashioned in His own image, fallen (to be sure) but redeemed, restored to reflect again the glory of His goodness, truth and love (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). As we continue in God’s Word, this is God’s promise to us.

-- James W. Sire in “Scripture Twisting”


#4565

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

CONTINUING IN JESUS’ WORD - Part 1 of 2

"If you continue in My word,” said Jesus to those who after a long struggle had finally begun to accept His teaching, “you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31:32) If there is a single key to being responsible readers of God’s Word, this challenge by Jesus is it. Jesus would have us immerse ourselves in His revelation, continuing daily to seek His perspective on life, His approach to the human condition.

But continuing in Jesus’ word means more than simply reading and rereading. It means obeying.

-- James W. Sire in “Scripture Twisting”


#4564

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

EYES ON THE GOAL

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

Paul said that his goal was to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all Christ had in mind for him. This goal took all of Paul’s energies. This is a helpful example for us. We should not let anything take our eyes off our goal -- knowing Christ. With the single-mindedness of an athlete in training, we must lay aside everything harmful and forsake anything that may distract us from being effective Christians. What is holding you back?

-- from “The Life Application Study Bible”


#4563

Monday, April 8, 2019

SALVATION BY FAITH

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”  (Acts 16:31a NIV)

Faith is essential for salvation. But we must be absolutely clear on what we mean when we speak of “salvation by faith.” There are various kinds of belief or faith, and not all are linked to salvation. In the New Testament, faith means more than intellectual belief. It involves trust and commitment. I may say that I believe a bridge will hold my weight. But I really believe it only when I commit myself to it and walk across it. Saving faith involves an act of commitment and trust, in which I commit my life to Jesus Christ and trust Him alone as my Savior and Lord.

Let me use a personal example to illustrate this. When I first met Ruth, my future wife, I began to learn things about her–born in China, the daughter of medical missionaries and so on. As time went on, I learned more about her personality and character, and I fell in love with her.

But we were not yet married. We became husband and wife only when we took a definite step of commitment to each other on our wedding day.

In the same way, saving faith is a commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord. It is a personal and individual decision. It is more than assent to historical or theological truth given to us in God’s Word. It is faith in the promises of God that all who trust in Christ will not perish but have eternal life.

That is truly good news.

-- Billy Graham


#4562

Friday, April 5, 2019

NEW LIFE IN CHRIST

“There is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:22b–24)

The process of salvation involves a change in us that we call conversion. Conversion is a turning around, leaving one orientation for another. It may be sudden and dramatic, or gradual and cumulative. But in any case it's a new beginning. Following Jesus' words to Nicodemus, "You must be born anew" (John 3:7 RSV), we speak of this conversion as rebirth, new life in Christ, or regeneration.

Following Paul and Luther, John Wesley called this process justification. Justification is what happens when Christians abandon all those vain attempts to justify themselves before God, to be seen as "just" in God's eyes through religious and moral practices. It's a time when God's "justifying grace" is experienced and accepted, a time of pardon and forgiveness, of new peace and joy and love. Indeed, we're justified by God's grace through faith.

Justification is also a time of repentance -- turning away from behaviors rooted in sin and toward actions that express God's love. In this conversion we can expect to receive assurance of our present salvation through the Holy Spirit "bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16).

-- George Koehler in “United Methodist Member's Handbook, Revised” (Discipleship Resources, 2006)


#4561

Thursday, April 4, 2019

UNMERITED, UNCONDITIONAL, UNENDING

“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT)

Salvation cannot be earned. There's no behavior, no matter how holy or righteous, by which we can achieve salvation. Rather, it's the gift of a gracious God.

“By grace” we mean God's extraordinary love for us. In most of life we're accustomed to earning approval from others. This is true at school, at work, in society, even at home -- to a degree. We may feel that we have to act "just so" to be liked or loved. But God's love, or grace, is given without any regard for our goodness. It's unmerited, unconditional, and unending love.

As we come to accept this love, to entrust ourselves to it, and to ground our lives in it, we discover the wholeness that God has promised. This trust is called faith. God takes the initiative in grace; but only as we respond through faith is the change wrought in us.

This is the great theme of the Protestant Reformers, as well as John Wesley and the Methodists who followed: We're saved by grace alone through faith alone. We're made whole and reconciled by the love of God as we receive it and trust in it.

-- From www.umc.org/what-we-believe/we-are-saved


#4560

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

THE SOUL KILLER

“The wages of sin is death...” (Romans 6:23a NLT)

Sin is a fatal disease. It has sentenced us to a slow, painful death.

Sin does to life what shears do to a flower. A cut at the stem separates a flower from the source of life. Initially the flower is attractive, still colorful and strong. But watch that flower over a period of time, and the leaves will wilt and the petals drop. No matter what you do, the flower will never live again. Surround it with water. Stick the stem in soil. Baptize it with fertilizer. Glue the flower back on the stem. Do what you wish. The flower is dead.

A dead soul has no life... The finished work of sin is to kill the soul.

“… but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23b NLT) 

-- Max Lucado in “In the Grip of Grace”


#4559

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

KNOWING OUR SIN

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us." (1 John 1:8-10 NIV)

God is none other than the Savior of our wretchedness.  So we can only know God well by knowing our iniquities… Those who have known God without knowing their wretchedness have not glorified Him, but have glorified themselves. 

-- Blaise Pascal  (1623-1662)


#4558

Monday, April 1, 2019

WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”  (John 3:16-17 NIV)

This is why Jesus came! We all need a Savior! The word "Savior" has the idea of "one who can rescue you from the penalty of your sin." Jesus rescues people from perishing so that they might have eternal life (see Matthew 1:21).

My friend, to be good enough to go to heaven we must have a righteousness that equals God's (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). The "good news" of the gospel is that not only will Jesus forgive your sins, but He is also offering -- freely -- His very own righteousness as a gift (see Romans 5:17). Do you need a new start in life? A relationship with the God of heaven who loves you very much?… Would you consider turning to Him through Jesus Christ? Accepting Him as your personal Savior and following Him as your Lord? He loves you very much!

-- Don Krow


#4557