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Since a devotion was not written for leap day, the Introduction to Commit Yourself to Life is being posted instead.
“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” II Timothy 3:7
Over a century ago the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, predicted that the time would come when education would consist in learning a number of comments by heart, so that people might excel in their capacity for singling out the various facts and yet be completely ignorant of the meaning of anything. In religion, this time has arrived. Never has there been more debate over religious facts, and never has there been so little understanding of the meaning of them all. Religious convictions are often held much as one might hold the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in a bag; the pieces are all there; but without being fitted into their proper places, they form no picture.
These devotions are written in the hope that they might shed light on the neglected subject of the eternal purpose of God. Whether it is a mistaken modesty or an intellectual prudery that tends to silence this issue in our time, I do not know; but I am convinced that we not only can know but that we must know the intention of God in regard to man’s purpose before we can even come near the commitment that is necessary for Christian life and witness. While I confess my shame in having fallen so far short of attaining this purpose, I make no apology in claiming to know that it is. The scriptures are filled with the revelation of God’s purpose: in creating man in His image. delivering him from destruction at the judgment, and giving him immortality in a new and everlasting creation. All scripture dovetails perfectly into this purpose. I have sought to remind the reader of how all of life—that is, the life of a believer—is to be committed to this sublime and solitary purpose of fulfilling the Creator’s desire; that is to have man in His own image.
PRAYER: Almighty God, thank you for the revelation of man’s purpose. Help me to walk each day with greater commitment to the Christian life and to bear witness to the truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“That the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him . . .” II Thessalonians 1:12
It is God’s express desire that the name of Jesus be glorified among men. But it is also evident that it is His plan that all who so glorify His name, will themselves be glorified beyond their greatest imaginations. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantastic story “The Fellowship of the Ring”, the servant Sam is absolutely faithful, even to the risk of his life to the terrible powers of the Dark Lord. When the great battle is won, Sam is lamenting that his master, Frodo, is not getting his proper share of praise. Sam is completely unconcerned about any glory for himself, but in the end he is the actual hero, and is the one being praised. So we are to bring praise to the name of Jesus, to glorify Him by being faithful to Him. All the praise we may heap upon Him is inadequate, since we are mere sinners, saved by His grace. But in the end, we ourselves will be glorified “in Him”, and will receive His praise in the words, “Well done . . .” Thus He is glorified in us, and we are glorified in Him. But what a difference! He is glorified by our stammering and inadequate words and bungling actions, while we are to be glorified by the wonderful and perfect word and action of the Creator and Lord of Life! With such a prospect, how careful ought we to be in heeding His words, working His will, and faithfully obeying His commands. It is carrying out our part faithfully that gives glory and honor to the name of Jesus and which in the end will bring us to the highest glory for which we exist. By such faithfulness our lives are so united with God that glory is the result for both God and us.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, may I decrease that the name of Jesus may increase, to your glory. Increase my faith, that I may prove faithful to my task, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
“Fret not thyself because of evil-doers.” Psalm 37:1
Peter says of Lot that the wicked men of Sodom “vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds”. (II Peter 2:8). The same may be said of the righteous today who are constantly surrounded with evil-doers. Such evil-doers not only threaten the streets, but they are found in the high places of government, in our schools and even in the pulpits of the churches. When one reads of brutal crimes, or bribery, of treachery and the gross violation of sex, he finds it hard not to fret and be vexed as was Lot. But the Psalmist goes on to say that the evil-doers “shall soon be cut down like the grass.” There is one who watches, who takes account of evil, and will render vengeance. Just when Satan and all his host think that they have succeeded in repealing the commands of God and putting Him completely out of business (“God is dead!”)—then the Lord will come and render judgment. “And the enemies of Jehovah shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume: in smoke shall they consume away”. (Psalm 37:20).
The present age is one in which good and evil must exist together. The faith of the saint is put to test daily by the conflict with the wicked, and by such testing it is perfected and the power of God is manifested in his life. There is no use in our complaining and fretting over the fact of evil; it is only a waste of energy which can be utilized for our own growth in faith. “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: . . . but the meek shall inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:10-11). The present existence of evil does not mean that the King does not have power to eradicate it, but that he chooses not to do so until the day of judgment. Our task is to be faithful to Him that we might receive the inheritance.
PRAYER: Father, keep me from the evil one. May my eyes not rest upon the evil, but upon your eternal purpose, which is also my purpose through Christ Jesus, my Redeemer. Amen.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
It is no disgrace nor sign of weakness to seek help for our problems. A psychologist, one of the most capable men I know and one of tremendous faith, said to me, “We need help for our problems—even the little ones.” Jesus allowed His disciples to help Him bear His burdens. He confided to them His sorrows and discussed with them the cross He was to bear. There are times when we must meet and make our decisions alone, even as Jesus in Gethesmene and on the cross. But the Lord doesn’t intend that we should be overburdened. We stumble and falter under burdens too heavy for us to bear, not because it is His will, but because we are too proud to seek the assistance He provides through other Christians. Fear, distrust, and personal pride often cause a Christian to withdraw with his terrible burden, until his faith shrivels, his witness vanishes and his joy of salvation turns to bitterness. No brother can help us bear a burden until we are willing to confide in him, to trust him, and to humbly confess that we need his help. Such is the law of Christ, that our love for one another will bring us into an open sharing of our lives, even to the sharing of the heavy burdens. I have noticed that it is the person who is willing to admit his own need of help who is the most able to help others and bear their burdens. The Christian who seeks to appear self-sufficient actually only appears to be arrogantly proud, and is not likely to have much fellowship in burden-bearing. This is one of the qualities of the meek, that they admit need of help and stand ready to offer it. Such shall inherit the earth.
PRAYER: Father, make me a burden-bearer. Give me grace to confess my need of my brother’s help, and the strength to help him bear his own burden in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof . . .” I John 2:17
While the scientists, on the one hand, teach us that the world is deteriorating and will eventually pass away, many of them are telling us, on the other hand, that processes of life and development continue on and on indefinitely. We are prone to look upon all things as if they are permanent fixtures so that we become involved in material and temporal things to the point that they possess our lives and control our thoughts and actions. Jesus taught us that the things in life are not to cause us anxiety. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth”. “Be not anxious for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink . . . what you shall put on.” While He recognized that money had its worth and that food and clothing are necessary, He also emphasized that they are only temporal, and not an intrinsic part of the ultimate purpose of God. Therefore they shall pass away with the world and are not worth worrying over.
James writes that “you lust, and have not . . . you ask and receive not because you ask amiss, that you may spend it in your pleasures”. (James 4:2, 3). Certainly this applies to our day, when millions roam the shopping centers and discount houses, lusting after things that might bring them only a moment of pleasure, if no more than the pleasure of possession. Others day-dream all week, thinking of the pleasure they may find on the week-end, lusting for things and pleasures of the world.
All such things and lust for them will pass away in the final consummation of God’s purpose. Only that which is centered in His ultimate plan will survive; therefore only that which is connected with His purpose is worthy of our serious concern.
PRAYER: Father, cleanse my heart from all desire of worldly things, that I may give myself fully to your Divine and eternal purpose, through Jesus, Who makes that purpose attainable. Amen.
“A wise man’s heart discerneth time . . .” Ecclesiastes 8:5
“There is no time like the present”. Procrastination is a habit easy to fall into and hard to get out of. When the deadline for preparing a book was upon me, I suddenly asked, “Where has the time gone?” Then I thought of all the wasted time of years past. Buckling down to the task I began to produce, accomplishing more in a few hours than previously I had in twice as many. What could I have done in years past had I always been so aware of the “deadline”? For every life has its deadline at the close of each day. Twenty-four hours to work and rest. How much could one accomplish if he had never wasted any time at all? Yet millions of workers today insist on shorter hours, more recreation, fewer responsibilities and more time to waste. It is one of the most severe commentaries on our modern society that we have more time-saving devices, but find less time for the valuable pursuits in life. Many fail to recognize the purpose of automation. Originally the men who invented machinery did so in order to conserve time, and thus be able to produce more. It was not devised merely that men might get out of working, or that they might have more time for idleness, but that their time might be more profitably used.
When judgment comes, “time will be no more”. Then men will say, “Where did it go? Why didn’t I use it?” Therefore the wise man’s heart discerneth time. He uses his time for the accomplishment of the purpose of God, that in eternity he may live unbound by time.
PRAYER: Eternal Father, help me to fill the hours with your work, that when time is no more, I will be found pleasing in your sight, through Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen.
“Our God cometh, and doth not keep silence:” Psalm 50:3
There is an old time-worn joke preachers used to tell about the man who had nothing left for the offering because of the bills he owed the landlord, the grocery-man, the milkman, the doctor and etc. He was asked, “But don't you feel you owe God something?” “O yes, I’m sure I do,” he replied. “But He isn’t pressing me like the other creditors”. It is true that God does not send us a bill at the first of the month, nor does He come in thunderous tones to rebuke us when we sin. But we cannot fail to see His perpetual work, the manifestation of His goodness in supplying our very breath. “For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made . . . that they may be without excuse”. (Romans 1:20). God does not keep silence. He speaks clearly through the sun that rises each morning, the water that falls from heaven and gives life to the land and to our own bodies, the protection provided on numerous occasions by His ministering angels. But more than this, He speaks through His Son, and through His recorded word, so that His creatures may be constantly aware of His work, His presence and His ultimate purpose. He has always been speaking to man, and men have taken Him for granted until they no longer notice Him. Like the man who lives by the ocean and becomes so accustomed to the booming surf that he no longer notices it, men live under the exposure of God so completely that they no longer hear Him.
But God does not keep silent. Daily He speaks in His providential way, so that we may know He is Creator. And in the end, He will speak in Judgment. In that hour men will hear nothing else! If they have refused His counsel in this life, it will be too late to listen then; all they will hear will be the sentence of execution.
Listen! God is speaking!
PRAYER: Lord, open my eyes that I may see your sovereign power in the universe; unstop my ears that I may hear your voice; clear my mind, that I may understand, strengthen my will that I may respond, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“Gather up the broken pieces which remain over, that nothing be lost.” John 6:12
One might think that since Jesus had such power to create fish and bread from nothing, He would not be so concerned about that which might be wasted. But the opposite is the case. Being the One who, by divine power is responsible for creating, He is the more concerned that what He provides not be wasted. In nature there is what we call a “balance”. Weaker animals are devoured by stronger, and the bones that are left are picked by the vultures, eaten by worms, and finally that which is not consumed for food is left to enrich the soil. But in the realm of men we live by what is called the “economy of wasteful consumption”. It is a planned waste including the building of appliances that are planned to be cast aside within a short period so that more will be purchased. Such an economy is far from that planned by the Creator. That which He creates with infinite insight and almighty power is not to be taken so lightly as to be wasted. Talent which God gives is to be used to its fullest. Ability is to be cultivated and exploited. Strength is to be spent in His service and in developing ourselves according to His will. God creates nothing to be wasted or misused, and to do either one is a sin against the Creator. This is especially true of life, for Jesus said that “this is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:39). He who carefully gathers the left overs from a meal, surely is displeased to see men wasting life, virtually throwing it away on useless temporal things that are perishing. To follow the example of Jesus is to be conservative not only in things, but with our selves and life which He gives.
PRAYER: Loving Father, teach me to use my substance, and my life, that your investment in me will not be lost. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“. . . upholding all things by the word of his power . . .” Hebrews 1:3
This is a marvelously scientific statement, and one that gives tremendous assurance in our troubled day. Dr. Ulric Jelinek, a space scientist, made the statement that “God does not need to press a button to destroy the world. All He needs to do is quit doing what He is doing—holding it together”. The expression “upholding all things” means just that; holding things together.
I can think of nothing more factually comforting to the Christian than this, that the very One to whom I belong is the One upon whom the whole world, even the whole universe depends for its very existence. Others may worry over nuclear weapons and the possibility of getting blown to bits by them. But the God I serve is the one who holds the atom together, and that by the “word of His power.” Think of it. The very book you are holding is just so many atoms—numerous mysterious unidentified particles made mostly of energy—all held together at this moment by God’s word! Even life itself is “held together” by God. It is believed by scientists that if the power that holds the atom together should be relinquished for a second, the whole universe would fly to pieces and disintegrate. What POWER resides in this word which holds all things together. And it is His word of power upon which we rely, in fact, upon which we stake life itself. Now, if God’s word is so great that all things are held together by “the word of His power”, where is there any room for us to doubt the least of His promises? Is there evidence of the truth of His word? Where is there NOT evidence of such? Everything that meets our gaze, everything that we touch, even the air we breath, all of it exists by the word of his power! By His word he spoke it into existence, and by His word He will bring it to an end. What is there for us to do but trust implicitly in His word now!
PRAYER: O mighty God, accept my praise and thanksgiving for your glorious work, the most amazing of which is life itself. Help me to know your word, for I know it is truth and power. I ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.
“Be Still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
One of the most cheerful men I ever knew was one who had just lost his leg in a train accident. Instead of lamenting the loss and feeling sorry for himself, he said, “That’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me.” Then he explained that for months he lay in a hospital bed with nothing to do but think and read the Bible. It was the first time he had stopped and thought deeply about his life. As a result he dedicated himself to God and His service.
One does not find God in most of the busy pursuits of the day. People discuss politics, wars, finances, future prospects and the incidents of the day all as if they had nothing to do with God. Should one stop to consider the Creator’s power and purpose for man he would see the entire situation in a new and different light. Few people see this light because they do not stop in the frenzy of their activities to think of God. This is just the point the Psalmist is making. One does not know God by turning every leaf and stone to find Him, nor by the force of his own efforts to turn the situation to his own liking. Stop and give God a chance! See Him demonstrate His power. Stand aside for a moment and watch Him work. When we recognize all that God does without the assistance of man, we then “know that (He) is God”.
Even though Jesus had a great task to perform and knew that His time was limited, He often took time to go aside where He could be “still” and meditate. It is when we are “still”, and consider the fact of God, His sovereignty, His eternal purpose, His inexorable love and His daily presence that we are able to see meaning and significance to our lives.
PRAYER: Loving Father, forgive my anxieties. Teach me to relax, to be still, and to recognize your mighty work, and your sovereign power over the universe. Through Jesus my Lord, Amen.
“Present your bodies a living sacrifice.” Romans 12:1
“Duncan Fife Dining Room suite for sale . . . Original cost $200.00. will sacrifice”. This ad was only one of thousands that appear daily with the bargain-baiting assurance that the owner “will sacrifice”.
This might cause us to question American motives: are we so selfish that we only wish to bargain with our neighbor when he is at the disadvantage of having to “sacrifice” his goods? This “will sacrifice” tag suggests that fellow-citizens are looking for the chance to get something for nothing, even if it means sacrifice to their neighbor.
But it also suggests another question. Does the seller actually mean he is making a sacrifice? Does he mean that he will be the poorer for the so-called sacrifice? Is it a sacrifice that will have the therapeutic effect upon his character that genuine suffering and sacrifice have upon the child of God? Better than trying to answer these questions would be a self-examination, to answer the personal question, “have I really presented myself as a living sacrifice to God?” To make such a sacrifice means we will crush desires that are contrary to God’s desire for our lives. It means that we will give up any pursuit that is not in line with the ultimate purpose of God, no matter how exciting and enticing that pursuit may be. In terms of this world and the present life in it, such a sacrifice will be costly. It still be a sacrifice for which there is no remuneration in this world. For example, a person who gives up cigarettes in order to gain better health is not making a sacrifice, he is gaining a bargain. But the person who gives up sleep for prayer, or who gives up a good-paying job for a lesser one in order to pursue Godliness, these are presenting themselves to God, sacrificing some of life in this world for that which God will give in the next.
PRAYER: Father, teach me how to give myself more completely to your service, that I may always be pleasing to you. In Jesus name, Amen.
“And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” I John 5:4
Eve missed her chance to defeat Satan when he came questioning God, saying, “Yea, hath God said?” Her faith wavered and she submitted to temptation. Adam, in turn, also passed up the opportunity to let faith win the victory. Against him was not only Satan, but Eve, the darling of his life. With God’s power he still could have resisted, but his faith failed and he believed Satan instead.
Now, to each is given the opportunity to confront and defeat Satan, and in each case it is faith that wins the victory. For there are two things: faith and the world. It is exactly the world that is to be overcome. “The whole world lieth in the evil one.” Satan comes in all the splendor of the world, with the support of all the world’s darlings, and argues in the same fashion as of old. “Yea, hath God said? Is God’s word relevant? Is God’s word applicable? Does it apply to modern living? To this case in particular? Does it not mean entirely something else?” And again it is sheer faith that must meet Satan. Whatever the appearance, however reasonable the argument of the unbelieving world, there remains the fact of God’s eternal purpose, and His eternal word. He has said. The test of faith is simply in this: Is God’s word true? Satan cannot abide where God’s word is held without wavering. He depends on our unbelief; our faith sends him flying!
PRAYER: Father, thank you for the victory already won by Jesus, my Lord. Thank you for the precious word of truth, in which I put my trust. May your word abide in me, that I may stand ready to met the temptations of the enemy. Through Jesus, Who died for me. Amen.
“. . . for the accuser of our brethren is cast down . . .” Revelation 12:10
Satan is the accuser. It is he who keeps trying to convince us that godliness is beyond our reach, that we will never make it, that we might as well give up the faith. Not only does he plant such thoughts in the Christian’s mind, but he accuses us “before our God day and night”. It is as if he stood in the place of the Mediator, as if he replaced Christ. Only, instead of compassion for fallen sinners, there is hatred, instead of his willingness to suffer in man’s place as Jesus did, Satan stands eager to accuse: “See the creature you made, God. See his rebellion, his sin, his horrible blunders. See what this man is; he is unfit . . .” .
Such accusation is not only against man, but it is also against God. Satan would remind God of His failure, that man fails to measure up to the the image of God as originally intended. So his role of accuser brings him into direct opposition with God through God’s own work, the noble creation of man. But his accusations will not stand. There is one greater—Jesus, who also stands before God and says, “Lo, I and the children are one!” To condemn the children is to condemn Christ, for He has identified Himself with us. In the final consummation of the age Satan will be cast down and finally destroyed. In the meantime, let him accuse; we have nothing to fear as long as we stand with Christ. “For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life”. (Romans 5:10).
PRAYER: Almighty God, I thank You for the defeat of Satan, and the victory through Christ. Buttress my spirit against Satan’s accusations, and make me to stand in the strength of Christ, my Saviour. Amen.
“Doth Job fear God for nought?” Job 1:9
The question shows Satan’s misunderstanding of pure faith. He was sure that Job’s love of God was motivated by material prosperity which God had given. Take away his riches and then see where the faith is. Satan judges according to his own evil nature, so he assumed that Job’s life was motivated by selfish instincts.
But God proved him wrong. After God allowed Satan to take away Job’s possessions and even the members of his family, Job’s comment was, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah”. After he was physically afflicted with boils from head to foot, he said “What! Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” To Job all that happened to him was of God, and he was correct in this assumption, for Satan could have done nothing to Job had God not said, “Behold, he is in thy hand; only spare his life.”
Such is faith. It is to believe that God is in all, over all, and through all. If the circumstance is adverse, it is by permission of the Sovereign One. It may even be according to His command, for the purpose of perfecting our faith, as Peter has written, “that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. (I Peter 1:7). That is the object of it all, that we may be found in faith when Christ comes. This is the ultimate goal, that God may have a race of people who trust Him. He does not require that we understand Him, but that we trust Him. All that transpires until the day we see Him is aimed at this purpose, that we trust God perfectly.
PRAYER: Righteous Father, thank you for the adversities that have taught me to depend upon you. Strengthen my faith, that when all else fails, I may still cling to you in faithful trust. Through Jesus, Amen.
“The just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4
The question of justice is heard in every crisis. “Is there no justice?” The criminal is protected while the innocent suffer. Tyrants have taken the lives of millions of citizens who live in nations controlled by socialism whose motto is “Liberty, Justice and Equality.” Men raise the question, “If God is just, why does He allow such injustice?” What justice is there for the martyr who is stoned, or crucified or shot for standing for the truth? Eventually he may be vindicated by those who recognize that he was right after all, but this hardly helps him in the time of his suffering. The conspirators who usurp illegal power in a nation may one day be dethroned by other rulers, but this hardly compensates for the oppression suffered by their victims. The parent who misleads a child may die, never having seen the result of the injustice done. The child who brings heartbreak to his father and mother may repent and return to the right path, but the parents are already dead, and fail to benefit from this conversion. Everyday we see justice thwarted with no prospect of it being corrected.
But we have faith in God, and faith in His justice. We believe that every wrong will be righted and every deed be rewarded. We do not see it now, but we have faith that there will be a resurrection “of the just and the unjust”, and sin, having run its course, will meet its just penalty before God in Judgment.
Not only can we live in an unjust world because of faith in the ultimate justice of God being executed, we can also live in the faith that we are made just before God because of Jesus, who paid the just penalty, for our sins by receiving the sentence and stroke of death for them. Each individual will experience perfect justice. I may live in the assurance that the just punishment for my sins has already been suffered by Jesus in His death, therefore I can claim His promise that I am justified. With such faith I look from the present injustices to the ultimate judgment, knowing that there will be a “new heavens and a NEW EARTH wherein dwelleth righteousness.” The just shall live by his faith.
PRAYER: Thank you, Father, for the justice which was meted out on Calvary for sinners like me. Help me not to faint at the gross injustice in this world, but to trust in the final justice which you will render. In Jesus my Saviour, Amen.
“For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but . . . the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry . . . Father.” Romans 8:15
Immediately we think of the privilege of sonship as that of having the protection of the Father and receiving the inheritance. These certainly are great privileges bestowed upon the Christian. But there is something else in the relationship of equal importance which we often overlook to our own great loss. It is this; that we must recognize the authority of the father if we are to be true sons.
The natural tendency is to claim the Father’s provision and protection without surrendering to His authority, like a child who demands an allowance, a car, a home and all the protection of his father, but refuses to obey his father’s instructions. Such a child eventually finds that he has robbed himself of the most valuable facet of the association. It is by the father’s authority that the child learns to discipline himself, that he acquires good habits and keeps out of serious trouble. It is because he is under the father’s power that he is considered a juvenile and responsibility in time of trouble is transferred to the father. Thus the child that is properly under his father’s authority has nothing to fear.
It is just this Sovereign authority of God, as our Father, that releases us from the bondage of fear. I know that He has authority over my life. I know that I may be chastened for any breaking of His rules, but such chastening I do not fear, for it is to bring me into a better relationship with Him. Those who live without God as their Father are insecure and filled with fear, like a child who does not know parental authority. But we who are His sons, cry, “Father”, and know that all will be well in God’s family.
PRAYER: Father, thank you for my adoption as your son. Teach me to know and keep your rules, that I may be pleasing in your sight, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ . . .” Galatians 6:14
Among Muslims there is the idea that Jesus was not crucified, but Judas was “changed” to look like Jesus and was put to death in his place. Death is seen as defeat, and since God was not willing that his great prophet should die, He rescued him from the cross. Apparently they think it was all right for John to be beheaded, and other prophets to be tortured and slain, but not Jesus.
Think what this means to man’s hope. If there was no crucifixion of Jesus, there was no one to die for our sins, hence no salvation. If Jesus did not die, then we must face death at judgment, for the wages of sin is death. This would mean that no one is to survive the judgment because all have sinned. Hence it would be not only defeat for all men, but defeat for God as well, as it would defeat His purpose in finally having a race of men in His own image.
The Muslim rejects the cross because he cannot understand how God could allow Jesus to die there. The Christian accepts and believes in the cross because he understands that there God was rescuing sinners from eternal death. The cross does not demonstrate cruelty on God’s part, as Muslims would believe, but it demonstrates His Justice and Mercy. Seen from man’s viewpoint alone it may seem to be a gross act of injustice. But from the Divine side, it is the apex of justice and victory. This is true of other events; in the unbeliever’s eyes God may act very peculiar, but when the events are seen in the context of God’s eternal purpose they emerge as absolutely right.
PRAYER: Thank you, Father, for the victory over sin and death through Christ Jesus. In every event may I be aware of the final victory toward which You are working. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“And if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36
I believe that if I were to meet Jesus face to face this day in the final judgment, there would be two great thoughts enter my mind. One would be my sins. It is a terrifying thought to consider my sins, for they are many. And if they are grievous to me and other people, then they must be infinitely more grievous to the sinless Lord of heaven and earth. When Peter recognized Jesus on the sea-shore after the resurrection he fell at his feet and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man”. This is one thought that comes to me as I consider meeting Him.
But then there is another thought, and this would certainly be in my mind in meeting Him. It is the fact that Jesus took all the guilt and blame for my sins, and paid the penalty that sin requires: death. So I will not face Him in sin, but as the one—among multitudes of those like me, but still, the one—whom He has cleansed. So thorough is the sin-offering he made, so thorough the cleansing, so perfect the sacrifice, so complete his death in my place, and so just and absolutely true is God, that I believe that were I to meet Him today He would not see one single sin. Such is faith: that Jesus did just what He came to do and just what He said he would do, make me free. About myself I have many doubts. But about Him, I have absolutely none. Therefore, I refuse to go on through life shackled by the fact of sin and burdened by the remembrance of it and fearful of the consequences of it. It is no mere philosophical thought nor a personal feeling that releases me from the bondage and fear of sin, but the very Son of God Himself! “And if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”.
PRAYER: Merciful Father, give me grace to wear my freedom in such a way that the world may see that it is your Son who grants it, that His name may be glorified. Amen.
“Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5
It is impossible for even the greatest artist to paint a picture of Christ. No one can possibly know what He actually looks like. If the command were that we should look like Christ, we could not begin to obey. But what the scripture commands is that we have the mind of Christ, not His looks. The description which is given of His mind emphasizes two things: (1) humility, and (2) obedience. “He humbled himself, becoming obedient, even unto death”. (Philippians 2:8).
The mind of the world seeks to assert itself. Selfishly and arrogantly, it seeks to force each one into its mold. It assumes to set up its own law. Strong world leaders are declaring that man must change the moral older, saying that we need a new morality, and that for a new society we must abandon the ancient morality of God and make up our own. Thus the mind of the world is disobedient to God. By contrast, Jesus walked humbly among men, and in spite of His power over men, allowed them to exercise complete freedom in relation to him. He refused to lord it over them and rejected the role of “judge and divider” over men. He was obedient to God, never once presuming to set up a law of his own, but submitting to every one of God’s commands. His mind was so permeated with the desire to obey God, that he willingly laid down his life in death in order to do the Father’s will.
The purpose of God is that we should be in His image, thinking His thoughts, doing His will, as was demonstrated by Jesus. This is only possible when we are humble and obedient. Such likeness to God begins in the mind, as we learn to think as He thinks, giving in to His way, and willingly obeying His commands.
PRAYER: Almighty Father, take my mind and fill it with pure and holy thoughts. Take my will, and bring it into subjection to yours in all things. Through Jesus, my Saviour. Amen.
“. . . but afterward he repented himself, and went.” Matthew 21:29
I shudder to think of where I might be, had there not been opportunity for a second chance! Like the son who was told to go work in the vineyard and at first refused, then repented and went, I have often been given the opportunity to repent of my stubbornness and take up the task God has given. It is the “afterward” that gives us sadness; that is, we wait so long to give in to God and take up the task. In our pride we find it humiliating and difficult to repent, to admit we are wrong, and start over.
When Moses came down from the mountain he was shocked to find the people dancing around a golden calf. In disbelief and anger, he cast down the tablets of stone and smashed them at the foot of the mountain. Forty days had he been on the mountain receiving the law from God, and now he was feeling the great responsibility as well as great honor to be shared by all Israel in abiding by these laws. No wonder he broke under the strain when he saw what had happened in his absence! But he had no excuse for what he did in breaking the tables of stone. One can hardly imagine the burden on his heart as he gazed upon the fragments of stone upon which God had written the law. Smashed in a fit of anger! The experience is not uncommon.
Then God said, “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first.” He was to go back, right back up the mountain, receive the very same laws from God, and return once more to the camp! God gave him another chance. He didn’t give a different set of laws. Nothing had changed with God, but Moses had to overcome his temper and egotism, and go back and carry out God’s commands. If you have gotten off the track by disobeying God, do not continue on the wrong road. Go back, and begin obedience, now.
PRAYER: Thank you, Father, for your love and mercy, for your tender patience, and for the blood of Christ which cleanses me from sin. Show me the error of my ways, that I might repent, and follow your commands. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
“And Philip . . . preached unto him Jesus.” Acts 8:35
On the face of it, one might think that Philip merely told the Ethiopian eunuch about the person of Jesus, his deity, his life and his power. We hear a lot of this today, that one is just to believe in Jesus, that all he needs to know is Jesus, that it is sufficient to “know Him”. But look again. The scripture the Ethiopian was reading was the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah, and this is the scripture Philip used in his preaching. It is the most profound treatment of the atonement of Christ to be found in scripture. In it is the best defined theology concerning Christ’s death you may ever find. When Philip preached Jesus from this Scripture, he was preaching what Jesus did in his death, that it was a substitutionary death, that He was taking the punishment for sin for us and in so doing was restoring us to fellowship with God and hence to the right to live. Preaching Jesus was not merely telling of Him as a person, but telling of the significance of what He did. It was when the Ethiopian understood what the scripture meant that he said, “Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” His baptism would have been worthless had it taken place before there was an understanding of the death of Christ.
Like Philip, each Christian is to bear a witness to others concerning Jesus. It is not enough, however, to merely tell them that He is our personal Saviour. Philip asked the eunuch, “understandest thou what thou readest?” the answer was negative. Such is the case with the multitudes. They have heard of Jesus, but have no concept of what He came into the world to do and how His death gives them the hope of eternal life. Like deacon Philip each Christian is to understand what Scripture teaches about Jesus, in order to guide others into an understanding of the gospel.
PRAYER: Loving Father, give me understanding of your word, and grace to use every opportunity to guide others to salvation through the gospel. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.
“Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in the field? Whence then hath it tares?” Matthew 13:27
Just as a cobweb may cling to a peach, and expect to be taken as a peach, so millions cling to the church, adopting some of the customs and ethics of Christianity, and expect to be taken themselves as Christians. The similarity between cobweb and peach is only in that both are fuzzy. The peach has reality, solidity, meat, and flavor. So has the Christian a distinct and unmistakable flavor, a definite belief in truths God has revealed and a purpose in his life that has reality, solidity and a well-defined hope. The millions of cobweb Christians, while assuming some of the appearance of Christianity, firmly reject the flavor of humble devotion to Jesus, and do not even want people to think of them as being zealous for the truths of God. They are the tares in the field of God, the weeds that have the appearance of wheat, but are actually worthless, to be taken in the day of judgment and burned, while the wheat is gathered into God’s garner.
According to the parable of the tares, the laborers were not to worry themselves over trying to weed out the false from the true. This task was for the reapers in the day of harvest. Devout Christians often become quite anxious over the vast numbers in the church who are indifferent to truth, who have no substance to their “faith”, who are more devoted to the world than to God. It is easy to grow impatient and wish for some way to get rid of the tares. But Jesus explained that in the end of the world the angels will be the reapers, and with infinite wisdom they shall gather up the tares and cast them into the furnace of fire. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). The Christian is not a weed gatherer! Sufficient for him is the responsibility of serving as a righteous servant until Jesus comes.
PRAYER: Father, may I have the wisdom to judge between the right and the wrong, and may I have the good sense not to become the judge of other men. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“To do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Micah 6:8
Even with all the distortion of justice which we have witnessed in the past few years, we still know what it is. God has so etched the law of justice in the conscience of man that it takes more than a revolution to rub it out. It is an invincible argument against the false system of evolution which teaches that man created his own moral order, for after half a century of concentrated effort by the educational institutions of our world to destroy God’s law of justice, it still persists in the human conscience.
The tragedy is, that we often misapply what God has said. “What doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God.” This is what God requires of me. He does not require that I govern the other person’s doings, but that I do justly. In shakespeare’s great tragedy, Hamlet, the plot turns about one who acted on the principle that he was required to put things right, not that he was himself to be right, and to do justly. Such requirement came not from God, but from a ghost. After hearing it, Hamlet groaned, “The time is out of joint;—O cursed spite, that even I was born to set it right.” This is the tragedy of our day and of our society, that we all see that things are out of joint, because men do not do justly and walk humbly with God. But instead of seeing what is required, we seek to put the other person’s life aright, through legislation, compulsory education and social action. God does not require that I reform the other person and make him walk correctly. He requires that I do justly, that I observe His laws and walk humbly in His fellowship daily. No wonder we become frustrated and exhausted when we try to set all the world right! God does not require it of us: even Christ did not undertake such a task. But God’s requirement is simple; that I put myself right, in His eyes. This is not easy, but it is within reach of each person. In fact, it is just what God requires.
PRAYER: Father, help me to examine my own ways, and to walk in the right path, that I may be just in your sight. Through Jesus, my Savior. Amen.
“. . . who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” II Timothy 1:10
“If we just knew . . .” So much of what takes place in the world is shrouded in mystery and darkness. If we knew how this operation will turn out; if we knew the trend business will take within six months; if we knew how long the war will go on; if we knew just how the other person felt about this . . . and on it goes each day until one feels weighted down under the burden of a great big IF. There is no solution to all this “iffing”, for God does not reveal the details of each day, and lighten up each “if”. There is one great light He casts, however, which is so bright that the daily “ifs” are seen to be of no significance at all. That light is the manifestation of “life and immortality”. No longer is there any need to be in the dark as to what life should be, nor even what immortality is. These have been demonstrated (manifested) by Jesus, first by His life, and second, by His resurrection to immortality. By His own resurrection from the grave and the restoration of physical life to his body, Jesus demonstrated that all Christians will be resurrected. Being resurrected, He became immortal, “who only hath immortality”. (I Timothy 6:16). By this He demonstrated that immortality is a reality of life made possible by a resurrection from death. Thus Christ has manifested the eternal purpose of God, to have man in His image, immortal and eternal, even as Jesus is. We may not know just how our environment may fluctuate nor how the details of our lives may work out, but we know the purpose God is working at, and what we are destined to be. The only “if” that must be settled is the one regarding our salvation. If we are truly redeemed by Christ, then we know what God has in store.
PRAYER: Gracious Father, forgive me for ever allowing the unknown things to take my time and attention away from the great truth you have made known. Give me boldness to bear witness to Your great eternal purpose of immortality for redeemed men. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before times eternal.” II Timothy 1:9
A few months ago I heard Reull Lemmons say that the household gadgets and appliances now in use will be obsolete within just a few years. Such is the swiftness of change in our time. Because of the rapid changes in the world around us, many are advocating changes in morals and principles of living. We hear so much about change that sometimes we may have the feeling that we are helpless in this great tide that is sweeping over the world. But these changes are only superficial. There are things that do not change: God, truth and His purpose. The text says that His purpose was given before times eternal. Before man was even created, God had decided on a purpose for him. Although Adam “fell” from this purpose by rebellion and sin, the sin of being his own judge as to what was right and thus refusing to accept the purpose of God, still God held to this purpose. Through all the centuries He has revealed various facets of this purpose, until finally, in Christ, He has given us a full revelation of it. The world rejected Him almost 2000 years ago, and since then has drifted farther and farther from the purpose He revealed. We are likely to see startling changes and further rejection of God’s truth. But this does not alter God’s purpose. He is eternal, which is to say that He does not change. Changes which men may initiate have no effect on the purpose of God. And so, in the midst of turmoil and confusion caused by the rapidly changing face of society, we simply put our trust in the Creator who changes not, knowing that ultimately He will accomplish His purpose, and we as His children will be included in it.
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, hold me fast in the midst of the rushing tide of change. Let me not forget that your purpose has not changed and give me courage to hold to it against the foes that would sweep me away into the oblivion of change. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.” II Timothy 1:9
Some children, after trying for a long time to put a jig-saw puzzle together, finally gave up, saying, “How can we know where the pieces go, when we don’t know what the picture is supposed to be?” Such is the case of millions today, who know some of the facts related in the Bible, and believe some of the truths God has revealed, but never come to a full commitment to Christian faith and never quite understand what the Christian life is all about. They don’t know what the picture is supposed to be! They keep trying to work out a plan for their lives, hoping that somehow, by trial and error, they will hit upon an idea that will give purpose and meaning to life. But the scripture says that we are saved and called, not according to “our works”, but according to “his own purpose”. This means that we do not work out our own plan of life and hope that it is the thing God intended, but that God has a purpose for us, and we are to align our lives with His purpose. The text goes on to say that this purpose “was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal, but hath now been manifested by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”. (II Tim. 1:9-10). Thus the purpose of God is no secret. It is manifested by Christ. In Him we have the picture; not a jumbled handful of pieces for us to fit together the best we can, but a complete picture of life as God desires it. Is one puzzled about the proper attitude toward sex? What did Jesus say? Is there a question about the right relationship to the government? What of Jesus’ attitude and teaching? Is there concern and worry over material things? Clothing, food, housing? Read the picture given by Jesus. God did not intend for life to be like the separated pieces of a jig-saw puzzle, but rather like the complete picture, so He has given us that picture in the life of Jesus Christ. Certainly it is not the kind of life the world portrays and calls “the good life”, but it is the kind that the Creator purposed, and the only kind that fulfills our own need and destiny.
PRAYER: Thank you, Father, for revealing your eternal purpose for life. Mold my own life to that purpose, through my redeemer, Christ Jesus. Amen.
“To them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life.” Romans 2:8
Obviously there are two kinds of glory and honor. There are unbelievers of the world who are honored and glorified by men and enshrined in the world’s halls of fame. The apostle does not tell us to seek such glory and honor of men. In fact, Jesus stated that “that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15). The book of John tells of many people, including some of the ruling class, who believed on Christ but would not become his disciples because “they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God.” (John 12:43). One of Satan’s clever methods of seduction is to convince the Christian that if he can but gain the glory and honor of man he will be able to influence more of them for Christ. He uses civic clubs and world organizations to bait the Christian with glory and honor from men. It is a false premise that the end justifies the means, and that we may exalt God by attaining the glory of men. Even Jesus had to make the choice between these two kinds of honor, and finally was debased, despised and put to shame by man in order that He might be exalted by the Father.
Yet, the glory and honor of men is something hard to resist, unless one is seeking a higher glory, the glory and honor of the Creator. This is the thing Paul is telling us to seek, “by patience in well-doing”. Such patience is required because this glory and honor is not attained in this world nor in this life. To seek it whole-heartedly one must crush the ambition to attain the world’s recognition. Like Paul, we become “crucified to the world.” One can seek in only one direction. On the one hand is the world, headed for destruction because of sin, and on the other is God, and the eternal home for the ones who desire His nature. It is a question of the ultimate purpose: To attain incorruption (immortality) and eternal life, one seeks the glory and honor of God.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, erase from my heart all worldly ambition, that I may seek first the eternal goal, and receive the glory you have reserved for your own. In Jesus' blessed name, Amen.
“The eternal God is the refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27
“Aren’t you afraid to fly in stormy weather?” I was asked as I prepared for a jet flight to Atlanta with three or four intermediate stops. The entire area was under a blanket of thunderstorms. “No”, I replied. “When in flight, I put my trust in God, and He also has charge of the thunderstorms.” Flying at 35,000 feet, above layers of thick clouds, with thunderheads rearing in the distance to over 50,000 feet, it was easy to relax as if in the very hand of God. Indeed, we were totally at His mercy.
But aren’t we always? With feet firmly on the floor, our daily schedule before us, a strong body in good health, we immediately assume the attitude that we are quite in control, commanding the affairs as it pleases us. Such false self-assurance soon turns us from faith in God to faith in self, and instead of walking by faith, we are walking by our own power only as far as we can see. Yet, whether we recognize it or not, our lives, our bodies, and our environment are dependent upon God. The life of faith is possible only when we feel at all times that we are at His mercy, so that we take every step in dependence upon God. Today I live by His mercy and grace. Both I and the day are His, and He is invincible. Such is the walk by faith. We do not trust in our own feeble power for daily life, any more than I would think of flying by my own power. “By faith” means to rest upon His “everlasting arms,” not only when sailing through the sky at five hundred miles per hour, but when driving down the street, sitting in a chair and at all other times.
PRAYER: Merciful Father, I put myself in your keeping for this day. Sustain me with Your strength; fill my mind with Your wisdom, and guide me into working Your will, through Christ Jesus, Amen.
“I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13
Is this merely some mystic saying without any real core of truth? Or is it actually possible to make true in one’s life? It must be true, for Paul was true, and the Bible is true. Moreover, it has been true in millions of lives.
What it says is, “I can do”. Most of us allow things to control our lives: money, or disposition, our health, our relationships. But it was never intended to be that way. God created man to exercise control of his life. We are capable of doing things, even the difficult and apparently impossible things. But we have a tendency to say, “I can’t”. What we mean is that to do a thing requires nerve or courage or energy, or it makes us angry or nervous or fearful. But Christ can fill us with the will and the motivation to go on through the worst conditions and to do the things He desires us to do. Of course there must be the will to follow the purpose of God—to be godly and trust our lives to Him. Once this is settled, whatever God has put before us to do, Christ will give us strength to do it. It is not that He does them for us. Christ does not usurp the mind and the will of man. I must will to do, and then with Christ’s help, I can do.
Rather than look at the responsibility or the task and say, “It is too hard for me, I can’t”, we need to say, “This is my task, and by the power of Christ, and the strength He gives, I can do it.”
PRAYER: Almighty God, I thank you for the supply of power and strength you give daily. Help me never to fear, but to act in faith to do all that I ought to do to please you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.