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“. . . he shall bear witness of me . . .” John 15:26
There are many things credited to the Holy Spirit for which He is not responsible. The devil has many ways of keeping men from getting at the real issues, for there are spirits other than the Holy Spirit. “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the anti-christ, whereof ye have heard that it cometh; and now it is in the world already.” So today, as then, there are spirits abroad with every form of doctrine and all kinds of claims. They often have quite a following, great audiences, great enthusiasm, zeal and dedication. But the test is this: do they bear witness of Jesus Christ? This means more than just saying the name of Jesus. John writes that it involves the incarnation of Christ, that He came into the world in flesh. This would take in the fact that He was born of a virgin, lived as a man and died as a man—a flesh and blood death as men die. That was the purpose of His coming, to pay man’s penalty for sin by dying in his place.
Now there are many spirits in the world. Take the spirit of revolution, the spirit of the riots, the mobs marching down the street, thousands of youth shouting obscenities at the police—this is a great spirit, but you will not find it testifying of Jesus as the Christ. You may hear an influential spirit in the pulpit, but if the doctrine is contrary to the Scripture it isn’t the spirit of Christ, for He is changeless, and His truth is changeless. All who are guided by the Holy Spirit will emphasize one thing: the coming of Jesus in the flesh. This was the reason the Holy Spirit was given, to publish abroad the glorious gospel, to bring all men to see the purpose of God as summed up and revealed in Jesus. The Holy Spirit was not to speak of Himself. Where people are talking about the Holy Spirit and preaching the Holy Spirit, there is strong evidence that the Holy Spirit is not behind it, for He came to testify of Jesus. “He shall bear witness of me.”
PRAYER: Father, fill me with the Holy Spirit that I may bear a true and courageous witness of Jesus, my Lord. In His name I pray, Amen.
“They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh.” Galatians 5:24
A news report from London tells of an interior decorator crucified by three men who nailed him to a wooden cross with six-inch spikes. The man by the name of De Havilland is said to have encouraged and cooperated in his own crucifixion as a money-making publicity stunt. The idea was to sell pictures of the ceremony and divide the profits. The scheme failed, however, when police removed De Havilland from the cross and took him to a hospital.
The crucifixion of Jesus was for profit, but not for money. It was to meet the penalty for sin, for Jesus assumed the believer’s sin and then died in the sinner’s place, thus satisfying the demands of God’s justice. Jesus was the only man who could do this, since He was the only man totally without any sin of his own. (I Pet. 1:19). We are the ones who profit from His crucifixion by receiving release from sin and death, so that we may be given immortality and life in the new creation.
Although no man other than Jesus could be crucified for us—we could not even die for our own sins by such a crucifixion—there is a sense in which every Christian must crucify himself. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts thereof.” This is no mystical experience; it is not something that will happen to the Christian as an automatic result of being baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6:2-6) where it is said that the “old man was crucified”. It is something each Christian is commanded to do for himself: “Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness . . . put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking . . .” (Col. 3:5, 8). No one will “put them away” for you! Each man must deliberately cut himself off from these sins, as deliberately cut them off as if he were driving the nails into the cross. It will require self-control. It may be painful. It may mean ridicule. It’s a crucifixion! Considering that Jesus was willing to be crucified for us, is this kind of crucifixion too much for us to undergo?
PRAYER: Father, give me the strength to kill out every sinful thought, to put to death everything that produces sin, and follow in the steps of Jesus my Lord, in who’s name I pray. Amen.
“Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit and have seen nothing.” Ezekiel 13:3
This warning was written especially to the false prophets of Israel who refused to face the conditions that existed. The nation was filled with idolatry, but they continued to claim that God would deliver them. Crime was soaring and the entire populace was bent on a downward plunge into sin, but these prophets continued to talk optimistically as if all were well and there were no cause for alarm. Mighty Babylon was at the gates, ready to take over the nation, but the false prophets shut their eyes to the danger and saw “visions of peace for her (Jerusalem) and there is no peace, saith the Lord Jehovah”.
It is a familiar scene, we are told to think positively and consider only the bright side. Faithful men of God who call attention to the true condition—the crime, the abominable lewdness to be seen everywhere, the deterioration of morals—are branded as prophets of doom and gloom. Popular pulpits must remain in the main stream of optimism. To speak of the threat of socialism and communism is to be smeared as an alarmist. The modern prophets of the new morality are similar to those in Israel. “They say continually unto them that despise me, Jehovah hath said, Ye shall have peace; and unto every one that walketh in the stubbornness of his own heart they say, No evil shall come upon you.” (Jer. 23:17). We hear this in the pulpit, that God is love and will condemn no one; Jesus came to give peace to all, therefore all can have peace merely by wishing it; have no fear for your sins nor of hell. “They strengthen the hands of the evil-doers so that none doth return from his wickedness . . .” The true prophet of God calls the people to repentance, and warns them of the consequences of sin to turn them from evil.
Of course the false prophet is in business because he is popular with the people. Therefore, each person has a responsibility to reject the false prophet and to uphold that which is true to God’s word. We are each responsible for what we hear and give consent to and for the prophets we help to support!
PRAYER: O God, send us preachers of truth, men who care nothing for the world’s glory, but know Your word, believe it, and are unashamed to proclaim it. Make me such a one, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully.” Jeremiah 24:28
Upon this emphatic statement, Jeremiah adds, “What is the straw to the wheat?” What is a dream compared to the word of God? “I have heard what the prophets have said that prophesy lies . . . saying I have dreamed, I have dreamed.” (Jer. 24:25). The nation was plagued by religious leaders who’s only claim to revelation was a dream. It is a familiar story. The people go to hear the word of God, but instead they hear of dreams, personal experiences, illustrations that distort the truth, and call it the gospel. Entire movements are started by the vision of some rebel, someone who claims that God spoke to him in a dream. How often do you hear some radio evangelist say that God spoke to him? How many new denominations have sprung up because some preacher had a dream, and told it as the word of God instead of as a dream, as God says to do? Even political leaders seek to gain a following, leading millions astray, even into violence, by chanting, “I have a dream.” Their dreams are supposed to be the solution to the world’s illness, but the word of God has already given us that solution through Jesus Christ, who died for the sin of the world that all men might live and submit to His Lordship. Any dream, whether it be by a preacher or a politician, which does not coincide with the word of God and with His purpose, is not planted by God and must be recognized for what it is, a dream of fallen sinful man. “Let him tell a dream”, and not tell it as a revelation.
The Hebrew letter teaches that the time for revelation by dreams is past, that “God . . . at the end of these days, (has) spoken unto us in His Son.” We now have the word of the Son. He confirmed and proved for all time the authenticity of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. It is God’s dream, God’s commandment and God’s eternal purpose. Pay no heed to man’s dreams, even if they are told from the pulpit. “Is not my word like fire . . . and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” What is a dream or a vision compared to God’s word? “He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully”.
PRAYER: Father, guard me from false dreams and visions and give me understanding of Your word. Then help me to speak it faithfully. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“. . . transformed into the same image from glory to glory . . .” II Corinthians 3:18
God’s image remains the same, but we are transformed step by step into that image. As Adam willfully rejected that image, we willfully pursue it, turning our minds to God through Christ and daily holding His image and purpose before us. A view of the purpose is often partially obscured by the immediate problems. As when one sets out to climb a mountain peak, he sees the peak from a distance and prepares for a long and difficult climb, but after a while the goal is blotted from his view by trees or a cliff, and immediately before him is a stream to be crossed or a cliff to be scaled. Yet, in his mind’s eye he visualizes the towering peak, and himself standing triumphantly upon it, viewing stream and cliff that have been conquered. While he must give attention to the stream and the cliff in their turn, they are not the immediate goals. He would not bother with them at all but for his desire to get to the peak. Were he merely strolling through the woods and came by accident upon a stream, the stream might become the focal point of his attention. He might even build a house near it. Or if it proved difficult to cross or unappealing to view, he might turn around and go off to some other part of the woods.
This happens to many people. They only stroll through life, scouting religion, with no ultimate goal. Often the immediate challenge becomes the end goal: the church building, the recreation program, the attendance record, the esteem of man and glory of being successful in his eyes. If the church suggests repentance and sacrifice, some real steps toward the Image—the Peak—entailing self-denial and persecution, they take a walk in another corner of the woods. But if the Christian has the purpose of God in mind—that man should eventually and for eternity be in His image—he finds a way across the stream, he scales the cliff, he goes on to the peak, transformed into the same image from glory to glory.
Do you have this goal in view? Have you looked closely into God’s Word so as to get a view of the Peak? Then, go on, from glory to glory.
PRAYER: Father, keep me from being arrested by the momentary problems. Keep me from finding too much delight beside the refreshing streams, lest I remain at their banks too long. Lead me on to Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Ye shall be holy, for I am Holy.” I Peter 1:16
Conditioned to sin as we are it is almost impossible to imagine what is meant by holiness. We are apt to think of God as being indulgent and lenient because He forgives sin. But even if God forgives sin, it is no less hateful in His eyes, He loathes all evil. If there is any sin, he hates it, always did hate it and always will until the day when all sin, sinners and the devil himself are destroyed. God never compromises with sin and sin cannot be camouflaged before His eyes. He sees through all our attempts to cover it up. He makes no excuse for sin, for there is none. There is one way to deal with it—to put it to death! This is what happened on the cross, our sins in Christ’s body, and that body put to death! Otherwise we would be without any hope at all.
To come to Christ for salvation is to come to Him for holiness. The question is: do we want Him to make us holy? It is one thing to be clean of sin in the eyes of God, to have the penalty for sin exacted through Jesus; it is quite another thing for us to be changed into actual holy people—as holy as God is! Yet that is exactly what it’s all about. He expressly states that he wants a people who are holy and without blemish. So after the sin is forgiven by the just penalty being paid by Jesus, the real work begins. Then we learn that we have to be made over; we have to be changed. This is far different from the usual notion people have of finding happiness in faith. We want faith so as to move mountains; to change circumstances; to get everything fixed up to our own specifications. But instead, God sets out to change us. He isn’t going to save the circumstances. He isn’t trying to make the world holy—it is doomed to destruction anyway—but He wants you and me to be holy. Are you concerned with changing circumstances or changing self? Pray not to be excused but to be exercised; not for less work, but for more strength. “Ye shall be holy”. It is a solemn promise to everyone who takes seriously the purpose of God, to have life in His image, for He is holy.
PRAYER: Father, I confess that I am unfit to come into Your presence, save by the mediator, Christ Jesus. In His name, I pray for Your cleansing power, that I might be transformed to Your likeness. Amen.
“And thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:5
We usually read this from the tenth chapter of Luke, in which the lawyer adds, “and thy neighbor as thyself.” Then we jump to considering the neighbor part before we have understood what it is to love God. This has become a favorite religious pastime, debating about all the ways we may love our neighbors. Great organizations are formed for the purpose of not only loving the neighbor, but for the purpose of regulating his life even to the point of robbing him of his freedom. But the first commandment is to love God, and we must do this first before we can know what it is to love our neighbor. Now how shall we love God? First, with all thy heart. The heart here is the seat of emotion, and this says that all our emotion is turned to God. You can’t love God with all your heart and still get excited—emotional—about the sins of the world. The night club singer who spends the evening entertaining with songs suggestive of lust then throws in a hymn of praise to God at the end is typical of all who love God on certain occasions, even shedding a tear now and then, but who have their hearts panting after the things of the world. Second, we love God with all the soul. The soul means life, and this simply means that our whole life belongs to God, not just the “spiritual” part. All the soul means everything we do, when we are making a living, or enjoying leisure—it’s our life! It reflects our love for God! Third, we are to love him with all our might, with all our power. One has to put some power and effort in his love. Loving God is not a passive action, something that is just allow to happen along the way. It is not a hobby for one’s leisure moments, when there’s nothing else to do. It takes your strength—all your might! I say it takes this, because when you really love God you put everything of your being into turning to Him, learning of Him, and serving Him. How much do you love God?
PRAYER: O God, help me to drive out every love save that which draws me closer to You and makes me pleasing in Your sight. Give me power that I may love You more. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
“Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah.” Exodus 14:13
There are times when the best thing, and the hardest thing, is to stand still.
The Red Sea lay before Israel. On either side the mountains hemmed them in, while the mighty Egyptian army pursued close on their heels. They were trapped. They could have called a conference, a cabinet meeting of the wisest men of the nation and out of their deliberations no solution would have been formed. Facing this impossible situation they could only lament, “This is the end. There’s no way out”. They accused Moses of having betrayed them. “Hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?”
Here we see the difference between faith and fear. Moses did not question the helplessness of the situation. But he believed God. He believed that God will not lead into something He cannot get out of. What should they do? Why, do nothing but look to God! He is the deliverer, not I, not you. Salvation is of the Lord. How soon we turn from prayer to panic. We ask for a way and while we are going along smoothly as if at last God had paved the way for us to coast along, suddenly there is the Red Sea. We cannot turn back and everywhere we are hemmed in and penned down. Then comes the wringing of hands, hearts fill with fear and a spirit of rebellion arises. Why did this happen? Only that we might see the salvation of the Lord. The fearful and unbelieving panic. But the faithful look to Christ, “who was with Moses in the wilderness.” “And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on the left.” When there was no way out, God made a way. Christian, it is God who makes the way. Obeying the Lord brings us up against great hostile foes and leads us into impossible situations, fraught with fearful possibilities. The natural impulse is to turn back, to panic, to let fear dictate the action. The easiest thing to do would be to run, but to do so is to miss the greatest thing of all: the salvation wrought by Jehovah. So in such circumstance, He says, “Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah.”
PRAYER: Loving Father, steel my heart against the fear of the enemies of truth, and help me to stand in the strength of Jesus my Lord. Amen.
“All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” Matthew 28:18
The president of the United States of America must share his authority with the Supreme Court and the Congress. Were he to openly claim all authority it would be considered the act of a tyrant. But here is One who comes and states in all soberness and without any fear of challenge that He has all authority, not only on earth, but in Heaven. He shares the throne with no one. It means that Jesus is the sovereign ruler with the authority to make choices, the authority to enforce obedience to His choices, and the authority to execute judgment upon all who disobey. It was upon this declaration of His authority over all mankind that the apostles were sent out to preach the gospel as He had explained it, to baptize believers, and then teach them all things He had taught.
Think what it must mean for us to say we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! Millions say it, then go their way, doing as they please, making their choices, obeying the law of expediency, and living as if Jesus had nothing to say about life in the twentieth century. But if I believe that Jesus is Christ the Lord, then I believe I must account to Him for my whole life, that there is nothing in the world as important as satisfying His choice, His plan and purpose, that I must be baptized by His authority—in His name—and that I must govern my entire life by His will and not that of the world.
Don’t you see what this is saying to this age? The authority belongs to Jesus and not to society! Humanity has no authority. The “social conscience” cannot be my guide. My mental health is not to be determined by adjusting to the world and the environment, but by the One Who is in authority, and Who sets the example of what it is to be healthy-minded—“single-minded” He called it, and that means to have our minds fixed on His will. Ultimately each one must give account to Jesus: He has all authority.
PRAYER: Father, break down any proud streak of resistance in my life, that I may be fully submitted to the King of heaven and earth and that He may have authority over my life. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
“Whatsoever ye shalt ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” John 15:16
Jesus laid great stress on doing things in “His name.” The apostles healed the sick and the lame “in the name of Jesus”, preached in His name, defied the enemies in that Name, baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”, prayed in His name. But there must be more than merely tacking on the end of a prayer “in the name of Jesus.” Jesus was given all authority and power in heaven and on earth. God made Him to be Lord that “in the name of Jesus” every knee should bow. Therefore to ask in the name of Jesus means to pray by the power and authority of the Lord and Sovereign of all creation; to pray in His name because we have the right to do so. It is similar to the sheriff or his deputy who knocks on the door and demands, “Open up in the name of the law.” He has a warrant in his hand, signifying his authority and right to demand entrance. If you don’t open the door he has the right to break it in, since he is doing so in the name of the law. Of course, an imposter might demand entrance in the name of the law when he is not duly qualified, and has no authority to do so. But, of course, God knows who is qualified and who has the right to ask by Christ’s authority. Just saying the words at the end of a prayer —“in Jesus’ name.”—without actually recognizing the Lordship of Jesus will have no influence at the throne of God.
To ask in the name of Jesus means that we are lawfully authorized to use Jesus’ name by having obeyed the gospel.
Then, also the person who acts in the name of another or by another’s authority can do only the things authorized; that is he can act only in accord with the one in authority. Thus we can pray only for that which is Christ’s will for us to have. It will do no good to ask of the Father that which Jesus would deny us. Therefore, to get our prayers answered, we need to be united with Jesus, to be joined to him by baptism, and then to know His will so that we can ask for that which it is His will to give.
PRAYER: Loving Father, in the name of Jesus the Lord, I ask for wisdom to know Your will, and strength and courage that I may do it. Give me sufficient grace for the task before me. Amen.
“Jehovah doth make a distinction between the Egyptians and Israel.” Exodus 11:7
When it hailed on the Egyptians, it was dry in the land of Goshen where the Israelites dwelt. In the darkness of Egypt, there was light in the houses of Israel. Although Israel was still in bondage, their houses virtually their prison, yet they had light. So are we in the world, in the midst of it’s danger, its degradation, sickness, turmoil, labor and pain. The flood of violence, of depression or war is felt by Christians; we are not excused from the ravages of sin in the world. But there is a distinction. The hail of fear and anxiety is not in the camp of Israel. We have light, “we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”
It is true that the same things happen to Christians that happen to sinners. The same thing may happen but still there is a distinction. Sickness and pain comes to all, but it is only a means of training and shaping the believer into the image of God. Sometimes the brightest light is to be found at the bedside of the suffering saint. The poverty which is cursed by the world may be blessed by the believer, as it teaches him to depend upon the Lord for his daily bread. Whatever be the difficulty, however severe the trial, there is always a ray of light in the camp of Israel.
The great distinction God made was in the plague of death. In every Egyptian household there arose a cry as the firstborn died, but in Israel there was prayer, praise and the eating of the passover lamb. At the day of judgment there will also be a cry from all the earth as Christ the judge comes in flaming fire rendering judgment and destruction to all who have not obeyed the gospel. But it will be different for Israel; there shall be the cry of joy, the shout of triumph. We shall be saved and made immortal, not because we have earned salvation, nor because we are educated, hard-working, or clever, but because the Lamb of God has been slain for us. Is your trust in the Lamb of God? Have you applied the blood to the doorpost of your life? Is there a distinction?
PRAYER: Loving Father, may your light shine in my heart and out of my life, that in the world I may be distinctly Your own. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” I Timothy 6:6
There is a constant complaint from people in all walks of life about the “rat race”, the “mad whirl” and the business of “keeping up with the Joneses.” They have a goal, perhaps a vague one, but some idea of things that they want to be able to own, a certain level of material prosperity they have not yet reached, and probably never will. It is determined only by what they consider to be a higher or better living standard, and it always remains a notch beyond their reach. Therefore, they must ever remain discontent. They say, “Just one more piece of furniture—just one more piece of property—just a little more . . .” There is always room for more. Things have a way of demanding other things so that they who seek them cannot be satisfied. They condemn themselves to a life of discontent, and miss the hope of gaining in eternity all the things which really satisfy.
Godliness is not gained by the discontent for the simple reason that they are not seeking it. To seek godliness one must seek it first. He cannot focus his attention on the gain of things and expect to gain godliness to boot. He cannot let the world and those who serve it be his standard and expect to develop in another direction. To turn it around, the person who seeks godliness will gain it and also find contentment! The laborer who at the end of the day finds that he has accomplished his work and received the commendation of his employer has a deep sense of contentment. So has the one who seeks godliness, for godliness is nothing more than the practice of pleasing God. This is all that God asks! If this is your aim, your goal, your daily task, then you will not be worried about the rat race and the mad whirl going on about you. Your goal is within reach, it is gained every day, and at the same time it becomes a new goal worthy of each day’s efforts. It is the only way to have contentment, and continue to gain every day.
PRAYER: Loving Father, help me to set no goal before me but that of pleasing You and doing Your will. I know you will supply all my needs through Jesus Christ my Lord. In His name I pray. Amen.
“And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
It is reported that Mr. J. Paul Getty is the richest man in the world, controlling over a billion dollars worth of interests. He owns oil wells, refineries, tankers, hotels, aircraft companies and many other valuable assets. He lives alone in a mansion in Surrey, England, surrounded by bodyguards, dogs, steel bars, searchlights, bells and sirens. Even with all his money he admits to fear and unhappiness.
God doesn’t want us to live in fear nor hide away from the world behind bars for fear of it. Therefore He promises to guard our hearts and our thoughts with His peace. The “heart” refers to our feelings, emotions and moods which might prevail in our subconscious mind, while our thoughts refer to the consciousness. It is peace, the peace that God gives, that guards our hearts and thoughts so that fear cannot enter.
The fact that this peace “passeth all understanding” does not mean that it is irrational, or something we have no knowledge of. It is not a mystery. In fact it is just by using our minds to put our confidence in the gospel of God and His promises, and by bringing our thoughts into harmony with Him, that this peace enters in. Peace is impossible where there are conflicting desires, unsettled purposes and anxiety over the discordant workings of man. The gateway to peace is the truth. When we have learned the truth we can then understand the purpose of God and make it our purpose also, so that our desire is fixed on God, our purpose is the same as His, and we are no longer influenced by the devious ways of man. The depth of such peace and our appreciation of it can never be fully measured and explained. But we are told how to receive it, and that it will guard our hearts and thoughts so that worry and fear cannot enter. Peace comes from God when we come to the place of putting our full confidence in Jesus and making Him the Lord of our hearts and thoughts.
PRAYER: Father, I know that I have nothing to worry about, for Jesus my Saviour is Lord of all. Grant that I may keep my thoughts and my heart set on Your will, that I may have peace and boldness in this world. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
“Rejoice in the Lord always.” Philippians 4:4
In a popular song there’s a line that goes, “if you can keep laughing all day long.” Surely no one would interpret Paul’s words to mean that! We are all familiar with the funny man who keeps the office force in stitches, then goes home to sulk and pout and mistreat his wife. Such is the kind of joy that is spread like a veneer over the deep sorrow of the world. Paul also knew sorrow. Facing probable execution he wrote, “And if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith I joy, and rejoice with you all, and in the same manner do ye also joy, and rejoice with me.” (Phil. 2:17, 18). This is the kind of joy Jesus knew who “rejoiced in the Holly Spirit.” He said to the disciples, “rejoice that your names are written in heaven." This is the secret of continual joy for it is the principal purpose of this earthly life, to get our names assured on the heavenly roll, that we may be citizens of the eternal kingdom. The materialist can rejoice only when his stock is going up; the playboy can rejoice only in his sensual pleasures; they who live for this world can rejoice only when circumstances of this world are satisfactory. But the Christian is a citizen of another world. Already he wears the name and seal of the King. He rejoices “in the Lord.” First he rejoices because he is in the Lord, and therefore free from condemnation and the judgment to come. Then he rejoices in the fact that the Lord’s purpose is accomplished in his life, in spite of sorrow and suffering. Finally he rejoices in anticipation of the Lord’s return. The more a man depends on the circumstances for joy, the more he will suffer and the less he will rejoice. But the more a man depends upon the Lord and His purpose the less will he be hurt and saddened by circumstances. Are you the Lord’s? Then you can keep on being His, on out to the end of this life, as well as for eternity. Therefore, rejoice always.
PRAYER: Father, I do rejoice in the love You have manifested through Jesus my Saviour, that I may be a part of the eternal Kingdom. Grant that I may never be sidetracked from the goal by anything in this world. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
“Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Matthew 4:10
Satan is called by our Lord, “the prince of this world” and Paul speaks of him as the “god of this world”. Therefore when he showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world and said “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” he was well within his rights to offer them, just as he does to every man who is willing to subject himself voluntarily to his evil rule. Of course the kingdoms belong to Satan only as men reject the true King. Satan made the offer to Jesus only on the monstrous condition that Jesus should fall down and worship him, which would make Jesus subject to Satan. Thus Satan would still be in charge of the kingdoms and Jesus would only be his deputy, doing his bidding. This is the offer the devil makes to each man, to worship him and enjoy power and glory in the world. Such power and glory is only for this life: when Christ comes, He will destroy Satan and all his temporal kingdom. The effort toward a central world power which is to have control over all of man’s activities with Christ-denying leaders regulating life to suit themselves, can be accomplished only by men falling down and worshipping Satan and rejecting God and His laws.
In this third temptation Satan throws off all disguise and reveals his true intent, to usurp the place of God and receive worshipful homage from men. At the core of all temptation is this basic object, to defeat the purpose of God, to keep men from being created in God’s image and in harmony with Him. To gain this end he first tries subtle reasoning, offering that which sounds good and reasonable, but he is willing to go to any length, even to this final blasphemous offer in order to destroy God’s creatures. Of course there is never any question as to whom we should worship. The question is; do we recognize the temptation, that it is not as innocent and shallow as it appears, that to give in to it is to fall down and worship Satan? If the world is tempting you, remember that this is what it is asking you to do!
PRAYER: Loving Father, I thank you for the victory won over Satan by the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray in His name that You will not lead me into temptation, but if I am tempted, that I may claim the victory which Christ has won. Amen.
“Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God.” Matthew 4:4
This is a quotation from Deuteronomy and there it has reference to the occasion in the wilderness, when Israel had no water and accused Moses of having brought them out of Egypt for the purpose of killing them. “They tempted Jehovah, saying, Is Jehovah among us?” Hence the command, “Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God.” This was the devil’s purpose in tempting Jesus. To paraphrase Satan, he was saying, “Now that you are acclaimed as God’s Son, will He really take care of you like He promised? Jump off the tower of the temple here and see if you will go floating down safely to the ground! You do not know if God is true or not until you put Him to the test. If it is like you say, you have nothing to fear—but does God really keep His promise?”
Satan supports his argument with a quotation from the Bible. But he misapplied the scripture. God promises protection from danger for the purpose of getting His work done, but He forbids our creating the danger for the sake of putting Him to the test. As long as we fear God and keep His commandments we need have no other fear in the world, but we are forbidden to break God’s laws, whether the law of gravity, or the law of punishment, for crime, just for the sake of eliminating all fear! God can suspend the laws of nature, if He so desires, for He controls them. But He does not do so merely to display His power nor to satisfy the doubts of the unbelieving. We are told to behave ourselves, to abide by the rules, to use good judgment and to walk by faith. If we break nature’s laws, we must suffer the penalty—like broken limbs from an automobile accident. We must not tempt God by driving a hundred miles an hour, or by foolhardy habits of health. Those who advise our youth to experiment, to try the other side of life to see what will happen, to get involved where they do not understand the powers at play, are telling them to tempt God. Even Jesus, Almighty Creator and Lord, took no chances by defying the rules.
PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for giving Your Divine protection in my daily walk. Forgive me where I have followed unwise inclinations, and help me to walk trustingly according to Your commands. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
“Man shall not live by bread alone . . .” Matthew 4:4
“If you are really the Son of God, like the voice from heaven said, then why do you hunger? Turn these stones to bread. If you are the Son of God, act like a Son!” This is the kind of temptation that is deceiving millions of youth today. They are told, “If you want to be a true Christian, then get into the social revolution and do something about hungry people and all the injustice in the world.” T. Robert Ingram says, “The whole communist movement, from beginning to end, is fired by passion for false justice. The real drawing passion for them is the spirit of covetousness. It is so easy to rail at God as being unfair, or unjust, to put us in a world where there is so much hunger, and strife, and danger. It is so easy to become enraged at, the imaginary injustice of some persons being rich while others live in slums; The siren voice of the arch-tempter sings of building a new world in which there will be a new order of justice. In the new visionary order there is promised two principal changes—freedom from want and freedom from fear. Stated another way, freedom from want means a world in which there is free food for all—free without paying God’s exacted price of labor . . .”
Granted that there are injustices that need correction, the temptation is to take the easy way, as Satan suggests, and satisfy all the superficial needs. We are tempted to “prove” that we are sons of God by yielding to the social demands of those who have no concern for God. How often have you contributed to a cause you didn’t approve? Wasn’t it simply because you were under pressure by the world to prove that you were Christian? Jesus also was tempted to prove to the devil that He really was the Son of God and satisfy his hunger at the same time. But there was a need greater than the need for bread; the need to be true to God’s word. This is the real need today. It is heartbreaking to consider the starving when many have food to waste. But it is even worse that both the hungry and the filled know not God and have no regard for His word. Here is the greater need, “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, give us our daily bread, and help us to share it with those in need, but grant that we may not put it ahead of our greater need for Your word. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” Matthew 4:1
The temptation of Jesus followed immediately upon His baptism, which He said was necessary to “fulfill all righteousness.” The Spirit of God descended as a dove and a voice was heard from Heaven, saying “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” So was marked the beginning of Christ’s mission to redeem mankind. But before such a mighty work could begin, there was a foe to face and a battle to be won. Before He could free others from Satan’s grasp He had to free Himself from the dominion of the devil by meeting him on his own ground and conquering his power. Although Jesus was “led by the Spirit”, He did not go unwillingly. He was led by the nature of His mission and by His own desire to defeat Satan and win a victory, not only for Himself, but for you and me. It was not out of love for temptation nor inward longing after that which Satan offered, but out of resolve to overcome evil and win the glory of righteousness that Jesus went to face His enemy.
Each Christian must follow this same course. After he is baptized, receives the Holy Spirit and is assured by the word of God that he is cleansed from sin and well-pleasing to Him, then one is led to confront the devil in the wilderness of this world. The Spirit of God leads us to go out and overcome evil with good, to uphold justice and relieve the oppressed. It is the Spirit that leads us out to serve, but it is the devil who does the tempting. He would tempt us to accomplish justice by unjust means, to get the job done in his way instead of God’s way. We are not saved to sit idle. We arise from the baptistry “to walk in newness of life” and the path leads to the wilderness where we must either give over to Satan and turn back to His kingdom, or resist Him. Remember that Jesus beat Him, and it is by faith in Christ and His power over Satan that we resist Him. We do not really fight the whole battle over again, but put our faith in Christ and the victory He has won.
PRAYER: O God, increase my faith, that I may resist Satan and stand in the victory won by Jesus my Lord. Amen.
“. . . giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3
How can you keep the unity? Notice that God does not tell us to create unity, but to keep that unity already established. When we are united with Christ by obedience to the gospel, we are also united to all who belong to Him and are similarly united to Him. Peter, in writing of the “love of the brethren”, reminds us to “love one another from the heart fervently; having been begotten again . . . through the word of God.” (I Peter 1:22, 23). We have all been conceived by the same Word, which is the Spirit of truth, the Word of God. Man can no more create unity in Christ apart from the work of the Word than he can bring forth life apart from a conception. The unity of God’s church is not a union of denominations nor an organization representative of many different bodies. Neither is it a mere feeling of good will which deliberately ignores the purpose of God. It is clearly defined as that unity produced by our having one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one hope and one God. (Eph. 4:4-6).
We recognize that believers are separated into many different groups to the point that we are hard put to identify who is a follower of Christ and who is not. What are we to do? The answer is not to be found in creating more organizations and movements to promote “unity.” Each such movement and fellowship only draws certain ones away and into another circle. The Bible suggests no such fellowships and organizations frantically laboring to establish unity. We are simply told to keep the unity. Each Christian is to see to it that he remains in the unity of the Spirit, that he grows in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus, that he strengthen his faith, that he remain true to his baptism, that he set his goal on the hope of immortality in the likeness of Christ and that he recognize in everything and at all times that God is the Father of all and is over all. These are the elements of unity. Are you keeping this unity?
PRAYER: Loving Father, I thank you for the many Christians in all the world who remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. Help us all to keep this unity, to be drawn closer to You and to each other in the bond of peace, to the glory of Christ Jesus, through Whom I pray, Amen.
“It is time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed.” Romans 13:11
Years ago, before I came to understand the vital message of Christianity, I used to sing a popular religious song that said, “If I am dreaming, let me dream on”. The idea of the song was that even if the message of the Bible is not true, if we are only dreaming about eternal life, then it is still better than to live without any kind of hope at all. It suggests that perhaps Christians are living in a kind of fool’s paradise. Then God disciplined me with some very stern lessons which drove me to the wall, where the question of belief or unbelief had to be settled. Mere dreaming is not enough when the world crumbles, and one stands naked before God. It was then that I had to know the truth. Is it possible to actually live by faith, as God has said? Can one be content with only Christ, and nothing more? Is the future hope of the Christian really worth giving up life in this world? If the answer is “No”, then I want to know it now. “If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable.” (I Cor. 15:19).
Christ does not promise us ease in this life. He suggests that it is the unbeliever who enjoys the things of this world. The believer is to be hated, to be buffeted, to be persecuted and to learn to be an obedient child by chastening. In the past thirty years millions of Christians have been tortured and slain at the hands of the international conspirators of socialism. If there is nothing to the promises of God, then Christians are a sad and deluded group of dreamers.
But it is no dream! Salvation, the resurrection to immortality, the reality of a kingdom where man lives in true peace and joy, it is growing nearer every day. This is no time for dreaming. We must awake to the sobering fact that God is saving a people for His eternal possession, and we are among those people. What a sobering fact, indeed! Christianity is no dream, but the real and ultimate issue that must settle the destiny of every man!
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, keep me alert to the real issues of life. Do not allow me to become weary of the struggle, nor to forget Thy great purpose. Strengthen me with Thy power; open my eyes with understanding; quicken my heart with assurance, and fill my lips with Thy truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good . . .” Genesis 1:31
We need this assurance, that after God had finished with the job of creation, everything was good. When God uses the term “good” He is referring to an absolute goodness: perfection. Included in this description was the man who had been created in God’s image. He was perfect, quite different from what the textbooks would teach our children. There the first man is portrayed as some thing like an ape, with long hairy arms, receding forehead and a stupid monkey-like expression. He hasn’t learned to talk, hunts wild beasts with a club and eats raw meat. According to the evolutionists it took him hundreds of thousands of years to grow out of this primitive state to become a man with intelligence and ability to communicate with others of his breed.
The Biblical account says that the man whom God created was perfect, able to communicate with God, intelligent enough to name the animals and to be placed in charge of the earth and “have dominion” over it. He was not a decaying, aging and disease-ridden creature as we now see man, after all these generations of so-called development. In fact Adam was an undying person, with no death at all working in him. It was only after sinning against God that death entered the scene. After Adam’s rebellion he lost the deathless quality, began to age and finally died, passing this mortal quality on to succeeding generations. All Scripture bears out this theme, that man has sinned, is a sinner, and must be redeemed from sin by the death of Jesus. Contrary to the theory of evolution, the Bible teaches that God created man good, perfect, in His own sublime and holy image and man has developed downwards in sin, rather than upwards.
But God isn’t finished. He works in redeemed men transforming them and rewarding them in their minds. One day He will create again, creating a new heaven and a new earth, and creating new bodies for his people. What we see now is largely the influence and work of Satan. If you would see life that is truly good, yield your life to God, for what God creates is “very good.”
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, have mercy on me, for I have spoiled Your good work and desecrated Your image in my life. Cleanse me through the blood of Jesus, and reshape me into Your own likeness, in His name. Amen.
“. . . and after the fire a still small voice . . .” I Kings 19:12
God’s object lesson for Elijah still holds true. Wind, earthquake and fire all failed to reveal the purpose of God and His message. “Then a still small voice!” We so easily get carried away with the things that make a lot of noise and put on a spectacular display. We judge a meeting of any kind great because it has many people in attendance, and forget that only 13 men were present in the upper room where one of the greatest of meetings took place. The press gives worldwide coverage to meetings and conferences that are supposed to represent something big, and the public generally takes notice of it, all the while ignoring the really significant things that take place in their own localities.
The times of speaking in “still small voices” has been replaced by the days in which God has spoken to us in His Son as recorded for us in His word. So the voice is even quieter than it was with Elijah. We go to the Bible and in the stillness of our own study allow the message to come through our reading. No wind. No earthquake, and no fire. We may find it hard, sometimes, to shut out all the winds, to take our eyes away from the great display of force and power of the world, to be unmoved by the events that seem terrifying when viewed strictly from the world’s viewpoint. If we do not know better we might be carried away by the sheer magnitude of earthshaking declarations, events, wars and scientific creations. But if we can tear ourselves away from the spectacle long enough to see what God is saying in His word, we will find that in that still small voice there is direction, purpose and power. It is the same voice that spoke to Elijah, and it is still true and powerful. For the moment it appears that God has left the scene. The spotlight is on the anti-christ, the humanists, the socialists who are trying to make the world after their own image. They make a great noise and the fire of revolution is sweeping the world. But God’s voice has lost none of its power. It may be “still” and “small”, so that you have to quietly seek it, but it remains the power that moves the world, and will give the answer to your needs.
PRAYER: Father, give me understanding of Your word, and help me to yield to Your leading. Grant me wisdom to mark Your leading, and the strength to follow it, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“By faith Moses . . . refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter . . .” Hebrews 11:24
Moses was “choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt”. Moses was put to the test of choosing between two highly desirable objects: a Kingdom on earth, as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, or the Kingdom of Christ as a child of God. He knew that he could not be in Pharaoh’s camp and at the same time be in harmony with God Who was about to destroy Pharaoh. It was either-or. To be on God’s side meant that a deliberate refusal had to be made, a refusal of that which was ready at hand, which was the most glamorous and which all natural impulses would drive him to desire.
The test was not so much in the choosing as it was in the refusing. There is the significance; in what was refused. The relationship with Pharaoh’s family was such that it would not simply melt away by being ignored. There had to be a time when Moses faced the issue and made a break. Who knows what dramatic scene, tense, passionate and desperate, was played in the household of Pharaoh when his daughter was rejected by the foster son whom she had loved and nurtured and mothered for those 40 years? It was not an easy decision, and it was not an easy break. It required all the moral stamina of this great man, and then some. “By faith Moses . . . refused!”
We never begin sharing in the reproach of Christ until we refuse the world. No one takes notice as long as we conform to the world. Whether we claim Christ or not is of no concern to the world. But to refuse it! Here is where faith is at a premium. Yet this is exactly what we are called to do. Before we can put on the new man, the old must be put off—refused. To put God’s Kingdom first, we must deliberately refuse Satan’s kingdom and the whole system he controls. May be you have made good choices. But have you made the refusals necessary in order to share the reproach of Christ and His riches?
PRAYER: Loving Father, increase my faith that I too may refuse that which is not in concert with Your purpose, and choose the way of Christ Jesus my Lord, through Whom I pray. Amen.
“Every one therefore who shall confess me . . . him will I also confess . . .” Matthew 10:32
“I do not claim to be a Christian,” a man says. “But I try to live and let live.” “I do not profess to be a Christian,” another admits. “But I certainly pay my debts.” So men confess their good points, while denying Christ. What one wishes to show is that he has a certain righteousness but that it doesn’t come from Christ. It is a way of denying Christ while appearing to support Him. It claims honor for one’s self while giving none to Jesus and the death He died.
What did Jesus mean, “confess me”? Well, it does not mean to confess that He taught some good ethics and a good social program, nor even to confess that He is God’s Son, although this is included. He said that if we confess Him before men He will confess us “before the Father who is in heaven”. To confess Jesus before men is to confess the same thing that He will confess before the Father: that Christ died in our place, accounting for our sins. “He bore our sins in His body on the tree”. I Peter 2:24. I confess that Christ died for me, so that when my sin is called to account, Jesus will confess, “I died for that man.”
Thus to confess Christ is to confess that we are indeed Christians, that by His grace we are made free from sin and by His redemption we belong to Him. To confess that one is a Christian is not to boast of his morals and good deeds. In fact it is the very opposite of this: to admit one is sinful and in need of Christ’s saving power. Who is boasting, the man who says, “I am not a Christian, but I always pay my bills and treat men fairly” or the one who says, “I have many sins, I admit, but I am a Christian by the grace of God, Who gave His Son on Calvary to save me”? You see that it takes more courage to confess that you are a Christian, depending on Christ than to confess that you are a pretty good fellow, doing the best you can! The world is ready at any moment to deny Christ and boast of its own achievements. As Christians it is our privilege to confess Christ and boast of His achievements in saving us from sin and death.
PRAYER: Loving Father, grant me boldness to confess the mighty saving power of Jesus; that God may be glorified in His blessed name. Amen.
“Everyone that asketh receiveth . . .” Matthew 7:8
There are a thousand voices ready to dispute these plain words of Jesus. They have asked, over and over, and have not received. They conclude that Jesus did not mean it as it sounds; there’s some trick to it; it doesn’t apply in the twentieth century; it requires a supernatural faith; and so on and on. It would seem that God is in a corner. Here is a promise made by Christ, but experience proves that it doesn’t hold true!
But the promise is made by Jesus. It is repeated over and over again. “Pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee.” This is a solemn promise of the Lord. It must be true. If we do not receive the answer it must not be due to a faulty promise, but a faulty prayer. God keeps His promises. James teaches that, you ask and receive not because you ask amiss! There are requirements to asking. If we are to ask of the Father, then we must ask that which is the Father’s nature and purpose to give! People ask for many things which are contrary to the purpose of God. What folly to think that one who is pursuing the course away from God will receive His comfort and blessing in their rebellious pursuit! Jesus said “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7). Here is the secret of prayer: to be so familiar with His word that we shall ask only for those things which fulfill the Father’s will. It is God’s everlasting desire to give us everything that will bring us to the fulfillment of His purpose. He knows what we need even before we ask, and desires to give “good gifts” to his children. Then we ask amiss! Or perhaps we do not really ask at all, but “say a prayer”, making mention of many things, with nothing particular in mind! A vague prayer is given a vague answer. Ask! Ask according to His word. Ask specifically. Ask in faith. And everyone that asketh receiveth!
PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for hearing and answering prayer. Give me greater faith, and better understanding, and I will ask of You greater gifts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“For by grace have you been saved through faith . . .” Ephesians 2:8
Of course you know that faith without works is dead, therefore the faith that saves is a faith “that worketh by love”; it is a faith that produces obedience. Nevertheless it is by grace that you are saved, which means that all your works do not save. All our peace and joy turns upon understanding this distinction between work that is produced by faith, and work that is meant to save. As long as one thinks he must earn any part of his salvation he will go on struggling with an impossibility and piling his burden of guilt and fear higher and higher. He thinks in terms of being “worthy of salvation” and prays that he may be “worthy of Christ’s death.” But all the time he knows that he is not worthy. Therefore all his work is spent to pay a debt that work can never pay with the result that he is left feeling frustrated and helpless. He is like one who may be so far in debt that he well knows he cannot ever pay it, yet every paycheck must be credited to this debt. All his labor is futile. This is the way millions feel who labor for Christ. They keep crediting their work against the debt of sin, as if it were a past due balance! No wonder they become “weary in well-doing” and discouraged, seeing that they cannot pay the debt.
“By grace” means that the debt is paid, totally, freely, by God in the death of His Son. The wages of sin is not works, but death! All the works you credit to your salvation add up to nothing. The sin-penalty isn’t paid that way, but by the death of Jesus. “Through faith” means that we believe it! We believe it enough to claim it by obedience to the Gospel. From now on all the works are clear profit! The balance is paid. “By grace have you been saved”. From now on your work is entered into the account to your credit! It is the work of love, not of a hired servant, but as an obedient and loving son, and it will not be forgotten by the Father. Rejoice in your work and lay it up as a treasure in the bank of eternity. It is adding more luster to the glory of your immortality. By grace have you been saved!
PRAYER: O God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, I praise your blessed name and offer thanksgiving for Your redeeming grace, and pray that You will remember my feeble works of faith, and not my sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“He that loveth his life loseth it.” John 12:25
“No risk involved”. This is the eye-catching headline by which millions of products are sold. We live in an antiseptic society in which we are vaccinated against all risks and so security conscious that the finer things are often forfeited lest we risk losing the lesser. We hesitate to launch out in the deep and make the biggest catch. We bury the talent, instead of using it: we love ourselves too much to run the risk of anything happening to our lives. We are silent in the face of the worst disaster, that of men and women condemned to death by sin; we are afraid to speak; we might lose the mantle of sophistication by which we expect to be taken as worldly wise. We love our lives too much to bear the reproach of Christ. We love ourselves too much to risk living for God. Therefore he that loveth his life loseth it.
This refusal to risk our lives to God is gross unbelief. When Peter tried to persuade Jesus to stay away from Jerusalem, because He would be risking His life there, Jesus used the harshest expression to silence him. “Get thee hence, Satan”. I know of no other occasion when a disciple was given this hateful name.
Life in this world and in this age must be lived in Satan’s environment. With the best of health and sufficient material blessings, it still falls far short of the life that our Creator designed. It must be lived in enemy territory, in warfare against the enemy and apart from the direct personal companionship of the Father. If we love this kind of living, if we prefer this kind of life to the life which God designed and offers in the new creation, then THIS life is just what we will get and that not for long, for each person must lose this life in death. In Judgment he will lose it for eternity. When one becomes a Christian he gives all that is temporal, including mortal life, in order that he may receive all that is eternal, including immortality. So Jesus said, “he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, may I hold nothing in this life dear save that which is dear to You and Your eternal purpose. Teach me to use my life for Your service, and save me for eternity, through Jesus my Redeemer. Amen.
“Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.” John 12:24
Alone! It is a sad word. A friend said to me recently, “So many people that I know are lonely; it’s so sad!” Indeed! Loneliness is like a disease that will gradually and silently destroy one’s perspective, kill his incentive and weaken his will. Man was not intended to be alone. God said “It is not good that man should be alone”, so he created for him a companion. Even God Himself desires fellowship, and is creating a race of people for “his own possession”. So Jesus speaks of a grain of wheat that “abideth by itself alone”, recognizing that such was not a good condition.
But notice the cure for loneliness which He suggests! “But if it die, it beareth much fruit”. So the answer to loneliness is just the opposite of what we would ordinarily think. It isn’t cured by finding crowds of people. Invariably this only leaves one more lonely, for he cannot live in this crowd all the time. But he can die to this world, wipe out his worldly aspirations, seek nothing from this world, and reckon himself dead to sin and the world, and alive to God and His purpose. There are numerous examples of how this works: Elijah, John the Baptist, Paul, the apostle John. Of course Jesus is the perfect example He was rejected by his own family, had no home to call his own, never had a wife and children and always was misunderstood, never having a soul in whom he could totally confide. It is said that He was despised and a man of sorrows; but He was never lonely! There is a common expression used to describe a person who seeks to overcome the loss of some loved one: he “gets buried in his work”. This may not be the same as the grain of wheat dying, but it is a hint of what I mean. The greatest work has been done by people who may have seemed lonely, who had few very close associates and little time for a social life. But they did not “abide alone”. When the believer gives himself so fully to God that God’s purpose is all that matters, he is as good as dead as far as this world is concerned. But he ceases to be lonely, and begins to bear fruit.
PRAYER: Loving Father, I pray that the lonely ones may commit their lives to Your purpose, and find joy in fulfilling it, to the glory and honor of Jesus the Lord. Amen.
“I am the true vine . . . abide in me, and I in you.” John 14:1, 4
The branch is in the vine by being attached to it so that it receives its strength from it. So is the Christian in respect to Christ. Abiding in Him means to be attached to Him in such a way as to receive something. It is tragic that many people keep striving, seeking and longing for some mysterious link with the spiritual world whereby they might receive the force of God in their lives. But all the time they overlook the means of life which Christ offers. “The words which I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life”. (John 6:63). The truth that flows from Christ is the life-giving sap that enriches our lives and produces fruit. “If ye abide in my word," Jesus said. "Then are ye truly my disciples.” The branch grows and produces just to the extent that the word of truth flows freely from Christ to the mind of the man. Where this truth is choked off, kept out of the classroom, denied in the universities and deliberately ignored in social life, there is naturally less fruit of godliness in the world and a greater hungering and searching for some spiritual power through mysticism, occult powers, philosophy and even in the so-called mind expanding drugs. Man is designed to live by the word of God. It is his bread. It gives him motivation, purpose and power. But just as the branch cannot profit from the sap unless it “abides” in the vine, neither can we benefit from Christ unless we are attached by faith and allow Christ’s word to freely flow in our minds. To abide is not to frantically and anxiously keep searching for some hidden power or some magical formula for Godly strength. The branch only needs to remain in the vine to receive its life-giving power. So with a believer. He becomes attached to Christ by faith and baptism, so that he knows he is “in” Him. Then he allows Christ’s life-giving word to fill his mind and direct his life, to the producing of the fruit which God desires.
PRAYER: Loving Father, all that I need and all that I desire is Your will. Bind me ever closer to Yourself, and grant that Your word may have full authority in my life. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“If any man serve me, him will the Father honor.” John 12:26
Jesus spoke these words as He prepared to go to the cross. “If any man serve me,” He said. “Let him follow me; and where I am there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will the Father honor.” What is it to serve Jesus but to live as He lived, seeking to please God and do His will? “His servants ye are whom ye obey”. We often hear people speak of “serving the Lord” when they mean some special manner of presenting His message, in preaching, teaching or distributing tracts. Preachers often put the emphasis on attending the worship services or supporting some activity, reminding the flock that in doing so they are serving Christ. But this is too narrow a field, and too narrow an idea of what it is to serve Him. There’s a story of a stranger who entered a Quaker church and finding everyone very quiet and still, he sat down also. After several minutes in which nothing had happened he whispered to the Quaker nearest him and asked, “When does the service begin?” The wise worshipper answered, “The service begins when the meeting is over.” To serve Jesus is to follow him, to be as He was in the world, to keep His commandments, to allow the will of God to permeate our lives, our homes, our work and our whole being as it did the life of Christ.
To do so is to receive the Father’s honor. Think what it is to be honored by the Father! There are those who will pledge their lives for the world’s honor. There are men who will sell out their friends, their party, their very souls, to receive the honor of some organization. The world little notes nor long remembers those who refuse its honor in order to be faithful to God. It dishonored and crucified Jesus, and He said that if we serve Him, we will be in this world as He was. But hastily He adds, that “if any man serve me, him will the Father honor.” Of what value the emoluments and praises of men compared to the praise and honor to be given us poor creatures by the almighty Creator and King of the universe? Are you tempted to serve the god of this world? Does the glory of men tempt you? Then listen to Jesus. He invites you to be honored by the Everlasting Father Himself, by doing the thing that honors Him: serving Jesus.
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, forgive me where I have sought glory of men; help me to serve and follow Christ that I may receive the honor You give. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.