Staying Alert

Today’s reading: Luke 20:9-22:6

My selection: Luke 21:34-36

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

My reflections: Jesus was teaching that the day of the coming of the kingdom of God was near, that it would happen before that generation would pass away. Was He referring to His death, resurrection, and ascension? Was He referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? Was He referring to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD? Was He referring to His still yet-to-come second coming and the final judgment? Was He referring to all of the above?

There will be disagreement about this among Bible scholars and students, but there will be much agreement that the final consummation of the kingdom is still before us and that we need to “watch” ourselves that our hearts not be “weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life.”

How near are we to the end of this age? It has been 500 years since Europe colonized the New World. The physical earth is largely populated and, since the 20th Century, is linked together by communication, transportation, economics, politics, and culture. Evil has not been reduced, indeed, it is more widespread and entrenched than ever with rampant abortion, sexual trafficking, and the normalization of various kinds of behaviors the Bible has declared sinful for thousands of years.

As the country song goes, “It’s Five o’clock Somewhere.”  Let’s kick back and party. Let’s give ourselves to dissipation and drunkenness.  This is what we hear.

My challenge: Now is the time to seek the Lord, to pray, and to proclaim the truth of the gospel and the need to flee the wrath to come by repentance and faith in the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Check your priorities today. Prepare to stand before the Son of Man.

Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 22:7-23:25

Meeting God in His Word

Today’s reading: Luke 18:18-20:8

My selection: Luke 18:28-30

28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

My reflections: As a young Christian, I was surprised (well, “stunned” would be a better word) by this passage one summer morning while reading my Bible on a rock in a lake in upstate New York. My surroundings that day added to the drama. I had paddled my canoe to that rock, climbed onto it with my Bible, and begun my daily reading. But my heart was weighed down with grief. Over the previous 8 months, I had come to faith in Jesus Christ, but, through obedience to Him, had also walked away from almost all my previous goals and plans. It felt to me like I was very alone with only a rock under me in this world.

I dutifully opened my Bible to read. I came to Luke 18 not by random reading. It was scheduled for that day as I made my way through the Bible, much as we are doing now. God in His goodness knew I needed reassurance, and reassurance He gave me. I totally identified with Peter at that moment who said precisely what I was feeling, “we have left our homes and followed you.” That got my attention.

But then came Jesus’ comforting words, “there is not one who has left [all this] who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Those words jumped off the page at me and my heart soared high above the rock in the lake. I read them again. And again. And again. I memorized them. They became like an anchor to me over the months and years ahead. They have continued to sustain me for the past 48 years. So far they have proven abundantly true. I am sure they will prove true even beyond this life into eternity.

My challenge: Have you seen how God meets you in His Word, bringing comfort and reassurance to your heart and mind? Keep reading. Bring your life, your pain, your confusion, your grief to Him as you read and let Him speak to it through His word. This is what sustains our faith in Him and walk with Him. Never neglect daily Bible reading and prayer.

Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 20:9-22:6

Stubborn Unbelief

Today’s reading: Luke 16:1-18:17

My selection: Luke 16:30-31

30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”

My reflections: In Jesus’ parable (or was it a true story?) He describes a man who had lived selfishly and without belief. After death he was in torment in Hades, but he thought of his five brothers and had enough concern for them to ask Abraham to send Lazurus, his poor former neighbor now in heaven, to warn them to repent so as not to come to torment as well. Abraham tells him that if they do not hear Moses and the Prophets they will not believe even if someone should rise from the dead before them.

Unbelief is not reversed with mere signs and wonders, like someone rising from the dead. Indeed, Jesus Himself would soon rise from the dead and not everyone would believe. Without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, an unbeliever will not accept any kind of warning of the judgment to come.

My challenge: Are you resisting the obvious evidence that God has come to us in time and space as a human, lived a perfect life, died, been buried, and rose again from the grave to demonstrate His divinity? Do you ask for more signs than these to authenticate His identity and the truth of His teaching? If you do not believe, it is because you cannot believe without God’s work in your heart. You could end up like the rich man and his six brothers. Call to God for mercy and grace that His Spirit may transform your heart and turn you to belief.

Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 18:18-20:8

The Safety-in-Numbers Myth

Today’s reading: Luke 13:10-15:32

My selection: Luke 13:23-24

23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

My reflections: Apparently a burning question among those who heard Jesus teach was “Will those who are saved be few?” We might ask it this way,”how many will be saved?” or “who will be saved?” Jesus confirmed that many would seek to enter and not be able. He was warning not to go with popular trends and opinions or you will be left out in the cold. His subsequent teachings as recorded by Luke elaborate on the subject.

The narrow door would exclude those who trusted in their own good deeds or connections with Israel. Signficantly, it did not exclude repentant sinners who return to the Father for mercy (15:11ff).

In the gospel, things are generally turned upside down from popular opinion. Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.

My challenge: In our society, we are increasingly enamored with public opinion polls. When the majority agrees with us, we assume our view is correct, especially when the majority is overwhelming but even if the majority is only barely 51%. There is a false sense of confidence in being in the majority on a given issue. Jesus warned against it. Do not be duped just because “everyone” agrees on an issue. Many will not enter in to salvation in the last day.

There is no safety in numbers. We will stand before God alone. I want to be like the prodigal son, in the sense of recognizing my sin and unworthiness before the Father, not the older brother who knew nothing of the grace and mercy of God. Enter through the narrow door. Don’t miss it by trusting in popular opinion.

Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 16:1-18:17

Fear: proper and improper

Today’s reading: Luke 11:37-13:9

My selection: Luke 12:4-7

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

My reflections: For most people, the greatest fear is fear of death, and, by extension, fear of those who could kill them. Jesus taught that there is something worse than physical death in this world, that is condemnation into hell, and, by extension, fear of the One who has authority to cast us into hell.

Fear of God is not an outmoded, primitive concept superseded somehow by the gospel of Christ. Fear of God is very much a correct mindset for the Christian. Yet we are comforted in knowing that the One who has authority to cast into hell is the same One who died for all who believe in Him. We ought to fear the wrath of God, but not lose sight that He knows and cares for His own.

My challenge: Never become presumptuous and arrogant before God as if you were good enough in yourself to escape His judgment. Rest in His mercy and grace, but rest humbly and gratefully. Never despair that He has forgotten or overlooked you. You are of more value than all the sparrows of which He keeps track. Fear God, but trust God. Do not fear man. Do not trust in yourself.

Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 13:10-15:32

Why Unbelievers Resist Truth

Today’s reading: Luke 9:57-11:36

My selection: Luke 11:20

20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

My reflections: For the unbeliever, any excuse, no matter how flawed, will suffice to continue in unbelief. If Jesus hadn’t cast out demons, they would have doubted His power. When He did cast out demons, they said He used Satan’s power to do it. Jesus showed them that their reasoning would not hold up. A divided house cannot stand. Beelzebul cannot be at war with his own forces.

The real reason the doubters did not want to believe is that if Jesus truly had power over the demons, they would have to admit that the kingdom of God had come upon them. This was precisely what Jesus was asserting.

My challenge: Does it seem that the reasoning of those who find fault with the gospel and with the authority of Jesus Christ is unassailable? Stand for the truth. Doubters do not believe because, in themselves, they cannot believe. Pray that God may change their hearts, make them as little children (Luke 10:21), and grant them faith and repentance before the judgment falls.

Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 11:37-13:9

Following Christ; Bearing a Cross

Today’s reading: Luke 8:26-9:56

My selection:Luke 9: 23

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

My reflections: The disciples have seen Jesus’ mighty acts. Three of them even saw His transfiguration. Now Peter has confessed clearly what they must all have been thinking that Jesus is “the Christ of God” (9:22).

But Jesus’ response is not what they might have expected.

1. They are not to tell who He is. This was a temporary command which would be suspended after His resurrection when He commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

2. He is going to suffer, be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, be killed, and on the third day be raised.

3. If they want to come after Him, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him.

The disciples probably thought that the full establishment of the kingdom would come at any moment, but instead there is suffering ahead. They knew who Jesus was but they must wait to announce it and suffer with Him in the meantime.

My challenge: The King has come and revealed Himself. We are in the last days but these last days are not few. The final culmination of His kingdom will come but meanwhile we are to be faithful, waiting for the end. This reality is further shown in Revelation. Be patient. Be faithful. Bear your cross. Repeat daily until further instructions.

Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 9:57-11:36

Beware of Self-Delusion

Today’s reading: Luke 6:46-8:25

My selection: Luke 8:18

18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

My reflections: When the final judgment comes, God will “judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16). A warning is sounded here, because what is secret will come to light, and because what a person thinks he has may be a delusion. For one who has heard much preaching, or is very familiar with the Bible there is a danger that he has not heard carefully. Some typical delusions are:

1. Knowing the facts about the Bible and theology without personally trusting God. Being able to win at Bible trivia will be of no advantage when the secrets of our hearts are made manifest. A lot of seed falls on bad soil.

2. Thinking that mere compliance with church requirements brings salvation. Raising one’s hand, going forward at an “altar call” , baptism, or joining a church is not the basis for salvation. Faith is. Those outward actions may indicate faith but they may also be done without true faith within.

3. Presuming that God’s love covers everyone and that ultimately all will be saved. The Bible teaches that only those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ will be saved and that those who do will show their faith by a changed life.

My challenge: Be careful how you hear. Do not be deluded by mere head knowledge of the truth. Seek to know the truth truly so that there is a changed life that confirms it. Always beware of the deceitfulness of your own heart.

Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 8:26-9:56

Jesus’ Authority to Forgive Sin

Today’s reading: Luke 5:1-6:45

My selection: Luke 5:20

20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

My reflections: Jesus assumed authority to forgive sins. The scribes and the Pharisees rightly perceived that this was a claim to divinity. Jesus was either God or He had blasphemed shamelessly. Other prophets had healed the sick, raised the dead, and suspended natural laws, but none had ever even claimed authority to forgive sins. The religious leaders of the Jews did not miss the significance of this claim.

Since forgiveness of sin is not visibly demonstrable, Jesus proved His authority by healing the man. The results were that

“…amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.” (vs. 26).

My challenge: If you trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, should you not be continually filled with praise to Him for that blessing? Should you not be amazed and filled with awe that God has come to us and brought hope and salvation from the wrath we justly deserve? May we never lose that sense of amazement and awe!

Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 6:46-8:25

Jesus Tested and Victorious

Today’s reading: Luke 3:1-4:44

My selection: Luke 4:13

13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

My reflections: Jesus’ ministry did not begin smoothly and without opposition. After His baptism, He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days. There He was tempted by the devil. The temptations were all related to Jesus’ preservation and position. The devil was extremely shrewd and strategic in his approach and timing. Jesus was physically weak from having fasted. His ministry was about to begin so this was Satan’s time to defeat Him before He got started. Would Jesus protect Himself from physical need or danger? No. Would He take a short cut to gain the kingdoms of this world? No.

Jesus triumphed over the direct attacks of the devil, precisely where our first parents, Adam and Eve, failed. They listened to the lies of the devil and believed them. Jesus overcame a triple attack and, for a time, was left alone by the devil.

My challenge: Jesus is our Savior because of who He is, the Son of God, but also because He was victorious over the devil. He deserves all our worship. Our salvation, if we believe Him, is secure because He did what we did not do and leads us, who were captives, to freedom and glory.  Lift your heart in unceasing praise to Him.

Tomorrow’s reading: Luke 5:1-6:45