Preaching Christ Crucified

Today’s reading: Romans 15:14-1 Corinthians 2:5

My selection: 1 Corinthians 1: 22-24

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

My reflections: Why do some respond to the preaching of the gospel of Christ while others do not? Paul indicates that, on a human level, Jews don’t “get” the gospel because they demand signs and Greeks don’t “get” the gospel because they seek wisdom. Apparently, the sign of a Man rising from the dead in human history does not suffice for the Jews and other sign seekers.  On the other hand, for Greeks and other wisdom seekers, the simplicity and complexity of the Holy, Creator God taking on human flesh, living a perfect life, dying as an atoning sacrifice to satisfy His own just wrath, and rising from the dead for the salvation of all who believe is not profound enough to meet their expectations.

But the ultimate answer, as to why some people do respond in faith while others do not, is that the former are called and the latter are not. When God calls Jews, they get the gospel, that Christ is the power of God. When God calls Greeks (i.e. non-Jews of all kinds), they get the gospel, that Christ is the wisdom of God.  God changes the natural skepticism of human hearts when He calls a man or woman to Himself.

My challenge: Are you tempted to try to downplay the centrality of Christ in winning those who want impressive signs or who want high-sounding wisdom? Do not be embarrassed by the gospel. Paul could argue philosophy with the best (Acts 17:16-34). He had performed signs and wonders (Romans 15:19), but that same Paul concluded that he was called to “preach Christ crucified.”  The response of the hearers to his message would reveal whether they were called or not. Those who heard would either stumble or they would find Christ to be the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Preach Christ crucified. God will use the truth to draw His called, elect ones to Himself.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Corinthians 2:6-6:20

Overwhelmed by God

Today’s reading: Romans 11:11-15:13

My selection: Romans 11:33-36

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “ For who has known the mind of the Lord,

or who has been his counselor?”

35 “ Or who has given a gift to him

that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

My reflections: Paul is overwhelmed by who God is. Words fail. God’s resources are deep. He has all things in the universe at His disposal. God’s wisdom is without limit. He knows how to make all things work together for good. God’s knowledge is infinite. He not only knows what has happened, is happening, and will happen in time and space, He has decreed all that happens. He controls all things.

No one knows what God knows. No one can inform Him of anything. No one can give Him anything that He needs or lacks. God is not indebted to anyone. He is not dependent on anyone or anything.

He is the ultimate end of all things. He deserves all glory. Always.

My challenge: Although we do not know all that God knows, He has chosen to reveal truth to us, not exhaustively but, as fully as we need to know. Make it your goal to know well the truth about God that He has revealed to us both in general revelation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18) and special revelation (Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Tomorrow’s reading: Romans 15:14-1 Corinthians 2:5

The Freedom of Glory

Today’s reading: Romans 8:18-11:10

My selection: Romans 8:20-21

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

My reflections: The children of God have freedom. That freedom is related to glory.

  • The glory of no condemnation (8:1). Free from guilt.
  • The glory of being led by the indwelling Spirit of God (8:14). Free from abandonment.
  • The glory of being God’s children (8:16). Free from worthlessness.
  • The glory of being heirs of God (8:17). Free from poverty.
  • The glory of being redeemed from dying bodies (8:11). Free from death.

We still suffer but there is the hope of glory to come. In that day, we will experience fully the glory God has given us now as a foretaste, and we will be free from the desire or need to escape the present suffering which we are leaving behind.  We will truly lack nothing because we will be completely filled with the glory of God.

My challenge: If you know God through Jesus Christ, praise Him for the glory and freedom that is yours and that is still to come. Reject any lesser distracting glories of the kingdoms of this world. Let your heart be filled with Him and His glory. You will be free, free from discontentment, free from emptiness, free from the longing for other things that can never satisfy.

Tomorrow’s reading: Romans 11:11-15:13

Deliverance of the Wretched

Today’s reading: Romans 5:1-8:17

My selection: Romans 7:24-8:1

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

My reflections: One reality of life for the Christian is that sin is still very much a part of his daily life. His flesh is dead, unable to consistently obey God’s law despite his desire to do so. The other reality is that he is delivered from his body of death by God through Jesus Christ resulting in a state of non-condemnation.

My challenge: No condemnation! What wonderful, comforting, precious words! Perfection is not possible but,by faith in Christ, salvation is certain. We err if we expect to attain sinless perfection in this life, but we also err if we fail to embrace by faith the justification and adoption that God grants to those who repent and believe the gospel.

Fellow Christian, confess your sin. Confess it fully, and receive God’s forgiveness in Christ. Do not join Satan’s chorus of accusing the brethren including yourself. Seek to grow in obedience, knowing you are not condemned.

Tomorrow’s reading: Romans 8:18-11:10

Dangerous Presumption

Today’s reading: Romans 2:1-4:25

My selection: Romans 2: 3-5

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

My reflections: What is the mindset of the judgmental person? Paul says here that one who judges others while doing the same things may hold two very dangerous thoughts:

1. I am an exception to the rule. Judgment is for others, not me. God will not judge me. I will escape the judgment of God (v. 2).

2. God is love and His present blessing on me proves I will always be blessed, never judged.

These thoughts are dangerous because, first, the one who has them ignores the fact that God’s present kindness is intended to lead to repentance, not false security. Secondly, while the present life of the judgmental person may seem blessed and pleasant, his hard and impenitent heart is resulting in a mounting up of wrath for himself on the “day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (v. 4). That judgment will be complete and just as it will be based on the “secrets of men” (v. 16).

My challenge: Check your heart. Do you hold, one or both of, these dangerous thoughts? Do you judge others who seem more evil than you? Could you be guilty of a hard and impenitent heart? Repent of your sin, daily. Make confession of sin a part of your daily prayer. Recognize that you deserve His wrath. Ask God’s forgiveness. He justifies, declares righteous, by grace, which is undeserved favor, as a gift through the redemption, or purchase of freedom, made by Christ as a propitiation, that is, an offering to satisfy the wrath of God. All this is received by faith (3:21-26). Do you believe?

Tomorrow’s reading: Romans 5:1-8:17

Morality by Majority Vote

Today’s reading: Acts 27:27-Romans 1:32

My selection: Romans 1:32

Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

My reflections: In an editorial in the Roanoke Times (April 8, 2013), the writer cited CS Lewis and argued that Christians ought not to impose their moral standards on the rest of the society. Everyone, this writer said, should be free to decide right and wrong for himself.

In a democracy like ours, moral, ethical, and legal standards are more or less determined by popular opinion or by majority vote. We do not have a theocracy or a Christian nation. Therefore, Christians in this nation have no more influence at the ballot box than atheists, Muslims, or any other group. But neither do they have less.

Paul says that God has given a decree that those who practice the evils mentioned here deserve death. Paul also condemns not only the practice of these evils, but the approval of them. Christians, if asked for their opinion or their vote on a moral issue, may not abdicate their responsibility to affirm that the sins which violate God’s law are worthy of condemnation. Christians may not be able to stop the instituting of immoral behavior but they certainly ought to voice opposition by the legitimate means they have.

My challenge: Do you stand for morality based on the law of God, the ten commandments? If you do, be bold and loving in proclaiming your opposition to the fast-paced breakdown in moral standards that will sooner or later lead to the judgment of God. If you are defeated in this purpose, prepare to suffer along with the rest of our culture. Ultimately, the Christian’s hope is not in this world but the one to come.

Tomorrow’s reading: Romans 2:1-4:25

Simplicity and Steadfastness

Today’s reading: Acts 25:1-27:26

My selection: Acts 26:16-18

But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

My reflections: Jesus had given a clear commission to Paul. Paul knew exactly what it was and he kept it in front of him over the years. He was not intimidated by opposition and persecution. He was not distracted by other attractive goals or activities. One thing he did.

My challenge: Do you know what God has called you to do? Are you seeking daily to fulfill His purpose for you? Do not lose heart. Do not become distracted. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Glorify God and enjoy Him today. Keep it simple.

Tomorrow’s reading: Acts 27:27-Romans 1:32

The Cost of Integrity

Today’s reading: Acts 21:37-24:27

My selection: Acts 23:4-5

4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ”

My reflections: Paul, in spite of the unfair and untrue charges being made against him, held himself to the highest standard of the law. He put himself in a weakened position by reviling the high priest, albeit, inadvertently. However, he did not try to diminish his sin, but confessed, quoting the law he had violated. Paul modeled the reality of the claim he had just made:

And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”  (Acts 23:1)

My challenge: Do you keep a good conscience before God even when it weakens your case or makes you look foolish? When you are confronted with a failure or a weakness, do you immediately recognize it? Seek today to walk before God with a good conscience, no matter what the cost.

Tomorrow’s reading: Acts 25:1-27:26

Discipleship: Purpose and Commitment

Today’s reading: Acts 20:1-21:36

My selection: Acts 20:24

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

My reflections: This is the classic statement by Paul of his view of life. He has done what Jesus commanded, to not save his life in this world. He thinks of his life as a resource only for the purpose of fulfilling the ministry given to him by the Lord. He is clear about what that ministry is: to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Notice what the Lord said:

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27

My challenge: How can any believer not be completely challenged by this statement? How do you view your life? Do you jealously guard it against any unpleasant demands or do you offer yourself as a living sacrifice to Christ each day (Romans 12:1-2)? How do you view your purpose for life? Are you vague about what God wants you to do or do you have a clear vision of His calling and the gifts He has given you to use for His glory?

Take time to pray and think about what God has called you for today. Take steps to bring your actions and attitudes in line with His purposes.

Tomorrow’s reading: Acts 21:37-24:27

Idolatry Unmasked

Today’s reading: Acts 17:10-19:41

My selection: Acts 17:29-31

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

My reflections: In these closing words of Paul’s famous sermon on Mars Hill, he argues that idolatry ought to be obviously rejected merely on the basis that God cannot be adequately represented by a mineral or gem crafted by a man’s imagination and skill. Man, as God’s creation or offspring, reflects God’s greatness and what man devises dimly reflects man’s ingenuity, but it cannot reflect, even dimly, God’s grandeur.

Now a time for repentance has been granted. Judgment is coming. Jesus, who rose from the dead, is the judge. His judgment will be righteous.

My challenge: Are you ready for the judgment to come? The gospel has been proclaimed for 2000 years and millions have turned to Christ for forgiveness of sin. The only day we have is today. Believe in the One who rose from death and will one day judge all the earth. Repent of your idolatry, subtle as it may be. Turn from the trust in material things. Worship the true God who revealed Himself in Christ. In Him is salvation.

Tomorrow’s reading: Acts 20:1-21:36