All Things Made New

Today’s reading: Revelation 19:1-22:21

My selection:  Revelation 21:5-7

5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me,  “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

My reflections: Human history, as we know it with its fallenness,  will have an end.  The One who sits on the throne cannot fail.  He will make everything new because it is corrupted.  The heritage of the conqueror will be to belong as a son to God.

My challenge: The Bible ends on this high note of victory for God and His people, but the ominous warning of the second death for unredeemed sinners.  Are you among those who will be found faithful, conquering?  You will not do it in your own strength.  Only by the blood of the Lamb will you conquer.  Trust Him.  The end draws nearer.

May God bless you in the New Year!

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 1-3 

Shall we begin again?  For information on other Bible reading plans Click Here.  Meanwhile  the posts for 2013 will remain up through 2014, if you have not finished reading or wish to start over.

 

The Longing Soul

Today’s reading: Revelation 13:11-18:24

My selection: Revelation 18:10

14      “The fruit for which your soul longed

has gone from you,

and all your delicacies and your splendors

are lost to you,

never to be found again!”

My reflections: The final judgment of this world is symbolized in the fall of Babylon with its materialism and sensuality.  The souls of deceived people longed for the pleasures and majesty which the earthly kingdom offered,  but it will elude them and be lost forever.  All they can do is stand in fear, weeping and mourning for their loss, never to be recovered (vs. 15).  What a sad picture!

The writer to the Hebrews says that God’s people, by faith, long for a better country, a heavenly one.  They will not be disappointed.

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:6

My challenge: Everyone longs for something. The question is what is the object of your longing?  For what does your soul long?  If it is not God and the heavenly country, it is this world with its pending destruction.  Christian, you are called to long for that heavenly country, the city God has prepared for you.  Do not long for anything less.

Remember the famous words of martyred missionary, Jim Elliot:  “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Tomorrow’s reading: Revelation 19:1-22:21

 

The Smooth-talking Beast

Today’s reading: Revelation 8:6-13:10

My selection: Revelation 13:7-8

7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.

My reflections: The beast, contrary to what one might think, is articulate, “uttering haughty and blasphemous words” (vs. 5).  He is powerful, able to conquer the saints and holding power over every tribe and people and language and nation.  He is glorious, eliciting worship from all but those whose names are written in the book of life of the Lamb.

Satan counterfeits every good thing of God: eloquent wisdom, sovereign power, and worship-worthy majesty.  As the knowledge of the true God fades out in modern society the vacuum left is filled by the counterfeit, a monolithic system which unites political-military power, academia, and religion.  No wonder Bible-believing people are not willing to blindly follow existing political parties and charismatic leaders.

My challenge: Are you prepared to suffer for the truth of the gospel?  Do you resist the seduction of political leaders who promise a perfect world?  Can you see through the pseudo-intellectualism of those whose wisdom does not begin with the fear of the Lord but with the worship of Man?  Beware of Satan’s counterfeits.  Do not be deceived, but, remember, you will suffer in this world, not in the next.

Tomorrow’s reading: Revelation 13:11-18:24

The Church in Glory

Today’s reading: Revelation 3:14-8:5

My selection: Revelation 7:13-14

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

My reflections: John sees a great innumerable multitude from every nation, tribe, peoples and languages worshiping God along with the angels (7:9-12).  One of the elders asks John who they are, probably not to gain information but as a teaching technique to impart knowledge to John and to insure that John knows what he is seeing.  John cannot answer so the elder informs him of the identity of these worshipers.

1.  They have come out of the great tribulation.  These are people who have suffered, it would seem, in every nation.  The tribulation must be worldwide and the persecuted have been drawn from everywhere.  Their faith did not exempt them from tribulation; it caused it.

2.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  They are not sinless beings; they are cleansed sinners, forgiven through the atonement of Christ on the cross.  They stand before God and worship because of what the Lamb of God did for them.

3.  They worship.  The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism #1).  They fulfill their purpose through worship.  They have been made fit to worship by the cleansing blood of the Lamb.

My challenge: Do not think that faith in Christ will save you from suffering in this world.  Be prepared for opposition, persecution, and even death for bearing the name of Christ.  Be assured that He will sustain you and one day deliver you from every evil and sadness (7:15-17).  Do not think that your own righteousness will ever be the basis for your standing and acceptance before God.  If you are a believer, although you are confirmed in righteousness and unable to sin in glory, you will still be dependent on the blood of Lamb for your adoption as God’s child.  For that you will give praise to Him.  Practice worship now, personally and corporately.  It is a manifestation of your chief end and a foretaste of heaven.

Tomorrow’s reading: Revelation 8:6-13:10

 

Perception above Substance; Reputation above Reality

Today’s reading: Jude 1-Revelation 3:13

My selection: Revelation 3: 1-2

 And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.

My reflections: In these letters to the churches, there are several references to false teachings and teachers, sexual immorality, and lack of good works, problems that continue to plague the Church today.

Sardis shows a failure in the area of their works, but their problem is masked by the fact that they are known for being an alive, vibrant church.  The perception is that they are zealous and active.  The Lord tells them they are asleep and they are about to lose what they have. Judgment is imminent but they are resting on their laurels, on their press releases.

My challenge: It is commonly held in our society that perception is more important than substance, that as long as your reputation is good there is no need to back that up with reality.  This is not God’s view.

In your personal life and character, are you concerned more with impressing others or with walking with integrity before God?  God has called a people for Himself who are zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14).  Be fervent in doctrine and practice seeking to please God whether or not those around you are impressed.  Beware of the praise of men.

Tomorrow’s reading: Revelation 3:14-8:5

Being Certain of Eternal Life

Today’s reading:1 John 3:11-3 John 15

My selection: I John 5:11-12

11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

My reflections: Death is the great universal problem of mankind.  No one escapes death, although most people long for life that is unending, full of love, peace, and joy (Romans 5:12).

But there is one way out, through Jesus Christ, the Word of God Who became flesh, dwelt among us, and in Whom is life (John 1:1-4,14-18).  The New Testament describes this salvation from death through Christ as being in Christ (Romans 8:1; I Corinthians 1:30; 15:22)  or, as John terms it here, having Christ. He is essential to salvation.

So we may say, the saved, those who have eternal life, are in Christ or have Christ.  These are not the only metaphors used to describe this relationship, but the conclusion is always that the relationship with Christ saves and without Him there is no salvation.

My challenge: Do you trust in Christ for your salvation?  Do you rejoice in the certainty of eternal life that is promised to you in Him?  Resist the temptation to rely on any other thing, such as your accomplishments, your church affiliation, your theological knowledge, for your certainty of eternal life.  As Augustus Toplady’s great hymn, “Rock of Ages”, says it:

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless, look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Tomorrow’s reading:  Jude 1-Revelation 3:13

A Truly Merry Christmas

Today’s reading: 2 Peter 2:1-1 John 3:10

My selection:  I John 1:7-9

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

My reflections: As we celebrate the birth of the Light of the World, Jesus, (John 8:12) notice some of the benefits of “walking in the light.”

1.  Nearness to God.  God is in the light (vs. 5) so walking in the light results, first of all, in living close to Him.

2.  Cleansing from all sin.  As light reveals sin, so it facilitates confession of sin which results in forgiveness and cleansing from sin.

3.  Fellowship with others. There is no fellowship to compare with the fellowship of those who are walking in the light. Nothing is hidden in the light, including our sin. Yet this makes for relationships which are open and honest, without hypocrisy or facades.

My challenge: As you celebrate the birth of Jesus today, remember He came to save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21).  If you believe in Him, you will want to live a life that reflects what He has done for you in taking your punishment on the cross and freeing you from the guilt of sin.  Make a conscious effort to walk in the light, because, naturally, we love darkness rather than light (John 3: 19-21).  Walk in the light today, though your flesh resists it.  Hear God’s word. Trust Him. Obey Him.  Confess sin.  Be cleansed by Him.  Enjoy Him and all those who walk with you in the light. May your Christmas be truly merry as you walk in the light and grow nearer to Christ.

Tomorrow’s reading:  1 John 3:11-III John 15

 

Saved by Grace; Assured by Fruit

Today’s reading:1 Peter 2:13-2 Peter 1:21

My selection:  2 Peter 1:9-11

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My reflections: As a young Christian, I was taught to trust in the promises of the Bible, that salvation is by grace through faith, for my assurance of salvation.  Yet as I read this passage, it seems clear that while salvation is by grace through faith and not at all based on the character or works of the believer, assurance of salvation comes, at least in part, by a fruitful, changed life that is the result of that salvation.  An unchanged, unfruitful, stagnant believer in Jesus Christ is a contradiction of terms.

In this one paragraph, there is reference to calling and election, God’s choosing those whom He would save and calling them effectually to Himself, and a reference to the need to practice the qualities listed, character traits of one who has been forgiven and given the promises of God to partake of the divine nature.

My challenge: Are you trusting in God’s grace alone for your salvation?  Do you see the necessity of bearing fruit as an evidence of your salvation?  Do not be passive in seeking the Lord, in abiding in Christ, and in bearing the fruit of a redeemed life.  Seek to grow in the virtues of knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.  Make your calling and election sure.  A rich entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ awaits you.

Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Peter 2:1-1 John 3:10

A Chosen Race; A Holy Nation

Today’s reading: James 3:13-1 Peter 2:12

My selection:  1 Peter 2:9-10

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

My reflections: Here is a remarkable, even stunning, statement which connects God’s purposes revealed to His people at Mt. Sinai to the Church of Jesus Christ.  Exodus 19:5-6 says:

5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.

It was always God’s plan and purpose to bless all the families of the earth through Abraham (Genesis 12:3).  Certainly the Israelites were given the Law, the Prophets and the other Old Testament writings.  Their mandate was to be obedient and, thus, fulfill their calling to be a nation of priests and a holy nation.  Only Jesus Christ, the Messiah, perfectly obeyed God’s voice and kept His covenant.  In so doing, Jesus established His Church as the fulfillment of God’s eternal, unchangeable purpose to bless all the families of the earth and to bring together a people for God’s own possession.

This is not “replacement theology,” as some like to disparagingly call it.  This is “fulfillment theology.”  God’s purposes are perfectly fulfilled in Christ.

My challenge: God has only one people, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for the glory of God alone as taught in His Word from beginning to end.  Praise Him for His great wisdom in decreeing this efficiently.  Praise Him for His sovereignty in executing this effectively.  Praise Him, if you are in Christ, for calling you out of darkness into His holy nation by mercy.  Proclaim His excellencies to all who will hear.

Tomorrow’s reading:  1 Peter 2:13-2 Peter 1:21

Fighting Self-deception

Today’s reading: Hebrews 13:1-James 3:12

My selection: James 1:22

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

My reflections: James is concerned about wisdom, that believers be wise in the midst of the rough and tumble of life.  A key part of wisdom is to not be deceived.  One can be deceived about the dynamics of temptation (James 1:12-16), not seeing that there is blessing in remaining steadfast under trial but attempting to shift the blame for temptation to God.  A wise person takes responsibility for his sin.

One can be deceived when he is a mere hearer of the Word of God and not a doer of it.  He knows a lot but practices nothing.  He fails to apply what the Scriptures tell him to his own life and behavior.  He looks into the Word but presumes that it is not addressing any needed change in his life.

My challenge: Beware of self-deception.  It often comes masquerading in the proud thought “I am an exception.  Others need to obey, submit to the truth, but not me. Poor fools.  I am unique.”  Don’t be deceived.  Apply the word more strictly to yourself than to others.  Oh, and be quick about it (James 1:19).

Tomorrow’s reading:  James 3:13-1 Peter 2:12