Misusing the Law

Beware of misusing the law

There are two ways of misusing the law of God: by using it in ways for which it was not designed (misapplication) and by not using it in ways for which it was designed (negligence). From the point of view of the reformed faith, God’s law has three positive functions (show us our sin so we come to Christ, to restrain evil in society, and to show us how as believers we should seek to live).  One function it does not have is to justify those who seek to obey it.  By the law is the knowledge of sin but not justification from the guilt of our sin (Romans 3:19-20).  The Galatians were getting it wrong.  Paul graciously but boldly corrects them.

 

Today’s reading:  Galatians 2:1-4:31

My selection:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?

Galatians 4:21

For more reflections on this passage, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Common Errors about Heaven, Angels, and Truth

Today’s reading:

Mark 12:18-14:26

My Selection:

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.  And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”     Mark 12:24-27

Once again Jesus’ enemies, members of a sect called the Sadducees, attempted to discredit Him by finding a flaw in His teaching about the resurrection.  Jesus’ answer to them also corrects a number of other errors related to angels and truth.

The most important take-away

Perhaps the most important take-away from this selection is the challenge to flee from error through the knowledge of the Scriptures and of the power of God.  Over and over the Bible announces to us the importance of grasping its teaching deeply.  But understanding of divine revelation needs to be joined with a knowledge of God who is powerful.

Don’t fall prey to the common errors of ignorance and unbelief. Seek to know His word well and to know the Almighty who has come to us in His Son.  As the Apostle Paul wrote:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Colossians 3:16

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

 

 

Jesus Christ: Faithful to the Truth

Today’s reading:

Mark 10:17-12:17

My Selection:

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”

Mark 12:13-14

Jesus was faithful. He taught the truth and let the chips fall where they would.  Even those who were seeking to trick and trap Him recognized that He was not controlled by public opinion.  It is easy to admire our Lord for the clarity of His convictions and steadfastness to obeying His Father.

Kangaroo Court

Give thanks to God for giving us His Son and praise Jesus Christ for modeling uncompromising integrity in every area of His life.  No wonder they would have to bring in false witnesses to convict Him in a kangaroo court.

This is the Jesus I love.  How about you?

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

Resurrection Implications

Today’s reading:

Matthew 27:45-Mark 1:45

My Selection:

So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”  Matthew 28:8-10

Christian faith is grounded in historical events beginning with the creation and continuing with human sin, consequent death, and God’s redemptive work leading up to the final judgment and our eternal state of heaven or hell.  At the center of these events are the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul argued that the resurrection is crucial to our hope.  See 1 Corinthians 15:12-28

Soli Deo Gloria

The purpose of this whole drama of human history is this: “that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).  The reformers of the sixteenth century proclaimed “Soli Deo Gloria,” glory to God alone.  And we sing,

To God be the glory, great things He has done;

So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,

Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,

And opened the life gate that [we] may go in.  –Fanny Crosby

Keep singing and trusting Him who conquered death and proved it by His resurrection.  And we by faith will share that resurrection that the glory may be to God alone.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

The Thought of Blood

Today’s reading:

Matthew 26:36-27:44

My Selection:

So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”  For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.  Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”  Matthew 27:17-19

The trial of Jesus brought anguish to a number of people, some of them central to the story and some of them minor players.  I wrote about this here.  This is as it should be.  The death of an innocent person ought to disturb everyone, but the death of the Perfect Man, the Son of God and Savior of the world should rock our world.  Pilate, his wife, Judas, Peter, and the other disciples all displayed a wide range of emotional reactions from confusion to fear to depression.

His blood be on us!

But the crowds, led by the chief priests and elders, stiffened their resolve to have Jesus crucified.  When they cried, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25), they meant they were willing to bear any guilt should this prove to be an unjust sentence.  They did not know that His blood was the payment for the sins of all His people, all who would repent and believe in Him.  Indeed, we need His blood upon us to be saved.

Only a few hours earlier, Jesus had celebrated the Passover with His disciples.  At one point, He took a cup, gave thanks for it and gave it to them with these words: “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28).

We share the same guilt of those who cried, “His blood be upon us” for we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  His blood is upon us, but by faith it is upon us as a covering for our sin not as a further evidence of our sin.

The thought of blood should get our attention, reminding us of our complicity in the death of Christ, but also, if we believe, of our reconciliation with God through that blood. If you trust His blood, His death, rejoice in God’s great mercy to us, guilty sinners.  Hallelujah! What a Savior.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

God’s Timing

Today’s reading:

Matthew 25:1-26:35

My Selection:

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”  Matthew 26:3-5

The plot to crucify Jesus illustrates how God rules over the good and the evil plans of men.  He rules not only over what happens but when it happens.  The authorities decided to put the Lord to death.  Unbeknownst to them, God planned for them to put Him to death. [See Acts 2:23.]  But the strategy of the chief priests and elders to delay His execution until after the Passover went awry.  They ended up carrying out the arrest, mock trial, and appeal to Pontius Pilate in the middle of the Passover.

Who’s Running the Universe?

God rules over all things, including the timing of those things.  Neither the Jewish and Roman authorities of the first century nor we in the twenty-first century are robots manipulated by Him.  We act freely and responsibly, but never apart from His foreknowledge and plan.  Paul tells us we can be confident that all that happens is for the good of those who love Him.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Trust Him for the timing and happenings beyond your control and (seemingly, but not really) beyond His.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

Weekend Readings

 Saturday, October 8, 2016  Heart Transplant

Reading: Matthew 21:23-22:46

My selection:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 

Matthew 22:36-40

Jesus turned questions into teaching opportunities.  His listeners and we, readers, are the beneficiaries.  What is the greatest commandment?  Jesus gave us the greatest and the second greatest commandments.  Any conscientious person will recognize that these two commandments, though simple, are not easy.  In fact, to do them perfectly is impossible.

But Jesus gave something else.  He gave Himself, not long after teaching this truth to the crowds.  His death paid for our failure to perfectly keep those great commandments.  He sent His Spirit to change our hearts to believe and repent and to trust Him for forgiveness and life.  Have you had a spiritual heart transplant?  Call on the Lord today for mercy and grace to believe.  Confess your failures to keep the two great commandments and put your faith in the One who died for the sins of His people.

Sunday, October 9, 2016   Warnings to Church Leaders

Reading: Matthew 23:1-24:51

My selection:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,  “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat,  so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.   

Matthew 23:1-3

Church leaders are held to the highest standards.  Not only must their teaching conform to God’s Word but their lives must as well.  Pray for those in leadership that they may both talk the talk and walk that talk.

See you again on Monday.

[For reflections on these passages, see the corresponding readings in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

The Unlikely Path to Greatness

Today’s reading:

Matthew 19:1-21:22

My Selection:

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:25-28

Then and now

Right now in the USA the topic of greatness is on the front page, a theme in the race for president.  Our Lord addressed the issue with His disciples in today’s reading.  For the follower of Jesus Christ there is a definition of greatness and a path to greatness that is diametrically opposed to the goals and methods of popular culture.  It was true in Bible times and it’s still true today. So Christians should be seeking a different kind of greatness by a different path than secularists.

The one who serves, even giving his life for others, is truly great.  The one who forgives and who receives the helpless and needy is great by Jesus’ standards.  Our society is led largely by secular politicians who seek to separate any faith they have from their public policies and actions.  They ignore and oppose the way of Christ, perhaps unwittingly.  We who believe in Him will seek to be like Him in whatever sphere of influence we have.  Pray that God’s people may be faithful, growing in true greatness for the glory of God.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

 

 

Hearing before Doing

Today’s reading:

Matthew 16:1-18:35

My Selection:

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:5-8.

In the incident on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter showed that human tendency to want to act impulsively before thinking.  He proposed the building of three tents, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. You have to love Peter for being so human, but this is not a good quality to imitate.  He was corrected by the voice of God Himself, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (vs. 5).

Hearing, knowledge, faith, action

Jesus once told an inquiring crowd who asked what they should do in order to do the works of God, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29).  Hearing him comes before knowledge of him, knowledge of him leads to faith in him, and faith in him comes before action for him. Pray that today your works would grow out of true knowledge of and faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son and not, like Peter, out of a mere need to relieve anxiety.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

 

 

 

Trusting the Bible

Today’s reading:

Matthew 12:15-13:46

My Selection:

 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
    my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
    nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
 a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”  Matthew 12:17-21

One of the reasons I trust the Bible is that the unity of the message can only be explained by the presence of an eternal God who revealed that message to His prophets and apostles from Moses to John.

Trust the Bible

Matthew makes many connections with the Old Testament and the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus fulfills hundreds of prophecies written centuries before His birth. One of those prophecies given by Isaiah said that the Messiah would bring justice to victory.  How reassuring it is to have confidence that our Lord has triumphed over Satan.  The serpent’s head was crushed. Trust the Bible. The coming of God’s kingdom is assured. In Christ He has brought justice to victory for Jews and Gentiles worldwide.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.