Heart Check Time

We need to be watchful never to forget that the horror of our sin and the holiness of God put Christ on the cross for us who believe. It’s heart check time.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 4-6; Galatians 3

Selected Verses

Man is humbled, and each one is brought low,
and the eyes of the haughty are brought low.
 But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice,
and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.  Isaiah 5:15-16

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—  so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.    Galatians 3:13-14

Reflections

Failure to see the holiness of God and the horror of sin is a problem which repeatedly crops up in human hearts.  It happened in ancient Judah in Isaiah’s day and it happened in Galatia in Paul’s day.  It continues to happen today.

Isaiah warned Judah of her sin and reminded them of the reality of death, the gaping mouth of Sheol consuming all humanity one by one.  The people were living in denial.  They presumed upon the grace and mercy of God as they relied on their own wisdom and ignored the perfect holiness of God.  It would take a reawakening to the imminence of death and their utter failure to attain to God’s purity to humble them.  They needed to see Him “high and lifted up” (6:1).  At the same time, they needed to see themselves as people of “unclean lips” (6:5).  They needed to see how darkened were their minds as they reversed the definitions of good and evil (5:20).  We do too.

The Galatians situation is even more perplexing.  Here were people who had heard and believed the gospel, repented of their sin, and had received the Holy Spirit by faith, but now through the influence of some false teachers were turning away from trusting Christ and returning to law keeping as the basis for their hope.  Paul is astonished.  Yet experience tells us that this is always a potential problem.  It appeals to our pride to achieve our own acceptance before God.  This attitude comes from either not seeing the holiness of God or not seeing the heinousness of our rebellion against Him. In our minds, we either dilute God’s holiness or our sin.  Usually both.

Think about it

God means for us to humble ourselves before Him, to see the awfulness of sin as reflected in the agony of Christ’s death.  He had to become a curse for us to free us from the curse upon us through the law.  Do a heart check today.  Beware of any creeping self-righteousness that diminishes your complete reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ for your standing before God.

More than Forgiven

The Psalmist prayed for mercy and forgiveness, but God in Christ has given all that and much more. We are more than forgiven.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 79-81; Romans 8:1-18

Selected Verses

 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!  Psalm 79:8-9

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:3-4

Reflections

The Psalmist cries out for forgiveness for the sins of the nation that led to the fall of Jerusalem and the temple. He laments their suffering but, even more, the disgrace brought on the name of God. The writer does not look for excuses, nor does he make promises to do better. He pleads for God Himself to atone for their sins. Truly, he grasps the seriousness of sin. No one is able to justify himself by turning over a new leaf. No one is qualified to repay the debt of offending our holy Creator and Lord.

Paul explains to the Romans just how God has answered this prayer of the Psalmist from so many centuries earlier. The law could only show us our sin, never save us. The law was weakened by the flesh, because our flesh is inclined to use the law as a springboard to rebellion. We do what the law says not to do (Romans 7:13-25).  He has freed us from the law of sin and death, that is, the law that says “you sin, you die.”

Think about it

As usual, God’s answer goes far above what the Psalmist (or we) could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). He has given His Spirit to those who are in Christ. Through Him we have life, peace, and guidance. Through Him we are adopted as God’s children and, so, we call Him, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-17). Sure, we suffer with Christ in this world, but we know that the glory to come far exceeds these present afflictions.

Does your sin and guilt weigh you down? Trust in Christ for the complete forgiveness of your sins. Rejoice that the law of sin and death is overcome, but more than that, in Him you have His Spirit and are adopted as His own child.

Shut Mouths; Believing Hearts

God’s Law and Christ’s Gospel combine to change us from arrogant unbelievers to grateful disciples–people with shut mouths and believing hearts.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 68-69; Romans 3

Selected Verses

More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.  Psalm 69:4-5

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.   Romans 3:21-22

Reflections

The Psalmist cries out in anguish for the injustice heaped on him, but, at the same time, he recognizes his own folly and wrongs.  He knows that God knows them.  He may have tried to hide them, but they are not hidden from the Lord.  No one is completely righteous before God.  True, some suffer great injustice, but such suffering does not blot out the record of sin committed and establish the sufferer as righteous before God. We are all both victims and perpetrators.

Paul tells the Romans that the law is given to shut our mouths and to hold the whole world accountable to God.  Where can we turn?  We can only turn to Jesus Christ through Whom the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested.  By God’s grace, salvation from the condemnation of the law is through Him for all who believe.  In Christ, there is justification (the declaration that all debts have been paid in full), redemption (the price paid to purchase freedom from slavery to sin and guilt), and propitiation (the offering made to satisfy the just wrath of God).  It is a gift.  So it cannot be earned but can only be received by faith.

Think about it

Beware of trusting in your own works for acceptance before God.  A careful look at God’s law and our own works will show that we cannot satisfy its demands.  We can only shut our mouths and flee to Christ.  In Him alone, we find the gift of salvation which encompasses everything we need to restore us as God’s beloved children.  Be sure you trust Him as the only basis for your justification, not your works or a life relatively better than someone else’s.  We should have shut mouths and believing hearts.

Salvation Belongs to the LORD

God is sovereign over salvation. He uses means, such as gospel preaching but also works directly opening the hearts of His own so they hear and believe.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 1-3; Acts 16:1-15

Selected Verses

Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Psalm 3:8

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.  Acts 16:14-15

Reflections

The Psalmist was in dire straits. According to the title of Psalm 3, David wrote this during his exile from Jerusalem while his son, Absalom, briefly overthrew his father’s kingdom. David turned to God in the crisis, recognizing that only the Lord could save him. “Salvation belongs to the LORD,” he affirms. Absalom had skillfully won over the people of Israel to support him. David fled Jerusalem. But it seemed inevitable that David would be assassinated and Absalom would take firm control of the kingdom.

Yet, “salvation belongs to the LORD.” David held to that truth, and, against all odds, Absalom listened to David’s planted advisor, Hushai who purposely gave him bad advice. Absalom followed it, and died in the ensuing battle (2 Samuel 17-18). God saved David’s life and kingdom. The odds set by probability cannot limit God.

Lydia was a worshiper of God, a Gentile woman who believed in the God of Israel and the moral law of Moses without adopting the dietary and ceremonial laws. Luke tells us that the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul said. Without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, neither a Lydia nor anyone else is able to hear and believe the gospel (Jeremiah 13:23; John 6:44, 65; Romans 9:16; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9-10).  God saved Lydia spiritually. [1]

Think about it

God saves kings and Gentile women, like David and Lydia. How does the truth that “salvation belongs to the Lord” affect your prayer life and your daily confidence in Him? Can you lie down and sleep, knowing the Lord will sustain you? Trust Him when in danger for He saves.  Proclaim the gospel to others knowing that God opens hearts as He wills and saves lost people.

[1] The Reformation Study Bible notes p. 1945

Why We Choose Belief or Unbelief

What makes a person choose to believe or not believe?  Here we see some perplexing examples but also a clear answer from Jesus.

Today’s Reading

Second Kings 20-22; John 6:45-71

Selected Verses

But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.  2 Kings 21:9

And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”    After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” John 6:65-67

Reflections

People choose to believe or not believe, but without the work of the Spirit in a person’s heart there will be no inclination to believe.

Today’s reading demonstrates the ups and downs of the kings of Israel and Judah.  Hezekiah had led Judah in a period of faithfulness like none before him.  We also read about Josiah who repaired the temple, rediscovered the book of the law, and led the nation to revival.  But in between these two godly kings was Manasseh who had the longest and worst reign in the history of Judah.  He led the people to do more evil than the Canaanite nations that God had judged and destroyed under Joshua.  How do these things happen? Why would a great and godly king (Hezekiah) have such a wicked son (Manasseh)? How does such a wicked king (Manasseh) father such a godly son (Josiah)?

Clearly, something is at work in these fathers and sons besides mere heredity or environmental influence.  The difference, we discover, is God the Father who draws people to Himself (John 6:44).  It is the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63).  It is Jesus whose body and blood gives eternal life to the one who believes in Him. Those who heard Jesus either responded with disbelief and even disgust, or they drew near to Him concluding like Peter did when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69).

Think about it

To whom will you go?  Jesus’ words either comfort or repel you.  If you believe, you may be sure it is the drawing of the Father and the life-giving ministry of the Spirit.  If you do not believe, but are troubled by your unbelief, that, too, is the work of God in you.  Call to Him for faith to believe and grace to repent of your sins and come to the Bread of Life.  You are not controlled by your family history or outward circumstances either for good or bad.  Your choice reflects your heart.  May God give us His Spirit so that we can believe!

Authority and Faith

Those who hold significant authority in this world need God’s help and mercy, but some find it hard to believe in Him. We can learn from two examples below.

Today’s Reading

Second Kings 6-8; John 4:31-54

Selected Verses

And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’”  I Kings 7:12

The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.  John 4:53

Reflections

The king of Israel heard that the Syrian army had fled, leaving their equipment and food behind.  Even though Elisha had already prophesied that there would be abundance of food within a day, the king suspected a trick.  He assumed that Elisha was wrong, so he was not expecting some kind of miraculous intervention.  But the prophet was right and the king was wrong.  Did his position as king cause him to be more self-confident and less willing to believe God’s word through His prophet?  It seems that those who have the most power and wealth sense the least need for divine assistance.

But this is not always the case.  When Jesus arrived at Cana, an official of King Herod the Tetrarch went to Jesus requesting healing for his son.  The official hoped that Jesus would come to his home and heal the boy, but Jesus rebuked him for seeking signs and wonders as a basis for faith.  The man implored him again and Jesus sent him on his way with a promise that his son would be well.  The healing occurred at the hour Jesus had spoken. Jesus was being constantly tested by the people who requested signs, but, in the case of the official, Jesus tested him to see if he believed enough to return home with only the assurance of the Lord’s word. He passed the test and believed, as did his whole household.

Think about it

Having power and wealth does not help a person to believe the truth.  It may even hinder faith.  What makes a person believe is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in his or her heart.  No one comes to Christ without the drawing of the Father (John 6:44).

If you believe God, it is not because you have some inherent wisdom to do so.  It is His doing completely.  You believe because He drew you.  He drew you because He wanted to.  You responded because He gave you a heart to believe.   For that He deserves all your praise.

Two Unlikely Converts

God saves people from every nation, tribe, and tongue who come to Him by faith. Here we meet two unlikely converts: a social outcast and an army general..

Today’s Reading

Second Kings 4-5; John 4:1-30

Selected Verses

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.”  2 Kings 5:15

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”  They went out of the town and were coming to him.  John 4:28-30

Reflections

Naaman, a Syrian general who came down with leprosy, learned from his Israelite servant girl that there was a prophet in Israel who was known to perform miracles. Certainly Elisha’s record is comparable to that of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Among other things, Elisha raised a dead boy and fed a large crowd with a small portion of food. The details are interesting, but, suffice it to say, Naaman was healed and learned that there was not merely a miracle-working prophet in Israel, there was a God in Israel, One who is uniquely God in all the earth. Naaman was not just healed of a deadly disease. He became a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at a well in Sychar. The conversation is fascinating and reveals so much of the love and wisdom of Christ. At the conclusion of the discussion, the woman leaves her water pot and heads off to town to tell everyone about the Jewish man whom she suspects to truly be the Messiah. The whole town turns out to meet Him.

Think about it

God saves the most unlikely people, a Syrian general and a Samaritan woman with a bad track record for marriage. Are you another unlikely convert? If so, give thanks for His mercy to you. Do you know anyone who needs Christ but seems to be a hopeless candidate for salvation? Do not lose heart or stop praying. God is able to save whomever He calls to Himself.

Seeking Darkness or Light

Whether you seek darkness or light says a lot about your true spiritual condition. Today we read of the worst example ever and a warning from Jesus.

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 21-22; John 3:1-21

Selected Verses

There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.  I Kings 21:25-26

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  John 3:3

Reflections

Those who do evil avoid the light.  They are not concerned about entering the Kingdom of God.  They run from God, rather than seek Him.

Ahab exemplified a man who “sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”  On a whim, he ordered Naboth executed on trumped up charges because he had property that Ahab wanted.  He worshiped idols.  He was completely self-centered.  Whenever he didn’t get his way he was “vexed and sullen.” His conniving wife, the evil Jezebel, urged him on.  Ahab’s death came by God’s providence even though he had disguised himself in battle.  As prophesied, the dogs licked up his blood in the vineyard he had taken from Naboth.

Jesus gave the Pharisee Nicodemus a stern warning.  No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again, being born of the Spirit.  Yet, Jesus goes on to say, it is not as if there are people who are desperately seeking to enter the kingdom and cannot find a way.  The fact is that people love darkness, not light, because their deeds are evil.  They hate the light.  If they did what was true they would come to the light.

Ahab sought the darkness.  All those who are not born of the Spirit seek the darkness.  None of them are concerned about entering the kingdom of God.

Think about it

How about you?  Have you been born again?  If so, you will do what is true.  You will flee the darkness and come to the light.  You will love the light not the darkness.  If you are not sure, but are concerned about making sure that is a good sign the rebirth has taken place or is taking place in you.  Pray for God to do His work of bringing new spiritual birth to your soul.  I’ll see you in His kingdom.

Stop Limping and Follow Christ

God calls us to follow Him but biblical history shows how some followed while others limped between the true God and impostors. Will you follow or limp?

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 16-18; John 1:29-51

Selected Verses

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.  I Kings 18:21

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  John 1:35-37

Reflections

Israel under King Ahab continued in the rebellious ways of Jeroboam.  God sent a prophet, Elijah, to proclaim a drought as a means of getting their attention.  This went on for three years, but the nation did not cry out to God.  They continued to put hope in the false god Baal.  Elijah called for a showdown, a battle of the gods on Mount Carmel.  As this definitive demonstration of the truth began, Elijah described the people as limping between two different opinions.  They tried to use the Lord and Baal to solve their problems, but the Lord would not allow this kind of syncretism.

We know from our reading how this turned out.  The Lord God of heaven and earth was shown to be the only one who could act.  Baal and his prophets were exposed as frauds.  Any reasonable person would give up following Baal and fully follow the Lord.

In Jesus’ early ministry, John the Baptist introduced Him to his disciples as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (vs. 29).  The next day, as Jesus walked by, two of John’s disciples heard him say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  Maybe these two had thought about John’s comment overnight.  Maybe they had tossed and turned pondering what they should do.  Their teacher, John, was saying that this Jesus was greater than he was, One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  They must have thought, “It’s time to follow Jesus” because follow Him they did.

Think about it

God will not allow us to go limping between two opinions.  Are you following Him or the god of our culture?  Are you following the One who came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world?  Only He is more powerful than Baal.  Only He takes away sin.  Stop limping and follow Jesus Christ wherever He leads.

Born of God

Without a new birth, brought about by God, even the most informed people do not receive His Word but persist in all kinds of pagan abominations.

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 14-15; John 1:1-28

Selected Verses

They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.  1 Kings 14:24

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:11-13

Reflections

Solomon’s apostasy led to the division of the kingdom under Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  Neither of them was humble or repentant, but they continued in the path taken by Solomon.  The divided kingdom stayed at war during the lifetimes of these two kings.  They continued to worship other gods.  Their practices mirrored those of the peoples that God had evicted from the land when Israel entered.

When Jesus came, fulfilling the promise of a Messiah, He was not universally received.  The gospel records show that as His ministry unfolded official opposition increased culminating in His crucifixion.  Jesus came revealing the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth.  Those who were sent to arrest Him said, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46).

But despite Jesus’ powerful words, the nation officially rejected Him.  Why?  They were not born of God.  Those who are born of God are children of God who manifest this reality by receiving Christ and believing in His name.  Everyone is God’s creature, made by Him, but not all who owe Him their existence are His children (John 1:3,10).

Neither severe hardship such as decades of war, nor mighty works like the incarnation of God the Son automatically results in faith and repentance in people.  It takes a new birth, a birth brought about by God, to turn the hearts of sinners to Himself and to make them His children.

Think about it

If you have been born of God, then you are His child.  Your home is with Him, not here. But you and I will be there soon.  Rejoice and be faithful as you await that day.