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.

Default Position Reset

Our computers come with factory default positions.  As fallen humans our default positions concerning faith need a reset.  Have yours been reset?

Today’s reading

1 Kings 12-13; Luke 24:36-53

Selected Verses

And when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the Lord spoke to him.”  I Kings 13:26

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,   Luke 24:45

Reflections

Our readings today demonstrate that the natural, human, default position on faith and truth is to hold it loosely, discard it easily, and trust in our own reasoning.

The bold prophet from Judah went in obedience to God to Bethel and confronted the King of Israel, Jeroboam.   He refused Jeroboam’s invitation to come to his home based on God’s command to leave Bethel and return home without eating or drinking there.  So far so good.

But then another old prophet told the bold one that God had given him new instructions, to come to the old prophet’s home and eat bread and drink water.  It was a lie.  The bold prophet gave in and accepted the invitation.  Then the old prophet told him he would die for his disobedience.  That happened.  Apparently, despite his bold stance before Jeroboam, his default position on the truth was to question what God had said to him clearly and trust another man.

In the case of the disciples, Jesus graciously corrected their misunderstanding of the Scriptures. He opened their minds to understand, and He promised them the Holy Spirit.  He also gave them a mandate, commonly called “the Great Commission,” to be His witnesses proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations.  Without the Lord’s correction they would have muddled on in doubt and disbelief, in their default position on the truth.

Think about it

How desperate and needy we are for God to enable us to understand, believe, and obey His Word! But praise God He does not leave us in confusion.  If we are His own, He resets the default position of our human hearts and minds.  Pray that you will not doubt nor second guess what He clearly says.  Study His word diligently to believe and obey it.

The Heart of the Problem

Our problem is not lack of knowledge but the resistance in our hearts to believe God and to love Him more than anything or anyone else.

Today’s Reading

I Kings 10-11; Luke 24:1-35

Selected Verses

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice  and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. I Kings 11:9,10

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27

Reflections

J C Ryle wrote:  “True faith does not depend merely on the state of man’s head and understanding, but on the state of his heart. His mind may be convinced. His conscience may be pierced. But so long as there is anything the man is secretly loving more than God, there will be no true faith.”

Solomon’s heart “had turned away from the Lord” and he had gone after other gods.  Did all those pagan wives and concubines have anything to do with this?  Of course (I Kings 11:3-4).  But no one forced Solomon to marry all those unbelievers.  He did it because his heart was either already turned away from the Lord or he was willing for it to be turned away.  As a result, God diminished his legacy.

The disciples walking to Emmaus had lost hope that Jesus whom they believed to be dead would redeem Israel.  Jesus told them they were foolish and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” How many times had He told them He would rise on the third day?  So Jesus spent the rest of the evening explaining to them how the Scriptures pointed to Him and to the things that had happened.  Nothing had gone wrong except the hearts of the disciples that were slow to believe the truth of the resurrection.

Think about it

God promised to give His people changed hearts–hearts of flesh not stone (Ezekiel 36:26). He did give new hearts to the disciples as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them. Has God given you a new heart, one that is turned toward the Lord and that is quick to believe?  If not, call upon Him for mercy and grace to receive new life and a new heart that loves Him and believes Him.  The heart is the problem, but God can give you a new one.

Eternal Family Ties

Does your human family have problems?  Rejoice, if you have been adopted into the Father’s family by the new birth, you are tied eternally to Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading

Numbers 3-4; Mark 3:22-35

Selected Verses

These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests.  But Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord when they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father. Numbers 3:3-4

And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:33-35

Reflections

Jesus’ human family members took Him to be insane.  “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind,’” Mark 3:21.  They tried to intervene and stop His teaching and ministry.  Perhaps they were afraid of embarrassment.  Maybe they meant well.  But they did not believe in Him (John 7:5).

In the case of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, their status as sons of the high priest did not exempt them from obedience to the law.  They seem to have presumed that they could veer from the commands of the law concerning offerings to God.  It cost them their lives.

Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”   This is good news for us.  It means that although we never physically saw Jesus nor are we related to Him through natural descent,  we are related to Him based on a common relationship to God, the Father.  He is the first born of many brothers (Romans 8:29).

Think about it

Spiritual bonds overshadow natural, family relationships .  Therefore, obedience to God is more important than blood ties.

Perhaps your human family has problems, conflicts, grudges, and even bitterness.  But if you have been adopted into the Father’s family by the new birth, you are tied eternally to Jesus Christ and to all who are His.  Rejoice!  And seek to bear the family resemblance today.