Overcoming Faith        

Believers in Jesus Christ will not achieve sinless perfection in this life. but they should expect changed lives and faith which overcomes the world.

Today’s Reading

Daniel 7-8; First John 5

Selected Verses

And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.  Daniel 7:14

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? First John 5:3-5

Reflections

Daniel recorded here his visions of what was to come.  He found them troubling because they were not easy to understand.  We have the advantage of history and can draw some lines between the things he saw and what later occurred.  The vision of the beasts seems to refer to the kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar (Babylonia), Medo Persia, and Alexander the Great.  The fourth is not so clear, but some believe it to be the Roman Empire.

What was clear was that none of these kingdoms would endure.  The Ancient of Days gives the everlasting kingdom to the son of man, which points to Jesus Christ.  His kingdom will not pass away.

John the Apostle knew the Son of Man, his and our Lord Jesus Christ.  John wrote that He was the propitiation for our sins (First John 2:2; 4:10).  In Him we are given light and have fellowship with God and with all His people who also walk in the light with God (First John 1:7).  This fellowship with God results in a changed life.  This changed life includes: faith in Jesus Christ, love for God, and obedience to His commandments.  Those changes demonstrate a new birth and results in victory over the world.

Think about it

Should we settle for a hum-drum spiritual life?  No.  Not according to John.  We should expect substantial changes.  No, not sinless perfection.  We will always be going to Him to confess our sins and to be cleansed (First John 1:9).  If you do not see evidence in yourself of a new birth, call upon Him for mercy and grace to grant you overcoming faith.

When Shame is Good

To experience shame for sin is a hopeful sign that repentance and faith in God are still possible. Do not fear feeling shame but rather not feeling it.

Today’s Reading

Ezekiel 43-44; Second Peter 2

Selected Verses

As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan.  And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out. Ezekiel 43:10-11

Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  Second Peter 2:9-10

Reflections

God gives Ezekiel a detailed description of the temple. Then He tells the prophet to pass these details on to the people of Israel so that they may be ashamed of their iniquities. The temple reflected God’s glory so this description was intended to shame the Jews for their sin. Yet the temple also held a message of hope of salvation. Here, in this place of God’s throne, provision was made for a sacrifice for sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ was portrayed in the temple, if we rightly understand it.

In Peter’s time, there were false prophets and teachers who were completely insensitive to sin. He indicts them for their deceptions and schemes to lead believers astray. Peter shows how God in the past has brought judgment on those who rebelled against Him: evil angels, the wicked society of Noah’s day, and Lot’s neighbors in Sodom and Gomorrah. So God has shown that He is able to rescue the godly, like Noah and Lot, and keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. In view here in particular are those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and who despise authority.

Think about it

If there is anything which describes our society, it is indulgence in the lust of defiling passion and the despising of authority. Our contemporaries see shame not as a good emotion leading to healthy repentance. Rather it is considered the result of poor self-esteem due often to a severe religious upbringing.

If this world is trying you, trust Him who knows how to rescue the godly from trials in amazing ways. Pray that God may grant our unbelieving loved ones shame for sin that leads to repentance and faith.

Healing for Sin-sick Souls

Sin causes pain and death, but the sinless Lord Jesus Christ’s pain and death resulted in a full and final cure for the iniquity of His people.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 7-8; First Timothy 2

Selected Verses

 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? Jeremiah 8:21-22

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. First Timothy 2:5-6

Reflections

Jeremiah was in grief over the sin of Judah. He had a message. It was from God. It was true, but it gave him no joy. He had to proclaim to the people their sin and failure. No wonder people called him “the weeping prophet.” Sin has painful consequences for unrepentant sinners, but also for those who love them and can only watch them spiraling down into judgment. Jeremiah loved his fellow countrymen. He could call them to God, but he could not heal them when they refused to listen. In those days, Gilead was an area east of the Jordan known for its medicinal products. [1]  The prophet longed for some balm or ointment to cure the sinful populace.

I remember an old spiritual we sang in my childhood. The refrain is:

There is a balm in Gilead
to make the wounded whole,
there is a balm in Gilead
to heal the sin-sick soul.

Amen! Paul had the happy work of proclaiming that there is healing in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who gave Himself as a ransom. Our High Priest Jesus is the mediator between God and men. He took our sin upon Himself, dying on the cross, rising again, sending forth the Apostles to spread the news, and ascending to the right hand of God. Jesus cures not merely the physical body but the “sin-sick soul.”  Jeremiah longed to find such souls. But he found hard hearts, unreceptive to his diagnosis of their need.

Think about it

If you are sin-sick, find healing in Jesus who gave Himself for such as you.  [See Mark 10:45; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19].

[1]  Reformation Study Bible, note on Jeremiah 8:22, page 1276

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.

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.

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.

A Call to Repent

Today’s reading:

Genesis 9-11; Matthew 4

Select verses

So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Genesis 11:8

 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”   Matthew 4:17

Reflections

Following the flood God commands Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply.  And multiply they do!  You might get dizzy reading all the names of their descendants.

But some things never change. In the midst of these generations of human beings who are listed for us, the cosmic battle between sin and righteousness continues.  It divides the sons of Noah with blessing on Shem and a curse on Canaan.  Mankind, united by one language and forgetting the lessons learned from God’s judgment through the flood, seeks to unite and build a tower of rebellion against God and for self-glorification.  Again, God acts in judgment creating division through language differences.  The spiritual hostility is not eliminated but it is hampered as God creates the boundaries of culture to point Man to Himself (Acts 17:26-27).

We should not conclude that God’s promise to defeat the serpent has failed.  Rather, His plan of judgment and redemption has not completely unfolded.  In Genesis 11, we meet Abram.  Soon we will see what a pivotal role he plays in God’s plan.  Through Abram will come Jesus Christ and blessing to the whole earth.

In Matthew, we follow the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry.  He proclaims the arrival of the Kingdom of God.  “Repent,” He commands, “for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).  The same God who acted in judgment is calling all to come to Him in faith and repentance beginning with the Jews, but (as we shall see) extending to all nations, tribes, and languages.

Think about it

God deserves praise. Praise Him for His wisdom in planning the redemption of His people.  Praise Him for His sovereignty in carrying out this plan over the millennia of history.  He will surely bring it to completion at the end of time.  Praise Him that we can know of our adoption as His children and of the assurance that He will take us all the way home. His eternal purposes will be fulfilled though we pass through dark and difficult times on our journey through life.  Meanwhile, let us repent of our sins and believe in His salvation.

Dangerous Presumption

It’s easy to be humble and repentant when we face trials, but how do we respond when it seems like everything we touch turns to gold?  There may be more danger in prosperity than in adversity.  Today’s reading explains why presumption is dangerous.

Today’s reading:

Romans 2:1-4:25

My selection:

 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 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?  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.

Romans 2:3-5

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.

 

 

Small Sin; Big Consequences

Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 19:8-21:22

Despite the title above, there are no small sins.  Any sin is rebellion against a Holy God.  Yet there are sins which are subtle and often go undetected until they grow into a major problem.  Sheba, the rebel in today’s reading, exploited pride and jealousy (small sins?) and used it to mount an almost-successful overthrow of the kingdom.

Beware of small sins with big consequences.

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

Seeing God’s Presence in the Daily Grind

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 17:1-18:30

Godly men and women trust in the Lord’s presence and guidance in the day to day details of life.  They don’t need extraordinary circumstances to spring into obedient action. They do what God calls them to and He makes it turn out for His glory.

Have you learned this truth?

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