The Victory of the Gospel

Will the gospel win the victory? God’s word–though ignored, thwarted, ridiculed, and opposed–will always triumph.  He guarantees it.

Today’s reading

Isaiah 53-55; 1 Thessalonians 2

Selected Verses

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain.  1 Thessalonians 2:1

Reflections

Isaiah gave Israel and the world the greatest message in all of history in chapter 53. The Servant of the Lord would bear the sins of His people and “make many to be accounted righteous” (53:11). This truth, that One who is holy and righteous has taken the just wrath of God for sinners, is at the heart of the gospel message. [See “The Messiah’s Anguish and Satisfaction”].

This is the best news ever told, but would this news get to the world? Would those who desperately need hope for forgiveness and reconciliation with God hear about this? The answer is “yes!”  Nothing can stop God’s word from going forth. Plenty of forces mounted up against it in Paul’s day and in ours. The Apostle suffered in Philippi.  They treated him shamefully (2:1).  Did he give up?  No! He went right on to Thessalonica. There he continued to preach the word and this letter shows that the message bore amazing fruit in the lives of the people. Then, those new believers preached it to the surrounding region.

Think about it

We live in an unprecedented time of global communication.  This is both a blessing and curse, since much of the communication is evil and deceptive.  But technology also effectively proclaims this gospel.  And despite all kinds of opposition, God’s word can never be defeated. Are you confident in the power of the gospel to change lives? Are you certain that God will open doors for His word–that He will use it to accomplish its every purpose? Fear not! God’s word will triumph. Proclaim it with confidence wherever you can.  God guarantees the victory.

Wait till you hear this!

The story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is amazing and inspiring, but it’s nothing compared to what God did next. Wait till you hear this!

Today’s Reading

Psalm 78; Romans 7

Selected Verses

We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.  Psalm 78:4

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. Romans 4:4

Reflections

With the perspective of the New Testament and the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, we could say “Wait till you hear this!” to the Psalmist who reveled in God’s mighty works to Israel. God had done for Israel something unthinkable, unimaginable. He brought ten plagues on Egypt, delivered an enslaved people from that world powerhouse, led them out of the land loaded with spoils, opened up the Red Sea for them to cross, and drowned the pursuing army in the water behind them. This is a story that needs to be told generation after generation.  Pass it on!

But wait till you hear this!

In the New Testament we learn that God took on human flesh and lived on earth. We know Him as Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Christ, God’s Anointed One, the Messiah. His people rejected Him and crucified Him, but His death bought redemption from the guilt of sin under the law.  His death was not a terrible tragedy but the greatest victory ever accomplished.

How do we know?

He rose again from the dead. Since that time millions have believed in Him. They trust Him, not their own good works, for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life. These millions understand themselves to have died with Him so that His death for sin serves as their death for sin.  They are free from any remaining condemnation because their debt was fully paid by Jesus. As a result, these believers from every nation and language in the world belong to Him and live to bear fruit for God.

Think about it

God delivered a nation of a million people out of Egypt, some 3500 years ago, but in the past 2000 years, right down to today, He has been delivering untold millions of people from spiritual death and slavery to become His fruitful people. Tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He is doing. Pass it on! Wait till they hear that!

When the Church is Full of Hypocrites

God blesses His people so that they shine as a light to the world and the nations come to Him in faith. But what if believers are hypocrites?

Today’s Reading

Psalms 65-67; Romans 2

Selected Verses

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.  Psalm 67:1-2

You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”  Romans 2:23-24

Reflections

The Psalmist has a lofty view of the impact of God’s blessing on His people spreading out to all the nations of the earth.   Truly, God does rule over all the earth. He is the God of all flesh. Through His providence He rules over everyone and everything. Nothing escapes Him. All owe Him everything.

But, alas, this vision of a worldwide impact of blessing and worship dimmed due to the very people who had the Word of God. Paul says, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of [them].”

How did God deal with this? He judged His people for their unfaithfulness through the captivities of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. But He acted for the sake of His own name to restore them to the land (Ezekiel 36:16-38).

In Jesus’ lifetime, the Jews faced the question of whether or not to believe the Messiah, the Christ whom God had sent them. Most of them failed to believe, yet according to Paul they still maintained their spiritual pride and arrogance, looking down on the Gentile pagans. In Romans 2 he warns them not to be smug in their cultural superiority.

Think about it

Fellow Christian, have you considered how our hypocrisy as believers can cause the lost to blaspheme our God?  Have you pondered how God’s blessing on us is impacting the unbelieving world around us?

At the end of the age, God will bring His elect from every tribe and tongue (Revelation 7:9-10). In Abraham through whom came Jesus Christ, all the families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). The Psalmist had it right.  “God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!” (67:7).    And they shall. Pray for the fulfillment of this promise soon. Flee hypocrisy.  Live in such a consistent, God-honoring way as to bring glory to Him.

 

God’s Ambassadors

God has appointed His people to be His ambassadors to those who do not know Him. The gospel goes out by word of mouth from those who have believed.

Today’s Reading

Job 13-15; Acts 8:26-40

Selected Verses

You would call, and I would answer you;
you would long for the work of your hands.
For then you would number my steps;
you would not keep watch over my sin;
my transgression would be sealed up in a bag,
and you would cover over my iniquity.  Job 14:15-17

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.  Acts 8:35

Reflections

Scholars believe that Job lived about the same time as Abraham. Before his call from God, Abraham was a polytheist (believing in many gods). Job on the other hand, seems to grasp a theology of a single sovereign and holy God. But Job has no clear understanding of the resurrection or of life after death. Yet Job does show a longing for reconciliation with God through some kind of covering for his sin. He seems to have an inkling of hope of a resurrection, perhaps like a tree that is cut down but grows back up from its roots (14:7-17). It’s just not very clear. He longs to know more and, soon, God will tell him more.

In the period following the stoning of Stephen and the subsequent persecution, God sends Philip to speak with an Ethiopian eunuch, the queen’s treasurer, who had been in Jerusalem to worship. Philip is able to explain to him the meaning of Isaiah’s writing and the good news about Jesus Christ. This results in the official’s baptism. In these touching words, Luke records that the eunuch, after this one-on-one Bible study with Philip, “went on his way rejoicing.”  We can only imagine the impact of this man’s testimony before the court officials of Ethiopia.

Think about it

God knows the hearts of those who seek Him, Job, the Ethiopian, and everyone else. He may directly intervene, as He will do with Job later on in our reading, or He may send someone to explain the gospel as He did in the case of Philip and the queen’s treasurer.  Did He send someone to you? Has He sent you to be a light to someone else? Give thanks for His providence in sending those who can help us understand His truth and in sending us to pass on the good news of Jesus. If you belong to Christ, God has appointed you His ambassador because the gospel goes out powerfully by word of mouth (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

The Backdrop of God’s Glory

What a contrast in leadership: Pontius Pilate and King Solomon!  But against the backdrop of these two men we can see the glory of God in a fresh way.

Today’s Reading

I Kings 3-5; Luke 23:1-26

Selected Verses

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.  For he was wiser than all other men.

I Kings 4:29-31a

So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.  Luke 23:24-25

Reflections

Solomon is said to have “loved the Lord” and was walking in the statutes of his father, David (3:3).  God came to him in a dream and offered to answer his prayer for whatever he desired.  Solomon asked for an understanding mind to govern the people God had given him.  God was pleased with the request.  He granted it and much more to Solomon.  Solomon was known for his wisdom both within the kingdom and internationally.

Under this wise king, Israel reached the pinnacle of its glory.  Never before and never again would there be such a wise king and a prosperous kingdom.  This golden age of Israel would continue until Solomon himself stopped obeying God and followed other gods (1 Kings 11:1-13).

By stark contrast, at Jesus’ trials (before the Jewish Sanhedrin and then before Pilate and Herod) the depth of foolishness is seen.   The Sanhedrin found Him guilty on trumped up charges and spun those to imply some sort of revolutionary terrorist status to Jesus. Neither Pilate nor Herod found him guilty, but Pilate succumbed to the pressure of the crowd and sentenced Him to death by crucifixion.

Think about it

We will see that Solomon’s reign demonstrates that even gifted, promising  leaders who disobey God will fail.  But the foolish and evil rulings of the Jews and the Romans that seemed to destroy Jesus’ life and ministry became a crucial element in God’s plan of redemption for all mankind.  The Church of Jesus Christ has spread to every corner of the earth.  Praise God that He is glorified in the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.  He is glorified in the ongoing proclamation of the gospel throughout the world.  He has shown His glory against the backdrop of human foolishness. Praise God for His glory, power, and wisdom that has reached to you and me.

Two Men who Saw the Light

God included the Gentiles in His plans to redeem His elect people from sin and death.  Here we meet two men who saw the light on this.

Today’s reading

Joshua 7-8; Luke 2:25-52

Selected Verses

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.  There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.  Joshua 8:34-35

 Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
  for my eyes have seen your salvation
  that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
  a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.  Luke 2:29-32

Reflections

God’s focus, as we have seen before, includes not only the Israelites or the Jews but all the peoples of the earth.

Joshua renews the covenant of God with Israel by reading the entire Book of the Law of Moses. The congregation included not only the men of Israel but the women, the children, and the sojourners who lived among them. Those sojourners were not related physically to Israel, but merely living among them, perhaps as servants. How important that Joshua included them in the reading of the law and the renewal of the covenant!

Simeon, who had waited all his life for the coming of the Messiah, met the infant Jesus in the temple. His long-awaited moment had come. He had seen the salvation of the Lord. That salvation was prepared in the presence of all peoples and would be a light for revelation to the Gentiles as well as a glory to God’s people, Israel. Certainly, Simeon understood the universal offer of salvation that was being extended to the entire world.

Think about it

God deserves our praise for sending His Son, Jesus, to save all who believe in Him from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Thank Him that Joshua granted the sojourners among the Israelites the privilege of hearing the Word of God. Praise God for His grace to old Simeon who saw his dream of a lifetime fulfilled. He also gave us wise words about the work of Jesus Christ whose ministry extends to all peoples even you and me.

Missions: Going in Christ’s Name

Missions are about making God’s name known and hallowed in every nation of the world. We must pray, send, give and go till Christ returns.

Today’s reading

Leviticus 20-21; Matthew 28

Selected Verses

They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the Lord’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.  Leviticus 21:6

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Reflections

God revealed His name to mankind.  He directed the Israelites to worship Him and warned the priests not to profane His name.  Jesus revealed the Father and sent His disciples to go and make more disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Obviously, the name of God is to be hallowed and reverenced.  People must not take the name of God lightly or in vain.  Jesus’ disciples function on His authority, not their own.  They go with a purpose which includes making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Triune God.

This Great Commission is serious business.  Missionaries go.  Churches send them and support them with money and prayer. Christians in every nation reach out with the gospel and seek to make disciples.  All of this is because of the name of God who has revealed Himself beginning with the first man and woman to whom He promised a seed that would crush the head of the deceiving Serpent (Genesis 3:15).

Think about it

The priests of ancient Israel took great care not to profane the sacred name of God.  We, as disciples of Jesus Christ, go commissioned in His name to all the world, making disciples and calling them to be baptized in the holy name of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In the words of the great hymn by Edith G. Cherry (1895):

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

Let us hallow God’s name, take this commission seriously, and go in His name.

Solving the Labor Shortage

Today’s reading

Genesis 27-28; Matthew 9:18-38

Selected verses

…and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Genesis 28:14b

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Matthew 9:37-38

Reflections

God’s revealed will for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants was to bless all the families of the earth. That blessing was far greater than even those patriarchs could have imagined.  They would probably envision personal prosperity, security, and long life, the kind of material things most of us long for today.

The blessing God planned for all the families of the earth would involve God Himself becoming flesh and living among us.  Jacob’s dream of a ladder from heaven pictured a direct connection between the eternal God and mankind.  This dream was fulfilled when Jesus came (John 1:51).

Matthew shows how Jesus blessed people through meeting their physical needs, even raising the dead.  As we saw yesterday, Jesus wasn’t about merely meeting physical needs but about calling sinners to repentance.  The promised blessing for all the families of the earth was redemption from sin and reconciliation with God through the atonement of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This will become clearer as we go forward in our reading.

But Jesus told His disciples there was a problem.  The harvest was plentiful, but the laborers were few.

God ordained that the blessing He planned to pour out on the world would be made known through messengers He would send. Jesus said there was a labor shortage.  He told His disciples to pray for laborers to go out into the harvest.

Think about it

How do we get laborers to bring in the harvest of souls?  God sends them.  What can we do about the need for laborers?  Ask God to send them.  Simple.  You can participate right now wherever you are. But beware.  He may send you across the street or around the world.   Tomorrow we will see that Jesus sent the same ones to labor whom He told to pray for laborers.  You may become the  answer to your own prayer.

A Chosen Race; A Holy Nation

God’s purposes in human history

God is carrying out His purposes in human history.  He decreed to elect a people for Himself and through Abraham to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3).  He called Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).  But He had much more in mind than just the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He had the Church, the body of Christ, in view as Peter calls the Church a chosen race, a holy nation.  Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, is gathering in to Himself His own from every tribe, nation, and tongue (Hebrews 13:20-21; Revelation 7:9-10).   Rejoice! His redeeming work encompasses the whole earth and all of history, including you and me living in the here and now.

Today’s reading: 

James 3:13-1 Peter 2:12

My selection:

 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. 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. 1 Peter 2:9-10

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.

 

Longing for Heaven

Paul teaches us that it is normal to be longing for the glories of our heavenly home.  They stand in contrast to this present earthly one.  The eternal replaces the temporary.  The permanent replaces the destructible.  Clothing replaces nakedness.  Joy replaces groaning.  Meanwhile, we have work to do here proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading:  2 Corinthians 1:12-6:2

My selection:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,  if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 2 Corinthians 5:1-3

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.