No Confidence in the Flesh

The only path to acceptance before God is the way of the Savior, Jesus Christ, who alone can make us righteous. Flee from any confidence in your flesh.

Today’s reading

Isaiah 37-38; Philippians 3

Selected Verses

Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord. Isaiah 37:18-20

 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. Philippians 3:2-3

Reflections

In Isaiah’s day, Sennacherib king of Assyria and his army romped across the world destroying kingdoms at will.  He boasted that Judah would be next.  After all–he reasoned–all the nations had their gods and none of them had been able to stand up to mighty Sennacherib.  Hezekiah was intimidated, but he made the right response.  He called on the prophet Isaiah for help and prayer.  He prayed and repented himself.  He asked God to intervene in such a way “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”

God heard and answered in a decisive way.

Sennacherib was diverted from Judah and then murdered by two of his own sons while he was worshipping his idols.  How fitting!  Sennacherib trusted in his flesh and in empty idols rather than seeking the true and living God of Israel. Meanwhile, Hezekiah and Judah were safe.

Paul warned the Philippians of the “Sennacheribs” that threatened them and elevated themselves as if they were perfect by their own law keeping.  They trusted in their flesh.  Paul said to look out for them.  They seek their own righteousness and their own glory, but “we put no confidence in the flesh” wrote the Apostle.

Think about it

Beware of false teachers who diminish the need for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who say we are capable of attaining righteousness apart from Him. These do not glory in Him but, like Sennacherib, trust in themselves. Flee them. Put no confidence in your flesh or in those who tell you to do so.

Forgiveness for the Fickle

Here  we meet the contrasting examples of the fickle King Joash and the triumphant King Jesus.  We can trust in the One who overcame the world.

Today’s Reading

Second Chronicles 23-25; John 16:16-33

Selected Verses

Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.  2 Chronicles 24:17-19

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.  John 16:32-33

Reflections

We humans are fickle creatures, easily swayed from apparently firm convictions by the changing circumstances of the world around us. But Jesus, unlike us, did not waver in the face of enormous opposition.  He overcame the world.

King Joash of Judah barely survived the assassinations committed by the wicked Athaliah. At age seven, after being hidden almost his entire life, the priest Jehoiada made an elaborate plan to install the rightful king. Jehoiada was a good and wise counselor to Joash, and Joash held to the priest’s advice. Then Jehoiada died. Joash did an about-face and abandoned the Lord for idolatry. He even killed Jehoiada’s son for attempting to correct his decisions.

Jesus told His disciples that there was trouble ahead. They continued to profess their allegiance, but He warned them that they would fall away and abandon Him. That would not be the end of the story for Jesus would remain steadfast and overcome the world not only for Himself but for all His elect people, flaky disciples and all.

Think about it

Do you struggle with falling prey to the circumstances of life, either being seduced by the glory of this world like Joash or terrified by powerful forces that threaten your life, like the disciples? There is forgiveness for the fickle, struggling believer in Jesus Christ. He overcame the world for you.

 

The kingdoms vs. the Kingdom

Many kingdoms have come and gone.  Only one Kingdom will last forever.  Do you belong to that Kingdom?  Do you know the King?

Today’s reading

Joshua 11-13; Luke 4:1-32

Selected Verses

And Joshua turned back at that time and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms.  Joshua 11:10

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5-7

Reflections

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change ”  is a statement attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Christian theology disputes that because God is constant and unchanging.  Nevertheless, to a large degree everything in our experience seems to be constantly changing, like the kingdoms of this world.

In Joshua’s day, Hazor was head of several kingdoms. Joshua, with God’s leading and power, conquered Hazor and all the kingdoms of Canaan. The scripture tells us that God hardened the hearts of those kings so that they would fight against Israel and lose (Joshua 11:20). Hazor’s  kingdoms came under the dominion of Israel until the Assyrian captivity in 722 B.C.

Clearly the devil has some control in this world, but only what God allows him. He tempts certain people with power and authority in exchange for allegiance to his evil causes and purposes.

Which people does Satan personally approach? We have at least a partial list in the Bible where we are told that the devil went after Eve, Job, Peter, and Jesus (Genesis 3:1-7; Job 1-2; Luke 22:31-34; Luke 4:1).

Hazor ruled some kingdoms. Later, Israel possessed those lands. When the devil approached Jesus to tempt him, Satan claimed to have authority over all the kingdoms of the earth. In the final analysis, these earthly kingdoms rightfully belong to God the Creator and He providentially controls them. But the ultimate kingdom is not an earthly temporal one. Jesus proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God.

Think about it

Do you serve a changing kingdom or the Kingdom that belongs to our unchanging God? Seek His Kingdom and serve the King who is eternal. He hardens hearts of proud rulers and turns hearts of all at His will (Exodus 7:3; Proverbs 21:1). Pray that His Kingdom may come in ultimate triumph soon and that we will be found in it.

 

A Warning about Causing People to Sin


God will not overlook the evil of causing others, especially His people and little children, to sin.  Here is a serious warning to heed.

Today’s reading

Numbers 30-31; Mark 9:30-50

Selected Verses

 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”  So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian.

Numbers 31:1-3

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Mark 9:42

Reflections

God’s final assignment to Moses was to bring judgment on the Midianites for the way they had seduced the Israelites into sin.  Indeed, as we saw in our March 1 reading, the Israelites paid a severe price for their foolish sin, but now God sends Moses to repay their tempters for causing His people to sin.

The disciples were beginning to show their true colors as the thought of Jesus’ death dawned on them.  They began to jockey for positions of leadership and wanted to curtail any would-be competitors that they had not authorized.  In a forceful statement, Jesus warned them of the danger of defiling little ones who believe in Him.  The Reformation Study Bible note explains that the phrase “little ones” may refer either to children or to those who are “insignificant believers.”  So the warning has broad application.  The disciples saw those who were not following them as insignificant and worthy of rebuke (Mark 9:38).

Think about it

Who are the little ones in your life? Are they children? Are they just the so-called insignificant believers? Remember that God holds them in high esteem.  He gave His Son for their salvation. Beware of causing others to sin who look up to you either because of your age or status. Treat them all as children of the King for, as believers, that is what they are.  If you have failed in this regard, repent of all known sin, confess to God and those offended.  Seek the Lord’s grace and forgiveness through Christ.  God has promised: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.

A Man in Love with the World

Those who love the world and its allurements will learn the price for that love is incalculable.  Balaam became a horrible example to remember.

Today’s reading

Numbers 24-27; Mark 8:11-38

Selected Verses

So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.  Numbers 25:3

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  Mark 8:36-37

Reflections

God warns us to beware of loving the world (I John 2:15-17).  In today’s reading, Jesus asked “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Famous conquerors like Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Hitler gained large portions of the earth. In science fiction, evil schemers like Darth Vader or Lex Luther attempt to take over the world or the cosmos. They are Satanic figures who repel us.

Even if a real, historic figure could find a way to take control of the world, he would do so at the cost of his soul. Balaam loved the world and he paid the price.

Balaam failed to curse Israel because God restrained him, but he thought of another way to bring God’s curses on Israel. He advised the Moabites to invite the Israelites to the sacrifices of their gods (Numbers 31:16). He knew that if the Israelites participated in what would end up being a wild orgy, God would unleash His wrath upon them. The scheme worked for a while, but the guilty, including Balaam, were executed and God’s wrath was satisfied.

Think about it

Let this be a lesson to us. Beware of what you love. Beware of loving the wealth, pleasures, power, and prestige which this life affords. People in ancient Israel died because they failed to be vigilant against these temptations. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, we learn that no one is innocent of sin. Only by repenting of our spiritual adultery and trusting in the One who died for His elect people can the sentence of death be stopped.

Love not the world. Love the Creator of the world, of all things, and of us.

Crisis and Failure is Not Hopeless

Today’s reading

Genesis 25-26; Matthew 9:1-17

Selected verses

 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.”  Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”  Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.  Genesis 25:31-34

But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”    Matthew 9:12, 13

Reflections

How do you face a crisis? How do you handle failure, sin, and guilt?

Isaac faced a crisis, a famine, to be precise. He considered immigrating to Egypt, but God appeared to him and reassured him of His presence and provision. Isaac rested upon God’s promises and stayed in the land. Isaac’s faith honored God and kept him from a bad decision.

Esau faced a crisis or two. He came home starved from his hunting trip. He gave in to his hunger and sold his birthright for Jacob’s delicious stew. Later, Esau wanted a wife. He married a local pagan woman rather than follow the family tradition of marrying within their clan. Esau could not tolerate any delay in the gratification of his physical needs in order to make wise and godly decisions. In both of these cases, his choices had devastating consequences for him and his family.

I admire Isaac’s faith and am repulsed by Esau’s undisciplined appetites, but it is easier for me to be like Esau than like Isaac. Do I consistently resist temptation and sin? No. I do not always choose to trust God and to endure whatever difficulty may come without complaining or choosing the path of least resistance

Yet Jesus gives me hope. He was observed eating with tax collectors and sinners, the low life of society. When questioned about this, He replied: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick… For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Think about it

We fail. We sin. But Jesus Christ came for sinners like us. He came to call us to repentance.  He came to heal us.  How do you deal with a crisis or the failure to deal with it well? Don’t be like Esau who failed to obtain the grace of God (Hebrews 12:14-17).  Seek to face a crisis with faith. When you fail, and you sometimes will, repent, confess sin, and find forgiveness from Christ. Get up, press on.

Steering a Safe Path

Is there a safe path through danger?

Although we may be trusting in Jesus Christ for our salvation, we face the dangers of presumption and of pride.  Presumption says, “I am saved by grace. I need do nothing more.  I show my faith by being passive.”  Pride says, “Look at me.  See how I am progressing in my holiness. ‘I thank God I am not like other men’ (Luke 18:11).”

Neither of these attitudes are befitting of a Christian.  We ought to seek holiness in our actions and relationships, but to do so with faith in God and with humility.  We ought to remind ourselves of the great grace of our Lord Jesus Christ toward us, but remember that He saved us “for good works” not passivity (Ephesians 2:8-10).  That is to steer a safe path through danger..

Today’s reading: 

Hebrews 10:19-12:29

My selection:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14

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.

Wander Prone

Paul confronted the Christians in Galatia who began to wander into a works-based salvation, depending on the law for their standing before God.  As Robert Robinson’s 18th Century hymn “Come thou fount of every blessing” reminds us, we need the Lord to take our hearts and seal them against such wandering from the gospel of God’s grace.

Today’s reading:  2 Corinthians 11:1-Galatians 1:24

My selection:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:6-8

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.

Why We Need the Old Testament

The Old Testament is less frequently read and preached than the New.  In today’s reading, Paul tells us why those thirty nine books from Genesis to Malachi were given and why we still need them.

Today’s reading:  1 Corinthians 10:1-12:11

My selection: 

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.  Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:11-13

Don’t neglect the means of grace including the Old Testament.

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.

The Cost of Integrity

Those who stand for truth will find their integrity tested.  The Apostle Paul stood the test at great cost. Will you?

Today’s reading:

Acts 21:37-24:27

My selection:

Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?”  And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” Acts 23:4-5

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.