Charles Stanley – The Pathway to Spiritual Growth

Charles Stanley

2 Peter 3:18

Not many people can say that on the day they accepted Christ, someone explained how to grow spiritually. Sadly, some believers aren’t ever taught. God wants His children to bear the image of Christ, but we do not grow in our faith unless we take action.

First, we are responsible for renewing our mind (Rom. 12:2). Though God saves us and gives us a new spirit, He does not give us a new brain. Our minds have many trenches that have been dug or worn by rebellion, self-focus, or habit. That is why it’s important to meditate on the Bible, which expresses the thoughts of God. Meditation is more than reading—it involves thinking about what the words mean and then applying truth. There’s no way to grow spiritually without absorbing Scripture into our thinking.

A second step toward Christian maturity is being ready to admit and assume responsibility for failure. When we deny our sins, we delay spiritual growth, but as we learn to confess wrongdoing, the opposite happens—growth is inevitable.

The third step naturally follows the second: after confession should come repentance. This is more than a mere acknowledgement of wrongdoing or a promise to try harder. Repentance means that we commit to make an about-face and head in the opposite direction from our sin.

Our Father’s goal is for all believers to continually make progress toward Christlikeness. With these steps, you’ll develop in that direction. And the most important consequence is that your relationship with God will deepen.

 

Our Daily Bread — Eureka Stone

Our Daily Bread

Matthew 13:44-50

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. —Matthew 13:44

In 1867 on a farm in South Africa, 15-year-old Erasmus Jacobs saw a stone glistening in the sun. The shining rock was eventually reported to a neighbor, who wanted to buy it from the family. Not knowing its value, Erasmus’ mother told the neighbor, “You can keep the stone, if you want it.”

Eventually, a mineralogist determined the stone to be a 21.25 carat diamond and worth a great sum. It became known as the “Eureka Diamond.” (The Greek word eureka means “I found it!”) Soon the fields near the Jacobs’ farm soared in value. Underneath the land was one of the richest diamond deposits ever discovered.

Jesus said that the value of being part of God’s kingdom is like treasure: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt. 13:44).

When we put our faith in Christ, a spiritual “eureka moment” arrives. God gives us forgiveness in His Son. It is the greatest treasure that could ever be found. Now all of life can begin to center on the value of becoming a joyous member of His eternal kingdom. It’s our joy to share that valuable discovery with others. —Dennis Fisher

How we need a keen awareness

Of the joys God wants to share!

Priceless treasures found in Jesus—

We are rich beyond compare! —D. DeHaan

God’s kingdom is a treasure meant to be shared.

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 47-48; 1 John 3

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Incarnate

Ravi Z

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is one of the world’s largest maximum-security prisons, an eighteen-thousand acre habitat to people who have committed horrible crimes. It houses roughly five thousand inmates, more than half of which are serving life sentences. Death looms large at Angola; ninety-four percent of inmates who enter are expected to die while incarcerated. The fear of dying alone in prison, coupled with the reality that for many inmates their first encounter with death was committing murder, makes death a weighted subject, often locked up in anger, guilt, and dread.

For a few, however, the Angola Hospice volunteer program has drastically changed this. In 1998, equipped with a variety of staff trustees and inmate volunteers, the LSP hospice opened its doors to its first terminally ill inmate. Today it is recognized as one of the best programs of its kind. Giving inmate volunteers a role in the creation of the hospice and in the primary care during the dying process, inmates find themselves in the position to tangibly affect the lives of others by being present, by giving a hand, by offering dignity to the dying. Reckoning with death as a fate that awaits all of humanity as they care for dying friends and strangers, the men often gradually let go of hardened demeanors. As one man notes, “I’ve seen guys that used to run around Angola, and want to fight and drug up, actually cry and be heartbroken over the patient.”(1) Another describes being present in the lives of the dying and how much this takes from the living. “But it puts a lot in you,” he adds. A third inmate describes how caring for strangers on the brink of death has put an end to his lifelong anger and helped him to confront his guilt with honesty.

It may seem for some an odd story as a means of examining the story of Christmas, but in some ways it is the only story to ever truly introduce the story of Christmas: broken, guilty souls longing for someone to be present. As martyred archbishop Oscar Romero once said, it is only the poor and hungry, those most aware they need someone to come on their behalf, who can celebrate Christmas. For the men at Angola who stare death in the eyes and realize the tender importance of presence, for the child whose mother left and whose father was never there, for the melancholic soul that laments the evils of a fallen world, the Incarnation is the only story that touches every pain, every lost hope, every ounce of our guilt, every joy that ever matters. Where other creeds fail, Christmas, in essence, is about coming poor and weary, guilty and famished to the very scene in history where God reached down and touched the world by stepping into it.

The Incarnation is hard to dismiss out of hand because it so radically comes near our needs. Into the world of living and dying the arrival of Christ as a child turns fears of isolation, weakness, and condemnation on their heads. C.S. Lewis describes the doctrine of the Incarnation as a story that gets under our skin unlike any other creed, religion, or theory. “[The Incarnation] digs beneath the surface, works through the rest of our knowledge by unexpected channels, harmonises best with our deepest apprehensions… and undermines our superficial opinions. It has little to say to the man who is still certain that everything is going to the dogs, or that everything is getting better and better, or that everything is God, or that everything is electricity. Its hour comes when these wholesale creeds have begun to fail us.”(2) Standing over the precipices of the things that matter, nothing matters more than that there is a loving, forgiving, eager God who draws near.

The great hope of the Incarnation is that God comes for us. God is aware and Christ is present, having come in flesh, and it changes everything. “[I]f accepted,” writes Lewis, “[the Incarnation] illuminates and orders all other phenomena, explains both our laughter and our logic, our fear of the dead and our knowledge that it is somehow good to die,…[and] covers what multitudes of separate theories will hardly cover for us if this is rejected.”(3) The coming of Christ as an infant in Bethlehem puts flesh on humanity’s worth and puts God in humanity’s weakness. To the captive, there is no other freedom.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Stephen Kiernan, Last Rights (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2006), 274.

(2) C.S. Lewis, The Complete C.S. Lewis (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 282.

(3) Ibid.

 

 

Alistair Begg – God Has an Elect People

Alistair Begg

I have many in this city who are my people.

Acts 18:10

This should be a great encouragement in proclaiming the Gospel, since among the people in our communities-the disinterested, the rebellious, the careless-God has an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs.

They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ’s property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of selfish pleasures and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them, He will have them.

God is not unfaithful to forget the price that His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go to them with the quickening Word of God.

More than this, the ungodly are prayed for by Christ before the throne. “I do not ask for these only,” says the great Intercessor, “but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”1 Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on His breastplate, and before long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace

The predestinated moment has not struck; but when it comes, they will obey, for God will have His own. They must, for the Spirit is not to be resisted when He comes with the fullness of power-they must become the willing servants of the living God. “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power.”2 He will “make many to be accounted righteous.”3 “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.”4 “I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.”5

1 John 17:20

2 Psalm 110:3

3 Isaiah 53:11

4 Isaiah 53:11

5 Isaiah 53:12

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – Dilemma and deliverance

CharlesSpurgeon

“Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” Psalm 9:10

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 23

If we could but once believe the doctrine that the child of God might fall from grace and perish everlastingly, we might, indeed, shut up our Bible in despair. To what purpose would my preaching be—the preaching of a rickety gospel like that? To what purpose your faith—a faith in a God that cannot and would not carry on to the end? To what use the blood of Christ, if it were shed in vain, and did not bring the blood-bought ones securely home? To what purpose the Spirit, if he were not omnipotent enough to overcome our wandering, to arrest our sins and make us perfect, and present us faultless before the throne of God at last? That doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints is, I believe, as thoroughly bound up with the standing or falling of the gospel, as is the article of justification by faith. Give that up and I see no gospel left; I see no beauty in religion that is worthy of my acceptance, or that deserves my admiration. An unchanging God, an everlasting covenant, a sure mercy, these are the things that my soul delights in, and I know your hearts love to feed upon them. But take these away, and what have we? We have a foundation of wood, hay, straw, and stubble. We have nothing solid. We have a fort of earthworks, a mud hovel through which the thief may break and steal away our treasures. No, this foundation stands sure —“The Lord knoweth them that are his;” and he will certainly bring them all to his right hand at last in glory everlasting.

For meditation: If the truly converted man can be lost, Jesus must have meant “lend” when he said “give”, “temporary” when he said “eternal” and “perhaps” when he said “never” (John 10:28). Uncertainty is the hallmark of man-made religion.

Sermon no. 287

4 December (1859)

John MacArthur – Progressive Revelation

John MacArthur

Progressive Revelation

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).

When Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets [the Old Testament]; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17), He was affirming that Scripture progressed from promise to fulfillment, from partial to complete. We call that progressive revelation.

For example, the Old Testament anticipated Christ’s coming; the New Testament records His coming. The Old Testament writers didn’t understand everything they wrote because it didn’t always apply to their day. That’s why Peter said, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

Progressive revelation doesn’t at all imply that the Old Testament is inaccurate. The distinction isn’t in the rightness or wrongness of the revelation, but in its completeness. Just as a child progresses from letters to words to sentences, so God’s revelation progressed from types, ceremonies, and prophecies to final completion in Jesus Christ and the New Testament.

Thought incomplete by New Testament standards, the Old Testament is nonetheless fully inspired by God. That’s affirmed often in the New Testament. Peter tells us that no human writer of the Old Testament wrote of his own will, but only as he was directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). Paul added that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, [and] for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).

The Old Testament isn’t all of God’s truth, but all of it is true. And as you progress from the Old to the New, you see God’s character and redemptive plan unfolding in greater detail.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Praise God for the fullness of revelation you enjoy in Scripture.

For Further Study:

Memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Joyce Meyer – Use Your Authority Well

Joyce meyer

Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever desires to be first among you must be your slave—just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free].

—Matthew 20:26–28

God desires to restore us to our rightful position of authority in Christ. But first, we must learn to respect authority before we are fit to be in authority.

We all have authorities to whom God expects us to submit. Our government, our law officers, and even our merchants have the right to set rules for us to follow. If we are not submitting to God’s appointed authority, it will soon be revealed.

Keep a submissive attitude in your heart, and enjoy the authority you have been given to spend time in God’s presence today.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Cannot Disown Us

dr_bright

“Even when we are too weak to have any faith left, He remains faithful to us and will help us, for He cannot disown us who are part of Himself, and He will always carry out His promises to us” (2 Timothy 2:13).

Have you ever run out of faith? I have – in times of great testing and trial, especially in earlier years as a young Christian. But as I have learned more and more about the many attributes of God, I have come to understand why the apostle Paul was so convinced of the faithfulness of God – that He still remains faithful to us and will help us, even when we are our weakest.

The meaning seems clear, though perhaps controversial to some. If we have truly been born again by the Spirit of God, and thus have become “part of Himself,” Paul asserts that He cannot disown us. We need not argue or discuss the point of eternal security, for God’s Holy Spirit, that great Teacher of spiritual truths, will reveal true meanings to each one of us individually.

We can be more certain of unanimous agreement on the latter part of the verse: “He will always carry out His promises to us.” At least we all believe that theoretically, if not experientially.

Have you, for example, laid hold of one of God’s promises, and not yet having seen the answer, begun to wonder and even doubt if He is indeed carrying out His promise? It might help each one of us to remind ourselves constantly that God has His own time-table. He need not be bound by ours.

Someone has well said, “God’s timing is always perfect.” Let us not try to improve on that perfection.

Bible Reading: Romans 3:3,4; Numbers 23:19

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: “Dear Lord, because You are always faithful despite my faithlessness at times, I will depend on You to fulfill your promises.”

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Getting to Know You

ppt_seal01

Besides singing White Christmas, Bing Crosby also crooned Getting to Know You: “Getting to know you / Getting to know all about you / Getting to like you / Getting to hope you like me.” In Jesus, God introduced Himself to all mankind. “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” (Hebrews 1:3)

That which was from the beginning…concerning the word of life.

I John 1:1

Since the very beginning, the Holy God began working out a way to have loving relationships with sinful people. From Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to Moses, to the Jewish people, He made a way for The Way for people to get to know Him. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)

Let the Christmas season remind you that God knows you completely and wants you to get to know Him. And when you take advantage of this gift, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) Pray for the leaders and citizens of this nation to get to know “the word of life.”

Recommended Reading: John 14:1-14

 

 

Greg Laurie – Here for You

greglaurie

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” —Hebrews 13:5

Maybe you are having a difficult time this Christmas. Maybe your marriage has fallen apart and you are alone. Let me tell you something: God is with you. Maybe your kids have forgotten about you this year. Jesus hasn’t forgotten about you. His name is Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Maybe your parents have forgotten about you. But God your Father has not forgotten about you.

Christmas is about undoing loneliness. Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). From the original language, it literally could read something like this: “I will never, no never, no never leave you or forsake you.” He is going to be with you in the happy days. He is going to be with you in the sad days. He is going to be with you on the hard days. He will be with you through all of your days. Then He will be waiting for you on the other side to welcome you into glory. You don’t have to be afraid, because God is with you.

Sometimes people have asked me, “How do you get through the holidays if you have lost a loved one? Is there some book I can read?” My answer is that you don’t need a manual; you need Immanuel. You need to know that God is there. You need to lean into Him. That is the essential message of this holiday season: that God came near.

What we are longing for, deep down inside, is not Christmas, but Christ; not merriment, but the Messiah; not goodwill, but God; not presents, but His presence in our lives. Anyone or anything short of that will disappoint.

That is what this season all about. It is about Immanuel, God is with us. He is here for you.

 

Max Lucado – Jesus–Born Crucified

Max Lucado

Jesus’ death was not the result of a panicking, cosmological engineer. The cross wasn’t a tragic surprise. The death of the Son of God was anything but an unexpected peril!

Jesus’ death was part of a plan.  A calculated choice.The cross was written into the script. It was no accident. Jesus was born crucified. Whenever he became conscious of who he was, he also became conscious of what he had to do. It explains the resoluteness in his words:  “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life, only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:18).

So call it what you wish.  An act of grace. A plan of redemption.  A martyr’s sacrifice. But whatever you call it, don’t call it an accident. It was anything but that!

From God Came Near