Charles Stanley – How God Sees the Unbeliever

Charles Stanley

Ephesians 2:1-5

God’s Word is always true but not always popular. When it runs counter to cultural preferences, the message of the gospel can be uncomfortable to hear and may lead to challenge and confrontation. We need to know biblical truth, including the fact that God sees unbelievers as . . .

• Dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). As newborn babies, we are physically alive but spiritually dead. Spiritual death came to all generations through the first Adam (Rom. 5:12); spiritual life comes only through Jesus, the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45).

• Unable to grasp spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). Those who are spiritually dead can’t perceive the things of God. Divine truth can’t penetrate because their “receiver,” or spirit, is dead within them.

• Not part of God’s family (John 1:12). Spiritually, there are only two families in the world: God’s and Satan’s (John 8:44). A person is born into God’s family—or “born again”—by trusting in Christ’s sacrifice and receiving Him as Savior.

• Under wrath (Eph. 2:3). Unbelievers, even kind and loving ones, are under judgment. A sin debt is owed (Rom. 6:23), and it can’t be paid by kind or loving acts of service. Jesus paid on our behalf, and only by trusting in His substitutionary sacrifice can we escape God’s wrath.

Unbelievers are in grave danger, but most do not realize it. The good news is that God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ is still available. Have you reached out for the hand of your Rescuer? If your answer is yes, are you pointing others to the One who wants to rescue them?



Our Daily Bread — Living Backward

Our Daily Bread

Matthew 16:21-28

Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. —Matthew 16:25

The Chicago River is unusual because it flows backward. Engineers reversed its direction over a century ago because city-dwellers were using it as a dump. Dishwater, sewage, and industrial waste all funneled into the river, which emptied into Lake Michigan. Since the lake supplied drinking water for the city, thousands grew sick and died before city authorities decided to redirect the river to flow backward, away from the lake.

When we look at the earthly life of Jesus, it may seem backward from what we would expect. As the King of glory, He came to earth as a vulnerable infant. As God in the flesh, He endured accusations of blasphemy. As the only sinless man, He was crucified as a criminal. But Jesus lived on earth according to God’s will (John 6:38).

As followers of Christ, to clothe ourselves with Jesus’ attitudes and actions may appear “backward.” Blessing our enemies (Rom. 12:14), valuing godliness over wealth (1 Tim. 6:6-9), and taking joy in hardship (James 1:2) seem to oppose worldly wisdom. Yet, Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).

Don’t worry if living your life sometimes means operating in reverse. God will give you the strength to honor Him, and He will propel you forward. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Dear God, please give me the strength to go

against the flow of this world. Help me to resist

what is wrong in Your eyes and to act in ways

that please You, for the glory of Your name.

Clothing ourselves with Jesus’ attitudes and actions shows His presence in our lives.

Bible in a year: Amos 4-6; Revelation 7


Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A World Off Balance

Ravi Z

Once and a while a friendship is forged that seems to surprise everyone but the two who are in it. In a story that first circulated in 2006, Zookeepers at Tokyo’s Mutsugoro Okoku Zoo couldn’t agree more. Gohan and Aochan had been living side by side for months, at times even curling up next to one another as they sleep. Such behavior is, perhaps, natural among creatures sharing habitats—except that Gohan and Aochan should have naturally been predator and prey. Gohan was a three and a half inch dwarf hamster, and her companion, Aochan, a rat snake. The hamster, who was jokingly named “meal” in Japanese, was originally given to Aochan as dinner after the snake refused to eat frozen mice. But instead of dining, Aochan decided to make friends. Much to the zookeeper’s surprise, the two began sharing a cage. Their comfort around one another was most peculiar, with Gohan able to climb over Aochan like he was part of the furniture or recline on his coiled back and take a nap.

The thought of such a relationship is one that fascinates in its complexity (if not an accident waiting to happen). Though the friend who first sent me this story assured me that unusual bondings have occurred throughout the animal kingdom without bad endings, I still find myself leery of the snake’s intentions. Can a snake really surrender its natural instincts to hunt? What happens when Gohan gets in his way or makes him mad, or when the zookeeper is running late feeding the reptiles? Can the nature of a snake remain reversed because of a relationship?

In a significant prophecy of the coming Messiah (literally, anointed one) and his ensuing reign, Isaiah describes a scene full of similarly unusual relationships:  “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

On many levels it is a scene that is unimaginable. We would no sooner trust the cobra than we would trust the one who suggests we allow a child to play near it. Yet the vision speaks of a dramatic change in nature throughout God’s kingdom, where the aggressiveness and cruelty that are so much a part of our world will be forever changed. We will look at the relationship of Gohan and Aochan and not fear the hamster’s trust of the snake. With good reason, we ascribe such a reality as something God promises in the future, in heaven, when nature as we know it has passed away. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain; the wolf will live with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the goat, for the old order of things will have passed away. I believe this is indeed an image of things to come. Could it not also be something more?

What if there is something about the coming of the Messiah that brings this scene to life even now? What if the Incarnation—the coming of Jesus onto a first century scene—caused things on earth to be turned upside-down ever since? Like the brutal outlaw in one of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, the Misfit, recognizes, there is something about the Incarnation that has “thrown everything off balance.” The mere presence of the source of all matter in our very midst, the Incarnate Christ coming to us in flesh and blood introduces a possibility of grace that changes the nature of everything. “If He did what He said, then its nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him, and if He didn’t, then its nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him.”(2) Isaiah depicts a world where lions and vipers will not kill; young lambs will rest peacefully beside predators, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). It is unnatural for a wolf not to harm a defenseless lamb or a snake not to bite the hand that invades its nest. Is it any more natural that you or I should be able to defy our human nature? That we should claim the old has gone and left a new creation in its place? That we should find ourselves born a second time from above?

Yet to bow before the person of Christ—in life, in prayer, in relationship, in community—is to lay our lives at the feet of the one who is both Lamb and Lion in a way that overturns these very notions of nature. In his work Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton finds fault with the way this is often envisioned. “It is constantly assured,” he writes “…that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is—Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity?”(1) This, somehow, Christ achieves. To know him is to cling to the fierce hope of transformation and the gentle assurance of new life—on earth and as it will one day be in heaven. He alone can reverse the nature of the snake; he is both Lamb and Lion.

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

(1) G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 105.

(2) Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find, Complete Stories (Franklin Center, Pa.: Franklin Library, 1980), 151.


Alistair Begg – The Call of Christian Faith

Alistair Begg

Come to me.

Matthew 11:28

The call of the Christian faith is the gentle word, “Come.” The Jewish law spoke harshly: “Go, pay attention to your steps as to the path in which you will walk. Break the commandments, and you will perish; keep them, and you will live.” The law was a dispensation of terror that drove men before it as with a scourge; the Gospel draws with cords of love. Jesus is the Good Shepherd going before His sheep, bidding them follow Him, and leading them forward with the sweet word, “Come.” The law repels; the Gospel attracts. The law shows the distance that exists between God and man; the Gospel bridges that awful chasm and brings the sinner across it.

From the first moment of your spiritual life until you are welcomed into heaven, the language of Christ to you will be, “Come to me.” As a mother extends her hand to her tiny child and woos it to walk by saying, “Come,” even so does Jesus. He will always be ahead of you, bidding you follow Him as the soldier follows his captain. He will always go before you to pave your way and clear your path, and you will hear His life-giving voice calling you to follow Him all through your life; in the solemn hour of death, His sweet words with which He will usher you into the heavenly world will be, “Come, you who are blessed of my Father.”1

This is not only Christ’s call to you, but if you are a believer, this is your call to Christ-“Come! Come!” You will be longing for His return; you will be saying, “Come quickly; even so come, Lord Jesus.” You will desire nearer and closer fellowship with Him. As His voice to you is “Come,” your response to Him will be, “Come, Lord, and stay with me. Come and occupy the throne of my heart; reign there without a rival, and consecrate me entirely to Your service.”

1 Matthew 25:34




Charles Spurgeon – Heaven


“The things which God hath prepared for them that love him. ” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 26:26-29

One of the places where you may most of all expect to see heaven is at the Lord’s table. There are some of you, my dearly beloved, who absent yourselves from the supper of the Lord on earth; let me tell you in God’s name, that you are not only sinning against God, but robbing yourselves of a most inestimable privilege. If there is one season in which the soul gets into closer communion with Christ than another, it is at the Lord’s table. How often have we sung there:

“Can I Gethsemane forget? Remember thee and all thy pains,

Or there thy conflicts see, And all thy love to me,

Thine agony and bloody sweat, Yes, while a pulse, or breath remains,

And not remember thee? I will remember thee.”

And then you see what an easy transition it is to heaven:

“And when these failing lips grow dumb,

And thought and memory flee;

When thou shalt in thy kingdom come,

Jesus, remember me.”

O my erring brethren, you who live on, unbaptised, and who receive not this sacred supper, I tell you they will not save you—most assuredly they will not, and if you are not saved before you receive them they will be an injury to you; but if you are the Lord’s people, why need you stay away? I tell you, the Lord’s table is so high a place that you can see heaven from it very often. You get so near the cross there, you breathe so near the cross, that your sight becomes clearer, and the air brighter, and you can see more of heaven there than anywhere else. Christian, do not neglect the supper of your Lord; for if you do, he will hide heaven from you, in a measure.

For meditation: When you come to the Lord’s Table, do you look forward to the future in anticipation as well as to the past in gratitude (1 Corinthians 11:26)?

Sermon no. 56

16 December (1855)


John MacArthur – Christ’s Eternal Existence

John MacArthur

“Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay a foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands; they will perish, but Thou remainest; and they all will become old as a garment. And as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up; as a garment they will also be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end” (Heb. 1:10-12).

Jesus Christ is no creature. To be able to lay the foundation of the earth and create the heavens in the beginning implies that He must have existed before the beginning. The apostle John testified to this when he said, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). Christ is eternal.

Jesus is also immutable, which means He never changes. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” We need to hang onto this truth as we approach a day when much of what we know will change drastically.

One day what looks so permanent will fold up. Like the people Peter warned, we are tempted to think that “all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4). But Hebrews 1:11 tells us that one day Jesus will discard the heavens and the earth, just as we would a useless garment.

Even more amazing, verse 12 specifies that Christ will roll up the heavens. Revelation 6:14 says, “The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” During the time of the tribulation, the heavens, as if stretched to all corners, will roll right up like a scroll.

But we can be confident that although creation will perish, Jesus will not, and He will create a new heaven and a new earth. Living creatures, worlds, and stars are subject to decay, but not Christ. He never changes and is never subject to change. What confidence that should give us for the daily issues of life we face each day!

Suggestion for Prayer:

Thank the Lord for His unchanging plan for your life and His ability to keep it.

For Future Study:

Read 2 Peter 3 and develop an approach to answering charges unbelievers make about biblical prophecies regarding the end times.


Joyce Meyer – Our Refiner

Joyce meyer

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the priests, the sons of Levi, and refine them like gold and silver

—Malachi 3:3

Looking back over the years, I can see that I have been on a fascinating journey with God. He has definitely changed me and is still changing me daily. I had many problems in my soul (my mind, will, and emotions) and in my circumstances at the time I received the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Little did I realize what was about to take place in my life. I was asking God for change, but I was totally unaware that what needed to be changed in my life was me!

God began a process in me—slowly, steadily, and always at a pace I could endure. As a Refiner, He sits over the fires that burn in our lives to make sure they never get too hot and that they never die out. Only when He can look at us and see His own reflection is it safe to turn the fire off, and even then we continue to need a few alterations at times.

When God was dealing with me about patience, I faced many circumstances in which I could either be patient or behave badly. Quite often, I behaved badly, but the Holy Spirit kept convicting me, teaching me, and giving me a desire to live for God’s glory. Gradually, little by little, I changed in one area, then in another. I usually got to rest a bit in between battles and often thought that perhaps I had finally graduated, only to discover something else I needed to learn.

This is the way it works as the Holy Spirit changes us. Keep your heart open to His leadership; keep your ears open to His voice; obey what He speaks to you—and soon, you’ll find yourself changing more and more into the person He created you to be.

God’s word for you today: Don’t get discouraged when God shows you areas in you that need to change.”


Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Trusting an Unchanging God


“God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those He promised to help would be perfectly sure and never need to wonder whether He might change His plans” (Hebrews 6:17).

If there is one characteristic that might describe us all, more than any other trait, it would have to be that we are changeable and unpredictable. We are not dependable. How wonderful then to know and serve someone who never changes – who is the same yesterday, today and forever. We can know what to expect from Him in any given situation without fear of a sudden change in behavior, thought or purpose.

A scientist knows there are laws governing the universe and that those laws are inviolate. Thus, when President John F. Kennedy challenged industry to put a man on the moon, a mobilized army of scientists and engineers was able to accomplish the feat within nine years from the drawing board stage. When the assignment was given, no one knew what to do, and yet there were basic laws – dependable, trustworthy laws of the universe – on which they could build. Through much creative planning and thinking, the miracle occurred.

Today, it is commonplace to send men into space. God of the universe, who established the laws that govern all life, never changes. Our moods and our attitudes and actions vacillate, but God never changes. That is the reason we can absolutely, without question, believe His promises, and in so doing, release His mighty supernatural resources in terms of money, manpower and technology to envelop the entire world of almost five billion people with the most joyful news ever announced.

We are reminded in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please God. Have you learned how to claim the promises of God by faith? When you do, you will learn how to live supernaturally.

Bible Reading: Psalms 102:24-28

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Realizing that God has bound Himself with an oath to keep His promise, I shall trust and obey Him no matter what happens, for this is the way to supernatural living. This is the way to maximize myself for the glory of God.


Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Distraction Disasters


If you are maneuvering a ship around perilous reefs, and if that ship is filled with 55 million gallons of crude oil, you should be extremely focused. It would be an inappropriate time for carelessness, multitasking or consuming alcoholic beverages. But on March 24, 1989, Captain Joseph Hazelwood and his negligent crew wrecked the mammoth Exxon Valdez tanker on the Alaskan shore, creating one of the biggest environmental disasters to date. The cleanup has gone on for decades and cost billions of dollars.

Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

I Peter 1:13

In this hustle and bustle society, distractions are an ever-present detriment and danger…and they can leave you shipwrecked. Do you know what it means to “set your hope fully” on God’s grace, or is it just some vague notion on the periphery of your attention?

Today, ask God to help you make Him the center of your universe. Whatever is troubling you – financial issues, family struggles, health woes, the plight of the nation’s leaders, or even America’s spiritual decline – strive to invest “looking to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) into your everyday routine. He will help you navigate life’s reefs, restore your hope, and secure your passage!

Recommended Reading: Hebrews 12:1-12


Greg Laurie – Surprised to Be Chosen


And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant.” —Luke 1:46–47

Had Mary lived her life like so many other girls her age, she would have married a poor man, given birth to numerous poor children, never traveled more than a few miles from her home, and died like thousands of others before her. You see, Mary was a nobody living in Nazareth, a nothing town in the middle of nowhere.

But here is the amazing thing: God intervened. Do you think Mary, in her wildest dreams, ever would have imagined that she was the Virgin the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14)? Do you think when she heard that, she said, “I am going to be that woman. That’s me”? I don’t think the thought even crossed her mind.

She could have said to the angel Gabriel, “Hello? It’s about time you showed up! I always knew I would be the Virgin spoken of by Isaiah! I’ve been waiting for you!”

But that isn’t at all how she responded to Gabriel’s announcement. In fact, it was the very opposite of that. Mary was honestly surprised that God had chosen her. It seems to me that when God uses people, they are always amazed that He would choose someone like them. A truly godly person will never boast of his or her great devotion or holiness. They won’t talk about what they have done for God. Rather, they will talk about what God has done for them.

God chose a young, unknown girl who lived in a relatively unknown city to bring about the most known event in human history. God uses nobodies to tell everybody about Somebody. God specializes in choosing ordinary people and doing extraordinary things with them and through them.



Max Lucado – His Loving Forgetfulness

Max Lucado

Hear this powerful passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galations 3:27). We have “put on” Christ. When God looks at us He doesn’t see us; He sees Christ. We wear Him.  We’re hidden in Him; covered by Him.

Presumptuous, you say?  Sacrilegious? It would be if it were my idea.  But it isn’t, it’s His. We’re presumptuous not when we marvel at His grace, but when we reject it.  And we’re sacrilegious not when we claim His forgiveness, but when we allow the haunting sins of yesterday to convince us God forgives but He doesn’t forget.

Do yourself a favor. Take the Roman nails of Calvary and board up the door. Believe in His loving forgetfulness, in His graciously terrible memory.

From God Came Near