Charles Stanley – The Call to Holiness

Charles Stanley

1 Peter 1:13-2:3

Believers are called to be sanctified people who live holy lives. Holiness means being set apart by God for His purposes. This process of sanctification begins when we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, and it continues for the rest of our lives.

The Holy Spirit draws our will and longings to align with His. As we submit to Him, we will begin to desire what He desires. With His leading, we will choose to consecrate our conduct, our conversation, and ultimately our character to God alone. He teaches us how to make holiness a way of life rather than see it as some lofty place of enlightenment we can never reach. God has placed us where we live and work, not to be “pious” or to isolate ourselves as if in incubators, but to reflect who Christ is as we walk among other people. If we are in the process of being conformed to Jesus’ likeness, then the longer we live and mature spiritually, the more others should be able to recognize the Savior in us. Our hearts should grow softer, and our willingness to love and serve should increase.

If we are Christ’s ambassadors, then our lives must be holy; otherwise, we are misrepresenting Him. If we are the body of Christ, then our hands are His hands, our eyes are His eyes, and our feet are His feet. When we allow Jesus to speak, love, and serve through us, others will be compelled to ask why we live such vibrant lives. All followers of Christ are called to be holy. To answer this call daily is to embrace the Great Commission.

Our Daily Bread — Just As I Am

Our Daily Bread

Isaiah 55:1-7

Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live. —Isaiah 55:3

Good memories flooded my mind as I sat in a concert. The group’s leader had just introduced the song they were about to sing: “Just As I Am.” I remembered how years ago at the end of his sermons my pastor would ask people to come forward while we sang that song, indicating they would like to receive the forgiveness Christ offers for their sins.

But the leader of the musical group at the concert suggested another occasion when we might sing this song. He commented that he likes to think that when he dies and goes to meet the Lord one day, he will sing in thanks to Him:

Just as I am, without one plea

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come!

Years before writing this song, Charlotte Elliott asked a minister how she might find the Lord. He told her, “Just come to Him as you are.” She did, and later during a discouraging time of illness, she wrote this hymn about the day she came to Christ and He forgave her sin.

In His Word, the Lord encourages us to seek Him: “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6). He calls to our hearts: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters . . . . Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live” (vv.1,3).

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can come to Him right now and will one day go into eternity to be with Him forever. Just as I am . . . I come! —Anne Cetas

Let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. —Revelation 22:17

Bible in a year: Psalms 54-56; Romans 3

Insight

Isaiah 55 has rich words of hope for us in its first seven verses. Arguably, however, the chapter’s most familiar words are found in the next two verses: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (vv.8-9). These verses offer hope and assurance. God is in control and sees the big picture.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Theology of Sleep

Ravi Z

For some people, the fear of sleep accompanies the fear of death. For some, the fear of not being awake is akin to the fear of not being. Public Radio International personality Ira Glass spent a program discussing his own fear of sleep, along with others who find something worrisome in the altered, vulnerable state of slumber. “I’d lie awake at night scared to go to sleep,” says Glass of himself as a child. “‘Cause sleep seemed no different than death, you know? You were gone. Not moving, not talking, not thinking. Not aware. Not aware. What could be more frightening? What could be bigger?”(1) Others describe a similar sense of foreboding in the still of night that is irrationally paralyzing for them: a seven year-old trains himself to resist sleep, a young student describes her extensive intake of caffeine and denial. But one man, speaking bluntly of the fear of death in the middle of the night, attests to the altogether rational quality of his fear. “It’s not an irrational fear… You understand that you’re a mortal; your life is going to be over at some point. You’re fighting the worst enemy in the world as you lie there in bed….you’re trying to fight death and there’s no way you can win.”(2)

Glass closes the program with an excerpt of Philip Larkin’s “Aubade,” a poem about waking at 4 a.m. and staring around the bedroom, and seeing “what’s really always there:/ Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,/ Making all thought impossible but how/ And where and when I shall myself die.” Larkin, who died a bleak philosopher at 63, continues:

This is a special way of being afraid

No trick dispels. Religion used to try,

That vast moth-eaten musical brocade

Created to pretend we never die,

And specious stuff that says no rational being

Can fear a thing it cannot feel, not seeing

that this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,

No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,

Nothing to love or link with,

The anaesthetic from which none come round.

Larkin is not the first poet to draw attention to sleep’s grasp of death’s hand, a hand most admit at times fearing, at times simply hoping to outrun. Keats referred to sleep as the “sweet embalmer,” and Donne was convinced that both death and sleep are the same type of action. Glass is right to point to death as the worst enemy of which there is no escape, and sleep, which is similarly unavoidable, is perhaps the disquieting reminder of that which we attempt to deny the rest of the day. For how much of our lives and livelihoods are aimed at outrunning the reality of our deaths? The forces of culture that insist we give up an hour of sleep here or two hours there—the grinding schedules, the unnerving stock piles of e-mail in need of responses, the early-taught/early-learned push for more and more productivity—are part and parcel of the forces that urge us to stop time itself, to live anti-wrinkles, anti-aging, anti-dying. Sleep could well be the daily reminder that some of us need to reclaim the reality of death, the beauty and brevity of life.

This is precisely the rationale with which author and professor Lauren Winner urges the world to sleep more as a means of waking to oft-unchallenged social cues and fears. Writes Winner, “Not only does sleep have evident social consequences, not only would sleeping more make us better neighbors and friends and family members and citizens. Sleeping well may also be part of Christian discipleship, at least in our time and place. It’s not just that a countercultural embrace of sleep bears witness to values higher than ‘the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things.’ A night of good sleep—a week, or month, or year of good sleep—also testifies to the basic Christian story of Creation. We are creatures, with bodies that are finite and contingent.”(3) We are, likewise, bodies living within a culture generally terrified of aging, uncomfortable with death, and desperate for our accomplishments to distract us. The demands that our bodies make for sleep is a good reminder that we are mere creatures, that life is to be revered, and death will come.

This is indeed a sobering reminder, but it need not be only a dire reminder. For to admit there is no escaping the enemy of death is not to say we are left without victory: ”I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, shall live” (John 11:25-26). The one who made this claim made it knowing that death would come to all of us, but longing to show the world that it is an enemy he would defeat. Perhaps sleep, then, providing a striking image of finite bodies that will lie down and cease to be, can simultaneously provide us a rousing image of bodies that will rise again.

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

(1) Ira Glass, This American Life, 361: “Fear of Sleep” August 8, 2008.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Lauren Winner, Books & Culture, January/February 2006, Vol. 12, No. 1, pg. 7.

Alistair Begg – Praise the Lord

Alistair Begg

Now these, the singers…were on duty day and night. 1 Chronicles 9:33

It was so well organized in the temple that the sacred refrain never ceased, for the singers constantly praised the Lord, whose mercy endures forever. As mercy did not cease to rule either by day or by night, so neither did music hush its holy sound. My heart, there is a lesson sweetly taught to you in the ceaseless song of Zion’s temple. You are a constant debtor; therefore see to it that your gratitude, like charity, never fails. God’s praise is constant in heaven, which is to be your final dwelling-place; so learn to practice the eternal hallelujah. Around the earth as the sun scatters its light, its beams awaken grateful believers to tune their morning hymn, so that by the priesthood of the saints perpetual praise is kept up at all hours; they surround our globe in a mantle of thanksgiving and girdle it with a golden belt of song.

The Lord always deserves to be praised for what He is in Himself, for His works of creation and providence, for His goodness toward His creatures, and especially for the transcendent act of redemption and all the marvelous blessings that flow from it. It is always beneficial to praise the Lord; such praise cheers the day and brightens the night; it lightens toil and softens sorrow; and over earthly gladness it sheds a sanctifying radiance that makes it less liable to blind us with its glare. Do we not have something to sing about at this moment? Can we not weave a song out of our present joys or our past deliverances or our future hopes? Earth yields her summer fruits: The hay is baled, the golden grain invites the scythe, and the sun tarries to shine upon a fruitful earth and shorten the interval of shade, that we may extend the hours of devoted worship. By the love of Jesus, let us be stirred up to close the day with a psalm of sanctified gladness.

________________________________________

The family reading plan for July 31, 2014 * Jeremiah 27 * Mark 13

________________________________________

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – The meek and lowly One

CharlesSpurgeon

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek, and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 21:1-17

Christ on earth was a king; but there was nothing about him of the exclusive pomp of kings, which excludes the common people from their society. Look at the eastern king Ahasuerus, sitting on his throne. He is considered by his people as a superior being. None may come in unto the king, unless he is called for. Should he venture to pass the circle, the guards will slay him, unless the king stretches out the golden sceptre. Even Esther, his beloved wife, is afraid to draw near, and must put her life in her hand, if she comes into the presence of the king uncalled. Christ is a king; but where is his pomp? Where the janitor that keeps his door, and thrusts away the poor? Where the soldiers that ride on either side of his chariot to screen the monarch from the sight of poverty? See thy King, O Sion! He comes, he comes in royal pomp! Behold, Judah, behold thy King cometh! But how cometh he? “Meek and lowly, riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.” And who are his attendants? See, the young children, boys and girls! They cry, “Hosannah! Hosannah! Hosannah!” And who are they that wait upon him? His poor disciples. They pull the branches from the trees; they cast their garments in the street, and there he rides on—Judah’s royal king. His courtiers are the poor; his pomp is that tribute which grateful hearts delight to offer. O sinners, will you not come to Christ? There is nothing in him to keep you back. You need not say, like Esther did of old, “I will go in unto the king, and if I perish, I perish.” Come and welcome! Come and welcome! Christ is more ready to receive you than you are to come to him. Come to the King!

For meditation: The character of the King should be reflected in the character of his subjects (Matthew 5:3,5,10). 3 John 9,10 describes exactly what is not called for!

Sermon no. 265

31 July (1859)

John MacArthur – Your Present Deliverance

John MacArthur

“Obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:9).

In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul says that “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (emphasis added). That emphasizes the marvelous reality of the believer’s present deliverance from sin. Peter stressed the same truth in 1 Peter 1:8, where he says that believers obtain as the outcome of their faith the salvation of their souls.

The Greek word translated “obtaining” in 1 Peter 1:18 literally means “presently receiving for yourselves.” It speaks of obtaining something that is due you as a result of your faith in Christ. “Outcome of your faith” refers to the logical result or end of faith. “Souls” speaks of the whole person. The entire verse could be translated, “You rejoice because you have and continue to hold onto the logical result of your proven faith—your ongoing deliverance from sin.”

You need ongoing deliverance because sin is an ongoing problem. You have new life in Christ, are a new creature in Him, and are no longer a slave to the penalty and power of sin, but you’re not yet fully glorified. Consequently you’re still subject to sin’s influence. Paul personalized that struggle in Romans 7, where he says, “The good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. . . . I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (vv. 19, 21, 24). The victory comes in verse 25, which says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Jesus is the Great Deliverer, through whom you have victory over sin, death, and hell. That’s the last spiritual privilege in Peter’s brief list, but it’s by no means the least. As you love and trust Him, you’ll know the joy of present deliverance.

Suggestions for Prayer:   Praise the Lord for your deliverance from sin’s bondage.

For Further Study:  Review all the spiritual privileges and sources of Christian joy we’ve discussed this month. Keep them fresh in your mind as you face the challenges of each new day.

Joyce Meyer – Truth in the Inner Being

Joyce meyer

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to the multitude of Your tender mercy and loving-kindness blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly [and repeatedly] from my iniquity and guilt and cleanse me and make me wholly pure from my sin! For I am conscious of my transgressions and I acknowledge them; my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified in Your sentence and faultless in Your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in [a state of] iniquity; my mother was sinful who conceived me [and I too am sinful]. Behold, You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart.—Psalm 51:1–6

The heading under this psalm reads: “A Psalm of David; when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had sinned with Bathsheba.” David cried out for mercy because he had sinned with Bathsheba, and when he learned she was pregnant, he had had her husband murdered in battle.

After David confessed his sin, Nathan said to him, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord and given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that is born to you shall surely die” (2 Samuel 12:13–14).

That’s the first lesson I want you to grasp from this incident. When you fail God, you harm yourself, but you also bring dishonor to His name. Whenever you take a false step, there are those who watch and gleefully point their fingers. The two always go together. Not only do you bring disgrace on the name of the Lord, but you fail yourself. You knew the right but chose the wrong.

As if that were not enough, the evil one also whispers, “See how bad you are. God won’t forgive you. It’s too awful.” Of course, he’s lying, because that’s what he does best. Don’t listen to those words, because there is no sin you’ve committed that God won’t forgive. You may have to carry scars or pay the penalty, but God wipes away the sin.

There’s something else to learn from this: You need to face reality. You sinned. You disobeyed God. What will you do about your sin? You can plead excuses (and most of us are good at that), or you can follow David’s example. When the prophet said, “You are the man . . .” (2 Samuel 12:7), the king did not deny his wrongdoing or try to justify his actions. David admitted he had sinned and confessed.

He wrote in the psalm quoted earlier: “For I am conscious of my transgressions and I acknowledge them; my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified in Your sentence and faultless in Your judgment” (vs. 3–4).

If you follow Jesus Christ, not only are you declaring to yourself, to your family, and to the world your trust in the Savior, but you are also declaring your stand for truth. It’s easy for us to deceive ourselves, but God has called us to be totally, completely, and scrupulously honest in our inner being. Don’t look at what others may get away with or how they justify their behavior. We can’t blame others, the devil, or circumstances.

When you fail, remind yourself that the greatest king of ¬Israel cried out to God and said, “My sin is ever before me” (v. 3). Those sins, failures, or shortcomings (or whatever you may choose to call them) will always be there until you admit them and confess them to the Lord; only then can you know the joy of living with integrity and in truth.

Strive to live with truth in your inner being. You—you and God—are the only ones who know what’s in your heart. Live in honesty and truth.

Holy God, David prayed, “You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart.” Through Jesus Christ, I plead with You to help me desire truth in my inner being, to live in such a way that I’m as honest and as open with You as I can become. I know that the life You honor is the life You bless. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – It All Belongs to Him

dr_bright

“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10, KJV).

Gently chiding a Christian worker for praying that God might give him a second-hand car to use in his service for the Lord, Dr. A.W. Tozer reminded the man:

“God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and the Cadillacs, too. Why not ask Him for the best?”

That same principle might apply to many areas of our lives today. If we truly believe that “according to your faith be it unto you,” then it is imperative that we trust God for greater things than normally we might.

Motive, of course, is supremely important in our asking from God. If the thing asked is clearly for God’s glory, to be used in His service, the motivation is good. If pride or any other motive plays a part in the decision, then we do well to think twice before asking great things from God.

What man owns, we do well to remember, we own under God. And God has never given to man the absolute proprietorship in any thing. Nor does He invade our rights when He comes and claims what we possess, or when He in any way removes what is most valuable to us.

God owns all things – let’s leave to Him the right to do whatever He wishes with the things He owns.

Bible Reading: Psalm 50:7-15

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Since my receiving is “according to my faith,” I will with proper motive for His glory believe God in a large manner this day – for whatever needs may arise.

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – Defend the Voiceless

ppt_seal01

Nick Vujicic was born with no arms and no legs. As a child, Nick was bullied to the point where he attempted suicide at age ten. Now as the president and founder of the nonprofit organization Life Without Limbs, Nick travels the world sharing his faith in God and encouraging others to overcome physical limitations and bullying.

Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:9

“I always talk about faith, love and hope. The greatest hope is knowing that I’m not going to die; I’m going to live forever and my arms and legs are up there (Heaven),” Nick says. Recently, Nick hosted a hugging campaign in New York City for the release of his new book Stand Strong. Admirers from as far away as Chile and Australia lined up in Times Square for hugs and photos with him.

Jesus demonstrated great compassion for those who could not defend themselves. As His follower, God has given you the privilege of helping people who need an advocate. Ask Him to lead you to those you can help in Jesus’ name. Pray also that your local and national leaders would serve to defend the voiceless in this nation.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 82

Greg Laurie – Unlimited Access  

greglaurie

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. —Romans 5:2

Peace with God takes care of our past because He will no longer hold our sins against us. Access to God takes care of our present because we can come to Him at any time for the help we need. The hope of the glory of God takes care of the future because we are confident that one day we will share His glory.

When I was a kid, I went to Disneyland every birthday. I still remember to this day making a vow as a child in the backseat of the car that one day, when I became an adult and made my own money and had my own car, that I would go to Disneyland every single day.

A few years ago, someone gave me an annual pass to Disneyland. I could go any time I wanted, free of charge. Do you know how many times I used it? Not that many. It is a funny thing because I would even brag about it: “I can go to Disneyland anytime I want, free of charge.”

“Do you want to go right now?”

“I can’t go now. Maybe next week.” I kept putting it off.

We can be that way when it comes to our access to the presence of God. As believers, we can go into God’s presence 24/7 — anytime we want. When is the last time you went?

God has opened this incredible door for us. But we have to walk through it.

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from Every Day with Jesus by Greg Laurie, 2013

Max Lucado – Growth of the Christian

Max Lucado

Imagine you’re selecting your food from a cafeteria line. You pick your salad, you choose your entrée, but when you get to the vegetables, you see a pan of something that turns your stomach.

“Yuck!  What’s that?” you ask, pointing.

“Oh you don’t want to know,” replies an embarrassed server.

“Yes, I do.”

“Well if you must.  It’s a pan of pre-chewed food.”

“What?”

“Some people prefer to swallow what others have chewed.”

Repulsive? You bet. But widespread. More so than you might imagine. Not with cafeteria food, but with God’s Word. Such Christians mean well. They listen well. But they discern little. They are content to swallow whatever they are told. No wonder they stop growing!

Are you learning to learn? Growth is the goal of the Christian. Maturity is mandatory. Hebrews 6:1 says, “Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.”

From When God Whispers Your Name