Charles Stanley – Our Testimony

 

Acts 6:1-6

In spiritual terms, a testimony is a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Yet our declaration of belief encompasses far more than simply the story we tell. Philip’s example underscores that a good witness for the Lord consists of character, conduct, and conversation.

As Christians, we rightly place great emphasis on crafting a solid personal account of the Lord’s work in our life. We also talk about the ways that we can “be Jesus Christ” to our friends, family, and co-workers through our actions. But character is the part of every believer’s testimony that underlies both Christlike behavior and a good life story.

In general, the things we do and say represent the kind of person that we are on the inside. One can tell a lot about Philip’s character by noticing his actions and words. From among many believers, Philip was chosen as a man who was wise and full of the Spirit. But he wasn’t selected for a great ministry position—he was sent to serve food. Philip willingly went to do this menial work and every other job the Lord gave him, which shows his obedient spirit (Acts 6:5; 8:5, 26-27). We can be certain that he was a sincere and trustworthy person, because when he spoke, people listened (Acts 8:6). Philip’s testimony shines forth in every way.

You can’t trick God into thinking your character is righteous if it isn’t. Nor can you fake moral conduct or conversation with people for very long. Sooner or later, a proud, bitter, or unkind spirit yields behavior and speech contrary to the Christian message. But godly character produces real spiritual fruit.

Our Daily Bread — A Work In Progress

 

John 15:9-17

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. —2 Peter 3:18

Pablo Casals was considered to be the preeminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century. When he was still playing his cello in the middle of his tenth decade of life, a young reporter asked, “Mr. Casals, you are 95 years old and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice 6 hours a day?”

Mr. Casals answered, “Because I think I’m making progress.”

What a great attitude! As believers in Christ, we should never be satisfied to think we have reached some self-proclaimed pinnacle of spiritual success, but rather continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Jesus reminds us in John 15:16 that He chose us to “go and bear fruit.” The result of healthy growth is continuing to bear spiritual fruit throughout our lives. Our Lord promises: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (v.5).

In a steady and faithful progression to become more and more like the One we love and serve, we can be confident that He who began “a good work” in us will continue it until it is finally finished on the day when He returns (Phil. 1:6). —Cindy Hess Kasper

Closer yet I’d cling, my Savior,

You’re the all-sufficient Vine;

You alone can make me fruitful,

Blessed source of strength divine. —Bosch

God’s unseen work in our hearts produces fruit in our lives.

Bible in a year: Amos 7-9; Revelation 8

Insight

Two ideas appear repeatedly in today’s passage: love and obedience. The two are related, and it is important to understand their order and priority. In verse 9, Jesus reminds His disciples that He has loved them. In verse 10, He tells them that obedience to His commands is the way to respond to that love. God’s love for us is the first and primary part of our relationship with Him, and obedience—which leads to bearing fruit—is our response.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –   Earthbound

 

Garrison Keillor’s description of Aunt Marie is one I cannot seem to shake this season. Repeatedly, she has come to mind in discordant moments of Christmas preparation, somewhere between errands at the mall and lyrics that put a stop to them: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining,/ Till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.” No description of the Incarnation more readily makes the common stressors of Christmas seem less important. And yet, Aunt Marie, with her “fat little legs” and “her heavy, fur-collared coat,” has made a serious attempt to wrestle me back down to a sad, human, earthly reality. Keillor writes:

“She knew that death was only a door to the kingdom where Jesus would welcome her, there would be no crying there, no suffering, but meanwhile she was fat, her heart hurt, and she lived alone with her ill-tempered little dogs, tottering around her dark little house full of Chinese figurines and old Sunday Tribunes. She complained about nobody loving her or wanting her or inviting her to their house for dinner anymore. She sat eating pork roast, mashed potato, creamed asparagus, one Sunday at our house when she said it. We were talking about a trip to the North Shore and suddenly she broke into tears and cried, ‘You don’t care about me. You say you do but you don’t. If I died tomorrow, I don’t know as you’d even go to my funeral.’ I was six. I said, cheerfully, ‘I’d come to your funeral,’ looking at my fat aunt, her blue dress, her string of pearls, her red rouge, the powder on her nose, her mouth full of pork roast, her eyes full of tears.”(1)

Christmas says in color and sentiment what many of us already know: that the world is waiting, groaning for more, longing for redemption, for peace on earth and goodwill to humanity, for release from darkness and sin and loneliness and disillusionment, for God to come near to the world as we know it. Like Aunt Marie, this waiting is sometimes fraught with discomfort; we wait, and we sense a lonely, earthly reality. But Advent forces the experience of waiting into a different light. Our waiting need not be dehumanizing, dispiriting, as waiting often feels.

The New Testament describes it quite differently—not as a difficult means to a better end, but as part of the promise itself. Eugene Peterson writes, “Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”(2) Waiting itself is, of course, a reminder that we are earthbound.

But so is Christ.

The Christian’s celebration of Christmas is the assurance that we wait with good reason. “The word became flesh,” wrote John, “and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God did not merely come near, he became flesh that could touch weaknesses, experience loneliness, and encounter the lowest moments of being human. He came to be with us, to move through us, to work within us. He came as small and vulnerable as humans come, getting close enough to bear the scars of our outrage and near enough to prove he would stay regardless. He came far nearer than Aunt Marie—or most of us—are yet able to recognize. “That is what incarnation means,” writes Frederick Buechner. “It is untheological. It is unsophisticated. It is undignified. But according to Christianity, it is the way things are. All religions and philosophies that deny the reality or the significance of the material, the fleshly, the earthbound, are themselves denied.”(3)

God became one of us, not to erase every shadow or to undo the difficulties of our humanity, but to be with us in the midst of it, to transform our spectrum of darkness by bearing a truer depth of light, to enlarge us with the joy of expectancy until the fullness of time when every hope has come to pass.

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

(1) Garrison Keillor, Leaving Home (New York: Viking, 1987), xxi-xxii.

(2) Eugene Peterson, The Message, Romans 8:24-25.

(3) Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words (New York: Harper Collins, 2004), 169.

Charles Spurgeon – A blow at self-righteousness

 

“If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” Job 9:20

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Let me just utter a solemn sentence which you may consider at your leisure. If you trust to your faith and to your repentance, you will be as much lost as if you trusted to your good works or trusted to your sins. The ground of your salvation is not faith, but Christ; it is not repentance, but Christ. If I trust my trust of Christ, I am lost. My business is to trust Christ; to rest on him; to depend, not on what the Spirit has done in me, but on what Christ did for me, when he hung upon the tree. Now be it known unto you, that when Christ died, he took the sins of all his people upon his head, and there and then they all ceased to be. At the moment when Christ died, the sins of all his redeemed were blotted out. He did then suffer all that they ought to have suffered; he paid all their debts; and their sins were actually and positively lifted that day from their shoulders to his shoulders, for “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And now, if you believe in Jesus, there is not a sin remaining upon you, for your sin was laid on Christ; Christ was punished for your sins before they were committed, and as Kent says:

“Here’s pardon full for sin that’s past,

It matters not how black their cast;

And oh! my soul with wonder view,

For sins to come here’s pardon too.”

Blessed privilege of the believer! But if you live and die unbelievers, know this, that all your sins lie on your own shoulders.

For meditation: To boast of the sincerest faith and the most thoroughgoing repentance is to exhibit the most sophisticated form of self-righteousness. Repentance and faith are both gifts from God so that sinners can receive his greatest gift, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12).

Sermon no. 350

17 December (Preached 16 December 1860)

John MacArthur – Christ’s Superior Destiny

 

“To which of the angels has He ever said, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet’? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:13-14).

The destiny of Jesus Christ is that ultimately everything in the universe will be subject to Him.

“At the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10). That great promise confirms that Jesus Christ is destined to be the ruler of the universe.

Yet notice this about Christ’s rule: “When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Christ is subordinate to His Father, but only in His role as the Son. While the eternal Son is equally divine, He is officially in subjection to God.

Eventually God will put all kingdoms, authorities, and powers of the world in subjection under Christ when He comes in glory at His second coming. “He will rule [the nations] with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS'” (Rev. 19:15-16). Christ’s eternal destiny is to reign over the new heavens and the new earth.

But what about the angels? While Christ has the greater destiny, it is their destiny to serve forever those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14)—and that’s us!

Angels protect and deliver the believer from temporal danger. They rescued Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom. They went into the lions’ den with Daniel and protected him. In addition to being forever in God’s presence, our destiny is to be served by angels forever—service that begins the moment of our salvation.

Suggestions for Prayer; Thank God for the many ways He takes care of you: by saving you, having Christ intercede for you, giving you the Holy Spirit to teach you, and sending His angels to serve you.

For Further Study; Read 2 Kings 6:8-23 and note the amazing way that angels served the prophet Elisha.

Joyce Meyer – God Knows

 

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing . . . that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope. —Romans 15:13

You cannot have true love, joy, hope, or peace without believing in God and His promises. According to today’s scripture, joy and peace are found in believing. So when you lose your peace, check your believing.

Let your timing be in God’s hands (see Ps. 31:15). You’ll lose your peace if you try to make things happen out of God’s timing. Avoid rea¬soning, and stop trying to figure out what God is doing in your life and trust Him. Stop thinking so much and start simply believing.

Believe God loves you. Believe God has a great plan for your life. Believe God always has your best interest in mind, and that He is work¬ing all things together for your good (see Rom. 8:28). You might as well just get in the flow and go with God. Getting frustrated is not going to make God change His mind.

I have been through a lot of difficult things and have come to know through experience that God is faithful and worrying does no good. We don’t have to understand everything that occurs in our lives, because God does understand them and He is in control. You can choose to believe in God and His promises, or to continue in worry and reason¬ing. But if you choose to believe, your joy and peace will be abundant.

Love God Today: “Lord, I believe that you know all things and you are in control, so help me be comfortable, ‘not knowing.’ “

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Rewards All Who Look for Him

 

“You can never please God without faith, without depending on Him. Anyone who wants to come to God must believe that there is a God and that He rewards those who sincerely look for Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

A friend of mine, one of the most dedicated men I have ever known, lived by a little black book. In this book he kept a careful record of all his activities, past, present and future.

In it he recorded the time he was to get up every morning, how long to have his devotions, how many verses of Scripture he should memorize that day, and to how many people he should witness. I was impressed; I wanted to be like him.

One day he had a mental breakdown, however. After he was released from the hospital, he said to me, “I was unable to live the Christian life. I tried to be a man of God by imposing upon myself certain rigid spiritual disciplines.

“Before they took me to the hospital, my last conscious act was to throw that little black book, which had become my god, into the corner. I never wanted to see it again.”

This man had to discover what I discovered with great relief some years ago: I will never be able to live the Christian life through my own self-efforts.

My only hope for victory, power and fruitfulness is to trust Christ to live His resurrection life in and through me. He and He alone can enable me to live the Christian life. It is faith, not effort, that pleases Him, though we should never forget that faith without works is dead. Genuine faith always produces action – good works that please and glorify Him.

Bible Reading: Hebrews 7:17-22

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today by faith I will claim Christ’s resurrection life, and since He alone is holy I will claim His power to live a supernatural life. Since He came to seek and to save the lost, I will claim by faith His ability to seek and to save the lost.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Take Your Place

 

One of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, said, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” Bible commentator Mathew Henry added, “A Christian is always in danger. By his faith alone, he will be able to keep his ground.”

Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting.

Nehemiah 9:5

While religious persecution runs at high pitch in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, American Christians are sheltered from physical onslaught. Yet atheist and other anti-faith groups want to abolish God from the public square, dismantle memorial crosses that honor veterans, and destroy ages-old sanctities of marriage and life. Those who serve God and the cause of Christ can no longer sit in idleness on the sidelines. As with the people of Nehemiah’s day, Christians need to confess their sins and stand up, boldly proclaiming that they belong to God.

The coming year shows no promise of a let-up by your adversary. Are you ready in 2015 to take your place – with the jailed pastor in Iran, Christian aid worker in Liberia, and the teenage girl in New Jersey fighting to keep the right to say “under God” in her Pledge? Prayerfully consider your watchfulness, your depth of faith, and your willingness to be among those who stand.

Recommended Reading: Nehemiah 9:1-6

Greg Laurie – Making a Commitment

 

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”—Luke 9:23

Although it has been more than three decades, I still remember clearly the day I was joined in marriage to my wife, Cathe. She walked down the aisle looking beautiful. I, on the other hand, resembled Jeremiah Johnson with my shoulder-length hair and big beard. I cringe when I look at the photos. But that day, I committed myself to Cathe. I said, “I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part.” I made a public commitment to her.

And although I have already made that commitment, I make a recommitment every day to love Cathe and to be the husband that God wants me to be. I don’t always do this perfectly. But I recognize that it is a continuing commitment.

I have also committed myself to Jesus Christ, and every day I honor and affirm that commitment. One practical way I do this is simply by staying in fellowship with Him. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). By obeying God, listening to and heeding the “still, small voice” of His indwelling Holy Spirit, I remain in unbroken fellowship with Him.

If you want to grow in Jesus Christ, it will take time—and lots of it. It will take a daily commitment for the rest of your life. But do you have anything better to do with the rest of your life than to follow Jesus and learn more about Him? That is the best thing you could possibly do with your life and future. Nothing is better than that.

You could say the same thing hour by hour through your day. Nothing is better, no matter what your activities or responsibilities, than walking in the sweetness and radiance of His conscious presence.

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

Max Lucado – Be Ready

 

John 1:14 says, “The Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.” He lived among us. He donned the costliest of robes: a human body. He became a friend of the sinner and brother of the poor. He touched their sores and felt their tears and paid for their mistakes. And to all of us frightened ones, He shared the same message: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. . .I will come again and receive you to Myself.” (Jn. 14:1)

And how do we respond? Some pretend He doesn’t exist. Others hear Him, but don’t believe Him. But then, a few decide to give it a try. And when He calls your name, be ready. Look up. He will reach down and take you home…when Christ comes!

From In the Manger