Charles Stanley – The Necessity of a Blood Sacrifice

 Leviticus 17:11

If you’ve ever attempted to read through the Bible, you probably had the same reaction many Christians do when they reach the book of Leviticus: What are all these animal sacrifices about? This ancient sacrificial system of worship seems so foreign to us. Can you imagine having to bring a lamb for slaughter every time you want to confess your sin?

We tend to look back on all those bloody sacrifices and think, I’m sure glad that doesn’t involve me! But if we pass too quickly over them, we’ll miss seeing what our salvation cost the Savior. You see, He was our blood sacrifice. Redemption wouldn’t have worked if He’d simply died for us in His sleep, because “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22).

The Israelites had the continual reminder of the cost of sin. But today, having never experienced the slaughter of thousands of animals, we often take our salvation lightly, not realizing what it required. The flogging and crucifixion of Christ was a bloody, messy scene. The horror of it should move us to tears of sorrow and gratitude for what He did to buy our salvation. Without the shedding of His blood, we’d be bound for hell and eternal separation from God.

Now, instead of dragging a lamb behind us to the altar, we rely upon the Lamb of God, who offered Himself as the sacrifice for our transgressions. His blood washed away our sin so we can one day stand in heaven, singing praise to the Lamb who purchased us with His blood (Rev. 5:9-10). How wonderful is our redemption, and how good is our God!

Our Daily Bread — Why Me?

 

 

 

Read: Mark 14:10-21
Bible in a Year: Judges 11-12; Luke 6:1-26

 

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8

British pastor Joseph Parker was asked, “Why did Jesus choose Judas to be one of His disciples?” He thought deeply about the question for a while but could not come up with an answer. He said that he kept running into an even more baffling question: “Why did He choose me?”

That’s a question that has been asked throughout the centuries. When people become painfully aware of their sin and are overcome with guilt, they cry out to Jesus for mercy. In joyous wonder they experience the truth that God loves them, that Jesus died for them, and that they are forgiven of all their sins. It’s incomprehensible!

I too have asked, “Why me?” I know that the dark and sinful deeds of my life were motivated by a heart even darker, and yet God loved me! (Rom. 5:8). I was undeserving, wretched, and helpless, yet He opened His arms and His heart to me. I could almost hear Him whisper, “I love you even more than you loved your sin.”

It’s true! I cherished my sin. I protected it. I denied its wrongdoing. Yet God loved me enough to forgive me and set me free.

“Why me?” It’s beyond my understanding. Yet I know He loves me—and He loves you too! —Dave Egner

How wonderful is Your grace, Jesus! It’s greater than all my sin. You’ve taken away my burdens and set my spirit free. Thank You.

How wonderful is Your grace, Jesus! It’s greater than all my sin. You’ve taken away my burdens and set my spirit free. Thank You.

God loves us not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

INSIGHT: There are two apostles named Judas in the New Testament, and the gospel writers Luke and John are careful to distinguish them. Luke states, “Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor” (6:16), and John says, “Judas (not Iscariot)” (14:22).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – LOVE AND SORROW MEET

 

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself, alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

His hour had come. He had walked among them, taught them, performed miraculous signs, and he had loved and cared for them. But now, his hour had come and the cross lay ahead of him. The hour he faced would be filled with trial and suffering: Now, my soul has become troubled and what shall I say, Father, save me from this hour?(2)

Jesus would walk the long, lonely road to the cross. Rather than taking the way of self-preservation, he would offer his life, like a grain of wheat. He would die; he would be buried in the darkness of the earth, but as a result he would bear much fruit. Despite what lay ahead of him, and despite the trouble in his soul, he affirms: For this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy Name.

Of what was transacted there on that cross, there are many theories.(3) In formal theology, these theories attempt to get at the very nature and the very essence of what Jesus accomplished through his death. For theologians, atonement studies are a fertile field of inquiry because the meaning and impact of the atonement are rich, complex, and paradoxical. One theory, for example, suggests that the atonement stands as the preeminent example of a sacrificial life—an example that followers of Jesus are called to model in their own lives. Other theories argue that the cross is the ultimate symbol of divine love, or that the cross demonstrates God’s divine justice against sin as the violation of his perfect law. Still other theories suggest the cross overcame the forces of sin and evil, restored God’s honor in relation to God’s holiness and righteousness, or served as a substitution for the death we all deserved because of sin.

While the nature of the atonement may include a portion of all of these theories, Jesus’s statements as recorded in John’s gospel indicate that his death would be a path to abundant life resulting in the production of much fruit. And in this case, Jesus doesn’t construct a theory of the atonement, but instead chooses an agrarian image to indicate what would be accomplished in the cross. The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified… unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Charles Spurgeon, the nineteenth century theologian and preacher, wrote that this passage of Scripture is rich with paradoxical statements describing the nature of atonement:

“[P]aradox is this—that his glory was to come to him through shame…[that] the greatest fulness of our Lord’s glory arises out of his emptying himself, and becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. It is his highest reputation that he made himself of no reputation. His crown derives new luster from his cross….We must never forget this, and if ever we are tempted to merge the crucified Saviour in the coming King we should feel rebuked by the fact that thus we should rob our Lord of his highest honour.”(4)

Spurgeon expands on the paradoxical nature of death bringing forth life. It is only through the cross, just as a kernel of wheat must die in order to produce a harvest, that new life in Christ and reconciliation with God are accomplished. Most powerfully, Spurgeon notes that this teaches us where the vital point of Christianity lies, Christ’s death is the life of his teaching. See here: if Christ’s preaching had been the essential point, or if his example had been the vital point, he could have brought forth fruit and multiplied Christians by his preaching, and by his example. But he declares that, except he shall die, he shall not bring forth fruit.(5)

We see this paradox borne out every spring. Dead bulbs ugly, brown, and buried in dark soil all winter burst from their earthen tomb green with life and bright with color. Their glory disguised in ugly packaging, and one bulb producing green leaves and flowers in abundance. So it is with our Lord’s passion and death: glory and abundance come out of sorrow, shame, death and suffering. Encased in the Cross of Golgotha is a beautiful, life giving seed.

Long before the beauty of Easter morning, a tiny kernel of wheat dies—it lays buried seemingly dead underground. This is a great paradox, but one in which we can come to glory, one in which we can find our lives.

See from his head, his hands, his feet

Sorrow and love flow mingled down

Did ere such love and sorrow meet

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?(6)

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the writing and speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Artwork in this article by Ben Roberts, http://www.benrobertsphoto.com, used by permission.

(2) John 12:24; John 12:27.

(3) The following theories of the atonement are based upon Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1983), 781-823.

(4) “The Corn of Wheat Dying to Bring Forth Fruit: John 12:23-25,” Charles H. Spurgeon, Farm Sermons (c 1875), from http://textweek.com, accessed April 2, 2009.

(5) Ibid.

(6) “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” written by Isaac Watts, 1707.

Alistair Begg – Weep for His Pain

 

With his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Pilate delivered our Lord to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were intertwined among the sinews, so that every time the lash came down, these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration and tore off the flesh from the bone. The Savior was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this from the Roman soldiers was probably the most severe of His flagellations. My soul, stand here and weep over His poor, stricken body.

Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon Him without tears as He stands before you, the mirror of agonizing love? He is at once fair as the lily for innocence and red as the rose with the crimson of His own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing that His stripes have wrought in us, does not our heart melt at once with love and grief? If ever we have loved our Lord Jesus, surely we must feel that affection glowing now within our hearts.

See how the patient Jesus stands,

Insulted in His lowest case!

Sinners have bound the Almighty’s hands,

And spit in their Creator’s face.

With thorns His temples gor’d and gash’d

Send streams of blood from every part;

His back’s with knotted scourges lash’d.

But sharper scourges tear His heart.

We may long to go to our bedrooms and weep; but since our business calls us away, we will first ask the Lord Jesus to print the image of His bleeding self upon the tablets of our hearts all the day, and at nightfall we will return to commune with Him and sorrow that our sin should have cost Him so dearly.

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

Charles Spurgeon – The march

 

“And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.” Numbers 10:35

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

“Rise up, Lord, Father, Son, and Spirit, we can do nothing without thee; but if thou wilt arise, thine enemies shall be scattered, and they that hate thee shall flee before thee.” Will you and I go home and pray this prayer by ourselves, fervently laying hold upon the horns of God’s altar? I charge you, my brethren in Christ, do not neglect this private duty. Go, each one of you, to your chambers; shut your doors; cry to him who hears in secret, and let this be the burden of your cry—“Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered.” And at your altars tonight, when your families are gathered together, still let the same cry ring up to heaven. And then tomorrow, and all the days of the week, and as often as we shall meet together to hear his word and to break bread, cry, “Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.” Pray for your children, your neighbours, your families, and your friends, and let your prayer be—“Rise up, Lord; rise up, Lord.” Pray for this neighbourhood; pray for the dense darkness of Southwark, and Walworth, and Lambeth. And oh! If you cannot pray for others because your own needs come so strongly before your mind, remember sinner, all you need is by faith to look to Christ, and then you can say, “Rise up, Lord; scatter my doubts; kill my unbelief; drown my sins in thy blood; let these thine enemies be scattered; let them that hate thee flee before thee.”

For meditation: This call to prayer, which comes at the very end of the “New Park Street Pulpit” reminds us of some important lessons—the battle is the Lord’s, the armour is God’s, but the responsibility to pray still rests with us, God’s people (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Sermon no. 368
31 March (1861)

John MacArthur – Applying the Disciples’ Prayer

 

“Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (Matt. 6:13).

The Disciples’ Prayer is a pattern to follow for life.

The implications of the Disciples’ Prayer are profound and far-reaching. An unknown author put it this way:

I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself in a spiritual, watertight compartment. I cannot say “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child. I cannot say “who art in heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.

I cannot say “hallowed be Thy name” if I am not striving for holiness. I cannot say “Thy kingdom come” if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful day. I cannot say “Thy will be done” if I am disobedient to His Word. I cannot say “in earth as it is in heaven” if I will not serve Him here and now.

I cannot say “give us . . . our daily bread” if I am dishonest or an “under the counter” shopper. I cannot say “forgive us our debts” if I harbor a grudge against anyone. I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path. I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I do not put on the whole armor of God.

I cannot say “thine is the kingdom” if I do not give to the King the loyalty due Him as a faithful subject. I cannot attribute to Him “the power” if I fear what men may do. I cannot ascribe to Him “the glory” if I am seeking honor only for myself. I cannot say “forever” if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by the things of time.

As you learn to apply to your own life the principles in this marvelous prayer, I pray that God’s kingdom will be your focus, His glory your goal, and His power your strength. Only then will our Lord’s doxology be the continual song of your heart: “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (v. 13).

Suggestions for Prayer; Ask God to use what you’ve learned from the Disciples’ Prayer to transform your prayers.

For Further Study; Read John 17, noting the priorities Jesus stressed in prayer.

 

Joyce Meyer – Join the Party

 

A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken. – Proverbs 15:13

When Jesus invited people to become His disciples and follow Him, He asked them if they wanted to join His party. I realize He was talking about His group, but I like to think that traveling with Jesus was probably a lot of fun as well as a lot of hard work.

Repeatedly throughout the gospels, we see Jesus invite people to leave their lifestyles and side with His party, and He is still issuing that invitation today. Yes, there is work to do for the kingdom of God, but thankfully we can have fun while we do it.

When we follow Jesus, we are not going to a solemn assembly or a funeral. We are joining His party that is full of life, peace, and never-ending joy!

Prayer of Thanks Father, help me to lay aside the burdens and cares of this world and receive Your joy today. I thank You that You want me to have fun and enjoy the life You have given me. With Your help, I will celebrate Your goodness in my life today and every day.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – To Encourage Us

 

“These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us, so that we will look forward expectantly to the time when God will conquer sin and death” (Romans 15:4).

Tom had a “short fuse” and frequently exploded in anger when he was disappointed with himself or others. Then he received Christ and began to study the Word of God, obey its commands and walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

His life began to change, gradually at first, until, as he told me recently, it has now been a long time since he has allowed his old nature to express his impatience.

The story is told of an impatient man who prayed and kept praying for God to grant him the virtue he so desperately needed.

“Lord,” he prayed, “give me patience, and give it to me now!”

Patience, however, is a virtue that is developmental in nature, to a large degree. It is the result of walking in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). It develops out of a good heart and a godly attitude (Luke 8:15). It is spawned sometimes during times of tribulation. Remember, it is a fruit of the Spirit.

Paul writes, “If we must keep trusting God for something that hasn’t happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently” (Romans 8:25).

So patience comes from hope and trust in God. And finally, we learn patience through the study and personal application of God’s Word in our lives, as suggested in Romans 15:4, “These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us.”

Bible Reading: Romans 15:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  When delays and seeming denials occur, I will exercise patience, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M.- Spiritual Legacy

 

Dr. Bill Bright personally led thousands of people to Christ before his death in 2003. As co-founder of the worldwide ministry Campus Crusade for Christ, his influence has had an eternal impact on countless more for God’s kingdom. However, it was his mother, Mary Lee, who dedicated Bright to the Lord before his birth and prayed for him until her death in 1983.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31:26

Bright said, “She modeled authentic Christianity before me in dozens of ways. Although we rose early to begin our dawn-to-dusk hard work on the ranch, my mother was always up before the rest of the family, reading the Bible and praying. I remember her softly humming hymns of worship to the Lord all day long, and after the rest of us had gone to bed, she would again read her Bible and pray.”

The book of Proverbs begins with the command to fear the Lord and ends with the picture of a woman who fulfills this command. Ask God to give you that desire each day. Pray also that all Christians commit to leaving a spiritual legacy across the nation…starting with those in their own household.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 112

Greg Laurie – Surrender at Gethsemane

 

Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”—Mark 14:34

Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever felt as though your friends and family had abandoned you? Have you ever felt like you were misunderstood? Have you ever had a hard time understanding or submitting to the will of God for your life?

If so, then you have an idea of what the Lord Jesus went through as He agonized at Gethsemane.

Hebrews tells us, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it” (4:15–16 NLT).

The Bible tells us that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NLT). But the sorrow He experienced in Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion seemed to be the culmination of all the sorrow He had ever known and would accelerate to a climax the following day. The ultimate triumph that was to take place at Calvary was first accomplished beneath the gnarled old olive trees of Gethsemane.

It is interesting that the very word Gethsemane means “olive press.” Olives were pressed there to make oil, and truly, Jesus was being pressed from all sides that He might bring life to us. I don’t think we can even begin to fathom what He was going through.

But look at what it accomplished. It brought about your salvation and mine. Because of what Jesus went through at Gethsemane and ultimately at the cross, we can call upon His name. Though it was an unfathomably painful, horrific transition, it was necessary for the ultimate goal of what was accomplished.

Maybe you are at a crisis point in your life right now—a personal Gethsemane, if you will. You have your will; you know what you want. Yet you can sense that God’s will is different.

Would you let the Lord choose for you? Would you be willing to say, “Lord, I am submitting my will to Yours. Not my will, but yours be done”? You will not regret making that decision.

Max Lucado – He Wore Our Sin

 

Scripture often describes our behavior as the clothes we wear. 1 Peter 5:5 urges us to be “clothed with humility.” In Psalm 109:18, David speaks of evil people who clothe themselves “with cursing.” Garments can symbolize character; and like his garment, Jesus’ character was uninterrupted perfection.

But when Christ was nailed to the cross, he took off his robe of seamless perfection and assumed a different wardrobe… the wardrobe of indignity. Stripped before his own mother. Shamed before his family. The indignity of failure. For a few pain-filled hours, the religious leaders were victors, and Christ appeared the loser. Worst of all, he wore the indignity of sin. Scripture says, “He himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” The cloth of Christ on the cross? Sin—yours and mine. The sins of all humanity.

From On Calvary’s Hill

Charles Stanley – Waiting for Redemption

Galatians 4:4-7

Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, bringing sin into God’s perfect creation. They experienced an immediate separation from their Maker, and from that moment, all of creation began longing for redemption.

Old Testament prophets spoke about a coming Messiah—the One who would redeem and restore. For centuries, the Israelites waited hopefully. They must have wondered why God was waiting so long, and perhaps even doubted whether a savior would ever come.

There was a bigger picture, though, that they couldn’t see. From our viewpoint thousands of years later, we can piece together some reasons for God’s timing—down to small details like communication and travel.

For example, when Alexander the Great conquered much of the known world, he spread Greek throughout his expanding empire. The Hebrews then translated the Old Testament into Greek. As a result, many more people were able to hear truth, understand their need, and recognize the Savior when He came.

Next, the Romans defeated many nations and created new highways for travel. Seas and roads were safer during their rule than in previous times, so it was easier for Jesus’ disciples to spread the gospel message.

Now we clearly see that God wasn’t a moment late—He knew the perfect timing to send His Son to redeem mankind. But situations in our own life may not always make sense from our vantage point. Remember that our omniscient God has perfect timing. You can trust Him.

Our Daily Bread — It’s Beautiful!

 

 

 

Read: Mark 14:3-9
Bible in a Year: Judges 9-10; Luke 5:17-39

 

Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.” —Mark 14:6

After being away on business, Terry wanted to pick up some small gifts for his children. The clerk at the airport gift shop recommended a number of costly items. “I don’t have that much money with me,” he said. “I need something less expensive.” The clerk tried to make him feel that he was being cheap. But Terry knew his children would be happy with whatever he gave them, because it came from a heart of love. And he was right—they loved the gifts he brought them.

During Jesus’ last visit to the town of Bethany, Mary wanted to show her love for Him (Mark 14:3-9). So she brought “an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard” and anointed Him (v.3). The disciples asked angrily, “Why this waste?” (Matt. 26:8). Jesus told them to stop troubling her, for “she has done a good work for Me” (Mark 14:6). Another translation reads, “She has done a beautiful thing to Me.” Jesus delighted in her gift, for it came from a heart of love. Even anointing Him for burial was beautiful!

What would you like to give to Jesus to show your love? Your time, talent, treasure? It doesn’t matter if it’s costly or inexpensive, whether others understand or criticize. Whatever is given from a heart of love is beautiful to Him. —Anne Cetas

Nothing I could give You, Father, could repay You for Your sacrifice. But I want to give You what You would think is beautiful. I give You my heart today in thankfulness for Your love.

A healthy heart beats with love for Jesus.

INSIGHT: The account of the woman who anointed Jesus with oil is preceded by the Pharisees’ plot to kill Him (14:1-2) and is followed by Judas agreeing to betray Him (vv. 10-12). The events relating to those who plotted to kill Jesus are given only brief and cursory treatment (two verses each), while the account of the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume is given a full and detailed description (seven verses). Clearly this woman’s actions will be remembered (v. 9).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God of Hope and Body

 

The question at the time caught me off guard. As a student of theology and religion, I was used to being asked to defend and explain my theology, but this was something different. I had been talking to someone about some old fears, a battle with disordered eating and a hauntingly skewed image of body. I was explaining that what had helped me to move past some of these fears was a faith that gave me hope in a world beyond them, where wounds would be healed and tears would be no more. His response pulled me down from my seemingly hopeful, ascended place. “What is your theology of the body?” he asked. “How does God speak to your physical existence right now?” I didn’t know how to respond. How had my body accompanied me in life and in faith? I wasn’t quite sure that it had.

The physical isn’t a matter the spiritual always consider. But for the Christian, they are severely and mercifully united and there is a world of hope in considering this. What does it mean that Christ came in the flesh, with sinew and marrow? What does it mean that the terrible events of Holy Week upon us this week were enacted in a body? Perhaps more importantly, what does it mean for us today that Jesus is vicariously human, the risen Son of God a corporal being who now sits at the right hand of the Father? What does Christ’s wounded body have to do with our own? These are the questions the church holds physically and attentively close this week, though the modern divorce of the spiritual and the physical, heaven and earth, what is now and what will be, has made them difficult questions to consider.

But consider we must, for the promise of Christianity is union with none other than the human Christ himself. In faith and by the Spirit, we are united to the same body that was on the cross and was in the tomb, and which is now also in heaven. We are united with a body that was wounded and humiliated, dead and buried, a body that is very much a human and physical promise. “Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Among religions, it is a most unique hope: God in a body.

The biblical depiction of God’s recreating of all things is far more “earthy” than some entertain, whether its critics or lauders. No matter how privatized and irrelevant, or removed and other-worldly we might describe Christianity, it is unavoidably a faith that intends us to encounter and experience God in flesh redeeming in the here-and-now, everyday, hand-dirtying occurrences of life in bodies.

In an unapologetically corporeal account, the book of Acts describes the Jesus miraculously among his disciples after these harrowing events of Holy Week: “After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While eating with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father… And when he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” When two men in white robes then appeared and interrupted the disciples’ stupor, their question was as pointed as the one that stumped me: “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you, will return in the same way as you saw him live and go forth.”(2)

It is no small promise that Christ came as a vicariously living body; he walked empathetically near the material world he came to recreate; he suffered and died in a body; and he remains a real and living body that will return to wipe every real tear from our real eyes. The body of Christ that church holds up to the world through Holy Week and beyond represents something more fully human, more real than ourselves, and it is this reality that he lifts us toward, transforms us into, and advocates on our behalf. Our union with Christ and communion with the Trinity add a certain and heavenly dimension to our lives to be sure, but to describe this as anything other than a dimension that profoundly orients us here and now, in real bodies to the world around us, is to profoundly misunderstand the gift.

Beyond a subject for another time or place, how might God speak to your physical existence now? How does your body accompany you in encounters with God? In these weeks from the physical shock of Easter to the corporal gift of the Spirit at Pentecost, consider Christ who walked among the world as a human body, who invited Thomas to physically put his hands in scars that still mark pain, who ascended as one fully human after sharing a meal with those he loved, and who sent the Holy Spirit to live powerfully among us. Consider the body of Christ, who walks through the torment of Holy Week and sits at the right hand of the Father as advocate, offering his body for the sake of yours, calling you to physically come further into the kingdom even now.

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

(1) Artwork in this article by Ben Roberts, http://www.benrobertsphoto.com, used by permission.

(2) Story told in Acts 1:3-11, emphasis mine.

Alistair Begg – Jesus Our Counselor

 

He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12

Why did Jesus cause Himself to be enrolled among sinners? This wonderful condescension was justified by many powerful reasons. By doing so He could better become their advocate. In some trials there is an identification of the counselor with the client, nor can they be looked upon in the eye of the law as separate from each other. Now, when the sinner is brought to the bench, Jesus appears there Himself. He stands to answer the accusation. He points to His side, His hands, His feet, and challenges Justice to bring anything against the sinners whom He represents. He pleads His blood, and pleads so triumphantly, being numbered with them and having a part with them, that the Judge proclaims, “Let them go, deliver them from the pit, for He has provided a ransom.”

Our Lord Jesus was numbered with the transgressors in order that they might feel their hearts drawn toward Him. Who can be afraid of one whose name appears on the same list with us? Surely we may come boldly to Him and confess our guilt. He who is numbered with us cannot condemn us. Was He not entered in the transgressor’s list that we might be written in the red roll of the saints? He was holy and written among the holy; we were guilty and numbered among the guilty. He transfers His name from that list to this dark indictment, and our names are taken from the indictment and written in the roll of acceptance, for there is a complete transfer made between Jesus and His people.

All our condition of misery and sin Jesus has taken; and all that Jesus has comes to us. His righteousness, His blood, and everything that He has He gives us as our dowry. Rejoice, believer, in your union to Him who was numbered among the transgressors; and prove that you are truly saved by being clearly identified with those who are new creatures in Him.

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

Charles Spurgeon – Israel at the Red Sea

 

“He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.” Psalm 106:9

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 136

How sweet is providence to a child of God, when he can reflect upon it! He can look out into this world, and say, “However great my troubles, they are not so great as my Father’s power; however difficult may be my circumstances, yet all things around me are working together for good. He who holds up the starry heavens can also support my soul without a single apparent prop; he who guides the stars in their well-ordered courses, even when they seem to move in mazy dances, surely he can overrule my trials in such a way that out of confusion he will bring order; and from seeming evil produce lasting good. He who bridles the storm, and puts the bit in the mouth of the tempest, surely he can restrain my trial, and keep my sorrows in subjection. I need not fear while the lightnings are in his hands, and the thunders sleep within his lips; while the oceans gurgle from his fist, and the clouds are in the hollow of his hands; while the rivers are turned by his foot, and while he digs the channels of the sea. Surely he whose might wings an angel, can furnish a worm with strength; he who guides a cherub will not be overcome by the trials of a worm like myself. He who makes the greatest star roll in dignity, and keeps its predestined orbit, can make a little atom like myself move in my proper course, and conduct me as he pleases.” Christian! There is no sweeter pillow than providence; and when providence seems adverse, believe it still, lay it under your head, for depend upon it there is comfort in its bosom. There is hope for you, child of God!

For meditation: You may find it easy to think like this when all seems to be going well. The Christian is still able to look up spiritually when circumstances would make him look down naturally (Romans 8:28,31,35-39).

Sermon no. 72
30 March (1856)

John MacArthur – Avoiding Temptations

 

“Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13).

Don’t let your trials turn into temptations.

When we hear the English word temptation, we usually think of a solicitation to evil. But “temptation” in Matthew 6:13 translates a Greek word that can refer either to a trial that God permits to refine your spiritual character (James 1:2-4), or a temptation that Satan or your flesh brings to incite you to sin (Matt. 4:1; James 1:13- 15). Both are valid translations.

I believe “temptation” in Matthew 6:13 refers to trials. Even though we know God uses trials for our good, it’s still good to pray that He won’t allow us to be caught in a trial that becomes an irresistible temptation. That can happen if we’re spiritually weak or ill-prepared to deal with a situation.

God will never test you beyond what you’re able to endure (1 Cor. 10:13), but resisting temptation requires spiritual discipline and divine resources. Praying for God to deliver you from trials that might overcome you is a safeguard against leaning on your own strength and neglecting His power.

God tested Joseph by allowing him to be sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by an adulterous woman, and unjustly imprisoned by a jealous husband. But Joseph knew that God’s hand was on his life. That’s why he could say to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to . . . preserve many people” (Gen. 50:20). Joseph was ready for the test and passed it beautifully!

Jesus Himself was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1). God wanted to test Him to prove His virtue, but Satan wanted to tempt Him to destroy His virtue. Jesus, too, was victorious.

When you experience trials, don’t let them turn into temptations. Recognize God’s purposes and seek His strength. Learn from the example of those who have successfully endured the same trials. Be assured that God is in control and is using each trial to mold your character and teach you greater dependence on Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the trials He brings your way.
  • Ask Him to help you see your trials as means by which He strengthens you and glorifies Himself.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 119:11, Matthew 26:41, Ephesians 6:10-18, and James 4:7. What do those verses teach you about dealing with temptation?

Joyce Meyer – “I Can’t Help It!”

 

I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live. 
– 1 Deuteronomy 30:19

When God begins to deal with us about wrong behavior, it’s easy enough to say, “I can’t help it,” but it takes real courage and faith to say, “I’m ready to take responsibility and get my life straightened out.”

Avoidance, which is not facing issues, is a major problem. Wrong things don’t go away just because we refuse to acknowledge them. We often stuff things. We hide from them, and as long as we do, they have power over us. Issues buried alive never die.

For many years, I refused to deal with the sexual abuse in my childhood. My father had abused me, so I left home the week I turned eighteen years old. I thought I was getting away from the problem by leaving, but I didn’t realize I had the problem in my soul. It was in my thoughts, attitudes, and words. It affected my actions and all of my relationships. I had buried my past and stuffed my stuff. We don’t have to live in the past in fact, we are encouraged by God’s Word to forget it and let it go. However, that doesn’t mean that we are free to ignore the results of it and pretend that we are not hurting when we are.

I had merely feeling sorry for myself and saying, “I can’t help it. It’s not my fault I was abused.” And it wasn’t my fault. But it was my responsibility to let God help me overcome all the bandages I was experiencing as a result of that abuse.

God began setting me free by dealing with me about all the wrong thoughts I had accepted and allowed. My mind had to change before my life could change. At first, I didn’t even want to take responsibility for my thoughts. I thought, I can’t help what I think. Things just come into my head! I eventually learned that I could choose my own thoughts, and I could think things on purpose. I learned that we don’t have to accept every thought that falls into our minds. We can cast down wrong ones and replace them with right ones.

I learned that instead of feeling helpless over the thoughts that fill my mind, I can and must do something positive.

Much of our thinking is habitual. If we regularly think about God and good things, godly thoughts become natural. Thousands of thoughts flow through our minds every day. We may feel that we have no control, but we do.

We won’t have to use any effort to think wrong thoughts, but we have to use much effort to think good thoughts. As we begin to make changes, we will have to fight a battle.

Our mind is the battlefield, and Satan’s primary way of initiating his evil plan for us is through our thoughts. If we feel we have no power over our thoughts, Satan will entrap and defeat us. Instead, we can determine to think in godly ways. We constantly make choices. Where do those choices come from? They originate in our thought life. Our thoughts become our words and our actions.

God has given us the power to decide to choose right thinking over wrong. But once we make that choice, we must continue to choose right thoughts. It’s not a once-and-for-all decision, but it does get easier. The more we fill our lives with reading the Bible, prayer, praise, and fellowship with other believers, the easier it is for us to continue choosing right thoughts.

It may sound as if I’m saying that trying to live the Christian life is nothing but one continuous struggle. That’s partly true, but that’s only a piece of the story. Too many people want to live victorious Christian lives, but they don’t want to fight the battles. Victory however, means winning and overcoming obstacles. We must also remember that living a life of disobedience to God is harder than choosing to live in victory. Yes, there are struggles but they are worth it in the end.

To think in the right way takes practice, and it is not always easy, nor does it feel natural for us to focus only on the good. But if we know this is the pathway to life both now and in eternity it’s worth the effort and the struggle to think positive thoughts.

When we’re bombarded with doubts and fears, that’s when we need to take our stand. We don’t ever want to say again, “I can’t help it.” We want to believe and say, “God is with me, and He strengthens me. God enables me to win.” The apostle Paul said it this way, But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory [making us conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose] (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).

We can choose. Not only can we choose, but we do choose. By not pushing the bad thoughts from our minds, we’re allowing them to invade us and take us captive. It takes time to learn to choose good and push away evil. It won’t be easy, but we’re moving in the right direction every time we take responsibility and make right choices.

Powerful God, remind me that I can and do make choices every day. Please help me to monitor my thoughts, choosing only those that will help me overcome the devil and win the battle for my mind. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Rivers of Living Water

 

“For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water shall flow from the inmost being of anyone who believes in me” (John 7:38).

I was explaining to a group of Christians the meaning of Proverbs 15:13-15, “A happy face means a glad heart, a sad face means a breaking heart. When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong and when he is cheerful everything seems to go right.”

God’s Word reminds us that the source of joy is the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6). So if a man is filled with the Spirit, he will have a joyful heart. When we are filled with the Spirit, we will express love by singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. A happy heart will inevitably produce a joyful countenance (Ephesians 5:18-21).

If we do not have a joyful, peaceful countenance, there is reason to question whether we have a loving, joyful heart. And if we do not have a loving, joyful heart, it is not likely that we are filled with the Spirit.

One Christian leader, who had heard me speak, approached me later. He just happened to have a very somber, stern countenance. He explained to me that this was a new concept to him, and since he was reared in another culture, he felt that his somber countenance was a cultural thing.

“In our part of the world [the Middle East],” he said, “we don’t smile and express ourselves like American Christians.”

Together we analyzed the Scripture and concluded that culture has nothing to do with this truth, since Jesus, Paul and other writers of the New Testament were also born in the Middle East. If we truly understand the Spirit-filled life, whatever our cultural background, the joy of the Lord will flow from us – from our “innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38, NAS).

Bible Reading: John 7:33-37

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Recognizing love, joy and peace as trademarks of the Spirit-filled life, I will consciously seek to be Spirit-controlled so that these expressions will be a natural overflow of my life. I will teach this spiritual truth to others today.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – Small But Wise

 

Scripture’s animal illustrations exemplify the sinner and his needs and should give you pause for reflection. Psalm 23 speaks of sheep needing a shepherd to find them good pasture and still waters. He gives them personal attention because each one lacks the ability to care for itself. In contrast, Proverbs 30 speaks of four things on Earth that are small but very wise, one of which is the rock badger (Proverbs 30:24-28). It’s a tiny, defenseless creature belonging to the rabbit family, but lacking a tail and very clumsy when leaping. Its ears are small and roundish instead of long. Its tender feet prevent it from burrowing, so it knows to flee to the rocks when danger approaches.

He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Proverbs 30:5

The picture is plain. You, the sinner, are defenseless and even inept in many areas, but if you are wise, you flee for refuge to the Rock. Your Savior bids you, “Come…and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He is your shield in whom you can find safety and peace.

Be wise, dear one. God’s Word is true. You can rely on Him. Be united with other believers in your prayers for America and its leaders. The Lord is your shelter. He will take care of you.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 28