Charles Stanley – Washed Clean: Serving the Master

 John 13:1-17, 31-35

This was not their first Passover Feast, but it would be their last with the Master. The disciples didn’t know that, though, when they gathered in the upper room for the meal. The Seder reminded them of the lambs’ blood painted on their ancestors’ doorposts. The presence of that blood had saved the Jews from the death angel (Ex. 12:23 NLT) and convinced Pharaoh to let them leave Egypt and slavery. The disciples didn’t understand that their Rabbi was the sacrificial Lamb whose blood would soon be painted across their hearts. His blood would forever free them and us from slavery to sin and death.

As the meal was being served, Jesus stood up. All eyes followed Him as He took off His outer clothing and wrapped a towel around His waist. The men wondered what He was doing but didn’t dare ask. After filling a bowl with water, the Lord kneeled and began to wash the first disciple’s feet. Then He moved to the next one and the next.

Had Jesus lost His mind? They exchanged nervous glances and squirmed as their Master’s hands touched their feet. How could He debase Himself with such an intimate, lowly act? They’d never dream of doing such a thing. Please don’t, they wanted to say. Let a servant do this.

Peter, always the spokesman, tried to stop Him. Jesus assured him that someday he’d understand, but for now, the washing must be allowed. In that case, do my hands and head, too, Peter said. But Jesus pointed out that only his feet needed washing, since he had bathed already for the feast.

Jesus knew, of course, that one of these friends wasn’t clean. For three years, Judas had seen Jesus up close, serving, teaching, loving. But despite the privilege of witnessing all this firsthand, Judas had his own agenda and priorities. So with feet freshly washed by the hands of God, the betrayer would soon lead soldiers and religious officials to where they could arrest Him.

Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in order to set an example of love and service. When He said that disciples are not above their Master, He also had us in mind. With no earthly or cosmic reason to be humble, Jesus made Himself nothing and modeled humility for us. He commands us to do the same out of love for Him and others.

News like that can be as hard to swallow as the bitter herbs of the Seder. Faced with a roomful of feet that need washing, how eager are we to take up our towels? Serving for us might mean driving an elderly friend to appointments, visiting regularly with the sick, helping a single mom with her children or home repairs. This Easter, may we reach out to others with eager hands and hearts washed clean by the blood of the Master.

— LeAnne Benfield Martin

Our Daily Bread — Enjoying His Meal

 

 

 

Read: 1 Corinthians 11:23-34
Bible in a Year: Judges 16-18; Luke 7:1-30

 

Do this in remembrance of Me. —1 Corinthians 11:24

It’s not about the table, whether it’s square or round. It’s not about the chairs—plastic or wooden. It’s not about the food, although it helps if it has been cooked with love. A good meal is enjoyed when we turn off the TV and our cell phones and concentrate on those we’re with.

I love gathering around the table, enjoying a good chat with friends and family and talking about a multitude of topics. However, instant technology has made it difficult. Sometimes we are more concerned about what others—sometimes miles away—have to say than what the person just across the table is saying.

We have been invited to another meal at the table when we come together in one place to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It’s not about the church, if it’s big or small. It’s not about the type of bread. It’s about turning off our thoughts from our worries and concerns and focusing on Jesus.

When was the last time we enjoyed being at the Lord’s Table? Do we enjoy His presence, or are we more concerned with what’s going on somewhere else? This is important, “for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). —Keila Ochoa

I want to learn, dear Lord, when I sit at Your Table, to concentrate only on Your great love and sacrifice for us. Help me to enjoy the fellowship of others as we remember together what Jesus did for us at Calvary.

Remembering Christ’s death gives us courage for today and hope for tomorrow.

INSIGHT: The Lord’s Supper—communion—is a time to remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul writes to the Corinthian believers to remind them not to partake of this supper in an “unworthy manner” (v. 27). The ESV Study Bible explains: “When the Corinthians observe the Lord’s Supper they are not rightly representing the sacrificial death of Christ (vv. 24,26) and the true character of the Lord. . . . The few who are wealthy in Corinth (1:26) have no regard for those who are hungry or who have nothing, while others have too much and some even get drunk.” The practical application of Paul’s instruction culminates in verse 33: “Wait for one another.”

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Scars of New Creation

 

One of the most terrifying and deeply troubling news stories for me of the past few years has been one that has escaped broad notice by the Western media. It is the story of extreme and widespread violence against women in Eastern Congo. Raped and tortured by warring factions in their country, women are the victims of the most horrific crimes. As one journalist reported, “Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair.”(1) They bear their wounds in their own bodies, permanent scars of violence and oppression.

In this holiest week for Christians around the world, the broken and wounded body of Jesus is commemorated in services of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The broken body and spilled blood of Jesus is remembered in the symbols of bread and wine on Maundy Thursday, and in the black draping of curtains and cloths on Good Friday. Jesus suffered violence in his own body, just as many do around the world today.

Even as Christian mourning turns to joy with Easter resurrection celebrations, it is important to note that Jesus bore the wounds of violence and oppression in his body—even after his resurrection. When he appeared to his disciples, according to John’s gospel, Jesus showed them “both his hands and his side” as a means by which to identify himself to them. Indeed, the text tells us that once the disciples took in these visible wounds “they rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20).

The resurrection body of Jesus contained the scars from nail and sword, and these scars identified Jesus to his followers. And yet, the wounds of Jesus took on new significance in light of his resurrection. While still reminders of the violence of crucifixion his wound-marked resurrection body demonstrates God’s power over evil and death.

But his wounds reveal something else. God’s work of resurrection—indeed of new creation—begins in our wounded world. His resurrection is not a disembodied spiritual reality for life after the grave; it bears the marks of his wounded life here and now, yet with new significance.

N.T. Wright, who has written extensively on the central importance of Christ’s bodily resurrection for Christians, says it this way:

“The resurrection of Jesus means that the present time is shot through with great significance….Acts of justice and mercy, the creation of beauty and the celebration of truth, deeds of love and the creation of communities of kindness and forgiveness—these all matter, and they matter forever. Take away the resurrection, and these things are important for the present but irrelevant for the future and hence not all that important after all even now. Enfolded in this vocation to build now, with gold, silver, and precious stones, the things that will last into God’s new age, is the vocation to holiness: to the fully human life, reflecting the image of God, that is made possible by Jesus’ victory on the cross and that is energized by the Spirit of the risen Jesus present within communities and persons.”(3)

Indeed, Paul’s great exposition of the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15 ends by reminding the Corinthians, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” The point of the resurrection is to demonstrate that entropy and death do not have the final word—either for humans or for God’s creation. God’s last word is resurrection in the midst of our human, often-wounded lives now.

The reality of the resurrection marked by the wounds of Jesus can bring this kind of hope and this kind of joy of new creation even into the darkest places. The reality of the bodily resurrection also compels a response from those who live in its light. We work and we toil, and perhaps even pour out our blood, sweat, and tears to tend the wounds of others. The hope of the resurrection reminds us that our labor is far from in vain for Christ has gone ahead of us. We bear the scars of toil even as we bear the image of resurrection reality in this world. We bear them as new creation, remembering that Jesus continued to wear his scars as part of his resurrected life.

The visible wounds of Jesus after his resurrection also bring hope in the midst of our suffering. Even our suffering does not have to be in vain. Many women in the Congo, despite all their horrific suffering, seem to understand this. Behind the Panzi Hospital that treats the majority of these rape cases, a new center of refuge called “City of Joy” is being built. It will be a place of long-term healing and refuge for women who have been victimized and abused in Eastern Congo. Many of the women, who carry the cement for the building on their heads, were themselves victims of these crimes. Their wounds still visible on their bodies, they are building a city of joy.(4)

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

(1) Jeffrey Gettleman, “Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War,” New York Times, October 7, 2007.

(2) Artwork in this article is the work of Ben Roberts, http://www.benrobertsphoto.com, used by permission.

(3) N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), 126-127.

(4) Nicholas D. Kristof, “What Are You Carrying?” New York Times video blog, March 8, 2010.

Alistair Begg – Slow to Speak

 

But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge. Matthew 27:14

Jesus had never been slow of speech when He could bless the sons of men, but He would not say a single word for Himself. “No man ever spoke like this man,” and no man was ever silent like Him. Was this singular silence the index of His perfect self-sacrifice? Did it show that He would not utter a word to prevent His crucifixion, which He had dedicated as an offering for us? Had He so entirely surrendered Himself that He would not interfere on His own behalf, even in the smallest details, but be crowned and killed an unstruggling, uncomplaining victim?

Was this silence a type of the defenselessness of sin? Nothing can be said to excuse human guilt; and, therefore, He who bore its whole weight stood speechless before His judge.

Patient silence is the best reply to a world of cruel opposition. Calm endurance answers some questions infinitely more conclusively than the loftiest eloquence. The best apologists for Christianity in the early days were its martyrs. The anvil breaks a host of hammers by quietly bearing their blows. Did not the silent Lamb of God furnish us with a grand example of wisdom? Where every word was occasion for new blasphemy, it was the line of duty to provide no fuel for the flame of sin. The ambiguous and the false, the unworthy and mean will soon enough confound themselves, and therefore the true can afford to be quiet and find silence to be its wisdom.

Evidently our Lord, by His silence, furnished a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy. A long defense of Himself would have been contrary to Isaiah’s prediction: “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”1 By His silence He declared Himself to be the true Lamb of God. As such we worship Him this morning. Be with us, Jesus, and in the silence of our heart let us hear the voice of Your love.

1) Isaiah 53:7

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

Charles Spurgeon – Joseph attacked by the archers

 

“The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel).” Genesis 49:23,24

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 4:1-12

“The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner.” It is said that when Solomon’s temple was being built, all the stones were brought from the quarry ready cut and fashioned, and there was marked on all the blocks the places where they were to be put. Amongst the stones was a very curious one; it seemed of no describable shape, it appeared unfit for any portion of the building. They tried it at this wall, but it would not fit; they tried it in another, but it could not be accommodated; so, vexed and angry, they threw it away. The temple was so many years building, that this stone became covered with moss, and grass grew around it. Everybody passing by laughed at the stone; they said Solomon was wise, and doubtless all the other stones were right; but as for that block, they might as well send it back to the quarry, for they were quite sure it was meant for nothing. Year after year rolled on, and the poor stone was still despised, the builders constantly refused it. The eventful day came when the temple was to be finished and opened, and the multitude was assembled to see the grand sight. The builders said, “Where is the top-stone? Where is the pinnacle?” they little thought where the crowning marble was, until some one said, “Perhaps that stone which the builders refused is meant to be the top-stone.” They then took it, and hoisted it to the top of the house; and as it reached the summit, they found it well adapted to the place. Loud hosannas made the heavens ring, as the stone which the builders refused became the headstone of the corner. So is it with Christ Jesus.

For meditation: To begin with, man saw to it that the first shall be last; in the end God saw to it that the last shall be first. Where do you place the Lord Jesus Christ?

Sermon no. 17
2 April (Preached 1 April 1855)

John MacArthur – Happiness Is . . .

 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . those who mourn . . .the gentle . . . those who hunger and thirst for righteousness . . . the merciful . . . the pure in heart . . . the peacemakers . . . [and] those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:3-10).

By the world’s standards, Christ’s definition of happiness is shocking and contradictory!

A quiz in a popular magazine characterized happy people as those who enjoy other people but aren’t self-sacrificing, who refuse to participate in negative feelings or emotions, and who have a sense of accomplishment based on their own self-sufficiency.

But Jesus described happy people quite differently. In fact, He characterized them as spiritual beggars who realize they have no resources in themselves. He said they are meek rather than proud, mournful over their sin, self- sacrificing, and willing to endure persecution to reconcile men to God.

By the world’s standards, that sounds more like misery than happiness! But the people of the world don’t understand that what is often thought of as misery is actually the key to happiness.

Follow the Lord’s progression of thought: true happiness begins with being poor in spirit (v. 3). That means you have a right attitude toward sin, and that leads you to mourn over it (v. 4). Mourning over sin produces a meekness that leads to hungering and thirsting for righteousness (vv. 5-6), which results in mercy, purity of heart, and a peaceable spirit (vv. 7-9)—attitudes that bring true happiness.

When you display those attitudes you can expect to be insulted, persecuted, and unjustly accused (vv. 10-11) because your life will be an irritating rebuke to worldly people. But despite the persecution, you can “rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (v. 12).

You are one of God’s lights in a sin-darkened world (v. 14), and while most people will reject Christ, others will be drawn to Him by the testimony of your life. Be faithful to Him today so He can use you that way.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the grace enabling you to have Beatitude attitudes.
  • Ask Him to make you a bright light in someone’s life today.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 2:19-23.

  • How did Jesus respond to persecution?
  • How should you respond?

 

Joyce Meyer – Sincere Faith

 

Whereas the object and purpose of our instruction and charge is love, which springs from pure heart and a gold (clear) conscience and sincere (unfeigned) faith. 1 Timothy 1:5

We do not want to be childish in our faith or in our praying; we want to be childlike. The Lord does not want us to complicate our relationship with Him. He searches for sincere hearts, because He is a God of hearts. He wants us to pray in faith, which is not an emotion, but a spiritual force that impacts the unseen realm. God is a god of order, but not a God of rules and regulations and laws; and He does not want us to wear ourselves out trying to pray long, drawn-out prayers that are not Spirit-led or that follow a formula and require a certain posture. That would be legalistic and it always takes the life of our relationship with God. The Spirit makes alive, but the law kills (see 2 Corinthians 3:6).

When we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, our communication with God will be filled with life. We will have no need to watch the clock making sure we put the right amount of time in, as many people do. When we approach talking and listening to God as an obligation and a work of our own flesh, five minutes can seem live an hour, but when our prayer is energized by the Holy Spirit, an hour can seem like five minutes. I like to pray and fellowship with God until I feel full and content. Try to relax and enjoy your time with God and it will be very rewarding.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Clothed in Christ

 

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves in Christ” (Galatians 3:27, NAS).

You may be surprised, as I was, at the result of our personal surveys having to do with church members and salvation.

Such surveys indicate that somewhere between 50 and 90% of all church members are not sure of their salvation. Like Martin Luther, John Wesley and many others who became mighty ambassadors for Christ, some spend many years “serving God” before they experience the assurance and reality of their salvation.

The pastor of a large fashionable church of 1,500 members once reacted negatively when I shared these statistics, doubting that such large percentages of church members lacked assurance of their salvation.

He decided personally to survey his own congregation at the church where he had served as senior pastor for 15 years. To his amazement and shock, more than 75% of the membership indicated they were not sure of their salvation.

The following Sunday, the pastor arranged for the Four Spiritual Laws booklet, which contains the distilled essence of the gospel, to be distributed to each member of the congregation.

For his sermon he read the contents of the booklet aloud, as the congregation followed him, reading from their own copies of the Four Laws. Then he invited all who wished to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord to read aloud with him the prayer contained in the booklet. Almost the entire congregation joined in the prayer audibly. As a result the church was changed, because changed individuals in sufficient numbers equal a changed church, a changed community and a changed nation.

Have you clothed yourself in Christ?

Bible Reading: Galatians 4:4-7

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  I will not take for granted that I have found faith in Christ simply because I belong to a church, nor will I assume that all church members have assurance of their salvation. I shall encourage all who are not sure to receive Christ and be clothed in His righteousness.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R.- From Foe to Friend

 

“For sheer verbal savagery,” writes biographer Ron Chernow, the presidential contest between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams “may have surpassed anything seen today.” In the 1800 campaign, Jefferson claimed Adams was a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Adams responded that Jefferson was a “mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted…and the angels were ministering to him.

Mark 1:13

Both eventually became president, and years later they began a warm correspondence and became best friends. How could this happen? In a word – empathy. Each suffered the rigors of the presidency and had survived to become part of a small, exclusive club.

However you may be tempted or tested today, Jesus understands. He has been there. He is ready, with His angels, to minister to you. And when you emerge from the wilderness of adversity, you will be equipped to befriend and serve others. As you pray today, ask God how you might be used to draw others in America to Him so that they will trust Him as Lord.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 91:1-10

Greg Laurie – Wholehearted Devotion

 

Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene. . . .

—Mark 16:9

Of all the people Jesus could have appeared to first after His resurrection, He appeared to Mary Magdalene. It is interesting to think about, because among the Jews of the day, the testimony of a woman was not held in high regard. In fact, some of the rabbis falsely taught that it was better for the words of the Law to be burned than to be delivered by a woman. Yet Jesus chose a woman to be the first herald of His resurrection.

It is also worth noting that women were the last at the cross and the first at the tomb. Mary had courage that many of the men did not have when Jesus was crucified. She stood by Him through it all. In fact, the Bible tells us that after He was crucified, Mary “observed where He was laid” (Mark 15:47). She watched as they took His crucified body from the cross and wrapped it and placed it in a tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. And Mary, along with the other women, was at the tomb very early on Sunday morning to demonstrate her love for Jesus by anointing his body with spices (see Mark 16:1–2).

And her love was rewarded. God said, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God rewards the person who is diligent. And for those who will take time in their day to seek the Lord, for those who will take time to read His Word, for those who will take time to wait upon Him, He will reveal His truths to them.

Max Lucado – Calvary

 

Come with me to the hill of Calvary. Watch as the soldiers shove the carpenter to the ground and stretch his arms against the beams. Jesus turns his face toward the nail just as the soldier lifts his hammer to strike it!

Couldn’t Jesus have stopped him? With a flex of bicep, a clench of the fist, he could’ve resisted. But the moment isn’t aborted. Why? Why didn’t Jesus resist? As the soldier pressed his arm, Jesus saw a nail—yes. The soldier’s hand—yes. But he saw something else. A long list of our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins. He knew the price of those sins was death. He knew the source of those sins was you. And he couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you. He chose the nails!

From On Calvary’s Hill