Charles Stanley – Saved by Grace

 

Ephesians 2:4-10

Many people believe that piling up good works makes them right with the Lord. Yet when it comes to sin, death is the only payment that can satisfy divine justice (Rom. 6:23). Since we all transgress, this leaves us in a desperate situation facing an eternity apart from God.

Grace, the expression of divine love and kindness to the utterly undeserving, prompted the solution: God sent His Son Jesus to die in our place. According to Romans 10:9, all we need to do is believe. Jesus’ death satisfied God’s justice and brought us:

New Life. Our spirit is made alive in Christ the moment we acknowledge we’re sinners, turn from our rebelliousness, and believe that His death paid our sin debt in full.

Freedom. At salvation, sin’s power over us is broken and we are set free from its hold. Jesus raised us up out of the quagmire of disobedience and gave us the faith to believe. Now we can exercise our newfound freedom and follow Him.

Security. When we accept God’s judgment that we are, by nature, sinners and acknowledge our Savior’s sacrifice as payment for our sins, we’re permanently adopted into the heavenly Father’s family. Our status changes instantly: Once objects of wrath, we are now children of God. Someday we will be seated in the heavenly realms with Christ to enjoy life everlasting with Him.

God, the very One against whom we rebelled, substituted His Son Jesus in our place to receive the punishment that was rightfully ours. How will you show your gratitude to God for His saving grace?

Bible in One Year: Proverbs 1-4

Our Daily Bread — Ordinary People

 

Read: Judges 6:11-16

Bible in a Year: Job 36-37; Acts 15:22-41

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. —2 Corinthians 4:7

Gideon was an ordinary person. His story, recorded in Judges 6, inspires me. He was a farmer, and a timid one at that. When God called him to deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon’s initial response was “How can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judg. 6:15). God promised that He would be with Gideon and that he would be able to accomplish what he had been asked to do (v. 16). Gideon’s obedience brought victory to Israel, and he is listed as one of the great heroes of faith (Heb. 11:32).

Many other individuals played a significant part in this plan to save the Israelites from a strong enemy force. God provided Gideon with 300 men, valiant heroes all, to win the battle. We are not told their names, but their bravery and obedience are recorded in the Scriptures (Judg. 7:5-23).

Today, God is still calling ordinary people to do His work and assuring us that He will be with us as we do. Because we are ordinary people being used by God, it’s obvious that the power comes from God and not from us. —Poh Fang Chia

Lord, I am just an ordinary person, but You are an all-powerful God. I want to serve You. Please show me how and give me the strength.

God uses ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plan.

INSIGHT: Today’s text provides some insight into how we should view situations for which we feel inadequate. Gideon did not feel prepared to go into battle against the Midianites who were oppressing Israel. Responding to Gideon’s understandable concern, God sent the angel of the Lord to encourage him. He said that Gideon should “go in the strength” he had (Judg. 6:14 niv), but he also said, “I will be with you” (v. 16). When God calls us to take on a difficult task, we can rely on His strength and power to help us accomplish it.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Why Christian?

 

“Why Christian?” was a question put before Professor Douglas John Hall by one of the many students who end up in his office asking more about the theology he teaches. He notes the possibility that the question was asked rhetorically, maybe even a bit sarcastically, like those near Jesus who threw questions more like daggers than candid inquiries. But it is also possible the student just wanted to hear an honest explanation: In a world of so many spiritual options, in a world of reasons to reject religion altogether, Why Christianity? Regardless of tone or motive, the seasoned professor of theology decided to answer the question, laying aside the responses that could be given easily after so many years of teaching. “I confess, I [am answering] as much for myself as for you,” he writes to the student who asked the question. “You made me realize that after all these years I needed to face that question in the quite basic and personal way you put it to me.”(1)

On a typical day, my own answer to the question of Christianity might be steeped in the signs and realities of the uniqueness of Christ. Thankfully this answer is not my own. With many who have gone before me, I cannot explain Jesus of Nazareth without concluding his uniqueness:

“Surely this man was the Son of God!”

“Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” “Come and see the man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”(2)

Christianity is not a matter of preference or pedigree, but pilgrimage chosen specifically because a follower has found one worth following. “[Jesus] was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men,” wrote Scottish nobleman James Stewart, “yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God… No one was half so kind or compassionate to sinners yet no one ever spoke such red-hot scorching words about sin… His whole life was love. Yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees how they ever expected to escape the damnation of hell… He saved others but at the last, Himself He did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confront us in the Gospels.” Why Christian? Because there is none other like Christ.

The incomparability of Jesus Christ answers the questions of a world of spiritual options and religious hostility. Like professor Hall, facing the question “Why Christian?” is typically a matter of confessing the things I know, even as I know I now see but a reflection and will one day see face to face. Still, there are less typical days when the question comes not with hostility or sarcasm or curiosity, but from somewhere within, and the answers are somewhere caught up in despair or injustice or death. When standing over a casket or holding the hand of one whose body is riddled with cancer, “Why Christian?” takes on a different flesh—or else it wavers cold and corpselike. Christ’s uniqueness is suddenly a matter of urgency, needing to be spoken in words that have meaning in valleys of death and shadow. Standing before this body that once breathed, what does it really mean that Christ was unique? Though with a far different kind of trembling certainty, here too Christ’s incomparability is ultimately what matters.

The apologetic of the apostle Paul was always spoken starring life’s “last enemy” dead in the eyes. Whether answering the question “Why Christian?” or standing in jail having been beaten to silence, Paul kept before him the hope of the resurrection as both the proof of Christ’s uniqueness and the assurance that this uniqueness inherently matters. He spoke of the resurrection of Christ and his hope in the resurrection of the dead before the assembled Sanhedrin, before the Roman procurator Felix, and again before Felix’s successor, Festus, who conceded that Paul’s arrest was due to his proclamation “about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.”(3) Even before king Agrippa, Paul’s answer to the first acrimonious signs of the question “Why Christian?” was an appeal to Christ’s uniqueness in the hope of the resurrection. He asked, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?…I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:8, 22). For Paul, and for all who claim the inimitableness of Jesus, if Christ has not been raised, there is no answer to the question “Why Christian?”

Instead, the uniqueness of Christ is an answer for questions that come with sarcasm or sincerity. But so it is an answer with flesh when life’s typical comforts fall by the wayside and the valley of shadows is long and lonely.

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”(4) There is none other like Christ. I know of no other god who weeps with us at gravesides and then shows us in his own dying and rising that death shall not hold its sting.

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

(1) Douglas John Hall, Why Christian: For Those on the Edge of Faith (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1998), 11.

(2) Mark 15:39, John 9:32-33, John 4:29.

(3) Acts 23:6, Acts 24:15, 21, Acts 25:19.

(4) Matthew 28:6.

Alistair Begg – The Secret Strength of Faith

 

Tell me where your great strength lies.

Judges 16:6

Where does the secret strength of faith lie? It lies in the food it feeds on; for faith studies what the promise is-an emanation of divine grace, an overflowing of the great heart of God. And faith says, “My God could not have given this promise except from love and grace; therefore it is quite certain His Word will be fulfilled.” Then faith thinks, “Who gave this promise?” It considers not so much its greatness as, “Who is the author of it?” She remembers that it is God, who cannot lie-God omnipotent, God immutable-and therefore concludes that the promise must be fulfilled; and onward she proceeds in this firm conviction. She remembers why the promise was given-namely, for God’s glory-and she feels perfectly sure that God’s glory is safe, that He will never stain His own insignia, nor spoil the sparkle of His own crown; and therefore the promise must and will stand.

Then faith also considers the amazing work of Christ as being a clear proof of the Father’s intention to fulfill His word. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”1 Moreover, faith looks back upon the past, for her battles have strengthened her, and her victories have given her courage. She remembers that God has never failed her, that He never once failed any of His children. She recalls times of great peril when deliverance came, hours of awful need when as her day her strength was found, and she cries, “No, I never will be led to think that He can change and leave His servant now. Thus far the Lord has helped me, and He will help me still.”

Thus faith views each promise in its connection with the promise-giver and, because she does so, can with assurance say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!”2

1) Romans 8:32

2) Psalm 23:6

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

Charles Spurgeon – A wise desire

 

“He shall choose our inheritance for us.” Psalm 47:4

Suggested Further Reading: Genesis 45:4-11

If you turn to the pages of inspiration, and read the lives of some of the most eminent saints, I think you will be obliged to see the marks of God’s providence in their histories too plainly to be mistaken. Take, for instance, the life of Joseph. There is a young man who from early life serves God. Read that life till its latest period when he gave commandment concerning his bones, and you cannot help marvelling at the wondrous dealings of providence. Did Joseph choose to be hated of his brethren? But, yet, was not their envy a material circumstance in his destiny? Did he choose to be put into the pit? But was not the putting into the pit as necessary to his being made a king in Egypt as Pharaoh’s dream? Did Joseph desire to be tempted of his mistress? He chose to reject the temptation, but did he choose the trial? No; God sent it. Did he choose to be put into the dungeon? No. And had he anything to do with the baker’s dream, or with Pharaoh’s either? Can you not see, all the way through, from first to last, even in the forgetfulness of the butler, who forgot to speak of Joseph till the appointed time came, when Pharaoh should want an interpreter, that there was truly the hand of God? Joseph’s brethren did just as they liked when they put him into the pit. Potiphar’s wife followed the dictates of her own abandoned lust in tempting him. And yet, notwithstanding all the freedom of their will, it was ordained of God, and worked according together for one great end; to place Joseph on the throne; for as he said himself, “Ye meant it for evil, but God intended it for good, that he might save your souls alive!”

For meditation: You may find yourself in undesirable circumstances, but God can take these bad things and work them together for your good and his glory if you are his child (Romans 8:28). The all-knowing God knows what is best for us and can direct us clearly by our circumstances (Isaiah 48:17).

Sermon no. 33

8 July (1855)

John MacArthur – Offering Spiritual Sacrifices

 

“You . . . are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).

Spiritual sacrifices are acts of praise and worship offered to God through Jesus Christ.

The primary mission of a Hebrew priest was to offer acceptable sacrifices to God. That’s why God gave detailed instructions regarding the kinds of sacrifices He required. For example, if a lamb was offered, it had to be perfect—without deformity or blemish. Then it had to be sacrificed in a prescribed manner. It was a serious offense to offer sacrifices in an unacceptable manner—a mistake that cost Aaron’s sons their lives (Lev. 10:1-2).

The Old Testament sacrificial system pictured the supreme sacrifice of Christ on the cross. When He died, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple split in two, signifying personal access to God through Christ. From that moment on, the Old Testament sacrifices ceased to have meaning. As the writer of Hebrews said, “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. . . . For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:10-14).

Christ’s sacrifice was complete. Nothing further is needed for salvation. The spiritual sacrifices that believers are to offer aren’t sacrifices for sin, but acts of praise and worship that flow from a redeemed life. They’re the fruit of salvation and are acceptable to God because they’re offered through His Son.

Since Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, your access to God is through Him alone. Anything that pleases Him is acceptable to the Father. Seeking His will, His plans, and His kingdom all are aspects of offering up acceptable spiritual sacrifices. In effect, your entire life is to be one continuous sacrifice of love and praise to God. May it be so!

Suggestions for Prayer

When you pray, be sure everything you say and every request you make is consistent with Christ’s will.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 10:1-18, noting how Christ’s sacrifice differed from Old Testament sacrifices.

 

Joyce Meyer – Still, Small Voice

 

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.- 1 Kings 19:11-12

Someone once told me of a one-act play with three characters-a father, a mother, and a son who had just returned from Vietnam who are sitting at a table to talk The play lasts thirty minutes, and they all get their chance to talk. There’s only one problem: No one listens to the others.

The father is about to lose his job. The mother had once held just about every office in their church, and now younger women are pushing her aside. The son struggles with his faith. He had gone to war, seen chaos and death, and now is bewildered about life.

At the end of the play, the son stands and heads toward the door. “You haven’t heard a word I’ve said,” is his parting remark, as he walks out of the room. The parents look at each other, and the mother asks, “What did he mean?”

What the parents didn’t get and the audience obviously does is that the son struggles to believe in a loving, caring God. Every time he tries to explain, one of the parents interrupts with something they want to say. The soldier needed to hear from God. Hoping his mother or father would be the channel through which God would speak, he went to them. However, they were not available for God to use because they were not quiet enough to hear Him. All three of them were so distraught and noisy that they all left the same way they came. What might have happened had they really listened to one another, and then quietly prayed and waited on God? I am sure the outcome would have been very different and much more rewarding.

In the opening scripture, I quoted part of the story of Elijah to make this point clear. That deeply committed prophet had defied the wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel for years. The big moment came on Mount Carmel when Elijah destroyed 450 prophets of Baal. Later, when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him, he ran away, apparently in terror.

He must have been worn out by the powerful events. Then suddenly the man was alone, with no crowds, no one trying to kill him, and no one to talk to. Just before the two verses mentioned above, Elijah had gone into a cave to hide out. When God asked him what he was doing there, he spoke of his zeal for God. Then he told God that the children of Israel had gone astray, killing prophets, And I, I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away (v. 10).

God brought strong winds, falling rocks, an earthquake, and fire. I think that was the way Elijah expected God to appear in the miraculous and powerful. But the writer tells us God wasn’t in those things.

This is really the spiritual principle of God at work. We can find the devil in the noise and the shouts. We can find the devil with big attractions to lead us astray. But God likes to speak in the still, small voice the voice that not everyone will hear the voice that only the committed will listen for.

As long as Elijah sought the dramatic, he wouldn’t hear God. But when he pulled back and listened for the inner voice, the soft, non-demanding voice of the Holy Spirit, Elijah could communicate with God.

What kind of voice from God are you listening for? Will you recognize the still, small voice when you hear it? Do you take time to be quiet and just listen? If not, there is no better time to begin than right now.

Wise God, like Elijah and many others, I often look for the loud, the exciting, and the showy. I know that You sometimes use healings and miracles, but I ask You to help me listen most of all in the soft stillness for the quiet ways in which You speak. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Claiming Forgiveness

 

“But, dearly loved friends, if our consciences are clear, we can come to the Lord with perfect assurance and trust, and get whatever we ask for because we are obeying Him and doing the things that please Him” (1 John 3:21,22).

What a marvelous promise – unfortunately, a promise which few Christians are able to claim. Why? Because they do not have a clear conscience in regard to their sin and when they come to God, they cannot come with confidence that He will hear and answer them. As God’s Word reminds us in Psalm 66:15, if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. How wonderful to know that whatever sins have been committed, the shedding of Christ’s blood and His death on the cross have paid the penalty for them all. If we confess our sin of pride, lust, jealousy, gossip, dishonesty, greed, whatever it may be, we can by faith claim His forgiveness. Remember that if we agree with God concerning our sin, if we recognize Christ’s death on the cross has indeed paid the penalty for that sin, and if we repent or change our attitude, which results in a change of our action, we can know that we are forgiven. However, if there is no change of attitude and action, obviously there has been no true confession and therefore no forgiveness and cleansing.

If you have truly confessed your sins, you can come now into the presence of God with great joy and a clear conscience and have perfect assurance and trust that whatever you ask for, you will receive because you are praying according to the will and the Word of God.

Bible Reading: I John 3:18-24

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: One of the qualifications for supernatural living is a clear conscience. Therefore, by God’s grace I will keep my heart and motives pure through the practice of spiritual breathing knowing that when I breathe spiritually (exhale – confess, inhale – appropriate promise), I can come into God’s presence with a clear conscience and expect to receive answers to my prayers.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Safety Net

 

William Orcott Cushion lived 150 years ago. He was known as a kind, compassionate man whose love for Jesus was acted out daily toward his fellow man. A pastor for many years, he resigned after his wife’s death in 1870 and began writing poetry and hymn lyrics. More than 300 have been set to music. The tune for the hymn “Under His Wings” was composed by Ira Sankey.

The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 36:7

In 1740, Bishop Francis Hare suggested that the wings referenced in today’s verse could well have been from the cherubim that overshadowed the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. Whether David’s thoughts were those, the way an eagle protects her nestlings, or of a prayer shawl where the corners were often referred to as wings, his emphasis was that God had a covering for His children’s safety.

Today, all of the government’s safety net programs are coming close to bankruptcy. Those who have put their trust there will find no refuge from the deepening night or wild tempests mentioned in the hymn. Where are you placing your trust? While you consider that, pray for America’s leaders to find redemption in Christ, under whose wings they may safely abide forever.

Recommended Reading: II Thessalonians 2:13-3:5

Greg Laurie – The Sin That Wreaks Havoc

 

“You must not commit adultery.”—Exodus 20:14

What trouble the sin of adultery has brought upon the human race. Think of how different our world would be if we would just keep this single commandment. Think of how different the lives of so many people would have been if they had not committed this sin. How many divorces would have been avoided? How many families would still be together? How many fathers would still be at home to raise their children?

Adultery is being unfaithful to your spouse. If you are single, having sex before marriage is called fornication. What does God say about adultery and fornication? Hebrews 13:4 “God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.”

When a man and woman come together sexually, they enter a state of oneness. In fact, 1 Corinthians 6:15–16 says, “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, ‘The two are united into one.’ ”

Understand, God has given us a sexual drive just as surely as He created the family and brought a man and a woman together. Sometimes we forget that God thought up sex. He invented it. But sometimes the Christian view of sex is mischaracterized. Some assert that Christians believe sex is only for procreation. We do believe it is for that, but God has given it to us for pleasure as well. He has given it to us for fulfillment. It is something that He can really bless. But there is only one place God will bless it, and that is in a marriage relationship.

 

Max Lucado – The Process of Healing

 

Colossians 3:13 says, “As Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Really, God? Begin the process of healing. How? Well, keep no list of wrongs. Pray for your antagonists rather than plot against them. Hate the wrong without hating the wrongdoers. Turn your attention away from what they did to you to what Christ did for you. Outrageous as it may seem, Jesus died for them, too. If He thinks they are worth forgiving, they are.

Does that make forgiveness easy? No. Quick? Seldom. Painless? Forgiveness vacillates. It has fits and starts, good days and bad. Anger intermingled with love. Irregular mercy. We make progress only to make a wrong turn. Step forward and fall back. But it’s okay. As long as you’re trying to forgive, you are forgiving. It is when you no longer try that bitterness sets in. Keep trying. Keep forgiving.

From You’ll Get Through This

Night Light for Couples – The Moment Life Begins

 

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I f you and your mate genuinely want to experience true love— the kind that lasts throughout eternity—you must face the truth about your standing before God. According to the Bible, we are all born with a sinful nature (Romans 3:23). This sin problem prevents us from living God’s way, whether as individuals or as a married couple. In fact, unresolved sin will block even your best efforts to have a successful marriage, because the inescapable outcome of sin is slavery to our worst impulses and—eventually—death (Romans 6:23).

But there is a wonderful alternative! Jesus Christ paid the price for your sin through His death on the cross. And through His miraculous resurrection, He rescued you from eternal destruction. You can reach out in faith to receive your free gift of new life. Jesus put the Good News this way: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

It really is that simple: If you choose to repent of your sin and receive the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, you will be forgiven and receive His gift of eternal life.

If you do not know Jesus Christ in this intimate way, we invite you to offer the following prayer tonight. For every human being who invites Jesus into his or her heart, that is the moment real life begins!

Just between us…

  • Have each of us made a choice to receive God’s gift of salvation?
  • If not, what is keeping us from making that choice?

God, I am a sinner in need of You. I can’t live right or hope for eternal life on my own. Please forgive my sins. I believe that Jesus Christ is Your only Son. You sent Him to die in my place and set me free from sin. Thank You! Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson