Charles Stanley – A Right View of Repentance

 

Acts 2:37-39

Preaching the truth about Jesus Christ in Acts 2, Peter left thousands of listeners asking the same question: “What shall we do now?”

The apostle’s response is simple: “Repent, and . . . be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). As a result, 3,000 people were added to the new church that day (Acts 2:41).

Is this the message of most churches today? Does it seem strange that Peter said “repent” instead of “believe”? Actually, Scripture often uses these concepts interchangeably. You see, repentance and faith are really two sides of the same coin: Both are essential for salvation, and each is dependent upon the other.

In terms of salvation, you cannot separate faith and repentance—both happen simultaneously. In order to be saved, you must place faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and that faith decision requires a change of mind (repentance) about your way of life. Yet many people mistakenly believe they must change their way of living long before they can make a faith decision for the Savior. The truth is, repentance does not mean that we must completely change our ways and “clean ourselves up” so we can receive Christ as Lord.

If you’re holding off on a decision for Christ until you think you are “ready” or “worthy,” you’re waiting in vain. Jesus is ready to receive you right now. Only as a child of God will you find the power—His power—to truly become the person you were created to be.

Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 4-6

Our Daily Bread — Disappointing Heroes

 

Read: Hebrews 3:1-6

Bible in a Year: Psalms 123-125; 1 Corinthians 10:1-18

Think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest. —Hebrews 3:1

A recent book that puts a fictional flavor on a slice of US history portrays Old West gunslingers Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday as shiftless bums. In an interview with National Public Radio, the author said of the real Earp, “He didn’t do anything remarkable his whole life, ever.” Through the years, in books and Hollywood movies, they’ve become heroes. Yet reputable historical accounts show that they were not.

In contrast, the Bible is full of flawed people who became real heroes. But don’t lose sight of the vital source of their heroic actions. The object of their faith was God, who chooses flawed human beings for His remarkable purposes.

As biblical heroes go, Moses stands tall. We tend to forget that he was a murderer and a reluctant leader who once directed a rant at God: “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly?” he demanded. “What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them?” (Num. 11:11-12 nlt).

How very human of Moses! And yet Hebrews reminds us: “Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later” (Heb. 3:5 nlt).

Real heroes point to the Hero who never disappoints. “Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses” (v. 3 nlt). —Tim Gustafson

Lord, thank You for being the only Hero we can rely on without fail. Help us not to conceal our flaws and mistakes, but to give them to You. We trust You to use us for Your good purpose.

Looking for someone who won’t disappoint you? Look to Jesus

INSIGHT: The book of Hebrews was written to encourage Jewish Christians who were facing persecution and hardship for their faith and who were now in danger of drifting away and reverting back to Judaism. The writer warns them against abandoning Christ (2:1-3; 3:7-15; 6:4-6; 10:26-31) and presents the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus as Savior. Jesus is superior to the angels (chs. 1-2), to Moses (chs. 3-4), and to the Aaronic priesthood (chs. 5-7), and He is the perfect High Priest (chs. 8-10). In today’s passage Moses is compared with Christ. While Moses was one of God’s most faithful servants, Jesus is far greater than Moses because Jesus is God’s Son (vv. 5-6). Sim Kay Tee

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Redirection

 

A special report on This American Life follows the lives of several people currently living what they unequivocally call “Plan B.” Host Ira Glass expounds his thoughts on an informal poll and a seemingly universal human reality. He asked a room of hundred people to think back to the beginning of adulthood when they were first formulating a plan for their lives. He called it Plan A, “the fate you were sure fate had in store.” He then asked those who were still following this plan to raise their hands. Only one person confessed she was still living Plan A; she was 23 years old.

It seems a trend among us: There is the thing we plan on doing with our lives, and then there’s the thing we end up doing, which becomes our life. Here, Christians often have a nuanced view of Plan A: it is God’s plan they are trying to follow. But there is still very much an initial picture of what this plan, and subsequently our lives, will—or should—look like. God’s best becomes something like a divine Plan A, while any other plan leads the follower to something else.

But akin to the statistics in the room with Mr. Glass, it is likely that the number of Christians who find themselves living the plan they first imagined are also few and far between. For some, this is seen as good news. Many discover along their carefully laid out plans that they are doing far more leading than being led, and God seems to mercifully redirect them. “Many are the plans in a human heart,” the proverb reads, “but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Others find the journey with God from Plan A to B to C to D an interesting part of the pilgrimage itself, maybe even the gift of following an unfathomable creator, a creator who we discover is far more creative than we! Yet there are still many others who walk away from Plan A thoroughly defeated. Regretful turns and drastic detours may now be behind us, but the deviation from the journey is writ large before us. We have failed at Plan A, the plan we believed divinely inspired; God’s best is now merely God’s backup. Wrestling with the guilt or disappointment of such a deviation can be found with or without the Christian spin.

When life turns out to be something you didn’t plan on, when missteps and unplanned detours loom with guilt, a life of alternative routes and broken roads seems certain. It is easy to wonder in despair what it means to have missed God’s best, and to believe that somehow God must now step back into the picture, disappointed, and find a secondary plan for your life. I find it equally despairing to encounter those who maintain they are living God’s Plan A and smugly insist it was their own virtue that accomplished it. How significant, then, are Christ’s words to his despairing disciples after an evening of mistakes, both to those of us who have ever felt the sting of falling off track and to those of us who want a pat on the back for getting it right. To these men who repeatedly failed to follow his instructions, Jesus simply said, “Rise, let us be going.”

A wise friend of mine says that following God is something like following the directions on a GPS system. At the beginning of the journey, the plan for arriving at the desired destination is before you. But when you accidentally turn left or are forced to take an unforeseen detour, the computer doesn’t scold you. It doesn’t force you to start over or announce that you can no longer make it to your final destination because you have ruined the route. In fact, it doesn’t even make you feel guilty. The end still in mind, it simply adjusts the plan from that point onward, as if the “wrong” turn was a part of the journey all along. The destination has not changed. Plan A may have switched to Plan B in your mind, but the outcome remains the goal, not self-invented praise for the journey.

Although Blaise Pascal was a mathematician who saw the created world as one of equations and precision, he saw the God who created this world as one who is innately personal, guiding, and accommodating. “[T]he God of the Christians is a God of love and consolation,” Pascal wrote in his Pensees, “a God who fills the soul and heart of those whom he possesses, a God who makes them inwardly aware of their wretchedness and his infinite mercy, who united himself with them in the depths of their soul…who makes them incapable of having any other end but him.“(1)

What if the God you followed is well aware that there are turns in life we can never undo, choices we cannot erase, and detours we were never expecting? Some of these turns God no doubt laments with us. But God is never deterred by our position. Plan B may be a phrase you use to punish yourself or others, but the God of Christianity is not any farther away in what you are calling Plan A than Plan A or C or D. In fact, God sees only one plan: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD to a struggling people, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” In this, God is ever at work redirecting your steps, while the end—God alone—remains the same. Despite broken roads and secondary paths, God is forever showing that the destination is unchanging, and in the end, “God’s best” comes into our lives not because of our own careful steps toward the divine but because of divine steps toward us. The God of the Christian is one whose plans are all-encompassing, whose arm is not too short to save, who goes the extra mile, and who takes every detour without mention, that even one will not remain lost.

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

(1) Blaise Pascal, Pensees (London: Peguin Books, 1993), 141-142, emphasis mine.

Alistair Begg – Oil and Light from God

 

Oil for the lamps. Exodus 25:6

My soul, you really need this, for your lamp will not continue to burn for long without it. Your snuff will smoke and become an offense if light is gone, and gone it will be if you run out of oil. You have no oil well springing up in your human nature, and therefore you must go to them who sell and buy for yourself, or like the foolish virgins you will have to cry, “My lamp has gone out.” Even the consecrated lamps could not give light without oil; though they shone in the tabernacle, they needed to be fed; though no rough winds blew upon them, they required to be trimmed, and your need is just as great. Under the most happy circumstances you cannot give light for another hour unless fresh oil of grace is given to you.

Not every kind of oil could be used in the Lord’s service; neither the petroleum that exudes so plentifully from the earth, nor the produce of fish, nor that extracted from nuts would be accepted; only one oil was selected, and that was the best olive oil. Pretended grace from natural goodness, fancied grace from priestly hands, or imaginary grace from outward ceremonies will never serve the true child of God; he knows that the Lord would not be pleased with rivers of such oil. He goes to the olive-press of Gethsemane and draws his supplies from Him who was crushed there. The oil of gospel grace is pure and free from sediment and dregs, and so the light that is fed by it is clear and bright. Our churches are the Savior’s golden candelabra, and if they are to be lights in this dark world, they must have plenty of holy oil. Let us pray for ourselves, our ministers, and our churches that they may never lack oil for the light. Truth, holiness, joy, knowledge, love-these are all beams of the sacred light; but we cannot send them out into the darkness unless in private we receive oil from God the Holy Spirit.

The Family Bible Reading Plan

  • 1 Samuel 20
  • 1 Corinthians 2

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

Charles Spurgeon – Limiting God

 

“They… limited the Holy One of Israel.” Psalm 78:41

Suggested Further Reading: Daniel 3:13-28

He is not limited to means—to any means, much less to one of thy choosing. If he deliver thee not by calming the tempest, he has a better way in store; he will send from above and deliver thee; he will snatch thee out of the deep waters lest the floods overflow thee. What might Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego have said? Suppose they had got it into their heads that God would deliver them in some particular way. They did have some such idea, but they said, as if to prove that they trusted not really to their thought about the deliverance—“Nevertheless, be it known unto thee, O king, we will not worship thy gods, nor bow before the image which thou hast set up.” They were prepared to let God have his will, even though he used no means of deliverance. But suppose, I say, they had conferred with flesh and blood, and Shadrach had said, “God will strike Nebuchadnezzar dead; just at the moment when the men are about to put us into the furnace the king will turn pale and die, and so we shall escape.” O my friends, they would have trembled indeed when they went into the furnace if they had chosen their own means of deliverance, and the king had remained alive. But instead of this, they gave themselves up to God, even if he did not deliver them. And, though he did not prevent their going into the furnace, yet he kept them alive in it, so that not so much as the smell of fire had passed upon them. It shall be even so with you. Repose in God. When thou seest him not, believe him; when everything seems to contradict thy faith, still stagger not at the promise. If HE hath said it, he can find ways and means to do it.

For meditation: Our ways are not God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Where our ways can multiply complications, his ways can humble us by their straightforward simplicity (Numbers 11:21-23,31; 2 Kings 5:10-14; Luke 9:12-17). How are you limiting God?

Sermon no. 272

28 August (1859)

John MacArthur – Holy Hatred

 

“Hate evil, you who love the Lord” (Ps. 97:10).

God’s hatred for evil is an extension of His love.

After spending this month exploring fifteen characteristics of godly love, it might seem odd to shift suddenly to the topic of hatred. Additionally, “holy hatred” will sound like a contradiction in terms to those who view all hatred as evil. But love and hate are inseparable. You can’t truly love something and be complacent about the things that oppose or threaten it.

If you love your spouse, you hate anything that would defile or injure him or her. If you love your children, you hate anything that would harm them. If you love good, you hate evil. If you love unity, you hate discord. If you love God, you hate Satan. That’s why Scripture says, “Hate evil, you who love the Lord” (Ps. 97:10) and, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I [God personified] hate” (Prov. 8:13).

Unquestionably God is a God of love. First John 4 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. . . . And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (vv. 7-8, 11, 16).

How are we to respond to that love? The psalmist wrote, “From Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. . . . I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Thy law. . . . I esteem right all Thy precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way. . . . I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Thy law” (Ps. 119:104, 113, 128, 163).

Is that your prayer? Do you hate the things that oppose God? Are you offended by what offends Him? Remember, holy hatred is as much a part of godly love as any of its other characteristics. If you love God, you must necessarily hate evil.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to increase your love for Him and your hatred for evil.

For Further Study

Meditate on Psalm 119:101-104 and commit it to memory.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – To Be Approved

 

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).

Most of all of my adult life has been centered around the university world – as a student, a teacher, and one who works with students, professors and administrators in the intellectual realm. I count many of the leading scholars of our time as beloved friends, yet if I had to choose between a Ph.D. from the most prestigious university in the world and a thorough knowledge of and comprehension of the Word of God, I would gladly choose the latter. Fortunately, it is not necessary to choose because one can have both academic training and a knowledge of God’s Word.

A recommendation which I have made to our two sons and to thousands of our staff and students with whom we work is that degrees are very important in today’s world, but they will not only be meaningless and worthless in terms of eternity, but can contribute to one’s moral and spiritual disintegration unless at the same time one is studying to show himself approved unto God. In all of our academic pursuits and in our commitment to excellence in the business and professional realms, we must be careful to give God and His Holy inspired Word their rightful place in our daily schedule. Ultimately, it is our knowledge of God learned through the study of Scripture and our response to Him that makes all the difference in our life-style. It makes the difference in the choosing of our mate, in the rearing of our children, in the choosing of our friends, our business or professional career, in all of our attitudes and actions and in the contribution which we make to society. Let us give priority to priorities, the highest of which is to seek after God through the diligent study of His holy revelation to man and to encourage others to join with us in rightly dividing the word of truth.

Bible Reading: II Timothy 2:19-25

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: With God’s help I will seek not only to be a student of God’s Word but also to acquire the ability to teach His word to others.

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Staying in the Light

 

Henry Durbanville’s book The Best Is Yet to Be contains the story of a young woman who loved to grow flowers but lived in the attic of a dilapidated tenement house in London. She grew the plants as best she could in an old cracked teapot. She entered her flowers into a show where she surprisingly won an award. When asked how she grew award-winning flowers in such unlikely conditions, she said she constantly moved them to always be in the sunlight.

She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.

Luke 2:37

Today’s verse is about another woman who knew the importance and reward of staying in the light…of her Lord. Anna was a prophetess who was widowed for 84 years. She continually prayed and fasted in the temple, longing to see the “redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38) Present when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to His purification ceremony, she knew she’d been awarded the privilege of seeing the Messiah. Anna tirelessly and persistently abided in God and her wish was fulfilled. Her joy was made complete.

What amazing things might you see accomplished in your life and in the nation through prayer, fasting and abiding in Christ? Pray and read the Bible…and you’ll find out. Stay in His light!

Recommended Reading: John 15:1-11

Greg Laurie – The Message Proclaimed

 

“And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’ ” —Romans 10:14–15

From the original Greek, we could translate the final question in Romans 10:14 as, “How shall they hear without one preaching?” The Phillips translation puts it this way, “How can they hear unless someone proclaims Him?” Therefore, we see the emphasis is not on a preacher, but on preaching.

We may think the work of evangelism is only for those who are called to be evangelists. Granted, there are people in the church whom God has raised up to be evangelists, and certainly evangelism is not limited to those who preach to hundreds or thousands at a time. I have seen many individual believers who obviously have this gift.

While it is true that some are called to be evangelists, it is also true that every Christian is called to evangelize. Many times, however, we avoid sharing our faith, deciding instead to just live it out, be a good witness, and leave the preaching to others.

Yet in 1 Corinthians 1:21, it says, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

This does not mean that we need to scream and yell and wave a Bible to get the point across. What it does mean is that we are to recognize the primary way God has chosen to reach the lost is through the proclamation of the gospel–by people. God has chosen the agency of His proclaimed Word to bring people to salvation.

Max Lucado – Only the Meek Will See

A small cathedral outside Bethlehem marks the supposed birthplace of Jesus. Behind the altar is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps. You can enter the main edifice and admire the ancient church. You can also enter the quiet cave where a star embedded in the floor recognizes the birth of the King. There is one stipulation, however. You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t possibly go in standing up.

The same is true of the Christ. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness the Savior, you have to get on your knees. So while theologians consulted their commentaries, and the elite were looking around to see who was watching, the successful checking their calendars, the meek were kneeling. They were kneeling in front of Jesus. May God find you doing the same.

From The Applause of Heaven

Night Light for Couples – Romance

 

by Bill and Lynne Hybels

Romance was never my strong suit. I proposed to Lynne in her parents’ garage; I took my Harley‐Davidson on our honeymoon; I thought our best anniversary was the one we spent watching a video of Rocky III. I had to learn the gentle art of romance. For starters, I figured it meant flowers. Beyond that, I didn’t have a clue, but I knew I could get the flower job done. As confirmation from God that I was moving in the right direction, who do you think set up shop right out of the trunk of his ’58 DeSoto at the corner opposite our church? The flower man! So, quite regularly, on my way home from work or meetings, I would pull over to the side of the road, buy a bunch of roses or carnations from the flower man, and take them home to Lynne. What a husband! I thought as I handed over my three bucks.

Yet when I proudly presented the flowers to Lynne, fully expecting her to hire the Marine Corps Band to play “Hail to the Chief,” her response was lukewarm.

“Gee, thanks,” she said. “Where’d you get these?”

“Where else? My buddy, the flower man—you know, the guy with the ’58 DeSoto at Barrington and Algonquin. I’m a volume buyer now. I stop there so often that he gives me a buck off, and if they’re a little wilted, he gives me two bucks off. I figure they’ll perk up when you put them in water.”

“Of course,” she said.

I kept it up consistently for quite a while—until Lynne’s lack of enthusiasm for the gift drained my enthusiasm.

Some time later, on our regularly scheduled date night, Lynne and I decided to clear the air of anything that might be bothering either of us. We do that now and then. We sat down in a cheap restaurant (not only am I unromantic, I’m also Dutch) and asked, “What’s going on? Is there anything we need to talk about? Is there anything amiss in our relationship?”

On that particular evening, Lynne took out her list and started checking off the items.

“Ooooh, you’re right on that one. Eeeh, that one, too. Yep. Guilty as charged. Guilty. Guilty. You’re right again.”

She ended her list, and I was in a pile. “I really am sorry,” I said, “but trust me. I’m going to do better.” “Now, what about you?” she asked. I really didn’t have any complaints, but after hearing her list, I thought I should say something. I scrambled. “Well, I do have one little problem. Have you noticed the absence of the flowers lately?” “No,” she said. “I haven’t really paid attention.” How could she say that? “We have a problem,” I said. “I can’t figure it out. Hundreds of thousands of husbands pass by that corner. Do they stop for flowers? No. Do I stop? Yes! What gives? What is your problem?”

Her answer made my head spin. She looked me straight in the eyes and said quietly, “The truth is, Bill, I’m not impressed when you give me half‐dead flowers that come out of the trunk of a ’58 DeSoto that you were lucky enough to run across on your way home from work. The flowers are cheap, and the effort is minimal. The way I see it, you’re not investing enough time or energy to warrant a wholehearted response from me. You’re not thinking about what would make me happy; you’re just doing what’s convenient for you.”

“Okay, let’s get this straight,” I said. “You would be happier if I got up from my desk in the middle of my busy day, threw my study schedule to the wind, walked all the way across the parking lot, got in my car, and made a special trip to Barrington, where I’d have to pay quadruple the price just because it said Barrington on the bag? And you wouldn’t mind if the extra time it took crimped my workout schedule at the Y…. And you wouldn’t mind if I came home late because of all the extra running around I would have to do to get you expensive flowers? Is that what you’re telling me? That would make you happy?”

Without batting an eyelash, Lynne said, “Yes, that would make me happy.” I couldn’t believe it! “What are you talking about? What you’re ask‐

ing for is impractical, uneconomical, and an inefficient use of time.” “That’s a great definition of romance, Bill. You’re learning!”

Looking ahead…

Whether we’ve been with our partner for one year or forty, we’re all still trying to master the definition—and execution—of romance in our marriages. As Bill Hybels learned, there’s far more to romantic love than meets the eye. What his wife needed was a heart‐to‐heart and soul‐to‐soul relationship. This kind of relationship seems natural to women, but sometimes men have a hard time figuring it out.

So just what is romance? We’ll talk about that in the week ahead. For tonight, spend a few minutes telling each other what romance means to you. You might hear something important that you’ve missed before.

– James C Dobson

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