In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Finding Favor With God

The acts of man will never earn God’s favor, but He is pleased when we obey His commands with pure intentions.

Hebrews 11:1-40

There are people who work hard in an attempt to earn the favor of employers, parents, friends, and even God. The truth, however, is that divine approval cannot be earned. There’s only one way to acquire it, which Hebrews 11:6 states clearly: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (NIV). Like the saints commended in today’s passage for their faith, Christians today don’t have to strive for God’s favor. That’s because in Christ, we have been lavished with divine grace (Eph. 1:8). 

Yet we sometimes tend to overlook the most basic examples of the Lord’s kindness to us: He provides for our needs, puts limits on suffering, answers prayers, encourages us in our trials, and offers His strength in our weakness. In fact, every good thing that comes our way is from His hand (James 1:17).

God’s goodness is stored up for those who fear Him and take refuge in Him (Psalm 31:19). But even though His favor isn’t something that can be earned, we still have a responsibility to live in a manner He finds pleasing. As was true for the role models of faith in Hebrews 11, God’s grace should motivate us to be righteous and blameless in our walk with Him. 

Bible in One Year: Hebrews 10-11

Our Daily Bread — Fear Not

Bible in a Year:

Do not be afraid . . . a Savior has been born to you.

Luke 2:10–11

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Luke 2:8–14

Linus, in the Peanuts comic strip, is best known for his blue security blanket. He carries it everywhere and isn’t embarrassed at needing it for comfort. His sister Lucy especially dislikes the blanket and often tries to get rid of it. She buries it, makes it into a kite, and uses it for a science fair project. Linus too knows he should be less dependent on his blanket and lets it go from time to time, always to take it back.

In the movie A Charlie Brown Christmas, when a frustrated Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, with his security blanket in hand, steps center stage and quotes Luke 2:8–14. In the middle of his recitation, as he says, “Fear not,” he drops his blanket—the thing he clung to when afraid.

What is it about Christmas that reminds us we don’t need to fear? The angels that appeared to the shepherds said, “Do not be afraid . . . a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:10–11).

Jesus is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). We have His very presence through His Holy Spirit, the true Comforter (John 14:16), so we don’t need to fear. We can let go of our “security blankets” and trust in Him.

By:  Anne Cetas

Reflect & Pray

What are you afraid of? How can the Holy Spirit’s presence help you with what troubles you?

I’m still learning, God, that You’re the greatest Comforter. Help me to let go of the things that give me false security, and please guide me to cling to You.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Throwing out the Anchor

“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1).

God’s Word is the anchor that will prevent people from drifting past the harbor of salvation.

While English explorer William Edward Parry and his crew were exploring the Arctic Ocean, they needed to go further north to continue their chartings. So they calculated their location by the stars and began a treacherous march.

After many hours they stopped, exhausted. After taking their bearings, they discovered they were now further south than when they started! They had been walking on an ice floe that was traveling faster south than they were walking north.

That is similar to the situation people who continue rejecting Christ find themselves in. Therefore Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”

Why would anyone knowingly reject Christ? He came into the world as God incarnate, died on a cross to forgive our sins, paid our penalty, showed us divine love, and gives us blessing and joy beyond imagination.

The Greek words translated “pay much closer attention to” and “drift away from” both have a nautical usage. The first means “to tie up a ship” and the second can be used of a ship that has been carelessly allowed to drift past the harbor because the sailor forgot to attend to the steerage or chart the wind, tides, and current. Hebrews 2:1 could be translated: “We must diligently anchor our lives to the things we have been taught, lest the ship of life drift past the harbor of salvation and be lost forever.”

Most people don’t deliberately turn their backs on God; they almost imperceptibly slip past the harbor of salvation and are broken on the rocks of destruction. Be sure you warn those you know who might be slipping past that harbor.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to strengthen your resolve when you know you need to confront someone regarding his or her relationship with the Lord.

For Further Study

Memorize Proverbs 4:20-22 as your own reminder of how important it is to hold on to God’s Word.

Joyce Meyer – Enjoy the Righteousness of Christ

 [Righteousness, standing acceptable to God] will be granted and credited to us also who believe in (trust in, adhere to, and rely on) God, Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

— Romans 4:24 (AMPC)

It is an awe-inspiring thing to realize you are in right standing with God simply because you believe in Him. Because Jesus who knew no sin became sin, you are the righteousness of God. What a thrilling and humbling thought.

But the devil doesn’t want you to walk in the wonderful thrill of that reality. He wants to bring up all your faults and distract you from the joy of righteousness Jesus died to give you.

Don’t let the devil steal the thrill of your righteousness through Christ. As you prepare for a night of rest, spend a few quiet moments thinking about that matchless gift, and worship and praise the One who made it all possible.

Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, I thank You for going to the cross so that I can be in right standing with You. Help me fight against the enemy’s lies. In Your precious Name I pray, amen!

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Love Beyond Doubt

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

Jeremiah 31:3

Sometimes the Lord Jesus tells His Church His love thoughts. “He does not consider it sufficient to declare them behind her back, but in her very presence He says, ‘Behold, you are beautiful, my love.’1 It is true, this is not His ordinary method. He is a wise lover and knows when to hold back the intimation of love and when to declare it; but there are times when He will make no secret of it, times when He will put it beyond all dispute in the souls of His people” (R. Erskine’s Sermons).

The Holy Spirit is often pleased, in a most gracious manner, to witness with our spirits to the love of Jesus. He takes the things of Christ and reveals them to us. No voice is heard from the clouds, and no vision is seen in the night, but we have a testimony more certain than either of these

If an angel should fly from heaven and inform the believer personally of the Savior’s love for him, the evidence would not be one bit more satisfactory than that which is born in the heart by the Holy Spirit.

Ask the Lord’s people who have lived the nearest to the gates of heaven, and they will tell you that they have had seasons when the love of Christ toward them has been a fact so clear and sure that they could no more doubt it than they could question their own existence.

Yes, dear believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has soared to the heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the shoulder of our Lord, and we have not questioned our Master’s affection for us. The dark question, “Lord, is it I that will betray You?” has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of His mouth and killed our doubts by the closeness of His embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls.

1) Song of Solomon 1:15

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Sent the Knowledge of Salvation

“And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us.” (Luke 1:76-78)

Before opening gifts at Christmastime, many families have the tradition of reading the Christmas story as it is told in Matthew 1 or in Luke 2. But the first chapter of Luke is a very interesting introduction to Luke’s second chapter. In Luke 1, God records the story of how Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, was born. John was to come before Jesus (John was born six months before Jesus), and his purpose in life was to foretell (tell everyone ahead of time) that salvation was coming and that remission (forgiveness) of sins was coming – in the form of Jesus Christ Himself.

Zacharias, John’s father, was a priest. He knew very well that the sacrifical system that the Jews followed back then was supposed to be a picture of their faith in a coming Christ, a Messiah Who would come to bring them redemption, once and for all. John’s birth was a miracle, because both of his parents were very old – too old, humanly speaking, to have children. But Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit when John was born, and he prophesied what God had to say about John: “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us.” (Luke 1:76-78)

As John grew older, he began to preach the message he was born to preach. He told the people that God was sending His Messiah (the Christ, the Anointed One) to save repentant sinners. God used John to give the gift of the knowledge of salvation. He sent John ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for Jesus – to prepare the way of salvation.

People who listened to John and followed his teachings identified themselves with him by being baptized. Their baptism represented their belief that they needed to repent of their sins in preparation for the coming Christ, Who was going to bear those sins away (get rid of those sins) by His own righteousness. When Jesus came along and began His public ministry, the very first thing He did was to come to His cousin John and be baptized. Why did Jesus, Who lived a sinless life, want to be baptized with a baptism that showed His agreement that repentance of sins was necessary? Well, Jesus was going to take the sins of repentant sinners upon Himself. And He wanted His righteousness put on those sinners’ accounts. So He identified Himself with sinners by being baptized and agreeing publicly with John.

The people who listened to and followed John the Baptist still could not see the full picture of Who Christ was and why He came – but God used John to point the way. Here was the son of a priest who had been helping to sacrifice lambs in the temple for years. Here was John, preaching in the wilderness and pointing at Jesus Christ and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world…. Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:29b and 36)

When Zacharias prophesied over his newborn son, he spoke of God’s tender mercy as the reason why God had sent the knowledge of salvation and remission of sins. God’s whole plan of redemption is an amazing gift, and He mercifully sent messengers and prepared the way for Christ’s arrival. Because of John’s message, we can know better how to respond to Jesus Christ, the only Savior of sins.

In tender mercy, God sent John to prepare the way for Christ and publish the message of what Christ would do for His people.

My Response:
» Have I ever thought much about John the Baptist being a part of God’s plan for salvation?
» Have I repented of my sins and trusted in Christ as the One Who can bear them away?
» Am I truly grateful to God for His merciful provision for the remission of sins?

Denison Forum – Omicron is “going to take over”: Why Christmas offers the paradoxical hope we need

There’s a “candy cane crisis” in America. Logistical issues caused by the pandemic and weakness in peppermint crops are causing shortages in the industry.

In other news, a COVID-19 outbreak forced Saturday Night Live to air without an audience. The show sent home most of its cast and crew, airing mostly pre-taped sketches. The NFL postponed three games over the weekend.

And these stories are just the beginning of what is coming.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas 2020”

Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN yesterday that the omicron variant is “going to take over” the country. He predicted that “it is going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get deeper into the winter.”

Coronavirus cases are already skyrocketing across the country. In New York City, for example, cases escalated from 8,266 on Monday to 21,908 on Friday, more than any other single day of the pandemic. The New York Times reports that the nation’s coronavirus testing capacity is facing “enormous new pressure” with long lines, overworked laboratories, and at-home diagnostics “flying off pharmacy shelves.”

With coronavirus hospitalizations increasing 20 percent nationally over the last two weeks, doctors and nurses are “living in a constant crisis,” as one medical director stated. Forbes reports that as COVID-19 restrictions are hitting the retail sector, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas 2020.” Offices are closing and holiday parties are being canceled. Countries across Europe are imposing new travel restrictions and curfews. Harvard is going remote again, as are other schools across the nation. President Biden will address the nation tomorrow to respond to the spread of the omicron variant.

It is especially hard to face this crisis in the days just before Christmas. However, Christmas offers the paradoxical hope we need most in these hard days.

A Christmas thought I had not considered

I read a message recently by Pope St. Leo the Great (AD 400–461) that made a point I had never considered before. He stated, “Unless the new man [Jesus], by being made in the likeness of sinful flesh [Romans 8:3], had taken on himself the nature of our first parents, unless he had stooped to be one in substance with his mother while sharing the Father’s substance and, being alone free from sin, united our nature to his, the whole human race would still be held captive under the dominion of Satan.”

He added: “The Conqueror’s victory would have profited us nothing if the battle had been fought outside our human condition.”

I knew that death was the debt we owed for our sins—the consequence of our sinful choices—since sin cuts us off from the God who is our only source of life and life eternal (Romans 6:23John 14:6). And I knew that only a sinless person could pay the debt of our sins with his death; otherwise, his death would atone for his sins but not for ours (cf. Hebrews 4:15). Thus, I knew that Jesus came to earth to die for our sins (cf. 1 John 4:10) so we could be forgiven (1 John 1:9) and receive eternal life (John 3:16).

However, it had not occurred to me that Jesus would have to be human himself to pay this debt for humanity.

The love proven by Christmas

This is why the sacrifice of animals on the altar of the temple was not enough. Hebrews 10 states, “Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (vv. 11–12).

No other species could pay this debt because no other species owed it. Humans alone of all God’s creation are made in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26) with the capacity to choose whether to obey or disobey his word (cf. Joshua 24:15). As a result, we are the only species that “sins.”

The only way the debt humanity owes for our sin could be paid was if a human paid it. This explains Christmas: the decision by God to become man, to enter fully into the human condition, to face every temptation we face yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), to be forsaken by his Father on the cross (Matthew 27:46) so we could be forgiven by his grace (Ephesians 2:8–9Hebrews 2:14–15).

The necessity of Jesus’ humanity also adds even greater significance to his Father’s decision to create the human race. God knew before he made the first man and woman that they would sin against him and that their sins would separate them from himself. The Father therefore knew before he created humans that his Son would one day have to become one of them to die for them.

This explains why the Bible calls Jesus “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8 NIV). And it is why the love proven by Christmas is the hope we need today.

“Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part”

I was taught in counseling classes not to tell someone “I know how you feel.” That’s because, even if my circumstances have been identical to theirs, I cannot understand their personal feelings as they face them.

But Jesus can.

Because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus experienced hunger (Matthew 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), weariness (John 4:6), grief (Mark 3:5), temptation (Matthew 4:1–10), rejection (John 15:18), and death (Mark 15:37).

He has faced all we face and felt all we feel. In addition, because he knows our inmost thoughts (cf. Luke 6:8) and we are in his hand right now (John 10:28), Jesus truly knows how we feel at this very moment.

So, let me encourage you to go to the Christ of Christmas with your secret sins and private guilt. Trust him with your inmost fears, grief, and pain. Tell him what you can tell no one else and trust him for the help and hope only he can give.

Because God is love, he loves you where you are, as you are. And because Jesus became one of us, we can be one with him.

Philip Yancey observed, “Grace, like water, flows to the lowest part.”

Where do you need the grace of Christmas today?