Category Archives: John MacArthur

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Trials’ Lessons: Faith

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son” (Hebrews 11:17).

The main reason God allows trials in the lives of Christians is to test the strength of their faith.

The memorable example in Genesis 22 of Abraham’s testing is perhaps the severest trial any human being has ever faced. When God told Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of Moriah (Gen. 22:1-2), Abraham no doubt was stunned. In terms of God’s nature, His plan of redemption, His promise to Abraham, and His love for Isaac, the entire concept was utterly inconceivable and unprecedented.

But in the face of all that, Abraham showed remarkable faith in dealing with this trial (Gen. 22:3-8). He did not second-guess God, as many of us would, but rather obeyed immediately (v. 3) and displayed the confidence that he and Isaac would return (v. 5) and that God would supply a lamb for the offering (v. 8). Then Abraham showed he was ready to obey completely. Genesis 22 tells us he “bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son” (vv. 9-10). What unbelievable faith, and what a dramatic moment when God spared Abraham from the full cost of obedience (vv. 11-12)! The story clearly shows us the nature of true faith (Gen. 15:6) and why Abraham was later called the father of the faithful (Rom. 4:11-12; Gal. 3:6-7).

As heirs to Abraham and his extraordinary trust in God, we can also endure the most difficult trials and pass tests of faith that seem unimaginably severe at the time. God might want us to offer our own loved ones to Him and let them go His way rather than tightly holding on to them for our own purposes. However, if we look to God as Abraham did (Heb. 11:17-19), we can be confident in any trial and know with certainty that our faith has passed the test.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would strengthen your faith even in the smallest of daily trials.

For Further Study

Read 2 Kings 20:1-11 and 2 Chronicles 32:24-31.

  • What was at the heart of Hezekiah’s difficulties (2 Chron. 32:25)?
  • Why did God test him (v. 31)?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Overcoming Spiritual Inadequacies

“Having summoned His twelve disciples” (Matt. 10:1).

Jesus can overcome any inadequacy you might have.

Most people think of the disciples as stained-glass saints who didn’t have to struggle with the faults and frailties of normal people. But they had inadequacies just like we all do. Seeing how Jesus dealt with them gives us hope that He can use us too.

One inadequacy common to all the disciples was their lack of understanding. For example, Luke 18 tells us Jesus gave them details about His future suffering, death, and resurrection, but they didn’t understand anything He said (vv. 31-34). Jesus overcame their lack of understanding by constantly teaching them until they got it right.

Another inadequacy was their lack of humility. More than once they argued among themselves about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (e.g., Mark 9:33-37). Jesus dealt with their lack of humility by His own example. He likened Himself to a servant, and even washed their dirty feet.

In addition to their lack of understanding and humility, they also lacked faith. Jesus often said to them, “O men of little faith.” In Mark 16:14 He rebuked them for not even believing the reports of His resurrection.

They also lacked commitment. Just prior to Christ’s death Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and the others deserted Him. Jesus dealt with their lack of commitment by praying for them (e.g., John 17:15; Luke 22:31-32).

Finally, they lacked spiritual power, which Christ overcame by giving them the Holy Spirit.

Those are significant inadequacies, but despite all that, the book of Acts records that the disciples turned the world upside down with their powerful preaching and miraculous deeds. They were so much like Christ that people started calling them Christians, which means “Little Christs.”

Jesus still transforms inadequacies into victories. He does it through the Spirit, the Word, and prayer. Don’t be victimized by your inadequacies. Make those spiritual resources the continual focus of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for your inadequacies because they help you realize your dependence on Him.
  • Ask for grace always to rely on your spiritual resources rather than human abilities.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 20:20-28.

  • Who spoke to Jesus on behalf of James and John?
  • What was His response?
  • How did the other disciples respond?
  • What was Jesus’ concluding principle?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Victory of the Resurrection

“‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ . . . but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, 57).

The Resurrection seals what we could not: victory over death.

Death is the great enemy of mankind. It comes to everyone without exception. It violates our dominion of God’s creation, breaks apart relationships, disrupts families, and causes us to grieve the loss of loved ones. However, Christ’s resurrection has broken the power of death for Christians because “death no longer is master over Him” (Rom. 6:9).

In today’s passage the apostle Paul reminds us of the final victory over death that results once we have been transformed into our resurrection bodies. To make his point, Paul quotes from the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Hosea. In using Hosea’s sting of death metaphor, Paul implies that death left its sting in Christ, as a bee leaves its stinger in its victim. On the cross Jesus bore all of death’s sting (sin), so we wouldn’t have to bear any of it. When sin’s penalty has been removed, death merely interrupts our earthly life and ushers us into the heavenly realm, where we will worship and praise God forever.

Paul concludes (v. 57) by thanking God, who provided us the triumph over sin and death. We also should be thankful to God who, through Christ’s redeeming work, gave us what we could never have obtained by ourselves. God promises to all believers the heavenly in exchange for the earthly, and the immortal in exchange for the mortal.

With Jesus Christ’s triumph over death, we have no reason to fear what death can do to us. Instead, we should rejoice concerning the Lord’s promise to us about the next life: “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire . . . and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 20:14; 21:4).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that in His sovereign wisdom and power He has defeated death and removed all reasons for the believer to be afraid of it.

For Further Study

Read 2 Kings 2:9-14 and 4:18-37.

  • What do these passages preview about Jesus’ control over death, His own and ours?
  • Do they remind you of any particular New Testament stories?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Hindrances to Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

Sin and falsehood hinder true peace.

Just as righteousness and truth are the noble companions of peace, so sin and falsehood are its great hindrances. The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately [evil]; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus said, “Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).

People with sinful hearts create a sinful society that resists true peace. Ironically, many who talk of peace will also pay huge sums of money to watch two men beat the daylights out of each other in a boxing ring! Our society’s heroes tend to be the macho, hard-nosed, tough guys. Our heroines tend to be free-spirited women who lead marches and stir up contention. Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us to stand up for our rights and get everything we can for ourselves. That breeds strife and conditions people to reject the peace of the gospel.

Beyond that, the unbelieving world has never tolerated God’s peacemakers. Christ Himself often met with violent resistance. His accusers said, “He stirs up the people” (Luke 23:5). Paul’s preaching frequently created conflict as well. He spent much time under house arrest and in filthy Roman prisons. On one occasion his enemies described him as “a real pest . . . who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world” (Acts 24:5).

All who proclaim the gospel will eventually meet with opposition because sin and falsehood have blinded people’s hearts to true peace. That’s why Paul warned us that all who desire to be godly will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). You can avoid strife by remaining silent about the Lord, but a faithful peacemaker is willing to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. Let that be true of you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for Christ, who is the solution for the world’s problem of sin and falsehood.
  • Follow Paul’s example by praying for boldness to proclaim God’s truth at every opportunity (Eph. 6:19).

For Further Study

Read Matthew 10:16-25, noting the kind of reception the disciples were to expect from unbelievers.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Risking True Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

True peace exists only where truth reigns.

People often define peace as the absence of conflict, but God sees it differently. The absence of conflict is merely a truce, which might end overt hostilities but doesn’t resolve the underlying issues. A truce simply introduces a cold war, which often drives the conflict underground, where it smolders until erupting in physical or emotional disaster.

James 3:17 says, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable.” Godly wisdom, purity, and peace go hand- in-hand. Peace is wisdom in action and is never established at the expense of righteousness. It brings righteousness to bear on the situation, seeking to eliminate the source of conflict and create right relationships. Feuding parties will know true peace only when they are willing to admit that their bitterness and hatred is wrong and humbly seek God’s grace to make things right.

Some people equate peacemaking with evading issues, but true peace can be very confrontive. In Matthew 10:34 Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” That may seem to contradict Matthew 5:9, but it doesn’t: Jesus knew that sinful people have to be confronted with the truth before they can experience peace. That can be a painful and difficult process because people usually have a hostile reaction to the gospel before they finally embrace it. Even believers will sometimes react negatively when confronted with God’s truth.

Being a biblical peacemaker has its price. You can expect to upset unbelievers who openly oppose God’s Word as well as believers who compromise its truth for the sake of maintaining “peace” among people of differing doctrinal persuasions. Some will call you narrow-minded and divisive for dealing with controversial issues. Some will misunderstand your motives or even attack you personally. But that’s been the path of every true peacemaker— including our Lord Himself. Take heart and be faithful. Your efforts to bring peace show that you are a child of God.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God for the boldness never to compromise His truth.
  • Pray for those you know who are suffering for the sake of the gospel.

For Further Study

Read Luke 12:51-53, noting how the gospel can bring division even among families.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Becoming Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

You have a part to play in becoming pure in heart.

Purifying a heart is the gracious and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, but there are some things we must do in response to His prompting. First, we must admit we can’t purify our own hearts. Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?'” The implied answer: no one!

Next, we must put our faith in Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the cross is the basis for our cleansing. Acts 15:9 says that God cleanses hearts on the basis of faith. Of course our faith must be placed in the right object. First John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Finally, we must study the Bible and pray. The psalmist said we keep our way pure by keeping it according to God’s Word, which we must treasure in our hearts (Ps. 119:9, 11). As we pray and submit to the Word, the Spirit purifies our lives.

That’s how you acquire and maintain a pure heart. As a result you “shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). That doesn’t mean you’ll see Him with physical eyes, but with spiritual ones. You begin to live in His presence and become increasingly aware of His working in your life. You recognize His power and handiwork in the beauty and intricacy of creation (Ps. 19). You discern His grace and purposes amid trials and learn to praise Him in all things. You sense His ministry through other Christians and see His sovereignty in every event of your life. Life takes on a profound and eternal meaning as you share Christ with unbelievers and see Him transform lives.

There’s no greater joy than knowing you are pure before God and that your life is honoring to Him. May that joy be yours today and may God use you in a powerful way for His glory!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord for continued grace to live a pure life so others will see Christ in you.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 6:1-8.

  • Describe Isaiah’s vision of God.
  • How did Isaiah respond to God’s presence?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Thinking Biblically

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

The way you think determines the way you behave.

God is concerned about the way you think. That’s why Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). In Philippians 4:8 he instructs us to think about that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and praiseworthy.

When Jesus spoke of a pure heart in Matthew 5:8, He was talking about sanctified thinking. The Greek word translated “heart” is kardia, from which we get the word cardiac. While we often relate heart to the emotions (e.g., “He has a broken heart”), the Bible relates it primarily to the intellect (e.g., “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders”; Matt. 15:19). That’s why you must “watch over your heart with all diligence” (Prov. 4:23).

In a secondary way, however, heart relates to the will and emotions because they are influenced by the intellect. If you are committed to something, it will affect your will, which in turn will affect your emotions.

The Greek word translated “pure” in Matthew 5:8 means “to cleanse.” In the moral sense it speaks of being free from the filth of sin. It also refers to something that is unmixed, unalloyed, or unadulterated. Spiritual integrity and sincere motives are appropriate applications of its meaning to the Christian life.

Jesus was saying the kingdom citizen is blessed because he or she has pure thoughts and pure motives that together produce holy living. Someone might say he’s religious and has pure motives, but if his behavior isn’t righteous, his heart isn’t fixed on God. Similarly, you can go to church, carry a Bible, and recite verses, but if your heart isn’t clean, you haven’t met God’s standard.

You must do the will of God from a pure heart (Eph. 6:6). Toward that end, make David’s prayer yours as well: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).

Suggestions for Prayer:

Memorize Psalm 19:14 and make it a part of your daily prayers.

For Further Study:

Read the following verses, noting the characteristics of a pure heart: Psalm 9:1, 26:2, 27:8, 28:7, and 57:7.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Being Considerate of Others’ Needs

“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’” (John 19:26).

No matter what trials we have, it is still possible to be concerned for others’ needs.

As the time for Jesus’ death grew closer, His mother’s well-being was on His heart and mind. His concern is consistent with what we have already seen in our brief study of some of Jesus’ last words on the cross—our Lord was faithful in ministry no matter what the cost.

Here the object of Jesus’ focus shifted to a small group of five friends at the foot of His cross. And out of this sympathetic band, which included the disciple John, Salome (John’s mother), Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, Christ’s attention drew especially toward His mother.

Mary, the mother of our Lord, was perhaps the neediest person of any in that cluster that stood beneath the cross. She was most likely a widow by this time; otherwise, Jesus would not have shown so much special concern for her future welfare. Mary was also seeing and feeling the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy that her soul would be pierced because of Jesus (Luke 2:34-35). Drawn to the place of her son’s execution by loving concern and sorrow, Mary stood with the others but undoubtedly felt very alone as she suffered quietly.

At that moment Jesus graciously intervened and reminded Mary that she needed to regard Him not primarily as her son but as her Savior. When Jesus called Mary “Woman,” He was using a title of respect. His intent was simply to commit Mary into John’s care.

At Calvary, Christ experienced the agony of the cross, the weight of the world’s sin, and the wrath of God the Father. Yet through all His ordeal, which is beyond our comprehension, Jesus took some moments to show compassion to others who were hurting. That’s a pattern we are to follow. We should never be so overwhelmed with our own pain and trials—and certainly not life’s routine, daily cares, and burdens—that we lose sight of others’ needs.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for Jesus’ incredible example of compassion in the midst of the most adverse circumstances.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 27:46; John 19:28; John 19:30; and Luke 23:46.

  • What additional traits do these reveal about Jesus?
  • Look for at least one example you can apply to your life.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Reaching Out to Others

“‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:43).

The circumstances are never too adverse, nor the hour too late, to offer the gospel of Christ to someone.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals (thieves)—one on each side of His cross. At first the two men both joined the onlookers in hurling unbelieving rhetoric at the Lord (Mark 15:32). But one of the thieves obviously had a change of heart as the hours elapsed. He rebuked the other thief by pointing out Jesus’ sinlessness (Luke 23:40-41) and then expressed his need of salvation: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (v. 42). And Jesus graciously answered the thief’s request.

The dying thief’s conversion is an extraordinary story. At Calvary there was nothing convincing or favorable about Jesus. From man’s vantage point He was dying because He had been completely rejected; even the disciples had deserted Him. Jesus appeared weak, disgraced, and ashamed. When the thief uttered his plea for help, no one was pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Given the circumstances, it is difficult to comprehend how Christ could be concerned with the immediate salvation of a wretched thief who was justly being executed for his crimes. But our Lord cared very much about the destiny of that man’s soul. Jesus’ desire to see sinners saved was constant, because He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). His concern for the unsaved is the supreme example and motivation to us in reaching out to others.

The thief’s salvation is also a clear illustration of the sovereignty of God in redemption. So often the church wants to attribute someone’s salvation to human cleverness in presenting a well-crafted message at just the right time and in the most appropriate place. But salvation is always the direct result of God’s intervening grace. The sovereign work of God’s Spirit, not circumstances, gave the thief a saving understanding about who Jesus was and what His death was accomplishing.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the courage to reach out with the good news of salvation no matter what the circumstances.

For Further Study

Read John 4:1-42.

  • What excuses could Jesus have used for not talking to the woman?
  • How did He keep His focus during His conversation with her?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Following Christ’s Example

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

Mercy is compassion in action.

Mercy is not a human attribute. It is God’s gift to those who seek Him. Psalm 103:11 says, “As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him” (KJV).

The verb form of “merciful” appears many times in Scripture and means “to have mercy on,” “aid the afflicted,” “give help to the wretched,” or “rescue the miserable.” In general it refers to anything you do to benefit someone in need. The noun form is used only twice: here in Matthew 5:7 and in Hebrews 2:17, which reads, “[Christ] had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” Christ Himself is both the source and illustration of mercy.

Christ modeled mercy throughout His earthly ministry. He healed the sick and enabled the crippled to walk. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute. His redeeming love embraced sinners of all kinds. He wept with those in sorrow and comforted the lonely. He embraced little children and the elderly alike. His mercy was compassion in action!

Despite His abundant mercy, Jesus received no mercy from His enemies. They hated Him without cause, accused Him falsely, beat Him, nailed Him to a cross, spat upon Him, and cursed Him. Even then He sought mercy for them, praying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Some have paraphrased Matthew 5:7 to say that if you show mercy to others, they will show mercy to you. Now that might happen in some isolated incidences, but in this jaded world that’s not often the case—as Jesus’ life clearly demonstrates. Many Christians have incurred slander, rebuke, lawsuits, and even death for their noble efforts. Jesus didn’t guarantee merciful treatment from others. His emphasis was that God shows mercy toward those who show mercy to others.

Don’t ever be reluctant to show mercy to others—even when they misunderstand or mistreat you. God will use your kindness for His glory and reward you accordingly.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise Jesus for being willing to suffer death that you might receive mercy.
  • Is there someone you might show mercy to today in some tangible way?

For Further Study

Read John 5:1-18.

  • How did Christ demonstrate mercy to the sick man?
  • How did the Jewish religious leaders react?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Being Filled with Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).

Mercy is a characteristic of true believers.

Like the other beatitudes, Matthew 5:7 contains a twofold message: to enter the kingdom you must seek mercy. Once there, you must show mercy to others.

The thought of showing mercy probably surprised Christ’s audience because both the Jews and the Romans tended to be merciless. The Romans exalted justice, courage, discipline, and power. To them mercy was a sign of weakness. For example, if a Roman father wanted his newborn child to live, he simply held his thumb up; if he wanted it to die, he held his thumb down.

Jesus repeatedly rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for their egotistical, self-righteous, and condemning attitudes. They were intolerant of anyone who failed to live by their traditions. They even withheld financial support from their own needy parents (Matt. 15:3-9).

Like the people of Jesus’ time, many people today also lack mercy. Some are outright cruel and unkind, but most are so consumed with their quest for self-gratification that they simply neglect others.

Christians, on the other hand, should be characterized by mercy. In fact, James used mercy to illustrate true faith: “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14- 17). He also said mercy is characteristic of godly wisdom: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (3:17).

As one who has received mercy from God, let mercy be the hallmark of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His great mercy.
  • Ask Him to give you opportunities to show mercy to others today.

For Further Study

Read Luke 10:25-37.

  • Who questioned Jesus and what was his motive?
  • What characteristics of mercy were demonstrated by the Samaritan traveler?
  • What challenge did Jesus give His hearer? Are you willing to meet that challenge?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Unjust Condemnation

“‘Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?’ They answered and said, ‘He is deserving of death!’” (Matthew 26:65-66).

Like many through the centuries, members of the Sanhedrin rejected Jesus Christ without fairly judging all the evidence.

Lynching is an activity we don’t hear much about today. But during earlier generations, the heinous crime occurred quite regularly. Innocent people, or those merely presumed guilty (prior to any trial), were tortured and killed, usually by angry, hateful mobs. Often the person lynched was a victim of racial or political prejudice or some other irrational fear held by the perpetrators.

The members of the Sanhedrin certainly held blind prejudices against Jesus. No amount of evidence would open their eyes to the truth of who He was. Those unbelieving leaders of Israel discounted Jesus’ claims to deity long before they placed Him on trial. He had even pleaded with them, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10:37-38).

In today’s passage the high priest Caiaphas reacts forcefully to Jesus’ agreement that He is God’s Son and the Messiah (see Matt. 26:64). Caiaphas’s mind was made up; he was convinced that Jesus had blasphemed, and he was determined to rush forward with this “evidence” to condemn Jesus to death. Caiaphas and the Council could barely wait to render a verdict. The high priest asked for their opinion on Jesus’ guilt, and immediately the Council members asserted, “He is deserving of death!”

The irony of the Jewish leaders’ condemnation of Jesus was their blind insistence that He was a blasphemer when in reality they were the blasphemers for their rejection of the Lord and His message. Even more sobering is that every person who has ever finally rejected Christ is also guilty of blasphemy and will suffer the same fate as the chief priests and elders: “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for someone you know who has been closed to the gospel. Ask God to open his or her heart and grant him or her repentance.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 3—4. What spiritual attitude do these chapters warn of? What Old Testament parallel does the writer make?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Taking up the Sword in Vain

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword’” (Matthew 26:52).

It is wrong to violently take justice into our own hands, even to defend or promote the name of Christ.

The Body of Christ does not grow and strengthen itself by physical warfare. Every time it has endeavored to do so, the name and cause of Jesus Christ have been harmed. Such wars as the Crusades in the Holy Land or later religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe served no scriptural purpose. As Jesus taught many times, and as Paul reiterated to the Corinthians, “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:4).

Peter, in his usual headstrong fashion, had not yet understood this principle the night of Jesus’ arrest. That’s when Peter used his sword and cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s prominent slaves. But the impulsive disciple’s reaction was all wrong. Peter no doubt took Christ’s earlier statement, “Let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one” (Luke 22:36) much too literally. Our Lord was actually speaking of preparedness for spiritual, not physical, warfare.

Jesus therefore had to instruct Peter to put away his weapon. In effect, He was saying, “Peter, no matter how unjust My arrest is, you must not respond with vigilante action. If you do that and kill someone else, your own life will justly be forfeited as punishment.”

Christ’s power has been demonstrated many times—in person to Peter and through Scripture to us. It is incredible that any of us should think He needs the puny help of a sword, a gun, or any other human device. Christ’s battles are won in the strength of His sovereign power alone, as He pointed out to Peter: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions [72,000] of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God’s forgiveness for times when you’ve been too quick to seek your own justice during arguments or conflicts.

For Further Study

Read 2 Kings 19:14-37.

  • How did King Hezekiah respond when God’s people and land were threatened?
  • How did the prophet Isaiah support Hezekiah’s actions?
  • How did God finally respond to the Assyrians’ threat?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Controlling Yourself

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

Gentleness is power under control.

The Greek word translated “gentle” in Matthew 5:5 speaks of humility, meekness, and non-retaliation—traits that in our proud society are often equated with weakness or cowardice. But in reality they are virtues that identify kingdom citizens.

The same word was used by the Greeks to describe a gentle breeze, a soothing medicine, or a domesticated colt. Those are examples of power under control: a gentle breeze brings pleasure, but a hurricane brings destruction; a soothing medicine brings healing, but an overdose can kill; a domesticated colt is useful, but a wild horse is dangerous.

Christ Himself is the epitome of gentleness. Even when officially announcing His messiahship to Jerusalem, He humbly entered the city astride a donkey (Matt. 21:5). His behavior amid persecution was exemplary: “Christ . . . suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats” (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Despite His humility and restraint, Jesus wasn’t weak or cowardly. He never defended Himself, but when His Father’s house was being desecrated, He made a whip and beat those who were defiling it (John 2:13-16; Matt. 21:12-13). He never shirked from pronouncing judgment on unrepentant sinners, and never compromised His integrity or disobeyed His Father’s will.

The hypocritical Jewish religious leaders expected that when Israel’s Messiah came He would commend them for their wonderful spirituality. Instead, Jesus condemned them and called them children of the devil (John 8:44). In retaliation they had Him murdered. His power was always under control; theirs wasn’t.

Our society has little use for gentleness. The macho, do-your-own-thing mentality characterizes most of our heroes. But you are called to a higher standard. When you pattern your life after Jesus, you will have a significant impact on society and will know true happiness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the virtue of gentleness, which He is producing in you by the power of His Spirit. Follow Christ’s example today so that gentleness will mark your character.

For Further Study

Read the following passages, noting the responsibilities and blessings that accompany self-restraint: Proverbs 16:32, Ephesians 4:1-2, Colossians 3:12, and Titus 3:1-2.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Maintaining Spiritual Sensitivity

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

Sin is a serious issue with God. He never winks at it or takes it lightly.

Satan desires to desensitize Christians to the heinousness of sin. He wants you to stop mourning over sin and start enjoying it. Impossible? Many who once thought so have fallen prey to its power. It usually doesn’t happen all at once. In fact, the process can be slow and subtle— almost imperceptible. But the results are always tragic.

How can you remain alert to the dangers of sin and protect yourself from compromise? First, be aware of your sin. David said, “My sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). Peter said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Those men shared a common awareness of their own sinfulness and it drove them to God for forgiveness and cleansing.

Second, remember the significance of the cross. If you allow a pattern of sin to develop in your life, you’ve forgotten the enormous price Christ paid to free you from its bondage.

Third, realize the effect sin has on others. The psalmist said, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy law” (Ps. 119:136). Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). Your heart should ache for those enslaved to sin.

Finally, eliminate anything that hinders your sensitivity to sin, such as deliberately sinning, rejecting God’s forgiveness, being proud, presuming on God’s grace, or taking sin lightly. Such things will quickly dull your spiritual senses and give Satan the opportunity to lead you into greater sin.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He brings comfort and happiness to those who mourn over their sin.
  • Ask Him to guard your heart from anything that will diminish your sensitivity to the awfulness of sin.

For Further Study

Read 1 Samuel 15.

  • What was Saul’s sin?
  • Did he mourn over his sin? Explain.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Jesus’ Admonition in Gethsemane

“He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:40-41).

The need for spiritual vigilance by Christians is constant, but it can’t be achieved in the power of the flesh.

Jesus must have been terribly disappointed in the Garden of Gethsemane when He found the three disciples sleeping. As He labored diligently in prayer before the Father, Peter, James, and John began their desertion of Jesus. They could not even stay awake and offer Him support during His time of greatest need.

Given all that was happening, the Lord’s question, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” was not a harsh rebuke. In the spirit of a mentor, Jesus exhorted the three about their need for divine help: “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation.”

The phrase “keep watching and praying” indicates that all believers must have vigilance. Jesus wants all of us to anticipate temptation and seek God’s help to resist the adversary, just as He did during His vigilant prayer in the Garden.

Our own best efforts to overcome Satan will certainly fail. The only way to deal with the Devil is to flee immediately from him into God’s presence and prayerfully leave matters with Him.

But even when we know and seek to practice what Jesus told the disciples, it is often difficult to do what is right. Jesus saw His three dearest friends’ reaction and was in the midst of His own spiritual struggle, so He acknowledged, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The apostle Paul also knew the spiritual battle was real and very difficult (Rom. 7:15-23). But Paul was confident, too, that the only source of victory in our most intimidating spiritual challenges is obedience to the power of Jesus Christ: “Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vv. 24-25).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord’s forgiveness for any recent times when you have failed to be alert and diligent when praying.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 5:6-11.

  • What is the first key to spiritual success?
  • Why must we be alert for Satan?
  • What makes faithfulness in suffering worthwhile?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Dealing with Sorrow

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

Human sorrow is a natural and healthy emotion, but beware of mourning over unfulfilled sinful desires.

Most people in our society have an amusement-park mentality. They spend much of their time and money on entertainment, wanting to enjoy life and avoid problems whenever possible. To them, Matthew 5:4 is a paradox. How can someone who mourns be happy? The answer lies in the difference between godly sorrow and human sorrow. Godly sorrow is sorrow over sin; human sorrow is sorrow over some tragic or disappointing turn of events (2 Cor. 7:8-11).

In Matthew 5:4 Jesus is referring to godly sorrow, which is our topic for tomorrow. But we all face human sorrow, so I want to discuss it briefly today.

Human sorrow is a natural emotion. Our Lord Himself was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Many things can cause it: we might mourn out of love, disappointment, loneliness, or physical illness. There is nothing wrong with that kind of mourning. It is a God- given relief valve for the pain and sorrow in this fallen world, and promotes the healing process.

Scripture gives many examples of human sorrow. Abraham wept when his wife, Sarah, died (Gen. 23:2). Through tears Jeremiah preached God’s message of judgment (Jer. 9:1). Paul expressed his concern for the church with his tears (Acts 20:31). Those are natural, healthy expressions of human sorrow.

However, sorrow can also be caused by evil desires or a lack of trust in God. King Ahab mourned to the point of sulking and not eating when he couldn’t have another man’s property (1 Kings 21:4). Some Christians mourn excessively when they lose a loved one. Forsaking the comfort of the Spirit, they focus only on their own grief. Extreme or prolonged manifestations of sorrow are sinful and must be confessed rather than comforted.

God is gracious to His children amid times of human sorrow. Ultimately He will do away with mourning and pain forever (Rev. 21:4). Rejoice in that promise and be comforted by His wonderful grace!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the ministry of the Spirit, who is the great Comforter or Helper (John 14:16-17). When sorrow occurs, lean on the Spirit, feed your soul on God’s Word, and commune with Him in prayer.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 55. How did David express his desire to escape his difficult situation? What was his final resolve?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Peter’s Impulsive Self-Confidence

“Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away’” (Matthew 26:33).

Prior to Jesus’ death, Peter’s trust in himself rather than God distorted his judgment concerning loyalty to Jesus.

Like a self-willed child, Peter often heard and believed only what he wanted to. He failed to grasp the Lord’s warning that his faith would be severely tested. At the Last Supper Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). But Peter was unfazed by these words. Instead, he boasted, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” (v. 33).

Christ in His divine wisdom knew that Peter’s claim would not hold true. Therefore, He went further and soberly predicted during the Supper that Peter would soon not only desert His Lord but also deny Him three times. Now in Matthew 26, following Peter’s latest outburst of overconfidence, Jesus is constrained to repeat His prediction. Amazingly, Peter did not believe the thrust of Jesus’ words. He would rather fool himself and believe that Jesus was mistaken about his faithfulness and loyalty.

In reality, Peter’s pride deceptively told him it was impossible for him to deny the Lord. It also deceived him by filling him with a sense of superiority over others and a supreme confidence in his own strength.

Like Peter, we often display our pride and ignorance when we brashly claim great self-confidence about something that turns out just the opposite a short time later. For example, we might presumptuously assert to Christian friends that we always maintain our testimony, no matter what the situation. Then, to our shame, the very next week we lie, cheat, or shade the truth to get ourselves out of a difficult circumstance.

But what a reassurance to know that Jesus was willing to die for proud, thoughtless disciples such as Peter and careless followers such as us. Furthermore, our Lord is constantly in the business of forgiving and restoring those who stumble: “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that today and every day God would make you more confident in His grace and power and less reliant on your own wisdom.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 16:13-28. What important principle in verses 24-26 can help you avoid Peter’s impulsive mistakes?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Cultivating Beatitude Attitudes

“When [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.  And opening His mouth He began to teach them” (Matt. 5:1-2).

Only Christians know true happiness because they know Christ, who is its source.

Jesus’ earthly ministry included teaching, preaching, and healing. Wherever He went He generated great excitement and controversy. Usually great multitudes of people followed Him as He moved throughout the regions of Judea and Galilee. Thousands came for healing, many came to mock and scorn, and some came in search of truth.

On one such occasion Jesus delivered His first recorded message: the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). In it He proclaimed a standard of living diametrically opposed to the standards of His day—and ours. Boldly denouncing the ritualistic, hypocritical practices of the Jewish religious leaders, He taught that true religion is a matter of the heart or mind. People will behave as their hearts dictate (Luke 6:45), so the key to transformed behavior is transformed thinking.

At the beginning of His sermon Jesus presented the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12): a list of the godly attitudes that mark a true believer and insure true happiness. The Greek word translated “blessed” in those verses speaks of happiness and contentment. The rest of the sermon discusses the lifestyle that produces it.

Jesus taught that happiness is much more than favorable circumstances and pleasant emotions. In fact, it doesn’t necessarily depend on circumstances at all. It is built on the indwelling character of God Himself. As your life manifests the virtues of humility, sorrow over sin, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and peace, you will experience happiness that even severe persecution can’t destroy.

As we study the Beatitudes, I pray you will be more and more conformed to the attitudes they portray and that you will experience true happiness in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to minister to you through our daily studies. Be prepared to make any attitude changes that He might prompt.

For Further Study

Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).

  • What issues did Christ address?
  • How did His hearers react to His teaching? How do you?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Applying the Disciples’ Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read John 17, noting the priorities Jesus stressed in prayer.

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