January 4, 2010

Our Constant Friend 2 TIMOTHY 4:16-18

Many of us have experienced times of abandonment just when we needed that other person the most. It could have been a spouse withdrawing emotionally, a co-worker who ignored us, or a close friend who seemed too busy to help. The life of the apostle Paul teaches us how not to become discouraged in these situations.

Remember that the Lord is always with us. When we trust in Jesus as our personal Savior, we enter into a permanent relationship with Him, and His Spirit comes to live in us. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus remains with us at all times, regardless of the circumstance. He is our friend—one who will never leave us. And His is the most important friendship we have. Reading our Bible will help us to remember this.

Draw on God’s strength. Through the Holy Spirit, we have access to divine power every minute of the day. When we let go of control and depend on the Lord, we will be able to draw on His strength. Then, if family or friends cause hurt, His presence will provide comfort and help us to forgive them.

Look expectantly for God’s deliverance. Paul testified that the Lord had rescued him and would continue to deliver him from every evil situation. He knew he could always trust God.

Paul faced many painful situations without the support of friends. Toward the end of his life, those who cared about him were widely scattered. Yet his attitude remained hopeful because Christ was his constant Friend. Do you know the Savior? Are you aware of His presence throughout your day?

January 2

A Lifetime of Second Chances ROMANS 5:1-6

Paul used a beautiful phrase to describe the believer’s position in Christ: “We have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand . . . ” (Rom. 5:2, emphasis added). This is no puddle of mercy that barely wets the toes, but rather a mighty ocean. The Lord’s kindness wraps around us without regard for our worth or merit.

God’s grace is an essential concept for believers to understand. He freely offers His favor to mankind because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross purchased forgiveness and salvation for anyone who believes. However, many people think they are enjoying God’s kindness when what they are really trying to do is earn it. If we have to purchase, merit, or work for grace, then it is not a gift. The Lord is very clear that works cannot save us—in fact, He compares our good deeds to filthy rags (Eph. 2:8-9; Isa. 64:6).

On the other hand, grace is not a license to sin or to be lazy; Christians are called upon to serve the Lord every day. From the outside, it is usually impossible to distinguish between works and service in someone else’s life. But God knows the heart’s motivation. He accepts for His glory those things we do to show Him our love and to express appreciation for His countless blessings.

Dear Friend, serving God in order to earn His favor or to ensure that He continues to bless you amounts to thwarting grace. You can do nothing to deserve the Lord’s kindness! He pours it upon believers freely so that each one is standing in a full measure of grace.

January 1 – Happy New Year

Romans 3:10-18

Our loving Father is the God of second chances. His grace is so extensive that He offers countless opportunities to hear the gospel and receive Jesus Christ as Savior. Moreover, He reaches into the muck of sinful nature, rebellious spirits, perverse minds, and unclean tongues to save His beloved creation.

If you think that the Lord takes second chances lightly, read today’s passage carefully—it is a look at humanity through divine eyes. On our own, no matter how much we try to be good, we are foolish, useless, and evil. Thankfully, God’s grace is immeasurably greater than our sin.

Of course, the heavenly Father is a righteous judge who cannot ignore a person’s transgressions. If He did, He would not be the holy and just Deity described in the Scriptures. While humanity might count that kind of passivity as kindness, the Lord considers grace an action word. As a result, He implemented a simple rescue plan for each person on earth: Whoever believes in Jesus Christ as Savior is forgiven. We are justified by faith and at peace with God (Rom. 5:1). The rebellious war we carried out against Him is over. Sins are washed off our heart. In fact, from God’s perspective, His children look as if they have never done wrong.

Jesus is our second chance. Apart from Him, there is no salvation, no justification, and no grace. Look again at the passage from Romans 3. People cannot clean up their own hearts—each man or woman must take advantage of the purity Christ purchased with His sacrifice on the cross.

December 31 – Daily Devotion

Acts 8:26-40 – Christians have adopted a narrow definition of the word testimony. But sharing Jesus is much more than telling our conversion story or talking about God’s work in our life, although those things are important. We need to be prepared to meet unbelievers at the point of their spiritual need, even if our own story is very different. We can learn a lot from Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. While young Israelites had friends and family to disciple them in their faith, a foreign convert often had to work alone to discern the meaning of complex Scriptures. So by asking, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip showed that he understood the Ethiopian’s disadvantage. That one question enabled him to discover that the man had a genuine thirst for God’s truth but did not know of the Messiah. Philip used that information to tailor a gospel testimony for his particular listener. Consider how easily the Ethiopian could have become confused or frustrated if Philip—whose Jewish background was so different from the foreigner’s—had told only his own conversion story. The evangelist wisely avoided any extraneous information and instead used the power of God’s Word to introduce the man to Jesus Christ. Philip’s testimony began with the passage the Ethiopian was reading. He effectively spoke to the man’s spiritual interest in general while specifically answering his questions about Isaiah 53. We, too, must be sensitive to unbelievers’ concerns so we can explain how God will meet their needs.

December 30th Daily Devotion

Our Testimony – Acts 6:1-6

A testimony is one person’s profession of faith in Jesus Christ. However, our declaration of belief is much more than the story we tell. A good witness for the Lord consists of three parts: character, conduct, and conversation.

As Christians, we rightly place great emphasis on crafting a solid personal account of the Lord’s work in our life. We also talk about the ways that we can “be Jesus Christ” to our friends, family, and co-workers through our actions. But character is the part of every believer’s testimony that underlies both Christ-like behavior and a good life story.

In general, what we do and say represents the kind of person that we are on the inside. We can tell a lot about Philip’s character by noticing his actions and words. From among many believers, Philip was chosen as one who was wise and full of the Spirit. But he wasn’t selected for a great ministry position—he was sent to serve food.

Philip went willingly to do this menial work and every other job the Lord gave him, which shows his obedient spirit (Acts 6:5; 8:5, 26). We can be certain that he was a sincere and trustworthy man, because when he spoke, people listened (Acts 8:6). Philip’s testimony shines forth in every way.

You can’t trick God into thinking your character is righteous if it isn’t. Nor can you fake moral conduct or conversation with people for very long. Sooner or later, a proud, bitter, or unkind spirit yields behavior and speech contrary to the Christian message. But godly character produces real spiritual fruit.

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