Tag Archives: Drawing Near

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Integrity Is a Powerful Witness

“Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!’ Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them” (Daniel 3:26-27).

A righteous life attracts people to God.

When Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven” (Matt. 5:16; compare v. 14), He was teaching that what we believe as Christians must be evident in the way we live. When it is, others will be drawn to God and honor Him.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were powerful witnesses for God because they lived according to their convictions. Nebuchadnezzar had done everything he could to intimidate them into compromise, and when that failed he called for their death. But God’s protection of them was so thorough that the intense flames didn’t even singe their hair or scorch their clothing. In fact, they emerged from the furnace without so much as the smell of smoke on them.

So powerful was the integrity of these young men and the hand of God upon their lives that within just a few short verses Nebuchadnezzar went from defying God to exulting Him as “the Most High God.” That phrase doesn’t mean he had abandoned his traditional worship of many gods (apparently that comes in Daniel 4), but he was placing the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego at the top of the list.

So it is when your life impacts others for Christ. They may not yet fully believe, but God uses your faithfulness as a foundation for His future work in their lives.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to use you to witness to someone today.

For Further Study

We have seen the impact of a consistently godly life, but according to Romans 2:17-24, what is the impact of a hypocritical life?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Integrity Incurs the World’s Wrath

“Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire” (Daniel 3:19-20).

Persecution is the world’s futile attempt to silence the voice of godly integrity.

King Nebuchadnezzar was a brilliant and powerful man who had built an enormous empire by bringing entire nations under his control. Yet when three youths refused to compromise their devotion to God, he lost rational control and flew into such an intense rage that his face became visibly distorted.

Wanting to vent his wrath upon Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. You might expect him to have turned the fire down, thereby punishing them more severely by prolonging their pain. But the king was reacting emotionally, not logically, which often is the case when sinful people are confronted by righteousness.

We see the same pattern throughout Scripture. For example, King Herod’s wife hated John the Baptist and had him beheaded for confronting her sinful marriage to the king (Mark 6:19 ff.). Those who couldn’t cope with the wisdom and spirit of Stephen stirred up the Jews against him, which eventually led to his death by stoning (Acts 6:9 ff.). The Old Testament prophets and the Lord Himself were killed by those who were hostile to God. Similarly, the Thessalonian and Judean Christians endured angry persecution from their own countrymen (1 Thess. 2:14-15).

The opposition we face today may be more subtle, but it all has its source in Satan, who “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). So don’t be surprised if subtle opposition suddenly erupts into murderous wrath. But be encouraged, knowing that even when it does, it can never thwart God’s plans or overcome His sustaining grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for boldness to speak the truth in love and never to fear the world’s reaction.

For Further Study

Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10.

  • Why does God allow Christians to suffer persecution?
  • When and how will God deal with those who persecute His children?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Integrity Walks in Humility

“Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you will not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?’” (Daniel 3:13-15).

God humbles the proud but gives grace to the humble.

When King Nebuchadnezzar asked Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego “What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” he showed the extent to which a person can be blinded by sinful pride and arrogance. It is sheer folly to pit one’s power against God’s, but that’s precisely what he did.

Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude reflects that of Satan himself, who boasted that he would ascend into Heaven and make himself like the Most High God (Isa. 14:13-14). God is quick to correct such foolish notions. Later in his life Nebuchadnezzar learned that “everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished” (Prov. 16:5). After being severely chastened by God, the king came to his senses and proclaimed, “I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Dan. 4:37).

Although they may not be as openly defiant as Nebuchadnezzar was, everyone who willfully disobeys God’s Word is following his example by exalting their own will over God’s and challenging His authority in their lives.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to keep you humble and to forgive any subtle pride you may be harboring in your heart.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 31:23-24 and James 4:13-16.

  • How does the psalmist encourage the humble?
  • What is James’s caution to those who live as if they are not accountable to God?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Integrity Endures Criticism

 “For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. . . . ‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up’” (Daniel 3:8-12).

Expect spiritual opposition.

Have you noticed that whenever you take a public stand for righteousness you feel the reaction of the world more strongly? Even something as noble as doing your work with integrity and diligence can bring ridicule, rejection, or even open hostility. But that shouldn’t surprise you.
Jesus said, “‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). The apostle Paul warns that “indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were well-acquainted with spiritual opposition, and in today’s passage they are targets of envious Chaldeans who want to see them put to death. The accusations brought against them were not entirely true because they had not disregarded the king. On the contrary, they were model citizens and exemplary leaders. They had attended the king’s ceremony and fulfilled all their other civil duties insofar as those duties did not violate their responsibility to God.

Their accusers weren’t motivated by loyalty to the king or by their personal allegiance to his religious views. They were jealous and resentful because they hated having Jewish captives ruling over them (see Dan. 2:49).

Sometimes Christians today will do their work excellently and be promoted over their peers, only to incur the displeasure of jealous workmates who criticize or bring false and discrediting accusations against them. If ever you are in that situation, you need to be especially diligent to do your work as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23), to guard your own attitude, and to let the Lord be your defender.

Suggestions for Prayer

In obedience to the Lord, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

For Further Study

Read Daniel 6.

  • What parallels do you see between Daniel’s situation and our current passage?
  • How did God prove Himself faithful in each?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Speaking from a Pure Heart

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

Your speech reveals the condition of your heart.

In verse 22 James talked about the delusion of hearing the Word without obeying it. Here he talks about the deception of external religious activity without internal purity of heart.

That’s a common deception. Many people confuse love of religious activity with love for God. They may go through the mechanics of reading the Bible, attending church, praying, giving money, or singing songs, but in reality their hearts are far from God. That kind of deception can be very subtle. That’s why James disregards mere claims to Christianity and confronts our motives and obedience to the Word. Those are the acid tests!

James was selective in the word he used for “religious.” Rather than using the common Greek word that speaks of internal godliness, he chose a word that refers to external religious trappings, ceremonies, and rituals— things that are useless for true spirituality.

He focuses on the tongue as a test of true religion because the tongue is a window to the heart. As Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34). Corrupt speech betrays an unregenerate heart; righteous speech demonstrates a transformed heart. It doesn’t matter how evangelical or biblical your theology is, if you can’t control your tongue, your religion is useless!

You can learn much about a person’s character if you listen long enough to what he says. In the same way, others learn much about you as they listen to what you say. Do your words reveal a pure heart? Remember Paul’s admonition to “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Make that your goal each day so you can know the blessing and grace of disciplined speech!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to guard your tongue from speaking anything that might dishonor Him. Be aware of everything you say.

For Further Study

Read James 3:1-12.

  • What warning does James give?
  • What analogies does he use for the tongue?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Integrity Triumphs over Adversity

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god” (Daniel 1:1-2).

Integrity shines brightest against the backdrop of adversity.

Our passage today tells of the tragic time in Israel’s history when God chastened her severely by allowing King Nebuchadnezzar and the wicked nation of Babylon to march against her and take her captive. God never coddles His people, nor does He wink at their sin. Israel’s chastening illustrates the principle that “judgment [begins] with the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). But as severe as His discipline can be, it is always aimed at producing greater righteousness and godly integrity in His children (Heb. 12:5-11).

The Babylonian captivity set the stage for a truly uncommon display of integrity from Daniel and his three Hebrew friends. In the days ahead we will examine their character in some depth. For now, however, be encouraged that adversity of any kind—even chastening for sin—is God’s way of providing the rich soil for nourishing and strengthening the spiritual fruit of integrity. Without the adversities of Babylon, Daniel’s integrity and that of his friends would not have shone as brightly as it did and would not have had the significant impact it had on King Nebuchadnezzar and his entire kingdom.

Perhaps you are currently experiencing adversities that are especially challenging, and you may not yet understand what God is accomplishing through them. But like Daniel and his friends, you can pray for the wisdom to understand His will and the faith to trust Him through the process. And you can be assured He will never fail you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Each day your integrity is tested in many ways. Ask the Lord to help you be aware of those times and to make choices that honor Him.

For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 9:3-5.

  • What kind of integrity did God require of Solomon?
  • What promises did He make if Solomon obeyed?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Integrity Means No Compromise!

“O Lord, who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:1-2).

To love Christ and to be characterized by ever-increasing fidelity to biblical truth is the heart of true integrity.

Christian integrity has been defined as the absence of compromise and the presence of biblical convictions. In the words of the psalmist, it is to work righteousness and to speak truth from the heart (Ps. 15:2).

Many people in Scripture demonstrate exemplary integrity. For example, Jesus spoke of Nathanael as an Israelite “in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). To be without guile is to be truthful and unpretentious, which is another way of saying Nathanael had integrity. What a wonderful commendation!

Like Nathanael, Daniel was a man of uncompromising integrity, and in our studies this month Daniel’s example will demonstrate the power, characteristics, and blessings of biblical integrity. You will also see how God uses even the most difficult circumstances to test and refine your integrity.

This is an especially timely topic for our day because the spirit of compromise is flourishing all around us: in politics, in sports, in business, and sadly, even in the church. But Scripture calls us to an uncompromising standard that reflects the integrity of Christ Himself. As the Apostle John said, “The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

This month you will see some of the challenges that await those who refuse to compromise their biblical convictions, as well as the blessings that come to them. As you do, I pray that the Lord will strengthen and encourage you, and that you will be one who truly “walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Make King David’s prayer yours today: “Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in Thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for Thee” (Psalm 25:20-21).

For Further Study

Read Daniel 1, 3, and 6 in preparation for our studies this month. Make a list of the character traits you see in Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego that are worthy of imitation.

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Our Ultimate Example

“And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).

Jesus Christ, as the sinless sufferer, is the only model we need as we endure life’s trials.

Prior to his death in 1555, the English Reformer and martyr Hugh Latimer expressed his convictions this way: “Die once we must; how and where, we know not. . . . Here is not our home; let us therefore accordingly consider things, having always before our eyes that heavenly Jerusalem, and the way thereto in persecution.” Latimer knew much about how to face suffering, but he knew that Jesus Himself was the final model regarding how to deal with suffering and death.

That model is summarized in today’s verse, which is a quote from the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53. All the horrible physical and verbal abuse Christ endured just prior to the cross, along with the evil tearing down of His perfectly virtuous character, was unjustified, and yet He did not strike back. As the Son of God, Jesus had perfect control of His feelings and powers.

Jesus found the strength to endure such an abusive final trial when He “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Literally, Jesus kept handing Himself and all His circumstances, climaxing with His death on Calvary (Luke 23:46), over to the Father. The Son had complete trust in God, the just and fair Judge of the entire earth (see Gen. 18:25).

We can follow His example and endure persecution and unjust suffering without answering back, whether it be in the workplace, among relatives, or in any social setting. The key is simply entrusting our lives, by faith, to a righteous God who will make everything right and bring us safely into His glory (1 Peter 5:6-10).

Stephen and Paul are notable role models for how we can triumph over life’s persecutions and hardships, even death. But those great men were themselves merely “fixing [their] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2). We must do the same.

Suggestions for Prayer

As you daily experience life’s normal difficulties and challenges, ask God to help you better remember the perfect example Jesus set in facing the worst of pain and suffering.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 1:1-2 and 4:14-16.

  • Compare and contrast what these passages tell us about Christ’s deity and humanity.
  • What do they reveal about the superiority of His example?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Learning from Judas (Judas Iscariot)

The twelve apostles included “Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:4).

God can use even an apostate like Judas to teach us some important lessons.

Judas is history’s greatest human tragedy. He had opportunities and privileges known only to the other disciples, but he turned from them to pursue a course of destruction. Yet even from his foolishness we can learn some important lessons.

Judas, for example, is the world’s greatest example of lost opportunity. He ministered for three years with Jesus Himself but was content merely to associate with Him, never submitting to Him in saving faith. Millions of others have followed his example by hearing the gospel and associating with Christians, yet rejecting Christ. Tragically, like Judas, once death comes they too are damned for all eternity.

Judas is also the world’s greatest example of wasted privileges. He could have had the riches of an eternal inheritance but instead chose thirty pieces of silver. In that respect he is also the greatest illustration of the destructiveness and damnation greed can bring. He did an unthinkable thing, yet he has many contemporary counterparts in those who place wealth and pleasure above godliness.

On the positive side, Judas is the world’s greatest illustration of the forbearing, patient love of God. Knowing what Judas would do, Jesus tolerated him for three years. Beyond that, He constantly reached out to him and even called him “friend” after his kiss of betrayal (Matt. 26:50).

If you’ve ever been betrayed by a friend, you know the pain it can bring. But the Lord’s pain was compounded many times over because He knew He would be betrayed and because the consequences were so serious. Yet He endured the pain because He loved Judas and knew that His own betrayal was a necessary part of the redemptive plan.

The sins that destroyed Judas are common sins that you must avoid at all costs! Use every opportunity and privilege God gives you, and never take advantage of His patience.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank Jesus for the pain he endured at the hands of Judas.
  • Pray that you will never cause Him such pain.

For Further Study

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-19.

  • What perils await those who desire wealth?
  • Rather than pursuing wealth, what should you pursue?
  • What attitude should wealthy people have toward their money?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Overcoming Pessimism (Philip)

The twelve apostles included “Philip” (Matt. 10:3).

Pessimism will blind you to the sufficiency of God’s resources.

It’s been said that an optimist sees a glass half full; a pessimist sees it half empty. An optimist sees opportunities; a pessimist sees obstacles. In one sense Philip was an optimist. He recognized Jesus as the Messiah and immediately saw an opportunity to share his discovery with Nathanael. In another sense, Philip was a pessimist because on occasions he failed to see what Christ could accomplish despite the apparent obstacles.

On one such occasion Jesus had just finished teaching and healing a crowd of thousands of people. Night was falling and the people were beginning to get hungry. Apparently Philip was responsible for the food, so Jesus asked him, “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:5). Philip said, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little” (v. 7). In other words, “We don’t have enough resources in our whole savings account to buy enough food for a group this size!” Philip’s calculating, pragmatic, pessimistic mind could reach only one conclusion: this is an utter impossibility.

Jesus knew all along how He was going to solve the problem, but He wanted to test Philip’s faith (v. 6). Philip should have passed the test because he had already seen Jesus create wine from water at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Despite Philip’s failure, Jesus didn’t give up on him. Instead, from five barley loaves and two fish He created enough food to feed the entire crowd, thus replacing Philip’s pessimism with a reaffirmation of divine sufficiency.

There’s a little of Philip in each of us. We’ve experienced God’s saving power and have seen Him answer prayer, yet there are times when we let pessimism rob us of the joy of seeing Him work through obstacles in our lives. Don’t let that happen to you. Keep your eyes on Christ and trust in His sufficiency. He will never fail you!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Ephesians 3:20-21. Recite it often as a hymn of praise and an affirmation of your faith in God.

For Further Study

Read Numbers 13 and 14.

  • What kind of report did the pessimistic spies bring back from the Promised Land?
  • How did the people react to their report?
  • How did God react to their report?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Building a Leader: The Right Lessons (Peter)

The twelve apostles included “Simon, who is called Peter” (Matt. 10:2).

Peter learned five lessons that every believer must also learn.

We have seen that God uses our experiences to mold us into more effective Christians and leaders. Using Peter as our example, let’s briefly look at five lessons we can learn from our experiences: submission, restraint, humility, sacrifice, and love.

Leaders tend to be confident and aggressive, so they must learn to submit to authority. Jesus illustrated that by telling Peter to go fishing and look for a coin in the mouth of the first fish he caught (Matt. 17:24-27). He was to use that coin to pay their taxes. Peter was a citizen of God’s Kingdom, but he needed an object lesson in submitting to governmental authorities.

When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter grabbed a sword and would have fought the entire group if Jesus hadn’t restrained him. Peter needed to learn to entrust His life to the Father, just as Christ was doing.

Peter bragged that he would never leave or forsake Christ—but he did. Perhaps humility was the most painful lesson he had to learn.

Jesus told Peter that he would die as a martyr (John 21:18-19). From that day forward Peter knew his life was on the line, yet he was willing to make the necessary sacrifice and minister anyway.

Leaders tend to be task oriented and often are insensitive to people. Peter was that way, so Jesus demonstrated love by washing his feet and instructing him to do loving deeds for others (John 13:6-934).

Submission, restraint, humility, sacrifice, and love should be characteristic of every believer—no matter what role he or she has within the Body of Christ. I pray they are characteristic of your life, and that you will constantly seek to grow in those graces as God continues His work in you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Spiritual lessons are sometimes painful to learn, but God is patient and gracious. Thank Him for His patience and thank Him also for Christ, who is the perfect example of what we should be.

For Further Study

Peter learned his lesson well. Read 1 Peter 2:13-1821-234:816; and 5:5. What can you learn from Peter’s instructions on submission, restraint, love, sacrifice, and humility?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Gaining Spiritual Stability (Peter)

The twelve apostles included “Simon, who is called Peter” (Matt. 10:2).

Jesus can make an impulsive and vacillating Christian as stable as a rock.

The first disciple Matthew’s gospel names is “Simon, who is called Peter” (Matt. 10:2). He was a fisherman by trade but Jesus called him to be a fisher of men. John 1:40-42 records their first encounter: “One of the two who heard John [the Baptist] speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon, and . . . brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’ (which translated means Peter).”

“Peter” means “stone.” “Cephas” is its Aramaic equivalent. By nature Simon tended to be impulsive and vacillating. Apparently Jesus named him Peter as a reminder of his future role in the church, which would require spiritual strength and stability. Whenever Peter acted like a man of strength, Jesus called him by his new name. When he sinned, Jesus called him by his old name (e.g., John 21:15-17). In the gospel of John, Peter is called “Simon Peter” seventeen times. Perhaps John knew Peter so well he realized he was always drifting somewhere between sinful Simon and spiritual Peter.

For the next few days we will see how Jesus worked with Peter to transform him into a true spiritual rock. It was an amazing transformation, but not unlike what He desires to do in every believer’s life.

You might not have the same personality as Peter, but the Lord wants you to be a spiritual rock just the same. Peter himself wrote, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). That occurs as you “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Make that your continual aim.

Suggestions for Prayer

List the areas of your Christian walk that are inconsistent or vacillating. Make them a matter of earnest prayer, asking God for wisdom and grace as you begin to strengthen them.

For Further Study

First Peter was written to Christians in danger of severe persecution. Read that epistle, noting the keys to spiritual stability that Peter gives.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Priority of Spiritual Unity

“The names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:2-4).

Unity in the Spirit is the key to a church’s overall effectiveness.

Unity is a crucial element in the life of the church—especially among its leadership. A unified church can accomplish great things for Christ, but disunity can cripple or destroy it. Even the most orthodox churches aren’t immune to disunity’s subtle attack because it often arises from personality clashes or pride rather than doctrinal issues.

God often brings together in congregations and ministry teams people of vastly different backgrounds and temperaments. That mix produces a variety of skills and ministries but it also produces the potential for disunity and strife. That was certainly true of the disciples, which included an impetuous fisherman like Peter; two passionate and ambitious “sons of thunder” like James and John; an analytical, pragmatic, and pessimistic man like Philip; a racially prejudiced man like Bartholomew; a despised tax collector like Matthew; a political Zealot like Simon; and a traitor like Judas, who was in it only for the money and eventually sold out for thirty pieces of silver.

Imagine the potential for disaster in a group like that! Yet their common purpose transcended their individual differences, and by His grace the Lord accomplished through them what they never could have accomplished on their own. That’s the power of spiritual unity!

As a Christian, you’re part of a select team that is accomplishing the world’s greatest task: finishing the work Jesus began. That requires unity of purpose and effort. Satan will try to sow seeds of discord, but you must do everything possible to heed Paul’s admonition to be “of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, and intent on one purpose” (Phil. 2:2).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray daily for unity among the leaders and congregation of your church.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, noting how Paul addressed the issue of disunity in the Corinthian church.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Chosen to be Sent

“Having summoned His twelve disciples, [Jesus] gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles were these” (Matt. 10:1-2).

Every disciple must also be a discipler.

Have you ever met someone who constantly absorbs what the church has to offer, yet never seems to plug into a ministry where he can give to others? I’ve met many people like that. Some have attended church for many years, and have even taken evangelism and other special training classes. But they never quite feel qualified to minister to others or even to share their testimony. Eventually that has a crippling effect on their spiritual lives and on the life of the church in general.

When Jesus called the disciples to Himself, He did so to train them for ministry. We see that in Matthew 10:1-2. The Greek word translated “disciples” means “learners.” “Apostles” translates a Greek word meaning “to dispatch away from” or “send.” In classical Greek it refers to a naval expedition dispatched to serve a foreign city or country. Disciples are learners; apostles are emissaries. Jesus called untrained disciples, but dispatched trained apostles. That’s the normal training process.

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says, “Go . . . and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” Paul said to Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

As wonderful and important as it is to learn of Christ, you must never be content to be a disciple only. You must also be a discipler!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Matthew 28:18-20. If you aren’t currently discipling someone, ask the Lord for an opportunity to do so.

For Further Study

An important part of discipleship is spending time with Christ. One way to do that is to read through the gospels on a regular basis. You might want to obtain a harmony of the gospels to help in your study. Tell a friend of your plan so he or she can encourage you and hold you accountable.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Love of the Truth Brings Hatred

“‘All these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me’” (John 15:21).

The world, in its general hatred of the truth and ignorance of God, will also hate believers.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time hated Him intensely. If we are committed to following Him wholeheartedly today, we can’t expect to avoid persecution and hardship any more than He did. In John 15:20 our Lord tells us what to expect: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”

If our perspective is right, however, this expectation should actually make us happy and even provide a certain sense of security. Receiving persecution from the world because we are Christ’s representatives means we have an opportunity to experience what Paul called “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). As one commentator has said, Christian suffering “is the very means God uses to transform us into the image of His Son.” Troubles and pains can be great reassurances that we have been united with Christ.

As we saw yesterday, it’s no surprise that the world hates us. It despises our general opposition to its system, but aside from that, the world hates believers simply because it doesn’t know God.

This basic ignorance of God usually appears in one of two ways. Either it shows up as apathy and religious superstition (Acts 17:22-23) or as more glaring actions and attitudes of moral and spiritual deviation (Romans 1:18—2:2). Whatever the case, people in the world are just doing what is natural for them because of their sin and depravity.

As a Christian, what should your response be? You should not be indifferent or accommodate the serious challenges you’ll face from the world. Instead, you ought to, by faith, realistically accept the truth of John 15:21, comfortably rest in the teaching of Philippians 3:10, and confidently seek to minister to the world “because the foolishness of God [the gospel] is wiser than men, and the weakness of God [the cross] is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you begin grasping what it means to partake in “the fellowship of His sufferings.”

For Further Study

Read Acts 5:17-42.

  • How is the world’s attitude toward the gospel displayed in this passage?
  • What did the apostles appeal to when faced with severe opposition?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Opposition to the World Brings Hatred

“‘If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you’” (John 15:18-19).

Because they are not part of the world’s system, Christians should expect it to hate and oppose them.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you doubtless remember how soon you realized that you were no longer in step with the world’s culture. You were no longer comfortable with its philosophy. You no longer had the world’s desires and yearnings. You no longer felt good about doing some of the things the world takes for granted. In fact, you even felt constrained to speak out against such things and urge unbelievers to turn from their sins and embrace Christ. All that opposition to worldliness, when added up, can and will result in hatred toward us from people in the world.

In John 15, the Greek word translated “world” (kosmos) refers to the world’s system of sin, which is devised by Satan and acted out by sinful people. The Devil and his angels sometimes make it even more difficult for us by subtly presenting their “religion” as if it were true. Such deception can lull us into complacency and leave us spiritually weak when persecution comes.

Because of the world’s relentless opposition to God’s kingdom, it is crucial that we remember Christ’s call to stand for Him in our sinful society. The apostle Paul exhorts us to be “children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15).

If we take Scripture seriously and prayerfully spend time in it daily, we will not be caught off guard when our faith is opposed. Instead, we will be heartened by Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to strengthen you today and to remind you that even though you are not of the world, you are to be a light to it.

For Further Study

Read the account of John the Baptist’s death in Mark 6:14.

  • How did John suffer before he was killed?
  • What character differences do you see between John and Herod?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Our New Bodies

“Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:49).

All believers can look forward to one day receiving new bodies and new images.

Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances present a glimpse of the greatness, power, and wonder that our own resurrection bodies will have. Our Lord appeared and disappeared at will and always reappeared in other places. He was able to go through walls and doors, but He could also eat, drink, sit, talk, and be seen by others. Jesus was remarkably the same as before His death, yet He was even more remarkably changed. The body the disciples and other followers saw after the Resurrection was the same one we’ll see when we go to be with Him. Christ will also appear in the same form when He returns to earth (Acts 1:11).

As it was with Jesus, our perishable, natural, and weak bodies will be raised imperishable, spiritual, and powerful. No longer will they limit us in our service to God. In Heaven we’ll blaze forth the magnificent glory that God so graciously gives to His own (Matt. 13:43). Christ promises to “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:21).

The future resurrection of believers to the glories of Heaven has always been a blessed hope and motivation for the church through the centuries— and it should be for you and me. No matter what our present bodies are like— healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, short-lived or long-lived, pampered or abused—they are not our permanent bodies. One day these natural, created bodies will be re-created as supernatural. Even though the Bible gives us just a glance at what those new bodies will be like, it is a precious assurance to know that “we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for an opportunity to share insights from this study with a Christian friend, especially if he or she has been discouraged recently.

For Further Study

Read Luke 24:33-53.

  • What do verses 37-43 verify about Jesus’ new body?
  • Write down other things from the entire passage that describe how Jesus had changed from the way He was prior to the cross. How had He remained the same?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Three Kinds of Persecution

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me” (Matt. 5:10-11).

When you speak out for Christ, you can expect harassment, insults, and slander.

Jesus mentioned three broad categories of suffering that Christians will experience. The first is persecution. “Persecuted” (Matt. 5:10) and “persecute” (v. 11) both come from the same Greek root meaning “to pursue” or “chase away.” Over time it came to mean “to harass” or “treat in an evil manner.” Verse 10 literally reads, “Blessed are those who have been allowing themselves to be persecuted.” You are blessed when people harass you for your Christian stance and you willingly accept it for the sake of your Lord.

The second form of suffering is “insults” (v. 11), which translates a Greek word that means “to reproach,” “revile,” or “heap insults upon.” It speaks of verbal abuse—attacking someone with vicious and mocking words. It is used in Matthew 27:44 of the mockery Christ endured at His crucifixion. It happened to Him and it will happen to His followers as well.

The final category Jesus mentioned is slander—people telling lies about you. That’s perhaps the hardest form of suffering to endure because our effectiveness for the Lord is directly related to our personal purity and integrity. Someone’s trying to destroy the reputation you worked a lifetime to establish is a difficult trial indeed!

If you’re going through a time of suffering for righteousness’ sake, take heart: the Lord went through it too and He understands how difficult it can be. He knows your heart and will minister His super-abounding grace to you. Rejoice that you are worthy of suffering for Him and that the kingdom of heaven is yours.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those who treat you unkindly, asking God to forgive them and grant them His grace.
  • Pray that you might always treat others with honesty and fairness.

For Further Study

Throughout history God Himself has endured much mocking and slander. Read 2 Peter 3:3-9, then answer these questions:

  • What motivates mockers?
  • What do they deny?
  • Why doesn’t God judge them on the spot?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthu

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Are You Avoiding Persecution?

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:10).

If you don’t experience persecution, people probably don’t know you’re a Christian.

I heard of a man who was fearful because he was starting a new job with a group of unbelievers whom he thought might give him a bad time if they found out he was a Christian. After his first day at work his wife asked him how he got along with them. “We got along just fine,” he said. “They never found out I’m a Christian.”

Silence is one way to avoid persecution. Some other ways are to approve of the world’s standards, laugh at its jokes, enjoy its entertainment, and smile when it mocks God. If you never confront sin or tell people Jesus is the only way to heaven, or if your behavior is so worldly no one can distinguish you from unbelievers, you will probably be accepted and won’t feel the heat of persecution. But beware!

Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you. . . . Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory” (Luke 6:269:26). The last thing anyone should want is for Christ to pronounce a curse on them or be ashamed of them. That’s an enormous price to pay for popularity!

If you take a stand for Christ and manifest Beatitude attitudes, you will be in direct opposition to Satan and the evil world system. Eventually you will experience some form of persecution. That has been true from the very beginning of human history, when Abel was murdered by his brother Cain because Cain couldn’t tolerate his righteousness.

You should never fear persecution. God will grant you grace and will never test you beyond what He enables you to endure (1 Cor. 10:13). Nor should you ever compromise biblical truth to avoid persecution. In Philippians 1:29 Paul says that persecution is as much a gift of God as salvation itself. Both identify you as a true believer!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize 1 Peter 2:20-21. Ask God to continually grant you the grace to follow Christ’s example when difficulties come your way.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, noting the severe persecution Paul endured for Christ’s sake.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Paying the Price of Righteousness

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:10).

There is a price to pay for being a Kingdom citizen.

Unlike many today who try to make the gospel palatable for reluctant sinners, Jesus made it clear that following Him had its price. Rather than acceptance, fame, prestige, and prosperity, you can expect rejection and persecution. That’s not a popular approach to evangelism, but it’s honest. Also it insures that no one will try to enter the kingdom on the wrong basis.

Jesus wanted His hearers to count the cost of discipleship. He knew that many of them would be disowned by their families and excommunicated from the Jewish synagogues. Many would suffer persecution or martyrdom at the hands of the Roman government. They needed to count the cost!

Persecution did come to those early Christians. The Emperor Nero smeared many of them with pitch, crucified them, and then burned them to light his garden parties. He condemned Christians for refusing to worship him as a god, and blamed them for the burning of Rome in [sc]A.D. 64. Christians were accused of cannibalism because Jesus said, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56). They were said to be revolutionaries because they believed that God would one day destroy the earth.

The world’s animosity toward Christians hasn’t changed. You might not face the severe persecutions the first-century believers faced, but you will be persecuted (Phil. 1:29). Even new Christians often face difficulties. If they refuse to join their former friends in sinful activities, they might be rejected. If they work for a dishonest boss who expects them to participate in or condone his evil practices, they might be fired or have to quit their jobs. That might bring extreme financial hardship to their families.

God won’t always shield you from persecution, but He will honor your integrity and give you strength to endure any trial that comes your way. Praise Him for His all-sufficient grace!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those you know who are suffering hardship for Christ’s sake.
  • Ask God for the wisdom and strength to face persecution with integrity and unwavering faith.

For Further Study

Read James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 5:10.

  • What purpose does suffering serve?
  • How should you respond to suffering?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/