Tag Archives: Grace To You

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Fearing God

“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever” (Ps. 19:9).

Fearing God leads to reverential attitudes and actions.

In the Old Testament, to fear God was to view Him with reverential awe and bow to His sovereign authority. In Psalm 34 David wrote, “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man who desires life, and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (vv. 11- 14). His son Solomon added, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. . . . Fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Prov. 1:73:7).

The concept of fearing God isn’t limited to the Old Testament. Paul said, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1) and, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph. 5:21).

Our fear of God compels us to worship Him and conform our lives to His will. If you fear Him, pleasing Him will be your greatest delight and displeasing Him, your greatest disappointment.

In Psalm 19:9 David uses “fear” as a synonym for God’s Word, implying that Scripture is God’s manual on how to worship Him. “Clean” (v. 9) is a comprehensive term that speaks of the absence of sin, corruption, filthiness, defilement, imperfection, and error. The message Scripture conveys is always “flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times” (Ps. 12:6, NIV).

Because it is so perfect, Scripture endures forever (Ps. 19:9). That’s why Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31). It never needs to be updated to accommodate contemporary thinking. It stands forever as authoritative and unyielding. Those who judge it, slander it, or ignore it are in grave peril. Far better to fear God and bow to His revealed will.

Suggestions for Prayer

Read Psalm 33 as a prayer of praise to the Lord.

For Further Study

Memorize Proverbs 3:5-7 as a reminder always to seek God’s will and approval.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Obeying God’s Commands

“The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:8).

Obedience to the Word is the hallmark of a true believer.

It isn’t popular these days to speak of God’s Word as a book of commandments. Commands imply law and we’re accustomed to grace. But the fact is, both the Old and New Testaments contain many commandments that all God’s people are to obey.

The apostle John said, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (1 John 2:3-5). John equated the commandments of God with the Word of God.

Jesus Himself said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15) and “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father” (v. 21). If you truly love Christ, your life will be characterized by a pattern of obedience to His Word.

Every commandment of God is “pure”, the psalmist said (Ps. 19:8). Its effect is “enlightening the eyes.” God’s Word brings spiritual truth into clear focus. Not every passage of Scripture is easy to understand, but taken as a whole, the message of the Bible is clear to the regenerate mind.

But as clear as the Bible is to believers, unredeemed people can’t understand it. To them it’s foolishness because their minds are unenlightened (1 Cor. 2:14). In their spiritual blindness they choose humanistic philosophical speculations over God’s Word. But as a believer, you are continually being enlightened by the truths of God’s Word as the Holy Spirit enables you to understand and apply them to your life.

Your ability to understand the Word is a priceless gift. Take advantage of it daily by expanding your Bible knowledge and increasing your obedience.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for opening your mind to the truths of His Word.
  • Commit yourself to discovering at least one additional truth from Scripture each day.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 2:14-16. What comparison did Paul make between the natural (unregenerate) man and the spiritual (regenerate) man?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Living a Joyous Life

“The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Ps. 19:8).

Knowing your life is on the right track is a source of great joy.

What brings you joy? Your answer will reveal much about your priorities and the direction your life is heading spiritually.

The psalmist wrote, “How blessed [happy] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers” (Ps. 1:1-3).

That psalmist knew that true joy and happiness come from knowing God and abiding in His Word. That was David’s confidence when he wrote, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Ps. 19:8).

“Precepts” in that verse speaks of divine principles and guidelines for character and conduct. God created you and knows how you must live to give glory to Him. And He revealed in His Word every precept you must know to do so.

Every divine precept is “right.” It shows you the path that is right and true. What a wonderful confidence that is! While many around you may be discouraged or despondent because of their lack of direction and purpose, God’s Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Ps. 119:105). It guides you through the difficult mazes of life and gives your life eternal significance. Don’t live simply for your own pleasures. Your life has a high and holy purpose, and each day can be filled with joy as you see that purpose unfold.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to help you be mindful of your eternal purpose today and every day.
  • Ask Him to direct you to someone who needs Christ and is sensing a lack of purpose in his or her life.

For Further Study

Read Colossians 3:1-4.

  • How did Paul describe Christ?
  • What should be the focus of your thinking?
  • Are you heeding Paul’s exhortation?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Gaining True Wisdom

“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7).

God’s Word imparts wisdom and knowledge beyond the realm of mere human understanding.

David’s characterization of God’s Word as “the testimony of the Lord” (Ps. 19:7) speaks of its role as God’s witness to who He is and what He requires of us. In addition, it’s a “sure” witness. That means it’s unwavering, immovable, unmistakable, reliable, and trustworthy.

Peter made the same point when, after recounting his incredible experience with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Pet. 1:16-18), he said, “but we have a testimony more sure than that—the prophetic word” (v. 19, literal translation). The testimony of God’s written Word is a surer and more convincing confirmation of God’s truth than even apostolic experiences with Christ Himself!

Perhaps that’s why our Lord prevented the two disciples on the Emmaus Road from recognizing Him as He gave them a biblical basis for the things they had seen and heard (Luke 24:27). Their faith and preaching were to be based on Scripture, not merely on their own personal experiences—no matter how profound or moving those experiences may have been.

The benefit of God’s sure Word is that it makes the simple wise (Ps. 19:7). It takes undiscerning, ignorant, and gullible people and teaches them profound truth from God that they can apply to their lives. As they do, they become skilled in the art of godly living.

That was the psalmist’s joy when he wrote, “Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Thy precepts” (Ps. 119:98-100).

Applying that principle to New Testament believers, Paul prayed that we would be “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). As that occurs, we’re enabled to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and please Him in every respect (v. 10). That’s the outworking of godly wisdom, and the key to holy living.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God’s wisdom will increase and abound in your life today and every day.

For Further Study

Read Luke 24:13-35, noting how Jesus ministered the Word to the disciples on the Emmaus Road.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Liberty or License?

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:15-16).

Freedom from sin does not mean freedom to sin.

From Paul’s day until now, the gospel of grace has been accused of providing license to sin. If salvation is the gift of God’s grace, legalists argue, wholly apart from human works, what will motivate people to lead holy lives? In the face of such opposition, Paul never gave an inch on the vital issue of salvation by grace—and neither can we. The Bible teaches a salvation that is entirely by God’s free grace through faith and in which human works play no part.

But there is a second way in which the doctrine of salvation by grace may be perverted. Fulfilling the legalists’ fears, some believe that since God’s grace covers all their sins, they can live as they choose. In today’s passage Paul addresses that error.

The very thought of a Christian living in persistent, habitual sin horrified Paul. To the hypothetical question “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Paul responded emphatically, “May it never be!” As in verse 2, the apostle used the strongest form of negation in the Greek language. In our English vernacular, Paul was saying “Ridiculous! Impossible! No way!” He went on to point out the self-evident truth that no one can serve two masters. Everyone is either a servant of sin or a servant of God; there is no third option. And the one to whom people habitually yield their obedience is their real master, no matter what they may claim.

Don’t be deceived by those who claim that since Christians are forgiven, they can therefore sin at will. Such people know nothing of God’s grace, which, far from giving us license to sin, “instruct[s] us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His grace, which is always greater than your sin (Rom. 5:20).

For Further Study

Read Joshua 24:14-27Matthew 4:8-11; and 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9. Spend some time in prayer, asking God to help you renew your commitment to serve Him.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – A Psalm of Sufficiency

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.

“They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

“Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:7-14).

God’s Word addresses the soul’s every need.

King David was a man of stark contrasts. He knew the humility of shepherding a flock and the prestige of reigning over a nation. He experienced glorious triumphs and bitter defeats. He sought after God, yet also suffered immense guilt and pain from immorality and murder. That led to even his own son’s seeking to take his life. Some of his psalms reflect great hope and others, despair. But through it all he continued to look to God, being assured of God’s sovereignty and the sufficiency of His divine resources.

In Psalm 19 David penned the most monumental statement ever made on the sufficiency of Scripture. As we study it in the days ahead, keep in mind that every need of your soul or inmost being is ultimately spiritual, and God has supplied sufficient resources to meet those needs completely. That was David’s confidence. May it be yours as well.

Suggestions for Prayer

Throughout our study of Psalm 19, ask God to give you fresh insights that will enable you appreciate and rest more fully in His gracious provisions.

For Further Study

Reread Psalm 19:1-14.

  • What terms did David use for God’s Word?
  • What benefits does the Word bring to believers?
  • Are you enjoying those benefits?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Trusting God’s Word

“The law of the Lord is perfect. . . . The commandment of the Lord is pure. . . . The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether” (Ps. 19:7-9).

God’s Word is infallible.

Infallibility refers to the truth of Scripture as a whole, whereas inerrancy focuses on the accuracy of every single word. Like inerrancy, infallibility is grounded in the character of God. God cannot lie and does not change (1 Sam. 15:29). He is thoroughly consistent in everything He does, and His Word reflects those characteristics. The psalmist wrote, “The sum of Thy word is truth, and every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Ps. 119:160). Paul said, “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12).

Jesus said He didn’t come to abolish the law or the prophets (sections of the Old Testament) but to fulfill them. He promised that everything in Scripture will be fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-18). John 10:35 declares that the authority of Scripture “cannot be broken.” It is binding and cannot be destroyed, abolished, or done away with. God’s Word is indestructible, authoritative, and infallible.

On a practical level, infallibility means that you can trust the Bible. It will never deceive you or give you counsel that will later prove to be erroneous. That was the confidence of the psalmist when he wrote, “Establish Thy word to Thy servant, as that which produces reverence for Thee. Turn away my reproach which I dread, for Thine ordinances are good. Behold, I long for Thy precepts; revive me through Thy righteousness. May Thy lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord, Thy salvation according to Thy word; so I shall have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Thy word. And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I wait for Thine ordinances. So I will keep Thy law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Thy precepts. I will also speak of Thy testimonies before kings, and shall not be ashamed. And I shall delight in Thy commandments, which I love” (Ps. 119:38-47).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God that His Word is utterly trustworthy.

For Further Study

Memorize Psalm 119:165 as a reminder of the infallibility of God’s Word.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Rallying Around the Word

“Every word of God is tested [pure, flawless]” (Prov. 30:5).

God’s Word is without error.

Inerrancy is a term that conveys the belief that the original writings of Scripture are wholly true in everything they teach— whether doctrine, history, science, geography, geology, or any other discipline or knowledge. It also applies to accurate copies of those original writings.

Inerrancy is an unpopular concept with some people because they believe it isn’t really important. But consider the implications. No Christian would deny that our relationship to Jesus Christ is of utmost importance. How can we know Him except as He is presented in the Bible? He is our Lord and we must obey His commandments (Heb. 5:9). How can we know what He commands if we doubt His Word?

Others reject inerrancy because they think it’s divisive. But inerrancy should be a rallying point for evangelicals, not a dividing point. What unifying factor do we have if we can’t agree on the truth of divine revelation?

Still others withhold judgment on the issue, thinking it’s a technical matter that is best decided by biblical scholars. On the contrary, it is the most basic of all matters. It’s nothing less than asking, “Is there a sure Word from God?”

Inerrancy isn’t simply a matter of theological debate. It’s a matter of God’s character. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2Heb. 6:18); therefore His Word is true. Jeremiah 10:10 says that the Lord is the true God or the God of truth. The apostle John said, “God is true” (John 3:33). And Jesus defined eternal life as knowing the only true God (John 17:3). Christ came so we might “know him that is true . . . the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

Don’t be shaken by those who attack the integrity of Scripture. As you have opportunity, study any problem passages so you’ll know first-hand what the issues and proposed solutions are. And remember, Scripture was given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13). He cannot err.

Suggestions for Prayer

If Psalm 119:12-16 reflects the intent of your heart, read it to the Lord as a prayer of praise and commitment.

For Further Study

According to Matthew 22:29 and John 17:17, what was Jesus’ view of Scripture?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Alive in Christ

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Union with Christ means participation in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Believers are united with Christ not only in His life, but also in His death. When believers come to faith in Christ, they symbolically share in His death, dying to sin in order to live to God (Rom. 6:10-11).

That reality has profound implications. Having died to the old life of sin and been raised to share new life in Christ, believers cannot continue in the same old patterns of sin. They now live in an entirely different realm. Those who die in Christ live in Christ. In the words of the great nineteenth-century theologian Charles Hodge, “There can be no participation in Christ’s life without a participation in his death, and we cannot enjoy the benefits of his death unless we are partakers of the power of his life. We must be reconciled to God in order to be holy, and we cannot be reconciled without thereby becoming holy.”

As a result, believers cannot help but “walk in newness of life.” Walk describes daily spiritual conduct. Believers have a new direction in life; they no longer live like they did before they were saved (1 Peter 4:3-4).

In his classic hymn “And Can It Be?” Charles Wesley wrote:

No condemnation now I dread:
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, thru Christ my own.

Is that the song of your heart today?

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for rescuing you from sin and death and making you alive with Christ.

For Further Study

Study the following passages: Galatians 5:16Ephesians 5:2Philippians 3:17-18Colossians 1:101 John 1:7. What do they tell you about the Christian’s walk?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Modern-Day Revelations

“Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3, emphasis added).

Scripture contains everything you need to know for godly living.

For many years I’ve watched with deep concern as a significant number of Christians have drifted from a thoughtful, biblical, God- centered theology to one that is increasingly mystical, non- biblical, and man-centered. One of the most disturbing indicators of this trend is the proliferation of extrabiblical revelations that certain people are claiming to receive directly from God.

Such claims are alarming because they dilute the uniqueness and centrality of the Bible and cause people to lean on man’s word rather than God’s. They imply that Scripture is insufficient for Christian living and that we need additional revelation to fill the gap.

But God’s Word contains everything you need to know for spiritual life and godly living. It is inspired and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that you may be fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16). What more is necessary?

When the apostle John died, apostolic revelation came to an end. But that written legacy remains as the standard by which we are to test every teacher and teaching that claims to be from God (1 Thess. 5:211 John 4:1). If a teaching doesn’t conform to Scripture, it must be rejected. If it does conform, it isn’t a new revelation. In either case, additional revelation is unnecessary.

God went to great lengths to record and preserve His revelation, and He jealously guards it from corruption of any kind. From Moses, the first known recipient of divine revelation, to the apostle John, the final recipient, His charge remained the same: “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2; cf., Rev. 22:18-19).

Don’t be swayed by supposed new revelations. Devote yourself to what has already been revealed.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to guard your heart from confusion and help you to keep your attention firmly fixed on His Word.

For Further Study

According to 2 Timothy 4:1-4, why must we preach and uphold God’s Word?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Dead to Sin

“How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2).

In Christ, believers are dead to sin.

As a pastor, I frequently encounter people who profess to be believers, yet are living in all kinds of vile sins. The incongruity of people claiming to be believers while living in constant, unrepentant sin was not lost on the apostle Paul. In Romans 6:1 he asked the rhetorical question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” In verse 2 he answered his own question by exclaiming “May it never be!”—the strongest, most emphatic negation in the Greek language. It expressed Paul’s horror and outrage at the thought that a true Christian could remain in a constant state of sinfulness. For a person to claim to be a Christian while continuing in habitual sin is absurd and impossible.

Paul goes on in verse 2 to explain why believers cannot continue to live in sin, asking, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” His point is that believers, at salvation, died to sin. Therefore, they cannot live in a constant state of sinfulness, because it is impossible to be both dead and alive at the same time. Those who continue in unrepentant sin thereby give evidence that they are spiritually dead, no matter what they may claim.

Unbelievers are “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), walking “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2). Believers, on the other hand, have been “delivered . . . from the domain of darkness, and transferred . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).

Christians no longer live in the realm of sin, though they still commit sins.

Having a proper understanding of the believer’s relationship to sin is foundational to progressing in holiness. Take comfort today in the reality that sin, though still dangerous, is a defeated foe.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God who, because of His mercy and love, made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:4-5).
  • Ask Him to help you walk worthy of that high calling (Eph. 4:1).

For Further Study

Read the following passages: John 8:312 Cor. 13:5James 2:14-26. Is every profession of faith in Jesus Christ genuine? Explain.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Christ’s Concern for Souls

“‘Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest”? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor’” (John 4:35–38).

Using the grain growing in the surrounding fields as an object lesson, Jesus impressed on the disciples the urgency of reaching the lost. There was no need to wait four months; the spiritual fields were already “white for harvest.” He was likely referring to the Samaritans who at that moment were coming toward them (v. 30). Their white clothing formed a striking contrast with the brilliant green of the ripening grain and looked like the white heads on the stalks that indicated the time for harvest.

By telling the disciples that the one “who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal,” the Lord highlighted their responsibility to participate in the harvest of souls. They would receive their “wages”—the rewarding joy of gathering “fruit” for all eternity.

You have the same responsibility as the disciples. Pray that the Lord will give you opportunities to experience the joy of gathering souls as you cooperate with His Spirit.

Ask Yourself

Part of the hindrance to our evangelistic fervor is that the Lord often uses us as one in a long line of invitation points. Though He may be drawing this very person to faith, our own encounter is subject to being met by rejection. How do you overcome the fatigue of knowing that faith can sometimes feel like failure?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Man’s Biggest Problems

 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sin is pervasive and deadly.

When the early church father Chrysostom remarked, “I fear nothing but sin,” he correctly identified sin as the greatest threat any person faces. Sin mars all the relationships people are involved in: with other people, with themselves, and, most significantly, with God. Sin causes suffering, disease, and death in the physical realm and also causes spiritual death—eternal separation from God in Hell.

Because sin is so deadly, we need to carefully define it, so we can understand and avoid it. First John 3:4 sums up the essence of sin when it says, “Sin is lawlessness.” Sin is refusing to obey God’s law; it is rejecting God’s standards; it is, in fact, living as if God did not exist.

In 1 John 5:17, the apostle John adds to his definition of sin, describing it as “unrighteousness.” James defines sin as failing to do what is good (James 4:17). Paul defines it as lack of faith (Rom. 14:23). Sin is the ultimate act of ingratitude toward the God “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).

Sin pollutes the sinner, prompting Paul to refer to it as that “defilement of flesh and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:1) from which sinners are in desperate need of cleansing. No amount of human effort, however, can cleanse a person of sin. Such self-effort is as futile as attempting to change the color of one’s skin (Jer. 13:23). Only through the death of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:12), is forgiveness and cleansing available (1 John 1:7).

Sin is the only thing that God hates (cf. Jer. 44:4), and so must believers (Ps. 97:10; Amos 5:15). The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson noted that a prerequisite for sanctification is such hatred for sin. Renew your commitment today to grow in your relationship with the Lord by hating evil (Prov. 8:13).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for yourself and others that you would not be deceived by the subtleness of sin (Heb. 3:13).

For Further Study

  • Identify the sins you struggle with the most.
  • Using a concordance and other study tools, find out what the Bible says about those sins.
  • Form a biblical plan of attack to combat them.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Using Spiritual Gifts

 “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

To be effective, spiritual gifts must be used in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in the power of the flesh.

One of the constant battles all believers face is to avoid ministering their spiritual gifts in the power of the flesh. Even those of us who are called to be preachers (prophets) need to subject our spirits to other mature believers (1 Cor. 14:32). As a pastor, I am not spiritual just because I stand behind a pulpit and preach. Paul instructs us, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let others pass judgment” (1 Cor. 14:29). Those who teach God’s Word are not infallible; therefore, they must allow other qualified believers to verify the truth of what they proclaim.

Whenever Christians rely on their own strength, wisdom, and desire to minister, whatever they accomplish is a mockery and a waste. But whenever they minister by the Spirit’s power, the result is pleasing to God and has lasting value (“gold, silver, precious stones. . . . If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward,” 1 Cor. 3:12, 14). Essentially, all a believer needs to pray is, “Spirit of God, use me,” and divine energy will activate and flow through his or her ministry to fellow believers and unbelievers.

You can use your spiritual gift effectively by faithfully following three basic steps: Pray—continually confess and turn from your sins (1 John 1:9) and ask God to use you in the Holy Spirit’s power. Yield yourself—always determine to live according to God’s will, not the world’s (Rom. 6:16; 12:12). Be filled with the Spirit—let the Spirit control all of your thoughts, decisions, words, and actions. Commit everything to Him, and He will minister through you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Confess any and all times lately that you have counted on your human ability rather than on the Spirit’s power to minister to others.
  • Pray that this week God would give you a clear opportunity to exercise your spiritual gift for His glory.

For Further Study

Read 1 Samuel 15:1-23.

  • In what way did King Saul use his own insight rather than follow God’s command?
  • What can be the consequence of such disobedience (vv. 22-23; see also 1 Sam. 13:8-14)?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Extinguishing Satan’s Fiery Darts

“In addition to all, [take] up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16).

Don’t elevate Satan’s will above God’s will in your life.

In Ephesians 6:13 Paul characterizes Satan as “the evil one” who attacks believers with flaming missiles. The Greek word translated “evil one” literally means “bad,” “vile,” or “wretched.” All are apt descriptions of the archenemy of our souls, who seeks to maim and destroy us spiritually.

The term “flaming missiles” pictures one of the Roman weapons of Paul’s day: arrows that had pitch-soaked cotton material affixed to their tips. In battle they were set on fire and shot at the enemy. As the arrow hit its target, flaming pitch spread onto clothing and other flammable surfaces. Under such attacks a Roman soldier without a shield was in a perilous situation indeed.

Satan’s flaming arrows come in many forms: solicitations to impurity, selfishness, doubt, fear, disappointment, greed, vanity, covetousness, and the like. But whatever the specific form, all are seducing temptations aimed at eliciting ungodly responses.

Your faith protects you from such attacks when you elevate God’s will above Satan’s in your life. When tempted by Satan, Jesus responded by saying in effect, “I will not violate my Father’s will by yielding to your devious schemes. In His own time He will feed Me, anoint Me as Messiah, and give Me the kingdoms of the world. I will not elevate your will and timing above His” (Matt. 4:1-11).

Jesus could have created food. He is the Messiah and the sovereign Lord over the kingdoms of the world. But He trusted the Father and yielded to His will, even though it meant personal discomfort and, eventually, the cross. When Satan saw that Jesus’ trust in the Father was unshakable, he left Him (v. 11). That’s the power of faith.

I pray you will show similar strength in times of testing. Satan will flee from you if you “resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise Jesus for His sinless character and His example of how to triumph over temptation.

For Further Study

Memorize James 4:7 as a reminder of the importance of resisting Satan.

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Butterfly, Botanist, or Bee?

“Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

Your attitude toward Scripture will determine your effectiveness in spiritual battle.

I remember enjoying the observations of a perceptive man who was gazing at a beautiful garden. First he saw a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. It spent a few seconds on the edge of each, but derived no particular benefit from any of them.

Next he saw a botanist with large notebook and microscope in hand. As the botanist carefully observed each flower and plant, he made copious entries in his book. But after hours of meticulous study, most of what he learned was shut up in his book. Very little remained in his mind.

Then came a little bee. When it entered a flower, it emerged laden with pollen. It had left the hive that morning empty, but would return full.

When it comes to Bible study, some people are like butterflys, going from one favorite verse to another, one seminar to another, or one book to another. They’re very busy and expend much energy but have little to show for their efforts. They remain unchanged in any significant way because they never really delve into the Word wholeheartedly. They’re content to simply flutter around the edges.

Others, like the botanist, may study in great depth but never apply it to their lives. I know of entire commentaries written by unbelievers. In some cases their grasp of Scripture is exceptional, but they know nothing of true love for God and obedience to biblical truth. What a tragedy! But you don’t have to be a biblical scholar to make that mistake. You need only to fail to apply what you learn to your life.

Rather, strive to be like the bee, spending time in the Word—reading, studying, taking notes, then emerging fuller than when you began. Your mind will be filled with wisdom and biblical insights. Your life will be sweeter and purer because the Word has done its work (1 Cor. 2:13).

Are you a butterfly, a botanist, or a bee?

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the opportunities He gives you to study His Word. Take full advantage of them.

For Further Study

According to James 1:22-25, what’s the difference between someone who merely hears the Word and someone who obeys it?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Satan Opposes God’s Word

“Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

Despite Satanic opposition, God’s Word will accomplish its work in His people.

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the seed: “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. And others fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up. . . . But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop” (vv. 3-8).

Jesus went on to explain that the seed is the truth of God’s Word. Satan and his demonic forces can snatch it away from those who hear it yet don’t understand what it means. They can bring affliction and persecution against those who have an emotional commitment only, thereby causing them to lose heart and fall away. In some cases they choke out the Word with worry and the deceitfulness of riches (vv. 19-22).

But truly repentant sinners receive and nurture the gospel truth, just as prepared soil receives and nurtures seed. They hear it, understand it, receive it, and produce spiritual fruit (v. 23).

Proclaiming the gospel is an important aspect of taking the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). As you do, others are saved and join God’s army. But be warned: Satan never gives up territory without a fight. Some of the people you witness to will forget what you tell them. Others will refuse to turn from worldly influences. Still others may respond emotionally, but without a genuine commitment to serving Christ and forsaking sin.

Those spiritual battles should compel you to bathe your evangelism in prayer and undergird it with a clear gospel presentation. If people understand precisely what it means to receive Christ, and if their hearts are prepared by the Holy Spirit, they’ll not be so easily victimized by satanic opposition.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to give you an opportunity to share Christ with someone today, or to encourage a struggling believer.

For Further Study

Read 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8.

  • What was Paul’s concern for the Thessalonian believers?
  • What did he do to eliminate his concern?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Learning from Christ’s Example

“Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

To wield the sword of the Spirit is to apply specific Biblical principles to specific situations.

Jesus gave us the perfect example of skillful and precise use of the sword of the Spirit. Following His baptism, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread'” (Matt. 4:1-3).

Satan was challenging Christ’s trust in His heavenly Father’s power and provisions. God had just announced that Jesus was His Son (Matt. 3:17). Would He now abandon Jesus to starve in the wilderness? Satan urged Jesus to take matters into His own hands and supply for His own needs. After all, Satan implied, doesn’t the Son of God deserve better than this?

Jesus might have acted on His own authority or demanded that God give Him what He deserved. Instead, He demonstrated His trust in God and rebuked Satan for his evil intents: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'” (v. 4). That’s a specific verse applied to a specific situation. Jesus responded the same way to Satan’s other temptations (vv. 7, 10).

Scripture gives many general principles for Christian living, but the sword of the Spirit is a precise weapon. We must learn to apply the appropriate biblical principles to any given situation. That’s what the psalmist meant when he wrote, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word. . . . Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:9, 11).

Do you know where to go in the Bible to defend yourself against sorrow, discouragement, apathy, lust, or pride? If not, you’re attempting to do spiritual battle unarmed.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His precious Word and the study resources that are available to Bible students today.
  • Renew your commitment to daily systematic Bible study.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 119:97-105. Is that your attitude toward Scripture?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Taking the Offensive

“Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

God’s Word is your primary offensive spiritual weapon.

All the armor Paul lists in Ephesians 6 is defensive, with one exception: the sword of the Spirit. That’s your offensive weapon for defeating Satan.

We’ve seen that Roman soldiers carried two swords: the large broadsword and the small dagger. The Greek word translated “sword” in verse 17 refers to the dagger, which was anywhere from six to eighteen inches in length and was carried in a sheath or scabbard at the soldier’s side.

The dagger was a common weapon. The Roman soldiers who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were each armed with one (Matt. 26:47). Peter used one to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant (Matt. 26:51). A dagger was used to kill James, the brother of John (Acts. 12:2). Hebrews 11:37 tells us that such a weapon was used against the heroes of the faith.

“The sword of the Spirit” isn’t a direct reference to the Holy Spirit as such. The implications is that since our enemy is spiritual, our weapons also must be spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4). Our sword is spiritual because it is the Word given by the Holy Spirit. He inspired its writing and through it convicts and redeems sinners (John 16:8; Heb. 4:12-13). The Word abides in you and transforms you. It supplies everything you need for a godly, victorious life. It builds you up and produces holiness (Acts 20:32). And it equips you for good works by teaching, reproving, correcting, and training you in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Bible is a powerful and effective weapon. The question is, Do you know how to use it? Do you diligently study it and apply its principles to your life? Do you have a storehouse of biblical truth to draw from in the heat of battle?

The Roman dagger was a precision weapon aimed at a specific spot to produce a specific result. Similarly, the sword of the Spirit is most effective when you apply specific biblical principles to specific situations in your life. Do you do that?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to increase your desire to know His Word.
  • Ask for wisdom in applying what you already know to the decisions and situations you’ll face today.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 1:22—2:3. How are believers to approach the Word?

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Dealing with Despair

“Take the helmet of salvation” (Eph. 6:17).

Your helmet of salvation protects you from discouragement and despair.

We’ve seen how Satan attacks believers with his two-edged sword of doubt and discouragement. But he doesn’t stop there. He tries to take you beyond discouragement to despair by robbing you of hope. Unless you’re careful, his attacks will be successful when you’re battle-weary.

The prophet Elijah is an illustration of that truth. The highlight of his ministry came atop Mount Carmel, where he slew 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Yet immediately after that great victory, he fled for his life because Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him (1 Kings 19:1- 3).

He ran from Mount Carmel into the wilderness of Beersheba, where he “sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers'” (v. 4). He went on to moan, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (v. 10).

Elijah lost hope because he failed to see his circumstances through the eyes of faith; he was attempting to fight the battle on his own. He allowed himself to become emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent, and became overwhelmed with self-pity. He felt utterly alone.

But God hadn’t abandoned Elijah. He was still in control and His people were numerous (v. 18). But Elijah had, in effect, removed his helmet of salvation and received a near-fatal blow to his confidence in God’s blessing on his life.

There may be times when, like Elijah, you lose your confidence and doubt God’s faithfulness. At such times, putting on the helmet of salvation means taking your eyes off your circumstances and trusting in God’s promises. You may not always sense His presence or understand what He’s doing, but be assured He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5) and His purposes will always be accomplished (Rom. 8:28).

Suggestions for Prayer                    

Praise God for His unchanging character and irrevocable promises.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 40:29-31 and Galatians 6:9.

  • What promises are given in those passages?
  • In what specific ways do they apply to your life?

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