Tag Archives: John MacArthur

John MacArthur – Knowledge Through Faith

 

“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”

God’s greatest truths are discovered by simple faith.

As a man or woman of faith, you have insights into life that unbelievers can’t know. You know how the physical universe began, where it is heading, and how it will end. You know Who governs the universe and how you fit into the total scheme of things. You know why you exist and how to invest your life in matters of eternal consequence.

Unbelievers can’t possibly appreciate those things because “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14).

Some of the most basic issues of life remain a mystery to most people because they refuse God’s counsel. For example, the most brilliant thinkers have never agreed on the origin of the universe. Theirs is a futile attempt to explain what is beyond the realm of scientific investigation.

But such things aren’t beyond the realm of knowing—if a person is willing to be taught by God’s Word. For the Bible clearly states that God spoke the physical universe into existence, creating visible matter from what was non-physical or invisible (Rom. 4:17). No humans observed that event. It cannot be measured or repeated. It must be taken by faith.

Any attempt to explain the origin of the universe or the nature of man apart from God’s Word is foolhardy. The unregenerate mind, no matter how brilliant it might be, cannot fathom such things.

So never feel you have to apologize for trusting God’s Word. Let the confidence of the psalmist be yours: “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. 119:99-100).

Suggestions for Prayer

Read Genesis 1-2 as a reminder of the power and wisdom of God in creating the universe. From those chapters select specific things to praise Him for.

For Further Study

Memorize Psalm 19:1. Can you think of ways that the natural creation brings glory to God? (See also Romans 1:18-20.)

 

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John MacArthur – Winning Through Non-Retaliation

“Love is patient” (1 Cor. 13:4).

Love does not retaliate.

We usually think of patience as the ability to wait or endure without complaint—whether it’s with people or circumstances. But the Greek word translated “patience” in 1 Corinthians 13:4 refers specifically to patience with people. It literally means “to be long tempered,” and speaks of one who could easily retaliate when wronged but chooses not to.

That kind of patience is a spiritual virtue reflective of God Himself (cf. Gal 5:22). It can’t be duplicated on a purely human level. But for Christians, it’s to be a way of life. Paul said, “I . . . entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love” (Eph. 4:1-2).

God Himself is the supreme example of patience. Peter said, “[He] is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Those who reject His grace are despising “the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience” (Rom. 2:4).

In the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s day, retaliating for a personal insult or injury was considered a virtue. Non- retaliation was interpreted as a sign of weakness. Our society is much the same. Our heroes tend to be those who fight back with physical strength or litigation. But that isn’t God’s perspective, nor was it Christ’s in praying for His killers, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Acting Responsibly

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15).

Every believer is responsible to walk wisely.

I believe the moment an individual becomes saved, God deposits enough wisdom in him to make him absolutely responsible for his behavior. Someone may say, “Wait a minute! How can a brand-new believer walk in wisdom? Doesn’t he grow into that? Haven’t wise Christians been saved for many years?”

Such questions miss the point of Ephesians 5:15. The first word in this verse takes us back to Paul’s invitation to become saved in verse 14: “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” In other words, Paul is saying, “Because you are saved, you are to walk in wisdom.” When you received Christ, you simultaneously received wisdom and therefore are responsible to walk wisely. First Corinthians 1:30 says, “By [God’s] doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” At the moment of salvation you are made wise, righteous, and sanctified. You don’t get redeemed first and receive those things later. Colossians 2:3 says, “In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” You are in Christ, and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him; consequently, “in Him you have been made complete” (v. 10).

If you’re redeemed, you have wisdom. You don’t have to wait till you’ve been saved five, ten, or forty years. You’re no longer a fool— you’re wise. And on that basis Paul says, “Walk as wise. Live according to the wisdom that you possess.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for blessing you with His great salvation so that you can walk wisely.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 1:7-8.

  • What did you receive at the moment of your salvation (v. 7)?
  • In what two ways were the riches of God’s grace lavished on you (v. 8)?
  • According to Titus 2:11-12, what does God’s grace teach you?

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Being Different from the World

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men,  but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15).

Living wisely will set you apart from the world.

Walking in wisdom is an element of the worthy walk that Paul has been describing since the beginning of Ephesians 4. He says in verse 1, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” and then proceeds to describe this worthy walk with the following characteristics: It’s a humble walk (4:1-3), a united walk (4:4-16), a unique walk (4:17-32), a loving walk (5:1-7), an illuminated walk (5:8-14), and a wise walk (5:15-17). The point that Paul is making in describing the various elements of the worthy walk is that Christians are different from the world. The world can’t be humble because everyone is fighting for his rights. The world can’t be united because it celebrates and exalts differences. The world can’t be unique because it’s trapped in its own self-destruction. The world can’t love because it doesn’t have the life of God—the source of real love. The world can’t know light because it lies in the system of darkness. And the world can’t be wise because the wisdom of God is hidden from the mind of man. As Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:7, “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Realize that being different from the world is an asset to your Christian witness, not a hindrance. When others see you obeying Scripture—when they see you walking in wisdom—they’ll notice you’re not like them. That difference can create opportunities to tell them about your Savior. 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” (Matthew 5:16). Keep walking in wisdom, and let others be attracted to the light of Christ!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you be a witness whose testimony shines brightly for Christ.

For Further Study

How does 1 Peter 2:12 say you are to live? Why?

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – The Words of a Fool

“The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little” (Proverbs 10:20).

A fool desires to share his folly with others.

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Wisdom, as defined in the Book of Proverbs, is living by divine standards, which implies accepting divine truth. But a fool rejects that. First Corinthians 2:14 says that “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him.” To a fool, foolishness is wisdom and wisdom is foolishness.

That a fool rejects God’s wisdom is evident by the way he speaks. Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.” In other words, a fool is quick to air his opinions. Just as a bitter fountain produces bitter water, and a rotten tree produces rotten fruit, so also a fool produces foolishness—speaking on his own authority and generating his own opinions. The world is full of the opinions of fools—fools who have denied God in their living, who have become their own gods, and who mock the reality and consequences of sin.

A fool not only is quick to air his opinions but also propagates his foolishness to others. Proverbs 16:22 says that the instruction of fools is folly. The fool contaminates the rest of society with the same foolishness that damns his own soul. He leaves it as a legacy to his children, his friends, and all those who fall under the influence of his folly.

In contrast to fools, you as a believer are blessed to have the Spirit of wisdom indwelling you and illuminating your understanding of His Word. Your words to others are based on the wisdom of Scripture, not empty speculation. By bringing His Word to mind in every circumstance, you can speak words that are “like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Prov. 25:11).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for teaching us how we should speak—and not speak—through His Word.

For Further Study

  • What does Colossians 4:6 say about our speech?
  • What further insight do each of these verses add: Matthew 12:36; Mark 9:50; Ephesians 4:29?

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Living in a World of Fools

“Wisdom is too high for a fool” (Proverbs 24:7).

A fool wants his own way.

There’s no question in my mind that we live in a world of fools. In fact, everyone born into this world comes in with congenital foolishness—otherwise known as the sin nature. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” Since we live in a world of fools, let’s look at a few of their characteristics.

A fool denies God. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.” I call this practical atheism. A fool lives as if there were no God—denying God with his actions.

A fool becomes his own god. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” No man can live without a god. It isn’t a question of, does he worship? It’s a question of, whom does he worship? If a person doesn’t worship the true God, he will worship a false god—which inevitably will be a reflection of himself. He becomes the one who determines truth and error, articulating his own standards for living.

A fool mocks sin. Proverbs 14:9 says, “Fools mock at sin.” Since a fool makes his own rules, he wants to justify his own behavior to make sure he’s going to be all right in the end. He attempts to eliminate sin along with its consequences.

A fool, then, begins by living as if there were no God, substituting himself as god and determining his own style of life. Then he denies the existence of sin because he cannot tolerate guilt.

When God saved you, you stopped your foolishness and became His wise child. Be encouraged, knowing God will continue to help you grow in wisdom through your understanding of and obedience to His Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for the salvation of a family member, friend, or neighbor who is living foolishly.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 7:24-27. What is the difference between a wise man and a foolish man?

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – The Qualities of True Wisom

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

True wisdom is evident in a person’s behavior.

What is true wisdom? James answers that question in verse 17 by pointing out the characteristics or qualities of true wisdom. After purity, the next quality is “peaceable,” which means “peace loving” or “peace promoting.” It refers to someone who doesn’t create confusion or disorder. He doesn’t promote himself or compromise truth but makes peace.

True wisdom is also “gentle.” A gentle person will submit to dishonor, disgrace, mistreatment, and persecution with an attitude of humility, courteousness, kindness, patience, and consideration. He will not display hatred, malice, or revenge.

True wisdom is also characterized as “reasonable.” It refers to someone who is willing to yield, who is easily persuaded, teachable, and compliant. It was used of a person who willingly submitted to military discipline or who observed legal and moral standards in life and willingly submitted to them. A wise person manifests such “reasonable” traits concerning God’s standards for life.

“Full of mercy” refers to someone who shows concern for people who suffer and is quick to forgive. He demonstrates kindness and compassion toward others.

“Good fruits“ refer to all good works in general or a wide variety of spiritual deeds. The Christian demonstrates the genuineness of his salvation through his good deeds—works that are produced by faith (James 2:14-20) and are called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23) or “the fruit of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11).

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – The Motive for True Wisdom

“The wisdom from above is first pure” (James 3:17).

A pure life is necessary for a wise life.

A person whose life is characterized by true wisdom will seek to be pure. The Greek word translated “pure” in James 3:17 refers to spiritual integrity and moral sincerity. It is freedom from bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, and arrogant self-promotion. Christ is the perfect example of purity (1 John 3:3).

A true believer will have pure desires. The deepest part of him desires to do God’s will, serve God, and love God. In Romans 7:15-21 the apostle Paul testifies that when he sinned, he was doing what he didn’t want to do. In Psalm 51:7 David cries out, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” The true believer hates his sin. Rising out of his innermost being is a longing for what is clean, pure, holy, and honest.

Purity of heart is the motive of someone who seeks to live a life of godly wisdom (cf. Ps. 24:3-4). God says he will “take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19); that new heart will be consumed with purity rather than self. You do still sin because your new heart is incarcerated in your old flesh. But your new heart fights against your flesh. That’s why Paul said, “I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:22-23).

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). As you persevere in battle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil, be encouraged by reminding yourself that one day the fight will be finished. The apostle John said it this way: “We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Suggestions for Prayer

Read Psalm 51:1-17, making David’s prayer your own.

For Further Study

According to Matthew 5:48 and 1 Peter 1:15-16, what is God’s standard of purity?

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – The Results of False Wisdom

“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:16).

False wisdom ruins lives.

Renowned eighteenth-century theologian Jonathan Edwards said the following about the effect of the Fall on man:

Sin, like some powerful astringent, contracted his soul to the very small dimensions of selfishness; and God was forsaken, and fellow-creatures forsaken, and man retired within himself, and became totally governed by narrow and selfish principles and feelings. Self-love became absolute master of his soul, and the more noble and spiritual principles of his being took wings and flew away.

Edwards’s analysis certainly agrees with what James is saying: man is self-centered (cf. James 3:14, 16). Where self-centeredness exists, there will be negative results. One such result is “disorder” (v. 16). The term refers to disorder that comes out of instability and chaos. Earthly wisdom will never produce harmony or love because it’s proud and self-indulgent. It destroys intimacy, love, unity, and fellowship, and in its place brings discord and chaos. You can see the result of earthly wisdom all over our world today. Anger, bitterness, lawsuits, and divorces are just part of the legacy.

“Every evil thing” also results from earthly wisdom (v. 16). The phrase speaks of something worthless or vile. Greek scholar R.C. Trench said it contemplates evil, “not so much that either of active or passive malignity, but rather of its good-for-nothingness, the impossibility of any true gain ever coming forth from it.” The Greek word translated “thing” implies that false wisdom produces nothing of any practical value. At its best it produces worthless things; at its worst it produces vile things.

Which kind of life do you prefer? One that is characterized by love and unity, or by instability and chaos? A life with fulfillment and meaning, or with emptiness? If you want a life that satisfies and has eternal value, choose divine wisdom!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for giving you His Word so you can know how to live wisely and avoid the negative results of man’s wisdom.

For Further Study

Following human wisdom leads only to evil. Memorize Proverbs 4:27 to help you stay on the path of true wisdom.

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Identifying False Wisdom

“This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15).

True wisdom is from God; false wisdom is from the Devil.

Wisdom that is bitterly jealous and self-centered is not “from above.” Such traits constitute a wisdom that doesn’t come from God, the source of true wisdom (cf. 1:5, 17). Human wisdom, rather than being from above, is “earthly” (3:15). It is limited to the sphere of time and space and marked by the curse of man’s own fallenness, which is characterized by pride and self-centeredness. Everything the world initiates in the way of supposed truth is self-centered. Unregenerate man’s finite system demands an earthly wisdom and nothing more.

Man’s wisdom is also “natural” (v. 15), which means “fleshly” and refers to man’s humanness and frailty. First Corinthians 2:14 says, “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” The natural man is sensual. All his feelings, impulses, and appetites are locked up in a fallen and corrupted system. All of man’s wisdom comes from his unsanctified heart and unredeemed spirit.

Besides being earthly and natural, human wisdom is “demonic” (James 3:15). This is the only place in the New Testament where the Greek word translated “demon” appears in its adjectival form. Human wisdom is actually generated by demons, who have been made captive to the same evil system as man. Satan and his agents disguise themselves as ministers of light when in fact they are ministers of darkness (2 Cor. 11:14-15).

The wisdom of the world is spawned by demons, reflects man’s humanness, and proceeds no further than the fallenness of mankind. Since that is so, be sure to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10). Don’t let Satan and the world beguile you with their so-called wisdom.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray to be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:9-10).

For Further Study

According to 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 and Colossians 2:8, how is the believer to fight against Satan and his demonic wisdom?

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Being Honest

“If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth” (James 3:14).

Humility is the hallmark of a wise person.

James says that if a person has a self-centered motive for life, he should stop arrogantly boasting. He should stop claiming to possess true wisdom. Why? Because he is lying “against the truth.” In verse 13 James indicates that if a person claims to have God’s wisdom, he must show it. If I see you are motivated by self-centeredness and pride, you ought to stop your arrogant boasting about having the wisdom of God. The fact is, you’re lying against what is obviously true. Stop claiming to have what you don’t have.

“The truth” refers to the saving gospel. Both James 1:18 (“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth”) and James 5:19 (“If any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back . . .”) link the truth with the gospel. Anyone who claims to have the wisdom of God but lives a life motivated by “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” is obviously lying in the face of the gospel. No pretentious claims to a possession of divine wisdom are convincing when they come out of a heart totally motivated by human wisdom.

James is calling you to take an inventory of your heart. Take a look at yourself. What motivates you? Are you motivated by the things that honor God? Are you motivated by a love for others? Are you motivated by humility and unselfishness? There is no single characteristic of unredeemed man more obvious than his pride. And there is nothing more characteristically evident of a redeemed person than his humility.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you have a humble attitude and make you more aware of how you can serve Him and others every day.

For Further Study

  • The wise person seeks to be humble. To help you manifest humility in your life, meditate on the following verses: Proverbs 16:19; 22:4; Isaiah 57:15; Micah 6:8; Matthew 18:4; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5.
  • Memorize at least one Old Testament verse and one New Testament verse from this list.

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Living Unselfishly

“If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth” (James 3:14).

A wise person lives for God and others, not for self.

Having characterized spiritual wisdom in the preceding verse, James begins to analyze worldly wisdom in verse 14. Worldly wisdom is not of God. It has no relationship to Him, is not obedient to Him, and has no knowledge of His truth.

What is the motive of someone who lives according to worldly wisdom? “Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.” The Greek word translated “bitter” also means “harsh” and is used of bitter, undrinkable water. “Bitter jealousy” carries the idea of a harsh, bitter self-centeredness that produces a resentful attitude toward others. People with bitter jealousy live in a world that focuses on themselves. They react in a jealous manner toward anyone who threatens their territory, accomplishments, or reputation. They resent anyone who threatens to crowd their slice of this world. They consider people who differ from them as implacable enemies. And they are bitterly jealous of anyone who is successful.

The Greek term translated “selfish ambition” refers to a personal ambition that creates rivalry, antagonism, or a party spirit. That’s another way of pointing to self. The person who follows human wisdom begins with a “bitter jealousy” that creates an attitude of competition and conflict. Then “selfish ambition” generates a party spirit and bitterness toward others. James is saying that ungodly wisdom is self-centered, and its goal is personal gratification at any cost.

What about you? Are you motivated by jealousy and selfish ambition? Be honest in your evaluation. Take a serious inventory of your heart and ask yourself, Am I serving others instead of fulfilling my own desires at the expense of others?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to convict you when you put yourself before Him and others.
  • Repent of any present situations in which you are doing that very thing.

For Further Study

Read the following verses: Genesis 37:4; 1 Samuel 18:8; Luke 15:25-30; 22:24.

  • What was the sin in each example?
  • Read and study 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to learn how the qualities of love are opposite to human wisdom.

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Knowing the Right Answers

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20).

Knowing Christ makes the believer wiser than the world.

Lawrence Toombs, in his 1955 article “O.T. Theology and the Wisdom Literature,” said, “Wisdom is to be found with God and nowhere else. And unless the quest for wisdom brings a man to his knees in awe and reverence, knowing his own helplessness to make himself wise, wisdom remains for him a closed book” (The Journal of Bible and Religion, 23:3 [July 1955], 195). It’s wonderful to have the book of God’s wisdom opened to us as believers.

Through God’s book of wisdom it’s easy for any believer to analyze the world. People who have no biblical background find it difficult to resolve controversial issues like capital punishment, abortion, or homosexuality. But the Bible has clear answers for those seemingly complex issues: If you take a life, you should die (Gen. 9:6); the life within the womb is a person made by God (Ps. 139:13); and homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle but a damning sexual sin like adultery or fornication (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Rom. 1:26-27).

As a Bible-believing Christian you may not be considered “noble” or “mighty” by the world’s standards (1 Cor. 1:26) and may be seen as the refuse of the world (1 Cor. 4:13); but you have the answers to the important questions. Because of God’s sovereign, gracious work, you’ve been ushered into the wisdom of God through fear of the Lord. The apostle Paul said, “You are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). Once you fear God, His wisdom continually flows to you. Paul told the Colossians that in Christ dwells “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). Since Christ dwells in you, you possess the very wisdom of God!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise the Lord for the privilege of knowing Him and His will through His Word and His Spirit.
  • Pray that you might manifest the wisdom of the living God so that the world sees Christ in you.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. How does the apostle Paul contrast God’s wisdom with the world’s?

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Submitting to Wisdom

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psalm 111:10).

Saving faith is obedient faith.

The wisdom of God resulting from the fear of the Lord leads to obedience. When we fear the Lord, we submit to His wisdom and commit ourselves to keeping His commandments. In the New Testament Jesus said the same thing: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). We aren’t always as obedient as we ought to be, but the pattern of our lives turns from disobedience to a submissive heart of obedience. First John 2:3 says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” A person’s claim to be a Christian is meaningless if he’s not obedient.

From a positive perspective, fearing the Lord involves obeying His commandments; from a negative perspective, it involves turning away from evil. Job 28:28 says, “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” Equal to wisdom is understanding, and equal to fearing the Lord is departing from evil. Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Obeying the Lord’s commandments and shunning evil are dynamics that work in the soul of one who truly fears God. The fear of the Lord is not some feeling you try to generate within yourself; it’s the result of believing in the true God and living a life of love and obedience to Him. What about you? Does obedience to God’s Word characterize your life?

Suggestions for Prayer

Jesus Christ paid the price for your sin and ushered you into a relationship with God. Honor His work by obeying His Word, and ask Him to help you see evil from His perspective.

For Further Study

Read the following verses: Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 13-15, 24; 8:6; 10:12-13; 13:4; 17:19; 28:58-59; 31:12. What characterizes the life of a person who fears the Lord?

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Knowing God

“‘“The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom”’” (Job 28:28).

Being wise begins with knowing God.

The fear of the Lord is the most basic idea related to wisdom and is the key to understanding it. The Book of Proverbs especially teaches us that the fear of the Lord is inextricably linked to wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). Knowledge, wisdom, instruction, and understanding are often used as synonyms in Proverbs. The link between fear of the Lord and wisdom is also evident in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Since wisdom and understanding are parallel, so are the fear of the Lord and knowledge of the Holy One. To know God and to fear God are one and the same.

What does it mean to fear God? It’s a reverential trust, or simply another way of describing saving faith. We begin to be wise when we revere God and trust in Him. When an Old Testament saint wanted to evangelize, he might have said, “Fear God!”

When you read in the Bible of people fearing God or that fearing God is linked to wisdom, that means a person can’t even begin to be wise until he is first converted. Fearing God is the initiation of a life of faith. As long as a person has only human wisdom, he can’t know God or true wisdom.

The fear of the Lord is your entrance to wisdom. It will prolong your life, fulfill your life, enrich your life—it is your life (cf. Prov. 10:27; 14:27). It will open the continual flow of God’s wisdom to you. The significance of everything is tied to the wisdom of God, which alone will give you proper values, guidance, instruction, and perspective in life. Apply His wisdom to your life daily, and enjoy all the benefits that wisdom has to offer.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His wisdom by which you are so abundantly blessed.

For Further Study

God’s wisdom enriches our life and gives us proper values and instruction. Read Proverbs 10:1-12, and notice how that is so.

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Searching for Wisdom

“‘Where can wisdom be found?’” (Job 28:12).

Wisdom is found in a Person, not a place.

In ancient days men would drill a shaft deep into a mountain or the ground, suspend themselves with a rope, and hang in the shaft while they tried to find some metal or precious stone to mine. In the Old Testament Job described the process this way: “He [man] sinks a shaft far from habitation, forgotten by the foot; they hang and swing to and fro far from men” (Job 28:4). The miner searched far below the earth’s surface for “anything precious” (v. 10).

Man goes to great efforts to search for precious metals. “But,” Job says, “where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living. . . . Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can silver be weighed as its price” (vv. 12-13, 15). Nothing in the world can buy wisdom, and it can’t be found in the things of the world.

So where does wisdom come from? Job says, “It is hidden from the eyes of all living. . . . Abaddon [Destruction] and Death say, ‘With our ears we have heard a report of it.’ God understands its way; and He knows its place” (vv. 2123). If you are searching for wisdom, go to God. He knows where wisdom is because “He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens. . . . And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding’” (vv. 24, 28).

What is true wisdom? To fear God and depart from evil. Wisdom isn’t a question of how much you know, but of whether you love the Lord your God and depart from sin. Only when you pursue God will you know true wisdom.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you adorn your life with the ornaments of His true wisdom and have a winsome testimony that attracts others to Christ.

For Further Study

Read the following verses, noting how both the Old and New Testaments tell us that God is the source of true wisdom: Job 9:4; Psalm 104:24; Proverbs 3:19-20; Romans 11:33; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 1:17 (NKJV).

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Living a Fulfilled Life

“Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Living life apart from God is futile.

The Book of Ecclesiastes is greatly misunderstood. It is a difficult book to read simply because it is hard to understand. Everything in it appears wrong and as if it doesn’t fit with the rest of Scripture. But it is part of the Old Testament wisdom literature because it is a statement of human wisdom. Ecclesiastes tells us how man perceives his world, God, and the realities of life.

Most scholars believe Ecclesiastes was penned by Solomon. They debate whether he wrote it before he was a true believer or after. He may have written it in retrospect, or he may have penned it sometime before he had a full understanding of the life-changing truth of God.

Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book because it reveals the folly, uselessness, senselessness, and frustration of human wisdom—that which James calls “earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15). In Ecclesiastes 1:16 Solomon says to himself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me.” That verse shows me that when God initially gave Solomon wisdom, He gave it to him on a human level. He gave Solomon wisdom to make successful decisions and judgments as king. But although divine wisdom was available to him, I believe Solomon opted for human wisdom the greater portion of his life. And that wisdom was never able to answer his ultimate questions.

The sum of Solomon’s perspective on human wisdom is in Ecclesiastes 4:23: “I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed.” That’s a death wish and is the logical end of worldly wisdom—futility.

Fortunately, Solomon did eventually embrace true wisdom. At the end of his book, he said, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (12:13). What then can satisfy your heart and make life worth living? The wisdom of God alone.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you follow His ways for a blessed and fulfilled life.

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 3:13-26, noting how the benefits of true wisdom are in contrast to what Solomon experienced.

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Being Wise in Adversity

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

Wisdom teaches us how to handle adversity.

In his wonderful commentary on the book of James, Robert Johnstone wrote the following about meekness:

That “the meek” should “inherit the earth”—that they bear wrongs, and exemplify the love which “seeketh not her own”—to a world that believes in high-handedness and self-assertion, and pushing the weakest to the wall, a statement like this of the Lord from Heaven cannot but appear an utter paradox. The man of the world desires to be counted anything but “meek” or “poor in spirit,” and would deem such a description of him equivalent to a charge of unmanliness.

Ah, brethren, this is because we have taken in Satan’s conception of manliness instead of God’s. One man has been shown us by God, in whom His ideal of man was embodied; and He, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: He for those who nailed Him to the tree prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” The world’s spirit of wrath, then, must be folly; whilst than a spirit of meekness like His, in the midst of controversy, oppositions, trials of whatever kind, there can be no surer evidence that “Jesus is made of God to His people wisdom” (The Epistle of James [Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1978], 272-273).

Johnstone recognized more than a hundred years ago what we need to know today—that the wisdom of man is arrogant, conceited, and self-serving, whereas the wisdom of God is humble, meek, and non-retaliatory.

The contrast between false wisdom and true wisdom is crystal-clear. Be sure you handle adversity in a Christlike way, knowing that every detail of your life is under God’s sovereign control.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His example of how to respond to adversity (cf. 1 Peter 2:21-24).

For Further Study

Read Philippians 2:1-11, applying Christ’s example to your life (vv. 1-5).

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Manifesting a Wise Attitude

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

A wise person is a gentle person.

A believer will demonstrate that he possesses the wisdom of God not only by his behavior, but also by his attitude. True wisdom is characterized by gentleness and is the opposite of self-promotion and arrogance. Gentleness is the trait that characterized our Lord. In Matthew 11:29 He says, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” It is also a trait belonging to all the members of His kingdom. In Matthew 5:5 the Lord says, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” “Gentleness” is also a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23).

The word translated “gentleness” is from the Greek word praus, which can also be translated “meek” or “tender.” Praus is often used of a gentle voice, a gentle breeze, or a gentle animal. It was also used of a horse that was broken. The Greeks characterized meekness as power under control; in the believer’s case, that means being under the control of God. It’s a freedom from malice, bitterness, or any desire for revenge. The only way to truly define meekness is in the context of relationships because it refers to how we treat others. It should characterize our relationship with both man and God.

How about your attitude? Is it characterized by meekness, humility, gentleness, and mildness, or do you tend to display an arrogant, selfish attitude toward others?

Suggestions for Prayer

Christ is the perfect example of gentleness. Thank Him for this attribute, and ask Him to help you be like Him.

For Further Study

  • In 1 Thessalonians 2:7 what analogy does Paul use to characterize his ministry?
  • Also read 2 Timothy 2:24 and Titus 3:2. To whom should we be gentle?

 

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John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Proving You Are Wise

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

Divine wisdom produces a changed life.

The one who possesses godly wisdom will show it in his life. That’s why James says, “Let him show by his good behavior his deeds” (3:13, emphasis added). The phrase “let him show” is a command to demonstrate one’s wisdom and understanding. That is the thrust of James 2:14-26, summarized in verse 26: “Faith without works is dead.” A person’s claim to have faith will be validated by his works. Similarly, James is saying that if you claim to be wise, you need to demonstrate it. From God’s perspective, wisdom is made manifest by the way a person conducts his life.

How will a person show he has true wisdom? By his “good behavior” (3:13). The Greek word translated “good” means “lovely,” “beautiful,” “attractive,” “noble,” or “excellent.” The term translated “behavior” speaks of one’s lifestyle or activity. If a person truly has divine wisdom and living faith, he will show it by his good conduct and excellent lifestyle.

James becomes specific when he says, “Let him show by his good behavior his deeds” (v. 13, emphasis added). He is focusing on the details. The wisdom of God alters not only your general conduct, but also what you do specifically. Every act within a person’s life is consistent with how he conducts his entire life. If it’s a life based on the wisdom of God, each aspect of his life will reveal that. The general pattern of his life and the specific things he does will reflect the work, the way, and the will of God. Take time to examine your life and see whether your conduct proves that you possess the true wisdom of God.

Suggestions for Prayer

A wise person will manifest good behavior. Read Psalm 119:33-40, making the prayer of the psalmist your own.

For Further Study

Your conduct will reveal whether you’re living wisely. What do the following verses say about how you should live: Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Peter 2:12; and 2 Peter 3:11?

 

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