Tag Archives: Strenght for today

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/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Risking True Peace

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

True peace exists only where truth reigns.

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Cushion of Peace

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

God’s peace cushions the soul during difficult times.

I remember reading about what is called “the cushion of the sea.” The ocean surface is often greatly agitated, but as you descend, the water becomes increasingly calm. At its greatest depths the ocean is virtually still. Oceanographers dredging ocean bottoms have found animal and plant remains that appear to have been undisturbed for hundreds of years.

Similarly, Christians can experience a cushion of peace in their souls regardless of their troubled surroundings. That’s because they belong to God, who is the source of peace; serve Christ, who is the Prince of Peace; and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is the agent of peace. Galatians 5:22 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, [and] peace.” When you become a Christian, God grants you the gift of peace.

God is not only the source of perfect peace, but also its purest example. Everything He does is marked by peace. First Corinthians 14:33 says He is not a God of confusion but of peace. In Judges 6:24 He is called Jehovah-shalom, which means, “the Lord is peace.” The Trinity is characterized by a total absence of conflict: perfect oneness, perfect righteousness, and absolute harmony. It is impossible for God to be at odds with Himself!

God wants everyone to know that kind of peace. He created the world with peace and sent His Son to offer peace. Someday Christ will return to establish His kingdom and reign in peace for eternity.

In the meantime turmoil exists for all who don’t know Christ. They have no cushion for their souls. You, however, have peace with God through the death of Christ Jesus, and as you obey Him, His peace will continually reign in your heart. Don’t ever let sin rob you of that blessed cushion. Only as you experience peace within yourself can you share it with others.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the cushion of peace He has provided amid difficult circumstances.
  • Ask God to use you as an instrument of His peace today.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 57:15-21, noting how God encourages the repentant and warns the wicked in relation to peace.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Becoming Pure in Heart

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

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

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

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

Finally, we must study the Bible and pray. The psalmist said we keep our way pure by keeping it according to God’s Word, which we must treasure in our hearts (Ps. 119:911). As we pray and submit to the Word, the Spirit purifies our lives.

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 6:1-8.

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

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Thinking Biblically

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

The way you think determines the way you behave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer:

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

For Further Study:

Read the following verses, noting the characteristics of a pure heart: Psalm 9:126:227:828:7, and 57:7.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur 

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Reaching Out to Others

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read John 4:1-42.

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

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – Forgiving Others

As Jesus forgave others (including us), we should extend forgiveness to those who wrong us.

Jesus had a forgiving heart right up to the end, even after He had experienced a lifetime of mankind’s worst treatment. He came down to a world He had created, but that world rebuffed Him. Its inhabitants’ eyes were blinded by sin, and they could not see any beauty in Jesus. Almost immediately after His humble birth in a stable, King Herod sought to have Him killed (Matt. 2:1316-18). And the Jewish leaders on various occasions contested Christ’s teachings and looked for opportunities to seize Him and kill Him. The cross was just the culmination of a lifetime of persecution against Jesus.

Jesus’ death by crucifixion was one of the most humiliating, painful forms of execution the world has ever known. From a human perspective, we would have expected Him to plead with God the Father for mercy or to be enraged at God and denounce Him for allowing Him to be crucified. If we had written the original script for Jesus’ crucifixion scene, we probably would have had Him screaming threats of retaliation at His killers. But our Savior did none of those things. Instead, He asked His Father to forgive His enemies.

The Lord Jesus prayed for the most important need His executioners would ever have. They would never be able to enter the presence of a holy God if their sins were not forgiven. Christ was concerned that His opponents, who were ignorantly putting Him to death, have an opportunity to be forgiven rather than endure God’s vengeance.

Such an attitude of love and mercy should also be ours. We, unlike Jesus, are sinners ourselves who need constant forgiveness. Therefore, when we are wronged, our primary concern ought to be that God would forgive the one who has sinned against us. An excellent model of this attitude is Stephen, who prayed as he was being stoned to death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). He followed Christ’s own example of love and forgiveness, and so should we.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you may have a more consistently forgiving attitude toward others who wrong or offend you.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 18:21-35.

  • What is implied in Jesus’ figurative expression “seventy times seven” (v. 22) regarding forgiving others?
  • Ultimately, how much does it matter that we maintain a forgiving attitude (vv. 32-35)?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

http://www.gty.org/

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Being Filled with Mercy

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

Mercy is a characteristic of true believers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

Read Luke 10:25-37.

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

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Unjust Condemnation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Prayer

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

For Further Study

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

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

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Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Unjust Conspiracy

“The chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death” (Matthew 26:59).

The only evidence of guilt against Jesus was man-made and contrived.

The essence of the Jews’ ancient legal system is found in the Lord’s words to Moses and Israel: “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial” (Deut. 16:19). Therefore, it is truly amazing to consider what twisted measures the Jewish leaders resorted to in their trial of Jesus.

The Council, or Sanhedrin, was authorized to judge only those cases in which charges already had been brought. But in Jesus’ case, with no formal charges yet made and with the Jews’ rush to judgment, the Council had to act illegally as a prosecuting body to keep the chief priests’ murder plot moving forward.

As the sinless Son of God, Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing. Therefore, the only way for the Jews to convict Him was to obtain false testimony against Him. And to do that, the leaders had to pervert the very heart of their judicial system and endorse the words of liars.

But the Jews quickly found it was not easy even to manipulate and assemble false charges. As is so often the case with liars, what they testified to was not only false but inconsistent. Mark’s Gospel notes that even the two witnesses’ more usable charges about Jesus and the destruction of the temple were not consistent (14:57-59).

It is one of the strongest affirmations in the Bible to Christ’s moral and spiritual perfection that not a single human witness could make an accusation that would convict Him of a crime. After all the desperate maneuvering by the Jews to come up with even the flimsiest testimony against the Lord, He stood innocent of any violation of God’s moral or spiritual law. Instead, it is the unjust, hateful group of men that will one day stand before God condemned for their sinful actions in falsely accusing the Savior.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for wisdom and integrity in the judges who make decisions in today’s courtrooms.

For Further Study

Read Deuteronomy 16:18-20 and 19:15-20. How do these passages show that Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin was based on wrong principles (list several factors)?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur 

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