Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 31, 2011 … The Summation of Humility

Passage of the Day: Romans 13: 8 … Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

My Journal for Today: For an entire month, with the help of John MacArthur’s devotional book, Strength for Today, I’ve been studying and journaling my own devotionals on the topic of “humility,” which has immense implications for the Christian believer. This is the fifth time I’ve been through MacArthur’s devotional series for March on the topic of humility, and there is much I have learned, much I have applied, and still much I need to apply. I can only hope and pray that I’ve been able to convey, for anyone who might read this series from MacArthur or myself, some of those implications.

If you’ve been with me, we’ve learned - or over-learned - that we, as Christians, must follow the very strong exhortation to have an attitude like our Lord’s, as we read in Phil. 2: 5

SCRIPTURE: Phil.2: 5 ... Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Of course, that means we need to hold humility high in our walk toward Christlikeness because we saw that humility was one of the only two qualities, along with meekness, which Christ described Himself (see Matt. 11: 29).

SCRIPTURE: Matt. 11: 29 ... Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [i.e., “meek”] and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Furthermore, as Christians we also know that the extent of a Christian’s humility can ultimately be seen in the outpouring of love, or lack thereof, which a believer expresses toward others. See 1stJohn 3: 16

SCRIPTURE: 1st John 3: 16 ... This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

And as we also read in that verse, as well as Phil. 2: 6 – 11, Christ was our example and model of humility; and His humility, even unto death on a cross for each and every one of us, becomes the goal of every disciple (more specifically Phil. 2: 5 – 8 - I charge you to look that passage up and meditate deeply on it).

However, we are challenged – even at times debilitated - by the spiritual DNA of our own hearts (see Jeremiah 17: 9), which is wicked and self deceptive. And so, when we see a Christian exhibiting Christlike humility in their loved expressed for all, especially our enemies as Christ commanded, we know that expression of love must be from God (see Eph. 4: 32).

SCRIPTURE: Eph. 4: 32 ... Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

“God-love,” as we could call the love that emanates from humility, turns away from the flesh (see Gal. 5: 13) and demonstrates our surrender to God’s Spirit, which is love personified. And when we can/do surrender completely to God’s Spirit, He can pour Himself, i.e., through His enabling/empowering grace, into our lives as we love others as Christ loved us (see John 14: 21 and Romans 5: 5).

This is the humility which was modeled by Jesus (again Phil. 2: 5 – 8); and it is the humility that we who are in Christ must treasure and to which we must aspire. Yes, it is to this Christlike humility I aspire; and I’ve got a way to go to get there.

My Prayer Today: Oh Lord, help me to be humble and reflect Your love in my life. Please shine Your light clearly on my path ahead so that I can truly deny myself and HUMBLY follow You. Amen

Blogger’s Note: To any who have been following along with me this month – or maybe you’ve just gotten here today, I ask: What is God’s Spirit convicting you to do [pursuing Christlikeness is always a choice!] to develop the humility which reflects Christ and honors God rather than succumbing to the pride which is our human default? Perhaps God is leading you to have a more disciplined devotional life. Maybe He is calling you to a more intimate and abiding prayer life. Or … what about your service to His kingdom? I don’t know where/how you need to decrease pride and increase humility in your life. But now would be a good time to take whatever conviction you’re feeling and turn it into action for God’s glory. If you agree, I’d really love to read a response to my journal entry today via reply here, or on Facebook, or even an email to Hope to “hear” from you. … wrb

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 30, 2011 … God-Centered Teamwork

Passage of the Day: 1st Corinthians 3: 8 – 9 - 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

My Journal for Today: Here in this country/culture, individuality is valued highly; but measured by our love of team sports, so is “teamwork.” However, even in the venues of team sports, we seem to laud the “superhero” above the team. Our cultural values just seem to want to find the ONE who can win even more than the team. The internet tells me that no one knows the author of the quote: “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ “ And I think we Christians would find truth in that quote; but we still try to be “Lone Rangers” in the Christian world; and we put TV preachers who become stars up on a pedestal above the Pastors of small churches where there is a tremendously successful teamwork going on to bring Christ to a dying world and to team-disciple those who are growing in the faith.

Really, all worship and ministry as a Christian in God’s kingdom is a team venture; and teamwork, as highlighted in today’s passage, requires humility, sharing, and Kingdom unity. Sometimes, however, the efforts involved in church teamwork may seem uneven or even unfair from a human or worldly point-of-view (see Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matt. 20: 1 – 16 - linked here). However, we all work and share in God’s master plan in HIS garden … for HIS glory.

Certainly it is all too easy to let feelings of unfairness or selfish desire for recognition from the world (i.e., for personal affirmation) get in the way of unity within the Body of Christ. And it is only when we can lay ego aside and COMPLETELY trust God that our work within His Body, His kingdom work, can be magnified in power by His Spirit for the Father’s glory. Yes, some plant the seeds in His field, as today’s verse and Jesus’ parable registers, are planted by a chosen and anointed few;… and others water those seeds; … and yet others may be there to reap the harvest for God in due season. But the harvested crop is the collective result of ALL of God’s humble workers, unified of purpose, to allow God to bring the harvest in His time, for His glory.

Maybe you have had the privilege and the joy of being the God-designated harvester who was there, at the right time of brokenness in someone’s life; and you helped lead that lost soul into God’s family of believers. I have had that privilege a few times; but it certainly has not happened for me as it has for a Billy Graham, who has led thousands, yea millions, into the kingdom of God. But for every Billy Graham, or other high profile evangelist, preaching the Gospel at Christian crusades and calling out many “to come” in faith, there have been mega-thousands of silent field workers on God’s team who shared testimonies with those lost souls; and probably even more mega-thousands who prayed for those lost ones before that decision was made at that crusade which led that lost soul down an isle into the family of God. But in all of that, God was the agent of that lost one’s salvation; and it took a team of field workers to plant the seed, to care for the soil, to water the growing faith of that lost seedling, and then someone on God’s team was used to bring in the harvest of that soul for the eternal kingdom of God.

And when the harvest is in … the angels celebrate and God smiles … and His smiles are not just because of the harvest workers … but because of all those who planted the seeds, patiently watered or nourished the field, and then for the ones He had there to bring in the harvest. Prayerfully, we are all planting seeds, tending the fields, and are available to bring in the harvest if that be God’s plan!

Yes it’s true; in doing God’s field work, there is no “I” on God’s “team” of field workers.

My Prayer Today: I play on Your team, Lord! Thank You for choosing me. Amen

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29, 2011 … Servanthood: Humility In Action

Passage of the Day: Matthew 20: 24 – 28 – emphasizing 26 – 27 [see underlined] - 24 When the ten [the remaining inner disciples] heard about this [after the power play by James/John], they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

My Journal for Today: In this passage, especially the two verses emphasized [see underlined above], we have Christ’s operational definition of the humble servant, i.e., the disciple who serves God’s kingdom with distinction. Since I’ve grown in my understanding of my relationship with Christ, it has become my deeply sought desire to one day stand before my Lord in heaven and hear Him say to this humble disciple, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And Jesus makes it very clear, in this emphasized passage, what it takes in the servanthood of discipleship to receive that accolade from Him – and that is to become His “slave,” surrendering all of myself to Him as Lord. Therefore, the key to “greatness” in God’s kingdom, both here in this life and the next, is the degree to which we’re willing (and it’s always a choice!) to humble one’s own needs/desires and serve others, modeling the Servanthood Jesus displayed in His ministry on earth; … and that is to serve in the in the hard places, … the lonely places, … and the places where rejection and persecution are often found. It is the attitude of Romans 14: 8, “… whether we live or die, we are The Lord’s.”

So, what does this role of servant leader (“diakonos” in the Greek) look like? And I’ll bet you can answer that. … It, of course, looks like Christ; and our ability to fulfill that role for God’s kingdom depends solely on the degree of one’s surrender as our Lord’s disciple … i.e., … the degree to which one has surrendered to God’s Spirit; … and the obedience to which one walks in submission to our Lords commands/teachings (mostly found in God’s word).

Note in verse 26-27 from Matt. 20 above, Jesus equates being a servant-leader, using the Greek term “diakonos,” and relating it to that of serving others by become a “slave” to the needs of others. That term for “slave” in the Greek is “doulos;” and it often is softened in biblical translations to read as “servant.” But Paul (and God) meant that it should indicate what our attitude should be as we seek to emulate Christ in our relationships with others. Christ wants for us to lead by being the “slaves” of others; and in doing so we become “doulos” [i.e., a "slave"] to Christ.

So, we’ve got to ask ourselves, again in the light of that all encompassing command of our Lord found in Luke 9: 23; … just how much are we willing to deny ourselves, … to take up Christ’s cross daily, … and just how much are we willing to really follow Christ – as His slave? He held the attitude that “… the last will be first; and the first will be last.” Do we (I) have that attitude? Only to the degree we do will we be in line for that wonderful confirmation in heaven, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

My Prayer Today: O, how I desire to be Your servant, Lord … Your slave! Amen

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28, 2011 … Another Enemy of Humility: Partisanship

Passage of the Day: 1st Corinthians 4: 6 - [NKJV - Paul speaking – see underlined] ... Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.

My Journal for Today: Pride, both individually and/or collectively in a group, can often lead to partisanship within a family or organization – and yes, … even in a church. And when partisanship raises its ugly face in a church, it can destroy any sense of unity to which Paul wrote about to the Corinthians in today’s passage or to Christians in Asia-Minor in Ephesians 4: 1-5 [linked] …

A few years ago, our church experienced the disunity produced by partisanship when, through a drastic set of circumstances, our former Pastor left our body and drew a number of members from our church to a new church which he started up, … I assume in anger. It was an ugly situation. And shortly thereafter, another local congregation, very close to our church divided, as factions took “sides” over the issue of how their church is to be governed. In both situations, the foundation of the divisiveness was and/or is PRIDE being manifest in denial or disobedience over the first part of Luke 9: 23 … and that is, … to follow Christ we must first deny ourselves

John MacArthur, as he was writing for today’s entry in Strength for Today, correctly pointed out that the way to avoid partisanship is for ALL in any group or church … any body of believers … to be surrendered to God’s Spirit, focusing on Christ through His word, and holding tightly to a spirit of gratitude for God’s providence and His promises. To summarize MacArthur, he is saying that this spirit of surrender and search for God’s way, rather than a search to fulfill ourselves or be in control, will, in turn, fulfill Luke 9: 23 in the pursuit of Savior over self. And when we, in any church/group, do what Christ commanded in that passage, we will never divide, but rather come together, in our common focus, … Who is Christ! I think about a picture something like this …


[Me].... Following Christ

[You] ...... Following Christ

[Others]..... Following Christ


There will never be partisanship, disunity, and/or disobedience when this model is followed and/or maintained by the people of God. Paul said it to the Corinthians (in 1st Cor. 11: 1) … that the Corinthians could follow him [Paul] because he was following Christ. And that is what defeats partisanship and gives victory to Christ through His Church in the world.

My Prayer Today: I follow You, Lord; and so anyone following me, pursues You as well. Amen

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March 27, 2011 … One More Enemy of Humility: Selfish Ambition

Passage of the Day: Matthew 20: 20 - 22 - [see underlined] 20 Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of Him. 21"What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in Your kingdom." 22 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" …"We can," they answered. My Journal for Today: The “Power Play” of James and John with their mother, which we revealed yesterday is an example of yet another enemy of Christlike humility for the human heart which is desperately wicked (as we know of from Jer. 17: 9). Salome, the mother of her “sons of thunder,” was using nothing but selfish ambition, edging for position with the One they perceived as their Messiah; and this is an interaction with Christ, from which we should learn about our own discipleship. First, this maneuver, using relationships for an insider edge, showed how impulsive and immature in their faith these first cousins of Jesus were at the time of this incident. At this stage, as Disciples, these two really didn’t have a clue about what it takes to be a leader in God’s kingdom; and that is surrender and suffering, which are both behavioral outgrowths of humility. It also reveals their pridefulness, which is just the opposite of what they would later learn it would take to become the leaders they ultimately became in God’s kingdom (i.e., humility and meekness). Had they known all of that, I’m sure they would have put the brakes on their mom intervening on their behalf and they would have trusted their Lord to help them become the servant-leader disciples they would become by following their Messiah in surrender. We now know from history and the New Testament, that James and John learned these lessons of life. James, whom we know from historical accounts, was also known of as “James, the Greater” and was the first martyred Apostle [44 AD], who was one of the prime movers in leading the peoples of Spain to the Gospel. His brother John, of course, much later penned his “Revelation” from exile on Patmos (probably some time between 68 – 95AD). But at this stage of their discipleship, as we see these biological brothers in today’s passage, both of these men needed a lot more seasoning as believers and followers of Christ to come to the place where they could become leaders in God’s kingdom. And we should take heart, or at least take pause, from this lesson in discipleship. We should be asking ourselves if we’ve grown in the faith to be in full surrender to God’s Spirit and our Lord. Are we humble and meek of attitude as charged by God through Paul in Phil. 2: 5? Are we ready to be used for God’s kingdom as followers of Christ as He commanded in Luke 9: 23? Are we ready to be an intentional servant first and an anointed leader thereafter, if God has such leadership in His plan as He most certainly did for James and John? I’ll leave that inventory for you; and I’m doing it even as I type this. But it is uplifting for me to know that two such impetuous and impulsively selfish characters such as the “sons of thunder” could become dynamically used for God’s glory when they chose and developed humility and meekness in their character. It points me in the direction of total surrender so that I might move from a focus on self to one focused on the Savior. I’m not there yet; but I pray that that is my direction. My Prayer Today: Prepare me, Lord, for what lies ahead in Your plan/purpose for me. Amen

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 26, 2011 … Another Enemy of Humility: The Power Play

Passage of the Day: Matthew 20: 20 – 21 - 20 Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of Him. 21"What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in Your kingdom."

My Journal for Today: If we are seeking Christlike humility, avoiding any natural tendency toward pridefulness, we must combat what John MacArthur calls “the enemies of humility” [see Strength for Today for this date]. Dr. Mac has introduced me (us) to several of these enemies during this month; and today he discusses one of the most common, THE POWER PLAY, which is so clearly illustrated in today’s story from Matthew 20.

We selfish humans – and yes, that includes Christians, unfortunately – often try to take advantage of any set of circumstances that would give us an advantage of control, influence, and/or power. In today’s passage we see it exemplified in James and John, the so-called “Sons of Thunder,” who along with their mother, Salome, the sister of Mary, Jesus’ mom, were vying, with their inside connections, for a heavenly advantage … just in case their cousin, Jesus, truly turned out to the real-deal Messiah.

The power-play of these three clearly pictures any manipulation in our lives to take control in the world and gain a human advantage, especially involving influence. And we must admit it; … any such POWER PLAY is made from only one motive; and that is selfishness. And selfishness is birthed from the oldest pattern of sin on record, which is pride, … the mother of all sin.

As Christians we must learn to see that we don’t need any earthly or worldly advantage. We have Christ [!]; and in Him we have everything we need in this life [see 2nd Peter 1: 3 – 4; 2nd Cor. 12: 9 below; and also Rom. 8: 31; and Phil. 4: 13] …

SCRIPTURE:: 2Pet. 1: 3 – 4 ... 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

SCRIPTURE:: 2Cor. 12: 9 [Paul to the Church] ... But He [Christ] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

As a fellow Christian, my friend, we’ve got it all, in this life and in the next (see also John 3: 16 and Phil. 4: 19); so we don’t need to be involving ourselves in selfish power plays for some advantage here in this sojourn of life. Therefore, may our power and living worship rely only on Christ for all the advantage we would ever need.

My Prayer Today: You are everything, Lord! Amen

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25, 2011 … Practical Humility

Passage of the Day : Philippians 4: 5 - [see underlined] 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let Your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

My Journal for Today: In our look at “humility” this month, we’ve been looking at it as a reflection of Christlikeness, … Christ, … who was/is our perfect model of humility. However, in today’s passage/verse, Paul shows a shade of Christlikeness and humility which takes us deeply into the trenches of everyday life. He challenges the believer to exhibit the Christlike quality of “gentleness,” MacArthur citing exposing this quality from Phil. 4: 5 (from the NIV). That’s a quality which, like humility, runs counter to our culture, and which supports/promotes Christlike control, strength, and power. And remember Matt. 11: 29, which reveals Jesus using those two qualities, of HUMILITY (or lowliness of heart) and MEEKNESS (or gentleness), as the only two descriptive adjectives He ever used in Scripture to describe Himself.

This term, “gentleness,” in the NIV is the Greek word, “epieikes,” which is a difficult word to bring into the English translation for our Bible. One can see this difficulty of translation because of the many ways it’s translated. In the NAS, it’s having a “forebearing spirit.” The KJV has it translated “moderation;” and the NLT renders it “considerate.” Yet, in today’s NIV version it’s translated “gentleness” and in others it could be “meekness.” Obviously, English speaking Bible Scholars have had a challenge in finding an accurate and generic translation for this Greek concept, “epieikes.”

From what I can get from commentaries and John MacArthur’s devotional, Strength for Today, “epieikes” seems to convey the idea, for the Christian, of consideration of the feelings of others, drawing the strength to do that from God’s grace. Another angle would be having a patience or forbearance in the context of a believer having been mistreated or maligned unjustly, which was certainly modeled by Jesus during His Passion and crucifixion; as it was certainly modeled by 1st Century Christians under the tyranny of Nero standing in faith and meekness as they were tortured for that very faith. Christ manifested God’s grace ALWAYS, even unto death for our sins – certainly not for His sins - (see Rom. 5: 6 – 11 - linked here). Therefore, according to Paul, speaking on this one attribute, “epieikes,” we, as His followers, should strive as much as we can to be forbearing in love and consideration of the feelings of others; … yes, even when we’re unjustly attacked.

Our world and culture, however, certainly do not preach or value “epieikes” as a life quality to display openly in our socio-political choices. We are touted today to demand our “rights,” based on our individual feelings. That’s the existentialism of the post-modern 21st century, where “if it feels good, do it [!]” is the battle cry. Also there is almost an “anti-epieikes” mantra to become #1 at the expense of the feelings of anyone who might stand in the way. Control, … CONTROL, … CONTROL!!

So, how must we be like our Lord in the sense of “epieikes?” Well, to set ourselves in the right – and righteous – direction we have to ask ourselves as Christians …
• Am I holding any grudges or bitterness in my heart?
• Do I lash out with selfish anger when attacked or maligned?
• Am I a light of Christlike “epieikes” in a darkened world self-driven situational ethics?

If we cannot give an unqualified “NO” to the first two, and a hearty “YES” to that last question, we need TO DECIDE to fulfill Christ’s mandate of Matt. 5: 16 (and I would hope that you have that one memorized – but here it is below) …

SCRIPTURE: [Jesus from Matt. 5: 16] “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

And paramount in those “good deeds” ought to be an attitude and lifestyle if “epieikes.”

My Prayer Today: Lord, cut away all that is not Christlike “epieikes” from my being; and help me to shine Your light of meekness or gentleness into the world through my choices this very day. Amen

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 24, 2011 … Jesus’ Humility In Death

Passage of the Day: Philippians 2: 8 - ... And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

My Journal for Today: My entry today will be brief … very much to the point. As I read today’s passage, I’m led to reflect on Mel Gibson’s account of Christ’s Passion in the movie he directed, attempting to give us some degree of insight into those hours on the day of Christ’s death on the cross. Though I’m sure it was even worse than Gibson portrayed it, that movie drove home – at least for me - the horrible humiliation to which Jesus exposed Himself, being led unjustly by man, but purposely by God, the Father, to the cruelest form of execution ever devised by mankind – the Roman form of crucifixion. It was God’s Lamb being led to the slaughter as a sacrificial offering for the sins of mankind; and it was my sin [and yours] which nailed our Lord to that cross.

What our Lord, Jesus Christ, endured – unjustly – should be the ultimate eye-opener for all believers when it comes to the essence of what humility is all about and what our Messiah endured, as the suffering servant, the “man of many sorrows,” which had been prophesied in Is. 52: 13-14 and all of Isaiah 53 … [Please go, with the links provided, and read these citations!].

Just a few years ago about this time, we were memorializing my earthly father, Bob Berry, at his funeral. In the latter months of his life, my Dad suffered much physical – and likely emotional – agony. Yet, as many came by at the funeral to express their condolences to my sister, myself, and the rest of the family, they commented on how our father held on to an attitude of grace right to the end in spite of the myriad of physical ailments he had endured in the last two years of his life. And that attitude was stamped indelibly for me some years before (in 1988 to be exact) when at 72 years of age, my Dad prayed to receive Christ as his Savior/Lord. Up to that time, my father had been a very self-centered man, often feeling sorry for himself, given life’s circumstances, which had been rough for him. But after Christ came into his life, his Christ-like humility was displayed readily – especially in those latter years when physical maladies drove him to reside in a nursing home. With all he went through, my Dad held to the hope of 1st Cor. 15: 37 – 54 [also linked here for your meditation] … that one day he would have a new body and be lifted up by His Lord to glory. We talked of it often as I visited my dad in that nursing home; and my earthly father became a living and dying example for me of God’s grace being poured into his soul by the humility with which my father lived out in his later life.

Those are models of humility I will always have in my life … first my Lord, as today’s verse declares, who humbly died for my sins … and then my earthly father, who humbly dealt with so many physical maladies with grace and dignity in the face of so much personal humility. I’m blessed to have been shown the way to humility with such vivid examples so that I may see and live it in my own life.

My Prayer Today: Lord, may I always walk in Your shoes when it comes to humility. Amen

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 23, 2011 … Jesus’ Humble Identification with Sinners

Passage of the Day: Philippians 2: 7 - 8 - 7 … but [Jesus] made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

My Journal for Today: Though Jesus walked among mankind in those three years of ministry where people, especially His chosen Disciples, followed Him around, witnessing miracle after miracle, most of these people, who were looking for a Messiah, did not really recognize Christ’s Lordship. As I said, even His closest followers, the twelve Disciples, couldn’t or wouldn’t accept Jesus’ claim to being THE Son of God, the Second Person of the Godhead … even though He did many things they witnessed that only God could do (see all of John 6).

In Christ’s humility and manhood, Jesus, except for His sinlessness (see Heb. 4: 15 cited below) was fully identified with man in His incarnation and walk on this earth. And that’s why His being 100% man actually added something, i.e., perfect empathy, to His omniscience, rather than His being reduced by His emptying of His majesty in the kenosis of becoming “human likeness.” [see again Phil. 2: 6-7] So, now, we look back on THE LORD in His ascension, coronation, and re-glorification, especially after the reality of this resurrection with awe; well, at least I do! Now, we know we have a risen Lord, still sinless as the God-Man, Who could become our High Priest, fully able to have perfected, infinite empathy with our plight and weakness as mankind. He is everything declared by Heb. 4: 15

SCRIPTURE: Heb. 4: 15 … we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

As we’ve been reviewing this month, Christ’s humility is our great, yes, even perfect, model for the pursuit of the attitude God’s Spirit, through Paul, exhorted us to have in Phil. 2: 5 – an attitude just like Jesus! We often think that it would have been an advantage to have been there and witnessed Christ’s deity on display, seeing all those miracles first hand. But you know, as I alluded above, the Disciples saw all of that; and yet, they still had doubts and fears … fears that led even their strongman, Peter, “the rock,” to cringe in fear and even deny to his Lord.

Well, today we actually have one advantage over those who walked with Jesus and saw Him first hand. We have the codified history – inspired by God Himself – in the collated and cannonized Bible. We have the very real and historically documented resurrection, which only a few were able to see and touch the resurrected Lord in those days of the cross. Yes, men like the eleven remaining Disciples, and others, had the opportunity, to see the resurrected Christ first hand, even touch Him as did Thomas [read John 20]. But anyone who delves into the truths of the New Testament and reads the true account of Jesus can have, as MacArthur recounts, “… heart-felt assurance that He (Christ) was perfectly man and perfectly God.”

My Prayer Today: To know You, as my Lord, even as imperfectly as I do, dear Jesus, is my hope of salvation. Amen

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22, 2011 … The Humility of Jesus’ Servanthood

Passage of the Day: Philippians 2: 6 - 7 -6 Who, [Jesus] being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur in his devotional Strength for Today for this date reflects on the essential servanthood of Christ. And as I wrote yesterday, if we are to follow the Apostle Paul’s exhortation [from God’s Spirit] to be like Christ in our attitude (see Phil. 2: 5) and practice a life of Christlikeness (see Rom. 12: 9 – 13 and Gal. 6: 9 – 10), we’ve simply (yes, I know it’s not easy!) have to follow the lead of Christ’s model of servanthood.

Jesus declared (quoted in Luke 22: 27), “I am among you as the One Who serves.” And in point of truth, He fulfilled everything that Isaiah had prophesied about The Messiah as the Suffering Servant in Is. 52: 13 – 14

SCRIPTURE: Is. 52: 13See, my servant will act wisely; He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at Him — His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness — …

How wonderful – though admittedly challenging – to follow a living Lord Who is the personification of humility, meekness, and servanthood. Jesus was the true “Diakonos” [see the Greek for “minister” or “servant” in Matt. 20: 26 and 23: 11-12] … our Servant Leader; because as Jesus said in John 12: 26, “Whoever serves Me must follow me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

And I don’t know about you, whomever might read this; but I want to be honored by my Heavenly Father; and it’s clear that the only way that will happen is my first taking the attitude of a “diakonos” just as His Son was, my Savior and Lord. And when we take on that role, in both attitude and action, God, the Holy Spirit pours His grace into our servanthood; and we light up like beacons of humility (i.e., Christlikeness) in the darkness of sin and pride [i.e., which is this, world].

So, may we follow Him so that we can lead others to the Light.

My Prayer Today: Help me to be more like You today, Lord … then even more tomorrow, … lighting the way for others to find You or move closer to You. Amen

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21, 2011 … The Humility of Jesus’ Kenosis

Passage of the Day: Philippians 2: 7 - [see underlined verse] 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but [Jesus] made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

My Journal for Today: I know why Jesus said that He came to us as the Son of God. He expressed that in God’s Temple by reciting, from God’s word in Isaiah 61: 1 – 2, the prophesy of the Messiah coming to do what was written in the Old Testament [see Luke 4: 17 – 21] …

SCRIPTURE: Luke 4: 17-2117 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him [Jesus]. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Now, … even though I know this in my head, I believe and understand what was happening in that passage and from today’s verse, in my heart I don’t think I’ll ever be able to comprehend the “WHY” behind the Second Person of the Trinity being willing to empty Himself of His majesty and become that very special Babe in Bethlehem … so that all the prophesies concerning Him, as Messiah, would be fulfilled and He would become the Lamb of God Who saved mankind from sin. This act of God’s Son, by the way, is sometimes referred to as the doctrine of “kenosis,” which is from the Greek verb “keno,” which means to make something of value null and void.

Today’s verse (Phil. 2: 7) is one place in Scripture where that verb is used; and “kenosis” a gross understatement of what Christ’s incarnation was all about. The theological doctrine, as MacArthur teaches this morning, called “the kenosis,” was the Greek reference for Christ emptying Himself of His glory/majesty for … ME (and you, of course). And don’t you just stand in awe of what today’s verse describes. And since we’ve been discussing HUMILITY this month, in this verse we see what is probably the most powerful example of Christ’s infinitely humble nature as can every be found in the Bible, save the Cross and Christ’s Passion, of course. And, if we are to aspire to Christlike humility, this is the model we must use as our example … our beacon of hope to be like our Lord, as exhorted in Phil. 2: 5.

We certainly need a model or a target of humility, falling so short of God’s glory as humans in our sinfulness (see Rom. 3: 23). We know that Jesus, Himself, called His disciples (and all believers) to be empty of self as we follow Him (see Luke 9: 23 - have you got that one memorized yet – if not, today should be the day to do that little self-emptying task for Christ – because it’s the first day of Spring – a day where something new from God should come alive!!!). Christ, of course, would never call us toward any course of action, in His Name, if we could not, with His grace, be able to do what He commands (besides 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9, see the Great Commission in Matt. 28: 19 – 20). When He calls us, His promise is to be, not only with us (Heb. 13: 5) but ahead of us (see Deut. 31: 8). Therefore, we can fulfill Paul’s exhortation to be humble like Christ (again, Phil. 2: 5); and Christ’s magnificent example points the way for us.

My Prayer Today: Fill my emptiness with Your fullness, O Lord! Amen

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 20, 2011 … No Pride of Position

Passage of the Day: Philippians 2: 5 – 6 ... 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, …

My Journal for Today: Well, the Apostle Paul lays it on the line here for the Christian, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to charge Christians in Philippi – and really Christians anywhere/everywhere – to develop and maintain attitudes that are “the same” as that of Jesus, The Christ. Now, I know, in my head, that God, The Holy Spirit, would never have breathed those words into Paul to write these truths if a believer, aspiring to Christlikeness, couldn’t attain that kind of an attitude of humility and meekness (pointed to by Christ, Himself, in Matt. 11: 29). However, my heart balks at this daunting challenge. I reflect on what Christ did for all mankind, being our model of surrender to the Father … totally and completely humbled; and I’m overwhelmed with the nature of Paul’s exhortation >>> to be humble … as was Christ.

Christ set aside His majesty in becoming a babe in a manger. He grew and matured and learned to be a humble carpenter as an apprentice to His dad, Joseph. He chose to be baptized by John, the Baptist, when John was overwhelmed to perform this act of surrender to the Father. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples; and Peter was blown away that He’d do that. Our Lord sweat blood in pain in the garden, just hours before He exhibited the ultimate in humility, … dying on that tree at Golgotha for the sins of all mankind.

Now, that’s humility personified; and I’m charged to be just like that! … Wow!

But then I read and internalize another of Paul’s writings (see Eph 1: 3 – 6, 13 – 14) …

SCRIPTURE: Eph. 1: 3-6 ... 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For He [the Son] chose us in Him [the Spirit] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His [the Father’s] sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.Eph. 1: 13-1413 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 Who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of His glory.

That passage both convicts me and lifts me up. And also knowing the truth of 1st Cor. 10: 13 … that no challenge set before me, especially any challenge God places there or allows into our lives, cannot be overcome or undertaken with success in His Name; because He is always faithful to provide me with the strength I need in my weakness (see also 2nd Cor. 12: 9). Hence, what Paul writes in today’s passage, that I’m to be humble, like Christ, I know that God, the Holy Spirit is sealed within me to give me the grace/power to be humble – even to humble like Christ.

And so, even though I have a sin nature, falling short of God’s glory (see Rom. 3: 23); and even though I have a wretchedly deceitful heart (see Jer. 17: 9), I know that my God, living in me, is greater than all of the spiritual forces which will come against me 1st John 4: 4); … and I can become humble like Christ … more today than yesterday … more tomorrow than today.

To that end, I move forward (see Phil. 3: 13 – 14).

My Prayer Today: Help me to be like You, Lord. Amen

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19, 2011 … Looking Out for Others’ Interests First

Passage of the Day: Philippians 2: 4 [underlined] - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

My Journal for Today: In our fast-paced, self-indulgent, and information-flooded world and culture, it is very easy for anyone, including Christians, to get wrapped up in doing “our own thing” or putting our selves #1 in our own world. One can’t help but speculate that this is a deliberate battle strategy of our enemy to let the “tyranny of the urgent” or “the power of the personal” overcome and/or interfere with the priorities we should be setting based on our desire to walk in worthiness with Christ (again see Eph. 4: 1 – 2).

However, this was probably also the case in Paul’s day as well; and in today’s verse, we read him exhorting believers to avoid such a self-centered focus. I must admit that it’s all too easy to become enveloped in one’s own goals, projects, and even ministry efforts, … to the exclusion of considering the aspirations, interests, and yes, even the needs, of brothers/sisters in Christ or the ultimate needs of the lost Christians, who are headed to hell if we don’t let God use us to consider their horrible fate.

Paul’s words in the highlight passage for today have me GUILTY AS CONVICTED by God’s Spirit to open up my heart and mind, as well as my plans/actions, to include more consideration for the “interests of others.” I need to pray that God will prick my heart with more sensitivity … that I will slow down and put out my spiritual antennae … and that I will take action when I see any unmet need or a hurting soul, especially in the lives of fellow believers (see Galatians 6: 9 – 10 [linked for review]).

Certainly, as I go about my day-to-day life, my eyes are going to encounter the eyes of others who are lost and destined for hell unless someone, like yours truly is used by God to break through and help them see their need for the Lord. One of my favorite contemporary Christian songs is People Need the Lord [linked here for your viewing on You Tube]. Perhaps in this quiet moment as you’ve come to read what I’ve shared here today, you’ll take just a few moments, click on that link, and let God’s Spirit speak to yours in this video.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to slow down and to see more clearly the needs of others, especially to those who need You, Lord. Amen

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18, 2011 … Placing Others Above Self

Passage of the Day: [NIV] Philippians 2: 3 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Note the NASB version - Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; …

My Journal for Today: I’ve added the NASB version of Phil. 2: 3 above as well as the NIV because this translation defines “humility” as “humility of the mind,” emphasizing the attitudinal quality we’ve been discussing in depth this month. The Apostle Paul had a real challenge in describing this quality to his Christian readers his epistle in the 1st century. According to John MacArthur in Strength for Today, these 1st century believers in Philippi were influenced heavily by the Greek culture of the day; and the Greeks thought of humility as an attitude only for slaves. So, using any term to describe “humility” to Greek minds in those days would have been considered as an extreme term of derision. Therefore, to discuss the concept of “humility of the mind” (see NASB version above), Paul invented a new Greek term, a compound word, “tapienophronsune,” because his readers in that culture would have never responded constructively to the common Greek term for humility, “tapeinos.” This latter term would have referred to slaves graveling in lowliness before their masters. So, Paul compounded this word for “lowliness” with the Greek word for “heart” or “mind” to produce what is translated in the KJV of Phil. 2: 3 as “lowliness of mind.” Paul was trying to help the Christians at Philippi to be able to put the concept of Christlike humility into some operational context where they would understand the importance of this attitude quality of Christlikeness without dismissing it as a “slave-like” attitude.

Paul, of course, fully understood how difficult it was for anyone to wrestle with pride and a deceitful heart [as you probably know from Jer. 17: 9]. One can read Paul’s story, reported by Luke in Acts 9, or his self described struggles with pride and sin in Romans 7, verses 14 - 24. So, Paul empathized with the readers of his epistle to the Philippians, as well he would with believers even now, as to how difficult it was or is to develop the Christlike mindset of humility that would allow believers to develop unity in Christ’s Church, which they (we) would need to confront the world and walk with worthiness as Christians (again revisit Ephesians 4: 1 – 4).

To bring the good news of the Gospel to a world which puts “humility” down, which is as true today as much as it was in the 1st century, is very difficult. We know that one cannot receive Christ as Savior and Lord without an attitude of humility. So, it behooves all of us, who follow Christ and His Great Commission (in Matt. 28: 19 - 20), to keep on being as humble as we can to receive the enabling grace we will need to bring the Gospel to a lost world.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to think of others before self. Amen

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17, 2011 … Threats to Humility: Selfishness and Conceit

Passage of the Day: Philippians 2: 3 - 4 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

My Journal for Today: Well, here we have our premise for the month stated very clearly in another way by an Apostle who was languishing in prison when he wrote this, totally humbled before God, yet exhorting believers to learn what he had learned in life – that the only way to live in God’s kingdom is to humble ourselves before God and others. The Apostle Paul realized how common it was (is) for Christians to succumb to the very human drives of selfishness or conceit, setting aside humility, and thereby forfeiting God’s grace in their endeavors. That’s why he was so forcefully exhorting the church at Philippi (and us too!) to avoid such self-directed agendas, which he knew would lead to factionalism and divisiveness within the church – which, in turn, he knew would destroy the unity about which he wrote to others in the church at Ephesus (Eph. 4: 3 - 6). He also warned the church at Corinth in this way (1st Cor. 3: 3); and he told the Galatians (see Galatians 5: 16) how imperative it was to bring selfishness under control.

But do we in the church of today understand and apply that repetitive exhortation? Do we get it?! I think not! Unfortunately, there is far too much factionalism and denominational pride standing in the way of God’s Church being able to use the presence and power of God through His unlimited gift of grace in today’s world. Oh, if we – the Church - could simply live as God dictated to us in today’s verse.

As John MacArthur points out in Strength for Today, it is not wrong for believers or God’s church to have agendas and/or plans as long as the attitudes behind these plans are motivated by humility and a consideration for all involved; … hence, the pronouncement of Phil. 2: 3 – 4. If this were to be the case in God’s church and for individual believers, God would be lifted up by the humility of those who mimic His attitude, which just happens to be the subject of Paul’s charge in the very next verse (see Phil. 2: 5). However, when foolish selfishness and/or vain conceit are at the heart of the plans we conceive in life or as His church, we move out on our own; and that was the prospect that Paul was trying to help the Philippians (and us) to avoid.

Prayerfully we will get the message and then live it the way God intended for us to live.

My Prayer Today: Lord, convict me … direct me … to consider others first in all my plans. Amen

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16, 2011 … Threats to Humility: Doctrine and Hypocrisy

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 – 2 - ... 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: Two powerful issues which often impede or block humility in any believer are intellectual pride and/or hypocrisy. Though it’s possible for anyone who, for whatever reason, feels superior in intellect to another to be wrapped in intellectual pride, this issue is often related to positional pride as well. In the latter, where someone, because of his/her self-perceived intellect or current position, feels more entitled than someone else to be in control or above that other one in some way, will inevitably push that “lower” person aside or downward in position. Who has not been there or felt that? Very few, I would think, have avoided this pitfall of pridefulness.

King Herod was one whose story is available in the New Testament to illustrate this intellectual and/or positional pride; and look what it got him – where we read of this man being eaten by the worms, humbled by God about as much as any person could ever be humbled. We read about it in Acts 12: 19 – 23 … were God took a man down who decided to raise himself above others …

SCRIPTURE: Acts 12: 19-23Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply. 21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

It has been said … if we will not humble ourselves before God, that He will humble us; and I don’t know about you, but I’ve personally experienced that in my life – more than once; - and it’s no fun! It’s much better to learn from God’s word, life, and the experiences of others and then to choose to be humble before God than for God to have to humble me because of my obstinate intellectual and/or positional pride.

And the final roadblock to being a humble servant of God is the one Jesus hated the most; and that, of course, is hypocrisy … i.e., external spirituality or religiosity without internal holiness. Christ spoke harshly and directly during His ministry time on earth, uncovering hypocrisy in the religious leaders of His day – the Scribes and the Pharisees (see Matt. 23: 27 – 28 below).

SCRIPTURE: Matt. 23: 27 – 28"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Oh, how Satan loves to pour his spiritual gas on the flames of pride in anyone, but especially in the leaders of Christ’s church … the teachers, preachers, pastors, and key workers. If God’s chosen leaders cannot humble themselves before God’s throne of grace, be assured – from personal experience – God will humble that one to the core. God’s mercy is challenged to the ultimate in tolerance to allow the leaders of HIS CHURCH to tarnish the image of HIS BRIDE or God, the Father, in any way with prideful hypocrisy. So, we, who’ve been called into leadership and prepared for God’s purpose as His designated “shepherds,” can expect to be held to a higher standard of humility than those who are the sheep of God’s flock.

However, all Christians need to realize what we’ve focused on these past few days here – that humility is our key; and therefore, as followers of Christ, we need to use the key of surrender and humility to unlock His treasure chest of grace; and personally, I hope you join me in the desire to be there at His throne, waiting with humble expectation for His grace to be poured out in our lives. But this will not happen for you or for any of us if we cannot choose to be humble servants of our Lord.

My Prayer Today: O, Lord, may nothing I do be done in pride. Amen

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15, 2011 … Threats to Humility: Possessions and Position

Passage of the Day: Philippians 2: 3 - Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit; but with humility of mind, let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.

My Journal for Today: We continue on with a discussion of life issues which promote pride and thereby impede us from a Christlike attitude of humility. And two such issues are possessions and position.

Moses clearly warned God’s people, and thereby all of us, against the pride that grows out of achievement and accumulation, when he wrote in Deut. 8: 17 – 18

SCRIPTURE: Deut. 8: 17-18You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, …

I think we all know that the pride which can come along with the accumulation of wealth/power often goes hand-in-glove with class-related pride. I know that on more than one occasion, even after I became a Christian, on several occasions, I became convicted of thinking of myself as “better than” someone else just because of where I lived or because of those with whom I associated. But, in these instances, God has helped me to confess of this sinful pride and repent to pursue a more Christlike humility. What about you? Have you ever had to turn around from prideful selfishness or vain conceit?

But we have a model, the perfect model of just the opposite, in the life and ministry of our Lord, Jesus, … a life devoted to humble ministry to the poor, … a life totally devoid of class-related pride. And Christ’s most ardent and righteous anger was directed at religious leaders who loved to flaunt their position/power (see Matt. 23: 5 – 7).

SCRIPTURE: Matt. 23: 5-7 [Jesus] "Everything they [the religious leaders] do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.' "

The advertising industry today tries to get us to buy into the world’s siren call to have more … or to be the best we can be … or to build our self-image. But God’s anger is severe, as we read above, against such attributes [see also Isaiah 3: 16 – 26 - linked here]; and the Holy Spirit, through John taught us to avoid the pride of life which comes from the lust of the flesh and the eyes (see 1st John 2: 15-17) … because nothing eternal comes from these pride-driven attitudes.

My Prayer Today: Keep me, Lord, from the pride of life as seen in this world. Amen

Monday, March 14, 2011

March 14, 2011 … Threats to Humility: Strength and Boasting

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 – 2 - 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: Okay, are we getting the message? … Again from Paul’s oft repeated passage in Ephesians 4, we again read of God’s exhortation toward humility. But Paul wasn’t the only New Testament writer with this pronouncement. We read the same from other church leaders in 1st Peter 5: 5,6 and James 4: 4 – 8 … that our attitude of humility is the key to the sanctifying grace that comes from a believer’s relationship with Christ. Certainly when we have three different early church Apostles or leaders exhorting from the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit and teaching the same lesson, we ought to tune in and apply this repeated lesson to our lives as Christians, don’t you think? And with that in mind, John MacArthur from his devotional book, Strength for Today, begins a brief series here today toward the end of his month of lessons on the attitudes of Christ, teaching about the most common threats to our humility … i.e., those areas where pride, the antithesis of humility, either creeps or crashes into our hearts/minds, giving Satan a foothold into our life and blunting the Holy Spirit’s expression of Christ in or through our life.

The first of these pride threats is what MacArthur calls “ability pride,” where we, as Christians, are tempted to rely on our own strengths or talents rather than surrendering in all circumstances to the power of God to work in our lives. Let me use myself as an example.

Teaching is one of my spiritual gifts. It’s “easy” for me to teach; and I find great spiritual satisfaction when I’m able to relate Godly or biblical principles to others when God uses me to teach them. However, when I have an opportunity to teach God’s principles and life lessons, it’s very easy for me to get prideful especially when someone tells me afterward, “Good lesson, Bill.” In such an instance if I can’t recognize, and preferably verbalize, that it was God’s grace through His Spirit enabling me to teach HIS lesson through me, I’ve let the enemy win a skirmish in the battles of life. My perspective must always give God His glory when He uses a gift that He gave me and principles which are His to give Him the glory. Though He may have used me; … it’s not about me [!]… it must always be about HIM.

MacArthur reminds us about “verbal pride” as well. It would have been better had the person who encouraged me about my teaching to have said, “Bill, God really used you today to teach me; so let’s both praise Him for that!” We all too often are – or at least I am – willing to let others ingratiate us for some achievement, knowing full well that that God should get the glory.

We’ll be looking in the next days at more of these points about pride; and I need it … for sure!!

My Prayer Today:
Help me, Lord, to remain humble to give You the glory! Amen

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 13, 2011 … Understanding Who God Is

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 – 2 - 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: If you are reading this, I would hope that you have come to a humble place in your life where you have received Christ as your Savior AND Lord. In other words, as the writer here, I’m hoping that any reader here is truly “saved.” (See Rom. 10: 9 – 13) Notice I said that the entrance to this process was humility; and here we are back with this concept of “humility” again with this month of devotionals. And during this spring time, I’ve posited more than once that it’s absolutely necessary, if a believer desires to have a deep and abiding relationship with Christ, that the attitude of humility is the key that unlocks the door to God’s grace in that relationship. If you are saved, going deep into an even more abiding relationship with Christ is definitely – or should be – an overriding goal for you. However, humility should lead us to another goal which, I believe, precedes all others in the Christian life; and that is TO KNOW GOD.

John MacArthur presents the following in Strength for Today on this date: “The more we (Christians) comprehend the greatness of God, the more humble we become.” In other words, for the believer to be truly humble, he/she must have the driving desire to know the God whom he/she worships and serves. My dear Christian brother in Christ and mentor, Dr. Bob Ginn, exclaimed strongly to me many times that our primary goal in life as Christians should be to know God. So, both MacArthur and my mentor would say that striving to know God is at the heart of humility; and since all Christians desire to receive God’s grace (or I would assume so), it behooves us all to do everything we can to know God so that our posture will continually be humbled to receive His grace.

King David certainly knew his God when he declared the majesty of His Lord and the desire for fellowship with Him, in spite of the lowliness of mankind (see Psalms 8: 1, 4 below). But it is wonderful that God, in all His majesty, desires fellowship with His humble creatures, … mankind, … well, at least those who can humble themselves enough to get to know Him to let them into their lives. (see Ps. 138: 6 and Rev. 3: 20, also below)

SCRIPTURE: Ps. 8: 1, 4 ... 1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your Name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. … 4 what is man that You are mindful of him, the Son of man that You care for him?
SCRIPTURE: Ps. 138: 6 ... Though the LORD is on high, He looks upon the lowly, but the proud He knows from afar.
SCRIPTURE: Rev. 3: 20 ... Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone (of My disciples) hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and he with Me.

God’s word is very clear that God will not extend His glory to sinful mankind. (see Is. 48: 11); but get this irony. God will extend His grace to me, a sinner … IF, and only IF, I can/will humbly received the mercy He has extended through His Son, my Savior and Redeemer, Who died so that I can be in a position to receive God’s grace. Complicated? Maybe; but it shows the critical nature of chosen humility when it comes to our desire to relate to God; and we’ve seen how we can get into that posture – i.e., by seeking to know God to the fullest extent we are capable.

So, are you with me in my quest to know my (our) God? Everyday and in every way I can, I will seek to know God as intimately as I can, pleading my humble posture in confession and contrition, as a surrendered sinner, so that He, my Lord, will pour His promised mercy and grace into my life.
And everyday, He does!

My Prayer Today: To know You, Lord … to know You … to really know You. That is my humble desire. Amen

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 12, 2011 … Understanding Who Christ Is

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 – 2 - 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: Back again to Paul’s exhortation to believers above toward a humble and worthy walk as a Christian, doing all we can as Christ’s followers to be like our Savior, Who walked in His short ministry on earth as the Model of humility and meekness. And it is a daunting charge from the Apostle Paul, who is not just asking Christians to walk in partial humility. No, we are to “be completely humble,” or what can be translated as “perfectly humble,” again with Christ as our mark of attitude and Paul (in Phil. 2: 5) indicating that we should aspire to the attitude of Christ in our Christian sojourn here on earth.

And John MacArthur slants us toward this difficult task in his devotional treatment in Strength for Today, emphasizing by his repetitious exposition of this passage, how important it is for Christians to strive toward humility. It truly is a daunting proposition; because who really can be like Jesus? But an awareness of Christlike humility is the first step in the right direction. To really KNOW Christ is to appreciate the depth of His relational humility as He walked in perfect harmony with His Father, attempting to minister to His inner group of disciples as well as other close followers. And it was difficult for those who chose to follow Christ to identify with His incredible degree of humility. In fact Christ’s inner disciples would have rather He be more pompous and aggressive as they began to recognize Him as THE Messiah.

We see that in John 13 as He washed the feet of His disciples; and they just couldn’t get it. Peter even balked at this display of humility in rejecting Jesus’ attempt to wash his feet. But Peter finally relented when Jesus rebuked his false humility. Peter had come to realize what an honor it was to be served by the humility of the Messiah. But later, after Christ’s resurrection we read in the writings of the Apostles how these formerly self-driven men, who had walked with Jesus, had become Savior-driven in their humility to serve Christ and His gospel.

They had known the God-Man intimately and had walked with Him; and after He rose from the dead, they came to realize that their lives would be marked to live as Christ had lived and to walk as closely they could the path that Jesus walked. Jesus came to serve the Father (see Mark 10: 45); and so His disciples learned that they were to serve others as He had served them. And we can have this same intimate relationship and walk with Christ as we get to know Him through His word and in our walk in His “footsteps” as His disciples.

Yes, when we truly know Christ, it is true that our self perception will be frustrating. The more accurate our picture of Christ’s holiness, the more painful it is to see our own lack of holiness. But that is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, helping to do what Paul wrote about in Phil. 1: 6 … to bring us into our predestined completeness, molded into Christlikeness. And the more complete this process becomes, the more we will find ourselves being humbled in relation to others as well as our Savior.

Hopefully you will join me in striving to live out, in the living sacrifice Paul wrote about in Rom. 12: 1, the humble and meek walk of our Lord. Because when we grow into His likeness, we will shine His light more brightly (Matt. 5: 16) and radiate Christ for others to see Him for Whom He is and whom they (we) need to become.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to keep my eyes on You. Amen

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 11, 2011 … Understanding Who We Are

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 – 2 - 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: This business of HUMILITY must be important for John MacArthur to expose and discuss it so frequently in his devotional book, Strength for Today, repeating discussions of Paul’s exhortation in Eph. 4: 2 so often, last month and then again this month. And I understand the need for the redundancy personally because I struggle so to achieve the level of humility which God seeks for His children through Paul’s writing here. One cannot just declare that he/she is humble; because that would openly reveal pride. It is somewhat of a spiritual “catch-22.” And God is not demanding just “some” humility in today’s verse. No, He seeks “complete” humility.

Ouch! How could I ever get there?

Well, short of glory, I won’t! However, as a believer and a follower of Christ, I can follow Christ’s mandate in Luke 9: 23, seeking after Christlikeness, and choosing to radically pursue His attitude and lifestyle of humility as my goal for living as God’s word commands in Phil. 2: 5. I believe that was what Paul was searching for when he wrote such words as those found in Phil. 3: 13 – 14 or when he recognized his own tendency toward sin in 1st Tim. 1: 15.

SCRIPTURE: Phil. 3: 13-14 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
SCRIPTURE: 1st Tim. 1: 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst.

Of course, all of us who believe and follow Christ as Lord and Savior still have a sin nature (see Rom. 3: 23); but to the degree that I recognize that reality and press on to the goal of Christlikeness, keeping short accounts of my sin and confessing when I’m convicted by the Holy Spirit (see 1st John 1: 9 and James 5: 16), I can expect that God, the Holy Spirit, is going to fulfill His promise of Phil. 1: 6 … to shape and complete me into the mold of my Lord and Savior. And as long as I keep God, The Son, as my Standard, not comparing myself to others (see 2nd Cor. 10: 12) as it is so easy to do at times, I will always see MY light in the Light of God’s Holiness – an ever humbling mirror for my attitude and way of life.

My Prayer Today: When I seek You, Lord, I am humbled. Amen

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

March 10, 2011 … Humility On Display

Blogger’s Note: I’m going to do and post two devotional journal entries today [3/9]; because on Ash Wednesday (God's timing), during my normal devotional quiet-time, I will be entering the hospital for a full-hip replacement surgical procedure. So, if you happen to be reading along here on 3/9, I would covet you lifting up a brief prayer for good surgery, no complications, and unfettered rehab; and I dearly thank you if you feel so disposed. If you come by to read this on 3/10, a prayer for the rehab with no infections or problems would be deeply appreciated. Bill Berry


Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 – 2 - 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: Well, for those who’ve been following my devotionals this year, here we are back at Ephesians 4, versus 1 and 2; and one which also exhorts Christians to “Be completely humble …” as we “…live a life worthy of the calling you have received [which, of course is Christlikeness].” Like the ancient Romans and Greeks, our culture does not elevate the quality or attitude of humility. In fact in writing Eph. 4: 1-2 in the Greek language, Paul had to make up a compound word for “humility,” … the Greek term “tapienophronsune,” which is a compound concoction from two other Greek words having the meaning of thinking of one’s self as lowly. The Greek language simply didn’t have a word for the attitude of humility, showing how much that culture denigrated or looked down on this human quality. And today we Americans certainly don’t honor humility in our world as much as we do prideful self achievement. During this time of year, the Golden Globes and the Oscar Awards get much attention. And we also have a reality TV show called “The American Idol.” Certainly, all one has to do is look at these media events in our culture to see that humility is not a quality in great demand.

Jesus was/is the ultimate example of a chosen lifestyle of lowliness or humility. He CHOSE to be born a babe in a lowly manger; and it would be good to pause and meditate on my favorite passage about the spirit of Christ’s incarnation. So, from another of Paul’s prison epistles, let me exhort you to read Phil. 2: 5 – 11, which I’ll even post for you to read here …

SCRIPTURE: Phil. 2: 5-11 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, 10 that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Besides God’s choice to set aside His full glory to become a man in the flesh, Jesus owned almost nothing by worldly standards; and He was, by choice, almost totally dependent on others for His sustenance during his three year ministry walk on this earth. We read of Him washing the feet of the Disciples in the upper room (read John 13: 3 – 11), which was His way of teaching His followers about the importance of lowliness of attitude and action [i.e., HUMILITY}. And again I repeat (as I reflected in past devotionals) that the only two adjectives that Jesus was ever quoted as using to describe Himself were “humble” and “meek.” [see Matt. 11: 29]

Note the underlined verse above in Phil. 2: 5 above, where Paul exhorts us all to have the same attitude as that of Christ; and that’s what he’s saying (or rather God is saying) to you and me in today’s passage. So, I must ask myself: … “Just how much does my prevailing attitude mirror that of Christ?” In other words, I must ask these two pointed questions.

Just how humble am I? … AND … Just how meek am I?

And if you’re asking yourself into those same questions as you read this, maybe you’re like me and you have some ways to go to become Christlike in reflecting these two attitudes; and for me, the most difficult is that of HUMILITY.

My Prayer Today: Lord, again I know the risk of this prayer; but help me to be humble. Amen

March 9, 2011 … Honor For The Humble

Passage of the Day: James 4: 10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

My Journal for Today: Again we read from James, Chapter 4, as you can from Peter in 1st Peter 5: 5 - 6, the importance of the attitude of humility as well as the wonderful promise of God, through these Spirit-inspired writers, to “lift you up” when you humbly come to God, in surrender mode, seeking His favor. And in the presence of God, as Isaiah found himself, how could one not be humbled [see Is. 6: 5].

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 6:5 [Isaiah, the Prophet] "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

Apparently Isaiah saw some manifestation of God, maybe as did Moses at the burning bush or Jacob when he wrestled with God; but the experience most certainly brought the Prophet to a place of utter humility where he recognized God for Whom Jehovah, God really was – the sovereign, majestic, and glorious Lord. Hence you read Isaiah declaring, “Woe to me!” Jesus’ Disciples had a similar reaction when you read of them humbled to the core in fear in the midst of a horrible storm, then to see Jesus still the waves and quell the wind with a mere wave of His hand [read in Mark 4: 39 - 41].

I had a similar experience when I finally recognized the depths of my own spiritual weakness, after years of seeking to control life on my own. And on that day, April 13th 1983, God so vividly gave me a glimpse of His power that I was brought to a place of utter humility, asking God to reveal Himself to me. And for the rest of my life, over and over again, I’ve been shown who I am and Whose I am by my intentional humility, which puts me in the position to receive what God has in store for me.

But as with Isaiah or the humbled Disciples in the storm, or, for that matter, yours truly coming to Christ for the very first time, our God does not leave the humble believer bowing in awe. No, as Paul reflects in Eph. 2: 4 – 7, God takes the humble sinner and raises him/her into the status of “Saint”; and not only that, He seats us (yes, even a sinner like me) with our Lord, Jesus, on His throne as full heirs of His glory.

SCRIPTURE: Eph.2: 4 - 7 But because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Now, as the younger generation of today might say, “Is that not awesome, or what?!!”

Yes, it is truly incredible, …but oh, so true. And having experienced this lifting up from utter degradation to the status of a born-again believer, and even more to the role of Elder in my church, as well as an Ordained Minister, I know that the lowering of self in humility before our Savior produces everything He promises – and more - see Ephesians 3: 20.

What a deal, for sure! I pray that you have taken the deal and humbled yourself to Him as well; and I pray that you have seen what I have seen, … i.e., God lifting you up with a glimpse of His glory.

My Prayer Today: Lord, may I never lose my awe of Whom You are and my very real sense of whom I am not. Amen

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

March 8, 2011 … Realizing the Need for Seriousness About Holiness

Passage of the Day: James 4: 9b – Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.

My Journal for Today: The question for Christians in the 21st century, especially in today’s world which mocks or makes light of biblical values is, “Just how serious are we as believers, as born-again Christians, about holiness?”

The Apostle James in today’s passage says that our laughter should become mourning and our joy should become gloom when we see the sinfulness in our own hearts and the outflow of sin in the world. And yet, we giggle at top-rated TV sit-coms making fun of Christian values. I’ve done it; and I would guess that you may have done the same thing. Well, God forgive us for falling into line with the world in such moments. Praise the Lord that His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3: 22-23) and He cleanses me of my flippancy when I get serious enough with conviction and confess it (1st John 1: 9).

Of course, there is a time to laugh and to revel with joy when we see God’s providence and His purpose being manifest in His creation and our relationship with Christ (see Eccles. 3: 4). However, when it comes to our attitude toward sin, with our mind’s eye being toward Christlikeness, James reminds us that this is serious business.

Our relationship with Christ must begin, as MacArthur points out in his devotional from Strength for Today for this date, “… on a sober, humble, and serious note.” When we consider our love for God in the context of our life in this world, we simply cannot abide the world’s attitude about sin, about which we are warned against in 1st John 2: 15 – 17 [a good passage to have memorized!] …

SCRIPTURE: 1st John 2: 15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

If I profess to love God – and I do!! – then my love for Him must be shown in the way I think and live; and as we’ve seen before from Prov. 23: 7 (NKJV), “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” If my heart does not grieve or hold remorse over my own sin and the sin I see in the world, then my love for God is very shallow. And if my living worship for my God does not reflect that hatred of sin with my living to be like Christ, my relationship with my Lord is shallow as well.

May I grow to grieve more over my sin, to hate it in me and the world, and to revel in purity and holiness!

My Prayer Today: Oh, Lord, how I desire to be holy. … How I hate my unholiness! Amen

Monday, March 07, 2011

March 7, 2011 … Holding True Sorrow for Sin

Passage of the Day: James 4: 9a – Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.

My Journal for Today: MacArthur begins his devotional for this date in Strength for Today by looking further into the essence of humility needed for the believer to plum the depths of God’s grace; and he writes, “… spiritual humility will be marked by a true sorrow over sin.” And that is what James intends as he writes, “Grieve, mourn, and wail …” in today’s verse. The truly humble and mature believer hates his/her own sin and grieves over the sin exercised or perceived in the world. As James points out, this can be agony to the point of profound grief, even mourning and wailing under certain circumstances, especially those where a Christian has been convicted by his/her own sinful behavior.

I lead a ministry, Battle Plan Ministry [see] where men have come to recognize and take responsibility for their own sexual sin, sometimes repeated patterns of such things as pursuing internet p0rnography or serial infidelity; and these men become deeply convicted and broken over their sin; and I could imagine them weeping and mourning over ill-begotten choices, which may, for those married brothers, caused serious damage to their marriage relationships and/or parenting [for those with children]. Sin recognized and repented of can – and should – cause great remorse and mourning if the Christian is truly repentant and desires cleansing and radical transformation to a life marked by Christlikeness.

The Apostle Paul also wrote about Godly sorrow when he wrote to the church in Corinth where he noted being glad to see of their genuine sorrow over their sin. See 2nd Cor. 7: 10 – 11 below.

SCRIPTURE: 2ndCor. 7: 10 - 11… Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

Here Paul is correctly pointing out that the humble unsaved person must come to a place, as did I in 1983, where there is genuine sorrow in humiliation and repentance for that one’s sinfulness – and earnestness and eagerness in grief over this sin, recognizing to some degree the death [i.e., separation from God] caused by self-directed and sinful thoughts, choices, and behaviors. It is only in the HUMILITY, … actually, humiliation …, of such a moment can a lost person be broken by the prevenient grace that is calling him toward a relationship or closeness to God. Only then can he receive God’s saving grace to be born from above. Only then, can a converted Christian become truly convicted and repentant and turn from his/her wicked ways, capturing God’s enabling grace to be shaped into Christ’s image.

Both Paul and James knew that HUMBLY surrendering to God’s conviction (from His prevenient grace) would involve a certain degree of misery, leading to true repentance, … which, ultimately leads to a walk of directed obedience and to the joy and peace produced by such a humble transformation from selfish non-believer … to convicted believer … to obedient Christian.

Yes, true humility can and will involve some degree of pain; … but, as the saying goes, “No pain, … no gain!”

My Prayer Today: Lord, I remember you saying, as you did to a sin-ridden church, “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and he with Me.” Lord, help me to see my sin, grieve, and then to open the door to let You come in and be with me. Amen

Sunday, March 06, 2011

March 6, 2011 … Cleansed Hands and Hearts

Passage of the Day: James 4: 8c [note underlined/bold portion in context] – 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

My Journal for Today: As we’ve been reflecting on James 4: 8 the last three days in my devotional entries, the Apostle James gives believers the absolute requirements, or at the very least the character traits, necessary for the humility we need as Christians to approach God in seeking a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. For that today, John MacArthur exposes Jesus’ brother James saying that we must have “clean hands” and a “clean heart.” The former, having “clean hands,” is a reference to the Jewish priestly ceremony of hand washing in the Temple before the priest could or would approach God in the Holy of Holies (see Exod. 30: 19 – 20). In the New Covenant, of course, all believers form a “royal priesthood;” [see 1st Pet. 2: 9] therefore, our walk as believers should be clean so that we can approach God’s throne of grace to avoid the death knell of sin [which is defined as anything separating our character from God’s].

However, beyond this requirement of walking with clean hands [i.e., purity of action], for a believer to be truly humble at God’s throne, he/she must also have a “clean heart” [i.e., purity of attitude]. In other words, the thoughts, motives, and desires of the Christian must be fully cleansed before that one could ever expect to receive God’s grace. God’s word is clear about the natural condition of the human heart [see Jer. 17: 9]; and as we think in our spiritual heart, so we live (see Prov. 23: 7 in the NKJV – which states: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”).
SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 18: 31-32 … 31 “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!”

Hence, as today’s exhortation by James, as well as this statement, directly from God, in the Old Testament (i.e., from Ezekiel 18: 31-32 - above), we who have perpetually deceitful hearts, must keep short accounts with God for our sinfulness. Fortunately we have God’s promise that He will cleanse the heart of any humble believer willing to confess his/her sin. I’ll bet you already know that promise in 1st John 1: 9 (if not, I challenge you to memorize that verse and use its application when the Holy Spirit convicts you, as He does me, of sinfulness almost daily, if not momentarily). If we humbly come to God’s throne of grace fully cleansed by the blood of Christ of our sin [and we can according to 1st John 1: 9], we can expect our Lord to shower us with His grace, … just as He did on the cross.

So, join me in a covenant THIS DAY to walk and live purely so that we can live as believers fully covered by the grace of God.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to have clean hands and a clean heart as I live for You. Amen

Saturday, March 05, 2011

March 5, 2011 … The Nearness of God

Passage of the Day: James 4: 8b –[note underlined/bold portion in context] – 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

My Journal for Today: What a promise we reviewed yesterday from James 4: 8a … that God will draw near to the humble, faithful child of God who seeks nearness to The Lord in his/her life – a life of living sacrifice to a God Who willingly sacrificed all so that we, who believe and receive His grace, might have everlasting life. And the result of such closeness, such intimacy of fellowship, for the one who worships God in Spirit and in truth (see John 4: 23), is the indwelling, empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit, … the ministry that allows the believer to overcome the flesh and follow our Savior’s command (in Luke 9: 23) to deny self, take up his/her cross daily, and follow after our Lord.

MacArthur, in Strength for Today, helps me remember David’s instructions to his son, Solomon, in 1st Chronicles 28: 9, that if Solomon (or any believer) were to seek God, “… God would find [that one].” However, David went on in that passage to expound on the opposite, which is also true, “ … but if you forsake Him (God), He will reject you forever.” Now, this doesn’t mean that a saved person will or can lose his/her salvation. It refers to the truth that God cannot pour His grace into the life of one who is unwilling to humbly receive His free gift of saving grace.

And I return to the principle of God desiring to draw near to the obedient, humble son of God, which is probably best illustrated in the parable of the prodigal father whose lost his prodigal son, who had turned away from the Father and left his dad to squander his inheritance on fleshly living (read it in Luke 15: 11 – 32 [linked]). We read of the son coming to his senses, repenting, and deciding to go and confess to his Father. And when the repentant son comes back, we read of the wonderful image of this prodigal Father, Who is not only waiting for His son, but … He runs to see him and hug him and lavish all the love He can bestow on the boy who has returned to be with the Father. And of course, Jesus, in relating this story to His followers, was picturing His own, loving Father, Who will take in any confessing child of His who is willing to return to the Father and receive that love.

But as with the prodigal, though the love offering is completely unconditional, the giving of that love is conditional; and today’s verse begins to outline those conditions [see today’s verse of emphasis]. The child of God who seeks to receive God’s unfailing and ever faithful grace must be willing to first wash his hands of fleshly living. This is the repentance that is absolutely necessary for the return to the Father and the receipt of His saving grace. The prodigal son of the prodigal Father was finally willing to recognize his sinful ways, to wash his hands of that sinful living (i.e., confess, as in 1st John 1: 9), and to return to the incredible, but loving, arms of his Father.

Yes, that is our loving, faithful, and ever forgiving Heavenly Father; and He waits for us with open arms, … willing to lavish His best on us when we repent and come to Him. But we have to be willing to wash our hands of selfishness and sin, allowing the cleansing blood of God, the Son, to wash us and bring us to a place where we can, in true repentance, present ourselves to the Father, cleansed and ready to receive His grace.

Oh, how I desire to be with my loving Father and to receive His grace. How about you?

My Prayer Today: I come running, dear Father, for your grace! And I feel You, running to me. Amen