Sunday, July 31, 2011

August 1, 2011 … A Society of Things

A Year of Daily Devotionals: A Journal by Bill Berry … August, 2011

Blogger’s Note: As my wife and I cruise through the Mediterranean seas as I write this, we are surrounded by providential blessings and material well being; and it’s tempting to think that this is what life is all about. But having read ahead in John MacArthur’s convicting work in Strength for Today, I’m going to be (and you’ll be) kept under the watch care of Gods’ reminders about Whose it all is and that He’s in control of all of those things we often seek to have and hold on to. If you come along with me this month as I journal through August, you’ll get the same truth-filled lessons about money, things, and God’s providence in our lives. I know it’s going to be convicting and edifying for me; and maybe it will for you as well.


Passage of the Day: Matthew 6: 19 – 21 [focus on verse 21 – in bold and underlined below] … 19 [Jesus] “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

My Journal for Today:
I’ve been using John MacArthur’s Strength for Today as my devotional guide for several different years now; and I can recall the first three years going through and journaling my August entries, which focus on the “stuff” of life, … those things which can impede a deep and abiding relationship with Christ – “stuff” like money, materialism, and anything which we choose as idols in our life to replace God. So, if you’re reading my journal entries for these August devotionals, get ready to be stung by some tough teachings from Jesus and other New Testament authors, with John MacArthur and Bill Berry in the background. This may be challenging; but I can assure you, having gone through this venture more than once, these devotionals will help us all prioritize those elements of life which are important to God. So, let me get started.

The biblical teachings on materialism and money-handling can be very convicting for a Christian in a consumer-driven and wealth-based culture such as ours. And we begin today with THE Master’s teaching about Kingdom values from the Sermon on the Mount [and more specifically from the section in Matt. 6: 19 – 24], where Jesus refers, in context, to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees with regard to their dealings with money.

Jesus hits at the very core of the issue I’ll be dealing with this month in the highlighted (i.e., bold) verse above [Matt. 6: 21]; and that is the attitude of the heart when we’re dealing with earthly matters like money. Each time I read Jesus’ teaching in this verse, I’m reflexively drawn to Proverbs 23: 7 (in the NKJV), which reads, “As a man thinks, in his heart, so is he.” Both Jesus and Solomon are teaching what Paul taught in Rom. 12: 1 – 2, … that we must have a heart that is in a “living sacrifice” mode; and Paul, in Rom. 12: 2, clearly says what Solomon is saying in Prov. 23: 7 … that we must transform our hearts/minds to keep God as priority #1 [also read Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 6: 33].

Some have said that you can get the best picture of a man’s heart by looking at two things, … his calendar and his check book. Such an inventory would allow us to see how a man or woman prioritizes time and money; and these priorities reflect the priorities of his heart. Does the man, in question, have God’s kingdom values, or does he prioritize worldly/fleshly values? Take a look at your time/money priorities for the last 30 days. In doing so, how does God stack up this last month? Did the Lord get the first fruits of His providence [see Prov. 3: 9]?

We’ll be looking more at that and other life choices this month. So, together, let’s do inventory and see where God stands in our lives.

My Prayer Today: Lord, show me, more clearly than ever, how I should handle the stuff of life. Amen

Saturday, July 30, 2011

July 31, 2011 … The Blessings of Assurance

Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 1: 10 [NIV] … 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, …

2nd Peter 1: 10 [NASB]
10Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; …

My Journal for Today:
We’re closing out this month’s discussion on the assurance of salvation by studying the passage from Peter’s second epistle [i.e., in 2nd Pet. 2: 1]. And today, this last day of the month in our study, we can see Peter writing (see bold portion above) an exhortation to obedience. The phrase … if you do these things [i.e., the character disciplines of the faith which Peter listed],” is translated “… for as long as you practice these things” in the NASB. And after challenging the believer with this charge, Peter gives Christians a powerful promise from God, writing, (again from the NASB) “… you will never stumble.”

I have a dear friend who often says, “First obedience, then God’s blessing.” And it’s true that God blesses the Christian who lives and practices within the assurance of his/her salvation AND with God’s blessing of enabling grace. I have experienced this; and if you’ve been walking in what Peter wrote about in 2nd Peter 1: 5 – 10 for any length of time, you likely have experience the power that Christians are given by God to be fruitful as you have walked in obedience to God’s word.

John MacArthur in his devotional, Strength for Today, on this date, writes that our salvation, being sure, provides the believer with …

>>> The motivation to praise and thank God (see this truth in many of the Psalms) …
>>> Purpose and power during the trials of life (Rom. 8: 28 and 2nd Tim. 1: 7) …
>>> Victory in temptation, trials, tests, and/or tribulations (1st Cor. 10: 13) …
>>> Direction and power to be in continual obedience (Prov. 3: 5,6 and Luke 9: 23) …
>>> Contentment for life’s challenges (Phil. 4: 11 – 13) …
>>> And the elimination of the fear of death (2nd Cor. 5: 6 – 10).

When we know – truly KNOW – that, as sinful creatures, God, in His grace, was freely willing to give us His mercy and sacrifice His Son to save us (see Rom. 5: 8), the genuine born-again Christian is predestined to be completed unto Christlikeness (see Rom. 8: 29, Eph. 2: 10, and Phil. 1: 6). And I also pray that you, as a believer, have discovered that the more intimately you know God in your relationship with the Savior, the more you will be aware of your transformation into the image of our Savior and have confidence in your salvation.

As Fanny Crosby, the physically blind Christian songwriter wrote, so insightfully, wrote in her 19th century hymn …

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine …
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long!

Join me in the contemplation of our salvation … with praise for our glorious Lord, Jesus, who saved us with His grace and now enables us to have a covenant and eternal relationship with Him.

My Prayer Today: Oh, yes! I praise you, my Lord! Amen

Friday, July 29, 2011

July 30, 2011 … Spiritual Growth and Rewards

Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 1: 10 – 11 (see in bold below) … 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My Journal for Today
As a Christian reading this passage, especially verses 10 – 11 in the context of all of the attributes Peter has listed to which believers should aspire, do you find yourself drawn by God’s Spirit into a lifestyle of worship and witness exemplified by these exhortations?

>>> … Do you find yourself drawn like a magnet to a life of fruitfulness for Christ (meditate on John 15 and Paul’s great list of Spirit-given fruit in Gal. 5: 22 – 23)?
>>> … Do you find yourself building a house of faith on the foundation of Christ which will only be completed in heaven (see 1st Cor. 3: 10 – 15)?
>>> … Do you see yourself having a mission and purpose in this life compatible with Christ’s stated mission (in Luke 4: 18)?

If so, take heart … because one day those of us who have been born anew in Christ will be able to lay crowns of righteousness at the feet of Jesus, Who is the only One worthy of such praise and worship (see 2nd Tim. 4: 6 – 8 and Rev. 4: 10 - 11).

Personally, I find all of this daunting; because, though I do live for such pursuits, I most certainly fail at times, falling short of the mark which God’s Spirit sets before me. But if you, who read this, join me in surrender to the ideals of such a life of worship and surrender (see Romans 12: 1-2), we can revel in the assurance of our salvation. It is a healthy thing to be convicted when we sin and even to have doubts; … but to be able to openly and honestly confess those failures before God’s throne of grace and receive His merciful cleansing (see a verse I’m sure you have memorized - 1st John 1: 9). And we should be bathed in the confidence of what Peter has shared with us – inspired by God’s Spirit – in the passage above. We are CHRISTIANS !!

I once heard John MacArthur on the radio say that to have confidence in our salvation, we really must concentrate much more on our DESIRES than we do our DOUBTS. And if your desires really focus on Christlikeness for our own lives, we really should be buoyed in the assurance of our salvation; because lost people just don’t desire to become more like Christ. They are focused on themselves; and their doubts are in their own inabilities, not their shortcomings relative to our Lord. And so, my fellow Christ follower, it is our lot to live in this life worthy of that life we pursue; and that is Jesus Christ. [see Eph. 4: 1 – 2] And so, we move on to that end.

My Prayer Today: Thank you, Lord, for leading me in this life to become more like You. Amen

July 29, 2011 … Spiritual Amnesia

Blogger's Note: Posted from the ship harbor in Venice Italy where we are on the Nieuw Amsterdam cruise vessel, awaiting our cruise into the seven seas of Europe/Asia tomorrow with the Insight for Living/Inspirational Cruise team. It was a lovely morning devotional here in our stateroom. And here is what God gave me this morning from my time with Him and John MacArthur's Strength for Today devotional book.


Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 1: 9 (see bold below) … 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities [see verses 5 – 7] in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

My Journal for Today
In the past few days in my devotional journal entries, we’ve looked at several spiritual qualities which, when experienced and practiced in the growth of a Christian, help to give clarity to the reality of that believer’s salvation and walk in the Spirit [i.e., sanctification]. And as these qualities [above in verses 5 – 7] become more and more apparent [i.e., matured] in your life, you will experience a boost in the confidence of who you are in Christ.

However, the opposite of that premise is also the case [see in bold/underlined above in 2nd Peter 1: 9]. If we, as Christians, choose to make choices that take us away from Peter’s character list above, moving us farther and farther away from our fellowship with Christ, we, as Peter teaches in today’s passage, can become spiritually myopic and “forgetful,” unable to retain the fruitfulness and spirit-led growth which could be ours in a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. When we choose to abandon the disciplines of the faith, the result will likely cause us to be spiritually short-sighted in our own selfish forgetfulness. And always remember we humans have – and continue to battle – an ever deceitful heart (see Jer. 17: 9), which Satan loves to use as leverage against us when we succumb to its sinfully magnetic power.

That’s why we, as followers of Christ, need to do as Peter exhorts in the passage from his 2nd epistle (above), continually and diligently practicing the spiritual virtues of the faith in order to protect our spiritual vision and memory. So, we must know that the longer we choose to remain blind and/or forgetful to those commitments and/or actions which keep us close to Christ, we will drift farther and deeper into spiritual nearsightedness and forgetfulness, which, in turn, damages our Christian witness.

And that’s how our enemy, Satan, loves to dampen the spiritual power of Christians … to lull us into selfish or sin-laden choices, which render our testimony and witness useless to God and His purposes for our lives. I’m sure that we all want to do what Peter has exhorted [above] and to be empowered by God’s Spirit and grace to be a bright light in this dark world, glorifying God (as Christ exhorted in a verse you likely have memorized, Matt. 5: 16). But the brightness of our light to glorify God will be proportionate to our surrender and discipline as we allow God’s Spirit to refine and mature the fruit His Spirit has implanted in our soul. We, as Christians, choose to receive all God has to offer us and to become all we can be in our relationship with Christ.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me stay close to you and to be clear of vision to Your saving grace. Amen

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 28, 2011 … Fruitfulness

Blogger's Note: Since we are traveling to Europe and likely will not be able to post my devotional journal tomorrow, I decided to do it and post it here on 7/27 so that I can remain accountable to my discipline in this very important devotional part of my life. ... wrb

Passage of the Day
: 2nd Peter 1: 8 (see bold text below) …
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities [see verses 5 – 7] in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

My Journal for Today
The Apostle Peter, in today’s verse and passage, is clearly trying to help converted believers to live a full and spiritually productive, i.e., FRUITFUL, life in Christ. And doing all I can to live up to this exhortation, I know, as do you, if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, that living the fully surrendered Christian life is a most challenging proposition.

In reading Matt. 7: 15 – 20, Jesus taught that we can recognize the true from the false prophets or believers by the way they live their lives. As He said in verse 20, “… by their fruit you will recognize them.” And what are the fruit which we see blossoming to maturity on the tree of life in a true Christian? Well, we’ve already looked at Paul’s list of fruit (see Gal. 5: 22, 23) and Peter’s in today’s passage. And if you’ve associated with real-for-sure Christians, you may have seen these fruit manifest in those who boldly witness openly and often to non-believers. You may have seen Christians reaching out in mercy and love … even to the very unlovable or maybe even their enemies. And you may have seen these real-deal Christians giving much of their time, talents, and treasures to or through the local church without making a show of their giving.

Yes, these and other “fruit” of God’s Spirit are evident on the tree of life exhibited by true Christians. You will also see lives which go from the “bad fruit” mentioned by Jesus in Matt. 7, being transformed into the “good fruit,” living on the tree of a converted believer. Before I came to Christ, much “bad fruit” (which is described by Paul in Gal. 5: 19 – 21) grew openly on my tree of life; but when I came to surrender my life to God’s Spirit, God planted His fruit in and on me; and now God’s fruit grows for His glory and prayerfully for others to see Christ in me [see Matt. 5: 16 or Eph. 2: 10].

Does this mean that the fruit of the flesh is not still in my being? No, … such fruits could blossom in me IF I surrendered to my selfish sin-nature. But as long as I cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in my life by Godly choices [in faith], those Godly fruit will grow and become ever more apparent to any or all who see my tree of life growing in their midst. Prayerfully all of us who live the life of a Christian will remain in submission to God’s Spirit to allow Him to ripen and develop God’s fruit in our lives. To that end we live for Christ; and we know that we are saved by and for Him – i.e., more assurance of our salvation.

My Prayer Today: To live, dear Lord, is to live for You. Amen

July 27, 2011 … And Finally, Add Agape Love

Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 1: 7b [NIV – see bold verse] … 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

My Journal for Today:
This has been quite a series of devotionals in the last few days of my journaling from Peter’s exhortations in his second epistle (1st Chapter). He has built for us, as Christians, a house of love (“agape” – the highest form of love in the Greek language). This “agape” house has faith as its foundation with building beams, walls, and a roof of Christlike goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and godliness. And Peter’s contention would be that such a home of Christian love will never be blown down by the storms of this world and the oppression of the enemy.

John MacArthur, from his Strength for Today devotional, gives us a scriptural building list which will be seen in Christians who have built their lives on “agape” in this way. He says that loving Christians …

Edify one another (Gal. 6: 9-10)
Serve one another (Gal. 5: 13)
Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6: 2)
Submit to one another (Eph. 5: 21)
Forgive one another (Col. 3: 13)
Instruct one another (Col. 3: 16)
Comfort one another (1st Thes. 4: 18)
Rebuke one another lovingly (Titus 1: 3)
Are hospitable to one another (1st Pet. 4: 9 – 10)
Confess to and pray for one another (James 5: 16)
And encourage one another in the body of Christ (Heb. 10: 24 – 25)
{Each verse linked for your meditation}

So, I think you’d agree with me (and MacArthur) that when you see all of these character qualities and patterns being lived out in the life of one who claims to be a Christian, you would expect that one to exude “agape” and shine God’s light for others to see. In doing so, he/she would most certainly glorify God (see Matt. 5: 16). And I would add to Christ’s words in that verse, since we’ve been focusing on the assurance of our salvation, that such a person would likely also exude confidence in their salvation. Now it’s time for anyone reading this, along with yours truly, to do a personal inventory, meditating on the verses listed above and see where we stand in our witness of faith as a Christian.

My Prayer Today: I praise You, Lord, for living in me and loving through me! Amen

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 26, 2011 … Add Brotherly Kindness

Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 1: 7a [NIV – see verse in bold] … 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7a and to godliness, brotherly kindness; …

My Journal for Today:
Yesterday we saw, from 2nd Peter 1, how the building of fruitfulness in the life of a true Christian moves from faith, adding goodness, knowledge, self-control, and unto Godliness (the Greek term, “eusebeia”). And in today’s addition, we see how godliness becomes “brotherly kindness,” which is a Greek term we Americans can recognize as “philadelphia,” the Greek from which we get the name of our City of Brotherly Love.

“Philadelphia” for the Greeks and those of the 1st century (and it still is today!) was/is the love of true friends. I’ve referred many times in my devotional journaling to the charge from Jesus (in John 13: 35) that observers would know that He (Christ) was in the heart of a believer when (and only when) that Christian developed and exhibited love to his family, friends, and especially to abject strangers [or even enemies]. Jesus taught that others see Himself in the life of a believer who can show real love to others [i.e., “philadelphia”], especially his enemies [which is the “agape” variety we’ll learn about tomorrow – yes, I read ahead ;) ].

If you claim to be a Christian, as do I, we will have the fruit of love in our hearts (see the first one on Paul’s list in Gal. 5: 22-23), which will first be exhibited in an outreach of love to others (i.e., the ‘philadelphia’ of today’s verse). So, check yourself out on God’s “philadelphia index” …

>>> Do you find yourself drawn with concern to others, especially the “unlovable?”
>>> Do you converse with others about deeper issues – not just surface talk?
>>> Do you find yourself sharing your time, talents, treasures with others?

If you are doing these things [or at least sincerely desiring to pursue them], you are a “phildelphia” kind of guy or gal! And if this is the case, take heart and praise God … because this quality in you is a true sign of your salvation and the enabling grace of God’s Spirit in your heart. Take it from a natural loner, who still struggles to reach out at times. I now find myself really caring for the needs of others and being convicted when I don’t reach out to help in some way. In my former agnostic life, I could easily look the other way, without any remorse, when I saw someone in need where I could help. Back then, it took little to shun their needs aside. But now God won’t let me do that – even if my still sinful heart would like to.

When you’re saved, you slowly grow into that new creature written of in 2nd Cor. 5: 17, and that is one who will reach out in “philadelphia” love to others. So, the next time you reach out to someone with a helping spirit, tell them that you’re doing some “Philadelphia Christian” work for God.

My Prayer Today: Thank you, Lord, for the love I have from other Christians. Amen

Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011 … Add Perseverance and Godliness

Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 1: 6b … [NIV – see emboldened verse]] 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; …

My Journal for Today:
Yesterday we were aided by John MacArthur (from his devotional in Strength for Today) to see that one clear sign of the true, maturing Christian is temperance (or “self control”). Today from the latter portion of that same verse [from 2nd Peter 1: 6b] Peter takes Christlikeness beyond “egkrateia,” adding “hupomene,” or perseverance. Ultimately, as one reads in the last phrase of 2nd Peter 1: 6, Peter is saying that adding perseverance to self control leads to “godliness,” [the Greek term for the latter being “eusebeia”].

Perseverance with any of the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22-23) is necessary for one to build a Christlike character. And the word picture I like to use for “perseverance” is that of a rock climber grabbing on and clinging to a rock because his very life depends on it. And that’s true of our life as a Christian. In faith, believing in the saving/enabling grace of Christ, we need to grab onto Christ, THE ROCK, clinging to Him by belief in His word, and holding on for dear life – our life of worship with Him as Lord. And to add another word picture of “hupomene” … is like a bulldog, who is gifted with supernaturally strong jaws to hold on to whatever it bites, … never letting go. In the Christian life, perseverance is the living out of 2nd Cor. 12: 9 and 1st Cor. 10: 13; and it is dogged trust revealed in Prov. 3: 5 – 6 and Rom. 8: 28. [I’m assuming by now that you have all those verses duly memorized!].

Our model, as always, in any of these character traits, is Jesus, Who exhibited the quality of “hupomene” perfectly and completely as we read in Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 [see below], … this quality of never letting go of God’s will, the attitude quality to which all Christians should aspire.

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 ... 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Living out self-control, with perseverance, produces a lifestyle of godliness [or “Christlikeness”], according to Peter in today’s passage … a lifestyle of true worship or living sacrifice, to which the Apostle Paul addressed in Romans 12: 1 – 2 (another passage you should have memorized). And when a Christian experiences such “living sacrifice” (i.e., perseverance in self-control), other Christians can take note of a life filled with ample evidence of the reality of salvation, … one who is living out the command of Christ for discipleship (see Luke 9: 23).

And to move to completion of our topic this month, such a Christian will be one who is well assured of his/her salvation. I pray that all who read here with me are Christians growing in that confidence. I’m sure not there yet; but I’m getting there.

My Prayer Today: Help me hold on to You, Lord, as my life depends on You. Amen

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24, 2011 … Add Self Control

Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 1: 6a [NIV – see bold text] 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; …

My Journal for Today:
One other character signpost of real salvation in this list of Christlike qualities provided by Peter is SELF CONTROL. Peter uses the Greek concept “egkrateia” in today’s passage. Sometimes translated “temperance,” as in the KJV/NKJV; this is the same word used by the Apostle Paul when he listed the Fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5: 22, 23.

You will note on Paul’s list of Christlike attributes, “egkrateia” (self control) appears last on the list; and I firmly believe there was purpose in that ordering. Paul recognized, as I believe is true, that self control (i.e., temperance) can never develop adequately in the life of the Christian unless all of the other spiritual fruit have matured sufficiently. In other words, Paul [with help from the Holy Spirit, of course] knew that self control is the most difficult of God’s spiritual fruit to develop in the life of all Christians. And so, it is my firm belief that the Christian who has a well developed attitude of temperance will be a Christian who has great confidence in his/her salvation.

The Greeks often used the term “egkrateia” to describe a finely trained athlete who was able to bring his sexual passions into a state of temperance while in training for a major event. In his devotional from Strength for Today for this date, John MacArthur offers several suggestions to which he would attribute to the self-controlled Christian. According to MacArthur, it would be a mature and confident Christian who would do the hard tasks in life first, avoiding procrastination. It would be this one who stays on task and on time; and it would be the well-tuned Christian who organizes his/her life to prioritize Christian values. It would be this one who practices delayed gratification, patiently doing what is necessary to reach short and long term goals; as well as one who accepts counsel or correction from more mature Christians. And finally, it would the more mature Christian who welcomes responsibility, not shirking or denying those things which must be done to be more like Christ.

Well, how’re we doing with “egkrateia” in our life? Personally, though I’m better than I used to be and I am confident in my salvation, the fruit of “egkrateia” could use quite a bit more development in my life. But any individual who has achieved any degree of the attributes outlined by MacArthur above and could be called a “self-controlled Christian” would be, as I stated above, a Christian who is likely very confident in his (or her) own salvation. Conversely, I believe that the Christian, who still has major self-control issues in his/her life, may at times have some doubts about the status of his/her salvation. Perhaps you can confirm or deny my contention here based on the status of self-control in your life. >>> What about it, fellow Christian?

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to be totally surrendered in temperance to You. Amen

Saturday, July 23, 2011

July 23, 2011 … Add Knowledge

Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 1: 5b … [NIV – see bold text] 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; …

2nd Peter 1: 5b
… [NASB - see underlined text] 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, …

My Journal for Today:
John MacArthur makes an excellent point in his Strength for Today devotional for this date. He writes the “… moral excellence (remember from yesterday the Greek term, “arête”) cannot develop in an intellectual vacuum.” MacArthur, I believe, correctly claims that our culture, and even the church, has begun to succumb to an experiential orientation, … a feelings-first mentality, if you will, … where the pursuit of truth [i.e., Godly knowledge/wisdom] is shunted aside. The question, “Is it biblically correct?” is considered an unloving, divisive issue [i.e., politically incorrect] in many churches today.

However, in today’s passage/verse, Peter makes the inexorable connection between moral excellence and the pursuit of knowledge (for which the Greek term is “gnosis,” which means “a proper understanding” or an accurate discernment of the absolute truth). Yet, the church, especially some ascribing to the charismatic movement, push aside an intellectual pursuit of doctrine in lieu of finding a spiritual experience in their abiding relationship with Christ.

God’s word is clear, however, (see also Eph. 4: 13 - 15), teaching that Christians who lack doctrinal truth are believers who are childish and/or unstable in their faith, subject to blowing with the winds of cultural/worldly influences. That’s why Paul in the passage in 1st Cor. 14: 20, exhorted believers to be mature in their understanding of truth and not like children, who rely on their feelings. Yes, of course, Christ would have His disciples be childLIKE in their trust of Him – but not childISH. Again Paul exhorts, “… that your (Christian) love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.” (see Phil. 1: 9 - 11)

As the OT Prophet, Hosea, declared, “…let us know, (and) … let us press to know the Lord.” (Hosea 6: 3 - NASB) And that should the credo of every Christian; because to know God is to pursue becoming like God – which translates behaviorally into the pursuit of Christian “arête” or moral excellence; and that is the springboard of Spirit-led sanctification in discipleship.

My Prayer Today: Help me to know You, Lord, through Your truth. Amen

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22, 2011 … Diligence and Excellence

Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 1: 1 – 5a [NIV] … [see emphasis in bold in verse 5a] … 1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, …To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 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. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; …

2nd Peter 1: 1 – 5a [NASB]
[see emphasis in bold in verse 5a] 1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, …

My Journal for Today:
Since John MacArthur uses the NASB version of the Bible in his Strength for Today devotionals, in today’s exposition of 2nd Peter 1: 1 – 5a, he makes reference to several phrases in the NASB which use different wording than the NIV, which I’ve been using as my default Bible for my journal entries. Therefore, I’ve given any reader for today both versions for your study or meditation. And in today’s passage, Peter, especially in verse 5a, was much like the Apostle Paul when Paul wrote in Romans 6: 1 – 2

SCRIPTURE: Romans 6: 1 – 2 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Both Apostles held no quarter to any Christian with a slovenly attitude toward sin. And in today’s passage, Peter is teaching about the empowering grace of God’s Spirit given to all believers. See 2nd Peter 1: 3 – 4, where God’s Spirit, through Peter, states that it is the Christian’s charge to “make every effort” (NIV) or “applying all diligence” (NASB) in order to use God’s grace for “goodness” (NIV) or “moral excellence” (NASB) – or if you go to the NKJV, the term translated is “virtue.”

This latter quality, Peter refers to as “moral excellence, virtue, or goodness,” is “arête” in the Greek. The Grecian culture valued the character quality of “arête” greatly, thinking of one who had this quality as one who stood above the rest in GOODNESS. Many word pictures or language uses of “arête” from the Greek illustrate this. If “arête” was used for describing a knife, it would the sharpest or most useful knife available. A horse with “arête” would win the race. Therefore, the Greeks used “arête” to describe a Christian’s goodness or virtue; and he would be one who focused great energy toward being the most virtuous person he/she could be. And that, according to Peter in today’s passage and Paul in Rom. 6, is what is expected for the truly surrendered Christian.

Our model as Christians, when we strive for “arête” (or goodness/virtue) is, of course, Jesus. He lived in the way of virtue (see Acts 10: 38) we should emulate (see Phil. 2: 5); and according to Paul in 1st Thess. 4: 1, we should do more and more in our lives, day-by-day, to achieve Christlikeness in the quality of “arête.”

My Prayer Today: Yes, Lord, help be to be more like You. Amen

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21, 2011 … Reminders of Assurance

Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 1: 1 – 12 [focus on verse 12 in bold] … 1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, …To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 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.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.

My Journal for Today: Actually, as I continue to study the assurance of salvation this month with the help of John MacArthur, our focus verse for the day is the final one in the passage above. However, it’s impossible to interpret Peter’s reference to “these things” [underlined above] without having the context of the beginning verses of this epistle. Therefore, I’ve provided verses 1 – 12 to help the reader see this context. Peter really believed that his readers understood the concepts about which he was writing in this passage. I pray that all who read along here do as well.

According to John MacArthur, in his devotional from Strength for Today for this date, the Apostle Peter is writing to believers in his 2nd epistle to help remind them of several key truths which help Christians be more readily assured of their (our) salvation. Certainly at the outset of this letter, Peter reminds believers that God has granted us His saving grace through faith (see verses 1 and 2), which ultimately results in the knowledge of Christ in the Christian’s life (see verse 2), which, in turn, produces His peace and the enabling strength/resources we need to live our lives in this challenging world (see verse 3).

Peter then goes on in his letter to explore several key virtues, which, when realized, provide the Christian with even more assurance of their (our) salvation. Therefore, we will explore these virtues in the next few days with John MacArthur’s help to, as MacArthur puts it, “… grow in our assurance.”

Personally, after having gone through the book of 1st John this month, this confidence from Peter’s epistle, will be icing on an already fruit-filled cake of assurance; but I will pray that any who might read and/or meditate along with me here will be bolstered in your confidence that you are saved – OR – you will learn that you need a Savior … and that He is Jesus!

My Prayer Today: Help me, O Lord, to know You as my Lord and Savior – always! Amen

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20, 2011 … Rejection Because of Your Faith

Passage of the Day: 1st John 3: 13 … Do not be surprised, my brothers [and sisters], if the world hates you.

My Journal for Today: The eleventh and final signpost discussed by the Apostle John in this epistle to give believers the assurance of their salvation is the obvious rejection of our Christianity by the world. Today’s verse is absolutely clear on this; and any Christian today would have to be blind, deaf, and frankly, dumb, to ignore the socio-political incorrectness of Christianity in today’s marketplace of ideas and ideals. No, Christians may not be tarred and burned by Nero’s evil empire as they were in the 1st Century at the time John penned his epistle; but there is great persecution of Christians around the world; and there is every attempt by worldly political influences, even in this great, free country, to erase the Name of “God” or “Christ” from any degree of political influence or stature.

In John’s day, the church was dealing with outside worldly influences and out-right liars about the faith. They were confronting false teachers and doctrines, dangerous heresies, and the forerunners of Gnosticism and dualism. Expressions of all of these are still found in today’s culture as well, though maybe more intensely than was experienced by John and the early church because of our era of lightning speed in information transfer. So, John’s letter to the church, helping them to establish confidence in their faith, is just a valid now as it was when he wrote it over two millennia ago.

Jesus certainly warned His disciples of such lies and false doctrines (see John 15: 18 – 19); and we know that from the beginning of human time, “the world” has been out to destroy those of faith in the One, True God. Cain killed Able for this reason (see Gen. 4 and 1st John 3: 12). Saul of Tarsus (who became the Apostle Paul) and his worldly religionists had the first Christian martyr, Stephen, stoned for his beliefs (see Acts 7). And, of course, … there was that business on the cross with Jesus, which is sort of significant to this context and discussion [and please forgive my ironic levity about such an important matter].

Again I return to today’s world, where the reality of worldly hatred of all things related to Christ and God is under attack, often blatantly and directly. Certainly seeing this, though most disquieting and challenging for the Christian, we should be uplifted by the reality it presents. Either the world is right or we, as Christians, are! And if we are right (and we are!); the challenges of the world should give us the same confidence in our faith as it did for those first century Christians who were literally torched and burned for their faith. But remember; … more Christians have been martyred for their faith in the 20th and 21st centuries than in all the combined previous centuries. So, we need to have the same “die-for-the-faith” attitude as did those first century martyrs.

Take heart, Christian! … We are IN the world; but we are not OF the world! And, … we have been saved FROM the world (see Rom. 10: 9 - 13).

My Prayer Today: Thank You, Lord … that I am saved FROM the world. Amen

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July 19, 2011 … Discernment Between Truth and Error

Passage of the Day: 1st John 4: 1 – 6 … 1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

My Journal for Today: To be saved, i.e., converted from sinner to saint, a true Christian must have had, with God’s help, at least one moment of clear perception and understanding of THE Truth, Who is Christ (see John 14: 6 and 1st John 5: 1a). And once the new believer’s spirit is indwelt by God’s Spirit, the human spirit of the new Christian grows, through sanctification, to discern false spirits and/or doctrine (see today’s passage); and he/she will be able, when in surrender to the enlightenment of God’s Spirit, to reject false teaching. This maturing spiritual discernment is yet another mark of true salvation.

Yes, it is true that because our human hearts are still prone to deceit (see Jer. 17: 9), we can still be fooled momentarily, especially in moments where we let our pride or selfishness dampen the enlightenment ministry of the Holy Spirit. However, God’s Spirit, ministering to the surrendered true believer, will ultimately see that our minds/hearts are transformed (see Phil. 1: 6 and Rom. 12: 2) to be able to test and to see God’s Truth (today’s passage and 1st Thess. 5: 21).

We are going to be continually drawn toward deceit by Satan and the world, especially by false teachings and cunning worldly-oriented teachers. And we are more vulnerable to such deceit when our hearts are surrendered to self rather than our Savior. However, in Christ the heart of the true believer now possesses the strength and clarity to discern God’s Truth (see in today’s passage1st John 4: 4 – 6). In this we should be like the Bereans of old (see Acts 17: 10 – 15 - linked for your study), who carefully and diligently tested the teaching and preaching of the Apostle Paul, when he came into their midst, to see if he spoke/taught God’s truth from Scripture. And the Bereans only had the first five books of the Bible and the teachings of the Prophets as their truth standard. We now have the entire canonized Scripture with the ministry of the Holy Spirit to do our testing.

Having a drive to know the truth – God’s Truth – is yet another signpost of salvation for the true believer in Christ. Are you driven to know God’s truth? Are you driven to know THE Truth, Who is Christ? If so, then you have another way of knowing, beyond doubt, that you are saved. And when we see God’s truth clearly and when we know Christ, Who is the living Truth, we must then clearly follow it (or Him), … wherever He might lead us [again, as I often refer you, see Luke 9: 23.

My Prayer Today: Lord, You are the TRUTH; and I seek only You and Your way. Amen

Monday, July 18, 2011

July 18, 2011 … The Ministry of The Holy Spirit

Passage of the Day: 1st John 4: 13 … We know that we live in Him [Christ] and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

My Journal for Today: One of the clearest sign posts that true believers in Christ have which points to the assurance of their salvation is the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit, Who is sealed into the hearts of Christians when they (we) are converted at rebirth. Jesus, Himself, told His disciples of the coming “Helper” (see John 14: 26); and the Apostle Paul wrote of the convicting Agent of God in the hearts of all believers (see 1st Cor. 12: 3).

In his devotional book, Strength for Today, for this date, John MacArthur asks believers several poignant and pertinent questions …

>>> Do you long for intimacy with God (Galatians 4: 6)?
>>> Do you feel compelled to praise God (Ephesians 5: 19)?
>>> Do you see God’s fruit growing in your life (Galatians 5: 22, 23)?
>>> Do you have God’s gift(s) operating in your life for God’s glory (1st Corinthians 12)?

MacArthur is saying that if one is positive in answering these questions in the affirmative, we, as believers in Christ, can KNOW that God’s Spirit is illuminating and empowering our lives as truly born-again Christians. And I believe our assurance of salvation is positively correlated with the confidence we have in answering “YES” to the questions above. So, the stronger you can say “AMEN” to these questions, the more sure you are of your salvation.

As Paul also stated in Romans 8: 16, the Holy Spirit is for the Christian an ever bearing witness to our spirits that we are truly children of God. So, we should revel in this assurance and praise God for our salvation. I don’t know about one who might be reading this [maybe you!]; but I can speak for myself and I don’t praise God enough for taking me from the darkness of my past into His Light. I don’t thank and praise Him enough for choosing me before I chose Him. I don’t show my love for Him enough with my obedience to His word.

Well, do you think we ought to rectify that today with our praise?! Don’t you think we ought to make it right with God with our obedience to His commands and precepts?! I sure do!

And we can make it right - today and tomorrow - by living in and for Him. Let’s not talk about it … let’s do it!

My Prayer Today:
O, Holy Spirit, help me grow in my relationship with You. Amen

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17, 2011 … Answered Prayer

Passage of the Day: 1st John 3: 21 – 22 … 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him.

My Journal for Today: If you’re a Christian, newly converted or a mature believer, you’ve likely experienced obvious answers to your prayer(s). If so, then you know how much this is a confirmation of God’s very real saving or enabling grace. We, as saved Christians, with a retained sin-nature, certainly don’t deserve God’s love and mercy. Yet, He provides it out of His grace; and when we experience it and recognize this undeserved providence in our lives, we have a huge confirmation of the reality of our salvation. And from today’s passage, a believer can read and understand the sequence of faith and obedience which produces God’s affirmative answers to our prayer.

God waits and wants to answer the prayers of His faithful and obedient children. He wants to provide those who seek His will and follow His ways with His abundance (see Heb. 11: 6, Phil. 4: 19, and John 10: 10). However, it is also true, according to our text today (i.e., v. 22), that only those who are sensitive to God’s will and obedient to His word will be blessed by His pre-ordained answers to prayer. Unfortunately, it is the case, all too often as obedient believers, we have not because we ask not (see James 4: 2).

Therefore, if you are a Christian who is “plugged in” to (i.e., abiding in) God’s will and following His way from His word, living faithfully in a close/abiding relationship with Christ, … ASK away; and in accord with God’s heart/mind, He will give you the desires of your heart (see God’s wonderful promise of fulfillment according to His will in Psalm 37: 4).

My Prayer Today: O Lord, You bless me with the answers to my prayers. Amen

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 16, 2011 … Assurance in the Love of Other Christians

Passage of the Day: 1st John 2: 10 … Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.

My Journal for Today: Have you ever been somewhere, perhaps at an airport or at a rest-stop while traveling on the road, where you engaged someone you didn’t know in conversation; and during the conversation you discovered that this person declared himself/herself to be “a Christian?” At that moment of discovery, did you not feel immediately drawn to that “stranger,” … as if the discovery was of a lost family member?

Some time ago, a man, whom I’d never seen nor met before, saw me wearing a t-shirt with a Christian ministry logo on it in a store where we were both shoppers; and he said, “Hey, I like that t-shirt; … tell me about what it means.” Well, within a few moments we were revealing very deep and personal information about ourselves to one another – mutual testimonies of our love for Christ. It’s that way when Christian “strangers” meet others in the body of Christ. They are not really strangers; … WE are family! And when we meet another brother or sister in Christ for the first time, as born-again believers, there is, as the Apostle John says in today’s verse, “… nothing in [us] to make [us] stumble …” in our interaction with one another.

And in this truth and reality we have another of the eleven criteria that help us know we are truly IN CHRIST. Christians, the “real-deal” believers, really love one another; and they learn over time that love is not a feeling, … it is a choice! Paul wrote about the reason for this reality in Romans 5: 5, when he penned, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Genuine Christians are drawn to one another in the fellowship of believers [i.e., the family of God], because God’s love has been poured into our hearts; and God’s love draws Christians toward other Christians like moths drawn to the light. And certainly we know Whom THE Light is in our Christian hearts – HE IS CHRIST!

Peter encouraged believers to use God’s love to pour out themselves, in this Love, to others (see 1st Peter 1: 22). And I believe that real Christians just sense the love of God when it is consciously poured out to – or from - a fellow believer, … just as I felt it with that man, whom I’d never seen or known before, … who called our brotherhood to my attention when he saw my t-shirt. Remember Jesus said that the exhibit of God’s love shared between believers would the prime way non-believers would KNOW real Christians when they see them interacting (see John 13: 35). So, John in his first epistle (see 1st John 3: 14 – 18), is teaching a wonderful and strong sign of our Christianity, … that Christians will simply choose to love one another. Christians can’t hate one another, even if/when they don’t like the behavior of another Christian. And I’d almost bet right now you’re thinking of another Christian whom you’ve chosen to love even though that person doesn’t act in a very “Christian” manner. And the fact that you can choose to love them, in spite of their unlovable or unchristian behavior, is a sign that God is in you, enabling you, by His grace, to pour His love into that relationship.

So, be encouraged by your salvation when you find yourself being drawn to the family of God, or especially when you find yourself reaching out to love a somewhat unlovable fellow believer. It’s a strong sign that you are truly saved.

My Prayer Today: O Lord, let Your love come through me! Amen

Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15, 2011 … A Decreasing Frequency of Sin

Passage of the Day: 1st John 3: 5-10 (primarily verses 6 and 9 – in bold and underlined below) … 5 But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. … 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in Him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

My Journal for Today: I truly believe that one of the obvious signs of a “saved life,” especially one who has been converted later in life, is a life which exhibits a decreasing pattern of sin. The statements in verses 6 and 9 of 1st John 3 are rather stark, especially when the Apostle says “no one (Christian)” will “go on sinning.” This might seem to imply that those calling themselves “Christian” who sin are not really Christians. Yet, we know from all of scripture that this is a blatant overstatement, given the remaining sin-nature of all humans, including Christians [see Romans 3: 23].

The understanding of these verses, providing us with this signal of the Christian life, is the word picture the Apostle John uses in verse 9. He says, “… because God’s seed remains (i.e., abides) in him (i.e., the believer) …;” and this word picture gives us clarity in the interpretation of 1st John 3: 6 and 9. The “seed” of the Holy Spirit is planted in the heart of new believers (i.e., the born-again or saved person); and over time it takes root and grows, especially when it is properly nourished. This growing process (i.e., sanctification) produces fruit (that which the Apostle Paul wrote about in Gal. 5: 22, 23) with a corresponding dying out of the old fruit of the flesh (which was listed in Gal. 5: 19 – 21).

So, what John is referring to in this passage is a process of growth seen in the true Christian … a process where, as He says, the true-Christian, “…cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” In other words, if a born-again Christian chooses to sin (and he/she will, of course, at times – again, see Rom. 3: 23), the deeper the roots have grown into the heart of that believer from the seed of God’s Spirit, the stronger will be the recognition and the repentance from that sin. However, the counterpart of that is also true. The deeper are the roots of habitual sin in the lifestyle and habit patterns of the saved/redeemed sinner, the more difficult it will be to uproot those patterns and to live a life that reflects Christlikeness. The premise, therefore, from today’s passage is simple and is worthy of restatement for emphasis: The true, born-again Christian will be convicted to become what is written by Paul in 2nd Cor. 5: 17, a “new creation;” and therefore, over time, this will yield a decreasing pattern of sinful living in the part of the Christian.

As we saw in another devotional this month, the Christian’s sensitivity for his or her own sin grows with the depth of the abiding relationship he/she has with Christ. Therefore, the true-Christian, who develops a deep and close relationship with Christ, will not (no, actually CANNOT) sin habitually or consciously without experiencing deep pangs of conviction, guilt, and remorse. And who, with a right mind [i.e., without the complications of deep-seated pre-Christian mental disorder], would continue to live in such agony over the long haul of life? Hence, just the avoidance of the pain of convicted sin will yield a decreased pattern of open defiance and habitual sin in the life of the true, born-again believer. It is the working out – in the life of a true believer – of the truth which Paul also wrote about in Gal. 2: 20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

So, that is why the Apostle Paul also wrote that a believer, who was once a slave to sin, becomes, with salvation, a sanctifying captive of God’s purpose of righteousness (see Romans 6: 14 – 18); and with that process, the Christian, abiding in Christ and becoming more sensitive to sin from the conviction/direction of the Holy Spirit (see again 1st John 1: 5 – 10), this one, who is truly born-again, will begin to pursue righteousness in order to grow in Christlikeness, which, in turn, produces the fruitfulness John also wrote about in John 15 or Paul in Gal. 5: 22 – 23. It’s a pattern of growth that, when experienced in the life of the Christian, gives that believer a growing confidence in his salvation. It is what King David desired when he wrote, with a repentant heart in Psalm 51: 12, of wanting to be restored to the joy of his salvation … after he had been so convicted of his sin choices with Bathsheba and Uriah. And like David, no saved Christian will live out a life of sin, knowing that his/her choices are blatantly sinful.

Thusly, if you are reading this and you note a growing transformation of your spirit, mind, and behavior (as written about in Rom. 12: 1-2), you can be assured that it is the true seed of Godliness growing in your heart and life. Water it with God’s word. Feed it with your obedience. And let it flourish in the light of God’s presence; and over time you’ll see the reduction in sin promised and proclaimed by God’s word in today’s reading.

My Prayer Today: Grow in me, Lord! Amen

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 14, 2011 … Anticipation of Christ’s Return

Passage of the Day: 1st John 3: 2 – 3 … 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

My Journal for Today: As a professed believer in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, do you have a longing for His return as He, Himself promised in Scripture? Do you have a longing to be ready for His return (i.e., allowing the Holy Spirit to help you grow in His image of purity)? If you do, here is another strong criterion from God’s Spirit, through the Apostle John in today’s highlighted verse, that you have confidence in your salvation. That confidence comes from the hope we have, as faithful disciples and followers of Jesus Christ, as our passage for today delineates.

Think about it. It’s not “natural” for a human to hold on to a hope of something that is promised, but cannot be seen, touched, or sensed in the here-and-now. Therefore, it’s “supernatural” to have this hope in one’s heart; and that supernatural longing is one of the signal posts of our salvation. John MacArthur, in today’s devotional entry in Strength for Today, posits that this hope, giving us more assurance of our salvation, comes in three components …

First, it is a SAVING HOPE. The Apostle Paul comes behind John by writing that true Christians long to be set free from their bodies of death (i.e., sin nature) as we read in Romans 7: 22, waiting to be fully adopted as Christ’s heir (see Rom. 8: 23), and to be outfitted with a new resurrection body (see 1st Cor. 15: 49). Do you hope for that? I sure do; and God’s word is saying that that is a SAVING HOPE that all real Christians have.

Secondly, MacArthur posits that our hope is a SANCTIFYING HOPE, as read above in 1st John 3: 3. As true believers in Christ, our hope in Him drives us to be pure “just as He is pure.” The Apostle Paul also taught this the early church – and you and me by extension (see Titus 2: 11- 13) - that Christians are to deny our ungodliness and to live righteously. Any desire to do so, also being unnatural, is a sanctifying hope of our salvation.

And finally, MacArthur says that our hope is a SENSIBLE HOPE, because it leads to careful and upright living. Paul, again teaching to believers, pointed to this logical outcome of our faith in 2nd Thessalonians 3: 6 – 15 [please read this as linked for your study], with Christians exhorted to live productive, kingdom oriented lives. And when Christians do so just that, they experience the fruit of God’s Spirit in their lives (see Gal. 5: 22 – 23), which is certainly a confirming outcome to the hope we have in Christ.

So, when you find yourself longing for the hope that we have in Christ, praise God and thank Him for giving you yet another sign-post that your are one of His and than one day you will live with Him and be like Him in glory (see Phil. 3: 21).

My Prayer Today: You are my hope, Lord! Amen

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13, 2011 … Rejection of the World

Passage of the Day: 1st John 2: 15 – 17 … 15 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. [note the underlined emphasis on verse 15]

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur, in his Strength for Today devotional on this date, asks, “Do you find yourself being repelled by the world?”

Oh sure, maybe we get “sucked in” or enticed occasionally to Satan’s system, which is “the world” [as described in 1st John 2: 16] because of our still sinful and deceit-ridden hearts (see Jer. 17: 9). However, in Christ, true Christians generally can recognize another of the signs of our salvation outlined in today’s passage – that of a general disdain for the way the world does business. As MacArthur goes on to put it, “When someone becomes a Christian, he (or she) acquires a new set of goals and motivations; the world and its lusts (i.e., values) no longer attract, but repel, (the real Christian).” As believers and followers of Christ, we find ourselves, more and more over time, being drawn to Godly, Kingdom values – i.e., things eternal (see v. 17 today); and the more Spiritually mature the Christian becomes, the more he/she will be IN the world but not OF the world.

This growing disdain of “the world’s” way of living is called a “Christian world-view;” and it’s a term that is being used more-and-more in the times I write this to describe the way Christians approach life, discern it’s Satanic systems, and make choices that are Godly, rather than selfish ones. And in these post-modern days the Christian world view seems, at least to this Christian observer, to be polarizing itself more and more away from the Satan driven methods in our world. So, if/when you begin to note your heart/mind separating from the worldly ways, you should recognize this as another sign that you are truly saved. It becomes another “red flag” of our salvation; and it should help to build our confidence in Christ’s eternal presence [i.e., His Holy Spirit] in our hearts/minds.

My Prayer Today: Help me to clearly see Your way, Lord, and to avoid the world’s. Amen

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 12, 2011 … Obedience to God’s Word

Passage of the Day: 1st John 2: 3 – 6 … 3 We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. 4 The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. [see bold and underlined text for emphasis – wrb]

My Journal for Today: Let’s get right down to the “brass facts,” … the truth about this matter of assurance. And these facts are clearly expressed by the Apostle John in today’s passage, the third of the telling criteria for being sure one is saved. And that is whether the “believer” knows, believes, and chooses to obey God’s truth – i.e., His word. Read 1st John 2: 3a underlined above. Is there any part of John’s exposition of God’s truth in this passage that you don’t understand? It’s clear as a crystal bell, isn’t it? And the understanding of this truth is both convicting and assuring … at least to this humble Christian. These are tough words from John for believers; because obedience to God’s commands and His truths is always challenging. However, if one has a driving desire to know and obey God’s word, as I do, these words, give me great confidence [i.e., assurance] that my trek to follow Jesus, even when I occasionally – or even repeatedly – fail, is because God’s Holy Spirit is in my heart, drawing me to Himself as one of His own [see John 10: 4; 27].

Jesus was also quoted by John, teaching the same truth from another angle in John 14: 21, where our Lord said, “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” And it’s obvious to me that if I desire to experience the love of God in my own life that it must be my choice to obey His word which becomes the expression of my love for Him. Then, and only then, will I feel the love of God being manifest in my life.

Yes, John is tough on those who claim to be “in Christ” (i.e., “Christians”) and yet flagrantly or habitually turn away from God’s commands or truths, especially those who feel no remorse or conviction for their sin when they make such choices. As you read above in 1st John 2: 4, John calls them “liars.” And the Apostle Paul taught his protégé Titus that such hypocrites were … “detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” (see Titus 1: 16)

So, John is helping believers in this valuable text from his first epistle, teaching that we can, in one sense, know our salvation by the degree to which we are convicted or drawn to be obedient to Gods’ commands in His word. And so when we read Christ’s mission statement in Luke 4: 18 or His “Great Commission” in Matt. 28: 19-20, we should feel drawn to become true disciples and follow Christ’s commands or His ways. In doing so, and we are drawn to follow God’s truth, we should KNOW, beyond doubt, that we are saved to fulfill these purposes.

Now I know that there may be a depressed reaction to this teaching from someone who recognizes and is repentant over past patterns of recurring sin. I think of some whom I know who desperately hate the reality of recurring sin habits … maybe years of gluttonous eating patterns or recurring hits of sexual sin. And I want to make it clear here that such recurring patterns of sinfulness do not indict one as being unsaved; but they would indict one to hell if such a one had no sensitivity to such sin or the agony of guilt and remorse that come with God’s conviction of these sin choices. Remember the lesson from yesterday, … that sensitivity to sin, according to God through the Apostle John, is one of God’s first assurances of salvation. And it is equally an assurance of salvation when one is driven (by his own heart) to show his love for God by desiring and pursuing the avoidance and/or elimination of sin patterns in life.

So, dear reader, … if you look into the mirror of truth from what I’ve written here and you see yourself in God’s light, recognizing that there are things you must do to show your love of God, then, as the old Nike commercial used to say, “Just do it !” If you know you need to lose weight because your eating is sinful, DO IT – for God, not for yourself. If you simply must eliminate sexual lust from your mind, DO IT – for God’s sake! If you want to show more love for God through your purity and commitment to Christlikeness, DO IT – for Christ’s sake (and I mean that literally)!

And thank God that your conviction in this regard, which absolutely shows you that you are saved!

My Prayer Today: Draw me to obedience, Lord! Amen

Monday, July 11, 2011

July 11, 2011 … Sensitivity to Sin

Passage of the Day: 1st John 1: 5 – 10 … 5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.

My Journal for Today: Yesterday we saw that the first element to look for in the assurance of our salvation is a deep and abiding relationship with Christ, a communion of worship and life with God’s Spirit, growing and maturing as we live for God’s glory [see 1st John 1: 3]. Today in our text passage, we look at the second indicator to which the Apostle John exposes to help believers KNOW that they are saved; and this element is the sensitivity to sin.

And in today’s text on the matter, we see one of the most common word pictures used in scripture to describe sin or sinfulness; and that is “darkness” verses “light” (i.e., Godliness, righteousness, or Christlikeness). For support of this, see also Ps 119: 105 and Prov. 6: 23 in the Old Testament. And in addition to today’s text from the NT, the Apostle Paul also wrote about sinfulness verses righteousness, using the dark/light word picture in Romans 7: 14 – 25. And in the Rom. 7 passage we read of Paul personalizing the battle we all have with self verses Savior … the darkness of our own hearts and the light found in our relationship with Christ. And in Rom. 7: 25 you will read of Paul’s recognition, as we read in today’s text, of our need to surrender to the light of Christ. And then all of Romans 8 is the victory story that results when we live in the light of Christ. And from John, in 1st John 1: 9 from today’s passage [a verse you may have memorized], we read of God’s remedy for the believer who is willing to surrender to God [i.e., the Light], recognizing and confessing his/her sinfulness … and that is to be cleansed and brought out of darkness and into God’s light.

Having been in that place of darkness in my past; and having experienced the truth of 1st John 1: 9 and the victory of Romans 8, I firmly believe, with personal witness, that there is no more lonely or forlorn place for a true Christian than to be walking in the darkness brought on by a believer’s selfish choices, taking him/her out of fellowship with Christ and out of the light provided by our Lord. However, the opposite of that is true as well … that a Christian, walking in surrender to God, will experience all the fruit that walking in the Light of Christ affords, which includes a blossoming of all of the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22, 23).

And so, I’d exhort any reader of this journal entry to make Psalm 119: 105 a strong memory verse for your life … praying continually for Christ’s light to shine on your path so that you can walk in His light, following Him as He commands in Luke 9: 23.

My Prayer Today: Thank you for Your light, Lord! Amen

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 10, 2011 … Fellowship With God

Passage of the Day: 1st John 1: 3 … We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

My Journal for Today: It is always uplifting and encouraging for me to hear the testimonies of Christians – genuine Christians – who have had a conversion experience later in life. Not that early conversion testimonies are not pertinent or of interest; but maybe I identify with the former because my testimony is one of those where my life was turned around in 1983 at age 39 … from an angry “agnostic” [as I labeled myself – probably closer to “atheist” in reality] … to a seeking saint; … and from a desperate “lostling” [I know that’s not a word ;)] to a determined “foundling.” Testimonies, like mine, tell of a radical change of the heart, mind, and actions, … changes that come from a new and intimate relationship with the living Christ.

It is the reality of Galatians 2: 20 (a verse that I’d certainly exhort you to have memorized). It is the beginnings of the 2nd Corinthians 5: 17 process of transformation. It is the story of an Apostle Paul, who was a personal witness of the transformation that he later wrote about in Romans 12: 1 - 2 (and this is one passage you simply have to have memorized!), where he was changed from Christ-hater to a “living sacrifice” for Christ. [You should have all of these three scriptures deeply imbedded in your heart; so, I won’t dwell on an explanation from them here. If you don’t have these verses memorized in context, pardon me for sounding a bit like a Marine drill-sergeant; but a little digging on your part will be in order.]

However, testimonies of lives changed, such as mine or the Apostle Paul’s, become strong subjective evidence of the objective truth of a deep and abiding fellowship true believers who experience life transformation with their Savior/Lord. And it is strong evidence that should contribute to our assurance that salvation is a real and lasting truth when conversion in Christ truly occurs. Anyone who has seen the change in Bill Berry after April of 1983 would have to say that this change was way beyond the human norm for behavioral change – from angry agnostic, steeped in habitual sexual sin with a change to my current life as an Elder and Ordained Minister of the Gospel. Who, but God, could orchestrate such a change? What better assurance could there be that salvation is real … and lasting?

Today’s passage is the first of the eleven criteria the Apostle John presents; and John MacArthur asks his readers on this date, in Strength for Today, if they have experienced the deep/abiding fellowship (or “communion”) to which the Apostle John refers in 1st John 1: 3. So, I ask you, “Have you, as I have, felt God’s presence in your life in a deep way, … perhaps in tough circumstances where you knew that your strength was not enough to make it through “the storm?” Have you been touched by the excitement of a revelation from God’s word that was very personal to you and your circumstances in life? If so, then you have been given, as John teaches in today’s verse, an intimate and very personal confirmation of your salvation. No one can take that away from you; and it is the first, and best, assurance that you are truly saved.

My Prayer Today: O, Lord, I am blessed by your closeness. Amen

Saturday, July 09, 2011

July 9, 2011 … In Order That You May KNOW

Passage of the Day: 1st John 5: 13 … I write these things [i.e., truth from God’s testimony of Christ to counteract man’s testimony, - see 1st John 5: 9 – 12 - the “antichrists” of John’s day] to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.

My Journal for Today: In my years as a Christian and in ministry, I have heard a number of Christians, in a quandary, say, “How can I really know I’m saved?” Early in my Christian walk, I wondered that as well. But the more I got to know God through His word that became a non-issue with me; and I hope/pray that it is such with you as well.

But if you are reading this as a Christian and you’re in a place of insecurity with regard to your salvation, let me introduce you to the Book of 1st John, a letter that the Apostle John wrote, as you can read in today’s verse, for the expressed purpose to let God assure Christians of their salvation. And John MacArthur in his devotional, Strength for Today, which I’ve been using as the foundation of my devotional journal entries, presents eleven criteria from John’s first epistle to help Christians understand and be secure in their salvation.

Therefore, in the next eleven days, I’ll be following MacArthur’s lead by presenting these eleven points from First John, providing us, as Christians, with a point-by-point analysis of the Apostle John’s treatise on the assurance of a true Christian’s salvation. If you come along with me, when we’ve completed this analysis together, you will know whether you are saved, … or not. And if not, you’ll also know how you can make it a “done deal” for now and for eternity by repenting of your sinfulness, surrendering your heart, receiving God’s saving grace, and declaring openly to others of your salvation (see Rom. 10: 9 – 13 - linked).

And there is no more pertinent project for you, as a Christian, than to do what it takes to know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that you are saved. Not knowing is like building a life on quicksand, never being able to be sure of your eternal security. However, the opposite side of that word picture is also true. A Christian, who is sure of his/her salvation, can be confident that he is pursuing the Lord, Who has saved him and is leading him in life. The storms of life are going to be difficult, even for the confident Christian; but KNOWING that I’m saved has given me the confidence to weather the storms as well as the direction to come out on the other side of life’s storms a better, more confident person in the process.

Therefore, take note of the points from the Book of 1st John in the next eleven days; and we’ll do some storm preparation together.

My Prayer Today: Show me the way, Lord! Amen

Friday, July 08, 2011

July 8, 2011 … Joy In God

Passage of the Day: Romans 5: 11 … Not only is this so [i.e., truth, having been brought from death into eternal life], but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received reconciliation.

My Journal for Today: I embolden the phrase “we also rejoice” above; because a portion of the grace imparted into the heart of the believer, among the fruit of the Spirit, is JOY (see Gal. 5: 22 – 23). The Greek expression for this is “chara,” which means “to rejoice jubilantly” or “to be thrilled.” Several Psalmists declared such exultation like that expressed by Paul in today’s verse (see Psalm 33: 21; 34: 3; 43: 4). As John MacArthur states in Strength for Today, “As you make God the focus of your life, He will grant you an assurance that only He can give.” And one of the expressions of that assurance will be manifest in a joy that can be found even in moments that might normally produce fear or concern. That was the message of instruction expressed by Paul to his young protégé, Timothy, in 2nd Tim. 1: 7 [a verse you simply MUST MEMORIZE to avoid a spirit of fear].

So, you might ask, “Why don’t some, who claim to be Christian, feel this joy?” And the answer to that inquiry is clear, at least to me, from MacArthur’s quote and Paul’s admonition to Timothy. … When we focus on self over Savior, we separate ourselves in our will from the will of God. Our pride creates a self-imposed barrier to the fruit of joy which comes from God’s grace. We’ve read this truth before in such verses as 1st Peter 5: 6 or James 4: 6 [both great verses to have deeply memorized], both of which are quotes from the, Proverbs 3: 34. And right now, as I have my morning time with God, I’ve been led to listen to a wonderful song, written and sung by Laura Story, entitled Blessings, express this truth about as well as can be told. Hence, I link you here to hear this praise song.

God has boundless and endless joy ready to burst forth in the midst of our concern; but when we get prideful or self-centered, expressed in such self-driven and sinful emotions as reactionary anger, long-term bitterness, or greed, we cannot expect God to pour forth with His fruit of joy. So, the experience of joy, which is a wondrous assurance of our salvation, can only be realized when we CHOOSE God’s grace in our surrender of our will to His.

When are we going to get it?!! When are we going to receive God’s grace by our willful surrender rather than our willful pridefulness? When are going to walk into God’s shower of joy to be cleansed of our selfishness and drenched in the exultation of our relationship with our Lord?

Who knows! We choose … self … or Savior?

My Prayer Today: I surrender, Lord; and Your joy is mine! Amen

Thursday, July 07, 2011

July 7, 2011 … Certainty of Deliverance

Passage of the Day: Romans 5: 9 – 10 … 9 Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!

My Journal for Today: When it comes to our topic this month, i.e., the assurance of our salvation as Christians, the apologetics of the Apostle Paul in today’s passage is absolutely “error tight.” However, for it to have any weight at all for the Christians it was intended (Roman Christians, the Church, as well as you and me), one must first be a believer and declare that Christ’s finished work on the cross saved us by His atoning blood. And in believing in Christ’s resurrection and that He (as it says above in vs. 8) died for us while were yet sinners, we can (no, … we must) KNOW that we are now identified with Christ (i.e., justified). Therefore, we are adopted as children of God into His family. And as Paul went on to declare (see Rom. 8: 35 – 39), nothing can take that position (i.e., SAVED from God’s wrath) away from any believer who has received God’s saving grace, believing in Him as Lord and Savior. As we’d say today, “It’s a done deal!” (see Rom. 10: 9 – 13) to mirror what Jesus said on the cross when He declared, “It is finished!”

If one meditates on Paul’s argument in Romans 5: 19, we see that if Christ is willing to do His saving work on the cross when we were yet the vilest of sinners (see also Rom. 5: 8), how much more would He be willing, through His grace, to hold us safely in His hands for eternity, which we also read is declared by Jesus in John 6: 37. Therefore, belief in Christ as our mediator and redeemer should be – and is – our eternal security as Christians. Again I say, as Jesus Himself said from the cross, “It is finished!”

And though we’re just getting started this month, I hope, like yours truly, you are getting the picture of the truth and reality that our salvation is a completed and sealed reality if we are truly believers in Christ’s finished work on the cross. I know I’m repeating myself here; but it’s worthy of repetition; and it’s worthy for believers to get this settled now and forevermore!

My Prayer Today: You did it, Lord; and I am Yours … forever! Amen

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

July 6, 2011 … The Love of God

Passage of the Day: Romans 5: 5 – 8 … 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

My Journal for Today: If one believes what the Apostle Paul is saying in today’s passage, as I do, he or she has to be bursting with assurance and gratitude. That word picture Paul uses in [Rom. 5: 5 in bold and underlined above for emphasis] … of God pouring out His love into the heart of any repentant, believing sinner drives me to want to share that love with others, especially to Christians who have trouble understanding or walking in faith with their salvation. You may or may not be one of those; but if you are, maybe this devotional was given to me on this day just for you.

The term “poured out,” also translated “shed forth” in the KJV, is the Greek word “ekcheo,” which according to John MacArthur’s Strength for Today and my study from Strong’s Greek Concordance in the Blue Letter Bible online program, means to burst forth in abundance as if a dam had burst and water was pouring forth from the breech in the dam. And though we, as sinners (see Rom. 3: 23, which you probably have memorized – our should) have hearts dammed up by evil/deceit (see Jer. 17: 9), God was willing to break the dam blocking my receipt of His love and to pour His love into a heart like mine by the shedding of Christ’s blood (you simply must put Rom. 5: 8 into your heart and, of course, John 3: 16, two of the most hopeful and helpful verses in all of the NT).

As the contemporary song declares, “Amazing love, how can it be … that my King would die for me?!” And it is that love, bursting forth from His heart into mine, that now can be shared with confidence with others. It is the expression in a believer’s life, like mine, of another great memory verse (Eph. 2: 10). The flow of God from my sinner’s heart, made right by God, at times just gushes forth [again in the Greek, “ekcheo”] as I’m just compelled to share my faith or God’s truth with others. But because it is God’s love and not my own, one can see how I would feel so compelled.

May we, who call ourselves “Christians,” always allow God’s love to “ekcheo” from our hearts whenever we encounter an unbeliever who is lost or a believer who is waning in faith.

My Prayer Today: Your love courses from me, Lord. Amen

PS - Blogger’s Note: You’ll note several verses in today’s entry to which I’ve expressed the hope that you have them memorized, internalized, and personalized in your hearts. I can’t tell you how important it is to have these and many other verses/passages captured in your mind/heart. But if you do a meditation/study of all of Psalm 119, you will come away with the power and import of God’s word and an understanding of my drive to memorize God’s word.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

July 5, 2011 … Hope of Glory

Passage of the Day: Romans 5: 1 – 5 … 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

My Journal for Today: Now that I’ve been looking at the first few verses of Romans 5 in the past few days of devotionals, one can’t help but note how deep with meaning, power, and truth is there for the believer to KNOW that salvation is available for all who believe and receive Christ’s hope of glory. And Romans 8: 29 – 30 [see below] also tells us that this hope WAS seared into eternity by God in His redemptive plan before time, as we know it, began. And that plan is that all who believe in Christ WILL BE glorified eternally just as Christ is NOW, even as He intercedes for believers in Heaven with the Father. Hence, our hope of glory is PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 8: 29 – 30 … 29 For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.

Do you see it! God’s redemptive plan for believers is eternal (and that’s you and me if we’re born again!); and having been secured by the peace Christ made with His Father on the cross, anyone who has faith in that finished work can have the hope of glory NOW, … a hope that can never be taken away. … Stay with me here! There is nothing more important in the consciousness of the believer. You have just read the lynchpin of our salvation; and once it is driven into eternity by our faith in Christ, God’s promise assures it will be there forever. If that is not the case, then the term (below), “ETERNAL,” in probably the most quoted verse in the New Testament [John 3: 16], is meaningless.

SCRIPTURE: John 3: 16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have ETERNAL life.

If we can lose our salvation after receiving it, then that salvation is not ETERNAL, is it? It would be TEMPORAL; and John 3: 16 becomes a lie; and no one could ever have the hope of salvation at any point in time because of the reality of Rom. 3: 23 … that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. It also makes Jesus a liar from the cross when He declared “It is finished!” Because if any believer could lose his salvation at any point after gaining it, Christ’s work on the cross was not finished and therefore His death and resurrection were trivial and incomplete.

Dear one … Jesus’ work on the cross sealed my salvation (and yours, if Jesus is your Lord and Savior) for ETERNITY!. It’s a done deal. I have been saved yesterday … I am saved today … and I am saved for eternity to come.

And all I can say to that is … HALLELUJAH!!!

Beloved, can you see it? Because if you do, you are going to KNOW that you know that you know that you are saved! And I pray that all who are reading this, as the one who is writing it, … that we all have secured that hope of glory which Christ has for all who have believed and received Him.

And I pray that we all walk confidently in that hope and assurance. Stayed tuned, fellow Christian, there’s more to come!

My Prayer Today: You are my hope of glory, Lord! Amen