Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Beautiful, Part Eight

What pleases God?

God is not interested in mere lip service, but true devotion backed up with actions and behavior. He doesn’t need anything from us—everything we have we got from Him—He already owns it all AND us. We can’t fool Him by pretending to love Him and yet doing whatever we wish, with no care whatsoever for what He said pleases Him. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:2

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:17 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. Isaiah 1:16-17

Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from me, and their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people... Isaiah 29:13-14 A voice says, "Cry out!" So I asked, "What am I to cry out?" "All humanity is grass, and all its loyalty is like the flowers of the field.” Isaiah 40:6 “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:12-17

May we always remember the price of our freedom to our beloved Savior, and may "the cross" never become a phrase that we are so used to hearing that we are desensitized to what it actually entailed! Remember, Jesus had never done anything wrong EVER, and He came to earth to be born and live a perfect life on OUR behalf, or His sacrifice would have meant nothing. Only He could take that penalty for us. He could have put an end to the horror of it at any time, but love for His Father and for US held Him there.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh [sinful nature], God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13-15 

Will He really return?

God is patient and long-suffering. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 He keeps His promises. All of the events that are written in the Word will happen, exactly as He said, on His own schedule. Those who are His will be spared from God's wrath, just as Noah and Lot were saved out of the world-wide flood and fire from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah. The worst time of tribulation on the earth that has ever been or ever will be is coming. It’s not for the faithful, for those who are IN Jesus. We have been made white as snow, our sins washed away by the blood Jesus shed for us. We are clothed in His perfect righteousness.

...But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:26-28

For, "Yet a little while, and the coming One will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Hebrews 10:37-39

“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” Revelation 3:10-11

"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." Isaiah 1:18 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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 cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:6-7

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

This is Part Eight of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Beautiful, Part Seven

What kind of gift is fit for a King?

Jesus received frankincense, myrrh and gold from the magi. Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 These valuable gifts were fit for a King, but they were also prophetically symbolic of His future suffering—frankincense and myrrh are both obtained by wounding the bark so that the fragrant resin “bleeds” from the tree. This is called “striping.” Jesus healed the sickly, doomed state of our lost souls by His stripes. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Paul was very familiar with this concept through his own suffering for Jesus’ sake. But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." Acts 9:15-16 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. Galatians 6:17 [Paul said] Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. 2 Corinthians 11:24-25

Jesus promised great reward in heaven for suffering for His sake. Paul exhorted us to rejoice in suffering for Christ and count it as a privilege. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and falsely utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:10-11

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. Philippians 1:29-30 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 2 Timothy 2:3-4

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Hebrews 10:32-36 Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. Hebrews 13:12-13

Peter reminded us that suffering is the norm for us when we follow our Lord’s example. However, our strength comes from Him, and He gave His life for us. If we love Him, then we will seek His glory and honor in all we do. The apostles and other disciples couldn’t grasp the plan of redemption or the full power of God until after Jesus' resurrection. Then, they proclaimed the Gospel boldly and fearlessly for the rest of their lives.

Resist the devil, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:9-10

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:20-23

What is true beauty and love?

Beauty in God's eyes goes way beyond skin deep. What's on the surface does not interest Him at all. He designed us and is not impressed in the least with what we've done with our appearance. He knows what's deep inside, even our very thoughts. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. Psalm 139:2

What He's looking for is obedience out of love, trust and respect. If He only wanted obedience, then He wouldn't have given us free will. He wants us. A beautiful heart to Him is one that is broken, repentant and completely reliant on Him for mercy and grace. If we truly understand who He is, what He is like, all that He has done, continually does and is going to do, we will not only want to give him our whole heart, but we will be utterly awestruck that He would care for us as He does (and He does).

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Psalm 37:3 Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! Psalm 40:4

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. Deuteronomy 30:6

The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Psalm 33:16-19

This is Part Seven of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Beautiful, Part Six

How are we to behave?

Jesus loves His disciples (believers who love Him and follow in His footsteps). We are called His Body. Men are to love their wives as Jesus loves the Church (all true believers). We are spiritually joined as one with Him in the same way that a husband and wife become as one. Because of that, we are meant to be faithful our whole lives and to refrain from any acts of sexual impurity. Our bodies are temples of the Lord, indwelt by His Spirit. Our behavior is to reflect that reality, but how can we love anyone we barely know and don’t spend much time with? NOW is the time.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:22-23

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:25-30, 32

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. Romans 6:12-13 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. ...But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:13a, 7-20

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Ephesians 5:2, 3, 6

But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!  2 Peter 2:12-14

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. Philippians 3:17-19

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." Revelation 19:7-9

What does God deserve of us?

Jesus poured Himself out for us. I am poured out like water... Psalm 22:14 ...He poured out his soul to death... Isaiah 53:12 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:27-28

Jesus was anointed twice with costly ointment in Bethany–His feet six days before the Passover at the house of Simon the Pharisee, and His head two days before the Passover at the house of Simon the Leper. (Bethany means “house of affliction.”) In this, we can see a picture of what is expected of us. We’re to pour out our lives for Him as He did for us, if we really love Him. The Apostle Paul tells us that he did this. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 2 Timothy 4:6 Spikenard (or nard) is a plant that is crushed to make a thick, intensely aromatic ointment. It was kept in an alabaster jar, which Mark tells us was broken to release the fragrance.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

Paul explains that a woman’s hair is her glory. (1 Corinthians 11:14-15) Using the precious ointment on Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair and kissing them, Mary showed that she valued Him above herself and personal glory– she didn’t care what anyone else thought. (This is the same Mary (John 11:2) who sat at His feet and, when criticized by her sister, He commended for choosing the better part. Luke 10:39-42) She was in tears over her past sins, which Jesus forgave. Our prayers of repentance and self-sacrificing acts are like fragrant offerings, pleasing to and greatly valued by God. Jesus said the actions of the unnamed woman (who anointed His head) would be told in memory of her. Her actions testified of her love for Him, giving outward evidence to His immeasurable worth in her eyes. Let's fill our "flasks" with "pure nard" and break them, pouring them out for our precious Savior.

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people." And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they scolded her. But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." Mark 14:1-9 (Also see Matthew 26:3-13)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:1-3 And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." Luke 7:48

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are hard pressed in every direction, but not confined; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

This is Part Six of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Beautiful, Part Five

What does this mean for us?

We could never earn His love or repay Him for what He’s done for us, and we are SO unworthy! Isn’t it astonishing that He would call us His own and be willing to pay such a high price for us? If we belong to Him, we are FREE from being a slave to sin and from our death sentence. So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:7 We are rich—heirs of the Kingdom—no matter what our circumstances in this life! This is cause for great rejoicing!! Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4 Our names are written in His Book in heaven. “...rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:20

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:16-18

Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:34-36

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6

He’s gone to prepare a place for us and will come back for us. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." John 14:3 We will live with Him forever. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Revelation 3:5

But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"... 1 Corinthians 2:9

How shall we respond?

With all we have in us, that’s how! With complete surrender and devotion. Love Him back. Honor, obey and serve. He is worth it. Jesus provided us with an example of how we’re to live, what our priorities should be and how to serve God.

John's gospel tells us that Jesus carried His own cross and Matthew, Mark and Luke also tell us that Simon of Cyrene (Simon is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Simeon, meaning “hearing”) was compelled to carry Jesus' cross behind Him. We usually assume that was done only because He was unable to carry it any further in His condition at that point, but I think it’s also a picture of what WE (those who "have ears") are to do - to carry our cross, following Him. And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Mark 4:9 This life is NOT about us, it's about Him. Glorifying His name is absolutely the highest, most important, TOP priority. We will spend eternity worshiping Him. Start now by honoring Him with your entire life, not just a portion of it.

So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. John 19:16-17 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26

“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:32-38

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. ...For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:24, 26-27

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.  Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.  And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:12-16

This is Part Five of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Beautiful, Part Four

Who is Emmanuel?

But let’s go back further than the Cross, the Garden or even the start of Jesus’ ministry. Have you ever thought about how utterly amazing it is that the Creator of everything that exists, the One who invented and designed the solar system and everything in it, including us, would come to live among us in a lowly body like ours? Wow! Think about it. Could you imagine doing that if it had been possible for you to do? Leave the indescribable glory of heaven, the majesty and honor, and instead to experience pain, hunger, heat and cold, sheer exhaustion and everything we feel in our physical bodies? But the most unfathomable part is WHY—He came to suffer and DIE for us, knowing that after persevering through all the challenges, rejection, disbelief, disrespect and attacks against Him (who was perfect in all of His ways, always), He would endure everything written above for us undeserving, ungrateful creatures? Again, wow—talk about amazing!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel. Isaiah 7:14 For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel" (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:20-23

And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Luke 1:30-35

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. John 1:1-2 “now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” John 17:5

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." ...When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:1-2, 10

How much does God love us?

He knows everything about each of us. From the beginning of our lives to the end, He knows it all before it happens. (The Creator of time is not subject to it Himself.) Despite this, He loves us enough to willingly suffer and lay down His life for us. Nothing we could ever do would be unforgivable if we confess it. (Only outright unbelief–rejecting the Holy Spirit–will not be forgiven, but those who are born again are indwelt by Him.) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9 

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15 “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." John 10:18

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10 "...even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. Romans 5:7-9

"Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." Matthew 12:30-32

This is Part Four of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Beautiful, Part Three

How do we escape God’s wrath?

Jesus had never sinned, but became sin for our sake. On Him, God’s perfect, only begotten Son, the wrath of God was satisfied so that we could be spared eternal punishment in hell for our sins. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 Because of His suffering and sacrifice, those who belong to Him, purchased and redeemed by His blood, will never experience that wrath. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (also 1 Corinthians 6:20)

Isn't it hard to take in? What would you call that? The very definition of love? Most definitely beautiful! Now the question is, what kind of love will we show in return? And do we want to be beautiful like our precious Lord and Savior?

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

From where does our strength come?

These days, there is an endless stream of self-help books and motivational speakers. We are encouraged to look inward to find peace and strength. We are told to “believe in ourselves.” Jesus knew better. His focus was where it should be–on His Father, the only true source of peace and strength. We are told that we deserve and need to “spoil” ourselves. Jesus got hungry and tired just as we do. During His 3-year ministry, He gave of Himself to the point of exhaustion–teaching, healing and casting out demons–sometimes not even taking a break to eat, but He never complained or “burnt out.” He didn’t quit or take vacation to recharge—instead He went alone to the Mount of Olives, sometimes all night. His strength came from the Holy Spirit and His Father. He didn’t let the cares of this world deter Him from His mission. He knew why He was here and never wavered. ...Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well... John 4:6 

They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. John 7:53, 8:1-2 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Luke 9:58

“And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him." John 8:29 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” John 4:34

We too need to put all of our focus on God, not caring what the world thinks. Jesus told us to count the cost of following Him. Sadly, there were many who believed in Jesus during the time of His ministry but kept silent because of the cost it would have had in their personal lives. We need to remember what and Who really matters, not allowing ourselves to be distracted by worldly troubles or pleasures. We answer to God, not men, when it comes to doing our Father’s work. Jesus said to fear only the One who could destroy both body and soul. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23, 26

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? ...So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:28, 33

"And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." Mark 4:16-20

Nevertheless, many did believe in him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God. John 12:42-43

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. ...We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4

What about the opposition?

Jesus was not deterred by criticism, ridicule or attempts to silence Him. He did only good during His entire earthly life, and He faced opposition that would have been so wearying and discouraging to any of us. Yet He was eager to fulfill His mission, on His Father’s timing. "...for my time has not yet fully come." John 7:8 "I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” Luke 12:49-50

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:66-69

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:18 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. John 7:1 Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" John 10:32

Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. Psalm 27:12 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. Matthew 26:59-60

For I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side! —as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. Psalm 31:13 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. Matthew 26:3-4

Even Jesus’ own disciples were not able to understand His mission, although He told them in advance. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." Matthew 16:22-23

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Luke 18:31-34

"Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” John 12:27 So Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?" John 18:11

Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." John 18:37

This is Part Three of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Beautiful, Part Two

What kind of love is this?

Jesus’ ordeal actually began in the Garden of Gethsemane. Because He is both God and man, He knew in vivid detail what was about to happen to His very human body before it happened. Gethsemane means "oil press.” Jesus suffered so much anguish there from the pressure of knowing what was to come that His sweat was as drops of blood, just as an olive would have the oil pressed out. Despite His request that His disciples remain awake with Him through His ordeal, they repeatedly fell asleep. They had no idea how momentous the time was, or that tomorrow would be nothing at all like yesterday.

“But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands." Matthew 17:12 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Luke 9:21-22

Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night, for it is written, 'I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.'” Matthew 26:31

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.  Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.”  Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”  Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour?  Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.”  And He came again and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open.  After leaving them, He went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the time is near. The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up; let’s go! See, My betrayer is near.”  Matthew 26:36-46

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I will kiss is the man; seize him." And he came up to Jesus at once and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you came to do." Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?" At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled. Matthew 26:47-56

What is true strength?

When we think of strength, we usually think of someone relying on themselves to achieve something great. God sees it differently. Contrary to human logic, the weakest is the strongest. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 He is the source of all strength, so the mightiest one is the one who relies fully on Him. The greatest is the one who laid down their own will and accepted His. Jesus knew that His suffering and sacrifice was the ONLY way to save us—that He was the ONLY One who could do it. And through it all, He submitted Himself to the will of His Father, even asking forgiveness for the sins of those continuing to mock and reject Him as He died. We have nothing to compare this kind of cruelty and ignorance to. I can’t imagine anyone in this day suffering like that, let alone anyone taunting them in their agony! But Jesus’ love and His faithfulness was stronger—He accomplished the purpose for which He came. He finished it once and for all.

And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" Luke 23:33-39

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, "They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots." John 19:23-24

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

This is Part Two of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Beautiful, Part One

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

What is beautiful?

We usually think of outward appearance when we think of beauty, but to God, beauty is internal. He values a humble spirit inside–self-sacrificing, loving, obedient. But He gave us free will and the first parents, Adam and Eve, used that gift to disobey God. Ever since, we have been under the curse of the sinful nature passed down through all generations, rebelling against Him. God made us for His pleasure, but we are separated from Him by our sin. He is holy and nothing unholy and impure will be tolerated in His presence, but He made a way for us to be purified and “right” with Him. He loves us so much that He sent His one and only begotten Son to live a perfect, sinless life and sacrifice Himself for us. Jesus took our punishment to save us. It’s hard for us to understand, but His blood washes us clean.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." John 3:16-18

To God and those of us spared what we deserved, what He did was beautiful, though Jesus was nearly unrecognizable as a human being. He was disrespected, hit, spit on, pushed and shoved, His beard pulled, mocked, humiliated, punctured with thorns that were deliberately pounded into His head, and then whipped mercilessly–His back no doubt utterly laid wide open. He was then made to carry His own cross on His bloody back, but was unable to continue, having already suffered so much abuse. As if that were not enough injustice against Him, the most gruesome part of the punishment for OUR sins was yet to come. Nailed to the cross and hanging there, He was barely able to breathe–His tongue stuck to the roof of His mouth and His bones were out of joint. He was tortured to death in front of those who loved Him. The excruciating pain of crucifixion was made even worse by the wounds He had already received, but He endured it all for us, as prophesied in the Old Testament.

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” ...Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22:6-8, 12-18

I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. Isaiah 50:6-7

Look, my Servant will succeed! He will be elevated, lifted high, and greatly exalted—as many were astonished at the sight of you—He was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man; his form was so marred he no longer looked human—so now he will startle many nations. Kings will be shocked by his exaltation, for they will witness something unannounced to them, and they will understand something they had not heard about. Isaiah 52:13-15

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the Righteous One, my Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the sinners; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the sinners. Isaiah 53

He was despised for telling the truth, rejected and falsely accused by those He came to save, abandoned by those closest to Him, scorned by His own creation, surrounded by and at the “mercy” of vicious enemies, and made the object of intense hatred by a frenzied mob of His own people. Those prophecies were all perfectly fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament:

Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. ...Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, "Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?" Matthew 26:57, 67-68

The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. Luke 23:10-11 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him." John 19:6

Then Pilate released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27:26-31

There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Matthew 27:55-56 ...but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. John 19:25-27

This is Part One of a series.  You may download the entire devotional in a "pretty" format here or in a basic, small file size format with highlighting here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Whole Heart (The Gift)

Last month was the time of the year when we traditionally celebrate God's gift of His Son to us.  I would like us to consider that we believers are part of God the Father's gift to His Son, Jesus, our Savior.  What kind of gifts are we? Will He be happy to receive us?  Do we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength?  I think we would all agree that He deserves nothing less!

"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out." John 6:37

The other part of the gift is the Kingdom, where those who belong to Jesus, who is High Priest in the everlasting order of Melchizedek, will rule with Him as part of a royal priesthood, forever.  If we have been given by the Father to the Son, then we have the Holy Spirit within us and are His temple.  Wow.  Is that profound or what?  Let's be the best present EVER, starting NOW.  Let's give Him our WHOLE hearts, just as He gave His LIFE for us.  He alone is worthy. (Bible verses are below.)

Let's also bear in mind that the Israelites who refused to go into the promised land due to lack of faith did not get another chance.  They all died in the desert except for Joshua and Caleb, who were the only ones who wanted to go in.  Joshua (a name almost identical to the Hebrew name for Jesus) and Caleb had to wander in the desert, enduring hardship for forty years before they could enter.  That is a picture of our "wilderness" experience and walking by faith while we wait for our turn as believers to enter the "promised land."

I'd also like to share with you something I recently learned.  Many people have said that the name "Caleb" means "dog."  This bothered me because Caleb was faithful and dogs are usually mentioned in a derogatory manner in the Bible. I discovered that the word for dog is "celeb,"  whereas the name Caleb is a combination of two words (just as Yeshua means Yah is Salvation).  The first part of Caleb's name means "all" and the second part means "heart."  Caleb means "whole-hearted," which God verifies for us when He said:

"And the LORD heard your words and was angered, and he swore, 35  ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, 36  except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the LORD!’" Deuteronomy 1:34-36 

Let's "wholly follow the Lord" like Caleb--a worthy companion of Joshua, who took the people into the promised land--just as we belong to Jesus, who will take us in after we have followed Him whole-heartedly through this wilderness.  Let's not be like the ones who wandered in the desert and then died, never going in to the promised land.  How sad is that?  Be like Caleb.

Bible Verses:

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:44

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7  Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8  For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9  I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10  All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them." John 17:6-10

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30  I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6  as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 5:5-6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things
that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a Son.
And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our

boasting in our hope. Hebrews 3:5-6

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18  Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:17-20

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15  What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17  Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18  and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Notice that Jesus tells the scribe that he is "not far from the kingdom of God" when he agrees with Him on the two greatest commands.  God wants our WHOLE HEART and ALL of us--following in deed not just words, DOING as He says, not only hearing.  (John 4:23, 1 John 3:18, James 1:22)

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34  And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mark 12:32-34

[Caleb said] "I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. 8  But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. 9  And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’" Joshua 14:7-9

Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. 14  Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel. Joshua 14:13-14

Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.” 1 Kings 8:61

Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3  who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! Psalm 119:2-3

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3  and said, “Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Isaiah 38:2-3

I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

This article was posted on Layout for Today on December 17, 2016, entitled "The Gift."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Glass Fence

We’ve all heard of people who are “sitting on the fence” with God--not quite believing and yet not sure enough to completely not believe either.  They think they can hop into the kingdom of God at the last moment when they see with their eyes that it’s real, without having had to give up anything in this life for it. They’re dead wrong–everyone will confess Jesus as Lord and bow to Him one day, but faith is the assurance of what is unseen. However, what I would like to consider today is the people who think they are on the fence or on the "right side" of the fence, but they are actually on the "wrong side" of the fence.

In this picture, the fence is glass and so the people on the "wrong side" of it are receiving the benefit of the light that filters through from the "right side" of it. They have no idea that the dimmer view that they have is not all there is and is not what the people on the "right side" of the fence are experiencing.  They think it seems pretty good where they are, but they don’t realize that once the light on the other side of that fence is taken away, they will find out what it is really like where they are--but it will be too late.

I have to apologize at this point for all Christians (myself included), because if we were living as we should then there would be a very obvious difference between the two sides of the fence. That difference was meant to draw unbelievers over to the “right side,” the side where God blesses those who love Him. He is good and trustworthy. When those who are His blend in with the “wrong side” (those who don’t know God) with their behavior, are discontented or fearful, they are not living out their faith. They are not making disciples as they were told to do.

People these days live in fear of many things.  They are willing to give up their freedom in an attempt to trade it in for safety.  They are willing to pay top dollar for assurance that they are safe and insurance that things will be made right if anything goes wrong.  My message today is that the only safety is in God. Instead of being afraid and trying through our own means to protect ourselves from every possible scenario, we should rely on Him.  Instead of protecting ourselves FROM the truth, we should protect ourselves WITH the truth.

We have security systems or at least locks on our doors to keep out intruders, but we’ve banned God from our schools and Christians have been asked to keep their “narrow-minded” views to themselves.  We have filters on our email, phones and social media to keep out unwanted intrusions--views that disagree with ours and offend us.  Have you ever thought that possibly some of those views are being shared by people who have the good of our souls in mind?  We might think we are sheltering ourselves from a “hateful” message, but actually the ones doing the “hating” are those who refuse to tolerate truth over their own opinions and preferences.

Jesus’ message was never about tolerating sin or lies.  He had very harsh words on those topics.  His message was on repentance and truth, with love.  Love and lies do not go together--neither do truth and hate.  The message is to share the truth in gentleness (not name calling, holier than thou attitude of wanting to correct others while ignoring our own sin, or despising others) so that everyone can receive salvation.  To accept sin is deceitful because after we choose to follow Christ, we must walk as He walked, in purity, faithfulness and righteousness.  He has purchased and redeemed us with His precious blood and we are His.

When darkness sets in after God has returns in the clouds to gather to Himself those who love Him, many people will wonder how a loving God could leave them behind in that utter evil that encroaches upon the world from that point on. Why didn’t He warn them?  I’m here to say that He speaks all day, every day to anyone who will listen.  He speaks through the wonders of all He created, through His amazing word in the Holy Bible, and through those who have already heard Him.  We are without excuse if we have protected ourselves from the truth in favor of our own fake version of it.  The truth is free, but many people will pay good money for lies instead of receiving it.

This is your wake-up call if this applies to you.  Take a closer look at that fence you think you’re on the right side of.  Be sure that you know where you stand. Those who are saved and will be spared from the coming wrath of God are walking in the fullness of the light of the truth.  They are not just associated with someone else who is or merely benefitting from the proximity of believers. You have to own this for yourself.  Be sure that you do.  Do it now if you haven’t already.

Being saved means you have put all of your hope in Jesus and He is the Lord of your life now and forever--not that you were baptized as a child or you belong to a church.  We must be born again to enter the kingdom of God.  Baptism and joining a church congregation (a church is not a building--believers are God’s house) do not save--we do them because we are already saved--to obey God and grow in our faith.  To pretend that God doesn’t know the difference between a true and fake believer is pretty insulting, don’t you think?  That’s not what someone who truly understands how great He is would try to get away with.

God sees everything and knows your very heart and mind.  He can hear you when you cry out to Him.  If you do that, then listen to Him--read the Bible, which was inspired by God, and do what He says.  Put all of your trust in Him. He’s worthy and able to save.  All sins are forgivable, but they must be given up. You won’t be disappointed even if things don’t always go your way--this life is short and then comes eternity!

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10 

For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;  for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”  So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:10-12 

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people of old were commended.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. Hebrews 11:1-3  (The passage continues with many excellent examples of true faith put into action.)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 

When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas.  Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.  Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them.  And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.  Acts 16:27-34 

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”  He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”  Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”  But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”  Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Matthew 19:16-30

But when [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.  Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:7-12

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all  ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress  the truth.  For what can be known about  God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal  power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of  the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.   For although they knew God, they did not  honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their  thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools... Romans  1:18-22  

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,  that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,  knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.  They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”  For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,  and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.  But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.  Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 2 Peter 3:1-14 

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?  Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:  he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.  But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:21-27

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Do all things without grumbling or disputing,  that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16 

Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.  If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:35

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

But godliness with contentment is great gain,  for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:31-34 

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. John 14:1-3 

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood,  and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.  The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.  Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains,  calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,  for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Revelation 6:12-17 

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. Revelation 1:3

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,  but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a Son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Hebrews 3:5-6

“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10:16 

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

His Anointing

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as He has taught you, abide in Him. And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.  1 John 2:26-29

Wow - this passage really has a lot packed into it, doesn't it?  It basically summarizes why I write devotionals. There is rampant deception not only in the world, but even within the church. False teachers are telling people that they themselves hear directly from God and that people need to listen to them (and send them money). People aren't reading their Bibles so that they can be taught for themselves, so they can recognize lies when they hear them.  People are confessing faith with empty words, with no intention to follow Jesus, and then wondering why their lives are the same as before.

"His anointing" is the Holy Spirit.  He abides in us and we in Him.  (John 14:15-21, Romans 8:10-11, 1Corinthians 3:16, 1Corinthians 6:17-20, 2Corinthians 1:21-22, 2Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 3:14-16, Galatians 4:6, Galatians 5:24-25, 2Timothy 1:14, James 4:4-5)  His Spirit teaches us to understand the Scriptures, helps us to remember what we have learned, gives us the desire to please and power to obey God and so much more.  (John 14:26, 1Corinthians 2:10-14, Philippians 2:12-13)  He even "translates" our inadequate prayers so they can be acceptable to God, saying what needs to be said when we don't know.  (Romans 8:26-27)

If we walk in the Spirit, then we will abide in Christ (and the result will be fruit of the Spirit).  (Luke 8:15, John 15:1-17, Romans 6:22, Colossians 1:9-10, Galatians 5:22-25, 1John 2:1-6)  If we don't, then we are walking in darkness not light (and our fruit will be bad).  (Matthew 7:13-27, Luke 6:43-49)  The Bible teaches that if we're content to walk in darkness, then we are not born of God. (Matthew 6:22-23, Luke 11:33-36, John 3:19-21, John 8:12, John 12:35-36, Romans 13:11-14, 2Corinthians 4:6, Ephesians 5:5-21, 1Thessalonians 5:4-8) Children of the living God love light, not darkness.  (Light is the truth of the Bible, not new age deception claiming to be light. 2Corinthians 11:12-15)

We need to always bear in mind that only those who are born again (and thus indwelt by the Holy Spirit, known to God, IN Christ) will enter the kingdom of God.  (John 3:3-8, 1Peter 1:23, John 1:12-13, Matthew 25:8-13)  It matters. Whoever teaches that it does not matter what we do after we are saved is deceiving people.  (2Peter 1:9-11)  We show who we are by what we practice, our deliberate deeds show what we are like--are we regenerated by the Holy Spirit or still enslaved to the sinful nature?  Do we reflect the nature of our heavenly Father or don't we?  (John 8:31-36, Romans 6:1-7, Romans 6:19-22, 1Corinthians 6:12, Galatians 6:7-9, Titus 3:1-11, 2Timothy 2:19-22, 1Peter 3:18-4:5, 2Peter 2:19)

Do we care or are we just looking for a future insurance policy against hell with the freedom to do as we please for now?  (Galatians 5:13, 1John 2:15-17)  Even demons believe in God, but it doesn't stop them from doing evil. (James 2:19) They can't be redeemed, nor can they be indwelt by God's Spirit as we can. Their fallen nature can't be restored and regenerated--so in a way they have an excuse that we don't have (if we claim to know God).  (1John 2:1-6)  Our salvation is nothing to take lightly or for granted. It needs to be treated as the profound miracle that it is. (Hebrews 2:1-3, Hebrews 10:26-39, Ephesians 2:19-22, 2Thessalonians 1:9-12)

Remember, justification (being declared innocent because Jesus lived the perfect life on our behalf and yet took the punishment for OUR sins on the cross) by faith is the first step.  Jesus fully completed it almost 2,000 years ago and we receive it for ourselves when we believe.  (John 19:30, Mark 16:16, John 1:12-13, John 3:16-18, 36, John 5:24, John 6:47, John 11:25-26, Romans 1:16, Romans 10:9-10, 1Corinthians 15:1-5, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 1:3-4, 1John 2:23)  There are two more steps:  sanctification (being made holy - 1Thessalonians 4:2-8, Romans 6:19-22, 2Thessalonians 2:13-15, Hebrews 12:14) and glorification (the changing of the corruptible to the incorruptible, the perishable to the imperishable - 1Corinthians 15:50-55, Romans 8:16-17) occurs when our physical bodies are taken to be with the Lord.  (1Thessalonians 4:16-18, Philippians 3:20-21, John 14:2-3)

Like our salvation through faith, our sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit and will be fully complete when this life is over and we receive our glorified bodies. Through our cooperation with Him, progress will be made during our earthly lives, as time permits, toward our being more like Christ.  (Romans 8:29-30, Romans 12:2, 1John 2:1-6)  There should be continuing improvement.  (2Peter 1:5-11) Our sins should bother us, causing us to confess them and ask forgiveness so that we can be washed clean.  (1John 1:5-2:6)  If we have no concern whatsoever about pleasing God, and if He does not discipline us for our disobedience, that is not something to celebrate.  It means there is a problem.  (2Peter 2:20-22, Hebrews 12:5-11, Revelation 3:19)

People like to point to the "thief on the cross" to show how simple salvation is, but he would have been expected to follow Jesus and develop into a mature disciple if he had lived longer.  (Colossians 1:28, Luke 8:11-18, 1Corinthians 13:11, Ephesians 4:11-13, Philippians 3:7-19)  God sees inside our hearts and knows our thoughts, and thus, Jesus knew his change of heart was sincere.  He then assured him that he would be with Him in paradise that same day.  (Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32, Luke 23:39-43, 1Chronicles 28:9, Hebrews 4:12, Revelation 2:23)  This gives us comfort about our loved ones who put off "getting right with God" until the last moment.  But for those of us who claim to know the Lord now, let's make sure that we work OUT our salvation so that it can be easily seen to be genuine. (Philippians 2:12-13)  There should be enough evidence to "convict us" of being a follower of Christ.  We may be able to fool others and even ourselves with empty words, but we can't fool God.

This should not scare anyone who is genuinely seeking to know and please God. If we really love God and care about pleasing Him, then He will help us.  (Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 7:25, 1Corinthians 10:13, 2Peter 2:9-10, Luke 17:5)  If we are liars and only want excuses for our sin so we can continue in it, then He may just let us go our way.  If we behave like a child of the devil, then maybe we should examine ourselves in light of the Scriptures to be sure that's not exactly what we are! (2Corinthians 13:5, 1John 3:4-10, John 8:44)  If this has anyone worried, they should consider the following:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10 

Don't quench the Spirit.  He is our only hope of overcoming this world.  (1Thessalonians 5:19-22)  We needn't have any reason to fear His return, but can look forward to that day with great anticipation if we just love Him enough to do as He says, with His help!  (1John 2:28-29)  Let's encourage one another to keep our lamps full of oil.  (Luke 12:35-40, Matthew 25:3-4)  Let's not listen to false teachers, but believe God's own words in the Bible.  Let's be wise, not foolish.  (Matthew 25:2, Luke 6:46-49, Ephesians 5:15-21)

(Expanded upon from Layout for Today, January 9, 2017)