Archive for the ‘Daily Devotional’ Category

Daily Devotional: Jesus Christ is the Great I AM

Daily Devotional: Jesus Christ is the Great I AM

Jesus Christ is the Great I AM

by Pastor Wil Pounds

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Jesus Christ claimed to be the “I AM.” It is the personal name of the God of the Old Testament (Exodus 3:13-14). On several occasions it is recorded that Jesus used the “I AM” formula in attesting to His deity. He claimed to be the LORD God, Jehovah, Yahweh.

The greatest of all the names for the Lord Jesus Christ is the “I AM.”

This is why the apostle Paul wrote: “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus is Lord. The name that is above all other names is “Lord,” and it is equivalent to “Jehovah” or Yahweh. This is the exact equivalent to the words, “I AM.”

The name that is above all earthly and heavenly names is Yahweh, the great “I AM THAT I AM.”

The apostle Paul tells us that the Lord Jesus is so above all other beings that all who are in heaven and the earth will bow and worship Him. He is God. He is not one among many gods, but the One and Only (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Cor. 8:4).

On one occasion He responded to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well when she perceived that He could possibly be the long awaited for Messiah. Jesus said, “He who speaks to you am he.” Literally, Jesus said, “I am,” pointing to His claim to the title “I AM.”

Moreover, that is not the only time He made the claim. He used these words to refer to His deity in John 8:24. “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” He was saying you cannot be saved unless you recognize and believe that Jesus Christ is God.

A little later He used the formula again, even more clearly when He said, “before Abraham was born, I am” (8:58). The Jewish leaders gathered around listening to Jesus knew exactly what He meant because they picked up stones to kill Him. He was claiming to be the great I AM and they understood that.

Seven times in the Gospel of John Jesus claims to be the great “I am” (4:26; 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5). In every one of these contexts the “I am” keeps reinforcing the deity of Jesus. He is stating His claim to be God.

Moreover, there are seven more occasions when Jesus used the great formula coupled with a noun describing Himself as the only one who can meet man’s greatest needs in life. He uses the name Jehovah to declare His uniqueness.

Jesus fed 5,000 men and declared, “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35). He alone is able to satisfy the greatest spiritual hunger in your life. Have you come to Him and ate His bread and drank His blood? There is no other way to have life. Do you go to Him daily and eat the bread of life? You will starve to death spiritually if you do not eat at His table daily.

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” (8:12; 9:5). He healed a blind man groping in darkness and then opened his spiritual eyes so he could see the great I AM and worship Him. Are you wandering around in a spiritual darkness following one blind religious guide after another? Jesus is the only light you need to guide you into God’s holy presence. All other “lights” are evil in nature and will only lead you into eternal darkness.

Jesus said that He is the only door into God’s presence. He said, “I am the Door” (10:7, 9). All other doors lead down the wrong path and to eternal destruction. Jesus is the entrance into eternal life (Acts 4:12).

Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd” (10:11, 14). Every individual is like a wandering, stray lost lamb caught in the briars of sin. There are a lot of false shepherds herding up stray sheep to take to slaughter. Jesus is the only Good Shepherd. He will take you by the hand and led you into the Father’s presence and give you His nourishment.

Jesus conquered death. Not only did He say, “I am the resurrection and life” (11:25-26), but He rose from the dead to prove it. In fact, this is the great evidence that Jesus Christ is the great I AM THAT I AM. He died, was buried, and three days later rose from the dead. Because He is alive, He can give the resurrection life. This is our hope in the face of death. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (14:6). Only God can claim that. Furthermore, He sustains our spiritual life because He is the True Vine, the only way, and the giver of life. Jesus said, “I am the True Vine” (15:1, 5).

What will you do with the great I AM? Claim Him as your Lord and worship Him today (20:28-29).

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotional: When the Holy Spirit Groans In Prayer

Daily Devotional: When the Holy Spirit Groans In Prayer

When the Holy Spirit Groans in Prayer

by Wil Pounds, Pastor

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The indwelling Spirit of God works in us in pray to cry out “Abba,” “Father, Daddy.” He helps us to endure sufferings so that we may patiently look forward to the final redemption of our bodies when we will see Jesus “with glory that is burst upon us” at His coming.

We are commanded in the Scriptures to “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17). When we pray we are petitioning the sovereign Creator of the universe and speaking to Him personally as we present our adoration, confessions, thanksgivings, and supplications to Him. He patiently listens to us and responds to us consistently out of His infinite wisdom.

Since that is true why is it so hard to pray? Why is prayer a problem even for mature Christians? The apostle Paul says it is because of “our weakness.” Phillips translates Romans 8:26, “The Spirit of God not only maintains this hope within us, but helps us in our present limitations.” The wonderful thing is His intercessions for the saints are always in harmony with God’s will. He comes to our aid in our infirmities.

Paul does not say the Holy Spirit removes our “weaknesses,” but that He “helps” us. We live our whole Christian life in conditions of humility and weaknesses. The Holy Spirit comes along side as our Helper and gives us wisdom and strength. He helps those who cannot help themselves.

What is the problem? We do not know what we should ask God. What is His sovereign will for us, our family, our ministry, etc.? We often do not know what we need, nor do we know what is best for us.

Every Christian experiences these weaknesses and it is this that makes prayer difficult. Have you not experienced on numerous occasions how difficult it is to stop and pray in your busy schedule, and then when you are in His presence in prayer it is so sweet and wonderful you do not want to stop? Your spirit refuses to leave the sacred place. The Holy Spirit helps us in the weaknesses. He “intercedes” for us with groans that words cannot express” (v. 26). The all-powerful Holy Spirit is our Helper. He comes to our aid for access to the Father (Eph. 2:18).

The apostle Paul uses the word sunantilambanetai that denotes a person coming alongside another to take part of a heavy load to help him bear it.

Jesus had the same idea in mind when He called the Holy Spirit Parakletos, “one who is called alongside of another” to help in time of need. The Holy Spirit comes along side to help us in our weakness. How hopeless we are, yet He bears our burdens. The emphasis Paul is making is this is a divine work, not half-divine and half-human.

We do not know what to pray for in the midst of our suffering the heavy load so He gets up under it with us and bears it along. He identifies with us in our weakness.

We do not know how or what to pray for in those difficult moments of suffering, but He does because He knows us intimately and He knows perfectly the will of God, and our weaknesses. Prayer covers every aspect of our need, and our weakness is made clear by our not knowing what to pray for now. We so often do not have the whole picture. We see only the hurt, pain, suffering, etc. The Holy Spirit comes to our help and makes intercession.

In fact, we have two divine intercessors: Jesus Christ is at the right hand of the Father in heaven interceding on our behalf (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 1 Jn. 2:1), and the Holy Spirit in our hearts is also interceding (Jn. 14:16, 17). The Holy Spirit intercedes with groanings which cannot be uttered that ascend to the throne of grace.

The Spirit Himself “intercedes,” pleads on our behalf. It is a beautiful word picturing the rescue by someone who “happens on” a person who is in trouble and “in his behalf” pleads with “sighs that baffle words.”

God the Father searches the heart (v. 27; 1 Chron. 28:9; Ps. 139:1, 23; Jer. 17:10; 1 Cor. 4:5; Heb. 4:13). The mind of the Spirit Himself makes interpretation for the saints according to the will of God. The person who makes the intercession is a member of the Trinity. We do not know what the will of God is, but He does.

What are these “groanings”? These inarticulate groans do not escape the omniscient ears of God. They are perfectly intelligent to Him and always according to His perfect will. They are initiated by the Holy Spirit and borne to the presence of the Father. Because they are the intercessions of the Holy Spirit, they are acceptable to the Father.

The God “who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit” and answers according to God’s will. Since His way is perfect we are always assured of His very best for us. “We do not know what we ought to pray for,” but the Holy Spirit always knows, and God the Father will always answer His prayer.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

 

A New Creation, Not Yet Perfect – Daily Devotion

A New Creation, Not Yet Perfect

A New Creation, Not Yet Perfect – Daily Devotion

by Wil Pounds

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“The believer is a new man, a new creation, but he is a new man not yet made perfect,” observes John Murray.

The born again believer still has to deal with indwelling sin. He still sins even though he is growing in Christ likeness and is the subject of the progressive sanctification of the Holy Spirit.

The believer is being transfigured into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

The emphasis the apostle Paul makes in Romans 6:14, 17, 18-20 is there has been a radical change in the believer’s relationship to sin. It is true that the believer still sins, but he is no longer a slave to sin. Sin no longer reigns as in the condition of the old man, the unregenerate person. Romans 7:14-25 teaches us that sin still remains in the believer’s mind, affections, and will. Slavery to sin is broken. But as Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:20-24, and Colossians 3:9-10 brings out the struggle in the heart of the very believer.

Herman Bavink said, “The spiritual struggle which the believers must conduct is between the flesh and the spirit, between the old and the new man, between the sin which continues to dwell in the believers and the spiritual principle of life which has been planted in their hearts.”

If the old nature has been “crucified” and “laid aside,” how can one say the believer still has an old nature?

Christ’s death took the form of a Roman crucifixion. The apostle Paul says the believer is “crucified with Christ” and is “dead” as a result of this action just as Christ after His crucifixion. Just as Christ was definitely dead so is the believer in his vital union with Christ is dead to sin. “For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:10 NET).

But the finality of death is not the only thing Paul stresses about our relationship with Christ. Drawing on the symbolism of baptism by immersion in water Paul says, “Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4 NET). It is not a physical death and burial in regard to the believer, but forensic and positional. Paul has in mind our new position in a vital union with Christ. This is an act of God. We have a new relationship with Him. We have been placed in a new unchanging position. This is the way we exist in God’s sight. We are no figment in His imagination. This is the greatest of spiritual realities.

Believers are to “consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” because this is the great reality of our spiritual lives (6:10).

This status or position before God has vital significance and power in our daily life. We draw power and resources from this unchanging position.

Paul is describing the whole man and the change in our relationship. We have a new position. The contrast Paul is bringing out in these passages is not a change in our nature, but a change in relationship. Our old man is the old unregenerate self. The new person is the new regenerate self.

Because of this spiritual regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we are new creatures in Christ. As a result we have a new relationship with Christ and a new position before God the Father.

It is the believer’s responsibility to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in obeying the Word of God and overcoming temptation.

The true believer knows he needs Christ everyday. He knows he must guard and keep his heart everyday until he sees Christ is glory. When he sins he flees to Christ, His advocate. God had begun a new work in the believer, but that work is not yet perfect.

The Christian lives in both Romans chapters seven and eight. The Christian life is an increasing dynamic repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Everyday we increasingly depend upon the blood and the righteousness of Jesus Christ to cover all our sins. We love Him more and more everyday.

Our sense of repentance deepens as we discover more sins that need to be put to death. Like the apostle Paul, we cry out daily in our mourning, “I am carnal.” But daily we also rejoice in the great truth, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We die to sin daily, and we live to righteousness daily. By the inner working of the Holy Spirit, we “put to death the deeds of the body that we might live.” This is daily responsibility. Daily the inner man or “self” is being renewed day by day.

Romans 7:14-8:4 is the inner battle against remaining sin and imperfect obedience to God’s Word. It is the work of the Holy Spirit leading the believer into deeper repentance, increased holiness, and a greater dependence upon the finished work of Jesus Christ.

There will be a day when repentance will be no more, but that day has not arrived. Until that day arrives, we need to deepen our repentance and increase our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Be Filled With The Holy Spirit daily devotional

Be Filled With The Holy Spirit daily devotional

By Wil Pounds

Be Filled With The Holy Spirit

The greatest need of the born again Christian is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will always glorify Jesus Christ. He will be exalted in our speech and in our behavior.

The apostle Paul issued an imperative command when he wrote, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

It is our duty and responsibility to be under the constant influence and control of the Spirit of God.

Paul used a verb in the imperative and issuedil  a command that every Christian believer to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Because the Christian life is a supernatural life, the only way to live it is by means of supernatural power. No one can live the Christian life in his or her own power and natural strength because we are dead in our trespasses and sins. God must empower us to live with His power. He brings us to life, and then He indwells us and enables us to live His kind of life. When we obey His command, He gives us His presence without limit. The filling of the Holy Spirit is His enabling.

It is from this divine enabling that God the Spirit produces in us love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, self-control, etc. He produces in us the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Are you “under the influence?” What characterizes your life? The idea behind the word “fill” is “control.” The indwelling Spirit of God is the One who should continually control and dominate the life of the believer. The present tense calls for a habitual and continual direction. The passive could be permissive passive, “allow yourself to be…” We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. We do not fill ourselves; the Holy Spirit does the filling!

The idea Paul has in mind is “be constantly controlled by the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the Agent (Gal, 5:16) and Jesus Christ is the content of the filling of the Spirit (Col.3:15).

“There is no such thing as a once-for-all fullness. It is a continuous appropriation of a continuous supply from the Lord Christ Himself. It is a moment-by-moment faith in a moment-by-moment Savior, for a moment-by-moment cleansing and a moment-by-moment filling. As I trust Him, He fills me; the moment I begin to believe, that moment I begin to receive; and as long as I keep believing, praise the Lord, so long I keep receiving,” said Charles Inwood.

When we are under the control of the Spirit of God, our thought life, imagination, volitional choices, and behavior will be occupied with Jesus Christ. When we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we go deeper and deeper into our understanding of the ways of God. Our communion with Christ is deeper and closer with each day. He will be constantly controlling our mind, emotions, and will.

When we are under the control of the Spirit, our prayer life is transformed, and we pray with the heart and vision of a righteous man (James 5:16).

When the Holy Spirit is in control, we are of the same mind with God. We are humble before God and man (Phil. 2:1-8).

When we are filled with the Spirit, we have the mind and thus the attitude of Christ (Phil. 2:5). We reproduce His likeness (Gal: 5:22-23).

When we are under the influence of God’s presence, nothing really matters but Jesus Christ.

When we are filled with the Spirit and therefore under His control, we live holy lives (Gal. 5:16-18).

We have all of the Spirit, but does He have all of us? Am I yielded to Him? Do I “keep on being filled”? Has this command become a blessed habit to me?

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Wisdom For Trials Daily Devotion

Wisdom For Trials: Daily Devotion

Written by Wil Pounds

 

Wisdom for Trials

In the context of a discussion on trials in life the apostle James tells believers to ask God for wisdom to understand and use them for God’s glory.

Divine wisdom gives us the spiritual ability to view trials form God’s perspective. But not only does He help us to understand our suffering, He enables us to apply the wisdom to our trials.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

James tells us trials come from many sources. Sometimes we bring trials on ourselves by making foolish decisions and pursuing selfish objectives.

They come when we are persecuted for the cause of Christ. Satan is the one behind these trials because God has invaded his territory. He cannot take away our salvation, but he can sure eat away at our joy and fellowship in the Lord.

We live in a fallen world that has been severely affected by the results of Adam’s disobedience. Therefore, hardships in this world cannot be prevented and will be with us until the day of its redemption when Christ comes.

We also need to be sensitive to the fact that God allows each trial that we encounter. He sends trials so that we will learn to trust Him.

God uses trials so He can get our attention and teach us through those experiences. His wisdom helps us to discern not only His will, but also how we respond to these pressures in life. What does God want you to learn in this process of dealing with this trial? What is the good that can come out of this evil intent in persecution or misunderstanding?

God tests us in order to demonstrate our faithfulness and strength. He wants to show us how strong we are when we depend upon Him. The testing of our faith produces likeness of Christ.

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Testing proves Christian character. It tests our commitment and endurance to live for Christ. People are impacted with the Gospel when they see us following Christ faithfully, regardless of the chances, changes and circumstances in our lives.

The question of commitment comes when we face trials, hardships, and persecutions with confidence in Christ and obey Him when we do not understand why it is happening to us.

God uses trials to strip away the superficial spirituality in our lives. They reveal the secret inner attitudes of our lives and make us aware of secret sins, unclarified values and selfish motives.

God uses trials to demonstrate to us His sustaining grace and power during our most difficult experiences in life.

Christ lives His life in and through us to demonstrate to the watching world what authentic Christianity is really like. The pressures of trials conform us to the likeness of Christ by producing His likeness within us.

God uses our trials to minister to others who are going through similar experiences. God “comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Through trials we are better equipped to share what we have learned.

As we make ourselves available to Him He lives in and through us giving us wisdom, grace and power.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotional: Matthew 23:23

Daily Devotional: Matthew 23:23

Matthew 23:23

New International Version (NIV)

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Start:

Consider: The verse we look at today stands in the midst of a blistering verbal attack that Jesus levelled against the Pharisees and teachers of the law. If you read the entire twenty-third chapter of Matthew, you’ll get a feel for Jesus’ utter disgust at hypocrisy—particularly self-righteous hypocrisy that exploits others in the name of God.

I highly doubt that any one of us falls into that category that Jesus referred to as “snakes,” “vipers” and sons of hell. But we should always be very humble to allow the Holy Spirit to show us the ways in which we must make sure that our lives measure up to what we profess to believe. We all have inconsistencies. None of us are perfect. But, as we saw yesterday, we are called to live according to what Christ has taught us—to “walk in the light” that he has shed on our pathway.

For me, the main thing that I need to take from this amazing chapter is Jesus’ declaration that the Pharisees had “neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (23:23).

Yes, some things are more important than others. Jesus clearly taught that the heart of the law is love. We don’t want the skeleton of religion without the heart. If we teach our children all the Bible stories and give them correct understanding, but do not demonstrate self-sacrificing love, we are what Jesus would call “blind guides” (23:16).

Down through the centuries many Christians have been involved in seeking out those who held heretical beliefs. And that’s how they defined heresy, believing or teaching things that are contrary to sound doctrine. The great irony is that many times the heretics were persecuted by the “theologically correct” heretic hunters. That means that the persecutors had missed the whole point of Jesus’ life and teaching. The greatest heresy of all is refusing to love.

Pray: “Lord, today I want to live by what you called ‘the more important matters,’ so…

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”

– The Prayer of St. Francis

Daily devotional: Philippians 3:7-16

Daily devotional: Philippians 3:7-16

Philippians 3:7-16

New International Version (NIV)

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Following Paul’s Example
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

 

Start:

Consider: Many have called Paul the first Christian theologian. Some of his letters—such as the one written to the Romans—contain wonderful details on the meaning of life, redemption, love and the journey of the Christ-follower. But his theology was never removed from life. In fact, to Paul there was no separation between faith and real life.

As Paul explained to the Philippian believers the good news that our righteousness is not dependent on external laws (3:2-9), he gave them a beautiful piece of advice. In case they weren’t grasping all that he had to say, or in case they weren’t ready to receive it, he said…

“All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” (3:15-16)

I love that. Even if we’re struggling with our beliefs, the Holy Spirit will clarify things for us if we are sincerely searching for his truth. But in the meantime, let’s live up to the truth that we have already received. We call that “walking in the light” that he sheds upon our path.

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

What has God been teaching you about your journey with him? What has he taught you about how to love? Who has he pointed out to you who needs your love today? Those questions will guide you into how to live this day for him.

Pray: “Lord, you have given me so much and you have taught me more than I thought I could ever comprehend. Much of what you’ve taught me lies in my spirit, not simply in my mind. So please, bring to my awareness today part of that great storehouse of learning and help me to walk in that light.”

Daily Devotional: Philippians 3:1-11

Daily Devotional: Philippians 3:1-11

Written by Lead Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ Church

Philippians 3:1-11

New International Version (NIV)

No Confidence in the Flesh
3 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Start:

Consider: Truth matters. Theology matters. The word “theology” comes from two Greek words: Theos—“God,” and logos, which is translated as “word,” but points to something much deeper than our words can express. Our words—our beliefs—about God matter.

If we are ever tempted to think that theology is just the stuff of university lectures, musty books in seminary libraries and abstract debates, we’ll miss the transformation that God wants to do in our lives and in our world, because theology is something we live every day. As one of my theology professors liked to say, “Theology wears overalls.”

Bad theology does bad things. In the early days of our country, preachers theologized that slavery was God-ordained. In fact, some of the early explorers used theological rationale to displace Native Americans, even committing genocide. Bad theology gets people killed. To this day, misguided people still use the name of Christ to oppress others.

So you see why Paul was so passionate in opposing those who were distorting the good news of Jesus Christ. As you read today’s passage, you heard some strong language from our brother, Paul.

But you’ll also notice that Paul didn’t simply try to fight bad theology with counter arguments. He didn’t reduce himself to the role of a debater who was trying to win someone over to a competing ideology. No, his intentions with the word—the logos—of God were much deeper.

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” (3:10)

Those are not the words of someone who simply wants to argue over doctrine. Those are the words of someone who understands that the word must become flesh. And he was willing to allow Christ to do that in him.

That’s good theology.

Pray: “Lord, may my quest for knowledge be a quest for the knowledge of you and your presence in me and in your world. All wisdom starts there. Like Paul, ‘I want to know Christ’ and the power of your resurrection in me.”

Daily Devotional: Psalm 73:1-17

Daily Devotional: Psalm 73:1-17

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, Lead Pastor JAXNAZ Church

Read: Psalm 73:1-17

Psalm 73:1-17New International Version (NIV)

BOOK III
Psalms 73–89

Psalm 73
A psalm of Asaph.

1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

Start:

Consider: Why do bad things happen to good people? Many have lost their faith struggling with that question. Because, of course, that’s not an academic question. It’s a life question—a mystery that we live with every day. Because a satisfactory answer is hard to come by, some have abandoned God because they felt as though he had abandoned them.

In today’s reading we find the psalmist admitting that he had grappled with the question of evil, but with a slightly different take on that question. He asked why good things happen to bad people. He had become so frustrated with the thought that evil people prospered while he—thinking he was righteous—did not, that he totally lost perspective, to the point that he said, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence” (73:13). In other words, what’s the point of being faithful to God if he doesn’t reward me for it? What’s the point of trying to live a pure life?

Is that why we obey God? Is that why we follow the way of Christ? Are we simply trying to get good things from him?

To me the turning point of this psalm comes with a simple statement…

“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God…” (73:16-17)

Understanding did not come through logic. It didn’t come through a verbal answer from God. It came from entering into God’s presence. This is a different kind of understanding. This is a different kind of knowledge.

Worship brings perspective. We should question, struggle and search for answers. We should try to connect our logic and reason to our faith. But we must not reduce our understanding of God to what we can comprehend with our minds. We will never have a proper perspective on God or on life if we fail to enter into God’s presence—“the sanctuary of God”—and worship him. Whether we are singing together, praying together, listening to the reading and expounding of the scriptures or together partaking of the bread and the wine at Christ’s table, we open ourselves to a level of understanding that can only be gained through worship.

Pray: “Lord, help me to enter your sanctuary every day so that I can know you and express my love to you. Sometimes it will be the sanctuary that only you and I occupy as I spend time alone with you. Other times it will be the sanctuary where the Body of Christ meets. I covenant with you to worship you ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23).”

Daily Devotional: Lamentations 3:19-23

Daily Devotional: Lamentations 3:19-23

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, Lead Pastor, JAXNAZ Church

Read: Lamentations 3:19-23

International Version (NIV)

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Consider: We turn from yesterday’s psalm of praise to haunting words of lament. If you read the first portion of the third chapter of Lamentations you are taken to a point of despair in the writer’s life. The load has become so massive, so crushing that if feels as though God himself is the One who is trying to destroy Jeremiah’s life.

We don’t often hear lamentation like that. Those aren’t the passages typically read in church or in our private prayer time. Yet, expressions of lament occur throughout the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.

These words of anguish culminate in a resignation that God has abandoned him…

“I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.’ I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (3:17-20)

But in our anguish we are not alone. We are not abandoned. Those dreadful words are followed by a hope-filled “Yet…”

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (3:21-23)

Yesterday we looked at the “new song” we can sing. We saw in Psalm 96—that great psalm of praise—that we could see God’s glory in places we had not previously searched. But it is important to recognize that the valley of lament teaches us the same thing that the mountains of glory teach—“his compassions…are new every morning.”

So no matter what you are going through, today is the day to sing a new song of praise for the new thing God is doing in your life. It was brand new this morning.

Pray: “Lord, I thank you that today, because of your great love, I am ‘not consumed.’ I praise you that your ‘compassions never fail—they are new every morning.’ Thank you for your great faithfulness. Even when I find myself at points of despair, I will choose to believe that you are with me.”

Daily Devotional: Psalm 96:1-13

Daily Devotional:  Psalm 96:1-13

by Phil Stout, Lead Pastor, JAXNAZ Church

 

Psalm 96
1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Consider: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (96:1). So begins this great psalm of praise. And this is not the only time the scripture speaks about “a new song.” You’ll find it repeatedly in the psalms, you’ll see it in the words God gave to Isaiah and you’ll hear it at the climax of time, for John proclaims that “they sang a new song” to the Lamb (Revelation 5:9, 14:3).

Have you been singing a new song?

We know that genuine thanksgiving is central to our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. With gratitude, we daily ask God to bless the food we eat. On Sunday mornings—the first day of every week—we gather to celebrate the Sunday morning that death was defeated with an open tomb. Every time we meet we sing songs of praise. We daily honor God as we pray the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray—“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”

But has it been a while since you sang a new song?

Let’s begin this work week by thanking God for the things we don’t typically remember, those things we take for granted. Of course, that will be different for every one of us. But it is good for all of us to remember that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).

We need to take a little inventory. Let’s see if there are things that he has given us that we forgot were precious gifts from the hand of our loving Father.

Pray: “Lord, today I sing a new song to you. I compose new praises in my heart, for you have given me abundance. I’m humbled before your love and grace.”

Daily Devotion: Backsliding

 

Daily Devotion: Backsliding

by Wil Pounds

Backsliding

Have you ever temporarily lapsed into unbelief and sin after you became a Christian? The condition of backsliding results from spiritual apathy or disregard for the truth of God’s Word. It results in a departure from a winsome confession of faith and Biblical ethical standards. Actions are affected by our attitudes toward God and His Word.

Jesus said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Backsliding is different from apostasy, which spurns the grace of God by renouncing the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31). When a person renounces his faith in Christ that person was never a true child of God, and never was among the elect of God (John 3:18-21, 36; 5:24-29).

On the other hand, the elect individual, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and redeemed by God has been delivered once-for-all from the bondage of sin. Backsliding is not a “fall from grace” in the sense that a Christian once saved by grace can lose his eternal life in Christ. He is God’s child forever, and He has placed His life in the believing sinner.

There were times when the disciples of Jesus withdrew from fellowship with the Lord (Matt. 26:56), Peter denied Christ (26:69-75), Corinthian believers lived in sin (2 Cor. 12:20-21), the Church in Asia became lukewarm (Rev. 2:4, 14-15, 20), etc.

The people of Israel serve as an example for Christians today. We are exhorted to persevere in righteousness and doing the will of God. Israel forsook her covenant with the LORD God (Jer. 2:19; 8:5; 14:7), and demonstrated her unfaithfulness by disobeying God.

In the New Testament backsliding is viewed as an individual problem, although it is possible for churches to become backslidden, too.

Why do Christians become backslidden? We all still possess the old nature that is “corrupt through deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22; Rom. 7:13-24; 1 Cor. 3:1-3). Lack of continuous fellowship by “abiding” in Christ results in a lack of spiritual vitality and ineffective Christian service (Jn. 15:4-8). There is no other way to live the Christian life except by maintaining an intimate fellowship with our Lord. If we do not maintain that vital contact with Him we cannot sustain spiritual growth and effectively minister in His name.

Unbelief (Heb. 3:12), bitterness (12:15), love for the world (2 Tim. 4:10), love for money (1 Tim. 6:10), adherence to worldly philosophy (Col. 2:8), legalism (Gal. 3:1; 1:6; 5:7), indifference and spiritual coldness (Rev. 2:4; 3:16) are other causes for backsliding.

Backsliding grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), and it displeases our Lord (Heb. 10:38). There are natural consequences that follow this sin (Lev. 26:18-25).

How can we prevent backsliding in our spiritual life? It is essential that we “abide” in Christ (Jn. 15:4-7), remain spiritually alert (Eph. 6:18), put on the full armor of God (v. 10), be prayerful (1 Thess. 5:17), etc. Seek to love the Lord God with all your mind, heart and personal being every day.

We can thank God that He patiently perseveres with His saints. Just as we are to persevere in doing His will, we can be thankful that He has made a wonderful covenant with us in the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. The grace of perseverance is one of the great benefits of the atoning death of Jesus Christ for our sins. The solution for backsliding is found in the abiding love and mercy of our God of grace who remains faithful to His promises.

Backsliding is serious business. Martin Luther well said, “The offenses given within the church are greater than those given among the heathen because when Christians degenerate, they are more godless than the heathen.”

We have a choice. We can progress or regress in our Christian life. We have a great responsibility in how we choose to live the Christian life. God is able to strengthen and progressively sanctify the Christian if we cooperate with Him (Heb. 3:12; Phil. 3:10-16).

The promise to every backsliding Christian is to, “Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:7). Acknowledge your sin, turn from it, trust in the Lord for forgiveness and ask the Holy Spirit to take control of your mind, heart and daily life. Jesus says, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5).

It is reassuring that the Bible clearly teaches that the truly spiritual regenerate can never be lost. We are his forever children. Once his child by the new birth, always his child. However we can lose our fellowship with God and our effectiveness in Christian service. The God of all grace has provided a bar of soap; let’s use it often (1 John 1:6-10; 2:2).

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

 

Daily Devotional: Abide In The Holy Spirit

Daily Devotional: Abide In The Holy Spirit

Abide in the Holy Spirit

by Wil Pounds
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come the disciples realized why Jesus ascended up into heaven. He left them in order that He might be with each one of them in a more intimate relationship.

The Holy Spirit came to fulfill the ministry of Jesus Christ. “I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly,” Jesus said (John 10:10b). He indwells so that He can reproduce the character and likeness of Jesus Christ within the born again believer. He continues to do and teach all that Jesus began to do and teach when He was here on the earth (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-17).

He longs for us to respond to His love and make ourselves available to Him to live His life in and through us (1 Cor. 3:16-17).

What does the Spirit find in the temple of our body? Too often the temple looks like a desecrated shrine, unkempt, unclean, perhaps even defiled.

We grieve Him, and quench His fiery presence by our attitudes and behaviors. The Holy Spirit is always ready to use us, and longs to make us His instruments of grace and mercy to a lost world. How tragic when we deny Him His rightful place in our hearts?

We have each learned again and again that our God is the God of a second chance. How grateful we are that He “will restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). “This is the everlasting mercy,” says Fitch. “He gave us another chance of doing what we have failed to do” (p. 125).

We abide in Him as we die daily to self-love and reckon to be dead unto sin and alive to God.

Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

We usually treat ourselves as if we are the only ones of significant value, the most important person in the world. Instead of Jesus being our most valued person, we make ourselves the priority. Jesus said we must die to self-love and make Him our first love.

The apostle Paul applied this great truth to the believer when he wrote, “Even so consider [be constantly counting upon the fact, reckon] yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

As we daily die to sin and self and reckon upon Jesus we abide in Him. This is the vital ministry of the Hoy Spirit in our daily lives. This is an important aspect of our spiritual growth.

God is with us and in us by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to make ourselves available to Him. He will take us and cleanse us and use us to fulfill His eternal purpose in and through us.

The Holy Spirit has come to fulfill the ministry of Jesus Christ. He does that in those individuals who have believed on Christ and who make themselves available to the Spirit without reserve. Allow the Spirit of holiness the freedom to apply the blood of Jesus to keep on cleansing us daily, moment by moment from all sin. Permit Him to apply it to your conscience daily and serve the Lord with the fullness of His Spirit. We walk in the light with Him and abide in His presence, as we allow the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all sin. As a result the Holy Spirit strengthens our conscience and deepens our faith in Christ. In doing so we give Him the freedom to use us to His glory.

When we are cleansed and restored daily we keep short agendas with God and the Spirit keeps our hearts tender to the slightest whisper of His will. The Holy Spirit gives us a sensitivity to the disquiet when we are tempted to sin or not walk by faith. He makes us hate sin as God hates sin, and realize that sin breaks our fellowship with God. As Charles Wesley wrote, “Ah give me, Lord, the tender heart that trembles at the approach of sin.” And may He constantly remind us that the only way to restoration of that abiding fellowship is the cleansing blood of Jesus.

Keep your heart tender toward Him and He will abide in you and you in Him.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotion: Have You Received The First Blessing?

Daily Devotion: Have You Received The First Blessing?

by Wil Pounds

Have You Received
the First Blessing?

 

The Holy Spirit does a work within the believer whereby He sanctifies us. This is an experience within the Christian.

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “ . . . you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

The context tells us all the sins of these saints that were covered by the blood of Jesus. God chose the believer unto “salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13; cf. 4:7; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 15:16). Paul has in mind the ultimate goal, our final salvation.

God chose us in the deep counsels of eternity on the basis of His grace and love, and not because of any personal merit on our part. It is all of grace and love. The means God uses to bring us to salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit who sets aside chosen individuals to live holy lives. The Holy Spirit regenerates, indwells, baptizes the believer into the body of Christ, etc. The individual believes in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ because the Holy Spirit has done His work in our hearts. Then throughout the life of the believer the Holy Spirit applies the Word of God to progressively purify the Christian’s life.

Sanctification by the Holy Spirit is the first blessing of God’s work in the heart of the believer. This first blessing leads to the full knowledge of justification by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ for our sins.

No one can be saved without this first work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. The sanctification by the Spirit in the heart brings the believer unto obedience to the sacrifice of Christ. We come to knowledge of our justification when the Holy Spirit brings us to faith in the death of Christ for our sins. His precious blood cleanses the soul of every sinful stain. The blood of Jesus alone makes you acceptable before God. The Holy Spirit brings you to faith in Jesus Christ.

We have been chosen by the Father, purchased by the Son and set apart by the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Paul in the opening chapter of Ephesians lays great stress on what God in grace had done for us. The Trinity is involved in our salvation. God the Father chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world. The Son of God saved when He died for me on the cross. The effectual calling of the Holy Spirit saved me one Sunday morning when my mother and my pastor shared the Gospel and I was born again. It took all three Persons of the Godhead to bring me to salvation. If we separate these ministries, we will either deny divine sovereignty or human responsibility; and that would lead to heresy.

I often hear people say, “But I don’t feel justified.” Our justification has nothing to do with our feelings. The critical question is, “Do you believe God is satisfied with the work of atonement Jesus Christ accomplished as your substitute upon the cross?” If you believe Jesus is your substitute who died for you on the cross, then God has declared you are justified.

Don’t play the doctrine of sanctification against the doctrine of justification as if one is more important than the other. Both doctrines are vital to our full salvation.

Sanctification is not justification. Justification is not something the Holy Spirit does in your heart. Justification is the declaration by the heavenly Judge acquitting you of your guilt. God justifies the believing sinner, based upon the atonement of Christ on your behalf. God acquits you because you have taken Him at His word regarding the death of Jesus Christ. Justification is based upon what Christ did for you on the cross. It is your standing before a righteous and holy God.

Sanctification is not a “second blessing”; it is your first blessing. It is what the Holy Spirit does at the beginning in your soul and continues throughout your life until He presents you complete in your glorified sinless body in the presence of God at the coming of Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:23-24; Phil. 1:6). He will have completed His work in you on that glorious day, and not before then (cf. 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Thess. 1:10; 2:2; 1 Cor. 1:18; 3:13; 2 Cor. 1:14; Rom. 13:12).

Every born again person has received the Holy Spirit and has been set apart to God. Because of His indwelling presence we long for the time when the Spirit will have reached His goal in our lives and we shall become absolutely and forever sinless and holy. When we see Jesus Christ in glory we will be forever wholly sanctified.

As we walk in the Spirit we live holy lives, and we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16, 17; Eph. 5:18). The only way to live the Christian life is occupation with Christ. All He asks of us is to yield ourselves to Him. As we make ourselves available to Him He lives His life in and through us.

You don’t need a second blessing; you need to appropriate by faith the first blessing of the Holy Spirit. You only need to walk in the Spirit. The Christian life is not a sudden growth of spirituality, acquired through a special blessing, but a steady, sincere, patient walk in the Spirit, in uninterrupted growth in grace and knowledge of Christ.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotional: Adopted Children Of God

 

Daily Devotional: Adopted Children Of God

Subject: Once saved, we become “adopted” into the family of God, forevermore.

Written by Wil Pounds

The term “Son of God” refers preeminently to Jesus Christ’s deity (Matt. 11:25-27; 16:16-17). He alone is one in substance and glory with God the Father. Believers in Christ, although “adopted” are never on a par with the uncreated, divine Son of God.

“Adoption” is the term the apostle Paul uses to describe the act of the Holy Spirit whereby the believing sinner becomes a member of God’s family, with all the privileges and obligations of family members.

We were “children of wrath” by nature (Eph. 2:3). However, those upon whom God bestows His saving grace become the “children of God.”

The word adoption in the New Testament means to place as an adult son. It was a term used in the Roman legal practice in the apostle Paul’s day referring to a legal action by which a person takes into his family a child not his own, with the purpose of treating him as and giving him all the privileges of an own son. An adopted child was legally entitled to all rights and privileges of a natural-born child. Paul uses it as an illustration of the act of God giving a believing sinner, who is not His natural child, a position as His adult son in His family. The emphasis is on the legal position of the child of God.

It is the Holy Spirit who is called “the Spirit of adoption” who performs the act of placing the believing sinner as an adult into the family of God. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15)

The adopted child lost all rights and privileges in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family. He got a new father, and he became the heir to his new father’s estate. He became co-heir with the other sons. In the eyes of the law the old life was completely wiped out. All debts were completely cancelled. He was absolutely the son of his new father. It was carried out in the presence of seven witnesses.

What a glorious privilege is ours to be the absolute possession of the Father! We have already as believers in Christ been placed in the family of God and are led by the Holy Spirit as the adult sons of God. The apostle John describes our experience as God’s children who have been born into His family by the new birth (Jn. 1:12; 1 Jn. 3:1-2).

Moreover, Romans 8:23 tells us “we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” At the Second Coming of Christ our resurrected bodies will be glorified and will then possess all our inheritance that the sonship involves.

Galatians 4:4-6 and Ephesians 1:5 make it clear that we cannot lose our adoption. Because Jesus Christ paid the penalty of our sin debt in full, nothing stands in the way of a just God regenerating a believing sinner and placing him as His child in His family. The Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of adoption” also places a saved sinner in a legal standing in God’s family. The adopted son has all the rights and privileges of God’s only begotten Son. God the Father loves the adopted child just as much as He loves His only begotten Son.

“We are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). As a result of God’s adopting us we are just as eternal and secure in our relationship with Him as His only-begotten Son. All the security and loveliness of God’s Son is ours as His adopted sons. The Holy Spirit imparts to us the divine nature and places us in the family of God in accordance to His unchanging laws.

This is our new standing before the LORD God. He accepts us into His family, who by nature do not belong to it, and places those who are not His sons originally into a right relationship with Him with all the privileges of that new family relationship.

Jesus Christ alone is the Son of God by nature. We can never have the same relationship He has as the unique Son of God. The word “adoption” distinguishes those who are made sons of God from the only-begotten Son of God. The Holy Spirit, however, creates in the believing sinner a new nature. We have not only the new status as sons, but also the heart of true sons. Our adoption is the act of God’s pure goodness and grace of His will to the praise of His glory.

Selah!

Daily Devotional On Evangelism

Daily Devotion on Evangelism

A Christian Witness to the Whole World
I am involved in something that will still be worthwhile a million years from now because God has not revoked the great commission.

Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matthew 24:14).

Today the kingdom of God is realized as we proclaim the crucified, risen, and returning Lord Jesus Christ.

The gospel is the good news of the kingdom of God that has come in the person and work of Jesus Christ. How do we enter into the kingdom of God? There is only one way. “Repent of your sins and believe on Jesus Christ.” That is the message we preach.

Our message is the gospel of free grace. It is what God has accomplished for us in the sacrificial substitutionary atoning death of Jesus Christ for our sins. We offer the gospel freely “without money and without cost” (Isa. 55:1).

John Ryle once said, “Men are apt to forget that it does not require great open sins to be sinned in order to ruin a soul forever. They have only to give hearing without believing, listening without repenting, going to church without going to Christ, and by and by they will find themselves in hell.”

It is imperative that we make the message of salvation crystal clear in our presentations. Salvation is the gift of God and it is “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves.” God has provided everything we need in order to be saved. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). But also be assured, “Reject Jesus Christ, and you will perish forever.”

Every time we share that message we are personally involved in what God is doing in building His eternal kingdom.

What can we expect as we take the gospel out of self-edification and share it with others? We can prepare for and accept hostility from some listeners (Matthew 10:16-18, 21-25). There will be men who “will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues, and you shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles (v. 17). The history of Christianity is the history of persecution and martyrdom for the cause of Christ. More people have been persecuted and died for Christ during the last hundred years than in the previous two thousand years.

We can expect God’s power and sustaining grace to meet all of our necessities as we take the good news to a lost world. Jesus said, “When they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak” (v. 19). Those are instructions for martyrs and Christians under persecution, not preachers getting ready for Sunday morning without doing their homework. The Holy Spirit gives boldness to testify under all circumstances for Christ. “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (v. 20). Success in personal witnessing is simply sharing Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and then leaving the results up to God.

Our job is to be faithful to Christ under all circumstances (vv. 26-27). The only person we are to fear is the LORD God “who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (v. 28). The worst thing a man can do to us is to kill the body. But “for me to live is Christ and to die is better yet” (Phil. 1:21).

The Lord is sovereign in His kingdom (vv. 30-33). There is nothing that can happen to His faithful servant who is not fully known to Him. Whatever we experience as His servants is fully known to Him and happens ultimately for our good and His eternal glory. The responsibilities are great for all believers (vv. 34-39).

However, the rewards of being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ are eternal (vv. 40-42). “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. . . . And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward” (vv. 40, 42).

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotional: Why Pain and Suffering?

Daily Devotional:  Why Pain and Suffering?

By Wil Pounds

Researchers recently asked a cross-section of adults: “If you could ask God only one question and you knew He would give you the answer, what would you ask?” The majority of the people responded, “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?”

That is not a new question. It is the age old question the patriarch Job asked in the oldest book in the Bible during his earth shaking tragedy (1:13-19). If you substitute in this passage the words “Sabeans” and “Chaldeans” with “terrorists,” and tornado or hurricane for the strong wind you have the headlines in today’s news.

Job asked the same question, “Why?” seven times in chapter three. “Why did I not die at birth? Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?” (v. 11) Repeatedly, he asked “Why?” People still ask, “Why did God allow this to happen?” “Where is God?” “Why didn’t God do something?”

The Greek philosopher Epicures asked if there is a God, and if that God is good, why is there evil in our world? Epicures reasoned: “God either wishes to take away evil, and is unable; or He is able and unwitting; or He is neither willing nor able; or He is both willing and able.”

His reasoning raises other questions. Is He weak and feeble because He wishes to take away evil, but unable to do so? However, that does not answer to the real character of God.

Is He wicked because He is able and willing, but will not?

If He is weak, feeble and wicked He is not God. Then we must ask since God is not the source of evil what is its source? Since He is God and He knows the source then why does He not remove it immediately?

The prophet Habakkuk asked God, “Why do You make me see iniquity? Why do you cause me to look on wickedness?” (Hab. 1:3).

The prophet Jeremiah asked another relevant question, “Why has the way of the wicked prospered?” (12:1).

The Hebrew mind reasoned that all suffering is unjust and that God’s silence is inexcusable. In Hebrew, the word “why” is a cry of protest.

How strange that we call God on the carpet every time there is a tragedy, or crisis in our lives. We go to Him and demand that He explain Himself and He had better have a good reason that satisfies us or we will not believe in Him. Our insistence on demands from God in time of disaster borders on arrogance and spiritual infidelity.

The fact is the Lord God does not have to explain Himself to anyone simply because He is the sovereign God.

In the book of Job God is totally silent for 37 chapters. He patiently listens to Job and never says one word. Then He asked one question, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding” (38:4).

To paraphrase God, “You wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t decided to create you.” “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it” (40:2).

The Lord God is a sovereign, good God and His providence extends over all things including both good and evil. He demonstrates His sovereignty by His ability to bring good out of evil, and to use it for His glory and our good.

He is absolutely good and righteous; therefore, He can redeem that which is evil and use it for His eternal purposes.

I may not know the reason why, but the Lord knows, and that is enough.

I may not know why the Lord leads me in paths I dread, but the Lord knows and therefore I will trust and obey Him.

There is good in the world because God is good. We experience His goodness because He is the God of grace.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotional: The Glorification Of The Christian

Daily Devotional: The Glorification Of The Christian

by Wil Pounds

The Glorification of the Christian

The glorification of the Christian describes his complete and definitive conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.

It is the last link in the great gold chain of salvation and is sure to happen; The apostle Paul refers to it as it has already happened (Romans 8:30).

Another great promise is given to us in Philippians 1: 6. “Being persuaded of this, that he who began a good work in you, will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

God makes us as his Son. Being glorified is another way of saying that the believer will be “conformed” to the character of Christ, which is the ultimate purpose of God for the Christian. Christians will no longer be “deprived of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The great plan of salvation of God reaches from eternity to come to the future eternity, and He will achieve this perfectly. God’s plan will succeed. There is always the now and the still when it comes to our salvation. We are saved and we will be saved. We are justified and one day we will be glorified. The apostle Paul speaks of a reality that has come and the promise that is to come.

The apostle Paul was absolutely sure that one day every believer in Jesus Christ would be completely like Christ in character. That great fact must influence the decisions we make and our behavior every day. There is no greater encouragement in daily life in the fact that we already share the glory of God. In addition, there is an eternal weight of glory that accompanies the believer when he goes to heaven. More suffering here, more glory there.

In the great gold chain of salvation, not a single person is lost. The call, justified, glorified. Our glorification is so sure that in the eyes of God it is as good as it is made.

Choice, effective calling and justification have already taken place in the believer’s experience, but it is the glorification that will take place in the future.

However, the apostle Paul speaks of it as having already taken place. Bible scholars have wondered why, then, does Paul use the same past time when he speaks of glorification as he does for the other acts of God? Many scholars suggest that Paul is using the Hebrew idea “prophetic past” by which he predicted that an event is marked as compliance insurance so that it is described as having already taken place. The Christian has not been glorified, as it is in the future, but his glory is so sure in God’s eternal purpose that Paul can say, “He also glorified them.”

J . B . Phillips says, God “raised them up by the splendor of His life as His own children.”

What a wonderful thought that God cares so much for His children that He allows us to participate even now; Since we will be complete when the great consummation comes (1 John 3: 1-2).

We share the glory of God, the blessed hope of Christ’s return. Therefore, nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Since God is for us, all things work for our good and His glory. The eternal purpose of God is constantly advancing toward the fulfillment of a goal (Rom 8: 17-23, 30, Col. 3: 4, 1 Peter 4:13, 1 Cor 15:49, 2 Cor. , Philippians 3:21, 1 John 3: 2)

The believer’s conformity to Christ includes the transformation of the body of our humiliation into the likeness of the body of Christ’s glory (Philippians 3:21). Paul has in mind conformity to the image of the incarnate Son as glorified by His exaltation. However, keep in mind that the glorified Christ does not cease to be the eternal Son and is the eternal Son, who is the glorified Son incarnate.

Christ is pre-eminent among many brothers. He is the “firstborn among many brethren: Christ is not ashamed to call us his brethren.” For he who sanctifies, and those who are sanctified, are all one; Therefore he is not ashamed to call them brethren “(Hebrews 2:11, The Bible, King James Version).

The glorification of the Christian has no meaning without the manifestation of the glory of Christ. Our glorification is tied to the coming of Christ in His glory. And then we must be like Him.

The Bible teaches us that this is true that one day we will be with Jesus Christ and we will be completely like Him. We will not be God as the worship teaches, but we will be like Christ in His attributes of love, joy, peace, patience, mercy , Wisdom, faithfulness, grace, kindness, self-control, etc. Are you becoming like Him today?

“If ye have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3: 1, The Bible, King James Version). That is the best preparation for our glorification to come.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2009 translated by Katia Blandin

Daily Devotional: The Glory Of God In Jesus Christ

Daily Devotional: The Glory of God in Jesus Christ

By Wil Pounds

The Glory of God in Jesus Christ

What do you think God the Son would say to God the Father during the night before He gave His life as an atonement for the sin of the world?

Imagine with me for a moment what the divine communication between God the Father and God the Son should be. I wonder what deep conversation must take place among the members of the Trinity. Communication between the Divine must be too deep and immeasurable to comprehend for us. The LORD said to Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways … As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts “(55: 8-9).

Even in the prayer of Jesus recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John, we are allowed to enter into this deep conversation that is happening in the Godhead. He is exalted, holy and sublime. It is God speaking to God. This prayer is full of simple phrases that convey deep thoughts of Himself (vv.1-5), to His disciples who were with Him (vv. 6-19) and to you and to me (verses 20-26).

Jesus is then the burning bush of the New Testament on the most sacred ground on the New Testament soil.

This is a “sincere and loving prayer” of the depth of the heart of Jesus. It is “so honest, so simple, so deep, so broad, no one can go deep into it,” wrote Luther.

In the verse the petition is so simple, yet so profound in its simplicity. “Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee … Now therefore, glorify thou me, beside thy Father, with that glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17 :fifteen).

Jesus speaks of His pre-incarnate glory in eternity past before He became flesh. Jesus possessed and manifested the same glory with God before He became flesh. The very essence of the deity Jesus possessed can not be changed. “He existed in the form of God.” He was equal to God (Phil 2: 6). Jesus was and is essentially and unalterably God. This fact did not change when He also took “the form of a servant, made like men” (v.7).

The apostle Paul in Philippians 2: 7 writes of the divestment of visible outward manifestations of the visible glory of Jesus in His flesh. Paul is careful to emphasize that Jesus did not divest Himself of His divine nature, or of His essential attributes of the deity. It was a self-limiting of His outward visible glory and not of His deity. He limited only the manifestation of His glory, which He demonstrated in heaven. He is God of the true God. The stripping took shape or the essential characteristics of a servant, and humbled “himself, becoming obedient unto death, death on a cross” (verse 8). He resembled any domestic servant of today. He was fully human-fully God.

Jesus Christ preserved all the essential, unchanging, and unchanging attributes essential to the nature of God. The essential nature of Jesus is the same as the essential nature of God. The essential form never changes and never changes. He is God.

Since it is true about Jesus, then what does He mean when He says to the Father: “Now then, Father, glorify me at your side, with that glory which I had with you, before the world was” (John 17: 5 )? Is Jesus praying for the restoration of His essential attributes of divinity? No, of course, no, that’s impossible because His deity never changed. This glory was the glory of God. However, Jesus did not manifest this glory during the days of His incarnation. He hid it behind the veil of His flesh. Jesus is going to glorify the Father in His visible outer glory as He did in eternity past. His glory present in heaven is even greater than in the past because He was obedient to the Father until death. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above every name” (Phil 2: 9). So that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow to those in the heavens, and every tongue “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (verses 10-11). It is evident that this glory is the ultimate in praise, honor and glory of renown that can ever be given. It is of His intrinsic value or character. All that may be appropriately known to Yahweh, Jehovah or the LORD is the expression of His glory.

Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty, the
Lord mighty in battle. . .
Who is this King of glory?
Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory “(Psalm 24: 8, 10).

When we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2009 translated by Katia Blandin

Daily Devotional: The Lord Will Provide

Daily Devotional: The Lord Will Provide

By Wil Pounds

 

The Lord Will Provide

Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).

Jesus made a startling statement stressing the fact that the ancient Jewish patriarch Abraham placed his ultimate hope in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and he rejoiced in the thought of Christ’s coming.

Jesus points to the event as “My day”—the life of Jesus Christ. That is the event that Abraham was reflecting upon and rejoicing about.

Something happened to Abraham in his day to cause him to rejoice back then at the thought of the coming of God’s redeemer. I believe Abraham’s vision of the coming of Christ as our substitute is vividly portrayed in the near sacrifice of his son Isaac on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22). There Abraham learned that “the Lord will provide,” and He did at Calvary.

Abraham had already experienced the reality that God is true to His Word, no matter how strange it may seem. God told Abraham to kill Isaac, the son of the covenant, who had no children at this time in his life. Abraham knew God would have to perform a miracle in Isaac’s death. God would have to raise Isaac from the dead to accomplish His promise of producing a great nation through Isaac. Since God had done a miracle at Isaac’s birth, He was fully capable of performing a miracle in his sacrificial death. The context of Genesis chapter 22 fully expects God to bring Isaac back down the mountain with his father Abraham and the servants after the sacrifice (Gen. 22:5; Heb. 11:17-19).

Abraham trusted God to bring Isaac back from the dead. This was precisely what God the Father did with His own Son Jesus Christ.

Genesis 22:14 tells us Abraham rejoiced and called the place Jehovah Jireh meaning “the Lord will provide.”

Could Abraham have meant earlier, “the Lord will provide a resurrection of Isaac”?

The message in Genesis 22 is Jehovah Jireh who provided a ram in substitution for the death of Isaac would one day provide His own Son as the perfect substitute and sacrifice to cover the sins of all who believe on Him.

At that moment Abraham saw clearly the coming of Jesus including the meaning of His substitutionary death and resurrection, and He rejoiced at the thought. He saw it and was glad.

Do you believe as Abraham did? He believed, and God provided.

Do you believe God in spite of your present circumstances?

Do you believe that Jesus Christ came and died as your substitute on the cross and rose from the dead?

Do you rejoice in His coming?

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Time Alone With God Daily Devotional

Wednesday, November 30

Time Alone With God Daily Devotional

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, of JAXNAZ Church

Read: Matthew 1:21-23

Matthew 1:21-23
New International Version (NIV)

21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[a] because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[b] (which means “God with us”).

Start:

Consider: Two prophecies in two testaments, separated by centuries, give us the same promise. In a time of war and fear, Isaiah said that the Lord would reveal himself—would give a sign…

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means ‘God with us.’” (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23)

Centuries later, from a cave on the Island of Patmos, John saw a vision and declared…

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’” (Revelation 21:3)

It’s the same message. “God is with us”—“God’s dwelling place is now among the people.” Both advents declare the same promise.

It is essential to see this or we will not understand how we are to live in this present age. The kingdom of heaven is coming, but it is already here. Jesus will come again, but he has already arrived. In other words, today we get to live in the new kingdom even as we await it in its fullness.

I get to live by the new kingdom values today. Today I get to receive and give grace. Today I get to be filled with hope. Today I get to love my enemy. Today I get to reject the sword and embrace the cross. Today I get to lay down my life for Christ and for his world.

I don’t have to live by the old, tired values of the kingdoms of this world. That’s the freedom given to us by Christ’s arrival.

Pray: “Lord, your presence is a gift beyond my comprehension. And yet I can know your presence. What my mind cannot conceive, my spirit can receive. Thank you for the promise and reality of Immanuel—God with us. God with me.”

Time Alone with God daily devotional

Time Alone with God daily devotional

Tuesday, August 9

Read: Luke 15:11-24

Consider: The three parables of Luke 15—the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son—all end in celebration. There is one simple reason for that. What was lost was finally found.

Now if a shepherd loses a lamb or a woman loses a coin, it’s pretty obvious that something is missing. But when it comes to seeing that we ourselves are lost, we can be pretty slow (or too stubborn) to see it.

The son who left his father had no clue that he was lost. He kept going the wrong direction, picking up speed and running farther from home. He thought he was doing a pretty good job managing his life. He experienced great tragedy, sorrow and loss before “he came to his senses” (15:7).

What was obscured to the son was obvious to the father. We see that when the son returned and the father exclaimed…

“This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (15:24)

Our Father never stopped waiting for us. He never wrote us off as being unredeemable. He never gave up on us. But he had to wait. He couldn’t (and wouldn’t) force us to come home. He waited and waited. When we were humble enough—when we came to our senses—it became possible for the lost to be found and the dead to be raised.

Pray: “Lord, the thing that can draw me away from you is my delusion of self-sufficiency. When I forget that I am lost without you, I’m tempted to wander into strange lands. Today I walk with confidence because I walk with my Father in the direction you take me.”

Daily Devotion: Do You Have the Mind of Christ?

Daily Devotion: Do You Have the Mind of Christ?

by Wil Pounds

Start:

“Have you the mind of Christ?”

Do I see the beauty of a holy life as Jesus saw it? Do I see lost people through His eyes? Do I understand the eternal purpose of God with the same conviction that Jesus had?

The apostle Paul said, “We have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16). What are the implications of having that mind?

In contrast to the pagan false “wisdom” Paul sets forth the wisdom from God, “That is found in the righteousness and sanctification and wisdom of God in Christ. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

In God’s magnificent wisdom, He has been “well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe,” and the message preached is “Christ crucified.”

The unregenerate, sensual person who lives his life as if there is nothing beyond the physical “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised” (I Cor. 2:14).

In contrast Paul says the believer in Christ has “received” not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely give to us by God” (v. 12).

We have the mind of Christ because we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. Therefore, since we are new creatures in Christ, our habit of mental activity needs to be like that of Christ.

The apostle Paul uses the word “mind” signifying the exercise of the mind, including our emotional and spiritual responses creating activity. It refers to understanding, intelligence, and mental presence. It is the whole knowledge of Christ including emotions and volitions based on thought.

Perhaps John 17 reveals the mind of Christ in its rare beauty. “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life’” (John 17:1-2). That is the passion of God incarnate. He came to reveal the Father and give eternal life to all who will believe on Him. In the mind of Christ, we understand the cross. Only then will the passion our preaching be “Christ crucified.” “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

The mind of Christ is revealed in the cross. In the mind of Christ we see “the beauty of holiness.” Christ came to reveal the holiness of the Father and the sinfulness of sin. The cross of Jesus exposes our sins, and we stand condemned before a righteous God. The cross reveals the mind of our Savior who knew no sin and became so identified with us that He gave Himself as the substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf. The mind of Christ reveals an attitude of self-emptying and humility so profound that He would empty Himself “taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men” and give Himself a ransom for sin. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Jesus saw everything in perpetual relationship to His Father. He saw the whole universe related to the Father and for that reason He gave His life in obedience to Him. The master passion of Christ Jesus was to glorify His Father in saving sinful man.

“We have the mind of Christ” when we see the Father in all of His holiness. “We have the mind of Christ” when we sin as it breaks the heart of a holy and righteous God. We have the mind of the Savior when we understand the penalty for sin must be paid in full by a divine, sinless substitute. “We have the mind of Christ” when we feel the passion of His soul in submission to the will of God, even unto death.

If I have the mind of Christ, I can see the infinite beauty of holiness as He saw it when He clothed me in the robes of His perfect righteousness. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Do I have that same passion to see lost people as He saw them? If I have the mind of Christ, I will pour out my life in obedient sacrifice and believe and trust in Him.

Hear my prayer, oh God. I give my mind to you; let me think the way Christ thinks. Help me make the choices the way You would choose. I want to do what You would do and feel as you feel. Help me to obey You—even unto death!

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotional: “How Can God Not Freely Give Us All Things?”

Daily Devotional: How Can God Not Freely Give Us All Things?

Written by Wil Pounds

Start:

Since God is for us, who then can possibly stand against us?

The Psalmist wrote, “In God I will trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalms 56:11)

The prophet Elisha demonstrated to his companion that God is for us and can be depended upon to take care of His people. The enemy sent an army with horses, and chariots circling the city. The servant was filled with panic. “What shall we do?” Elisha counseled, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha prayed, “‘O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17-18). God blinded the enemy and provided deliverance (v. 19).

The question that haunts many people I meet is not the fact that God is able, but is God really for us? Does He really care? Would He do the same thing for us? How can we know that the great sovereign God of the universe is actually on our side today?

God has already answered that question once and for all. We never have to ever question God’s love for us again. “He who did not spare His own son but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Since God loves us, He is also for us.

The apostle Paul takes us back to John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB 1995).

God has demonstrated His vast love for us even while we were His enemies by sending Christ to die for us (Romans 5:8). That is love. That is God’s love for the sinner. And since I am a sinner, this qualifies me.

“God delivered Him up for us all.” Christ died as my substitute on the cross. He died for my sins. That is how much God loves you and me. Only in the death of Jesus Christ can we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves us and wants His best for each of us.

Because this is absolutely true without doubt, then “how will He not also freely give us all things?”

God loved us enough to give His very best. God loves us with an infinite love. There is nothing in the universe more precious to God than His own Son.

Romans 8:32 tells us God spared not His own Son in order that He might save us. It is at the cross of Jesus that we see demonstrated the love of God. He loved us to the extent that He made Christ the Divine Substitute and laid on Him all our sins. God did not spare anything. He poured out on His own Son His wrath against our sin.

God’s love for us is beyond measure. Jesus loved us so much that He was made sin for us and actually bore the wrath of God against sin as our substitute (2 Cor. 5:21). He died in our place (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:6, 8). God delivered Him up to death on the cross that we might be spared. Jesus bore the wrath of God that we might never have to bear it. God delivered Jesus up for us. God loves us so much that He spared not His own Son (Isa. 55:4; Acts 2:23; John 1:29).

The apostle argued that if God loves us this much, then He will most certainly not withhold anything we need to fulfill His eternal purpose of redemption.

He used a verb describing the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22:16. “You have not withheld your son, your only son.” When asked where was the burnt offering for the sacrifice, Abraham answered, “Isaac, the Lord will provide . . . In the mount of the LORD it will be provided” (v.14). And God did provide the ultimate sacrifice at mount Calvary.

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

What are “all things”? “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (v. 28). He is making us like Jesus Christ.

God causes “all things” – your desperate circumstances, your crushing trials, your unbearable persecutions, and your extreme hardships in life – to make you conform to the character of Jesus Christ. And He will continue to use these things in your life to accomplish that good.

Out of God’s great love, He will “freely give us all things.” Jesus Christ was the greatest Thing God had to give. Since God did that, is there anything He can possibly withhold? (Phil. 4:19)

The cross proves the generous grace of God. Since God gave the greatest of possible gifts in the giving of His Son, we can depend upon Him to give us all the lesser gifts.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotion: The Model Prayer: Forgive Our Debts

Daily Devotion: The Model Prayer: Forgive Our Debts

Message by Wil Pounds

The Model Prayer: Forgive Our Debts

Why is it so hard to forgive?

Only a person committed to Christ dare pray this prayer. “Forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 NET).

These are the most frightening words in Christianity.

This part of the prayer wakes us up spiritually and make us think about what we are saying.

Do we have an unforgiving spirit? If things are not right with other people, how can they be right with a holy God?

Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive our debts, as we also forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

“Our debts” is a common word for legal debts, but here it is used of moral and spiritual debts to God. We are sinners who have wronged God. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. . . If we say we have not sinned, we make him a lair and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10 NET).

We are sinners who are constantly in the need of forgiveness. We have obligations to God. We owe God a debt. We need Him to cancel our debt because as sinners we can never repay it. We are spiritual debtors in the need of God’s saving grace.

“Forgive our debts,” means, “to send away, to dismiss, to wipe off, put away” (cf. 1 Jn. 1:7-9; Eph. 1:7; Matt. 26:28). From other Scriptures we learn that God provides forgiveness on the basis of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Nothing can be added to that. Our forgiving disposition does not earn God’s pardon. Our forgiveness is based entirely on God’s unmerited favor and grace, and not on any merits on our part. It is the divine grace of God in Christ that saves us (Eph. 1:7; 2:8-10).

The act of forgiving others does not merit an eternal reward or gain for us salvation or eternal life. However, when we forgive others it is evidence that the grace of God is at work in our hearts. That which is impossible for us to accomplish in our own strength God enables us to do by the power of His indwelling in our hearts. If we hold on to our bitterness and grudges and unforgiveness, we need to examine ourselves. The apostle Paul admonishes us, “Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you–unless, indeed, you fail the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5 NET).

The grace of God in the believer’s heart keeps bringing him back to the sanctifying truths of God’s word. “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleaning us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NET).

In the most hurtful experiences of life we forgive, and we to choose forgive again. It is a process whereby we confess our sins and choose to forgive the person who has offended us. It is a choice we make once and for all to let it go and trust God with the consequences. And everytime the “old man” brings it back up we choose to forgive again. Our old sinful nature will remind us of the hurts of life.

When we choose to forgive we demonstrate that we are children of God and we have experienced His saving grace. By nature this is not something we do on our own. Human nature says take charge, get revenge, get even, don’t let them do this to you. However, we have become new persons, a radical change has taken place in our hearts and we cannot live in the character of the person we were before we came to Christ. The power to forgive comes from the new life in Christ.

Salvation always begins with God’s electing grace and never with us (1 Jn. 4:19; Jn. 13:15; Eph. 4:32; 1 Pet. 2:21). The evidence of that saving grace is how we respond to the circumstances of life.

Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Forgive our debt as we forgive our debtors.” The idea can be paraphrased: “Forgive us our sins in proportion as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” Jesus says with powerful words in verses 14-15 that if we forgive others, God will forgive us; but if we refuse to forgive others, God will refuse to forgive us.

“For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15, The NET Bible).

No amount of trying to make excuses, or interpret the words in a way that caters to our sinful human nature won’t work. Human forgiveness and divine forgiveness are relational. Jesus says our forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us cannot be separated. The are related to one another.

This prayer forces us to our knees in humble confession and repentance.

Do you remember Peter’s question about forgiveness? “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus’ response was unnerving, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). Then Jesus told a parable on forgiveness and concluded, “‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (vv. 23-35).

Jesus said forgiveness must be present in us if we are to receive the Father’s forgiveness. We must be willing to forgive others if we have experienced His forgiveness. The person seeking forgiveness must have first taken forgiving action with respect to those who have sinned against him.

Jesus keeps bringing us back to a spiritual birth, a radical change in us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away, what is new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NET). Forgiveness is evidence of that radical change in our hearts.

Has anyone in this earthly life arrived at this perfect state of forgiving? Let’s face the reality that only Jesus Christ has been able to forgive perfectly (Luke 23:34). Our forgiveness is so imperfect.

All excuses laid aside, we are forced to come to God and deal with these issues of forgiveness and receiving forgiveness daily. This prayer for forgiveness should be a daily priority in our lives.

Jesus expected His people to forgive others, and He gives assurance that the forgiveness of God is certain. In order for us to enjoy God’s forgiveness of our sins we must forgive our debtors. We get back what we give. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”

What we are humanly unable to accomplish, God enables us to do by His power working within us. It is His grace within us that gives us the desire and ability to forgive our neighbor. When we do take action to forgive we have a credible witness to our lost neighbor. He can see the grace of God at work in our lives. He will see the change and ask, “What makes you different?”

Vengeance belongs only to the Lord (Rom. 12:19). We are to hand every situation over to the Lord and trust it to Him. We can find no greater example of this action than in Christ Himself while hanging on the cross. He prayed, “Father forgive them, for they now not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34; Jn. 13:12-15; Eph. 4:32; 5:1-2; Col. 3:13). The forgiveness of Christ must have startled those who were hurling insults, curses and abuses on Him in the hour of His death. One of the criminals saw the difference in Christ and responded to His love.

There is a tremendous sense of inner peace of mind and heart when we choose to forgive. God’s name is glorified because we have been obedient to His command.

Only the power of Christ living in us can empower us to forgive. “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8).

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006