Sunday, 20 May 2018

Rejoicing Through the Spirit

“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).
The indwelling Holy Spirit allows us to rejoice, no matter how greatly we suffer or are persecuted.
One of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the past half century has been the discovery of the DNA molecule, which carries unique and essential genetic information about all living beings. The most well-known practical application of DNA has been the “fingerprinting” technique in which genetic information from one DNA sample is compared with that of another. If the information matches, it’s highly probable, but not absolutely certain, that the samples identify the same individual.
While discoveries about DNA’s ability to more precisely determine physical identity have been newsworthy, God long ago established His infallible truth regarding spiritual identity. The apostle Paul gives us the basic criterion by which we can know if we are believers: “However you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9). This reinforces Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus about being born again (John 3:3-6). Therefore, all genuine believers will know the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.
The Spirit’s presence in our lives is one final reason we have to rejoice in trials and sufferings. Peter calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of glory” because as deity the Spirit has glory as an essential attribute. Although that glory doesn’t manifest itself today as it did in the Old Testament (e.g., the cloud in the tabernacle), the Spirit’s indwelling a Christian is nonetheless real for any who are undergoing a trial.
1 Peter 4:14 is referring to a special grace that goes beyond the normal indwelling of the Spirit. It is much like the extraordinary power that Stephen realized before and during his stoning (see Acts 6:15; Acts 7:55-60). God’s Spirit gave him amazing composure and strength and lifted him above normal pain and fear. The Holy Spirit also blesses us with abundant grace, specially suited to our times of need. Therefore, it should be hard for us to react with any attitude but rejoicing, no matter how difficult our trials.
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who ministers daily in your life.
For Further Study
Read Exodus 3:1-6.
  • What was unique about the bush?
  • How did Moses react to God’s glory?

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Rejoiceing in Suffering

“But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13).
We should rejoice in trials and persecutions, not for their own sake, but for the benefits that result.
The late D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his classic book Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, made the following careful distinction on what it means to rejoice in persecution: “The Christian is, in a sense, one who must feel his heart breaking at the effect of sin in others that makes them do this [persecute believers]. So he never rejoices in the fact of persecution as such.”
We can draw from this, then, that 1 Peter 4:13 and other verses (notably Matt. 5:11-12), while they encourage the positive attitude of rejoicing in trials, do not mean we should have a masochistic or elitist view of suffering. The joy we are to have should go beyond the pain and heartache of the suffering itself and focus on the ramifications of what God is doing in our life.
Peter begins our verse by asserting that one of those ramifications is enjoying the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. That means we can share, for His sake, in the same kind of suffering and rejection He endured. We should be ready for such persecution whenever we share the gospel or generally identify with Him. The apostles learned this lesson soon after Jesus departed— “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). We will increasingly embrace such suffering as a privilege if we heed Peter’s exhortation.
The apostle goes on to give us more motivation for rejoicing. “The revelation of His glory” is a reference to Jesus’ second coming, which in itself ought to bring tremendous joy to all believers. If we have faithfully endured all the persecutions, sufferings, trials, and problems of this life, when our Lord returns we will have genuine reason to rejoice all the more. And it will be with an intense and joyous outburst that exceeds any we’ve had before (see Luke 6:22-23).
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to give you the right motivation to rejoice in the midst of suffering.
For Further Study
Matthew 5:11-12 contains some of the most challenging truth in all the Bible. Commit these verses to memory, and look for opportunities in which they can become real in your experience.

Friday, 18 May 2018

When We Abide in Christ

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15:4)

The Lord Jesus has told us to be careful always to “abide” in Him. The Greek word means “remain,” “endure,” “continue,” or “dwell.” He is to be our motivation, our standard, our home, our everything. When we do abide thus in Him, the Scriptures indicate that it will make a great difference in our lives right now, as well as in the life to come.

For example, “he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). Furthermore, “whosoever abideth in him sinneth not” (1 John 3:6). Love for our Christian brethren will be evident, for “he that loveth his brother abideth in the light” (1 John 2:10). We will obey His Word, for “he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth [same word] in him, and he in him” (1 John 3:24).

In Christ’s discourse on the vine and the branches (John 15:1-16) are several wonderful promises to the Christian. “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (John 15:5). “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). “These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain [same word] in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). “I have chosen you . . . that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16).

If we dwell in Christ, we actually are abiding in the Father and the Spirit also. Jesus said that “the Spirit of truth . . . dwelleth with you,” and “[my Father and I] will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:17, John 14:23).

Therefore, let us “abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Good Soldiers

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

From a Kingdom perspective, a good soldier has several responsibilities. Initially, we can expect challenges, wherein we might “suffer trouble as an evil doer” (2 Timothy 2:9), endure afflictions (2 Timothy 4:5), or even be afflicted (James 5:13).

Ultimately, a soldier has one purpose, “that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” Put another way, “do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Soldiers are called out of the normal life of a nation and dedicated to executing the will of the king.

Thus, from a spiritual perspective, “know ye not that friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). The source of that friendship is a focus on walking by the flesh, which has no good thing in it and cannot please God (Romans 8:8).

We are to “war a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18) and to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) because “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Fighting God’s battles with God’s armor ensures the ultimate victory promised by our King, Creator, and “captain of the host of the LORD” (Joshua 5:14). “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 25:8).

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

They Have Their Reward

“Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” (Matthew 6:2)

Evidently in our Lord’s day there were individuals who, when they went to the synagogue to give of their money, did so with great show, even having a trumpeter go before them to announce their actions. They also prayed openly “standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Matthew 6:5). Jesus called them hypocrites.

The Greek word for hypocrite was used primarily for a stage actor—one who acted as if he were another person, perhaps using a large mask to hide his true identity. In this case, the hypocrite played the part of a generous person or a pious person who, out of a heart of concern for the poor or out of genuine love for God, would give or pray abundantly. But under the “mask” was only a desire to have others recognize and glorify him. Perhaps they received the applause of the onlookers, to which Jesus remarked, “They have their reward” (Matthew 6:5), even as the hypocrites in the synagogues and in the streets receive theirs.

The word “have,” an ordinary word, is here modified by a prefix that changes its meaning to “have in full” and was commonly used on business receipts to mean “paid in full.” No payment or service was expected to follow the close of the transaction.

How sad it is when we do “Christian” work today for the praises of men and not the glory of God. Whatever comes of our work will be here; there will be no more reward to follow. Rather, let us give, or pray, or work, in secret, as it were, “and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:4).

Monday, 14 May 2018

Take Heed

“And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you.” (Mark 13:5)

In the account of Christ’s great prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives, as recorded in Mark 13, the Lord Jesus warns us no less than four times to “take heed!” This fourfold admonition (Mark 13:5, 9, 23, 33) must be important and demands our attention!

First of all, our text warns us not to be deceived by human claims of spiritual authority and prophetic insights, for there would come many deceptive teachers claiming to be the returning Christ. When Christ does return, all His saints will know beyond question, for they shall all “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

His second warning tells us to be prepared for persecutions (Mark 13:9), for “in the world ye shall have tribulation,” and “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12).

His third admonition warns of false Christs and false prophets who will even “shew signs and wonders” (Mark 13:22-23). Many will be deceived unless they remember that neither prophecies nor exorcisms nor other wonderful works suffice for acceptance by Christ if those who perform them are “work[ers of] iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23).

The fourth “take heed” is a sober warning against trying to predict the time of His return. “Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13:33). Such a warning is pointless if certain prophesied events must take place first, for then there would be no need to watch for Him. In the same discourse, as reported by Luke, Jesus gave a final such warning, speaking of this very danger. “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with . . . cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” (Luke 21:34).

Sunday, 13 May 2018

The Elect Lady

“The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth.” (2 John 1:1)

The Greek word for “lady” (kuria) is used only two times in the Bible, and both of these occurrences are here in the one-chapter epistle of 2 John. It is also fascinating to note that kuria is the feminine form of kurios, which is the Greek word for “Lord.”

Evidently this “elect lady” was a special woman, very highly esteemed by the apostle John as a capable and conscientious mother to her children.

It is uncertain, however, whether this distinguished lady was a literal mother in the church with literal children or possibly a metaphor for the church itself, with the “children” its individual members. Good reasons can be given for both interpretations, and it may even be that John wrote his letter with this dual meaning in mind under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In either case, it is significant that this mother is called “lady” instead of the much more frequently used “woman” (Greek gune), or even “mother” (Greek meter). The Greek kuria was evidently used to stress deep respect and honor to such a mother in the church. She clearly was training her children in “the truth,” much as Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, had brought him up to have “unfeigned faith” in “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15).

In addition to faith in God’s truth, of course, there should be genuine love. The second use of kuria is in verse 5: “And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another” (2 John 1:5).