Thursday, 22 February 2018

Being Merciful

“‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful’” (Luke 6:36).
Since we have received mercy from God, we are obligated to show mercy to those with physical or spiritual needs.
Jesus demonstrated His mercy many times as He went about healing people and casting out demons. Two blind men cried out, “‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’ . . . And moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight, and followed Him” (Matt. 20:30, 34). He was also deeply moved in spirit and wept when He saw the sorrow that Lazarus’s death caused (John 11:33-36).
His greatest mercy was shown, though, to those with spiritual needs. Not only did He heal a paralytic, but He forgave his sins (Luke 5:18-25). He also prayed for His executioners, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
We can show mercy by our physical acts. John says, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:17-18).
We must also show mercy spiritually. Because we have experienced God’s mercy, we should have great concern for those who have not. We show spiritual mercy by proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to the unsaved and by praying that God would show His mercy to them.
We also demonstrate spiritual mercy by lovingly confronting sinning Christians: “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Sinning Christians bring reproach on Christ and His church and will fall under God’s discipline. In such cases it is wrong to say nothing and let the harm continue.
God has promised us in Matthew 5:7 that we will receive mercy from Him if we are merciful to others. If we have received unlimited mercy from our loving God, if we have been lifted from our poor, sinful, wretched state to become citizens of heaven, how can we withhold mercy from others?
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that you would be sensitive to opportunities to show mercy today.
For Further Study
Read Matthew 23:37-39.
  • What was Jerusalem’s condition in verse 37?
  • How does that intensify the nature of Christ’s compassion and mercy toward His people?

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

God's Great Mercy

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Because of His mercy, God desires to lift sinners out of their pitiful condition.
Several years ago I spent about a week in India. Each day I saw countless starving, diseased people with no home but a few square feet of filthy street. I could not help but feel compassion and pity on those people who lived in such misery.
In a spiritual sense, though, before God saved us, we were each even more pathetic than any beggar in India. Spiritually, we “were dead in [our] trespasses and sins . . . and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:1, 3-5). God saw our wretched condition and was moved to do something about it.
How does mercy compare with grace? Mercy has respect to man’s wretched, miserable condition; grace has respect to man’s guilt, which has caused that condition. God gives us mercy to change our condition; He gives us grace to change our position. While grace takes us from guilt to acquittal, mercy takes us from misery to glory.
Doesn’t it give you great joy to know that God not only removed your guilt but looked at you and had compassion? And He’s not through giving us mercy: “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23). We can always “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God for His great mercy, for the forgiveness and blessings you have as His child.
For Further Study
  • Luke 15:11-32 contains the well-known parable of the prodigal son, a moving illustration of God’s loving compassion. What was the son’s condition when he returned?
  • What was his father’s reaction?
  • How does God respond to us when we turn to Him in repentance and humility?

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

True Worship

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)
 
The word “worship” is used frequently today in Christian circles—in addition to worship services, we now have worship choruses, worship teams, worship manuals, worship seminars, etc. Often, however, the basic meaning of worship is misunderstood.
 
In the original Hebrew and Greek, the words translated “worship” mean simply to “bow down”! The Hebrew is so translated the first time it is used. When Abraham saw God and two angels approaching, “he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground” (Genesis 18:2). That is, he recognized God’s “worthy-ship” and was submitting himself to do His will.
 
The last time “worship” is used is when John “fell down to worship before the feet of the angel.” He was corrected by the angel with these words: “See thou do it not: . . . worship God” (Revelation 22:8-9). Only God, our Creator and Savior, is worthy of true worship, and that worship involves simply bowing down in submission to do His will.
 
That is why it must be “in spirit and in truth.” Our spirit must submit to God who is Spirit, and this can only be in truth. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus concerning the Spirit whom He would send to indwell His followers: “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: . . . He shall glorify me” (John 16:13-14).
 
He would do this by revealing God’s Word to the writers of the New Testament, just as He had for the Old (2 Peter 1:21). In His prayer to the Father, recorded by John, Christ prayed for us, saying, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). True worship is simply submitting to and doing God’s will as made known by His written Word and the guidance of His Holy Spirit, thereby glorifying Christ.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Emblems of the Holy Spirit

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” (Matthew 3:16)
 
There are several beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. The first is that of the dove, here mentioned in the very first New Testament reference to the Spirit. It was the dove, of course, that first assured Noah that the earth had risen out of the death waters of the great Flood, just as Christ now rose up out of the baptismal waters to receive the dove-like Spirit.
 
The water itself is also an emblem of the Spirit in its cleansing efficacy and life-sustaining virtue. Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This could also be translated “born of water, even the Spirit.” When He promised “rivers of living water” to those who believed on Him, “this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive” (John 7:38-39).
 
Then, there is the wind: sometimes a gentle breeze, sometimes a mighty hurricane, and this also symbolizes the Holy Spirit. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
 
John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh. . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Luke 3:16). The Holy Spirit is God; “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). The Spirit of God is a gentle dove and living water; He is the blowing wind and a consuming fire; He is our “Comforter” (John 14:26), “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), and “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2).

Sunday, 18 February 2018

God's Sacrificial Love

“‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life’” (John 3:16).
God’s love is vicarious and sacrificial.
Today we continue a short study of a topic that brings joy to every Christian: God’s love. Both Paul and John call His love “great” (Eph. 2:4; 1 John 3:1), because only great love would provide such a sacrifice as God did in Christ.
We have already seen that God’s love is unconditional, unrequited, and righteous. God’s love is also vicarious; it bears the pain of others. In a prophecy about Christ, Isaiah wrote: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried” (John 53:4). Christ bears our earthly sorrows, and, infinitely more significant, He bore the pain and punishment for our sins.
True love is a sacrificial love that gives without expecting anything in return. God gives so many good things to everyone, and He gave the greatest gift of all, His Son. As John 3:16 teaches, love was His motive for sending Christ to die; He wanted to provide salvation for us.
Again we must examine ourselves after seeing God’s love. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Are you encouraging and helping other Christians in difficulty? Also, ask yourself if you love regardless of the sacrifice. Some will “love” up to the point of pain or inconvenience but no further. However, Jesus commands us, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35). Love is not always easy, but it’s always best.
So much more could be said about God’s love. Countless books and hymns have been written about it. We can get only a basic understanding in these few paragraphs. But let this introduction serve as a starting point for a lifelong study of God’s love. It’s one of the greatest themes in the Bible; you can’t miss it.
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray for strength to bear the burdens of others and to love with sacrificial love.
For Further Study
  • Jesus talks about His love for us in John 15:9-17. In what ways should we respond to God’s love?
  • Based on these verses, think of specific ways you can demonstrate your love for God and others.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Faith in All the Ages

“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.” (Hebrews 11:32)
 
Hebrews 11 is a thrilling catalog of the faithful servants of God in all the ancient ages. There were Abel, Enoch, and Noah before the Flood; then Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph in the patriarchal age; followed by Moses, Joshua, and Rahab in the time of the exodus and conquest. Finally, today’s verse summarizes the periods of the judges (Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthae), the kings (Samuel, David), and the prophets.
 
All these were men and women of great faith, though each had to endure great testing. They, as the writer says, “stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword . . . had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder . . . destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Hebrews 11:33-37).
 
In every age, men and women of faith were more often than not despised and persecuted by the world (even by the religious world!), but the Bible notes, parenthetically, that it was they “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38). In God’s sight, they all “obtained a good report through faith” (Hebrews 11:39), and this is worth more than all the world, for it is the entrance into a far better and eternal world.
 
Note that faith is not a sentimental wishfulness but a strong confidence in God and His Word, through Jesus Christ, who is Himself “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Like those of past ages, we can also “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1) through the faith He offers us.

Friday, 16 February 2018

The Call of the Twelve

“And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” (Mark 3:14)
 
Early in His public ministry, Jesus gathered around Himself those to whom He would eventually entrust the Christian message. Many others had also been attracted to Him and His works, as indicated in the previous verse: “And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would [emphasis in the Greek is on he; the choice was His alone]: and they came unto him” (Mark 3:13). Of those He invited, He “ordained twelve.”
 
Such a momentous selection could not be taken lightly, and we should not pass over it either. Luke gives us further information: “He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12) before choosing the twelve. As a sidelight, it bears mentioning that if God the Son so relied on the wisdom from God the Father before making an important decision, how can we neglect prayer as we so often do?
 
Four purposes are listed for these appointees, but the last three flow from the first: “That they should be with him.” They would see Him in action, learn truth from Him, assist Him in His work; but most importantly they would see His character and habits, and would never be the same.
 
Part of their training included being sent out to put in practice what they had learned, “that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mark 3:14-15). He gave them a message to preach and the ability to authenticate that message.
 
A study of these disciples as revealed in the gospels makes one wonder if Jesus made a proper choice. However, in the book of Acts, once He was gone and the Holy Spirit empowered them, we recognize that their training was complete. We are the result of their effective ministry.