2019-09-16 – Ephesians 2:8
Verse of the Day Devotion: Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
The Jews in Jesus’ time truly believed that by following the law completely, they would be saved. They believed that as long as they did exactly what the law required, including the blood sacrifice for any sin they should commit, they would be good enough to be saved. However, it is clear from our focus verse plus the next that this is not the case. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. We can do nothing to make right our rebellion. Salvation is through grace alone. Our works have nothing to do with it.
Unfortunately, too many live their lives as though this is still true. They go to church simply because they believe they must. They read the bible because they believe this is what a Christian is expected to do. They say a prayer before every meal and bedtime because that is a tradition they have grown up with. Also, when they think about whether they are saved, they think about what they did and do, not who they serve.
I remember a Pastor friend who was preaching one Sunday morning and he said the following which has stuck with me since I heard it. “We do not go to church because we have to, we go because we get to. We read the bible not because we have to, but because we get to. And, we pray not because we have to, but because we get to.” These are things we do to fellowship with the one who saved us through His death burial and resurrection. It is not by what we do, but what He did, And because we accepted this, we GET to fellowship with Him.
Again, let’s look at what James said. “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? “ James 2:14. Our works are the sign of the faith we have. If we truly have given our lives over to Him, then we will desire to do the things He wants us to. We do them not to be saved, but because we are saved. Because we truly love Him. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15. Also, remember James wording. “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” James 2:17. So, summing this all up, Faith by itself, without the works to show the reality of our faith, is not true faith. But also, works by themselves, without the faith in the works Christ did on the cross, are simply deeds alone with no reconciliation with God.
In closing, Paul lays out how salvation is attained. “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:9-10. Works has nothing to do with it, they are simply the proof of our salvation through faith in Christ and His works. Let us change our thoughts if we place works as a means rather than a sign of our acceptance of the grace God has for us. Moreover, let us help those who believe works are relevant to our salvation understand what the bible actually says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. There is much freedom that comes from realizing that salvation is a gift of God we accept through faith alone.
2019-09-17 – Hebrews 11:1
Verse of the Day Devotion: Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
What is faith? Is faith the same as belief? Is faith the hope that what we want to believe is true? Is faith belief with no rational reason to believe? There are many views we have regarding faith. Let’s look at these three and then look at what the writer of Hebrews has to say about faith.
First, is faith the same as belief? Does it take faith to believe everything? I believe that a triangle has three angles and three sides. The idea that a 2-dimensional, three-sided shape is a triangle is an objective truth. We can see the three sides, and we know that someone gave this name to it, so is faith involved with this? No. Therefore, faith is not necessarily the same as belief.
Next, is faith the hope that what we want to believe is true? Again, not necessarily. Back to the triangle metaphor. If I believe a triangle has four sides and I want to make this true, does it take faith to believe this? No, it takes a misinterpretation of what a triangle is. This goes back to the same idea that a 3-sided, 2-dimensional object being a triangle is an objective truth, and a four-sided, two-dimensional object being a rectangle is an absolute truth .
Lastly, is faith belief with no rational reason to believe? This is similar to the second one, except this one does not deal with objective truth. This idea can be traced back to the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). This is known as a ‘leap of faith’. It is a belief in something that has no hope of being true. There is no reason to believe it, but we do anyway. This was Soren’s view of faith in God. There is no rational reason or base by which to believe there is a God. Therefore, you take a leap and believe what is impossible. This is a very simplistic discussion of Kierkegaard’s view on faith, but it is enough to show it is not true faith; there is no reason to believe, but we believe anyway.
So, what is true Christian faith? It is what our focus verse expresses. First, true faith is based on God. It is absolute belief and trust in God and what He did for us through His Son’s death on the cross. So, with God as the basis of our faith, we see two things. First, that faith is the assurance of things hoped for. Hope here is what we wait for, knowing it will come. So, faith is the assurance that what God has promised will come to pass. And it is the conviction of things not seen. It is the fact that we are convinced that those things God has told us are absolutely true whether we see evidence of it or not. “for we walk by faith, not by sight—” 2 Corinthians 5:7. Also, “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.” Hebrews 11:11
Therefore, faith is not based on belief with a seen objective truth, or belief in what we desire to be true, or even a belief in something that has no rational reason for us to believe. Faith is based on God, and it is the assurance that what He has promised, He will bring to pass, and even if we do not see with our eyes what He has promised, we are convinced that it is real. Because we believe God. This is faith. We who are saved must live by it, for as Paul wrote, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” Romans 1:17.
2019-09-18 – Psalm 119:11
Verse of the Day Devotion: Psalm 119:11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
Anyone who is a true Christian will desire not to sin, but to walk in the law of the Lord. Jesus said it this way, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15. Unfortunately, continually following His law is an extremely difficult thing to do. We often fall to the temptations that the enemy attacks us with. And when we do sin, we have an advocate before the Father. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
However, our focus verse defines how we can have victory over the sin and the temptations that cause us to fall. It is by treasuring God’s word in our inner being and following what it says. Let’s look at verse 9. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Psalm 119:9. The intent of this verse in that in order to not sin against God, we must follow His teachings found in His word. I would say this is rather obvious. However, there is a very important phrase found in verse 11. “Your word I have treasured in my heart,” Psalm 119:11a. And the key word here is Treasured.
Often, we read God’s word as we read any other book. For instance, we read a chapter, then put it down and move on to other things. Or, after reading a chapter, we lay the book down and ponder it’s meaning for a short time. Sometimes we even take a few notes. However, what we must do is not only read, ponder and take a few notes, we must treasure what we read, make it something that changes who we are. Reading His word should never be just reading it, or adding to our intellectual knowledge, but it should be stored away in our innermost being as a treasured piece of jewelry is stored in a safe. It should become a part of who we are, and then let it guide us in all things we do.
In Psalm 37, we read a few verses that describe a righteous man. “The righteous will inherit the land And dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip.” Psalm 37:29-31. The righteous speaks wisdom and of justice. And how can the righteous do this? Because God’s word is in his heart, as a treasure as stated in Psalm 119.
We read and hear many things in the course of our lives. I have read many books in my time, I have listened to various speakers and have watched many movies, shows and lectures. Some books I do not even remember reading, There are movies I have totally forgotten about, and some lectures I do not even remember the key points. However, there are many of the above I remember very well, and some I can recall very explicitly. Why the difference? Because those things we ‘treasure’ are the things we remember; the things we believe and the things we follow.
Is God’s word the most important thing we read? Do we treasure the words and make them a part of who we are? If we truly do, then we shall grow in our walk with Him, and we shall grow closer to God moment by moment. If we do not, then it is important to figure out why and make the changes that will cause us to treasure His word in our hearts. He is the Almighty God. His ways must be more important than ours.
2019-09-19 – 1 John 4:1
Verse of the Day Devotion: 1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
One of the things that John warned the Christians of his day was that there are many false prophets in the world. And this is just as true today as it was in the first century. The enemy will do whatever it takes to convince us that the truth is actually a lie and their lies are actually truth. Jesus called them wolves. “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15. In other words, they will appear as true Christians trying to help us understand the truth, when actually they are there to lead us away from the truth of Jesus Christ.
So, how will we know these false prophets? “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” Matthew 7:16. It is important that we look at what they are saying and see if it lines up with the Word of God. We must be like the Bereans of Thessalonica as written in Acts 17:11. For they checked out everything that was taught to them to ensure it was absolutely true. Too many people simply accept what is taught to them in church, especially from famous and prominent preachers. They think because they are famous, they must be speaking the truth. Or, they have great credentials so they must know what they are talking about. Not always. The fruit of teachers are the words they teach. Truth comes from good and Godly teachers; sheep. Heresy comes from liars and deceivers; wolves. Sheep never dress as wolves, but wolves will dress as sheep. Sheep never want to deceive the people, but wolves do.
So, back to our focus verse. How can we ensure that we are hearing truth? We must spend time studying God’s word and hold these truths deep in our hearts. Then, when we hear something that is false, we will know it and reject it. In the event we are not sure, we must check the scriptures or ask someone to show you so as to verify the validity of the teaching. If we find it true, we can accept it. If we find it is not, then we reject it, and if necessary, the teacher as well.
There are many false teachers out there who’s purpose is to tickle our ears as Paul says to Timothy and lead us astray to further their own ambitions and desires. Be careful what you accept as truth. Many times, their words are in the bible, but taken out of context. Be careful and seek the Lord, asking Him to show you what is truth and what is not. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:13. The Spirit of Truth is with us. And He will, as stated above guide you into all truth. Follow His guiding.
2019-09-20 – Luke 6:46
Verse of the Day Devotion: Luke 6:46 Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
This is a fair question brought forth by Jesus. Especially when we look at what the word Lord actually means. According to Strong’s Greek dictionary, the word translated ‘Lord’ in this passage is the Greek word ‘Kurios’ which means ‘that which is supreme in authority’. Anyone who is rightly designated Kurios by someone is essentially the owner of that person and their property; the one who has control of the person.” Jesus affirmed His lordship when He said to the disciples at the last supper, “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.” John 13:13.
Therefore, Jesus is rightly our Lord. Everything we are and have are His. If we believe He is our Lord, then we are to completely obey Him in everything. Now, if we call Him Lord and we do not obey, or as the focus verse says, do not do what He says, then do we really believe He is Lord? We cannot believe He is Lord and go about our business ignoring what He has said.
Actually, whatever or whoever we listen to and obey other than Jesus, is who we designate as Lord. For instance, Jesus said that we are to love our enemies. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44. If we do not love our enemies and our persecutors, we are obeying someone else other than Jesus. Whoever we obey here is our lord here. And what about this one, you will not steal? Jesus upheld this when He listed this in His answer to the rich young ruler. “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; you shall not commit; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness”. Matthew 19:18. So, if we steal something, we are not following Jesus, but another whom you are obeying.
We need to examine ourselves and see if we are following Jesus in every aspect of our lives. Yes, there will be times when we fail in this, however, if we see it as a regular practice, this can be trouble. Consciously disobeying Him should make us examine whether He truly is our Lord. And if it is not Jesus, then who is it. Is it ourselves? In conclusion, Jesus said the following, “But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:49. We cannot stand if He is not Lord.