Isaiah 46:8

Verse of the Day Devotion. Isaiah 46:8

“Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you wrongdoers.” – Isaiah 46:8

As we read in our focus verse, God is calling His people, Israel, to remember something which He reminds them of in the first seven verses of this chapter. Through Isaiah, He is encouraging His people. First, we will look at God’s comparison of Himself and the gods of Babylon. “Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over; Their idols have become loads for the animals and the cattle. The things that you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary animal. They stooped over, they have bowed down together; They could not rescue the burden but have themselves gone into captivity.” Isaiah 46:1-2. He is telling His people that the gods of Babylon are actually a burden rather than helpers. Instead of these false gods rescuing them from their burdens, they become a part of the burden of their people.

Then God tells them that He has never been a burden to them, but actually has carried them. “Listen to Me, house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, You who have been carried by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb; even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will carry you! I have done it, and I will bear you; And I will carry you and I will save you.” Isaiah 46:3-4. God now turns the tables. With a call to pay attention, he addresses the people as ‘house of Jacob’ and ‘house of Israel’. He was bringing to their minds the whole long story that established their identity. He was using the idea mentioned above, asking them when in all that time had they ever carried their God? He reminds them it never happened. From the very beginning of their existence as a nation, from the hour of their birth as a nation, God had been carrying them!

He then shows them there is no comparison by way of a rhetorical question. “To whom would you equate Me and make Me equal, and compare Me, that we would be alike? Those who lavish gold from the bag and weigh silver on the scale, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; They bow down; indeed, they worship it. They lift it on the shoulder, carry it, and set it in its place, and it stands there. It does not move from its place. Though one may shout to it, it cannot answer; It cannot save him from his distress.” Isaiah 46:5-7. The only logical conclusion of this contrast between God and the false gods is that there is no comparison between God and the false gods. To which of the idol-gods can the Lord be compared? Absolutely none. They are the creation of humans and are subject to all the limitations of time and space. He is the Creator of humans and all else and is limited by nothing.

Now we come to our focus verse. “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you wrongdoers.” Isaiah 49:8. And what are we to remember? “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My plan will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” Isaiah 46:9-10.  The main point is that God’s people must remember this about the LORD; that He knows the end from the beginning and is in control over all things. When we remember this, we will show ourselves to be ones who trust God no matter what. We can have tremendous courage in our God when we understand and remember who He is and what He does.

In closing, we read in the last two verses of chapter 46. “Listen to Me, you stubborn minded, Who are far from righteousness. I bring near My righteousness; it is not far off; And My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, And My glory for Israel.” Isaiah 46:12-13. These two verses represent a call to accept that God can and will deliver his people. These words are directed to those who are stubborn and far from righteousness. God tells them that these accomplishment of righteous acts of salvation are sure, are near, and will not be delayed. One can be confident it will happen because God is not one who is far away from his people. In fact, he is so near to them that it is possible for him to care for them and act positively on their behalf.

There are many today who fall within the category referred to; stubborn minded and those who are far from righteousness. There are believers who are struggling in difficult situations who need an assurance that God will bring them through and the He will be coming to deliver them from this world. We need to help them remember what God has done in the past, which shows He can do anything, including delivering and helping them in all situations. And sometimes He allows us to go through trials with the purpose of showing us we are never alone. God’s people need to remember that God’s timing is always perfect and wise. When we are stubborn hearted, we need to listen to the LORD and remember He never delays and is never late. God always has His deliverer, and always knows exactly when to bring His deliverance.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, President and Founder of True Devotion Ministries.

Psalm 4:1

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Psalm 4:1

“Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” – Psalm 4:1

First, I want to clarify that David is not telling God to answer him, but asking Him. David has been through a lot in those days. In Psalm 3, we read about him dealing with the troubles brought about by his son Absalom who rebelled against him along with the vast majority of Israel who followed Absalom.  Now, in chapter four, we see that many great men were lying about David, speaking ill of him, and ultimately defaming his character. “You sons of man, how long will my honor be treated as an insult? How long will you love what is worthless and strive for a lie?” Psalm 4:2. David’s life as king was not an easy one. He found himself suffering through all kinds of trials. But he understood with full clarity what would truly bring God’s people through rough times, that being the Almighty God. “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly person for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him.” Psalm 4:3.

Then David lays out four basic imperatives directed at the people there, and to us as well. First, we are to tremble but not sin. “Tremble, and do not sin;” Psalm 4:4a. We are to understand that to go against what God commands is sin and thus we must focus all our efforts and thoughts on not sinning against Him. Unfortunately, too many people ignore this and twist the verse such that they see, ‘sin, but tremble not’. We see so many people, who call themselves Christians, going about sinning and not thinking anything about it. This is especially true of many who believe that once you are saved God forgives anything you do going forward. This concept is known as antinomianism which has the idea that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of following any moral, religious or social norms or laws. The word itself is from the Greek that means ‘against the law.’ Our hearts must be such that we tremble at the thought of sinning at all. Next, we are to think about what we are doing. “Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still. Selah” Psalm 4:4b. On your bed, calmly consider and meditate on these things in the silence of night, when you are at leisure from distracting business. Be still and compose your tumultuous minds. Think about what you do, and if it is right then continue, but if it is wrong, then stop and ask forgiveness and no longer continue in this way.

Next, “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the LORD.” Psalm 4:5a. Do not attempt to offer a sacrifice to God for prosperity in your present rebellious conduct. Such a sacrifice would be a sin. Turn to God from whom you have revolted; and offer to him a righteous sacrifice, such as is lawful and such as He can receive. In other words, do not just offer something to God so that you can receive something from Him, or offer up to God something that is not acceptable to Him. And finally, we are to trust in the Lord. He loves us, wants the best for us, and can do anything. This is the God we serve, and He is the only one we can trust completely.

Then David finishes this with the following. “Many are saying, who will show us anything good?” Psalm 4:6a. He starts this by asking a rhetorical question ‘Who will show us anything good?’ After continual disappointment from man, we may begin to doubt if God will show us any good. But not David. He says, “Lift up the light of Your face upon us, LORD! You have put joy in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine are abundant. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, LORD, have me dwell in safety.” Psalm 6b-8. Despite what the cynics said about God not being there or ignoring them, David trusted that the LORD would give him joy beyond what the ungodly had in their prosperity. And because he trusts in God, he can lie down and sleep in peace because the Lord provides them safety in all their ways. We can imagine a man lying down to sleep, tormented by all of what his enemies or fake friends say about him. David could be that man, but instead he trusted in the LORD. He therefore had a gladness that the world could not take away, even with all their slanders and lies.

In closing, no matter which way we read the psalm, one aspect of David’s faith is clear: it is to God that he turns for vindication, and it is in God that He trusts. To the extent that the language of the psalm implies an attack on the David’s honor, David names the Lord as God of my righteousness, which put another way, the God who vindicates me. And in wisdom, we must see life the same way. Life for the Christian can be very difficult,  because the enemy hates us and desires to destroy our faith. We need to trust God that no matter our situation, as Christians He is with us and will bring about a good, even if we do not see a good ourselves. Those whom God knew would give their lives to Him can be assured that all things will turn out great. “And 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. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, President and Founder of True Devotion Ministries.

Matthew 5:14

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Matthew 5:14

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:14

Before we discuss this specific verse, let us look at several verses in the Old Testament that helps lay out what Jesus meant in our focus verse. First, “I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.” Isaiah 42:6-7.  Notice what this verse is saying. God is calling someone who would do His work through a new covenant on the earth. The Old Covenant was a conditional agreement that God made with the Israelites. The Old Covenant was in effect during the dispensation of the Law. It is ‘old’ in comparison to the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah the prophet and made effective by the death of the Lord Jesus. And this new covenant would replace the old one. “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, to the extent that He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Hebrews 8:6,10.

Then God tells His servant, “He says, It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the protected ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations, so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6. In this verse, we see that God’s servant was declared the light of the world. Jesus tells His disciples this which is recorded in the Gospel of John. “Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12. And we see here that God’s servant who was made the light of the world was the coming Messiah.

Now we come to our focus verse. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14. In John, Jesus declares Himself to be the light of the world, however, He knew His ministry would not last longer than His life here, so He passes on this responsibility to His followers. It started out with His disciples, but now it includes all true Christians from the time of Christ until He returns.

As a side historical point, Charles Spurgeon writes the following regarding lights of the world. “This title had been given by the Jews to certain of their eminent Rabbis. With great pomposity they spoke of Rabbi Judah, or Rabbi Jochanan, as the lamps of the universe, the lights of the world. It must have sounded strangely in the ears of the Scribes and Pharisees to hear that same title, in all soberness, applied to a few bronzed-faced and horny-handed peasants and fishermen, who had become disciples of Jesus.

Physical light is necessary for physical life. A forest full of trees with very thick covers of foliage high above has very little plant life on the ground except for moss or lichen, which needs little sunlight. Plants will never move away from the light; they are said to be drawn to the light. In the same way, spiritual light is necessary for spiritual life, and this can be a good test of our standing in Christ. The believer will always tend toward spiritual things; he will always tend toward fellowship, prayer, the Word of God, and so on. The unbeliever always does the opposite because light exposes his evil, and he hates the light. Indeed, no man can come into the true spiritual light of Jesus Christ, unless he gives everything to Christ.

Now, Jesus gives Christians a great responsibility when He says that we are the light of the world, because He claimed that title for Himself as He walked this earth. And now He wants us to continue this duty, which is to shine the light of truth into a very dark world. And the light that we shine is not our own, but the light of Jesus reflected by us to the world. In other words, when we receive the light of Christ, we are not just to experience it, but we are to share it with those who do not know or see the truth. Note what He says in the next verses. “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-16. Jesus shines His light upon us so we can reflect this light to a lost world. What do people see when they look upon us? Do they see the light of Christ, or do they see the darkness of this world? If they see the latter, then we must get our act together and stop covering the light and start shining it forth, for it is the light of Christ we are called to show the lost, and this is the only way we can convince them we are truly followers of Christ.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, President and Founder of True Devotion Ministries.

Matthew 6:19

Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 6:19

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” – Matthew 6:19

Before we move deeply into this passage, it is important to see what was considered as treasures or wealth in the ancient world. Treasures consisted in clothes or raiment. Raiment was considered as covering, clothing, or general garments. However, treasures also consisted of gold, silver, gems, jewelry, wine, lands, and oil. The ancient world delighted greatly in display, in splendid equipment and costly garments. In fact, their treasures consisted much in beautiful and richly ornamented articles of apparel.

Now, looking at verses 19 and 20, their wordings are almost the same words as the other, but with very clear distinctions regarding the definitions of treasures. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” Matthew 6:19-20. The thought here is not to ‘treasure up treasures.’ The word in the Greek for ‘store’ is the Greek word ‘thēsaurizō’ meaning to amass or reserve, to treasure together things. In these two verses, Jesus set up an absolute contrast between on earth and in heaven. He urged his followers to forget earth and think of heaven. We must not waste our time trying to get ahead in this world. He was asking them which is more important, temporary life here on earth or eternal life in heaven?

Later, He uses different wording to express basically the same point. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.”  Matthew 16:24-27. Notice the wording here, ‘he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.’ The idea isn’t that earthly treasures are intrinsically bad, but ultimately, they are of no eternal value. If this is the case, then it is unwise for a disciple of Jesus to dedicate his life to continually expanding his earthly treasures, for they will, in the future, have it taken away by theft or destruction. Heavenly treasure, on the other hand, cannot be stolen of destroyed.

What He was saying was whatever you consider your treasures, either those things on earth or those things in heaven, is what you consider most important to you. And this is nicely capsulated in verse 21. “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21. Jesus drew the conclusion that you can only have your treasure in one place, either in heaven or on earth. We cannot have it in both places. He is not saying we cannot be rich here on earth and be a true Christian for God has given many of His people wealth. But which is most important to us? Where are our desires, our heart?

Then Jesus finalizes this idea in verse 24. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24. It is important in understanding this verse to note that the Greek word translated ‘wealth’ is ‘mammōnas’ or mammon. Christ proceeds to illustrate the necessity of laying up treasures in heaven from a well-known fact, that a servant cannot serve two masters at the same time. His affections and obedience would be divided, and he would fail altogether in his duty to one or the other. One he would love, the other he would hate. To the interests of the one he would adhere, the interests of the other he would neglect. This is a law of human nature. The supreme affections can be fixed on only one object. So, says Jesus, the servant of God cannot at the same time obey him and be greedy, or seek treasures supremely on earth. One interferes with the other, and one or the other will be, and must be, surrendered. Theologian Albert Barnes describes it quite well. “Mammon is a Syriac word, a name given to an idol worshipped as the god of riches. It has the same meaning as Plutus among the Greeks. It is not known that the Jews ever formally worshipped this idol, but they used the word to denote wealth. The meaning is, ye cannot serve the true God, and at the same time be supremely engaged in obtaining the riches of this world. One must interfere with the other.”

In closing, the idea is that if we place God as who we will follow, no matter what, then we cannot focus on attaining wealth. Also, if we place wealth, or mammon, as what we will follow, then we will not focus on God and His ways. It is important that we look at our thoughts, desires, and how we live our lives and ensure nothing comes before following God and obeying every command He gives us. Nothing should ever come before serving God in all things. And we must remember that we don’t have to be rich to serve mammon’ money and material things; the poor can be just as greedy and covetous as the rich.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, President and Founder of True Devotion Ministries.

Matthew 6:1

Verse of the Day Devotion. Matthew 6:1

“Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:1

When we look at this verse, we see something interesting. First, this verse serves as an introduction for the first eighteen verses of chapter six. Also, Jesus is not speaking of any specific act of righteousness but is referring to any righteous act which we may do. This implies Jesus is giving them a general exhortation regarding any righteous acts we would do. Also, it is clear He is not saying that there are times when doing a righteous act should not be done. On the contrary, we are all called to be doers of righteousness. What He is bringing up here in our focus verse is the motive behind our acts of righteousness.

Every good work we do must be done as an act of love. Paul writes the following to the Church in Ephesus regarding good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. We are to lead a holy life, doing good works for the glory of God. And the reason we should do these works is our love for God and our fellow man. “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. All that you do must be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Now, putting these couple of verses together, we see that when we accepted Christ, through Him we are created to do good works out of our love for others.

So, let us look closely at this verse. Jesus is telling His disciples to be careful not do good works for the express purpose of showing off to others, to be noticed by them. He does not condemn the righteous acts themselves, but His concern was focused on why we are doing it. Theologian Stuart Weber in his commentary on Matthew says, “Jesus was not condemning the righteous acts themselves. Genuineness was his focus, not the acts themselves. His concern was the motivation behind the actions. The same act of obedience can be right or wrong, depending on why a person does the act.”

In the following three verses, He uses the deed of giving to the poor as an example. “So, when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, so that they will be praised by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” Matthew 6:2. Jesus shows here God’s righteous standard is doing things in love for another, not doing things to lift ourselves up. Jesus addressed the danger of cultivating an image of righteousness. Notice His words here. “Do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, so that they will be praised by people.” Jesus here was referring to the Jewish leadership who did good works to show people they were better than them. If anyone does this, their reward is simply what they receive from people.

Then He tells them how we are to do good works. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4. Our purpose in doing good works should be in pleasing God and helping others, not ourselves. He uses a proverbial saying ‘do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” We are to keep the thing so secret that even we ourselves are hardly aware of anything at all praiseworthy. Let God be pleased and let this be our goal.

Whenever we are doing anything, it is important to do it to please God and out of love for others. We must never do it to lift ourselves up, so we are looked upon highly. This is in giving to the poor as laid out here, but also in teaching the scriptures, preaching to the church, praying for others, and in encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ. It must be in everything we do, no matter how masterful or menial the task is. And we must also remember it is God who works through us. “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:9-10.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

 

Matthew 5:6

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

In this verse, Matthew is talking about people’s attitudes toward righteousness. Most people want to do things that are right. We, as Christians, are called to do what is right. However, there is a big distinction between doing righteous things and desiring righteousness. And that distinction is defined as even greater then desiring it. We are called to ‘hunger and thirst’ for righteousness. Now this goes far beyond desiring righteousness. Jesus is speaking of an intense longing for righteousness that may be likened to both hunger and thirst. Everyone now and then does what is right, but Jesus is pointing his hearers not to occasional acts but to a passionate concern and regarding what is right.

Righteousness is often used in the New Testament for the right standing believers have before God because of Christ’s atoning work. Now it is plain that Matthew has a strong interest in the upright living that should characterize the servant of Christ. To be more specific, we should notice that he is not suggesting that people can make a strong effort and achieve the righteousness of which he is writing: it is a given righteousness, not an achieved righteousness. The blessed may not totally achieve it but hunger and thirst for it.

There are several verses in the Old Testament that have the same idea as we find in our focus verse. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, Where is your God?” Psalm 42:1-3. Note our focus verse. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6. As the dear pants for water, in other words, as the dear needs water due to thirst, I thirst for God and His ways.

Another verse is found in Psalm 63, which is a Psalm of David. “God, You are my God; I shall be watching for You; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and exhausted land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1. Here, David compares his desire for God as one who desires water where he cannot find it. David sought God at the tabernacle as earnestly as a thirsty man looks for water in a dry and thirsty land. The Wilderness of Judah is largely desert, so this was a picture of longing that came easily to David’s mind. And one more psalm, “I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, like a weary land. Selah” Psalm 143:6. This is another from David, who is spreading out his hands to God to reply.

And then in the book of Amos. “Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord GOD, When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD. People will stagger from sea to sea And from the north even to the east; They will roam about to seek the word of the LORD, But they will not find it.” Amos 8:11-12. Notice the nature of this famine. It is not a lack of God’s word, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. The condition described is that of being deaf to the words of Jehovah, not able to hear them. It is not a case of God withholding His revelation; but of people being in such a state that they do not see it, do not hear the words.

God is calling us to seek Him, His word, and His righteousness.  We should desire God’s righteousness more than a starving man cries out for food, and more than someone who is intensely thirsty cries out for water. Deeply joyful and spiritually whole are those who actively seek a right relationship with God and, in so doing, discover that He alone can completely save and satisfy our souls.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

James 1:2

Verse of the Day Devotion: James 1:2

“Consider it all joy, my brothers, and sisters, when you encounter various trials.” – James 1:2

James says something here that seems to run contrary to the way most people think.  Count it all joy when we experience trials.  This does not come naturally.  It is much easier to be frustrated and downcast.  Why do we have to go through these trials? Why doesn’t He just deliver me and allow me to be comfortable? However, it is important to see that the joy is not because we are suffering. The Greek text differs from the English translation in that James suddenly commands the messianic Jewish community to consider their condition, going through trials, as an occasion for joy.

It is Important we see this ‘joy, not as a weird way to bring ourselves through trials, but as an act of faith. Instead of looking at the trial, James is instead encouraging them to look through the trial to its potential outcome. Let us look at some examples of what James is telling his listeners.

Paul considered his trial before King Agrippa an opportunity for defense, preaching, and potential release. “Regarding all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate that I am about to make my defense before you today, especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.” Acts 26:2-3.

Paul and Timothy urged believers to consider others better than themselves as Christ did not consider equality something to be grasped. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bondservant and being born in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8.

Paul considered his former glory an actual loss “But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8.

Abraham considered God faithful and powerful enough to enable Sarah to conceive. “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.

Moses considered suffering for Christ more valuable than the treasures of Egypt. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26.

The author of 2 Peter wanted his readers to consider the patience of the Lord as salvation. “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found spotless and blameless by Him, at peace, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you.” 2 Peter 3:14-15.

Just as the believers in the above examples reacted to trials, James urges the messianic Jewish community to consider their trials an occasion for joy as they look through their trials to their glorious, sanctifying result. And we should do the same. We should not focus on our trials but look beyond them to the rewards we have waiting for us because of our faith in Christ. God would not allow these trials to come to us if He did not have a good purpose for it. And if we persevere to the end, we have a wonderful reward. “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

 

Romans 12:1

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Romans 12:1

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” – Romans 12:1

First, I want to look at the beginning of our focus verse where he calls all his listening brothers and sisters. Throughout the letter’s earlier chapters, he has been conscious of the tensions between Jews and Gentiles in the Roman church, and in chapters 9–11 he was describing the roles of Israel and of the nations in the unfolding, historical plan of God. He will revert to them again for the last time in chapters 14–15. But now, as he develops his appeal, the distinction between the olive tree’s natural and grafted branches (Israel and Non-Israel) fades into the background. Now all believers, irrespective of their ethnic origin, are brothers and sisters in the one international family of God, and so all have precisely the same vocation to be the holy, committed, humble, loving, and conscientious people of God.

The word sacrifice used here commonly denotes the action of bringing and presenting an animal or other sacrifice before an altar. It implies that the action was a free and voluntary offering. Religion is free; and the act of devoting ourselves to God is one of the freest things we ever perform. To present our bodies to God is a metaphor taken from bringing sacrifices to the altar of God. The person offering picked out the choicest of his flock, brought it to the altar, and presented it there as an atonement for his sin. The readers here are exhorted to give themselves up in the spirit of sacrifice; to be as wholly the Lord’s property as the whole burnt offering was, no part being devoted to any other use. Nothing can be more consistent with reason than that the work of God should glorify God. We are not our own, we are the property of the Lord, by the right of creation and redemption; and it would be as unreasonable as it would be wicked not to live to his glory, in strict obedience to his will, which is our spiritual service of worship.

One major way we can do this is found in verse 2. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2. The word ‘conformed’ used here properly denotes an age, or generation of people. It may denote a particular generation, or it may be applied to the race. It is sometimes used in each of these senses. Thus, here it may mean that Christians should not conform to the ideas, habits, feelings, etc., of a wicked, luxurious, and idolatrous age, but should be conformed solely to the precepts and laws of the gospel; or the same principle may be extended to every age, and the direction may be, that Christians should not conform to the prevailing habits, style, and manners of the world, the people who do not know God. They are to be governed by the laws of God as found in the Bible; to fashion their lives after the example of Christ; and to conform themselves by principles different from those which prevail in the world.

Many may think they are not conformed to the world, while they can easily perceive that their neighbor is. They indulge in many things which others may think to be conformity to the world and are opposed to many things which others think innocent. The design of this passage is no doubt to produce a spirit that should not find pleasure in the things and vanities of this world, but in obedience and devotion to God, as well as fellowship with Him and His people.; things God calls us all to do. We must be transformed from our old self to a new creation by focusing on Him and changing the way we think to His ways and not the world’s ways.

These are very important verses that we must read, understand, and obey. We, as Christians, are God’s people and we must act accordingly. We must not simply give some, or even most of ourselves, to God. We must give our all to Him, present who we are to Him in humility and joy. He created us, died for us, and rose again offering to us a wonderful life in Him. Let us then be thankful to Him for all He has done in giving everything we are to Him as He gave everything for us. We must focus our minds on Him totally, not the world. And when we do this, as Romans 12:2 says, we may prove what the will of God is; that which is good, acceptable to God, and perfect.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Titus 2:1 (a)

Verse of the Day Devotion: Titus 2:1 

“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” – Titus 2:1 

Paul here in verse one tells Titus to speak the things which become sound doctrine. The idea laid out here, in chapter one, is seen by many as ‘Household Codes’, which comes from the German ‘Haustafeln’, a word used by scholars to designate certain biblical texts that outline the duties and responsibilities associated with the proper or ideal management of private affairs. Paul here in Chapter two is laying out the duties that he knew were necessary for Christian growth and maturity. He tells Titus he must teach a sacred doctrine; he must proclaim the truth and illustrate that truth. The people must not only be well instructed, but they must be holy in their lives. Principle and practice must go hand in hand.

And what are these necessary teachings? For older men, “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.” Titus 2:2. They must live lives of observable respectability. The implication is of a dignified lifestyle that is free from overindulgence and foolish behavior in general. As Paul’s use of common terms suggests, this lifestyle should be readily recognizable. Christianity does have a mystical element to it, but its manifestation should show the reality of our Christian life. They should display this faith in purity and love and should be followed no matter what it may bring upon them.

For older women, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Titus 2:3-5. They were to, like the older men, live with respectable behavior which amounts to reverence. This means avoiding ‘slanderous talk and drunkenness’ while teaching what is good. This was to illustrate to the young women what a responsible and acceptable life was all about. In this they were to encourage them to love their husbands and children while doing all that was necessary in their homes. In this they would show they respected their husbands through submission to them, as well as showing their love to God and His people. And it is important to understand that Paul’s concept of ‘submission’ contained notions of mutuality of respect and love and thus clearly transcended the secular notion.

Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech, which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” Titus 2:6-8. He instructs the young men to be sensible and Godly in their actions and words. They were to be an example to good works, showing a visible expression of their genuine faith. In his conduct Titus is thus to be the antithesis of the false teachers, who were described in the previous chapter. “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” Titus 1:16.

Paul was encouraging Titus to speak in the way our focus verse declares. “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1. And he was also encouraging him to teach these truths to all he came across.  And I believe these words also apply to all of us today. If we truly love God with all our hearts and desire to serve Him in all our ways then these are what we are called to do, both in what we teach and the way we live. We cannot convince anyone these are truths if we ourselves do not believe and do them. Therefore, let us be the light in this world, sharing the truth, teaching the truth, and living the truth. These things are necessary to help unbelievers become believers and join us in our work for Jesus.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

October 17, 2022 – Romans 8:38-39

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Romans 8:38-39

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

These verses speak of the love that God has for His people, a love that is everlasting. Chapter eight of Romans is glorious, in that it lays out what the love of God is all about. It starts by declaring that there is no longer condemnation for those who have accepted the grace provided through the death of Jesus Christ. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1-2. All mankind throughout history, because of sin, were separated from God. And we could not correct this on our own, for it would take a perfect sacrifice. This was not possible for us to do because one sin, no matter how small, makes any sacrifice we give, imperfect. Thus the need for a perfect man to become the sacrifice was necessary, which was accomplished through Jesus Christ the Son of God, the only man who was sinless throughout His life. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4.

Also, He cares for His people in this life and throughout all eternity. “And 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. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30. God is at work in us and for us. He directs our affairs in such a way that, for those who love him, the outcome is always beneficial. The ‘good’ of which Paul spoke of is not necessarily what we deem as good or best. The good is conformity to the likeness of Christ. With this in mind it is easier to see how our difficulties are part of God’s total plan for changing us from what we are by nature to what he intends us to be. Moral advance utilizes hardship more often than not.

Based on this we can see that God is on our side in all situations, and He presents this via a rhetorical question. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 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 8:31-32. Notice what Paul said here, if He gave His only Son to be sacrificed for us, why would He hold back anything from us? And because of this, our sins have been addressed, for we are forgiven/justified. There is no charge that can be brought against us, for all our sins have been addressed. “who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Romans 8:34.

And because of this, Paul asks another rhetorical question. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:35. No one can actually condemn us for Jesus intercedes for us. But we may suffer on account of this. In the next verse he quotes the psalms. “But for Thy sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Psalm 44:22. However, through all the suffering and death, God is always with us. And because of this, we actually conquer those who cause us to suffer. “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37.

Now after all this, Paul answers the questions he asked above; If God is for us who can be against us, and who can separate us from the love of Christ? “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39. God will never let anything happen to us that is not intended for our good no matter our perspective, and there is nothing in all creation, in the past or present and anything that is to come, that will cause God not to love us, His children. Paul was a man of unshakeable confidence in the love of God. He feared neither the tangible hardships of life nor the intangible fears that creep into the consciousness of any normal person. It is important that we attain this same faith so that we never question His love for us. And by this firm faith in His love for us, we can be at peace no matter what.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.