Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tues., 3/25/08 Devotion (Jn. 15:5)

Today's encouragement comes from John 15:5, where we read these words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."

How much can we do, of any spiritual good, without Christ? Zip, nada, nothing. THE single basic key to Christian living is this concept of "abiding in Christ." But, what does this mean; and how do we do it? It means that we are trusting in HIS righteousness, and trusting in HIM for everything. How do we do that? By faith.

Is this easy? It is easy to understand, but it is hard to do. And why? Because we are not inclined to *remember* to trust in Christ. Our fallen nature hates to depend on Anyone but itself. By grace, may we abide in Christ (as His church) today.

[Puritan quote of the day: "We must know for our comfort that Christ was not anointed to this great work of Mediator for lesser sins only, but for the greatest, if we have but a spark of true faith to lay hold on Him." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mon., 3/24/08 Devotion (Jn. 14:27b)

Today's encouragement comes from John 14:27b, where we find the Redeemer saying this:

" . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

The most fearless people are those who are the most naturally timid and afraid. This seems odd, but it is true. The reason for this is because Christ instills confidence in those who--in themselves--would lack it the most. This boldness is a result of faith. The believer says, "OK, God commands me not to fear--therefore, I will determine, in Christ, to be fearless."

The apostles themselves were good examples of this. Some of them were initially falsely self-confident (like Peter); but all of them were really fearful by nature. Only after the power of Pentecost were they filled with so much divinely-inspired assurance, that nothing could stop them.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls." --Richard Sibbes, in "The Bruised Reed"]

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sat./Sabbath, 3/22-23/08 Devotion

Wahoo--Sunday is *almost* here! In order to prepare you for church worship, here is the incomparable Thomas Watson, from his excellent work, "Heaven Taken by Storm":

"The sixth duty wherein we must offer violence to ourselves, is the religious sanctifying of the Lord's Day. That there should be a day of holy rest dedicated to God appears from its institution. 'Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.' Our Christian Sabbath comes in the place of the Jewish Sabbath: it is called 'the Lord's Day,' (Rev. 1.10)--from Christ the author of it.

"Our Sabbath is altered by Christ's own appointment. He arose this day out of the grave, and appeared on it often to His disciples, (1 Cor. 16:1)--to intimate to them (says Athanasius) that He transferred the Sabbath to the Lord's Day. And St. Augustine says that by Christ's rising on the first day of the week, it was consecrated to be the Christian Sabbath, in remembrance of His resurrection.

"This day was anciently called 'dies lucis,' 'the day of light,' as Junius observes. The other days of the week would be dark, were it not for the shining of the sun of righteousness on this day. This day has been called by the ancients, 'regina dierum,' 'the queen of days.' And St. Jerome prefers this day above all solemn festivals. The primitive church held this day in high veneration. It was a great badge of their religion; for when the question was asked, 'servasti dominicum?,' 'do you keep the Sabbath?'; the answer was, 'Christianus sum,' 'I am a Christian; I dare not omit the celebration of the Lord's Day!' "

Fri., 3/21/08 Devotion (Jn. 11:25)

Today's encouragement comes from John 11:25, where we read these words:

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.' "

What is dead about us today? Are our hopes, dreams, desires, or goods moribund (dead)? If so, our only hope is a Living Person, who Himself has experienced death in its worst and most unjust form. In a fallen world, God does not promise us the absence of death. (In fact, He promises us the presence of it.)

Resurrection would not be possible without death. So, instead of grousing about all our "dead" troubles--let us rather make them work for our good, by submitting them (and ourselves) to the Risen King.

[Puritan quote of the day: "What use would there be of stars, if the sun did always shine?" --Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thurs., 3/20/08 Devotion (Gal. 6:14)

Today's encouragement comes from Galatians 6:14, which says this:

"But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

When it is all said and done, the one thing we must always do is cling to Christ (and His blood atonement accomplished on the cross). In a few days, we will celebrate--on the New Covenant Sabbath (Sunday)--the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Without Christ's death, the resurrection would be meaningless. And without the resurrection, the cross would be empty and void. But, to the praise of God, the church has *both* wonders to admire: that the Son of God would die for unworthy sinners; and that He would come out of the tomb for the justification of believers.

[Puritan quote of the day: "True believers are saved even though they lack assurance." --Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wed., 3/19/08 Devotion (Gal. 5:1)

Today's encouragement comes from Galatians 5:1, where we read these words:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."

The glorious freedom that the children of grace enjoy is a priceless treasure. This is why the world, the flesh, and the devil are constantly seeking to steal it from us. Gospel liberty must be zealously guarded, maintained, and emboldened--otherwise, the "gospels" of works, self, and law will infiltrate the soul, and destroy all our joy.

The Galatians had heard the gospel of grace from Paul. They initially embraced it. Later, they heard a gospel of law, and they began to believe it. Paul's words throughout the book were designed to bring them back to Christ. May we find our souls resting in Jesus' righteousness alone, today.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Full assurance is 'optimum maximum,' the best and greatest mercy; and therefore God will only give it to His best and dearest friends." --Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tues., 3/18/08 Devotion (Ex. 29:43)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 29:43, where we read these words:

"And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory."

God meets with people in His "tabernacle," or "sanctuary." Our Lord Jesus Christ has, in His resurrected and glorified body, already "entered" this realm in heaven (cf. Heb. 9:12 & 24). Now, because the God-Man has finished His work, and poured out His Spirit on His New Covenant Church, the sanctuary is "exploded," if you will, all over the face of the earth.

God dwells in heaven, in humble hearts, and in holy Sabbath convocations. Be sure to avail yourself of your access to Him, in and through Christ--and be careful to always approach Him by grace through faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "He that is most tender of God's honor, shall find by experience that God is most mindful of his comfort."
--Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mon., 3/17/08 Devotion (Ex. 28:12b)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 28:12b, where we read these words:

" . . . So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial."

Whereas Aaron the high priest bore the names of the tribes of Israel before the Lord, as he entered the Most Holy Place--so our Lord Jesus Christ bears the individual names of all His redeemed churchmen, as He presents them to the Father as the beneficiaries of His atonement.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the church's high priest. If you are in Christ today--by faith and by baptism--do not be overly disturbed by your sins. They have been dealt with at the cross. A Person of infinite worth has died for them; and He is now forever risen from the dead, interceding for you in heaven.

[Puritan quote of the day: "It is not always high water with saints, sometimes they are reduced to a very low ebb." --Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sat./Sabbath, 3/15-16/08 Devotion

Wahoo--Sunday is almost here! Here is Thomas Watson, from his "Beatitudes" book:

"Let us carry ourselves as God's children in humility. 'Be ye clothed with humility,' (1 Pet. 5:5). It is a becoming garment. Let a child of God look at his face every morning in the glass of God's Word and see his sinful spots. This will make him walk humbly all the day after. God cannot endure to see his children grow proud. He suffers
them to fall into sin, as he did Peter, that their plumes may fall, and that they may learn to go on lower ground."

Fri., 3/14/08 Devotion (2 Cor. 13:8)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 13:8, where we read these words:

"For we can do nothing against the truth, but [only] for the truth."

Those churchmen who are faithful in their rightful callings: be they as apostles (as per Paul, we have them no more); or as ministers; or as other church officers; or as believing parishioners--cannot do anything "against the truth," but only "for" it.

How is this possible? Doesn't this seem preposterous? It is possible, and true because of the superintending work of God Himself, keeping His children in the fold, and in the faith. If you live by faith today, loving Christ--do what you will. Whatever you do will please God (because of Jesus' sacrifice); and it will forward the truth of the gospel.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Peter at one time believes and walks, at another time he doubts and sinks, (Matt. 14:30)." --Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thurs., 3/13/08 Devotion (Job 42:5-6)

Today's encouragement comes from Job 42:5 & 6, where we read these words:

"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

The minister preaches the word of the gospel; the Holy Spirit applies that word to the hearts of the redeemed; but it is only when the believer "sees" Christ, with the eyes of faith, that he or she is thoroughly humbled, and marvels at God's love.

This is the universal testimony of all the Scriptures--(see Isa., ch. 6 as a classic example). Do we need to hear about the Lord? Yes. But we also need to behold Him. In so doing, we will never be the same; and we will forever disdain our formerly-held (but putrid) self-righteousness.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Surely, it is better to lack any mercy than a humble heart, it is better to have no mercy than lack a humble heart." --Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wed., 3/12/08 Devotion (Ex. 23:30)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 23:30, where we read these words:

"Little by little I will drive them [the Canaanites, et. al.] out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land."

Sanctification is a bit-by-bit process.  Whereas justification is an instantaneous, one time event--wherein we are regenerated from death to life--sanctification is progressive.  We would not want all of Christ's sanctifying blessings in one fell swoop.  To so receive them would be to try to drink from a fire hose.  Instead, God metes out His growth in His children little-by-little.

Be satisfied with this arrangement; and recognize that it is actually quite merciful.  It is good for us to have to learn to fight and defeat a few "Canaanites" every once in a while.  If the whole land were forever cleared of them, we might well grow complacent.

[Puritan quote of the day: "If is one mercy for God to love the soul, and another mercy for God to assure the soul of His love."   --Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tues., 3/11/08 Devotion (Job 40:9a)

Today's encouragement comes from Job 40:9a, where we read these words:

"Have you an arm like God? . . . "

The Lord is asking this question of Job. Job had been a bit "uppitty" regarding his appraisal of God's ways with him (somewhat-understandably)--but now it is the Lord's turn to set the record straight. Every time we get all self-righteously perturbed about something bad happening in the world or in our own lives, there is a temptation to think, "I could (or would) do a better job than God does [at that]."

But that attitude is highly-imprudent. God humbles us, by bringing us to our senses; and then by asking questions like, "Have you an arm like God?" Of course, we do not. And we do not have His perfect wisdom, either.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Assurance will free you from the burden of fears, as well as from the burden of cares." --Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mon., 3/10/08 Devotion (Lk. 24:15)

Today's encouragement comes from Luke 24:15, where we read these words:

"So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them."

Good fellowship can lead to more close communion with Christ. When we are engaged in meaningful conversations--that ultimately find their focus on God--it is as if the Lord Himself wants to be a part of it. In this particular case, the disciples did not even realize that it was Christ who had drawn near to them, (see v. 16).

All of us are required, everyday, to enter into largely-mundane and almost painfully-trite interactions with people. Let us "sanctify" even these efforts, and seek to see how they might center on Jesus. This will do our souls good; and it will lead to natural and sweet evangelistic opportunities.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Though sin in a gracious soul does not die perfectly, yet it dies daily." --Thomas Watson, in his sermon, "The Beauty of Grace"]

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sat./Sabbath, 3/8-9/08 Devotion

Wahoo--one of God's 52 holy days this year is coming up, on Sunday (of course). To help get you ready for church, here is the famed TW, from his, "Happiness of Drawing Near to God" work:

"How shall we do to draw near to God?

"Let us contemplate the excellencies of God. He is the 'God of
glory,' (Ps. 29:3). [He is] full of orient beauty: in comparison of whom both angels and men are but as the 'small dust of the balance.' He is the 'God of love,' (2 Cor. 13:11), who triumphs in acts of mercy. Well may this encourage us in our approaches to Him who delights to display the banner of free grace to sinners. If we should hear of a person of honour who was of a lovely disposition, obliging all that came to him by acts of kindness and civility, it would make us ambitiously desirous to ingratiate ourselves with him and to obtain his acquaintance. God is the most sovereign good, the wonder of love, ready to diffuse the silver streams of His bounty to indigent creatures. This, if anything, will make us willing to draw near to Him and acquiesce in Him as the centre of felicity."

Fri., 3/7/08 Devotion (Ex. 18:8)

Today's encouragement comes from Exodus 18:8, where we read these words:

"And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and how the LORD had delivered them."

In this one verse, we have a pretty good description of the Christian life. First, there is a profound exodus from death to life, in regeneration. Then, there are plenty of problems to deal with (on the journey through the wilderness of this life). Finally, there are numerous deliverances by God of His church through the trials they face.

Is it all worth it? Are we sometimes tempted to think that it would have been easier, and simpler just to have remained in the Egypt of sin and death? Yes, we may be tempted; but then we come to our senses, and recognize that redemption is *the* great blessing of life, and we give God glory.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Christ not only raises from the bed, but to the throne. He gives the sick man not only health, but heaven."
--Thomas Watson, in his sermon, "The Soul's Malady and Cure"]

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thurs., 3/6/08 Devotion (2 Cor. 5:21)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 5:21, where we read these words:

"For He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Whereas the sins of true churchmen are imputed to Christ, His righteousness is imputed to them. This is the "Great Exchange." Without this amazing, and incredibly gracious arrangement, there would be no provision for the application of the forgiveness of sins, and no one would ever be saved.

Christ bore the sins of the elect on the cross. The redeemed souls are the ones--more than anyone else--who really put the Messiah on the cruel tree. Let us be humbled by this, and love Christ all the more, by grace through faith.

[Puritan quote of the day: "The joy of the Lord is not only the strength, but also the beauty and glory of Christians, (Neh. 8:10)."
--Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wed., 3/5/08 Devotion (2 Cor. 4:1)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 4:1, where we read these words:

"Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart."

For those who have "received mercy," there is never a reason to "lose heart." There will be plenty of times when we are tempted to "lose heart," and to give up--but we should never do so. When we are feeling crushed down, and almost in despair, it seems like there is no hope. But, once God relieves us of our affliction, the bright light of grace shines once again.

It is not easy to hope (continually), in difficulty. But remember: our hope is in the Lord, and not in the things that we desire to see change here (in our lives, the lives of others, or the world generally). If we have mercy, we have solid encouragement.

[Puritan quote of the day: "It argues that our heart is chaste and loyal to Christ, when we can look a temptation in the face, and turn our back upon it." --Thomas Watson, in "All Things for Good"]

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tues., 3/4/08 Devotion (2 Cor. 3:18)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 3:18, where we read these words:

"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Do you ever wonder if you are ever making progress, or growing in your Christian life? You are, so long as you are focused on Jesus--by faith. Sanctification is less a matter of obedience, as it is a matter of "being." The more we become *like* the Savior, the more obedience we will demonstrate.

Your body may be looking older, from year to year--but your soul gets looking better, moment by moment. This growth will not mean that you have less trouble--in fact, it may mean that you have more. But, so long as you are becoming more like Christ, it is definitely worth it.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Are your greatest sufferings comparable to the least spark of grace or beam of glory revealed in you or to you?"
--Thomas Brooks, in "Heaven on Earth"]

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mon., 3/3/08 Devotion (2 Cor. 2:14a)

Today's encouragement comes from 2 Corinthians 2:14a, where we read these words:

"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ . . . "

How is it that God *"always"* leads us in triumph in Christ? After all, don't we often fail; and aren't our lives many times filled with stress, confusion, and uncertainty? Answer: yes, they are; but this in no way negates the inevitable success of the children of God, as they are now in Christ, by faith.

The principle here is that it is your *faith* that is your victory, (even as 1 Jn. 5:4b rather explicitly states). Since you have Christ, by faith--nothing can conquer you. If your sins are forgiven, and you have a right standing with God, through the imputed righteousness of Christ (apprehended by faith alone)--then what can defeat you? Nothing.

[Puritan quote of the day: "Beware you do not lose your God in the crowd and hurry of earthly business." --John Flavel, in "The Mystery of Providence"]