From the study of The Gospel of John...
Read: John 12:37-50
Isaiah, the prophet, had revealed the glory of God as clearly as he could. Some who heard him seemed to turn away from the truth. This blindness, Isaiah concluded, could only have been caused by God Himself!
In the Gospel of John we read about the impact of Jesus upon those who heard his word and saw the great signs or miracles that he did. Our passage today cites two clear responses. First, there are those who simply will not believe in him. We cannot believe that God has predestined some to unbelief. Rather we must trust that those who choose to reject the Lord are indeed part of God's plan. For example, through the Apostle Paul, we come to understand that it is the very rejection of the Gospel by the Jews that leads to missionary journeys to the Gentiles. God in His sovereign wisdom and power can use even unbelief for His purpose. We know that God's ultimate plan is for the Jews to come to faith (Romans, Chapters 9-11).
Let's focus for a moment on those described in verses 42 and 43 of our text. They believe in Jesus, but because they love the glory of men more than the glory of God, they do not wish to publicly confess their faith. For fear of rejection by their peers, these leaders of the Jews live a lie. We can only wonder how the council of the Jews might have been transformed had the "Closet Christians" who were members had the courage to speak out.
One evening my mother-in-law, who was visiting our home, asked why there was so much joy in my family while her life seemed so bleak. It was the perfect opportunity to share my faith in Jesus. However, I feared that she would reject my answer, and I let the moment pass. That night as I prayed, I asked the Lord for another opportunity to present the Gospel to my mother-in-law. It came the very next morning when she said to me at breakfast, "You never answered my question last night." I shared with her the Good News that Jesus had come as the light of the world and that by believing in him she would no longer remain in darkness. Then, with my family gathered round, we knelt on the kitchen floor, and she prayed to receive Christ as her Savior and Lord. Jesus did not come to judge the world. He came to save it. The fruit of his Spirit in us includes joy.
R&D Think of some relationships where you have feared rejection because of your faith. Ask the Lord for courage to witness boldly to those who are blind. Share a success and a failure you have experienced while sharing your faith with another.
Prayer: Give us courage, Lord, to acknowledge you so that those who are blind may not remain in darkness.
From the study of The Letters of John and Jude...
Read: Jude 1:1-25
To Glorify God
In business and labor negotiations, compromise is a necessary and good tool. In matters of the Faith, compromise is an ugly word. Yet almost from the beginning, people have come to the Christian Faith and, for whatever reasons, have tried to compromise its standards.
The letter of Jude addresses that reality. It is written by "the brother of James" (v.1) and thus, possibly , by the brother of Jesus. He writes in about 85 A.D. False teachers have multiplied and, in the place of the Gospel of love born our of faith, have preached a gospel of liberty without responsibility. Jude approaches this situation from both a long and short term perspective. Using a series of Old Testament events, Jude encourages his readers to remain faithful by reminding them of the certainty of God's judgment. As surely as God punished Sodom and Gomorrah, Baalam and Korah, so will He punish those who knowingly and deliberately pervert the Gospel. And, in God's time, it will surely happen.
For the here and the now Jude gives his fellow Christians two admonitions, one expected and one unexpected. First, don't be fooled by false teachers. Resist them and remain faithful yourself. But that is not enough according to Jude. Secondly, you are also to love "the scoffers" enough, and those who are fooled by them, to counterattack, to "convince some who doubt; save some from destruction...and, have mercy on those who will not listen" (v.22)
To remain faithful in the face of false teaching is a step in faith. To reach out to others to help them remain faithful as well is a leap in commitment. With the first, God is pleased. With the second, God is glorified.
R&D How often, in the last several months, can you remember actively trying to help another who seemed to be losing his faith? If none, can you think of a person who might benefit from your help now? How has your faith been strengthened by sharing it with others?
Prayer: My Father and God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, deepen my faith, I pray, that I may never lose it and, by my example, help me to be a convincing, saving light to others.
From A Journey Through the Bible...
Read: Esther 9:18-32
God's People in High Places
Esther, the seventeenth book of the Bible, is in a form that has been called an historical novel. It is named for a Jewish woman who became queen of Persia.
God is a God of victory and celebration and salvation. The Jewish people triumphed in the reign of King Xerxes and Queen Esther against Haman, the enemy of the Jews who sought to slay them. The victory of the Jews was celebrated in the feast of Purim "...as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration" (v.22). The day was a glorious remembrance of God's continuing provision for His people. The Feast of Purim was to be "observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city" (v.28).
The Lord providentially saved His people from annihilation. He protected and restored them by using different people and situations in a divinely orchestrated plan to bring those that sought Israel's death to utter ruin. Esther was a notable and lauded heroine who reached a high place in a foreign government and therefore was in an unique position to assist her people in a time of grave crisis. She was used by the Lord to save her people. Once again in the Scripture, God's will prevailed and good triumphed over wickedness. He uses ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things by His powerful leadership.
God places His servants in high and lofty positions to accomplish His purpose and plans in our world, even in the highest levels of business and government. Submit totally to His will for your life so you can enjoy the salvation of our God. Will you respond to His call for your life?
R&D How has God used you recently to accomplish His will? List ways you have been a "hero" in everyday living. Share ways in which another person was a spiritual hero to you.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for the ministry you have given to all Christians.
From A Journey Through the Bible...
Read: Revelation 2:1-7
When You Have Lost Your First Love
Revelation is the sixty-sixth and final book of the Bible. It is unique because it is the only prophetic book in the New Testament. The heart of the book is a series of visions, the meaning of which has long puzzled scholars.
When I first committed my life to Christ 22 years ago, I remember the joy and the excitement I felt in understanding what Christ had done for me on the cross at Calvary. Realizing that God loved me so much that He sent His Son to die for me blew me away. I started to read the Bible and understand it. I loved it and spent many hours a week in God's word. I began to fall in love with God.
During my first year as a Christian, I took my family to an Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts. I started to receive that ministry's monthly publication and I remember getting one in which the feature article was "When you have lost your first love." It didn't mean a lot to me at that time because I hadn't yet lost my first love. I was on fire for Jesus and told everyone who would listen about him.
Over the next few years, as my business career blossomed, I got too busy to read my Bible and spend time alone with God. My focus shifted from God to worldly things and physical pleasures. Slowly I began to drift away from God (sometimes referred to as backsliding). The process happened slowly, so slowly that I didn't realize it had happened. Sin became the ruler of my life. I told people I was a Christian, attended church once in a while, still talked the talk but no longer walked the walk. Finally, my spirit was so dry that I could not even pray. There were no words.
It was November 10, 1988, when I cried out to the Lord, "Where are You, Lord?" He spoke to me that day, told me He wanted me to give up alcohol and turn back to Him. That was the beginning of my return to God: a rededication that has resulted in the best ten years of my life. I have truly returned to my first love. Today I serve Him and follow a rule of life that will keep Him my first love.
R&D Is Jesus Christ really your "first love" or are you just giving him lip service? Is he everything to you or just another area of interest to you?
Prayer: Father, thank You that You are faithful when we are not, and that the good work You start in each of us You will see through to completion.
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