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  • Psalm 143:1-6 - Unattainable?

    Learn to pray short prayers like King David. Psalm 143:1-6 (NIV) 1  LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. 2  Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. 3  The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. 4  So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. 5  I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. 6  I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. ---- 11  For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. 12  In your unfailing love ( ḥěʹ·sěd ) , silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 23: The Justification of Sinners We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works. And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him. That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves. In fact, if we had to appear before God relying— no matter how little— on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up. Therefore everyone must say with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified.” Summary Each day as we read the Bible, we practice praying the very passage we just read back to God using the Triple-A prayer pattern, where we begin by A cknowledging who God is, then A ligning our lives with Him, before we finally A sk God for what we need. We use this pattern because it's the pattern Jesus used in teaching us to pray the Lord's Prayer, and because so many biblical prayers follow it as well. We've seen before in the Psalms how David also utilizes these same three elements in his prayer-based psalms, but, as is the case today, he likes to throw them into a poetic blender so that it becomes difficult to separate a cknowledgement from a lignment or a sking. Such is the case with the 2nd verse of David's prayer which grabs our attention today: A sk: Do not bring your servant into judgment... This is the focus of so many of David's psalms: asking God to restore the shalom in their relationship. A lignment: for no one living is righteous... This may not initially seem like a prayer of alignment, but it is. David's not making an excuse by saying God shouldn't judge him because nobody else is righteous either, rather, it's an admission of his sinful condition, which is the first step of repentance and living in alignment with God. A cknowledgment: before you. David here acknowledges that God is just in His expectation for righteousness because He is the very definition of righteousness (this becomes very clear when reading this second verse in conjunction with the first). Certainly this second verse is part of a larger prayer (the whole psalm), but you can see that it stands on its own as a prayer as well. Remember, as is often the case, short prayers are often the best prayers! Pray David's prayer in v2 often, that it would cause you to cling to Christ all the more. Dig Deeper When we read Psalm 143 last year , we noted that it sure seems like David wrote this psalm later in life. By this point he would have amassed great wealth as the king of Israel and there was very little he lacked. But David knows the one thing he needs more than anything else - the one thing that is worth more than his entire earthly kingdom - is out of his reach. David knows he needs perfect righteousness in order to enjoy eternity at peace with God, but since "no one living is righteous," this peace David longed for seemed unattainable. Certainly David didn't know Jesus, his greater son , who would make this peace possible by giving all those who put their faith in Him His own perfect righteousness. But David did know what to appeal to: God's unfailing covenant love ( ḥěʹ·sěd - v12). This is the love in which God obligated Himself to care for His people which caused Him to send His only begotten Son for your salvation. AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : LORD, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief (v1); A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you (v2); A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Help me to cling to Christ. Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 18

  • Luke 16:13-15 - You Can't Fool God

    The master you serve today will end up being the master you serve for eternity. Luke 16:13-15 (NIV) 13  “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” 14  The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15  He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 23: The Justification of Sinners We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works. And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him. That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves. In fact, if we had to appear before God relying— no matter how little— on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up. Therefore everyone must say with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified.” Summary We're all masters of disguise. Although most of us probably haven't changed our identity as part of the witness protection program or are living deep undercover on behalf of a spy agency, we're really good at masking who we really are. You've probably been asked "how's it going?" at least a dozen times this week, if not more. And each time you responded with the expected answer of "fine," or "good," when in reality things in your life are anything but. Maybe if you're a bit more honest you replied something along the lines of "I'm hanging in there" when the full truth would be that you're barely hanging onto a thread. Our difficulty to be honest with one another is a problem in and of itself, but that's not what today's passage addresses. The point here is that we take our very refined ability to outwardly look very differently than we inwardly are and assume we can pull the wool over God's eyes the same way we can fool those around us. But Jesus reminds you today that you can't fool His Father. You might be an expert in "justifying yourself in the eyes of others," Jesus tells the Pharisees (and us), "but God knows your heart." So our Confession warns, if you try to appear before God relying on your ability to make yourself look good, you will be "swallowed up." Dig Deeper Your biggest problem isn't self reliance. Even the most capable, independent people amongst us rely heavily on other people to help them achieve success. Some rely on family, others friends, and others employees, and most of us rely on a combination of all of the above. So the question isn't if you're reliant upon something else, but what or who it is that your reliant upon. And the more you rely on the things of the world for your needs here and now, the more you're going to end up relying on those same things for your eternal salvation. This is exactly what Jesus warns the Pharisees of. They'd become so subservient to mamon (translated as 'money' in v13) that it had become their master in place of God. And these things that we value so highly, Jesus goes on to say, are "detestable in God's sight." So the master you serve today will end up being the master you serve for eternity. Who is that for you? Is it mamon , or is it Jesus Christ? AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who knows our hearts; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you'll be less and less reliant upon mammon and more devoted to Christ; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 17

  • Isaiah 57:15-21 - Peace, Peace, to those Far & Near

    God restores shalom to the contrite. Isaiah 57:15–19 (NIV) 15  For this is what the high and exalted One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16  I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created. 17  I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. 18  I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, 19  creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.” 20  But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. 21  “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 23: The Justification of Sinners We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works. And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him. That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves. In fact, if we had to appear before God relying— no matter how little— on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up. Therefore everyone must say with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified.” Summary What a contrasting picture of God that Isaiah paints for us here. On one hand, Isaiah describes God as "high and exalted" and "the One who lives forever," who lives in a "high and holy place." Yet this transcendent (over all things) God doesn't live in a high and holy place alone. He lives "with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit." These unlikely roommates - a perfectly holy God living at peace alongside His sinful image bearers - require a significant transformation in order to be compatible. After all, God finishes this address with the reminder that "there is no peace for the wicked." Our sin and evil cannot be tolerated by a holy and righteous God. Something needs to change for this ongoing relationship between God and man to continue, and it's certainly not God who needed to change! So what happened? How can it be that God could go from being "enraged by their [our] sinful greed" to announcing "Peace, peace to those far and near?" It's because of the gospel message God announces in v18. God says, "I have seen their ways, but I will heal them." Dig Deeper This passage is big on majestic promises, but short on specifics. Isaiah, writing hundreds of years before Christ was born, doesn't offer details on how this healing process would occur, but he was certain it would. The one ingredient Isaiah does emphasize is repentance. Those who will live with God are lowly and contrite (v15), people who mourn their sin (v18). These are exactly the same types of people Jesus would declare blessed as He began the Sermon on the Mount centuries later. But all the repentance and humility in the world could never fill the gap that your sin has created between you and God. I wonder what it must have been like to be Isaiah; to have been given these revelations from God Himself, and to be certain of their veracity, but yet to not know how it would be that God would fulfill these amazing promises. You don't need to wonder. You can know exactly what God did to bring you back into shalom with Him forever. This is why this doctrine of justification is so crucial to Christianity: that Jesus took your sin upon Himself and in exchange gave you the perfect righteousness you need to live intimately with your creator. God, through Christ, has "healed you" and has "created praise on your lips." So be sure to sing it today! AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, the high and exalted One, whose name is holy; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Ask God to "revive your heart" by creating "a contrite spirit" within you; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 16

  • Galatians 2:16 - Just-As-If-I'd

    Find freedom through faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:16 (NIV) [We] know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 23: The Justification of Sinners We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works. And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him. That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves. In fact, if we had to appear before God relying— no matter how little— on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up. Therefore everyone must say with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified.” Summary Sometimes it's easy to look back at the early church with wistful thoughts about how awesome it must have been during that time. People were coming to faith in Christ from all walks of life and dramatically changing their lifestyles; miracles abounded, and the apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, were there to lead and guide the newborn church forward. But the wistful thoughts flee upon reading Paul's letters to churches like the Galatians. Yes, the Holy Spirit was very active in these young assemblies, but at the same time they were a hot mess. These Galatians, for example, had taken the gospel of Jesus and syncretized (mashed two belief systems together) it with all of the rules and regulations of Old Testament Judaism. But don't be too quick to wag your finger at them, since we all have a propensity to fall into the same trap they did: to think that we're made right with God "by the works of the law." Not many of us still point to the Old Testament rituals as being necessary for salvation, but we are prone to add in all sorts of our own culturally based requirements. But the New Testament will have none of this. Your salvation depends on only one thing: faith in Jesus Christ. Dig Deeper If you had to choose just one word to describe what it means to be a Christian, what word would it be? Loved? Faithful? Graced? Forgiven? All of those words certainly describe important aspects of Christianity, but I think Paul would choose differently. The most fundamental attribute of being a Christian, Paul says here in today's passage, and in many other places is one who is justified (he used this word three times just in this one sentence!) . Thankfully you don't need to look far for its meaning; all you need to do is pronounce it slightly differently. When I say that I'm a Christian, I mean that I am: Just-as-if-I'd never sinned, and Just-as-if-I'd always obeyed. This is how God sees you: as one who has perfectly fulfilled the covenant God entered into with Adam in which God promised to give man life as long as man gave God perfect obedience. Even though you, me and Adam have failed miserably to uphold our end of the bargain, the new Adam, our Savior Jesus Christ, did on our behalf. This is why you're called to put your faith in Christ, so that you may share in His eternal benefits. AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who calls all people to perfect obedience; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will escape the temptation of thinking the good things you do are the basis for your salvation, and pray that your faith in Christ will grow more and more; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 15

  • Genesis 15:1-6 - Divine Reward

    Do not be afraid; God is your very great reward. Genesis 15:1-6 (NIV) After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield,  your very great reward.” 2  But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3  And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 4  Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6  Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 23: The Justification of Sinners We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works. And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him. That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves. In fact, if we had to appear before God relying— no matter how little— on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up. Therefore everyone must say with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified.” Summary If you read this passage in a printed Bible, you'll notice that today's passage comes within a page or two of when God called Abram to go to the land He would show him, and that once Abram got there God would make him into a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3). Whereas we can read about the events that transpired between that initial call and God's message to Abram in today's passage in a few minutes, the reality is that nearly a decade had gone by, and Abram is nowhere close to being made into a great nation; in fact, he remains childless. Don't miss the fact that God initiates this conversation, not Abram, and in doing so He reorients both Abram's idea of what God's blessing looks like, as well as our's. Whereas our human nature expects and looks for God's blessing here and now, God says, " I am your shield, your very great reward." Nonetheless, God goes on to reiterate His promise to Abram that a son - Abram's own flesh and blood - will be his heir. This promised son would be fulfilled in two ways: through Isaac, who would make Abram into a great nation, and through Abram's later son, Jesus Christ. Dig Deeper It's verse six that captures our attention today. But not just today - Genesis 15:6 is perhaps one of the most important verses in the Bible, and it captured the attention of the psalmist, and is mentioned in Paul's letters three times and also in James'. Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness . - v6, Ps 106:31; Ro 4:3 ( which we just read Friday ), 20–24; Gal 3:6; Jas 2:23 It's this simple premise that lies at the heart of the gospel; that, as our Confession puts it, our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contain... [since] God grants righteousness apart from works. AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who is our shield and very great reward; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for granting you righteousness, and pray that the faith that by which it it was given to you would increase each day; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 14

  • Romans 4:4-5 - Credited

    How grateful would you be if trillions of dollars were credited to your bank account? Romans 4:5 (NIV) 4  Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5  However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 22 - Our Justification Through Faith in Christ We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him. For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely. Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God— for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.” However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us— for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness. But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits. When those benefits are made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins. Summary You likely have a good sense of the concept of compensation. You know that when you have someone provide a service for you, be it a haircut, a car wash, or a complex surgery, that you will need to pay the people who provide it for you. Likewise, when you go to work or sell your product, you're expecting to be paid for your efforts. When you are given a check, you might say thank you out of common courtesy, but you don't express the same gratitude you would if someone came up to you out of the blue with enough funds to pay off all of your debts. But that's exactly what salvation is! In this case, we are the ones "who do not work." Most of us aren't used to being in this position. We don't like be given handouts, and prefer to pay our own way through life. The problem comes when we extend that same attitude to our salvation. It's natural to assume that eternal life comes at a cost, and we'd just as soon pay that cost ourselves. But we don't have this attitude simply because our work ethic is so much better than other people's. We want to earn God's justification ourselves so that we're not beholden to anyone else. Ultimately, we have this 'I'll take care of myself' attitude because we're selfish: we want to depend fully on ourselves. Dig Deeper Chances are you don't have a miraculous conversion story. You probably weren't living a lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll before suddenly being interrupted by the Holy Spirit. Ironically, that's why it's harder for people like us to truly understand Christianity. We like to think that since we've more or less kept ourselves on the straight and narrow, that there isn't much left for the Spirit to clean up for us. We earned most of our righteousness on our own, or so we like to think. Understand that every good thing you have - especially your faith - has come to you as a gift from God, not because of the 'work' you've done to earn it. God justifies the ungodly , which is exactly what you would be were it not for His grace at work in your life. You do have righteousness - perfect righteousness, in fact. But again, this isn't because you've lived a better life than others, but because it was credited to you through your faith ( which was given to you as well ). The word Paul uses here is an accounting term. Think of opening up your bank app and noticing that trillions of dollars had instantly been credited to your account. How grateful would you be then? This is exactly what's occured for you: through your faith in Christ, you've been credited with the most valuable and important currency there is: the perfect righteousness God requires to be at peace with Him (Romans 5:1). AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who justifies the ungodly that trust in Him; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for this invaluable gift, and pray that your hard work will be an ongoing expression of gratitude for it; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 13

  • 1 Corinthians 1:27-30 - Humbled Wisdom & Strength

    In eight words, the Bible obliterates the world's wisdom. 1 Corinthians 1:27-30 (NIV) 27  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29  so that no one may boast before him. 30  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 22 - Our Justification Through Faith in Christ We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him. For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely. Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God— for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.” However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us— for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness. But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits. When those benefits are made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins. Summary What a humbling statement! Verse 30 says "It is because of Him [God] that you are in Christ Jesus." It's so easy to flip this concept around, isn't it; to think that it was our own ability to recognize God's good news in a world full of bad news, or that somehow we were able to make sense of the evidence God's provided of His existence and Christ's salvation when so many others either chose to ignore or reject it. "It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus. " That second half of the sentence summarizes the essence of Christianity: being in Christ. Christ has exactly what you need: the righteousness and holiness required to satisfy our perfectly holy Father. Those who are in Christ have what He has, so in Him, you have the perfect righteousness and holiness that your eternal redemption requires. Both halves of this humbling statement point you away from your sinful nature's instinct to define yourself. Your sinful nature seeks the strength and wisdom of this world, as Paul puts it here. In other words, you want what the people around you seem to have and value, and you want to gain these things on your own. In eight words, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, obliterates the world's wisdom. You don't gain eternal riches by your own knowledge or efforts, you gain it because God placed you in Christ. Dig Deeper Foolish; weak; lowly; despised. That's how the world views you as a Christian. But for many of us in this group, it may not seem that way. We live in communities that still value godly lifestyles and promote biblical principles. Even the most pagan among us at least seem to respect our piety, that is, as long as we leave them out of it. Our communities are really good places to live, offering a far higher than average quality of life than what's found in less Christianized places. Why is this? Well it's because we're such awesome people who do things the right way. Or at least that's what we tend to think after awhile. That's why it's so important to remember these eight words that come in v30 to keep yourself humble: "Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus." It wasn't your idea to enter into this relationship, and it isn't your talent, wisdom or ability that keeps you there. It's purely God's grace, "so that no one may boast before Him." As our Confession puts it, "faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits." Thank God for giving you this faith, and make every effort to build and strengthen it daily. AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; the weak things of the world to shame the strong and the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are (v27-28); A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for placing you in Christ and giving you faith, and pray that you will make every effort to build it up; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 12

  • Phillipians 3:5-11 - Effort Calibration

    Shift your focus from scoring points to knowing Christ. Philippians 3:5-11 (NIV) If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6  as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. 7  But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 22 - Our Justification Through Faith in Christ We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him. For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely. Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God— for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.” However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us— for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness. But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits. When those benefits are made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins. Summary Do you keep score? Of course you do, because we all do to one extent or another. We keep track of all the little things we do for the Church and for others; all of the good deeds, prayers offered, verses memorized and days where the Bible got read at least once. Now certainly these things often are an organic outworking of the Spirit in our lives and are done for good and pure reasons, but our sinful nature likes to remind the rest of our nature just how much better we are than others, and how much more grace they need than we do. Paul kept score big time prior to his conversion, and if scoring points by doing 'good' things was the deciding factor, Paul would have been the champion. But once Paul understood the truth of the gospel, everything changed. Every gain he'd earned, he now considered loss. More than that, he thought of it all as garbage (the Greek word Paul used here can also mean dung). As we've seen before, the most important thing you need is perfect righteousness , because that's God's covenant requirement to have eternal peace with Him. But there's no reason to try so hard to "build up a righteousness of your own" when you can have a surpassing "righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith ." Paul puts it this way in Romans 4:5 - To the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. Dig Deeper Certainly Paul here isn't commanding you to stop doing good work since it doesn't really count for anything anyway. They do count, but just not towards your salvation . And you still need to put effort into working out your salvation, but as you do so you need to continually be recalibrating your efforts . Paul shifted his efforts from 'scoring points' to "knowing Christ" (v8 & 10). This definitely takes hard work! Never stop learning why there's power in His resurrection, how you can participate in His sufferings, and how you too can become like Him in His death. Being a Christian means making every effort to be a lifelong learner . The more you learn, the more you build your faith, so the process builds exponentially. But, somebody argues, if the whole church keeps busy putting all of our efforts into learning these things, then who will do all of the important good works that need to be done? This is the amazing part: if you put your efforts into learning Christ rather than 'scoring points,' you'll also find yourself effortlessly doing all those good works that so many people count on. AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who gives the perfect righteousness we need through faith in Jesus Christ; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray for the desire and strength to know Christ more and more so you can effortlessly do the good work that needs to be done; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 11

  • Hebrews 11:1-3 - Certainty

    Want to live with confident assurance? Flex your faith! Hebrews 11:1-3 (NIV) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2  This is what the ancients were commended for. 3  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 22 - Our Justification Through Faith in Christ We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him. For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely. Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God— for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.” However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us— for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness. But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits. When those benefits are made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins. Summary You know it's an awesome word when every English translation of the Bible translates it a different way, and even though they're all different, they're all correct. Such is the case with the definition of the word faith given in the opening verse. In the NIV, we read that faith is confidence in what we hoped for and assurance of what we do not see. But look at these other ways to express the very same thing: NIV84 - Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ESV - Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. LEB - Now faith is the realization of what is hoped for, the proof of things not seen. NET - Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. KJV - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Again, all of these are very good translations, and the fact that the idea being expressed here can be accurately stated so many different ways illustrates just how magnificent our faith is. It's just one more example of the benefit of reading the Bible in multiple different translations ! Dig Deeper Today's short passage doesn't just tell us what our faith is , but also what our faith does , and every single one of the translations above translates this phrase the exact same way (so that tells you something too): By faith we understand ... The verse goes on to say that by faith we understand that God created all that is out of nothing, but this certainly doesn't mean that this one particular fact is the only thing that you understand through faith. As we noted yesterday , our Confession describes faith as an "instrument by which we embrace Christ;" that is, it's the way that we come to understand who Christ is, what He did for us, and how we ought to now live. So couple these two ideas to give you confidence throughout your day. You don't need to float through a life of listless uncertainty. Quite the opposite! You've been given faith and are making every effort to strengthen it each day , so live with the assurance that the promises that God has made you in His Word are true, and know that you can understand both this natural world and the Savior who has made you a citizen of the world to come. AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who formed the universe at His command; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for the faith He's given you and pray that you will make every effort each day to strengthen it; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 10

  • Romans 3:25-28 - Faith Alone

    Grace is delivered to you through faith. How much grace would you like? Romans 3:25-28 (NIV) 25  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26  he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 27  Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28  For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 22 - Our Justification Through Faith in Christ We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him. For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely. Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God— for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.” However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us— for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness. But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits. When those benefits are made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins. Summary We looked at a couple of these verses last month as we worked to understand how it is that Christ's atonement (payment), which came "through the shedding of His blood (v25)," makes us right with God. Today our focus is on the words that immediately follow: Christ's sacrifice of atonement is "to be received by faith." What Paul is getting at here is that salvation is a two step procedure. First, a payment for sin needed to be made, and as we've seen, this payment needed to satisfy God's perfect justice, and as we'll see in the coming week, the payment also needed to fulfill our covenantal obligation: perfect righteousness. Jesus Christ, the God-man, is the only one capable of making such a perfect payment. Christ's atonement is the substance, so to speak, that grace is made of. The second step in salvation is applying this grace to the sinner being saved. It's with this in mind that our confession speaks of faith as being an instrument . In the same way that a pipe delivers water to a specific spot, faith delivers grace - the saving blood of Christ - to you as a sinner. As Paul puts it, God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement , and you receive the benefits of atonement by faith (or more properly, through [ διὰ ] faith , as the NET Bible puts it). Dig Deeper Paul, especially in the book of Romans, has a writing style that sort of goads the reader on with rhetorical questions. Verse 27 is a perfect example. Since grace comes through faith, where then is boasting? In other words, which part of the salvation process can you stand back and exclaim to others, 'I did that'? Our sinful instinct, especially as Americans (and also you Canadians!), is to think we did something extraordinary to have gained salvation. Certainly we would never consciously claim that we don't need God's grace, but yet we often do nurse the idea that somehow we're somehow better, smarter, or more obedient because we've placed our faith in it. This isn't just an American (or Canadian) thing. Paul and these early Christians he wrote to struggled with the same temptation, which is why he so emphatically shoots down the rhetorical question he posed. Where then is boasting? It is excluded . Literally translated, it's shut out. There's absolutely no room for anyone to take credit for his own salvation. Salvation is by God's grace alone (which is made possible by Christ alone ) credited to you through faith alone , which is itself a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). So it stands to reason, that the bigger and stronger your faith is, the more grace you'll experience! God gives you faith, but He calls you to make every effort to grow and strengthen it. So the question for you to chew on is, how much grace would you like? AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, the one who is both just and who justifies those who have faith in Christ Jesus (v26); A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Give thanks for the gift of faith, and pray for the desire and ability to grow your faith to experience more and more grace; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 9

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