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  • Acts 13:26-41 - Entirely in Christ

    Salvation is found 'entirely in Christ.' Where else are you looking for it? Acts 13:26-41 (NIV) CONTEXT: Earlier this year we read about how "the whole city" showed up to hear Paul and Barnabas preach in Antioch. This passage is from the words they spoke in the same place a week earlier, containing the announcement that got everybody's attention. 26  “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27  The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28  Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29  When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30  But God raised him from the dead, 31  and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. ----- 38  “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39  Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. 40  Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: 41  “ ‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’” 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. Summary What's the most egregious, unbelievable claim you can think of being made by someone - a stranger visiting your town, no less - in church on a Sunday morning. Imagine some travelers show up one day, people that look and talk like you, but you're not quite sure what to think about them. Then they stand up and matter of factly state that a small time religious guru who was executed by the government years earlier had been raised from the dead by God Himself in fulfillment of everything the prophets had spoken of for thousands of years. And not only did this happen, they go on to say that because it did, the forgiveness of sins is now proclaimed in his name! In fact, these visitors boldly claim, everyone who believes this is set free from every sin. All the things you've religiously done in your life to justify yourself before God, the visitor goes on to say, all of the sacrifices, offerings, and rules you've carefully followed - none of those things matter. You just need to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This is exactly what happened on that otherwise quiet Sabbath morning in Antioch as Paul was invited to say a few words. How would have you reacted if you were there? What effect would this news have in your life? Dig Deeper Our Confession states that "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." The challenge for the Jewish people Paul spoke to here in Antioch and in other places was to let go of all of their religious rituals and cling to Christ only. The Reformers who wrote our Confession had the same challenge as they rediscovered the doctrines of grace and worked to wean people off of the rituals the Roman Catholic Church had introduced which actually pointed people away from Christ. Maybe you've come out of the RCC and know that struggle to let go first hand. But I'm left wondering what the "something else" is that most of the rest of us try to add as a necessary part of our salvation. What is it for you? Trust in yourself? A desire to conform Christ to our cultural norms? Expecting our obedience to be rewarded with temporal blessings? Our exhausting efforts to simultaneously seek the things of this world alongside the kingdom of God? Try and put yourselves in the position of the people in Antioch who heard the shocking claims of the gospel for the first time and who had to suddenly let go of so much since salvation is entirely found in faith in Christ. What else do you cling to that you need to let go of? AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who raised Christ from the dead to fulfill the promises He made to us, His people; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that God will help you identify the things you're holding onto in place of, or even in addition to Christ; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 8

  • Psalm 32 - Blessed Assurance

    Find true happiness in Christ's complete salvation. Psalm 32 (NIV) Of David. A maskil.  1  Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3  When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4  For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. 5  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. 6  Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. 7  You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. 8  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. 9  Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. 10  Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. 11  Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! 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. Summary The common and recurring misconception that so many people have about God's Law is that if something makes you happy, it must be sinful. But that's certainly not an idea you'll find in the Bible! Quite the opposite, actually. Over and over, the Psalms point us to a blessed life - quite literally, a happy life. The key to a happy life, David beautifully writes here, is the freedom that comes from forgiveness. The NIV we read says just that: Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven . This is certainly a good translation, but I've come to appreciate aspects of the Lexham English Bible (LEB), especially for Hebrew texts like the Psalms. It renders this opening line this way: Happy is he whose transgression is taken away... This is what our Confession is getting at when it says that "he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely." When we understand that through Christ our sins are forgiven, we don't just mean that God ignores them, or even worse that somehow our sins are made acceptable. It means that Christ became incarnate, and came to take our sins away, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Jesus could do this because, as David writes here, He covered our sin. This doesn't mean He concealed or hid them from the Father's presence, but rather that He fully paid the penalty they had accrued, so that the LORD no longer counts this sin against us (v2). This nuance is captured in the New English Translation (NET): How blessed is the one whose rebellious acts are forgiven, whose sin is pardoned! Dig Deeper These first two verses of Psalm 32 make the claim that happiness (blessedness) comes as the result of salvation. So it stands to reason that those of us who have complete salvation in Christ ought to be the happiest people in the world! But if you've been a Christian for longer than a day or two, you know that our lives often don't seem any 'happier' than anyone else's; in fact, the people of the world often seem much happier than we do! There's lots of reasons for this, but a big one is that so often we keep trying (and mostly failing) to find happiness the same way the rest of the world does. But if the source of our happiness/blessedness is completely different than the world's source (self-fulfillment), than the way to experience this happiness will look quite different as well. David goes on in Psalm 32 to provide four practical steps to live in the blessedness Christ's salvation has provided: v3-5 - Stop trying to cover up your iniquity and instead confess your transgressions to the LORD; v6-7 - Pray to the LORD and making Him your hiding place; v8-10 - Instruct and teach others in the way they should go; The more you teach others about the LORD's unfailing love , the more you will be blessed by it yourself. v11 - Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who does not count sin against those who are in Christ; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will confess, pray, instruct and rejoice; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 7

  • Galatians 2:15-21 - Christ Alone

    You no longer live. Rather, Christ lives in you. Galatians 2:15-21 (NIV) 15  We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16  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. --- 19  “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” 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. Summary One of the fundamental messages of the Bible is that people need perfect righteousness in order to be right with God. So it makes sense that the Devil twists this truth in order to deceive people. He wants you to come to one of two incorrect conclusions: That you can attain this righteousness on your own by keeping various commands (the commands themselves may be good in and of themselves; all the Devil cares about is tricking you into putting your hope into your ability to perfectly keep it); That you will be saved as long as you've done more 'good' things than 'bad.' What makes this idea really popular in our day and age is that you can define what's good or bad on your own! These lies - that a person gains salvation by keeping "the works of the law" had percolated deeply into the Galatian church, and so the primary purpose of Paul's letter to them is to lovingly rebuke them and call them back to the truth. No one, writes Paul, will be justified by the works of the law (v16). He goes on to write "for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (v21). You do need perfect righteousness in order to be right with God, but the simple and wonderful truth of the gospel is that you are given what you need in Christ. "A person is not justified [made righteous] by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ." (v16) Dig Deeper So then, the age old question goes, if keeping the law doesn't add anything to my salvation, then why keep it? Paul answers this question a number of different places in his epistles, but his answer in v20 speaks for them all: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. What he means here is that Christ died to sin on the cross, and you are in Christ, so consequently you've died to sin as well. And since Christ rose to new life after dying to sin, so you too must rise to this new life even here and now since Christ is living in you. This means your motivation to follow God's good and perfect law doesn't come from a desperate desire to justify yourself in God's eyes, but rather because living apart from it - living sinfully - seems disgusting and contrary to every instinct of your new life in Christ. AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, whose law helps us identify our sin and guides us in how to live in Christ; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Ask God to root out your sinful desires to justify yourself and to equip you to follow His law through Christ and for Christ; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 6

  • Acts 4:7-12 - Found It!

    Peter announces the one thing you've been looking for: salvation. Acts 4:7-12 (NIV) - CONTEXT: In the weeks after Pentecost, the church has already grown to about 5,000 people (4:4). The Jewish establishment "was greatly disturbed" (4:2) that resurrection of the dead in Jesus Christ is being proclaimed, so they detain Peter and John to question them after they had healed a lame man (chapter 3). 7  They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” 8  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11  Jesus is “ ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. 12  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” 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. Summary One of the ordinary ways the Holy Spirit utilized to convert so many people so quickly in the early church was the powerful preaching of men like Peter and John. One of the hallmarks of this apostolic preaching is their ability to get right to the point. The good news comes in the first three words of v12: salvation is found . This is good news because God's people had been looking for salvation for millennia. Another marker of this early preaching is how it was rooted in the scripture. Notice in v11 that Peter quotes Psalm 118 which equates Jesus - the stone rejected by the builders - as becoming the cornerstone of the salvation they longed for. Peter uses bold language to show that Christ is the exclusive way to gain this salvation. Literally translated, Peter said "salvation is in no nobody else." In English, double negatives are a no-no (get it?), but in Greek, double negatives bring emphasis to the point. We might better say 'salvation is found in absolutely no one else.' Peter's claim is much more than just a gospel invitation for people to open their hearts to Jesus. Rather, it comes as a command: you " must be saved." Dig Deeper Peter's mini-sermon here does have one little flaw. The meaning and application of his claim hinge on how the word salvation is understood. If you understand that word in a temporal sense to mean that Jesus is going to save you from all of your problems and issues here and now, you're going to be sorely disappointed with Jesus. Perhaps this is why the Jewish establishment questioning Peter continued to reject Jesus, because He did nothing to save them from their immediate concern: Roman occupation of Israel. This misunderstanding holds people out of the Kingdom even today. So many - maybe even you - have turned to Jesus looking for relief from pain and dissatisfaction with your situation in this broken world, but really nothing seemed to change. You still feel pinned down by the crushing weight of the world, and maybe you're beginning to doubt the 'salvation' Jesus offers. You need to understand salvation in the way the Bible means it: that the sin that estranged you from your heavenly Father has been atoned (paid for) by Christ so that you now have peace with God and are assured of eternal life with Him. Life here on earth may or may not improve (it got lots worse for Peter and John!). But this heavenly perspective will strengthen you no matter what situations you face as you continue to pilgrim through this barren land . AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who has provided us salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will keep your eyes focused on the prize even through the present difficulties; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 5

  • John 16:12-15 - The Truth Guide

    The primary purpose of the Spirit is: to guide / tell / make known the truth to you. John 16:12-15 (NIV) 12  “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15  All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” 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. Summary Today we return to that tension filled last night Jesus spent with His disciples before facing the cross. So much of John's gospel - from chapter 14-17 - is dedicated to what Jesus taught that night. These words are heavily laden with theology, so much so that we can only really chew on a couple of them at a time without being overwhelmed. So you can imagine what is was like for these disciples to hear this all for the first time, late at night, with all of the fear and trepidation caused by the plotting going on around them. Jesus could sense this in them. He had more to tell them, but it was "much more than they could now bear." But taking a break wouldn't be a problem, Jesus said, even though this was the last opportunity He'd have to teach them with His own words. It wasn't a problem because the "Spirit of truth" was coming to "guide them into all truth." We've looked before at the word that Jesus used to describe the Spirit that's so nuanced it's hard to translate: Paraklētos . Some translations go with Advocate , others use Comforter or Helper , and they're all right! The Holy Spirit is all of those things! But today's passage helps us see what the primary purpose of the Spirit is: to guide / tell / make known the truth to you. A literal translation of the Greek word means one who comes alongside and calls out. This is exactly what the Holy Spirit - the Paraklētos - does as He kindles faith in your heart. Dig Deeper One of the things we'll see this week as we work through Article 22 of our Confession is that the primary reason you have faith and have come to know and understand the truth about the justification you've gained from Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension is because the Holy Spirit has made it known to you. It's not that you're smarter or more observant than other people; the reason you have faith is because it's been given to you. But how does the Spirit do this, and how can you increase and grow this faith that you've been given? Certainly, our omnipotent God can do this any way He likes, and many people have been brought to believe suddenly and miraculously when the Holy Spirit unexpectedly showed up in their life. But these sort of 'Damascus road experiences,' like what happened to the Apostle Paul (Acts 9), don't happen often. So even though the Spirit isn't limited in His abilities to make these truths known, most of the time He uses what have come to be called the ordinary means of grace : the preaching of the Word, the participation of the sacraments, and the discipline that comes from living in the fellowship of believers. So this means that if you want to build and increase this faith you've been given (which the Bible often commands you to make every effort to do ), you need to expose yourself to these elements often. Keep reading the Word every day, as you're doing right now, and regularly gather with the saints on the Lord's Day to hear these truths proclaimed. AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who sent us the Spirit of truth; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will make it your habit to participate in the ordinary means of grace that the Spirit uses to build up your faith; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 4

  • Matthew 1:21 - Peace With God

    You have peace with God because of Christ's sacrifice for you. Matthew 1:20-21 (NIV) CONTEXT: Mary has just informed Joseph that she is pregnant through the Holy Spirit, and Joseph understandably is dubious and plans to quietly send Mary away. 20  But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 21: The Atonement We believe that Jesus Christ is a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek— made such by an oath— and that he presented himself in our name before his Father, to appease his wrath with full satisfaction by offering himself on the tree of the cross and pouring out his precious blood for the cleansing of our sins, as the prophets had predicted. So he paid back what he had not stolen, and he suffered— the “just for the unjust,” in both his body and his soul— in such a way that when he senses the horrible punishment required by our sins his sweat became like “big drops of blood falling on the ground.” He cried, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we “know nothing but Jesus and him crucified”; we consider all things as “dung for the excellence of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We find all comforts in his wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever. This is also why the angel of God called him Jesus— that is, “Savior”— because he would save his people from their sins. Summary You go to work because there are certain benefits that you receive, whether it be insurance, mileage expenses, vacation time, etc.  As we take a look at Christ’s sacrifice for us and the salvation He gives through His blood, we see there are benefits we receive.  Yesterday we took a look at how Christ’s “one and only sacrifice…renders believers perfect forever ,” seeing how God will complete the work He has begun in us.  Today, we turn to another benefit we receive from Christ’s sacrifice, and a very important one at that.  In the beginning of Matthew, when the birth of Jesus is announced to Joseph by the angel of the Lord, the angel tells Joseph what he is to name the child to be born: “... you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."  The closing part of Belgic Confession Article 21 takes up this verse, stating: “This is also why the angel of God called him Jesus - that is, ‘Savior’ - because he would save his people from their sins.”  Through our Lord and Savior’s sacrifice on the cross for us, He saves His people from their sins and so reconciles us to the God we so willfully rebelled against, giving us an amazing and gracious gift - peace with God!  Dig Deeper Peace with God is truly an amazing and gracious gift, an amazing benefit that we receive from Christ’s atoning sacrifice on our behalf.  Because of mankind’s rebellion against God, our relationship with Him had been broken by sin, we stood condemned.  But God, out of His great love for us, sent His only eternally begotten Son to reconcile us to Himself through His precious blood shed on the cross, giving us peace with God.  Now, as a believer, you have been washed with Christ’s blood, you have been clothed with His righteousness, and you have been adopted into God’s family.  This God whom you now have peace with through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, you can call Father, your Heavenly Father!  Perhaps there are times where you feel like you’ve messed up too much, or where you feel like you don’t belong.  In regards to the first, of course you need to repent, but also remember as David writes in Psalm 103:8-13 how God is “merciful and gracious,” how “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him ."  When you feel like you don’t belong, look to your Heavenly Father with whom you have peace through Christ, and remember His love and care for you, ever resting in His loving arms. AAA Prayer (About) A CKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS : Our Father, who sent His Son, born of a virgin to save His people from their sins; A LIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for giving you peace with Him, and pray that you'll remained focused upon it despite the ups and downs of life; A SK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 3

  • Hebrews 10:14 - Made Perfect

    God will bring to completion the good work He began in you. Hebrews 10:11-14(NIV) 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 21: The Atonement We believe that Jesus Christ is a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek— made such by an oath— and that he presented himself in our name before his Father, to appease his wrath with full satisfaction by offering himself on the tree of the cross and pouring out his precious blood for the cleansing of our sins, as the prophets had predicted. So he paid back what he had not stolen, and he suffered— the “just for the unjust,” in both his body and his soul— in such a way that when he senses the horrible punishment required by our sins his sweat became like “big drops of blood falling on the ground.” He cried, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we “know nothing but Jesus and him crucified”; we consider all things as “dung for the excellence of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We find all comforts in his wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever. This is also why the angel of God called him Jesus— that is, “Savior”— because he would save his people from their sins. Summary Yesterday we explored Christ’s one and only sacrifice, learning that we have no need to invent any other means of reconciliation since Christ has "offered for all time one sacrifice for sins." This is summarized in our Confession where it says that “We… have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever.” One of the amazing things about the Greek language is what its various tenses can convey. Whereas English only has past, present and future tense verbs, Greek has an extra tense used to indicate an action that has been done in the past, but has ongoing significance.  So, because of Christ’s sacrifice, an action completed once-for-all in the past, “he has perfected [past tense] for all time those who are being sanctified [ongoing significance.” I love how Richard Philips addresses how both can be true in his commentary on Hebrews: “In the eyes of God you have been made perfect because you are in Christ; you are a beneficiary of his perfection.  Of course, there is a process that is not yet complete, but a Christian’s sanctification is so certain of achievement that it is now viewed as accomplished: ‘You have been made perfect.’” Dig Deeper As believers, we wrestle and struggle against sin throughout our lives.  We are continually being made to be more and more like our Lord and Savior through the working of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we fail, we sin, and we can become discouraged.  Thanks be to God for His amazing grace that we can repent for those times we sin and that our God is faithful and just to forgive when we turn and repent. This particular benefit reminds us of those beautiful truths in Jude 24-25: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen,” and Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." You are still shedding what is of the old self, and so when you do mess up, repent, rest in God’s grace, and remember that “he who began a good work” in you “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who accepted the once for all sacrifice for sin made for us by Jesus Christ; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray for patience, perseverance, and a desire to more and more resemble your Savior; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 2

  • Hebrews 10:11-13 - One and Done

    Stop exhausting yourself by trying to do what Christ has already done. Hebrews 10:11-12 (NIV) 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 21: The Atonement We believe that Jesus Christ is a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek— made such by an oath— and that he presented himself in our name before his Father, to appease his wrath with full satisfaction by offering himself on the tree of the cross and pouring out his precious blood for the cleansing of our sins, as the prophets had predicted. So he paid back what he had not stolen, and he suffered— the “just for the unjust,” in both his body and his soul— in such a way that when he senses the horrible punishment required by our sins his sweat became like “big drops of blood falling on the ground.” He cried, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we “know nothing but Jesus and him crucified”; we consider all things as “dung for the excellence of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We find all comforts in his wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever. This is also why the angel of God called him Jesus— that is, “Savior”— because he would save his people from their sins. Summary One of the main points made in the book of Hebrews is the “once for all” nature of our Lord and Savior’s sacrifice on our behalf. We see this theme especially taken up towards the end of the book in the first part of chapter ten.  Throughout the opening verses, we are pointed back to the Old Testament, to all the sacrifices that were made and how they could not take away sin. “But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year," chapter 10 begins, "for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." A few sentences later, the verses we just read give a stark contrast: “Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” (ESV). Christ laid down His life once for all; His one and only sacrifice took away our sins, which the sacrifices made by the priests year after year with the blood of animals could never do. And so the our Confession reminds us: “We…have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever.” Dig Deeper This is important for you to remember: that Christ’s one and only sacrifice takes away your sins. You need continual reminders of this, because at various times over the course of history, people have tried to invent all sorts of other ways of reconciliation, other ways of salvation. But it’s not just consolidated to history.  Even in our world and culture today, people claim that there are many ways to God, many ways of salvation.  Some think if they’re good enough, that’ll get them to heaven, but that’s not what God’s Word tells us.  Our Lord and Savior, during what is known as the Upper Room Discourse, tells His disciples that He alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). This claim is utterly offensive to the world, the culture around us, and yet it is the truth. In a world that finds this truth completely offensive, may the Lord strengthen you and help you to stand firm in this truth, in the truth of His Word.  May you boldly declare that He alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life,” that He alone is the only way “to the Father,” and that it is His one and only sacrifice that takes away your sins! AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, and our Savior who victoriously sat down at His right hand while He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that your faith in Christ's one completed sacrifice will grow in strength; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Luke 1

  • John 1:29 - Comfort in His Wounds

    Find the comfort you long for in the wounds of Christ. John 1:29 (NIV) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 21: The Atonement We believe that Jesus Christ is a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek— made such by an oath— and that he presented himself in our name before his Father, to appease his wrath with full satisfaction by offering himself on the tree of the cross and pouring out his precious blood for the cleansing of our sins, as the prophets had predicted. So he paid back what he had not stolen, and he suffered— the “just for the unjust,” in both his body and his soul— in such a way that when he senses the horrible punishment required by our sins his sweat became like “big drops of blood falling on the ground.” He cried, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we “know nothing but Jesus and him crucified”; we consider all things as “dung for the excellence of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We find all comforts in his wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever. This is also why the angel of God called him Jesus— that is, “Savior”— because he would save his people from their sins. Summary John the Baptist boldly declared these words the day after he had told the priests and Levites who were sent to him from Jerusalem who he was and who he wasn’t.  This declaration of John regarding our Lord’s sacrifice as the Lamb of God for sin reminds us of one of the many comforts we have in, as our Confession put it, in the wounds of our Savior. At first glance, you may wonder what sort of comfort we could have in the wounds of our Lord and Savior, but this isn’t the only place we are reminded of it. The Heidelberg Catechism’s famous first question asks us: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”  The answer follows: “That I am not my own, but belong - body and soul, in life and in death - to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.  He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood…” This comfort is found in the wounds of Christ. Dig Deeper How is it, though, that Christ’s wounds comfort you? It’s not something that we think about enough, especially with how painful of a death our Lord and Savior suffered on our behalf, taking the full wrath of God on our sin upon Himself.  But the more you reflect on our Savior’s death, the more you'll come to find how it is that His wounds comfort us, and the different ways they do so. The song, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” tells us of a couple comforts we have in Christ’s wounds, the first of which is: As wounds which marred the Chosen One Bring many sons to glory. The final verse reminds us of another: I will not boast in anything: No gifts, no power, no wisdom; But I will boast in Jesus Christ: His death and resurrection. Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer; But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom As John the Baptist reminded us, Jesus is "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"  Jesus is the Lamb who takes away your and my sins, His wounds have brought us into God’s Kingdom, His family, making us sons and daughters! These are just two among many comforts we have in Christ’s wounds; may we take time to reflect on all the many ways Christ’s wounds comfort us, brothers and sisters. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who sent His Lamb to take away the sins of the world; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will not boast in anything other than Christ's death and resurrection. ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Philemon

  • Philippians 3:7-9 - Surpassing Value

    Find Confidence in Christ! Philippians 3:7–9 (ESV) 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 21: The Atonement We believe that Jesus Christ is a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek— made such by an oath— and that he presented himself in our name before his Father, to appease his wrath with full satisfaction by offering himself on the tree of the cross and pouring out his precious blood for the cleansing of our sins, as the prophets had predicted. So he paid back what he had not stolen, and he suffered— the “just for the unjust,” in both his body and his soul— in such a way that when he senses the horrible punishment required by our sins his sweat became like “big drops of blood falling on the ground.” He cried, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we “know nothing but Jesus and him crucified”; we consider all things as “dung for the excellence of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We find all comforts in his wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever. This is also why the angel of God called him Jesus— that is, “Savior”— because he would save his people from their sins. Summary In our world today, we talk about the value of things, from a house that someone just bought, to a new car, to the value of a great deal like a buy one get one free, or a value menu at a fast food restaurant. We're always on the lookout for the next great value. Today's passage comes right after Paul had recounted all the things he at one time valued. But after he came to know Christ, that which he valued changed greatly. He writes, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith." What Christ has done for you - having clothed you in His righteousness alone through His atoning death on your behalf - this is where you must find your true value, and this is where you must place your confidence, not in anything you could ever do on your own. Dig Deeper If we’re honest with ourselves, there can be times when we can slip into the mindset of wondering 'Have I done enough?' or 'Have I done enough good over the course of my life?' The enemy perhaps comes and tells us the lie that we haven’t done enough, and that we’re not good enough. But it’s important for you and me to remember where our confidence lies; that we are to rest in Christ’s righteousness alone. As the hymn “The Solid Rock” reminds us: My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. Likewise, in verse four: When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found; Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne. Far from making you complacent, this should spur you on to gratitude, so that you're living out of gratitude for what Christ has done for you through the enabling and empowering work of the Holy Spirit. So when the enemy would tempt you, accusing you that you haven’t done enough, look to Christ, to His atoning sacrifice for you, remembering that He is your confidence. May you declare with Paul, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who provides righteousness on the basis of faith; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will consider everything the world values to be a loss, and that your value will come from the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Colossians 4

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