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  • 1 John 1:8-10 - He is Faithful

    Find true forgiveness through true confession. 1 John 1:8-10 (NIV) 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 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. Summary How often do you think about your need for a Savior? How often do you think about your sins? The Apostle John is quite clear in what we need to do to receive God’s grace. In order to be forgiven, we must confess our sins. When you confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive you your sins. There is no greater promise anywhere. God’s promise is true, and it is amazing. It is life changing. When you confess your sins, God will forgive you your sins. You are then given new life in Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, you can be purified from all unrighteousness. Truly, your sins can be forgiven! Dig Deeper As we have seen this week, Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary for our salvation. He is a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek who offered the sacrifice for our sins. It only needed to be offered once because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He offered up his life as ransom to pay the debt of our sin. A debt that he did not owe, but paid willingly by the pouring out of his precious blood. The pain he endured on our behalf is staggering. He endured physical pain through beatings, being nailed to the cross, and being pierced. He endured mental anguish through betrayal by a friend, and abandonment by his disciples. He suffered the weight of our sin. As our Confession says, “And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.” In order to receive this grace, confess your sins. Acknowledge that you needed Jesus to endure all of that so that you could be saved from your sins. Ask God for forgiveness, by confessing your sins, and you will be forgiven in Christ Jesus. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Holy God, Lord of justice and grace; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: I confess that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Please forgive me of my sin; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Colossians 3

  • Matthew 27:46 - Never Alone

    You are never alone because of Jesus. Matthew 27:46 (NIV) About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 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?” Summary These are the last words that Jesus speaks while on the cross in the gospel of Matthew. They are heartbreaking words: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? What must Jesus have been feeling at that moment? He endured so much suffering, and was hanging on the cross for hours. The pain, the torment, the loneliness. Eventually, he speaks these words, and not long after, he gives up his spirit and dies. Jesus is directly quoting Psalm 22:1, which is a psalm of lament. Lament is crying out to God in grief while wrestling with his goodness. Dig Deeper The Belgic Confession speaks of Jesus’ suffering, not glossing over the anguish he felt. Again, think about what Jesus was feeling in his final moments: the weight of sin which was not his; paying a debt that he did not incur; the righteous being crucified for the unrighteous. As he is hanging on that cross, enduring the physical pain of the nails and the beatings, there is the mental anguish as well. To the point that he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We know that God never forsakes or abandons us. The cross is the perfect example of that truth. Through Jesus’ suffering and death, we see the perfect love that God has for his people. Which is why it is important for us to remember that Jesus’ sacrifice involves so much more than just his death. He came to earth as a child, born of the virgin Mary. He lived a perfect life; he never sinned. He was then betrayed, arrested, abandoned by his disciples, beaten, mocked, and unjustly condemned. All of that happened before his crucifixion. Jesus did it all with a purpose. He offered himself up as a sacrifice to save God’s people from their sins. Jesus’ sacrifice shows us God’s love. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).” You are never alone because of Jesus. Even when you are in life’s darkest valleys, know that God is with you. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our ever-present God; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: May I trust in your presence, knowing that I am never on my own; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Colossians 2

  • Isaiah 53:4-12 - The Savior Who Suffered For You

    True gratitude requires continual reminding of what Jesus did for you. Isaiah 53:4-12 (NIV) 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. 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. For it is written that “the chastisement of our peace” was placed on the Son of God and that “we are healed by his wounds.” He was “led to death as a lamb”; he was “numbered among sinners” and condemned as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, though Pilate had declared that he was innocent. Summary The book of Isaiah is filled with prophecies of the coming Messiah. One of the most well-known prophecies speaks of a child who will change the word; “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6). Perhaps we may gloss over then, what Isaiah prophesies regarding what will happen to that child. The Messiah will take up our pain and will bear our suffering. The prophet continues on to say that the Messiah will be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. There is a reason for this suffering: his punishment brings us peace, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah should be cause for celebration, but also pause. In order for the Messiah to save us from our sins, he also had to suffer. Dig Deeper When was the last time you were punished? Did you deserve to be punished? Did the punishment fit the crime? The suffering that Isaiah prophesies about regarding the Messiah is unjust. Jesus did nothing wrong. As we looked at yesterday, he was perfect, he committed no sins. Yet he was punished, and endured significant suffering on our behalf. It may be easy to skip over what Jesus went through to save sinners, but he suffered immensely so that you might be justified. He was betrayed by his friend, arrested, abandoned by his disciples, beaten, mocked, spit upon, unjustly condemned, nailed to a cross, mocked some more, pierced, and died because of our sin. Jesus endured all of that because of our sin; for "the transgression of my people he was punished." We rightfully praise God for the amazing grace we receive in Jesus Christ. But do not forget or overlook what Jesus went through on your behalf. The grace you've received came at a costly price. Jesus suffered. Because he suffered, you can have the forgiveness of sins. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The God of all knowledge, who foretold through the prophet Isaiah of what was to come; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: May I never forget the suffering that Jesus endured by taking my sin on himself; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Colossians 1

  • Hebrews 7:25-28 - Our Perfect Priest

    Be reminded of just how much you are loved. Hebrews 7:25-28 (NIV) 25 Therefore Christ is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. 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. Summary The book of Hebrews is a rich teaching of Jesus’ role as priest for the people of God. He was unlike any priest that had come before because he was holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. In other words: he was perfect. The priests of the Old Testament would have to offer sacrifices for their own sins before they could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people of God. Jesus was perfect, he was without sin, so no sin offering was needed on his behalf. The priests of the Old Testament would have to offer sacrifices day after day. Those sin offerings only accounted for the sins that had been committed, and would have to be repeated the next day. Jesus only needed to offer a sacrifice once. His offering was enough to cover the sins of the whole world, forever; though it is only guaranteed to those who confess Jesus as Lord. Dig Deeper Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins was not a bull or a lamb or doves. Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins was Himself. Let me write that again, because it is startling: Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins was Himself. A sacrifice had to be made to appease the Father’s wrath. The priests of the Old Testament would offer bulls on behalf of the people and themselves. They would do this day after day. Jesus offered himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. He poured out his blood. He died. All of this he did for the people of God. Jesus did it willingly. Do you know how much God loves you? He loves you so much that he sent his Son to die on the cross for your sins. Do you know how much God loves you? Jesus went to the cross knowing full well what he was going to endure, so that you could be saved from your sins. Jesus’ sacrifice was himself. It was enough to cover our sins completely. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Jesus, the Lamb of God ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: May I praise you for the sacrifice you made; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Philippians 4

  • Hebrews 5:1-10 - The Source of Salvation

    Take peace knowing that you're represented before God by Christ. Hebrews 5:1-10 (NIV) Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3 This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” 6 And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” 7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. 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. Summary In the Old Testament, the priests offered gifts and sacrifices for sins to God on behalf of the people of God. These men were called by God to serve in this office. It was not anything that any of them deserved or could work toward; they were called by God to the office of priest. God called these men to serve in this office on behalf of the people. The people could not make these sacrifices on their own. The people would bring a bull, lamb, goat, doves, or pigeons to the priest, who would take them to the altar and sacrifice them on behalf of the people. At times, the priests would have to bring their own sin offering, and sacrifice it because of their own sin. This was done to atone for the sin committed, and they would be forgiven (Lev 4:35). Dig Deeper The various offerings talked about at the beginning of the book of Leviticus were practiced on a regular basis by the people of God. They would bring the required animal(s) to the priest who would offer it to God on their behalf. Why don’t we do that anymore? We will spend time answering that question this week. The first piece of that answer is that we believe Jesus Christ is a high priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek. Jesus was appointed to this office by God, the Father. It is not something he sought out; he was sent by God to be the high priest we needed. Just like the Israelites could not offer sacrifices on their own behalf - they needed the priest to do it for them - you cannot do anything about your own sin. You cannot get rid of your own sin. It is impossible to wash off, make up for, or gotten rid of on your own. As the people of God, we need someone to make atonement for our sins. We need a high priest. God sent Jesus to be the high priest. Jesus was designated by God to be the high priest needed to offer the great sacrifice that would atone for our sins. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who called His Son to be our priest; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God that your sin has been atoned for by Christ; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Philippians 3

  • 1 Peter 2:21-25 - The 'So-That' Savior

    Jesus suffered so that you would be healed and follow in His steps. 1 Peter 2:21-25 (NIV) 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” a but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 20: The Justice and Mercy of God in Christ We believe that God— who is perfectly merciful and also very just— sent his Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death. So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life. Summary You were called to follow Jesus because He first suffered for you. Peter quotes the famous Messianic passage Isaiah 53 to once again reiterate that Jesus committed no sin nor spoke deceitfully. So often, our interpersonal relationships are based on the principle of lex talionis, that famous doctrine which we summarize by saying 'an eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth.' We treat people according to the way they've treated us. But Jesus was so different. There was no retaliation to the insults hurled at Him, no threats in response to the suffering inflicted on Him. Imagine how different our daily lives, political discourse and international diplomacy would be if we all acted like Jesus! But the external insults, threats and physical suffering Jesus endured was nothing compared to agony He endured bearing our sins. If it's true He didn't deserve the insults hurled at Him, the flogging He endured, or the nails driven into His hands and feet, how much more did He who "committed no sin" not deserve to have every single one of our sins cast upon Him! Peter quotes Isaiah one more time in declaring the purpose for Jesus bearing your sin: "By His wounds you have been healed." In other words, Peter writes, because Christ paid for your sins, you've been returned to the Shepherd who left the flock to come looking for you. Dig Deeper Yesterday we learned about ἵνα (hina) clauses, which are most often translated with the English words "so that," and how you should circle them each time you see one in your Bible. They give practical application to the doctrines the Bible calls us to believe. There are two hina clauses in today's passage, with the first one in the opening verse. "Christ suffered for you, leaving you and example, so that you should follow in His steps." What Peter is saying here is that knowing that Christ went through so much to gain your salvation must elicit more than just an emotional response. You must follow Him, and live as He lived. The second hina clause takes things a step further: not just must you live as Jesus lived, you must die as well! Peter writes, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” Certainly this doesn't mean that you must be flogged and nailed to a cross, but rather that each day you must 'put to death' (to use Paul's language) the sin you're so attracted to. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you'll follow in Jesus' steps, and die to sin and live for righteousness; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Philippians 2

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 - Creative Salvation

    The Bible doesn't just tell us what God did, it tells us why He did it. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 20: The Justice and Mercy of God in Christ We believe that God— who is perfectly merciful and also very just— sent his Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death. So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life. Summary When we think of the creative aspect of God, we properly think of the wonderful and amazing phenomenon He's created throughout the universe, like magnificent mountains, beautiful lakes, and even mysterious galaxies far, far away. But our short passage today begins with a surprising addition to what God has created: "God made Him who had no sin to be sin..." Certainly the efforts and work of Jesus Himself was a critically necessary component of your salvation, but little clues like today's - that God made - helps remind that salvation required the participation of all three persons in the Trinity! Today's verse also reveals that which makes Jesus different than any other human being born after Adam: Jesus "had no sin." The ESV translates that phrase more literally: Jesus "knew no sin." This doesn't mean Jesus was ignorant of the concept of sin, but rather that He had never personally experienced it, until God made Him the very face of sin so that Jesus could experience God's justice and you could experience His mercy. We often reflect on how difficult it must have been for Jesus to be forsaken by His Father as He hung suffering on the cross. But with today's verse in mind we can expand upon that thought: what must it have been like for God the Father to take His one and only Son, and make Him into the one thing He hates and cannot tolerate, to the extent that He ultimately had to forsake Him? This is a picture of God's love, justice and mercy at work. Dig Deeper They're called ἵνα (hina) clauses, and you should circle them each time you see one in your Bible. They most often are introduced with the English words so that. They go on to explain the reasons and rationale as to why something happened. In other words, God doesn't just tell us what He did, He often tells us why He did it. Today's passage informs us that God made Christ to be sin for us. If that's all it told us, certainly we'd still be grateful for it. But as is so often the case, the Bible goes on to explain not just the what, but also why God did this: SO THAT in Him we might become (be made into) the righteousness of God. We just read yesterday that the one thing you need more than anything else - the holy grail, so to speak - is perfect righteousness. This is the requirement God has set for you in order to fulfill the covenant that He's placed you in. In order to enjoy the covenant's reward (eternal life), you must return the covenant's obligation: perfect righteousness. This is why our all-powerful creator God made His Son, who had no sin, to be sin; SO THAT you might become the perfect righteousness of God you need to fulfill the covenant and enjoy its eternal blessings. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who created all things, and made His only beloved Son into sin on our behalf; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you'll live in such a way that demonstrates the righteousness of God you've become; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Philippians 1

  • Romans 3:21-26 - The 'Holy Grail'

    You need one thing more than anything else. Find it here. Romans 3:21-26 (NIV) 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 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. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 20: The Justice and Mercy of God in Christ We believe that God— who is perfectly merciful and also very just— sent his Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death. So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life. Summary It would be tough to count how many sacrifices are presented to God throughout the course of the Bible. There are at least twenty specific sacrifices mentioned, starting with Cain & Abel's in the garden, and including ones from other key characters in the Bible, such as Abraham, Moses and David. I'll admit I thought that number would be higher, but when coupled with the nearly constant flow of sacrificial blood in the temple, the number skyrockets. But here in Romans 3, we read of a much different sacrifice. This is the sacrifice God presented, which was a sacrifice of atonement - a word that quite simply means payment. So in a very real sense, God presented this sacrifice to Himself; He paid Himself the debt that your sins accrued. The daily sacrifices in the Tabernacle and Temple were extremely bloody affairs. But they had to be, since they symbolized the payment for sins. As Hebrews 9:22 puts it, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. God had made clear in His original covenant with Adam (who represented you) that death would result from sin, and since blood represents life, all of those Old Testament sacrifices involved gallons of blood being poured out each day. But Hebrews goes on to report that "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb. 10:4)." God needed to shed blood in the sacrifice He presented, but it had to be something more substantial than a beast. And so "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood." Dig Deeper The Holy Grail - supposedly the cup Jesus used during the Last Supper - has been the quest for intrepid explorers and imaginative screenwriters for centuries. If only a person could find that cup and drink from it, he would become immortal. Or so the legend goes. But you don't need a cup. What you need, more than anything else in all of creation, is perfect righteousness. This is what God demands in His covenant with us, and this will be the very first thing He asks of you as you stand before Him: Do you have the perfect righteousness required to attain eternal life? Since you don't have this required righteousness on your own, v21 ought to really grab your attention: "The righteousness of God" - the one thing you need so badly - "has been made known." This righteousness, which has infinitely more power than a lousy cup, is not something that you need to seek or fight battles to attain. Rather, "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." You likely have all sorts of problems and worries that you've set aside for just a few minutes as you read God's Word, and those problems will be right where you left them when your finished. But take a moment to give thanks that you've attained the Holy Grail - that is, the perfect righteousness of God that gives you the right to eternal life. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who demonstrated His justice against His Son so that He could demonstrate His mercy to you; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that as you return to the problems and worries of life, you'll remember that you have attained by faith the most valuable thing possible: eternal life in Christ Jesus. ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Ephesians 6

  • Isaiah 53:1-6 - For You

    Jesus became like us so that you could be like Him. Isaiah 53:1-6 (NIV) Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 20: The Justice and Mercy of God in Christ We believe that God— who is perfectly merciful and also very just— sent his Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death. So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life. Summary We often properly acknowledge that God reveals Himself - His control, authority and presence - through nature. The 19th Psalm tells us that "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." But creation, as grand as it is, only begins to scratch the surface of God's identity. If you truly want to witness "the [powerful] arm of the LORD," you need to look to Christ, who is prophesied of here in this famous passage from Isaiah. Isaiah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, describes the two parties of the Covenant: the LORD and man, and also the mediator who brought us peace (v5). Isaiah uses harsh language in reporting the LORD's actions: He punishes, strikes and afflicts. This isn't just because He's mean or vindictive, but because these are things that a good and holy God MUST do in response to wickedness and sin. But that's exactly what we bring to the table: transgressions and iniquities. Isaiah describes us as sheep who've wandered off, with each of us going our own way. The pain and suffering we experience is of our own doing (although there's usually not a 1:1 ratio of pain & suffering compared to a person's sin. Some people sin greatly, but don't seem to endure much pain, and others sin comparatively little but suffer immensely). Isaiah here gets at the very heart of the gospel hundreds of years before the Messiah would actually come in the flesh, speaking in the past tense, as if Christ's work was already accomplished. He took up our pain and bore our suffering; He was pierced for our transgressions, because the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Dig Deeper Clearly Isaiah 53 as a whole is all about the person and work of the Messiah, Jesus. But in these three verses we've keyed in on today, the focus is all on us: He took up our pain and our suffering; We considered him punished by God; He was pierced and crushed for our transgressions and iniquities; The punishment that was on him brought us peace and by his wounds we are healed; We all have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. As you're reminded of your part in this grand drama, is there anything that you're proud of? Is there anything in that list that's worthy of God's love and salvation? Yet Christ became like us so that we might become like Him. Often times when we pray it quickly turns into a gripe session or a quick listing of all our particular needs at the moment for God to fulfill. But let Isaiah remind you that in order for you to experience the overflowing mercy of God, it was necessary for Jesus "to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death." AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who is perfectly merciful and also very just— ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray for the humility required to truly enjoy the peace that Jesus earned for us; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Ephesians 5

  • Psalm 5:1-7 - The Loving God Who Hates

    Push back on your tendency to make God something He's not. Psalm 5:1–7 (NIV) For the director of music. For pipes. A psalm of David. 1 Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. 2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. 3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. 4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. 5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; 6 you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest. 7 But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 20: The Justice and Mercy of God in Christ We believe that God— who is perfectly merciful and also very just— sent his Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death. So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life. Summary David throws our Triple-A prayer pattern right out the window. We follow the pattern set by Jesus when He teaches how to pray through what's come to be known as the Lord's Prayer. He begins by Acknowledging who God is: Our Father, in heaven, who is holy. Next He Aligns our lives with God's will: May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and lead us not into temptation. It's not until these first two steps have oriented the person praying towards God that he can Ask for what he needs. But this model isn't set in stone. So many Biblical prayers follow it, but not all of them. David here begins his prayer with a demand: Listen to my words & consider my lament! What an insight we're given here on the relationship you have with your Father, that you can boldly approach His throne of grace without even knocking on the door, so to speak! Yet one thing your prayers - and not just our prayers, but every aspect of your life - must have is a respect for the tension that defines God's character. Tension here doesn't mean that God exists in stress, but rather that there are aspects of Him that seem mutually exclusive to us. David does go on to Acknowledge who God is in this prayer: God hates all who do wrong, and with Him, evil people are not welcome (v4-5). But paradoxically, David, like us, can come into God's house by His great love (his ḥěʹ·sěḏ = covenant faithfulness). That's a tremendous example of the tension present in God's character: the God who hates evil is the same God who defines love! (Also, for the record, David goes on in Psalm 5 to Align his life with God's will in a big way as well. So technically Psalm 5 is a AAA prayer!) Dig Deeper Maybe you thought you clicked on the wrong post as you read the portion of our Confession today, because it seems really familiar. That's because we keep reading the very same words as we work through our Confession: God is both merciful and just at the same time. It's interesting to see that even 463 years ago when the Belgic Confession was written, this concept of God's simultaneous mercy and justice needed to be repeated often. The more things change, the more they stay the same! Our human nature wants to understand God as being one way or the other: either merciful or just, but not both. Some people view God as nothing but a wrath filled ogre, who delights in smiting sinners just like it says in v6: God "destroys those who tell lies." Other people want to cling only to God's mercy, thinking that somehow the mean and vengeful God of justice we read about in the Old Testament has been replaced with the kind and forgiving Father we meet in the New Testament who doesn't seem to get too riled up about our sin. So you can see that it's so critically important for you to hold on tightly to God's paradoxical nature - He is both just and merciful - that along with the rest of the Reformed church, you need lots of regular reminders. As we'll see for the remainder of this week, the reason God can be both is because justice has been met in Christ so that He can pour His mercy out on you. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who hates those who do wrong but shows ḥěʹ·sěḏ love to His people. ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will live in a way that's metaphorically bowed down in reverence towards God's holy temple (v7); ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Ephesians 4

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