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Assurance

Adoption is a beautiful thing!
Adoption is a beautiful thing!

While Romans is one of my favorite books of the Bible, today’s Bible reading is from my favorite chapter of Romans. Paul has built his argument for the gospel through the first seven chapters of this book. And today’s reading is the climax of the message.

One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He was betrayed was:

“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. John 15:12–15 (CSB)

This is a radical shift in the relationship between the Son of God and His disciples. Jesus says that God not only tolerates us as servants, but He even likes us as friends!

And in Romans 8, Paul says the relationship between Himself and His people gets even better! What God does, He does very well! Exceedingly well — and so much better than we could ever imagine! He so deeply wants His covenant with His people restored that He takes them from being servants to friends to adopted children and His heirs! (Romans 8:15)

I don’t know how familiar you may be with US Adoption Laws, but I have several friends who have adopted children, both domestically and internationally. US Adoption Laws are based on biblical adoption as well as Roman adoption customs. When the first of my friends and his wife adopted their daughter (pictured above), I learned that adoptive parents have more of a legal obligation to their adopted child than biological parents have with their own biological children. My friends had to swear to a judge in court that they would be good parents to their daughter. I never had to do that for my biological children! I also learned that an adopted child can never be un-adopted. An adopted child cannot be disinherited. Cannot!

What was good news from Jesus’ lips has been made even better from Paul’s pen! The gospel message isn’t just that believers are friends of God. No, we are adopted children who can never be disinherited. God put His Holy Spirit in us and by Him, we are able to cry out “Abba Father”. Not a formal “Heavenly Father”, but a child’s terms of endearment, “Papa” and “Daddy”.

Application

If you are a believer, you have been forever adopted into God’s family. You can never be un-adopted. As an adopted child, you are an heir of God and a co-heir with Jesus. You cannot be disinherited!

If you have ever wondered if you can lose your salvation, just come back to Romans 8. You are not condemned. You have been adopted. God placed His Holy Spirit in you, Who tells you that you are indeed God’s child. To lose your salvation would be to lose your identity as God’s child. The security of your salvation doesn’t depend on what you do or don’t do. Your eternal security depends on your Papa! Your Daddy loves you and He will never let go of you.

You are secure in His love!

This devotional was originally published May 24, 2019.

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nuclear_explosion

I will probably upset someone with this devotional based on today’s Bible reading. It’s because I don’t share the most popular view of eschatology. As a result, I see this passage very differently than many people. But we need to seek to understand and apply the Bible according to the Bible and not according to popular theology and popular Bible teachers. The majority can sometimes be wrong.

I recently got into a text discussion with a friend over this very topic, eschatology, the study of the End Times. It’s the only view that many Christians have ever been exposed to. The popular view of today’s passage looks to the future for the fulfillment of Jesus’ words, often with an America-centric slant. The popular view sees all of this passage as being in the future. But is this Jesus’ focus?

If you read Matthew 24, Jesus appears to deliver the entire chapter in one speech. In other words, look at the passage as a whole to seek to understand what Jesus is saying. He begins with a prophecy that the Temple will be destroyed. Next, He describes signs of the end of the age. The next three sections in the chapter deal with Jesus’ Second Coming, concluding with a strong statement that no one will know the day or the hour.

Obviously, the destruction of the Temple isn’t in the future; it happened in AD 70 with the fall of Jerusalem. But the rest from Matthew 24:3 could have happened in the past, are now happening, or will happen in the future. Is Jesus giving us a step-by-step description to guide our worldview? Or is He simply giving us a “watch for these signs and be alert” warning?

I believe He’s giving us a warning to watch and be alert rather than a timetable. The central application point is Matthew 24:12-14.

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:12–14 (ESV)

Application

Jesus couldn’t be more clear that the timing of His return is unknowable. So why do so many seem to be obsessed with when He will return? Shouldn’t we instead be faithful with proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom (v. 14) and stay alert (v. 42, 44, 46), faithfully loving and serving Him?

If you tend to focus on the timing, step back a bit and look at the passage as a whole. Look at the book of Revelation as a whole. You’ll find that our call is to make sure we’ve been saved (had a conversion experience) and that we will be saved in the end (ultimate salvation for those who endure and not fall away) as well as to bring as many to heaven as we can.

Make sure that your love for Him and His people doesn’t grow cold. (Matthew 24:12) Be faithful today. Be obedient today. Be watching today. Get to know and love God better today. Live to God’s glory today. Sure, watch for the signs. But concentrate on growing deeper in your relationship with Him today.

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pruning a rose bush
Spring pruning roses in the garden

Reading the Bible can sometimes be a little unpleasant. If in your Bible reading, you are always comforted, always affirmed in your relationship with God and never feel a sense of conviction of sin, you should ask if you are truly saved.

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus points out some things about divorce and remarriage, as well as money. His words are uncomfortable because His words are not accepted by many, even those who claim to follow Jesus.

I am surprised at how quickly Christians turn to divorce and how quickly remarry someone else. It’s as if they forget that it’s better to not make a vow and not fulfill it. (Ecclesiastes 5:5) Christians seek a church wedding — for the marriage to be blessed by God — and so quickly renege on the vows they made to their spouse and to God. It isn’t right (according to Jesus). He allows (though doesn’t require) divorce in very limited circumstances. And yet, they idolize their own happiness instead of seeking the eternal pleasures that are at God’s right hand. (Psalm 16:11)

Finally in Matthew 19, He addresses a man who self-righteously asks Jesus about obtaining eternal life. When Jesus points him to the Law, the man claims to be blameless. And then, Jesus pokes him in the idols. He tells him to sell everything he has and give the proceeds to the poor. Matthew tells us that the young man went away sad because he had a lot of possessions. I would rephrase that to say that a lot of possessions had him. There’s nothing wrong with having money. God blesses many people with more money than they need to survive. And with these blessings, God expects those blessings to be passed on to others. (Luke 12:48)

Application

Reformer John Calvin said that our hearts are idol factories. I cannot refute that statement. It is so true! I need no help from the world or the devil to come up with all kinds of things to distract me from living wholeheartedly for the glory of the Lover of my Soul.

As I began this devotional, I said that if in your Bible reading, you are always comforted, always affirmed in your relationship with God and never feel a sense of conviction of sin, you should ask if you are truly saved. I meant that. Either you’re only reading comfortable parts of the Bible, or you are merely letting your eyes skim the ink on the page.

As you read, ask God to show you those areas where your behavior, attitudes, and beliefs don’t line up with His Word. (Psalm 139:23–24) And be prepared for Him to answer that prayer. The Holy Spirit will let empower you to make changes in your beliefs, attitudes, and behavior.

Notice that behavior is only part of what needs to be changed as we grow in our relationship with God. Our idols live in our beliefs and attitudes and they express themselves in our behavior. Behavior that doesn’t line up with God’s revealed will in the Bible is fruit. It’s the leaves and branches that we tend to focus on, thinking that if we can just control them, we can have a good relationship with Him. But pruning leaves and branches actually work to bring out more of what you’re attempting to cut off. It’s true of pruning your rose bushes and it’s true of attempting to prune your behavior to enhance your walk with God.

God completely loves you with an everlasting love. He completely accepts you as you are when you come to Him. But He loves you too deeply to let you continue living with your idols.

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Judgment Day portrayed in stained glass

Jesus tells a series of parables in today’s Bible reading. Each is different, yet all have a common theme: judgment.

Judgment isn’t something we like to talk about. It isn’t very kind, is it? It isn’t very nice. It’s kind of … well, judgey and we aren’t supposed to judge, right? (Matthew 7:1)

But these parables aren’t about our judging, but rather God’s judgment. And God being our Creator, He gets to call the shots. He’s the judge. And He always judges with righteousness without playing favorites. From today’s Bible reading, Jesus continually drives home the point that a time is coming when God will judge everyone. Every. One. Including Believers. We will all face the judgment of a Holy and Righteous Judge.

Application

So when that Day comes, what will you do? What will you say? If you aren’t a Believer, it won’t matter what you say. You have chosen to reject God’s offer of salvation based on Jesus’ sacrifice on a cross. And God’s offer will expire. You will not get a second chance.

But, if you are a Believer, what will you do? What will you say? You have chosen to accept God’s offer of salvation based on Jesus’ sacrifice on a cross.

In either case — Believer or not — you won’t get extra time to get better. You won’t have an opportunity to work off some sins in order to gain a higher place or earn a few more jewels for your crown. (Hebrews 9:27)

No one knows when the harvesters will come for them. But when the angels come to separate the wheat from the weeds, their separating judgment is final. And when you stand before God’s judgment seat, the only question will be, “What did you do with Jesus?” Nothing else will matter. It won’t matter how good or bad you behaved. It won’t matter how much money you gave to support God’s work. It won’t matter how many people you bring into heaven with you. It won’t matter how kind you were.

All that will matter is what you did with Jesus.
You either have faith in Him or you don’t.

So what have you done with Jesus? Have you sought to follow Him? Have you made Him the Lord of your life, working diligently to kill indwelling sin in your life? (Luke 9:23) Have you treasured Him above all else in your life?

If you can’t answer yes to these questions, please reach out to me. I’d love to tell you more about a life-transforming life of following Jesus every single day.

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Woman carrying a wooden yoke

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus offers comfort to those who would follow Him.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30 ESV)

Application

Note that Jesus never promised to do away with all of the burdens of His followers. In fact, He offers to exchange burdens with them. But they still carry responsibilities. Following Jesus doesn’t mean that we have no cares. It means He carries our cares and gives us rest as we take His yoke upon us.

Regarding the word “easy” Jesus uses, Greek Scholars, Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida say, “pertaining to that which is pleasant or easy, with the implication of suitability…. In a number of languages it is necessary to translate [easy] by a negativized equivalent, for example, ‘it is not difficult to bear.”[1] Jesus makes us suitable to carry His yoke. And the Bible is one of the key components. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Regarding Jesus’ word “light”, the scholars say, “pertaining to that which is easy to bear or endure—‘light, easy.’ … If ‘burden’ in Mt 11:30 is understood figuratively, [light] can generally also be understood in a figurative sense.[2]

The implication is that those who follow Jesus have burdens and yokes. Nowhere does Jesus promise that if you follow Him, you will have no concerns. No, He promises that we will continue to face obstacles. And I have said many times that a call to follow Jesus is a call to come and die.

No, we have responsibilities. We have things we have to do if we are to follow Jesus. But He assures us that He is there to shoulder those responsibilities with us. He is there.

And that is a very comforting promise from our Lord!

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 246. Print.
[2] ibid.

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