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Grace

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Jesus teaches
Image source: LumoProject

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus highlight the importance of knowing and being known by Jesus. (John 10:14-16; John 10:25-29) In fact, in light of eternity, knowing Him is the most important thing for you to do.

I’m not talking about going to church. I’m not talking about praying a prayer. I’m not talking about being baptized. I’m not talking about any of those things. I’m simply asking if you know Jesus.

And when I ask the question, the first response is probably, “Which Jesus?” The religions and cults have their opinions of Jesus. And all of them distort the Jesus as the Bible presents Him. So they don’t know Jesus. Many Church-goers don’t even know Jesus as the Bible presents Him.

Perhaps you believe in Jesus. But how do you know if you have the right one? Johanna Michaelson said she believed in Jesus; he was her occult spirit guide. But obviously, her Jesus wasn’t the Jesus of the Bible.

As I pointed out a couple of days ago, the Jesus of the Bible isn’t a “feel-good” Jesus, a peaceful Jesus, a grace-only Jesus. No, those pictures of Jesus are incomplete distortions of the Jesus as presented in the Bible. The Bible also presents a divisive Jesus, a righteous Jesus, a Jesus Who doesn’t want you to stay the same way as you are when you first come to Him. He is a transforming Jesus.

Application

When you think of Jesus, are all of your thoughts positive, feel-good thoughts? Or does He make you feel a little uncomfortable?

When you cross over to the other side of eternity, the only question you’ll be asked is, “What did you do with Jesus?” Did you ignore Him? Did you give all of who you are to Him and His work? (Matthew 6:33) Did you think you knew Him? Or did you really know Him?

Having the right Jesus is paramount! Don’t settle for substitutes!

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Image source: LumoProject

Today’s Bible reading includes a familiar passage where a woman is brought to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery. (John 8:4) Jesus tells the Jewish leaders to go ahead and stone her, with the condition that the first one to throw the first rock must be completely innocent. The accusers walk away, and Jesus tells her that He doesn’t condemn her. End of story. Right?

There are several things I need to highlight here. Yes, the Jewish Law prescribed death by stoning for those guilty of adultery. (Leviticus 20:10) Note that the death penalty was for both of the partners committing adultery. Where was her partner? Did they let the man go? And what were these Jewish leaders doing when the act was being committed? Where were they? How did they know?

Second, her accusers left her alone with Jesus Who tells her that He didn’t condemn her. But He didn’t just leave it there. He says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8:11 (CSB)

In telling her He doesn’t condemn her and letting her go, Jesus never condones the woman’s sin. Never. Instead, He uses the situation as a teachable moment for the woman. And for us. Instead of sentencing the woman to death and participating in her execution (as He was obligated to do under the Law), Jesus extends grace and mercy, demonstrating that there is more to dealing with sin than serving as judge, jury, and executioner. God offers a clean slate and an opportunity to start over.

Application

None of us is the judge, jury, and executioner. As Believers and representers of Jesus Christ, we are to help bring about restoration to the brokenhearted. Restoration and rehabilitation is a big deal in the Kingdom of God. But a big problem with bringing restoration and rehabilitation is that as long as the person hasn’t dealt with their sin, there can be no restoration. There can be no rehabilitation.

Look at how Jesus dealt with the self-righteous religious leaders. Look at how Paul dealt with self-righteousness individuals in the early chapters of Romans. Neither Jesus nor Paul swept sin under the rug. Both men dealt with sin head-on. And when the people recognized their sin, both men were there with an extended hand to help the repentant sinner to “go and sin no more.”

All of us are guilty of sin. I don’t know what sins you are guilty of. The reason we sin is because we’re sinners. But have you dealt with your sin condition? Have you taken the First Step (admit that you have a problem)?

God offers peace with Himself, forgiveness, and restoration as we deal with our sin, and not a moment sooner. That’s the very purpose of the Law: to expose our sin and our hopeless condition. But we don’t get to experience the Good News until we’ve dealt with the Bad News.

Don’t cheapen grace! Deal with sin as soon as God reveals it to you. Then, repent of your sin and trust Him to empower you to “go and sin no more.”

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Sometimes you come across something in the Bible that you don’t like. Something that doesn’t sound right. Something that doesn’t seem to go with how you always heard it in church. Such is the case with today’s Bible reading.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 (CSB)

He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” John 6:65 (CSB)

Many of us who grew up in church find it not just a little strange that Jesus would say — not once, but twice — that not just anyone can come to God. Does that mean that God will turn away people who sincerely want to come to Him? In other words, can someone come to Jesus on their own initiative?

I don’t have the space here to fully answering these questions. Some theologians have dedicated books to answering them. All I have is what Jesus says: only those who have been invited may come. Add to that what Paul says in Romans 3:10–12 and what Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 17:9 and I think it’s clear that no one is capable of sincerely coming to God on their own initiative. And even if they could, they wouldn’t.

Now, Jesus doesn’t say just that only those who are invited may come. But He adds that all those who are invited will come (John 6:37a) and all of those who respond to the invitation can never be turned away. (John 6:37b) And for Jesus to lose a any of those who were invited would be for Him to not do His Father’s will. (John 6:39)

Those are tremendous truths! Think about that!

If a child of God could lose his/her salvation,
it would mean that Jesus failed to do God’s will!

Application

In other words, the security of your salvation isn’t your responsibility! It’s Jesus’ responsibility! Now, that isn’t to say that you can come to Jesus and kick back and never do anything else.

No, if you truly come to Him, you will continue to come to Him and grow closer to Him. But the responsibility for maintaining the relationship is His. And Jesus will always hold to His responsibilities!

So when you come across something in the Bible that you don’t like, something that doesn’t sound right, something that doesn’t go along with what you’ve always heard in church, it might just be that God wants to show you something about His character you’ve never seen before. And it might just be an opportunity for worship.

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blindfolded

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus tells the Jewish leaders their eternal life is in their Scriptures, yet aren’t humble enough to come to Him, the One the Scriptures point to. (John 5:39-40) He points out that in their search for Truth, they ignore the One Who embodies it. They bury their faces in their scrolls looking for God. He stands right in the midst of them, and they completely miss the Truth by “that much”. Their preconceived conceptions of what God is supposed to be like doesn’t fit with what they hear Jesus saying and doing.

If your Bible has a list of crossreferences, glance through the Gospels. Look at how many references there are to the Old Testament Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, especially the Psalms. Over and over again, we see pages of Scripture pouring out of Jesus’ mouth. When you turn to the letters of Paul and the other Apostles, they are constantly quoting or alluding to Old Testament passages. Why? Because these men knew their Bible (which was the Old Testament). They saw Jesus as the fulfillment of every part of their Bible. Every page of their Bible pointed to Jesus. So why didn’t the Jewish leaders see Jesus in their Bible like the Apostles did? They were blind to the spiritual realities. (2 Corinthians 3:14–15)

Like in yesterday’s devotional and elsewhere this year, there is a tremendous theological truth at play called the Sovereignty of God. God is Sovereign. In other words, He is in control. Of everything. Nothing that happens catches Him off guard. And He is never surprised.

And when it comes to seeing God and hearing His voice in Scripture, unless God moves in a miraculous way, no one will find God, regardless of how much they search and where they search. Colleges, universities — and seminaries — are filled with men and women like the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day who know their Bible. They study the original languages, archaeology, and history searching for answers. Yet, they have more questions that they have answers. Now, that can be a good thing. But when you refuse to come to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, you miss it — you miss everything — by that much.

Application

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. God knew how fallen we are. He knew that our hearts are radically corrupt. (Jeremiah 17:9) He knew that if we could seek Him, we wouldn’t. (Psalm 14:1-3) He knew that if we were to know Him at all, He would have to make a way. And He did in Jesus Christ.

That any of us would believe is a testament to the amazing grace and mercy of a relational, self-disclosing, self-revealing God.

If you know Him, it is only because you responded to His invitation. And that you were invited is a testament to the amazing grace and mercy of a relational, self-disclosing, self-revealing God.

Spend a few minutes thanking Him for making Himself known in His Word. Read it. Cherish it. Share it with others.

And ask God to give them eyes to see, too.

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source: Moody Publishers / FreeBibleimages.org

With today’s Bible reading, we begin reading Peter’s First Letter. Peter wrote his letter to Believers who were being persecuted for their faith. Like most other letters from the Apostles to the churches, Peter begins his with the standard greeting, “Grace to you”. But he does it a little differently than every other Apostle writes his greetings.

“Grace to you” was a typical greeting you would receive from a Greek friend in the First Century, regardless of whether or not your friend was a fellow Believer. It would sound like a “Howdy!” you’d hear on a Texas ranch today. But for Peter, grace was more than a “Howdy”. It was so much more!

Peter gets grace. He understands it intimately and wants everybody to get in on the grace that Jesus offers. In fact, he uses the word ten times in this letter, three of which appear in this first chapter!

Remember, Peter promised Jesus he would never deny Jesus (Matthew 26:35), yet in just a few hours, he denied knowing Jesus three times. He even called down curses on himself in his denial of knowing Jesus. A modern rendering of Matthew 26:74 might be, “I swear to God I don’t know the man.” Immediately, Peter heard a rooster’s crow, signaling a new day had begun.

Several days later, after Jesus’ Resurrection, when Peter saw Jesus for the first time, Jesus asked him three times if Peter loved Him. Three times: one “Do you love me?” question for each time he had denied knowing Jesus. (John 21:15–17)

Peter begins both of his letters the same way, and very differently than do Paul and James. It isn’t just “Grace to you!”, “Howdy!” It’s, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2)

It’s significant that Peter would begin his letters writing to persecuted believers who were “living as exiles”. (1 Peter 1:1 CSB) Peter’s “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” is very similar to the greeting King Nebuchadnezzar used in his proclamation (Daniel 4:1) after witnessing God’s miraculous protection of three devout Babylonian exiles. Just before Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation, he says, “I issue a decree that anyone of any people, nation, or language who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this. (Daniel 3:29)

The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar witnessed first-hand that God protects His people in their persecution. He observed not only the three young exiles in the “fiery furnace”, but a fourth who looked “like a son of the gods”. (Daniel 3:25)

Application

Peter subtly reminds his persecuted readers of another time — several hundred years earlier — when other persecuted Believers were dramatically and miraculously protected and delivered in their persecution.

Peter’s obvious implication is that, if God can deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from a blazing furnace, He can do that and even more for his readers. Those young men didn’t know if God would deliver the way they expected (Daniel 3:16–18), but they knew that God is enough.

And the obvious application for you is that regardless of your situation, whether it’s religious persecution or just hard times, God is enough. God will deliver you. Not just God can deliver you, but God will deliver you.

God may not deliver you the way you expect, but just like with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God is in control.

Whatever grace you need,
whatever peace you need,
may God’s grace and peace be multiplied to you.

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1 2 3 15

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