How do you respond when someone says, “I have good news and I have bad news”? Several times in today’s Bible reading, Jesus does just that.
He talks about the Last Days and His return. In the way He describes things, it would be very easy to be anxious. But that’s not why He tells His Disciples about the end times. Instead, He gives them this information so they would be encouraged. As they see things happen in the future, instead of being anxious, they should be encouraged, knowing that the end and Jesus’ return is coming soon.
Note: The “End Times” isn’t something that will happen sometime in the future only. When Bible teachers talk about “the End Times”, they’re talking about the time that began when Jesus arrived preaching His good news. In other words, we are in the “End Times” now. Yes, we are closer to the end than when the church was birthed in Acts 2, but we have been in the “End Times” for almost two thousand years. We are in an overlap of this Present Age and the Age to Come. A time of “already, but not yet”. Some of the things Jesus prophesied have already been fulfilled, such as the fall of Jerusalem that occurred in AD 70 and prophesied in today’s reading. (Mark 13:2) But Jesus hasn’t yet returned in all of His glory to take His bride — Believers — to her eternal home with Him. 26-27)
Are you ready for Jesus’ return? What does it mean to be ready? It means to live with an expectancy that Jesus will come soon. It means to live an obedient life, telling other people how they, too can have an eternal hope.
Several times in the Gospels, Jesus tells His Disciples — and us — that we should always be ready because no one knows when He will return. Even He doesn’t know when His Father tells Him to bring His children home. If you’re one of His children, He will come for you, so you want to make sure that you’re always ready.
As we continue reading through the Gospels and Revelation during this year, it’s important to see Jesus’ warnings as both good news and bad news.
Spend some time today thanking God that He has a plan to bring His chidren home to live with Him for eternity.
“Which is the most important commandment?” a young man asks Jesus in today’s Bible reading. (Mark 12:28)
At the time, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had taken the original six hundred, thirteen Laws of Moses — which included the Ten Commandments — and added thousands of additional laws in the Midrash, a commentary on the Mosaic Law. The main idea behind adding the other laws was to “build a fence around the Law” to ensure that no one broke the laws of Moses.
For instance, the Fourth Commandment concerns resting on the Sabbath Day. (Exodus 20:8–11) The rabbis took that one commandment and added thirty-nine categories of qualifications to it. They defined how many steps you could take before you began to “travel”, thus violating the command to “rest” on the Sabbath.
But instead of helping the people to love, worship and obey God, the additional commandments built a bigger stumbling block that kept people from coming to God at all. The focus became on obeying the Law, not having a relationship with God. And that wasn’t good.
So when the young man asked Jesus which was the most important commandment, he wasn’t asking which of the “Big Ten” was the most important. He wasn’t asking which of the six hundred, thirteen was the most important. He was asking which of the thousands of laws was the most important.
And Jesus told Him which was the most important. In fact, the most important commandment is what the rest of the Law is based on. If you can master this one most important commandment, you won’t have to worry about any of the others. The problem is, no one has been able to master this one: Love God with everything you are. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Here and elsewhere, I have referred to Christian Hedonism. It’s a term coined by John Piper, which he expanded in his first book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Given that hedonists are pleasure-seekers, Christian Hedonists recognize that the highest source of pleasure can only be found in a relationship with God. And seeking the highest pleasure in a relationship with God brings the most glory to God.
CS Lewis rightly pointed out that our problem isn’t that we seek pleasure/satisfaction. Our problem is that we are far too easily satisfied. We settle for fleshly pleasures found in relationships with people, experiences, and things. But ultimate satisfaction can only be found in a relationship with God.
Do you pursue a love relationship with God? First of all, do you even have a relationship with God? Do you pursue Him with all that you are? Your heart? Your soul? Your strength?
Spend a few minutes today asking God to show you that your ultimate satisfaction is found in Him. Spend time in His Word. Spend time in prayer. Ask Him to satisfy you with all that He has for you in Jesus Christ.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus says, “And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17 (ESV)
Does that mean that Jesus only came for the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other First Century Religious leaders? After all, they were the most righeous. Right? Uh, no.
Ask anyone who has ever been through a recovery program what is the first step. They will tell you that the first step to recovery — the first step to wellness — is to admit you have a problem. The first step to being healed spiritually is admitting you have a problem. We all have a problem. It’s the same problem. It’s the sin problem.
Adam and Eve’s decision to choose their independence from God in Genesis 3 affected all of us to the very core of who we are. It twisted their DNA and altered every human being who would ever come after them. And like an alcoholic, each of us chooses to participate in sin. When we do, we become addicted to it.
The only way we will gain victory over sin and live a life that pleases God — and gives us ultimate satisfaction — is to admit we have a problem. Admitting that we have a problem begins a life of repentance, turning from our life of self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency (and self-deceit!) and turning to Jesus, accepting His death as our atoning sacrifice for our sin. The result is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A relationship that will grow in time as we continue to walk out our life in constant repentance and reliance on God’s Holy Spirit to live a godly life.
If you have never turned from sin and to Jesus, please do it today. If you’d like help with that, give me a shout!
God inspired — literally breathed out — His Word so that we could be equipped to obey Him in our day-to-day lives. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) If we don’t regularly spend time in His Word, we starve our souls. Our spiritual malnutrition will result in not being adequately equipped and not having a sharp weapon for encountering the Spiritual Warfare that we will face.
This Bible Reading Plan I’m using was developed by the Navigators. Each day (five days a week), we’ll read an assigned chapter in the New Testament. The chapters are in order through a book in the Bible, but the books are not in the book order in the New Testament. In other words, we won’t start in Matthew and read straight through Revelation.
You can follow along by printing a copy of the reading plan or use the YouVersion Bible App. Just download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Other versions of the app are available, including the Web. Create a free account and search for Discipleship Journal’s 5x5x5 Reading Plan. Once you’ve subscribed, the app will track your readings. Depending on the translation you use, the App can even read out loud that day’s chapter. If you ever get behind, you can easily catch up. Given the fact that there are only five readings each week, it won’t be difficult to stay within a day or so if you just put in a little effort.
The best way to get my devotionals is to subscribe to my newsletter. Each morning we have a scheduled reading, you’ll receive an email with that day’s devotional. The easiest way to subscribe is to enter your email address below. Check your email and confirm that you want to subscribe.
Please invite your friends, family, and church to follow along as we go through the New Testament, gaining a 2020 vision for our lives and encountering God in His Word. My prayer is that as we dig into God’s Word, we’ll be transformed to be more like Jesus as we grow in a love relationship with Him.
In today’s Bible reading, John records the fall of Babylon the Great. I won’t go into the theories of what Babylon the Great is. But I will point out the command from God for His people: Come out and don’t participate in the sin of the world. (Revelation 18:4-5) While the rest of the world grieves the fall of Babylon, God’s people are to expose Babylon’s sins. (Revelation 18:6)
The world will never accept Believers who take their stand for righteousness. Regardless of what we may say or do, the world will never respect or tolerate those who are serious about their faith. Oh, they may accept, highlight, and celebrate it when a Believer rejects the faith. But unless that happens, the world knows it and the Christian faith are at odds.
Why would a Believer want the endorsement and recognition of the world? Why would a Believer want to “be cool” and try to be accepted? Tolerance will only be afforded to those who capitulate and endorse sin. Look at Paul’s chronicling of the progression of sin in Romans 1. First, sin is tolerated. Next, sin is accepted. Finally, sin is endorsed and celebrated. That is the natural progression of sin. It will always go that way… unless God performs a miracle and rescue a believer from the clutches of sin.
I have said on many occasions, lost people will act like lost people and we shouldn’t be surprised when they do. Only when God intervenes do sinners repent and turn to Jesus. As I stated in Saturday’s devotional, our natural way is to choose anything other than God. Reformer John Calvin rightly pointed out that our heart is an idol factory. We will always choose something, anything over God … unless God does a work in us.
Has God done a miracle in your life? Have you turned your idol-making heart over to Him for Him to do a supernatural work? Self-justification and self-righteousness won’t work. Moralism (working hard to do the good and avoid the bad) won’t work. Only a miraculous work of God which results in your repenting and turning to Jesus, trusting His payment for your sin-debt will work.
If you haven’t turned to Him, don’t delay! Turn from your sin and turn to Jesus. Ask Him to do a miraculous work in you to make you more like Him from the inside-out.
If you have turned to Jesus, spend a few minutes today thanking Him for all that He has done (which is everything!) to make you right with His (and your) perfect, holy Father.