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Sovereignty of God

1 2 3 19
Pure and undefiled religion

I’m glad the Navigators (the organization that designed our Daily Bible Reading Plan) placed the readings from James to follow Galatians. Some — even Reformer Martin Luther — don’t like James. But this is a good way to show the balance between faith and good deeds.

In today’s Bible reading, James concludes the first chapter talking about pure, wholesome religion. Many consider themselves to be “religious”. Others consider themselves to be “spiritual, but not religious”. Others simply say they aren’t religious, they just love the Lord.

In James’ day, some would claim to be very religious. They were devout. They were very dedicated in their faith. Some described pure and undefiled religion as social justice: taking care of the disenfranchised, the destitute, the marginalized. Others claimed to be religious and defined pure and undefiled religion as separation from the world. We see the same extremes in our day.

So which is it? Should religion aim for social justice? Or should religion aim for separation from all things “worldly”?

Application

James says that pure and undefiled religion is both social justice and godliness. The two are not mutually exclusive. Rather they are mutually inclusive.

Look around and you’ll see some churches emphasizing liberal causes. Others emphasize conservative causes, separation, and holiness.

Why can’t we just take the Bible as it reads? Why do we tend to read only the parts that agree with our personal and political agenda? The political and religious divide in our nation is very wide. If we want to see healing, we will have to read the whole Bible, in its context and try to apply it to our context. We have to let the Bible speak for itself without imposing our agenda on it and reading it accordingly. But why can’t we do that? It’s because we are all fallen creatures who have inherited a propensity, a proclivity, a bent toward ourselves and away from God. Our default setting is disobedience and rebellion from God. Until we cross over to the other side of eternity, we will continue dealing with the struggle between doing what we want and doing what God wants. We are involved in spiritual warfare.

Both extremes are wrong when taken alone. Instead, we should aim at glorifying God by reaching out in social justice AND live a holy, God-pleasing life.

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Religion vs. Sonship

In Galatians 4:6–7, Paul brings out the fact that believers are not servants; they are sons. There is a tremendous difference between the responsibilities of a servant and the privileges of a son.

Several years ago, some friends of ours adopted a baby girl from an unwed teen. It was a win-win-win and to this day, the girl’s (or young woman now!) biological mother is still involved in her daughter’s life. But as our friends went through the legal process of adopting their daughter, I learned that US adoption laws are based on Biblical adoption laws. I also learned a mind-blowing fact about adoption: Adoptive parents are legally more responsible for their adoptive children than they are for their biological children. Being an adopted son or daughter brings tremendous benefits, even over being a biological child, including the security of knowing that if you are an adopted child, you can never be disinherited.

Application

Believer, do you see you see yourself as a servant of God? Or do you see yourself as a child of God? How you see your relationship will determine how you feel about God, how you pray to God, how you give to God, and how you talk about God.

If you are an insecure servant of God and get into trouble, you will respond, “I’ve messed up. My Father’s going to kill me.” But if you are a secure child of God, you will respond, “I’ve messed up. I need to call my Dad.” One view brings a response of paralyzing fear, while the other brings a response of feeling lovingly supported.

If you are a child of God, rejoice!
You have a loving Father Who will never disown you.

Note: I originally published this 3/26/19 and every time I see the graphic above, I still tear up. It’s a fantastic picture of the difference between religion and relationship! Which do you have?

Faith Ledger

In today’s Bible reading, Paul directly addresses the claims of the Jewish legalists. They claim that they are the heirs of the covenant promise God made with Abraham. But Paul rightly points out that the covenant that God made with Abraham was based on faith rather than obedience to the Law. In fact, Paul reminds the legalists that the covenant predated the law by over four hundred years.

Paul refers to Genesis 15:6, “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (ESV) He also refers to Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (ESV)

The covenant extends to Abraham’s sons through Jesus Christ. All who are “in Christ” are heirs of the promise. Paul writes extensively about the blessings to those “in Christ” in his letter to the Ephesians.

Application

Abraham believed God and that belief was credited to him as righteousness. Looking at the diagram above, we can see that on God’s Faith Ledger, God kept a record of Abraham’s — and our — sin in the Liabilities column. Then He added faith to the Asset column on His Faith Ledger.

Given Jesus’ infinite righteousness, the balance at the bottom of the Ledger shows that Abraham — and we — are fully justified, due to the infinite righteousness that was added to the account. God justified Abraham on the basis of his faith, his belief. And like their spiritual father, those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are the heirs of the covenant promise. We receive the covenant blessing in order to share the covenant blessing with others, bringing them into the Household of Faith.

Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ? If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out to me.

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contented

In today’s Bible reading we complete our reading through Hebrews. The writer of the book of Hebrews encourages his readers to avoid the love of money and be content with what you have. Then he reminds them that Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He adds, “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6 ESV)

Application

How much time do we spend worrying about tomorrow? What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? Throughout Scripture, we hear that God promises to take care of His children. (Psalm 37:25) God withholds nothing from those who live righteously. (Psalm 84:11) Jesus plainly told his Disciples, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough worries for itself.” (Matthew 6:34)

I said yesterday that the primary lie of the Prosperity Gospel is that Jesus isn’t enough. The true Gospel says that Jesus is more than enough. If Jesus promises “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (the eight words) we can truly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”. (Hebrews 13:6; Psalm 118:6)

If God promises to provide for His children and then He promises to never leave us, what could we possibly need?! And what could we ever worry about?

Aside from a brain chemical imbalance, I suggest that if you’re consumed with worry and anxiety, you might need to go back and revisit the verses in this devotional from time to time. Memorize these precious promises from God in His Word.

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God disciplines His children.

Today’s Bible reading is in direct contrast to the message of the Prosperity Gospel. The Prosperity Gospel can be summed up with, “Name it. Claim it. Blab it. Grab it. Believe it. Achieve it and receive it. Or live in doubt and do without.” “God wants you to live a prosperous, healthy and wealthy life.” “You can live your best life now!”

The message of the Prosperity Gospel preachers is that if you have enough faith, you too can drive a Bently and fly in your own private jet. OK, they may not spell it out that blatantly, but if you take their message to its logical conclusion, you can control your destiny. The Prosperity Gospel preachers will tell you that if you have any type of illness or if you have financial problems, you just lack faith.

The world is filled with Prosperity Gospel rejects. They’re the ones who sent their “seed money” to the TV Preacher, trusting that God would make good on the promise of the preacher. It is essentially a transactional religion. If you do this, God is obligated to do that. If you’ve ever bought a candy bar from a vending machine, you know that if you put the money in, the machine will give you what you want. The Prosperity Gospel ignores the plain teachings of Scripture that you will have trouble in this life. (John 16:33)

Application

The problem with the Prosperity Gospel and transactional religion is that God never makes the promises the Prosperity Gospel peddlers do. God never obligates Himself to anything or anyone. The bottom line is that God is God. And you aren’t.

Hebrews 12 says that God disciplines His children. The writer urges his readers to take heart when they experience God’s discipline because God disciplines His children. One of the proofs that you are a child of God is that God disciplines you. The flip side of that has tremendous ramifications: if you aren’t disciplined by God, you may not be a legitimate child of God. (Hebrews 12:5-8)

The next time you encounter God’s discipline, take heart! You’re one of His! And He loves you too much to leave you where you are. He wants the best for you. He wants you to look like Jesus. And to do that, He has to break off everything that doesn’t look like Jesus.

Sometimes He may discipline you as you read His Word. Sometimes He may discipline you as you listen to a sermon. Sometimes He may discipline you as you listen to Christian music. Regardless of how He does it, press into Him and ask Him to use this to make you more like Jesus. Ask Him to draw you closer to His heart during this time.

The primary lie of the Prosperity Gospel is that Jesus isn’t enough to satisfy you. It appeals to your pride. The truth of the true Gospel is that Jesus is more than enough to satisfy you. And the true Gospel requires humility.

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1 2 3 19

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