Never Changing

For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Malachi 3:6

One of Rembrandt’s final paintings is considered by many to be his finest: The Return of the Prodigal Son. It illustrates the climax of the parable of Jesus recorded in Luke 15:11-32. The power of that parable is found in the father’s unconditional love for the Prodigal Son who returns home after profligate living. He returns not knowing what to expect—whether the father would still love him or not.

Jesus told the parable to Jews and their leaders whose ancestors had, a few generations earlier, returned from exile in Babylon. Most of them, born in Babylon, had not known the God of their fathers personally. Would He still be angry over the sins that sent Israel into exile? The answer was no: “For I am the LORD, I do not change.” God’s love is not based on their or our goodness or sinfulness. It is based on God’s choice to love unconditionally. He had told them through Jeremiah that His love was as constant as the universe (Jeremiah 31:35-37). When they returned home to Judah, they discovered God’s love had not changed.

His love does not change toward you either. Rest today in the unchanging nature of God and His love for you.

Oh, the vast, the boundless treasure of my Lord’s unchanging love! Robert Robinson

Recommended Reading: Romans 8:35-39

The Weight of Guilt

John 3:16-17

False guilt can be an intolerable weight for the believer to bear. The nagging sense of shame can lead us to doubt the Lord’s love and goodness; we might even start to wonder if our salvation is real. Thankfully, though, we can have relief.

First of all, it’s helpful to identify the root cause of our guilt. (Check yesterday’s devotion for a description of several potential causes.) Next, we must affirm three truths:

I am special. Any reason we give to “prove” otherwise is a lie from Satan. We are each a one-of-a-kind creation. The Lord chose to create us and endow us with specific talents and abilities meant to be used for His glory (Ephesians 2:10).

I am loved. The heavenly Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins so we could live with Him eternally. We don’t have to do anything to earn His love; it is already ours for the receiving. All we must do is believe that He died in our place, was buried, and rose again.

I am forgiven. If we confess our sins, the Lord forgives. The Bible promises the process is as simple as that (1 John 1:9).

Since it’s Satan who stimulates false guilt, the final step is to renounce his lies. Make a declaration to this effect: “In the name of Jesus Christ, I reject these feelings of guilt, because they have absolutely no scriptural basis. They are false, and I refuse to acknowledge them.” The result will be that the heavy weight of guilt lifts from the heart.

The Day of Visitation

“Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12)

This unique expression, “in the day of visitation,” based on a surprising use of the Greek word episkope, occurs one other time in such a way, when Christ wept over Jerusalem and pronounced its coming judgment. “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. . . . because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:42-44).

Now this word, episkope, and its derivatives are usually translated as “bishop,” “office of a bishop,” or “bishopric,” and it seems strange at first that it could also mean “visitation.” However, its basic meaning is “overseer,” or “oversight,” and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is really the “Shepherd and Bishop of [our] souls” (1 Peter 2:25), as well as that of nations and, indeed, every aspect of every life.

As a bishop or pastor (“shepherd”) is responsible for the “oversight” of his local church, or flock, so Christ is “that great Shepherd of the sheep,” the true “Bishop of [our] souls,” the overseer of all people in every age. In His great plan of the ages, the Jews, and then the Gentiles, each have been entrusted with a time of “visitation,” or “oversight,” of God’s witness to the world. Sadly, Jerusalem “knewest not the time of [her] visitation” (Luke 19:44) and, as for Judas, the Lord had to say, “his bishoprick let another take” (Acts 1:20).

Now in God’s providence, it is the time of Gentile oversight, and it is eternally important that we who know His salvation today glorify God by our good works, with our “conversation [i.e., lifestyle] honest among the Gentiles” in our own “day of visitation.” HMM

The Perfect Church

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. —1 Peter 4:8

Our lofty idealism would argue that all Christians should be perfect, but a blunt realism forces us to admit that perfection is rare even among the saints. The part of wisdom is to accept our Christian brothers and sisters for what they are rather than for what they should be….

There is much that is imperfect about us, and it is fitting that we recognize it and call upon God for charity to put up with one another. The perfect church is not on this earth. The most spiritual church is sure to have in it some who are still bothered by the flesh.

An old Italian proverb says, “He that will have none but a perfect brother must resign himself to remain brotherless.” However earnestly we may desire that our Christian brother go on toward perfection, we must accept him as he is and learn to get along with him. To treat an imperfect brother impatiently is to advertise our own imperfections.

Give me patience and grace today in dealing with others’ imperfections. And give them the same grace in dealing with mine! Amen.

Faith and Holiness Linked to Christ’s Return

… But we know that when he shall appear, we shall he like him; for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

The Bible does not approve of modern curiosity that plays with the Scriptures and which seeks only to impress credulous and gullible audiences!

I cannot think of even one lonely passage in the New Testament which speaks of Christ’s revelation, manifestation, appearing or coming that is not directly linked with moral conduct, faith and spiritual holiness.

The appearing of the Lord Jesus on this earth once more is not an event upon which we may curiously speculate—and when we do only that we sin! The prophetic teacher who engages in speculation to excite the curiosity of his hearers without providing them with a moral application is sinning even as he speaks.

There have been enough foolish formulas advanced about the return of Christ by those who were simply curious to cause many believers to give the matter no further thought or concern. But Peter said to expect “the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

Paul said there is a crown of righteousness laid up in glory for all those who love His appearing. John spoke of his hope of seeing Jesus and bluntly wrote: “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

Are you ready for the appearing of Jesus Christ? Or are you among those who are merely curious about His coming?

A Worldwide Body

For the body is not one member, but many…. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 1 CORINTHIANS 12:14, 27

Stating it in the most simple terms, the Christian Church, called to be the Body of Christ on earth, is the assembly of redeemed saints.

We meet in local congregations and assemblies, yet we know that we are not an end in ourselves. If we are going to be what we ought to be in the local church, we must come to think of ourselves as a part of something more expansive, something larger that God is doing throughout the world.

There is an important sense here in which we find that we “belong”—belonging to something that is worthy and valuable, and something that is going to last forever!

These are considerations concerning the whole Church, the Body of Christ, and the fact that in our local congregation we have the joyful sense of belonging to an amazing fellowship throughout the world. Every believing church has a part with us and we a part with them.

Brethren, the Church must have the enabling and the power of the Holy Spirit and the glow of the Shekinah glory—God within us. For then, even lacking everything else, you still have a true church!

Lord, this morning I pray for my sisters and brothers in Christ around the world. Encourage them and empower them to do good works in Your name today.