Journey of the Magi

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1-2

If you’re traveling during the holidays, you’re participating in one of the oldest Christmas traditions. Two thousand years ago, the Magi gave a parting glance at home and trekked westward, where they found and worshiped the Savior.

Who were these strange travelers? In the days of the Old Testament, the prophet Daniel, a young Jewish exile in Babylon, interpreted the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar and was appointed chief of the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:48). Daniel wrote extensively about the coming of Christ, so we suppose he passed along a keen sense of anticipation for the coming Messiah. Perhaps the wise men in Matthew 2 were from a sect among the eastern Magi devoted to the writings or oral traditions of Daniel.

If so, Daniel cast a long shadow. So do we. Future generations will be influenced by how we live, what we believe, and how we pass on our faith. Should Christ tarry, you can still be influencing the world a hundred years from now by your devotion to Christ today.

Abandoning the Self-Life

Jonah 4

The believer’s self-life is composed of the habits, attitudes, and relationships he or she is unwilling to surrender. Keeping those things from the Lord gives us a sense of independence—highly prized in our current culture. However, by following the

“self,” we interfere with God’s purpose. He wants every aspect of our lives to be submitted to His will.

Jonah mistook rebellion for freedom. The fourth chapter of his story paints a vivid picture of the prophet sweltering in the sun—and in the heat of his hatred. His blood boiled when God showed mercy to the Ninevites. “I have good reason to be angry, even to death,” he ranted (Jonah 4:9). God had used him to save more than 120,000 souls, but Jonah was angry because he desired their destruction.

Freedom is not the same as autonomy. Walking in full obedience to the Lord is the only true liberty. Jonah obeyed with his body but not with his heart. And his bitterness shows that stubbornly clinging to our self-life is a snare for the spirit. Unhealthy routines, like thick weeds in our paths, prevent us from moving forward. So God is determined to break us loose from any hindrance.

Jonah resisted the Lord’s every attempt to crack his pride. Believers have the right to choose self over submission, but the cost is high. We may steep in emotional turmoil like the prophet. Or God might deny us opportunities. Whatever the consequences, one thing is certain: Autonomy will cause us to miss the blessing of intimacy with the Lord—and nothing is worth that.

How to Keep from Falling

“For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?” (Psalm 56:13)

Once a person receives Christ as Savior, he must begin, then continue, in the Christian life. There will be many temptations along the way, however, as well as many pressures to recant, many sorrows, many difficulties. How is the “babe” in Christ to keep from stumbling and falling?

The answer, of course, is that we are kept by the same grace that saved us in the first place! The Lord Jesus died to save us from eternal death in hell; surely we can “be saved by his life” from falling while living (Romans 5:10). Our beautiful text verse anticipates this great New Testament truth. If the Lord can deliver my soul from death, surely He can keep my feet from falling! Other wonderful verses in the psalms give the same assurance. For example: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

It is important, of course, that each person professing faith in Christ be sure that his faith is real, founded on the true Jesus Christ as Creator, Redeemer, and Lord, not a sentimental faith in “another Jesus, . . . or another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4). As Peter urges: “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Peter 1:10).

And then, in the last words of the New Testament before the book of Revelation, we are directed again to Christ. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 1:24-25). What a blessed assurance is this! HMM

Forced to Our Knees

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. —2 Corinthians 12:7

The experiences of men who walked with God in olden times agree to teach that the Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him. The degree of blessing enjoyed by any man will correspond exactly with the completeness of God’s victory over him….

We might well pray for God to invade and conquer us, for until He does, we remain in peril from a thousand foes. We bear within us the seeds of our own disintegration…. Deliverance can come to us only by the defeat of our old life. Safety and peace come only after we have been forced to our knees. God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance. Then He invades our natures with that ancient and eternal life which is from the beginning. So He conquers us and by that benign conquest saves us for Himself.

Lord, indeed invade and conquer my heart today. Bring me to my knees in complete surrender; break me; shatter my strength and wipe out my resistance. Invade my nature today and conquer me for Your glory. Amen.

Losing God amid the Wonders of His Word

…To be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29

The doctrine of justification by faith—a biblical truth, and a blessed relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort—has in our time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such a manner as actually to bar men and women from the knowledge of God.

The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be “received” without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is “saved” but he is not hungry or thirsty after God!

The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of this world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word! We have almost forgotten that God is a Person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can.

God is a Person and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality.

Religion, so far as it is genuine, is in essence the response of created personalities to the Creating Personality, God, so “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

More Than a Name

Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 2 TIMOTHY 2:19

There have always been professing Christians who argue and insist: “I am all right—I worship in the name of Jesus.” They seem to believe that worship of God is based on a formula. They seem to think there is a kind of magic in saying the name of Jesus!

Study the Bible carefully with the help of the Holy Spirit and you will find that the name and the nature of Jesus are one. It is not enough to know how to spell Jesus’ name!

If we have come to be like Him in nature, if we have come to the place of being able to ask in accordance with His will, He will give us the good things we desire and need.

We worship God as the result of a new birth from above in which God has been pleased to give us more than a name.

He has given us a nature transformed, and Peter expresses that truth in this way: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).

Lord, I pray that the Body of Christ will see itself as the Apostle Peter has described believers: “partakers of the divine nature.” Perhaps if we see ourselves with that perspective, we will arise to the expectations Jesus has for us as His disciples.