Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13
Ruth cannot tell her story without tears. In her mid-eighties and unable to get around much anymore, Ruth may not appear to be a central figure in our church’s life. She depends on others for rides, and because she lives alone she doesn’t have a huge circle of influence.
But when she tells us her story of salvation—as she does often—Ruth stands out as a remarkable example of God’s grace. Back when she was in her thirties, a friend invited her to go to a meeting one night. Ruth didn’t know she was going to hear a preacher. “I wouldn’t have gone if I knew,” she says. She already had “religion,” and it wasn’t doing her any good. But go she did. And she heard the good news about Jesus that night.
Now, more than fifty years later, she cries tears of joy when she talks of how Jesus transformed her life. That evening, she became a child of God. Her story never grows old.
It doesn’t matter if our story is similar to Ruth’s or not. What does matter is that we take the simple step of putting our faith in Jesus and His death and resurrection. The apostle Paul said, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
That’s what Ruth did. You can do that too. Jesus redeems, transforms, and gives us new life.
To learn about having a relationship with Jesus, read Following Jesus.
Belonging to Christ is not rehabilitation; it’s re-creation.
The redemption provided by Christ is the only basis for receiving eternal life. Why is it impossible to be saved through our own good works?
3 John 1:1-8
After reading today’s passage, can you name the man to whom John addressed this letter? We’d be wise to take note of Gaius because John describes him as a beloved elder who walked in truth, acted faithfully in whatever he did, and loved strangers who visited the church as traveling evangelists and teachers.
Although this letter was written to Gaius around A.D. 90, the first mention of him in Scripture is over 30 years earlier, during Paul’s third missionary trip. He was originally from Derbe in Asia Minor—a town Paul visited on his first two journeys. Gaius apparently left home to accompany the apostle on his last trip; during that time he was dragged by a mob into a theater in Ephesus because of Paul’s preaching (Acts 19:28-32). He was also part of a group of men who traveled with Paul through Macedonia (Acts 20:4).
Since Gaius was a common name, some scholars wonder if the Bible’s referring to several men. But either way, his hospitality, love, and faithful service to the church are noteworthy. In Corinth, Gaius served as host not only for Paul but also for the entire church (Romans 16:23). And he was still practicing hospitality and serving as an elder when John wrote to him several decades later.
Hospitality isn’t reserved only for those who find it easy. Romans 12:9-21 contains a long list of commands that apply to all believers, and among them are admonitions to contribute to the needs of the saints and practice hospitality (v. 13). Gaius is a wonderful example for us because he was willing to be inconvenienced and open his home to the believers he knew as well as to those he didn’t.
“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:19)
We who believe on Christ have the promise of everlasting life because He lives, and we see Him by faith. Christ Himself is “our life” (Colossians 3:4), in fact.
He is the very sustainer of our life. He is both the “living water” (John 4:10) that is “springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14) and “the living bread which came down from heaven,” such wonderful bread “that a man may eat thereof, and not die” (John 6:50-51).
Not only does Christ give us His living bread and living water, but also He provides Himself as the living way to God. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20).
He is also the solid foundation on which we build our lives, and that very foundation is vibrant with life. “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4-5). Our spiritual lives are built on a living stone, nourished on living bread and living water while entering by a living way into the presence of the living God!
He “hath begotten us again unto a lively hope [same as ‘living hope’] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). All this is ours through our loving, living Lord! HMM
1 Kings 11:1-5, 9-13
We now come to the mournful part of Solomons life, in which the wise man played the fool exeedingly, and proved that the greatest of men, apart from the grace of God, may descend to the worst sins. Who would have thought that Solomon would have become licentious, and the son of David an idolator?
1 Kings 11:13
Dr. James Hamilton has beautifully described the circumstances of this part of Jewish history. “The people murmured. The monarch wheeled along with greater pomp than ever; but the popular prince had soured into the despot, and the crown sat defiant on his moody brow; and stiff were the obeisances, heartless the hosannas, which hailed him as he passed. The ways of Zion mourned; and whilst grass was sprouting in the temple courts, mysterious groves and impious shrines were rising everywhere: and whilst lust defiled the palace, Chemosh and Ashtoreth, and other Gentile abominations, defiled the Holy Land. And in the disastrous eclipse, beasts of the forest crept abroad. From his lurking-place in Egypt Hadad ventured out, and became a life-long torment to the God-forsaken monarch. And Rezon pounced on Damascus, and made Syria his own. And from the Pagan palaces of Thebes and Memphis harsh cries were heard ever and anon, Pharaoh and Jeroboam taking counsel together, screeching forth their threatenings, and hooting insults, at which Solomon could laugh no longer. For amidst all the gloom and misery a message comes from God: the kingdom is rent; and whilst Solomons successor will only have a fag-end and a fragment, by right Divine ten tribes are handed over to a rebel and a runaway. Luxury and sinful attachments made him an idolater, and idolatry made him yet more licentious; until, in a lazy enervation and languid day-dreaming of the Sybarite, he lost the perspicacity of the sage, and the prowess of the sovereign; and when he woke up from the tipsy swoon, and out of the kennel picked his tarnished diadem, he woke to find his faculties, once so clear and limpid, all perturbed, his strenuous reason paralyzed, and his healthful fancy poisoned. He woke to find the world grown hollow, and himself grown old. He woke to see the sun bedarkened in Israel’s sky, and a special gloom encompassing himself. Like one who falls asleep amidst the lights and music of the orchestra, and who awakes amidst empty benches and tattered programmes,—like a man who falls asleep in a flower garden, and who opens his eyes on a bald and locust-blackened wilderness,—the life, the loveliness, was vanished, and all the remaining spirit of the mighty Solomon yawned forth that verdict of the tired voluptuary:—’Vanity of vanities! vanity of vanities! all is vanity!'”
1 Corinthians 9:27
Recent years have been painful for the worldwide Christian community as they have witnessed famous Christian leaders fall into sin time and again. Not so long ago, I sat in a hotel room and watched with a broken heart as a famous evangelist, whose voice once touched the nations of the earth, preached with almost no effect on television. Because sin in his personal life had become public information years earlier, his words now seem empty, hollow, and irrelevant. Although he once preached to the nations of the world, now the world mocks him because they discovered the message he preached and the life he lived were not the same.
To me, one of the saddest things in the world is to see a man or woman whom God once powerfully used to preach the Gospel to millions of people around the world fall into sin. When that happens, it brings such shame to the name of Jesus Christ. These individuals may have once mightily impacted their nation or city for the Kingdom of God. But even if they are repentant and receive the forgiveness of God for the sin they committed, other people don’t forget so easily. Like it or not, such sinful actions discredit them and ruin the effectiveness of their ministry. What they did or permitted themselves to get dragged into “disqualified” them from being as effective as they were before.
The apostle Paul wrote First Corinthians 9:27 to let us know that he never wanted to become discredited or disqualified. This is what he said: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
When the King James Version uses the word “castaway,” it is actually the Greek word adokimos, which comes from the word dokimos, an old Greek word that means approved. But when an a is added to the front of the word, making it the word adokimos, it reverses the condition, which means this is no longer an approved person. Now this person has become disapproved, discredited, or disqualified.
This is a person who has lost a high position he once held. Although he was once honored and respected, he has now become a “castaway.” He has lost his testimony and forfeited his reputation; as a result, he has become discredited, dishonored, and shamed.
I’m certain that Paul must have seen many people fall into sin during the course of his ministry. One example that comes to mind is Demas, a leader who was so beloved and respected by the Early Church that he is mentioned along with Luke in Colossians 4:14. But this same Demas who was once respected on the same level with Luke is mentioned again in Second Timothy 4:10, where we discover that Demas forsook the apostle Paul, abandoned his faith, and escaped into the world to spare himself from possible persecution.
People often make the tragic mistake of thinking that just because they have been successful in the past, they will continue to be successful in the future. But I have known many ministers of the Gospel who once experienced great success in the ministry and then slowly allowed their fire to go out. Whether they fell into sin or just became lethargic and complacent, the result was the same: They lost the cutting edge they once possessed in their ministries.
The primary reason people become discredited and shamed is that they don’t control their flesh. Instead of crucifying the flesh and submitting it to the control of the Holy Spirit, they pander to the cravings of the flesh. As a result, they become dominated by the desires of the flesh, and those fleshly desires very deceptively lead them to fall into sin.
Paul was a great apostle who was filled with divine revelation and had preached to more people than anyone else in his day. Nevertheless, one of his greatest concerns was that after doing all he had done for the Kingdom, he might later become a “castaway”—the fate suffered by others whom he had known. Paul didn’t consider himself so high and mighty that he couldn’t imagine this happening to him.
Rather than make the mistake others had made by letting his flesh get the best of him, ultimately destroying both him and his reputation, Paul acted with great determination to keep his flesh under control. This is why he said, “… I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection….”
The word “subjection” is the word doulagogeo, a compound of the word doulos and ago. The word doulos is the word for a slave, and the word ago is the Greek word that means to lead. This means that Paul mastered his body and flesh rather than allowing his body and flesh to master him. He knew that many believers allow themselves to be led about by their fleshly desires. But Paul was determined that he would be the master of his own flesh. He was going to keep it in “subjection.” In other words, he was going to lead his flesh about as his slave rather than be its slave and pander to its carnal desires.
By mastering his body and keeping it under his control, Paul made his flesh an instrument through which he preached the Gospel. His feet became his tool to take the Gospel to places that had never heard the Good News. His eyes became instruments through which he was able to identify needs that God’s power could meet. His voice became the voice of salvation, healing, and deliverance to those who heard him preach. His hands became the hands of God that brought a healing and compassionate touch to those in need. Paul’s body, which he determined to make his slave and his instrument, was never allowed to have its own way. Rather, Paul kept it under his command and made it his slave for the purpose of accomplishing his God-given dreams.
If you continue going the way you are going right now, is your physical body going to be a fine-tuned instrument that God can use, or is it going to be the very tool the devil uses to bring you into discredit and shame? Who is running your life today—you or your flesh?
If the apostle Paul was concerned that he could become discredited after all he had seen and done in the service of God’s Kingdom, I think it would be wise for you to be concerned about who is running your life as well. Don’t cut your flesh too much slack, friend, or it won’t be long before it’s running all over you and telling you what to do. You will reap the same result as others do when they refuse to discipline their flesh. In other words, you will eventually become broken by it.
Don’t join the ranks of those who were once used by the Lord but are now set aside and ruined because they refused to bring their bodies into subjection. Your reputation, your influence, and the souls of unsaved men and women are at stake. Make sure you don’t become a castaway after all the good you have already done!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I never want to become a castaway who was once used mightily by You but who has now become disqualified for further use. I know of other people to whom this has happened. They were once mightily used, but they have since become discredited and disqualified because of their lack of passion or the immoral mistakes they have made in their lives. Help me to maintain Your fire in my soul and to walk a straight and narrow path that leads to life and abundance. I don’t want to stray from the path You have set before me or to knock myself out of the race. Holy Spirit, I am asking You today to help me do everything I need to do to remain a viable, useful vessel in the hands of God.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I walk with God and make it my aim to be an upright, moral, and godly example. I refuse to allow sin to have a place in my life. When evil thoughts try to invade my mind, I take those thoughts captive and command them to leave. I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, and these thoughts and ideas have no place inside me. I have invested too much of myself into the work of God to allow such low-level thoughts to pull me down and take me out. Because I am committed, determined, and serious about my walk with God, my future is bright and the anointing of God will grow ever stronger on my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Do you know ministers of the Gospel or well-known Christians who no longer have the powerful testimony and influence they once did in the Body of Christ because they allowed themselves to fall into immorality? Did those individuals lose their testimony to the extent that no one wants to hear what they have to say any longer?
- As you ponder what happened to those individuals, what do you think was the primary mistake they made with their lives that allowed the devil to take them down and take them out?
- As you look at what you are permitting in your own life, can you think of any destructive stronghold that could eventually grow into a problem serious enough to knock you out of the race of faith? If yes, what is that sin, and what are you going to do about it?
1. Our Pride: “The desire to impress (others) is not of the Father, but is of the world… “(1 John 2:16)
Prayer: “Lord, I confess to you that I have focused too much on what others think, rather than on what You think. I confess the sin of trying to impress others rather than seeking to please You. I ask your forgiveness, and for the strength to make the necessary changes. In Jesus‘ Name, amen.”
2. Our Misplaced Priorities:
With God: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
With our family: “If anyone does not provide (maintain; have regard) for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
With our job: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man‘s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.‘” (Luke 12:15b)
Prayer: “Lord, I confess that I have often not put You first. I have often neglected my time with You. I have often put my family needs aside for my career. I have allowed the seduction of work, the fear of failure and the love of money to take priority over seeking to know You and over serving my family. By your grace I will reorder my priorities. I ask your forgiveness in Jesus‘ Name, amen.”
3. Our Questionable Ethics: “Simply let your ‘Yes‘ be ‘Yes,‘ and your ‘No,‘ ‘No‘; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)
Prayer: “Lord, with the pressure of surviving in business in an environment where honesty and integrity are often absent, I confess that I have not always been totally honest. I have not conducted business according to Your standards. I confess that I have allowed myself to believe that I, rather than You are my provider of our needs. Therefore, I have not always had the courage to say ‘no‘ when my integrity and personal ethics were on the line. I ask Your forgiveness, and for the determination to make the changes. In Jesus‘ Name, amen.”
4. Our Flirtation with Impurity: “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Prayer: “Lord, I confess that I have been taken by the glamour of the ‘world‘, at the expense of knowing You. I confess that I have often been double-minded in my walk: seeking to follow You on the one hand and allowing my sensual nature to take control on the other. I repent and ask Your forgiveness, and for help to live a life of single-mindedness, focused on You and Kingdom values. In Jesus‘ Name, amen.”