VIDEO The Good Ship of Grace

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

How far can you swim? According to Guinness World Records, the longest distance ever swum without flippers in the open sea is 139.8 miles—a remarkable feat by Veljko Rogošic of Croatia in 2006. But it’s 9,600 miles across the Pacific Ocean. Even if his life depended on it, Veljko would still have come 9,460.2 miles short.

We can never get to heaven on our own efforts. Only the good ship of grace can take us there. Many people try to live good enough to merit heaven, but we’re too flawed, too sinful, and too imperfect for God’s presence. The wages of sin is death. But through Jesus Christ, God offers us the free gift of eternal life.

We can’t earn our salvation any more than we can swim across the seas, but Christ has done the work so that we might receive the gift. We don’t have to swim or struggle. We simply trust the Captain of our salvation.

Toward the stout ships that have carried me across the seas I have ever cherished a grateful feeling. How much more do I love the good ship of Grace that has borne me thus far on my way to the Fair Havens. R. A. Torrey

Free From Sin (Romans 6:18-23) Part 2

God’s Protection

I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:7–8

Needles, milk, mushrooms, elevators, births, bees, and bees in blenders—these are just a fraction of the many phobias attributed to Mr. Adrian Monk, detective and title character of the TV show Monk. But when he and longtime rival Harold Krenshaw find themselves locked in a car trunk, Monk has a breakthrough that allows him to cross off at least one fear from his list—claustrophobia.

It’s while Monk and Harold are both panicking that the epiphany comes, abruptly interrupting Monk’s angst. “I think we’ve been looking at this the wrong way,” he tells Harold. “This trunk, these walls . . . they’re not closing in on us . . . they’re protecting us, really. They’re keeping the bad stuff out . . . germs, and snakes, and harmonicas.” Eyes widening, Harold sees what he means and whispers in wonder, “This trunk is our friend.

In Psalm 63, it’s almost as if David has a similar epiphany. Despite being in a “dry and parched land,” when David remembers God’s power, glory, and love (vv. 1–3), it’s as if the desert transforms into a place of God’s care and protection. Like a baby bird hiding in the shelter of a mother’s wings, David finds that when he clings to God, even in that barren place, he can feast “as with the richest of foods” (v. 5), finding nourishment and strength in a love that “is better than life” (v. 3).

By:  Monica La Rose

Reflect & Pray

When have you experienced God’s care for you while you were in a difficult place? In what current struggles might you learn to “sing in the shadow of [God’s] wings”?

Loving Creator, Sustainer, and Nourisher, thank You for the miraculous way Your love seeps into my heart in even the most difficult places, transforming them into the shelter of Your wings

The Secret of Contentment

Philippians 4:4-13

Does it surprise you that Paul wrote today’s passage when he was in prison? He didn’t know what his future held—whether he’d be freed or punished or killed—but he had learned to be content in all circumstances, good or bad. How many of us can make that claim?

It’s not uncommon to feel discontentment when we cannot control our situation. And as long as our satisfaction depends on whether certain things work out, circumstances will continue to steal our peace. Paul was not saying that we’ll never experience anxiety or frustration again; rather, what matters is how we respond when those feelings grip us.

This is something Paul had to learn. He endured tremendous suffering, from shipwrecks and hunger to unjust imprisonment and beatings (2 Corinthians 11:24-30). He knew as well as anyone that situations can be painful and seemingly hopeless. But he finally discovered that true contentment came from Jesus, not the situation he found himself in.

How do you respond when circumstances are out of your control? Paul chose to give his anxieties to Jesus in exchange for peace that “surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7). That same peace is available to you and me.

Abiding Words

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7)

In order for the words of the Lord really to abide in us, it seems clear that we should commit as many of them to memory— not only in our minds but in our hearts—as we possibly can. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart,” the psalmist said, “that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).

There are many promises of blessing to those who have God’s Word in their hearts. “For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips” (Proverbs 22:18). “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;…Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1, 5).

Both the apostle Paul and the apostle Peter have noted the importance of Scripture memorization. Paul says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

Peter’s exhortation is as follows: “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets [i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures], and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour [i.e., the New Testament Scriptures]” (2 Peter 3:1-2). The words “be mindful” mean essentially “recall to mind.”

Since the Scriptures cannot be recalled to mind unless they’ve first been installed in the mind, and since they cannot abide in our hearts unless we first hide them in our hearts, it is surely pleasing and honoring to God that we learn “by heart” as much of His Word as we can. HMM

Tempted Like As We

Luke 4:1-13

THE threefold temptation of our Lord corresponds to the temptation of the first Adam in Genesis. John tells us (1 John 2:16) that the threefold appeal is by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. This appeal was used with Eve: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6).

Luke, in his account of the Son of Man, follows the Genesis order; but Matthew puts the third appeal second, making the order that which would appeal most to a king, with its offers of a quick way to the throne.

Jesus meets the appeal to the flesh with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. He could have readily provided Himself with a meal, for God can set a table in the wilderness whenever He likes; but our Lord was willing to trust His Father to supply His need without resorting to the suggestion of the devil. He will not selfishly use His power.

Then the devil undertook to pervert the Word of God and lead Jesus to resort to the spectacular to prove God’s care. He quotes a messianic psalm in which God promises to protect the Messiah because He is obedient and trustful. Had Jesus listened to Satan, He would have broken the condition. To ever ask for signs and wonders of God—to demand some sensational proof of His love and care—is to follow this same suggestion of the devil.

Then the adversary offered the Lord the kingdoms of this world. They really were his to offer, for this present world-system is under him. In John 12:31 and 14:30 our Lord speaks of Satan as the “prince of this world,” and in 2 Corinthians 4:4 calls him the “god of this world.” God owns the world, but the devil possesses it in the present age. But Jesus defeated the tempter again with a sword-thrust from Deuteronomy. No wonder the devil has fought Deuteronomy so and has sought to destroy it with higher criticism! The Lord defeated him each time with a verse from that book. If the Lord used only three verses from Deuteronomy to whip the devil, we ought to put up a good fight with the whole Bible!

Mark adds that our Lord was with the wild beasts. The first Adam was tempted in a lovely garden with all creation at peace. The second Adam was tempted in a wilderness typical of the earth spoiled by sin. But one day, by reason of His victory, He shall reign over the earth… redeemed from the curse and with creation at peace (Isa. 11:6-8; Rom. 8:18-25).

After the devil left Him, angels ministered to Jesus. After each victory over evil, we are visited by His strengthening Presence in fresh power, in joy, and in confidence. Luke adds significantly that the devil departed “for a season.” Again and again through His life, our Lord suffered being tempted, and He is even now able to succor them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18).

Pretense, Consequence

When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard.—Acts 5:5

Consider this story about a couple from the Bible who forfeited their lives because they pretended to be more spiritual than they really were.

Ananias and Sapphira were highly respected members of the early church and appeared on the surface to be deeply committed disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Doubtless, they had a fairly high degree of dedication, and they easily went along with the idea of selling their possessions and putting the proceeds into the treasury of the church. Their mistake, of course, was in pretending they had given their all when in reality they hadn’t, and the consequences that fell to them because of their pretenses were swift and dramatic.

God deals harshly with dishonesty, but He is compassionate to those who see themselves as they really are, who confess this to Him, and who request His help in becoming the people they know He wants them to be.

I have known people who have stood up in front of a Christian audience and talked about how wonderful it is to live a victorious Christian life, when in reality they were inwardly messed up. And I have known of others getting up before their brothers and sisters, confessing that though they love the Lord, they are experiencing great struggles and difficulties in seeking to live for Him. Who do you think is the closer to God? I will tell you—it is the one who is honest and open. Pretense repels God; openness and honesty draw Him quickly to our side.


Father, help me to be a sincere and transparent person. Save me, I pray, from adopting an air of pretense and masquerading as someone I am not. You delight in openness and honesty. Help me to delight in them too. Amen.

Further Study

Ac 19; Eph 1; Rv 2:1-5

Why did the word of the Lord spread rapidly in Ephesus?

What words did Christ bring to them some years later?

What’s in a Name?

Acts 11:26

The simple statement found in Acts 11:26 occurs almost casually in Luke’s study of Christian origins, but behind the simplicity there is a fascinating and instructive history.

Antioch was a cosmopolitan city, as corrupt as any city had ever been. Its citizens were quick witted and quick tongued, notorious for inventing scurrilous nicknames for anyone disliked. That was so when Luke wrote.

It was the Antiochenes who openly mocked the Roman Emperor Julian in the streets of their city. Brought up in the Christian faith, Julian, a grandson of Constantine, who first made Christianity a state religion, abandoned it for the old pagan rites and, in imitation of the philosophers he admired, grew a beard. That was sufficient for the people of Antioch, who were clean shaven, to call him “the Goat.”

There is, then, nothing strange in the fact that it was in Antioch that the disciples of Christ were first called “Christians.” The word that Luke uses means “to transact business.” In the ancient world, as in more modern times, a man who followed a certain calling very often took his name from his occupation: Baker, Potter, Smith, are examples with which we are familiar.

It is therefore allowable to translate Luke’s phrase: “The disciples were, from the nature of their business, called Christians first in Antioch.”

Does not that throw light not only on the keen, if slightly contemptuous, powers of observation of the Antiochenes, but on the manner of life of the early disciples? Their business was Christ. They talked Christ, in season and out of season. They lived Christ before the very eyes of their pagan, and often dissolute, neighbors.

Some years ago, the German critic J. F. Strauss shocked a somnolent Christianity by an article entitled, “Are we yet Christians?” He was clear-sighted enough to see that Christians who did not “live Christ” were unworthy to bear His name; that a Christianity which paid mere lip service to its Founder had lost all right to its ancient and honorable title.

But what about us? Have we any real claim to be called Christians? Is Christ the center and the circumference of our life? We might profitably spend more time examining the implications of the hallowed name we bear so easily and perhaps, so thoughtlessly.

Francis Evans, Words from the Word