VIDEO The Mystery of Believing

He said, “Who are You, Lord?” —Acts 9:5

Through the miracle of redemption, Saul of Tarsus was instantly changed from a strong-willed and forceful Pharisee into a humble and devoted bondservant of the Lord Jesus.

There is nothing miraculous or mysterious about the things we can explain. We control what we are able to explain, consequently it is only natural to seek an explanation for everything. It is not natural to obey, yet it is not necessarily sinful to disobey. There can be no real disobedience, nor any moral virtue in obedience, unless a person recognizes the higher authority of the one giving the orders. If this recognition does not exist, even the one giving the orders may view the other person’s disobedience as freedom. If one rules another by saying, “You must do this,” and, “You will do that,” he breaks the human spirit, making it unfit for God. A person is simply a slave for obeying, unless behind his obedience is the recognition of a holy God.

Many people begin coming to God once they stop being religious, because there is only one master of the human heart— Jesus Christ, not religion. But “Woe is me” if after seeing Him I still will not obey (Isaiah 6:5 , also see Isaiah 6:1). Jesus will never insist that I obey, but if I don’t,I have already begun to sign the death certificate of the Son of God in my soul. When I stand face to face with Jesus Christ and say, “I will not obey,” He will never insist. But when I do this, I am backing away from the recreating power of His redemption. It makes no difference to God’s grace what an abomination I am, if I will only come to the light. But “Woe is me” if I refuse the light (see John 3:19-21).

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

It is impossible to read too much, but always keep before you why you read. Remember that “the need to receive, recognize, and rely on the Holy Spirit” is before all else. Approved Unto God, 11 L


The Astounding Conversion of Paul (Acts 9:1–9)

God’s Restoring Ways

People will dwell again in his shade; they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine. Hosea 14:7

One of the most moving songs in the musical The Greatest Showman is “From Now On.” Sung after the main character comes to some painful self-realizations about the ways he’s wounded family and friends, the song celebrates the joy of coming back home and finding that what we already have is more than enough.

The book of Hosea concludes with a similar tone—one of breathless joy and gratitude at the restoration God makes possible for those who return to Him. Much of the book, which compares the relationship between God and His people to a relationship with an unfaithful spouse, grieves Israel’s failures to love Him and live for Him.

But in chapter 14, Hosea lifts up the promise of God’s boundless love, grace, and restoration—freely available to those who return to Him heartbroken over the ways they’ve abandoned Him (vv. 1–3). “I will heal their waywardness,” God promises, “and love them freely” (v. 4). And what had seemed broken beyond repair will once more find wholeness and abundance, as God’s grace, like dew, causes His people to “blossom like a lily” and “flourish like the grain” (vv. 5–7). 

When we’ve hurt others or taken for granted God’s goodness in our life, it’s easy to assume we’ve forever marred the good gifts we’ve been given. But when we humbly turn to Him, we find His love is always reaching to embrace and restore.

By:  Monica La Rose

Reflect & Pray

When have you experienced or witnessed restoration beyond what seemed possible? In what areas of your life do you need reassurance of God’s promise to heal and restore?

Loving God and Creator of Life, teach me to trust in Your goodness—not just when I’m good, but all the time.

Sunday Reflection: One Day at a Time

To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the Scripture referenced throughout.

The Bible gives clear rules for some situations, but for others, we may not know how to proceed. Perhaps you’re unsure whether to look for a new job or pursue a certain friendship, or maybe you can’t tell if a desire is selfish or good.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to start by giving God top priority: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all [that you need] will be provided to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matt. 6:33-34). We need not fret about basic necessities—or anything else (Phil. 4:6). And that includes decision-making.

When we’re not sure what to do in a certain situation, Jesus’ words become our compass: Narrow your lens to this day, and moment by moment seek His kingdom and His righteousness. What that looks like may vary from one day to the next, but when we choose to honor Christ by making the next best decision, we leave room for the Holy Spirit to guide our heart.

Think about it
• Is there something you need to begin seeing through a narrower lens? How might a moment-by-moment perspective be beneficial in that situation?

Why Parables?

“And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.” (Mark 4:33-34)

There is confusion concerning the parables of Jesus Christ. Was Jesus advocating an alternative form of teaching by using parables? Typically, parables were not the primary method used to impart truth. Look at the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). Our Lord presented truth clearly in 105 verses and concluded with a parable made up of only five verses.

So, what are biblical parables? A simple definition of a parable comes from the Greek word parabolē. The meaning of this word is “throwing” (bolē) “alongside” (para), as in the words comparison, illustration, and analogy. With parables there is a connection between spiritual truth and common practice. The lawyer in Luke 10:29 asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” Our Lord answered him by packaging a salvific truth in a parable, using a fictitious gracious Samaritan who lived out in practice what the law demanded. Jesus called out this lawyer’s superficial self-righteousness by calling him to repentance and concluded the story by saying, “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).

While parables explain spiritual truths to the followers of our Lord, they also have the purpose of disguising truth to those hardened hearers who oppose Christ. Understanding parables takes careful detective work. As one pastor warns, “It takes care, hard work, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance to help get it right.”

We must always remember that parables reveal precious nuggets of spiritual truth to believing followers and disguise truth to those antagonistic to the faith. On which side of the equation do you stand? CM

Denouncing the Pharisees

Luke 11:37-54

LUKE records our Lord’s burning denunciation of Pharisaism (11:37-54). Invited out to dine, He observes no nicety of etiquette but condemns the external formalism of His host and all like-minded who put great care on the externals of religion but whose hearts were “full of ravening and wickedness.” Those who see only the meek and gentle side of our Lord should balance that with His fearless attack on the religiousness of His day.

Would He not say the same today in many churches where we go through all the motions, tithe and pray and seek upper seats, honor God with our lips while our hearts are far from Him? For Pharisaism calls itself now by different names, but it is still here. Jesus had no soft-tongued tolerance for such hypocrisy, and neither should we if we love Him. There is much loose thinking going the rounds today under the guise of tolerance and broad-mindedness that needs to remember 2 John 10-11, where we are commanded not even to receive into our houses those who teach false doctrine.

Of course, we must remember the other side, expressed in Mark 9:38-40, where we learn not to condemn others who are working in Christ’s name. Between these two poles the Christian must stand.

Jesus also rebuked the lawyers—that is, those versed in the Mosaic Law, who cluttered it up with their interpretations and kept it not themselves. How true to life today is that practice. He condemned their practice of building sepulchers for prophets whom their fathers slew. We so often condemn God’s prophets while they live—and succeeding generations honor them. We cast stones at them, but our children pick up the stones and build monuments to their honor!

The Lord accused these lawyers of taking away the key of knowledge. Supposed to know the law, they kept it not, and, knowing the prophecies, they refused to see Christ as the fulfillment—and hindered those who would. What a heavy condemnation rests today upon those who are teachers of the Word and yet do not believe its truths, and hinder others by their own unbelief and false teaching.

We read that such withering denunciation incensed the scribes and Pharisees and led them to try to provoke the Lord. He did not deal with them gently. Nowhere in the Gospels does He take any other attitude but that they are “blind leaders of the blind” and are to be let alone, having sinned against the Holy Ghost. Like Ephraim, they were joined to idols, and our Lord knew they could not be won, so He constantly reproved them and sentenced them to judgment. Their counterpart in any age has always opposed the true work of Christ, even while using Christian phraseology and claiming to reverence His name. Our Lord condemned both Pharisaism—lifeless orthodoxy—and Sadduceeism—Spiritless liberalism. The modern prophet can do no less and be true to his Lord.

The Cement of Society

When a wicked man comes, contempt also does, and along with dishonor, disgrace.—Proverbs 18:3

Nobody gets away with anything in a moral universe if that “anything” is dishonest and untrue. The whole history of humanity is a commentary on this. Remember the first lie uttered by Satan: “You will not die”? He keeps on repeating that well-worn but discredited lie to every member of Adam’s race. Something dies in us the moment we are dishonest—not the least, our self-respect. Death eats away at our hearts the moment dishonesty is let in. We are not so much punished for sin as by sin. I came across a statement in a book in which the writer said, “There are two major principles for getting and keeping political power: (1) let nothing, least of all truth and honor, interfere with success; (2) be honest and trustworthy in the little things, but boldly dishonest in the large ones.” What would be the result of someone getting political power by following those two principles? I will tell you. Like blind Samson, they would pull down the pillars of society around their heads and the heads of others also.

It is the ten righteous men who spare the Sodoms of this world. Fidelity is the cement that holds society together; take it away and it destroys itself. I may be stretching imagination too far by saying this, but in my opinion the Christian presence, especially as it represents fidelity, holds the world on its course. Civilization would have disintegrated long ago were it not for the moral and Christian character that flows out of the church into the world.

Prayer

Father, help me to be one who holds the world together by my character. And let the hallmark of my character be fidelity to truth and righteousness. In Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen.

Further Study

Mt 5:13-30; Mk 9:38-50; 1Th 1:8; Heb 11:4

When is salt useless?

For what did Paul commend the Thessalonians?

The Unexpected Jesus

Luke 19:1-9

Zacchaeus was a wealthy Jew who lived in Jericho and made a handsome

living as a tax collector for the Romans. Because of his occupation, he was

viewed by his contemporaries as a sinner before God and a traitor to his country.

Despite his ostracization by fellow Jews, Zacchaeus was not void of spiritual sensitivity. When he learned that Jesus was coming to the area, he determined that he must see the much-heralded Teacher whose preaching, teaching and miracle-working were having such a profound effect.

Because he was short, he climbed a sycamore-fig tree in order to get a good view of Jesus. It must have taken a good deal of fortitude for this rich, sophisticated businessman to throw caution to the wind, to run ahead of Jesus and His entourage and to scamper up a tree as he probably had not done since boyhood.

Amazingly, when Jesus reached the spot, He took notice of the figure hidden among the branches, and He addressed Zacchaeus.

The mass of humanity Crowding around the Master would not have expected Jesus to notice Zacchaeus, much less address him. But God Incarnate had thoughts that were not merely human thoughts. His ways, as the prophet Isaiah declared, are not our ways. So Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus.

Again the crowd was amazed. They might have expected Jesus to rebuke Zacchaeus for his traitorous ways, for serving as an agent of the Roman government, for seeking personal gain by charging more than the assessed tax. There is no way they could have been prepared to hear Jesus say: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately, I must stay at your house today.”

It was an invitation Zacchaeus could not refuse. We can assume that the Holy Guest spoke lovingly and directly to the chief tax collector of the district. And we can assume that the divine Visitor outlined the plan of salvation. These assumptions are based on the results of their meeting. We know, first of all, that Zacchaeus found salvation, for Jesus declared, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9). We know, also, that a great transformation had taken place in Zacchaeus. This man, who had accumulated a fortune through dishonest means, now stated freely, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).

What a marvelous change came to the life of one who had an unexpected encounter with Jesus Christ. And such unexpected encounters are still happening!

Robert E. Thomson, The War Cry