Showing the Way of Salvation

“The same [a demon-possessed servant girl] followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” (Acts 16:17)

Paul and Luke first witnessed to European unbelievers in Philippi and saw them wonderfully converted (v. 14), but a young “soothsayer” continually interrupted them, mocking and interfering. Paul cast out the controlling spirit of divination (v. 18), denying her owners their source of income. In retribution, they convinced the city leaders to have them brutally flogged and thrown into the innermost prison (v. 24).

But God had other plans. A mighty earthquake seemingly freed them, causing the jailer to prefer suicide rather than face capital charges for his “offense.” Paul intervened, and the jailer desperately pled, “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 30).

What would cause a Roman official in a decidedly pagan culture, who had heard little (if anything) of the truth, to abruptly turn to God for salvation? Certainly the earthquake had captured his attention, as had Paul’s behavior through his trail and abuse, but what made him think the truth was with Paul? Why did he ask for salvation from an incarcerated prisoner?

Perhaps during the trial he had heard of the slave girl’s testimony. In our text she had exclaimed, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” Was this ringing testimony, given in derision but heard nonetheless, involved in his decision?

We can’t know for sure, but we do know that this was the introduction of the gospel to Europe. Surely God’s ultimate plan can be seen in the events at Philippi that day. Even the unknowing truth from a demonic soothsayer contained lasting truth. Christians should never hesitate to declare gospel truth, for God will not allow it to go unheeded (Isaiah 55:11). JDM

His Greatness – Psalm 105

Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; proclaim His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell about all His wonderful works! Honor His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonderful works He has done, His wonders, and the judgments He has pronounced, O offspring of Abraham His servant, O descendants of Jacob—His chosen ones. He is the Lord our God; His judgments govern the whole earth (vv. 1—7).

Throughout the entire history of Israel, God has revealed his greatness through his loyal, covenant love. The psalmist inspires his audience to call on the name of the Lord and to give thanks. He urges them to proclaim to the nations the Lord’s mighty miracles in history.

I need this kind of spiritual motivation. I need a stirring preacher to remind me that the Lord has worked miraculously on my behalf. Why? Because I tend to take for granted his continual intervention in my life and to get so wrapped up in myself that I forget how great he is!

Personal Prayer

Dear Lord, prod my memory when I forget your miracles! Write them on my heart and stir me to sing about your goodness!

A Glorious Gospel Song

How Great Thou Art

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee:

How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder

Consider all the world Thy hands have made,

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed!

And when I think that God His Son not sparing,

Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in—

That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation

And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!

Then I shall bow in humble adoration

And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Words by Carl Boberg. Music—Swedish Folk Melody.

(Arr. and trans, by Stuart K. Hine.) © 1953, 1955 by Manna Music, Inc.

Sustained and Secure

All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right time.—Psalm 104:27

No creature has the power to preserve itself. “Does papyrus grow where there is no marsh?” asked Job (Jb 8:11). Both man and beast would perish if there were no food, and there would be no food if the earth were not refreshed with fruitful showers. As one preacher put it: “We came from God’s hand, and we remain in His hand.”

Think of the marvel of life in the womb. How an infant can live for so many months in such a cramped environment—and without breathing—is unaccountable except for the power of God in preservation. It was divine preservation Daniel was thinking of when he said to the godless Belshazzar: “But you have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of your life” (Dn 5:23). Everywhere in the Scriptures God is presented not only as the Creator of the world but as its Sustainer and Preserver also. God has not wound up the universe like a clock and then separated Himself from it; rather, He is active in sustaining it, and were He to remove Himself from it, it would cease to exist.

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that “He sustains all things by His powerful word” (1:3). If the maker of some artifact were to die, his death would make no difference to it. It would continue to exist just as it did before. Not so with God and His world, however. If God were to die, the universe would fall to pieces. But don’t worry—God cannot die. The universe is quite secure.

Prayer

O God, when I consider how You are my Sustainer and my Preserver, my heart is humbled before You. You cannot die, and because I am linked to You, I cannot die. I know my body will die, but my soul is Yours forever. Thank You, dear Father. Amen.

Further Study

Isa 46:1-13; Ps 18:35; 147:6

What did the Lord underline to the children of Israel?

What did the psalmist testify?

While the Spirit Passes By

Acts 1:8

There are wants my heart is telling

While the Spirit passes by,

And with hope my soul is swelling

While the Spirit passes by.

O what prospects now I see,

What a life my life must be,

If Thy seal is placed on me,

While the Spirit passes by.

There are sins my lips confessing

While the Spirit passes by,

Treasures long my heart possessing,

While the Spirit passes by.

All the world’s delight and cheer,

All the things I held so dear,

Ah, how worthless they appear

While the Spirit passes by.

Here I stand, myself disdaining,

While the Spirit passes by;

Stand in faith, Thy mercy claiming,

While the Spirit passes by;

Let Thy power my soul refine,

Let Thy grace my will incline,

Take my all and make it Thine,

While the Spirit passes by.

Herbert Booth, The Salvation Army Song Book

VIDEO The Unsurpassed Intimacy of Tested Faith

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” —John 11:40

Every time you venture out in your life of faith, you will find something in your circumstances that, from a commonsense standpoint, will flatly contradict your faith. But common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense. In fact, they are as different as the natural life and the spiritual. Can you trust Jesus Christ where your common sense cannot trust Him? Can you venture out with courage on the words of Jesus Christ, while the realities of your commonsense life continue to shout, “It’s all a lie”? When you are on the mountaintop, it’s easy to say, “Oh yes, I believe God can do it,” but you have to come down from the mountain to the demon-possessed valley and face the realities that scoff at your Mount-of-Transfiguration belief (see Luke 9:28-42). Every time my theology becomes clear to my own mind, I encounter something that contradicts it. As soon as I say, “I believe ‘God shall supply all [my] need,’ ” the testing of my faith begins (Philippians 4:19). When my strength runs dry and my vision is blinded, will I endure this trial of my faith victoriously or will I turn back in defeat?

Faith must be tested, because it can only become your intimate possession through conflict. What is challenging your faith right now? The test will either prove your faith right, or it will kill it. Jesus said, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” Matthew 11:6). The ultimate thing is confidence in Jesus. “We have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end…” (Hebrews 3:14). Believe steadfastly on Him and everything that challenges you will strengthen your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith up to the point of our physical death, which is the last great test. Faith is absolute trust in God— trust that could never imagine that He would forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5-6).

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

Defenders of the faith are inclined to be bitter until they learn to walk in the light of the Lord. When you have learned to walk in the light of the Lord, bitterness and contention are impossible. Biblical Psychology, 199 R


I Am the Resurrection and the Life, Part 2 (John 11:37–46)

The Power of the Gospel

I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. Romans 1:15

Ancient Rome had its own version of “the gospel”—the good news. According to the poet Virgil, Zeus, king of the gods, had decreed for the Romans a kingdom without end or boundaries. The gods had chosen Augustus as divine son and savior of the world by ushering in a golden age of peace and prosperity.

This, however, wasn’t everyone’s idea of good news. For many it was an unwelcome reality enforced by the heavy hand of the emperor’s army and executioners. The glory of the empire was built on the backs of enslaved people who served without legal personhood or property at the pleasure of masters who ruled over them.

This was the world in which Paul introduced himself as a servant of Christ (Romans 1:1). Jesus—how Paul had once hated that name. And how Jesus Himself had suffered for admitting to being the king of the Jews and Savior of the world.

This was the good news Paul would explain in the rest of his letter to the Romans. This gospel was “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (v. 16). Oh, how it was needed by those who suffered under Caesar! Here was the news of a crucified and resurrected Savior—the liberator who conquered His enemies by showing how much He loved them.

By:  Mart DeHaan

Reflect & Pray

As you read Paul’s opening words to the Romans, what phrases describe the good news to you? (1:1–7). Why would Paul, who had once hated Jesus so much, now want everyone to believe in Him? (see Acts 26).

Loving God, thank You for the good news. Give me the boldness to share the gospel with those around me.

Sunday Reflection: Whole and Free

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

So often, we are hindered by failures, which leave us feeling deficient and incomplete. But God’s Word tells a different story. Take the Greek word holokléros, for instance. It is used only twice in Scripture (1 Thess. 5:23 and James 1:4), and it means “complete in every part, sound, perfect, entire.”

But its more literal definition is even more encouraging. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word means “all that is included (apportioned) through divine lot.” So, though we might feel completion is lacking, that is far from the truth. It’s our portion, our share. Freely given. That is freedom.

There’s no final component to be found, no striving required. The peace that comes with redemption is already ours. All we need to do is rest in the knowledge that we are whole and, better still, deeply loved by the One who attained the victory for us.

Think about it
• Christian philosopher Dallas Willard wrote, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” What does this mean to you? Have you been trying to “earn” the blessings that are already yours?

The Weight of the Wind

“For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure.” (Job 28:24-25)

It was only discovered by scientists in modern times that the air actually has weight. This passage in Job, however, written 35 or more centuries ago, indicated that the two great terrestrial fluids of air and water forming Earth’s atmosphere and hydrosphere are both “weighed” by God’s careful “measure” to provide the right worldwide balance of forces for life on Earth.

Another remarkable “weighing” act of God is noted in Job 37:16: “Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?” Clouds are composed of liquid drops of water, not water vapor, and water is heavier than air, so how are they “balanced” in the sky? “For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distill upon man abundantly” (Job 36:27-28).

Meteorologists know that the weight of the small water droplets in the clouds is “balanced” by the “weight of the winds”—air rushing upward in response to temperature changes. Eventually, however, the droplets coalesce to form larger drops that overcome these updrafts and fall as rain. “By watering he wearieth the thick cloud” (Job 37:11). The coalescence is probably triggered electrically in the clouds themselves, “when he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder” (Job 28:26).

Although these verses are not couched in the jargon of modern science, they are thoroughly scientific and up to date. “Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?” (Job 26:14). HMM

The Glory Of His Creation – Psalm 104

How countless are Your works, Lord! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures. Here is the sea, vast and wide, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small. There the ships move about, and Leviathan, which You formed to play there. All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right time…. I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him; I will rejoice in the Lord. May sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. My soul, praise the Lord! Hallelujah! (vv. 24-27, 33-35).

The psalmist bursts into passionate praise, celebrating God’s creation. An earth full of creatures, teeming seas, and overarching heavens were brought into being where nothing had existed before! Only God can do that.

Dr. Harold Best, former dean of Wheaton College Conservatory, says, “Creativity is the ability both to imagine (think up) something and to execute it.” He feels that creativity, craftsmanship, technique, and skill often are confused. The special quality of creativity “lies in the thinking up, the imagining.”

Man takes raw materials that God has made and fashions them into useful items (i.e., trees become lumber; lumber becomes houses or furniture). In the same way a Christian musician uses the laws of nature (i.e., the harmonic series) to produce music. The composer must fashion the building blocks of music into ideas, themes, and melodies that become vehicles of praise.

The psalmist is so stirred by these lofty thoughts that he vows to sing praise to the Lord as long as he lives, in a manner pleasing to the Lord. I too want to please God—not my colleagues or my audience—through the works of my mind and my hands. Though I have written approximately four hundred anthems and songs, only those will endure that have been inspired by the heart of God.

I echo the psalmist who concludes with a mighty “Hallelujah!”

Personal Prayer

I praise you, Lord, for your creativity and your artistic control over creation. I, like every other living creature of earth, am totally vulnerable and dependent on you for inspiration and for life itself! Hallelujah!

He Burns Me Up

Therefore, let us observe the feast, not with … malice and evil but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.—1 Corinthians 5:8

Is it true that nursing a grudge can cause physical illness? A man I knew became enraged over something another Christian had done to him. I advised him to forgive and forget. He replied: “But every time I see him, he burns me up.” I said: “That’s because you want to burn him up, and all you succeed in doing is burning yourself up.” I told him about the sadistic farmer who tied a stick of dynamite to a hawk, lit the fuse, and then turned the bird loose, expecting it to blow itself up in mid-air. Instead, the hawk flew into the man’s barn, and the explosion wrecked not only the barn but part of his house also.

He listened, but I could see my words had not gone in. He could think and talk of nothing else but getting even with his fellow Christian. His wife told me that his breath became foul, his appetite left him, his digestion became bad, he suffered loss of sleep and, after a few months, he dropped down dead.

In case someone says, “But there could have been other reasons for his death,” I can tell you that I talked to his doctor, who was a close personal friend of mine, and he told me that the man had died of an “undrained grudge.” Of course, you can’t put that on a death certificate, but many doctors know that “undrained grudges” play a major role in creating physical disorders. A missionary suffered a breakdown because of a grudge he had held against his ministry organization for not supplying him with enough money. Apparently, grudges are just as deadly in the godly as the ungodly.

Prayer

Father, I see so clearly that my hurts harm me even more when I harbor them. Help me not to hold on stubbornly to my wounded pride, but consent for You to lance my inner boils, no matter how much it may hurt. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

1Jn 2:1-11; Pr 10:12; Isa 59:9-10

What brings us back into darkness?

What is the result of walking in darkness?