…present…your members as instruments of righteousness to God. —Romans 6:13
I cannot save and sanctify myself; I cannot make atonement for sin; I cannot redeem the world; I cannot right what is wrong, purify what is impure, or make holy what is unholy. That is all the sovereign work of God. Do I have faith in what Jesus Christ has done? He has made the perfect atonement for sin. Am I in the habit of constantly realizing it? The greatest need we have is not to do things, but to believe things. The redemption of Christ is not an experience, it is the great act of God which He has performed through Christ, and I have to build my faith on it. If I construct my faith on my own experience, I produce the most unscriptural kind of life— an isolated life, with my eyes focused solely on my own holiness. Beware of that human holiness that is not based on the atonement of the Lord. It has no value for anything except a life of isolation— it is useless to God and a nuisance to man. Measure every kind of experience you have by our Lord Himself. We cannot do anything pleasing to God unless we deliberately build on the foundation of the atonement by the Cross of Christ.
The atonement of Jesus must be exhibited in practical, unassuming ways in my life. Every time I obey, the absolute deity of God is on my side, so that the grace of God and my natural obedience are in perfect agreement. Obedience means that I have completely placed my trust in the atonement, and my obedience is immediately met by the delight of the supernatural grace of God.
Beware of the human holiness that denies the reality of the natural life— it is a fraud. Continually bring yourself to the trial or test of the atonement and ask, “Where is the discernment of the atonement in this, and in that?”
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
Stephen was an up-and-coming comedian, and a prodigal. Raised in a Christian family, he struggled with doubt after his dad and two brothers died in a plane crash. By his early twenties, he’d lost his faith. But he found it one night on the frigid streets of Chicago. A stranger gave him a pocket New Testament, and Stephen cracked open the pages. An index said those struggling with anxiety should read Matthew 6:27–34, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Stephen turned there, and the words kindled a fire in his heart. He recalls, “I was absolutely, immediately lightened. I stood on the street corner in the cold and read the sermon, and my life has never been the same.”
Such is the power of Scripture. The Bible is unlike any other book, for it’s alive. We don’t just read the Bible. The Bible reads us. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit . . . ; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Scripture presents the most powerful force on the planet, a force that transforms and leads us toward spiritual maturity. Let’s open it and read it out loud, asking God to ignite our hearts. He promises that the words He’s spoken “will not return to [Him] empty, but will accomplish what [He desires] and achieve the purpose for which [He] sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Our lives will never be the same.
Do you see people’s differences as a barrier or a benefit?
To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the scriptures referenced throughout.
To continue with last Sunday’s theme, imagine if all people were alike. We would read the same books, listen to the same music, and eat the same foods. We’d have the same opinions and think the same thoughts. We’d also have the same limitations. How unbelievably dull—and dangerous—that would be.
Thankfully, as believers, we’re called to unity, not uniformity. Unity is “the state of being united into one.” Uniformity, on the other hand, means “overall sameness.” See the difference? The first allows for the possibility of “iron sharpening iron” (see Proverbs 27:17), while the second gives only the illusion of harmony and safety.
That’s why Jesus prayed His disciples would experience the Trinity’s unity: “The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity” (John 17:22-23). This means we can enjoy our differences and the oneness of being found in Jesus. What a blessing!
Think about it
Do you tend toward uniformity or unity? How can you move closer to the latter?
“Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” (Psalm 103:1-2)
As one popular Christian song proclaims, those who are “in Christ” have 10,000 reasons to be thankful! In the first two verses of Psalm 103, David calls himself to personal praise, reminding himself that he is to praise Yahweh always. The pronouns are singular, underscoring his personal role in praise and thanksgiving as he reminds himself of all his inherited spiritual blessings. “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy [spiritual] diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (vv. 3-5). Wow! Forgiveness, redemption, and satisfaction—all such undeserved blessings for David and all true believers who trust solely in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Turning from a personal thrust, David then focuses on all true believers in verses 6 to 18 as the pronouns change to “we,” “us,” and “our,” giving priceless reasons for praise. One of the capstone verses in this treasure chest of blessings is verse 8: “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” The word gracious, coupled with the word compassion, occurs 11 times in the Old Testament. Why? Because grace is the foundation on which God bestows His endless compassion.
So, why praise and give thanks to Yahweh? Because His goodness is displayed to all when we deserve nothing but eternal damnation. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5). CM
He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. —John 6:35
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Hunger and thirst are physical sensations which, in their acute stages, may become real pain.
It has been the experience of countless seekers after God that when their desires become a pain they were suddenly and wonderfully filled. The problem is not to persuade God to fill us, but to want God sufficiently to permit Him to do so.
The average Christian is so cold and so contented with his wretched condition that there is no vacuum of desire into which the blessed Spirit can rush in satisfying fullness. BAM008
My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that … Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.—Philippians 1:20
Jesus is the supreme example of living without fear of being disappointed by others: “He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave…. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross” (Php 2:7-8).
Disappointed people sometimes find it difficult to move out toward others. After all, people—even Christian people—can be rude, uncouth, obnoxious, and sometimes downright disgusting. I sometimes think it might be helpful if we put a sign outside some churches saying: “Enter here at your own risk.” Forgive my cynicism, but I have lived long enough to know that Christians can hurt! What are we supposed to do when we know that to move toward another person in love exposes us to the risk of being disappointed? We move forward in love: easy to say, but more difficult to do. Making ourselves vulnerable to disappointment is frightening, but this has to happen if we are to love as we are loved.
Mature Christians are those who are willing to look fully into the face of disappointment and feel it, knowing that because they do, they will come to a deeper awareness that no one can comfort the heart like Jesus Christ. In the presence of such pain, one more easily sees the uselessness of every attempt to find solace in one’s own independent strategies. Facing and feeling the pain of disappointment underlies more than anything else the gripping truth that only in God can we trust.
Father, at times Your purposes seem to run diametrically opposite to my interests, but the more I ponder them, the more I see that You always have my highest interests at heart. Help me to trust You more—and myself less. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.—2 Corinthians 12:9
Human strength is a strong deterrent to trusting in Christ. When we rely on our own strength, resources, and knowledge, we assume we can handle situations without help from God. We tend to divide problems into two categories: problems that we know require God’s help and problems we think we can handle on our own.
Paul had a tenacious personality and an exceptionally strong will. He courageously faced angry mobs as he traveled far and wide to promote the cause of Christ. He had spent the first half of his life serving God in his own strength. However, once God gained his attention, Paul had to learn to rely on God’s strength and not his own.
Paul was afflicted with a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). Whatever this was, it humbled him. He had performed incredible miracles, even raising the dead, but he could not remove the affliction that God had given him, an affliction that made him depend on God. The world had seen what Paul could do in his own strength, and it was horrifying! Now God wanted to exercise His power through Paul’s life. When Paul thought he was strong, he neglected to rely upon God’s strength. Only in his weakness did Paul trust implicitly in God.
If you feel strong in an area of your life, beware! Often your strength, rather than your weakness, hinders you from trusting God. God will bring you to a point of weakness if that is what it takes to bring you to trust in Him. Do not despise your weakness, for it leads you to trust in God’s strength.