Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

July 17

Possessed by God

"You are . . . a people for God's own possession" (1 Pet. 2:9).

Since God paid the price to redeem you, you belong to Him.

When Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me" (John 10:14), He stated a truth that has been especially dear to me since the early years of my theological education. One of the pleasant memories from my seminary days is sitting in chapel and singing the hymn by the nineteenth-century lyricist Wade Robinson "I Am His and He Is Mine." I may never fully comprehend the depths of what it means to belong to Christ, but I will forever glory in it.

The Greek word translated "possession" in 1 Peter 2:9 means "to purchase" or "acquire for a price." Paul used it in Ephesians 1:14 to speak of "the redemption of God's own possession." Everyone is His by creation, but we as Christians are uniquely His because He paid the price to redeem us from the bondage of sin and death.

God's ownership of believers is emphasized throughout Scripture. Paul admonished elders to "shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). He said to the Corinthians, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Titus 2:14 says that Christ "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem [or purchase] us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession."

Isaiah 43:21 says, "The people whom I formed for Myself, will declare My praise." That was to be Israel's purpose, and it is yours as well. God chose you as His own possession and gave His Son to purchase your salvation. You are His eternally, so live accordingly and rejoice in such a glorious privilege!

Suggestions for Prayer

Make it your practice to praise God abundantly for the privilege of belonging to Him.

For Further Study

Read John 10:1-33.

  • What characterizes the Good Shepherd?
  • What did Jesus claim about His relationship with God the Father?
  • How did the Jewish leaders react to His teaching?
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

July 17

Answered Prayer

“And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).

The answers to believers’ prayers bring assurance of salvation.

Another reliable way to know if you are a Christian is if God answers your prayers. The apostle John gives us the infallible reasoning for this statement. First, you can know your prayers will be answered if you keep His commandments (1 John 3:22). And second, John says the only way you can obey God’s commandments is if you belong to Him (v. 24). Therefore, an obedient believer proves He is abiding in Christ and receives further assurance when his prayers are answered.

However, the only prayers God answers are the ones prayed according to His will. If you are an obedient believer, you will fashion your prayers in line with what Scripture says about His will. The answered prayer that follows will bring you confidence and assurance (see 1 John 5:13-15).

Some believers miss out on that assurance because of their skimpy prayer life, which obviously results in few answered prayers. How sad for them, and how disappointing for God, because He would do so much more for those Christians if they would only ask Him.
 
What about you? Has it been a pattern of your life to experience answered prayer? Ask yourself questions like the following: Have you prayed for someone’s difficult situation and seen God turn it around to one of joy and blessing? Have you seen an unsaved person for whom you prayed come to Christ? Has God filled a void in your life after you prayed that He would? Have you ever prayed that God would help you in teaching His Word and then experienced much grace in presenting it with clarity? Have you prayed for boldness and power to proclaim the gospel and seen God work through you? Have you asked for contentment during a trial and received God’s peace? Have you known forgiveness and a clear conscience after you prayed to that end?

If you can answer yes to those questions or ones like them, you have good reason to believe that you belong to the Lord and He belongs to you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His power through prayer and for the answers He’s granted you.

For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 17:1; 18:41-46.

  • What does the second passage reveal about Elijah’s prayer life?
  • How does that support James 5:16b-18?
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

July 17

Reading for Today:

  • 2 Chronicles 30:1–31:21
  • Psalm 85:1-7
  • Proverbs 21:9-11
  • Acts 20:1-16

Notes:

2 Chronicles 30:6 return. The nation was required by law to annually celebrate 3 feasts in Jerusalem: 1) Passover; 2) Pentecost; and 3) Tabernacles (Ex. 23; Lev. 23; Num. 28; 29; Deut. 16). God would have returned to bless the people of the northern apostate and idolatrous kingdom of Israel if they had returned to Him.

2 Chronicles 30:1–27 Hezekiah reached back to restore the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover (Ex. 12:1–20; Lev. 23:1–8), which apparently had not been properly and regularly observed in some time, perhaps since the division of the kingdom 215 years earlier (v. 5). The Passover would later be revived again by Josiah (2 Chr. 35:1–9) and Zerubbabel (Ezra 6:19–22). It celebrated God’s forgiveness and redemption of His believing people.

2 Chronicles 30:26 nothing like this. A telling statement about the spiritual degeneracy of the divided kingdom since the time of Solomon over 215 years earlier.

2 Chronicles 31:6 tithe. Since the priests and Levites served the nation, they were to be supported by the people through the taxation of the tithe. According to Leviticus 27:30–33 and Numbers 18:21, 24, the people were to give the tenth (tithe) to supply all the needs of the Levites. Malachi 3:8 says they were robbing God when they did not give the tithe. Deuteronomy 12:6, 7 called for a second tithe that was to support the nation’s devotion to the temple by being used for the national festivals at the temple in Jerusalem. This was called the festival tithe. Deuteronomy 14:28, 29 called for a third tithe every 3 years for the poor. The sum of this tax plan totaled about 23 percent annually.

Acts 20:3 three months. Most or all of it were likely spent in Corinth. Jews plotted against him. Tragically, most of the opposition to Paul’s ministry stemmed from his fellow countrymen (2 Cor. 11:26). The Jewish community of Corinth hated Paul because of its humiliating debacle before Gallio (18:12–17), and the stunning conversions of two of its most prominent leaders, Crispus (18:8) and Sosthenes (18:17; 1 Cor. 1:1). Luke does not record the details of the Jews’ plot, but it undoubtedly involved murdering Paul during the voyage to Palestine. The apostle would have been an easy target on a small ship packed with Jewish pilgrims. Because of that danger, Paul canceled his plans to sail from Greece to Syria. Instead, he decided to go north into Macedonia, cross the Aegean Sea to Asia Minor, and catch another ship from there. That delay cost Paul his opportunity to reach Palestine in time for Passover, but he hurried to be there in time for Pentecost (v. 16).

Acts 20:9 young man. The Greek word suggests he was between 7 and 14 years old. His youth, the fumes from the lamps, and the lateness of the hour (v. 7) gradually overcame his resistance. He dozed off, fell out of the open window, and was killed.

Acts 20:10 his life is in him. This does not mean that he had not died, but that his life had been restored. As a physician, Luke knew whether someone had died, as he plainly states (v. 9) was the case with Eutychus.


DAY 17: Why did the church gather to worship on Sunday?

“Now on the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). Sunday was the day the church gathered for worship, because it was the day of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; 1 Cor. 16:2). The writings of the early church fathers confirm that the church continued to meet on Sunday after the close of the New Testament period. Scripture does not require Christians to observe the Saturday Sabbath:

1. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 31:16, 17; Neh. 9:14; Ezek. 20:12), whereas Christians are under the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8);
2. there is no New Testament command to keep the Sabbath;
3. the first command to keep the Sabbath was not until the time of Moses (Ex. 20:8);
4. the Jerusalem Council (chap. 15) did not order Gentile believers to keep the Sabbath;
5. Paul never cautioned Christians about breaking the Sabbath; and
6. the New Testament explicitly teaches that Sabbath keeping was not a requirement (Rom. 14:5; Gal. 4:10, 11; Col. 2:16, 17).

From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, www.thomasnelson.com.

July 17 - Physical Healings and Spiritual Cleansing

“‘. . . as a testimony to them’” (Matthew 8:4).

Christ’s miraculous healings were significant in His earthly ministry. They displayed genuine concern for human need and testified that He was God. But several times Jesus stated, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:5–6; cf. Mark 2:9; Luke 5:23). The healing miracles simply illustrated the cleansing of sin, which was Jesus’ primary purpose within God’s redemptive plan.

Curing leprosy was an especially powerful illustration, because its physical destructiveness parallels sin’s spiritual destructiveness. The Lord’s healing of leprosy restored people to human fellowship, just as His cleansing of sin restores them to divine fellowship.

The church today often fails to confront individuals with the horrible destructiveness of their sin. Instead of “coming to Christ” by making an emotional, feel-good decision, people need to realize their sins and bring them to God for cleansing. True conversion occurs when, like the leper, sinners confess their need and humbly seek His restoration. Like the leprous man, sinners flee to Christ as their only hope for rescue from their helpless condition of lostness.

Paralleling the healing again, Jesus’ first requirement for new converts is their obedience to His Word. Only after demonstrating a new life of righteousness can they give proper testimony to what the Savior has done.

Ask Yourself

Is it fair to say that sinfulness is often a precursor to sickness? There is certainly no universal answer to this question, but how can you use times of limitation, weakness, or confinement to let God examine your heart and deepen your desire to follow Him?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.
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