Grace to You Devotionals

GTY Devotionals

February 2

Joy Versus Happiness

"Rejoice in the Lord" (Phil. 3:1).

Happiness is related to circumstances; joy is a gift from God.

Not long ago it was common to see bumper stickers proclaiming every conceivable source for happiness. One said, "Happiness is being married." Another countered, "Happiness is being single." One cynical sticker read, "Happiness is impossible!"

For most people happiness is possible but it's also fickle, shallow, and fleeting. As the word itself implies, happiness is associated with happenings, happenstance, luck, and fortune. If circumstances are favorable, you're happy. If not, you're unhappy.

Christian joy, however, is directly related to God and is the firm confidence that all is well, regardless of your circumstances.

In Philippians 3:1 Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord" (emphasis added). The Lord is both the source and object of Christian joy. Knowing Him brings joy that transcends temporal circumstances. Obeying Him brings peace and assurance.

Joy is God's gift to every believer. It is the fruit that His Spirit produces within you (Gal. 5:22) from the moment you receive the gospel (John 15:11). It increases as you study and obey God's Word (1 John 1:4).

Even severe trials needn't rob your joy. James 1:2 says you should be joyful when you encounter various trials because trials produce spiritual endurance and maturity. They also prove that your faith is genuine, and a proven faith is the source of great joy (1 Pet. 1:6-8).

You live in a world corrupted by sin. But your hope is in a living God, not a dying world. He is able to keep you from stumbling and make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy (Jude 24). That's your assurance of future glory and eternal joy! Until that time, don't neglect His Word, despise trials, or lose sight of your eternal reward. They are key ingredients of your present joy.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for any difficult circumstances you might be facing. Ask Him for continued grace to see them through His perspective and not lose heart (Gal. 6:9).
  • Be aware of any sinful attitudes or actions on your part that might diminish your joy. Confess them immediately.

For Further Study

Read Acts 16:11-40.

  • What difficulties did Paul and Silas face in founding the Philippian church?
  • How did God use their difficulties for His glory?
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.

February 2

The Essence of Idolatry

“‘You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you, and state the case in order before your eyes’” (Psalms 50:21).

Idolatry is more than worshiping some inanimate object; it is having an unworthy conception of God.

Western society, with all its culture and scientific knowledge, is in the same satanic trap that governs the life of an aborigine bowing down to a rock. We all have our gods. Many worship the god of materialism—getting more stuff is their highest pursuit. Others worship the gods of sex or entertainment. Of course, behind all of this is the worship of self.

However, the essence of idolatry is possessing thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It may be creating a god, but it also may be making the true God into something He isn’t, or thinking something about God that is untrue.

God said to the wicked in Psalm 50:21, “You thought that I was just like you.” That’s precisely what some have imagined about God. They have portrayed God after their own sinful mental image of Him. Careless Christians can do this also.

In The Knowledge of the Holy A. W. Tozer writes, “The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason, the gravest question before the church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”

As we learn about God this month, ask Him to remove misconceptions you may have about Him. Be diligent to learn what God says about Himself and not what you or others think He is like.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God that He is the only God.
  • Pray for forgiveness if you have been more committed to any other god or if you think thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.

For Further Study

  • The ancient Greeks had hundreds of gods. Just for good measure the Athenians built an altar to the unknown god. Read Acts 17:16-34. How did Paul approach those who worshiped false gods?
  • How can you use Paul’s example as you witness to unbelievers today?
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.

February 2

Reading for Today:

  • Exodus 15:1–16:36
  • Psalm 18:20-27
  • Proverbs 6:12-15
  • Matthew 21:23-46

Notes:

Exodus 15:20 the prophetess. Miriam was the first woman to be given this honor. She herself claimed the Lord had spoken through her (Num. 12:2). She apparently played an important role in these rescue events because the prophet Micah states that God delivered Israel by the hand of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (Mic. 6:4). Other women to receive this rare honor were Deborah (Judg. 4:4); Huldah (2 Kin. 22:14); Isaiah’s wife (Is. 8:3); Anna (Luke 2:36); and Philip’s four daughters (Acts 21:9).

Exodus 16:31 Manna. The arrival of the quails in much quantity (v. 13) was totally overshadowed by the arrival of manna the next morning. Despite the different descriptions given for its form and taste (vv. 14, 31), the name chosen for it derived from the question they asked. “Manna” was an older form of their question, “What is it?” The psalmist referred to manna as the “bread of heaven” and “angels’ food” which rained down after God had opened the windows of heaven (Ps. 78:23–25). Natural explanations for the manna, such as lichen growing on rocks or insect-excreted granules on tamarisk thickets, are totally inadequate to explain its presence in sufficient quantity on the ground under the dew every day except the Sabbath for the next 40 years (v. 35) to satisfy every family’s hunger. It was supernaturally produced and supernaturally sustained to last for the Sabbath!

Matthew 21:25 The baptism of John—where was it from? Jesus caught the Jewish leaders in their own trap. They had no doubt hoped that He would answer by asserting that His authority came directly from God (as He had many times before—see John 5:19–23; 10:18). They then accused Him of blasphemy and used the charge as an excuse to kill Him—as they had also attempted to do before (John 5:18; 10:31–33). Here, however, He asked a question that placed them in an impossible dilemma, because John was widely revered by the people. They could not affirm John’s ministry without condemning themselves. And if they denied John’s legitimacy, they feared the response of the people (v. 26). In effect, Jesus exposed their own lack of any authority to examine Him.

Matthew 21:42 The stone…rejected. This refers to His crucifixion; and the restoration of “the chief cornerstone” anticipates His resurrection. the chief cornerstone. To the superficial eye, this quotation from Psalm 118:22, 23 is irrelevant to the parable that precedes it. But it is taken from a messianic psalm. Jesus cited it to suggest that the Son who was killed and thrown out of the vineyard was also “the chief cornerstone” in God’s redemptive plan.


DAY 2: How are we to think about the astonishing miracles reported in Exodus?

The scientific materialism of many twenty-first-century people makes it difficult for them to consider any so-called miracles. If the laws of nature are considered supreme, the existence of a personal Supreme Being above the laws of nature and able to override them becomes inconceivable. Examples of miracles do little to convince someone who is already convinced that miracles are impossible.

Miracles can demonstrate God’s existence; they don’t prove it. Human beings display an amazing ability to come up with alternative explanations for God’s activity in history. The situation is not that twenty-first-century people can’t believe in miracles; rather, it is that twenty-first-century people often won’t believe in miracles.

For Christians, the matter is settled by faith. In becoming Christians, we had to believe in the central miracle: God came in the flesh, Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose from the dead to reign eternally as Lord and Savior. In the light of that miracle, the miracles of Exodus become less a matter for speculation and more a matter of wonder and worship. They are examples of the lengths to which God went to communicate to people. Even twenty-first-century Christians are humbled and awestruck by God’s amazing power!

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.

February 2 - James and John—Raw Recruits

“Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him” (Matthew 4:21-22).

When Jesus first called James and John, they were unrefined, tough fishermen by trade. The Holy Spirit had already drawn them to faith in the Savior (John 1:35–51; 2:11), but now Jesus summoned them to work as evangelists in spreading His gospel. Like Peter and Andrew, they did not hesitate to leave the fishing business, which for James and John meant leaving the fishing to their father to follow Jesus right away.

These disciples lacked formal education and likely didn’t have much religious training either, nor was their spiritual perception noticeably apparent. They showed no more ability to fully understand Jesus’ teaching than any of the others, even when He taught in parables. They often demonstrated only slight potential for dependability, much less for greatness.

Jesus’ disciples were probably not all such raw recruits as James and John (or Peter and Andrew), but Jesus did not choose any of the Twelve from the Jewish elite religious leaders (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26–29). That omission undoubtedly caused many of those men—the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, and rabbis—to reject the Lord and Savior. They could not fathom how someone who was not an official Jewish leader Himself and who chose no leaders to be among His closest associates could possibly be the Messiah.

Paul was the only apostle who had been a Jewish leader, and of course he was not among the original Twelve but considered himself “one untimely born,” exceptionally called to be an apostle (cf. 1 Cor. 15:8–10). As with everyone who believes, God’s call came by His exceeding grace.

Ask Yourself

Jesus had purpose for calling the ones He did into His ministry, just as He has purpose for calling you. If you’re failing to see the value He has placed on you, let the fishermen’s story encourage you today. He has more in mind for you than you can imagine—if you’ll just keep following.

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.

Del libro La Verdad para Hoy de John MacArthur DERECHOS DE AUTOR © 2001 Utilizado con permiso de Editorial Portavoz, www.portavoz.com
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