Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

March 27

Solving Man's Greatest Problem

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"Forgive us our debts" (Matt. 6:12).

Forgiveness removes the guilt and penalty of sin and restores intimacy with God.

Man's greatest problem is sin. It renders him spiritually dead, alienates him from God and his fellow man, plagues him with guilt and fear, and can eventually damn him to eternal hell. The only solution is forgiveness—and the only source of forgiveness is Jesus Christ.

All sin is punishable by death (Rom. 6:23) but Christ bore the sins of the world, thereby making it possible to be forgiven and have eternal life through faith in Him (John 3:16). What a glorious reality!

Scripture speaks of two kinds of forgiveness: judicial and parental. Judicial forgiveness comes from God the righteous judge, who wiped your sin off the record and set you free from its punishment and guilt. At the moment of your salvation He forgave all your sins—past, present, and future—and pronounced you righteous for all eternity. That's why nothing can ever separate you from Christ's love (Rom. 8:38-39).

Parental forgiveness is granted to believers by their loving heavenly Father as they confess their sin and seek His cleansing. That's the kind of forgiveness Jesus speaks of in Matthew 6:12.

When a child disobeys his father, the father/child relationship isn't severed. The child is still a member of the family and there's a sense in which he is already forgiven because he's under the umbrella of his father's parental love. But some of the intimacy of their relationship is lost until the child seeks forgiveness.

That's the idea in Matthew 6:12. The sins you commit as a believer don't rob you of your salvation, but they do affect your relationship with God. He still loves you and will always be your Father, but the intimacy and sweet communion you once knew is jeopardized until you seek reconciliation by confessing your sins.

As a Christian, you are judicially forgiven and will never come into condemnation. But never presume on that grace. Make confession part of your daily prayers so sin will never erode your relationship with your Heavenly Father.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His judicial forgiveness of all your sins.
  • Ask Him to help you maintain the joy of your relationship with Him by quickly dealing with any sin that comes up in your life.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 32:1-7.

  • How did David feel about forgiveness?
  • What happened to David before he confessed his sin?
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.

March 27

Enemies of Humility: Selfish Ambition

“But Jesus answered and said, ‘You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able’” (Matthew 20:22).

Selfish ambition in spiritual things shows that we are ignorant of the real path to God’s glory.

Yesterday we saw that James and John, with their mother, posed a bold power-play question to the Lord Jesus. Now, as He answers them, they display another attitude at odds with the humble spirit: selfish ambition.

If the brothers’ power-play request was brazen, it was also very foolish. They did not have a clue about what was involved if Jesus granted their request. “The cup that I am about to drink” was His way of referring to His suffering and death. When He asked James and John if they were prepared to drink that cup, Christ was saying that if you are His disciple, you must be prepared for suffering and hardship.

In fact, Jesus’ words “to drink the cup” indicate that something very difficult lay ahead. Not only do those words refer to the Savior’s own painful suffering and death (Matt. 26:39), but they mean we must stay the course to the end, enduring whatever is necessary. James, John, and the other disciples initially did not have such staying power.

James and John, thinking they would always persevere, overconfidently declared, “We are able.” Peter brashly promised never to forsake the Lord, and all the other disciples echoed that pledge. But Peter denied Jesus three times, and the ambitious brothers, along with the rest of the disciples, fled after Jesus’ arrest.

The disciples eventually did finish well and shared in the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). James became the first martyred apostle, and John was exiled to the island of Patmos. But such faithfulness was not attained in their own strength, nor by their ambitious maneuvering, but by the Spirit’s power. This is a strong reminder to us that no position in God’s kingdom is rewarded because of selfish human ambition, but only by His sovereign choice of “those for whom it has been prepared” (Matt. 20:23).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would give you a view of service in His kingdom that is unclouded by your own ambitions.

For Further Study

Read and compare Psalms 15 and 75.

  • What do they say about pride and humility?
  • Meditate on several verses that relate to that theme.
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.

March 27

Reading for Today:

  • Deuteronomy 15:1–16:22
  • Psalm 37:30-36
  • Proverbs 12:17-19
  • Luke 3:1-38

Notes:

Deuteronomy 16:21, 22 wooden image…sacred pillar. A reference to the wooden poles, images, or trees that represented the Canaanite goddess Asherah. A stone pillar symbolic of male fertility was also prevalent in the Canaanite religion. These were forbidden by the first two commandments (Ex. 20:3–6; Deut. 5:7–10).

Proverbs 12:18 speaks…piercings. The contrast here is between cutting words that are blurted out (Ps. 106:33) and thoughtful words that bring health (Eph. 4:29, 30).

Luke 3:2 Annas and Caiaphas were high priests. According to Josephus, Annas served as high priest A.D. 6–15, when he was deposed by Roman officials. He nonetheless retained de facto power, as seen in the fact that his successors included 5 of his sons and Caiaphas, a son-in-law (Matt. 26:3).Caiaphas was the actual high priest during the time Luke describes, but Annas still controlled the office. This is seen clearly in the fact that Christ was taken to Annas first after His arrest, then to Caiaphas (Matt. 26:57).

Luke 3:4 Make His paths straight. Quoted from Isaiah 40:3–5.A monarch traveling in wilderness regions would have a crew of workmen go ahead to make sure the road was clear of debris, obstructions, potholes, and other hazards that made the journey difficult. In a spiritual sense, John was calling the people of Israel to prepare their hearts for the coming of their Messiah.


DAY 27: How were God’s people to treat the poor?

As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, Deuteronomy 15:4 has an interesting statement “except when there may be no poor.” Idealistically, there was the possibility that poverty would be eradicated in the land “for the LORD will greatly bless you in the land.” The fullness of that blessing, however, would be contingent on the completeness of Israel’s obedience. Thus, vv. 4–6 were an encouragement to strive for a reduction of poverty while at the same time they stressed the abundance of the provision God would make in the Promised Land.

God specifically warns them about hardening their hearts against the poor, but to “open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need” (v. 8). The attitude of the Israelites toward the poor in their community was to be one of warmth and generosity. The poor were given whatever was necessary to meet their needs, even with the realization that such “loans” would never need to be paid back.

“For the poor will never cease from the land,” Moses adds (v. 11). Realistically (in contrast to v. 4), the disobedience toward the Lord on Israel’s part meant that there would always be poor people in the land of Israel. Jesus repeated this truism in Matthew 26:11. Even if a Hebrew was sold into a period of servitude for his debts, his master “shall not let him go away empty-handed” (Deut. 15:13). When a slave had completed his time of service, his former owner was to make ample provision for him so that he would not begin his state of new freedom in destitution.

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.

March 27 - True Salt and Light Are Pure

“‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house’” (Matthew 5:13–15).

With great responsibility, there is often great danger. We can’t be an influence for purity in the world if we have compromised our own purity. We can’t sting the world’s conscience if we continually go against our own. We can’t be used of God to retard the corruption of sin in the world if our lives become corrupted by sin. To lose our saltiness is not to lose our salvation, but we will lose our effectiveness.

Light, too, is in danger of becoming useless. Like salt, it can’t lose its essential nature. A hidden light is still light, but it is useless light. That’s why people do not “light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” A light that is hidden under a basket can’t even be used to read by; it helps neither the person who hides it nor anyone else.

Don’t hide your light for fear of offending others, whether out of indifference or lovelessness or any other reason. If you do, you demonstrate unfaithfulness to the Lord.

Ask Yourself

The demands of purity call for more than merely the eradication of sin and shameful habits, but also for replacing impurity with active, living, breathing righteousness. What are some specific acts of obedience and service to which God is calling you at this hour, in this generation?

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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