Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

February 17

How to Lose Your Joy

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Phil. 4:11).

Discontent and ingratitude will steal your joy.

True joy is God's gift to every believer, yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? Did God fail them? No. As with peace, assurance, and other benefits of salvation, joy can be forfeited for many reasons: willful sin, prayerlessness, fear, self-centeredness, focusing on circumstances, and lack of forgiveness are the main culprits.

Two of the most common joy-thieves are dissatisfaction and ingratitude. Both are by-products of the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality of our day. It has produced a generation of Christians who are more dissatisfied than ever because their demands and expectations are higher than ever. They've lost their perspective on God's sovereignty and have therefore lost the ability to give thanks in all things.

In marked contrast, when Jesus taught about contentment and anxiety (Matt. 6:25-34), He spoke of food and clothing—the basic necessities of life. But preferences, not necessities, are the issue with us. We're into style, personal appearance, job satisfaction, earning power, bigger homes, and newer cars. In the name of greater faith we even demand that God supply more miracles, more wealth, and more power.

Amid all that, Paul's words sound a refreshing note of assurance and rebuke: "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Phil. 4:11). He made no demands on God but simply trusted in His gracious provision. Whether he received little or much made no difference to him. In either case he was satisfied and thankful.

Don't be victimized by the spirit of our age. See God's blessings for what they are and continually praise Him for His goodness. In doing so you will guard your heart from dissatisfaction and ingratitude. More important, you will bring joy to the One who is worthy of all praise.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in you a joy and contentment that transcends your circumstances.
  • Make it a daily practice to thank God for specific blessings and trials, knowing that He uses both to perfect His will in you.

For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 18:1—19:8.

  • How did Elijah deal with the false prophets of Baal?
  • How did he deal with Jezebel's threat?
  • What caused Elijah's shift from a spiritual high to a spiritual low?
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 17

God's Unfailing Love

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

God’s love is unconditional and righteous.

We hear a lot today about love from books, magazines, TV, and movies. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that our society is the most loving on earth. Much of the “love,” though, is nothing more than lust masquerading as love, or selfishness disguised as kindness. But today’s verse tells us that “God is love”; the character of God defines love. To clear up any confusion about love, we need only to look at who God is. And then, of course, we need to seek to love others as God loves us.

First, God’s love is unconditional and unrequited. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God loved us when we were sinners, when we had no righteousness and we didn’t—and couldn’t—love Him back. God doesn’t love us because we deserve it or because we love Him, but because it’s His nature to love.

God’s love doesn’t mean He winks at sin, though. Just as earthly fathers discipline sinning children, “those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). True love doesn’t indulge unrighteousness, it confronts it. This kind of tough love isn’t always fun, but it’s for the best: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful,but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v. 11).

We’ll study God’s love more in the next lesson, but now it’s only natural to examine how we ourselves are doing in demonstrating love. Is our love unconditional, or do we withhold love from those who hurt us? Do we love only those who love us back? Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Loving those who love us is easy. Christ loved those at enmity with Him, and He expects us to love our enemies too.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His great love toward us and for its greatest manifestation in the Person of Christ.

For Further Study

First John has much to say about God’s love for us and our love for Him and others. Read the entire book, noting each instance of the word love.

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 17

Reading for Today:

  • Leviticus 5:1–6:30
  • Psalm 24:1-6
  • Proverbs 9:7-9
  • Matthew 28:1-20

Notes:

Leviticus 5:5 he shall confess. Confession must accompany the sacrifice as the outward expression of a repentant heart which openly acknowledged agreement with God concerning sin. Sacrifice minus true faith, repentance, and obedience was hypocrisy (see Ps. 26:4; Is. 9:17; Amos 5:21–26).

Psalm 24:4 These sample qualities do not signify sinless perfection, but rather basic integrity of inward motive and outward manner.

Matthew 28:1 as the first day of the week began to dawn. Sabbath officially ended with sundown on Saturday. At that time the women could purchase and prepare spices (Luke 24:1). The event described here occurred the next morning, at dawn on Sunday, the first day of the week.

Matthew 28:4 became like dead men. This suggests that they were not merely paralyzed with fear, but completely unconscious, totally traumatized by what they had seen. The word translated “shook” has the same root as the word for “earthquake” in v. 2.The sudden appearance of this angel, at the same time the women arrived, was their first clue that anything extraordinary was happening.

Matthew 28:18 All authority. See 11:27; John 3:35. Absolute sovereign authority—lordship over all—is handed to Christ, “in heaven and on earth.” This is clear proof of His deity. The time of His humiliation was at an end, and God had exalted Him above all (Phil. 2:9–11).


DAY 17: How are the Old Testament sacrifices compared to Christ’s sacrifice?

Leviticus

Hebrews

1. Old Covenant (temporary)

Hebrews 7:22; 8:6, 13; 10:20

1. New Covenant (permanent)

2. Obsolete promises

Hebrews 8:6–13

2. Better promises

3. A shadow

Hebrews 8:5; 9:23, 24; 10:1

3. The reality

4. Aaronic priesthood (many)

Hebrews 6:19–7:25

4. Melchizedekian priesthood (one)

5. Sinful priesthood

Hebrews 7:26, 27; 9:7

5. Sinless priest

6. Limited-by-death priesthood

Hebrews 7:16, 17, 23, 24

6. Forever priesthood

7. Daily sacrifices

Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 25, 26; 10:9, 10, 12

7. Once-for-all sacrifice

8. Animal sacrifices

Hebrews 9:11–15, 26; 10:4–10, 19

8. Sacrifice of God’s Son

9. Ongoing sacrifices

Hebrews 10:11–14, 18

9. Sacrifices no longer needed

10. One-year atonement

Hebrews 7:25; 9:12, 15; 10:1–4, 12

10. Eternal propitiation

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 17 - True Happiness vs. Worldly Happiness

“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’” (Matthew 5:4).

The world still operates according to the old popular song lyrics that say, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.” This philosophy basically tells us to hide all our problems and pretend to be happy; and of course people apply this outlook to sin all the time.

Nevertheless Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Godly mourning and confession of sins bring the only kind of happiness worth having—godly happiness that no amount of human effort, optimistic pretense, or positive thinking can produce.

There is a real need in today’s church to cry instead of laugh. The foolishness, frivolity, and embracing of the world’s view of happiness in the name of Christianity should make us mourn, because we know the difference between empty happiness and true happiness. God’s rebuke to the self-satisfied and indulgent happy is strong: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8–10).

True happiness does not ignore sin or make light of it; instead it sorrows over sin, turns from it, and flees to God for genuine forgiveness. And in so doing, it finds lasting joy.

Ask Yourself

Does this message sound depressing and cheerless to you? Have you bought the world’s line that happiness can be found only by ignoring sin, not by dealing with it? Aren’t you tired, though, of constantly coming up empty, never quite satisfied? Run weeping into the welcoming arms of God’s forgiveness.

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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