Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

June 23

Fulfilling the Royal Law

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"If . . . you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well" (James 2:8).

Love is the only antidote for partiality.

In Matthew 22:36 a lawyer asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest. Jesus answered, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets" (vv. 37-40). Love for God and one's fellow man summarizes the intent of God's law, and is the measure of true faith.

Jesus wasn't calling for the shallow, emotional, self-oriented love that is so prevalent in our society, but for a sacrificial quality of love that places the needs of others on par with your own. That kind of love is utterly incompatible with partiality, which seeks only to further its own selfish goals.

Showing partiality breaks God's law because it violates God's attributes, misrepresents the Christian faith, ignores God's choice of the poor, and condones the blasphemous behavior of the rich (James 2:1-7). But when you treat others impartially, you fulfill the royal law. "Royal" in James 2:8 translates a Greek word that speaks of sovereignty. The law was given by God, who is the supreme authority in the universe, so it is authoritative and binding. Love fulfills God's law because if you love someone, you won't sin against him.

Apparently not all of James's readers were showing partiality, so he commended them, saying they were "doing well." The Greek word translated "well" speaks of that which is excellent. They were doing an excellent thing because they were acting in a manner consistent with God's impartial, loving nature. That's God's call to every believer: for "the one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6). As you do, you fulfill God's law and thereby prove that your faith and love are genuine.

Suggestions for Prayer

God's love is the only antidote for partiality, so pray each day that He will teach you how better to express His love to those around you.

For Further Study

Read the following verses, noting the characteristics of godly love: John 3:16, Ephesians 5:25-29, Philippians 1:9-11, and 1 John 5:1-3.

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.

June 23

Integrity Promotes a Righteous Person

“Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God’” (Daniel 6:4-5).

Live so as to silence your critics.

Whenever God exalts a righteous person, there will be those who are jealous and who criticize. Sometimes, as in Daniel’s case, the jealousy turns to bitter opposition. But Daniel’s accusers had a problem: try as they may, they could find no ground of accusation against him. He was blameless and above reproach in his character and political dealings. Their only option was to somehow indict him for being totally committed to God. What a wonderful testimony to his faithfulness!

When an individual has served in office as long as Daniel had and his enemies can bring no charges of wrongdoing against him, he or she must be a person of great integrity and personal purity. That was the strength of Daniel’s character, and God wants you to have that kind of character as well.

There will always be those who want to discredit you. Even if they aren’t jealous of your position, they’ll resent your Christian faith and will scrutinize your attitudes and actions in an attempt to tarnish your reputation. How will your character hold up under that kind of scrutiny?

The apostle Peter wrote, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). That means you must live the kind of life that silences your critics and refutes their accusations. When you do, some of them might even come to Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to guard your testimony and to minister saving grace to anyone who might seek to discredit you.

For Further Study

Read Philippians 1:12-18. What was the apostle Paul’s perspective on those who were envious of him? Do you share his perspective?

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.

June 23

Reading for Today:

  • 1 Chronicles 9:1–10:14
  • Psalm 77:10-15
  • Proverbs 19:15-16
  • Acts 6:1-15

Notes:

Psalm 77:10 This psalm illustrates one cure for depression. The psalmist does not explain the cause of his despair, but he was definitely locked into gloom. When he thought about God, it only caused him to complain bitterly. But beginning in v. 10, the psalmist’s mood starts to change because he commits himself to focusing on God’s goodness and past acts of deliverance. His lament then changes into a hymn of praise. years of the right hand of the Most High. The psalmist began to remember the times when God used His right hand (power) to strengthen and protect him.

Proverbs 19:16 commandment. Wisdom is equated with God’s commandments. In a sense, Proverbs contain the applications and implications of all that is in God’s moral law.

Acts 6:7 One of Luke’s periodic statements summarizing the growth of the church and the spread of the gospel (2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 9:31; 12:24; 13:49; 16:5; 19:20). great many of the priests. The conversion of large numbers of priests may account for the vicious opposition that arose against Stephen.

Acts 6:8 wonders and signs. Acts 4:30; 5:12; 14:3; 15:12. Wonders is the amazement people experience when witnessing supernatural works (miracles). Signs point to the power of God behind miracles—marvels have no value unless they point to God and His truth. Such works were often done by the Holy Spirit through the apostles (5:12–16) and their associates (6:8) to authenticate them as the messengers of God’s truth (2 Cor. 12:12;Heb. 2:3, 4).

Acts 6:15 face of an angel. Pure, calm, unruffled composure, reflecting the presence of God (Ex. 34:29–35).


DAY 23: How did the apostles deal with the first major problem within the church?

By Acts 6:1 the church could have reached over 20,000 men and women. At that time “there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists.” Hebrews were the native Jewish population of Palestine; Hellenists were Jews from the Diaspora. The Hellenists’ absorption of aspects of Greek culture made them suspect to the Palestinian Jews. The Hellenists believed their widows were not receiving an adequate share of the food the church provided for their care (1 Tim. 5:3–16).

The apostles considered the problem and said they could not “leave the word of God and serve tables” (v. 2). The word translated “tables” can refer to tables used in monetary matters (Matt. 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:15), as well as those used for serving meals. To be involved either in financial matters or in serving meals would take the 12 away from their first priority. Prayer and the ministry of the word (v. 2) define the highest priorities of church leaders (v. 4).

Rather, they told the church to pick out “seven men” to take care of it (v. 3). These were not deacons in terms of the later church office (1 Tim. 3:8–13), although they performed some of the same duties. Stephen and Philip (the only ones of the 7 mentioned elsewhere in Scripture) clearly were evangelists, not deacons. Acts later mentions elders (14:23; 20:17), but not deacons.

The 7 men chosen by the church all had Greek names, implying they were all Hellenists. The church, in a display of love and unity, may have chosen them to rectify the apparent imbalance involving the Hellenistic widows. The apostles “prayed…laid hands on them” (v. 6). This expression was used of Jesus when He healed and sometimes indicated being taken prisoner. In the Old Testament, offerers of sacrifices laid their hands on the animal as an expression of identification (Lev. 8:14,18,22; Heb. 6:2). But in the symbolic sense, it signified the affirmation, support, and identification with someone and his ministry (see 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim. 1:6; Num. 27:23).

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.

June 23 - God’s Love Illustrated

“‘What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!’” (Matthew 7:9–11).

If we claim to be God’s children, we should be reflecting God’s character in our lives. Jesus here shows us something of what our heavenly Father’s love is like.

Jesus asks two rhetorical questions. The first asks what loving father would ever give his son a stone if he asked for a piece of bread. Leading up to the second question, Jesus gives an example of a son asking his father for a fish. The father wouldn’t give his son a snake, would he? The obvious answer to both is that no father would do that because it isn’t natural to ignore the physical or spiritual needs of his son.

In contrast to sinful, human fathers, our divine, loving, merciful, gracious Father has no limit on His treasure and no bounds to His goodness. Yet even the greatest human parental love cannot compare with God’s.

The truth Jesus proclaims here is that, if imperfect and sinful human fathers so willingly and freely give their children the basics of life, God will infinitely outdo them in measure and benefit. If we want God to treat us with loving generosity as His children, we should so treat others, because we are those who bear His likeness.

Ask Yourself

As always, our dealings with God are based on relationship—a relationship He has graciously established and continues to maintain. What threatens your own ability to view Him in this light, rather than primarily relating to Him only in religious terms—distant and detached?

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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