"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,' and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:21-24).
You are a friend of God if you love Him and obey His Word.
Can you imagine life without friends—those precious people who love you despite your failings and who stand by you through joys and sorrows—those to whom you've committed yourself and whose companionship you treasure? They are without question one of God's greatest gifts, yet there is an even greater gift: friendship with God Himself.
Jesus spoke of such a friendship in John 15:13-16, describing it as one of intimacy, mutual love, sacrifice, and commitment. In verse 14 He says, "You are My friends, if you do what I command you." That's the kind of friendship Abraham demonstrated when he obeyed God and prepared to offer Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen. 22:3-10). Isaac was the son through whom God's covenant to Abraham would be fulfilled. Killing him would violate that covenant and call into question the character of God, whose Word forbids human sacrifice (Deut. 18:10). It took unquestioning trust for Abraham to obey God's command. When he did, his faith was on display for all to see.
The Greek word translated "justified" in James 2:21 has two meanings: "to acquit" (treat as righteous) or "to vindicate" (demonstrate as righteous). James emphasized the second meaning. When Abraham believed God, he was justified by faith and acquitted of sin (Gen. 15:6). When he offered up Isaac, he was justified by works in that his faith was vindicated.
Faith is always the sole condition of salvation, but saving faith never stands alone—it is always accompanied by righteous works. That's the test of true salvation and of friendship with God.
As a friend of God, treasure that relationship and be careful never to let sin rob you of its fullest joy.
Suggestions for Prayer
Praise God for the privilege of being His friend.
For Further Study
Read Genesis 22:1-19, noting the faith and obedience of Abraham.
Integrity Draws Men to God
“Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language who were living in all the land: ‘May your peace abound! I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever. He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions’” (Daniel 6:25-27).
It doesn’t take a lot of people to make an impact for Christ; it merely takes the right kind.
Today’s passage proclaims the sovereignty and majesty of the living God and calls on everyone throughout the nation to fear and tremble before Him. Those verses could have been written by King David or one of the other psalmists, but they were written by a pagan king to a pagan nation. His remarkable tribute to God’s glory was the fruit of Daniel’s influence on his life.
God doesn’t really need a lot of people to accomplish His work; He needs the right kind of people. And Daniel shows us the impact one person can have when he or she is sold out to God. That’s how it is throughout Scripture. For example, Noah was God’s man during the Flood, Joseph was God’s man in Egypt, Moses was God’s man in the Exodus, and Esther was God’s woman in the days of King Ahasuerus. So it continues right down to the present. When God puts His people in the right place, His message gets through.
As a Christian, you are God’s person in your family, school, or place of employment. He has placed you there as His ambassador to influence others for Christ. That’s a wonderful privilege and an awesome responsibility.
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank the Lord for His marvelous grace in your life and for the opportunities He gives you each day to share His love with others.
For Further Study
The key to Daniel’s fruitfulness, and to yours as well, is given in Psalm 1. Memorize that psalm, and recite it often as a reminder of God’s promises to those who live with biblical integrity.
Reading for Today:
1 Chronicles 21:1–22:19
1 Chronicles 21:1 Satan…moved. Second Samuel 24:1 reports that it was God who moved David. This apparent discrepancy is resolved by understanding that God sovereignly and permissively uses Satan to achieve His purposes. God uses Satan to judge sinners (Mark 4:15; 2 Cor. 4:4), to refine saints (Job 1:8–2:10; Luke 22:31, 32), to discipline those in the church (1 Cor. 5:1–5; 1 Tim. 1:20), and to further purify obedient believers (2 Cor. 12:7–10). Neither God nor Satan forced David to sin (James 1:13–15), but God allowed Satan to tempt David and he chose to sin. The sin surfaced his proud heart and God dealt with him for it. number Israel. David’s census brought tragedy because, unlike the census in Moses’ time (Num. 1; 2) which God had commanded, this census by David was to gratify his pride in the great strength of his army and consequent military power. He was also putting more trust in his forces than in his God. He was taking credit for his victories by the building of his great army. This angered God, who moved Satan to bring the sin to a head.
1 Chronicles 22:5 young. Solomon was born early in David’s reign (ca. 1000–990 B.C.) and was at this time 20 to 30 years of age. The magnificent and complex challenge of building such a monumental edifice with all its elements required an experienced leader for preparation. magnificent. David understood that the temple needed to reflect on earth something of God’s heavenly majesty, so he devoted himself to the collection of the plans and materials, tapping the vast amount of spoils from people he had conquered and cities he had sacked (vv. 14–16).
1 Chronicles 22:11–13 David’s spiritual charge to Solomon resembles the Lord’s exhortation to Joshua (Josh. 1:6–9). Solomon asked God for and received the very wisdom and understanding his father, David, desired for him (2 Chr. 1:7–12; 1 Kin. 3:3–14). He learned the value of such spiritual counsel and passed it on in Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13.
1 Chronicles 22:14 one hundred thousand…gold. Assuming a talent weighed about 75 pounds, this would be approximately 3,750 tons, a staggering amount of gold. one million. This would be approximately 37,500 tons of silver.
Proverbs 20:1 Wine…strong drink. This begins a new theme of temperance (23:20, 21, 29–35; 31:4, 5). Wine was grape juice mixed with water to dilute it, but strong drink was unmixed. While the use of these beverages is not specifically condemned (Deut. 14:26), being intoxicated always is (Is. 28:7). Rulers were not to drink, so their judgment would not be clouded nor their behavior less than exemplary (31:4, 5). mocker…brawler. “Mocker”is the same word as “scoffer” in 19:25, 29; a brawler is violent, loud, and uncontrolled. Both words describe the personality of the drunkard.
DAY 29: How did the apostle Paul come to faith in Jesus Christ?
The apostle Paul was originally named Saul, after the first king of Israel. He was born a Jew, studied in Jerusalem under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), and became a Pharisee (23:6).He was also a Roman citizen, a right he inherited from his father (22:8). Acts 9:1–19 records the external facts of his conversion (see also 22:1–22; 26:9–20). Philippians 3:1–14 records the internal spiritual conversion.
At the time of his conversion Saul was “still breathing threats and murder” against Christians (Acts 9:1; 1 Tim. 1:12, 13; 1 Cor. 15:9). He was in Damascus, the capital of Syria, which apparently had a large population of Jews, including Hellenist believers who fled Jerusalem to avoid persecution (Acts 9:2). He had letters authorizing him to seek out those “who were of the Way.” This description of Christianity, derived from Jesus’ description of Himself (John 14:6), appears several times in Acts (19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).
The “light…from heaven” (v. 3) that struck him was the appearance of Jesus Christ in glory (22:6; 26:13) and was visible only to Saul (26:9).The voice that asked him, “Why are you persecuting Me?” was that of Jesus (v. 5). An inseparable union exists between Christ and His followers. Saul’s persecution represented a direct attack on Christ. Saul arose from that encounter, blinded by the light, and went in obedience to await the next step (v. 6).
Meanwhile, Ananias was being given divine instructions concerning Paul and Paul’s ministry. He is told that Saul is a “chosen vessel,” literally “a vessel of election” (v. 15). There was perfect continuity between Paul’s salvation and his service; God chose him to convey His grace to all men (Gal. 1:1; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). Paul used this same word 4 times (Rom. 9:21, 23; 2 Cor. 4:7; 2 Tim. 2:21). “Before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” Paul began his ministry preaching to Jews (13:14; 14:1; 17:1, 10; 18:4; 19:8), but his primary calling was to Gentiles (Rom. 11:13; 15:16). God also called him to minister to kings such as Agrippa (25:23–26:32) and likely Caesar (25:10–12; 2 Tim. 4:16, 17).
Ananias went to Paul and “laying his hands on him,” he prayed for Paul’s healing and that he would “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 17). He was then filled with the Spirit and empowered for service (2:4, 14; 4:8, 31; 6:5, 8).
June 29 - Two Destinations
“‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it’” (Matthew 7:13–14).
Both the broad and narrow ways point to the good life, to salvation, heaven, God, the kingdom, and blessing—but only the narrow way actually leads there. The broad way doesn’t have a road sign on it with hell as the destination. Jesus’ point is that this way is marked “heaven” but it doesn’t lead there.
That is the great lie of all false religions. The Lord makes clear the ultimate destinations of these two ways: the broad way leads to destruction; the narrow way leads to life. Every religion except Christianity follows the same spiritual way and leads to the same spiritual end, to hell.
There are many of those roads, and most of them are attractive, appealing, and crowded with travelers. But not a single one leads where it promises, and not a single one fails to lead where Jesus says it leads—to destruction, to total ruin and loss. It is a complete loss of well-being and the destination of all religions except the way of Jesus Christ.
But God’s way—the way that is narrow—leads to eternal life, to everlasting heavenly fellowship with God, His angels, and His people. Everlasting life is a quality of life, which is the life of God in the soul of man (see Ps. 17:15).
Celebrate today the eternal life promised to those who embrace the call of the narrow gate and the narrow way. Be grateful that none of the carry-ons and extras will ever give us the satisfaction we hope to find in them, but that in the wake of their emptiness we will be drawn ever deeper into the One whose way is both single and secure.