Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

March 1

Unceasing Prayer

"Pray at all times in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18).

Spiritual victory is directly related to the quality of your prayer life.

Prayer is communication with God, and like all communication, it can be developed to maximum efficiency or allowed to languish. Which you choose will determine the quality of your spiritual life.

Ironically, the freedom of worship we enjoy in our society and our high standard of living make it easy to become complacent about prayer and presume on God's grace. Consequently, many who say they trust in God actually live as if they don't need Him at all. Such neglect is sinful and leads to spiritual disaster.

Jesus taught that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1, KJV). "Faint" speaks of giving in to evil or becoming weary or cowardly. Paul added that we should pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and petition, and "be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).

First Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing." That doesn't mean to do nothing but pray. It simply means living in a constant state of God-consciousness. If you see a beautiful sunrise or a bouquet of flowers, your first response is to thank God for the beauty of His creation. If you see someone in distress, you intercede on his or her behalf. You see every experience of life in relation to God.

God wants you to be diligent and faithful in prayer. With that goal in mind we will devote this month to a study of prayer from two texts: Daniel's prayer in Daniel 9:1-19, and the disciples' prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Both are models of majestic, effective prayer.

As we study those passages together, be aware of your own pattern of prayer. Examine it carefully for strengths and weaknesses. Be prepared to make any necessary changes.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the privilege of communing with Him in prayer.
  • Ask Him to reveal any areas in your praying that need to be strengthened.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 9:1-19.

  • What prompted Daniel's prayer?
  • What was Daniel's attitude toward God? Toward himself and his people?
  • What did Daniel request?
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 1

Grace to the Humble

“He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6).

A person cannot be saved unless he comes to God with a humble attitude.

Today’s verse is a challenge and a promise to anyone who is not sure about his salvation, or who thinks he is saved but does not measure up to the tests of faith in James’s letter. Even the worst sinful character traits—relying on worldly wisdom, having enmity against God, lusting after fleshly and selfish desires—are no match for God’s abundant grace.

The kind of grace James is referring to here is simply God’s saving grace—His undeserved favor of forgiveness and love bestowed on all sorts of sinners. Included within that favor is the Lord’s promise of the Holy Spirit, an understanding of God’s Word, Heaven, and all spiritual blessings. Such grace is available to all who will come in faith to Christ. Nothing in this universe can prevent the truly humble and repentant person from receiving grace—not the strength of sin and depravity, not the might of Satan, not the pull of the flesh, not even the power of death.

Scripture often links humility with saving faith. That’s why James quoted from Proverbs 3:34 (“God is opposed to the proud”) to support his point in verse 6. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (18:3).

If you are confused or doubtful regarding your salvation, just ask yourself, “Have I humbly submitted myself to God in faith and repentance?” If you have humbled yourself before God, rejoice! You are by definition a believer, one of the humble. Otherwise, you need to pray with the attitude of the tax gatherer in Luke 18:13, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” and receive His abundant grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His continual grace, which He pours out to those who are humble before Him.

For Further Study

Read James 1—2.

  • What tests of true faith are discussed there?
  • How are we to respond to each of them?
  • Reflect on your response to these issues in the past. How could you improve?
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 1

Reading for Today:

  • Leviticus 26:1–27:34
  • Psalm 29:1-6
  • Proverbs 10:22-25
  • Mark 7:1-13

Notes:

Leviticus 26:9 make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you. What God commanded at creation and repeated after the Flood was contained in the covenant promise of seed (Gen. 12:1–3), which He will fulfill to the nation of Israel as promised to Abraham (Gen. 15:5, 6).

Leviticus 26:12 your God…My people. The promise of an intimate covenant relationship with the God of the universe is given (see 2 Cor. 6:16).

Leviticus 26:30 high places. These were natural shrines for the worship of idols. Solomon disobeyed God by worshiping Him on the high places (1 Kin. 3:4); and not long afterward, he was serving the gods of his foreign wives (1 Kin. 11:1–9).

Psalm 29:1 mighty ones. Literally, “sons of God” (see Ps. 89:6 in its context of vv. 5–10; see the plural form of “gods” in Ex. 15:11). The reference here in Psalm 29 is most likely to Yahweh’s mighty angels.

Proverbs 10:22 rich. While having more than one needs is not the object of wisdom, it is generally the result (see Deut. 6:11–15; 1 Kin. 3:10–14). no sorrow. None of the sorrow that is associated with ill-gotten wealth (see 13:11; 15:6; 16:19; 21:6; 28:6) is associated with wealth provided by the Lord.


DAY 1: What did the washing of hands have to do with spirituality?

In Mark 7:1, a delegation of leading representatives of Judaism came from Jerusalem perhaps at the request of the Galilean Pharisees. They immediately found fault with the disciples of Jesus, accusing them of eating with hands that had not been ceremonially cleansed and, thus, that had not been separated from the defilement associated with their having touched anything profane (v. 2). This washing had nothing to do with cleaning dirty hands but with a ceremonial rinsing. The ceremony involved someone pouring water out of a jar onto another’s hands, whose fingers must be pointing up. As long as the water dripped off at the wrist, the person could proceed to the next step. He then had water poured over both hands with the fingers pointing down. Then each hand was to be rubbed with the fist of the other hand. This was according to the “tradition of the elders”—a body of extra-biblical laws and interpretations of Scripture that had in actuality supplanted Scripture as the highest religious authority in Judaism.

The Pharisees and scribes went to the disciples’ Master for an explanation of the disciples’ allegedly disgraceful conduct. In reality, they were accusing Jesus of teaching His disciples to disobey the tradition of the elders (v. 5). Jesus’ reply was to quote Isaiah 29:13, whose prophecy perfectly fit the actions of the Pharisees. Not only were their hearts far from God but they were “hypocrites,” or spiritual phonies (v. 6). They followed the traditions of men because such teaching required only mechanical and thoughtless conformity without a pure heart. And in doing so, they had abandoned all the commandments contained in God’s Word and substituted a humanly designed standard for God’s standard (v. 8).

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 1 - Mercy Compared to Forgiveness, Love, and Grace

“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).

To understand the significance of mercy, let’s compare it to three amazing attributes of God. First, mercy has much in common with forgiveness, although it is distinct from it. God’s forgiveness of our sins flows from His mercy. But mercy is greater than forgiveness, because God is merciful to us even when we do not sin, just as we can be merciful to those who have never done anything against us. God’s mercy does not just forgive our transgressions but reaches to all our weaknesses and needs.

Just as forgiveness flows out of mercy, mercy flows out of love: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4–5). Love is greater than mercy—it can manifest itself even when there is no wrong to forgive or need to meet.

Finally, mercy is also related to grace, which flows out of love. Grace and mercy have the closest possible relationship, yet they are different. Mercy deals with the consequences of sin, while grace deals with sin itself. Mercy offers relief from punishment; grace offers pardon for the crime.

Just look at what the Good Samaritan did. When he found a Jewish traveler who had been robbed and beaten, he held no animosity toward him. Love motivated him to show the man mercy when he bound up his wounds. And when he took him to an inn and cared for him, he showed grace. Such is the expression of mercy working with forgiveness, love, and grace.

Ask Yourself

Is there someone to whom you need to show God’s mercy, expressed through your love, your grace, your forgiveness? Think of how you can turn your merciful intentions into practical action.

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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