Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

June 26

Having a Faith That Works

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"What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? . . . You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:14, 24).

True faith produces good works.

Many false teachers claim that you can earn your own salvation by doing good works. Most Christians understand the heresy of that teaching, but some become confused when they read that "a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:24). That seems to conflict with Paul's teaching on salvation by grace through faith.

But when properly understood, James' teaching on salvation is perfectly consistent with Paul's. Paul clearly taught salvation by grace. In Ephesians 2:8-9 he says, "By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." But Paul also taught that true salvation results in good works, for in the next verse he says, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

In Titus 3:5 he says that God "saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy"; but Titus 2:11-12 clarifies that God's grace leads us "to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age." That's the proper balance between faith and works.

James also taught salvation by grace. He said that God redeems sinners by the Word of truth and implants His Word within them to enable them to progress in holiness (James 1:18, 21). That's a divine work, not a human effort. James 2:14-24 follows that up by telling us how we can know that work has taken place: there will be more than just a proclamation of faith but a faith that does good works.

Don't be confused by how faith relates to good works. Put the two together by being a living testimony to God's saving grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the righteousness He is producing in your life. Look for specific ways to demonstrate your faith to those around you today.

For Further Study

Read John 8:31-32.

  • What is the mark of a true disciple?
  • What effect does God's Word have on those who heed what it says?
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 26

Integrity Enjoys Divine Resources

“Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, ‘Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?’ The king answered and said, ‘The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.’ Then they answered and spoke before the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.’ Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, ‘Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.’ Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.’ And a stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel” (Daniel 6:12-17).

When human resources have been exhausted, God has only begun to work.

The ink had barely dried on Darius’ decree when Daniel’s enemies reappeared to accuse him of disregarding the order. Only then did Darius realize the grave consequences of his actions.

In his deep distress the king exhausted every legal effort to save Daniel, but to no avail. Even he could not revoke the death sentence he had unwittingly placed on his loyal and trusted servant. In his grief and humility he confessed that God Himself would deliver Daniel. He was right!

Suggestions for Prayer

What are you praying for that only God can do, so that when He does it, He alone will get the glory?

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. What was the apostle Paul’s attitude toward his own weaknesses?

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 26

Reading for Today:

  • 1 Chronicles 15:1–16:43
  • Psalm 78:12-16
  • Proverbs 19:22-24
  • Acts 7:44-60

Notes:

1 Chronicles 15:1 David built houses for himself. He was able by the alliance and help of Hiram (18:1) to build a palace for himself and separate houses for his wives and their children. While the ark remained near Jerusalem at the home of Obed-Edom for 3 months (13:13, 14), David constructed a new tabernacle in Jerusalem to fulfill God’s word in Deuteronomy 12:5–7 of a permanent residency.

1 Chronicles 15:11 Zadok…Abiathar. These two high priests, heads of the two priestly houses of Eleazar and Ithamar, were colleagues in the high priesthood (2 Sam. 20:25). They served the Lord simultaneously in David’s reign. Zadok attended the tabernacle in Gibeon (1 Chr. 16:39), while Abiathar served the temporary place of the ark in Jerusalem. Ultimately, Zadok prevailed (1 Kin. 2:26, 27).

Psalm 78:13 waters stand up like a heap. The parting of the Red Sea at the beginning of the Exodus, which allowed Israel to escape from the Egyptian armies, was always considered by the Old Testament saints to be the most spectacular miracle of their history (Ex. 14).

Psalm 78:15 split the rocks. Twice in the wilderness, when Israel desperately needed a great water supply, God brought water out of rocks (Ex. 17:6; Num. 20:11).

Acts 7:44–50 To counter the false charge that he blasphemed the temple (6:13, 14), Stephen recounted its history to show his respect for it.

Acts 7:49, 50 Quoted from Isaiah 66:1, 2. Stephen’s point is that God is greater than the temple, and thus the Jewish leaders were guilty of blaspheming by confining God to it.


DAY 26: Why was Stephen martyred?

In the climax of Stephen’s sermon (Acts 7:51–53), he indicted the Jewish leaders for rejecting God in the same way that their ancestors had rejected Him in the Old Testament. He told the members of the esteemed Sanhedrin that they were “stiff-necked” like their fathers (Ex. 32:9; 33:5) and “uncircumcised in heart and ears!” Thus they were as unclean before God as the uncircumcised Gentiles (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4; Rom. 2:28, 29). “You always resist the Holy Spirit” by rejecting the Spirit’s messengers and their message. And when he spoke of the “Just One,” Stephen reminds them that they betrayed and murdered Him (v. 52). His words were reminiscent of those from Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 23:13–39.

The reaction of the Sanhedrin was that they “gnashed at him with their teeth” (v. 54).That is the fullness of anger and frustration and was in contrast to Stephen, who “being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (v. 55). Isaiah (Is. 6:1–3), Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:26–28), Paul (2 Cor. 12:2–4), and John (Rev. 1:10) also received visions of God’s glory in heaven.

Stephen’s words were so appalling that they took him out of the city and “stoned him.” This was the punishment prescribed in the law for blasphemy (Lev. 24:16); however, this was not a formal execution but an act of mob violence. And those who participated “laid down their clothes…Saul” (v. 58). Paul’s first appearance in Scripture. That he was near enough to the action to be holding the clothes of Stephen’s killers reflects his deep involvement in the sordid affair. And Paul heard those marvelous words of Stephen, “do not charge them with this sin” (v. 60). As had Jesus before him (Luke 23:34), Stephen prayed for God to forgive his killers.

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 26 - The Narrow Gate, Part 2

“‘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).

Entering through the narrow gate makes a few demands on the person passing through. First, he must enter alone. You can bring no one else and nothing else with you. Some have suggested that the gate is like a turnstile: only one person can get through at a time, and with no baggage.

The narrow gate also demands we must go through naked. This is a gate of self-denial—you can’t carry the baggage of sin and self-will. The way of Christ is the way of the cross, and the way of the cross is self-denial: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24–25).

The narrow gate also demands repentance. Many Jews believed that merely being a Jew, a physical descendant of Abraham, was sufficient for entrance into heaven. Many people today believe that being in a church, or even being a good human being, qualifies them. But the way of repentance, of turning from their own way and their own righteousness to God’s, is the only way to enter His kingdom and therefore the only way to keep from perishing.

Ask Yourself

What are the various pieces of baggage that people want to hold on to as they enter from death to life? What are the pieces that you still have a tendency to long for, even on this side of the narrow gate?

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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