Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

March 29

Seeking God's Protection

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"Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13).

Have a healthy sense of self-distrust.

At the moment of your salvation, judicial forgiveness covered all of your sins—past, present, and future. Parental forgiveness restores the joy and sweet fellowship broken by any subsequent sins. But concurrent with the joy of being forgiven is the desire to be protected from any future sins. That's the desire expressed in Matthew 6:13: "Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

That petition seems simple enough at first glance, but it raises some important questions. According to James 1:13, God doesn't tempt anyone to commit sin, so why ask Him to protect us from something He apparently wouldn't lead us into in the first place?

Some say the word "temptation" in Matthew 6:13 means "trials." But trials strengthen us and prove the genuineness of our faith. We are to rejoice in them, not avoid them (James 1:2-4).

The solution to this paradox has to do with the nature of the petition. It is not so much a technical theological statement as it is an emotional plea from one who hates sin and wants to be protected from it. Chrysostom, the early church father, said it is a natural appeal of human weakness as it faces danger (Homily 19.10).

I don't know about you, but I have a healthy sense of self-distrust. That's why I carefully guard what I think, say, watch, read, and listen to. If I sense spiritual danger I run into the presence of God and say, "Lord, I will be overwhelmed by this situation unless You come to my aid." That's the spirit of Matthew 6:13.

We live in a fallen world that throws temptation after temptation our way. Therefore it's only natural and proper for us as Christians to continually confess our sins, receive the Father's forgiveness, and plead with Him to deliver us from the possibility of sinning against Him in the future.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord that He loves you and ministers through you despite your human weaknesses.
  • Ask Him to protect you today from any situation that might cause you to sin.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 and James 1:13-16.

  • To what degree will God allow you to be tempted?
  • What is a common source of temptation?
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 29

Servanthood: Humility in Action

“‘Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave’” (Matthew 20:26-27).

In God’s sight, greatness is marked by a humble, servant’s heart.

Bible commentator R.C.H. Lenski once wrote that God’s “great men are not sitting on top of lesser men, but bearing lesser men on their backs.” Jesus would have agreed with Lenski’s observation, but He did not see it as wrong to desire greater usefulness to God. Those standards of usefulness, however, are much more demanding than any worldly ideals for self-serving, domineering leadership. For example, Paul lists for us the high standards God has for church overseers (1 Tim. 3:1-7). God considers men great who are among those willing to be servants.

In Matthew 20:26-27, Jesus was speaking of genuine servanthood, not the “public servant” who merely uses his position to gain power and personal prestige. The original Greek word for “servant” referred to a person who did menial labor and was the lowest level of hired help. Jesus could have used a more noble word to denote obedient discipleship, but He picked this one (from which we get deacon) because it best described the selfless humility of one who served.

But in verse 27, Jesus intensifies His description of God’s way to greatness. He tells us if we want to be great in His kingdom, we must be willing to be slaves. Whereas servants had some personal freedom, slaves were owned by their masters and could go only where their masters allowed and do only what their masters wanted. The application for us as believers is that “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

If you desire real spiritual greatness, you will be willing to work in the hard place, the lonely place, the place where you’re not appreciated. You’ll be willing to strive for excellence without becoming proud, and to endure suffering without getting into self-pity. It is to these godly attitudes and more that Christ will say, “Well done, good and faithful slave . . . enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you cultivate a servant’s heart.

For Further Study

  • Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and make a list of the qualifications for an overseer (elder).
  • Meditate on the implications of each trait, and write down ways in which humility relates to these leadership qualities.
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 29

Reading for Today:

  • Deuteronomy 19:1–20:20
  • Psalm 38:1-8
  • Proverbs 12:23-25
  • Luke 4:31-44

Notes:

Deuteronomy 20:1 do not be afraid. When Israelites went into battle, they were never to fear an enemy’s horses or chariots because the outcome of a battle would never be determined by mere military strength. The command not to be afraid was based on God’s power and faithfulness, which had already been proved to Israel in their deliverance from Egypt.

Deuteronomy 20:5–8 Let him go and return to his house. Four exemptions from service in Israel’s volunteer army were cited to illustrate the principle that anyone whose heart was not in the fight should not be there. Those who had other matters on their minds or were afraid were allowed to leave the army and return to their homes, since they would be useless in battle and even influence others to lose courage (v. 8).

Proverbs 12:23 conceals. Unlike the fool who makes all hear his folly, the wise person is a model of restraint and humility, speaking what he knows at an appropriate time (see 29:11).

Luke 4:38 Simon’s wife’s mother. Peter was married (1 Cor. 9:5), though no details about his wife are given anywhere in Scripture. a high fever. Matthew 8:14, 15 and Mark 1:30, 31 also report this miracle. But only Luke, the physician, remarks that the fever was “high” and makes note of the means Jesus used to heal her (v. 39).


DAY 29: What did the law warn about bringing false witness against another person?

In Deuteronomy 19:15, the law required that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” More than one witness was necessary to convict a man of a crime. This principle was to act as a safeguard against the false witness who might bring an untruthful charge against a fellow Israelite. By requiring more than one witness, greater accuracy and objectivity was gained (Deut. 17:6;Matt. 18:15–17; 2 Cor. 13:1).

However, it was possible that “a false witness [might rise] against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing” (v. 16). In some cases, there would only be one witness who brought a charge against someone. When such a case was taken to the central tribunal of priests and judges for trial, and upon investigation the testimony of the witness was found to be false, the accuser received the punishment appropriate for the alleged crime (v. 19). Others looking on would be taught to “hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you” (v. 20). When the fate of the false witness became known in Israel, it would serve as a deterrent against giving false testimony in Israel’s courts.

In Israel, the principle of legal justice (called lex talionis, “law of retaliation”) or “eye for eye” (v. 21) was given to encourage appropriate punishment of a criminal in cases where there might be a tendency to be either too lenient or too strict (Ex. 21:23–25; Lev. 24:17–22). Jesus confronted the Jews of His day for taking this law out of the courts and using it for purposes of personal vengeance (Matt. 5:38–42).

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 29 - How Jesus Understood the Law and the Prophets

“‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’” (Matthew 5:17).

Is there an absolute basis for truth, for law, for morals, for real right and wrong? The absolute, Jesus says, is the law of the eternally sovereign God. God laid down His absolute, eternal, abiding law and made it known to humanity. And as God’s own Son, Jesus declared unequivocally that He did not come to teach or practice anything contrary to that law even in the slightest way, but to uphold it entirely.

Jesus obviously had a high regard for the law, but at the same time He taught things completely contrary to the traditions. His teachings did not lower scriptural standards but upheld them in every way. He not only elevated God’s standard to the height it belonged, but also lived at that humanly impossible level.

The law and the prophets represent what we call the Old Testament, the only written Scripture at the time Jesus preached. Because Matthew does not qualify his use of law, we are safe to say that it was God’s whole law—the commandments, statutes, and judgments; the moral, judicial, and ceremonial—that Jesus came not to abolish but fulfill. It was also the other Old Testament teachings based on the law, and all their types, patterns, symbols, and pictures that He came to fulfill. Jesus Christ came to accomplish every aspect and every dimension of the divinely authored Word.

Ask Yourself

Knowing how hard it is for us to maintain holy attitudes and behaviors for more than a few hours at a time, marvel again at the extreme power of Jesus Christ, who endured every temptation to maintain His perfect purity on earth. And marvel anew that such supernatural righteousness has been imputed to us!

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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