Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

April 22

Risking True Peace

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9).

True peace exists only where truth reigns.

People often define peace as the absence of conflict, but God sees it differently. The absence of conflict is merely a truce, which might end overt hostilities but doesn't resolve the underlying issues. A truce simply introduces a cold war, which often drives the conflict underground, where it smolders until erupting in physical or emotional disaster.

James 3:17 says, "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable." Godly wisdom, purity, and peace go hand- in-hand. Peace is wisdom in action and is never established at the expense of righteousness. It brings righteousness to bear on the situation, seeking to eliminate the source of conflict and create right relationships. Feuding parties will know true peace only when they are willing to admit that their bitterness and hatred is wrong and humbly seek God's grace to make things right.

Some people equate peacemaking with evading issues, but true peace can be very confrontive. In Matthew 10:34 Jesus says, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." That may seem to contradict Matthew 5:9, but it doesn't: Jesus knew that sinful people have to be confronted with the truth before they can experience peace. That can be a painful and difficult process because people usually have a hostile reaction to the gospel before they finally embrace it. Even believers will sometimes react negatively when confronted with God's truth.

Being a biblical peacemaker has its price. You can expect to upset unbelievers who openly oppose God's Word as well as believers who compromise its truth for the sake of maintaining "peace" among people of differing doctrinal persuasions. Some will call you narrow-minded and divisive for dealing with controversial issues. Some will misunderstand your motives or even attack you personally. But that's been the path of every true peacemaker— including our Lord Himself. Take heart and be faithful. Your efforts to bring peace show that you are a child of God.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God for the boldness never to compromise His truth.
  • Pray for those you know who are suffering for the sake of the gospel.

For Further Study

Read Luke 12:51-53, noting how the gospel can bring division even among families.

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.

April 22

The Church Testifies to the Resurrection

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand” (1 Corinthians 15:1).

The true church has consistently testified to the power of the Resurrection.

Kenneth Scott Latourette observed in his History of the Expansion of Christianity: “It was the conviction of the resurrection of Jesus which lifted his followers out of the despair into which his death had cast them and which led to the perpetuation of a movement begun by him.” This statement was true for the church at Corinth, even with its many problems.

The apostle Paul opens his well-known chapter on the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 by implicitly affirming the Corinthians’ testimony to that doctrine. Simply by receiving the gospel and having their lives transformed, the believers at Corinth demonstrated the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. And that resurrection is what empowered the gospel. Paul did not need to explicitly remind the Corinthians of Christ’s rising to life until verse 4, “He was raised on the third day.” The apostle was confident at the outset that the Corinthians had already believed in the truth of the Lord’s resurrection.

The fact that the Corinthian church continued to exist, though beset with problems of immaturity and other weaknesses, was a solid witness to the power of the gospel of the risen Christ. Only a living Savior could have converted some of the hardened sinners of Corinth—extortioners, idolaters, the sexually immoral—into a community of the redeemed. Paul was concerned and distressed about many of the things that did and did not happen in the church at Corinth, but he did not hesitate to call the core group of members there “brethren.”

In spite of many challenges from skepticism, persecution, heresy, and unfaithfulness, the church through the centuries has continued to testify to the reality of Christ’s resurrection. The true church celebrates that truth often, not just on Easter Sunday. Actually, because the church gathers on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (when Jesus rose), we remember the Resurrection every week. Praise the Lord for that reminder the next time you worship on the Lord’s Day.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that His church was faithful in the past to testify to the truth of the Resurrection.

For Further Study

Read Acts 4, and list some things that suggest a testimony to the power of the Resurrection.

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.

April 22

Reading for Today:

  • Judges 9:1–10:18
  • Psalm 50:1-6
  • Proverbs 14:25-27
  • Luke 16:1-31

Notes:

Psalm 50:1 The Mighty One, God the LORD. The Divine Judge is introduced with three significant Old Testament names. The first two are the short and longer forms of the most common word for “God” in the Old Testament, and the third is the name for Israel’s God par excellence, i.e., Yahweh. From the rising of the sun to its going down. A common Old Testament idiom conveying from east to west, i.e., all over the planet.

Luke 16:13 You cannot serve God and mammon. Many of the Pharisees taught that devotion to money and devotion to God were perfectly compatible (v. 14). This went hand-in-hand with the commonly held notion that earthly riches signified divine blessing. Rich people were therefore regarded as God’s favorites. While not condemning wealth per se, Christ denounced both love of wealth and devotion to mammon.

Luke 16:15 justify yourselves. The Pharisees’ belief was that their own goodness was what justified them (see Rom. 10:3). This is the very definition of “self-righteousness.” But, as Jesus suggested, their righteousness was flawed, being an external veneer only. That might be enough to justify them before men, but not before God, because He knew their hearts. He repeatedly exposed their habit of seeking the approval of people (see Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; 23:28).

Luke 16:31 neither will they be persuaded. This speaks powerfully of the singular sufficiency of Scripture to overcome unbelief. The gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Since unbelief is at heart a moral rather than an intellectual problem, no amount of evidences will ever turn unbelief to faith. But the revealed Word of God has inherent power to do so (see John 6:63; Heb. 4:12; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23).


DAY 22: Why would the parable of the rich man scandalize the Pharisees?

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) was employed in the same fashion as all Christ’s parables, to teach a lesson, in this case for the benefit of the Pharisees. The mention of table scraps, sores, and dogs all made this poor man appear odious in the eyes of the Pharisees (v. 21).They were inclined to see all such things as proof of divine disfavor. The idea was that Lazarus was given a place of high honor, reclining next to Abraham at the heavenly banquet, “Abraham’s bosom” (v. 22). This same expression (found only here in Scripture) was used in the Talmud as a figure for heaven. Yet the rich man was “in Hades” (v. 23). The suggestion that a rich man would be excluded from heaven would have scandalized the Pharisees. Especially galling was the idea that a beggar who ate scraps from his table was granted the place of honor next to Abraham.

“Hades” was the Greek term for the abode of the dead. In the Greek Old Testament, it was used to translate the Hebrew Sheol, which referred to the realm of the dead in general, without necessarily distinguishing between righteous or unrighteous souls. However, in New Testament usage, “Hades” always refers to the place of the wicked prior to final judgment in hell. The imagery Jesus used fit the erroneous common rabbinical idea that Sheol had two parts, one for the souls of the righteous and the other for the souls of the wicked—separated by an impassable gulf. But there is no reason to suppose, as some do, that “Abraham’s bosom” spoke of a temporary prison for the souls of Old Testament saints, who were brought to heaven only after He had actually atoned for their sins. Scripture consistently teaches that the spirits of the righteous dead go immediately into the presence of God (see 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). And the presence of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (9:30) belies the notion that they were confined in a compartment of Sheol until Christ finished His work.

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.

April 22 - Jesus on Divorce

“‘It was said, “Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce”; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery’” (Matthew 5:31–32).

Jesus no more approves of divorce than did Moses (cf. Matt. 19:6). Adultery, another reality God never condoned, is the only reason under the law that allows for dissolving of a marriage, with the guilty party to be put to death (Lev. 20:10). Because Jesus mentions this here and again in Matthew 19:9, God must have allowed divorce to replace execution as the penalty for adultery at some time during Israel’s history.

Divorce is never commanded; it is always a last resort, allowed when unrepentant immorality has exhausted the patience of the innocent spouse. This merciful concession to human sinfulness logically implies that God also permits remarriage. Divorce’s purpose is to show mercy to the guilty party, not to sentence the innocent party to a life of loneliness. If you are innocent and have strived to maintain your marriage, you are free to remarry if your spouse insists on continued adultery or divorce.

Jesus does not demand divorce in all cases of unchastity (immorality, primarily adultery in this context), but simply points out that divorce and remarriage on other grounds results in adultery.

Our Lord wants to set the record straight that God still hates divorce (Mal. 2:16) and that His ideal remains a monogamous, lifelong marriage. But as a gracious concession to those innocent spouses whose partners have defiled the marriage, He allows divorce for believers for the reason of immorality. (Paul later added the second reason of desertion, 1 Cor. 7:15.)

Ask Yourself

How could you be an encouragement to a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse? How could you show Christ’s mercy to those who have been wounded the greatest?

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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