Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

September 21

Conquering Doubt

"Take the helmet of salvation" (Eph. 6:17).

The key to conquering doubt is to focus on the preserving power of God.

Doubt comes to Christians in many ways. After you've sinned, your conscience might hiss at you, saying, "Surely you're not a Christian. Why would God save you anyway? You don't deserve His mercy. You're not good enough. How presumptuous to think God could ever use you!" Such doubts are common among Christians who focus on their performance rather than God's power.

All too often we're quick to acknowledge God's power to save us but slow to understand His power to keep us. To complicate matters, many Christians believe they can lose their salvation, so they live in constant fear of falling away from the faith. Still others have never learned what Scripture teaches about their security in Christ. They're so intent on pleasing God through their own efforts that they lose sight of grace and drift into a subtle works- righteousness mentality.

Your performance doesn't determine your standing in Christ; your standing in Christ determines your performance. Good works are the necessary result of salvation (Eph. 2:10) but they don't save you or keep you saved. That's God's work.

Jude said, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy" (v. 24). "Able" in that verse translates a Greek word that speaks of power. "Keep" literally means "to secure in the midst of an attack." "Stumbling" refers to falling into sin. Together they say that God is powerful enough to prevent you from stumbling into sin and falling away from Him—no matter how intense Satan's attacks might be. He will continue to protect and cleanse you until the day you enter His glorious heaven perfected.

Sin is a serious issue and you should never take it lightly. But when you do sin, remember that as a believer you're immediately cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). So always confess your sins and turn from them, but never doubt God's power or willingness to keep you saved. Trust in His grace, not in your ability to perform.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for continually cleansing your sin.

For Further Study

Memorize Jude 24-25 and recite it often as a reminder of God's power and majesty.

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.

September 21

The Spirit and Assurance

“You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9).

The indwelling Holy Spirit gives us an assurance of salvation.

Assurance of salvation is essential to our Christian lives, and I can’t imagine living without it. And we must have clarity about it from a truly biblical standpoint. This begins with realizing that a genuine believer is in the Spirit and has been given a new nature (see John 3:6). If the Holy Spirit lives in you, you are no longer controlled by the sinful tendencies of the flesh, as Paul suggests in Romans 8:9. The Greek term for “dwells” indicates that the Holy Spirit makes His home in you and in every believer.

But today’s verse also points out that if someone does not have the Holy Spirit within him, he doesn’t belong to Christ. From time to time—perhaps for you it’s the first time—we need to be warned about that. Being in the Spirit is not merely professing Jesus, having a pious appearance, or attending church. No matter what we claim, if we aren’t fulfilling God’s law, desiring to walk by the Spirit, and wholeheartedly seeking the things of the Spirit, He is not in us.

Second Corinthians 13:5 exhorts, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” You can do this by looking for evidences of the Holy Spirit in your life. Have you sensed the presence of the Spirit’s fruit in your life (Gal. 5:22-23)? Do you struggle with sin and have a desire to be free from all its influences (Rom. 7:14-25; Gal. 5:16-17)? Have you experienced the actions and attitudes the Holy Spirit brings to your daily life, as we studied earlier this month? Do you yearn for a closer communion with God and a deeper fellowship with other believers? If you can answer yes to these questions, you have solid reasons to be sure the Spirit lives in you and to know for certain that you belong to Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the reminders His Spirit gives you that you belong to Christ.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 5:1-12.

  • What indicators does John give us that would also provide us with an assurance of salvation?
  • What role does the Holy Spirit have in this passage?
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.

September 21

Reading for Today:

  • Isaiah 33:1–34:17
  • Psalm 109:1-5
  • Proverbs 25:25-26
  • 2 Corinthians 12:1-21

Notes:

Isaiah 33:17 King in His beauty. The prophecy moves beyond Hezekiah in his sackcloth, oppressed by his enemy, to the Messiah in His beauty. Seeing Him in glory is another reward of the righteous. The near-future deliverance from Sennacherib anticipates a more distant wonder when the Messiah will sit on His throne.

Proverbs 25:26 murky spring. The righteous one who sins muddies the water for the wicked who see him and for whom he should serve as an example of righteousness (Ps. 17:5).

2 Corinthians 12:2–4 Since it took place 14 years before the writing of 2 Corinthians, the specific vision Paul relates cannot be identified with any incident recorded in Acts. It probably took place between his return to Tarsus from Jerusalem (Acts 9:30) and the start of his missionary journeys (Acts 13:1–3). caught up to the third heaven…caught up into Paradise. Paul was not describing two separate visions—“the third heaven” and “Paradise” are the same place (Rev. 2:7, which says the tree of life is in Paradise, with Rev. 22:14, which says it is in heaven). The first heaven is the earth’s atmosphere (Gen. 8:2; Deut. 11:11; 1 Kin. 8:35); the second is interplanetary and interstellar space (Gen. 15:5; Ps. 8:3; Is. 13:10); and the third the abode of God (1 Kin. 8:30; 2 Chr.30:27; Ps. 123:1).

2 Corinthians 12:8 I pleaded…three times. Paul, longing for relief from this painful hindrance to his ministry, went to his Lord, begging Him (the use of the definite article with “Lord” shows Paul’s prayer was directed to Jesus) to remove it. The demons are only subject to His authority. The 3-fold repetition of Paul’s request parallels that of Jesus in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–41). Both Paul and Jesus had their requests denied, but were granted grace to endure their ordeals.

2 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you. The present tense of the verb translated “is sufficient” reveals the constant availability of divine grace. God would not remove the thorn, as Paul had requested, but would continually supply him with grace to endure it (1 Cor. 15:10; Phil. 4:13; Col. 1:29). My strength is made perfect in weakness. The weaker the human instrument, the more clearly God’s grace shines forth.


DAY 21: To what was Paul referring by the term “thorn in the flesh”?

Paul began his account about the “thorn in the flesh” by indicating the reason it was given to him—“lest I should be exalted above measure.” The assault was painful, but purposeful. As with Job, Satan was the immediate cause, but God was the ultimate cause. God was allowing Satan to bring this severe trouble in the church for the purpose of humbling Paul who, having had so many revelations, including a trip to heaven and back, would have been proud.

Paul’s use of the word “messenger” (Greek, angellos, or angel) from Satan suggests the “thorn in the flesh” (literally, “a stake for the flesh”) was a demon, not a physical illness. Of the 188 uses of the Greek word angellos in the New Testament, at least 180 are in reference to angels. This angel was from Satan, a demon afflicting Paul.

Possibly, the best explanation for this demon was that he was indwelling the ring leader of the Corinthian conspiracy, the leader of the false apostles. Through them he was tearing up Paul’s beloved church and thus driving a painful stake through Paul. Further support for this view comes from the context of chapters 10–13, which is one of fighting adversaries (the false prophets). The verb translated “buffet” always refers to ill treatment from other people (Matt. 26:67; Mark 14:65; 1 Cor. 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:20). Finally, the Old Testament describes Israel’s personal opponents as thorns (Num. 33:55; Josh. 23:13; Judg. 2:3; Ezek. 28:24).

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.

September 21 - Spurious vs. Saving Faith

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:23–25).

After the Passover, Jesus remained in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During His stay He performed a number of miracles not recorded in Scripture. As a result of those miracles, John says, “Many believed in His name.”

But this faith was shallow, superficial, and disingenuous. It was not true saving faith, as John’s play on words indicates. “Believed” in verse 23 and “entrusting” in verse 24 both come from the same Greek verb. Though they believed in Jesus, Jesus did not believe in them; He had no faith in their faith.

Although many claimed to believe, Jesus knew that mere intellectual assent proves nothing; even the demons have such faith (James 2:19). Jesus did not embrace the false faith manifested by those who witnessed His signs, because “He knew all men,” and therefore “did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” He knows the true state of every heart. He saw in Nathanael the heart of an honest, true seeker (1:47); He saw in these people a superficial façade—a mere outward attraction to spectacular signs (cf. 6:2). Genuine saving faith goes far beyond that. It demands wholehearted commitment to Jesus as the Lord of one’s life (Matt. 16:24–26; Rom. 10:9). Is that the state of your heart?

Ask Yourself

It’s certainly fine to admire godly people and aspire to be like them. But if you haven’t noticed already, these same ones will eventually do or say something to spoil your image of them. We will too, if others look up to us. When you see Jesus in someone, don’t strive to be like them but to be like Him.

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.

Del libro La Verdad para Hoy de John MacArthur DERECHOS DE AUTOR © 2001 Utilizado con permiso de Editorial Portavoz, www.portavoz.com
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