Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

April 23

Hindrances to Peace

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

Sin and falsehood hinder true peace.

Just as righteousness and truth are the noble companions of peace, so sin and falsehood are its great hindrances. The prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately [evil]; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). Jesus said, "Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23).

People with sinful hearts create a sinful society that resists true peace. Ironically, many who talk of peace will also pay huge sums of money to watch two men beat the daylights out of each other in a boxing ring! Our society's heroes tend to be the macho, hard-nosed, tough guys. Our heroines tend to be free-spirited women who lead marches and stir up contention. Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us to stand up for our rights and get everything we can for ourselves. That breeds strife and conditions people to reject the peace of the gospel.

Beyond that, the unbelieving world has never tolerated God's peacemakers. Christ Himself often met with violent resistance. His accusers said, "He stirs up the people" (Luke 23:5). Paul's preaching frequently created conflict as well. He spent much time under house arrest and in filthy Roman prisons. On one occasion his enemies described him as "a real pest . . . who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world" (Acts 24:5).

All who proclaim the gospel will eventually meet with opposition because sin and falsehood have blinded people's hearts to true peace. That's why Paul warned us that all who desire to be godly will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). You can avoid strife by remaining silent about the Lord, but a faithful peacemaker is willing to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. Let that be true of you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for Christ, who is the solution for the world's problem of sin and falsehood.
  • Follow Paul's example by praying for boldness to proclaim God's truth at every opportunity (Eph. 6:19).

For Further Study

Read Matthew 10:16-25, noting the kind of reception the disciples were to expect from unbelievers.

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 23

A Special Testimony

“And last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:8).

The resurrection power of Christ transformed Paul into a preacher of the gospel.

Throughout history, reliable eyewitness testimony about a person or event has been one of the most accepted forms of courtroom evidence. The apostle Paul appeals to the eyewitness record as an important confirmation of the Resurrection’s reality. He cites the examples of Peter, the apostles (twice), 500 believers, and James (1 Cor. 15:5-7). And with today’s verse, Paul presents himself as a special eyewitness to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

Paul’s case was unique. He was not among the original apostles, nor the 500 other believers, all of whom had opportunities to be with the Lord during His earthly ministry and/or see Him soon after He arose. Paul was not even a Christian during his early life and career but was rather the leader of those who persecuted the early church.

Furthermore, Paul’s situation was different because Christ’s appearance to him was not only post-resurrection but post-ascension. The Lord’s dramatic manifestation to the apostle was probably several years after the forty-day period of His many other appearings.

Paul genuinely viewed the timing of Jesus’ appearance to him as coming “to one untimely born.” We know he greatly rejoiced in his conversion, but if he had not seen the risen Savior then or some other time, Paul could not have become an apostle. In other words, by gracious, sovereign provision God chose Paul to be an apostle because “He [Jesus] appeared to me also.” The longtime opponent of the church was now like the Twelve—he had seen the risen Christ.

The power of the Resurrection is always strong enough to change a life. It transformed Paul’s life in three major ways. First, he recognized his sin and saw how far removed external religion was from internal godliness. Second, his character was revolutionized. He went from a self-righteous hatred of the things of Christ to a self-giving love for the truth. Finally, Paul’s personal energy and motivation were completely redirected. He went from being a zealous opponent of Christians to one who fervently served and supported the church.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help your testimony always show forth the power of the risen Christ.

For Further Study

What common elements were present in Paul’s experiences in Acts 18:9-10; 23:11? Note some things that were more unusual about Paul’s experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-7.

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 23

Reading for Today:

  • Judges 11:1–12:15
  • Psalm 50:7-15
  • Proverbs 14:28
  • Luke 17:1-19

Notes:

Judges 11:31 I will offer it. Some interpreters reason that Jephthah offered his daughter as a living sacrifice in perpetual virginity. With this idea, v. 31 is made to mean “shall surely be the LORD’s” or “I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” The view sees only perpetual virginity in vv. 37–40 and rejects his offering a human sacrifice as being against God’s revealed will (Deut. 12:31). On the other hand, since he was 1) beyond the Jordan, 2) far from the tabernacle, 3) a hypocrite in religious devotion, 4) familiar with human sacrifice among other nations, 5) influenced by such superstition, and 6) wanting victory badly, he likely meant a burnt offering. The translation in v. 31 is “and,” not “or.” His act came in an era of bizarre things, even inconsistency by leaders whom God otherwise empowered (see Gideon in 8:27).

Psalm 50:8 I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices. The divine Judge’s condemnations are directed not at the act of sacrifice but at the people’s attitude in sacrificing (see 1 Sam. 15:22; Pss. 40:6-8; 51:17; 69:30; Is. 1:12; Jer. 7:21-26; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:6-8).

Psalm 50:9-13 will not take a bull from your house. God refuses mere ritual; it is an abomination to Him. He, unlike the pagan deities, needs nothing. He created everything and owns everything.

Luke 17:16 he was a Samaritan. Jesus’ sending the lepers to show themselves to the priest suggests that they were Jewish. This Samaritan had been permitted to associate with them when all were ceremonially unclean, but in their healing they did not share his deep gratitude.


DAY 23: Why does God make use of leaders who display such obvious weaknesses?

It is true that judges such as Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson exhibited gross failures, as well as successes. But as long as God chooses to use people at all, He will end up using people with obvious weaknesses. No one escapes that category. The point is that God uses people in His plans in spite of it.

This does not excuse the sins of a leader. Note for example that Moses forfeited his opportunity to enter the Promised Land because of an angry outburst (Num. 20:10; Deut. 3:24–27). Jephthah made a rash vow for which his daughter had to bear the primary consequence (Judg. 11:29–40). What probably ought to attract our attention to these servants of God is not so much their weaknesses, or even the great accomplishments, but the fact that they remained faithful to God despite their failures.

When we study the lives of the judges, we discover ourselves. The shared victories, defeats, mistakes, and right choices form a common link across the centuries and turn our attention to the God who worked in their lives. The invitation from the ancients remains silently compelling: If we are to live as boldly for God, surely we would discover each day that same kind of God’s immediate presence that was such a part of their experience.

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 23 - Jesus on Vows and Oaths

“‘Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.” But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black’” (Matthew 5:33–36).

In the regular business of life, people use vows and oaths—at marriage ceremonies, in the courtroom, executive oaths of office. Because human nature is prone to lying and distrust, God has provided for proper use of oaths (cf. Heb. 6:16). In describing who may enter God’s presence, the psalmist says one requirement is that the person be one who “swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Ps. 15:4b; cf. vv. 2–3). Such a person’s word is more important than his or her welfare.

God Himself has issued oaths in the past (Gen. 22:16–17; cf. Pss. 89:3, 49; 110:4; Jer. 11:5; Luke 1:73). He did so to impress upon people the special importance or urgency of a promise. As Hebrews notes, “Since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself” (6:13). Christ often used the expression “truly” or “truly, truly” (e.g., Matt. 5:18, 26; 6:2, 5, 16; John 1:51; 3:3, 5; 5:19, 24). As with the Father’s oaths, the Son’s use of “truly” did not make those statements any more trustworthy than any other pronouncements. The “truly” teachings underscored the importance of certain teachings. Jesus even used an oath before the high priest Caiaphas that He was indeed God’s Son (Matt. 26:63–64).

In view of the special nature of divine oaths, we should “make no oath[s] at all”—in other words, no frivolous ones that would compromise our truthfulness and integrity (cf. Pss. 119:29, 163; 120:2).

Ask Yourself

Could your conversation be improved with less embellishment and exaggeration? Can your word stand on its own two feet?

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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