Half way obedience is not obedience

Extended reading: 1 Samuel 15:1-23

Devotional reading: vv. 10-15

Samuel told Saul the instructions that the Lord gave him to. He was very clear in his communication of the the message. BUT Saul did not obey the commands given him. God was grieved because Saul had followed his own inclinations rather than God’s clear instructions.

If we’re honest we can relate to this. We know what the Lord requires of us, we do our best to obey, and sometimes we even adjust things a bit because we somehow believe that it will be ok, even better than we were instructed (vv. 13-15)!

“But God’s principles for holy living call us to obey His instructions, to make a clean break with the past, and to refuse to compromise. Saul exhibited none of these qualities. He chose to spare king Agag and the finest animals instead of destroying everything as God had commanded (15:8-9). He even built a monument to himself rather than pay tribute to God for the miraculous victory (vv. 1-2). When confronted by Samuel, Saul tried to justify his actions (v.15), but making excuses has never paved the way to a new life.”

We must accept responsibility for our actions if we desire to grow. If we obey God’s principles for our lives we won’t be placed in the position of trying to justify ourselves for our disobedience.

Adapted from the Every Mans Bible

WHEN RIDICULE HURTS

Extended reading: Judges 11:1-11

Devotional reading: vv.1-3

Being ridiculed can be very hurtful, especially if we are ridiculed for things that are completely beyond our control. The idea of being mocked or maliciously taunted illicit thoughts of fear, embarrassment, and anger within our hearts and minds. In these verses we learn that Jephthah faced such sin against himself. Even though he apparently possessed considerable courage and natural leadership ability, he was rejected by his half brothers because his mother was a prostitute.

This was something that Jephthah could not control; he had no say in the matter. This situation was a direct result of his fathers sinful choices. We learn rather quickly, as Jephthah had, that sin is NEVER a solitary issue! Its consequences are far reaching.

Like Jephthah, we may have been taunted by others because of our family background or for other problems beyond our control. We need to forgive those people, release the pain and grudges, and let go so that we can put those events behind us. Then we can move on to the tasks to which God has called us.

Adapter from Every man’s Bible

A REVERSAL OF FORTUNES

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I recently read through Spurgeon’s Catechism and was meditating on question sixteen: “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?” The answer is not good. “The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery?”

The fall (Genesis 3) eluded to is that time in which Adam and Eve, our first parents, disobeyed God’s ONE command; the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam, being our representative, sinned, we fell with him: “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). 

Because of that choice to violate God’s command, all of mankind lives in a state of guilt, lacking any righteousness, and sadly, the corruption of our whole nature. That is why Solomon, hundreds of years later, cried out, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Futile or meaningless).” Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and in his writing, we recognize that he clearly perceives the evil all around him, as well as the results of it on mankind and creation.

Does this mean that we should live our few breaths in this life in despair? Absolutely not! Isaiah the prophet writes of a time when there will be a new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:17-19). A time when sin and its corruptions will be remembered no more! In John’s gospel, he wrote about mankind’s one pathway to escape the bondage of sin, its misery, and the wrath that follows, and that pathway that person is God’s only begotten Son, Jesus (John 3:16)!

God revealed His plan of salvation to us by way of the Prophets and Apostles. He told us that Jesus had to die on a cruel cross as our substitute (representative). Shed His blood as an atonement for sin, once for all (Hebrews 10:10), and rise from the grave victorious over sin, death, and hell. He said that we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, trust in His redemptive work only, and that such a faith is accompanied by repentance (Acts 20:21).

Our current state may be one of sin and misery, but that is only the first part of the story. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep”. . . “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all shall be made alive”. . . “But each in his order: Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22,-23).

The curse will be removed! Christ HAS broken our bondage to sin, and we will be with our savior throughout all eternity, not as enemies, but as His beloved children

CHRISTMAS IN GENESIS

Extended reading: Genesis 3

Devotional reading: verse 15

And I will [a]make enemies
Of you and the woman,
And of your [b]offspring and her [c]Descendant;
He shall [d]bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise Him on the heel.”

Genesis 3 gives us an account of the process of temptation and mankind’s fall into sin. Not quite the place where you would expect a Christmas story. But without this historical account and its prophetic view of the complete destruction of the evil one, the story of the virgin birth, ministry of Christ; His death on a cross and resurrection from the grave, would make absolutely little sense.

“In His grace,  God promised that the off-spring of the woman would defeat Satan. He promised that He would take charge of the redemption of their lives and overcome the enemy. This is good news- the first mention of the gospel of grace that would eventually be fulfilled by the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.”

As one Christmas song rightly concludes, Christmas is about the cross!

PRAYER: Father, we thank you for keeping your word and sending your Son Jesus to redeem mankind from the bondage of sin. There is no greater gift we can receive than that which you have already given, Baby Jesus, Emmanuel! Amen.

THE POWER OF GOD TO CHANGE LIVES!

EXTENDED READING: MARK 1:21-28

DEVOTIONAL READING: VERSES 27–28

27 And they were all amazed, so they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding region of Galilee.

During Christ’s earthly ministry He not only taught the people about God, their creator, sustainer, and savior, He also displayed the power of God in His many miracles and healings that He performed. This scripture displays one such time in the life of Christ when He and His disciples walked into a town known as Capernaum.

His teaching had authority behind it, unlike that of the Scribes and Pharisees. His authority extended into the realm of healing people from various diseases and demon possessions, as is testified to hear by Mark. The audience was amazed at what had just taken place, a man who was possessed by an evil spirit inside the synagogue, was freed from his bondage by Jesus Christ!

God’s power to change lives was on display then and is still active today! If this Jesus has the power to cast out demons, how much more able is He to free us of our bondage, our sins that so easily entangle us? 

John”s testimony was : “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Will you look to Him today and have have your sins forgiven?

PRAYER: Father, I pray for anyone reading this devotional that does not know Jesus and has not yet received His saving grace. Please draw them to yourself, grant them repentant faith and new life in Christ. Help them understand that you are able to remove the bondage of sin that they are under and replace it with thy righteousness thru Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Amen

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY

In speaking of a person’s faults,
Pray don’t forget your own;
Remember those with homes of glass
should seldom throw a stone;
If we have nothing else to do,
But talk of those who sin,
‘Tis better we commence at home,
And from that point begin.

We have no right to judge a man
Until he’s fairly tried;
Should we not like his company,
We know the world is wide;
Some may have faults – and who has not?
The old as well as the young –
Perhaps we may, for aught we know,
Have fifty to their one.

I’ll tell you of a better plan,
You’ll find it works full well;
To try my own defects to cure
before of others’ tell;
And though sometimes I hope to be
No worse than some I know,
My own shortcomings bid me let
The faults of others go.

Then let us all, when we commence
To surrender friend or foe,
Think of the harm one word would do
To those we little know;
Remember, curses, sometimes, like
Our chickens, “roost at home,”
Don’t speak of others’ faults until We have none of our own.

James J. Boucher

ONCE FOR ALL

I had a conversation with a new acquaintance a while back, and this part of the conversation was troubling: “So, I do believe that if he (his friend) was a true follower, he relinquished his faith and trust in Christ and will pay the price of that rejection.”

Ugg, this grieves my heart. Within the belief system that fosters such an erroneous theology is an evident misunderstanding of the extent of the atoning work of Christ on the cross.

How many sins did Christ’s death atone forThe answer according to Romans 6:10: “for the death He died, He died to sin, once for all.” Isaiah 53:5-6 “the Lord caused the iniquity (all of it) of us all to fall on Him (Christ.)” And in 1 Peter 3:18, we read: “for Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God.”

Some people struggle with scriptures like Hebrews 6:4-6 and Revelation 3:5 for example. But this is unnecessary! According to the scriptures mentioned above, there is NO sin that Christ has forgotten about or refused to die for! 

Dear Christian, in order for you or I to be able to lose are salvation these scriptures would have to be false. We know they are not. We also know that Jesus is not coming again to do it all over on the cross to pay for that one sin you think damns you. All your sin was paid for, ALL OF IT, so be encouraged with the promise of Jesus that He will lose none! 

WALK BY THE SPIRIT

Extended reading: Galatians 5:16-25

Devotional: Verse 16

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

In life, whenever we want to accomplish something, we have to first attempt whatever it is, and second, be diligent in our effort at it. Think of when you were a child, and you wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle. It didn’t just happen, did it? No, you had to get on it and learn how to balance yourself. Your mother and father helped you by holding onto the bicycle until you yelled, “ok, let me go.” 

By not giving up and persevering through the many falls and the bruises that came with them, you eventually learned how to ride that bike! All analogies break down at some point, and this one is no exception.

In our text, Paul explains how our flesh (old man), and its desires, are set against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. There is a war going on within us, and we often lose many of the battles because we do not grasp and exercise this great truth. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Walk by the Spirit, and the flesh loses! We’re all in, right? 

The problem is, though, just like learning to ride a bicycle, we need help. We can’t do it alone. Paul tells us to “walk by the Spirit,” or keep in step with, live by, or be occupied with the Spirit. In other words, the ONLY way to defeat the flesh and its wicked desires are by being so preoccupied with the Holy Spirit that there is no time for us to give sway to those temptations that want only to destroy us.

For us to “walk in the Spirit,” we have to first be “led” by the Spirit (Romans 8:13-14). This means that we are sensitive to His will for us and are actively cooperating with Him to fulfill it in our lives. It means that we are “putting to death,” or adamantly fighting against anything in our hearts that is at odds with the Spirit’s will for us.

The difference between the two, walking in the flesh, or walking in the Spirit, is as different as night and day. If we walk in the Spirit, we are led by Him, walking in obedience to Him, encouraged and strengthened by Him, and will enjoy unimaginable blessings. And, WE WILL NOT carry out those things that bring us guilt and shame before Him. Suppose we walk in the flesh, satisfying its evil desires. In that case, we grieve the Holy Spirit within us, are working against His good and perfect will for us, and have to face the guilt and consequences of yet another unnecessary defeat by our arch enemy.

Here is where my analogy breaks down. Once you learn how to ride your bicycle, you no longer need your mother and father to help you. You will go through life riding your bike without their help. It is quite the opposite, however, in the Christian walk of faith. WE ALWAYS need the help of the Holy Spirit. He is divine, and we are not. He sanctifies, empowers, and indwells each person He graciously saves! So, let us walk by the Spirit. It’s the only way to defeat our old nature.