A Berean Mentality
Main Idea: The pursuit of truth not only happens as a group, but also as an individual.
Acts 17.11b (CSB): ...and [they] examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Devotional: I read through Acts a few summers ago in my quiet time. Each morning, I was on the edge of my seat as I read my Bible. At one point, I got so carried away with excitement that I began to yell aloud: “You tell ‘em, Paul! That’s what I’m talking about! Go get ‘em!” It was as though I was watching an LSU v. Alabama football game (Geaux Tigers!). I was caught up in the story of how God was working through Paul and others. I was thrilled to see how the Gospel continuously overcame all barriers. If you’ve not read through Acts, I encourage you to do so.
Today’s passage is interesting and reveals a great deal about our responsibility when we hear the Word of God preached and taught. Paul is on his second missionary journey. Just on this trip, he planted a church, drove out a demonic spirit, was imprisoned (and released), traveled to Thessalonica, and did much more. He also met a group of people called the Bereans (from Berea). Both Paul and his friend Silas taught the people the truth of God’s Word. In fact, the Bereans “received the word with eagerness” (Acts 17.11a). Not only did the Bereans receive the word, they also went and found the answers for themselves (Acts 17.11b).
As we follow Jesus, we cannot let another person’s understanding, knowledge, and faith be our own. We must seek out the truth for ourselves. Anytime you hear a sermon preached, are you double checking what the Preacher said? When you hear the Bible taught on a Wednesday night, are you making sure that the Bible actually says what the Teacher is claiming?
Dear friend, be like the Bereans. Go, and search for the truth yourself. You’ll always be thankful you did.
-Have you made it a point to search the truth out for yourself? Or, have you just taken it at face value?
-In the second paragraph of today’s devotion, I made some claims about Paul’s second missionary journey, but did not give you verse references. I encourage you to go find the verses for yourself. Here’s a hint: You can find them between Acts 15.36—Acts 18.22.
God Still Works
Main Idea: Even in the midst of difficulty, God is still at work.
Mark 15.39 (CSB): When the centurion, who was standing opposite him, saw the way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Devotional: Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he was asked for signs to prove that he was the Son of God (Mark 8.11-12). This same request was mockingly repeated while Jesus was hanging on the Cross. The people and religious leaders said: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the Cross, so that we may see and believe.” (Mark 15.31b-32a).
The sad reality, however, is that they would not have believed him even if he had come down from the Cross. How do I know? They had seen him work for the previous three years and still did not believe. Another sad reality is this: Many times, it was a non-Jew who recognized who Jesus was before the Jewish people did (including his own disciples).
Consider today’s verse. The Roman Solider saw how Jesus died and professed the reality of who Jesus was. He did not see the feeding of the four thousand (Matthew 15.32-39). He did not see the healing of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (Mark 5.25-34). But he did see "the way he breathed his last."
The truth is, God was at work in the heart and mind of this Roman Solider during the darkest hour of human history. Likewise, God is still at work even in the midst of the difficulty we face to 1) bring people to himself and 2) mold and shape us into the image of our Lord Jesus.
Friend, God still works. He will not waste our suffering. Be reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 8:28: "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."
-Have you previously viewed difficulty as an opportunity for growth? Why or why not?
-How do you think God can work in your current difficulty to grow you?
Our God does not waste anything.
Training for Godliness
Main Idea: The pursuit of God requires intentionality.
1 Timothy 4.8 (CSB): For the training of the body has limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Devotional: Toward the end of my senior year in high school, I weighed in at almost 240 pounds. I was horribly out of shape. Eventually, within six or so months, I lost close to 60+ pounds. I began to run on a daily basis, work out at the gym, and eat healthier. When I would talk about this transformation, I would say that “I am slimmer in self, and fatter in Jesus.”
Getting in shape requires discipline, intentionally, and perseverance. You must keep going even when you don’t feel like it. In the same way, we are to train ourselves for godliness. We must be determined to embrace the pursuit of God above all else.
The reality is that physical fitness has great benefit, but being in great spiritual shape is even more important. Your muscles won’t be able to sustain you when you are hit with a season of depression—only the grace and mercy of God can. When you are laying in bed and are horribly sick, your ability to run a 5K will not comfort you—only the presence of God will.
How are you currently training for godliness? You can train by making it a daily habit to read your Bible and pray. If you’re already following Jesus, a good place to start is Mark’s Gospel. If you are not yet following Jesus, I recommend starting in John’s Gospel.
-What are some ways we can train for godliness? (In addition to reading your Bible and praying, there are other ways to grow in godliness.)
-What are some benefits to pursuing godliness? How can godliness sustain you when life gets difficult?
We aren’t merely to wait for holiness; we’re to pursue it.
What Say You?
Main Idea: Each person must answer the question: “Who is Jesus?”
Mark 8.29a: “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?"
Devotional: I remember hearing a sermon series called “Questions of Jesus”. Supposedly, Jesus asked no less than 64 questions in Mark’s Gospel. I have not counted the number of questions, so I’m not sure if that number is accurate. However, I have read through Mark’s Gospel on multiple occasions and I can verify that Jesus did, in fact, ask many questions. I would argue that today’s verse contains the most important question he ever asked: “Who do you say that I am?”
This question is important because it has eternal consequences. If we get it wrong, then the consequences are not favorable. However, if we get it right, the consequences are out of this world! Some argue that Jesus was a good moral teacher—but was not God. They argue that he a real person but did not do miracles. Others, however, argue that Jesus was fully God, and fully man. They argue that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1.29). They recognize that Jesus is the Lord—the owner and master of our lives. They recognize that is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14.6). They recognize that he has made salvation possible by satisfying the wrath of God.
Have you ever thought about who Jesus is? Have you answered this question for yourself? If not, today is a good day to ponder that question with all sincerity.
Inscribed on His Palms
Main Idea: God has not forgotten you.
Isaiah 49.16 (CSB): Look, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands.
Devotional: I remember the first time I read today’s verse. I was laying in my bed late one November night; I felt as though God had forgotten me, tuned me out, and left me to wallow in a pit of despair. Today’s verse was part of a devotional by Charles Spurgeon. When I read the verse and the devotional, I was immediately comforted and reminded that God had not forgotten me, tuned me out, or left me to wallow in despair. Rather, he was well aware of me and my circumstances.
God has inscribed you and me on the palm of his hands. How often do you see the palm of your hands? How often do you write notes to yourself on the palm of your hands when paper is absent? When God says that he has inscribed us on the palms of his hands, he has told us that we are there permanently and will never be forgotten.
Have you felt as though God has forgotten you? Take heart! If you are in Christ, he will never forget you. Charles Spurgeon wrote this about today’s verse: It does not say “your name.” The name is there, but that is not all: “I have engraved you.” Consider the depth of this! “I have engraved your person, your image, your circumstances, your sins, your temptations, your weaknesses, your wants, your works; I have engraved you, everything about you, all that concerns you; I have put all of this together here.”
Take heart, dear friend. He will never forget you.
-Have you ever felt like God has forgotten you? What led you to feel that way?
-How do you feel knowing that God will never forget you?
Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain such a closeness to the heart of infinite love as to be written on the palms of his hands. —Charles Spurgeon
Time to Ready Up
Main Idea: The Christian life is an active battle that requires us to be alert and ready.
Romans 13.14 (CSB): But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Devotion: Sin is destructive and deadly. In fact, God said that "sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it" (Genesis 4.7). Unfortunately, we will never be rid of sin in this life, for it is a daily battle. Know that the battle is tough, but as we pursue the Lord Jesus, we are also pursuing godliness.
What does your battle with sin look like? Are you battling well, or have you fallen flat on your face? The Apostle Paul also struggled with sin. He wrote these words in Romans 7.15: For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate (Romans 7.15).
Notice that Paul did not excuse the sin in his life. Rather, he condemned it as something to be hated. He was frustrated by sin and he told us that all Christ-followers are to discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13.12). Friend, do not let the desires of the flesh control you and don’t make plans to gratify those desires. Rather, make the decision to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and do not allow sin to take a foothold in your life.
-In what areas of life do you struggle with sin? Pray and confess your sin to God and ask him to help you resist sin (1 John 1.9).
-What can you do to be alert and ready for when temptation comes?
As God's children, we should never excuse our disobedience or abuse of God's grace by living in sin. Instead, we're to pursue obedience and holiness.
Main Idea: When I feel overwhelmed, I can find joy in God because he gives me comfort.
Psalms 94.14 (CSB): When I am filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy.
Devotion: I have no problem admitting that I can be an emotional guy; I recognize that emotions are a gift from God. Conversely, I also recognize that emotions can sometimes get out of hand and become negative. King Solomon told us that there is great benefit in “controlling one’s emotions” (Prov. 16.32).
If we’re honest, we all experience emotions. We can feel sad, happy, hurt, protected, embarrassed, love, and etc. There is nothing wrong with recognizing how we feel. However, it is vital that we respond to our emotions in a God-honoring way. When we feel embarrassed, we may become angry and lash out at the one who embarrassed us, even though responding in anger does not accomplish anything.
Likewise, when we find ourselves in times of uncertainty, we can easily feel worried, anxious, and stressed. The Psalmist tells that when we are filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy. In the context of this passage, the Psalmist has recognized God’s presence and working in his life. Though he was frustrated with the evil around him, he found comfort in the reality that God’s faithful love will support him (Ps. 94.18).
So, when you feel overwhelmed, look to God and find comfort in the reality that The Lord is near (Philippians 4.5b).
-What causes you to feel overwhelmed? Take those things to the Lord in prayer, asking him to calm your heart and to give you comfort.
-What can you do to remember the love of God during times of uncertainty?
We can choose not to be afraid, we can choose joy, and we can always choose Jesus.
Better Days Ahead
Main Idea: We can have hope in the midst of darkness because God is faithfully making all things new.
Revelation 21.5 (NASB): And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And he said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."
Devotion: Today’s verse is one that I have clung to in times of uncertainty and discouragement. Often, I pray to the one who “is making all things new,” for I know that there is great comfort in the reality that God will not leave this world as it is.
We find hope and comfort because we know that God has promised better days. In fact, we are told that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21.4). Imagine if you were in the Apostle John’s position when he wrote these things. John was in exile on the island of Patmos and Christians were being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. And yet, in the midst of great difficulty, God told his people that He is making all things new and that He will reveal a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21.1a).
When things get tough, may we be a people who look forward to the fulfilment of all that the Lord has promised. This life is not all there is—a better life in Christ has been promised. So, expectantly wait on the Lord Jesus.
-Read Romans 8.18-25. How does this passage connect to today’s verse? What do these passages tell us about the promise that he “is making all things new”?
-Pray and ask God to help you look to Jesus during this season and to help you understand that better days are coming.
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