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Monday, February 29, 2016

Day 14: Matthew 6:16-24; Psalm 14 - Who Has Your Heart?

Today's Reading: Matthew 6:16-24 & Psalm 14

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Who Has Your Heart?

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matt. 6:21

"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." - Matt. 6:24

So often, we don't like facing the reality of clear choices with equally clear consequences. We want to pretend that we have a full range of possibilities in front of us, and that our choices don't have the kind of consequences they actually do have. So much of what Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount comes like a giant splash of cold water to our faces because He confronts us with truth.

The reality is that we must choose our priorities and we must serve only one master and live for only one destiny. If we are laying up treasures on earth, we will be disappointed, for all things of this world disappoint in the end. If we are laying up treasures in heaven, we will never be disappointed. And then Jesus tells us that our hearts will follow our treasure; in other words, our affection and our loyalty will align with what we truly value.

Then, if that wasn't clear enough, Jesus goes on to say something even more sobering: We can only serve one master. We can't stand straddling the fence, wanting this world and the next, wanting earth and heaven, wanting the praise of men and the praise of God, wanting earthly riches and heavenly rewards. We can have only one master. Only one voice will reign supreme in our hearts and lives.

So we need to ask ourselves an honest set of questions, on our knees before the Lord. He knows our hearts and knows the true answers better than we do:

1. Who is my master, really?
2. Where is my treasure?
3. What evidence is there in my life that would support my answers to the first two questions?

If we cannot answer God and heaven to the first two questions and have evidence in our lives to substantiate those answers, then we clearly need to repent. We need to ask God to grant us repentance and to change our hearts. Life is too short and eternity too real and pressing to waste any of the precious time we have on serving false gods and laying up perishing treasure.

Prayer of repentance based on Psalm 14:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”    
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
    there is none who does good.
Lord, my heart is prone to deny You and Your reality and my life is too often marked by corruption and a lack of goodness. I am Your child, but too often I live like the world and listen to the lies of the devil. Have mercy on me.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
    to see if there are any who understand,
    who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
    there is none who does good,
    not even one.
O Lord, in my heart and in my foolish sinful nature, I so often demonstrate a lack of understanding and a reluctance to really seek You with my whole heart. Though I know that You are God and my God and Father, I live like an orphan, fending for myself and believing the lie that I must take care of myself. Forgive my sin.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread
    and do not call upon the Lord?
There they are in great terror,
    for God is with the generation of the righteous.
Father, Your people are in danger around the world, suffering persecution, isolation, rejection, violence and injustice for the sake of Your name, and I sit and compromise with the world in my thoughts and deeds, compromising with those who hate Your name and persecute Your people. Yet You are with Your people and all of the violent persecutors and arrogant enemies of Your people will fall in Your judgment.  

You would shame the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is his refuge.
O Lord, You are the refuge for the poor and the downtrodden and the outcast. Be my refuge. Let me see that under Your wings and in Your presence is the best place for me to be. Let me not fall into the traps and lies of the world and my flesh any more. 

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
    let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.    
Father, You have sent salvation for Your people! Your Son has come and has redeemed us! Let us rejoice and be glad in You, seeking and finding in You the hope of our souls and the joy of our salvation. In Jesus' precious name, Amen.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Day 13: Matthew 6:1-15; Psalm 13 - How Should We Pray?

Today's Reading: Matthew 6:1-15; Psalm 13

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How Should We Pray?

 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil. - Matthew 6:9-13, ESV

Some things can be so familiar and yet we still don't understand them. The Lord's Prayer, as this prayer from Jesus has come to be known, has been memorized, recited and prayed more often than almost any other passage of Scripture. Yet, do we see what Jesus is teaching us here. When Jesus says, "Pray then like this," He is not asking us to memorize and continually repeat the words of this prayer. He is giving us a pattern for how we should pray, and, by extension, for how we should live.

The first half of this short prayer is focused entirely on God - on the honor of His name, on the coming of His kingdom, on the fulfillment of His will. In this, Jesus shows us that prayer is first and foremost about God, just as life is first and foremost about God. We must seek first, in prayer and in life, the reverence of God and the furtherance of His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Once we have our priorities properly focused on God and His name, kingdom and will, we then turn to our needs. But notice that our needs are primarily spiritual in nature. Jesus teaches us to ask for our daily bread- which could mean basic physical needs or our daily spiritual nourishment- but then the majority of our prayer for our needs is focused on forgiveness and temptation. Our greatest needs are to have our sins forgiven, to be willing to forgive others and to be protected from temptation and evil.

Jesus' perspective in this prayer is the eternal one and thus the correct one: God is most important and our greatest need is for a life aligned with, united to and committed to glorifying Him. So, pray like this!

Prayer based on Psalm 13: How long, O Lord?

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?    How long will you hide your face from me?

Heavenly Father, I know too well those seasons of life when You seem very distance, when Your presence seems cold and shrouded and faint. Sometimes it does seem like Your face is hidden and I know that You are the One my soul most needs.

How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Lord, I have known those times when I felt absolutely cast down and crushed by my enemy, eaten up with guilt and shame, feeling helpless to conquer my sin and live in obedience, wracked with doubt or spiritual apathy. There are other times, like right now, when I look around at my culture and I wonder where You are, how You can let things be so disturbing, so evil, so troubled. I weep for "the land of my sojourn" and I cry out to You for her.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

Father, please answer the pleas of Your people for the mercy we need. Deliver Your people from slavery to sin, addiction, worldliness, selfishness. Don't let our enemy rejoice over us and don't let Your church grow any weaker or more compromised than she already is. Come to our rescue and strengthen us in the face of our enemies. 

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.


I do trust in You. I do rejoice in Your salvation. I do give thanks for Your kindness and generosity to me and to Your people. You have been so generous and so kind and so good, so let me rest in Your care and let me trust in Your wisdom, power and goodness, now and always. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Day 12: Matthew 5:31-48 & Psalm 12: How Does Christ's Kingdom Transform us from the Inside Out?

Today's Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:31-48 & Psalm 12

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How Does Christ's Kingdom Transform us from the Inside Out?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? 
- Matthew 5:43-46, ESV

The first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount completely exposes all of our unrighteousness. By the time we get to the stunning conclusion, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect," we're done - or, rather, completely undone. It's almost as if Jesus is trying to lead us through the moral law in such a way that we'll end up right back at the beginning of the sermon: Blessed are the poor in spirit. In other words, Jesus is trying to show us our spiritual bankruptcy. 

In the space of a chapter, we're told by the King of kings . . .

  • that if we call someone a fool, we're in danger of hell
  • that if we look at a woman with lustful intent, we've already committed adultery in our hearts
  • that we should not resist evil people who try to take advantage of us
  • that we must love our enemies
  • that we must be perfect 

No one with any ounce of self-awareness can come to the end of Matthew 5 without being convicted of sin and being exposed before the perfect standard of a holy God. But then, broken under conviction by our sin and stripped of all self-righteousness, we can see something else Jesus is doing besides exposing our spiritual bankruptcy.

Jesus wants us to see that His kingdom righteousness works from the inside out. The letter of the law works from the outside and ultimately cannot change us where we most need to be changed. The Holy Spirit works from inside to transform our hearts. 

This is the real difference between legalism and a heart that honors God: Legalism seeks an external standard, a checklist, that we might demonstrate how well we measure up against it. A heart that honors God knows its own spiritual bankruptcy and is being transformed into a heart of real love, humility and obedience. It's not content to hate people as long as it doesn't actually kill them or to lust as long as it doesn't actually have sex outside of marriage or to hate and despise people, as long as we can classify those people as evil and our enemies. A heart that is being transformed by Christ's kingdom, by the Holy Spirit, knows that we must love everyone and abuse no one, to bless and not to curse, to keep our word even to our own hurt and to serve even those who abuse us. 

Heavenly Father, keep transforming our hearts by Your Holy Spirit, Our only source of real love is You. Our only hope for a life lived to please You is as You live Your life in us. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Prayer Based on Psalm 12:

O Lord, how desperately we need Your salvation! If we look around us for righteousness from other people, we won't find any, for 
"the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;    with flattering lips and a double heart they speak."
We even deceive and flatter ourselves with our own internal double-hearted speech. Ultimately, neither the words of other people nor our own words are reliable. 

Lord, who can we trust? 

The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.       

As the Apostle Peter said, "Lord, where else can we go? You alone have the words of eternal life." You alone are the One who keeps every promise, never flattering or deceiving. You alone will save and keep Your people, and so we ask that You would save us. Save the poor from the oppressor and save Your people from our enemies who seek our harm. Save me from my own heart and save Your church from falling in  love with the world.

In Jesus' name and for His sake, Amen. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Day 11: Matthew 5:17-30 & Psalm 11: How did Christ fulfill the Law? How do Christians relate to the Law?

Today's Reading: Matthew 5:17-30 and Psalm 11

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How did Christ Fulfill the Law? How do Christians Relate to the Law?

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. - Matthew 5:17-18, ESV

Many people seem very confused about God's law lately. Christians seem to know that we're not supposed to commit adultery or steal, that the Ten Commandments still apply to believers (though we don't take #3 & #4 very seriously). We also seem to know that laws calling for the execution of adulterers and homosexuals are not to be carried out today. And when we go to church, we don't sacrifice animals and get sprinkled by blood. But what's our basis for thinking and acting this way? Is it just a "holy intuition" that allows us to observe some laws and disregard others?

Jesus sais He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them. He then said, "not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." How did Christ fulfill the Law and what continuing relevance does the Law have for believers?

It's helpful to think of three aspects of the Law:

Moral: At the heart of the Law is the moral aspect, which ultimately reflects the character of God. The moral law is summarized in the Ten Commandments and the two great commandments to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40).

Civil: Israel was also a theocracy, a kingdom among the kingdoms of the world. Jesus nullified the theocracy-state of Israel when He said, "My kingdom is not of this world" and then commissioned His apostles to "Go and make disciples of all nations." So the civil aspect of Israel's laws were fulfilled when Jesus as the King altered the nature of the kingdom and its relationship to the kingdoms of the world.

Ceremonial: The Law also regulated Israel's worship. Regulations for cleanliness and dietary restrictions were designed to mark God's people as holy, distinct from the nations. The sacrifice and priest system of worship was designed to show God's people their ongoing need for forgiveness and to point them to Christ. Jesus fulfilled this aspect of the Law when He died on the cross and ascended to heaven as our Great High Priest. He then sent His Holy Spirit to indwell all believers, and it is the Holy Spirit who marks us as God's people, not the dietary laws. 

The moral law of God reflects His moral character. Christ fulfilled it for us by keeping it perfectly and earning a perfect righteousness for us, but we remain obligated to keep God's commands. We do not do so to earn a righteousness or salvation, but we do so because the Holy Spirit is conforming us to the image of Christ more and more. Far from lowering the moral standard, Jesus clarified and applied the moral law in a deep, thorough and challenging way in the rest of this chapter. But more on that tomorrow . . .

Prayer Based on Psalm 11:

Father, I need to be reminded today that you are on Your throne and that I need to take my refuge in You. The state of our politics in America right now is so ugly, immoral, dishonest and discouraging as to make me think to myself: 

"Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
    they have fitted their arrow to the string
    to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?"

But You are in Your holy temple, enthroned in heaven, unshakeable. You look and You see, You test and You know the truth. You will judge the deceiving enemies of Your people.

Lord, I do ask that You would have mercy on Your people here in America by blessing us with a leader of integrity and wisdom, a leader we do not deserve but we desperately need. Yet, whatever You may ordain for us, let us never stop trusting in You. Let us never stop looking to You and rejoicing in You. For You are on Your throne and You are good.

For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
    the upright shall behold his face.  

We look forward to that day when we will see You face-to-face. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Day 10: Matt. 5:1-16; Psalm 10 - What Kind of People Belong in God's Kingdom?

Today's Reading: Matthew 5:1-16; Psalm 10

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What Kind of People Belong in God's Kingdom?

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . .

“You are the salt of the earth, . . .


You are the light of the world. . . . - Matthew 5:2-3, 13-14

What kind of people does the King of kings promise that "theirs is the kingdom of heaven"? The rich and powerful? The talented and impressive? The beautiful and enviable? No, of course not! But maybe the super-religious? The holier-than-thou? The spotless perfectionists? No, not them either!

How about the poor in spirit, those who realize their spiritual bankruptcy before a holy God? Yes. Those who mourn over their sin and don't think very highly of themselves? Those who are starving for righteousness because they know they don't have any of their own? Yes! These are the people Jesus says belong to His kingdom. 

Jesus says those who are reviled and persecuted should rejoice, for their reward is great in heaven. The world may hate and trample on the meek and mock the merciful, but Jesus saves them a place in His palace.

In fact, Jesus says it is these kind of people - those who do not trust in their own righteousness but look to God for it - who are the salt of the earth. Those who know their own poverty and who treat others with gentleness are the ones who make a real difference, who bring flavor and preservation and cause others to thirst for God, too. They are the light of the world, the ones who shine with a light only God can give. 

So if you think you have something to offer God, put it down and walk away from it. God doesn't need it and it will only keep you from what He has for you. Empty hands. Bowed knees. Humbled hearts. Thirsty souls. These are the things we bring to God and He welcomes us into His kingdom to receive His fullness of righteousness, joy, peace and love! 

Prayer based on Psalm 10:

O Father, sometimes it seems like You have hidden Your face and turned Your back on us and on Your world.  We watch the liars, the cheaters, the oppressors, the persecutors and the God-haters rise to positions of power and trample on everyone in their path. Politicians make empty promises and break them. Lawyers profit off of the miseries of others, pocketing the prize for themselves. Tyrants enslave, oppress and terrorize helpless masses of people. Advertisers sell false hopes and appeal to our basest desires.

Sometimes we look around us and we cry, "Where are you, Lord?" These wicked people openly mock You and Your righteousness and think they will never face the consequences. 

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,    that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
    you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;

    call his wickedness to account till you find none.  

Satan is the mastermind of evil in this fallen world, and the wicked are his pawns. Break his death-grip on this world and set people free from his slavery by the power of Your Gospel!

You are the King forever and Your kingdom of perfect justice and righteousness will stand forever, long after all the nations of this world have fallen away. You reign! O Lord, please reign over us and bring Your kingdom. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Day 9: Matthew 4:18-25; Psalm 9 - How Did Jesus Bring the Kingdom?

Today's Reading: Matthew 4:18-25 & Psalm 9

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How Does Jesus Bring the Kingdom?

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. - Matthew 4:25, ESV

After Jesus returns from being tested and tried in the desert wilderness and begins His ministry in Galilee, He proclaims that the kingdom of God is at hand. He then calls His first disciples and begins to proclaim, demonstrate and initiate the kingdom through three key means: teaching, preaching and healing.

1. Teaching: Jesus taught the Scriptures in the synagogues, opening and explaining God's word for His people.

2. Gospel Proclamation: Jesus proclaimed "the gospel of the kingdom." We don't know exactly what Jesus said when He proclaimed the gospel, but He preached the Gospel. He told the people of God's love, God's power. their sin, their need for salvation and God's kingdom. He called them to repent of their sins and from trusting in their own righteousness and to turn to the Lord in faith instead.

3. Healing every disease and affliction: Whatever afflicted or oppressed the people, Jesus healed them from it - sickness, paralysis, blindness, demonic oppression, etc.

Today, the church is called to bring the kingdom and demonstrate to the world the greatness of our king through these same means. While we do not have Jesus' supernatural power to heal and perform miracles, we can and should teach God's word, preach the Gospel and heal the sick. Clear instruction, authoritative proclamation and loving kingdom demonstration are the ways God continues to show Himself to people and advance His kingdom in the world.

Prayer based on Psalm 9:

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;    I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Heavenly Father, You have been so richly and wonderfully good to me and I have so many reasons to thank You and praise You. You have drawn me from the darkness of my sin and ignorance into the light of Your righteousness and truth. You have brought me from rebellion and death into son-ship and life in Your gracious presence. You have forgiven my sins and You continually forgive my sins, not for anything I have done but for everything Christ has done. You have given me a new heart, freed from the stony prison of self-worship to truly love and desire to honor You. I rejoice in You and I thank You for such kindness, expressed in every gift of love - every breath, every joy, every pleasure, every glimpse of beauty, every grasping of truth, every day of life.


When my enemies turn back,
    they stumble and perish before your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
    you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

Satan the adversary hurls accsations against me. I turn to You to justify me. If I had to face him on my own, I would be condemned, utterly destroyed, without hope or strength before him. But You have given just judgment by condemning Your Son in my place. You have justified me by the perfect obedience of Your Son and have silenced by enemies, who now stumble and perish before Your perfect justice.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
    you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
    their cities you rooted out;
    the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;

    he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
    he judges the peoples with uprightness.

Father, the nations of this world are led astray by the devil into deception and rebellion against You. The nations hate You and resent Your rule over Your world. But You are the King forever. No one can stand against You. Your throne alone will give the final determination of justice, and the wicked, rebellious rulers of this world will not be able to stand before You.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
    for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Father, You never forsaken those who seek You and put their trust in You. Please keep all of Your people in Your care. Be their stronghold in times of trouble. Protect those under threat from the wicked powers of this world and under attack from the enemies of our souls.  

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
    Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
    he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
    See my affliction from those who hate me,
    O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
    that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
    I may rejoice in your salvation.

Father, may all of Your people have hearts filled with songs of worship and praise for You, remembering who You are and always rejoicing before You. But we are in danger in this world. The ferocity, intensity and frequency of our temptations and attacks never seems to slacken and we are in danger. Save Your people and be gracious to us, O Lord.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
    in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
    the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
    all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
    and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

Lord, all over the world, Your people are often in the position of being the poor and the oppressed, whether under ISIS or Communist governments or Islamic radicals in Saudi Arabia and Iran or under secularist socialist states. So often Your people are the ones on the margins of society, deprived of resources and influence in the corrupt nations of this world. But You do not forget Your own and You have promised to redeem. You will bring justice and vindication, and so we look for You and ask You to do it.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
    let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
    Let the nations know that they are but men!    

Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Show the nations who You are. Bring a final end to evil. We long to see You face-to-face. Maranatha! Amen!

How to Read and Pray the Psalms: Resources

A couple of weeks ago, I taught a two-part Sunday School class on "How to Read and Pray the Psalms." You can get the audio from these classes here:

Part 1
Part 2

You can get the handout from the class here.

I hope these classes are helpful to you as we continue journeying through the Psalms together.

I also want to recommend this wonderful blog from a pastor in England: http://prayallthepsalms.blogspot.co.uk/

May the Lord use the Psalms to build us up in Him!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Day 8: Matthew 4:12-17; Psalm 8 - How Accurately Did God Foretell His Son's Coming?

Today's Reading: Matthew 4:12-17; Psalm 8

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How Accurately Did God Foretell His Son's Coming?

And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
    the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
    on them a light has dawned.” - Matthew 4:13-16, ESV

The prophets of the Old Testament foretold the coming of the Messiah in three different locations:

1. Micah 5:2 said the king would come from Bethlehem Ephrata, a small town in Judah.

2. Isaiah 9:1-2 said He would be in Galilee, in the territories of Zebulun and Naphtali.

3. Malachi 3:1 said He would suddenly appear in the Temple.

So, which is it, Bethlehem, Galilee or the Temple in Jerusalem?

Well, we know from the Gospels that Jesus fulfilled all three precisely: Born in Bethlehem, He did most of His earthly ministry in Galilee and also appeared in the Temple in Jerusalem multiple times in His life. God wanted to make sure we wouldn't miss our Messiah when He came, so He told us exactly where to expect Him - not just one place, but three different places! 

I had the privilege of preaching on Isaiah 9 this past December, and I covered in more detail the prophecy about Galilee. You can get that sermon here

Prayer Based on Psalm 8:


O Lord, our Lord,    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.

O, Lord, You who are glorious far above the heavens and You who are majestic in all the earth, You alone can and do strengthen even the least and weakest among us, to show the greatness of Your power in the face of the enemy. Satan rages and seeks to destroy, but You strengthen and equip Your people to stand in Your power.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
 all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, it is truly amazing that You care for us the way You do. You have chosen to honor people made in Your image as the pinnacle of Your creation and the objects of Your special care. We are nothing in and of ourselves, Lord. We cannot give You anything to put You in our debt, but You love us and honor us and care for us in amazing ways, and for that we praise You now and always!

Father, after Adam surrendered his place of dominion over the creation in the Fall in the Garden, You sent forth Your Son to redeem us and to restore us. Christ now has dominion over all things and we stand in Christ as Your redeemed and restored image-bearers over creation under You, for Your glory!

 O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Day 7: Matt. 4:1-11; Psalm 7 - Why Was Jesus Tempted and How Did He Overcome?

Reading: Matt. 4:1-11; Psalm 7

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Why Was Jesus Tempted and How Did He Overcome?

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” - Matthew 4:1-4, ESV

Immediately after Jesus was baptized by John and was consecrated and anointed by the Holy Spirit as our Messiah, He was led by the Spirit into the desert wilderness, where He fasted for forty days and was tempted by the devil. Talk about a rough start to a ministry!

There's so much we could discuss about Jesus' temptation. Three weeks ago, we were snowed in and I did an online devotional message on this topic in place of our normal Sunday worship. You can watch it here.

Right now, I just want to focus on two questions:
  • Why was Jesus tempted?
  • How did He overcome?
Jesus was tempted in our place, as our Savior, for three main reasons:

1. So He could fulfill all righteousness for us and earn a perfect human righteousness for us. 
2. So He could suffer while tempted and be a merciful and sympathetic high priest for us.
3. To be the New Adam, the Head of a new humanity, redeemed in Him.

Here's R.C. Sproul in a 4-minute video on the importance of the active obedience of Christ, helping us understand both the baptism of Jesus and His temptation in the wilderness.

Jesus had to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law to the fullest extent, which required Him to face trials just like we do. He was tempted in every way, just as we are, and yet was without sin (Heb. 4:15). In doing so, He earned a perfect righteousness for us, He entered into our trials and suffering and He passed a more severe test than the one that Adam failed, thus "fixing" Adam's fall by reversing the curse of the Garden of Eden.

And how did He do it? As our Messiah who was fully man, Jesus overcame Satan's temptations by reliance on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit and He quoted Scripture to the devil, using the sword of the Spirit to fight the enemy. If Jesus needed the power of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, how much more foolish would it be for us to try to face down Satan's temptations in our own wisdom? 

Prayer based on Psalm 7:

O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;    save me from all my pursuers and deliver me. - Psalm 7:1 

Father, Satan would like to make me fall and would like to see me destroyed. He pursues me constantly in temptation and distraction. Save me! Deliver me! I look to You, O Lord, to be my redeemer, my rescuer, my protection, my salvation!

Father, I thank You than when You judge me, You see me in Christ, covered by His perfect righteousness. I thank You that in Christ I can be counted as "upright in heart" and that You come to my rescue. I do willingly confess my sin and my desire to fully repent of it. I do not seek to hide it from You or play the hypocrite. 

I thank You that, in Christ, You have become my righteousness. 

I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,    and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. - Psalm 7:17