Scripture reading for November 30th: Galatians 1-6
Some people, calling themselves Christians, make rules to define holiness and judge others by how they keep their rules. Some are condemned for the length of their hair, their make up, or certain types of clothes. Some judge people having tattoos or body piercing. Other groups of Christians claim a person must be baptized in a certain way or worship on a certain day to be right with God. These rules become a perversion of the true Gospel.
The Apostle Paul dealt with some people who tried to add the Old Testament Law to faith in Christ. Paul taught that any addition to the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith was no Gospel at all! (Galatians 1:6-7) Paul warned these believers that anyone, even an angel from heaven, who tried to preach another Gospel should be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:8-9) It is very serious business to pervert the Gospel!
This mixing of law and grace affected Peter and Barnabas some 14 years after Paul’s conversion. Paul found Peter withdrawing from the Gentiles and eating only with the Jewish believers who were teaching circumcision. (Galatians 2:11-16) Paul rebuked Peter in front of them for their hypocrisy! They had given in to peer pressure and moved away from the Gospel given them by the Lord Jesus. If it could happen to Peter, it could happen to us!
Paul wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” (Galatians 2:20-21)
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not earthly things. for you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-3
Our new identity is found in Christ! We were crucified with Him and raised with Him to a new life! No set of rules or regulations can make us holy.
Scripture reading for June 23rd: Acts 15:1-31
The church today is sometimes affected by legalism. Well-meaning Christians, pastors, and leaders try to define holiness by developing rules or traditions that help them summarize what pleases God. In early days, this confused people and often caused conflict and division. Most of the early church members were Jews and had a history of keeping the Law of God. These new believers struggled to know how to balance keeping the law with salvation by faith through grace!
“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) This teaching brought sharp debate in the early church and Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders to discuss this question. They had seen God pour out His Spirit on uncircumcised Gentiles in many places where they were sent by the Holy Spirit to preach and disagreed with this teaching.
At Jerusalem, this conflict was found to be simmering as well. There were believers who came from the party of the Pharisees who agreed that the Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the Law of Moses. (Acts 15:5) The apostles and elders gathered for discussion and Paul got up and addressed them. He noted that God accepted the Gentiles and poured out the Holy Spirit on them without their keeping of the Law. God purified their hearts by faith, not by law-keeping! In fact, no Jew was ever able to keep the Law and be justified by that work! (Acts 15:8-12)
James spoke up in agreement, citing the Old Testament prophet Amos as confirming Paul’s word to them. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20) This seemed good to the elders and apostles and the Holy Spirit, so they sent Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch to share the ruling.
Salvation by grace alone was then taught by the early church. Adding law would not be allowed to hinder people from coming to Christ from a Gentile background. Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation?
Scripture reading for January 6th: Genesis 15-17
A great deal has happened in the lives of Abram and Sarai in the last three chapters. They have been to Egypt and back. They have rescued Lot from invaders. They gave the first tithes to Melchizedek, an unusual man who was a king of Salem (Jerusalem) and a priest of “The Most High God”.
Next, since she was still barren Sarai suggested to Abram that he have a child by her maid Hagar in order to fulfill God’s promise. Hagar bore him a son and now felt superior. Sarai became jealous and mistreated her. The child Ishmael, became a source of trouble in the house. (Genesis 16:12). (In fact, we are today experiencing trouble in the Middle East and a war on terror from Ismael’s offspring!)
Genesis 17 recorded another visit by God to Abram and Sarai. Abram was then 99 years old and Sarai was 90. God confirmed His promise to them by covenant. Part of a covenant is a change of names. Abram means “Exalted Father” and Abraham meant “Father of a multitude”. Sarah’s new name meant “Princess”. God took Abraham’s name too! He became know as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God also gave them a physical sign of the covenant, circumcision. This mark in the male organ carrying the “seed”, would remind Abraham of God’s promise and mark his offspring as special. This sign also helped keep the line pure and free from venereal disease, thus protecting the offspring.
Faith simply says “yes” to God and obeys! Abraham is known as the father of faith because he believed God and God credited him with being righteous! (Genesis 15:6) We are made right with God exactly the same way! By faith in Jesus we are credited with righteousness too. Our sign of covenant is that we get the Name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who circumcises our hearts and marks us as belonging to God. God writes our name in the Book of Life and we have an eternal inheritance in Him! We are truly blessed through Abraham and Sarah and their seed, Jesus Christ!
“Having believed, you were marked in Him (Christ) with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of His Glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14
Scripture reading for July 17th: Romans 4:1-13
“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”” (Romans 4:1-3) (Genesis 15:6) Paul begins to explain to the recipients of his letter that Abraham was not justified by works of the law. He lived over 400 years before Moses and God simply credited righteous to Abraham for his faith. When someone works, they earn wages and they are not a gift but what is due them. God owed Abraham nothing and Abraham did nothing to get the credit except believe!
Paul then cites David who said the same thing in Psalm 32:1-2. “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Many commentators think that David wrote this Psalm to explain the righteousness that was granted to him in forgiving his sin against God through the incident with Bathsheba. When he confessed his sin, God forgave him and covered his transgression. It was a gift and the wages that were due David through the law was death! David was thankful for the faith credit!
Abraham received the promise that he would be heir of the world and through his offspring all nations on the earth would be blessed. Abraham had no children at the time and God told him to look at the stars and count them. His offspring would be as numerous as the stars! (Genesis 15:5) It was this promise that Abraham believed.
You might say that our simple trust in God’s promises through Abraham’s offspring–Jesus Christ, guarantees our inheritance as well. It is our faith in Jesus Christ that causes us to be born again in to the family of God. It is through our faith that God credits righteousness to us as well. (2nd Corinthians 5:21) The righteous inherit the promises! Isn’t it wonderful to have faith credits deposited in our heavenly account! Thieves won’t break in and steal it. We have true riches which we will enjoy for eternity! Praise the Lord for His glorious grace!
Scripture reading for July 15th: Romans 2:24-3:8
These were Paul’s words to his own people the Jews: “As it is written, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Isaiah 52:5, Romans 2:24) He was trying to awaken an awareness that their religion was not having the effect God desired on the nations! God had called them to be a light to the Gentiles and through Abraham’s Seed, all nations of the earth would be blessed! (Genesis 12:3, Luke 2:30-32) Instead, they boasted in their law and in the fact that God had made promises to them through Abraham.
Paul went on to tell them that circumcision in the flesh was only of value if they obeyed the law. If they broke God’s law, then they would be no different in God’s eyes than the uncircumcised Gentiles! (Romans 2:25-27) Yet if the Gentile kept God’s laws, then they would be accepted as righteous in God’s sight. True Jews were not just outwardly circumcised, but had their hearts circumcised! This circumcision could only be done by the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ!
Paul was a Jew and knew just how the Jews thought. He thought that way himself until Jesus revealed Himself on the Damascus road. He was a Pharisee who knew the law “thou shall not commit murder”, (Exodus 20:13) yet he judged Christians as unfit to live and sought to murder them while claiming to have favor with God! Because of his own law-breaking, God’s name was blasphemed among the Gentiles! True Christians were afraid of Paul but prayed for him!
Jews had an advantage because of the very words of God that they had given to them by the patriarchs and prophets. They were instructed in faith through those words. They would be held accountable by God for this advantage! God would be proved justified when He judged them! (Romans 3:4) Some might twist this around to blame God, but God would be true!
Let’s examine our own lives today! Do we claim to have Christ as our Lord? Do we claim to have special favor as Christians and yet live in sin? Are we causing God’s name to be blasphemed because of our own hypocrisy? Lets judge ourselves first and get our own lives in order with God’s word and receive His grace!
Scripture reading for March 3rd: Joshua 1-5
God used an unusual mark for His people. All males were to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant that they had made with God. Moses, himself, had neglected to circumcise his son and God had tried to kill him for this oversight. ( Exodus 4:24-26) This happened after God had appeared to Moses and commissioned him to lead His people out of Egypt. The leader must be obedient to set a proper example. God takes relationships and covenant very seriously!
The Israelites had wandered for forty years in the dessert and had neglected to place this important covenant mark on those who had been born in the desert. As Joshua led them into the promised land, their first stop was at Gibeath Haaraloth. There the Lord spoke to Joshua about circumcision. (Joshua 5:2-4) He was to make flint knives and circumcise all the males who had not been marked in the desert. They were to stay there until they healed. Joshua obeyed and did this rather painful marking process. They were ready to come into their inheritance, but this painful process must come first.
“Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.” (Joshua 5:9) God viewed this action as an act of separation from the corruption of Egypt. His people were set apart from the most powerful worldly nation by a mark that made them different and promoted cleanliness and safe sexual relations. This mark reminded them of the covenant they had with their God to be faithful to Him.
In the New Covenant that we have in Christ, circumcision is now of our hearts. The true life giving organ is not sexual, but the seat of control in our inner man. It is with our hearts that we believe and have faith. When we are born again, God gives us a new “circumcised” heart. The apostle Paul had a battle with the Jews who were promoting circumcision and the Law. He let them know that, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15)
We have the world’s reproach rolled away from our hearts in Christ alone. We are set apart in the New Creation as belonging to God. We are marked by the precious Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13-14) Thank the Lord!
Scripture reading for January 7th: Genesis 15-17
Some people think that God’s people can’t be happy because they live in fear of the Lord. The kind of fear that we have is reverence for God’s person, power, and mercy. This fear leads to true joy and a life of laughter! God Himself likes to laugh! Psalm 2:4 pictures God laughing–at those who would reject His love and law! Today we get in on a positive laugh that God had with Abram and Sarai after they were old and beyond human possibility of child bearing.
When Abram was 99 years old and Sarai was 90, they were again visited by God. God confirmed the covenant that He had made earlier with Abram. He changed their names to Abraham: father of nations, and Sarah: a princess. He promised them fruitfulness, abundant offspring and a relationship with them and their many descendants. God would be their God and they would be His people in everlasting covenant. He told them that they must circumcise every male child as a sign of this covenant. (Genesis 17:10-14) Abraham, himself was to be circumcised.
Then came the shocker, Abraham was told that his wife, Sarah, would have a son. Abraham fell face down in reverence for the Lord, but laughed as he considered their ages. He wondered to himself how this could be. He answered the Lord saying, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing.” (Genesis 17:18) The Lord reaffirmed that Sarah would have a son and told Abraham that his name would be Isaac. This name actually means “the sound of laughter”! The joke would be on them and they would laugh in their old age with God’s promised child reminding them each time they said his name!
God has a sense of humor. He knows how to best accomplish His purposes. He desires us to trust Him and believe His promises. Physical limitations and natural abilities never limit God. As we read these ancient stories, we learn to trust God and believe that we can laugh, knowing that He will bring His promises to pass. Issac had Jacob and Esau. Jacob had twelve sons who became the nation of Israel. Abraham’s son Ishmael multiplied and formed nations as well. God’s word is true and is still producing! Let laughter mark your walk of faith today!
January 7th Scripture Reading: Genesis 15-17
A great deal has happened in the lives of Abram and Sarai in the last three chapters. They have been to Egypt and back. They have rescued Lot from invaders. They gave the first tithes to Melchezidek, an unusual man who was a king of Salem (Jerusalem) and a priest of “The Most High God”. (A type of Christ) Sarai has suggested to Abram that he have a child by her maid, Hagar, to fulfill God’s promise since she, Sarai, is still barren. A child results and trouble ensues! Hagar feels superior and Sarai is jealous and mistreats her. The child, Ishmael, becomes a source of trouble in the house and is prophesied to be one who would cause trouble (Genesis 16:12). In fact, we are today experiencing trouble in our world in the Middle East conflict and war on terror from Ismael’s offspring! This is 4000 years later! How true the Word of God is!
Genesis 17 records another visit by God to Abram and Sarai. Abram is now 99 years old and Sarai is 90. God confirms his promise to them in a covenant. Part of a covenant is a change of names. God’s covenant name was “YHWH”, Hebrew letters that were pronounced only with a drawn out “h” sound. God changed Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah, adding part of his name to theirs and thus changing the meaning of their names. Abram means “Exalted Father” and Abraham means “Father of many or a multitude”. Sarai’s new name means “Princess”. God took Abraham’s name too. He became know as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God also gave them a physical sign of the covenant, circumcision. This mark in the male organ carrying the “seed”, would remind Abraham of God’s promise and mark his offspring as special. This sign also helped keep the line pure and free from venereal disease, thus protecting the offspring.
God has a plan and his promises always come true. Faith simply says “yes” to God and obeys! Abraham is known as the father of faith because he believed God and God credited him with being righteous! (Genesis 15:6) We are made right with God exactly the same way! By faith in Jesus we are credited with righteousness too. Our sign of covenant is that we get the Name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit who circumcises our hearts and marks us as belonging to God. God writes our name in the Book of Life and we have an eternal inheritance in Him! We are truly blessed through Abraham and Sarah and their seed, Jesus Christ!
“Having believed, you were marked in him (Christ) with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of His Glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14