Devotional

An Unguarded Strength

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Don’t ever say, “I would never do . . . ,” because the fact of the matter is you are fully capable of doing that and more.

The first step that led to Peter’s denial of the Lord was self-confidence. He had said to Jesus, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” (Matthew 26:33). What caused Peter to say this was the revelation that Judas Iscariot was a traitor. Peter was effectively saying, “Look, I don’t know about James and John, the so-called Sons of Thunder. And I am not sure about Matthew and some of these others. But I am going to tell You this: I will never let You down.” That was pride, and Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

We might say, “I would never fall in this area.” But let’s be careful. That is the very area in which we may fall.

You might say, “Oh, I would never do that. I would never, in a million years, commit that sin. I am really strong in that area. You know, maybe I am a little weaker over here. But in this one place I would never fall.” Really? Don’t you know how wicked your heart actually is? Don’t you know that we all have the propensity for doing the wrong thing? As the hymn, Come Thou Fount, says,

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let they goodness like a fetter
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee:
Prone to wander–Lord, I feel it–
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart–O take a seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Summary sentence: Remember, an unguarded strength is a double weakness.

Copyright © 2012 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.

Devotional

The Beginning of a Backslide

A small army was marching toward Jesus. Swords and spears and shields and torches moved toward Him in the dark as a mass of people came to arrest Him. They were in a frenzy, spurred on by their mob mentality: Yeah, let’s get Him! Who are we getting again? You know how mobs are. They kind of play off each other; they don’t even know what they are protesting. They get caught up in the emotion of the moment.

That is probably what was happening as the mob closed in on Jesus of Nazareth, who had never broken any of their laws. And just to show that Jesus was not a helpless victim, but a powerful victor, He stood up and said, “Who are you looking for?” (John 18:7).

“Jesus the Nazarene,” they told Him.

So He said to them, “I am He.” And at those words, John’s Gospel tells us, all of the people who had been pressing in so close to each other “drew back and fell to the ground!” (verse 6). Have you ever played dominoes? That is probably what it was like as this crowd flattened out.

This would have been a good moment for Judas to reconsider his decision to betray Jesus. But Judas apparently could not wait to do what he was about to do. And he would blindly follow his course to hell.

I have seen rational people who know better do the most insane things imaginable under the power of sin. Solomon, who was known for his wisdom, openly and blatantly sinned against God. That is why we need to be careful. We think we can handle sin. We say, “Oh, this won’t be a problem for me. I am very strong.” But that is the beginning of a backslide.

Summary sentence: Overconfidence in oneself can lead to backsliding.

Copyright © 2012 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Day By Day By Grace

July 8
Still More on God’s Ability and His Promises
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. (2Ti_1:12)
A growing appreciation of God’s ability produces in us an increasing tendency to rely upon God’s promises. In this present meditation, we will be reminded of how relationship with the Lord is always at the heart of the Christian life.
The setting for Paul’s “one verse testimony” was the suffering that he was experiencing. “For this reason I also suffer these things. ” The reason he suffered was related to his calling to preach the gospel, “to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2Ti_1:11). When the Lord first called Paul to serve Him in the good news of grace, his future sufferings were addressed. “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Act_9:16). Suffering is inevitable while serving God in an ungodly world. Jesus Himself was our example. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1Pe_2:21).
Although Paul suffered, he was not shamed by his suffering. “Nevertheless I am not ashamed. ” If our suffering is for godly reasons, we likewise do not need to be ashamed. “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1Pe_4:16). The faith that Paul had to endure sufferings properly came from His growing relationship with Jesus. “For I know whom I have believed. ” Since he originally believed in the Lord, Paul had become increasingly acquainted with Him. A wonderful consequence of increased intimacy with Christ is that we become increasingly convinced of His ability. “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able. ” This conviction covered every matter that Paul entrusted into the care of His Master. “He is able to keep what I have committed to Him. ” Also, it covered every day right up until the return of the Lord: “until that Day. ” Again, Jesus left us a similar example. He committed His daily situations into the hands of His able heavenly Father: “When He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1Pe_2:23).
Dear heavenly Father, again I see that it is all about relationship. As Jesus related to You in His day by day living, I want to relate to Jesus. Lord Jesus, help me to know You more and more. This is how You want to persuade me of Your ability to fulfill Your promises. Lord, I have many sufferings that I need to trust You to handle, from now until You return for me. In Your mighty name I pray, Amen.

July 8
RICH TOWARD GOD
“A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” — Luk_12:15.
“I have all, and abound.” — Php_4:18.
LET US never forget this wonderful assertion, that life consists not in what we possess, but in what we are; not in goods, but in goodness; not in things, but qualities. “How much was he worth?” we ask when a man dies, and we expect an answer in the amount that stood to his credit, and on which his estate must pay death duties. Yet surely a man is worth only the love, humility, generosity, and sweet reasonableness which characterize him. Take away some people’s wealth, and, as in the case of the rich man of whom our Lord speaks in His parable, you have nothing left; but take away all things from St. John or St. Paul, from St. Francis or Augustine, or Wesley, and you have an abundance left which makes them the millionaires of all time! “Poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
The rich man in the parable made three foolish mistakes. First, he treated his wealth as though it were absolutely his own. There is no suggestion that he had made it wrongfully. His wealth had evidently accrued as the gift of prolific harvests, and was certainly due to the goodness of the Creator, on whose co-operation the results of husbandry evidently depend. But to lift up grateful eyes in thankful acknowledgment to God seems never to have occurred to him! Are we not all too prone to magnify our own shrewdness and aptitude, and to exclude God when we make up our accounts for the year.
Second, he thought that the best receptacle for his overplus was in barns, and forgot that there were multitudes of poor and needy souls around. When we begin to accumulate more than we need for our use, or the provision for our families, we should consider, not further investments, but the pressing need of others.
Third, he thought that goods could stay the hunger of the soul. How often has the heart of man or woman been surfeited with goods and remained unsatisfied? Let us give, expecting nothing again, with full measure, pressed down, and running over; give, not only money, but love and tenderness and human sympathy; give as one who is always receiving from the boundless resources of God.
PRAYER
Help us, O God, to set our affections on things above, not on things on earth, for nothing beneath these skies can satisfy the hearts which Thou hast made for Thyself. AMEN.