Thursday, January 27, 2011

Persevere in the Faith

(Psalms 18:36-50) You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed. I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet. For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed. They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them. I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets. You delivered me from strife with the people; you made me the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me. As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me; foreigners came cringing to me. Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses. The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation-- the God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me, who delivered me from my enemies; yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me; you rescued me from the man of violence. For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing to your name. Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.

(Romans 11:29) For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

One of the doctrines that came out of the Protestant Reformation is the perseverance  of the saints. Simply, this means that once a person is born again, he will not turn away from the Lord. Perseverance means steady persistence in a course of action in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. Is it by our own strength or by God's own strength that we persevere in our faith?

In these and similar passages throughout the scriptures, God speaks, not so much of our own perseverance, but of His perseverance in our calling. God does not save us, give us an assignment, and then sit back to see if we will sink or swim; He is actively involved in our perseverance. David says "You gave a wide place for my steps", "You equipped me with strength for the battle", "You made those who rise up against me sink under me.", "You made my enemies turn their backs to me", "You delivered me from strife", "You made me the head of the nations", "You gave me vengeance", "You subdued people peoples under me" (paraphrased), "You delivered me", "You exalted me", "You rescued me".

God's gifts and God's calling are irrevocable. God will persevere in carrying us through today and keeping us on track to accomplish what He has called us to accomplish.

Questions For Discussion

In what way does God equip us for the calling or task to which He assigns you?
Explain a Christian who falls away from the Lord.
What does perseverance in the faith mean?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hold Your Shield High

(Psalms 18:31-35) For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?-- the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.

(Ephesians 6:16) In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

Through your faith you are saved. It is not empty faith, or faith in the cosmos, or faith in something about which you know nothing. It is faith that has been given to you by the almighty, supreme, and sovereign creator; it is faith in Him. There is power in faith but the faith itself does not produce or provide the power; it is He who gives you the faith who is, produces, and provides the power.

Your faith is from God, in God, and for God. Your faith is your shield and your shield is your salvation. Through it you are able to accomplish what God has given you to accomplish, you are able to resist temptation and win every battle against the enemy, you are able to persevere.

Your strength is in your faith but remember that it is not your own faith but the faith God has given you and that the source of your strength is not your faith and the source of your faith is not yourself; it all comes from God. To rely on others is futile because others fail you; to rely on yourself is futile because you fail yourself, but to rely on God is effectual because God never fails.

Walk into every battle today with your shield held high and you will overcome.

Questions For Discussion

Why is a Christian's faith effectual?
What is the source of your strength and your faith?
How do you hold your shield high?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Be Weak

(Psalms 18:28-30) For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

(2 Corinthians 12:9-10) But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Who alone can lighten darkness? What one person can run against an entire troop of soldiers? Who can leap over an enormous wall? No one can do these things of his own strength, anymore than a person can save himself from his own sins or sanctify himself to the image of Christ. It is only by God's infinite strength that any of these things can be accomplished in you. When God accomplishes these great things in a weak vessel like you, His strength is displayed and He is glorified.

Your weakness highlights God's strength. When you are too weak to accomplish something yet you accomplish it, the accomplishment is the Lord's and it becomes obvious that you are operating in the Lord's strength and not your own. His strength becomes your strength in your weakness. Your strength is God accomplishing that which is impossible for you to accomplish on your own. The great temptation is to take credit for His strength as your own and the greater temptation is to actually believe that His strength is your own strength and not your own weakness. Resist this temptation by always giving God the glory for anything good in your life.

Recognize your own weakness in the challenges you face today and rely upon the Lord's strength to overcome and accomplish them; then you will be strong!

Questions For Discussion

What does it mean, "For when I am weak, then I am strong."?
What can you do to resist the temptation to take credit for God's strength in you?
What is the first step in relying upon the Lord's strength in all areas of your life?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Live a Godly Life

(Psalms 18:20-24) The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

(Titus 2:11-12) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

David was a man who committed many sins throughout his life. There were times when he was unfaithful to the Lord and times when he did not rely upon the Lord's strength and wisdom when faced with certain difficulties. There were times when David acted foolishly. Yet he says that he kept the ways of the Lord and did not wickedly depart from God, and God refers to David as a Man after His own heart. David sinned but he was not characterized by sin; he did not follow sinful patterns of behavior throughout his life; he did not constantly repeat his sins. David learned by his sins.

God has saved us from our sins, not so we can just continue sinning and rest in the fact that all of our sins are forgiven. No more than God's purpose for saving the Israelites from Egyptian oppression was to have them eternally march around mount Horeb with the confidence that they would have manna to eat everyday. God's purpose in each trip around Mount Horeb was for the Israelites to turn away from their sins and His purpose for us is that we would turn away from our sinful patterns of behavior.

Concentrate today on renouncing ungodliness and not continuously repeating the same sins. Concentrate today on living a Godly life.

Questions For Discussion

What is the difference between being blameless before God and being perfect?
How do you think God characterizes a person?
What does repeatedly committing the same sin say about your perspective on that sin?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Work On the Eternal

(Psalms 17:13-15) Arise, O LORD! Confront him, subdue him! Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O LORD, from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants. As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

(Luke 12:19-21) And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."

Many around you are rich and have much in the way of materialistic possessions and physical security. David saw the same thing; he looked around himself and saw many who were rich in wealth, who stored up bountiful treasure for themselves and their children, but were far away from the Lord. David was committed to the Lord's desire for His people: to be satisfied with God's likeness. To be satisfied is not just to accept your lot in life, but to truly understand the magnitude of the wealth God has given you in conforming you to the image of His Son. All of the possessions, wealth, and security of this world can't  compare with the riches God has given you and that are stored up for you in heaven.

To work and expend your energy for the temporal things of this world (that would be anything outside of God's desire) is futile. Any pleasure these things might bring has no substance and is short lived, even in this lifetime.

Today and everyday, put forth your effort and use up your strength working on and toward the things that God desires; store up your treasure with God and know that on that final day your treasure will not be burned up in the fire but will be taken with you into heaven for eternity.

Questions For Discussion

What is the greatest inheritance one can leave to his children?
What is the Lord's purpose for His people?
How do you know that the pleasures of this world have no substance?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Live According to God's Word

(Psalms 17:4-5) With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent. My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.

(Romans 5:20-21) Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

You know you sin because God's Law shows you your sin; it defines your sin; it shines the light on your sin so that you are able to see every contour and detail of your sin. The more you absorb God's Word and the more you bury God's Law in your heart, the more you are aware of your sins. This is how David avoided sin and this is how you are to avoid sin. But knowing about your sin and even avoiding sin is not enough to save you or redeem you. It is God's grace alone that drew you into God's kingdom, that empowers you to live according to God's Word (i.e., avoid sin and do what is right in the eyes of God), and that assures you of eternal life with God in heaven; all of this through the sacrificial blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To live according to God's Word is your participation in God's act of conforming you into the person He desires and designed you to be; in short it is your part of your own sanctification. It is God who saved you, it is God who conforms you, and it is God who is leading you to heaven.

Each time that you are tempted to sin today, remember that God has filled you with His Holy Spirit both saving you from your sins and empowering you to sin no more.

Questions For Discussion

What does it mean to bury God's Word in your heart?
Why is avoiding sin and doing what is right in God's eyes not enough to save you?
What is sanctification?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Felloship with Saints

(Psalms 16:3-11) As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

(1 Corinthians 15:33) Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals."

King David emphasizes his delight in those who walk in the ways of the Lord. He draws attention to the fact that those who seek and worship any other god are counter-productive in their quest for happiness and contentment; that their sorrows will actually increase. He says he will not participate in their activity and that he will not even speak of them. By saying that he will not speak of them he is speaking of them but this is not a contradiction. The meaning here is that he will not speak favorably of them; he will not find delight in what they do against the Lord.

Paul gives the Corinthian church a warning not to enjoy or find favor in the evil deeds of others. Paul puts emphasis on the corrupting power of heart-level association with those who do evil. Fellowship, which is the heart-level connection and enjoyment of others, is designed by God for those who are like-minded in their knowledge and love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you just simply enjoy the company of those who do evil in the eyes of God, you run the serious risk of being spiritually influenced by there lifestyles. You are to associate with unbelievers for the sole purpose of sharing the gospel, showing God's love, and demonstrating the holiness of God. Any other association is as counter-productive as their own running after other gods.

Do not separate yourself from the unbelieving world, for God has placed you here as a light in a dark world. Instead, differentiate between your relationships with saints and unbelievers; fellowship with saints and evangelize unbelievers.

Questions For Discussion

What is a saint?
What is fellowship?
How should you differentiate between your relationships with saints and unbelievers?

Persevere in the Faith

(Psalms 18:36-50) You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and d...