For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles
himself will be exalted. (Lk. 18:14)
In Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of two men, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Now tax collectors were hated by the Jews in Jesus’ day. This is because they literally were working for the enemy. The nation of Israel was being occupied by a foreign army, the Roman empire, and in order to fund their continued occupation, they exacted taxes from the Jewish population. Thus, Jewish tax collectors were extreme pragmatists—if you can’t beat them; join them. And so they worked for the Roman army collecting taxes from their Jewish neighbors and family. Gentiles (non-Jews) and tax collectors were viewed to be outside the covenant relationship with God. However, in this story which Jesus tells there is an interesting turn of events. You see the Pharisees were the religious leaders of that day. They meticulously held to the law, even tithing “mint and dill and cumin” (Matt. 23:23). Yet, we are told in this story that the Pharisee “standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get’” (vv.11-12). He was proud of all his good works and believed that God would be proud as well. But then Jesus tells us that “the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'” The tax collector was grieved by his sin. He knew he had no right to even lift his eyes to heaven, let alone ask God for mercy. Then Jesus says something that would have shocked his audience. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." What?! The tax collector went home justified in the eyes of God, and not the one who strove to keep all of God’s laws? Yes, because salvation is not about doing or not doing, but about glorying in what glorifies God and being grieved by what grieves God.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
When we go through difficult times in life, rejoicing is usually the last thing we think about. It is usually the furthest thing from our mind. Yet, Paul says as believers we should rejoice in our sufferings. How’s that? Why’s that? How can we possibly find or experience any amount of joy when we suddenly lose our job or are diagnosed with a serious illness or our marriage is in turmoil or we experience the sudden loss of a loved one? This is because Paul takes a long view of life. He goes on to say in Romans 5:3-6 that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” In other words, the rejoicing is not in the suffering itself, but in the long-term spiritual benefits from it. As we experience difficulty in life and as we cling to Christ through that difficulty, we become spiritually stronger. Our faith is strengthened. Suffering produces endurance. And as we continue through that endurance and as our faith in Christ is strengthened, we become more like Christ, our character is shaped into the image of Christ. And this Christ-like character produces increased hope in God. And hope never puts us to shame, or as the NASB words it, “does not disappoint because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” In other words, what helps us get through the difficult times in life is knowing that somehow God is using this for our good.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Someone once said the next time the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. This adage is popular because often Christians can struggle with the past, struggling to believe God has actually forgiven them or that he even can forgive them. But here is where the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is so important to remember. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” In the eyes of God, those who have repented of their sins and have placed faith in Christ have been justified and have had their sins atoned for. They have been born-again and are a new creation. Because of what Christ has accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection, God does not hold our past sins against, so then why do we? Stop beating yourself over your past and find your rest and hope in Christ.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)
Jesus tells us that the first great commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37), but what does that look like? What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind? Jesus is quoting from a passage in the Old Testament known as the Great Shema (Deut 6:4ff.). Shema is the Hebrew word for to hear or to listen. This is because it begins with the words, “Hear [shema], O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” But again, what does that look like? God goes on to say to them, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Notice. To love God with all your heart, soul, and might means that the word of God shall be on your heart, you shall teach them diligently to your children, shall talk of God’s word when you sit, walk, lie down, and when you rise up. That is, the word of God should consume every part of your day and life. Your entire world should revolve around God and his word. This is what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;
how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
It is amazing how many people think that if they perform enough good works, they just might make it into heaven. They imagine that God has this ginormous scale, and he places all the good a person has done on one side and all the bad they have done on the other and if the good outweighs the bad, they get a pass. However, the Bible makes clear that “no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:23). This is because as Proverbs 21:27 makes clear, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination.” That is, for those who do not have faith in Christ and do live in obedience to the word of Christ, even the good they do is an abomination to God. This is because God created us for his glory and thus commands that everything we do be for his glory (Is 43:7; 1 Cor 10:31). Thus, anything we do that is not for God’s glory is sin, and an abomination in his eyes. Getting into heaven is not a matter of good works; it’s a matter of loving Christ and living for his glory!
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Today Christians around the world celebrate Good Friday. This is the day, two-thousand years ago, when Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. The question is why call it good Friday? This is because the Bible tells us that we are all sinners and, therefore, deserving of God’s wrath and judgement. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). When we look at the Ten Commandments, not one person (aside from Christ) has ever kept them all perfectly. “Honor your mother and father” (5th commandment). “Thou shall not lie” (9th commandment). “Thou shall not covet” (10th commandment). Who has never disrespected or disobeyed their parents? Who has never told a little white lie (if there was such a thing)? Who has never coveted (desired) something that belonged to someone else? And that’s only three out of ten. What about the other seven? How do you measure up? We are all sinners. As a result, scripture tells us that “the wages of sin is death”—eternal death, eternal damnation from God (Rom. 6:23). We all deserve the wrath of God because we have all sinned. But here’s the good news. God’s word also tells us that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”--Christ died in our place. Jesus, who had never sinned, paid the penalty for our sins, for those who turn from their sins and put their faith in Christ. What does that look like? The Bible tells us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [of your life and choose to follow Him] and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Escaping from the wrath and condemnation of God is simply a matter of believing Christ died for your sins and then choosing to following him all the days of your life. All because of Christ’s death on the cross two-thousand years ago. Hence, good Friday. Not good for him, but good for us.
And he said to them,
"I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer."
Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin which means command or ordinance because this is the day, two-thousand years ago, when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper for the church and commanded them to “do this in remembrance of me.” Yet often when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper or when we think of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, we tend to think joyful thoughts. We tend to think of The Last Supper painting by Italian Renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci and think, ‘Aw. What a pleasant scene.’ But listen to the words of Christ when he institutes the Lord’s Supper: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Like a man getting ready to walk the green mile, he knew this was his last meal. He knew that in a few short hours he would be experiencing unimaginable pain and suffering. He was both frightened and heartbroken that sin had brought so much suffering and misery into the world. And yet he was prepared to be the Passover lamb for all those who will repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior. Today, take some time to reflect on Christ, the Lamb of God, who took upon himself the sins of the world.
The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)
My name is Hexon Maldonado, and I’m a news junkie. Always have been. It started when I was in fifth grade and asked my mother what the difference was between Republicans and Democrats. She said basically Republicans were for rich people and Democrats were for poor people. However, something about that answer seemed overly simplistic to that eleven-year-old mind. So, I wrote a letter to the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee, asking each what they believed and what they stood for. To my surprise, they each wrote me back and sent me copies of their platforms. I still remember lying in bed pouring over them carefully in order to understand what they each believed and where I might line up. Long story short, I remember being the only kid in middle school who would carry a newspaper to school and read it during lunch, and who could name all nine justices on the Supreme Court, the President, Vice President, his chief of staff, the Secretary of State, and the Speaker of the House. All this is to say, I’m not as into politics as I once was. The older I get, the more disillusioned I become. There was a time when I was once becoming very discouraged by the direction of our nation. But now I find much comfort in Proverbs 21:1. Because at the end of the day, God is in sovereign control of our nation. The collective will of our national leaders “is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” So now, instead of calling my congressman every other week to give him an earful as I once did, I go to God and offer my petitions to him—God is the power behind the power.
Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars. (Hosea 10:1)
When I was in the Army we would say “there are no atheists in foxholes.” That’s because when the bullets start flying and the bombs start dropping, suddenly everyone becomes religious and starts praying to someone. It’s interesting how all of life is that way. When things are going well, most people never think about God. They don’t think about what God wants or what might please him. They simply want to live for themselves. But when life throws them a curveball, when their world seems to be crumbling down around them, suddenly they’re asking, “Where is God?” This was the problem the nation of Israel had. It is for this reason God condemns them in Hosea saying, “Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars.” The more God blessed them, the more they seem to turn to other gods and engage in idolatry. Sadly, God’s people haven’t changed much from the Old Testament times. We tend to pray more and read our Bible’s more when life is hard. But when life is good… “Let’s skip church and head to the beach!” Too often we treat God like a genie in a lamp, calling upon him only when we need him.
And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold,
saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer,'
but you have made it a den of robbers." (Lk. 19:45-46)
As I write this Daily Thought, it is Palm Sunday. This is the day we remember the first day of the last week of Jesus’ three-year ministry before he is arrested, crucified, and buried. On this day, two-thousand years ago, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of peace, with a large crowd swarming around him waving palm branches and laying their cloaks on the ground in front of him as he went, shouting, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (v.38). He then strolls into the temple and sees all the people selling sheep and oxen and pigeons and goes ballistic, making a whip and driving them all out of the temple, screaming, “It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of robbers.” What is worth noting is that nowhere in the Old Testament does God forbid the selling of animals in the temple. They weren’t violating a clear command. Then why is Jesus so upset? God should not have to command behaviors that should be obvious. The temple in Jerusalem was the house of God, considered to be the throne room of God on earth, the designated meeting place between God and his people, a place of worship. They were treating a place intended to be holy as common, a place intended to be sacred as profane. Sadly, many Christians today treat church much the same way the Scribes and Pharisees did.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house,
to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God
through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5
Too often Christians make the mistake of thinking that what we do on Sunday morning, the corporate gathering of the saints for worship, is nothing more than an expanded Bible study, a place where we gather to study the Bible and then toss in some praying and singing just make it complete. But corporate worship is so much more than that. According to scripture, each believer, every Christian, is a living stone whom, when brought together, reconstitute the temple of the living God. Like the tabernacle in the Old Testament that was taken down and transported to a new location, and then when it was erected, the glory of God filled the tabernacle because that was the designated meeting place between God and his people. The Israelites understood that God is omnipresent, but they also understood that when the tabernacle was set up, that became God’s embassy on earth—a piece of heaven in the here and now. The place where the tabernacle stood was now sacred and holy ground, the very throne room of God. So also, when the saints come together as “living stones”, like the tabernacle with all its various pieces, they reassemble the temple of the living God. That place becomes God’s embassy on earth, heaven in the here and now, the very throne room of God. We stand in the presence of our King and worship him. Gathering with the saints for corporate worship is the most important event in which we can ever possibly participate in this world.
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
The greatest prayer ever recorded in scripture (in my opinion) is Jesus’ high priestly prayer recorded in John 17. The best line from that prayer is v.23 where Jesus is praying to the Father for all future believers and prays “that they [believers] may be one even as we [Jesus and the Father] are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” The line that always jumps out at me and that I find so encouraging is the tail end of v.23—“so that the world may know that you…loved them even as you loved me.” Notice Jesus is praying that the world and all believers would know that the Father loves us “even as”—i.e., just as, to the same degree—as he loves Jesus, his only begotten son. What is so encouraging to realize is that because of all that Christ as done for us—for those who have placed faith in Him—God the Father loves us as much as he loves his only begotten son. In light of Christ’s work in his life and death, those who have faith in Christ have had their sins completely atoned for and are cloaked in his perfect righteousness. Thus, when the Father looks at believers, he sees the same thing he sees in Christ—sinless perfection! Thus, the comfort is knowing that, as believers, there is nothing we can do to make God love us any less. God the Father loves us perfectly as much as he loves Christ himself! Hallelujah!
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
The other day I had the opportunity to share the gospel with a waitress who was waiting on our table. I was meeting with a friend, who is the pastor of a local church, and she overheard our conversation and asked what church we attend. When I asked her about her faith or whether or not she believed in God, she said she did. But then she proceeded to tell me that she worships God in her own way and that she does not believe it matters to God what we think of him or how we worship him, just so long as we do. I then asked her what she would think if she was in a relationship with a man who told her he loved her and wanted to be in a relationship with her, but really didn’t care to know anything about her or even to get her name right. He thought it would be perfectly fine to call her by some other name and simply make up information about her that he preferred. Would she want to be in a relation with that kind of person? Her answer, of course, was ‘no’. I then proceeded to explain to her that God is a real living being; he is a person who desires to be rightly known by those who worship him and desire to be in a relationship with him. It simply will not do to say, “I love God and I believe in God and I worship God, but I don’t believe he cares how we know him or what we believe about him.” God has made clear in his word, we either approach God on his terms or we do not approach God at all. God desires to be rightly known, and the only way to know God is through is Word.
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