Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)
Whenever someone comes to me for counsel regarding some spiritual struggle they are dealing with, the first question I always ask is: What is your daily Bible reading like? To my amazement they most often respond with an answer like, ‘Not very good,’ ‘sporadic’ or ‘nonexistent.’ Even though Jesus made clear that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4), many Christians rarely engage in daily Bible reading. But if we understand the importance eating physical food every day to maintain good physical health, then it stands to reason that we should be consuming spiritual food (God’s word) every day to sustain good spiritual health. No one would think to eat just two or three times a week, so also we must not read God’s word just two or three times per week—but daily. Everyday we need to be reading, meditating on, and memorizing God’s word. The Bible tells us that God has “granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us” (2 Pet. 1:3). Everything we need to know for living life in this world and for godliness; i.e., for preparing for the next life, comes to us through the “knowledge of him who called us;” i.e., through the knowledge of God. So also, the Bible tells us that all scripture comes to us from God and is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”--complete and equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Yet, even those who do read their Bibles every day, often skip around, reading their Bibles in bits and pieces, here and there, as though the Bible were a potpourri of wisdom saying without any rhyme or reason to their order. However, the Bible is designed to teach us about Christ and tells the story of redemptive history from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. Thus, the Bible should be read in order. Not necessarily from cover to cover, but at least from the end of one book to the end of that same book. I recommend new believers read the gospel of John first, one chapter at a time. Then they should go to the beginning of Matthew and begin reading one chapter at a time, reading every day, through the entire New Testament. Then when they are done with the New Testament, they should start in Genesis, but not read the entire Old Testament straight through, but read two books from the Old and one from the New; i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, Leviticus, Numbers, Mark, and so on and so forth. But whatever method one employs, entire books of the Bible need to be read from start to finish, the Bible needs to be read every day, and one should spend more time in the New Testament than in the Old.
For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb. 5:13-14)
More and more I come across Christians who have been believers for years and yet have never been given basic discipleship instructions. The result is that they flounder in their faith, struggling to grow in their sanctification, never moving beyond infantile Christian maturity. They have been walking with the Lord for years, and yet they live as though they got saved just last week. Thus, today and over the next four days, my daily thoughts will cover some basic discipleship principles. And it’s not complicated or difficult to grow in one’s sanctification. There are really only four basic principles to follow. Like the four basic food groups (meat, grains, dairy, fruits/vegetables) which keep our physical bodies healthy when consumed in a balanced manner, so also there are four basic spiritual food groups which need to be taken in equal proportions to keep our souls spiritually healthy and growing. These are God’s word, prayer, fellowship, and serving. We will talk about each of these over the next four days, but the basic premise is this, when God saves us, when we become born again, we are given new life (John 3:3-8). Like a newborn babe, we need to eat in order to feed our souls and grow healthy and strong. But we also need to eat a well-balanced diet. An infant who is only given milk and is never eventually introduced to proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, etc., will not grow healthy and will not survive very long. So also, the baby Christian who only engages in one of the four basic spiritual food groups, to the neglect of the other three, will not be spiritually healthy and will never reach spiritual maturity. This is what the author if Hebrews discusses when he writes, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (5:12-14). It is fine to start with milk as baby Christians, but eventually it is necessary to move on from that in order to reach full spiritual maturity.
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. (1 Pet. 2:13-14)
We live in a day and age when Christians can really struggle with submitting to our government. This is especially true in the United States where the government is becoming more and more anti-Christian and more amoral every day. I hear Christians talk of refusing to pay taxes, of refusing to wear Covid masks in places where signs are clearly posted, of refusing to register their firearms in states where it is required, and a host of other subtle forms of rebellion. Yet, the apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:13-14, “Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” What is interesting is that Peter writes this during a time when the Roman government was actively persecuting Christians (see 1 Peter 1:1). What is also interesting to note is the reason he gives they should be willing to submit to the Roman government— “for the Lord’s sake.” This is because the fruit of the Spirit, the evidence of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the evidence of the transforming power of the gospel, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23), not hate, anger, rebellion, intolerance, hostility, rudeness, insubordination, harshness, and divisiveness. When Christians think and behave the way the world thinks and behaves, it brings dishonor to God and discredits the gospel. Thus, Peter goes on to say, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” That is, honor the current President of the United States. Honor the current Speaker of the House. Respect and submit to the government God has placed over us. We do this “for the Lord’s sake.”
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Ps. 62:1-2)
So often when we go through difficult times in life our first instinct is to react, to do, to begin figuring out how to solve the problem. Yet when David found himself going through turmoil, through some sort of tribulation, he writes things like Psalm 62:1, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” His soul waits in silence for God. He remains still. He focuses on God. He goes to God in prayer and through his word. He finds rest and peace and comfort in knowing that his salvation, his rescue, comes from God. It’s the imagery of be out in the middle of the Pacific, stranded on a boat whose engine has died leaving you adrift at sea. But then being told over the radio the U.S. Navy knows your location and is on its way. The fretting and worrying would immediately cease. You might even decide to make lunch, lay out on the deck. There is nothing to do now but simply relax and wait for them to arrive. David is so confident that God is looking out for him, that God will take care of him, that he simply “waits in silence.” How is this possible? “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (v.2). David sees himself as standing on the Rock of Gibraltar while the storm rages around him. Yes, there is a storm raging, the wind is howling, the sea is pounding, but David is standing on the solid rock who is God. Thus, he will not be “greatly shaken.” He might be a little shaken, as much as we would be if we were standing on the Rock of Gibraltar in the middle of a raging storm. The wind is sure to move us some and make it difficult to stand, but so long as we are standing on that rock we will survive the storm. Thus, so long as we are standing on the rock of God, the winds of life may pummel us and push us around a bit, but we will survive the storm.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
In the book of 1 Peter, the apostle is writing this letter to Christians who have been persecuted and are suffering for their faith. They have had to flee from their home cities and so he addresses them as the “elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). But whether we are experiencing suffering for our faith or simply because we live in a fallen world and thus are experiencing the suffering of pain, disease, death of a loved one, financial ruin or anything else, suffering is never easy and always unpleasant. Yet one benefit from suffering is that it vindicates and fortifies our faith. This is the point Peter is hoping to get his readers to see when he writes, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vv.6-7). Peter encourages them to rejoice in their suffering because when the genuineness of their faith is tested by fire and shown to be pure and true, it will “result in praise and glory and honor” to Christ. Thus, when God brings us through difficult times, when he brings us through suffering, and we cling to Christ and remain faithful and true to him, and we do not abandon him, and he brings us through on the other side, the result is twofold: (1) it proves the “genuineness of your faith” and shows that you truly belong to God, and (2) it brings “praise and glory and honor” to Christ by showing to the world that God is real and faithful and true.
Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. (2 Chr. 33:11)
There is an interesting story found in 2 Chronicles 33, and it’s the story of Manasseh ascending to the throne of Judah (southern Israel). We are told there that Manasseh was a horrible king, very wicked. He did everything he was not supposed to do, and nothing he should have done. “He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (v.2). The result is that we are told that God caused the army of Assyria to invade the kingdom of Judah and capture Manasseh and lead him away in chains to Babylon. But then we are told that when Manasseh “was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God” (vv.12-13). God brought physical misery and suffering into his life and Manasseh humbled himself before God, turned to the Lord, and came to recognize that the LORD is God. While suffering in this life is not always the punishment of God for sins (e.g., Job), suffering always has the effect of turning our attention toward God. It causes us to look within ourselves and ask the question, ‘Is there something wrong in my life?’ ‘Is there some sin I need to repent from?’ Asking these sort of questions is never a bad thing. We should always be examining our own lives and seeing whether or not we are walking in line with God’s word, whether we are walking with the Spirit or resisting the Holy Spirit. In short, suffering is really a blessing, be it spiritual, emotional, or physical anguish, because it forces us to look outside of ourselves, to look to God for aid, comfort, and strength. Without suffering we would have no need for God.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19)
Pastor John MacArthur once rightly said, “A proud self-esteeming ego is easily angered.” This is the reason we tend to get so easily angered when others insult us, offend us, say hurtful words to us, or simply speak to us, look at us, or treat us in a way or with a tone we don’t think we should be treated with or want to be treated. Most, if not all, people have an overinflated opinion of themselves. We believe we deserve to be treated or spoken to in a certain way, and we are not only offended when others do not treat us or speak to us in the way “we know” we should be treated, we are offended they do not hold the same lofty opinion of us that we do of ourselves. Thus, James says “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (1:19). But why? “For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” In the Bible we see God getting angry on many occasions, but God is holy and pure and righteous and just. Thus, when God gets angry, it is always for a good and just reason. Humans, by contrast, are unholy and sinful and wicked and unjust. Thus, when we get angry, it is almost always for sinful, ungodly, unrighteous, and unholy reasons. This is why James says the “anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Nothing good rarely comes from the anger of man—the anger of sinful humans. “Therefore,” he goes on to say, “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Anger almost always stems from filthiness and wickedness in our hearts, and we need to put these things aside and humbly bow before God’s word and receive God’s word in our hearts. To deal with anger, we need more of God’s word.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:7-8)
In James chapter 3, he spends most of his time talking about the tongue and how it needs to be controlled. Yet he is not just talking about cursing people, though he is certainly including that (v.9). He is also talking about using our tongue, our speech, our words, to lash out at people, to hurt people, to gossip about or slander people. He rightly says “the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness” (vv.5-6). The tongue is a volatile, dangerous, and powerful weapon. In fact, much of the chaos and turmoil we are witnessing in the world today is the result of an untamed tongue. All wars in the history of the world, and all social and cultural unrest have been brought about by the communication of ideas—ideas which cause division, create enemies, and promote violence. Thus, James says that “every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (vv.7-8). This deadly poison has become even deadlier in the age of social media and the internet. Now every person with a smartphone has the potential to reach millions of people with their divisive and hurtful words and ideas. But before we think this blog post does not apply to us because we don’t ever get on social media, how often do we hurt those closest to us, those within our own family or homes, with our tongue, our hurtful words and ideas? We need to keep in mind what James is reminding us of, that when we hurt others with our words, we are hurting those “who are made in the likeness of God” (v.9). To insult or hurt with our words those who are made in the image of God is to insult God himself.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matt. 22:37)
I meet people all the time who tell me they are Christian, that they said the “sinner’s prayer” and were baptized. And yet, after getting to know them, it becomes evident that there is little to no evidence of the transforming power of the gospel in their lives. There is no discernable difference between how they live and how the rest of the world lives. But Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind,” and then he says in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Love for God manifests itself in a life lived out in obedience to God’s word. This does not mean that we earn our way to heaven. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. No good works are necessary. However, as the Reformers were so fond of saying, “Salvation is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.” If we have truly acknowledged our sin to God, if we have truly experienced remorse for our sin and have repented from those sins, and if we have truly believed and embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ for ourselves, then we will have a natural heartfelt desire to study God’s word, to know God, and to live in obedience to God’s word and for the glory of Christ. Once we comprehend what Christ has done for us, the true believer cannot help but desire to pour himself or herself out in service to Christ.
Daily Thoughts is a daily short post to encourage and help you grow in your faith. If you would like to receive these direct to your in-box, please subscribe.
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies