Wednesday, April 24

11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. 12 For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation of Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard about my former way of life in Judaism: I intensely persecuted God’s church and tried to destroy it. 14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many contemporaries among my people, because I was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when God, who from my mother’s womb set me apart and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me, so that I could preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia and came back to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I didn’t see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I declare in the sight of God: I am not lying in what I write to you.

21 Afterward, I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I remained personally unknown to the Judean churches that are in Christ. 23 They simply kept hearing: “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

Galatians 1:1-24

Summary: 

In these verses Paul brings up the reality of his past. Before God saved him Paul persecuted the very church he spent his missionary life building up. Paul once sought to kill all those who believed in the God that he later surrendered his life to. In this scripture Paul speaks of how people in many regions didn’t have a personal relationship with him. These people simply knew that he used to be a very different version of himself than he was after God saved him. The last verse in this passage of scripture points us to what matters most. No matter our background our deepest desire should be that God would be glorified in us, through us, and because of us.

Reflection:

No one is too far gone, no story is too dark, nothing is beyond the redemption of Christ. Believe today that regardless of how disqualified you might feel, it is God’s salvation and grace that qualifies you to glorify Him, and it’s truly the most rewarding thing you can do.


Prayer:

Father, please give me the grace needed to live a life that would lead others to glorify You because of me.


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Jamison PriceComment
Tuesday, April 23

6 I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! 9 As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!

10 For am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:6-10

Summary: 

In these verses we see the main theme of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. There were many influencers around the Galatians that were tempting them to believe a lesser version of the true gospel. Paul is clear that there is no other gospel and that no man has the authority to add to, or take away from the gospel declared by Christ. Whatever God says is true, no matter who it is that might be saying something differently. As Christians we can not make adjustments to the gospel in order to make ourselves or others more comfortable with it. Our aim is to please Christ by pointing people to Him, not to satisfy people’s needs by making the gospel “work for them.”

Reflection:

Are there areas in your belief of the gospel that need to be refined by scripture? Are there things about yourself, others, or God that you’re believing that might not be true, but you believe them because of someone else’s influence? There is no other gospel besides the one that Jesus taught, ask the Lord to make the true gospel abundantly clear to you in your own life and for others around you.


Prayer:

Father, forgive me for ever adding to or taking away from the one true gospel. The gospel declares that Christ saved me while I was still a sinner, not because I cleaned myself up enough to be worth saving. The gospel declares that I’m free from my sin, which means that I’m not just free from the punishment of my sins, but that I don’t have to continue living in sin any longer. The true gospel has saved me so that my entire life points to Jesus. Help me live with the power of the true gospel so that I can glorify you in everything I do.


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Jamison PriceComment
Monday, April 22

Paul, an apostle — not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead —

2 and all the brothers who are with me:

To the churches of Galatia. 

3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. 5 To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Galatians 1:1-5

Summary: 

As Paul begins his letter to the churches in Galatia he opens with a strong emphasis on his identity as an apostle. It isn’t so much the position of his apostleship that is important as much as who affirms his credentials. Paul had some strong words for these Galatians, and they had to understand that he wrote with authority. Paul expected that Christians would respect his authority as one who was called by and sent by Christ. Paul finishes his introduction with a prayer of peace and grace that is offered to all believers through Christ who rescued us from our sin. He wraps up by pointing us to the ultimate reason for everything we do, the glory of God.

Reflection:

As we study through the book of Galatians we’ll be challenged to evaluate whether or not we have let lesser versions of the gospel pollute our understanding of the true gospel  of Christ. Let’s read these verses with an understanding that they aren’t just written to the Galatians. These words, encouragements, and challenges are written to us to move us closer to Christ. 


Prayer:

Father, help me see that all of scripture comes from you. Help me understand that Paul writes these words not by his own authority, but by Yours. Lead me to realize that, like Paul, I am called by you and sent by you to those around me.


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Jamison PriceComment
Easter Sunday, April 21

Such Amazing Resurrection Love

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17–18)

Why does Jesus say this? Why does he stress his willingness to die? Because if it weren’t true—if his death were forced on him, if it weren’t free, if his heart weren’t really in it—then a big question mark would be put over his love for us.

The depth of his love is in its freedom. If he didn’t die for us willingly—if he didn’t choose the suffering and embrace it—then how deep is his love, really? So he stresses it. He makes it explicit. It comes out of me, not out of circumstances, not out of pressure, but out of what I really long to do.

Jesus is stressing to us that his love for us is free. He seems to hear some enemy slander saying, “Jesus doesn’t really love you. He’s a mercenary. He’s in it for some other reason than love. He’s under some kind of constraint or external compulsion. He doesn’t really want to die for you. He’s just got himself somehow into this job and has to submit to the forces controlling him.” Jesus seems to hear something like that, or anticipate it. And he responds, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have author- ity to take it up again.” So he is pressing this on us to see if we will believe his protest of love, or if we will believe the opposite—that his heart is really not in this.

Anybody who makes a statement like that is either mentally deranged, or lying, or God. I have authority from inside death, as a dead man, to take life back again, when I please. Now what’s the point here? Well, which is harder: to control when you die, or to give yourself life again once you are dead? Which is harder: to say, “I lay my life down on my own initiative”? Or to say, “I will take my life back again after I am dead”?

The answer is obvious. And that’s the point. If Jesus could—and did—take his life back again from the dead, then he was free indeed. If he controlled when he came out of the grave, he certainly controlled when he went into the grave.

So here’s the point. The resurrection of Jesus is given to us as the confirmation or evidence that he was indeed free in laying down his life. And so the resurrection is Christ’s testimony to the freedom of his love.

The Meaning of Easter

Of all the great things that Easter means, it also means this: it is a mighty “I meant it!” behind Christ’s death. I meant it! I was free. You see how free I am? You see how much power and authority I have? I was able to avoid it. I have power to take up my life out of the grave. And could I not, then, have devastated my enemies and escaped the cross?

My resurrection is a shout over my love for my sheep: It was free! It was free! I chose it. I embraced it. I was not caught. I was not cornered. Nothing can constrain me to do what I do not choose to do. I had power to take my life from death. And I have taken my life from death. How much more, then, could I have kept my life from death!

I am alive to show you that I really loved you. I freely loved you. Nobody forced me to it. And I am now alive to spend eternity loving you with omnipotent resurrection love forever and ever.

Come to me, all you sinners who need a Savior. And I will forgive you and accept you and love you with all my heart forevermore.


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John PiperComment
Saturday, April 20

A Holy Week Volcano

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. (Luke 22:63–65)

As I read these terrible words, I found myself saying to Jesus, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Jesus. Forgive me!” I felt myself to be an actor here, not just a spectator. I was so much a part of that ugly gang that I knew I was as guilty as they were. I felt that if the rage of God should spill over onto those soldiers and sweep me away, too, justice would have been done. I wasn’t there, but their sin was my sin. It would not have been unjust for me to fall under their sentence.

Has it ever bothered you that sometimes in the Old Testament when one man sins, many get swept away in the punishment God brings? For example, when David sinned by taking a census of the people (2 Samuel 24:10), “there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men” (2 Samuel 24:15). In another example, Achan kept some of the booty from Jericho and his whole family was stoned (Joshua 7:25). Maybe my experience in reading Luke 22 is a clue to the divine justice in this.

My Volcanic Rebellion

An analogy came to my mind. The hearts of humanity are like a molten mantle beneath the surface of the whole earth. The molten lava beneath the earth is the universal wickedness of the human heart—the rebellion against God and the selfishness toward people. Here and there a volcano of rebellion bursts forth which God sees fit to judge immediately. He may do so by causing the scorching, destructive lava to flow not only down the mountain which erupted, but also across the valleys which did not erupt, but which have the same molten lava of sin beneath the surface.

The reason I confess the sin of beating Jesus, even though I wasn’t there, is that the same lava of rebellion is in my own heart. I have seen enough of it to know. So even though it does not burst forth in such a volcanic atrocity as the crucifixion, it is still deserving of judgment. If God had chosen to rain the lava of their evil back on their own heads and some of it consumed even me, I would not be able to fault God’s justice.

We may wonder why God chooses to recompense some evils immediately and not others. And we may wonder how he decides whom to sweep away in the judgment. Why seventy thousand? Why not fifty thousand, or one hundred, or ten? Why Achan’s wife and not the greedy neighbor two tents down? I doubt that answers are available to us now. We are left to trust that these decisions come from a Wisdom so great that it can discern all possible effects in all possible times and places and people. How widely the lava of one person’s rebellion and judgment will flow lies in God’s hands alone.

And I believe from Romans 8:28 that, even though the lava of recompense overtakes me at a distance from the volcano, there is mercy in it. I do not deserve to escape, for I know my own heart. But I trust Christ, and so I know the judgment will be turned to joy. Though he slay me, yet will I trust him. For precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.


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John PiperComment
Friday, April 19

What Good Friday is All About

Consequently, he [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

The great passion of the writer of Hebrews is that we “draw near” to God (Hebrews 4:16; 7:25; 10:22; 11:6). Draw near to his throne to find all the help we need. Draw near to him, confident that he will reward us with all that he is for us in Jesus. And this is clearly what he means in Hebrews 10:22, because verse 19 says that we have confidence “to enter the holy place,” that is, the new heavenly “holy of holies,” like that inner room in the old tabernacle of the Old Testament where the high priest met with God once a year, and where his glory descended on the ark of the covenant.

So the one command, the one exhortation, that we are given in Hebrews 10:19–22 is to draw near to God. The great aim of this writer is that we get near God, that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that God not be a distant thought, but a near and present reality, that we experience what the old Puritans called communion with God.

This drawing near is not a physical act. It’s not building a tower of Babel, by your achievements, to get to heaven. It’s not necessarily going into a church building, or walking to an altar at the front. It is an invisible act of the heart. You can do it while standing absolutely still, or while lying in a hospital bed, or while sitting in a pew listening to a sermon.

Drawing near is not moving from one place to another. It is a directing of the heart into the presence of God who is as distant as the holy of holies in heaven, and yet as near as the door of faith. He is commanding us to come, to approach him, to draw near to him.

The Center of the Gospel

In fact, this is the very heart of the entire New Testament gospel, isn’t it? That Christ came into the world to make a way for us to come to God without being consumed in our sin by his holiness.

  • ›  “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

  • ›  “For through him [Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18).

  • ›  “We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).

This is the center of the gospel—this is what the Garden of Gethsemane and Good Friday are all about—that God has done astonishing and costly things to draw us near. He has sent his Son to suffer and to die so that through him we might draw near. It’s all so that we might draw near. And all of this is for our joy and for his glory.

He does not need us. If we stay away he is not impoverished. He does not need us in order to be happy in the fellowship of the Trinity. But he magnifies his mercy by giving us free access through his Son, in spite of our sin, to the one Reality that can satisfy us completely and forever, namely, himself. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).


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John PiperComment
Thursday, April 18

Thursday of the Commandment

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

Today is Maundy Thursday. The name comes from the Latin mandatum, the first word in the Latin rendering of John 13:34, “A new commandment (mandatum novum) I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This commandment was given by Jesus on the Thursday before his crucifixion. So Maundy Thursday is the “Thursday of the Commandment.”

This is the commandment: “love one another: just as I have loved you.” But what about Galatians 5:14? “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” If the whole law is fulfilled in “Love your neighbor as yourself,” what more can “Love one another as Christ loved you” add to the fulfillment of the whole law?

I would say that Jesus did not replace or change the commandment, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” He filled it out and gave it clear illustration. He is saying,

Here is what I mean by “as yourself.” Watch me. I mean: Just as you would want someone to set you free from certain death, so you should set them free from certain death. That is how I am now loving you. My suffering and death is what I mean by ‘as yourself.’ You want life. Live to give others life. At any cost.

So John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Was Jesus loving us “as he loved himself ”? Listen to Ephesians 5:29–30, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

In the horrors of his suffering, Christ was sustained “by the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). And that joy was the everlasting gladness of his redeemed people, satisfied in the presence of the risen king.

Therefore, let us see the greatest love in action on Maundy Thursday and tomorrow on Good Friday. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). He loved us to the uttermost. And let us be so moved by this love that it becomes our own. “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” This is the commandment. This isthe Thursday.


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John PiperComment
Wednesday, April 17

Why Jesus is All-Trustworthy

“I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.” (John 13:19)

Jesus himself taught that all the prophecies about him would be fulfilled. In other words, we have a testimony, not only that the writers themselves saw Jesus’s life as fulfillment of prophecy, but that Jesus did, too.

For example, in Luke 22:37, Jesus says, “I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment” (see Isaiah 53:12). Jesus saw that the predictions of the Messiah and his sufferings would be fulfilled in himself.

Jesus took up the principle of John 13:19 and foretold numerous details of what was going to happen to him so that we might believe when they happened. “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). Jesus saw the predictions of the Messiah and his sufferings being fulfilled in himself.

  • ›  He foresaw that his death would be by crucifixion (John 3:14; 12:32).

  • ›  He predicted that the disciples would find an unridden colt when they entered the town (Luke 19:30).

  • ›  When the disciples entered Jerusalem that last Thursday, he predicted they would meet a man with the water pitcher who would have a room for them to meet in (Luke 22:10).

  • ›  After three years of waiting, he knew the exact hour of his departure out of the world (John13:1).

  • ›  Jesus knew that he would be betrayed, and who would betray him, and when it would happen (John 6:64; 13:1; Matthew 26:2, 21).

  • ›  He knew and predicted the fact and the time of Peter’s three denials (Matthew 26:34).

  • ›  Jesus predicted that the disciples would all fall away and be scattered (Matthew 26:31; John 16:32; Zechariah 13:7).

›  Jesus prophesied that he would be “lifted up from the earth” (John 12:32). That is, he would not be stoned but crucified—not by Jews but by Romans. So the decisions of Pilate and the Jews of how to dispose of him were a fulfillment of his prediction.

He makes all these predictions, according to John 13:19, so that we would believe he is God, that what he says about himself is true.

In other words, Jesus is saying, “If you are struggling to believe that I am the promised Messiah, that I am the one who was in the beginning with God and was God (John 1:1), that I am the divine Son of God, who can forgive all your sins and give you eternal life and guide you on the path to heaven, then I want to help you believe. And one of the ways I am going to help you have well-grounded faith is by telling you what is going to happen to me before it happens, so that when it happens, you will have good reason to believe in me.”


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John PiperComment
Tuesday, April 16

Depth of Love for Us

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8)

As I have pondered the love of Christ for us, and the different ways that the Bible presents it to us, I have seen four ways that the depth of Christ’s love is revealed.

First, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by what it costs him. If he sacrifices his life for us, it assures us of deeper love than if he only sacrifices a few bruises. So we will see the depth of Christ’s love by the greatness of what it cost him.

Second, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by how little we deserve it. If we have treated him well all our life, and have done all that he expects of us, then when he loves us, it will not prove as much love as it would if he loved us when we had offended him, and shunned him, and disdained him. The more undeserving we are, the more amazing and deep is his love for us. So we will see the depth of Christ’s love in relation to how undeserving are the objects of his love (Romans 5:5–8).

Third, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by the greatness of the benefits we receive in being loved. If we are helped to pass an exam, we will feel loved in one way. If we are helped to get a job, we will feel loved another way. If we are helped to escape from an oppressive captivity and given freedom for the rest of our life, we will feel loved another way. And if we are rescued from eternal torment and given a place in the presence of God with fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore, we will know a depth of love that surpasses all others (1 John 3:1–3). So we will see the depth of Christ’s love by the greatness of the benefits we receive in being loved by him.

Fourth, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by the freedom with which they love us. If a person does good things for us because someone is making him, when he doesn’t really want to, then we don’t think the love is very deep. Love is deep in proportion to its liberty. So if an insurance company pays you $40,000 because you lose your spouse, you don’t usually marvel at how much this company loves you. There were legal constraints. But if your Sunday School class makes all your meals for a month after your spouse dies, and someone calls you every day, and visits you every week, then you call it love, because they don’t have to do this. It is free and willing. So we will see the depth of Christ’s love for us in his freedom: “No one takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).

To push this truth to the limit, let me quote for you a psalm that the New Testament applies to Jesus (Hebrews 10:9). It refers to his coming into the world to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin: “I delight to do your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8). The ultimate freedom is joy. He rejoiced to do his redeeming work for us. The physical pain of the cross did not become physical pleasure. But Jesus was sus- tained through it all by joy. He really, really wanted to save us. To gather for himself a happy, holy, praising people. He displayed his love like a husband yearning for a beloved bride (Ephesians 5:25–33).


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John PiperComment
Monday, April 15

He Set His Face for Jerusalem

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:51–56)

In Luke 9:51–56, we learn how not to understand Palm Sunday.

To set his face towards Jerusalem meant something very different for Jesus than it did for the disciples. You can see the visions of greatness that danced in their heads in verse 46: “An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” Jerusalem and glory were just around the corner. O what it would mean when Jesus took the throne!

But Jesus had another vision in his head. One wonders how he carried it all alone and for so long.

Here’s what Jerusalem meant for Jesus: “I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). Jerusalem meant one thing for Jesus: certain death. Nor was he under any illusion of a quick and heroic death. He predicted in Luke 18:31–33: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him.”

When Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem, he set his face to die.

Remember, when you think of Jesus’s resolution to die, that he had a nature like ours. He shrunk back from pain like we do. He would have enjoyed marriage and children and grandchildren and a long life and esteem in the community. He had a mother and brothers and sisters. He had special places in the mountains. To turn his back on all this, and set his face towards vicious whipping and beating and spitting and mocking and crucifixion, was not easy. It was hard.

We need to use our imagination to put ourselves back into his place and feel what he felt. I don’t know of any other way for us to begin to know how much he loved us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

If we were to look at Jesus’s death merely as a result of a betrayer’s deceit and the Sanhedrin’s envy and Pilate’s spinelessness and the soldiers’ nails and spear, it might seem very involuntary. And the benefit of salvation that comes to us who believe might be viewed as God’s way of making a virtue out of a necessity. But once you read Luke 9:51, all such thoughts vanish.

Jesus was not accidentally entangled in a web of injustice. The saving benefits of his death for sinners were not an afterthought. God planned it all out of infinite love to sinners like us, and he appointed a time.

Jesus, who was the very embodiment of his Father’s love for sinners, saw that the time had come and set his face to fulfill his mission: to die in Jerusalem for our sake. “No one takes my life from me,” Jesus said, “I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).


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John PiperComment
Palm Sunday, April 14

Seeing the King on Palm Sunday

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

Today is Palm Sunday. We picture ourselves welcoming the King into our city and into our hearts. He tries to make his intentions known by coming, not on a great stallion, but on a lowly donkey, meek and humble.

I wonder how many here look upon this lowly Servant-King and feel that this is just a thin veneer, and that beneath this lowly exterior there is a terrible power and authority which is just waiting to burst out against you if you slip in any way. I wonder how many feel that it is not really the deepest pleasure of this King’s heart to serve his people and meet their needs.

I wonder how many feel that he’s riding this donkey of lowliness as a kind of camouflage. And once he gains a foothold, he will throw off his rags, pull out his sword, and storm forth to do what he really loves to do, namely, judge and destroy. Of course, some will be saved—the few who somehow could please him. But that is not his heart’s desire. He is basically angry—always angry. And the best we can do is stay out of his way, and maybe, if we keep the rules well enough, we could sneak by him when he is in one of his temporary good moods.

Jesus is at pains to help you not feel that way about God. And I want to draw your attention to one verse, namely, Luke 12:32, because every little piece of this verse is intend- ed to help take away the fear that Jesus knows we struggle with, namely, that God begrudges his benefits, that he is constrained and out of character when he does nice things, that at bottom he is angry and loves to vent his anger.

Luke 12:32 is a verse about the nature of God. It’s a verse about what kind of heart God has. It’s a verse about what makes God glad—not merely about what God will do or what he has to do, but what he delights to do, what he loves to do, and what he takes pleasure in doing. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

The phrase “good pleasure,” is a verb in Greek: “to be a pleasure” or “to be pleased by.” You could translate it: “It pleased God,” or, “God chose it gladly.” In other words, God is not acting in this generous way in order to cloak and hide some malicious motive. The word “good pleasure” utterly rules that out. He is not saying inside, “I will have to be gen- erous for a while even though I don’t want to be, because what I really want to do is bring judgment on sinners.”

The Lord’s meaning is inescapable: God is acting here in freedom. He is not under constraint to do what he doesn’t really want to do. At this very point, when he gives his flock the kingdom, he is acting out his deepest delight. This is what the word means: God’s joy, his desire, his want and wish and hope and pleasure and gladness and delight, is to give the kingdom to his flock.



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John PiperComment
Friday, April 12

2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

16 May the Lord of peace himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 17 I, Paul, am writing this greeting with my own hand, which is an authenticating mark in every letter; this is how I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Summary

As we conclude the 2 letters to the Thessalonians, Paul signs off by praying peace for his friends. He wants them to know it’s really him writing, so he uses some “authenticating mark,” maybe a signature or something in his handwriting. This is a personal letter written to those he loves. The Bible isn’t always formal. Sometimes it just communicates a picture of how we can love one another.



Prayer

Father, I pray for those in my church today to have peace. Grow our relationships and willingness to be known by one another.


Reflection

What have I learned and put into practice as I’ve read 1-2 Thessalonians?



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Ben ShounComment
Thursday, April 11

2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

6 Now we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother or sister who is idle and does not live according to the tradition received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you should imitate us: We were not idle among you; 8 we did not eat anyone’s food free of charge; instead, we labored and toiled, working night and day, so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 It is not that we don’t have the right to support, but we did it to make ourselves an example to you so that you would imitate us. 10 In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.” 11 For we hear that there are some among you who are idle. They are not busy but busybodies. 12 Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves. 13 But as for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good.

14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take note of that person; don’t associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet don’t consider him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Summary

Laziness is not ok. We don’t really expect the Bible to talk about things like this. It’s not a lack of compassion, and the Bible surely doesn’t say that we shouldn’t help others who can’t work or meet their own needs. Christians did that from the very beginning and should continue. However, God meets the needs of those who can work by them doing precisely that. In the Thessalonian church there were those who stopped working because they believed Jesus would come back any moment! Crazy. But, God tells them to go to work and live normal lives as they remember that Jesus is coming.



Prayer

Father, strengthen my work ethic today. Help me remember to work hard as I focus on Jesus today.


Reflection

Is there room for growth in the way I will work today? Does my work honor God?



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Ben ShounComment
Wednesday, April 10

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

1 In addition, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen and guard you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.

Summary

Here Paul asks people who he has talked a lot about praying for to now pray for him. They have believed the message of Christ because of his preaching and because of the prayers of others. Now they can pray for the message to be believed by others. Confidently he says that he knows they will grow and continue to follow Jesus as they do.



Prayer

Father, I pray for the message of Christ to be believed in others today. As I think about those I love or will encounter today, would you speak to them?


Reflection

Who is around me that I could pray for to meet Jesus as Savior today?



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Ben ShounComment
Tuesday, April 9

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

13 But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by what we said or what we wrote.

16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good work and word.

Summary

If you believe in Jesus today it’s because God chose to reveal Him to you. Just think: are your natural desires for God or for self? In our human condition, all of us desire our own purposes and plans. If you are reading the Bible today (and you are!), there must be new desires in you. So, we’re told to stand firm and keep believing and trust Jesus to encourage and strengthen us to live for Him today. 



Prayer

Father, thank You for choosing to make Jesus known to me. It is all an act of Your grace. I ask you to strengthen me to live strongly for Him today.


Reflection

How does God’s choosing of me cause me to respond? Is it humbling, as it should be? What should I do today as a result?



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Ben ShounComment
Monday, April 8

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him: We ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to be easily upset or troubled, either by a prophecy or by a message or by a letter supposedly from us, alleging that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God.

5 Don’t you remember that when I was still with you I used to tell you about this? 6 And you know what currently restrains him, so that he will be revealed in his time.7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one now restraining will do so until he is out of the way, 8 and then the lawless one will be revealed. The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of his mouth and will bring him to nothing at the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working, with all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders, 10 and with every wicked deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe the lie, 12 so that all will be condemned—those who did not believe the truth but delighted in unrighteousness.

Summary

There are all sorts of stunts and falsehoods in our world concerning the return of Christ. Since 2000 years ago in Thessalonica, the idea of return of Jesus has been used to manipulate and gain the upper hand over others. Paul tells his friends not to be deceived in these verses. God will ultimately get his way, and Jesus will return and be seen for who He really is. No one is a match for Him.



Prayer

Father, once again today I remind myself how much I believe Jesus will return. Would you remind me that You will accomplish all you desire to do in the world today and that I can trust You?


Reflection

What ideas come to mind when I think about the return of Christ? Are they helpful or a distraction from what God has actually told us in the Bible?



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Ben ShounComment
Friday, April 5

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy: To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches—about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions that you are enduring. 5 It is clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering, 6 since it is just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us. This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels, 8 when he takes vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from his glorious strength 10 on that day when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed. 11 In view of this, we always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Summary

Vengeance is a scary word. It’s not often used in our Christian vocabulary. Punishment for sin is deserved. I deserve to suffer and die, but Jesus has offered mercy! When someone does not hold tightly to His mercy, that vengeance will be inflicted and God will not allow sin to go unpunished. No one has ever NOT deserved to be punished for sin. We should cling tightly to Jesus taking the punishment we deserve.



Prayer

Father, cleanse me from sin today and show me the weight of my need for Jesus. Thank You for sending Him to die in my place!


Reflection

Am I living with open eyes toward the power of the truth that Jesus takes the punishment I deserve? What about others? Am I open to the truth I must share with them that God can repay justly for the sin that they have committed?



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Ben ShounComment
Thursday, April 4

Intro to 2 Thessalonians 

Today, as we transition from 1 to 2 Thessalonians, consider this information and application from Pastor Chuck Swindoll.

https://www.insight.org/resources/bible/the-pauline-epistles/second-thessalonians


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Ben ShounComment
Wednesday, April 3

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t stifle the Spirit. 20 Don’t despise prophecies, 21 but test all things. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will do it. 25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us also. 26 Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the brothers and sisters. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Summary

So much is packed into these verses. Remember that Paul is teaching these Christians how to live in light of Jesus’s return being any moment. Notice the urgency he speaks with. Notice how he urges them to keep focused on what matters most. Take extra time today in the reflection portion. 



Prayer

Father, sear the words in these verses on my soul today. Let me not close this devotion app on my phone (or wherever you are reading) without applying. 


Reflection

Which truth jumps out most in these verses? It might be that the Holy Spirit wants to speak to me about this very thing today. 



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Ben ShounComment
Tuesday, April 2

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

About the times and the seasons: Brothers and sisters, you do not need anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 When they say, “Peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the dark, for this day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness. 6 So then, let us not sleep, like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled and put on the armor of faith and love, and a helmet of the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.

Summary

Because Jesus could return at any moment, we have to stay alert! Do you know the feeling of needing to say awake but being physically unable to hold your eyes open? This is a great picture of how many Christians live today. We are so wearied by the world that we sleep. We miss out on what’s most important. 




Prayer

Father, awaken me today to the reality of eternity and Jesus’s return. 


Reflection

What reminder could I use today to keep myself awake to the reality of Jesus’s return being any minute?



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Ben ShounComment