Clothed in Righteousness

Zechariah 34 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Zechariah 3:1–5 (ESV)

1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The name Satan means “the accuser”. In today’s passage, we see him standing before God to accuse Joshua the high priest. Joshua was standing before the Lord in “filthy garments”, indicative of his sin and unworthiness. Satan was there to make sure that God did not miss this. However, even before Satan could make his arguments, God stopped him and declared that the Lord had plucked Joshua from the fire. God had given Joshua grace and demanded that he be clothed in clean garments, a sign of forgiveness and righteousness.

The picture of forgiveness and cleansing from sin is exactly what the Lord does for each and every believer. We come before him in our guilt and sin. We have no argument to make or gift to offer for our salvation. Satan stands ready to accuse, but God extends forgiveness and grace to all who repent and turn to Jesus Christ in faith. Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins. In return, we are clothed in his righteousness. It is a wondrous exchange. So, go before the Lord and call out for forgiveness in faith. He promises grace to all who will.

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Not of This World

John 1715 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 17:14–19 (ESV)

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s reading comes from a prayer of Jesus on behalf of his disciples. As Jesus, prepared to depart the world and return to the Father, he knew that he was going to be leaving his followers behind to continue the ministry of the gospel in the world. In preparation for his departure, Jesus prayed that the Father would protect his disciples from the world and from the evil one through sanctifying them in the word of truth, the holy Scriptures.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to continue to live our lives in this world that is often at odds with the teachings of Christ. This can be a difficult task, but we have not been left to do it in our own strength. We have the word of God to teach us and guide us. We have the Holy Spirit at work within us. And we have Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of the Father as our advocate. Yes, we are in the world, but we are called to be different. We are called to be Christ-like. We are called to be other-worldly.

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Lies and Deception

Temptation and Fall

Reading the Word

Genesis 3:1–7 (ESV)

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Satan is crafty, as he has always been. In the garden, he deceived the woman by planting doubt in her mind about God’s goodness. He questioned God’s limitation for Adam and Eve and told the woman that God was holding her back from reaching her potential. “You will be like God, knowing good and evil,” the serpent told Eve. He convinced her that if she ate of the forbidden fruit she would be able to rule herself and have no need for God to tell her what to do. So the woman ate and the man ate. They quickly realized that what they had done was wrong and sought to hide themselves and their shame.

Sin is like that. It promises us a better life. It promises more fun, more fame, more money, more of everything that obedience to God keeps us from. But sin never delivers on its promises. It destroys lives, shatters relationships, and leads to death. We sin because we believe the same lie that the first man and woman believed. We believe that God is holding us back and that our disobedience will give us a better life. We believe that we can run our own lives and that we do not need God telling us how to live.

Do not be deceived. Sin takes us down the road that leads to death. Trusting in God leads us to eternal life in Jesus Christ.

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Jesus Prayed for His Disciples

John 1717 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 17:6–19 (ESV)

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus prayed for his disciples. Imagine what it would be like if he prayed for you and me. What would he pray for? I believe we have the answer when we look at this passage. He prayed that the disciples would be one (v. 11), that they be protected from the evil one (v. 15), and that they would be sanctified in the truth of God’s word (v. 17).

The content of Christ’s prayer reflects the greatest need of the Church in every age. We need unity among brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, we see how easily divided we often are over trivial things. We need protection from Satan and his attacks because he is always at work to undermine the gospel’s work in our lives and in the world. And we need to grow in our knowledge and understanding of God’s word because it is the means that God has given us for knowing who our Savior is and what he desires from us.

Jesus was not only praying for the disciples of that time, but his disciples across the ages, including you and me. What a wonderful thing to know that Jesus prayed for us!

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Christ Has Overcome the World

John 1633 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 16:29–33 (ESV)

29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

The disciples finally thought they were fully understanding Jesus as they called out, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech!” Much of what Jesus had been saying had gone over their heads. Even here, Jesus made it clear that they were still only partially understanding. “Do you now believe,” Jesus asked? The disciples still lacked full understanding of what was coming and it would cause them to desert Jesus and scatter in fear in only a few hours. Jesus once again spoke to encourage them by telling them that they could take heart knowing that Jesus had overcome the world.

Satan is at war with God’s people. Scripture tells us that we are in a spiritual war (Ephesians 6:10-12). However, Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan and his demons. The crucifixion and resurrection were the decisive blows. Christians may face ongoing troubles in this world, but we know that these times are short and that the end is already decided. Christ is the risen and conquering King and his kingdom is forever. We can take heart because our King has overcome the world.

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Who Is Your Father?

Dad Son Walking

Reading the Word

John 8:39–47 (ESV)

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told his opponents that they were not children of Abraham. As Jews, the people did not know why Jesus would say such a thing. After all, they were biological descendants of Abraham. However, Jesus meant that they were not the spiritual children of Abraham because Abraham received the word of God and obeyed it, unlike those who did not believe Jesus and wanted him dead. Instead, Jesus proclaimed, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” The people’s unbelief and opposition to Jesus showed that they did not belong to God, but instead they belonged to the devil.

Those who belong to God are evident because they seek to hear his voice through his word and they desire to obey. Those who have no desire for the word of God and live their lives in disobedience prove that they do not truly belong to him. The word of God tells us that Jesus came into the world to save us from our sin and that we need to trust in him for eternal life. There is no other way of salvation. Have you trusted in Christ? Are you living according to the world of God? Who is your father?

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Blaspheming the Work of God

black and white cemetery christ church

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Matthew 12:22–37 (ESV)

22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Parallel Text: Mark 3:20-30

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus heals a man who is demon-possessed and the Pharisees accused Jesus of exercising the power of Satan to do so. In response, Jesus tells them that it would make no sense for him to do that. It would equate to Satan fighting against himself.

Instead, Jesus’ power was the power of God at work. For the Pharisees to resist Jesus and deny him was equivalent to resisting the kingdom of God and blaspheming the work of the Holy Spirit. To oppose God and the work of the Spirit would bring judgment and condemnation.

Those who mock Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity need to think carefully about what they are doing. If Jesus is who he claimed to be, then to resist him and dismiss his teachings is foolishness. To treat the Bible, which he authenticated, as inferior to human understanding or to persecute his Church is to stand against Christ himself. One day all will stand before Jesus and be judged. How will he judge those who had every opportunity to trust in him, but chose to actively oppose him and his people? Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and rose from the dead as evidence of the truth of his claim. You owe it to yourself to examine the truth of the Resurrection. Below is a link to some resources that could help you get started.

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/jesus-of-nazareth/

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The Temptation of Jesus

matthew 42–3 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 4:1–11 (ESV)

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

“ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“ ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’ ”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Parallel Texts: Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus was baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit, we read that he was lead into the wilderness (i.e. desert) where he was tempted by the devil. He was in the wilderness for forty days and was fasting during his time there. It was after forty days, when he was hungry, that Satan came to him to tempt him.

Jesus’ temptation reminds us of another temptation in the Bible, that of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. In Genesis 3, Satan temps the first humans in the garden of Eden and they fall into sin. Jesus, the Savior of mankind, is also tempted, but resists the devil and proves that he is worthy to be a sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Jesus, the second Adam, did what we could not. He lived a perfect, sinless life. Adam’s sin brought condemnation and death into the world. Jesus’ obedience and death brought life and hope (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Let us praise our Savior, who was tempted in every way, but remained sinless for us (Hebrews 4:15).

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The Dragon’s Fury

Revelation text

Reading the Word

Revelation 12:13–17 (ESV)

13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Satan is cast out of heaven, he goes after the woman who had given birth to the child (i.e Israel; cf. Revelation 12:1-6). The woman is protected by God who delivers her to a place in the wilderness for “time, times, and half a time” (three and one half years). When Satan cannot attack the woman because of God’s protection, he turns to focus his anger on her offspring, which includes all believers. The passage describes these offspring as “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” We call those people Christians today.

In this passage, we see the two targets of Satan’s attacks: ethnic Israel and Christians. It was through Israel that God’s redeemer, Jesus Christ, came into the world. And Christians, and Christianity, have taken the message of God’s redemption to the world. It is natural to see why Satan would fix his attacks on these two targets.

Let us not be surprised by the adversity we face in this life, but may we remain faithful as we trust in the one who delivers his people.

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Satan Thrown Down

Revelation 1211 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Revelation 12:7–12 (ESV)

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Understanding and Applying the Word

One question the interpreter must answer about this passage is if it describes a future or past event. If past, this is a description of the original upheaval in heaven when Satan and his followers were cast out. From that time on, they work to deceive mankind.

Many, if not most, would interpret this passage as speaking not of Satan’s original fall, but of a future battle against the forces of heaven. In this view, Satan and his followers wage one last battle in heaven, but are defeated and cast out of heaven completely. However, Satan and his followers then work furiously to disrupt things on earth.

This passage tells us that Satan, the accuser of believers, will one day be defeated. He will have a time when he disrupts the world, but his time is short. God will end his ways once and for all at a future date and Satan and his angels will be cast into the lake of fire (cf. Revelation 20:7-10). God’s plans are set and the deceiver of this world’s days are numbered. Let us rejoice in that truth!

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