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Following Your Conscience


Daily Bible Reading – Romans 13-16

Today’s Key Passage – Romans 14:19-23

 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he discusses the topic of eating meat that had been offered to idols.  In the Roman world, animals were often sacrificed to a god in a pagan temple, but only part of the animal was actually burned.  The rest of the meat was taken to market and sold.  Because of this practice, it was often difficult for a Christian to know if the meat he was buying had been part of this offering to idols, so many Christians decided to abstain from eating meat altogether.  Other Christians did not feel obligated to abstain from eating meat, and these two differing opinions were causing strife and dissension in the church.  While the idea of eating meat sacrificed to pagan idols does not specifically apply in our world today, the underlying theme of what Paul says in today’s key passage certainly does.

When it comes to what constitutes a sin, in most cases the Bible is pretty clear.  Some sins such as lying, stealing, and murder are forbidden in Scripture.  It is easy for a follower of Christ to know that he or she should not do these things.  In other areas, though, things might not be so clear.  Some topics are not expressly covered in the Bible, so often people are left to question whether a particular act would constitute a sin.  In these “grey areas”, Paul is advising us to follow our conscience.  Paul says that, “whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (14:23)  In other words, if we have doubts about whether something is a sin, and if our conscience is telling us that it probably is a sin, then it becomes sin for us.  We are all born with a conscience.  Our conscience is a gift from God that he gives to each of us from birth to allow us to know right from wrong.  When in doubt about a particular circumstance, it is always best to follow your conscience.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

Is Anyone Righteous?


Daily Bible Reading – Romans 1-4

Today’s Key Passage – Romans 3:9-24

 

There are many different excuses people use to try to justify their actions.  Some people say that there is no God and therefore they do not have to follow any rules other than their own conscience.  Others think they are not as bad as other people are, and that their sins have only been minor.  Still others think that since they belong to a church or give to the needy, they are automatically righteous in God’s eyes.  Paul spends the first three chapters in Romans debunking all of these myths.  He systematically explains away all of these excuses, and is left with the truth about our righteousness.  He quotes Psalm 14 in today’s key passage to explain that in God’s eyes, none of us is innocent.

We are all guilty of sin.  Based on our own merit, we all deserve to go to hell.  I know that sounds harsh, but Biblically speaking it is the truth.  God does not pull any punches in His Scripture.  He does not try to soften the blow.  If we have ever lied – even once – we are sinners, and as we see in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death“.  There is no getting around it.  There is no hiding from it.  So how do we answer the question of whether or not anyone is righteous based on his own merit?  According to the Bible, the answer is a definitive “no”.  Fortunately, through Jesus Christ we are justified.  While we will never be righteous on our own, we can become righteous in God’s sight, though faith in Jesus Christ.

Anyone who says he does not need Christ is fooling himself.  Anyone who says he “lives a good life” or that “God will understand” is fooling himself.  Anyone who says he practices “religion” but does not have an actual relationship with Jesus Christ is fooling himself.  Christ is the ONLY way.  We will never measure up without Him.  Some people call that exclusionary, but in fact, Christianity is perhaps the most inclusive religion in the world.  In most religions, there are a series of steps that you have to go through to be justified.  In those religions, you are justified by your actions.  In Biblical Christianity, there is only one thing you need to do – put your faith and your trust in Jesus.  That is it.  Of course, as followers of Christ we still follow rules.  We still try to live our lives by His standards, but we do not do this to try to gain salvation.  Our salvation is already guaranteed through our Savior.  We follow rules and try to become more Christ-like out of our gratitude for what He did for us.  His sacrifice for us was enormous.  If we truly thank Him and praise Him daily, we try our best to follow His lead, and we will share this good news!  Anyone and everyone can become righteous today.  All it takes is a little humility.  All it takes is a little faith.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

Regretting Our Decisions


Daily Bible Reading – Psalm 125; Matthew 26, 27

Today’s Key Passage – Matthew 27:1-10

 

We do not really know what Judas was thinking when he betrayed Jesus.  Perhaps Judas was tired of waiting on Jesus.  Perhaps he finally realized that Jesus kingdom would not be an earthly kingdom filled with money and power, but a spiritual one.  Perhaps he believed that his betrayal would force Jesus’ hand into revolting against Rome.  Because it is not written in Scripture, we can only speculate about his motives.   What we do know from Scripture is that eventually Judas regretted his decision.  When he finally realized that Jesus was not going to rise up and form a kingdom on earth against Rome and was instead going to be killed, Judas “was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders”. (27:3)  Unfortunately for Judas, it was too late.  The chief priests and the elders had already started down the path to killing Jesus and they were not about to stop their plans now just because Judas had changed his mind. (27:4-10)

Just like Judas, we often regret the decisions we make.  Many of us have things in our pasts that we wish we could change or do differently.  For most of us, these decisions led to events that cannot be changed now.  Though we feel remorse for our decisions, it is unfortunately too late to do anything to change them.  The best we can do is take these decisions to God in prayer and ask Him for forgiveness.  The best part is that if we ask Him for forgiveness with a pure heart and pure motives, He will forgive us.  Unlike humans, God does not keep a record of our past transgressions.  God is able to forgive us of our sins and then move on, and we should do the same.  Not only should we forgive others of their sins against us and move on, we should forgive OURSELVES of our past sins and move on.  If Judas had been able to that, maybe he would not have ended up hanging himself.  Maybe he could have been redeemed.  After all, Peter also disowned Jesus and was able to come back and help start the church.  Holding on to our regrets can lead to our destruction.  At the very least, holding on to our regret can keep us from living the life God intended for us.  Let go of regrets and leave them at the cross.  Then watch as God’s plan for you begins to unfold.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

Led Astray From Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – Psalm 124; 2 Corinthians 11-13

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

 

As we discussed yesterday, the people in Corinth were being led astray from Jesus Christ.  False teachers had come in preaching a false gospel and shook the faith of the Corinthians.  Paul was worried for them.  He loved the Corinthians and did not want to see them fall away from their faith by following the wrong leaders.  He compares what is going on with the false apostles to what happened when Satan deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he worried that the Corinthians would be led astray from their sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

When people first accept Christ, they experience this sincere and pure devotion to Jesus Christ that Paul describes.  When the Holy Spirit moves a person to begin a personal relationship with Jesus, he or she decides to put Jesus first in everything.  After the “bloom is off the rose” though, sometimes things change.  Sometimes, when hard times hit, people can be led astray.  Sometimes other things come up in life that take over the position of importance that was once reserved for Christ.  When a new believer turns to Christ, the enemy will do whatever he can to try to lead them back away from Him.

Jesus wants to be first in our lives.  He wants to come before everything else in our hearts.  When we put other things before Jesus, we are not truly honoring what He did for us the way we should.  It is an easy temptation in this world to get caught up in other things.  People can easily put money, work, school, relationships, addictions, and sin before Jesus.  Before long, people can begin spending less and less time with Him.  Prayers turn into an afterthought – something we do quickly right before we go to sleep.  Reading the Bible slows down and eventually stops altogether.  The person who was once “on fire” for the Lord is suddenly only lukewarm and then eventually ice-cold.  It is a real danger, and it happens a lot.

Daily devotion to Jesus Christ can keep us from being led astray.  Everyday, we should spend time thinking about what Jesus did for us.  Remember the joy you felt when you first encountered the living God?  Think of that joy daily.  Think about the changes He has made in your life.  Praise Him daily for His greatness.  Make reading the Bible and prayer a priority, scheduling a time and place daily to spend with the Lord.  Ask God for His help in putting Him first above everything else in your life.  When you sin, immediately confess it to God and ask for His forgiveness.  Trust in the Lord in all that you do, and never forget His enormous sacrifice for you.  Remember that the Holy Spirit is living inside of you and enables you to obey, and then rest in your new identity in Christ.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

Comparing Ourselves to God’s Standards


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Corinthians 7-10

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Corinthians 10:12-18

 

In Paul’s fourth letter to the Corinthians (captured in Scripture as 2 Corinthians), he spent some time in chapter 10 defending his authority and his ministry.  Other false teachers had come along and tried to lead the Corinthians away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  These false teachers attacked Paul and spent a lot of time trying to get the Corinthians to follow their teachings instead of the true teachings of Christ.  The false teachers were boasting about their own accomplishments and comparing themselves to Paul and with other teachers to try to gain credibility.  In today’s key passage, Paul says that comparing ourselves to other people is dangerous and that we are better off comparing ourselves to God’s standards.  In addition, instead of boasting about our own accomplishments, we should boast about what God has done through us.

What happens when we try to compare ourselves to others?  The first problem we encounter is when we find that others have things we do not have.  When we compare ourselves to others and find that they have more (possessions, money, spiritual gifts, etc.), we usually find ourselves being jealous.  This jealousy leads to ungratefulness for all of the things that God has given us.  Obviously, this is dangerous.  The second problem we encounter is when we find we have more than others do.  When we compare ourselves to others and find that we have more (possessions, money, spiritual gifts, etc.) we could begin to feel prideful – obviously another dangerous place to be.  As you can see, either way you go, comparing ourselves to others can lead to sin.

What if instead of comparing ourselves to others, we compare ourselves to God’s standards?  Keep in mind that God’s standard is perfection, which is pretty difficult.  As a simple way to illustrate this, take a look at the Ten Commandments.  When was the last time you violated one of these?  By God’s standard, anyone who violated a single one of these commandments would be forever separated from him.  That is, until Jesus Christ came along.  Jesus Christ allowed us to bridge the gap between God and us.  God knew that none of us could be perfect, so He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins.  He had to make this sacrifice for us because He knew we could never live up to His perfect standards.  When you think of it like this, it makes it pretty hard to feel ungrateful about what He did for us, and it also makes it pretty hard to feel prideful for what we have done compared to what He did.  Instead of worrying about what others have or do not have, ask yourself how you compare to what God wants and how your life compares to Jesus Christ.  If we ask ourselves these questions daily, we will yearn to grow in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

We Are New Creations in Christ


Daily Bible Reading – 2 Corinthians 3-6

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

 

When I was a kid, I was really into baseball cards.  I would collect them and put them into protective sleeves, and I can still remember the joy and excitement that came with opening a new package of cards to see what was inside.  The best part was trading the cards with my friends.  We would gather around with our cards and try to come up with trades, each giving up something in order to get what we really wanted.  While the details of every trade were different, there was one similarity – in each trade, both parties were giving up something of value.  No one would trade a priceless card for a worthless one.  This system of trade is common in most things in this world.

The trade that Jesus Christ made for us on the cross was entirely different.  He traded something priceless for something worthless.  He traded his righteousness for our sins.  He gave us eternal life, while bearing the weight of all of our baggage and sinfulness.  This was more than just an exchange or a trade – this was a gift.

When we become believers in Christ, we also make a trade.  We trade in our old lives for new ones.  At conversion, we are not fixed, repaired, or rehabilitated.  We are made entirely new creations.  Think about that for a second – WE ARE ENTIRELY NEW CREATIONS.  All of the old things that we used to be are dead – we are reborn in Christ.  What does this mean?  Does this mean we should continue to do the things we always did?  No.  Does it mean we will find pleasure and peace in the things that used to bring us pleasure and peace?  No.  We are entirely new.  When the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us, He changes things around.  He does a complete overhaul.  All of a sudden, the things we used to enjoy now cause us pain.  The shows and movies we used to watch now become unwatchable.  The activities we used to engage in now become unacceptable.  Some people see this as “rules” or as God limiting us, but that is not the case.  We are not changed to try to take anything away from us.  The Holy Spirit changes us to help us understand what real pleasure and peace are.  We die to our old selves daily not because we are forced to by a set of rules, but because we want to.  The Holy Spirit makes us want to.  Furthermore, not only does the Holy Spirit convict us into wanting to change our behaviors, He gives us the power to do it.

How have you changed since asking Jesus to come into your life?  Can you quantify it?  Is it tangible?  Do you see huge differences in how you were vs. how you are today?  More importantly, do others see differences in how you were vs. how you are today?  If the answer is no, then it might be time to reevaluate if you have truly accepted Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life.  Are you still living for things outside of Him?  Are you a new creation or are you still your old self that has just been fixed a little bit here and there?  Die to your old self and your old ways, and be reborn in Christ Jesus.  The day of salvation is today.  The time is now.  Let tomorrow be the first day living as a new creation in Jesus Christ.

 

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

Correcting Other Christians


Daily Bible Reading – Job 41, 42; 2 Corinthians 1, 2

Today’s Key Passage – 2 Corinthians 2:1-11

 

Living a Christian life does not happen in a vacuum.  We know from the Bible that God intends for us to live together in community with other Christians.  This fellowship not only helps us grow as followers of Jesus Christ, it also helps us reach others.  Unfortunately, in doing this we are sometimes faced with circumstances where one of the other believers we are “doing life with” starts to stray from the path.

The idea of having to confront another believer terrifies me.  Like most people, I do not really like confrontation, and I try to avoid it whenever possible.  For a long time, I believed that when I saw another Christian sinning I should not say anything.  After all, I figured it was not my job to confront him, and I was afraid that I would come off as judgmental, but there is a fundamental difference in judging someone and correcting them in love.  This revelation came to me when another believer confronted me for something I was doing.  At first, I was angry at being “called out”, but I soon came to realize that this man was coming to me out of his love for me.  He saw an error I was making, and cared enough about me to bring it to my attention.  Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”  When Paul had to correct the Corinthians in today’s key passage, he did it out of love.  Even though he had “great distress and anguish of heart“, he knew that if he truly loved them and cared about them he had to correct them.

In his book, Who You Are When No One’s Looking, Pastor Bill Hybels discusses the “tough love” required to be a follower of Christ.  He lays out a four-point plan to dealing with confrontation.  Step one is clarifying the issue to really understand the problem.  Step two is cleansing your spirit to ensure we do not feel critical, angry, or judgmental before we confront someone.  In Matthew 7:3, Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”.  Cleansing the spirit allows us to avoid pointing out the speck in our brother’s eye if we have a plank in our own eye.  Step three is carefully selecting the time and place to talk with the believer.  Step four, probably the most important, is to pray to God for help.

By following these points, we can ensure that when we are forced to confront another believer, we do it correctly.  Obviously, the easiest thing to do it is to say nothing at all, but as we know, the easy thing is very rarely the right thing.  If you really love others more than yourself, sometimes it is necessary to correct another Christian.  When this time comes, remember to do it in love.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

Bad Company Corrupts Good Character


Daily Bible Reading – Psalm 149; 1 Corinthians 15, 16

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Corinthians 15:1-34

 

We are all surrounded by unbelief.  We all have people in our lives that are unbelievers.  We might also have people in our lives who claim to be followers of Christ but then unapologetically act contrary to the Gospel.  Television shows and movies are abound with non-Christian values and morals.  Books, newspapers, magazines, and blog posts attack Christianity and teach false Gospels.  For followers of Christ, there is no getting around it – we are all going to be faced with “bad company” from time to time.

Jesus and the disciples were also faced with bad company.  They spent much of their time surrounded by unbelievers, because Jesus knew that the sinners were the ones who needed to be saved.  We too must be in contact with unbelievers if we plan to fulfill the Great Commission and preach the Gospel to those who do not know it.  None of us can live in a protective bubble of only coming in contact with other believers if we intend to reach people for Christ.  This is why Paul’s words in today’s key passage are so important to us.

Even though we are surrounded by unbelief, we must not be misled.  We all have to guard our hearts from allowing bad company to corrupt good character.  When someone we know attacks our beliefs, we must stand firm.  We cannot waiver in our faith even for a second if we want to be effective witnesses for Christ.  We must let the Holy Spirit overflow from us, as He gives us the power to be surrounded by bad company without being corrupted.  In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, Paul gives the church in Corinth instructions while they wait for him to return to them.  He says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”  These were good instructions to the Corinthians waiting for Paul’s return and they are good instructions for all of us today as we await the return of Jesus Christ.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

Resisting Temptation


Daily Bible Reading – Psalm 122; 1 Corinthians 9-11

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

 

Temptation is everywhere in this world.  As followers of Christ, we are constantly tempted to diverge from the path that is good and right – the path to God.  It is important to note a few things about temptation.  First and foremost, temptation alone is not sin.  Everyone is tempted to sin, but it is how we react to that temptation that determines whether or not we are sinning against God.  Jesus himself was tempted by the evil one in the desert.  When Jesus was tempted, he used the Word of God to resist that temptation which is a perfect example of what we must also do.  When temptations arise, if we have God’s Word in our hearts and in our minds, we can overcome that temptation through Christ who lives in us.

Another important point about temptation is its origin.  In James 1:13 we read, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone”.  Temptation does not come directly from God – it comes from the enemy.  Keep in mind, though, that God is the supreme authority in the entire universe.  He is in control of everything and everyone – including demons and Satan himself.  We see examples time and time again when demons are subjected to Christ’s authority in the Gospels, and we see in the story of Job that Satan himself must be given permission by God to bring temptation to Job.  Paul says in our key passage today that God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear.  This statement, like everything else in the Bible, is absolutely true – and there is a great amount of power in that.

If we truly believe God’s Word, and if we truly believe that everything He says is perfect and good, then we have all the tools we need to resist temptation.  We know that God loves us and that while he does not tempt us, he does allow us to be tempted.  We know that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.  We know that the Holy Spirit living inside us gives us the power to resist any and all temptations.  Resisting temptation, then, comes down to a simple choice we must make – do we love God more than the thing that is tempting us?  If the answer is yes, then we can use God’s Word and power through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to resist temptation and keep from intentionally sinning.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

The Judgmental Christian


Daily Bible Reading – Job 34; 1 Corinthians 4-6

Today’s Key Passage – 1 Corinthians 4

 

How many times have you heard Christians described as judgmental?  How many times have you felt judged by other believers?  How many times have you judged another?  Being judgmental is really easy to do.  It is easy to look at others situations and start to judge them, even if that is not necessarily our intention.  It is also easy to judge ourselves.  Being judgmental, however, is not our job.  Our role as followers of Christ is to lift others up, not drag them down by judging them.  People tend to look down at others who have less wealth, less education, or less talent.  In addition, people tend to look down on others who do not do as much to serve the church, who do not give as much to the church, or who do not help the needy.  While all of this may be easy to do, it is also all sin.  Looking down on others for any reason is sin in God’s eyes.  He is the only just and right judge.  He is the only one who is perfect enough to judge other people.  Do not get me wrong, as followers of Christ it is our duty to confront another Christian if they are committing sin and refuse to repent, but even in those situations, we are to confront them with love and condemn their actions instead of their person.  When we start to condemn them as people, we cross over from being a helpful brother or sister in Christ to being judgmental and to sinning ourselves.

Paul says it best when he says, “Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (4:7)  The next time the urge comes to judge another person, just remember that everything you have – all of your wealth, power, education, talents, treasures, qualities, and characteristics – were given to you by God.  You did not earn them.  God gave them to you by His grace.  When we think of things in this way, it becomes much less tempting to judge others.

During your Bible reading today, what “key passages” stood out to you?  Leave a comment below to share what God is showing you about His Word today.

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.

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