Sunday, September 25 – Believing God’s Love
And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.—1 John 4:16
The greatest truth in all of Scripture is this: God is love. Understanding this in its full dimensions will set you free to enjoy all that is yours as a Christian. But you must accept that God loves you. If you grew up experiencing unconditional love in your family, this may not be difficult for you. However, if your early years were void of love, this truth may be hard to accept. God loves you, not because you deserve His love, but because His nature is love. The only way He will ever relate to you is in love. His love for you gives you an inherent worth that nothing can diminish.
If you cannot accept the truth that God loves you, you will be limited in how you can relate to Him. When He disciplines you, you will not take it as an expression of His love. Rather, you may resent Him. When God says no to a request that is less than His best for you, you will conclude that He doesn’t care about you. Without a clear understanding and acceptance of God’s love for you, you will be disoriented to Him and to what He wants to do in your life. If you will accept God’s love, however, you will be able to return love to God as well as to others (1 John 4:19).
Are you experiencing the profound sense of joy and security that comes from knowing you are dearly loved by God? Being assured of God’s love for you sets you free to enjoy the numerous expressions of love He showers upon you each day.
Monday, September 26 – No Sin
Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him.—1 John 3:6
The Bible makes two things clear about sin. First, living a lifestyle of sin indicates that you are not walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, regardless of what you say about your spiritual condition. You cannot regularly spend time studying and meditating on God’s word, praying and walking in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and persist in sin.
Second, if you do not hate sin the way God does, then you do not truly know Him. There are those who continue in their sin yet insist that they love God and belong to Him. John makes it clear: If you have a lifestyle of sin, you have not seen Him and do not know Him. You may have prayed a “sinner’s prayer,” or made a commitment in your church, or been baptized, but the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life is that you are defeating sin. This does not mean that you will never sin, but it does mean that you refuse to make sin a lifestyle and you immediately seek forgiveness when you sin (1 John 1:10). It means that you are opposed to sin, as God is, and you allow the Holy Spirit to eradicate every trace of sin in your life. It means that when you sin, you immediately confess it and repent of it and do whatever is necessary to avoid repeating your sin.
If you find yourself falling into sinful habits or not grieving over your sin as you once did, this indicates that you are not abiding in Christ. Return to Him in repentance; restore your fellowship with Him, and you will once again experience victory over your sin.
Tuesday, September 27 – Casting Your Cares
. . . casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you.—1 Peter 5:7
As you’ve no doubt discovered, becoming a Christian does not make your problems go away. But it does give you an Advocate to whom you can take every concern. The Christians Peter addressed were facing persecution. They did not know whom they could trust; a friend, a neighbor, or even a family member could betray them, resulting in suffering and even death. But Peter had walked with the risen Christ, and he had personally experienced the love that Jesus had for His followers. He knew that Christ was in control, capable of handling every trial and that He wanted to do so as an expression of His love.
Casting our cares is a choice. It means consciously handing over our anxiety to Christ and allowing Him to carry the weight of our problems. At times this is the most difficult part of trusting God! We don’t like turning over the responsibility for our problems. We have been taught that self-reliance is good and praiseworthy. We may even enjoy worrying. Yet if we are to be freed from the burden of our concerns, we must choose to cast them into the strong hands of our Father.
Peter does not distinguish between little cares and big cares. God does not differentiate between problems we should handle on our own and God-sized needs. He asks us to turn them all over to Him. One of our greatest errors is to assume we can deal with something ourselves, only to discover that we really can’t.
God sees you as His frail child, burdened with a load that surpasses your strength. He stands prepared to take your load and to carry it for you. Will you let Him?
Wednesday, September 28 – Confession
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.—James 5:16
Confession is God’s provision to clear obstacles that hinder our relationships with God and with others. Confession is not just for those who don’t mind admitting their faults. Confession is a command, given to every Christian. James advised that when we sin, it is important for us to confess not only to God, but also to our fellow Christians. There is a tremendous freedom that comes as we openly acknowledge the sinfulness of our actions to others.
If confession does not come out of repentance, it is merely admission, and not true confession. It is important to confess your sins specifically and not hide behind generalities. It is one thing to pray, “O Lord, forgive my sin.” It’s quite another to identify specifically in painful honesty. Whenever possible, confession ought to be made directly to those whom your sin has hurt. You are not to confess the sins of others but only your offenses. Confession is not a sign of weakness; it is evidence of your refusal to allow sin to remain in your life.
Significantly, James linked confession with prayer. Your prayers will be hindered if you hold on to unconfessed sin. When James promised that the “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” he did so in the context of confession. If you wish to have a powerful prayer life, you must regularly confess your sin. Only when there are no obstacles separating you from God and others will your prayers be effective. Pride will discourage you from admitting to others the sinfulness of your heart. A desire to please God will compel you to confess your sin and rid yourself of its oppressive burden.
Thursday, September 29 – It’s Not Difficult!
“This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach.”—Deuteronomy 30:11
The Christian life is not difficult. The same Christ who lived a perfect, obedient, and sinless life stands prepared to live it again through you (Gal. 2:20). God’s will is not hard to discern. He has given us the Scriptures, which reveal His will, and He has placed His Holy Spirit within us to guide us to His perfect will in every situation (John 16:13). Our greatest challenge will be to wholly commit our lives to follow God’s will obediently as He reveals it.
Moses gathered the Israelites around Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim before they were to enter the Promised Land. There, God described what they had to do in order to obey Him. God gave detailed instructions so there was no mistaking what was expected of them. Then God asked them to make a choice. If they chose to disobey His commands, they would face His wrath. If they chose to obey, they would receive His blessing.
God’s Word comes to you in the same way. It is not too complex to understand. You don’t have to struggle to discern God’s will about adultery or forgiveness or honesty. God’s word is perfectly clear. The question is, how will you respond? Nowhere in Scripture did God excuse disobedience because His instructions were too vague or complex. Condemnation came because they knew exactly what God wanted them to do, yet they chose not to do it! God, through His Holy Spirit, will always give you sufficient revelation and strength to take the next step with Him. If you are uncertain about what God is asking of you, make sure that you are obeying all that you do know, and through your obedience, God’s next instruction will become clear.
Friday, September 30 – Sympathy with God
When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard.—Acts 5:5
When God brings judgment upon someone, our natural inclination is often sympathy toward the one being disciplined. Yet when God acts in judgment, our sympathies ought always to lie with Him. Only God knows all that is at stake, and only He knows the full circumstances that provoked His wrath upon the one He is judging.
Ananias and Sapphira’s experience is one of the most perplexing stories in the New Testament. In a time when God’s grace had provided salvation for all mankind, His response to this couple seems unusually harsh. Yet there was much at stake in their deception. The church was in its formative stages. Ananias and Sapphira had witnessed the miraculous power of God and had seen thousands of people being added to the church. Nevertheless, they showed little regard for the Spirit of God when they blatantly lied to God and the church. Such irreverence would have been devastating to a church whose very life depended upon the presence and guidance of God’s Spirit. God left a sobering reminder that He would not tolerate sin.
Many times the sin of one Christian has a devastating effect on others. At times, God chooses to judge someone’s sin severely, as a deterrent for others. Don’t try to protect someone from the judgment of God. It is a terrifying thing to fall under His judgment (Heb. 10:31). Yet His judgment on one may ultimately save that person and many others. When God is judging others, take heed and examine your own life. God knows what is at stake; He loves His children enough to provide a stark warning of sin’s dangers.
Saturday, October 1 – Painful Reminders
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and when they had won over the crowds and stoned Paul, they dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead.—Acts 14:19
God has many ways to deter us from sin. One is to provide reminders for us so that we never take disobedience to Him lightly. Before his conversion, Paul assumed that he was righteous before God. In reality, Paul was so disoriented to God that he arrested and executed Christians in order to please Him! Paul was so blinded to God’s will that when he watched Stephen being brutally murdered for his faith, Paul’s heart was hardened, and he became even more determined to imprison other Christians.
It is significant that there are two occurrences of stoning mentioned in the New Testament—Stephen’s and Paul’s. Was it coincidence that God allowed Paul to be stoned in the same manner as Stephen had been? God had certainly forgiven Paul for his involvement in Stephen’s death, but God also left him with a reminder of what his arrogance had led him to do. If pride could blind Paul to God once, pride could do it again. Perhaps Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was a direct result of this stoning. It may have served as a visible reminder to Paul, and to others, of the terrible consequences of sin.
God is absolutely just. He loves, and He forgives, but He does not compromise His righteousness. God deals with us uniquely. He draws upon our experiences to teach us about Himself. God will forgive us of our sin, but He may provide stark reminders of the ugliness of sin. Let us thank God that He loves us enough to remind us of the destructive consequences of sin in our lives.