Ministry, leadership, discipleship, the local church and the deep riches of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Today, read James 1:15-27. Lord, thank You that You never change and You won't take back my new birth (1:17). Make me quick to listen and slow to speak (1:19). Help me receive Your Word deep in my heart so I will see truly who I am and who I need to become (1:21-25). Remind me that if I am not controlling my tongue, I am not spiritually mature (1:26). Keep me unstained by the world today (1:27).
After John’s talk about “remaining” in Christ, John gives yet another test to determine one’s spiritual identity. John sets this test up as a spiritual paternity test by which we determine who our spiritual father is: God or the devil. John starts by talking of believers new identity as children of God. Next he fleshes out the spiritual significance of the truth that kids look and act much like their parents. Finally John issues a strong challenge to the readers to learn who their spiritual daddy is.
Believers have a new identity as children of God (3:1). We, who were once enemies of God, are now His children. The world should not be able to grasp a lot of what we do according to our new nature. Just as the world did not understand Christ, the world should not understand our priorities, loves, affections, and works. How much do we help our teens “fit into this world” rather than to look like their spiritual Father?
Since children look and act like their parents and siblings, it makes sense that we ought to look more like our spiritual father and Brother than the world. One specific way that John says children of God will strive to look like the Son of God is in purity (1:3). John clearly states that there is “no sin in” Jesus (1:5). Jesus is like His Father in holiness. If we get to share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) as a child of God, we will become like He is.
So John concludes with a challenge. Take a spiritual paternity test. Look at the fruit of your life. Whose character do you reflect most: the Father or the Devil? If the Son of God came to destroy the Devil’s works, then adopted sons of God must be about destroying the Devil’s works too. How easily we are deceived into thinking that we can be God’s children and look like the world.
Sit down with your teen tonight and make a list of ways that you and your teen look like your heavenly Father. Then write down ways that you don’t look like Him. Pray for each other that the world will not be able to deny who your spiritual Father is, even if the world does not understand it.
Today, we move to the book of James 1:1-15 for mind-altering truth. Lord, I am Your slave today, make me a loyal slave (1:1). Make me mature, even when it requires pain (1:2-4). Let the joy of knowing You remove all my doubts about Your will being best (1:6). Thank You that You test me to mature me, but you will never tempt me to cause me to fall away from You (1:13). Don't let my affections draw me from You (1:14).
Today read Matthew 27 to redirect your thinking toward Christ. My King, reveal to me the ways I wrongly rely on government to accomplish my self-serving desires (27:2). Open my eyes to the ways I blindly strive to keep the Law while opposing Christ's purpose (27:1,6). Remind me that I am not innocent of Your blood (27:24). Find me willing to carry Your cross (27:32). Thank You for saving me by not saving Yourself 27:42). You are the Son of God (27:54). By Your death, You ripped open the way for me to know God in His holiness (27:51).
Today, read Matthew 26:47-75. Lord, let my affections toward You be expressions of my heart (26:48-49). Help me be a friend even to those who make themselves an enemy to me (26:50). Keep me from deserting You (26:56). Enable me to follow closely to You, not "at a distance" (26:58). Produce bitter sorrow in me when I fail You (26:75).
In verses 18-27, John explained that remaining in Christ is remaining in the body of Christ, convinced that Jesus is the Anointed One. This enduring belief is possible only by means of the Spirit who remains in the believer, leading the believer into all truth. Although the believer’s remaining is evidence of true faith, is there a purpose other than the identification of a true believer?
John writes one more verse on this topic of remaining. In verse 28, he tells his readers why they must remain in Christ. John begins this verse by addressing his readers as “little children.” As their spiritual father, John took the initiative to exhort them to remain in Christ, and to begin that remaining “now.”
John gently commanded his spiritual children to remain in Christ “so that” they could be bold and without shame when they meet Christ at His coming. John used a play on words to help his readers remember his command to remain in Christ. In Greek, he told them to remain in Christ so that they will have “parasia [boldness]” at the “parousia [coming] of Christ.”
Have you ever lost touch with someone due to your own lack of effort and then bumped into them unexpectedly? It’s a bit embarrassing. Can you imagine Knowing the Son of God, ignoring Him, and then meeting Him unexpectedly?
To remain in Christ is: to remain united to His body, to remain persuaded that He is and remains God, the Savior, to walk in his steps, to think as He thinks, and to be about doing His works. Would you be embarrassed to meet Him today or would you have “parasia” at His “parousia?” Would Your teens have that boldness, or have they been more into other things instead of remaining in Him? Be like John. Gently command your teens to remain in Christ today.
Today's time being conformed to the likeness of Christ is in Matthew 26:1-46. Father, let me plan no evil thing (26:3-5). Remind me that there is no waste or excess when it comes to making Your greatness known since all my attempts will fall short of displaying Your perfections (26:6-13). Thank You for shedding Your blood for my sin (26:28). Don't let me betray You in the choices I make today (26:35). Make me willing to follow You into sorrow to the point of death to bring the lost to God (26:38). Help my flesh be as strong as my spirit is willing to obey You (26:40-41). Pease accomplish Your will in and through me today as difficult as it might be (26:42).
Today's time making our thoughts line up with God's is in Matthew 25. My King (25:34), remind me that today I need to prepare for Your coming, because tomorrow may be too late (25:10). I cannot rely on anyone else to prepare for me (25:9). May You use the faith You gave me to produce faith in those that You put me in charge of. Use their faith to reproduce faith in others too (25:14-30). I want to hear "well done, good and faithful slave" (25:21). Make me live worthy of my inheritance by serving others (25:34-36). Remind me that those I know who don't live in You are actually headed for eternal fire (25:41).
Today, let Matthew 24 shape your day. Lord, Let me not be alarmed by world conflict since this world is not my home (24:6). Don't let me be deceived (24:11). Don't let my love for You die (24:12). Enable me to endure every trial (24:13). Use me to tell the world Your good news (24:14). Thank You that Your coming will be no secret (24:27). Thank You that your Word is forever (24:35). If You come today, I want to be busy doing what matters to You when You come to get me (24:46).
Today's time being shaped by the Word is in Matthew 23. Lord, help me to do what I say is right (23:3). Don't let me live to impress people, but to display Your greatness (23:5). Jesus, teach me (23:8). Father, raise me and discipline me as a true child (23:9). Christ, rule me (23:10). Don't allow me to become an obstacle to someone looking for You (23:13). Let no one follow me, unless I am leading them to Jesus (23:15). Let my outward expression of faith be characterized by justice, mercy, and faith (23:23). Clean me from the inside out (23:25-27). Burden me to gather the lost to Christ (23:37).
Today's life-transforming truth is from Matthew 22. My King of kings, thank you for not only inviting unworthy me to share in Your kingdom of heaven (22:9), but also for freely choosing to give me the righteousness (wedding clothes) of Your Son that I needed to come into Your presence (22:12-14). Help me give to You all that is Yours, and not hold back anything (22:21). Cause me to know well Your Word and Your power (22:29). Test me to see if I have loved you today with every choice, with all I am, with every thought (22:37), and if I have loved others as much as I have loved me (22:39).
Today's time aligning your way of thinking with Christ's is in Matthew 21. My King (21:5), all I have is available for You to use immediately (21:3). My best clothes are worthy only to be walked on by You (21:8). Shake my town by Your presence in me and Your work through me (21:10). Teach me what it means to purify Your temple and make it a place of prayer (21:12-13). Let me never question Your authority over me (21:23). Change my mind so I will desire to do Your will (21:29). Help me work faithfully in Your vineyard. Produce kingdom fruit in and through me (21:43).
Having just taught that real believers love what God loves, John then gives another test by which to identify authentic believers. It is “the test of remaining.” John explains this test first by giving an example of those who had not remained. He then paints a contrasting picture of those who do remain.
In verses 18-19, John identifies those who did not remain. Although they had accepted the truth of Christ at some point, they had now denied that Christ was the “Anointed” One. These “deceivers” (v. 26) were likely docetists (pronounced “dawsetists”) who believed that the divine Son of God came and united himself with a mere human man named Jesus, but only temporarily. This false belief denied John 1:33 where John describes the Son of God, who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, as the One upon whom the Spirit “descends and remains.” So those who were “against Christ (antichrist)” were those who denied that Jesus was and remains the Son of the heavenly Father. Ironically, just as these deceivers believed that the Son of God did not remain in the body of Jesus, these deceivers did not remain a part of the body of Christ, the Church.
John then paints a picture of those who remained in Christ. First, they had a remaining knowledge of the truth that Jesus is the Anointed One of God (24). Second, they themselves had an anointing that remained. This anointing likely referred to the Spirit that remained in them, just as the Spirit had remained on Christ (27).
Therefore, to be a true believer is to remain in the body, convinced that Jesus is the Anointed One. This enduring belief is possible only by means of the Spirit who remains in you, leads you into all truth, and teaches you to remain in Christ. Share the spiritual importance of “remaining” with your teen today.
Today's truth is from Matthew 20. Lord, make a faithful worker in Your vineyard and teach me not to envy the grace that my fellow workers receive from You. Thank You for Your generosity (20:1-16). Remind me that following You leads to a cross that leads to life (20:17-19). Life with You is about serving, not being served as if I were great (20:25-28). Give me Your Compassion for those who can't see You (20:33-34).
Today let Matthew 19 stretch your righteousness. Lord, let me view marriage as highly as You do (19:4-9). Show me that my righteousness is unable to earn me eternal life. Help me give up the stuff that rules my heart today and help me choose to accumulate heavenly treasure today (19:16-22). Let no comfort or pleasure that money can buy satisfy me like You (19:23-26). Thank You that everything I "sacrifice" for You in this world will not be a sacrifice at all in light of the glories of eternal life (19:28-30).
Today's Truth is in Matthew 18. My King of kings, help me rely on You and love You like a child would (18:1-5). Let me do nothing to keep anyone from trusting and loving You (18:6-7). Help me see how You value my holiness above my comfort and that I am more whole when holy than when I am bodily whole (18:8-9). Thank You for chasing me down when I stray (18:10-14). Teach me the boldness, love, humility, and mercy needed to protect unity within Your body (18:15-20). Remind me of all I have been forgiven for so I will joyfully forgive those who attack me (18:21-35).
Today, bend your life to the truth in Matthew 17. Father, don't let me forget Your Son's deity and glory, forgetting how amazing it is for me to be in His presence (17:2-4). Cause me to take delight in Your Son and His words (17:5). Keep me from being one who does not believe and who rebels against You (17:17). Prevent me from putting any obstacle in the way of one who needs to hear from me about You (17:27).
When the elderly John commanded his spiritual children not to love the world in verse 15, the word he used for “love” is the imperative form of the word agape which refers to a “you’re my everything” kind of affection. By using this word, John was prohibiting the church from having this kind of affection for the world and the world’s stuff.
What is the harm in loving this world that God created? John explained that if believers have a “you mean everything to me” affection: for bodily stuff (health, comfort, sex), for what they see (earthly beauty in all its expressions), and for what they achieve (earthly reputation and success), then they cannot love God with a “you mean everything to me” affection. While bodies, beauty, and success point to God’s creativity, glory, and sovereignty, we must love God, not the created things that merely point to God (Rom. 1:21-22).
What benefit is there in loving God? All the worldly stuff we love rusts, rots, and fades away, but God endures forever. If God is our everything, His loves will become our loves and what means everything to Him will mean everything to us. Only then will our affections never be disappointed.
What does this “you mean everything to me” affection for God look like? Verse 17 says that the “one who does God’s will remains forever.” Evidence of one’s love for God is the doing of His will. This is because we allow what we love to control us. The one who loves like God loves will want like God wants, work like God works, and endure with God.
What means “everything” to your teen? Is the object of his or her “it’s my every- thing” kind of affection going to end? Do they have a craving to know and do God’s will and impact eternity? How do you lead them to love like God loves and how do you make your love for God observable to them? Our teens will adopt our loves. . . whether or not our loves are for God and things that last.
Today's life truth is in Matthew 16. Lord, protect me from being influenced by those who appear spiritual, but who really have no spiritual awareness (16:1-12). Prepare someone today for me to ask "who do you think Jesus is?" (16:13-15). Thank you that your church can not be overthrown by any power (16:18). Help me impact someone's eternity today (16:19). Don't let me be an adversary to You by thinking like the world, instead of like you (16:23). Convince my heart that life lived for me is a loss, but real life is living to make Your greatness known. Help me follow You today (16:24-26).
Today, be changed by Matthew 15. Lord, don't allow me to let my traditions blind me to Your will (15:3). Help my beliefs be Your truth alone, untainted by what people want (15:9). Draw my heart close so my heart will be pure and my lips will speak Your words (15:8, 18). Teach me what it means to "leave alone" those You did not plant (15:13-14). Make my faith great, even if it takes painful testing (15:24-28).