Seven Days of Devotion
The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him.
Love the Whole Church p2
[This is Part 2 in a three part series. If you would like to read Part 1 click here.]
The next aspect of the church we’ll consider in this series is the regional church. The regional church consists of all churches that hold to the biblical gospel in a geographic region, such as a district, city, or county. We see this concept of the church in New Testament books like Galatians and Colossians, which were written not to one local church in one place, but multiple local churches in a broad geographic region. I consider the regional church in my area to be the gospel-centered churches of northern Utah.
The regional church shares what we might call gospel-unity with the universal church. The members of both the regional and universal church have far more in common than we often realize. They have the most important things in common. For example, they share the same Savior, gospel, and are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. They have the same God and core teaching on salvation.
Sadly, I haven’t always done a good job expressing and promoting love for the regional church in my proximity. There was a season when, as a new Christian, I was incredibly divisive, slanderous, and prideful toward other gospel-preaching churches in my region. Even though other Christians and churches held the same essential beliefs as me, I would openly criticize them for not holding to non-essential doctrines and methods that I did. What’s funny looking back is that I no longer hold some of the doctrines I so passionately divided Christians over in those days.
God did a great work of transformation in me on this issue. It all started when I was reading through Ephesians one day, and God confronted my sectarianism with His Word:
“…walk worthy of the calling with which you were called with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism,; on God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”( Ephesians 4:1-6 NKJV)
I’ll never forget how convicted I felt reading those words. I knew I’d not been endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit with the believers in my region, but that I’d been doing the opposite. God changed my heart that day. I remember calling my mom and asking her, “How did I miss all the love in the Bible?” In God’s grace, I have now seen the Lord change me, and use me and churches I serve, to be instruments of healing in relationships between Christians and churches of diverse traditions, which hold the same gospel and God, and share regions and communities together.
One thing that comes shining through in the teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus isn’t into sectarian, self-righteous criticism being felt or exhibited between His followers. He’s been confronting sectarianism in His people since the beginning. Luke portrays this truth well:
“Now John answered and said, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.’” (Luke 9:49-50 NKJV)
That statement of Jesus reminded me of something Pastor Chuck Smith wrote to the Calvary movement that I love so much:
“The philosophy of Calvary Chapel is to see the whole body of Christ, and we are filling one little area of the spectrum that God has called us to fill, and we want to be faithful to that calling. We strive to see the whole body of Christ and the purpose of the whole body, and so the only place where we might be in conflict with others in the body of Christ is where they are not leading people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” (Smith, Chuck. The Philosophy of Ministry of Calvary Chapel. Page 19.f)
How is your attitude toward the regional church in your area? Are you an advocate of gospel-unity, or sectarianism and division? Do you really believe that those in your area who do ministry differently, but proclaim the same Jesus, are on your side as Jesus said? Is there a brother, sister, or leader you need to repent to because of slander, pride, and sectarianism you’ve displayed toward them over secondary issues? God doesn’t want uniformity, but He does want unity. Let’s value our distinctives, but let’s remember what foundationally makes us one with the wider body of Christ. For those in the Calvary movement, as Pastor Chuck notes in the quote above, we’ve always been about gospel-unity in the regional church. Let’s keep it that way in this generation.
I’d love for any who read this post to share some positive ways you’ve seen Christians and churches from different backgrounds build unity together while not compromising the truth of the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. Feel free to share your story in the comments!
The Unexpected Messiah
There is something wonderful about the parade that brought Jesus into Jerusalem a few days before He was tortured and crucified. That parade – which we often call the “Triumphal Entry” – was a day when Jesus not only welcomed open adoration as Messiah and King; He even organized it. He deliberately made plans with His disciples and others to make the day happen.
When we read about it (the account is found in all four gospels), it simply feels good. Jesus knew so much rejection and sorrow throughout His ministry that we happily read when He was openly worshipped and welcomed. If many in the world today mock and reject Jesus then we who do love Him must be even more concerned to worship Jesus in Spirit and in truth.
Through all of it, this moment of His greatest publicity and public triumph speaks to us of several aspects of Jesus’ character.
First, it shows us the courage of Jesus. Jesus knew that the religious leaders would arrest, condemn, mock, scourge, and deliver Him to the Romans for crucifixion (Matthew 20:19). Yet Jesus had the courage to not only enter Jerusalem, but to enter in as public way as possible.
Second, it shows us the obedience of Jesus. Jesus did this in deliberate fulfillment of a prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. He was careful to come to Jerusalem on a donkey and not a horse, which the kings of Israel were to avoid (Deuteronomy 17:16).
Third, it shows the mastery of Jesus. Mark 11:2 tells us that the young donkey (a colt) had never been ridden before. It was a miracle of mastery over creation that Jesus could calmly ride this unbroken animal.
Fourth, it shows us Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy. Many believe that Jesus designed this day to deliberately fulfill prophecy, especially the prophecy of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27). Sir Robert Anderson worked through the chronology and believed this entry into Jerusalem matched that prophecy to the day. Some dispute his conclusions, but as John Walvoord wrote, no one has been able to conclusively disprove them.
Perhaps most importantly, this amazing parade shows us the humility of Jesus. One reason Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 was that it was a sign that the Messiah was lowly, and in part the animal He rode showed this. He didn’t ride the triumphant stallion of a conquering general, but the customary mount for royalty, coming in peace. This was quite a contrast to the warhorse of a conqueror, and it challenges us to take the lowly place instead of the place of self-exaltation.
Though the triumphal entry was a joyful celebration, a Roman spectator would wonder what was so “triumphal” about it. It didn’t compare at all to the kind of parade Julius Caesar had when he came back to Rome from Gaul. That was a parade lasting three days as he displayed all the captives and plunder he brought back from his wars. In contrast to this, the procession of Jesus must have seemed pretty humble, and showed that Jesus was a different kind of King.
Jesus came to a Messiah-expecting world; there was a high level of messianic hope in His day. Yet many or most missed the Messiah when He came, including many of those who earnestly expected Him. This strange and sad situation happened because people looked for the wrong kind of Messiah. They looked for a political or military Messiah, not for the humble and lowly savior from sin.
Are you expecting the wrong kind of Messiah? Are you looking for a Savior modeled on a Hollywood image, or are you ready to receive the humble servant nature of Jesus? Put your hope and expectation on the right kind of Messiah.
Seeing the Glory of God
Moses, if he knew anything, knew the miraculous power of God. There are few men in the Bible who experienced as much miraculous phenomenon as did Moses. He met God and heard His voice at the burning bush. Moses saw God do miracles through his yielded life; he could make a walking staff a snake and then back to a walking stick again. He could put his completely normal, healthy hand into his clothing, pull it out as leprous, and then change it back again.
Moses saw up close the mighty plagues God sent upon Egypt, each of them a miracle in some way. He saw God protect Israel by separating the Red Sea and then closing it down again upon the pursing Egyptians. Moses drank the water miraculously provided in the wilderness and ate the miracle-manna that came daily. At Sinai he saw the mountain literally blazing with the presence of God; Moses smelled the smoke, felt the earthquake, and heard God speak audibly from heaven.
Get the point? Moses knew more of the miraculous power of God than most anyone. Despite all of that, Exodus 33:18 tells us that when he drew close to God on the heights of Mount Sinai, he still asked God: “Please, show me Your glory.”
Here is the principle: The experience of the miraculous doesn’t satisfy the soul’s longing for God. If it did, Moses would have been a satisfied man – but he wasn’t. The more Moses knew God, the more he wanted to know Him. He knew the paradoxical combination of the soul being satisfied in God, while not being satisfied yet and longing for more.
Yet the “more” Moses longed for wasn’t more miracles. To be sure, God had more of the miraculous for Moses; but that was a different thing than having more of the Lord Himself. I hope there is no misunderstanding – God is a miracle-working God, and we should pray and trust for more of the miraculous rather than less.
At the same time, I meet people who really love the Lord and want more of Him, but they feel they will find Him more in miraculous experiences than in the revelation of His glory, His character, and His person through His Word.
That’s what God did for Moses. Later in Exodus 34 when God did actually pass before Moses in some way, God did it as He proclaimed who He was using words (Exodus 34:5-8). When God revealed Himself to Moses it was connected with words, His words.
At the same time, notice that Moses had a strong desire for simply more of God. Exodus 16:10 and Exodus 24:16-17 tell us that before this, Moses had already experienced something of the glory of God; yet he wasn’t satisfied with what he had seen.
When we really value something, we approach it the same way. A professional baseball player is never satisfied with hitting one home run. Lovers are never long satisfied with just one kiss. A salesman is never satisfied with just one big sale. When we really love something, we quite rightly are not satisfied with just a bit. We want more.
Jesus spoke about this idea in one of His beatitudes: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). When we have this kind of hunger for God and His righteousness, He never regards it as selfishness. He sees it as a proper hunger that should be filled.
It is good for each one of us to know both parts of that previously mentioned paradox: the soul satisfied in God, yet always wanting more of Him.
Who They Really Persecute
In March 2012 Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the senior leader in the Saudi religious hierarchy, announced that under Islamic principles, there could only be one religion on the entire Arabian Peninsula. This area includes the nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen. According to the public pronouncement of this influential Muslim leader, not only should no new churches be constructed in all these nations, but also the existing churches should be destroyed.
In one sense, this is not a new development. To openly practice Christianity has been outlawed in Saudi Arabia for a long time. It should also be pointed out that this was not an actual law passed in Saudi Arabia or in any other nation; but rather it was the statement of a leading Muslim figure. It has no legal force (at least not yet); but it certainly can and probably will lead to more persecution and murder against Christians in Muslim lands.
There is much to say about this, and searching the Internet will find it being said. People note the double standard: how the west is more tolerant and allows Muslims to freely practice their faith in western nations. This obviously isn’t the case in Muslim nations, and it is a hypocritical double standard. Comment has also been made on the lack of attention and outrage in response to this fatwa (ruling by a recognized Islamic authority). This shows that many people simply expect and accept that Muslims will be intolerant persecutors of Christians and others. Here are a few more points to consider concerning the matter:
1. It shows the staggering, fundamental weakness of Islam. Any religion that must use the threat of persecution and murder to weaken other religions and to keep its own followers in the faith is a weak religion, not a strong one. What would happen if throughout Islam people knew they could leave that faith and become Christians without persecution? Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, would leave Islam. They are only kept in their religion by fear and intimidation. This same principle showed the weakness of the Communist, totalitarian world more than 20 years ago; and it shows the weakness of the Islamic world today.
2. It shows the sad destiny of Islam. Many people are concerned because it seems that Islam is on the rise, and some fear that this rate of growth will cause it to overwhelm Christianity. After reading the fatwa of the Saudi cleric, I’m not so concerned – at least not in the long term. The reason I’m not so concerned because I know that if someone persecutes the followers of Jesus, He takes it personally. Jesus asked Saul of Tarsus, the great early persecutor of Christians, this question: “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4).
When Christians are persecuted and murdered, we should speak out against it and support our afflicted brothers and sisters as we have opportunity. Yet we should also pray for the persecutors, for they put themselves in a bad position by fighting against Jesus, who is the risen, ascended, and enthroned Lord of glory. Jesus promised that He would build His church, and that the gates of hell would never prevail against it – and that includes all who persecute His followers. In the short term they may seem to win, but never in the long term.
3. Muslims should know: Christians have no desire to persecute them. Perhaps they simply assume this is so. But what we want is an open public arena, where Muslims are free to live out their faith and we have liberty to live ours. We are confident enough in Jesus to believe that in the open arena, the followers of Jesus will be strong and growing.Yet to Muslims I also make an appeal: don’t persecute others, including Christians. We are grateful that the vast majority of Muslims do not persecute, and simply wish to live in peace and practice their faith. To them I say, as you have opportunity – speak out and work against those in your religious family who do persecute others, just as every Christian should speak out and work against those who persecute in the name of Christianity.
As a pastor, I have many times heard Christians tell me that they feel like a hypocrite.
That sentiment often results in them not wanting to come to church until they "quit being a hypocrite." They don't feel like they can share the Gospel because they are "such a hypocrite." They could never serve God until they have victory over a certain sinful behavior and "quit being such a hypocrite."
And then there is the classic statement of many unbelievers: "The Church is FULL of hypocrites"! I say that it's not! The greater percentage of hypocrites are outside of the church.
Regarding hypocrisy, there is a great misunderstanding among many Christians, many of whom are the sweetest and most tenderhearted people in the Church.
The misunderstanding goes like this:
1. I am a Christian.
2. I know how a Christian should live.
3. I don't always live that way.
4. Therefore, I am a hypocrite.
That line of thinking is a huge error that exists among many of God's true children.
A hypocrite can best be defined as a play actor who wears a mask: Someone who intentionally pretends to be someone or something they aren't. They purposely deceive and pretend. They don't want people to know the truth about them. They want people to think highly of them but seek to gain that recognition through deceptive means.
THAT is a hypocrite.
The dear people who come to me, believing themselves to be hypocrites, are the first to declare their failures. They share that they struggle with sin, that they do things they wished they didn't do, and that they fail to do what they ought to do. They are generally hard on themselves and in no way pretend to be something that they aren't. They are NOT hypocrites.
Well, what are they then? They are Christians who struggle with sin. They do make mistakes; they sometimes do give in to temptation; and they may go astray. They indeed may have faults, but hypocrisy isn't one of them. They are honest about who they are and how they want to change.
In my experience, a hypocrite will NOT come and share openly about their sins, but strive to put on a good Christian masquerade. They know the Bible, they talk and sound like Christians, but deep inside, they know they are liars and pretenders. THEY are the true hypocrites.
These dear saints who believe themselves to be hypocrites, aren't. The hypocrite is the one who won't be honest. The understanding of this situation is entirely backwards.
So Christian, do you struggle with sin? Do you feel like a failure? Are you keenly aware of what you ought to do, but don't do? Have you been one willing or wanting to share your failures with others. If that is the case, then know this: You are NOT a hypocrite. You are a struggling Christian who has a place in God's Church and needs to be among the saints.
I doubt that any true hypocrite might be reading this, but if you are, you are in bondage to your lie. Your masquerading makes you a prisoner, and Jesus wants to free you.
1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man".
Translation: we all struggle with many of the same problems and sins. Your struggle is not unique to you. Others share it too. You are not alone in your sins and temptations.
John 8:36, Jesus said, "If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed".
Are there degrees of hypocrisy? Yes, I think so. But as we realize our sins, and as we are willing to share that struggle with others, know this: You are not a hypocrite. You may be sinning, and if you are, you need to repent, but hypocrisy is not present when one is confessing.
“I am the resurrection and the life.”
Jesus’ claim to be the resurrection and the life is so radical that it does not allow the hearer to hold a neutral position concerning Him. As C. S. Lewis said, there are only three possibilities with Jesus: He is a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. Any serious consideration of His words will almost certainly force one to admit, like it or not, that He is Lord.
Jesus made this statement in response to the death of His friend, Lazarus. Death is that dreaded reality that every human being hopes to avoid, but can never escape. Death is man’s perennial enemy and man’s greatest fear. In fact, the Bible says that men live all their lives in bondage to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).
Actually, death was never a part of God’s original plan for man. It is something that came in because of sin. God had said to Adam, in the day that you eat of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden you shall surely die (Genesis 2:17). Our ongoing inability to accept death as just another part of the human experience is to me a strong indicator that the biblical explanation of it is the right one—death is abnormal.
Think about it: no matter how young or old the person, no matter how sick or disabled, no matter how far removed from a person we might have been, there is a pang in our hearts when we hear of their passing. Millions were stricken with grief over the untimely death of pop star and cultural icon, Michael Jackson. Yet how many actually knew him personally? Why do people react so passionately to death? Because death is not right. It never was right. It never will be right. Nevertheless, it is.
“The current death-rate is awesome. Three people die every second, 180 every minute, nearly 11,000 every hour, about 260,000 every day, 95,000,000 every year. Death comes to young and old, rich and poor, good and bad, educated and ignorant, king and commoner. … The dynamic young businessman, the glamorous actress, the great athlete, the brilliant scientist, the television personality, the powerful politician—none can resist the moment when death will lay its hand upon them and bring all their fame and achievements to nothing. … Death is no respecter of time or place; it has neither season nor parish. It can strike at any moment of the day or night, on land, on the sea or in the air. It comes to the hospital bed, the busy road, the comfortable armchair, the sports field and the office; there is not a single spot on the face of the planet where it is not able to strike.”
The philosopher Epicurus said, “It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we men live in a city without walls.”
Are there any solutions? Is man destined to go on endlessly being defeated by death? Jesus answered those questions when He stood face to face with death and said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Just a few days later, Jesus would meet death head on Himself in fulfillment of the prophecy: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!” (Hosea 13:14).
His destruction of death would come through His resurrection. Paul the apostle would later write of Christ as the one who “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
The word abolish means to put an end to. Some synonyms for abolish are: eradicate, rescind, repeal, obliterate, annihilate. Jesus Christ obliterated death! You might say, “Wait a minute, as you just stated, three people die every second. What do you mean Jesus Christ obliterated death?” There are two definitions of death: man’s and God’s. Man’s definition of death is essentially the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. God’s definition of death is the separation of the soul and spirit from God.
The Bible teaches that physical death is the result of spiritual death. Jesus obliterated spiritual death by bringing man’s soul and spirit back into conscious fellowship with God. But He also obliterated physical death by rising from the dead and becoming the first of a great multitude who will rise also. In the original order of things, spiritual death (which came through the sin of Adam) led ultimately to physical death. In the new order of things, spiritual life (which comes through faith in Jesus Christ) will lead ultimately to physical life without the possibility of death.
Again the apostle Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 15, that great chapter on the resurrection:
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”—1 Corinthians 15:51–55
Who Judges God?
Who deserves to die? The really rebellious, the serious sinner, the wildly wicked, and the extremely evil, that's who. Names come to mind: Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, Gehnkis Kahn, Joseph Kony, Ivan the Terrible.
Can you think of anyone else? I can: Billy Graham, Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, James MacDonald, Bob Coy.
How is it that these two lists can be compared? How can really "evil" people be combined with - what I think - are really "good" people? Here's how: Scripture says it so well in the first half of Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death…"
What are wages? Earned income... Regular payment... You get something for sinning.
So who deserves to die?
Everyone. Everyone deserves to die because everyone is a sinner. Obviously, some will receive a more severe punishment or penalty, but what if you're not that bad? What if you're not an Adolph Hitler or Ivan the Terrible? I'm sorry, but “the wages of sin is death.”
Does that mean there's no hope? Is there no solution?
The second half of Romans 6:23 says this: "…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
So that brings us to another question. Not "Who deserves to die?" but "Who deserves to live?" Who gets the gift? Who enjoys the grace?
Here's why so many people have difficulty with God. You've heard people say this: "More blood gets shed in the name of God, than anything else." People have a tendency to judge the Judger. And they judge without having all the facts.
Let's make sure we have all the facts about God’s attitude toward death:
Ezekiel 18:32 - "For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies…"
Ezekiel 33:11 - "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…"
2 Peter 3:9 - "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish"
When somebody is judged, you can't blame God. God would rather that nobody dies according to the above scriptures.
God would rather nobody died including the wicked!
God struggles with the whole process of death. That's why the shortest verse in the Bible reads, "Jesus wept." Just outside of Lazarus' tomb, even though Jesus has the power of resurrection coursing through His veins, He weeps. He's sad to see this order of things.
It's because of sin that death entered this world.
It wasn't supposed to be like this; it wasn't His will. God created the Garden of Eden with the intention that we’d live forever enjoying fellowship together with Him.
But Adam sinned. Be careful, Christian, not to find fault with Adam. You would have done the exact same thing. These verses still apply: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “The wages of sin is death.”
God didn’t want it this way. That’s why God is slow to judge. That’s why in scripture we see God giving repeated warnings before judgment falls.
Don’t be bothered by God’s judgment. God gives warning and witness before he judges. The implication, when you’re irritated with God for His righteous judgment, is that you’re more kind-hearted and more magnanimous than God. You’re judging God. That’s a little weird. I’m a little embarrassed for you when you do that.
One of the enemy’s tactics against you is to discredit, demean, and dishonor God. That’s why we need the Word. We need to have all the facts. God doesn’t want to judge. In fact, the Bible says if you judge yourself, you will not be judged.Take a look at the Word of God. Align your heart, and you won’t be judged. We have a tendency to judge when we don’t have all the facts. When faced with questions about the credibility of God, answer them with facts from the Word of God
Can be found here