Tag Archives: Faith

Through the Bible, September 24

Reading: Galatians 3

Summary: Paul speaks very strongly to these Christians regarding the error they have embraced.  The strength of his language bears testimony to the seriousness of this matter.  Paul would not stand for any change or adjustments to the saving truth of the salvation for all men through faith in Christ Jesus.  This demanded a right understanding of God’s work and purposes going all the way back before the Law, to Abraham.

Devotional Thought:

Faith in Bible Terms

The discussion from Galatians takes place in the deep end of the pool.  These are major themes of great import.  We dare not miss its message.

Paul argues convincingly—what else would one expect being guided by the Holy Spirit?—that faith is key to righteousness, long before works of the law. Thinking we can be justified by our law-keeping (aka, obedience) nullifies God’s grace (Gal. 2:21). Also, it places one under a curse (Gal. 3:10). Rather we received the Spirit “by hearing with faith” (3:2). God’s work is “by hearing with faith” (3:5).  It is those of faith who are the “sons of Abraham” (3:7). Further, it is by faith that the righteous live (3:11).

There were certainly things the law could not do, but it accomplished precisely that which God intended for it to do (3:21-25). Upon accomplishing that faith replaced law (v. 25). Galatians is an excellent expansion on the statement that we are saved by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8).

Here’s something worth noting—particularly in light of much discussion to the contrary—it is precisely in the midst of this conversation of our being justified by faith and not works that the statement is made, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27-28).

To suggest baptism is but a work and therefore not essential to salvation argues quite contrary to Paul here in Galatians.  I’ll stick with Paul.

Through the Bible

Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13

Summary: Paul’s feelings for the Thessalonians and having to be separated from them is evident as you read, “But since we were torn away form you brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you…” (1 Thess. 2:17-18).

Devotional Thought:

Worry Over Faith

Paul worried unnecessarily.  But who could blame him?

His departure from Thessalonica had been premature.  Of that he was convinced.  Inability to return there he blamed on Satan and fervent prayers had been offered that God would bring him back (1 Thess. 2:18; 3:10-11).

Paul’s concern was for their faith.  Was it sufficient to withstand their inevitable afflictions?  Would it survive?  Would those whom he considered his “glory and joy” become a bitter disappointment?  Would his own efforts among them prove to be in vain?  Paul just couldn’t stand it.  He sent Timothy back “to learn about your faith” and “to establish and exhort you in your faith” while He remained alone at Athens (1 Thess. 3:2, 5).

Turns out Paul was very pleasantly surprised.  They had not only survived, they thrived in their faith. What Timothy found was that both the word of the Lord and their faith in God had “gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (1 Thess. 1:8).

Though Paul had contributed significantly to the conversion and early instruction of the Christians in Thessalonica, the quality and depth and strength of their faith was not dependent on Paul.  After all, they had received Paul’s message, not as the word of men, but as God’s word “which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 1:13).

It’s not that preachers and preaching aren’t important (see Rom. 10:14-15), but the power is in the message, not the messenger (Rom. 1:16).  Men may encourage faith, but only God’s word produces it (Rom. 10:17).  Paul learned that faith can flourish in his absence, but he knew it would die apart from the word “at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 2:13).

Now, about your own faith—is it what it is by the working of God’s word in you, or is it based on some man?

Just asking.

Through the Bible, September 15

Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:16

Summary: Paul obviously had great fond affection for the Christians in Thessalonica and was impressed with what he heard from Timothy about them even in the relatively short time he’d been gone. It’s interesting to read Paul’s description of the very personal nature of their work among Thessalonians.

Devotional Thought:

Still, These Three Remain

I guess Paul wasn’t kidding.  He famously said that faith, hope, and love abide (1 Cor. 13:13).  But this isn’t a letter to Corinth, this is to Thessalonica.  When Paul prays for these dear Christians, he remembers their faith, hope and love before God (1 Thess. 1:3).  Specifically, it was their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It turns out these three show up often together, 1 Corinthians 13 just happens to be the best known. For instance, for the Colossians Paul thanked God “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:4-5).

It’s not even the only time it shows up in Thessalonians.  “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation (1 Thess. 5:8). You might also want to look at Galatians 5:5-6 and 1 Peter 1:21-22.

Would you not agree that these three serve as an excellent barometer for our spiritual condition at any given time?  How deep is my faith?  How firmly anchored is my hope? How lavish is my love?

These three remain. Do I remain in them?

Through the Bible, August 18

Reading: Luke 7

Summary: In addition to healing the sick, Jesus also raised a man from the dead—the only son of a widowed woman.  He also used the occasion of messengers being sent from John to inquire as to His identity, to speak to the person and work of John.

As an example of Luke’s attention given to social outcasts, note the account of His visit to the home of Simon the Pharisee and the presence there of a sinful woman. Jesus uses the occasion to teach the powerful lesson regarding forgiveness and loving God.

Devotional Thought:

Do I Get It?

Jesus was rarely impressed with people’s faith.  More often He expressed disappointment.  One time, though, He was impressed because a man got it.  What did he get?  Authority.

This man, a centurion—therefore a Gentile military man—said there was no need for Jesus to come to his house to heal his servant.  He understood Jesus’ authority.  It was like his own authority who upon his command it was accomplished.  “I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Luke 7:8). So, all Jesus needed to do was say the word and his servant would be healed.  He understood Jesus’ authority.

That impressed Jesus.  “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9).

So, do you get Jesus’ authority?  Not, do you believe Him when He says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18).  Rather, when Jesus says, do you do?  Do you allow Him to exercise that kind of authority in your life?

When He says God’s blessing reside with the poor in spirit…those who mourn…the meek…the merciful…the peacemakers…the pure in heart…the persecuted, do those words actually change anything in your attitudes and actions?  My faith, or lack of it, is proven to the degree I allow Jesus’ words to have authority in my life; and they have authority to the degree that they are carried out and dictate what I do and how I think.

It’s obvious to God whether I get it or not.

Through the Bible, July 26

Reading: Mark 9-10

Summary: Only two miracles are recorded in these two chapters—healing of the boy with an unclean Spirit and blind Bartimaeus—though the miraculous transfiguration is found here as well.  Much teaching of Jesus is related, touching on familiar themes like greatness in the kingdom, divorce, children, temptation, and wealth.

Devotional Thought:

Faith That is Blind is No Faith

Faith is grossly misunderstood, by believers and unbelievers alike.  The very idea of believing without ample reason is foreign to Scripture.  The very concept of faith is often rejected by men as being baseless and superstitious.  It’s often assumed that examples of faith in the Bible are demonstrations of blind acceptance.  This is not true.

If nothing else, Scripture shows that even Jesus’ apostles often struggled with the things they heard from Him.  They did not merely embrace immediately what He said.  For instance, coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus told Peter, James, and John to tell no one of what they had witnessed on the mountain “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Notice this; “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean” (Mark 9:9-10).

Certainly, the time would come when they would understand.  But it wasn’t until Jesus had shown Himself alive to them.  Reason was provided for them to believe.

Just because we may not know exactly how God will work and what He will do, we do know what He can and has done.  He’s shown Himself—countless times—to be powerful, good, benevolent, and faithful. He’s given us every reason to believe.  He’s fulfilled His promises.  So why would I not have faith that He will continue to do so?

Yes, faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” but that does not mean faith is blind (Heb. 11:1).  Things “hoped for” and things “not seen” may sound like a lot of wishful thinking.  On the contrary, they are a certainty, because the God who has promised them has proven just how reliable He is.

I have every reason to believe!

Through the Bible, March 6

Reading: Joshua 22-24

Summary: Two important events highlight the critical need for faithfulness as this nation enters a new phase of its existence. First, the tribes settling east of Jordan must remind themselves and their descendants of their rightful place as God’s people (chapter 22). Second is Joshua’s emotionally charged final challenge to Israel.

Devotional Thought:

From Child’s Stories to Faith

Did you attend Bible School as a child?  Did you learn about Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Esau, Joseph, Moses and the Exodus?  How about Kings David and Solomon, or Ahab and Jezebel or Elijah and Elisha? How about Jonah and the whale (?) or Daniel in the lion’s den?

Is that what you think of them? Stories for a child’s Bible class?

Not that that’s unimportant, but there is so much more to it. How much more is demonstrated at the end of Joshua.  A marvelous testament to this great man’s influence and leadership is found in the observation that, “Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel” (Joshua 24:31).

With that, listen to what followed: “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).

Israel went from faithful service to unbelief.  Did you notice what changed?  The faithful generation knew all the work that the Lord had done for Israel, the unfaithful generation did not. Knowing the work that the Lord has done is essential for faith and faithfulness.

Teaching children the great stories of the Bible is paramount. Being reminded and hearing again and learning more about the epic events of Scripture is critical.

What may have started in a children’s Bible class must be revisited and refreshed and deepened and fashioned into the very foundation of a faith that lasts a lifetime.

Through the Bible, January 15

Read: Genesis 12-14

Summary: God calls Abram (soon to be known as Abraham) and gives to him remarkable promises.  Nearly immediately Abraham faces some challenges to his faith and trust in God.

Devotional Thought:

Abraham and Me

The first thing Abraham did after arriving in the land to which God called him was to build an altar (Genesis 12:7).  The second thing he did was move to another location, pitch his tent and build another altar (v. 8).  These wouldn’t be his last.

It’s been suggested that one way to study the life of the great patriarch Abraham is to trace the smoke of the fires of the altars he built throughout his life.  Not bad.

It is no mere coincidence that Abraham was a giant of faith and that he was continually and repeatedly worshiping God.

What he did and what we are supposed to do are no different at all.  Not that we are going to build altars and offer sacrifices, but rather that “he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 12:8; see also 13:4 and 21:33).

Though Abraham pre-dated even the covenant with Moses, this principle was true for him and it remains true today.  In Peter’s Pentecost sermon, the last line of Joel’s prophecy that he quoted was, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21; Joel 2:32).  Paul uses it as well, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

Do not think Abraham has no relevance for us.  He did exactly what God wants us to do. So, let us all “call on the name of the Lord.”

My Delight is the Lord, December 6

Spiritual DNA

December 6, Tuesday: Following God’s Way

Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 1:3-14

Everything you are as a human being is derived from your biological parents’ DNA; the color of your hair, your height, body type, shape of your nose, etc. It’s true that every individual is unique, but at the same time, there’s nothing original (biologically speaking) about you. It also happens that God would have our spiritual DNA to follow the same path. Timothy’s faith didn’t originate with him, it started with his mother and grandmother. Ideally, God would have faith to pass from generation to generation (Eph. 6:4). While the transfer of biological DNA happens without our conscious thought, spiritual DNA does not and can not. Though it doesn’t always happen this way, God wants parents to influence faith in their children just as surely as they do eye color. 

Questions to Ponder:

  • What did Timothy need to do with the gift of God in him? (v. 6)
  • What is the nature of the spirit given us by God? (v. 7)
  • Because of what did God save us? (v. 9)
  • What is meant by “sound” words? (v. 13)

My Delight is the Lord, December 3

Grace Through Faith

December 3, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 15:1-35

Paul preached salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). That also served as the crux of Peter’s argument to those “believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees” who maintained that the Gentiles must first be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be saved (v. 5). Instead, Peter said God cleansed the hearts of Cornelius and his household–the first Gentile converts (see Acts 10)–“by faith” (v. 9). Not only so, but Jews and Gentiles alike will be saved in precisely the same manner; “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (v. 11). As it was for Jew and Gentile then, so it is for everyone still today. By faith our hearts are cleansed and through the grace of the Lord Jesus we will be saved.

Questions to Ponder:

  • With whom was this question discussed? (v. 2)
  • How did God bear witness to the Gentiles? (v. 8)
  • What role did the signs and wonders of Paul and Barnabas play? (v. 12)
  • What is said of Judas and Silas? (v. 26)

My Delight is the Lord, August 12

Faith Fails

August 12, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 19:1-22

People of faith fail. They do. Individuals of strong spiritual disposition have times of fear and doubt and misgivings. We know that because the Bible shows it to us. Who can question the fortitude of an Elijah? How many Old Testament personalities make appearances in the New Testament as prominent as Elijah? That is an exceedingly short list. Yet Scripture shows us Elijah at low ebb. He’s running from Jezebel’s threats. He asks the Lord to take his life. He allows himself to wallow in self pity. It’s not pretty, but there it is. We, as people of faith, also fail at times. It’s not pretty, it’s not preferable, it’s embarrassing. It is also quite real. It did not render Elijah useless in service to God. As a matter of fact, one of the key elements of his recovery was carrying out a task God gave him.  Low ebbs happen to us all. Don’t be harsh with those presently in that place and if there yourself, know God provides a way out.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Upon what did Jezebel base her oath? (v. 2)
  • What was the Lord’s response to Elijah’s request to die? (vv. 5-7)
  • Describe Elijah’s thought processes. (v. 10)
  • What is the message of the events of vv. 11-12?