Showing posts with label Charge From Ray Stedman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charge From Ray Stedman. Show all posts

Fellowship With The Father

Text: 1 John 1:1-4

Key Verse: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

Why is it that some Christians seem to be transformed by contact with Jesus Christ, but others are not? Some Christians, even Christians of long standing, still seem to be very much conformed to the world around them, even deformed in their views and outlooks. Yet all of them stoutly assert that they are Christians, that they too have been born again by faith in Jesus Christ. It is not strange that the world asks, What is wrong? Why is this condition true? The secret, John says, is fellowship.

What is fellowship? In the Navy we used to say it was two fellows on the same ship, and there is a sense in which that is true. They do have something in common—the same ship. That is the basis of fellowship, for essentially this word means to have all things in common. When you have something in common with another, you can have fellowship with that person. If you have nothing in common, you have no fellowship.

We all have things in common. We share human life in common. Most of us share American citizenship in common. But John is talking about that unique fellowship that is the possession only of those who share life in Jesus Christ together. This makes them one, and this oneness is the basis for the appeal of Scripture: to live together in tenderness and love toward one another. Not because we are inherently wonderful people or remarkable personalities or that we are naturally gracious, kind, loving, and tender all the time—for at times we are grouchy, scratchy, and irritating to others. But we are still to love one another. Why? Because we share life together. We have something in common. We share the life of the Lord Jesus, and therefore we have fellowship with one another.

We must understand the difference between relationship and fellowship. Relationship is becoming a member of the family of God by faith in Jesus Christ. It is established by asking Him to come into your life and heart. John makes that clear at the end of this letter. He who has the Son has life (that is relationship); he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (he does not have a relationship) 1 John 5:12.

The Christian life starts right there with this matter of relationship. Relationship is accepting Christ; fellowship is experiencing Him. You can never have fellowship until you have established relationship, but you can certainly have relationship without fellowship. Relationship puts us into the family of God, but fellowship permits the life of that family to shine through us. That is what marks the difference between Christians.

Fellowship is the key to vital Christianity. That is why this letter of Apostle John, which calls us back to fundamental issues, focuses first on that. The important question is, as a Christian, are you enjoying fellowship with the Father and with His Son?

*** Culled from Ray Stedman Ministry Daily Devotional | ***

...building the body of Christ

A New Master

Text: Romans 6:8-14

Key Verse: “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14

Why does Paul bring in the Law? He brings in the Law because he is dealing with one of the most basic problems of the Christian struggle, the thing that often depresses and discourages us more than anything else — the sense of condemnation we feel when we sin. The Law produces condemnation. The Law says that unless you live up to this standard, God will not have anything to do with you. We have been so engrained with this that when we sin, even as believers, we think God is angry and upset with us and he doesn't care about us. We think that way about ourselves, and we become discouraged and defeated and depressed. We want to give up.

But Paul says that is not true. Believers are not under Law, and God does not respond that way toward us. We are under grace. God understands our struggle. He is not upset by it; he is not angry with us. He understands our failure. He knows that there will be a struggle and there will be failures. He also knows that he has made full provision in Christ for us to recover immediately, to pick ourselves up, and go right on climbing up the mountain. Therefore, as his beloved child, you and I don't need to be discouraged, and we won't be.

Sin will not be your master because you are not under law and condemnation, but under grace. And even though you struggle, if, every time you fail, you come back to God and ask his forgiveness, and accept it from him, and remember how he loves you, and that he is not angry or upset with you, and go on from there, you will win.

I will never forget how, as a young man in the service during World War II, I was on a watch one night, reading the book of Romans. This verse leaped out of the pages at me. I remember how the Spirit made it come alive, and I saw the great promise that all the things I was struggling with as a young man would ultimately be mastered — not because I was so smart, but because God was teaching me and leading me into victory. I remember walking the floor, my heart just boiling over with praise and thanksgiving to God. I walked in a cloud of glory, rejoicing in this great promise: Sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

Looking back across the years since that night, I can see that God has broken the grip of the things that mastered me then. Other problems have come in, with which I still struggle. But the promise remains: Sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

*** Written by Ray Stedman Ministries | ***

...building the body of Christ

The Continuing Struggle

Text: Romans 7:7-25

Key Verse: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:18-20)

Paul says that as a Christian, redeemed by the grace of God, there is now something within him that wants to do good, that agrees with the Law (because the Law describes God's holy nature), that says that the Law is right. There is something within that says what the Law tells me to do is right, and I want to do it. But also, there is something else in me that rises up and says No! Even though I determine not to do what is bad, I suddenly find myself in such circumstances that my determination melts away, my resolve is gone, and I end up doing what I had sworn I would not do.

So, what has gone wrong? Paul's explanation is, It is no longer I who do it; it is sin living in me. Isn't that strange? There is a division within our humanity. There is the I that wants to do what God wants, but there is also the sin which dwells in me. Human beings are complicated creatures. We have within us a spirit, a soul, and a body. These are distinct. Paul is suggesting here that the redeemed spirit never wants to do what God has prohibited. It agrees with the Law that it is good. And yet there is an alien power, a force that he calls sin, a great beast that is lying still within us until touched by the commandment of the Law. Then it springs to life, and we do what we do not want to do.

This is what we all struggle with. The cry of the heart at that moment is: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24) Right here you arrive at where the Lord Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). Blessed is the man who comes to the end of himself. Blessed is the man who understands his own spiritual bankruptcy. Because this is the point — the only point — where God's help is given.

This is what we need to learn. If we think that we have got something in ourselves that we can work out our problems with, if we think that our wills are strong enough, that we can control evil in our lives by simply determining to do so, then we have not come to the end of ourselves yet. The Spirit of God simply folds his arms to wait and lets us go ahead and try it on that basis. And we fail, and fail miserably — until, at last, out of our failures, we cry, O wretched man that I am! Sin has deceived us, and the Law, as our friend, has come in and exposed sin for what it is. When we see how wretched it makes us, then we are ready for the answer, which comes immediately in verse 25: Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Who will deliver me from this body of death? The Lord Jesus has already done it. We are to respond to the feelings of wretchedness and failure, to which the Law has brought us because of sin in us, by reminding ourselves immediately of the facts that are true of us in Jesus Christ. We are no longer bound to our sinful flesh by the Law. We are married to Christ, Christ risen from the dead. We must no longer think, I am a poor, struggling, bewildered disciple, left alone to wrestle against these powerful urges. We must now think, I am a free son of God. I am dead to sin, and dead to the Law, because I am married to Christ. His power is mine, right at this moment. Though I may not feel a thing, I have the power to say, No! and walk away and be free, in Jesus Christ.

*** From Ray Stedman Ministries | ***

…building the body of Christ

When Life Seems Unfair

Text: Job 20-21; Isaiah 55:9

Key Verse: Have you never questioned those who travel? Have you paid no regard to their accounts – that the evil man is spared from the day of calamity that he is delivered from the day of wrath? (Job 21:29-30)

Life seems to be unfair. There appears to be a basic unfairness at the root of things, and this is what causes many people to be troubled by Christians' claims about a loving, faithful, just, and holy God. You often hear the question raised, If there is a good God, why does He let this kind of thing happen? Job is raising the same question. He says to these pious, respectable friends, your arguments do not square with the facts.

You say God always visits wrath upon the wicked. What about these wicked people who live without a touch? God never does a thing to them. What about the fact that He seems to treat people very unfairly? Folks who seem to deserve nothing but the grace of God, who are a loving, gentle, kind people, have endless problems and die forsaken. And some who are selfish and cruel and self-centered are the ones who seem to be able to live without struggle. What about this?

Job tells his friends, if you'll just inquire among those who travel, the people who get around and see life, you'll find that they support what I'm saying. The wicked often escape the day of calamity. It's not just true around here; this is true everywhere. The wicked live above the law, and nobody tells them that they're doing wrong. They get by with it. They die highly honored in their death, their graves are adorned and guarded, and God does nothing about that. So he says at last in verse 34: So how can you console me with your nonsense? Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!

If you intend to argue with Job, you had better get your arguments well in hand. This man is able to see through the error of logic in these people's position. They have a theology that does not square with experience, and that is where the problem lies.

These friends represent people – and there are many around today – who have placed God in a box. They have what they think is a clear understanding of all the ways of God, and they can predict how He is going to act, but when He acts in a way that they do not understand and do not expect, they have no way of handling it because it is their creed they have faith in, and not in God Himself.

This is what Job is learning. His creed has been demolished by his experiences. He has had to file his theology in the wastebasket because it did not fit what he was going through. Someone has well said that a person with a true experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument. Job's friends are unable to answer him because his experience rings true.

*** From Ray Stedman's Ministries | ***

...building the body of Christ

Rejoicing In Suffering

Text: Romans 5:3-10; 8:18

Key Verse: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)

It is clear from this that Christians are expected to experience suffering. Those who think that becoming a Christian will remove them from suffering have been seriously misled, for the Scriptures themselves teach that we are to expect suffering.

The Greek word for suffering is translated as tribulation, something that causes distress. It can range from minor annoyances that we go through every day, to major disasters that come sweeping down out of the blue and leave us stricken and smitten. These are the sufferings that we might go through, the tribulations.

According to Romans 5, the Christian response to suffering is to rejoice: Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings. Here is where many people balk. They say, I can't buy that! Do you mean to say that God is telling me that when I am hurting and in pain, I am expected to be glad and rejoice in that? That is not human, not natural!

How do you get to the place where you can rejoice in suffering? The apostle's answer is, We rejoice in suffering because we know... We rejoice because we know something. It isn't just because it's such a great feeling to be hurt, it is because we know something about it. It is something our faith enables us to know, a kind of inside information that others do not share.

What do we know? Paul says, Knowing that suffering produces... Suffering does something, accomplishes something. It is productive. We know it works, and that is what makes us rejoice. Watch a woman in labor. If you have any empathy in you, you can't help but feel deeply hurt with her because she is going through such pain. And yet, there usually is joy in the midst of it because she knows that childbirth produces children. There are many women who will gladly go through childbirth because they want a child. Suffering produces something worthwhile.

Then what does suffering produce? The apostle says there are three things that suffering produces: First, suffering produces perseverance. In some versions the word may be patience. The Greek word literally means to abide under, to stay under the pressure. Pressure is something we want to get out from under, but suffering teaches us to stay under, to stick in there and hang with it. The best translation I can think of is the English word steadiness. Suffering produces steadiness.

Second, steadiness produces character. The Greek word for character carries with it the idea of being put to the test and approved. It is the idea of being shown to be reliable. You finally learn that you are not going to be destroyed, that things will work out. People start counting on you. They see strength in you, and you become a more reliable person.

Third, we find that reliability produces something. Reliability produces hope. The hope is that we will share the glory of God, which is God's character. We have the hope that God is producing the image of Christ in us. This hope is a certainty, not just a possibility. We are being changed. We are becoming more like Jesus. We can see that we are more thoughtful, more compassionate, more loving. We are being mellowed. We are becoming like Christ — stronger, wiser, purer, more patient. He is transforming us into the image of his Son.

*** Culled from Ray Stedman Ministries | ***

...building the body of Christ

Lord, Leave Me Alone!

Text: Job 6-7

Key Verse: "Let me alone; my days have no meaning" (Job 7:16b)

Job turns to God and complains about the difficulty of his present experience. He has given up. He thinks he will never see any relief and that he will go on like this to the end. And out of that meaningless suffering and hopeless darkness, he cries out in honest despair.

Have you ever felt that way? Lord, leave me alone. I've had enough! Why are You so intent on making life miserable for me? Why don't You just let me go? Job cries out in baffled bewilderment. Now, even at this point in the book of Job, there are some things that we must constantly remember.

One is that we know something about this scene that Job does not know. We see some purpose in this that he has not yet seen that is also true about the sufferings we go through. In every time of trial there are two purposes in view: Satan has his purpose, and God has His.

Satan's purpose here was to use the pain of Job's illness to afflict his body; to use the priggish, well-intentioned comfort of his friends to irritate his soul; and to use the silence of God to assault his spirit and break his faith. But God's purpose is to teach Job some truths that he never knew before, to deepen his theology and help him understand God much better.

God's truth was to answer Satan in the eyes of all the principalities and powers of the whole universe and to prove him wrong in his philosophy of life. God's purpose was also to provide a demonstration for all sufferers in all the ages that would follow that He knows what He is doing.

What an encouragement to those of us who must go through some times of suffering to understand that it is not always because we are sinful. Sometimes suffering is the result of our sin, and we will know it when it is. But if, like Job, you know of nothing you have done that you have not dealt with and still the suffering goes on, look behind the curtain of God's purposes, and you will see that great and eternal events are hanging upon the outcome of the struggle.

*** Written by Ray Stedman | ***

…building the body of Christ

No Want

Text: Psalm 23:1

Key Verse: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want" (Psalm 23:1)

Because the Lord is my shepherd, I do not lack anything. He satisfies my needs. That is the place where God wants to bring us. He wants us to be independently dependent upon Him, to need Him alone. It struck me as I was studying this psalm that there are really only two options in life. If the Lord is my shepherd, then I shall not want; but if I am in want, then it is obvious that the Lord is not my shepherd.

It is that simple. If emptiness, loneliness, despair, and frustration exist in our lives, then the Lord is not our shepherd. Or if anyone or anything else is shepherding us, we are never satisfied. If our vocation shepherds us, then there is restlessness and feverish activity and frustration. If education is our shepherd, then we are constantly being disillusioned. If another person is our shepherd, we are always disappointed, and ultimately we are left empty. If drug abuse is our shepherd, then we are wasted, as one rock artist said recently. But if the Lord is our shepherd, David says, we shall not want.

It occurs to me that if Jehovah is to be our shepherd, then we have to begin by recognizing that we are sheep. I don't like that analogy, frankly, because I don't like sheep. I come by my dislike honestly. I used to raise sheep. In high school I was in the 4-H Club, and I had a herd of sheep and goats. Now goats I can abide, because they may be obnoxious, but at least they're smart. Sheep are, beyond question, the most stupid animals on the face of the earth. They are dumb and they are dirty and they are timid and defenseless and helpless. Mine were always getting lost and hurt and snakebitten. They literally do not know enough to come in out of the rain. Sheep are miserable creatures.

And then to have God tell me that I am one! That hurts my feelings. But if I am really honest with myself, I know it is true. I know that I lack wisdom and strength. I'm inclined to be self-destructive. Isaiah said it best: We all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). I know my tendency toward self-indulgent individualism, going my own way and doing my own thing. That's me. I'm a sheep. And if Jesus Christ is to be my shepherd, I have to admit that I need one. It is difficult, but that is where we must start. Once we admit that need, we discover the truth of what David is saying. We shall not want.

*** Culled from Ray Stedman's Ministry Devotional | ***

…building the body of Christ

Accepting What God Gives

Text: Job 2:9-13

Key Verse: "He replied, You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? In all this, Job did not sin in what he said" (Job 2:10)

Job's rebuke is a very gentle one. He did not say, You foolish woman! He said, You are talking like a foolish woman. He is not attacking her; rather, he is suggesting that this is a temporary lapse of faith on her part and that, for the moment, she has begun to repeat the words of stupid, foolish women who have no knowledge of the grace and glory of God. In that gentle rebuke you can see something of the sturdiness and tenderness of Job's faith.

In this great sentence, he again reasserts the sovereignty of God: Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? Job's wife had the philosophy that life ought to be pleasant, and if it were not, there was no use living it.

That philosophy is widespread in our own day, and a mounting suicide rate testifies to the universal acceptance of it. But this book is given to show us that life is not to be lived on those terms. The reason we are here is not necessarily to have a good time. There are meaningful objectives to be attained in life, even when it all turns sour.

When the pressure comes, when living is no longer fun, life is still worth living. A philosophy that wants to abandon everything as soon as things become unpleasant is a shallow, mistaken, distorted view of life. Job reaffirms that. Shall we not take both good and evil from the hand of God?

We take His joy and His pleasure, the pleasant things of life, with gladness and gratitude. If God chooses to send something that is difficult, shall we then abandon that gratitude and begin to curse Him in protest because life is suddenly different than we thought it would be?

The reason we are here is not merely that we might have a good time, and this is taught everywhere in the Scriptures. God, in His grace and glory, does give us many hours of joy and gladness and pleasure and delight, and it is right for us to give thanks. But do not abandon that when the time of pressure comes, because that is what Satan wants us to do.

He wants us to begin to complain and protest to God; to get upset and angry and resentful; to stop going to church or to reading the Bible. That is what Satan's whole attack on our lives is aimed at doing.

*** Culled from Ray Stedman Ministry Devotional | ***

...building the body of Christ

God's Nonsense

Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Key Verse: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

The theme of this text is the power of the cross, and Apostle Paul shows clearly what the cross does in human thinking and in human affairs. The cross has become the symbol of Christianity today. Women wear it on chains around their necks; we use it as decorations. We have become so familiar with the cross that we have forgotten much of the impact it had in the first century. It was, for these early Christians, and for those among whom they lived, a horrible symbol. If you had used it then as a symbol it would have made people shudder. We would get much closer to it today if we substituted a symbol of an electric chair for the cross. Wouldn't it be strange driving across your country to see church steeples with electric chairs on top?

The cross is significant in Christianity because it exposes the fundamental conflict of life. The cross gets down below all our surface attempts at compromise and cuts through all human disagreement. Once you confront the cross and its meaning, you find yourself unable to escape that final judgment of life as to whether you are committed to error or committed to truth.

We must understand what Paul means by the word of the cross. First of all, it means the basic announcement of the crucifixion of Jesus. There are many religious groups based upon various philosophical concepts. But when you come to Christianity you do not start with philosophy, you start with facts of history that cannot be thrown out. One of them is the incarnation of Jesus, the fact that he was born as a man and came among us. Another of the great facts of our faith is the crucifixion. Jesus died. It was done at a certain point of time in history and cannot be evaded. This is part of the word of the cross. He did not deserve it, but by the judgment of the Romans and Jews alike he was put to death for a crime that he did not commit.

Paul is pointing to the judgment that the cross makes upon human life. When you say that Jesus was crucified you are saying that when the finest man who ever lived takes our place, he deserves nothing but the instant judgment of God. And that is a judgment on all of us. That is what people do not like about the cross. It condemns our righteousness. It casts aspersion on all our good efforts.

The word of the cross always produces two reactions. First, the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. It is silliness, absurdity, nonsense, to those who are perishing. If you have ever tried to witness to somebody who has a sense of sufficiency about himself, you have discovered the folly of the cross. To come and tell such a person that all his efforts and all his impressive record of achievement is worth nothing in God's sight, you will immediately run into the offense of the cross.

The other reaction is that the cross is the power of God to those of us who are being saved. To us who are being saved, the cross is the key to the release of all God's blessing in human life. It is the way to experience the healing of God in the heart, the deliverance from the reign of sin, and the entry into wholeness, peace, and joy. The cross is an inescapable part of that process.

*** Culled from Ray Stedman’s Ministry | ***

…building the body of Christ

The Reciprocity Of Love

Text: 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

Key Verse: "Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide" (2 Corinthians 6-11 RSV).

Paul loved these people in Corinth, and he has manifested that love in various ways toward them. He has demonstrated it, as he says here, by two special things. Our mouth is open to you, he says. That means he communicated with them; he told them what was going on in his own life; he shared with them his feelings, struggles, failures, pressures, and problems, and he let them know how he coped with them. That is always a mark of love. To open up to others is to love them. Conversely, to close up and not communicate is to violate love.

This is a frequent problem in churches today. Christians actually think it is right for them to be closed in on themselves, to be private persons, unwilling to communicate who they are and how they feel and where they are in their lives. That, of course, is the way of the world. The world teaches us to let no one see who we are. But we need to understand that when we become Christians, we must learn to open up to one another.

Our heart is wide, he says. He means there is no favoritism; he includes the whole congregation. He did not merely love the nice people among them. He loved them all: the difficult ones, the ones who were struggling, and the hard-to-get-along-with ones as well. There were no preconditions that he demanded before he would love somebody in the congregation either. He accepted them as people. Though he knew their struggles, their weaknesses, their heartaches, their failures, and their resistance, he loved them.

The problem was that they did not love him in return. This is the problem in churches, in individual lives, in homes, in families, and in marriages today. It is a failure to understand the reciprocal nature of love. Love is a two-way street. It always is; it is inherently so. Love requires a response. Paul was loving them, but they were not loving him back. They were closed; they were unresponsive; they were coldly self-contained toward him. And the result? Paul puts it in one word: They were restricted (2 Corinthians 6:12 RSV). What does that mean? It means they were limited; they were imprisoned within the narrow boundaries of their own selfish lives.

That is why Paul pleads here with these Corinthians: Oh! Corinthians, widen your hearts unto us. You are not restricted by us. You are restricted by yourselves, in your own affections. If you really want to experience the richness of love, then love back when you are loved. This is one of the most important lessons we can ever learn in life. Love must respond. When you are loved, what do you do? Do you love back, or do you say, What a wonderful feeling! I hope they will keep that up? Do you expect it all to come to you without a reciprocal response from you? No, that is impossible. Love must respond.

*** Ray Stedman Minsistry Daily Devotional | ***

...building the body of Christ

Forgiveness: When Discipline Ends

Text: 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Key Verse: “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven – if there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake” (2 Corinthians 2:10).

Paul expresses no hard feelings or recriminations nor exhibits an I-can-forgive, but-I-can't-forget attitude. We often hear people speak about forgiveness in this way, and this attitude reveals a lack of understanding of what forgiveness is. Forgiveness, basically, is a promise that you make to three different individuals. This is true always, in every case of forgiveness.

First, it is a promise that you make to the individual who has offended you and now has repented, in which you are saying to him or her, I will not let my attitude toward you be governed any longer by this offense. It has been put aside. My treatment of you from here on will be as though this has never happened. It is a promise you make never to bring it up again. In marriage many problems go on for years because couples tend to go back and dig up the past, which is an indication that it has never been forgiven. Some mates don't get hysterical; they get historical! That is the problem, and that creates a problem.

Second, it is a promise not to pass it on to anybody else. When a matter is forgiven, it is to be forgotten. Now it may be that everyone knows about the matter, because, as in this case in Corinth, it had been told to the whole church. But what it means is that nobody brings up the issue again or holds it over a forgiven person's head or reminds him or her of it every time any further difficulty occurs. It is a promise to drop the matter, leave it in the past, and never bring it up to anybody again.

Third, and probably most important, it is a promise to yourself that when your memory goes back to it, as it will occasionally, you are not going to allow it to seize hold of your heart and make you angry all over again. The minute it comes back to mind, you put it aside as something that belongs to the past. You are not going to dwell on it. It is a promise, therefore, to repeat your act of forgiveness, no matter how often the memory comes up. That is what forgiveness is; and Paul is ready to do this.

The reason, of course, is because he himself has been forgiven. People tell me sometimes, I just can't forgive in this case. The person has admitted her wrongdoing and has asked me to forgive her, but I just can't do it. It hurt me too much. It is a revelation to me that the person who has been wronged has never realized how much he has been forgiven already. The basis for Christian forgiveness is always, Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

== Culled from Ray Stedman’s Ministry |

...building the body of Christ.

Freedom To Remove The Mask

Text: 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Key Verse: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

The apostle reminds the Corinthians immediately that the Lord is in their hearts, in their human spirits. Their hope of freedom comes from that great fact, for the one who is within them is God Himself. Paul identifies Him: the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom is being out in the open, having boldness, having nothing to hide. Those who are free are those who do not have any reputation to defend, no image to hide behind, nothing to preserve about themselves. They can be themselves. Everywhere today people are longing for this type of freedom. People want to be themselves. I've got to be me, we hear, and there is nothing wrong with that. God wants you to be you, too. The only thing wrong is the way we do it. We are being taught in the world that the way to be me is to think about my advantage, my efforts, and to defend and demand them.

The Word of God teaches us it is quite another process. Being yourself and having freedom does not mean denying the potential for all the evil that is possible in your heart and in your life, because you have another basis on which you receive God's acceptance and approval. His acceptance and approval are gifts to you. The faith He gives continually accepts anew the gift of righteousness of already being pleasing to God, and, on that basis, you serve Him out of a heart of gratitude for what you already have.

You do not have to earn His favor, and your performance is not going to affect it. When you start looking at the one who is doing this in your life, the Lord Jesus, and beholding Him with all your veils taken away so you are not afraid to look at your own evil capacity, then a wonderful thing happens. Without even knowing that you are doing it, just by rejoicing in what you have and serving the Lord who gave it to you, you suddenly discover--and other people will discover--that you are becoming a loving person. And love is the fulfilling of the Law; the very demand that God made in the Law that you tried so hard to fulfill by your self-effort will be fulfilled without your even realizing it when you begin to love out of the grace and forgiveness of God.

It is a process of growth. It does not happen in one great transformation when you are suddenly sanctified, filled with the Spirit, or baptized. It happens as you keep your eyes on the glory of the Lord and not on the face of Moses, not on self-effort but on what He is already giving you. When you do, you suddenly discover the Spirit of God has been at work making gradual changes. You are becoming a loving person, easier to live with, more attractive, more compelling. Your life is deepening as it is losing its shallowness; you are more understanding of things. That is the work of the Spirit. Notice what he says: this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. It is not you who does it; it is He.

*** Culled from Ray Stedman's Ministry Devotional | ***

...building the body of Christ.

The Path Of Love

TEXT: 1 John 3:11-14

Key Verse: "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death" (1 John 3:14).

It is rather fascinating that the apostle who wrote this has become known as the apostle of love. But if you read the gospel records of John, you will note that this is not his nature at all. He and his brother James earned from Jesus the title Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17) because they were constantly wanting to blast back at those who opposed them. John's temperament was not naturally inclined to show love. But when he was born again, there was born into his heart the life of God, and this man began to show love.

Jacob De Shazer bombed Tokyo early in World War II. He was captured by the Japanese and put in prison. He hated his Japanese captors and was so violent and vicious that they feared him. They kept him in solitary confinement because of the hatred with which he lashed out against them. But he obtained a copy of the Bible and began to read it through.

In the loneliness of his cell, he came to realize the life that is in Jesus Christ. An amazing change came over this man. His hatred of the Japanese changed completely. He began to love his captors and to show love toward them, and they were utterly astonished by what had happened to him. Instead of burning with wrath, resentment, and viciousness against them, he became the most docile of prisoners, eagerly cooperating with his captors and praying for them.

Eventually, the story of his change of heart was written up in a little tract, and, after the war, it fell into the hands of a young Japanese captain, Mitsuo Fuchida, the man who led the air raid against Pearl Harbor and gave the command to drop the bombs on that fateful day of December 7.

Mitsuo Fuchida was a hero in Japan after the war because of that exploit and others, but his own heart was empty. Somehow he read the tract that told the story of De Shazer's amazing change of heart. He was arrested and puzzled by the story. From somewhere he obtained a New Testament and began to read it with growing interest.

At last he came to the story of the crucifixion. When he read the Lord's words from the cross, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34), his heart broke. He realized that this one who could love His enemies and pray for those who persecuted Him was manifesting a quality of life that no natural human being could possibly show. Mitsuo Fuchida became a Christian and an evangelist, telling the story of a love that can change human hearts.

Such love is the sign of the new life. It is a love that you not only extend toward those who love you, but toward those who do not love you. It is a love that does not depend upon a reciprocal relationship but loves the unlovely, the unqualified, the ungrateful, the selfish, and the difficult.

This, then, is the character of true love, and it is always evidence that a new life has come, the life born of God.

Food for Thought: This is the character of true love: It does not depend upon a reciprocal relationship but loves the unlovely, the unqualified, the ungrateful, the selfish, and the difficult.

*** Culled from Ray Stedman Ministry |

...building the body of Christ.

Till Death Do Us Apart

Text: Genesis 23:1-6

Key Verse: "Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, I am an alien and a stranger among you" (Genesis 23:3-44).

I love the phrase Abraham rose from beside his dead wife. That signified squaring his shoulder, lifting up his eye, firming his step, and facing life again, and it is followed by a wonderful confession of faith: I am an alien and a stranger among you This is the word of a man who looks beyond all that earth has to offer and once more sees the city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God. Although Abraham has been weeping in the valley of the shadow of death, he somehow senses there can be no shadow without a light somewhere.

Have you learned that? When shadows come into your life, it is a sign that there must be light somewhere. Of course, if we turn our back on the light, then we ourselves are the ones who cause the shadow. I think people today are living in a constant shadow because their back is turned toward the light, and they themselves cast a pall upon their own existence. But if we face the light, looking at that light streaming from the city whose builder and maker is God, then the only shadow comes temporarily when some object obscures the light for a moment.

After all, that is what death is; it is simply a temporary obscuring of the light. But the man of faith lifts his eyes and looks beyond the shadow and sees the light still shining, and he says to these people, I am an alien and a stranger among you. Nothing satisfies me down here. I can never settle down among you. The whole land had been given to him by the promise of God, but the dead body of his wife before him reminds him that it is not yet God's time. His faith is not weakened by Sarah's death; rather, it is strengthened by it.

If Abraham had not remembered that he was a pilgrim and a stranger, his heart would have been crushed to despair by the death of his beloved life's companion. But Abraham lifts his eyes beyond this to the light from the city beyond. He remembers that nothing in this life was ever intended to fully meet the needs of the heart of the pilgrim stranger passing through.

Dr. Barnhouse told of a young woman whose husband had been killed in action during the war. When the telegram came, this Christian woman read it through and then said to her mother, I am going up to my room, and please don't disturb me. Her mother called her father at work and told him what had happened, and he came hurrying home and immediately went up to the room. His daughter didn't hear him come in, and he saw her kneeling beside her bed. The telegram was spread open on the bed before her. She was bowed over it. And as he stood there, he heard her say, Oh, my Father, my heavenly Father, The man turned around and went back down the stairs and said to his wife, She is in better hands than mine.

This is what faith does in the hour of grief. The very strength of Abraham's faith in the midst of anguish is that he is an alien and a stranger, a pilgrim passing through to that city that can alone satisfy the human heart.

***Culled from Ray Stedman's Ministry |

…building the body of Christ.

When Not To Run Away

Text: Nehemiah 6:10-14

Key Verse: Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go! (Nehemiah 6:11).

Once again the enemy switches his tactics, reverting again to subterfuge. A word comes in the form of a prophecy, but this man is a false prophet. He claims to have hidden knowledge that men are coming to kill Nehemiah and advises him to go into the temple to save his life. This false prophet may be involved in the occult, because that is what is suggested here by the explanation that he was shut in at his home (Nehemiah 6:10). Being shut in suggests that for some religious reason he was secluding himself.

What he says sounds logical. Some people are out to get you. They are going to kill you, he charges. Nehemiah certainly knows that! The man suggests, Come on up here, and we will go into the temple and shut the doors. They will not dare attack you there. That sounds good, but immediately Nehemiah detects something wrong. He knows that as a layman, he is not permitted to go into the temple, for only priests could enter the temple. It was simply not right for him to enter the temple.

He realizes that a prophet who was really from the Lord wouldn't say anything that was not in line with the commands of God. There was an altar of asylum in the temple courtyard to which people who were under threat could flee and be safe, but this man is proposing they actually go into the temple and shut the doors.

Nehemiah says it was all part of a plan to discourage the people from following his lead. Fueled by jealousy and ambition, these enemies slandered him and tried to trick him into yielding to their demands. We must be aware of this kind of attack on our lives in these days. Do not take people's advice just because they are friendly to you. It may be completely wrong advice.

Nothing substitutes for a knowledge of the Word of God. That is how you can detect error and tell what is wrong. The best response to such an approach is what Nehemiah uses here--a deep sense of his true identity as a believer. Should a man like me run and hide and try to save his life by wrong approaches and unlawful practices? He falls back upon his clear consciousness of who he is. He is a believer in the living God, and thus he need not resort to trickery to save his life.

This is exactly what the New Testament calls us to as well. Writing to the Thessalonians, faced with the normal pressures and problems of life, the apostle Paul's word is, live lives worthy of God (1 Thessalonians 2:12). We are called to walk with God. You are a child of His. You belong to Him. You are therefore living at a different level from those around you. If you remember who you are, you will not go along with the wrong things that people are being pressured into today.

Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden Pond, “If I seem not to keep step with others, it is because I am listening to another drumbeat. Christians also listen to another drumbeat. They are following their Lord, not the voices they hear around them. Nothing will free us more from the subtle pressures and temptations of today than to remember who we are.

Culled from Ray Stedman's Ministry |

…building the body of Christ.