|September 2011 Daily Devotion Archive|
The Unforgivable Sin
"Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come." - Matthew 12:31-32
Why is this sin unforgivable when God forgives us of all of our other sins? That is a question I couldn't figure out for a long time. The answer is this: It isn't that God won't forgive us; it's that people who fall into this category choose not to be forgiven. The Holy Spirit wants to dwell within all of us, but some people stubbornly refuse to let Him come in. Such people may also intentionally speak out against the Holy Spirit. Be careful not to misinterpret these two verses--God wants each and every one of us to come to Him, and He will always forgive us of our sins. A person in this state cannot be forgiven and cannot be saved because they choose that path; they utterly refuse everything God offers in spite of how much He wants to forgive them.
Question to Ponder: Have you asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and invited the Holy Spirit to dwell within you?
Where Is Your Mind?
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame--who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. - Philippians 3:17-21
Here, Paul is writing about people who "set their mind on earthly things" and work against Jesus. Many people fall into this category; some of them are even in the church. But we must be very careful not to fall into worldly traps and to not allow the things of this world to consume our minds. The things of this earth are only temporary and really don't matter from an eternal perspective because, as Paul writes, "our citizenship is in heaven."
Question to Ponder: Is your mind more on earthly things, or is it focused on Jesus?
He who covers a transgression seeks love,
But he who repeats a matter separates friends.
Rebuke is more effective for a wise man
Than a hundred blows on a fool.
An evil man seeks only rebellion;
Therefore a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs,
Rather than a fool in his folly.
Whoever rewards evil for good,
Evil will not depart from his house.
The beginning of strife is like releasing water;
Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.
He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.
- Proverbs 17:9-15
Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
For the Lord Most High is awesome;
He is a great King over all the earth.
He will subdue the peoples under us,
And the nations under our feet.
He will choose our inheritance for us,
The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah
God has gone up with a shout,
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.
- Psalm 47:1-7
"Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, Thus says your son Joseph: "God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children's children, your flocks and your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, lest you and your household, and all that you have, come to poverty; for there are still five years of famine." "And behold, your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my mouth that speaks to you. So you shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen; and you shall hurry and bring my father down here." Then he fell on his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him. - Genesis 45:9-15
Joseph seemed to have no trouble forgiving his brothers for what they had done against him in the past. Instead of harboring bitter feelings and letting the past consume his thoughts, he had trust in God's plan and was able to easily forgive.
Question to Ponder: If you were in Joseph's position, would you be able to forgive and forget this easily?
David Praises the Lord, Part 2 of 5
"The Lord thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
He sent out arrows and scattered them;
Lightning bolts, and He vanquished them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered,
At the rebuke of the Lord,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
He sent from above, He took me,
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me;
For they were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my support.
He also brought me out into a broad place;
He delivered me because He delighted in me."
- 2 Samuel 22:14-20
For the Lord spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying:
"Do not say, A conspiracy,
Concerning all that this people call a conspiracy,
Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.
The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow;
Let Him be your fear,
And let Him be your dread.
He will be as a sanctuary,
But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense
To both the houses of Israel,
As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And many among them shall stumble;
They shall fall and be broken,
Be snared and taken."
Bind up the testimony,
Seal the law among my disciples.
And I will wait on the Lord,
Who hides His face from the house of Jacob;
And I will hope in Him.
- Isaiah 8:11-17
Good and Evil Cannot Coexist
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." - Matthew 12:33-37
Jesus was frequently accused of being a bad and evil person or even of being in league with Satan himself. Jesus effectively counters those accusations here, and His point of view makes perfect sense. If He was of the devil, how could He perform miracles, give wise teaching, and do all the other great things He did while on this earth? The reality is, those accusations had no basis in reality; those people just refused to accept the truth, just like so many people in today's world.
Question to Ponder: Have you ever scrambled to find ways to discredit Jesus rather than admit that He is the Truth?
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:4-7
I love this passage from the book of Philippians because, in a few short verses, it does a great job of summing up what our overall attitude should be in this life. To put it simply, we should do these four things: rejoice in the Lord always (during the good times and the bad), be gentle and loving toward others, trust God rather than allowing ourselves to be consumed by anxiety and worry, and pray to God with thankful hearts. If we do those things, especially the last two, then we open ourselves up to "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding," which God wants to give to us!
Question to Ponder: Which of these four attitudes do you struggle with the most?
He who loves transgression loves strife,
And he who exalts his gate seeks destruction.
He who has a deceitful heart finds no good,
And he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil.
A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.
A wicked man accepts a bribe behind the back
To pervert the ways of justice.
Wisdom is in the sight of him who has understanding,
But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
He who has knowledge spares his words,
And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.
Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace;
When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.
- Proverbs 17:19-20, 22-24, 27-28
Is God Your Guide?
For this is God,
Our God forever and ever;
He will be our guide
Even to death.
- Psalm 48:14
Allow yourself to ponder these questions for a few moments. What guides you through life? Do you allow yourself to be guided by your own wants, desires, and feelings? Or do you allow God (Father, Son, and especially the Holy Spirit who dwells within all believers to serve as our guide) to guide you? Is God someone you just visit with on Sundays, before meals, or only when you need to ask for something? Or do you truly allow God to be your guide as you live each and every day? The Holy Spirit was sent to serve as our guide, and we have the wisdom contained within the Bible, God's Word, to help guide us as well.
Question to Ponder: Who is your guide in life--yourself, another person, or a combination of God's Word and the Holy Spirit?
Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother
When the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, "Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place." And he said, "I will do as you have said." - Genesis 47:29-30
Joseph and Jacob (also called Israel after God changed his name) were both old men by this time. However, Joseph still knew the importance of respecting his parents--in this case, his dying father. Jacob made one last request of Joseph, and despite how difficult it might be to carry Jacob's body all the way from Egypt back to Canaan, Joseph granted his father's request with no argument and no hesitation. No matter our age, God commands us to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12). As long as your parents don't try to get you to do something that goes against your Christian convictions, you should continue to honor and respect them.
Question to Ponder: How much honor and respect do you show toward your parents?
David Praises the Lord, Part 3 of 5
"The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands
He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His judgments were before me;
And as for His statutes, I did not depart from them.
I was also blameless before Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to my cleanness in His eyes.
With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.
You will save the humble people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down."
- 2 Samuel 22:21-28
A Prophecy of Jesus, Part 1 of 2
Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For You have broken the yoke of his burden
And the staff of his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor,
As in the day of Midian.
- Isaiah 9:1-4
The first part of this Messianic prophecy makes it clear that the coming Savior will come for everyone, including Gentiles (non-Jews). The light of the Savior will shine on everyone!
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here." - Matthew 12:38-41
This group of people was fortunate and blessed enough to have Jesus right there with them! But, with stubborn hearts and minds, they still refused to believe. They asked Jesus for a sign to prove Himself, even after they had already witnessed miracles and incredibly wise teaching. Jesus already knew that they wouldn't believe, and that giving them one more sign wouldn't change anything. Jesus wants us to believe in Him by faith, not by sight. After all, the very definition of faith is believing in what you cannot see.
Question to Ponder: Do you search for proof of God's existence, or are you able to have faith in things you cannot see?
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:8-9
These are some of the things with which God wants us to occupy our minds. Far too often in this sinful world, our minds go into places where they should not go. Perhaps your mind dwells on sinful things related to lust, materialism, or some kind of addiction. This is usually caused by things we see on television or by hanging around people who are a bad influence. Perhaps, instead, your mind is filled with worry and anxiety when you should be trusting God. But God wants us to get away from all of those kinds of thoughts and, instead, to focus on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Focusing on these good things rather than sinful things gives God the freedom to work in us as He desires.
Question to Ponder: What kinds of thoughts most often occupy your mind?
A fool has no delight in understanding,
But in expressing his own heart.
A fool's mouth is his destruction,
And his lips are the snare of his soul.
The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles,
And they go down into the inmost body.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty,
And before honor is humility.
He who answers a matter before he hears it,
It is folly and shame to him.
- Proverbs 18:2, 7-8, 10, 12-13
But to the wicked God says:
"What right have you to declare My statutes,
Or take My covenant in your mouth,
Seeing you hate instruction
And cast My words behind you?
When you saw a thief, you consented with him,
And have been a partaker with adulterers.
You give your mouth to evil,
And your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your brother;
You slander your own mother's son.
These things you have done, and I kept silent;
You thought that I was altogether like you;
But I will rebuke you,
And set them in order before your eyes.
Now consider this, you who forget God,
Lest I tear you in pieces,
And there be none to deliver:
Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God."
- Psalm 50:16-23
Turning Evil Into Good
When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him." So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, "Before your father died he commanded, saying, Thus you shall say to Joseph: "I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you." Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father." And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. ... Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. - Genesis 50:15-17, 19-21
Joseph's brothers were still afraid that he might take revenge for the evil things they had done to him many years earlier, but Joseph never did. Instead, his strong faith shines through once again. He knew God used all of those things for good.
Question to Ponder: Do you trust that God takes things meant for evil and turns them into something good?
David Praises the Lord, Part 4 of 5
"For You are my lamp, O Lord;
The Lord shall enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?
God is my strength and power,
And He makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer,
And sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to make war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze."
- 2 Samuel 22:29-35
A Prophecy of Jesus, Part 1 of 2
For every warrior's sandal from the noisy battle,
And garments rolled in blood,
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
- Isaiah 9:5-7
As this prophecy concludes, we learn more about how this Savior will come to us. Isaiah writes that He will be born unto us and He will be our just judge. Isaiah also lists some of the names by which He will be known, including Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Best of all, His kingdom will never come to an end!
The Parable of the Sower
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth. ... And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. ... "Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." - Matthew 13:3-5a, 7, 18-23
Question to Ponder: Which type of seed is most like you?
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:10-13
Philippians 4:13, the last verse of this passage, is one of the more well-known verses in the Bible. Indeed, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength! But, we rarely read it in context with the rest of this passage. Once he was converted into a Christian, Paul experienced a great deal of suffering in his life. Sometimes he had enough to eat; other times he was hungry. Sometimes he was treated well; other times he was persecuted. But in all of those things, Paul was able to find contentment. How? He trusted Jesus completely, and knew that God would always take care of him, no matter what.
Question to Ponder: Do you find complete contentment in Jesus Christ?
The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness,
But who can bear a broken spirit?
The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge,
And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
And obtains favor from the Lord.
The poor man uses entreaties,
But the rich answers roughly.
A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
- Proverbs 18:14-15, 21-24
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight--
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
- Psalm 51:1-4, 10-12
Joseph's Story Concludes
And Joseph said to his brethren, "I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here." So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt. - Genesis 50:24-26
This is the conclusion of Joseph's story, which we have been looking at for about the last six months. There are so many things that we can learn from the way in which Joseph lived his life and trusted God, even during the most difficult times. Here, we see that he continues to trust God completely, even on his deathbed. He knew that God would deliver the Israelites to freedom from the Egyptians and take them into the land which He had promised to them. Joseph truly lived a life of faith, trusting God completely, no matter what. We can all learn from his example.
Question to Ponder: How strong is your faith and trust in God?
David Praises the Lord, Part 5 of 5
"You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your gentleness has made me great.
You enlarged my path under me;
So my feet did not slip.
The Lord lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let God be exalted,
The Rock of my salvation!
It is God who avenges me,
And subdues the peoples under me;
He delivers me from my enemies.
You also lift me up above those who rise against me;
You have delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles,
And sing praises to Your name.
He is the tower of salvation to His king,
And shows mercy to His anointed,
To David and his descendants forevermore."
- 2 Samuel 22:36-37, 47-51
Idols and Arrogance
As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols,
Whose carved images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
As I have done to Samaria and her idols,
Shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols?"
Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, "I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks."
For he says:
"By the strength of my hand I have done it,
And by my wisdom, for I am prudent;
Also I have removed the boundaries of the people,
And have robbed their treasuries;
So I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man."
Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it?
Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it?
As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up,
Or as if a staff could lift up, as if it were not wood!
- Isaiah 10:10-13, 15
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." - Matthew 13:31-32
A mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, yet it ultimately grows to become a tree. Similarly, God can use the tiniest little things to bring glory and honor to His Kingdom and to lead more people to Him. God wants us to surrender whatever we may have unto Him, even if that isn't much. Remember, we serve the same Jesus who once fed thousands of people after starting out with just five loaves of bread and two fish, and the same Jesus who had great respect for the widow who could only give one small coin. You may not have much money to give Him, or you may be physically unable to do many things for Him. But He only asks you to give what you have, and He can take something that seems small to us and do great things with it!
Question to Ponder: Do you give what Jesus asks you to give, even if it seems small and insignificant to you?
A Spirit of Giving
Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. - Philippians 4:14-20
As he begins to wrap up his letter to the people of Philipi, Paul thanks the people there for giving to him and helping him out when he needed it. He didn't seek out the help, but he was very thankful for it. And in return, he tells them that God will supply all their needs. The same is true for us--if we give to God as we are called to do, he will always take care of us in return. You can't out-give God!
Question to Ponder: Do you give as much back to God as He calls you to do?