Archive

Archive for the ‘Daily Devotions’ Category

The Surpassing Greatness of His Power

January 16th, 2019

The surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. (Ephesians 1:19)

It is the nature of a thing that in the end will determine its acts. We distinguish between tameable and untameable animals along these very lines, that the untameable may eventually turn on their host, no matter how kindly they have been treated.

With God, however, the opposite nature predominates, that His kindness, His love, His compassion brought about the cross of Christ. Just as His holiness demanded a payment be made for sin, so His love demanded that He Himself make the payment. But love and holiness are not the only eternal attributes of the Creator. There is also the undeniable and inseparable attribute of power that cannot be restrained.

God is neither eternal holiness that is locked up and incapable of executing justice on the sinner, nor is He eternal love that is shut away in an eternal heart unable to express its dearest and most deeply held affections. Patience does not equal weakness or the inability to act on the part of God. And while we wait for the culmination of the age, the righting of all that is wrong, the total fulfilment of His promises to us, God does not sit idly by twiddling His eternal thumbs, so to speak.

He acts. He acts with the power that is uniquely His – the very power that raised Christ from the grave, that breathed life into the dead and lifeless body of Jesus of Nazareth as it lay in a tomb just outside of Jerusalem.  The power that ushered universe into existence, that spoke and it was done, now expresses this divine and measureless love toward those who believe. His power as He directs it toward us is described in different ways.

In Ephesians 3:7 Paul wrote of the “effectual working of His power,” emphasising the efficiency of God’s power in achieving His purposes. Philippians 3:21 stresses the overcoming nature of God’s power who is able “subdue all things to Himself.” In Colossians 1:28-29 Paul stressed the inward working of God in our hearts and lives as he wrote saying:

We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me.

There are several different Greek words that are used for this idea of power, but they all support the biblical idea that God’s power is “inherent power.” This means that the power derives from God Himself, as there is no one greater than He who could bestow it upon Him. To know God is to know divine power, power that is efficient, effectual, overcoming, and inward working.

Surpassing greatness

The meaning here is power that goes beyond our expectations. “Over throw” is the literal meaning of the word huperballo, and means to excel, to transcend, to overachieve, to exceed. It means that the exercise of God’s power is constantly surprising. It is greatness that we are constantly unable to grasp or always anticipate. In dealing with God and His Spirit we are very much like a man holding a live electric wire in his hand uncertain of the amount of kilowatts or what it will do to the things it touches.

Does this comfort, surprise, threaten, or confuse you? Or does it do all of these things and more to you? Many of the promises of God are clear enough for us to grasp, concepts such as redemption, pardoning, forgiveness, regeneration, etc. But their extent is unknown to us. A Christian is like a man starting a journey knowing only the destination, but entirely unsure of the valleys he will descend into, the mountains he will ascend up to, the deserts he will cross, or the vistas he will view, or even the company he will keep, but we can be sure that through it all the overcoming, efficient, and inward working power of God will be there for us.

To us who believe

The words here do not yet explain the working of God within us – the inward working nature of God’s power is stressed in many other places of scripture. Here, however, the emphasis is upon the intent of God to direct His power toward those who believe. It takes God’s power in order for us to believe – His Spiritual power that convicts us of sin, and convinces us that Christ is the solution to our sin, and stresses the urgency of this matter of faith  (John 16:8-11). Yet faith also invites more of God’s power to be at work in our lives.

Later in Ephesians Paul will speak of “the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). So the power of God is not merely an outgoing reality for the Christian, but in His power He alters our very nature. We become new people in Christ by the power of God. In Romans he wrote: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him” (Rom. 6:8).

Let this be enough for today, the awareness that God’s limitless and unchainable power is directed toward us who believe. So many people I have met do not understand this. They still look at faith like they are drinking water, and they thirst again immediately afterward. They keep asking for salvation because they do not understand the power of God. Christ spoke of the living water He provides that will really satisfy our hearts (John 4:14). God raises us with His limitless power and transforms us inwardly and eternally.

Daily Devotions, Ephesians

Repentance and Recovery

January 2nd, 2019

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long? (Psalm 6:1-3 ESV)

Repentance is a gift of God. We are tempted, I believe, to look at repentance negatively, when we should look at it as one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. The Jewish Christians in the New Testament rejoiced when they heard of Gentile conversions and said, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). When we read a psalm like this, we are seeing the evidence of God’s gift to us of repentance, that leads to blessings.

The inner awareness that we need to repent speaks to our credit, that we feel shame and guilt when we have sinned, knowing that we were made for something better. The one who has aspired to do right, to be responsible and compassionate, when he has failed, and when he has the courage to cry out to God in honest humility of heart, that is an admirable human being. Repentance as the Bible describes it involves (a) inner regret, (b) turning from evil, and (c) turning to God in faith.

Repentance and Grace

David repented before the Lord and found God’s forgiveness. He turned from sin and turned toward the Lord. The first part of this psalm recorded his prayer of repentance, and the last part David expressed the assurance that God had heard his prayer and forgiven him: “For the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer” (Psa. 6:8b-9). 

David cried out, “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psa. 6:4). And in the turning of the sinner to God was the assurance of God’s turning toward the sinner with grace and forgiveness. Through the prophet Zechariah God said to the nation: ” Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you” (Zech. 1:3). The rebuke and the discipline of the Lord was intended not for the sheer punishment of sin, but so that the person might turn from sin and turn to the Lord.

These two always go together if God is the One who has brought conviction. The Lord never puts upon us the awareness of our sin without also assuring us of the availability of His grace and forgiveness. No matter how grave the sin, the Lord constantly invites us to come to Him for cleansing and forgiveness.

“Happy repenting” doesn’t sound right, because the act of repenting is not one filled with happiness, but rather regret. But repenting the way God intended us to has actually a very joyful outcome – assurance of forgiveness and restoration into a healthy relationship with Him. The Christian life is one of constant repenting and thereby constant receiving and enjoying the grace and forgiveness of God. His grace far outweighs our sin, and His comfort far outweighs our shame. The joy of the Lord comes upon our turning to Him in repentance and faith.

How long?

David’s words reveal the agony of his soul that in mid-thought – bouncing from his sin, his physical languishing, and pain of his bones – he suddenly interjects these words: “How long?” Some translators have sought to make them read more smoothly and have added something to try and interpret them, such as “How long until you restore me?” (NLT). But in the original they stand out as a sudden cry from David’s heart.

The most common question in all the word of God is “How long, O God?” (Psalm 13:1; 89:46; Rev. 6:10, for examples). How long must we endure our own sinfulness, our fallenness and impurities? We long for eternal life, for changed hearts that are purified by God’s power. We long to see an end to suffering and injustice, as well as unbelief and evil. We long to see the new person – incorruptible bodies and perfected spirits that are completely sanctified.

I have personally discovered something redemptive and worshipful in praying this question to God. I believe God has left these desires for perfection in our hearts and as we cry out to God we are expressing His work within us. God put this desire in our hearts and we are revealing in this prayer a new nature and a new set of desires as new creations in Him. The answer eludes us, of course, other than to say:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)

And Christ adds the assurance, “Surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). The repenting soul has the assurance of God’s grace and the comfort of His Spirit.

______________________________

The New Testament Greek had a certain word that was translated “repent” – metanoeo – and it was a technical word which meant a change of heart. The Old Testament repeatedly called for Israel to repent, but the Hebrew did not have a specific technical word for repentance, rather the understanding of it was based on the context. Most often the word was “turn” – shub – and commonly used to turn from sin and turn to God. The word naham was also used to describe the inner regret that accompanies repentance: Job used this word when he said, “I … repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Unlike metanoeo these were, however, common words and the majority of times these two words were used in the Old Testament they were not about a faith experience, rather it was the context that determined their spiritual meaning.

Therefore repenting in the Old Testament had three human components: (1) to feel regret for one’s actions, (2) to turn away from sin and unholiness, and (3) to turn to the Lord. The one who did so could be assured that God would turn toward Him in forgiveness and cleansing, soothing the pain of discipline and the shame of the sin that accompanied regret.

Daily Devotions, Psalms