Today in the Word is a daily audio devotional available via podcast. Today in the Word features solid biblical content and study that models the mission and values of Moody Bible Institute.
Too often when we wrong another person, we offer an easy “I’m sorry” with no intent to change. True repentance, however, involves a complete 180-degree change in thought, attitude, and action. Truly repentant people turn their backs on sin and turn toward God’s forgiveness. In chapter 3, we learn most of John the Baptist’s story, with many details unique to the book of Luke. He began by placing John in the greater historical context. A precise recording of these details mattered to Luke, the researcher. He cited Isaiah’s prophesy to bolster his claim that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (vv. 4–6). In the style of an Old Testament prophet, John preached a call to repentance for the forgiveness of sin. But this repentance was not an abstract concept or an easy “I’m sorry.” The repentance John preached resulted in a deeply altered life. As people came to him to be baptized, John hammered home the argument that—in the face of impending judgment—the people could not rely on their ancestry (vv. 8–9). This point seemed to sting, for the people began asking, “What should we do?” (v. 10). To the crowd, the tax collectors, and the soldiers, John’s response was the same: Repent. Change your ways. Be generous. Be fair. Be content. As the people experienced John’s powerful ministry, many wondered if John was the Messiah (v. 15). But John made a clear distinction between his baptism and the baptism that Jesus would bring. This was the preparatory ministry for which John was born. John’s story ends with two summarized accounts: (1) his imprisonment by Herod and (2) Jesus’ baptism and endorsement by the Father. The most public portion of John’s ministry had concluded, and Jesus would now take center stage. >> Repentance is serious, life- changing business. Reflect on your own experience of repentance and forgiveness. When did you have a 180-degree life change? Of what do you need to repent even right now?
Our children both came to our family through arduous adoption journeys. The Sunday when we finally stood before our church family and dedicated them to the Lord was a most joyous day! Imagine how Joseph and Mary felt when they took baby Jesus to the Temple to dedicate him into the Lord’s service. In the Temple courts, they met Simeon who was “righteous and devout” (v. 25). Under the leading of the Holy Spirit, Simeon had been actively watching for the Christ. He believed that God would keep His promise to send a Savior, and it seems he recognized Jesus immediately. Holding the baby in his arms, Simeon delivered his own hymn of praise—the fourth psalm in the book of Luke. Simeon’s song is called the Nunc Dimittus (Latin for “now let depart”), and in his first stanza, he gave glory to the Sovereign Lord for fulfilling His promise. Having seen God’s salvation, Simeon declared his readiness to leave this life in peace. Simeon called Jesus a “light” for all nations—a theme used repeatedly in Luke. Simeon also called Jesus “a glory” to Israel and a “revelation to the Gentiles” (v. 32). His Salvation would come through God’s chosen people and would extend to all nations. But Simeon’s song also included somber notes. While Mary and Joseph marveled at the message, Simeon turned directly to Mary and prophesied the opposition Jesus would face that would cause personal pain for His mother. Also present in the Temple was an elderly prophetess, Anna (v. 36). Widowed when she was young, she had dedicated her life to the ministry of intercession. Luke does not record her exact words, but we know she thanked God for Jesus and testified about Him to all who would listen. >> Simeon and Anna were faithful servants who followed God into their old age. Thank God for any older disciples who have provided a model for you to follow.
Traditionally, when a new royal is born in England, the House Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury attend the birth. A framed birth announcement is placed on a golden easel outside of Buckingham Palace, and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery sound a 41-gun salute. Around the globe, noble births have been celebrated with great ceremony. The birth of Jesus in Luke 2 presents a fascinating contradiction between the lowly and the lavish. Joseph and the pregnant Mary traveled to Bethlehem to register as taxpayers. Mary probably did not have to make the trip, but her desire to be with Joseph when she gave birth may have compelled her to go. When they arrived, the town was crowded because of the census, and they could not find an inn with a vacancy. They took shelter, instead, in a stable or cave. The birth account is brief and direct: “She gave birth to her firstborn, a son” (v. 7). The modest nature of Jesus’ arrival was highlighted when Mary placed the baby in a manger. But if the circumstances of Jesus’ birth were lowly, the announcement was anything but. This is the third angelic visit included in the book of Luke. This time the immediate audience was a band of shepherds, but the good news was intended for all people. The angel used distinct titles to describe this baby. “Savior” reflected Jesus’ mission to deliver His people. “Messiah” meant anointed or promised one. And “Lord” revealed His authority over sin, evil, and death (v. 11). Suddenly, an entire choir of angels filled the sky, glorifying God. When the angels left, the shepherds hurried to find the babe, and—upon meeting Him—they too could not contain their joy. They spread the news, and everyone who heard their testimony was amazed. >> Christmas records the First Advent or coming of Jesus. As we look to the Second Advent, the coming again of our Savior, may our response be renewed joy and a desire to share it with others.
We are never too old to learn more about God, and never so mature in faith that we cannot grow. In Luke 1, we see how Zechariah, an older priest, emerged from nine months of silence even more deeply devoted to God. When Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth gave birth, the entire community rejoiced, recognizing this child as a miraculous gift of God. On the eighth day, the family brought him to be circumcised. Tradition called for a family name to be given, maybe “Zechariah,” based on the miraculous events of the birth. However, Elizabeth proclaimed him “John” (v. 60). Those gathered expressed their collective shock. No one in the family was named John. But this name was an act of obedience to which both Elizabeth and Zechariah were committed. They sought verification from Zechariah, using a form of sign language. Apparently, in addition to being mute, Zechariah was also deaf. He further surprised the people with his written message: “His name is John” (v. 63). Then came miracle part two: Zechariah’s tongue was set loose, and he praised God. Word of John’s extraordinary birth spread quickly throughout the entire region (v. 65). Even as a newborn babe, John was drawing people’s attention toward the new work of God. Zechariah’s hymn (Benedictus) is the second psalm recorded in the book of Luke (vv. 68–79). It flowed from an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. While Mary’s song focused on God’s work in the past, Zechariah’s looked ahead at the ministry of both John and Jesus and what God’s salvation would accomplish. The God of Israel had remembered His people. He would rescue them from their enemies and redeem them from their sin. He finished his song with the promise of peace. >> Luke records the beautiful words of praise from both Mary and Zechariah. Today, offer your own expression of praise for the salvation you have been given through the work of God’s Son.
A friend of mine recently signed up for an overseas mission trip. During the training, she was excited to participate with her team. But as the departure date approached, her anxiety grew until she wondered if she could even make the trip. It’s one thing to accept God’s call on your life. It can be another thing to walk it out. Mary wasted no time in following the angel’s lead. She put feet to her faith and traveled for three days (80–100 miles) to visit her cousin Elizabeth and confirm Gabriel’s news. The meeting of these two mothers was a monumental event. Both women were experiencing miraculous pregnancies with eternal implications. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s first “hello” and the baby John kicked in her womb, he was already pointing the way to Jesus. Elizabeth’s loud exclamation was not a result of her own emotion alone. It was directed by the Holy Spirit and full of humility. Her posture toward Mary foreshadowed her son’s ministry as he pointed to Jesus. Elizabeth overflowed with joy and awe. She graciously blessed Mary and expressed her honor at being a part of God’s new work. Mary then voiced her psalm of thanksgiving. Verses 46 to 55, called the Magnificat, are rich in theology. The first half contains Mary’s praise for God’s blessing to her. Like Elizabeth, she expressed humility and honor at being chosen by God. Then Mary pronounced a general praise to God for His actions and His character, demonstrated to all people throughout time. She worshiped God for His eternal mercy and sovereign power—a power that defied human hierarchies. He had dethroned proud earthly rulers, elevated the humble, and provided for His people. >> In both Elizabeth and Mary, we find examples of how to respond to God’s call on our life—even when that call might come with hardship and cause us fear. May we, too, put feet to our faith and humbly praise the God who continues to call.
Sometimes God calls unlikely people to do an extraordinary work. In today’s passage, Luke records a second birth announcement by the angel Gabriel, But this announcement has distinct differences from the previous one. Again, Luke was the only Gospel writer to nclude this account. In contrast to John’s birth announcement, this angelic message was delivered in a humble Galilean village to a young woman with no credentials. Luke describes Mary as a virgin, “pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David” (v. 27). The angel Gabriel says that Mary has “found favor with God” (v. 30). Mary was chosen not because of her own merit but through an outpouring of God’s grace. Like Zechariah, Mary reacted with fear. But Gabriel responded with assurance and immediately delivered incredible news. Mary would give birth to a son, and—although this announcement echoes other birth announcements in the Old Testament (Genesis 16; Judges 13)—this baby’s importance would be unparalleled. Jesus’ greatness was superior to John’s. This child would be the “Son of the Most High” (v. 32) and would sit on the throne of David. This description underscores the fact that Israel would remain at the center of the redemption story. Mary’s “how will this be” question was not met with consequences like Zechariah’s question. Gabriel responded with further reassurance of God’s sovereignty. Gabriel even gave Mary additional evidence in the form of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and finished with a grand statement of God’s transcendent power. “For no word from God will ever fail” (v. 37). Despite the trials that would undoubtedly come with this assignment, Mary answered with complete willingness to obey and allow God to work as He will. When God calls us, He also equips us. He provides His presence and His power. May we respond with the same willing obedience we see in Mary, despite our weaknesses and the obstacles that we will inevitably face.
The Gospel of Luke was crafted with great care. The author begins by explaining how and why he wrote. Luke had done careful research. Almost 30 percent of his content is unique, not presented in the other gospel accounts. You’ll also find that Luke documented Jesus’ life in an “orderly” way—not always chronologically, sometimes topically or logically. Luke addresses a man named Theophilus, likely a Gentile convert, to strengthen Theophilus’s faith, to assure him that “the things you have been taught” were true (v. 4). Luke begins his record with a priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. They were “righteous in the sight of God” (v. 6). Elizabeth was barren, and they were both old. But as with previous pregnancies of formerly- barren women (Sarai, Genesis 15; Rebekah, Genesis 25; Rachel, Genesis 30; Hannah, 1 Samuel 1–2), this conception was an act of God. The angel Gabriel came to Zechariah at a pivotal moment in his priestly career. This was likely the only time that Zechariah would have been chosen by lot to place the incense on the altar. This was a holy time of offering, a moment to recognize the human need for cleansing. When the angel appeared, Zechariah understandably responded with terror. The angel made a clear and joyful announcement of the coming miraculous birth. This child had been chosen by God for a special work. He would turn people’s attention back to God and prepare them for salvation. When Zechariah questioned the announcement, the angel rendered him mute. But when Elizabeth did become pregnant, she gave glory to God. “The Lord has done this for me” (v. 25). While her baby’s ministry would be very public, the blessing of his birth was also personal. >> May God use this study to strengthen your faith. As we reflect on Luke’s Gospel, we will be assured once again that the “things [we] have been taught” are true!
Have you ever been a part of a large gathering of believers singing praise to God? Every February in Chicago, the Moody Bible Institute hosts a free Bible conference called Founder’s Week. When God’s Word is preached and hundreds of voices sing in unison, I think that I am experiencing a very small glimpse of what heaven must be like. But even this experience pales in comparison to what John describes in Revelation 5. Jesus the slain Lamb appears, the only One worthy to open the scroll. A small chorus of the four living creatures and twenty-four elders began to sing His praise (vv. 8–10). John then saw “ten thousand times ten thousand” angels join this miraculous chorus. They encircled the throne of Jesus, as well as the living creatures and elders. This spectacular sight added to the worthiness of why Jesus alone could open the scroll and its significance (vv. 11–12). Finally, John tells us it will be our turn! You and I will one day join this astounding chorus, “every creature in heaven and on earth” (v. 13). And this is just the beginning. Together, we will worship Him through all eternity. Even though this is the end of our study of “one another” in the Bible, Revelation 5 reminds us that we will be worshiping as one forever and ever! Being united in worship is a powerful experience, and we must never forget that Jesus is the only One who can ultimately bring us together. Worshiping our King together is a gift, and one that we will not only enjoy in eternity but can also experience today. >> In today’s modern worship services, with dimmed lights and amplified music, it can be easy to fall into the role of observer. But God takes pleasure in our worship, and each of us are called to participate. This coming Sunday make an effort to sing along with fellow believers, worshiping our King!
What exactly do we mean by “fellowship”? Maybe your church thinks of “fellowship” as a time of gathering around coffee and donuts before or after Sunday worship. Or, you might fellowship with other believers at a Bible study in someone’s home. But fellowship for the early church meant even more. One scholar explains, “Christian fellowship is not the sentimental and superficial attachment of a random collection of individuals, but the profoundly mutual relationship of those who remain in Christ, and therefore belong to each other.” In other words, fellowship is not an easy task! It requires time and commitment. And it cannot truly happen outside of Christ. Out of all the people in the Bible, the apostle John would have known what true fellowship was like. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle and experienced fellowship with Jesus and the other disciples that changed his life forever. In today’s passage, he reminds his readers that it is impossible to have fellowship with Jesus and continually live in sin. When we remain in our sinful living, we are not living out the truth of the gospel (v. 6). Instead, John says that when we are unashamedly Christian and live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel, not only do we have fellowship with Jesus but also have fellowship with one another (v. 7). John knows that every person is on a journey to “walking in the light,” so he assures his readers that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross purifies us from every sin that trips us up (v. 7). This removes the pressure and anxiety of having to be perfect, and instead helps us rely on the love and grace from God and on one another. >> Are there sins in your life that are keeping you away from fellowship with one another? If so, confess those sins to God, so you can start on a path to reconnecting with your brother and sister in Christ, as well as with God.
Do you remember the day you met your spouse or best friend? Who spoke to whom first? What impression did that person make on you? You probably never expected that first encounter to develop into something lasting. A friendly greeting can be the start of an enduring relationship. Things weren’t always so friendly in the early church. It was experiencing tensions between Jewish and Gentile believers. Today’s churches have similar conflicts based on political, social, and theological issues. Jesus and the New Testament writers emphasized the importance of loving one another and accepting one another, even those who come from different backgrounds. At the close of New Testament letters to the early church, you’ll often see this reminder: “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16). The instruction is repeated frequently (see 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14) and typically followed by a plea not to let divisions exist within God’s family. “Watch out for those who cause divisions” (v. 17). In that culture, greeting one another with a kiss on the cheek was a symbol of acceptance and friendship, reinforcing the idea that everyone was included and important. The greeting was not only a cultural norm but also a way of expressing genuine Christian love. Demonstrating love toward one another enables believers to live in peace for all who are in Christ. While in today’s culture we might not greet one another with an actual kiss, we can show acceptance and love toward one another by being purposeful and loving in our greetings. With a friendly smile, direct eye contact, and kind words, we can make one another feel loved and welcomed, regardless of our differences. >. We may not exchange a kiss as a greeting today, but we do have ways that make others feel welcomed. Consider the ways your church welcomes visitors. What can you, personally, do to extend the love of Christ to others?
Augustine said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” Perhaps he penned this after reading 1 Peter 5. In the final portion of his letter, Peter reaches out to the elders and then to those under their care. Our passage today picks up in verse five of chapter five as he exhorts believers, most likely the majority who were younger, to submit themselves to their elders. Specifically, Peter calls younger believers to clothe themselves with humility toward one another. Perhaps as Peter is writing these words, he is reminded of Jesus’ example at the Last Supper (John 13). Typically, it was the servant who was supposed to wash the feet of the guests, but instead, Jesus clothed Himself in this manner, tying a towel around His waist. Peter also refers to Proverbs 3:34 as a reminder to his primarily Jewish readers that “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble” (v. 5). Just as pride broke the relationship between God and Satan, as well as between God and humanity, it can break relationships between people. He reiterates in verse 6 for believers to humble themselves. Peter realized that humility is a sacrifice and may cause anxiety and stress. The act of thinking about and giving oneself to one another in humility can be costly. But God’s hand is mighty. He is more than able to lift us up at just the right time (v. 6). All our anxieties and concerns can be put on Him because He cares. So, as we care and serve others in humility, we need to be reminded that God cares and loves us more than we will ever know. >> It is sometimes difficult to think about how to be humble, but we all know what it means to act in pride, putting ourselves and our own desires above others. Today, make it your prayer to act in humility and not in pride, following the example of Jesus.
My wife and I love to host college students at our home. At least once a month, we try to invite students over for a meal, games, or movie night. Really, my wife deserves most of the credit. She will spend all week in preparation for the few short hours we get to spend with the students because she wants them to feel welcome and loved. She has the gift of hospitality. In today’s passage, Peter reminds us that even if you don’t have the spiritual gift of hospitality, you still need to strive to be hospitable toward one another. The mentioning of judgment in verses 5–6 reminded Peter that the end is near (v. 7). Believers are to love one another deeply, or earnestly (v. 8). In other words, with every fiber of their being, like an athlete who uses every muscle to win, we are to love one another. Peter’s mind immediately then goes to hospitality. In this verse, hospitality literally means “lover of strangers” (v. 9). This love of strangers was extremely important in the first century because travelers such as letter carriers, pastors, teachers, and missionaries relied heavily on the hospitality of strangers. When people came to faith, families split, or believers needed somewhere safe to stay, they relied on one another. Hotels were few, and followers of Jesus were often scrutinized and persecuted for their faith. Peter says to use either serving gifts (v. 10) or speaking gifts (v. 11) to further love one another. Regardless of the gift or the action, the result ought to be the same: that God may be praised and glorified (v. 11). >> Consider how you can be hospitable to someone today, this week, or maybe this month. Who could you welcome into your home? Who could you gift with comfort or help? Pray for the right person and the right opportunity.
Billy Graham once admitted, “The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’” The late evangelist was echoing the sentiments that James talks about in chapter 5. Everybody suffers and everyone needs prayer. But James also builds to the truth that the effective prayer of a righteous person has tremendous power. He begins by stating that if anyone is in trouble, which can mean suffering in difficult circumstances, let him pray (v. 13). He then says that if anyone is happy, let him sing songs, which is a way of singing one’s prayers (v. 13). Next, he casts the net to anyone who is sick (v. 14). Sick can mean physically sick, but it can also mean spiritually, ethically, emotionally, or morally weak. Whatever the ailment, they were to be prayed over and forgiven (vv. 14–15). James adds that when it comes to forgiveness, there may be times when we need to confess our sins to one another. Not merely to gossip, but so healing and long- term accountability and healing can take place (v. 16). James concludes this paragraph with his Big Idea, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (v. 16). When men and women are walking closely with God, their prayer is intensified. James uses the example of Elijah who prayed for rain to restore Israel from idolatry (1 Kings 18:37). When God’s Word is on your heart and mind, it will also be in your prayers, so make sure your prayers are soaked in Scripture. Look for opportunities to pray for and over people. It might just be the remedy they need. >> Your greatest superpower is prayer. So, make sure you are using it daily. It has the power to help people in their darkest times and keep them going when they are down.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Today in the Word! We are thankful for you. Most of us look forward to a special dinner with our loved ones, but it can sometimes be stressful. Tensions flare when a sensitive subject is discussed. Instead of thankful and positive words, the holiday gathering can dissolve into disagreement. James, the half-brother of Jesus, would have been present at the dinner table with his half-brother, Jesus. Here James writes to the church (“brothers and sisters”), challenging them to consider their words toward one another (v. 11). The word for “slander” suggests complaining to others to destroy a person’s reputation. James had been guilty of doing that toward Jesus. We don’t know if it was James specifically mocking Jesus in John 7:1–4, but he was present and agreed with what was being said. Years after his conversion to Christ, James became a new man with a new plan. Instead of speaking evil against Jesus, he became Jesus’ biggest advocate. James also taught a great deal about the power of words (see James 3:3–12), and in chapter 4 he focuses on the way we use words against those within the family of Christ. In chapter 3, verse 10, he wrote, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been in made in God’s likeness....My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” In chapter 4, James says that when we speak “against a brother or sister” we speak against the law (v. 11). Which law? Here he refers to Christ’s command to love one another (Matt. 22:39). We are not to speak to one another or about one another in anger, but to submit ourselves first to God and to the law of love. >> Today as you celebrate Thanksgiving, consider the power of your words. Make it your goal to use your words to say something positive and life-giving to each person in your family.
Many people claim to have a relationship with Jesus but don’t think going to church is necessary. Some think, “Can’t I just listen to Christian radio, sermon podcasts, or watch online instead of attending worship services weekly?” This is selfish and prideful thinking. Meeting together regularly is never about us, it’s about the community of believers. In today’s passage, the author of Hebrews inspires and strengthens the readers for their regular sacrifice of gathering in worship. The author begins by grounding the importance of meeting together in what Jesus has already done for them. The Savior made a way through His death for sinners to be in God the Father’s presence. Jesus’ death made it possible for us to enter God’s throne room, too (vv. 19–21). Sinners can draw near to God because their sin has been washed away by the power of Christ’s atonement (v. 22). As a result, the author urges believers to encourage one another toward love and good deeds. The author inspires them to continually meet together and make this part of their regular practice and routine (vv. 24–25). However, the author knows it is easy to fall out of a routine. Therefore, he advises the readers to encourage one another to attend. When believers meet regularly, they are not only sharpened by one another, but the hope they profess is not forgotten (v. 23). It can be easy to “give up” on church. It takes a lot of sacrifice, courage, and humility to be an active part of a group of people who are different from you. Rest assured, you will never find a perfect church, but when you find a healthy church and you are committed to serving, you will never find anything more rewarding. >> Make a commitment to yourself and God to attend church every Sunday this holiday season. If that is not a stretch for you, make a fresh commitment to serve in a way you do not normally do.
As you spend time with your family this Thanksgiving, perhaps you will play a board game. But have you ever played a new game without reading all the instructions? I know I have, and it never turns out well for anyone. We are all left frustrated and confused, irritated and on edge. When someone does read the instructions and explains them to the group, everything is a lot more peaceful and quieter. Paul wraps up his first letter to the Thessalonians by giving some final instructions, and it is important that we read ALL of them. Here, like in several other letters to churches, he emphasizes the group over the individual. The first component is to simply “acknowledge” those who serve (v. 12). Sadly, many church workers are easily overlooked. While everyone knows the preacher or the musicians, there are many others in the church whose work goes unrecognized. Paul wants his readers to “hold them in the highest regard” because of the work they do on behalf of the church (v. 13). They are not seeking praise, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t show them appreciation. Paul urges the body to come to one another’s aid when people become idle or tired (v. 14). Believers shouldn’t condemn one another with a critical spirit and harsh tongue, nor should they merely give half-thought suggestions. Rather, Paul implores believers to give serious advice with a comforting tone and patient heart (v. 14). His final piece of corporate advice to the body is for them not to seek revenge. Instead, believers are to “always strive to do what is good for each other” (v. 15). Churches will find peace when people are appreciated, selfishness is abandoned, and servanthood is adopted. >> After reading all of Paul’s final instructions to the Thessalonians, which one hits home with you? How can you put into practice Paul’s teaching and training?
I am becoming completely dependent on the Maps app on my phone. If my GPS failed to alert me when to turn, I would be constantly lost. Driving in any city can be a headache but knowing that my route has been mapped out makes it a little easier and less stressful. At first the Thessalonians thought they might have missed Christ’s return. Paul acted as their GPS and wrote them a letter informing them they hadn’t missed a thing. So, every day they woke up wondering if today would be THE day. They also questioned what would happen to those who died before Christ’s return. Would they see them again, or would they be gone forever? Again, Paul informs them that those who have died (that is, fallen asleep) will return with Jesus at His returning (v. 14). Many refer to this as the Rapture (v. 16). He says this event will be initiated by a loud command and a trumpet call of God, probably something like his experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3–7). Then, after an earth-shattering noise, those who are still alive will be “caught up” in the air with those who have already died. The verb caught up means to be carried off by an undeniable force. The word translated into Latin is rapturus, from which we get our English word Rapture. You can imagine that as the Thessalonians read this for the first time, they were overwhelmed with excitement. They could hardly contain themselves at the idea of being reunited with one another and, more importantly, with Christ. Make sure you are anticipating the things that really matter and encourage others to anticipate Christ’s return together (v. 18). >> Do you know someone who needs to be comforted with the good news of the Second Coming of Christ? Encourage them! Remind them of the promise of spending eternity with Jesus and with those who have gone before us.
Have you ever found yourself humming, whistling, or even singing a worship song or hymn you recently heard in church? Music is powerful because it is memorable. It can also be a powerful teaching tool to share God’s truth. In today’s divided world, which continues to get more and more fiery, believers can use Bible-inspired music to share the peace and hope we have in Christ. This is not a new idea. In writing to the church at Colossae, Paul urged the believers to pass on God’s peace and to admonish one another through the music and the arts. The word “admonish” is difficult to translate directly from the original language, but most scholars translate it as counsel or instruct. Beginning in verse fifteen, Paul urges this body of believers to be characterized by peacefulness and thankfulness. These characteristics were to rule in their hearts and be present on their lips. As a result of Christ taking up a permanent residence in their lives, believers were able to “teach and admonish” one another (v. 16). Paul makes it clear that the teaching and counseling of the church should not rest solely on the pastor’s shoulders. Every member has the responsibility to instruct and inform one another, based of course on godly wisdom. One of the main ways Paul suggests that we teach and admonish one another is through sharing music or poetry. We are to do so out of a heart of gratitude, not out of an ulterior or selfish motive. Whatever we do, especially when it comes to teaching and instructing our fellow believers, we do so humbly and in the name of Jesus (v. 17). >> As you attend your local church this Sunday, take a moment to express your appreciation to the musicians or worship leaders. We are so thankful for those who use their musical gifts to bless and encourage us. Then, consider sharing one of your favorite psalms, hymn, or Christian songs on social media.
What did you put on this morning? Since it is a Saturday, perhaps you were able to wear your comfortable jeans and a sweatshirt. In today’s reading, the apostle Paul continues the idea of “putting on” or “clothing” oneself with attributes that help believers live in unity with one another (v. 12). Paul reminds believers that we are God’s special people, set apart and loved by God. How we choose to live and interact with one another should spring from our identity in Jesus Christ. Paul transitions in the next verse to an area that many Christians struggle with and that is less frequently addressed: forgiveness. Paul encourages believers to forgive one another for any grievance. Many times, though, believers hold unforgiveness in their lives because they have not properly identified the grievances they have against one another. The word Paul uses for grievance can also be thought of as a complaint against someone, a quarrel, or our tendency to place blame. It may be easier for us to identify the larger sins that require forgiveness (for example, drunkenness, slander, etc.), but we have all been guilty of complaints and grievances. We excuse it as “giving much needed advice.” Often this advice is actually a criticism or quarrel that has yet to surface. However, when we can properly identify our objections toward one another, we are then able to forgive as the Lord forgave us (v. 13). Paul saves the best for last and shares the “not so secret” secret that binds the perfect unity of one another: love. Out of all the virtues you can “put on,” love is the most important (v. 14). The love of Christ ties everything and everyone together. >> Have you been hanging on to any grievances or complaints toward= another believer? Paul’s words urge us to forgive them, either in our heart or with our words so we can live in unity with one another.
My mother was a professional photographer who specialized in family photos. Often, the family would coordinate their outfits. Dressing similarly was a way to signal that they belonged together as one unit. Even though there were differences amongst them (age, interests, etc.) they shared a common bond: they were family. In Colossians chapter three, Paul explains how believers ought to live as a family. Based on the Resurrection, the priority for any Christian should be to live for Christ (vv. 1–4). As a result, Paul proclaims that believers put to death their sinful nature and put on the new self that comes from Christ so they can live in unity with one another. He describes this new Christian life within the context of living as a family. He begins by defining a list of actions we should “put to death” (v. 5). The verb used for to “put to death” is very strong and suggests that believers are to not simply set aside these actions, but exterminate and destroy sin altogether. The first four sins on Paul’s death list deal with sexual sins displaying their destructive significance (v. 5). The next long list of sins Paul identifies concerns a believer’s speech (vv. 8 9). Then Paul transitions by admonishing Christians to “put on the new self,” which is in the image of God (v. 10). The “new self” is the one we have always been wanting to put on but have been distracted. The enemy’s lies have taken their place time after time. But when we are finally able to confess to one another our sin, we have the power and energy to discard it once and for all. We are part of a new family with a new future because we bear a new image, that of our Creator (v. 11). >> What sins do you need to “put to death”? Confess them to the Lord today. Then, perhaps you can confide in someone within your church family so they can help you put it to death once and for all.
It’s been said that there are two types of people in the world. I’m not talking about the “Haves” and “Have Nots” or introverts and extroverts. There are “Here I am!” people and “There you are!” people. The “Here I am!” people walk into a room with a look-at-me attitude and a mouth full of their accomplishments. But “There you are!” people walk into a room and immediately show genuine interest in somebody else. They inquire about and ask questions to really get to know someone, to make a deep connection. God is in the business of turning “Here I am!” Christians into “There you are!” Christians. In today’s passage, Paul reminds the Philippians they are to treat one another with humility and love, just like Jesus. He begins in verse one with four rhetorical questions reminding the Philippian Christians that, since they have received these things, what follows is how they must behave. Paul says that his joy is complete when believers live in unity with one another (v. 2). But how are they to do that? By becoming “There you are!” people. Paul says that unity comes when each person cares less about themselves and more about the people around them (v. 3). Being humble is a daily choice to give glory to God and credit to others for our accomplishments. It is seeing others as Christ sees you, as someone who has value and importance. One of the best ways you can value one another is by caring about what other people care about (v. 4). Perhaps that means taking an interest in someone else’s hobby or maybe it is really trying to understand someone else’s background and situation. Whatever it may be, try being humble like Jesus and become a “There you are!” person the next time you go somewhere. >> Which type of person are you? Read the next seven verses as Paul describes the attitude Christ had when coming to earth. Allow Him to be your guide on the road to humility.
Some may think that submission means defeat and loss of control. For example, in a match, the losing wrestler is forced into submission. It is no wonder that when we read the word submit in the Bible our defensive walls go up. We don’t like the idea of submitting to anyone or anything. Paul’s teaching on submission in Ephesians 5 follows his urging that we “live as children of light” (v. 9) and in ways that please the Lord (v. 10). He begins with a general statement. As Christ followers, we are to “submit to one another” (v. 21). The word submit is typically used within a military context. For example, a private is under the rank of a general and therefore submits to the ranking member. The private shows the utmost respect, dignity, and honor to the general, but the general also bears responsibility to care for each person under his charge. Paul wants believers in a marriage to show a similar attitude of honor, respect, love, and care toward one another. Instead of wanting to be the person in control, a husband and wife are to consider the other person first. Because of their relationship under God, they both submit their personal desires and consider the needs of the other. This type of a marriage was counter-cultural to the Ephesians, and today is still out of the ordinary. Why would a person put their spouse’s needs above their own? Isn’t it important that we are always happy? Paul says we do so out of “reverence for Christ” (v. 21). Where some cultures coerce spouses to be submissive, Paul says the reason believers willingly submit is an extension of Jesus’ new command to love one another. >> If you are married, how can you choose to put the needs and desires of your spouse ahead of yourself? How would your childhood have been different if your parents’ marriage was one where they submitted to one another out of reverence for the Lord?
Is it okay to lie to your spouse? Your boss? Your friends? College students self-reported telling, on average, two lies a day. They estimated one lie in every three social interactions. And those “occasional” lies add up! It is estimated that by the time a person reaches age 50, they have told approximately 43,800 lies. While lying may be common, lies can harm and even destroy relationships. The apostle Paul urged the Ephesians that they were not to live like everyone else, “in the futility of their thinking” (v. 17). We are not to act like people who are “separated from the life of God” (v. 18). Paul said that at the heart of Christian unity is trust. Therefore, he encouraged the Ephesians to stop lying to one another and, instead, to speak the truth (v. 25). When lying happens between believers and within the body of Christ, trust is broken. When trust is broken, division will result. Sometimes, during this division, angers arise and tempers flare (v. 26). Ungodly things are said, and splits occur. In verse 26, Paul is not saying that people should stay up into wee hours of the night to reconcile their differences and get to the truth, but rather, each person must come to an agreement that the truth needs to come forth as soon as possible but anger that leads to sin is unacceptable. Paul knew that any division amongst the body would give the devil a chance to emit chaos (v. 27). Former Moody Bible Institute President, Joseph Stowell, would often warn students, “If you give the enemy an inch, he'll take a mile.” Paul reminds believers to speak the truth, stop stealing, and do something useful for those in need (v. 28). >> Your words matter, both to God and to others. Do you recall a recent conversation when the truth was not spoken in love? What could you have done differently? Aim for honesty and humility in your conversations today.
At our dinner table, sometimes I ask my kids (ages 2, 4, and 6), “What was the hardest thing you did today?” Often one of them will respond, “Waiting!” It’s true. In our instant- gratification world, waiting is not easy, even for adults. In addition to being patient for our meal, internet speed, or an overnight package, Paul urges us to be patient with one another. Paul urges the Ephesians to live worthy of their calling (v. 1). The first thing on his list focuses on patience in how they treat one another. Living in unity with one another is not simply a part of the Christian life, it is the whole thing. But unity is not easy. Paul says it takes patience to be humble and gentle. The word lowliness could also be used for humble, meaning a desire to put others above ourselves. In Philippians 2:1–10, Paul calls for believers to have the same humble attitude as Christ Jesus did when He emptied himself and came to earth. In In addition to being humble and gentle, we are to “bear with one another in love” (v. 2). Since we are all sinners with varying personalities and backgrounds, there may be people in the body who will challenge our patience. However, that does not excuse us from interacting with them in a way that honors God. We are told to bear with each other and tolerate others’ preferences and styles. Paul challenges his readers to seek unity through peace (v. 3). The enemy would love to divide the body of Christ, but Paul reminds us that just as God the Father, Son, and Spirit are one, the body of Christ can be one (vv. 4–6). However, it takes patience. >> Do you struggle with impatience? If you are experiencing a time of waiting in your life, we recommend Today in the Word author, Brad Baurain’s book On Waiting Well.
For over 135 years, Moody Bible Institute has relied on donors to support the school through prayers and gifts. As a former student and faculty member, I have witnessed firsthand the power of those prayers and gifts. Because others give, students can graduate and serve God without the burden of excessive loan debt. I am sure Paul wasn’t thinking of Moody, but before he puts his pen down and seals up his letters to the Galatians, he reminds Christians to look after one another by carrying one another’s physical, emotional, and spiritual burdens. Paul was not naive. He begins with the realization that even the strongest believer can get “caught in a sin” (v. 1). But if some- one in the family of God has fallen, it is the responsibility of other believers to “restore that person gently” (v. 1). The term in secular Greek was a medical term for setting a fractured or dislocated bone. Paul wanted to make sure his readers were on guard in the face of temptation (v. 1). Paul then encourages the Galatians to also “carry each other’s burdens” (v. 2). Believers should not have to go through tragedy and suffering alone. It is the responsibility of other believers to come alongside and help carry the yoke of another’s burdens. However, this does not mean that all the responsibility is on the person who is helping. Many times, people help with the best intentions, but they want to do everything. This is actually prideful (vv. 3–4). Instead, the believer is to help carry another’s burden, not carry their burden entirely, “for each one should carry their own load” (v. 5). When we do this, we are fulfilling the new “law of Christ” (v. 2), to love one another. >> Did you know you can help carry the financial burden of a student who wants to get a solid biblical education at an affordable price by partnering with Moody Bible Institute? If God has laid this burden on your heart, consider making a donation today.
In American football teams there is one player who looks quite different from the others. Only when it comes time to make a field goal, does this player run onto the field. While the kicker or punter may wear the same uniform as a defensive lineman, he is generally smaller in height and weight. His job is not to defend the line, but to successfully kick a ball between the goal markers. Each player on the team has a unique ability and responsibility that is crucial to the team’s success. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul explains how diversity within the body of Christ brings us together. Every believer deserves a seat at God’s table. Unfortunately, we are not immune to being tempted by pride and a sense of superiority over others. But Paul argues against this divisive attitude, insisting that everyone is important and needed (v. 21–23). Because God sees immeasurable value in everyone (v. 24), so should we. Even though people may be different than us, their worth goes much farther than their outward appearance or their history. Paul then gets immensely practical and clear that “there should be no division in the body,” and everyone should have “equal concern for each other” (v. 25). In other words, Christians ought to care for one another as part of the same body. Every part is connected, in both good times and bad (v. 26). Paul says in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” By doing life together, in joy and in pain, we become united with one another. This is Paul’s desire for the Corinthian church, and it ought to be the desire for your church as well. >> Help unify your church by making sure everyone has an opportunity to be heard and a place to sit at the table. As you gather, seek out those who might not usually take an active role. Let them know they are valued!
In the late fall, football teams that thrive have usually remained healthy and each teammate embraces his unique contribution. Can you imagine a team where a defensive lineman tries to play quarterback? Or a running back wants to be punter? Instead, each player makes a contribution that, when everyone works together, makes the team strong and successful. Paul reminds us in our text today that the body of Christ ought to function as a team. Even though there are many diverse people in the family of God, we are to function as one (vv. 12, 14). What makes it possible for believers to become one “body” is the saving work of Jesus Christ (v. 13). Paul shows a bit of his humorous side here to make a point: even though there are different personalities and gifts within the church, you are all one body. He begins by addressing those in the body who may feel neglected or excluded. The foot does not get the same recognition as the hand and, therefore, may feel like an outcast (v. 15). Similarly, the ear doesn’t get the same acknowledgment as the eyes and may feel forgotten (v. 16). Paul wants Christians who feel overlooked to know they are indeed an essential part of the body. Diversity in the church is important. The body could not function if it were all just an eye or an ear (v. 17). Just like our physical bodies are made with intricate detail, perfectly in the image of God, the body of believers is created the same way. God has made each person special and unique with a specific purpose and role to play. Each person in the family of God has gifts that can help the body not just survive but to thrive (vv. 18–20). >> God views the worth of fellow church members (or even your own worth) in a different way than we do. Consider looking with fresh eyes at not only your own value in the body of Christ but also the value of others.
When I was a child, birthdays and holidays were highlighted by presents and special traditions. But as an adult, I have noticed that our get togethers tend to center around food. Not just what we will eat, but who will be joining us for the meal. In the Gospels, the writers record at least 14 separate occasions when Jesus ate meals with others. Jesus often used those times as teaching moments to bring people closer to God. Whether He was the host or the guest, He understood that gathering around a table and sharing a meal together was a powerful experience. First Corinthians 11 highlights the significance of God’s people eating together. Paul identified how the Corinthian believers were neglecting one another regarding their practice of the Lord’s Supper. The early church would eat an entire meal together in addition to the bread and wine. Sadly, some members of the Corinthian church had poor table manners. Some were impatient, others would get drunk. Instead of reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifice and the community, they focused on their own selfish desires. Paul warns them that they were sinning against the body when they neglected one another (v. 27). As an alternative, they were to examine their own lives (v. 28) before coming to the table and prepare themselves appropriately. Paul was not wanting to keep people away from the Communion Table, but rather he is imploring his readers to honestly evaluate how their conduct honors the Lord. When we examine our lives, we will be reminded of our desperate need of God’s grace and forgiveness which can be found at the Table with other believers. Paul urges believers to eat together, regardless of their societal status in a way that glorifies God (v. 33). >> Soon, many of us will gather at the table to celebrate Thanksgiving. As you look forward to turkey and pumpkin pie (or whatever your family tradition), reflect on what makes these times so special. Who can you invite to your table?
What should you do when a disagreement escalates between believers? We realize that we are all sinners, and sin can draw a wedge between people. As Christians, we are not spared from these conflicts. But is legal action advisable between two Christians who clash? In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul addresses some believers in Corinth who were at odds with one another. The situation had become so hostile that they were going to court. Notice Paul’s dismay when he writes, “[D]o you dare to take it before the ungodly?” (v. 1). Paul was not concerned that the Corinthian judges were unjust, but that believers would sue one another before an unrighteous judge and spectators. In Corinth, the judge’s seat, known as the bema seat, was in the center of the town square. You can still see some court houses in town centers today. And much like today, lawsuits then were public knowledge. While cable news didn’t cover these trials 24/7, crowds gathered for entertainment, and reputations would be ruined. It is no wonder Paul was appalled by the idea of Christians suing one another. It goes completely against the gospel message of grace, charity, and forgiveness. Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that they were citizens of another world and kingdom (vv. 2–3). Paul was not against ever taking legal action. In Acts 22:25 and 25:10– 11, he appealed to the Roman courts for his own rights. Likewise, we are grateful for the legal experts who protect believers today. However, Paul thought it reprehensible for one believer to attack another in court. When possible, Christians should seek to settle disputes themselves according to the values, principles, and truths of Scripture. >> Don’t let things escalate between you and other believers to the point where legal action is needed. Instead, seek wise godly counsel and pray for God to give you the courage and grace to confront and resolve issues.
The Cavalry Scouts are the eyes and ears on the field for the United States Army, collecting information about enemy locations, weapons, and activity. This vital group helps commanders make informed decisions. Churches need scouts too, not for military action, but for spiritual warfare. Some scholars think Romans 16 shouldn’t even be included in the book of Romans. Let’s face it, who would really miss a list of strange names? But I think, that after Paul talked about how strong and weak believers should get along and work together in chapters 14 and 15, he was reminded of some of his family and friends at the church in Rome who knew how to work together. These were the people who made up a church that the entire world was noticing (1:8). This church had grabbed the attention of the selfishly false teachers in Rome. Paul urged them to be Christian “scouts” for one another and watch out for divisive and deceitful teachers. Paul warned his church family to avoid them (v. 17). Paul’s warning was necessary because these dividers and deceivers didn’t simply show up at the front door with badges identifying them as false teachers. Rather, their ideas slipped in through the basement. They might not even see themselves as problems, but they can be destructive. Paul is not giving his readers permission to go around accusing people of teaching false doctrine out of selfish ambition. Instead, we are to look out and look after one another in avoiding false teachers. This takes wisdom and a pure and innocent heart (v. 19). He reminds us that before causing divisions, we are to approach the situation with a humble heart and wisdom. >> Do you know a new believer in the faith who could use your encouragement? In addition to praying for this person, consider giving them trusted biblical resources that can help them grow in their understanding of God’s Word and His truth.
Church greeters on a Sunday morning have a very important role. They are the first people who worshipers meet as they enter the building. Through their friendly smiles and welcoming attitudes, they let everyone know people are valued and welcome. In today’s passage, Paul gives final instructions to the church in Rome. As is true in our churches today, there were people at many different stages of their spiritual journey. Some were young believers, still figuring out how to walk steadily in a pagan world. Others were seasoned believers who were knowledgeable about the faith. With an attitude of prayer, Paul asks God to give both groups His “endurance” and “encouragement” (v. 5) toward one another. From his own experience, Paul knew that living in harmony and unity with others could only be realized through God’s power. When believers from various stages and ages of life join together, God is glorified (v. 6). Paul uses a unique Greek word to describe believers as having “one mind” and “one voice” (v. 6). This word is used frequently in the book of Acts when Luke defines the Christian community. In the original language it is the compound of two words meaning to “rush along” and “in unison.” Picture a conductor of an orchestra who is setting the tempo to ensure unity among the instruments. Similarly, the Holy Spirit blends together the lives of believers for God’s glory. Therefore, with the Spirit’s power of endurance and encouragement toward one another, Paul tells his readers they are to accept each other (v. 7). Despite our physical differences and various degrees of spiritual maturity we welcome one another. Why? He reminds us that because Christ welcomed each of us, exactly as we were (v. 7), we should welcome one another. >> You don’t have to be on the “Welcoming Team” at church to welcome people who are different from you. At the next service you attend, say hello and meet someone you have never met before.
A student once asked me, “Professor, how do you minister to people in the gray areas of life?” After a lengthy conversation, we concluded that we can either focus on making a point or making a difference in that person’s life. Paul speaks on the subject of how we relate to differences within the body of Christ, saying that “each one of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (v. 12). He then addresses how (“therefore”) we, as believers, should judge one another. Some Roman Christians were judging other Christians based on specific practices: what they ate or what days they kept as sacred. They did this with a condemning attitude. Paul encouraged them to stop making a point and to start making a difference in how they treated one another. To live in unity with one another they should stop passing judgment about “disputable matters” (14:1). Instead, “make up your mind” not to put a stumbling block between one another (v. 13). Paul urged these believers (and us) to walk a delicate line. While we should not suppress others through legalism, we also must not entice ourselves or others to sin through an unhealthy use of freedom. Paul encourages the Romans to respect one another’s liberties (v. 14). He is not saying that sinning is acceptable, but to be cautious in instances where moral choice is an individual matter (v. 15). Are we “acting in love” toward one another (v. 15)? We must not use the freedom we have in Christ to destroy one another. If we do that, it is evil (v. 16). Paul reminds us of the big picture in verses 17–18. God’s priorities are righteousness, peace, and joy, not what we eat or drink. >> Sometimes we need to refrain from certain things in the presence of others. Even though you may not be sinning, you can restrain your actions based on the love for your brother or sister in Christ, choosing to put them above yourself.
Music consists of three key components: melody, rhythm, and harmony. Melody and rhythm make music memorable, but the third element, harmony, can elevate a piece from ordinary and obvious to ambitious and sophisticated. Harmony is achieved when individual musical tones come together to form a cohesive sound. On their own, different musical instruments can play separate notes, but when the right notes are played together, harmony is created. Harmony can be created in the church too. In fact, our text today commands that Christians “live in harmony with one another” (v. 16). Paul reminds the Romans that people will continue to persecute them (v. 14), but even while enduring persecution, they need to be mindful of each other (v. 15). This awareness of what others are going through is the first component to living in harmony. Paul adds another element of living in harmony with one another: humility. Being humble and not proud is reflected in Romans 12:3: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” As C. S. Lewis states, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” When we think of ourselves less, we think more of others and see everyone as Jesus does, with immeasurable value. Christians are to include and interact with everyone. The final component which builds harmony in the church is when people are not conceited (v. 16) but have a growth mindset. The last sentence of verse 16 could be translated “Never be wise in your own sight.” Paul encourages harmony through the posture of being able to learn from one another. Harmony in a church can be challenging, but a harmonious church is attractive, healthy, and God-honoring. >> Professional musicians will tell you that harmony doesn’t happen overnight, it takes daily practice. How can you practice living in harmony today? To begin, try humbling yourself, thinking of others first, and be willing to learn.
Some things are better when shared: a funny joke, a large piece of cheesecake, popcorn. But other times, sharing can get you in trouble. For instance, sharing your political views with a coworker or giving advice to your teenager could lead to a heated exchange. However, the very first group of Christians were committed to the concept of sharing with one another. In fact, this was one of the main things that set them apart in their dog-eat-dog world. In our text today, Luke records that after the coming of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s powerful sermon, the newly planted 3,000+ member church devoted themselves to God and one another. The Greek word for fellowship (v. 42) carries the idea to “share in something.” For the early believers, this fellowship was incredibly special. They were to look outside of their individual needs and find ways to share and serve one another. The text says they “devoted” themselves to the apostles’ teaching and this fellowship. In other words, they continually and consistently had open minds and giving hands as they learned from the apostles and shared with one another. Day after day they ate together, learned together, helped each other financially, gave to one another, and worshiped together. They put the needs of one another above their own. They became one big sharing family. I’m sure they had differences, but they shared a commitment to the Lord and one another. Christians today share the belief that Jesus died and rose again. We share a love and desire for God. We share the same mission to live and give the gospel to our neighbors. We also share one another’s struggles, commitments, needs, and pains. This fellowship should be what sets us apart in our world too. >> What does fellowship mean to you and your church? Have you considered what you can share with your church? It could be your time, your service, your resources, or your wisdom.
For decades, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a place children wanted to be. Everything was peaceful, and everyone was friendly. While it may always be a beautiful day in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, we all don’t live in his neck of the woods. In the real world we live in, our neighbors can annoy us, avoid us, or even appall us. Why does God want us to love those people? After a studious lawyer discussed eternal life with Jesus, he received a lesson in Neighboring 101. In one of the most well-known stories of the Bible, Jesus answered the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the story of a man who was violently assaulted on his way to Jericho. Two individuals passed by, a priest and a Levite, both people you would expect to help (vv. 31–32). But, because of their personal religious practices, they did not want to associate or touch an “unclean” person. Jesus’ listeners probably gasped when He said it was a Samaritan who helped the man (v. 33). The Samaritan’s actions were selfless, sympathetic, and sacrificial (vv. 34–35). Jesus then asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (v. 36). You can almost imagine the change in the lawyer’s tone of voice when he answered, “The one who had mercy on him” (v. 37). Jesus says we are to “go and do likewise,” (v. 37). But what exactly are we supposed to do? And maybe more importantly, who is our neighbor? The answer is quite simple: Your neighbor is anyone whose need you see and whose need you can meet. >> Today, look for ways that you can be a good neighbor and show others the love of Jesus. Be observant and mindful of the needs of the people whose paths you cross today. If there is a way you can meet that need, don’t hesitate to act.
We don’t exactly know the details, but the Passover meal was in progress and the disciples’ feet were dusty and dirty. Perhaps it was an honest oversight. Or maybe nobody wanted to take on the role of a servant. Regardless, Jesus saw this as a teaching opportunity. With a simple act, He would show His disciples how to love one another. After taking a towel and basin, He began washing every person’s feet (including the feet of Judas!). Then Jesus said something that changed history: “A new command I give you: Love one another” (John 13:34). But what was “new” about this command? The newness can be discovered in the words “as I have loved you.” This command can be traced back to Leviticus 19:18, “love your neighbor as yourself.” In washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus gives us an example to live by. Love is selfless and sacrificial. When we love like Jesus, we expand our faith from merely looking inwardly to our relationship with God to transforming how we treat those around us. Loving one another like Jesus loved is the identifying mark of all believers (v. 35). Everything else falls under the umbrella of this command. It was, in fact, the love the disciples had for one another that made them stand out in the pagan societies of the first few centuries. For the early Christians, this command was not simply a mere suggestion, it controlled their lives. Loving one another like Jesus is our command as well. Christians today can make an impact in our godless societies by selflessly and humbly loving one another. Following Jesus’ example of service is one of the many ways we can love and transform our communities. >> Love often requires sacrifice. Consider what you may need to sacrifice to serve one another well. Is it your pride? Time? Resources? Whatever it may be, you will be fulfilling Jesus’ new command.
Have you ever been the recipient of an act of love that moved your heart deeply? Imagine how the disciples felt when Jesus washed their feet and then spoke these three words to them: “Love one another” (v. 17). They had just completed their Passover meal when Jesus urged them to be bonded together by love. What was the significance of this command? The Moody Bible Institute Commentary provides this answer: “The command to love requires a supernatural component to fulfill, requires faith, and is more a choice than an emotion.” In this month’s study, we will take a deep dive into this and other “one another” passages to better understand Jesus’ desire for us to live in Christian community. In John 15, Jesus said that when we remain in His love and have love for one another, our joy will be complete (vv. 10–11). In other words, true joy can only be experienced when it comes from an outpouring of sacrificial and selfless love. You know this to be true if you have ever celebrated the success of a child, grandchild, or friend. We take joy not in ourselves, but in someone else. Next, Jesus shared that the greatest type of love is sacrificial (v. 13). Here He was foreshadowing His death on the cross. Jesus longed for His followers to become closer to one another. Notice that He used the word “friends” in verses 14–15. In today’s context, this means that as Christ followers we are no longer just associates, but family, chosen for the purpose of bearing fruit (v. 16). If you are a follower of Jesus, you have become a part of His family, and are commanded to “love one another” (v. 17). >> Consider the closest people in your life. What makes your relationship with them so special? This may be the perfect month to invite those people to join you in a Bible study, learning how you can grow together in Christ.
I encounter the final verse of 2 Peter literally every day at work. Second Peter 3:18 is posted on the wall of the main hallway at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. We want every student to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” and for everything we do to bring Him glory. As we look forward together to the Second Coming, we hope this is your purpose as well. If we want Him to find us prepared, we must “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (v. 14). We’ve encountered the phrase “make every effort” before (see October 25 study), so we know we must understand it in context of our salvation, which has already been fully accomplished and guaranteed by God. Therefore, our pursuit of holiness is also empowered and guaranteed by God Himself (see 1 Peter 1:3–5). Verses 15–16 contain an important comment on the writings of apostle Paul. While acknowledging that Paul’s epistles are “hard to understand,” Peter treated them as equivalent to “the other Scriptures,” that is, the Old Testament (see 2 Peter 1:16–21). This demonstrates that the early church understood Paul’s letters to be as inspired and inerrant as previous Scriptures. Peter closed this letter with two important exhortations. The second has already been quoted above. The first is “Be on your guard” (v. 17). Against what? “The error of the lawless,” or false teaching. If we don’t take a firm stand on truth, we might be “carried away” by error and “fall from your secure position,” which can also be translated “fall from your firm grasp of the truth” or “lose your own secure footing.” So this doesn’t mean “lose your salvation” but rather refers to being deceived by false teachers. >> As we wrap up our study of 2 Peter, we again encourage you to write down what God taught you in this epistle. What are a few takeaways from this month’s study that you will want to put into practice?
Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins, or bridesmaids, ends happily for five of them but unhappily for the other five. What made the difference? Five were prepared. They brought enough oil for their lamps and were ready when the bridegroom finally arrived. The unprepared five ended up on the wrong side of the banquet hall door (Matt. 25:1–13). The spiritual lesson of the parable is to be watchful and prepared for the Lord’s return. “Do not forget,” Peter warned (there’s that verb again)! What should we remember (vv. 8–9)? First, the irrelevance of time to God. He works in time but is Himself outside and above time. Second, that God is a faithful promise keeper, no matter how slow the fulfillment of His promises might feel to us. And third, that God’s desire is for “everyone to come to repentance” (v. 9). His “slowness” is actually patient love. We can be certain that the Day of the Lord will come (vv. 10, 12). How? “Like a thief,” at least for unbelievers. It will be surprising and unwelcome. The apocalypse will find them spiritually unprepared. For those of us who are prepared, however, it will be the coming of the Bridegroom. The great Wedding Day will be here at last! How then should we live (vv. 11– 13)? The answer is the same as it has been throughout 1 and 2 Peter: “You ought to live holy and godly lives.” How will this “speed” Christ’s return? By obeying God’s kingdom purposes on earth (see also Rom. 11:25), we can in a sense hasten that day. This is not to say we can force God to do anything, but we can act as God has already decreed. In any case, our pursuit of righteousness will end when Christ establishes “a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (v. 13). >> If you knew Christ were coming back tomorrow, what would you do differently today? Don’t wait—make that change sooner rather than later!
The Chicago Tribune reported that last year Chicago drivers spent 104 hours, or more than four days, stuck in traffic. That’s “more time than drivers in any other major U.S. city.” The economic impact is $1,622 in wasted time per driver and $5.8 billion for the city as a whole. Waiting for Christ’s return can sometimes feel like being stuck in traffic. Are we getting anywhere? Yet faith-filled waiting for the Second Coming is an essential part of discipleship, especially when “scoffers” are doubting that it will ever happen (vv. 3–7). Such people pridefully mock Christ’s promises and follow “their own evil desires”—their lifestyles give them away. They judge based on personal experience, which is limited and flawed (v. 4). For example, they “deliberately forget” Creation and the Flood (vv. 5–6). In those events, we see that God exercises sovereign and just power over the entire world. He is both able and willing to keep His promises. He has the right to do as He decides and can be trusted to do so righteously. To “forget” here is not a failure of memory, but of moral and spiritual discernment. Such people choose to disregard God’s words and actions and trust their own opinions. In essence, they have become their own little gods. On the “day of judgment,” they will be sentenced accordingly. Waiting with patience and integrity for Christ’s return is part of “wholesome thinking” or study of God’s Word (vv. 1–2). The words “reminder” and “recall” are not referring merely to memorization. Biblically, to “remember” also means to value and obey within the context of a relationship. The purpose of both of Peter’s epistles has been to stimulate us to do this! >> Are you interested in additional study of 1 and 2 Peter? Edmund P. Clowney has written an excellent commentary on The Message of 1 Peter. Former Moody faculty member Louis Barbieri has also written on 1 and 2 Peter for the Everyman’s Bible Commentary series.
Sadly, it isn’t hard today to think of popular teachers who claim to be Christians yet make statements that directly oppose God’s Word. Many of them have best-selling books and huge internet followings. They encourage the church to bend with the culture and accept practices that the Bible clearly calls sinful, twisting the Bible to support their personal beliefs. Their influence is misleading and destructive. In today’s reading, Peter has harsh words for these false teachers. He colorfully describes their sinfulness and their menace to new and weak believers. These teachers were familiar with the gospel but turned their backs on it, becoming worse than ordinary pagans. In a sense, it would have been better never to know the truth than to reject it (vv. 20–22). These people are so immoral that they “carouse in broad daylight” (vv. 13–16). They have no shame and revel “in their pleasures while they feast with you.” Peter was referring to the church’s “love feasts,” at which both a meal and the Lord’s Supper were served. They “never stop sinning”—it is their way of life. They “seduce the unstable,” picking off the weaker sheep from the flock. They’re also guilty of greed, like Balaam, who was rebuked by a donkey (see Num. 22–24 for Balaam’s story). False teachers are “springs without water and mists driven by a storm” (v. 17). They’re deceptive, unable to deliver what they promise. Their words are empty and boastful. They offer “freedom” when they themselves are “slaves of depravity” (see Rom. 6:16). As we read yesterday, false teachers will meet their just punishment, “blackest darkness” (v. 17). We must be vigilant, but God will protect truth and His people. >> In our modern culture, we are certain to encounter false teaching that masquerades as Christianity. As Christ followers, it is important to check every teaching against God’s Word to discern who is telling God’s truth and who is circulating lies.
Ahab, king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, were trying to decide whether to go into battle together. Ahab kept 400 so-called prophets on staff, who dutifully “prophesied” victory. Unimpressed, Jehoshaphat asked if there was an actual prophet of the Lord. Reluctantly, Ahab sent for Micaiah, who prophesied their defeat (1 Kings 22:1–28). “I can tell him only what the LORD tells me,” Micaiah said (v. 14). There are still false teachers in the church today (vv. 1–3). We cannot minimize this issue. A heresy is any teaching which contradicts God’s Word. These teachers mislead many into believing ideas that are not from God. How can we know false teaching when we hear it? False teachers will in some way deny Christ and His redemption (v. 1). In addition, they will be marked by depraved conduct, greed, and “fabricated stories.” The result for them will be condemnation and destruction. God will destroy false teachers and all the wicked, while rescuing the godly (vv. 4–9). It might not appear that way. It might seem the wicked are getting away with it and escaping judgment. If we’re tempted to think this way, we can look to Scripture for counterevidence: (1) Fallen angels, apparently some of whom are already in hell (v. 4); (2) The entire ancient world, which was destroyed by the Flood (v. 5); and (3) Sodom and Gomorrah, judged by fire (vv. 6–8). God doesn’t take sin lightly and will surely punish false teachers as well (v. 10–12). In contrast to godly submission, a quality we’ve studied this month, they “despise authority.” In their arrogance, they even abuse fallen angels. “They are like unreasoning animals,” Peter wrote. Tragically, they’d suppressed and disfigured the image of God in them (see also Rom. 1:18). >> How can you be a truth teller? Study your Bible to help keep yourself firmly grounded in what it says. To help upgrade a friend’s Bible knowledge, why not tell them about Today in the Word?