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5/24/15 8:25 A

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Day By Day By Grace - May 24

An Action Carried Out Toward Earthen Vessels

For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11)

The treasure who lives within us (Jesus) is to get glory and honor as we trust Him to live in, and be manifested through, the vessels of our humanity. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). Our previous meditation reminded us that we are to embrace an attitude of "death to self" that facilitates this plan: "Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" (2 Corinthians 4:10). In addition, there is an action carried out toward earthen vessels that also advances this great purpose of God. This matter is also about dying in order to live.

This action is taken toward earthen vessels: "we who live." We who have found new life in Christ are the ones who are "delivered to death." Our God places us into (or allows us to be put in) situations that are far more than we can handle. Even the Apostle Paul had to undergo this action taken toward him. "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves" (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). This was not an isolated incident. Paul was frequently in such impossibilities. "From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep" (2 Corinthians 11:24-25).

Since we are earthen vessels, this is the way life unfolds. Clay pots are characteristically inadequate and vulnerable. Consequently, the situations that our all-loving and all-wise Father leads us into are consistently like being "delivered to death." However, this action toward us is "for Jesus' sake." In the continual impossibilities confronting us, Jesus has repeated opportunities to manifest Himself. Our heavenly Father places us in circumstances we cannot handle by our own resources. We cry out to the Lord, putting our hope and trust in Him. He faithfully goes to work in us. The result is "that the life of Jesus [is] manifested in our mortal flesh."

Dear heavenly Father, forgive me for the many times I resist Your delivering me over to death. You know that I prefer it when I can handle the events that come my way. Remind me to view my impossibilities as Jesus' opportunities to manifest Himself in and through the vessel of my life. This I humbly ask, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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"To God be the glory!!"


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5/23/15 6:37 A

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Day By Day By Grace - May 23

An Attitude Carried About by Earthen Vessels

Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10)

As earthen vessels, we are to live by trusting in the treasure (the Lord Jesus) who dwells within us: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7). Also, we are to give Him all honor and glory as He sustains us day by day through the trials of life: "that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." In addition, to help us magnify the treasure who lives in us, there is to be an attitude (an outlook) carried about (embraced) by the earthen vessels.

The particular attitude that results in magnifying the treasure is the perspective we hold concerning the death of Christ: "Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." This is about dying in order to live. Jesus taught this. "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" (Luke 9:24). Those who hold on to the life they received from Adam lose what they are trying to guard and develop. They never find true life. However, all who renounce their sinful natural life and trust in Jesus find a new life from Him. This is the attitude that followers of Christ are to carry with them. "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). Day by day, our perspective is to include a rejection of any life that we could produce on our own ("deny himself"). We are to agree with God that the self life always deserves the cross of Christ ("take up his cross daily"). This leaves us with only one option: pursue after Jesus for the life He alone can provide ("and follow Me").

Such confessions are in harmony with what actually happened to us at the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism (that is, through identification) into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). When we placed our trust in the Lord, His death and resurrection became our death and resurrection! This is to be our confidence continually. "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:11).

When we carry about this attitude, we are actually trusting the Lord Jesus (the treasure who dwells within us) to live in and through our "earthen vessels," our humanity: "that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body."

Dear Lord, I want to carry about with me Your dying. I want to embrace all that Your cross proclaims and provides. Thank You for dying in my place. I rejoice that I died there with You. Now, I ask You to live in and through me day by day, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion




"To God be the glory!!"


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5/22/15 8:43 A

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Day By Day By Grace - May 22

The Process that Magnifies the Treasure

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

New covenant servants (followers of Jesus Christ) are "earthen vessels" (ordinary clay pots). Yet, in the container of their redeemed humanity dwells "this treasure" (the Son of God Himself). This arrangement calls for the treasure (Jesus), not the vessels (you and me), to be the object of all trust and the recipient of all glory: "that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." Appropriately, the Lord has also arranged a process that magnifies the treasure.

This process involves the every day pressures of life, which come from all sides. "We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed." Clay pots cannot withstand much pressure, but the treasure within us (Christ) is able to keep us from being smashed. "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1)

The process that draws attention to the treasure also involves many perplexities. "We are perplexed, but not in despair." We face difficult decisions and impossible issues, but our Wonderful Counselor protects us from hopelessness: "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).

Persecutions are included in the process: "persecuted, but not forsaken." People accuse us, misunderstand us, or lie about us. Still, we know we are not abandoned by our Lord who lives within us. "For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5).

Even catastrophes are a part of the process that magnifies the treasure who indwells us: "struck down, but not destroyed." Circumstantial upheavals and overwhelming heartaches occur, but the Lord stabilizes our souls. "They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support" (Psalm 18:18).

Thus, life comes at us like an overpowering military tank, ready to flatten us. There is no natural hope, because clay pots can't handle tanks. Yet, as the dust clears, the flower pot of our lives can remain intact (if we are trusting in the able and faithful one who lives in our hearts). There is no attacking tank that can overcome the Lord Jesus Christ. "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

Lord Jesus, You are my indwelling treasure. When pressures, perplexities, persecutions, or catastrophes come my way, teach me to trust in You. When others ask how I am sustained through these difficulties, remind me to give all glory and honor to You. In Your name I pray, Amen.

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"To God be the glory!!"


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5/21/15 6:05 A

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Day By Day By Grace - May 21

The Power within Redeemed Earthen Vessels

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

In our previous meditation on this same verse, we saw that God has placed extraordinary heavenly treasure in ordinary earthen vessels. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels." This is true of every person who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ. The Lord has arranged it this way so that the vessels (you and I) must rely upon the treasure (Jesus Christ), not upon ourselves: "that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." Also, this arrangement is to bring attention and glory to the Lord, not to the vessels.

The Lord is the treasure in the "clay pot" of our redeemed humanity. He is to be the "excellent power" in our lives. He is the one we are to trust in as our strength for daily living. When the battles become fierce, trust in the Lord. "You have armed me with strength for the battle" (Psalm 18:39). When we need patience or endurance, trust in the Lord: "Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy" (Colossians 1:11). When we need strength for our latter years, trust in the Lord. "The LORD has kept me alive…here I am this day, eighty-five years old…yet I am as strong this day as I was on the day that Moses sent me" (Joshua 14:10-11). Even in times of extreme personal weakness, His strength can be especially apparent. "I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me…For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

The temptation is to trust in our "sturdy structure" (or in those who claim to be able to strengthen or reinforce weak vessels). Our personal resources will fail, but the Lord who dwells in our hearts will not fail. "My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26). The world system with all of its impressive riches calls us to place our confidence in its resources. The Lord warns us that such misplaced trust becomes our downfall. "Woe to the rebellious children…who…go down to Egypt…to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh…the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame" (Isaiah 30:1-3).

We are to trust the Lord to be our strength. "The LORD is my strength and my shield" (Psalm 28:7a). Then, we are to give the Lord glory for the strength He supplies. "My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him" (Psalm 28:7b).

O Lord, the strength of my life, forgive me for relying upon myself and for looking to worldly resources. I want to place all of my trust in Jesus, the treasure who lives within me. May all glory be unto Him, in His mighty name, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion



"To God be the glory!!"


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5/20/15 7:53 A

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Day By Day By Grace - May 20

Heavenly Treasure in Earthen Vessels

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

We who serve the Lord under His new covenant of grace live with heavenly treasure in earthen vessels. We are "earthen vessels." Though we are born again through faith in Christ, we still have the same physical body that we had in Adam. "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent [that is, our natural human body], is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands [that is, our glorified, heavenly bodies], eternal in the heavens" (2 Corinthians 5:1). Though we are new creatures in Christ, we still live in the framework of ordinary human lives. "The life which I now live in the flesh [that is, in flesh and bones humanity], I live by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20).

Yes, we are "earthen vessels." We are frail, vulnerable, inadequate. We were originally fashioned from dust. "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7). We could be likened to "clay pots." "Remember, I pray, that You have made me like clay" (Job 10:9). We are like common clay flower pots. This is humbling. However, it is good to be humbled, for "God gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). Furthermore, the Lord fully understands our makeup. "He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). It is also liberating to realize that we are vessels of clay. The Lord does not expect us to perform as though we were anything other than clay pots. He just wants us to be what a vessel is created to be-a container for its intended contents.

The intended contents of the vessel is a heavenly treasure. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels." A few verses later the treasure is specified. It is Christ Himself: "That the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Corinthians 4:11). The will of God is that Christ would come to dwell in, and be expressed through, the earthen vessel of our humanity. "To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). The Lord Jesus wants to be the heavenly blooming flower in the clay pot of our lives. "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 2:15). God's plan is to put extraordinary heavenly treasure into ordinary earthen vessels, so that the attention will go to the contents, not to the container: "that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us."

Creator God, You have made me to be a vessel in whom Christ might dwell and be seen. Please remind me of this great plan. Help me to remember that the heavenly treasure is to be the focal point and the hope of my life, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion



"To God be the glory!!"


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5/18/15 8:49 P

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Day By Day By Grace - May 19

Our Message in Ministry

Lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. (2 Corinthians 4:4b-5)

The enemy of men's souls wants to keep perishing people in spiritual blindness. "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe." (2 Corinthians 4:3-4a). This counterfeit god is working on all unbelievers (even as he formerly did with us). "In which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). His influence is so extensive. He works through every system (political, economic, educational, etc.) within the unbelieving world. "The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). The primary purpose of Satan's blinding activities is to keep those in darkness from seeing God's light: "Lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them."

Into this dark and blinded world, we come with the message of light: "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." Only the light of Jesus can overcome spiritual darkness. Our Lord proclaimed this wondrous remedy: "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12). When the light of Jesus shines into man's darkness, it brings liberating life from God. Paul was sent out with this great gospel: "To open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God" (Acts 26:18).

We are also sent out as vessels of light. "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). We are light, because Jesus (the true light) lives in, and can shine through, each of us. "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). We can show forth our Lord in deed and in word. As we follow Jesus, His glorious light shines through us. As we speak of Jesus, we declare His glorious majesty.

Remember, the light of the gospel is about the glory of Jesus: "The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." Our message is not about us. "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." We are but His servants. He is our message. He is the Lord over all. Thus, He is able to save from all that blinds and binds.

Dear Lord of glory, I praise You for Your glory. I thank You for bringing me the light of life. O Lord, may Your glory shine in my walk and my words. Please make my message about Your glory, not about my flesh, in Your holy name, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion



"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 18

Our Message in Ministry

Lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. (2 Corinthians 4:4b-5)

The enemy of men's souls wants to keep perishing people in spiritual blindness. "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe." (2 Corinthians 4:3-4a). This counterfeit god is working on all unbelievers (even as he formerly did with us). "In which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). His influence is so extensive. He works through every system (political, economic, educational, etc.) within the unbelieving world. "The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). The primary purpose of Satan's blinding activities is to keep those in darkness from seeing God's light: "Lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them."

Into this dark and blinded world, we come with the message of light: "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." Only the light of Jesus can overcome spiritual darkness. Our Lord proclaimed this wondrous remedy: "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12). When the light of Jesus shines into man's darkness, it brings liberating life from God. Paul was sent out with this great gospel: "To open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God" (Acts 26:18).

We are also sent out as vessels of light. "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). We are light, because Jesus (the true light) lives in, and can shine through, each of us. "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). We can show forth our Lord in deed and in word. As we follow Jesus, His glorious light shines through us. As we speak of Jesus, we declare His glorious majesty.

Remember, the light of the gospel is about the glory of Jesus: "The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." Our message is not about us. "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." We are but His servants. He is our message. He is the Lord over all. Thus, He is able to save from all that blinds and binds.

Dear Lord of glory, I praise You for Your glory. I thank You for bringing me the light of life. O Lord, may Your glory shine in my walk and my words. Please make my message about Your glory, not about my flesh, in Your holy name, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion



"To God be the glory!!"


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5/17/15 7:11 A

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Day By Day By Grace - May 17

Those We Hope to Reach through Ministry

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4a)

In this servants-of-grace ministry God has given us, He wants to use us to reach people. These people are in a desperate spiritual condition. Those we hope to reach are perishing, spiritually blind, and unbelieving.

Those who do not know the grace of God in Jesus Christ are "perishing." They are spiritually dead (just as we once were). "And you…were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). Even worse, they are heading toward an everlasting death. "The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:13-15).

These who are dead (and facing everlasting death) are lost. They are wandering from the fold of God, taking a path of self-service. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). They need a shepherd to seek after them. "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 15:4; 19:10).

These perishing and lost ones are also spiritually "blinded." This is why they cannot "see" the truth we share with them. "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded." The false god of this world (Satan) is blinding people to the truth by feeding them with lies and deceptions. He is constantly offering counterfeit philosophical and religious messages to keep men from embracing the truth.

Ultimately, the problem with perishing, lost, and blind people is that they "do not believe." Consequently, they already stand guilty. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). However, a loving God has provided the remedy. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). By God's grace, we can proclaim this great message.

Dear Lord, thank You for all that You did to rescue me from among the perishing, the blind, and the unbelieving. I rejoice now in faith toward You! Open my eyes to see the desperate condition of those all around me, Amen.

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"To God be the glory!!"


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5/16/15 8:59 A

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Day By Day By Grace - May 16

Our Approach to Ministry

We have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)

God has made us His servants under the new covenant of grace. "God…made us…ministers of the new covenant" (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). Those who desire to serve the Lord by grace have a very distinctive approach to ministry. "We have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully."

It is so sad that many ministry approaches in the church world include motives and methodologies that are kept hidden, because their true character is shameful. Some of these dishonorable approaches involve "walking in craftiness" (such as, manipulating people through carnal enticements). Others involve "handling the word of God deceitfully" (such as, preaching what people want to hear, instead of what the Scriptures actually say). If we are going to serve God by grace, we must reject such tactics.

Instead, we want to serve God "by manifestation of the truth." We minister by a candid declaration of God's truth, not by a deceptive operation of man's tricks. Also, we desire that our lives be a commendation of our message, not a contradiction of it: "commending ourselves to every man's conscience." As we proclaim God's truth, we humbly ask God to impact our lives by that truth, in order to become an example of what we preach. The Lord will use this to touch others deep in their consciences.

It is God's will that our ministries impact more than men's minds (which can be reached by mere ideas, concepts, or systems). It is His intention that our testimonies reach beyond men's emotions (which can be touched by exciting stories, condemning insinuations, or inspiring ideals). He certainly does not want us to appeal to people's pride ("let God make you someone others will envy") or to their covetousness ("give to our ministry, and God will give you ten-fold in return"). Rather, God desires to reach their consciences, that "image-of-God" imprint that convicts people of sin and of their need for God: "who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness" (Romans 2:15).

O God of truth and holiness, I long to serve You by grace. I renounce any manipulating of people or any distorting of Your word. Make my life a vessel of honor that confirms Your truth. As I minister to others, touch them deep in their hearts, by the power of Your grace, stirring them to seek after You, Amen.

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5/14/15 9:07 P

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Day By Day By Grace - May 15

Once More on Bondage versus Liberty

Abraham had two sons…which…are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage…and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all…So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (Galatians 4:22-5:1)

In our present verses, the two sons of Abraham are in view. "Abraham had two sons." Although these boys (Ishmael and Isaac) were actual historical characters, they represent a spiritual allegory: "which…are symbolic." These two sons provide a vivid historical illustration of law and grace. "For these are the two covenants."

Ishmael, the first of Abraham's sons, pictures a life of self-sufficiency under the law: "the one from Mount Sinai." Such an approach to life produces spiritual bondage: "which gives birth to bondage." The citizens of earthly Jerusalem are also given as an example: "and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children." When Paul wrote Galatians, the Roman empire held the city of Jerusalem in oppressive bondage. Abraham and Sarah trusted in their human ingenuity, using Hagar to bear their child. Thus, Ishmael was born, a child of fleshly bondage.

This is what our lives are like when we try to produce a Christian life by our own sufficiency. We are placing ourselves under the law (performance-based living). This is a path of spiritual bondage. We can only bring forth "fleshly Ishmaels."

Isaac, the second of Abraham's sons, is a portrait of living under grace. God's sufficiency is now the source. Isaac was born by God's faithfulness in fulfilling His promises. Trusting in God's faithfulness produces spiritual freedom. Heavenly Jerusalem is the example here. "The Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all." We who follow Christ have been born again with new life from above. New Jerusalem is the "hometown" to which we are headed. Spiritual freedom characterizes such citizens from above. "So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free." The Lord calls us to live by the liberating grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, renouncing all inclinations toward the bondage of self-sufficient legalism. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."

Dear God of all faithfulness, forgive me for all the "Ishmaels" that I have birthed by trusting in myself. That has always produced bondage. I want to live by Your grace, trusting in Your faithfulness, walking thereby in true spiritual liberty. Through Christ I pray, Amen.

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"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 14

Liberty to be Transformed

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Living day by day under the new covenant of grace embraces the spiritually liberating work of the Holy Spirit. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17). When the Holy Spirit is relied upon, there is liberty to be transformed.

This transformation process is for every believer who lives by the terms of the new covenant: "But we all." The terms are simple: renounce self-sufficiency ("Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves"-2 Corinthians 3:5a) and rely on God's sufficiency ("but our sufficiency is from God"-2 Corinthians 3:5b). Those who reject human resources (the flesh) seek God "with unveiled face." They come humbly, without any veils of pretense or self-justification.

Coming to the Lord in this manner brings an ongoing blessing: "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord." Three mirrors reflect the glory of Christ from heavenly places into the experience of the redeemed here on earth: the creation, the church, and the Scriptures. The universe declares His glory. "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). Also, the Lord can be seen living in His people. "For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Corinthians 4:11). These two mirrors are helpful, but they can be distorted by sin. The mirror that reflects the Lord's glory flawlessly is His word. "The law of the LORD is perfect…these [the Scriptures] are they which testify of Me" (Psalm 19:7; John 5:39).

As we humbly seek the Lord in His word, we behold His glory therein. The wonderful consequence is that we "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory." From one area after another, from one degree to another, we are being changed into the likeness of the glorious Savior we are beholding. This process is carried on as only the Holy Spirit could do it: "just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Dear Heavenly Father, I long to be more like Your Son. Forgive me for neglect of Your word. Please draw me consistently to the Scriptures, that I might humbly behold the glory of Jesus. Thank You for the work of Your Spirit, who is able to transform me into a growing Christlikeness, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion


"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 13

Liberty to be Transformed

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Living day by day under the new covenant of grace embraces the spiritually liberating work of the Holy Spirit. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17). When the Holy Spirit is relied upon, there is liberty to be transformed.

This transformation process is for every believer who lives by the terms of the new covenant: "But we all." The terms are simple: renounce self-sufficiency ("Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves"-2 Corinthians 3:5a) and rely on God's sufficiency ("but our sufficiency is from God"-2 Corinthians 3:5b). Those who reject human resources (the flesh) seek God "with unveiled face." They come humbly, without any veils of pretense or self-justification.

Coming to the Lord in this manner brings an ongoing blessing: "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord." Three mirrors reflect the glory of Christ from heavenly places into the experience of the redeemed here on earth: the creation, the church, and the Scriptures. The universe declares His glory. "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). Also, the Lord can be seen living in His people. "For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Corinthians 4:11). These two mirrors are helpful, but they can be distorted by sin. The mirror that reflects the Lord's glory flawlessly is His word. "The law of the LORD is perfect…these [the Scriptures] are they which testify of Me" (Psalm 19:7; John 5:39).

As we humbly seek the Lord in His word, we behold His glory therein. The wonderful consequence is that we "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory." From one area after another, from one degree to another, we are being changed into the likeness of the glorious Savior we are beholding. This process is carried on as only the Holy Spirit could do it: "just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Dear Heavenly Father, I long to be more like Your Son. Forgive me for neglect of Your word. Please draw me consistently to the Scriptures, that I might humbly behold the glory of Jesus. Thank You for the work of Your Spirit, who is able to transform me into a growing Christlikeness, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion



"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 12

Liberty by the Holy Spirit

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

As we have seen, the old covenant of law produces spiritual bondage in those who attempt to live under it. The remedy for that bondage is the new covenant of grace, because it produces spiritual liberty. This liberty is a work of the Holy Spirit. "Now the Lord is the Spirit." The life-giving Lord of grace is the Spirit of God: "the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Living by rules and regulations ("of the letter") has a deadening, binding spiritual effect on people. This is how the Pharisees "ministered." "For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders" (Matthew 23:4). Jesus came to liberate people, to set them free. This is why Jesus ministered by the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18). As Jesus, the Son of God, humbly served the Father, the Holy Spirit empowered Him to rescue captives, to release the oppressed.

Rescuing people from sin and unrighteousness is the fundamental, liberating work of Jesus. "And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:18). Now, we are free to grow in a life of righteousness. Our new-found freedom is not for personal indulgence. It is for service of the Lord. "As free, yet not using your liberty as a cloak for vice, but as servants of God" (1 Peter 2:16). Now that we are free, we can use our freedom to lovingly minister to others. "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13).

Another wonder of Christ's rescuing, liberating work is that He wants to save us from self-dependent striving to develop a life of godliness and loving service. He accomplishes this by the work of the Holy Spirit. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). As we walk in humble dependence, the Holy Spirit imparts to us the life that is in Christ Jesus. This liberates us from the tendency to rely upon fleshly human resources, which are inadequate (due to sin and spiritual deadness).

Dear God of all spiritual liberation, I praise You for setting me free from sin and the service of self. Now I ask You to work in and through me by Your Holy Spirit, setting me free from self-striving in my service of You, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 11

More on Bondage versus Liberty

But their minds were hardened. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:14-17)

The new covenant of grace, which depends upon the Spirit of the Lord working in lives, produces liberty: "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." The old covenant produces bondage in those who attempt to live under it, because it provides no resource for meeting its demands. In our last meditation, we looked at the bondage of secrecy that results from living by man's sufficiency. Spiritual blindness is another bondage that comes from living under the law.

The Israelites were blinded by a veil that resulted from hardness of heart. "But their minds were hardened. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament [that is, the old covenant]." This hardness was related to self-sufficiency. John, the Baptist, held forth the righteous standards of God and called the people to repentance for their sins. "And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Luke 3:3). John was aware that many held a self-sufficient reliance in their ancestry (their blood-line link with Abraham). "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'" (Luke 3:8). Jesus also encountered this same hardness of heart as He preached. "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'?" (John 8:33). Like the self-righteous Pharisee, these people thought they were better than others and had no need for repentance. "He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous…the Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men'" (Luke 18:9, 11).

Many people today rely upon their religious heritage to give them an acceptable standing with the Lord. Such hardness of heart leaves them blind. They cannot see as God sees. God tells them of their need, but they will not reach out to Him for help. How tragic this is, because He alone is able to remove their blindness. "When one turns to the Lord,the veil is taken away in Christ."

O righteous Lord, I repent of the self-righteousness in my life. I want my heart to be soft before You. I do not want to stagger around in a veil of blindness. Lord Jesus, I humbly turn to You, in Your holy name, Amen.

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"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 10

Bondage versus Liberty

Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech—unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. (2 Corinthians 3:12-13)

Living by the old covenant of law requires a "performance based life," which depends upon man's sufficiency. This produces spiritual bondage. Living by the new covenant of grace provides a "relationship based life," which depends upon God's sufficiency. This results in spiritual liberty.

Moses was a great servant of the Lord. He is a wonderful example to us in many ways. However, in our present verses, we see him living by His own sufficiency, thereby exemplifying life under the law. As Moses met with the Lord for the giving of the law, his face would shine. For the benefit of the people, he would place a veil over this shining glory: "Moses, who put a veil over his face." When this glory began to fade away (as it was designed to do), Moses kept the veil on "so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away." In this, Moses was caught in a bondage of secrecy. He did not want others to see the glory fade. He wanted others to think that his face was still aglow.

All of us are tempted at times to hide behind a veil of secrecy. This is particularly the case when we are trusting in our own sufficiency. When drawing upon our insufficient resources, we generally sense that we are not doing as well as we should be: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves" (2 Corinthians 3:5). So, we try to hide it. We want others to think that our spiritual walk is more glorious than it actually is. So we put on veils of pretense, self-righteousness, or self-justification. The remedy for this bondage of secrecy is living by new covenant grace.

We are new covenant servants: "God, who also made us sufficient as ministers [servants] of the new covenant" (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). God makes us sufficient by sharing His fully adequate resources with us. "Our sufficiency is from God" (2 Corinthians 3:5). This is our effective hope for avoiding the bondage of secrecy that overtook Moses. "Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech-unlike Moses." Those who live by the grace of God have such great hope. Their expectations are anchored in the Lord, not in self. Thus, they can be bold, open, candid. If they fail, they humbly confess their insufficiency. If they succeed, they openly credit His adequacy.

Lord, You are my only hope and my sufficiency. You alone can liberate me from the bondage that results from trusting in myself. So, in line with Your word, I again look to You to supply daily what I need for godly living, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion

Happy Mother's Day!

"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 9

Substantial Glory versus Excelling Glory

But if the ministry of death…was glorious…how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)

These verses proclaim another significant difference between the glory of the old covenant of law and the glory of the new covenant of grace. This difference is seen in various contrasting phrases: "was glorious" versus "more glorious," "had glory" versus "exceeds much more in glory," "made glorious" versus "glory that excels," and "was glorious" versus "much more glorious." The old covenant of law is characterized by substantial glory, whereas the new covenant of grace is characterized by excelling glory.

It is certainly true that the law is glorious. That glory pertains to the holy character of God revealed in its standards. "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you." (Leviticus 20:7-8). This revelation of God's holiness in the law also exposes the unholiness of man. "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Romans 3:19).

When a person struggles and struggles with a major medical problem, it is agonizing to go on and on, not knowing what the problem actually is. It is glorious when someone is able to reveal what the problem actually is. Part of the glory of the law is that it reveals the basic problem under which all humanity struggles: sin. Yet, it is a far more glorious matter to have a remedy for a problem revealed. Grace is that remedy. "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:20-21).

Dear Lord of glory, I thank You for the glory of Your law, revealing my sin problem. Yet, I praise You even more for the glory of Your grace, providing a remedy for my sin. Lord, as I humbly feed on Your holy Scriptures, may the excelling glory of Your triumphant grace impart increasing righteousness into my daily life, through Jesus my Lord, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion

"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 8

Fading Glory versus Remaining Glory

For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. (2 Corinthians 3:11)

The old covenant of law and the new covenant of grace both have a glory about them. However, the glory of one (the old covenant) is a fading glory. Whereas, the other (the new covenant) has a remaining glory. One is related to man's sufficiency. The other is related to God's sufficiency.

The fading aspect of old covenant glory can be seen in Moses' experience: "But if the ministry of death [the law], written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away" (2 Corinthians 3:7). The glory that shone from Moses' face (as the Lord revealed the law to him) began to fade away. It was never meant to be the permanent glory that God desired to shine upon lives. "In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:13).

The old covenant of law was not designed to remove man's problems. It was given to convict us of our basic problem of sin. Neither was it designed to bring the glorious blessings (forgiveness and life abundant) that God had for man. Jesus Christ alone could accomplish that. "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3) The weakness of the law was that it addressed man's flesh (natural human resources). Those resources are not able to live up to God's perfect standard of righteousness. So, Jesus had to come and deal with man's sin problem at the cross.

When we attempt to live by the old covenant of law, we are choosing to live by man's sufficiency. This can produce in us a fading glory. It is like the hype of a "religious pep rally" that soon fades away when the crowd is gone, and we are left to face the battle on our own. This glory fades, because living by law depends upon man's sufficiency.

The new covenant of grace deals with man's problems. God forgives our sins by His grace. Then, He works in our hearts by His grace to transform the sinner. This produces a remaining glory: "what remains [the new covenant of grace] is much more glorious." This glory remains, because it depends upon God's sufficiency.

Dear Father of Glory, the glory I often experience is mere natural enthusiasm concerning all that I promise to do for You. I confess that glory fades so quickly. Lord, I humbly look to You afresh for the work of Your grace within my life. By Your sufficiency, produce in me a remaining glory, for Your honor and pleasure, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion

Edited by: WESLEYV at: 5/8/2015 (06:23)
"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 7

Ministry of Condemnation versus Ministry of Righteousness

For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. (2 Corinthians 3:9)

Here is another vivid contrast between living by the old covenant of law versus living by the new covenant of grace. God's holy law is a "ministry of condemnation," which exposes the bankruptcy of man's resources. God's glorious grace is a "ministry of righteousness," which offers the richness of God's resources.

When we try to live by the law, we walk in condemnation. When we try to minister by the law, we put others under condemnation. This is inevitable, since the law is a "ministry of condemnation." Living and ministering by the law depends upon human performance. The law demands righteous living. "You shall be holy" (Leviticus 19:2). The only resources available for law-performance are natural human abilities (the flesh). All natural abilities are flawed by unrighteousness. "We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). This makes the flesh incapable of producing a righteous life. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing" (John 6:63). Consequently, when we try to live by law (that is, attempt to meet God's standards by our resources), we sense condemnation. When we minister the law to others as a means of developing a godly life, they also experience condemnation.

On the other hand, when we live by grace, we grow in righteousness. When we minister the message of grace to others, they can grow in righteousness. Godliness results from ministering the new covenant of grace, because it is a "ministry of righteousness." The message of grace tells people that righteousness is available by faith. "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe" (Romans 3:21-22).

In addition to this initial gift of righteousness (imputed, or credited to our account in heaven), grace also provides ongoing practical righteousness (imparted for our daily lives on earth): "That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:4). As we humbly depend upon the Lord, the Holy Spirit brings forth a more Christlike life through us, by His grace.

Lord God of righteousness, I have often walked in legalistic condemnation. Also, I have pointed many others in that direction. Forgive me, Lord. Please teach me how to walk in righteousness, through humble dependence upon You. Equip me to minister Your righteousness to others, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 6

Ministry of Death versus Ministry of Life

The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious…how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? (2 Corinthians 3:6-8)

These verses contain another contrasting choice that results in people either living by bankrupt human resources, or by bountiful heavenly ones. This contrast is "the ministry of death versus the ministry of life." These terms come from correlating four phrases: "the letter kills…the Spirit gives life…the ministry of death…the ministry of the Spirit." Of course, the old covenant of law is the "ministry of death," and the new covenant of grace is the "ministry of life" ("ministry of the Spirit…the Spirit gives life").

When people attempt to minister by the law, spiritual deadness results. Since the law sets forth a perfect standard, but offers no assistance, it "deadens" those who try to live by it. Only those who minister by grace can hold forth life to people, because grace alone provides the life that God intends for us to experience. Ministry is to be engaged in by individuals, families, and churches. Every ministry will either be characterized as a "ministry of death" or a "ministry of life." Contact with ministries either brings spiritual deadness to people, or it brings spiritual vitality.

What would people encounter if an individual, family, or church were a "ministry of death" (that is, a law-based ministry that left people relying upon their own sufficiency)? They might encounter judgmentalism or fleshly striving. They might find self-righteousness or self-confidence. They might discover hypocrisy or frustration. They might detect harshness or coldness.

Conversely, what would people encounter if an individual, family, or church were a "ministry of…life" (that is, a grace-oriented ministry that encouraged people to rely upon God's sufficiency)? Instead of judgmentalism and fleshly striving, they would encounter love and peace. Instead of self-righteousness and self-confidence, they would find humility and confidence in God. Instead of hypocrisy and frustration, they would discover genuineness and fulfillment. Instead of harshness and coldness, they would detect gentleness and warmth.

Our God is a God of life. God's loving plan of salvation was that the Son would die to bring us life. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). The Lord has life for us, and He wants us to minister life to others.

Dear Lord of life, convict my heart when I am bringing to others a law-based ministry of death. Please develop in me a grace-oriented ministry of life, by the work of Your Spirit, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion


"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 5

The Letter versus the Spirit

[God] also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:6)

The "letter versus the Spirit" is another contrast between living by the old covenant or by the new. This is another choice that determines whether we are functioning by man's sufficiency or by God's.

A life developed "of the letter" is one built on rules and regulations. We cannot become a child of God by rules; neither can we develop in godliness by regulations. No list of demands (including God's law) could ever bring to us, or develop in us, a life with God. All rules and regulations (including God's law) come without resource. They are a list of requirements, not a supply of adequacy. They call for an observable response, but they provide no power to produce the required effect.

Consider circumcision, which was required by the law of God for the Israelites. "And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised" (Leviticus 12:3). This was to be a reminder to God's people that they were His. Implementing that regulation did not inherently change the life of any Jew. Physical, external circumcision (that is, circumcision "by the letter") did not make a change in the heart of the one circumcised. It takes an inner working of God to produce a true child of God (in Romans 2 language, a "true Jew"). "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter." (Romans 2:28-29). God births His children and raises them in godliness through His work in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

The kingdom of heaven is "of the Spirit." It is not about external "do's and dont's" (such as, whether to follow the standard of God's law concerning certain foods). "For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). Entrance into God's family, as well as development as God's children, does not hinge on following various regulations. Rather, it is about the Holy Spirit supplying heavenly blessings in the hearts of those who trust in the Lord. Life with God is always "of the Spirit" (God's sufficiency), not "of the letter" (man's sufficiency).

Father, I admit my tendency at times to equate godly living with following regulations. Help me to live by the work of Your Spirit within my heart. Through Christ I pray, Amen.

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"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 4

Tablets of Stone versus Human Hearts

You are manifestly an epistle of Christ…written…not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. (2 Corinthians 3:3)

The old covenant of law was written upon "tablets of stone." The new covenant of grace is written upon "tablets…of the heart." This is another vital contrast between the old and new covenants. This difference again decides whether we draw upon man's sufficiency or upon God's.

The old covenant message of God's law was written on stones. It called man to holiness, as measured by the character of God. "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy" (Leviticus 19:2). The message is magnificent. However, its impact would be limited (by design), since it was written on "tablets of stone." It was inscribed upon an inanimate object that was external to human lives. Consequently, it could not bring life or any provision for transforming lives. The law would function as a perfect standard, revealing our unholiness and convicting us of our need for what Jesus Christ alone could offer. We needed to have the perfect message of the law (holiness) implanted in our innermost being. This is what the new covenant of grace accomplishes.

The new covenant message of God's grace is written on human hearts: "on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart." Grace not only forgives our failure before the law, but it works to develop personal holiness at the very core of our being. This was the promise God gave through His prophets of old, that He would put His holy law into peoples' hearts. The book of Hebrews applies this promise to all believers in Jesus Christ."This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts" (Hebrews 10:16).

What hope we have through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! Now, God transfers His holiness from an outside standard to an internal resource. Now, the Lord is making His holy requirements an internal part of our being, as we humbly trust in Him. God is stirring holy desires in us, as we earnestly seek after Him. God is developing holy priorities within us and providing spiritual strength within us to walk in more and more godliness. "It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

O Holy Father, I would be hopeless, if Your perfect standard remained outside of me, demanding holiness by my performance. Thank You for bringing Your holy will inside of my life, providing internal resource for living and growing in godliness. Lord, I look to You to transform me from the inside out, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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"To God be the glory!!"


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Day By Day By Grace - May 3

Old Covenant or New, Man's Sufficiency or God's

[God] also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit…But their minds were hardened. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament [old covenant], because the veil is taken away in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:6, 14)

We have seen that godly characteristics develop in our lives through the working of God's grace within us. We now begin consideration of a closely related subject: a contrast between living by the old covenant or by the new (by law or by grace). The ongoing choices we make here determine whether we will be living by man's sufficiency or by God's. Various contrasting terms describing these significant choices are set forth in the third chapter of 2 Corinthians. Verses 6 and 14 set the basic context, the differences between the new covenant and the old: "[God] also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant…For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament [old covenant]."

One of the drastic differences between living by the old covenant or the new is seen in verse 3: "You are manifestly an epistle of Christ…written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God" (2 Corinthians 3:3). People write letters on paper, using ink to record the message. God writes His message in people's lives, using His Spirit as the instrument. What a vivid contrast, "ink" versus "the Spirit of the living God." Ink is a natural resource. It is available to all humankind, regardless of their relationship with God. Ink is not a life-giving or life-developing entity. It is a mere element of the kingdom of man. When we choose to live by the old covenant (the law), the only resources we have to draw upon are natural human resources. We are writing our own letter of life, and we have selected man's sufficiency, not God's. Such resources are as spiritually powerless as ink.

On the other hand, those who live by the new covenant of grace have the Holy Spirit supplying the mighty, heavenly, sufficiency of God. Think of the radical difference, ink versus the Holy Spirit. God wants us relying on His Spirit. He wants us living by His sufficiency, not ours.

Dear Lord, You know how often I rely upon that which has no more spiritual power than ink. I hope in my ingenuity, my resolve, my personality, my tenacity—myself. Lord, I want to be in Your word regularly, learning to rely upon You to work powerfully in my life by Your Holy Spirit, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - May 2

The Exceedingly Abundant Ability of God

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

In light of God being our sufficiency for the development of godly characteristics, this benedictory prayer in Ephesians 3 becomes an appropriate and instructive response.

It begins with the most critical issue for living the Christian life, the ability of God: "Now to Him who is able." Natural religious thinking would set forth the ability of man as the most vital matter in developing a godly life. Such an approach would leave us striving vainly under the law, attempting to live up to God's perfect standards by our own inadequate resources. Praise be to God, there is a heavenly, effective option: relying upon God's ability.

Think of the immeasurable ability of the Lord. "Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You" (Jeremiah 32:17). He created the entire universe. Certainly, by His power He is able to strengthen us. "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27). Our Lord rules over all of humanity. Surely, He is able to manage our lives. Actually, our God is "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think." Everything we could ask concerning His will, He is able to do far beyond that. Whatever we might contemplate but hesitate to ask, He is able to surpass that.

One amazing aspect of God exercising His ability on our behalf is the imparting of His power within our lives: "according to the power that works in us." This is how the Lord wants to develop godliness in our lives. He Himself desires to work by the power of His grace deep within our hearts. "For it is good that the heart be established by grace" (Hebrews 13:9). Again, the Christian life is not affected from the outside in, hoping to modify our behavior by external religious pressures. Rather, it involves a true change of character within, affected by God Himself. This is how God is ultimately glorified in the lives of His people: "to Him be glory in the church." He works a genuine transformation of life in and through us. Then, we give Him the glory for His exceedingly abundant ability.

Lord God of exceeding abundance, I worship You as the one who is able to do all things well. Forgive me for repeatedly turning to my ability. Lord, as I seek You in Your word, build my faith. Unleash the powerful life of Your Son within my heart, making me what You want me to be, through Christ I pray, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - May 1

The Source of Our Sufficiency

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God…[We] have no confidence in the flesh…I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6; Philippians 3:3; and 4:13)

We have been considering how God's grace develops traits of godliness in our lives. Such studies are related to finding the source of our sufficiency. Where are believers in Jesus Christ supposed to find adequate resources for living godly lives? The Scriptures answer this question in a two-fold manner. First, God wants us to realize that we are not the source of anything that we need. Second, God wants us to understand that He is the source of everything that we need.

Our inadequacy is the first matter the Lord desires to clarify for us. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves." Our own personal inadequacy is so comprehensive that we cannot expect that anything godly or eternal will source from us. We do not have any resources that can save a soul, transform a life, or cause the Lord's church to be edified. This is a drastically different perspective on life than what we initially held. Man's natural mind assumes that we must be the source of all that is needed for daily living. God's word repeatedly warns us not to adopt this viewpoint. The Psalmists proclaimed such. "Vain is the help of man…Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help" (Psalm 108:12; 146:3). Jesus elaborated on this theme. "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). Paul taught the same. "[We] have no confidence in the flesh [that is, in human resources]."

God's adequacy is the second matter that He wants to clarify for us. "Our sufficiency is from God." As surely as we are totally inadequate to supply what we need for life, God is fully adequate to be our comprehensive source for living. The Psalmist understood this corollary truth as well. "Through God we will do valiantly, For it is He who shall tread down our enemies…Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them" (Psalm 108:13; 146:5-6). Jesus offered the same sufficient provisions. "He who abides in Me…bears much fruit" (John 15:5). Paul testified of the same reality. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." God is the source of our sufficiency in all that pertains to the development of godly characteristics.

Dear Lord, my sufficiency, I renounce any attempt to look to myself to find personal adequacy. How vain and hopeless that is. Lord, teach me to hope in You for everything I need for godly living, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 30

How the Characteristics of Grace Appear

And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

We have been considering some characteristics that God wants to develop in our lives by His grace: namely, triumphant living, a fragrance of Christ, godly sincerity, and becoming living letters of Christ. How do these appear in our lives in an ever-increasing manner? As Paul wrote on these wonderful descriptions of godly living, his heart was stirred to ask, "And who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2:16). Paul fully realized that man cannot produce these realities. Human resources are inadequate.

These heavenly traits grow in us as we live by the terms of the new covenant (humbly trusting in God, not in ourselves). "And we have such trust through Christ toward God." Paul's confidence in exhibiting these spiritual qualities of life was directed toward God, based upon the relationship that is available in Jesus Christ. This is not self-confidence; it is God-confidence. God must produce these characteristics.

There is no room for believers to trust in themselves. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves." We are not the source of any of these wonderful traits of godly living. They must all come from God at work in us. "Our sufficiency is from God." When we live in humble dependency, the Lord's supply becomes our needed sufficiency. "Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant."

Yes, new covenant servants live by the grace of God. Consequently, their sufficiency is what the Lord Himself supplies! This is precisely what God promised of old through His prophets. "I will make a new covenant …I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:31, 33). God inscribes these spiritual traits upon the inner man (the heart and the mind) by His grace. The results are that these characteristics of godliness develop in our lives.

Again, we are looking at living by humility and faith. "God… gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). Also, faith accesses grace: "through whom [the Lord Jesus Christ] also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:2).

O Holy Father, I long to grow in these godly traits. I am not sufficient to produce them by my resources. My only hope is to be changed by You from the inside out. I humbly bow before You. With confidence in You, I ask that You pour Your grace upon my heart and mind, as I seek You in Your word. Through Christ my Lord, I pray, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - April 29

Living Letters of Christ

You are manifestly an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. (2 Corinthians 3:3)

Another significant characteristic resulting from living by grace is that we become living letters of Christ. "You are manifestly an epistle of Christ." The Lord wants to turn our lives into a "walking and talking letter of Him." He wants to make us a living explanation of who Christ is and all that He offers. What a great opportunity this presents. As we go about our daily responsibilities, others are often "reading our lives." While they are observing us, they can actually be learning of the truth and love of our Lord Jesus, as He is working in and through our lives. Although this may sound like too much to hope for, the Lord declares in His word that this process can become very clear to those who are watching us: "You are manifestly [that is, "plainly recognized as"] an epistle of Christ."

Remember, this is what is available for "ministers [servants] of the new covenant" (2 Corinthians 3:6). This is what happens in those who live by the grace of God. This is something that God does in us, not something we manufacture for Him. Certainly, people are involved in the process. We become fully engaged by humbly and dependently seeking after the Lord who wants to work in us. Others also get involved by ministering to us. "You are manifestly an epistle of Christ, ministered by us." Paul had ministered God's truth to these saints at Corinth. Yet, these living letters of Christ were not being written by ink, as ordinary letters would be. "You are manifestly an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God." God's Holy Spirit was at work writing the letters that their lives were becoming.

Notice where the Lord was inscribing these living letters: "not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart." The old covenant message of law was written on stones. The new covenant message of grace is written on the hearts of all who walk in humble dependence upon God. This heavenly work changes us from the inside out, making us living letters of Christ!

Dear God of all grace, I humbly admit that I need to be more and more changed into a living letter of Christ. So often, those who read me see only me. I ask You in faith to inscribe the character of Christ upon my heart, that others may see Him in my daily walk, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - April 28

Godly Sincerity in General

We conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:12)

God not only wants our lives characterized with godly sincerity toward His word, He desires to mark our lives with godly sincerity in general. "We conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity…and more abundantly toward you." As the Apostle Paul and his missionary team evangelized throughout the known world, and as they ministered among the churches, they functioned in both arenas with simple, Christlike genuineness.

The world is filled with pretense and attention to outward appearances. Many within the Lord's church have yielded to temptation in these directions. The flesh of each of us is enticed to develop an exterior image that does not match what is going on inside. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day for such an attitude. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation" (Matthew 23:14). These men were actually taking advantage of helpless widows. Yet, they stood in public and made long prayers, hoping to be considered as godly in the eyes of the people.

Their hypocrisy was not only a matter of observable, contradictory behaviors, but the very core of their being was drastically different from what they appeared to be outwardly. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew 23:27-28).

Our Lord loves sincerity and hates hypocrisy. Still, it takes the working of God's grace to effect the sincerity that God desires. "We conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God." Human ingenuity cannot produce the genuineness that God wants to see in our lives. God's grace is the only sufficient resource to bring about this godly characteristic of life. God's grace works within our hearts, where true sincerity must be formed. "First cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also" (Matthew 23:26).

Dear Lord, I humble myself before You. I do not want to be a hypocrite. Work in the depths of my heart by Your mighty grace to create in me godly sincerity, through Christ I pray, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - April 27

Godly Sincerity Concerning God's Word

For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:17)

Godly sincerity concerning God's word is another characteristic with which the Lord desires to mark us by His grace. "For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity…we speak." The manner in which we relate to the word of God is a high priority to our Lord. In the early church, some were already relating wrongly to God's word: "peddling the word of God." They were using the Scriptures for self-gain.

The Bible warns us about the temptations people face concerning inappropriate uses of the word. "There are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain" (Titus 1:10-11). Titus was warned of many in the church world who were rebelling against the message of God's word. They were into the meaningless chatter and religious deception that came from the legalists, who loved to coerce people by means of the law. It was necessary that these men be silenced with the truth, because they were undermining the spiritual well-being of entire families. They were teaching things that were biblically unacceptable. Their motivation was the financial advantage they could acquire by peddling deceptions. So many today are tempted to go after the material gain that can be obtained from those who will embrace religious schemes.

Paul also warned about others who would be motivated by the power and influence that a cleverly distorted message might produce. "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves" (Acts 20:29-30). True disciples follow the Lord Jesus. Furthermore, a true disciple wants to assist others in their quest to follow Jesus. These deceivers wanted others to follow them. This threat would be two-fold. Ruthless unbelievers would "come in" from outside the church. Also, "from among yourselves," men with an adulterated message would arise inside the church.

Godly sincerity is to characterize our treatment of the Scriptures. We are to proclaim the truth. "But as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ." We are to proclaim the biblical message that is from God, and do it in genuineness, knowing our God is watching.

Lord, I do not want to be careless in message or dishonest in motives concerning Your word. Mark me with godly sincerity regarding the Bible, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - April 26

A Fragrance of Christ to Every Person

Now thanks be to God who…through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

The fragrance of Christ is one of the great characteristics that God wants to build into our lives by His grace. "Now thanks be to God who… through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge." This spiritual aroma, which results from getting to know the Lord, blesses the heart of God. "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ." The Father loves to see the life of His Son being expressed in and through our humanity, even though this requires our dying to self. "For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Corinthians 4:11).

As we are getting to know the Lord more and more, our God is not the only one who is impacted. This spiritual aroma of Christ impacts every person we meet. "God…through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." This includes both the saved and the unsaved. "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing."

This fragrance affects those who know the Lord: "the fragrance of Christ…among those who are being saved." For those who are enjoying life in Christ, that heavenly scent in our lives is "the aroma of life to life." Christ's fragrance in us draws them to seek abundant measures of that life which they have already entered.

This spiritual scent also influences those who do not yet know our Lord: "the fragrance of Christ…among those who are perishing." To them it is "the aroma of death to death." They are dead in their sins, and this aroma makes them more aware of their deadness, more aware of their need for Christ.

When this fragrance is emanating from our lives, we are not the cause. God is the active agent, working in and through us to bring forth this heavenly scent. "Now thanks be to God who…through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge." This work of God's grace is available to us every day we live and every place we go: "the fragrance of His knowledge in every place."

Father God, I long to know You more and more. I want to have this fragrance of Christ emanating up to You and out to every one I meet. I praise You that this is a work You do by Your grace. So, I humbly bow, trusting You to work in me this way, through Christ, my Lord, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - April 25

More than Conquerors Even in Impossibilities

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)

When considering the triumphant Christian life, we may wrongly think that victory depends upon getting out of impossible situations. Actually, we are already "more than conquerors" even while we are in the midst of the impossibilities.

For us to be ultimately defeated, we would have to be separated from Christ's love for us. We would have to be cut off from the loving care of our victorious Lord. Can any foe or any situation accomplish that? "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" This question is answered in verses 38 and 39. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

No spiritual foe can enforce such a separation between God and His redeemed children. Neither can any circumstance of impossibility separate us from our loving God. Verses 35 and 36 list some of the impossibilities that make us feel as though we are being defeated. "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'" When troubles and pressures arise, when we are attacked or are lacking resources, we may be tempted to think that victory is no longer available. When our experience is like a lamb being led to the slaughter, we may think that victory could never be ours. Nevertheless, the truth is that "in all these things we are more than conquerors."

Yes, right in the middle of the impossibilities of life, we are already more than a spiritual victor. Actually, we have already been made participants in a mighty, eternal, abundant victory, the victory that Christ accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection. "We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Our victorious position in any situation is not circumstantial. It is relational. We are united by faith to the victorious one, the Lord Jesus Christ! "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Dear Father, I praise You for the constant provision of victory through Your triumphant Son. Lord, help me to view spiritual victory as a relational matter and not a circumstantial one. I thank You that through Christ I am already more than a conqueror right in the midst of my present impossibilities, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - April 24

More than Conquerors Even in Impossibilities

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)

When considering the triumphant Christian life, we may wrongly think that victory depends upon getting out of impossible situations. Actually, we are already "more than conquerors" even while we are in the midst of the impossibilities.

For us to be ultimately defeated, we would have to be separated from Christ's love for us. We would have to be cut off from the loving care of our victorious Lord. Can any foe or any situation accomplish that? "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" This question is answered in verses 38 and 39. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

No spiritual foe can enforce such a separation between God and His redeemed children. Neither can any circumstance of impossibility separate us from our loving God. Verses 35 and 36 list some of the impossibilities that make us feel as though we are being defeated. "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'" When troubles and pressures arise, when we are attacked or are lacking resources, we may be tempted to think that victory is no longer available. When our experience is like a lamb being led to the slaughter, we may think that victory could never be ours. Nevertheless, the truth is that "in all these things we are more than conquerors."

Yes, right in the middle of the impossibilities of life, we are already more than a spiritual victor. Actually, we have already been made participants in a mighty, eternal, abundant victory, the victory that Christ accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection. "We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Our victorious position in any situation is not circumstantial. It is relational. We are united by faith to the victorious one, the Lord Jesus Christ! "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Dear Father, I praise You for the constant provision of victory through Your triumphant Son. Lord, help me to view spiritual victory as a relational matter and not a circumstantial one. I thank You that through Christ I am already more than a conqueror right in the midst of my present impossibilities, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - April 23

Triumphant Living Even in Difficult Situations

When I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:12-14)

Triumphant living is one of the characteristics that God wants to develop in us by the work of His grace. Even when we are in difficult situations, the Lord wants us to learn to walk in the victory that is available to us in Christ.

The Apostle Paul encountered a very difficult situation in Troas, as he traveled on one of his missionary journeys. "When I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit." As Paul arrived in Troas, it was apparent that the Lord had granted an open door to preach the gospel. Nevertheless, Paul was distressed within his heart. The reason for the turmoil within was the absence of a key ministry partner. "I did not find Titus my brother." In some situations, ministry cannot be conducted properly, if all of the strategic parts of the body of Christ are not fully engaged. So, Paul left that city, leaving Troas for another time. "Taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia."

Circumstantially, this looked like a defeat. Yet, Paul had a more profound perspective than what the eyes of man could see or what the mind of man could conceive. "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ." Paul gave thanks to the Lord for a truth that was greater than the obviously difficult situation that he had just experienced. Whenever we look to the Lord to be the one leading our lives, He "always leads us in triumph in Christ." Paul was rejoicing in the fact that he was yielded to Christ as His Lord, his leader. Thus, he knew that the Lord was leading Him in triumph, because when Jesus is counted upon to lead us, He "always leads" us triumphantly.

Christ leads us in triumph; we do not accomplish this ourselves. This triumph is a spiritual victory that belongs to us by being in Christ. "Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ." Jesus won the victory at His death, burial, and resurrection. Now, He wants us to look to Him to lead us in that victory day by day.

Dear Jesus, my victorious Lord, how often I have attempted to be the one who directs my life. I confess that when I lead, victory is not the result. Lord, help me to count on You to lead me in Your triumph, even in the difficult situations that I frequently encounter. In Your triumphant name, I pray, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - April 22

Characteristics of Living by Grace

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

When we live by the new covenant of grace, God impacts our lives. He makes us sufficient by sharing His sufficiency with us. "Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant." This sufficiency is from His grace at work on us, in us, and through us-which produces spiritual characteristics in our lives. A brief reflection upon the workings of God's grace will provide a helpful context as we begin to consider these characteristics.

The grace of God is brought to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). When Jesus came to earth as God's incarnate word to man, He came overflowing with the grace of God. This abundance of grace in Christ is to be our ongoing spiritual provision for living the Christian life. "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for [upon] grace" (John 1:16). One work of God's grace built upon another work of His grace is to mark our pilgrimage day by day.

This constantly-available grace of God is able to justify and sanctify lives. "And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance" (Acts 20:32). God's grace, held forth by His word, offers us new birth by grace. When we believe on the Lord Jesus, we are justified (declared not guilty, righteous in God's sight). Thereby, we obtain the spiritual inheritance of the children of God: "the word of His grace, which is able to…give you an inheritance." This same grace of God then becomes our heavenly resource for progressive sanctification (practical growth in godliness): "the word of His grace,which is able to build you up."

Part of growing in godliness involves being set free from the dominating influence of sin in our lives. God's grace provides this liberating reality. "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). As we learn to live by God's grace, instead of by our own best performance, the grace of God is working deep within us, bringing spiritual stability to our inner man. "It is good that the heart be established by grace" (Hebrews 13:9).

This working of God's grace in us marks us with distinctive spiritual characteristics, which will be examined in the passages of Scripture that lie ahead.

Lord God of abounding grace, give me spiritual eyes to see and a humble heart to receive all the ways You want to mark my life by Your grace, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - April 21

Growing in Knowing the Lord

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. (2 Peter 3:18)

The new covenant of grace (at its very core) is a covenant of relationship. God's grace enables us to grow in spiritual intimacy with our Lord. "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Here, grace is linked with growing and with knowing the Lord. As surely as grace was for spiritual birthing, grace is also for growing. The most strategic area of spiritual growth is progress in a deepening relationship with the Lord. Paul prayed in this manner for the saints: "that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him…and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10).

This process of growth necessitates consistent intake of the word of God. "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). It is through the Scriptures that we learn of the grace of God. The word of God is "the word of His grace" (Acts 20:32). Also, the word of God has the Lord Jesus Christ as the constant, primary subject. "And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). The pervasive presence of Christ throughout the Scriptures is a vital truth for growing in grace, since grace is found in the Lord Jesus. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

God's will for our lives is that we might live in His word. This allows us to grow in His grace that we might know Him better. This truth is to delight our hearts and change our lives. "Thus says the LORD: 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,' says the LORD" (Jeremiah 9:23-24). So many people (sometimes, even the people of God) chase after human wisdom, earthly power, or material riches. God desires that He becomes the delight of our hearts and the goal of our life: "that he understands and knows Me." So, let us respond with joy to Hosea's call. "Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of [the knowing of] the LORD" (Hosea 6:3).

Dear Lord God, I want to press on to know You. I do not want to pursue after human wisdom, earthly power, or material riches. Nothing compares to knowing You. By Your grace, through the light of Your word, let me grow in knowing You, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 20

Living as Jesus Lived

"Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works…As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me." (John 14:10 and 6:57)

We are to live by trusting in the goodness of the Lord. "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" (Psalm 34:8). Jesus is the ultimate example of living by such trust. When we think of being like Jesus (or we ask, "What would Jesus do?"), the biblical perspective is far more profound than prevailing opinion might provide.

Jesus lived by depending upon the intimate relationship He had with the Father. "I am in the Father, and the Father in Me." When Jesus spoke or took action, it was not on His own initiative or by His own resources. "The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works." Although Jesus was God coming to earth as a man, He did not live by exercising His deity: "Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus lived as a dependent human servant, trusting in the Father to work in and through Him. The prophets of old predicted this path, as they recorded the confessions Messiah would make about His ministry here on earth. "For I [that is, the Messiah, Jesus] shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be My strength…The Lord God will help Me [that is, the Messiah, Jesus]; therefore I will not be disgraced" (Isaiah 49:5; 50:7). Jesus would depend upon the Father.

Jesus eventually applied this kind of dependent relationship to us. The structure of His teaching was "As… so." As it was between Jesus and the Father, so it is to be between us and Jesus. Jesus lived His life by depending upon the Father. Without ceasing to be God, He lived as a man, showing us how man is to live. "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father." Jesus lived by trusting in the Father to work in and through Him. We are to look to Jesus to do the same through us. "So he who feeds on Me will live because of Me." Jesus taught that feeding on Him involved coming to Him in trust. "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).

Lord Jesus, my hope and my strength, I want to live in true Christlikeness—facing all of life as You did. I want to learn to depend upon You, even as You depended upon the Father. Teach me, Lord, I pray in Your name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 19

Experiencing the Lord's Goodness

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8)

The Scriptures clearly declare that the knowledge of the Lord is for developing a relationship, not merely cataloging correct information about Him. Grace and peace are to be "multiplied to" us (2 Peter 1:2), not just memorized by us. "All things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3) are to be drawn upon for godly living, not merely listed to validate our orthodoxy. As we get to know the Lord, His goodness is to be experienced in our lives.

Our present verse is quite forthright concerning this point. "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good." The Lord is good. He is merciful, kind, gracious, and patient. The Scriptures abound with declarations of God's goodness. "Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever" (Psalm 107:1). This goodness of God is to be experienced by God's people. "My people shall be satisfied with My goodness" (Jeremiah 31:14). We are to "taste and see" God's goodness, not only to hear of it and talk about it.

How does a person experience the goodness of the Lord? "Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" God's goodness is available for our personal experience whenever we trust in Him. "Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men!" (Psalm 31:19). When we rely upon the Lord, His goodness brings forth peace in our lives. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You" (Isaiah 26:3). When we depend upon the Lord, His goodness brings forth rejoicing in our lives. "Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name" (Psalm 33:20-21).

It should not be surprising to us that faith in the Lord is the pathway to experiencing His goodness. We have noted in a number of these meditations that faith is one of the relational realities that allows a child of God to live by His grace. Faith accesses grace (Romans 5:2). "The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him" (Lamentations 3:25).

We trust in the Lord the more we get acquainted with Him. We trust in the Lord the more we seek Him to demonstrate His faithfulness. "And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You" (Psalm 9:10).

Lord, You are so good! Too often I fail to experience Your goodness, because I do not trust in You. Forgive me, Lord. I long to taste of Your goodness. Teach me to live in dependence upon You, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 18

Fully Supplied through Knowing God

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. (2 Peter 1:2-3)

Our lives are blessed whenever the Lord adds any of His blessings to our experience. Yet, there are times when we sense a need for God's blessings to be multiplied to us. Well, God desires to multiply His working toward us. "Grace and peace be multiplied to you." Drop after drop of refreshing water may encourage the thirsty soul. However, our hearts' true need may be for fountains of living water. God loves to pour forth His provisions of grace in abundance. "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). God's grace (His undeserved resource for living) is available in multiplied measures. God's peace (His heaven-sent spiritual tranquility) can be partaken of in magnified portions.

The process for partaking of these multiplied provisions simply involves growing in knowing our Lord. "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord."

Another astounding truth about believers in Jesus Christ is that we have already been given everything needed for abundant Christian living. "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness." This is not to say that we are aware of what is ours, or that we are experiencing all that is ours. Nonetheless, God has already given us every spiritual provision needed to live as He desires ("all things that pertain to life") and to grow in Christlikeness as He wills ("all things that pertain to…godliness").

The process for accessing these comprehensive resources also involves getting to know the Lord better. "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him."

It is by grace that we initially come to know the Lord. As we get to know Him better, grace is then multiplied into our lives. When we first met the Lord, He made available to us everything we needed to live as He intended. As we grow in knowing Him, we access experientially more and more of what He has already made available to us in Christ.

Dear Lord of abundant blessings, I praise You for Your bountiful grace. I frequently underestimate Your goodness to me. What a staggering thought that You have already given me in Christ all that I need for a godly life. O Lord, I long to grow in knowing You, that all of these heavenly realities might be manifested in my life, for Your glory and honor, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 17.

Spiritual Insight for Knowing the Lord

Making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. (Ephesians 1:16-17)

The new covenant of grace by which we relate to God is designed to bring us a growing, intimate knowledge of our Lord. However, this growing in knowing God requires that He reveals Himself to us. This is why Paul prayed for other believers to this end: " Making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him."

In order to increase in the knowledge of God, one must be given heaven-sent spiritual insight: "that…God…may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation." God cannot be seen by natural sight: "who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see" (1 Timothy 6:16). God cannot be known by natural wisdom. "The world through wisdom did not know God" (1 Corinthians 1:21). The things of God must be revealed to us by the Lord. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

Jesus rejoiced in the divine wisdom of this plan. "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, 'I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight'" (Luke 10:21). Jesus also encouraged those who humbly received God-given insight into spiritual realities. "And Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven'" (Matthew 16:16-17).

Jesus taught His followers to rely upon the teaching, revealing ministry of the Holy Spirit to know the things of God. "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:13-14).

Dear Lord, I long to know You more and more. I humbly confess that I need You revealing Yourself to me. As I prayerfully read and study Your holy word, I pray that You would give to me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of You, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 16

Pressing on to Know the Lord

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

We have noted that humility is one of the relational realities that God wants to develop in our lives so we can live daily by the grace of God. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). Here we see evidence of the godly humility that had developed in the Apostle Paul through the years. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended." When these words were written, Paul had been walking with the Lord for 25 to 30 years. Yet, he admits that he had not "fully arrived." He confesses that he did not know the Lord so completely that his entire life was a demonstration of resurrection living. Consequently, he had one great goal that directed his life and service: "one thing I do." His all-consuming passion was to get to know the Lord more and more: "that I may know Him" (Philippians 3:10).

One of the significant issues that keeps believers in Christ from knowing the Lord better is their past. Many Christians focus their attention on their past. Failures of the past plague them with condemnation. Wrongs done to them in the past tempt them to self-pity or bitterness. Past successes give false assurance that things must go well today. Past blessings distract them from seeking the Lord's fresh work in their lives now. Paul gives us heavenly insight concerning how to deal with the past: "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead." Things of the past need not dominate our present. God's grace can cover past failures and pains. Today, we need to look forward to the next work of grace that He wants to bring forth as we walk on with Him.

God wants us to move forward, looking upward. "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." The goal is to get to know the Lord better. We are to press toward that goal, exerting all of the spiritual strength and energy that God's grace supplies. This is our reply to God's heavenly call to seek Him, to know Him. Along the way, we will partake of the prize that comes with that goal. The prize is every blessing that results from getting to know Him better. Let's press on to know the Lord!

Lord Jesus, help me to forget things of the past that would distract me from You. I want to press ahead to get to know You better. Please reveal Yourself to me through Your word. I humbly ask You to demonstrate Your grace in and through my life, in Your name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 15

The One Necessary Thing

That I may know Him…Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do…"one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Philippians 3:10, 13 and Luke 10:42)

Paul's goal in life was to grow in intimacy with the Lord: "That I may know Him." He wanted to know the Lord so well that his life would be transformed into "resurrected living" in this spiritually lifeless world. He humbly admitted that he had not yet reached such spiritual maturity. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended." Thus, in light of his own need to grow, coupled with the excellence of the goal, he had a single focus in his life: "one thing I do." This one thing was his ongoing quest to know the Lord more and more.

This focused quest is similar to the heart that Mary demonstrated, as recorded in the gospel of Luke. When Jesus visited the home of Mary and Martha, Mary "sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word" (Luke 10:39). Martha was functioning as a busy hostess, desiring to bless her Lord. However, her busy labors distracted her from the one she was attempting to serve. "But Martha was distracted with much serving" (Luke 10:40). The solution was obvious to Martha. She would insist that Jesus send her sister to help. "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me" (Luke 10:40).

How startled Martha must have been when Jesus indicated she was the problem, not Mary. "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things" (Luke 10:41). The many concerns of Martha's ministry were causing anxiety and inner turmoil. Her desire to serve the Lord had deteriorated to self-pity and irritation. Then, Jesus offered an astounding revelation that put everything into perfect spiritual perspective. "But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42).

What an amazing truth: "one thing is needed." That one necessary matter is Jesus. Mary chose Jesus. She was at the feet of her master, getting to know Him, listening to His words of truth and grace. This was Paul's heart: "one thing I do…that I may know Him."

Dear Lord Jesus, shape in me a heart like Paul's, like Mary's. Stir in me a passion to know You better. May this become the consuming goal in my life. Forgive me for allowing busy service to eclipse You, the one I desire to please. Help me to spend frequent quiet times at Your feet. Then, when I rise up to serve You, may my heart always remain at Your feet, abiding in You, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 14

The Excelling Value of Knowing Christ

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…that I may know Him. (Philippians 3:8, 10)

We can easily underestimate the great value of getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Other matters from the world, or even within the church world, can gain our interest and allegiance. Paul saw clearly the precious treasure of knowing Christ.

Paul had advanced greatly in the religious culture of Israel. He was "a Hebrew of the Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5). He was a prominent Pharisee, a leader among the nation of Israel. Nevertheless, he forsook all of that cultural and religious advantage in order to follow Christ. "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ." He considered knowing the Lord Jesus as far greater than his privileged personal position.

Furthermore, Paul continued to consider other matters as loss, when compared to the supreme value of knowing his Lord better. "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Now that Paul had a relationship with the Lord, he considered any thing that would interfere with or diminish that relationship as being a losing situation. Sometimes, we are tempted to engage in matters that seem to bring some blessing or advantage. Yet, when we see the impact it might have on our relationship with the Lord, the apparent gain is actually a loss.

Paul knew Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. Still, he was aware that more of the blessings of Christ were yet to be experienced, if his relationship were to develop into more depth and intimacy: "that I may gain Christ." Thus, he repeats his two-fold renouncing of anything that might interfere with this desire. First, a look at the past: "I have suffered the loss of all things." Then, a confession of the present: "and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ." This term ("rubbish") refers to garbage, to waste, to dung.

These convictions left Paul with one great goal in his life: "that I may know Him." Paul realized that this goal was the excelling value in all of the universe: "the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."

Lord Jesus, knowing You is the most precious treasure of my life. Yet, I admit that I do allow other matters to interfere with our relationship at times. Lord, help me to view as rubbish anything that would keep me from growing in this wonderful acquaintanceship with You, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 13

Eternal Life and Knowing God

"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

This statement by the Lord Jesus begins in a very profound manner: "And this is eternal life." To complete such a statement requires comprehensive truth. If the statement had started with "this is included in eternal life," many non-comprehensive matters could be used to finish the statement. One could rightly state that forgiveness of sins is included in eternal life. One could properly say that escaping hell and securing heaven are included in eternal life. Likewise, one could say that meaning and purpose for living are included in eternal life. Additionally, one could state that spiritual gifts and spiritual fruit are also included. Furthermore, one could say that fellowship in the body of Christ and new understanding of the Scriptures are included. Nevertheless, none of these individually, nor all of these collectively, are sufficient to complete the statement: "And this is eternal life."

To finish that profound beginning, one must add an all-encompassing truth. One must speak of the full dimensions of eternal life. What is large enough to complete that majestic opening? Only the one reality of knowing God would be adequate: "that they may know You." Yes, knowing God is what eternal life is all about. It is only through meeting the Lord that forgiveness is found. It is only by being in Christ that we escape hell and secure heaven. Then, it is only through getting acquainted with the Lord that meaning and purpose for our lives are made real to us. Also, it is only through a growing intimacy of trust in Christ that spiritual gifts and spiritual fruit can properly mature. Furthermore, it is only through an increasing acquaintanceship with the Lord that Christian fellowship and biblical insight are appropriately developed.

These truths certainly concur with those prophetic words of old that promised a new covenant of grace to replace the old covenant of law. "I will make a new covenant…not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers…But this is the covenant that I will make…I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them" (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Hebrews 8:11 applies these words to followers of Christ. "All shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them." The new covenant provides a growing, intimate acquaintanceship for all who will walk in its terms of grace.

Dear Father, I confess that I have often thought and behaved as though eternal life were less than knowing You. Help me to understand and to live the very essence of Your new covenant of grace—Your provisions for allowing me to grow in knowing You, through Christ Jesus, my Lord, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 12

Enriched with Grace by Christ

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge…you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us. (1 Corinthians 1:4-5 and 2 Corinthians 8:7)

As we have seen, the new covenant of grace is essentially about developing a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Our God desires to impart His grace into our lives through this acquaintanceship with His Son: "the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus." This phrase ("by Christ Jesus") points once again to the intimate relational aspect of living in Christ by grace. God's grace flows into our lives "by Christ Jesus." It might be helpful to restate this truth. God's grace comes into our experience by means of another person, the Lord Jesus. The limitless grace of our great God is available to us on the basis of who Jesus is and all that He has done for us. It is accessed whenever we humbly, dependently relate to Him.

The resources that continually await us are so rich. The believers at Corinth found this to be true. "You were enriched in everything by Him." Two areas of God's rich grace are mentioned here: "enriched…in all utterance and all knowledge." God's grace had enriched them with a great capacity to know the things of God and to put the wonder of those things into appropriate words.

When Paul wrote these saints on a later occasion, he elaborated upon the richness of grace that had become their personal experience. "You abound in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us." Three aspects are added here to the previous list: "faith, diligence, love." By the grace of God at work in them, their capacity to trust in Him had been enlarged. By the grace of God at work in them, their attentive perseverance had grown.

By the grace of God at work in them, their loving concern for Paul and his missionary team had developed further.

When Paul prayed for other disciples of the Lord Jesus, he prayed in a manner that fits this picture. He prayed that their lives might be "filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:11). Righteous fruit, such as the Corinthians were enjoying, comes from Jesus Christ imparting His grace into our lives.

Heavenly Father, I again see that Your grace enriches my life by means of Your beloved Son. Lord Jesus, I humbly depend upon You to fill my life with Your righteous fruit, in Your holy name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 11

Christ Being Formed in Us

My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? (Galatians 4:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:5)

When we take the truth of the gospel to others, that they might be born again, we often enter into spiritual birth pangs on their behalf. They are wrestling over issues and questions. We are agonizing with them, that they might embrace the truth they need to become a child of God by faith. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26).

When the Apostle Paul took the gospel into the region of Galatia, he labored in this manner on behalf of those who would become believers in Jesus Christ. Later, he is writing them, telling them that once again he was in spiritual labor for them. "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again." This subsequent agonizing was not concerning their initial salvation. They had already been born again through faith in the Lord Jesus. Now, he was laboring "until Christ is formed in you."

It is the will of our Heavenly Father that we invite His Son into our lives. "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). Furthermore, it is His will that we allow the life of His Son to be expressed in and though our lives. As we face life day by day, we become engaged with issues, opportunities, challenges, responses, ideas, relationships, values, priorities, etc. The Lord Jesus Christ died for us in order to live with us through all of these aspects of living. "For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us that…we should live together with Him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9). In every situation of life, the Lord Jesus is with us, dwelling within us, wanting to express His life through us.

Although this great reality is described in many places throughout the word of God, many of God's people seem not to know it. "Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?" Either they have not heard it, or they have forgotten it. What a great privilege it is to share these grand truths with others. The process will not be without difficulties. "To this end I also labor, striving [agonizing] according to His working which works in me mightily" (Colossians 1:29). Though we may experience spiritual birth pangs for others, God will see us through, as He touches their lives.

Lord Jesus, my indwelling Savior, please express Your life in and through me. May there be no area of my life that is just me doing my best or me fulfilling my will. Also, Lord, be my strength, enabling me to share these great realities with others, in Your mighty name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 10

Christ Living in Us

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

In these sublime words, we are given profound insight concerning the grace of God at work through our intimate relationship with Christ. This majestic statement begins with our spiritual death, that another might live in and through our lives. Finally, we are told how we are to respond, so this divine arrangement can proceed as intended.

First, our spiritual death is in view. "I have been crucified with Christ." If we are believers in the Lord Jesus, we died with Him upon that cross. The cross of Christ is now our testimony of rejoicing, for by that cross we escaped the dead world of unredeemed humanity. "But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14). Although the cross is the end of our old life in Adam, that is not the end of our story. "Even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (Ephesians 2:5). By His grace, we were raised with Christ. We died with Him, that we now might live with Him. "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Romans 6:8).

The astounding consequence of these truths is that we are not the ones producing our Christian life. "It is no longer I who live." This reality is radically contrary to man's natural thinking. If we are not to manufacture our life with God, what other option could possibly be available? The wonderful answer is: "Christ lives in me." True Christian living is to be Christ living in and through our lives. How can this be accomplished? We still have an ongoing human experience in flesh and bones bodies: "the life which I now live in the flesh." Yes, but this life is to be lived by faith: "I live by faith in the Son of God." As we put our trust in Jesus day by day, He lives in and through our thoughts, our words, our choices, our priorities, our relationships.

Once again, this is God's grace at work through humility and faith. Humility is expressed by embracing this confession: "it is no longer I who live." Faith is expressed by counting upon this truth: "Christ lives in me."

Dear God of my salvation, what a magnificent plan! Thank You for providing a way out of the old life. Praise You for raising me to a new life. How wonderful that this new life is to be Christ living in me. Lord Jesus, please live in me as I depend upon You, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 9

Branches in the Vine, the Vine in the Branches

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)

Previously, we examined these verses to see how the grace of God produces fruit in those who walk in humility and faith (thereby living by grace). Now, let's revisit these words to consider the intimate relationship they describe. It is a profound biblical picture of us being in Christ and Christ being in us. It is like the relationship between a vine and a branch. Jesus is the vine; we are the branches. "I am the vine, you are the branches." He is the source of the life we need. We are the recipients of the life that He alone can provide.

The Lord Jesus wants us, His branches, to be fruitful. "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit" (John 15:8). Fruit is the result of developing life. Branches do not innately have that life in themselves. "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself." Branches must always find their life in the vine. The vine, Jesus, has life. "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Our Lord came to share that life with us in abundance. "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). His abundant life is what enables us to bear much fruit.

Such life abundant (fruit-developing life) flows out of the intimate relationship available to us in Christ. Think of the "joined relationship" that a vine and a branch have. The branch came forth from the vine, and is everafter connected to, and is dependent upon, the vine. The life of the vine is available to flow in and through the branch. We came forth from Jesus, our vine, as we were born again by His Spirit through faith in Christ. Now, we are joined to Him forever. "He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (1 Corinthians 6:17). Day by day, His life is accessible to us.

We access that life by abiding. "Abide in Me, and I in you." To the extent that we humbly depend upon Him to be our source of life, He then lives in and through us.

Dear Jesus, my vine,You are my only source of spiritual life. I confess that I have often tried to produce that life on my own. Also, I have often thought of You as far away, as I cried out to You in my prayers. Actually, You were then, and are now, as near to me spiritually as a vine is to a branch. Please remind me frequently of Your nearness. Lord, I want to abide in You day by day, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 8

Living in Christ, Christ Living in Us

"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him…At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." (John 6:56 and 14:20)

In our verses, we again see the extent of the intimate relationship that the new covenant of grace provides. An astounding intimacy is declared in these words: "abides in Me, and I in him." We have not merely come near to Christ, nor has He simply drawn close to us. Rather, we live in Him, and He lives in us! We live by being in Christ (by being related to Him, by being united with Him, by drawing our spiritual life from Him). Moreover, He lives in us and desires to express His life through us.

This unique arrangement for spiritual intimacy is experienced by the one "who eats My flesh and drinks My blood." Although the language sounds strange to the natural mind, the picture is common, that of eating and drinking to find life-giving nourishment. The unusual aspect is that the source of the nutrition is a person. Earlier in Jesus' discourse, He had indicated what this process encompassed. "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). Eating and drinking of Jesus' flesh and blood involves simply coming to Him in faith. When we come to Jesus, we are counting upon who He is (His person, His flesh, the Son of God becoming a man). When we believe in Jesus, we are also relying upon what He did (His work, His blood poured out for us upon the cross). As we relate to Jesus in this manner, we are finding our spiritual sustenance in Him. Thus, we abide in Him and He in us.

Of course, the Holy Spirit would participate fully in this process. "At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." Jesus was leaving His disciples soon to return to the Father. So, He comforted them. "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also" (John 14:18-19). On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured forth in fullness and power. Now, the Spirit would make the very life of Jesus available to all of His followers. As they trusted in Him, Christ would live in and through their lives.

Dear Lord of life, help me to learn to live this way—me living in You, and You living in me. Help me to see it is as simple as eating and drinking. As I trust food and drink for my physical life, I want to trust in who You are and what You have done for my spiritual life, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 7

Christ in Us, Our Hope of Glory

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

We have been considering the wondrous truth that we who believe in Jesus are in Christ. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). All that God has for us is ours "in Christ." We can now enjoy the benefits of who Christ is and all that He has accomplished for us, because we are in Him. Our present verse adds another extraordinary dimension. Not only are we "in Christ," but Christ is also in us: "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

God wants to make something known among all the nations: "to make known …among the Gentiles." The message He desires to reveal is glorious in spiritual richness: "the riches of the glory of this mystery." However, it truly is a mystery, in the New Testament use of that term. A biblical mystery is something that can only be known by the revealing work of God. The mysteries of the Scriptures cannot be discovered or understood by intellectual investigation or personal experience. God Himself must make them known. The Lord does this through the grace-empowered, Spirit-empowered proclamation of His word. Here, the great mystery God wants to unfold is "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

What a grand hope this message brings! Jesus, the Son of God, is willing to come and dwell within us to assure us of making it to glory (heaven) some day. Meanwhile, Christ wants to reside at the very core of our being: "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Ephesians 3:17). As we are trusting in Him, He is living in, and working through, our hearts. Then, from this strategic point of intimacy and access, He gives us heavenly hope. That confident expectation includes the joyous fact that He is coming again: "looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). Yet, His return is not our only hope. He Himself is our day by day hope: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope" (1 Timothy 1:1). Jesus is our comprehensive hope!

Lord Jesus, my hope, I praise You for the hope You give—anticipation of Your return, assurance of heaven, and daily confidence in Your working in me. Forgive me, Lord, for the times I place my hope and confidence elsewhere. Teach me, help me to put my hope in You alone, in Your faithful name I pray, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 6

Jesus Christ, Our Only Foundation

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)

Another wonderful blessing in Christ is the foundation that He provides for all who live by His grace. As with buildings, lives also need solid foundations. Our foundation is a person, Jesus. "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." By the grace of God enabling him, Paul ministered the gospel of Jesus Christ. "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation." In doing this, he was laying the only reliable spiritual ground for living as God intended. So many people attempt to lay other foundations for their lives. Some turn to earthly riches. Others hope in human wisdom. Others put their confidence in personal power and influence. Such vain pursuits are like attempting to construct a building upon shifting, sinking sand.

Our lives need a rock foundation. It has always been the Father's purpose to provide such for His people. David experienced this through his pilgrimage, as he trusted in the Lord. "From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2). In the most extreme situations on earth, when circumstances were overwhelming him, David cried out to His God. He looked to the Lord to be to him a rock upon which he could stand above the rolling waves of impossibility. "He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved" (Psalm 62:6). David stood on the Lord alone as his solid spiritual ground. Standing by faith he would not be destroyed.

Of course, the ultimate expression of God being a rock to His people would be in the coming of the Son of God to earth as a man. This great plan the Lord promised through Isaiah. "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily" (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus is that proven, priceless, secure foundation. Now, all who stand on Him by faith will not be driven about frantically, searching for solid ground on which to plant their feet.

O Lord my rock, You are the only foundation that I will ever need for my life. I have tried to stand on so many things that proved to be sinking sand. Lord, I want to place all of my hope for spiritual stability in You. When circumstances threaten to inundate me, be to me my rock of refuge in the storm, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 5

Jesus Christ, Our Great High Priest

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Jesus as our High Priest is one of the magnificent truths that matures us in the faith and draws us more intimately to Him. When we see the greatness of Jesus in this role, our steadfastness is strengthened. "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession." Jesus was completely successful in His mission of redemption. He came and died as the sacrifice for our sins. He rose victorious over sin and death. He ascended to heaven, seated in authority at the right hand of the Father. Knowing this, we have great cause to remain steadfast in our confession of hope in Him.

Furthermore, our great High Priest is able to understand our needs and express compassion toward our frailties. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses." The enemy of our souls threw all of his tempting devices at Jesus. Our Lord faced what we face (and more), so He understands our battles in a very personal manner. Another matter of even greater significance is that He never yielded to the tempter's attacks: "yet without sin." Thus, He not only understands our plight, but He can also provide us victory.

We are hereby given reason to approach God through our great High Priest. We can come without hesitation or apprehension to find the help we need. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Our God rules this universe from a throne characterized by grace. This grace can only be properly known by those who live under His new covenant of grace. This grace is sufficient to justify and to sanctify all who humbly trust in the Lord. The grace offered here is not for initial salvation. Rather, it is for rescuing the redeemed when they humbly acknowledge their inadequacy. We are invited to draw near, approach our God in an intimate fashion, and partake of His fullness in light of our emptiness.

Dear Jesus, my great High Priest, I extol You for Your greatness. You are great in understanding, compassion, victory, and grace. Lord, I have so many great needs in my life. So I draw near to You, anticipating that Your grace is fully sufficient to meet my lack, Amen.

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Happy Easter! He is Risen!

"To God be the glory!!"


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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 4

Proclaiming Christ for Maturity in Christ

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:28)

Spiritual maturity is one of the heavenly blessings that is ours "in Christ Jesus." Our heavenly Father desires that all of His children develop in this blessing of maturity: "that we may present every man perfect [mature] in Christ Jesus." As God's people are being built up, the goal is that "we all come…to a perfect [mature] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children…but… may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ" (Ephesians 4:13-15). Jesus is our standard of spiritual maturity. The Lord wants us to be maturing into the likeness of the character of Christ.

For the saints to mature in Christ requires the proclamation of Christ. "Him we preach… that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Truth about the Lord Jesus Christ is the message that matures the people of God. "Him we preach." We need to know who the Lord is, what He has done, and what He wants to do in our lives, that we might trust in Him as our source for growth: "from whom all the body… grows with the increase that is from God" (Colossians 2:19).

The Scriptures abound with many beautiful revelations of such truths about Jesus. He is the Son of God, divine. "And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God" (John 1:34). He is the Son of Man, Immanuel, God coming as man. "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head…Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel…God with us" (Matthew 8:20; 1:23). He is the Lamb of God. "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

This Jesus is our Mediator, bringing us the new covenant of grace. "And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant" (Hebrews 9:15). He is our Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, supplying all we need from start to finish. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End" (Revelation 22:13). He is our "all in all." "Christ is all and in all" (Colossians 3:11).

Such truths about Jesus are the ultimate message to mature the saints.

Dear Lord Jesus, I long to mature in Your likeness. There is too much about my life that is immature or carnal. I hunger to see who You are and all that You want to do in and through me. Please reveal Yourself to me through Your word, that I might know You better and be conformed to Your image. This I pray in Your holy name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 3

God Enlightening Us about Our Spiritual Resources

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling. (Ephesians 1:3, 18)

We have seen that all the grace resources God has for us to live by here on earth are already ours "in Christ." Now, our need is to have these comprehensive spiritual treasures revealed to us by the Lord Himself: "the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling." In order to draw upon these heavenly provisions, we need the Lord to enlighten our understanding concerning what is ours in Christ Jesus. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). As the Holy Spirit uses the word of God to reveal these matters to us, our faith develops so we might access them by faith. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).

The Scriptures teach us to pray for such spiritual enlightenment. "Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law" (Psalm 119:18). In the word of God, we are told of the wonderful things that God has for His people. If we prayerfully seek the Lord concerning His insight into these blessings, the Lord will enlighten us. His willingness to respond is evident in His word. "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3).

The Lord delights to give heavenly spiritual insight to the humble of heart, not to those who trust in their own wisdom and prudence. "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, 'I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes'" (Luke 10:21). This picture of spiritual children humbly trusting in the Heavenly Father to reveal His ways fits perfectly God's pattern for living by grace. This pattern is humility and faith.

What God has given us in Christ are His grace resources. It takes grace at work for us to even see what is ours in Him. God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), and faith accesses grace (Romans 5:2).

Dear Lord, fountain of every heavenly blessing, I humble myself before You. On my own, I could never discover the richness You have given me in Christ. Please enlighten me by Your Spirit, as I search Your Scriptures. Build my faith to draw upon Your grace resources day by day, through Christ I pray, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 2

Every Spiritual Blessing Ours in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

Living day by day by grace is essentially about developing an intimate relationship with the Lord. "You also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead" (Romans 7:4). We have considered some of the radical extent of that intimacy through the intriguing phrase "in Christ." "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13). Through this profound uniting with Christ, astounding spiritual riches are now ours.

This is why Paul offered grateful praise to the Lord. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul's thanksgiving was for what the Father has given to us: "who has blessed us." Notice, the verb is in the past tense-this has already happened. What is it that has already been given to us? It is "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." Think of it. This truth is staggering in its implications. Every grace resource that heaven has to offer is already ours here on earth. This does not mean that we are fully aware of all that has been given to us. Certainly, it does not mean that we are experiencing all of these blessings. Yet, it does mean that they are all ours to draw upon for fullness of life here on earth!

The reason these rich blessings are ours is that they all reside in Christ. In Christ is forgiveness, righteousness, and wisdom. Also, love, joy, and peace are found in Him. In Christ dwells victory, discernment, and courage. Moreover, compassion, strength, and perseverance are part of who He is. All this and far more is found in Christ. "For it pleased the Father that in Him [in Christ] all the fullness should dwell" (Colossians 1:19). Now, we dwell in the place ("in Christ") where all of this richness resides: "who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." All these spiritual resources of the kingdom of heaven are now ours "in Christ." "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for [upon] grace" (John 1:16).

Dear Father, I too want to bless You for bestowing all of this richness upon me. Lord, forgive me for the spiritual poverty that I too often experience. Teach me to draw upon these limitless treasures of Your grace. I want to honor You with an abundant walk in Christ's fullness, Amen

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Today's Promise from the Bible - April 1

New Creatures in Christ

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Everyone who is "in Christ," through faith in His name, is a "new creation." We are new people. We are no longer who we were before we put our trust in the Lord Jesus. We are not the "old man" reformed or improved, we are a "new creation." Yes, we have the same bodies, but they are mere tents in which we dwell. "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Corinthians 5:1). Some day in glory, we will trade these temporal, earthly tents for eternal heavenly ones. Meanwhile, though we live in the same old tents we had in Adam, we are new tenants, a "new creation." We may have the same old physical brain, but we are learning to think an entirely new way. "We have the mind of Christ… be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2 and 1 Corinthians 2:16). Christ lives in us, and His Spirit also dwells in us. His Spirit takes the word of God and unfolds the thinking of our Lord for us. As we embrace God's way of thinking more and more, we are transformed to walk in the newness that is ours in "in Christ."

In all the ways that matter before God, "old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." The old guilt is replaced by new forgiveness. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…in whom we have…the forgiveness of sins" (Romans 8:1 and Colossians 1:14).

The old foolishness is replaced by new wisdom. "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God…But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God" (1 Corinthians 3:19 and 1:30). The old unrighteousness is replaced with new righteousness. "All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (Isaiah 64:6 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). The old hope of changing (self-help) is replaced by new hope of changing (sanctification, God changing us). "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength…You are in Christ Jesus, who became for us…sanctification" (Jeremiah 17:5 and 1 Corinthians 1:30). This is grace upon grace.

O Lord, my hope, I thank You for making me a new person in Christ. Please strengthen my heart to spend time in Your word that I might hear more of these grand truths. Lord, I yearn to walk in more of this rich newness of life, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 31

In Christ, a New Creation

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:15)

In the relationship we have with the Lord through the new covenant of grace, there is intimacy, fullness of life, spiritual victory, and so much more. These blessings (not available to those who are related to Adam) are aspects of the new life that comes to new creatures "in Christ."

"In Christ," everything is so different from how it was "in Adam." The family of man, having only natural life from Adam, puts great significance in human heritage or personal inclinations. Whether a person is a Jew or a Gentile can be of enormous consequence to many among the unredeemed community. Whether a person is religiously inclined or secularly motivated avails much with many unsaved people. On the other hand, those who have been brought into union with Christ can learn that God's perspective on such matters is vastly different. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything."

In the kingdom of heaven, these distinctives among the sons of Adam mean nothing. Human differences do not cause the work of God or the will of God to be advanced or prevented. They avail nothing. What matters for all who are "in Christ Jesus" is not a "human category," "but a new creation."

When we come to know Christ by grace through faith, He gives us new birth. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again" (1 Peter 1:3). We are created anew. We become a new spiritual being before the Lord. We have "put on the new man" (Colossians 3:10). In this heavenly kingdom of new men and women, "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all" (Colossians 3:11). All that ultimately matters is that the Lord Jesus Christ dwells in all of His people, and He wants to be all that they will ever need. All that matters is that the Spirit of Christ is the living water that we have begun to partake of and that He makes us one. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free-and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). Any person in any human category who will cry out to the Lord in faith can experience this richness. "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him" (Romans 10:12).

Dear Lord, giver of new life, my heart celebrates the wondrous fact that I am a new creation in Christ. I am delighted that my old human categories could not prevent Your work of grace toward me. I praise You for the richness of Your grace, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 30

Reigning in Life through Christ

For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)

The Lord wants us to grow in the magnificent blessing of living victoriously through Him. Having a triumphant Christian walk can only be realized from a developing acquaintanceship with the Lord, because we are only able to "reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ."

Significant spiritual issues are set against a victorious life: "By the one man's offense death reigned through the one." Because of Adam's sin, spiritual deadness rules over the family of man. The enemy of men's souls uses this deadness to dominate and destroy lives. Elsewhere, Jesus likened him to a thief. "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10). This is why lives, households, and nations experience such deadly defeats and crushing failures. A tyrant dictator, "death," dominates all lives that are only born once in Adam. They can only draw upon Adam's fallen, sinful, inadequate life source.

A new and greater resource is needed and is found in Christ. "Much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ." These heavenly provisions are "much more" than is needed to replace the defeats of Adam with the victories of Christ. The resources are two-fold: "abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness."

One of these two is possessed by every believer in Christ: "the gift of righteousness." This is the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, given to us by faith. That allows us to stand accepted before a holy God: "found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith" (Philippians 3:9). Every believer has this gift, but not every believer is victorious. Thus, the key variable is to be receiving "abundance of grace." Every Christian has been the recipient of grace. Yet, many of God's people do not live day by day by grace. They walk according to the flesh, thereby drawing upon Adam's natural bankrupt resources.

Remember, living by grace involves humility and faith. God "gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). Likewise, through Jesus, "we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:2).

Lord God of grace, the reign of death has certainly assailed my life, bringing defeat and failure. Teach me to draw upon the abundant measures of Your grace, that I might reign in life, living victoriously, through Your Son, Christ Jesus, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 29

Death in Adam or Life in Christ

For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

The new covenant of grace is a covenant of relationship. Spiritual death through Adam made this covenant of grace necessary. Spiritual life through Christ makes intimacy with God possible. Every human who has ever existed inherited a sinful, fallen, earthly life from Adam: "by man came death." Every person who has ever put their faith in Christ has received from Him a righteous, risen, heavenly life: "by Man [that is, Jesus] also came the resurrection of the dead."

Adam began with a measure of intimacy with his Creator. "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being…Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it" (Genesis 2:7, 15). In the garden, Adam served the Lord and had fellowship with Him, when He would walk "in the garden in the cool of the day" (Genesis 3:8).

Adam could partake freely of all that was in the garden, except for one tree. "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17). For Adam, as for all of his race, "the wages of sin [was] death" (Romans 6:23). The day that Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate of the forbidden fruit, they died spiritually. "And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden" (Genesis 3:8). Whereas they had enjoyed a degree of intimacy with the Lord, they now fled from His presence. Ever after, the natural children of Adam would begin their existence "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).

The only remedy for the spiritually dead human family would be a relationship with a new "family head." "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many" (Romans 5:12, 15). There are only two families to which human beings can belong: Adam's or Christ's. There are only two family heads to which anyone can be related: Adam or Christ. Adam passed along spiritual death to his offspring. Christ gives to His family life eternal, life abundant-all by His glorious grace.

Creator God, my Father, I confess that I was born in Adam's sinful line. I have demonstrated my sinfulness on a multitude of occasions. I praise You for sending Your Son to rescue me from Adam's race and to place me in Christ, my new Head, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 28

Intimacy of Relationship in Christ

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)

We have been considering that the new covenant of grace is a covenant of relationship. The simple phrase "in Christ" indicates the extent of the intimacy that is available by grace. "In Christ" is where we live spiritually. It is also how we live. As surely as a fish is in the ocean and lives on the resources of the ocean, we are "in Christ" and live on the resources of Christ. As surely as an unborn child is in the mother and lives on the life of the mother, we are "in Christ" and live on the life of Christ.

We who believe in Jesus are not only "brought near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13), we are joined to Him in a "united closeness," like a body is to its head. "He is the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18). We can relate to the Lord Jesus more closely than the members of our physical body relate to our physical head. We can look to Jesus for direction and coordination. We can depend upon Him for planning, guiding, and timing in our entire lives. We can anticipate that He will monitor, maintain, and adjust our situations.

This union of intimacy is also like a vine and its branches. "I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5). We can look to Christ for our very life source. We don't have to produce a life on our own. We can concentrate on abiding in (depending on) Him. He makes our lives fruitful and effective.

The intimate relationship the Lord wants to develop with us is also likened to the joining of a husband and a wife. "You also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead" (Romans 7:4). We can count upon Jesus to love us faithfully and sacrificially. We can rest in His constant companionship, never leaving us for any reason throughout our pilgrimage here on earth.

What blessings are ours for time and eternity "in Christ." Joined intimately to Christ, nothing can separate us from the love and kindness that He has for us: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:38-39 and Ephesians 2:7).

Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed by the intimacy that is available to me, now that I am united to You. Lord, I want to depend upon You as my vine, follow You as my head, and love You as my bridegroom. Lord, please continue to reveal to me the implications of being joined to You for all time and eternity, in Your holy name I pray, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 27

The New Covenant of Grace: A Covenant of Relationship

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 1:7; 2:13)

The ultimate blessing of the new covenant of grace is that it allows people to develop an intimate relationship with the true and living God. We began our personal history greatly separated from God: "you who once were far off." How could we ever comprehend the "vast relational distance" that our sins brought between us and the Lord? We could not relate to God. We could not talk to Him or enjoy His presence. We were "without Christ…having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). Therefore, we were "alienated from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18). Then, "according to the riches of His grace," we found "forgiveness of sins," as Jesus shed His blood unto death to pay the redemption price. "In Him we have redemption through His blood."

Now, the entire picture is drastically changed. "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." We are no longer alienated from God. "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19). We are now members of God's family. We are His beloved children. "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!'" (Galatians 4:6). By the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we cry out intimately to the Lord God as our "Heavenly Papa!" "You received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:15-16). As we cry out "Abba," the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, gives us a deep internal, spiritual confirmation that we truly are God's children.

Our heavenly Father wants to build a close relationship with us, His children. He wants us to know His love. "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5). Also, God wants us to respond in love to Him. " We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). He wants us to call upon Him, that He might respond to us. "Call to Me, and I will answer you" (Jeremiah 33:3). He wants us to empty our heart unto Him. "Pour out your heart before Him" (Psalm 62:8). By God's grace, the way for intimacy is now open to us.

Dear Abba, Father, I thank You for washing away my sins. I praise You for bringing me close to You. I desire to grow in intimacy with You. Help me to see Your love more clearly, that I might respond in stronger love to You. Remind me to cry out to You consistently and to pour out my heart honestly, all by the blood of Christ, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 26

The Resurrection: Reality, Not Dead Religion

Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. (Acts 4:1-2)

The resurrection of Christ is the difference between a dead religion and a personal relationship. Living by resurrection power is the difference between earthly striving and heavenly reality. These differences can be seen in the contrast between the religious authorities of Israel and the disciples of Jesus.

The disciples were proclaiming to the people the wondrous message of the risen Lord Jesus. "They taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead." Such a message infuriated the religious leaders. "The priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed." Today, many religious leaders reflect a similar response. In the popular religious world, universalism and skepticism prevail. Each religion is viewed as one more road leading to God. For many, the miraculous is unacceptable, as human reasoning reigns supreme. In many religious circles, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either an object of scoffing or an area of hypocritical compromise.

The Sadducees of old were like this. They would talk about the resurrection, even asking Jesus questions that seemed to affirm that God could raise people from the dead. "Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her" (Matthew 22:28). This question followed their scenario in which seven brothers would become the husband of the same woman, through seven death and marriage sequences. What a mockery this question represented. First, it was given in hypocrisy. "The Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him" (Matthew 22:23). Second, they were unaware of what the Scriptures said about such a heavenly matter. "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage" (verse 30). Jesus explained that these religious rationalists made two great errors in their approach. "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (verse 29).

We who have been born again by faith in the risen Lord Jesus can err in a similar fashion in our day by day living. We can talk about the resurrection of Jesus, but behave as though it were not an actual reality for Christian living. We can be mistaken, "not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God."

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your patience when I profess belief in the resurrection, but live by my inadequate human resources. Help me to understand what the Scriptures say about living daily in the power of the resurrection of Christ, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 25

Once More on the Resurrection and Sanctification

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

Our passage speaks again of the Lord's resurrection power operating in our daily Christian lives, in the process of sanctification and spiritual growth. The setting in which the Lord did this resurrecting work was in the midst of trials while Paul and his team were serving God.

Paul did not want other believers to be unaware of his difficulties. "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia." Too often, we are tempted to keep our struggles totally private. Thereby, we rob glory from God when He delivers us. Also, we keep others from learning important lessons that come from watching God fulfill the faithful promises of His word.

Paul's battles were severe on this occasion. "We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves." Spiritually speaking, these trials were "killing" Paul and his missionary team. They were pressed down, overwhelmed, helpless, and hopeless. When we are in hopeless despair, our sufferings seem to be pointless. Yet, our difficulties (like Paul's) have this invaluable purpose built into them: "that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead." We have frequently noted that living by grace requires humility and faith. God gives grace to the humble, and faith accesses grace. Well, in the trials of life, God is working on developing these relational realities (spiritual realities that become real through a growing relationship with Jesus).

Trials and difficulties become occasions to be humbled before God. We are provoked to cry out to God in helplessness. Also, trials present new opportunities to trust in the Lord. When the trials are intense, God is purging us of the primary obstacle to trusting in God, and that is self-trust. "Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead." Thus, convinced that we cannot handle it, we call upon God, who faithfully resurrects us from our circumstantial death: "Who delivered us from so great a death." Thereby, faith grows, bringing assurance that He will continue to rescue us: "and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us."

O Lord, my Deliverer, come to my aid in the trials that bury me in despair. Show me where I am trusting in myself. Purge me of self-trust. I want to embrace humility and put my trust in You. Resurrect me, Lord, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 24

Still More on the Resurrection and Sanctification

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

As we are getting to know our God of resurrection (by learning about and then partaking of His resurrection power, Christ's sufferings, and conformity to His death), our lives are being changed. We are attaining to "the resurrection from the dead."

This phrase brings to mind the final resurrection of the redeemed in the last day. "When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:13-14). Yet, the final resurrection cannot be in view in our meditation verses. The overall teaching of the Scriptures would lead to this conclusion. One's place in the final resurrection is determined by one's relationship to God. That issue is settled through exercising saving faith in Jesus Christ. Those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior have a part in the last resurrection, unto eternal life.

Furthermore, the immediate context of Paul's statement indicates that attaining to "the resurrection from the dead" was something he was reaching out for now, hoping to grow into it increasingly during this life. "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me" (Philippians 3:12). Paul confesses that he had not fully gained the type of resurrection about which he is writing. Yet, the final resurrection was already his expectation, through justifying faith in Jesus. So, Paul is pressing on for something else.

Earlier, the Apostle had revealed what He was seeking after. "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ" (Philippians 3:8, 10). This is why Paul wrote, "that I may know Him." This was the one passion of his life. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do" (Philippians 3:13). The one thing that Paul was aiming at was a growing acquaintanceship with his resurrected Lord. He desired to know his risen Lord so well that he might attain to "the resurrection from the dead." He wanted his developing relationship with the risen Christ to produce a resurrected lifestyle in him. He wanted to face each situation of life with a heavenly, resurrected perspective and attitude, a way of life completely different from the dead and dying world all around him.

Dear Jesus, my resurrected Lord, I praise You for providing for me a place in the final resurrection. Now, I pray, help me to get to know You better, that I might live a resurrected life day by day, in Your mighty name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 23

Even More on the Resurrection and Sanctification

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. (Philippians 3:10)

Paul's all-consuming passion was "that I may know Him." This verse does not list four matters for which Paul sought an acquaintanceship (a knowledge of God, resurrection power, a fellowship in Christ's sufferings, and conformity to His death). Rather, it points out one great quest (a knowledge of God) and three different arenas in which that knowledge could grow (resurrection power, a fellowship in Christ's sufferings, and conformity to His death). We saw in our last meditation how resurrection power and suffering can increase our knowing of the Lord. Now, we add another amazing aspect to a growing acquaintanceship with Jesus: "being conformed to His death."

There were some unique aspects to the death of Christ upon the cross (for example, His atonement for sins). However, there were other aspects of His death that God wants to repeat in our lives. As Jesus was placed upon the cross, it looked like defeat. It seemed to be the greatest wrong that man could ever do. Yet, God was working out His sovereign purposes. "Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death" (Acts 2:23). At times, we are placed in situations that seem certain to lead to a deadly defeat. Yet, the Lord is unfolding His sovereign plan for us. In taking us through such impossibilities (and turning apparent defeat into victory), the Lord is allowing us to become more acquainted with Him and His ways.

When Jesus was dying, He hung helpless upon the tree. He entrusted Himself into the hands of His Father. "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46). The Father would have to prove faithful, if Jesus were to come forth from the grave. "Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father" (Romans 6:4). At times, we are in circumstances that are personally crucifying. We are in situations where everything so obviously requires a mighty work of God. If He does not prove faithful on our behalf, there will be no way out of the agonizing dilemma. When our Lord is so clearly our only hope (and then He comes through faithfully), we again grow in a deeper knowledge of Him and His ways.

Dear Father of glory, help me to not shrink back in fear and doubt when You are conforming me to the death of Your Son. When everything looks like defeat and disaster, remind me to look to You to work out Your will, in spite of the evil intentions of foolish or godless people. When I am hanging helpless in the midst of crucifying circumstances, remind me to commit myself to You and Your great faithfulness. Lord, I want to know You more through any means You choose, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 22

More on the Resurrection and Sanctification

I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. (Philippians 3:8, 10)

Sanctification is that process whereby the redeemed are increasingly set apart for the purposes, use, and glory of God. The resurrection of Christ and the power of that resurrection are interwoven into that entire process. Our present passage offers additional insight into this sublime truth.

The power of the resurrection is again in view. However, the context involves more than heavenly empowerment: "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection." The primary context is getting to know the Lord. "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Paul's passion was to know His Lord, to become more intimately acquainted with Him. He refers to this blessed goal as the greatest value available in all of creation. "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ." Paul was ready to lose anything in order to gain more intimacy with the Lord. To him, such a knowing of Christ was "the excellence" (which could be translated, "the excelling value").

Our relationship with the Lord began in "the power of His resurrection." We were dead in our sins, and the Lord raised us to new life, as we believed upon Him. What a wonderful way to start out our acquaintanceship with God! A season of joy and gratitude accompanied this personal resurrection. His resurrection power gave us such a great appreciation of who our Lord actually is, a God of might and power.

As time marched along, we discovered that there are other ways to get to know our Lord more fully: namely, "the fellowship of His sufferings." Many of us who follow Christ were startled when, after believing in Jesus, we encountered some personal suffering. In our early joyous days with Jesus, we maybe assumed that trials would never come our way. Eventually, we began to suffer as Jesus did (for doing the right things, for righteousness sake). "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21). How much deeper did our relationship with Him grow in those trials. We learned more of the difficult path He walked here on earth. We found out how faithful and compassionate He was when we called upon Him in our need. Once more, our love for Him grew.

Dear Lord of power and compassion, I magnify You for Your resurrection power. I extol You for Your matchless compassion. You have allowed me to experience these that I might grow in knowing You. Unleash Your power in my weakness. Pour out Your compassion in my sufferings. Let me know You more, through Christ I pray, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 21

The Resurrection and Sanctification

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know…what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 1:18-20)

Just as the resurrection had an essential role in our starting out with God (in justification), it also plays an irreplaceable part in our going on with God (in sanctification). In the new covenant of grace, the resurrection is involved from start to finish in the Christian life.

Our Scripture meditation is from one of the great prayers in all of the Bible. This portion begins by asking God to give us spiritual insight: "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened." What the Lord addresses in this prayer determines whether a believer will live by godly power or by human weakness. God desires to give us heavenly insight on this vital matter. Then, He intends for this spiritual enlightenment to lead us into a personal walk concerning this reality: "that you may know." The issue of this prayer is to become a part of our daily experience.

God wants us to experience the proper power source for living the Christian life: "that you may know…what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe." We who have been justified (declared righteous) through faith in Christ are not supposed to face each day by our meager, inadequate resources. We who have been born again by the Spirit of God are to live this new life by the power of God!

The aspect of God's power in view here is resurrection power: "according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead." Think of the mighty power of God that was at work to bring Jesus from a crucified Savior to a victorious risen Lord. This is the power that our God wants to unleash upon us day by day.

As great as this display of power was, even more is available to us: "and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places." This mighty divine power that brought forth Jesus from the dead, also raised Him to the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realm. Surely, this power is sufficient to lift us out of any deadening situation of our minds or our surroundings.

Dear God of resurrection power, too many days can pass by without me turning to You for this mighty power. Too often I have lived by a power that came from me—will power, emotional power, mental power. I repent for relying upon such feeble resources. Lord, by Your grace I see that heavenly resurrection power is to be my supply, so I look to You now for this work in me, in Your mighty name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 20

More on the Resurrection and Justification

[You were] buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses…He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. (Colossians 2:12-13)

These truth-packed verses unfold the role of the resurrection as we started out with God through justification, when He declared us righteous in Christ. In this initial work of the Lord on our behalf, we were "buried with Him in baptism." Here, baptism is referring to our identification with Christ. When we first believed on the Lord Jesus, we were joined to Him, made one with Him, identified with Him. "We have been united together in the likeness of His death" (Romans 6:5). From God's perspective, we who trusted in Jesus Christ died on the cross with Him and were buried in the tomb with Him. Water baptism bears testimony to this truth. Identification with Christ makes this our spiritual history before God. In God's sight, our old life was crucified and buried.

Through faith in Christ and our identification with Him, we were also raised from the tomb with Jesus. "In which [that is, by identification] you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." Just as His death became our death through identification, so also His resurrection became our resurrection. "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection" (Romans 6:5). In God's sight, we were raised to a new life in Christ. "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism [that is, by identification] into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).

Colossians 2:13 offers another aspect of our need for a personal spiritual resurrection. "And you, being dead in your trespasses…He has made alive together with Him." Before we were justified through faith in Christ, we were not only guilty and condemned, we were spiritually dead. We had no true life in us. We could not relate to God or interact with Him. For us to start out with God in justification, the Lord had to raise us with Christ from our spiritual deadness.

O Glorious Lord, what a good reminder this is of the desperate condition I was in when You justified me. I was not merely needy; I was spiritually dead. I thank You for burying that old life with Jesus in His tomb. I praise You for raising me with Christ to a new life. I rejoice in the radical nature of Your saving grace. Lord, by the power of the resurrection, lead me in the reality of newness of life, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 19

The Resurrection and Justification

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)

We have a myriad of reasons to bless our great God, to speak of Him with grateful praises. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Our heavenly Father has mercifully showered us with so many blessings that we rightly desire Him to be honored and blessed. "For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You" (Psalm 86:5). Based on His great love, He sent His Son to pay for our debt of sin. Through faith in His name, we have received forgiveness and new life. Day by day He is present with us and is working in and through our lives. How blessed we are!

In the Scripture before us, God's merciful heart toward us is focused on a magnificent matter: "who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope." The Lord's mercy has provided a plan whereby He can righteously hold back the awful judgment that we rightly deserve. This plan of salvation offers new birth. God has "begotten us again." This could be rendered, "caused us to be born again." We all were begotten of our earthly parents, a birth that brings temporal human life. For all of us who believe in the Lord Jesus as our personal Savior, we have been given a new birth from God into everlasting spiritual life in Christ. This is one of the heavenly realities that relate to justification (being declared righteous in God's sight, and thereby able to begin a walk with God).

This new birth is also "to a living hope." When we were born into the Lord's family, real "hope" became available to us everafter. Biblical hope is about absolute certainties concerning the future. It is about guaranteed expectations for time and eternity. These are vital needs for every person. Otherwise, people flounder in hopelessness and despair, or they march along in vain fantasies and imaginations.

The unique hope the Lord provides for us is a "living hope." It is a hope that pulsates with resurrection life. "[God] has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." This hope is permeated with the Lord's resurrection. This resurrection hope is sufficient to raise us from any agonizing deadness, whether in our aching hearts or in our threatening circumstances.

Lord God of mercy, I praise You for Your abundant mercy toward me. I thank You for new birth. I am especially grateful for living hope. I now ask You to work in the dead aspects of my life. Lord, You know what areas of my heart are lifeless. You see the circumstances that are killing me. Raise my heart to new vitality. Lift me above circumstantial living, through the reality of the resurrection of Your Son, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 18

The Resurrection Related to Justification and Sanctification

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die." (John 11:25-26)

It would be appropriate to again follow a pattern we have used previously, applying our present subject (the resurrection) both to our starting out with God (justification) and our going on with God (sanctification). The great value in doing such is to be repeatedly reminded that the grace of God that starts us out in this new life in Christ is the same grace that develops this life in Christ.

When Jesus proclaimed the words of our present verses, He was standing at the tomb of Lazarus. Martha, one of the sisters, was interacting with Him. She had hoped that Jesus would have arrived earlier, knowing He could have prevented this death. "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21). Even now, with her brother in the tomb, she realizes He could yet intervene. "But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You" (verse 22). Jesus comforts her by assuring that Lazarus will be resurrected. "Your brother will rise again" (verse 23). Martha assumes that Jesus is referring to the final resurrection of the saints. "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (verse 24).

At this point, Jesus offers one of those glorious "I am" revelations. "I am the resurrection and the life." Then, He added two wonderful applications. First, faith in Him can even bring the dead to life, like Lazarus. "He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." Second, faith in Him can ensure eternal life to those who are yet alive. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."

Think again of the implications connected with Jesus' basic statement. "I am the resurrection and the life." Martha desired an immediate resurrection for her brother. She wanted him to live once again. Jesus revealed that He Himself was what Martha desired for her brother. He was "the resurrection and the life." Jesus provides resurrection and life, because in His very person He is resurrection life. He is the resurrection that we all need from our deadness, whether physical or spiritual. "I am the resurrection." He is the life that we need, if we are to live as God intended. "I am…the life." Knowing Christ by faith makes us partakers of what He Himself is: "the resurrection and the life." This is vital to see, because the Christian life is a resurrection life. Such a life can only be found in a resurrected Lord, and it can only be developed following a resurrected Lord.

Jesus, I bow down before You as my resurrected Lord. Apart from You, I would only know spiritual deadness as a fallen son of Adam. In You I have a spiritual resurrection to new life. Now I want to pursue You daily to see that new, resurrected life more fully developed in me. Lord Jesus, lead me, I pray, into more life, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 17

Resurrection Victory for Effective Christian Living

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings spiritual victory over sin and death to all who believe in Him. "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." As we allow the Lord to be our guide through each day, He "leads us in triumph in Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:14). When this process is unfolding, an effective Christian life is developing, by the grace of God at work in us.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast." It is the will of God that our lives be marked by steadfastness (constancy and stability). Paul rejoiced concerning fellow believers who manifested such attributes: "rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ" (Colossians 2:5). He later added that they were to be "rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith" (verse 7).

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be… immovable." Our heavenly Father also wants us to be "immovable" (firmly persistent, unable to be swayed). Paul was a good example of this. Although he faced many threatening difficulties, he professed: "But none of these things move me" (Acts 20:24). When Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus, he warned of another threat to spiritual persistency: "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14).

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be…always abounding in the work of the Lord." Our Lord wants us to be abundantly laboring with Him. This is one of of the purposes of Jesus' redemptive work for us: "Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14). Yes, living by grace will produce abounding good works. The glorious fact is that such labors are actually the Lord at work in and through us: "always abounding in the work of the Lord." As the Lord sustains His work within us, we can grow in a certainty that this kind of laboring will be effective: "knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."

Note the key word that indicates the basis for all of these desirable traits: "Therefore." This refers back to the resurrection victory provided by the Lord Jesus. In light of this victorious work of Christ on our behalf, anyone trusting in this reality will find these spiritual virtues developing in their lives, by the grace of God at work.

Dear Lord, I long to walk in spiritual stability. I yearn for a life that cannot be swayed. I want to abundantly labor with You. Therefore, Lord, I place my confidence in the reality of Your resurrection victory. Work in me by Your grace, I pray, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 16

Resurrection Victory by the Grace of God

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56-57)

1 Corinthians 15 is the great resurrection chapter of the Scriptures. In verse 56, we see two of the enormous problems that the resurrection of Jesus Christ overcomes. "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." The sting that brings physical and spiritual death to the family of man is sin. "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Adam sinned and immediately died spiritually. Eventually, he died physically. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). We sinned in Adam, our leader. Also, we personally walked in sin and spiritual death until we came to Christ.

The strength that sin exerts over lives is the law. "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Romans 3:19). There is no way that man by his own strength can remove the guilt of sin which God's law holds powerfully over him. The righteous power of the law holds sinful humanity fully accountable before the Lord.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ validates His sacrifice for sin, removing sin's sting. "O Death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). Eternal life replaces sin's sting for all who believe in the Lord Jesus. "The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Such victorious grace stirs gratitude in the hearts of the redeemed. "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Notice the language of grace used to describe that which is provided through the resurrection. "The gift of God is eternal life…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory." These two terms ("gift" and "gives") are the language of grace. Eternal life comes to us as a gift, an undeserved generosity from God. The victory that we receive through the resurrection is established through Jesus Christ. Then, this victory is given to us, not earned or achieved by us. Thereafter, our Lord desires to guide us daily in His resurrection victory of grace. "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:14).

O Righteous Father, I confess that I sinned against You, just as Adam did. Lord, I struggled under the spiritual deadness that sin brought. Your holy law, O God, rightly locked me under guilt and condemnation. I could do nothing myself to bring relief. Then, You gave me eternal life, as I trusted in Your Son. By Your grace, You gave me victory. Thank You! Thank You! Now, Lord, please lead me in that victory, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 15

The Resurrection Essential to the Gospel of Grace

And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain…And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…But now Christ is risen from the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, and 20)

The early church persistently proclaimed the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was not an option for them; neither is it an option for us. The grace of God that is available in the gospel for both justification and sanctification requires a risen Lord. The resurrection is essential to the gospel, which is the new covenant of grace.

The Spirit of God emphasized this strongly, as He inspired Paul to write: "And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain." If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, our preaching would be empty. If Christ were still in a tomb, His salvation mission ended in failure, not victory. Jesus is the object of our faith. If He is not alive, our trusting in Him would be fruitless. Jesus frequently taught about the necessity of His death and resurrection. "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day" (Luke 9:22).

Furthermore, Paul wrote: "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." The gospel of forgiveness of sins includes the resurrection. "I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4). Faith is only as effective as its object. If our Lord is not resurrected, it is useless to place our confidence in Him. If we are trusting in a dead Savior to forgive us and set us free, we are still guilty and bound.

However, our Lord is not in an ancient tomb. "But now Christ is risen from the dead." He rose victorious over sin and death, bringing everlasting righteousness to all who believe. "It [faith] was accounted to him [Abraham] for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us [credited to our account] who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:22-25). Thus, all of the grace blessings of the resurrection are ours by faith. "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace" (Romans 4:16).

Dear Father, I rejoice in the resurrection victory of Jesus, my Lord! I praise You, Jesus, as my risen, living Savior. What a mighty salvation You have secured through Your victory over sin and death. Glory be to Your name for providing it all by grace through faith. Teach me to trust in You more and more, in Your holy name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 14

Grace-Empowered Proclamation of the Risen Christ

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses…the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses…Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead…And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 4:10, 33)

At the Lord's Supper, the resurrection was implied. "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes" (Luke 22:18). At the tomb, the resurrection was documented. "He is not here, but is risen!" (Luke 24:6). With the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, the resurrection was proclaimed. "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, and put to death; whom God raised up" (Acts 2:23-24).

The risen Christ was the constant message of the early church. In Peter's Spirit-empowered message at Pentecost, he repeatedly proclaimed the resurrected Lord Jesus. "Him…you have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up

…You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption…he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ…this Jesus God raised up, of which we are all witnesses" (Acts 2:23-24, 27, 31-32).

Not long after this glorious beginning, another proclamation of the risen Christ occurred as the lame man was healed at the Beautiful Gate. When the crowds gathered to see what had happened, Peter's message was again centered around the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "You denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses" (Acts 3:14-15).

Soon after this, the religious leaders arrested the apostles, "being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead" (Acts 4:2). Here, Peter again proclaimed the resurrection. "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole" (Acts 4:10).

It was the grace of God that empowered the church to witness boldly about the risen Christ. "And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33).

Dear Lord Jesus, I worship You as the risen One. I desire to proclaim Your resurrection to all who need to trust in You. Lord, in a world of doubt and skepticism, strengthen my faith in Your mighty resurrection. Empower me, I pray, by pouring out upon my life great measures of Your grace, in Your name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 13

The New Covenant of Grace: A Resurrection Covenant

"I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes…This cup is the new covenant in My blood." (Luke 22:18, 20)

Just as the new covenant of grace is a covenant of the Spirit; it is also a covenant of resurrection. When the grace of God is allowed to work in us, God applies the resurrection of Christ to our lives. This gracious work gives us access to the eternal life of our risen, triumphant, living Lord Jesus.

The Scriptures indicate in many ways that the resurrection is woven deeply into the fabric of living by grace. When Jesus was instituting the Lord's Supper (at His last Passover), He was but hours away from His impending death upon the cross. Yet, He indicated that He would again celebrate with them this memorial meal of salvation. "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." This would only be possible by a subsequent resurrection. This reference to His resurrection was made in conjunction with remarks about the new covenant. "This cup is the new covenant in My blood." The resurrection is here linked with the new covenant of grace.

Soon after this statement regarding His resurrection, Jesus would be crucified. Three days later, the resurrection would be a reality. When some of the women came to the tomb with spices and oils, angelic beings announced the victorious truth. "He is not here, but is risen!" (Luke 24:6). The resurrection was forever an accomplished fact of history. The resurrection powerfully proved that Jesus was the Son of God: "Declared to be the Son of God with power…by the resurrection from the dead." Jesus' sacrifice for sin was accepted by the Father. "And He Himself is the propitiation [satisfactory payment] for our sins" (1 John 2:2). Now, God's grace could be poured out on all who would believe in the Lord Jesus.

Fifty days after the crucifixion (on the day of Pentecost), the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the followers of Christ. Empowered by His Spirit, the early church began to live in the power of the resurrection, proclaiming boldly the eternally ordained resurrection victory of their Lord. "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it" (Acts 2:23-24).

Lord God of resurrection, I praise You for the resurrection of Your Son, Jesus, my Savior. Lord Jesus, I greatly anticipate celebrating the Lord's Supper with You some day in the full reality of Your kingdom. Meanwhile, please work in my life the richness of Your grace, secured by Your sacrificial death and resurrection victory. In Your mighty name, I pray, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 12

Reflecting on the Holy Spirit and Grace

"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication." (Zechariah 12:10)

Let's take a reflective look at our meditations on the Holy Spirit as a reminder that we are still studying about the grace of God. In considering how to live by the fullness of the Spirit, we have examined how to live more fully by the grace of God.

In Zechariah 4:6, we observed the connection between living by the Spirit and living by the grace of God: "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit." Serving the Lord is accomplished by the work of the Spirit in and through our lives, not by natural capabilities. The next verse restates this truth in terms of God's grace. "And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of 'Grace, grace to it'!" Every completed task in the service of God is accomplished by His grace (God's undeserved resources), not by our ingenuity or merit.

We also saw how the early church experienced this relationship between the Spirit and grace. "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness…And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:31, 33). The boldness they experienced through the Holy Spirit is described as a result of great grace at work upon them.

Jesus came to establish a new covenant. "This cup is the new covenant in My blood" (Luke 22:20). This covenant was characterized by grace, in contrast to the old covenant that Moses set in place. "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). This new covenant of grace is also a covenant of the Spirit. "Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).

When the Lord Jesus returns and Israel humbly bows to Him as their Messiah, this wondrous response will be the result of "the Spirit of grace" being poured out upon them. This glorious title, identifying grace with the Holy Spirit, beautifully sums up the grand truth that living by grace and walking in the Spirit are two perspectives on the same precious reality.

O God of all Grace, I long to live by Your grace day by day. Lord, I thank You that grace is not merely some principle that I must apply, but rather a resource You must impart. Would You therefore pour out upon me in fullness the Spirit of grace?

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 11

Three Wrong Responses to the Holy Spirit

You always resist the Holy Spirit…Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…Do not quench the Spirit. (Acts 7:51; Ephesians 4:30; and 1 Thessalonians 5:19)

It is the will of God that we walk in daily dependence upon the Holy Spirit. It is God's desire that we seek Him for the fullness of the Spirit's work in and through our lives. Three wrong responses that undermine the will of God in our lives are resisting, grieving, and quenching the Spirit of the Lord.

When Stephen was on trial before the religious leaders of Israel, he preached a powerful sermon declaring the faithfulness of God toward His consistently unfaithful nation. He concluded his message with a pointed, radical, accurate evaluation. "You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you" (Acts 7:51). Here we are given the kind of attitudes that oppose the work of the Spirit. These people were "stiffnecked." They were stubborn and self-willed. They wanted their will, not the will of God. They also were "uncircumcised in heart and ears." They did not allow God to cut away the carnality of their inner being. They would not allow God to speak to them through His messengers. They were self-righteous and self-sufficient. When we conduct ourselves in this same manner, we also are "resist[ing] the Holy Spirit."

When Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus, he commanded them: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit." In the next verse he indicated the dispositions that bring grief to the Spirit of God. "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31). Yes, the Holy Spirit is a person, not a mere power or influence. He can be saddened by our behavior. When we, God's people, harbor bitterness in our hearts and malicious words in our mouths, then we are "griev[ing] the Holy Spirit of God."

When Paul wrote to the saints at Thessalonica, he instructed them: "Do not quench the Spirit." Just as a fire can be quenched, the promptings of the Holy Spirit can be stifled. As we read the word of God, the Spirit can be stirring a spiritual fire of conviction within us. Will we respond to that heavenly influence, or will we suppress it? When the Lord is igniting a vision of service unto Him, will we yield or will we extinguish it? When the Lord is calling us to intercessory prayer, will we cry out to Him or will we suppress that desire He is kindling? Will we allow the Spirit to blaze within our hearts, or will we "quench the Spirit?"

O Father, I am convicted by Your Spirit of times that I have behaved in these same ways. I have resisted and grieved and quenched the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Lord, I repent, and I ask You to show me any area of my life that is not yielded to the full work of Your Spirit. This I pray through Christ, my Lord, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 10

Another Picture of the Fullness of the Spirit

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit. (John 7:37-39)

These words from Jesus provide another picture of what the fullness of the Spirit is all about, as well as how to walk in that spiritual abundance. His remarks are addressed to those who are thirsty: "If anyone thirsts." In this spiritual context, thirst can speak of the painful dryness that often accompanies need or lack. Pressures, responsibilities, busyness, disappointments, and preoccupation with earthly matters can dry out the soul of man. Corresponding to this need, thirst can refer to the eager yearning after those heavenly blessings that refresh and restore our inner life. Such thirsty conditions apply to all of us at various times.

Jesus tells us exactly how to remedy such thirst. "Come to Me and drink." We are to bring these needs to the Lord Jesus Christ and drink of Him. So often, we attempt to satisfy such thirsts by drinking at other wells. Thirsty people around the world attempt to find relief through education, work, religion, politics, entertainment, money, drugs, and more. They all encounter the truth that our Lord revealed to the Samaritan woman at the well. "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again" (John 4:13). We must take our spiritual thirsts to a person, to "the Person," the Lord Jesus.

Yet, how do we drink of the thirst-quenching resources of Jesus? He indicated the means in the next phrase: "He who believes in Me." When we bring our dry, thirsty needs to Jesus and believe that He can meet those needs, we are drinking from what the Lord alone can offer. We drink of Christ's resources by faith. Jesus included this insight earlier in His discourse on the bread of life. "He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).

Unquestionably, Jesus will always satisfy legitimate thirsts that are brought to Him. Yet, there is more available here. The spiritual water that Christ provides also works within the thirsty soul. "The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). This Holy Spirit supply develops abundant life within the trusting heart. Ultimately, this fountain that grows within flows outward to others. "Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." Dry, thirsty hearts that come to Jesus in faith, not only find satisfaction for their thirst, but eventually pour out life in the Spirit to others.

Lord Jesus, You know the thirsty places within my life. I bring them to You now. I believe that You can meet these needs. I open up to the work of Your Spirit to quench the thirsts deep within my heart. Lord, I praise You for the expectation I have that You can turn my dryness into torrents of living waters to bless others, in Your name, Amen.

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Today's Promise from the Bible - March 9

More on Praying for the Fullness of the Spirit

"And I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened…your heavenly Father [will] give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:9-10, 13)

Here again, the work of the Spirit in our lives is associated with prayer. Prayer is that wonderful God-ordained means of relating to the Lord in humility and faith (the two means by which we access grace). In praying, we are humbly admitting that we need God. In praying, we are exercising faith toward God that He will act on our behalf. We pray; God moves by His Spirit, pouring out whatever grace is necessary for any given situation.

We saw this in our previous meditation. "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith… that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:16-19). Here, prayer was the avenue to being filled with the bountiful work of the Spirit in our lives. We humbly ask; the Lord faithfully works. This is precisely the teaching of Jesus in our present passage.

The end of Jesus' message involves the Spirit being given to those who ask. "How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" This is also where our Scripture began. "And I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." These are three parallel commands, followed by three parallel promises. Who receives Holy Spirit fullness? Those who ask God for such. Who experiences the life-empowering work of the Spirit, that every child of God must find? Those who seek God to impart such. Who is flooded with the outpouring of God's Spirit? Those who knock prayerfully on heaven's doors.

Then, making these three "command-promise" couplets even more sure, Jesus adds three more statements of certainty. "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." These are absolutes. There are no exceptions. Those who genuinely ask, seek, or knock can go on their way by faith, knowing that the Lord will be doing a thorough work of His Spirit in them.

As with the earlier command to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), these imperatives are also in the present tense. They could be rendered: keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. Again, this is a way to live, not a singular event.

Giver of every good and perfect gift, I humbly ask You for a fresh new work of Your Spirit. Lord, I rest on Your promise that everyone who asks receives. Manifest Your fullness in me in any way that You desire, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - March 8

Praying for the Fullness of the Spirit

That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

For those who are wondering how to be filled with the Spirit, the prayer in Ephesians 3 offers excellent insight. The precise relevance of this passage for our present subject is obvious, when the concluding purpose of the prayer is noted: "that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

The opening phrases use the language of grace: "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory." Grace is about God at work, giving us blessings we cannot deserve. These blessings are in proportion to His glorious spiritual riches. This perspective fits our studies on the Spirit perfectly, because when the Holy Spirit is at work, He pours out God's grace.

The initial request pertains to an inner working of the Spirit: "to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man." Note, this request is made on behalf of those who already have the Spirit residing in their hearts. The specific issue is about receiving new measures of spiritual power at the core of our being.

The desired result of this work of the Spirit is "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." Jesus is present in the heart of every believer. Here, He is being asked to settle down fully and make Himself at home. Jesus is to be given free rein to rearrange our innermost being to fit His good pleasure. Allowing Jesus to rule our hearts requires the empowering work of the Holy Spirit to break past spiritual obstacles such as apathy, fear, self-focus, and temptations. To allow Jesus to lead us in His way, we need the Holy Spirit enabling us to stay in God's word, to pray without ceasing, to worship daily, and to fellowship regularly.

Then, as Jesus rearranges our inner life, He wants to anchor every aspect of our lives in God's love: "that you, being rooted and grounded in love." With this, He wants us to experience the dimensions of His love, which are beyond mere head knowledge: "to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge." This Holy Spirit process is always leading to more spiritual fullness: "that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

Dear Father in heaven, I humbly cry out to You every word of this majestic prayer. I earnestly desire the reality of its every implication, all by your Holy Spirit, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - March 7.

Results of Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:18-21)

When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, what will the results be in his life? What evidences will develop to validate the work of the Spirit in fullness? In some church traditions, which give considerable attention to the fullness of the Spirit, limited evidences are stressed (such as those mentioned often in Acts: tongues, prophecy, or boldness). The full biblical picture is much larger than this viewpoint.

Ephesians 5:18-21 is a classic example of the Scriptures' broad perspective on this subject. In verse 18, the command is given to "be filled with the Spirit." The subsequent verses (19-21) list the spiritual consequences that will follow in a life that is characteristically Spirit filled.

When a believer in Christ is living in the fullness of the Spirit, he will be led into (and empowered unto) fellowship with, and ministry to, others: "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." These words fit those times when believers gather together for spiritual celebration through music. Some of the music of the church is directed toward other believers in the form of exhortation and edification. A Spirit filled Christian will be involved in "one another life" in the body of Christ.

Closely related to this, however, is the essential presence of a worshiping heart: "singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." Genuine fellowship and effective ministry flows forth from an inner life focused in adoration upon the Lord Himself. A Spirit filled Christian will be a worshiper of the true and living God.

Further, when a disciple of Jesus is filled with the Spirit, his life will typically overflow with thanksgiving: "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." The world and the flesh produce complaints and dissatisfaction. The Spirit of the Lord stirs gratitude and appreciation.

Additionally, servanthood submission is a common attribute of one who is Spirit filled: "submitting to one another in the fear of God." Natural humanity wants to control people and exercise mastery over them. The Spirit of Christ, the servant of all (Matthew 20:28), brings forth humble service from those who revere the Lord.

Father, I bow before Your command to be filled with the Spirit. This I need; this I desire. Lord, forgive me for times of isolation and selfishness. Flood me with Your Spirit unto fellowship and ministry. Forgive any lifeless religion in me and fill me unto true worship. Forgive my griping and complaining and inundate me unto thanksgiving. Forgive my desires to rule and fill me unto servanthood, through Christ, I pray, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - March 6

Spirit Fullness: A Way of Life, Not Merely Events

Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…the place…was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…And do not be drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit. (Acts 2:3-4; 4:8, 31; and Ephesians 5:18)

When we were born again through faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in our lives from that point thereafter (1 Corinthians 3:16). After the new birth, our lives may be repeatedly filled to overflowing by the empowering presence of the Spirit. The testimony of the early disciples illustrates this.

On the day of Pentecost, the 120 followers of Jesus were filled with the Spirit. "Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." Subsequently, the Apostle Peter, who was originally filled on Pentecost, was again filled as he stood before the religious hierarchy of Israel. "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them." After this encounter, Peter joined the other disciples for a prayer meeting. "And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." In this event, those who had been filled with the Spirit at Pentecost were filled a second time. Peter, who had been so filled twice before, was filled a third time. Therefore, it is evident that the filling of the Spirit is not a once for all time matter.

Furthermore, being filled with the Spirit is not automatic or universal for Christians, as is the indwelling of the Spirit. This fact can be clearly seen in the instruction given in Ephesians 5:18. "And do not be drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit." Since this is a command and not a description, it only becomes a personal reality to those who respond properly.

Additionally, the form of this command contains tremendous insight concerning the fullness of the Spirit and God's desire for us. The injunction to "be filled with the Spirit" is in the present tense, indicating an ongoing condition. It could properly (though awkwardly) be translated "be (always) being filled." This imperative is a call to a way of living, not merely periodic events. It is the will of God that we actually live, day by day, more and more, by the fullness of the Spirit's empowering work. We should humbly pray for the fullness of the Holy Spirit as we face each day, each challenge, each opportunity of life.

Lord God of all power and might, I rejoice that Your Holy Spirit dwells within my heart. I thank You for those times when Your Spirit has worked powerfully upon my life. Help me to see that the fullness of Your Spirit is not merely an event-to-event experience, but a lifestyle to be developed. Lord, with great expectation I humbly seek You now for a fresh, ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in me. In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - March 5

Holy Spirit Empowering: Three Terms, One Reality

"You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you"…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:5, 8; and 2:4)

When the book of Acts addresses Holy Spirit empowering for ministry, three different terms are used to describe the same reality. When Jesus promised this power, He used the term "baptized with." "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." When He indicated that this power would result in a worldwide witness, the term "come upon you" was used. "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." Then, when these promises of the Spirit were fulfilled, the term employed was "filled with." "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit."

It is clear that these three sets of terms in Acts 1 and 2 are all referring to the same spiritual phenomenon: the Holy Spirit empowering Jesus' followers for witness. Each terminology may carry its own descriptive implications. To be "baptized with" the Spirit is like being inundated by Him. To have the Spirit "come upon you" is like being impacted from above by Him. To be "filled with" the Spirit is like overflowing with Him. Nevertheless, although each expression brings its own picture, they all are describing the same reality. All three terms are biblically accurate (although "filled with the Holy Spirit" is used most frequently throughout Acts).

These promises of Holy Spirit empowering cannot be monopolized by any denominational group or theological heritage. Nor can they be ignored by any individual or segment within the body of Christ. These truths are for all of God's children. Every disciple of the Lord Jesus must continue to learn and to grow in this essential spiritual empowering.

Perhaps a word of clarification is in order. These promises are not about the Spirit indwelling the people of God. The Holy Spirit definitely lives within every born again believer in Jesus Christ. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Spirit already lived within the apostles when they were given these promises. "And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:22). These promises are about the indwelling Spirit flooding and overflowing our lives with the empowering reality of His presence.

Dear Lord Jesus, You came to give us life abundant. Please fill my life to overflowing with the empowering work of Your Spirit. Lord, I am not seeking personal benefits or experiences. I am asking to become a more effective witness. I need the Holy Spirit's power that I might reflect the reality of the risen Christ, in Your mighty name, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - March 4

Holy Spirit Power to Be Witnesses

"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

After the cross and the resurrection, the Lord Jesus taught His disciples for forty days before He ascended to the Father. One of His strategic messages of preparation concerned the Holy Spirit enablement they would need to fulfill their ministry. "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." After this vital promise was given, Jesus was taken up into heaven to the right hand of the Father. Ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, this promise was fulfilled by the outpouring of the Spirit. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). The grand result of this empowering would be the spread of the gospel, region by region, throughout the entire world. "You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

Their success is documented in the Scriptures. The religious opposition admitted that Jerusalem was promptly reached. "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine" (Acts 5:28). Soon thereafter, Judea was being touched. "At that time a great persecution arose…and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea…Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:1, 4). Next, the message of Jesus entered Samaria. "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip" (Acts 8:5-6). Finally, the gospel of grace poured out around the world: "The word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world" (Colossians 1:5-6).

This worldwide outreach was an astounding development, considering the unimpressive human credentials that characterized Jesus' followers. "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). The explanation for their effectiveness was contained in the last phrase. These men had spent time with Jesus, had been impacted by Him, and were now walking in the spiritual strength of His Spirit.

In order for any disciple (then or now) to be an effective demonstration of the reality of the risen Christ, they must live by the power of the Holy Spirit.

O Lord, my strength, make my life a daily witness, declaring in word, deed, and attitude that Jesus is alive. Lord, my own abilities will never be sufficient to accomplish this. So,I humbly pray, empower me by Your Holy Spirit, in Jesus' name, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - March 3

Once More on Jesus and the Holy Spirit

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD. (Isaiah 61:1-2)

In this prophetic Scripture, we see the ministry of Christ is attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit (as noted before in the manifestation of His godly character). "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me."

By the empowering of the Spirit, Jesus was sent forth to "preach good tidings to the poor." This refers to the gospel of salvation. "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages…preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 9:35). This good news of salvation would be received by those who admitted their spiritual bankruptcy. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).

Also, Jesus was sent forth to "heal the brokenhearted." The heart of man can be broken by so many things: condemnation, grief, failure, betrayal, and more. Jesus comforts and restores those who trust in Him. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).

Additionally, Jesus was sent forth to "proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." As with captive Israel of old, people today get into bondage to the world system. They become captivated by worldly thinking, bound by bad habits, and imprisoned by ungodly relationships. Jesus is the great liberator for all who cry out to Him and feed thereafter upon His inspired word. "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:32, 36).

Furthermore, Jesus was sent forth to "proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD." Ultimately, this speaks of the entire age of grace, whereby lives are accepted by God through faith in His beloved Son and enriched by Christ with immeasurable spiritual riches. "God… has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:3, 6).

We are also sent forth to minister. "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21). As it was with Jesus, we can only fulfill our calling by the same Holy Spirit who empowered His ministry.

Dear Father, please apply all of these ministries of the grace of Jesus to my life in fullness. Then, Father, would You empower me by Your Holy Spirit to go forth in the name of Jesus, offering these same realities to others who need them as well. I place my hope for effectiveness in the enabling anointing of the Spirit, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - March 2

More on Jesus and the Holy Spirit

A Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:1-2)

In this prophecy of the Messiah, we are told how the Lord Jesus (walking upon earth as a man) would function in order to manifest godliness. He would live by this prophetic promise: "The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him."

The Holy Spirit operating in Jesus would be to Him "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding." No one ever displayed wisdom like Christ. Whether dealing with the woman taken in adultery (John 8:2-11) or answering provoking questions about Caesar's image on a coin (Luke 20:20-26), He wisely circumvented every attempt to undermine His ministry. Jesus also demonstrated perfect understanding. When confronting the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-35), He applied perfect discernment, exposing the corruption of their hearts.

Operating in Jesus, the Holy Spirit would also be to Him "the Spirit of counsel and might." Jesus was truly the "Wonderful Counselor" (Isaiah 9:6). When counseling Nicodemus, the religious ruler (John 3:1-21), and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-42), He fully gave them what their hearts were seeking in the truths they needed to hear. Also, Jesus distinctively exhibited the might of God. Whether boldly speaking to calm the raging sea (Mark 4:35-41) or courageously remaining silent at His trial (Matthew 27:11-14), the mighty power of God was on majestic display.

Ministering to Jesus, the Holy Spirit would also be to Him "the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD." No one ever possessed knowledge like the Lord Jesus. "Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men" (John 2:24). "Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father" (John 13:1). Jesus not only had thorough knowledge, but that knowledge was always controlled by "the fear of the LORD." Everything that Jesus ever did was under the full influence of His godly fear (reverential trust and loving respect) toward the Father. "The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him" (John 8:29).

Remember, all of these wondrous expressions of Jesus' character were based upon the enabling work of the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him." This same Spirit of God can bring forth in our lives every appropriate application of these same realities manifested in the life of Jesus.

Who is like You, O Lord? Who could ever match Your majestic character—certainly not me. Yet, I need manifestations of such fruit in my life. Please work deeply in me by Your Holy Spirit, producing such Christlikeness, I pray, in Your holy name, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - March 1

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit…and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him…Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 1:20; 3:16; and 4:1)

We gain great insight into the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives by considering the work of the Spirit in the life of Jesus. From the very beginning of Jesus' history upon earth as Emmanuel, God with us, the Holy Spirit was involved. When Joseph was troubled over Mary's pregnancy, an angel comforted him by announcing: "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." Jesus' conception was not of man, but of the Spirit.

When Jesus was identifying Himself with sinful humanity through His baptism by John, the Holy Spirit was again at work. "And He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him." Here, as Jesus was presenting Himself for the commencing of His public ministry as Messiah, the Spirit of God came upon Him for authentication and empowering. The Son of God came to earth as a servant, laying aside the independent exercise of His inherent deity. Jesus "made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:7). He would serve in dependence upon the Spirit. Jesus' ministry would not be of man (even the perfect Man), but of God.

When Jesus went forth from His baptism to fulfill His calling, the Spirit was still fully engaged in His life. "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Although Jesus never ceased to be God, the Son, He would not lead Himself about through reliance upon His divine omniscience (His perfect and complete knowledge). His guidance would not be of man, but of God.

These three glimpses into the work of the Spirit in Jesus' life have implications for us. First, the Holy Spirit had to be working for Jesus to be birthed here on earth. The same Spirit of God had to work for us to be born into the family of God. "Unless one is born of…the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Second, the Holy Spirit was active in the ministry of Jesus as Messiah. The Spirit must be the one who brings us spiritual validation and power in our service of God: "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit" (Zechariah 4:6). Third, Jesus looked to the Spirit to lead and guide Him through life. We also need that same work of the Spirit. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14).

O Shepherd of my soul, please lead me in this Christlike path. Thank You for bringing me new birth by Your Spirit. O, Lord, would You now empower my life for service unto You. And would You lead me by Your Spirit day by day. I admit my total need for such works of the Holy Spirit in my life. Please work in fullness, in Your name, I pray, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - February 28

The Crucial Choice: Flesh or Spirit

Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)

The crucial choice that believers in Christ face day by day is between living by the flesh or living by the Spirit. The difference is facing life by our resources and perspectives or by God's resources and perspectives. "Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." When a Christian deals with life by his flesh, he typically thinks about "what I want out of my life" or "what I can accomplish with my life." Conversely, when a Christian deals with life by the Spirit, he typically thinks about "what God wants for my life" or "what God can accomplish through my life."

The consequences related to this choice are monumental. "For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." When a believer allows his mind to be set in a carnal direction, he will be thinking about worldly self-indulgence ("what I can get out of this") or religious self-accomplishment ("what I can do for God"). The result of either carnal perspective is "death" (spiritual deadness). On the other hand, when a follower of Jesus sets his mind on heavenly matters, he will be considering issues of humility ("how much I need the Lord") or faith ("how great the Lord is"). The results of such spiritual thoughts are "life and peace" (spiritual vitality and spiritual tranquility).

Another analysis of these two options can be seen in the contrast between the "works of the flesh" and the "fruit of the Spirit." When we put our hope in our own capabilities, our flesh produces deeds such as "adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like" (Galatians 5:19-21). Contrariwise, when we place our expectations upon the Lord, His Spirit brings forth through us fruit like "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).

Consider this fundamental truth. These "flesh-Spirit" choices are what all of us will face every day of our lives. The persistency of these issues is inherent in the fact that God offers only two options for every issue of life; namely, "live according to the flesh" or "live according to the Spirit."

O Sovereign Lord, I bow to Your wisdom and authority that offer these two choices alone. Lord, I renounce the natural path of my flesh which brings severe, but deserved, consequences. I gladly embrace the supernatural path of Your Spirit, which brings the undeserved results of Your grace at work in me, Amen.

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Day By Day By Grace - February 27

Set Free by the Spirit

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)

There is a destructive spiritual tendency that resides in every human being. It is "the law of sin and death." This indwelling principle is always pulling people downward into sin and spiritual deadness. It comes from being physically born into a fallen race of sinners who are like their earthly father, Adam. Being born anew spiritually does not remove this problem, since this principle still operates within our natural humanity (the flesh). Yet, becoming a child of God does make His remedy constantly available to us.

God's remedy for"the law of sin and death" is a higher, more powerful principle: "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." This lofty principle involves the Holy Spirit making the life that is in Christ Jesus our resource for living. This principle is operating in the life of any new creature in Christ who is not walking "according to the flesh but [is walking] according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:4b). This approach to Christian living is the only one that can liberate us from the internal carnal tendencies that influence us all.

In fact (as we have noted previously), this is the only hope of growing in the godliness that the law demanded: "that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Romans 8:4a). Our lives can only measure up to the holy will of God when we are walking in the Spirit, because Christ is then being allowed to express His life through us. Jesus was (and is) the only one who could ever walk fully pleasing to the Father. Jesus said, "I always do those things that please Him" (John 8:29). For a victorious Christian experience, we need this same life of Jesus living in and through us now, by the working of the Holy Spirit. We need the higher law ("the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus") setting us free from the lower law ("the law of sin and death").

Again, what is our responsibility in this? We are to relate to the Lord in humility and faith. Humility can develop as we agree with our Lord that "the law of sin and death" characterizes our flesh (our best natural resources). Faith can be exercised as we look to our Lord to demonstrate that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death."

Dear Lord Jesus, You alone can supply the life I am called to live. I humbly agree with Your word that my resources are marred by a tendency to sin. Teach me to trust in Your Holy Spirit for liberation from living by my flesh. I thank You in advance for the faithful ways You will answer this prayer. Lord Jesus, live in and through me by the power of Your Spirit, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion


"To God be the glory!!"


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2/26/15 8:48 A

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Day By Day By Grace - February 26

The Contrary Desires of the Flesh and the Spirit

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (Galatians 5:17)

Every believer in Christ has had the frustrating experience of wanting to do what pleases the Lord, but being unable to actually accomplish such. We are told here that a spiritual struggle is behind that failure. "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." The Spirit of God dwells within our lives. He is the "Spirit of holiness" (Romans 1:4). He desires that we be "partakers of His holiness" (Hebrews 12:10) and thereby walk in godliness. However, the flesh (natural humanity) is also present in our lives. The natural desires of man are not toward holiness, but rather toward self-indulgence and self-sufficiency. Thus, what the Spirit desires and what our flesh craves are set against each other. "These are contrary to one another." The consequence of this internal conflict is "that you do not do the things that you wish." Even though godly desires develop in us as new creatures in Christ, we find ourselves unable to implement these new longings by our good intentions.

The Apostle Paul gave testimony to his own failure in this battle. "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice" (Romans 7:19). The problem was that Paul's personal resources (the flesh) were not adequate to produce the desired results. "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find" (Romans 7:18). Yes, Paul had some godly desires. "For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man" (Romans 7:22). Nevertheless, there was a problem that he could not resolve on his own. "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:23). A tendency to sin that dwelt in Paul's human members (his body, his brain) pulled him down to defeat. He needed help.

Access to that necessary divine rescue was through a humble cry for a deliverer. "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24). This appropriate confession of the spiritual bankruptcy of his flesh led to another confession of certain victory. "I thank God-[it is] through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:25). This humble turning from self to Christ allows one to walk in the Spirit, living by His victorious resources. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).

Dear Jesus, Mighty Deliverer, I humbly admit that I am not able to implement by my best efforts the godly desires that are developing in me. I need You, Lord. So many times I have had holy intentions that ended up in carnal defeat. So, Lord, I cry out to You to deliver me from my present struggles, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion


"To God be the glory!!"


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2/25/15 9:33 A

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Day By Day By Grace - February 25

Walking in the Spirit

Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh…If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16, 25)

The term "walk" is used dozens of times in the New Testament to describe the manner of life a person is leading. Many of these occurrences depict the Christian life: "walk in love… walk as children of light… walk circumspectly" (Ephesians 5:2, 8, 15). In our passages, we are told to "walk in the Spirit."

Walking is a very insightful description of spiritual life. A walk has a beginning and a destination. Our beginning was in new birth: "born of the Spirit" (John 3:6). Our destination is heaven forever with our Lord and Savior: "And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). A good walk is steady and progressive. We are called to be faithful: "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21). We are called to press ahead: "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal" (Philippians 3:13-14). In addition, a walk has many potential adventures along the way. We are likely to encounter stretching challenges and paradoxical blessings: "in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness…as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Corinthians 6:5, 10).

Ultimately, a walk must have an available resource that provides sufficient vitality, strength, guidance, and assurance. Here, our passages offer special hope through the injunction to "walk in the Spirit." Day by day, each step of the way, we are to rely upon the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Every issue of life (whether at home, office, school, or church) is to be faced in this manner. Otherwise, the influence of our flesh (our natural humanity) will prevail. "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." In ourselves we are not able to overcome the inadequacies and improper tendencies of the flesh. However, the Holy Spirit is more than able to become our sufficient provider of whatever we need for an effective and fruitful walk.

This perspective on Christian living makes complete biblical sense, when we connect our daily walk to how we found spiritual life in the first place. "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." It was strictly by the work of the Spirit that we received life initially; therefore, let us take each step of life, "walk[ing] in the Spirit."

Lord God Almighty, I am so weak and so easily enticed in my flesh. I cannot produce what is needed for the spiritual walk to which I am called. O Lord, I cry out to You for the indispensable work of Your Spirit within me. Lord, teach me to walk day by day by the grace that Your Spirit alone can provide, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion


"To God be the glory!!"


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2/24/15 9:21 A

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Day By Day By Grace - February 24

The Holy Spirit and Going On with God

Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:2-3)

The work of the Holy Spirit is required for people to start out with God through new birth and justification. The Holy Spirit must also be at work in believers if they are to go on with God in growth and sanctification.

The opening portion of our present Scripture passage uses a question to address our starting out with God. "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" The answer to this question is obvious. No one could ever have the Spirit of God come to indwell them on the basis of their performance before God's law. Only the "hearing of faith" could ever cause that. The Holy Spirit came to live in us when we heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and believed in Him. At that time, our sins were forgiven, we were justified (declared not guilty, righteous in God's sight), and we were born again by the Spirit. All of this marked our beginning with God. All of this involved the work of the Holy Spirit on our behalf.

The closing words of the passage use two additional questions to apply this issue of the Spirit's work to our going on with God. "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" We who are the children of God began with Him "in the Spirit." Now, it would be spiritually senseless to think that we could progress with God "by the flesh." Surely, we agree with the Lord that we could not produce our own spiritual birth into His family. We had to be "born of the Spirit" (John 3:6). Certainly, we want to agree with God that we cannot manufacture our own spiritual growth, that is, be "made perfect by the flesh."

The Lord desires that we mature and develop in this new life in Christ. Such growth in Christ is a spiritual matter. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." The resources that we have all received from our earthly parents are of the flesh. These natural capabilities cannot develop us spiritually. The perfecting process (becoming increasingly like the Lord Jesus Christ) necessitates the Holy Spirit's working in us. Remember, the means God used to start us out with Him (to justify us) are the means He uses to grow us up in Him (to sanctify us).

O Holy Father, I humbly admit that I have foolishly thought, at times, that I could produce godliness in myself through my own best efforts. Lord, I see that I need Your Spirit as much for spiritual growth as I did for spiritual birth. As I seek You through prayer and Your word, please take me on with You in growth and sanctification by the work of Your Holy Spirit, through Christ, I pray, Amen.

blueletterbible.com/devotion


"To God be the glory!!"


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2/23/15 8:50 A

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Day By Day By Grace - February 23

The Holy Spirit and Starting Out with God

"Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit…You must be born again." (John 3:5-7)

The new life that allows us to start out with God comes through a spiritual birth provided by the Holy Spirit. "Unless one is born of…the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Just as man must be physically born into the human family, so man must be spiritually born into God's family. There is no other option. That is why Jesus said, "You must be born again."

The reason spiritual new birth is a necessity is because "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." Natural human birth can only produce a natural life. Becoming a child of God involves a supernatural life that God alone can provide.

When Jesus came to secure our redemption, He was generally rejected. "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11). Nevertheless, some realized that He was Messiah, the Anointed King and Savior sent from the Father. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).

Believing in Jesus' name involves trusting in His person and His work. It encompasses relying upon who He is, what He says, and what He has done and can do. Such faith brings a unique new birth: "Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). This birth is from God. It cannot come by inheritance or genetics through our human bloodline. It is not available through an exercise of our human will. Neither can we have it pronounced upon us by some religious leader.

The Lord desires us to walk in a heavenly, spiritual life, not a mere earthly, human existence. Only a birth from the Spirit of God could bring us this type of life. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." All genuine spirituality must come from a work of the Holy Spirit on our behalf. This is true concerning our starting out with God in new birth and justification. "You…were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). We will see in subsequent meditations that this is true concerning our going on with God in growth and sanctification.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for making me Your child through faith in Your Son, Jesus. I praise You for the new life Your Holy Spirit has brought to me. Help me to understand from Your word that the entire Christian experience is to be as supernatural as being born again was. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen

blueletterbible.com/devotion

"To God be the glory!!"


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