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5/15/14 12:20 P

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I am on my way to my healthy weight.Praise the Lord!

Leader : "Celebrate what God has done for you today." (SP)

Leader:"A new Me!"( SP)


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4/28/14 2:21 P

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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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1/27/14 3:08 P

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Day By Day By Grace - January 27

The Ongoing Grace of God

"I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts"…it is good that the heart be established by grace. (Jeremiah 31:33 and Hebrews 13:9)

Our initial encounter with the grace of God involved forgiveness and justification. "In Him we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7). Rich measures of God's grace washed away our sins and gave us new life in Christ. Of course, that initial justifying work of God could not exhaust His grace. Rather, it was "according to the riches of His grace." There are unlimited riches yet available for our daily sanctification, our ongoing growth in Christ.

Hebrews 13:9 is one of the many places in Scripture that indicate progressive sanctification (that is, growth in godliness) is by grace. "It is good that the heart be established by grace." This truth clearly pertains to sanctification and growth, not justification and new birth. At regeneration, we are given a new heart. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26). Then, after receiving a new, soft, responsive heart, the spiritual stabilization of that new heart must follow.

It is from within the heart that the development of applied righteousness must proceed. What is eventually seen and heard in our daily Christian lives sources from within the core of our inner being. "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). The Lord wants to work from deep within us. "I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts."

If an unstable, inconsistent life is being expressed outwardly, an unestablished heart within is the cause. Jesus taught that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). Whatever is developing and filling up our inner man will eventually come out to be seen and heard.

In order to develop in us an increasingly mature, Christlike walk, our heart must be established. The law of God is not designed to change men's hearts. God's grace is the essential and sufficient cause to bring about this desired work of godliness. "It is good that the heart be established by grace."

Once more we have powerful biblical insight showing us that grace is not only God's provision to forgive and birth us into His family, but grace is also His resource for the ongoing work of maturing us as His children.

O Lord, my strength, would You do a powerful work of Your grace deep within my heart? I do not want to displease You or dishonor You by an immature and unstable life. Lord, forgive any futile attempts to change my heart by striving before the law. Your gracious work in me is my only hope!

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12/28/13 2:30 P

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Day By Day By Grace - December 28

More on an Invitation to Pray at the Throne of Grace

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 4:16)

Seated upon the throne which rules this universe is the sovereign, holy Judge of all humanity. Yet, He is also the "God of all grace" (1 Peter 5:10). All who relate rightly to Him (through humble faith in Jesus Christ) can come boldly to that throne, praying with assurance that mercy and grace will be His response.

Truly, the Lord Jesus is the reason that we can answer the invitation to "come boldly to the throne of grace." His death on the cross opened the way for us to come into God's presence, allowing us to talk to Him directly in prayer. It is as though the Holy of Holies is now our family den. God is our Father, who delights to commune with His children as we pray to Him: "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us" (Hebrews 10:19-20). This "new and living way" is the new covenant of grace. It is by the Lord's grace alone that we can come to His throne of grace, that we might live daily by His grace.

At this inviting throne of God, we "obtain mercy." Mercy is heaven's wondrous companion to grace. Mercy is God's provision for holding back from us the awful things that we actually deserve, due to our sin and rebellion. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). Now, each day, His children can benefit from the faithful mercies of God. "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Also, at this inviting throne of God, we "find grace to help in time of need." Our initial need was for the Lord's saving grace, which brought forgiveness for our ungodliness and made heaven our eternal home. "For by grace you have been saved through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). Our ongoing need would be for transforming grace for developing a godly life here on earth. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12). In prayer at the throne of grace, we find God's continuing supply of grace. That grace is irreplaceable and sufficient to sustain us through, and use us in, the needy situations we encounter daily at home, work, school, church-wherever.

O Lord, supplier of all mercy and grace, I rejoice that Your mercies are new every day. Have mercy on me, dear Lord! I praise You that Your all-encompassing grace is available through humble, trusting prayer. Pour Your grace out on me, dear Lord!

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10/17/13 2:37 P

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Day By Day By Grace - October 17

Assurance of Salvation through Faith

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:11-13)

If we are to grow in grace, we must live by faith. "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace" (Romans 4:16). If our faith is to develop and mature, we must know where faith comes from. Jesus (and His word) is the source of our faith. "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Hebrews 12:2 and Romans 10:17). As we get to know our Lord better and better, as we get into His word more and more, our faith grows. As our faith grows, we experience the grace of God more and more. One of the blessings of God's grace is assurance of salvation through faith.

Some people wonder if they are saved. Others hope that they are saved. Still others think that they might be saved. God wants people to know that they are saved. "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life." Of course, salvation (the gift of eternal life) is given to those who "believe in the name of the Son of God." This means that they trust in the person and work of Christ. They believe He is God, the Son. They believe He died and rose victorious over sin and death. Many who have entered into salvation are, nonetheless, without assurance of this great gift.

Assurance is imparted through the faithful and true word of God. "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." The gift of eternal life has truly been provided for by the Lord. However, the Father wants us to be reminded that this eternal life is "in His Son." Everlasting life is not some "packaged blessing" that comes to us separated from Jesus. The life God has for us is found through a dependent relationship with a person, Jesus. If we have Jesus in our lives, we have the life that is found in Him. "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." If we have invited the Lord into our lives, He now dwells in us. "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). Jesus gives us assurance of salvation through faith in Him and His word.

Lord Jesus, I thank You for coming into my life when I received You by faith. Therefore, I know that I have eternal life, since that life is in You. Thank You for the grace that brings such assurance through simple faith in You and Your word, Amen.

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7/8/13 5:46 P

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Day by Day by Grace -July 8

Still More on God's Ability and His Promises

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. (2 Timothy 1:12)

A growing appreciation of God's ability produces an increasing tendency to rely upon God's promises. In this present meditation, we are reminded of how relationship with the Lord is always at the heart of the Christian life.

Paul's experience of suffering was the setting for this "one verse testimony." "For this reason I also suffer these things." The reason he suffered was related to his calling to preach the gospel: "to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles" (2 Timothy 1:11). When the Lord first called Paul to serve Him in the good news of grace, God revealed his future sufferings. "I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts 9:16). Suffering is inevitable while serving God in an ungodly world. Jesus Himself was our example. "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).

Although Paul suffered, he was not shamed by his suffering. "Nevertheless I am not ashamed." If our suffering is for godly reasons, we likewise do not need to be ashamed. "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter" (1 Peter 4:16). The faith that enabled Paul to endure sufferings properly came from His growing relationship with Jesus. "For I know whom I have believed." Since originally believing in the Lord, Paul had become increasingly acquainted with Him. A wonderful consequence of increased intimacy with Christ is becoming increasingly convinced of His ability. "For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able." This conviction encouraged Paul to entrust the issues of life into the care of His Master. "He is able to keep what I have committed to Him." This trust was Paul's daily desire right up to the return of the Lord: "until that Day." Again, Jesus left us a similar example. He committed His daily situations into the hands of His able heavenly Father. "When He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:23).

Dear heavenly Father, again I see that it is all about relationship. As Jesus related to You in His day by day living, I want to relate to Jesus. Lord Jesus, help me to know You more and more. Getting to know You is what persuades me of Your ability to fulfill Your promises. Lord, I have many sufferings that I need to trust You to handle, from now until You return for me. In Your mighty name I pray, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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5/19/13 2:01 P

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Day by Day by Grace - May 19th

The Miracle of Our Ministry

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

As new covenant servants, we proclaim "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:4). While holding forth this magnificent message, we earnestly pray that God will prepare darkened hearts to embrace the redeeming light of His grace. Each person who responds will experience a miracle more distinct than when light first shined into the darkness of creation.

On the first day of creation, the earth was in darkness. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep" (Genesis 1:1-2). The Lord spoke light into existence in that darkness. "Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). By the word of His mouth, He caused light to shine where there had been none. What a majestic miracle!

When Jesus came to this world, light was penetrating darkness. "The people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned" (Matthew 4:16). When the light of the gospel of grace is proclaimed, it is shining upon spiritually darkened hearts. "Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:21). When darkened hearts respond to that light, they are given new life. "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).

This is what has happened to those of us who follow Christ. The God of creation, who spoke forth physical light into physical darkness, has spoken forth spiritual light into our spiritual darkness. "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts." This light was shining through the gospel. This good news of God's grace painted a portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that portrait of words, we saw the glory of God and His great salvation. We saw by faith "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Now, we are called to proclaim this gospel of grace, that others also may come out of darkness into His splendid light. "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

Dear Lord of light, I praise You for bringing me out of darkness into Your gracious light. Grant me grace to proclaim Your excellencies. Shine Your light into the hearts I hope to reach. Grant them the miracle of new birth, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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4/22/13 2:57 P

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Day By Day By Grace

April 22nd

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.

Bob Hoekstra
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3/28/13 5:51 P

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Day By Day By Grace

March 28th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
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2/21/13 1:18 P

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Day By Day By Grace

February 21st

The New Covenant of Grace: A Holy Spirit Covenant

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

As noted earlier, the new covenant is about grace, as contrasted with the old covenant, which is about law. "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). The connection between grace and the Holy Spirit can be seen in various Scripture passages on the new covenant, including this glorious prophecy. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." The first verse in this prophetic promise concerns regeneration, spiritual new birth. Through faith in the Lord, our original, hard, lifeless heart is removed, and a new, pliable, living spirit is given to us.

The second verse pertains to transformation, the ongoing development of this new life. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes." The life that increasingly complies with the will of God depends upon the work of the Holy Spirit within us. We know that unredeemed humanity has no hope of living in a way that is pleasing to God. Yet, many Christians may be unaware that even the new creature in Christ cannot, on his own resources, please God. The Spirit of God must be the heavenly cause that produces heavenly character in believers.

What is promised here is not an automatic experience. The lives of many Christians do not consistently match what is described here in Ezekiel 36:27. The reason is that they are not relating properly to the Lord in humble dependence. Yes, these two relational realities (humility and faith) also determine whether or not the Spirit of God is our resource, just as they were determinative concerning grace.

Two statements by Jesus expound upon this fact. "You have no life in you…It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing" (John 6:53, 63). We do not innately possess life as God intends it to be lived. Natural human resources are of no benefit in developing a godly life. Such revelation is very humbling. If we embrace Jesus' evaluation of our personal inadequacy, then we are willing to relate to God in humility. There is a further truth in which we are to place our trust. "It is the Spirit who gives life." As we count on this truth, we are relating to the Lord in faith. The result of such humble reliance is that God's Spirit becomes our vitality for godly living.

O Lord, the source of true life, thank You for establishing such a gracious arrangement as the new covenant. I praise You that Your Holy Spirit is my heavenly dynamic for godliness. I confess that my fleshly attempts to please You are so inadequate. I humbly ask You to cause me to walk in Your good will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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1/31/13 6:56 P

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Psalm 30:2
LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.


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1/20/13 12:54 P

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Day By Day By Grace

January 20th

The Promise of a New Covenant

"Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel…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," says the LORD. "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:31, 33-34)

Long ago, God promised a new covenant of grace for His people Israel. "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel." Some day, the Israelites will turn to Messiah as a group and enter into this promised covenant of grace. "And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins'" (Romans 11:26-27). This will take place when the Lord Jesus returns to this earth. "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10).

Meanwhile, the church of the Lord Jesus, comprised of all Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ, already has the new covenant instituted for her. "This cup is the new covenant in My blood" (Luke 22:20).

Note the astounding three-fold provisions this new covenant offers by faith to all believers today. First, there is the forgiveness of sins. "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." Second, there is the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with God. "They all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them." Third, there is the internal working of the Lord God Almighty enabling and changing people's lives from the inner core of their being. "I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts."

Almighty God, the provisions of Your new covenant of grace are staggering in their richness! Forgiveness of sins by You, intimacy with You, and inner transformation from You—all of this is mine through faith in Your Son, my Savior. O Lord, what bountiful grace You make available to us in Christ! I fully and desperately need all three of these wondrous workings that You alone can provide. I praise You for the gift of forgiveness of sins. I seek You for increased intimacy with You. I look to You to be shaping my life according to Your will, from the inside out, all through the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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1/15/13 3:57 P

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January 15th

The Law Tutoring People to Christ

Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:24-25)

The ultimate ability of the law of God is its capacity to tutor people to Christ. "The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ." It is the plan of God to use His law to inform us about our great need for Jesus Christ. Remember the summaries of the law of God: "be holy, be loving, be perfect."

The law demands that we be holy. We are convicted that we are not holy. Thereby, the law is saying to us: "You need Jesus Christ." The law requires that we be loving. We realize that we are not loving. Thereby, the law is declaring to us: "You need Jesus Christ." The law insists that we be perfect. We know that we are not perfect. Thereby, the law is announcing to us: "You need Jesus Christ." In this process the law functions as tutor (schoolmaster or child-trainer), instructing people of their need for that which only Christ can provide through His grace.

Now that we have responded to the law's tutoring work, we are no longer under the tutor. Now that we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we are no longer under the law. "But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."

Whereas we once were told by the law to be holy, now we look to Christ for all personal holiness. "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us…righteousness and sanctification" (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Whereas we once were told by the law to be loving, now we look to the Spirit of Christ for all the love that our lives are to show forth. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love" (Galatians 5:22).

Whereas we once were told by the law to be perfect, now we look to the Lord for all of the perfecting process. "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

O Lord, my Redeemer, thank You for using Your law as a tutor to lead me to Jesus Christ. Your law was so correct regarding my desperate need of a Savior. Now I rejoice that I am no longer under that tutor. What a delight to relate to You by faith and not by performance. What a precious blessing to humbly hope in the Lord Jesus for righteousness and love and growth. How wonderful to look to a gracious, loving Person, the Lord Jesus, instead of to a perfect unyielding standard, the law. Lord Jesus, please complete in me the good work of Your grace that began when I first believed in You. In Your name, and for Your glory, I pray, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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Day By Day By Grace

January 9th

The Inability of the Law

For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18-19)

God's word reveals that His law has a strategic inability. There is an arena in which the law has a "weakness and unprofitableness." The law demands perfection, but it offers no perfecting resources. "The law made nothing perfect." This inability is certainly not due to any oversight on God's part. Rather, this inability is related to that which God never intended for His law to accomplish.

The law of God was not given as a means for perfecting people (that is, of providing spiritual change). God's law was not designed to be a tool by which man could improve his spiritual condition in the sight of God. The law tells us what God wants to see in lives, but the law provides no resource to effect the necessary changes. Thus, attempting to begin or to develop a relationship with God by dependence upon our best performance will always be a hopeless venture.

Anyone who desires to approach a holy and perfect God must have a more effective expectation than one's best personal performance, measured by God's holy law. Anyone who wants to get to know God, to walk with Him, to live with Him through time and eternity, must find a better hope than the law of God.

The law of God cannot give us an initial standing before God, that is, it cannot justify us. It cannot bring us a declaration of "not guilty" in His sight. The law is also unable to develop an ongoing walk of godliness before the Lord, that is, it cannot sanctify us. It cannot transform our lives day by day into the image of Christ. For either of these precious blessings of God, a "better hope" is needed. God's grace is the "better hope" that allows us to "draw near to God," initially in new birth and continually in a maturing intimacy.

Holy Father, You are perfect in character. Your law is perfect in standard. Your law rightly demands perfection of me. Father, I ask that You remind me often that I cannot live up to that divine requirement on my own resources. Bring to my remembrance this inability of Your law. Stir my heart to trust in that better hope. Lord, I desire to walk closely with You. Thus, I trust in Your grace as the only sufficient hope that will allow me to draw near to You, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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12/31/12 3:48 P

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Day By Day By Grace

December 31st

The Manifold Grace of God

The manifold grace of God…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (1 Peter 4:10; 2 Peter 3:18; and Galatians 6:18)

The manifold grace of God is such an appropriate truth for our concluding meditation. It is both humbling and faith-building to be reminded of the majestic diversity of God's grace.

God's grace is manifold. It is like a heavenly diamond with innumerable facets. Every vantage point reflects a new insight into the gracious resources of our Lord. From some biblical viewpoints, the justifying grace of God is seen: "justified freely by His grace" (Romans 3:24). Yet, our devotional studies have concentrated upon sanctifying grace, grace for growing. "But grow in…grace." Many scriptural vistas display this sanctifying grace in its manifold beauty. It can be seen stabilizing the inner man. "It is good that the heart be established by grace" (Hebrews 13:9). It can also be seen in its edifying ability. "I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up" (Acts 20:32). From another angle, God's sanctifying grace can be seen for its strengthening capacity. "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1). It can also be observed in its fruit-producing role: "and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth" (Colossians 1:6). It can also be seen in its ministry-developing function. "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10). From still another viewpoint, the sanctifying grace of God can be seen sustaining through the agonies of one's "thorny impossibilities." "My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:9). What heavenly riches await us in a lifetime of observing, and appropriating, God's manifold grace.

What final words would be fitting for us now? The closing benediction in so many New Testament epistles would be perfectly suitable. "Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit" (Galatians 6:18). Ultimately and essentially, grace is found in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and it is experienced through His work in our hearts, as we humbly seek to know Him more and more. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Dear Lord of manifold grace, I earnestly yearn to grow in every aspect of Your grace. Lord Jesus, I humbly desire to find increasing intimacy with You. Please work Your grace deeply into my heart and manifest it fully through my life, in Your matchless name, I pray, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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12/24/12 1:30 P

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Have a bless Christmas. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

I am on my way to my healthy weight.Praise the Lord!

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12/4/12 5:28 P

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Day By Day By Grace

December 4th

Even More on Continuing in the Word of His Grace

I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able…Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed"…For this reason I have sent Timothy to you…who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. (Acts 20:32; John 8:31; and 1 Corinthians 4:17)

God's grace characterizes His word: "I commend you to God and to the word of His grace." This permeating presence of grace in the Scriptures is what makes God's word so able to effect godly changes in our lives: "the word of His grace, which is able." This is why the Lord wants us to continue in His word: "continue in the faith" (Acts 14:22). Also, continuing in the word allows the Lord to remind us of things pertaining to grace, things we need to hear over and over again.

Jesus called professing disciples to continue in His word. "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide [remain, continue] in My word, you are My disciples indeed'." It is impossible to truly live as a follower of Jesus without continuing in His word. The Christian life is lived by grace. The Bible is "the word of His grace." We cannot follow Jesus by grace apart from hearing regularly of His grace. A natural bent of humanity (including, the flesh of true believers) is toward human works and law performance. This is one reason why the Lord wants us to hear of His effective grace day by day.

The ministry of reminding is part of this process. The Apostle Paul sent out his ministry partner, Timothy, to remind the saints of matters that he himself had expounded upon in all the churches. "For this reason I have sent Timothy to you…who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church." Later, after Timothy had become a pastor in Ephesus, Paul wrote urging him to remind the saints of some basic elements of grace (matters pertaining to the faithfulness of God). "This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. Remind them of these things" (2 Timothy 2:11-14). Such vital truths need to be repeatedly considered. The Apostle Peter knew that to neglect the import of reminders was to be spiritually irresponsible. "Therefore I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know them, and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you" (2 Peter 1:12).

O Lord of persistence and patience, I confess the need to hear of Your grace day after day. I long to be a true disciple, living by grace. Please remind me of the necessity to be in the word of Your grace consistently, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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11/19/12 3:48 P

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Day By Day By Grace

November 19th

The "Much More" Grace of God

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 grace of God here is connected with the phrase "much more." What a grand description of His grace—the "much more" grace of God! God's grace is "much more" than forgiveness. It is "much more" than new birth. It is "much more" than we have yet understood. It is "much more" than we have ever yet experienced. Here, we see it is "much more" than sufficient to deal with the devastating effects of sin in the lives of the children of Adam.

Due to sin, humankind begins its existence separated from the Lord. We all began "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). Additionally, each person's individual experience can be decimated by the effects of sin. Selfishness, dishonesty, brutality, fear, disloyalty, deception, and the like, can leave individuals in miserable bondage and paralyzing defeat. These devastations come from being under the rule of death: "For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one." When Adam fell into sin and rebellion, the enemy of men's souls gained authority over Adam and his seed. This cruel dictator rules over everyone who is related to Adam through natural birth (and not yet related to Jesus by new birth). Elsewhere, Jesus described the sole intention of our enemy's interest in us. "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10a).

God's remedy for escaping the reign of death is two-fold: "those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ." First, the "gift of righteousness" provides an acceptable standing in heaven before a holy, righteous God. "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). Second, "abundance of grace" provides the continual spiritual resources that are necessary for the development of a godly, victorious walk for the glory of God in the midst of humanity here on earth. Both of these wondrous provisions ("abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness") are ours because of the relationship we have by faith with Jesus Christ: "through the One, Jesus Christ."

Heavenly Father, I realize that Your grace is much more than I have yet understood or experienced. I also see that it is much more than sufficient to reverse the effects of sin that may have impacted my life. So, I humbly reach out to You to receive from Your abundance of grace, that I might walk more victoriously, through Christ, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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10/23/12 4:43 P

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Day By Day By Grace

October 23rd

Enoch's Pleasing Walk with God, by Faith

By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him…. (Hebrews 11:5-6)

It is the will of God that we learn to walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord: "that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him" (Colossians 1:10). Again, such godly living can only be developed by faith. Much helpful insight into such a life is provided in Enoch's pleasing walk with God, by faith.

Enoch was one of our earliest forefathers. "Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah" (Genesis 5:21). After the birth of Methuselah (who became, at 969 years, the oldest man ever on earth), Enoch began a three hundred year-long journey of close fellowship with God. "After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years" (Genesis 5:22). After three centuries of spiritual intimacy, Enoch was taken into heaven without experiencing death. "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). Enoch's intimacy with God and his unique homegoing were related to a life of reliance upon the Lord. "By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death…for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Of course, what was so pleasing to God about Enoch's walk was his trust in the Lord. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him."

Enoch is a wonderful reminder of what life is all about—walking with God by faith throughout our days on earth, then walking right on into the presence of God in heaven someday. Many will eventually do this, like Enoch, without facing death. "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Others may face death, but the key ingredient of fellowship on earth right on into heaven is the same. "I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory" (Psalm 73:23-24).

Dear God of heaven and earth, I desire to please You by a life of faith here on earth. Help me to walk closely with You day by day throughout my pilgrimage here below. I eagerly anticipate the day that I will forever be with You in the fullness of Your glorious presence in heaven above, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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9/29/12 5:24 P

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September 29th

Pride and Shame or Humility and Wisdom

When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom…The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools. (Proverbs 11:2 and 3:35)

In order to live by the grace of God, we must be willing to walk in humility, instead of in pride. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5). We must be willing to acknowledge our daily, desperate need for God. Any other approach to life is based upon pride (which is a foolish, inaccurate assumption that we are adequate to produce a life on our own). Those who walk in pride end up with shame. Those who walk in humility end up with wisdom.

The Scriptures describe those who foolishly walk in pride, as well as declaring the shame that they experience. "When pride comes, then comes shame…shame shall be the legacy of fools." One example would be the wicked way that many privileged and powerful people persecute the downtrodden and the vulnerable. They are demonstrating their pride. "The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised" (Psalm 10:2). Their shame is that they can become entangled in the very schemes that they have contrived. Another example is seen in those who arrogantly oppose the people of God. "This they shall have for their pride, because they have reproached and made arrogant threats against the people of the LORD of hosts" (Zephaniah 2:10). Their shame was announced as a barrenness so severe as to be likened unto the end of Sodom and Gomorrah. "'Therefore, as I live,' says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Surely Moab shall be like Sodom, and the people of Ammon like Gomorrah—overrun with weeds and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation'" (Zephaniah 2:9).

In contrast to the shame that comes to the prideful, is the wisdom (and resulting glory, or honor) that comes to the humble. "With the humble is wisdom… The wise shall inherit glory." Those who walk humbly before the Lord find the godly wisdom available in the Lord's infallible word. "The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple" (Psalm 19:7). This wisdom from God brings honor to the humble ones who live by it. "A man's pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor" (Proverbs 29:23). Again, this honor for the humble is in striking contrast to the wretched and ignoble end that pride engenders.

Dear Lord of Glory, how fitting that those who pridefully oppose You will be brought low and will end up in shame. I do not want to be numbered among them. I desire to walk in humility, to eagerly acknowledge my desperate need for You every day in every way, and to be compassionate toward the needy. I desire to bless Your people, to humbly seek the wisdom of Your word, and to be a vessel of honor unto You, through Christ Jesus, my Lord, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra

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September 23rd

Nebuchadnezzar Exemplifying God's Opposition to Pride

All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar…he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you." (Daniel 4:28-31)

Our lofty and holy God graciously revives the hearts of all who walk in humility and lowliness. "Though the LORD is on high, yet He regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar" (Psalm 138:6). Those who walk in pride experience quite a different response from the Lord. King Nebuchadnezzar exemplified God's opposition to pride.

Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king in Babylon. One day, he was in his royal palace reflecting upon the greatness of his kingdom. He concluded that it all came to pass because of his own might and for his own glory. "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" This prideful evaluation was in stark contrast to David's earlier humble profession. "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name" (1 Chronicles 29:11-13).

Before Nebuchadnezzar had finished his self-centered pronouncement, heaven declared God's opposition to his pride. "King Nebuchadnezzar…the kingdom has departed from you." The consequences would be appropriately severe. "And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses" (Daniel 4:32). Another proud ruler experienced similar radical consequences in the days of the early church. "So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, 'The voice of a god and not of a man!' Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died" (Acts 12:21-23).

Lord God Almighty, Creator of all and Ruler over all, I repent of the times I have spoken pridefully, as Nebuchadnezzar did. I long to openly profess David's humble, God-glorifying perspective day by day throughout my life, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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September 22nd

More on God Dwelling with the Humble and Contrite

The LORD is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God, who dwells on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth? He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap. (Psalm 113:4-7)

In our previous meditation, we considered the Lord's loftiness, coupled with His interest in man's lowliness. "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit" (Isaiah 57:15). In our present verses, we again see the Lord's desire to dwell with the humble and contrite.

Our great God dwells in the heaven of heavens, ruling over all the nations of the world. "The LORD is high above all nations." His glory is even more majestic than the galaxies which He hung throughout the stellar heavens: "His glory above the heavens." There is no one in all the universe who could be likened unto Him. "Who is like the LORD our God?" Nevertheless, though He rightly inhabits the highest realms of existence, He is willing to consider our lowly estate and become involved in the affairs of humanity: "who dwells on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth."

From His high and lofty position, the Lord observes the family of man. He is not looking for the boastful and the arrogant. He is looking for the humble and the contrite. "Though the LORD is on high, yet He regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar" (Psalm 138:6). Although our God is the creator of all the universe, He is looking for the spiritually bankrupt and those whose hearts are crushed. "'For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,' says the LORD. 'But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word'" (Isaiah 66:2). This last phrase gives a key characteristic of those who are truly humble and contrite. They respond with reverence when hearing God's word.

What does the Lord desire to do for the humble and contrite? He wants to bring spiritual restoration: "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me" (Psalm 138:7). Our great God is a God of compassion. He wants to restore the crushed heart. "The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit…He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 34:18 and 147:3). Our mighty, compassionate Lord "raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap."

Creator of heaven and earth, I am amazed that You are interested in me. I want to be numbered among the humble and contrite. I have nothing by which to commend myself to You. I only bring a heart that is broken by a multitude of agonies and impossibilities. Please revive me by Your grace, through Jesus Christ, my Lord, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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9/14/12 6:22 P

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September 14th

Isaiah Warning against Worldly Counsel

"Woe to the rebellious children," says the LORD, "Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin. Who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice." (Isaiah 30:1-2)

Those who want to live by grace (living by God working in and through their lives) characteristically depend upon the counsel of the Lord. Correspondingly, they have a burden to warn against worldly counsel, which undermines, or substitutes itself for God's counsel. "'Woe to the rebellious children,' says the LORD, 'Who take counsel, but not of Me.'"

Everyone needs counsel consistently. We all need to find valid guidance and direction through the opportunities and challenges of life. The Lord is to be our constant resource for such counsel. "This also comes from the LORD of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance" (Isaiah 28:29). The counsel of the Lord is wonderful; it is excellent! In fact, when Messiah would come (Jesus, the Christ), one of His descriptive title names would be "Wonderful Counselor" (Isaiah 9:6). This wonderful counsel of God comes to us through the word of God. "Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors" (Psalm 119:24).

Consequently, those who turn elsewhere for counsel are rebelling (at least, inadvertently) against the Lord. "'Woe to the rebellious children,' says the LORD, 'Who take counsel, but not of Me.'" Our God of grace wants to counsel us down His path. He wants to teach us to live by His wisdom and His provision. When we are formulating our plans, He wants us to allow His Spirit to direct us through His word. The only other option is to lean on the counsel of the world: "who devise plans, but not of My Spirit… who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice." God strongly warned His children of the vanity of seeking the worldly wisdom of Egypt. "You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from these things that shall come upon you" (Isaiah 47:13).

The church world today frequently turns to the contemporary speculations of man. The wisdom of man is a vain help. We would do well to consider Isaiah's clear warning. "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help…who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!" (Isaiah 31:1).

Lord Jesus, my Wonderful Counselor, forgive me for the many times that I have turned to worldly counsel. I see that such a choice interferes with Your work of grace in my life. Please remind me day by day to seek all of the counsel I need through the Holy Spirit unfolding the wisdom of Your word, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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9/13/12 11:11 A

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September 13th

More on David Confessing the Lord as His God

For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me…I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long…in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God…Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, be not far from me! (Psalm 38:4, 6, 15 and 21)

When the battles raged with pain and cruelty, David drew upon God's grace by humbly confessing the Lord as his God. "I hear the slander of many; Fear is on every side…But as for me…I say, 'You are my God'" (Psalm 31:13-14). Then David added, "My times are in Your hand" (Psalm 31:15). He knew that all of his times were in the hand of his sovereign God. David demonstrated this dependence upon the Lord in all types of situations (not only during the agonizing betrayals that he faced).

When David experienced times of personal sin and failure, he turned to the Lord, his God. "For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me." The guilt of David's sins overwhelmed him like mighty flood waters and crushed him like a massive weight. "I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long." This left David distressed, greatly pressed down, and continually grieving. Thus, with a broken and humble repentance, he confessed the Lord as his God. "In You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God…Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, be not far from me!"

In other times, David confessed the Lord as his God. When he was sick and near to death, he turned to the Lord, confessing Him as his God. "O LORD my God, I cried out to You, And You have healed me. O LORD, You have brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit" (Psalm 30:2-3). When David was humbly aware of his lack of innate goodness, he also confessed the Lord as his remedy. "Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust. O my soul, you have said to the LORD, 'You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You'" (Psalm 16:1-2). On the other hand, when David was joyously abounding in the goodness of the Lord, he also confessed the Lord as his God. "Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; And Your thoughts which are toward us cannot be recounted to You in order" (Psalm 40:5).

Dear Lord, You are my God as well! Yet, I know that in many situations, I have not confessed You as my God. Lord, teach me to confess You as my God in every circumstance—when I have sinned, when I am sick, when I am abased, when I am abounding. Wherever I am, whatever comes my way, may I see You as my God, lovingly and powerfully handling my times, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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9/12/12 10:57 A

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September 12th

David Confessing the Lord as His God

I hear the slander of many; Fear is on every side; While they take counsel together against me, They scheme to take away my life. But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." (Psalm 31:13-14)

Living by grace involves looking to the Lord as the one who must work His ways in and through our lives. Another distinctive indication that David lived in this manner was his habit of confessing the Lord as his God. "I say, 'You are my God'."

Such confessions by David were not mere religious ceremony, given in settings of ease and security. Rather, he made such confessions in times of threat and impossibility. When David voiced this particular confession, more than a few people were coming against him with a barrage of slanderous attacks. "I hear the slander of many." The situation was so bad that fearful circumstances surrounded him. "Fear is on every side." His slanderers were conspiring against him. "They take counsel together against me." Their goal was a total victory. They were plotting in order to completely destroy him. "They scheme to take away my life."

David (like many of God's children) found himself in such embattled situations frequently. One of these many conflicts included cruel taunts that even accused David of being cast off by the Lord. "My enemies speak against me; And those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together, Saying, 'God has forsaken him; Pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him'" (Psalm 71:10-11).

Another encounter was accompanied by a very distinct type of pain. David was under threat of death from the hand of Saul, the king he had faithfully served. The superscription from Psalm 59 documents this painful opposition. "A Michtam of David when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him."

One opposition brought David a unique measure of personal agony. This occurred when David's own son came to usurp his father's throne. "LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me" (Psalm 3:1-2). The superscription above this Psalm indicates that Absalom led this army of insurrectionists. "A Psalm of David when he fled Absalom his son."

In each of these cruel and painful betrayals, David confessed the Lord to be his God. "But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God'…O my God, make haste to help me!…Deliver me from my enemies, O my God…Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God!" (Psalm 31:13; 71:12; 59:1; and 3:7).

Dear Lord, I also want to confess You as my God when I face opposition or attack. Even when my heart is aching from the most painful betrayals, I want to confess You as the sovereign Master, Who is in control of every aspect of my life, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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9/9/12 4:53 P

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September 9th

David Trusting in and Praising the Lord and His Word

In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust…In God (I will praise His word), In the LORD (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust…You have magnified Your word above all Your name. (Psalm 56:4, 10-11 and 138:2)

To live by grace, one must trust in the Lord. David urged others to trust in the Lord. "Trust in the LORD…feed on His faithfulness…Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him" (Psalm 37:3, 5). David himself trusted in the Lord. "In God I have put my trust." Part of trusting in the Lord involves holding His word in an exalted place (trusting in it, honoring it, praising it). David proclaimed, "I will praise His word." This is an inherent part of living by grace, since it is "the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance" (Acts 20:32).

God's word is so trustworthy, so praiseworthy. David proclaimed the unique character of God's word, which gives the word its incomparable effectiveness. "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul" (Psalm 19:7a). God's word is fully sufficient. The Lord has left nothing out of it that we need for spiritual development. Therefore, it can transform lives into what God wants them to be.

Furthermore, "The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple" (Psalm 19:7b). The Scriptures are absolutely reliable. They provide God's indisputable insights into life on earth, as well as necessary preparation for heaven. Consequently, they bring the Lord's wisdom to those who humbly admit that they need it.

Additionally, "The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart" (Psalm 19:8a). The Bible alone is irrefutably correct. Man's perspectives, opinions, systems, and theories are riddled with inaccuracies and fallacies. What a joy this brings to the inner man, knowing that there is a place to find the Lord's absolute realities.

Moreover, "The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Psalm 19:8b). God's word is holy and untainted. Man's words are polluted with sin and self and all sorts of unrighteousness. When people feed on the contaminated words of humanity, their eyes become dull and lifeless. Contrastingly, when the words of the Lord are consistently taken in, one's eyes shine with heaven's light.

Upon consideration of the unparalleled character and ability of God's word, it is no surprise that the Spirit of God inspired David to exclaim, "You have magnified Your word above all Your name."

Dear Lord God, I see that the words from Your heart are to be treated just as You are to be treated. As part of my trust in You and my praise for You, I confess my trust in, and praise for, Your word. Please use the word of Your grace to transform and shape my life in every way, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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9/7/12 12:15 P

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September 7th

Once More on David and the Lord's Lovingkindness

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life. (Psalm 36:7-9)

As we go further into these verses, David confesses to God another reason why he had such a yearning for the Lord's lovingkindness. "You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures." Those who are drawn to God's lovingkindness (desiring to face all of life on the basis of His loving commitment to His people) find a delightful spiritual river from which to drink by faith.

This world is a dry place, spiritually speaking. As we saw previously, David understood this clearly. "O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1). In this dry and barren world, David experienced much anguish. He served a king who wrongfully persecuted him. "Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal, Saul's daughter, loved him; and Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul became David's enemy continually" (1 Samuel 18:28-29). David had a wife who mocked his love for God. "And as the ark of the LORD came into the City of David, Michal, Saul's daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart" (2 Samuel 6:16). He had a son who betrayed him. "Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate…Moreover Absalom would say, 'Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice'…So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (2 Samuel 15:2, 4, 6).

In this barrenness of unfaithful relationships, David sought after the Lord earnestly. "I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land" (Psalm 143:6). In stark contrast to such heart-breaking, human disappointments, David found the Lord's lovingkindness to be like a satisfying river of spiritual delights. "You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures." He found the Lord to be an ever-flowing supply of true life. "For with You is the fountain of life." In the Lord's lovingkindness, David found loyal love, steadfast commitment, and abounding grace.

Dear Lord, my fountain of life, the world as been a dry and thirsty land for me as well. There has been opposition, rejection, and betrayal. Lord, I want to come to You day by day to drink by faith from the lovingkindness that You alone can pour forth, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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9/6/12 2:42 P

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September 6th

Even More on David and the Lord's Lovingkindness

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house. (Psalm 36:7-8a)

We have been meditating upon Old Testament passages that speak of God's lovingkindness (a term very much like the word grace in the New Testament). We have been considering verses from David's life and testimony. David treasured the lovingkindness of the Lord. "How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!" An understanding of the far-reaching implications of the Lord's lovingkindness gave him this perspective. David learned that the Lord's lovingkindness (His zealous, steadfast love for His people) drew hearts to seek God for His gracious protection. "Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings." David also knew that God's lovingkindness fully satisfies hungry hearts that seek the Lord's fullness. "They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house."

Man is so needy, and God has so much to give. The needs of man could hardly be overstated. The resources of God could only be understated. Words like emptiness and deficiency describe humanity. Words like fullness and abundance describe our God.

Man begins his human existence in spiritual bankruptcy (born in sin and ready to pursue ungodliness). "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me…The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies" (Psalm 51:5 and 58:3). For these desperate needs, the Lord has forgiveness and salvation. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered…The LORD is…my salvation" (Psalm 32:1 and 18:2). Yet, once redeemed, man still must not look to himself, nor to the world from which he came. "My soul thirsts for You…in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1). The Lord must be the new supply for the new man. Like David, we must find what we need from "the fullness of [God's] house." When we look to God's fullness to replace our inadequacy, we will find the same spiritual satisfaction that David testified about long ago. "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips" (Psalm 63:5). We also will rejoice, because we will be "abundantly satisfied."

Dear God of spiritual abundance, I am so blessed to be in Your family. Please remind me often that the world and the flesh are spiritually bankrupt. Teach me to draw upon the fullness of Your house through humble dependence upon You. Every time I have ever done that, my heart has been fully satisfied!

Bob Hoekstra
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September 5th

More on David and the Lord's Lovingkindness

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

Lovingkindness is one of the terms in the Old Testament that has profound spiritual kinship with the New Testament term, grace. Lovingkindness speaks of God's zealous love for His people. This love includes His mercy to hold back the judgment we deserve, as well as His goodness to pour out all that we need. David's heart for God's grace can be seen in the way he cherished the Lord's lovingkindness. "How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!" In a series of verses over a few more days, we will see why David greatly valued God's lovingkindness. It involved the far-reaching implications of the Lord's dealing with us according to His lovingkindness.

The first implication that David refers to here is God's protection. "Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings." When people consider God's lovingkindness, they are encouraged by His desire to shelter them. Thus, they draw near in faith to be safeguarded by His merciful care. "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by" (Psalm 57:1). Like a devoted bird guarding its young, the Lord displays His lovingkindness in keeping those who trust in Him.

Jesus expressed His desire to care for people in this intimate fashion, even though they might deserve the opposite. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34). David was one who was willing to be gathered under the loving wings of God's care. "Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings, from the wicked who oppress me, From my deadly enemies who surround me" (Psalm 17:8-9). What joy this brings to those who flee to the Lord's lovingkindness. "Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice" (Psalm 63:7).

Dear Lord, forgive me for the times I have been unwilling to come to You for Your lovingkindness. I repent of those times when I neglected, or even refused, to humbly place my hope in Your protecting care. How foolish I was. Lord, every time I have come to You, joy has eventually filled my heart. Please nurture in me a heart that consistently relies on Your precious lovingkindness, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra

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8/31/12 7:31 P

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August 31st

Moses Pointing to the Lord for Battle

Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies; do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. (Deuteronomy 20:3-4)

Moses is another example of those who lived by grace in the Old Testament. He knew the necessity of relying upon the sufficiency of God, instead of upon the inadequate resources of man. One illustration of this is seen when he pointed Israel to the Lord for battle.

When the children of Israel would enter into the Promised Land, innumerable battles would lie before them. These battles were inevitable, since godless nations had entrenched themselves in the land: "because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you" (Deuteronomy 9:5). Thus, the history of Israel documents one battle after another.

Moses announced the truth that the people of the Lord need to hear as the battle draws near. "Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies; do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them." So often, when the warfare appears, the foe seems invincible: "When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you" (Deuteronomy 20:1). The natural temptation is to "faint …be afraid…tremble or be terrified." Another temptation is to try to match the enemy horse for horse and chariot for chariot. The Scriptures warn of the futility of turning to worldly resources. "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 31:1).

Moses knew that God's people need a reminder that the Lord wants to be our hope. When we must go into the battles of life, the Lord accompanies us. "For the LORD your God is He who goes with you." He is with us not only to comfort us, but also to battle on our behalf: "to fight for you against your enemies, to save you." The Lord can fight for His people in an unlimited variety of ways. He can change the hearts of those who oppose us. He can bring their plans to naught. He can trap them in their own evil plans. He can cause our enemies to turn and devour one another. He can effectively save us in any manner that He chooses.

O Lord, my Defender, I face many battles that leave me intimidated and fearful. My hope is often placed in my own worldly strategies or the help that man can offer. Lord, I look to You afresh to fight for me and to rescue me any way You choose, for Your glory and honor, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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August 8th

Responding Properly to God's Promises

By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)

Before we proceed in our consideration of God's promises, let's look at some examples of those who responded properly to His promises. This will assist us in the path of living daily by the grace of God. Remember, living by God's grace and depending upon His promises are two perspectives concerning the same reality. Both speak of God working in and through the lives of His people.

Sarah responded properly to God's promises. It is true that she tried to fulfill God's promise of a son by her own ingenuity. "So Sarai said to Abram, 'See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her'" (Genesis 16:2). It is true that she later laughed with incredulity, when the promise was repeated. "And He said, 'I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.' And Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him…Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, 'After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also'?" (Genesis 18:10, 12). Nevertheless, she eventually responded properly to what God had promised to do. "By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed." The proper response to God's promises is to believe them. All who trust in the Lord to do what He has promised will experience God at work in their lives. Sarah trusted God's promise of a son, and God enabled her to conceive and birth that son. "By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age."

Isaac was born in spite of the fact that Sarah did not have the natural biological capacity to conceive anymore. Isaac was born by means of Sarah's exercising faith in the promises of God. Note, however, that Sarah's faith was not merely some act of the human will (like "mind over matter" or "power of positive thinking"). Her faith was based upon the faithfulness of God. "She judged Him faithful who had promised." She considered what God had revealed to her about Himself and concluded that He was reliable, so she relied upon Him.

Dear faithful Father, I confess the many times I have responded to Your promises like Sarah did at first scheming to fulfill them myself, or overtaken with unbelief. Yet, when I look in the Scriptures, I see Your faithfulness declared regularly and documented repeatedly. Also, every time I trust in You to do what You have promised, You demonstrate again Your great faithfulness. Lord, would You especially fulfill Your promises in those areas where I am as convinced of my helplessness as Sarah was of hers, for Your glory and honor, Amen

Bob Hoekstra
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8/7/12 1:55 P

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August 7th

Once More on God's Promises and God's Rest

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience…And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises…And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. (Hebrews 4:11; 6:11-12, 15)

Once again, God's promises and God's rest are in view. In these intriguing verses, two insightful terms are linked with the promises and the rest of God: diligence and patience. Although they sound contradictory, they are actually complementary.

For those who believe in the Lord Jesus, He promises spiritual rest. This rest begins with a divine rescue from the crushing burden of sin and guilt. Then, it is to develop into heavenly relief from the unbearable load of self-generated Christian living. Entering into this daily spiritual rest is neither an optional nor a casual matter. "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest." The Lord wants to stir and maintain in us an eagerness for this daily rest in Him. He wants us to earnestly and attentively seek Him for the rest that He alone can give. Our God wants to bring us along in a maturing assurance (a growing confidence in His promises). "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end." If we are unwilling to cry out to the Lord for such diligence in seeking His rest daily, we will eventually become spiritually lethargic: "that you do not become sluggish." God's rest is designed to produce spiritual fervency, not laziness: "not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11).

Along with diligence in seeking God for the rest He promises, the Lord also wants to develop in us a patience regarding His promises. "Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises…And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise." God does not want our spiritual diligence to deteriorate into anxiety and impatience. Yet, how can we grow in diligence and patience at the same time? How is it that the two are not mutually exclusive? Well, diligence concerns what God promises to do. We are to earnestly seek such. Patience concerns when God may desire to fulfill His promises. We are to patiently trust Him for His prefect timing.

Lord, I praise You for the wonderful realities that You have made available through Your promises. I want to seek You diligently for their fulfillment in my life. Yet, dear Lord, if I must wait an extended time on various issues, as Abraham did for his promised son, help me to be patient, trusting in Your wise timing, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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7/23/12 1:51 P

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July 23rd

God's Faithfulness and His Promises

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

Previously, we reflected upon God's ability in conjunction with His promises. The capability of the one making promises is strategic when promises are made. When relating God's ability to His promises, we have full assurance that He can fulfill what He has promised to do. "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…Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:17, 27). Our Lord created all the universe, and He is ruler over all of humanity. Surely, He is able to fulfill all of His promises.

Now, we have another issue to consider: faithfulness. When promises are made, faithfulness is just as important as ability. It is vital to know that the one promising is not only able, but is also reliable. In our present verse, we are given reason to exercise unwavering confidence in God, based upon His faithfulness. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."

In the book of Hebrews, we are given a recurring call to stand firm in the hope of the Lord. To participate more and more in the reality of being God's spiritual household here on earth, we are to confidently embrace throughout our pilgrimage the hope that is available in our Lord: "whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end" (Hebrews 3:6). To fully partake of all that is ours in Christ, we are to persistently cling to Him by faith right up to our last days on earth. "For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end" (Hebrews 3:14).

Our present verse also stresses persistent faith in the hope of the Lord. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering." This persistence of trust in God is related to His promises and His faithfulness. "For He who promised is faithful." We can cling tightly to the promises of God. We can confidently hope in God's fulfilling His promises to us. We do not need to waver in doubt, because God is reliable. He is trustworthy. He is faithful.

Dear God of faithfulness, how delightful to realize that my persistence of faith in You hinges on Your faithfulness toward me. I see that I can continue to depend upon You, because you are fully faithful to me. What expectation this gives me as I consider Your great promises! You will be faithful to fulfill every one of them, as I place my trust in You!

Bob Hoekstra
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7/19/12 6:54 P

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July 19th

More Truth to Deliver Us from the Law

Now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. (Galatians 4:9-10)

In our last meditation, we saw that the Lord's promise of liberating truth includes truth to deliver us from the law. If we are going to be justified (declared not guilty and pronounced righteous in Christ), we must be delivered from the law (which condemns us, pronounces us guilty of sin). We are rescued from the law by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus, thereby receiving His justifying grace. "We have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law" (Galatians 2:16).

Through this exercise of faith, we come to know the Lord. At this point, many Christians return to a religious striving-under-law performance, assuming they can grow in sanctification by their own dedicated efforts. "Now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements?" These words from Galatians repeat a major theme of that revolutionary letter: the power and richness of grace contrasted with the weakness and poverty ("the weak and beggarly elements") of the law. The grace of God, that was powerful enough to bring us justification, is the only option powerful enough to provide us daily sanctification (growth in godly living). The grace of God, that was abundantly rich unto the saving of our souls, is the only resource rich enough to effect the transforming of our heart and character. God's law was never intended to provide the heavenly power or riches needed for justification. Neither was the law intended to do such for sanctification.

The futility of producing godliness through the law can be seen in the Galatians' vain hope that observing religious holy days would empower them spiritually. "You observe days and months and seasons and years." Far from liberation, this was a return to religious enslavement. "You desire again to be in bondage." God's people are certainly free to celebrate days that may have spiritual significance to them. "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). We are not to require or prohibit the observance of days. Nevertheless, if our hope is in religious observances, we are heading into religious bondage, not into spiritual liberty.

Dear Lord, I rejoice in the power and richness of Your grace that has brought me justification from sin! I humbly cry out to You for a daily supply of Your powerful and rich sanctifying grace. Convict me when I am leaning upon the weak and beggarly elements of law performance, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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7/9/12 5:39 P

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July 9th

Once More on God's Ability and His Promises

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think… (Ephesians 3:20)

These opening words from one of the most well-known benedictions in all of the New Testament offer a unique opportunity to consider God's ability, as related to His promises. How able is God? He is "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think." Could we possibly ask for more than that which God has already promised? Could we properly think greater things than what God has promised? Well, let's reflect upon some of the promises of God that we have already considered.

We have seen that God promised to make a mighty nation with worldwide blessings from one man, Abraham. "I will make you a great nation…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:2-3). God also promised to deliver His people from bondage into an abundant land. "I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt…to a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:17). He also promised to fight for His people. "The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you" (Deuteronomy 1:30). Additionally, God promised an eternal kingdom for His people, through the line of David. "And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:16). Further, God promised that His Messiah would sit on that eternal throne. "A Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him" (Isaiah 11:1-2). Moreover, God promised that Messiah would be a unique King. "A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench" (Isaiah 42:3).

Ultimately, the Father promised that the Messiah Himself (Jesus) would be the new covenant of grace. "I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will…give You as a covenant to the people" (Isaiah 42:6). Correspondingly, the Lord promised that this covenant of grace would provide forgiveness of sins ("I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more"—Jeremiah 31:34), intimacy with God ("They all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them"—Jeremiah 31:34), and an inner work of God to change us from the inside out ("I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts"—Jeremiah 31:33).

Certainly, we could not ask or think beyond these promises. Yet, our God is able to do far beyond these extraordinary matters. What confidence this gives us regarding God's promises, as well as every prayer we offer based on these promises!
Almighty God, how often I underestimate Your ability and thereby end up doubting Your promises. Lord, I praise You that You are able to do far beyond my prayers or thoughts—and every promise that You have ever made!

Bob Hoekstra
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7/7/12 8:31 P

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July 7th

Even More on God's Ability and His Promises

"Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy". (Daniel 3:17 and Jude v. 24)

The basic subject matter in this section of our meditations on growing in the grace of God pertains to the promises of God. Living by the promises of God is just another way to consider living by the grace of God. Again, our present verses speak of the ability of God. The more we understand what God is able to do, the more extensively we will trust in His promises.

Three young Israelites (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego) gave powerful testimony of the ability of God. King Nebuchadnezzar had ordered all the people to engage in idolatry, under threat of severe consequences. "To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn…you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace" (Daniel 3:4-6). The three young men had a bold answer, based on the ability of God. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace." They did not bow down, so they were thrown into the blazing furnace. Yet, the Lord demonstrated His ability on their behalf. When the king looked into the furnace, he exclaimed, "Look!…I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Daniel 3:25). Yes, God proved able to deliver them.

Hundreds of years later, Jude wrote of God's ability in two other important arenas. "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." This aspect of God's ability offers assurance that God can keep His people from stumbling while on earth and present them faultless when they reach heaven. We all know our own capacity to stumble spiritually into transgression or compromise. Also, the enemy's condemnations often rob us of the expectation that we will eventually stand before our Lord in glory, fully forgiven, cleansed, and transformed. Our God is able to work effectively in both arenas for all who humbly trust in Him.

Lord, how able You are! You are able to deliver me from the threatening situations of life. You are able to keep me from stumbling into sin. You are able to present me faultless before You some day in heaven. Lord, Your great ability encourages me to humbly depend upon Your many promises!

Bob Hoekstra
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6/26/12 2:55 P

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June 26th

Promises Concerning the Flood

"Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." (Genesis 9:11)

The history of the great flood in Genesis is a striking illustration that our God is a God of promises. The cause for the flood was the exceeding sinfulness of man. "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). God set forth His plan to deal with this problem by a promise of judgment. "So the LORD said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth'" (Genesis 6:7). Thus, through promise, judgment by floodwaters became a certainty.

Along with a promise of judgment, God made a promise of deliverance, a promise of grace. "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD" (Genesis 6:8). This grace was available through the promised ark of protection. "But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark" (Genesis 6:18). Noah trusted in the Lord's plan and provision and was thereby preserved from judgment. "Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did" (Genesis 6:22). Then, the Lord promised Noah (and all humanity) that a judgment of floodwaters would never again destroy mankind. "Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." Additionally, God established by promise a sign for this covenant. "I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth" (Genesis 9:12-13).

These promises concerning the flood (and God's "ark of salvation") are a picture of Jesus' being our "ark of eternal salvation." Peter wrote of the flood and the ark. "The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water" (1 Peter 3:20). Then, he likened Noah's rescue through the ark and the floodwaters to our rescue through Christ and the waters of baptism. "There is also an anti-type [a prefiguring] which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). When we identified by faith with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (which is the significance of water baptism), Jesus became our "ark of salvation," whereby we are brought to God (rescued from the judgment due our sins). Now every rainbow can remind us of God's faithfulness to keep His promises of salvation.

Lord Jesus, I rejoice in You as my ark of safety from judgment for my sins! Please remind me with every rainbow that You keep all of Your promises of salvation, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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6/22/12 4:08 P

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June 22nd

Permissible Promises Made to God

I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. (Psalm 18:1-3)

The Scriptures are quite clear. God's work in our lives depends upon His promises to us, not our promises to Him. However, this does not mean that we are forbidden to express our love and devotion to God through promises made to Him. In this rich testimony from the heart of David, he makes two significant promises to the Lord. "I will love You, O LORD…I will call upon the LORD." As we examine what accompanies these promises, we will see the kind of promises that are permissible to make to God.

Loving God is the essence of our relationship with the Lord. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). Our love for the Lord is in response to His great love for us. "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Long ago, the Lord had promised that He would be available to work in the heart of His people, if they were willing to love Him properly. "And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 30:6). The context of David's promises to love God indicates that He understood this promise from the Lord. "I will love You, O LORD, my strength." God was the one David was trusting in to give him the strength that was needed to walk in a loving relationship with the Lord.

As we grow in awareness of the love of God, we learn to call upon Him to deliver us in times of trouble. "I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies." David's promise to cry out to God in the midst of difficulties was based upon the Lord's praiseworthy character. David had called upon the Lord many times before, and He had delivered him. David had come to know the Lord (to experience Him) as his mighty protector. "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust."

As we noted previously, in Israel's promises to obey the law of God, they were depending upon themselves. In David's promises to love God and to call upon Him in times of trouble, he was depending upon the character and capacities of God!

Dear loving and rescuing Lord, my love for You is truly a result of Your work of love in my heart! Likewise, my cries to You for help are based upon Your many faithful rescues in times past! You are my God, my strength, in whom I will trust!

Bob Hoekstra
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June 16th

A Greater Intimacy under Grace

Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All…Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us. (Hebrews 9:1-3 and 10:19-20)

An additional better aspect of grace is greater intimacy than the law could provide. The old covenant of law brought many priests into the holy place ("the sanctuary"), but only one into the Holy of Holies ("the Holiest"). The new covenant of grace brings every believer into the Holy of Holies—daily!

Under the guidelines of the law, there was an earthly tabernacle, where God's people were to approach Him. "Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary." The two inner chambers (the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies) were where spiritual intimacy with God was available. The holy place had significant "spiritual furniture," signifying various realities of the people's relationship with God. "For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary." In this chamber, a specified number of priests would enter each day. They would be occupied in busy service unto the Lord (lighting the lamps, laying out the bread, supplying the incense). However, they were separated from the most intimate presence of the Lord by the veil that prevented access to the Holy of Holies.

Behind that veil of separation was the most intimate place with God: "behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All." Therein was the ark with the tablets of law: "the ark of the covenant…and the tablets of the covenant" (Hebrews 9:4). Above the ark was the mercy seat, where the shining glory of God's personal presence was seen. Here, blood was sprinkled, allowing sinful man to commune with a holy God: "and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat" (Hebrews 9:5). Yet, the law's severe restriction is seen in that only one man could enter that intimate place one day a year: "into the second part the high priest went alone once a year" (Hebrews 9:7). Now every new covenant servant of grace can daily enjoy by faith that intimate presence of the Lord! "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us."

Lord God of holiness, I praise You for the new and living way of grace, that offers such intimacy with You. In humble faith, I ask that You make Your presence known to me day by day, through the blood of Christ, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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June 15th

A Better Sacrifice under Grace

For such a High Priest was fitting for us…who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices…for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself…Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 7:26-27 and 9:12)

Another superior aspect of the new covenant of grace is the sacrifice we have in Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. The sacrifices under the old covenant were offered repeatedly, and they involved the blood of animals. In both respects the sacrifice of Jesus is far better.

The priests under the law presented their same sacrifices day after day. These sacrifices could not remove sin. "And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins" (Hebrews 10:11). These sacrifices provided a temporary covering of sin, anticipating the permanent work of the Messiah to come. However, at the same time, in these sacrifices was a constant remembrance of sin and guilt. "In those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year" (Hebrews 10:3). As the blood was shed, the ultimate consequence of sin (death) was being played out before the people. "And according to the law almost all things are purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). Eventually, Jesus died as the perfect, "once-for-all" sacrifice. "For such a High Priest was fitting for us…who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices…for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself." This was a sacrifice that could actually remove sin. "Once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself…so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many…But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 9:26, 28 and 10:12).

The limitation of law sacrifices was that mere animal blood was being shed. "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). Thus, our High Priest under grace offered His own blood. "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." The blood of Christ was uniquely effective. It was the "precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot…The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (1 Peter 1:19 and John 1:29).

Dear Lamb of God, what a marvelous sacrifice You gave by grace! One death for all the sins of the world makes eternal redemption available to all who believe. I gratefully rejoice in this wondrous gift!

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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6/14/12 11:36 A

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June 14th

A Better High Priest under Grace

"You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant…Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:21-22, 25)

The supreme issue regarding the better aspects of the new covenant of grace is Jesus, our High Priest. The priests under the law were men who served for a limited time and then died. Under grace, our High Priest serves forever. Jesus received His priesthood "not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life" (Hebrews 7:16).

The priests under the law were sons of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. Each served as a brief reminder of the perfect priest who would someday bring a better covenant than the law. "Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?" (Hebrews 7:11). This was a temporary priesthood, requiring numerous priests. "And there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing" (Hebrews 7:23). The priesthood of Jesus would never have to be transferred to another because He is the eternal Son of God. "But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood" (Hebrews 7:24).

Jesus, our eternal High Priest, was a priest after the order of Melchizedek. "For this Melchizedek… without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually" (Hebrews 7:1-3). Melchizedek was the one who brought bread and wine to Abraham, when he returned victorious from battle (see Genesis 14). There was no genealogy for Melchizedek, no record of the beginning or ending of his days of service. In this, he was like the Son of God: eternal. Thus, he pictured Jesus' priesthood: eternal. This makes Jesus (the provider of grace) a better High Priest than those who served under the law. "By so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant."

Now, the one who died for us (to forgive our sins) is ever praying for us (that we might be thoroughly rescued from all else that threatens us). "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them."

Lord Jesus, my great High Priest, I bow to You as the eternal one, whose priesthood never ends. I rest in Your interceding prayers for me today, that I might be delivered from all that would come against me, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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6/13/12 2:11 P

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June 13th

The Better Aspects of the New Covenant of Grace

He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." (Hebrews 8:6-8)

These verses contrast the old covenant of law ("that first covenant") with the new covenant of grace ("a second"). The old covenant of law was good, but the new covenant of grace is far better. The law is ordained of God, but it can never bring what God desires people to experience.

The law is good, but only if it is used properly. "We know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners" (1 Timothy 1:8-9). The lawful use of God's law pertains to the unrighteous, the rebellious. The law is not designed to give people a righteous standing in God's sight (justification). "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 2:16). Nor is the law intended for developing a godly walk (sanctification) in those who are justified through faith in Christ. "For the law made nothing perfect" (Hebrews 7:19). The proper use of the law is to lead people to the grace of God found in Jesus Christ. "The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24).

Grace is far better than law. If the law was sufficient, then God would never have sent His Son to die for the establishing of a new covenant. "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." Since the law was lacking (regarding justification and sanctification), God's plan included the new covenant of grace. "Because finding fault with them, He says: 'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant'." The new covenant of grace has Jesus, the giver of life, as the Mediator. "He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant." This new covenant also has greater promises than the law: "a better covenant, which was established on better promises." In the days ahead, we will examine the better aspects of the grace of God.

Dear Father, I agree with You that Your law is good. It tutored me to Your magnificent grace. Lord, teach me the better aspects of Your grace, that I might fully embrace all that You want to accomplish in and through my life, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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6/12/12 7:58 A

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June 12th

More Reflections on Obedience by God's Grace

Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?…Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. (Galatians 3:3 and 2 Corinthians 3:5)

Once again, let's reflect on previously studied passages that show how obedience to God is related to His grace. Galatians 3:3 fits in this helpful category.

Our beginning with God was brought about by the work of His Spirit. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). We humbly admitted our sins, casting ourselves upon the mercy of God. The Holy Spirit brought us new birth, new life. This work of the Spirit is linked to the grace of God later in this same sentence: "that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7). Thus, starting out with God is related to His Spirit applying His grace to our need.

Now, having experienced spiritual birth by the Spirit (by grace), would we be so foolish as to think that we could be spiritually developed by the flesh (by mere human activity)? "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" The only way that spiritual growth can follow spiritual birth is by the work of the Holy Spirit (that is, by the grace of God continuing to impact our lives). These same terms are the only explanation for the development of obedience in the life of a child of God. It must come from the Spirit applying grace to our hearts. "It is good that the heart be established by grace" (Hebrews 13:9).

2 Corinthians 3:5 is another passage that carries this same message about obedience. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God." We are hereby reminded that Christians are not the source of any godliness that is to develop in their lives. This would include obedience. We do not have within our own resources what it takes to produce an obedient life. Yet, we do have available to us daily all that we need to grow in pleasing God and doing His will. God is to be our source always for all things spiritual. How do we draw upon His comprehensive sufficiency? Humbly depend upon Him. God pours grace into the humble heart (James 4:6), and faith accesses grace (Romans 5:2).

Heavenly Father, would You develop obedience in me the same way You brought new life to me—by Your Spirit, by Your grace. I again confess my need for Your sufficient resources for growing in obedience, and I rely on You, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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5/31/12 2:05 P

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I love that prayer. I said it and I meant it.

I am on my way to my healthy weight.Praise the Lord!

Leader : "Celebrate what God has done for you today." (SP)

Leader:"A new Me!"( SP)


 Pounds lost: 1.0 
 
0
4.25
8.5
12.75
17
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5/29/12 3:03 P

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May 29th

Obedience under the New Covenant of Grace

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14)

Obedience is a vital issue for every believer. Throughout the Scriptures we see that God's desire is for His children to walk in obedience. Moses wrote of this truth. "You shall obey the voice of the LORD your God, and observe His commandments and His statutes which I command you today" (Deuteronomy 27:10). Samuel confirmed this truth. "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22). Likewise, the Apostle Peter declared that God's children are to live "as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts" (1 Peter 1:14).

Our lives are to be under the rule (the dominion) of God's will revealed in His word. When we are disobedient to God's will, sin is dominating our lives. The Lord certainly wants us to get out from under the domination of sin and to live obediently. The only path for such liberation is the grace of God. "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). Man might think that the law could free us from the dominating influence of sin. If we had laws with radical standards and severe consequences, surely man would not go on sinning. Of course, this approach does not work. No standards are as lofty as the holy law of God. No consequences are more severe than violating God's law. Yet, men still are dominated by sin. Grace is God's remedy.

A reactionary apprehension can develop against God's liberating remedy of grace. Some think that proclaiming grace as the solution will only encourage people to sin all the more and even wrongly assume that this will unleash more grace. The opposite is actually true. When God's children embrace the wonder of what His grace provides (an effective rescue from sin through our identification with the death and resurrection of Christ), we see the folly of continuing in sin. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism 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 6:1-4). By God's grace at work, growing in this new life means growing in obedience.

Lord God of liberating grace, I want to grow in obedience. I long to be increasingly free from the influence of sin. Lord, I know that my best effort to be holy will not be sufficient. Strengthen me by Your grace to walk in Your will, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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5/23/12 11:22 A

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May 23rd

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.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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5/15/12 3:49 P

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May 15th

A Ministry of Mercy and Grace

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1)

In addition to heavenly liberty, God desires to mark our lives with other spiritual characteristics. One of these is the godly encouragement that comes from living and serving under a ministry of mercy and grace.

The service we now render to the Lord is based upon mercy: "since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy." We deserved condemnation by God and separation from Him for eternity. Instead, God had mercy upon us, forgiving us our sins. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:5). Furthermore, by His mercy He enlists us in His service. "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy" (1 Timothy 1:12-13). Our ministry is also about grace. "I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me" (Ephesians 3:7).

In light of having this type of ministry (one related to mercy and grace), "we do not lose heart." If we were called to serve God based on our merit and our resources, we would lose heart. We can periodically be tempted to discouragement, as we serve our God. Paul's testimony of service is similar to many of God's servants down through the ages. "For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears" (2 Corinthians 7:5). At times, we too are surrounded by impossibilities and threatened by apprehensions. What are we to do in such unsettling trials? "For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls" (Hebrews 12:3). No one faced more battles and betrayals than the Lord Jesus. Yet, no one served more faithfully. In battle after battle, the Father brought Jesus through victoriously. We can count on the Lord to have mercy upon us. He will pour out His grace upon us and bring us through victoriously as well.

Remember, our service of the Lord is based upon mercy and grace. "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 4:16).

O God of mercy and grace, You know how discouragement sometimes rolls over me like crashing waves. Please remind me that my service unto You depends on Your mercy and grace, not on my capabilities or performance. Thank You, Lord!

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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5/14/12 1:29 P

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May 14th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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5/13/12 7:19 P

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May 13th
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 Christ-likeness, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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Happy Mother's Day !!

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5/12/12 6:21 P

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May 12th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
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5/11/12 10:48 P

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May 11th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
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5/10/12 6:59 P

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May 10th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
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5/9/12 5:59 P

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May 9th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
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5/9/12 12:47 P

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Thank you for that wonderful prayer. I prayed it as I read.

I am on my way to my healthy weight.Praise the Lord!

Leader : "Celebrate what God has done for you today." (SP)

Leader:"A new Me!"( SP)


 Pounds lost: 1.0 
 
0
4.25
8.5
12.75
17
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5/2/12 2:28 P

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May 2nd

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.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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5/1/12 6:33 P

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May 1st

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.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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4/25/12 3:01 P

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April 25th

A Fragrance of Christ to God

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge…For we are to God the fragrance of Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)

In addition to the characteristic of triumphant living, God also wants to develop in our lives the fragrance of Christ. "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge."

Just as there are physical fragrances that can be noticed by our physical senses, there are also spiritual fragrances that can impact us spiritually. If a woman generously applies perfume to herself, others will certainly notice the fragrance of that perfume. If a person consistently presses on to know the Lord, others will definitely be impacted by the "fragrance of His knowledge." This is described as the "fragrance of Christ." This is that spiritual aroma that emanates from the lives of those who are getting to know the Lord. It is a validating reality that the Lord Jesus Christ is dwelling in their lives and is being evidenced through their lives.

As we are getting to know the Lord more and more, this spiritual aroma of Christ blesses even God Himself. "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ." Yes, God is the first one who savors this Christlike fragrance.

Our ministry and testimony is always primarily unto the Lord. We who believe in Jesus Christ are to be "finding out what is acceptable to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:10). We are not here on earth to please ourselves. "Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10). We are here to please our God. "Brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God" (1 Thessalonians 4:1).

What ultimately pleases our heavenly Father is His beloved Son. When the Father looked down from heaven at the baptism of His Son, He exclaimed, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). When our Father looks down upon our lives today, He wants to enjoy the fragrance of His Son emanating forth from our lives. "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ."

Heavenly Father, I long to bless You by the fragrance of Christ through my life. I am sorry that the stench of selfish flesh is what sometimes emanates from me. Lord, help me to get to know You more and more, so that the knowledge of You can produce the aroma of Christ in and through me, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals


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4/23/12 5:16 A

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April 23rd

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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4/22/12 6:27 P

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April 22nd

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.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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4/20/12 3:41 P

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April 20th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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4/17/12 12:09 P

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April 17th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
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4/16/12 7:23 P

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April 16th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
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4/13/12 5:30 P

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April 13th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
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4/3/12 6:50 A

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April 2nd

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.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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3/27/12 5:02 P

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March 27th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals


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3/14/12 1:48 P

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March 14th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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3/7/12 10:23 A

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Our time is not our own .Each day is a gift from God We do not now our time so be thank full for each day. emoticon

I am not pussyfooting around. :)


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3/6/12 4:30 P

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March 6th

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, on going work of the Holy Spirit in me. In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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March 4th

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.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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2/23/12 11:28 A

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God was so so so good to me.He gave me grace love and peace faith and all that I need.

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February 14th

Grace and Good Works

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

The grace of God is not only His dynamic for producing spiritual fruit in our lives, but it is also His means of developing good works in us as well. The Apostle Paul had a powerful testimony to this truth. Paul became an early church leader who was engaged in more good works than any other believer. "I labored more abundantly than they all."

No one worked harder in ministry than Paul did. He traveled the known world preaching the gospel. He discipled those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus. He gathered those believers into churches, often functioning as their initial pastor. Then, he would appoint leaders and even visit them on occasion for further encouragement and training. Additionally, he wrote major portions of the New Testament, typically while locked up in prison.

Yes, Paul "labored…abundantly." In another letter he wrote: "To this end I also labor, striving" (Colossians 1:29). Elsewhere he stated: "For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day…we preached to you the gospel of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:9). As he wrote the believers in Corinth he recalled: "Are they ministers of Christ…I am more: in labors more abundant…in journeys often…in weariness and toil" (2 Corinthians 11:23, 26-27).

How startling to learn that Paul was not the cause behind this wondrous effect. This is seen in his confession: "yet not I." Paul exerted himself for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How can a man labor strenuously and yet not be the cause of it all? The answer is in the remainder of his testimony: "yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." God's grace at work in Paul's life was the effective dynamic that brought forth such godly labor here on earth. "But by the grace of God I am what I am." If we put our hope in the Lord, His grace will prove effective in our lives as well, giving us a testimony similar to Paul's: "and His grace toward me was not in vain."

Access to this transforming grace is once more linked to the two relational realities of humility and faith. Paul humbly admitted this fact: "yet not I." He also exercised faith in this corollary truth: "but the grace of God which was with me."

O God of all grace, I cry out to You to work Your grace in my life, producing abundant good works in me, as You did in Paul. Lord, I desire to labor in Your service. I am encouraged to see that I do not need to measure up to Paul myself. I need only to trust in Your grace, the same grace that was not vain in Paul's life. So, humbly confessing my inadequacy, I exercise faith in Your effective grace, in Jesus' holy name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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2/11/12 8:47 A

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February 11th

More on Grace and Spiritual Fruit

"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)

Although these verses do not mention grace, they are a classic biblical explanation of grace bringing forth fruit. The language depicts an actual vineyard, where fruit grows on branches that are properly related to a vine. Then, this physical reality is applied figuratively to spiritual fruit developing in our lives, if we are relating correctly to Jesus.

In this teaching, our Lord reminds us that literal branches are not able to produce fruit themselves. "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself." We are spiritual branches, so we will not be able to produce fruit either. "Neither can you, unless you abide in Me." In fact, our potential for manufacturing genuine spiritual fruit is zero. "Without Me you can do nothing." The best we could ever hope to produce would be religious, wax fruit (an imitation of the real thing). Such would come from our fleshly attempts to appear godly or effective. People may be fooled by this, but God never is. Moreover, others cannot be edified by partaking of such, nor can God be glorified.

True fruit results from the ongoing development of life. Life is inherent to vines, not branches. For a grape to develop on any grape branch, the life of the vine must flow into, and work within, the branch. So it is with us. "I am the vine, you are the branches." This distinction is vital. We must never forget the difference, if we desire to bear fruit. The life we need for fruitfulness originates in Him, not in us.

How do we avail ourselves of that life which is essential for fruit? "Abide in Me, and I in you." We are to look to Jesus for life, counting on Him to live in and through us. Then His life, working in us, brings forth Christlike fruit. How do we know if we are abiding? If we are willing to depend upon Jesus for spiritual fruit as a grape branch relies upon its vine for grapes, then we are truly abiding in Christ. Such dependency brings valid expectation for great measures of Christlikeness to be developing in and through our lives. "He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit."

This is clearly grace at work, as seen in the relational realities of humility and faith. Humility is operating as we acknowledge "without Me you can do nothing."

Faith is exercised as we believe "He who abides in Me…bears much fruit."

Lord Jesus, my true vine, I humbly agree with You that I cannot produce spiritual fruit on my own. I admit that apart from You at work in me, I could never manifest any genuine godliness. So, with great expectation I look to You to provide the life I need.

Bob Hoekstra

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2/1/12 2:01 P

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February 1st

Strengthened by Grace

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1)

Great strength is necessary for living as God intends. The grace of our Lord Jesus is where that strength is to be found. "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." Some of the specific reasons we need strength are listed in the immediate context of this verse.

Part of our calling as believers in Christ is passing on to others the biblical truths that God has taught us. "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). Discipling others in God's truth can be demanding and discouraging. Strength is needed. "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

Another aspect of our life as disciples of Jesus is functioning as spiritual soldiers. "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (verse 3). We are the Lord's warriors in a worldwide, lifelong spiritual battle. The battle has been won by our Commander, Jesus. However, the enemy will not stop striking back until he is confined forever. As Jesus' soldiers, we face many hardships. Again, strength is needed. "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

Another perspective on following Jesus is that of an athlete. "And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules" (verse 5). As it is in athletics, the Christian life requires discipline, training, and the exertion of great measures of energy. Yet again, strength is needed. "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

One additional analogy of our life in Christ is that of a farmer. "The hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops" (verse 6). As with farmers, we are to sow the seed of the word upon people's hearts. We are to water that seed through prayer. We are to reap a harvest of righteousness. Farming is strenuous work. Once more, strength is needed. "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

How wonderful that God did not limit His grace to justification. We need it just as much for sanctification. We need His grace to strengthen us for the diverse spiritual roles that God has for us as disciplers, soldiers, athletes, and farmers. For all of this the only sufficient resource is to "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

O Lord of all might and power, I desire to be a faithful discipler, a sacrificial soldier, a disciplined runner, and a laboring farmer. Lord this sounds so right, so good. Yet, You know that I am intimidated by it all as well. I hear the call, and I want to respond; but my strength is so inadequate. So, I look to You and implore You to strengthen me by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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1/29/12 6:19 P

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January 29th

The New Covenant: Grace, Not Law

"I will make a new covenant…not according to the covenant I made"…the gospel of the grace of God. (Jeremiah 31:31-32 and Acts 20:24)

The old covenant of law was the covenant that God made with Israel "in the day that [He] took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt" (Jeremiah 31:32b). The promise through Jeremiah was that the Lord would make a different type of covenant some day, "not according to [that] covenant." This new covenant would be a covenant of grace, provided by the Lord Jesus Christ. "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

The law of God was an impossible way to relate to the Lord. It required perfection, but it offered no perfecting assistance. It was able, however, to convince people of their need for the grace of Christ found in the new covenant. "The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24).

Now, we live and proclaim this new covenant of grace, the "new and living way which He consecrated for us" (Hebrews 10:20). This was the mission and message of which the Apostle Paul spoke. "The ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). The gospel is all about the grace of God, not about law. "The word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you…the grace of God" (Colossians 1:5-6).

Gospel means "glad tidings," or "good news." The good news of the grace of God provided through Jesus Christ is the supreme message for man in all of creation. In fact, the gospel of grace is such good news that some unbelievers initially reject it as "too good to be true." Indeed, it is an astounding reality to consider that forgiveness, justification, and new birth are all available "by grace…through faith…the gift of God, not of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Perhaps, we should not be surprised that we believers sometimes react in this same manner when we consider the message of grace for growth and sanctification. To hear that the entire Christian life is to be "grace upon grace" (John 1:16) may at first seem to us "too good to be true."

At times we may ask, "Isn't there any human responsibility in God's plan of salvation?" Yes, there is. The saved and unsaved alike must always be willing to respond to the offer of God's grace in Christ. We must all relate properly to the Lord Jesus for every work of grace, because it is "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 8:9). In all matters, we must seek Him and trust in Him.

Lord God of the new covenant, how glorious is the good news of Your grace! I praise You for Your patience when I act as though transforming grace is too good to be true. I want to seek after the Lord Jesus and trust in Him this day, with all my heart, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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1/26/12 1:29 P

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January 26th

The Initial Grace of God

"I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more"…For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Jeremiah 31:34 and Ephesians 2:8-9)

Again, we have the opportunity to compare justifying grace and sanctifying grace, initial grace and ongoing grace. This is always an edifying and valuable exercise, since we tend to forget that we are sanctified through the same means that we are justified.

The initial grace that impacted our lives forever was the justifying, forgiving grace of God. The prophets of old proclaimed this hope. The writers of the New Testament related it to us today. "I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:34; also in Hebrews 8:12). When we repented of our sins and called upon the name of the Lord, we were forgiven and justified, declared not guilty and righteous in His sight.

This saving work of God on our behalf was all accomplished by the grace of God. "For by grace you have been saved." The saving grace of God is applied to lives as they trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. "By grace you have been saved through faith."

None of this process originates in man. All of it comes from God. "And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." No aspect of salvation derives from the efforts of man, so no one will ever be able to brag about their contribution in being saved. "Not of works, lest anyone should boast." All glory, now and forever, will go to the Lord Himself. "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31).

Yes, even faith does not source in man. Jesus is "the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). When we believed upon the Lord Jesus, it was in response to an authoring, revealing work that He was doing on our behalf. Jesus manifested Himself to us through the gospel as One who was able to save us sinners. The Holy Spirit was convicting us of our need. We trusted in His saving work for us. Thereby, He authored faith in us. "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing" (Revelation 5:12).

As we have seen previously (and will have opportunity to examine again and again), the grace of God, of which we partook for new birth and justification, is the same grace that must continually be at work in us for growth and sanctification.

O Lord God of my salvation, I clearly see the full extent to which my being saved depended upon Your saving grace! Thank You for this priceless gift of grace. How glorious it is to stand justified in Your sight. Now that I might grow daily in a life of sanctification, I look to You and Your necessary grace, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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1/23/12 4:15 P

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January 23rd

Living as Servants of the New Covenant

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, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

We who follow the Lord Jesus Christ are "ministers of the new covenant." The term "minister" means servant. The phrase "new covenant" speaks of relating to God by grace. Thus, we are those who serve God by the resources of His grace. Our day by day lives, lived in service of the Lord God Almighty, are to be developed by the grace of God at work in us. What is involved in this biblical, heavenly approach to life here on earth?

The first issue pertains to our inadequacy. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves." So often we overlook our personal insufficiency or try to convince ourselves that we can become sufficient with just a little more time, effort, or preparation. This approach is in direct disagreement with the Lord. God wants us to agree with Him.

Even when we begin to face our spiritual inability to produce the kind of life God is looking for, we easily underestimate the extent of our deficiency. We may think that we are just not able to produce as much as God desires to see in our lives. The Lord has a more radical viewpoint. He says that we are not able to supply "anything" that He wants to see. Again, God wants us to agree with Him.

The second issue pertains to God's adequacy. "Our sufficiency is from God." The sufficient resources for living the Christian life are to be found in God alone. We are to be the recipients of God's grace, that is, His fully adequate supply. We are not to think we are the manufacturers of that grace. God is our source of all that is needed for godly living. Once more, God wants us to agree with Him.

The difference between living by God's supply or by our own resources is a "life and death" matter. "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." Attempting to live the Christian life by our capabilities will eventually leave us exhausted, discouraged, condemned. Whereas, depending upon the Spirit of God to supply the abundant grace of God leaves us strengthened, encouraged, and comforted.

Lord God of all grace, I humbly admit that I have often held a perspective so different from Yours on this subject of sufficiency. I have repeatedly behaved as though the Christian life depended upon what I could do from my own resources. Lord, this has always resulted in spiritual deadness. Please teach me to trust in Your Holy Spirit to bring forth into my experience the full sufficiency of Your immeasurable grace, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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1/21/12 1:33 P

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January 21st

The New Covenant Inaugurated for the Church

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises…And the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us…"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts"…Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us. (Hebrews 8:6; 10:15-16, 19-20)

This new covenant of grace (promised to Israel eventually) has already been inaugurated for the church now. The book of Hebrews documents this fact repeatedly. "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises." Here in chapter 8, verse 6, the new covenant is referred to as "a better covenant." Then, the instituting of this new covenant is described in the past tense, "was established." It has already been put into operation for the church.

In Hebrews 10:16, the promise of the new covenant is quoted from Jeremiah 31. "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts." In the previous verse, we are told that this quote from Jeremiah includes a message from the Holy Spirit to us, the church of Jesus Christ. "And the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us."

Furthermore, in Hebrews 10:19-20, the new covenant is applied to the access of the "brethren" (the church, God's children) to their holy God and Father. "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us." Through His death on the cross, Jesus consecrated (that is, inaugurated, instituted, established, put into operation) the new covenant for us today!

Of course, this all fits perfectly with the application of the new covenant to the church celebrating the Lord's Supper. "In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood'" (1 Corinthians 11:25).

Dear Lord of Glory, I rejoice with great gladness that Your new covenant of grace is the wondrous manner in which I am invited to relate to You. In this rich covenant, I have found forgiveness of all my sins. Praise be to Your name! In this bountiful arrangement, I can grow in intimacy with You. Blessed be Your name! In this generous provision, I anticipate being changed and enabled by You from deep within my heart. Glory be to Your name forevermore!

Bob Hoekstra
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1/20/12 5:39 P

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January 20th

The Promise of a New Covenant

"Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel…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," says the LORD. "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:31, 33-34)

Long ago, God promised a new covenant of grace for His people Israel. "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel." Some day, the Israelites will turn to Messiah as a group and enter into this promised covenant of grace. "And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins'" (Romans 11:26-27). This will take place when the Lord Jesus returns to this earth. "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10).

Meanwhile, the church of the Lord Jesus, comprised of all Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ, already has the new covenant instituted for her. "This cup is the new covenant in My blood" (Luke 22:20).

Note the astounding three-fold provisions this new covenant offers by faith to all believers today. First, there is the forgiveness of sins. "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." Second, there is the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with God. "They all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them." Third, there is the internal working of the Lord God Almighty enabling and changing people's lives from the inner core of their being. "I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts."

Almighty God, the provisions of Your new covenant of grace are staggering in their richness! Forgiveness of sins by You, intimacy with You, and inner transformation from You—all of this is mine through faith in Your Son, my Savior. O Lord, what bountiful grace You make available to us in Christ! I fully and desperately need all three of these wondrous workings that You alone can provide. I praise You for the gift of forgiveness of sins. I seek You for increased intimacy with You. I look to You to be shaping my life according to Your will, from the inside out, all through the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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1/18/12 11:15 P

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January 18th

Righteousness through Christ in Sanctification

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, 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 8:3-4)

How wonderful it is to be "justified freely by His grace" (Romans 3:24). Yet, what disappointment and discouragement awaits us, if we do not learn that God desires to sanctify us freely by His grace as well. This plan of God, as we should expect, hinges upon the work of Jesus Christ, as we depend upon Him.

In matters of justification, as well as sanctification, the law has a weakness. This weakness is that man, by natural human resources (the flesh), cannot live up to the standards of God. Thus, to accomplish what the law could never accomplish, the Father sent His Son. "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son."

Jesus came as a man and died on the cross to eradicate the consequences of sin. This death of Christ certainly provided justification for all who would believe in the Lord Jesus. Yet, the next verse reveals that through His sacrificial death practical sanctification is available day by day through faith in the Lord. "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."

The word "walk" makes Romans 8:4 a verse on progressive sanctification, not justification. Justification takes place with the first moment of faith in Christ. Sanctification continues step by step, day by day, throughout the life of a believer.

Think of this grand truth. God's grace provides a way "that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us." Remember, the heavenly demand is "be holy," be like Christ. This transformation of life takes place daily in the life of any believer who does "not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." If we renounce the natural resources of man and trust in the Lord Jesus step by step through life, His Holy Spirit accomplishes His sanctifying work in us by the grace of God.

O Lord of compassion and generosity, what bountiful grace You offer to us; grace that justifies and grace that sanctifies. How foolish and unnecessary have been my futile attempts to fulfill the lofty requirements of Your holy law by my own feeble efforts. Father, how thrilling and encouraging to see that You have provided a gracious and effective way for me to grow in Christlikeness. This day I place my hope for godly progress in the irreplaceable work of Your Holy Spirit in me, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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1/17/12 3:03 P

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January 17th

Righteousness through Christ in Justification

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24)

The basic manner in which Jesus fulfills the law of God for us is by justifying us "freely by His grace." He does this by offering us "the righteousness of God through faith."

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, "the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed." It is the same righteousness that is spoken of in the law, that is, "being witnessed by the Law." In the law, righteousness is an impossible standard being imposed. In the gospel, righteousness is a gracious gift being offered.

This gift of righteousness is available to all who believe, to all who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to be their Savior and Lord. This gift is, of course, free to the recipients. Yet, it was made available at great cost to the giver. This gift cost the Father His only begotten Son. This gift cost the Son His own life, as He paid the price of redemption to buy us back from the slave market of sin and death.

Every person ever created needs this redemption price paid for them. "For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Now, for all who believe in the Lord Jesus, the righteousness of God is imputed to them (that is, credited as a gift to their heavenly account). Thereby, the Lord God justifies us "freely by His grace." The Lord declares us righteous in His sight by giving to us "the righteousness of God which is through faith."

Dear Lord, I am so grateful that Your message of righteousness did not come through the law alone. Otherwise, Lord, I would have been condemned before You forever. Thank You for speaking to us of righteousness through Your glorious gospel of grace. I rejoice in You that I am now righteous in Your sight, through faith in Your beloved Son. Lord, I am learning that the righteousness I need for daily sanctification must also come from Jesus, by that same grace, through that same kind of trust. What good, good news is Your grand gospel! I magnify and praise You through Christ, my Lord, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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1/16/12 11:49 A

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January 16th

Jesus Fulfilling the Law

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17)

The standard of the law of God is infinitely high and lofty: "be holy, be loving, be perfect." This is because the law reflects the very character of God. In light of this, we may wonder if there is any way that the law can be fulfilled. How could the righteous demands of the law ever be met in our lives? The answer to this vital question is contained in the truth that Jesus came "to fulfill" the law.

Consider how comprehensive was Jesus' fulfillment of the law. He fulfilled the law in His life, becoming our example. As Jesus lived, He showed us what life would look like if one could always, in every way, live up to the heavenly standards of God. Jesus' testimony was "I always do those things that please Him" (John 8:29).

Further, He fulfilled the law in His death, becoming our substitutionary sacrifice. The law included a penalty for violation, and that penalty was death. "The soul who sins shall die…For the wages of sin is death" (Ezekiel 18:4 and Romans 6:23). Jesus lovingly died in our place to pay that penalty which we owed. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Additionally, He wants to fulfill the law now in our daily experience, by being our life: "Christ who is our life" (Colossians 3:4). The Lord Jesus wants to live in and through the lives of His disciples, as we daily put our faith in Him. "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" (Galatians 2:20).

Yes, Jesus fulfills the law comprehensively!
Dear Father of Glory, what marvelous grace—what marvelous grace! Such a thorough provision is supplied by Your grace. Through the work of Jesus, my Lord, the law is fulfilled. Its holy demands are met on my behalf. My failure before Your law is fully covered by Your grace. Lord Jesus, thank You for paying the penalty for my sins. My desire to grow in the righteous life that You lived, and that the law describes, is fully available by Your grace. O Lord, this is grace upon grace. For this I praise You, and I rejoice with expectation. Lord Jesus, by faith I now look to You to be my life this day. Lord, inhabit my heart and shape my attitudes, my words, my relationships, and my deeds, I pray in Your mighty name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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1/15/12 10:28 A

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January 15th

The Law Tutoring People to Christ

Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:24-25)

The ultimate ability of the law of God is its capacity to tutor people to Christ. "The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ." It is the plan of God to use His law to inform us about our great need for Jesus Christ. Remember the summaries of the law of God: "be holy, be loving, be perfect."

The law demands that we be holy. We are convicted that we are not holy. Thereby, the law is saying to us: "You need Jesus Christ." The law requires that we be loving. We realize that we are not loving. Thereby, the law is declaring to us: "You need Jesus Christ." The law insists that we be perfect. We know that we are not perfect. Thereby, the law is announcing to us: "You need Jesus Christ." In this process the law functions as tutor (schoolmaster or child-trainer), instructing people of their need for that which only Christ can provide through His grace.

Now that we have responded to the law's tutoring work, we are no longer under the tutor. Now that we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we are no longer under the law. "But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."

Whereas we once were told by the law to be holy, now we look to Christ for all personal holiness. "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us…righteousness and sanctification" (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Whereas we once were told by the law to be loving, now we look to the Spirit of Christ for all the love that our lives are to show forth. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love" (Galatians 5:22).

Whereas we once were told by the law to be perfect, now we look to the Lord for all of the perfecting process. "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

O Lord, my Redeemer, thank You for using Your law as a tutor to lead me to Jesus Christ. Your law was so correct regarding my desperate need of a Savior. Now I rejoice that I am no longer under that tutor. What a delight to relate to You by faith and not by performance. What a precious blessing to humbly hope in the Lord Jesus for righteousness and love and growth. How wonderful to look to a gracious, loving Person, the Lord Jesus, instead of to a perfect unyielding standard, the law. Lord Jesus, please complete in me the good work of Your grace that began when I first believed in You. In Your name, and for Your glory, I pray, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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1/14/12 1:35 P

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January 14th

The Law Convicting the Rebellious

But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners…But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (1 Timothy 1:8-9 and Galatians 5:18)

Although the law has some God-given inabilities, it is nevertheless good. "Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Romans 7:12). It does have certain abilities, "if one uses it lawfully." One unlawful application of the law would be using it to obtain justification (a declaration of being righteous in God's sight). If anyone ever infers that attempted obedience to the law of God could potentially secure an overall verdict of "not guilty," that would be Biblically forbidden.

Another unlawful application of God's law would be using it to obtain sanctification (progressive spiritual growth in the Lord). If a person imagines that they could grow in godliness by their best attempts at living up to the law, that, too, would be prohibited by God's word.

The law is "for the lawless and insubordinate." The law of God is for those who are rebellious at heart against the will and the ways of God. This truth, in its basic interpretation, is directed toward unbelievers, "for the ungodly and for sinners." Herein we see that the law of God is able to convict unbelieving rebels of their defiance against a holy God.

However, by implication, there is an insight for believers here as well. As far as God is concerned, we are "not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). Yet, only those who walk according to the Spirit fully enjoy the daily blessings of that reality. "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." When followers of the Lord Jesus walk according to the flesh, they practically place themselves under a performance code. They put themselves under the law for practical day by day living. The message of the law, which is for the rebellious, also has the capacity to expose this unacceptable condition within the life of a self-sufficient believer.

Dear God of all Grace, I confess that I formerly lived in lawless rebellion against You. Lord, Your Holy Spirit convicted me of my self-righteous defiance against Your holy law. By Your grace You justified me, as I cried out in faith to Your Son. Lord, now I earnestly ask You to convict me of those times when I attempt to live by the self-righteous resources of my own flesh. Lord, I need to be sanctified daily by Your grace, even as You previously justified me by Your grace. I praise You that such a work is abundantly available through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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1/13/12 3:11 P

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January 13th

The Law Producing Accountability for Sin

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…For by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)

God's law speaks to those who are under the law. This would certainly include the Jews, for the law of God was given to them in writing (first engraved on stones by God, then written on parchment in the Holy Scriptures). Yet, the law speaks to the Gentiles as well, since they have it inscribed upon their consciences. " [The Gentiles] show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness" (Romans 2:15). Thus, every Jew and every Gentile begins life under the law.

Remember, when the law speaks, it is saying, "be holy, be loving, be perfect." The result of all people having received this message (either externally in writing, or internally upon the conscience) is that "every mouth [is] stopped."

What would we say if we stood before God, and He evaluated our lives by His law? How could we answer if God said, "Here is your life; here is My law; now, give an account of yourself." Our "mouths [would be] stopped." We could provide no excuse, explanation, or justification.

The law produces accountability to God. And this accountability is universal. "All the world (is) guilty before God." There are no exceptions. Everyone in all the world is included. The law of God reveals to all humanity what sin really is.

Sin is not a cultural phenomenon. It is a divine revelation of what is absolutely unacceptable before God in light of His holy character. "By the law is the knowledge of sin." Man would have no insight into this matter were it not for the law of God. "I would not have known sin except through the law" (Romans 7:7a). Murder, adultery, stealing, lying, coveting, etc. are all revealed to mankind by God's law. "For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'You shall not covet'" (Romans 7:7b). Through God's law we are all accountable to Him for our sins.

O Lord God of holiness and love and all that is perfect, Your holy law has stopped my mouth. I have no excuse for my spiritual failure before Your perfect standard. What I have read in Your word confirms the convictions of my heart. My life would stand forever guilty in Your sight, if it were not for Your forgiving, justifying grace. Thank You for providing forgiveness of my sins and justifying me, when I could offer no justifying words or deeds of my own. As I look at the world of humanity all around me, please remind me that they are guilty before You, until they come to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Bob Hoekstra
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1/12/12 11:56 A

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January 12th

The General Ability of the Law

Then the LORD delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words which the LORD had spoken…"You have heard that it was said…But I say to you." (Deuteronomy 9:10 and Matthew 5:27-28)

Although the law of God is unable to justify or sanctify, it does have some strategic ability in God's plan for man. These verses from the Torah (Hebrew for law) and the Sermon on the Mount help us reflect upon this matter. These two profound sections of the Bible pertain to the law of God. Torah refers to the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. These books give an extensive explanation of the message of God's law. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) includes Jesus' clarification of man's understanding of the law.

When these portions of the Bible are read, studied, or taught, the general ability of the law is at work. In these passages the very character and will of God are revealed. The message related to those "two tablets of stone" spoke of God's character, "I the Lord, your God, am holy." The summary of this message expressed God's will for man, "be holy." The details of the message indicated what holiness would be like in conduct toward God and in relationships with others. Jesus' words would eventually extend this message of holiness even into attitudes of the heart.

The law of God is His standard for spiritual measurement. By His law, God measures holiness in people's lives by revealing His will, which is based upon His holy character. This is why all of us "fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We don't measure up to God's holy standard.

The measuring instruments of man are a helpful illustration of the law. When a tape measure is used to evaluate the height of people, it measures growth or reveals the absence of it. It does not produce human growth. So it is with the law of God. The law describes and measures what God wants lives to look like. It does not cause such spiritual growth to appear. Only God's grace at work in our lives is the sufficient dynamic that produces spiritual growth.

O Lord, my hope, I give You praise for Your holy character, revealed in Your holy law. I agree with Your will, desiring holiness in my life. I also agree with You that I have fallen far short of Your glorious standard. Thank You for cleansing me of all unrighteousness. Thank You for clothing me in the righteousness of Your dear Son. Now I place my hope in You for any and all progress in the path of righteousness. O Lord, have Your way in my life, working Your will, by Your grace, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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1/11/12 3:04 P

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January 11th

The Inability of the Law to Sanctify

This only I want to learn from you: 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 first question here in Galatians 3 again brings to mind issues of justification. "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" We received the Holy Spirit of God to dwell in our lives when we were born again, when we became children of God. This is also when the Lord declared us justified, righteous in His sight.

How did the Spirit come to indwell us? Was it by our performance, attempting to live up to the law of God? No, it was "by the hearing of faith." We heard the good news that Christ died for our sins. We heard the truth that Jesus could forgive us of our unrighteousness. Faith was stirred in our hearts as we considered that grand message. In simple, humble faith, we asked the Lord Jesus to come into our lives, to be our personal Savior. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).

The next two questions in our text apply this same biblical reasoning to sanctification. "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" To think that we can advance the process of sanctification (that is, progressive transformation unto Christlikeness) by our own human resources (that is, by the flesh) is foolishness.

What a staggering thought! Just as we could never secure justification by our own best efforts, so it is true that we can never increase personal sanctification by our own best efforts. Yes, "The just shall live by faith," initially and continually!

Dear Lord, I praise Your holy name for justifying me by faith in Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I am so grateful that such a blessing did not depend upon my personal ability or merit. My heart is both convicted and encouraged that sanctification is by faith as well. I am convicted, because I have often thought and acted as though I could effect more practical righteousness by my own resources. I am encouraged that there is a way that actually works, and it depends upon trusting in You. O Lord, please remind me of this glorious, gracious provision day by day, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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January 10th

The Inability of the Law to Justify

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ…But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "The just shall live by faith." (Galatians 2:16 and 3:11)

Our great initial need before God is to be justified, to have God Himself declare us not guilty, to have the Lord pronounce us righteous in His sight. At first glance this appears to be an impossible situation for man. God, our Judge, is holy by His nature. Man (because of sin) is unholy by nature. "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).

The consequences of such ungodliness are inevitably universal and appropriately severe. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 3:23 and 6:23a). The just sentence for all of humanity, in light of their sins against a pure, holy, and eternal God, is death (everlasting separation from God).

The law of God offers no help and provides no hope of remedying this dire situation. People are "not justified by the works of the law." Trying one's best to measure up to the law never produces a verdict of not guilty. In all of history, Jesus was the only one who could be evaluated by God's law and receive a declaration of living righteously. Jesus was "in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). No other person could ever perform sufficiently before God's law to achieve a declaration of righteousness. "No one is justified by the law in the sight of God."

Vows and pledges of personal improvement offer no hope. Asking others how to strive more earnestly provides no assistance. Only faith supplies the necessary remedy. "A man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ." Trusting in our own best efforts leaves us guilty before God. Trusting in Christ's perfect work on the cross makes us justified before God. "The just shall live by faith."

O Lord, my God, I praise You for Your glorious grace poured out upon me in justification. By Your grace alone You have declared me righteous in Your sight. I was totally guilty before Your holy law. I had no excuses and no hope of rescuing myself. Your law rightly condemned me, and I never could have reversed that verdict by my own performance. I trusted in Your Son, and You pronounced me righteous before You. To You, my Lord, I give all honor, glory, adoration, and thanksgiving, through Christ Jesus, my Savior, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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1/9/12 7:07 A

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January 9th

The Inability of the Law

For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18-19)

God's word reveals that His law has a strategic inability. There is an arena in which the law has a "weakness and unprofitableness." The law demands perfection, but it offers no perfecting resources. "The law made nothing perfect." This inability is certainly not due to any oversight on God's part. Rather, this inability is related to that which God never intended for His law to accomplish.

The law of God was not given as a means for perfecting people (that is, of providing spiritual change). God's law was not designed to be a tool by which man could improve his spiritual condition in the sight of God. The law tells us what God wants to see in lives, but the law provides no resource to effect the necessary changes. Thus, attempting to begin or to develop a relationship with God by dependence upon our best performance will always be a hopeless venture.

Anyone who desires to approach a holy and perfect God must have a more effective expectation than one's best personal performance, measured by God's holy law. Anyone who wants to get to know God, to walk with Him, to live with Him through time and eternity, must find a better hope than the law of God.

The law of God cannot give us an initial standing before God, that is, it cannot justify us. It cannot bring us a declaration of "not guilty" in His sight. The law is also unable to develop an ongoing walk of godliness before the Lord, that is, it cannot sanctify us. It cannot transform our lives day by day into the image of Christ. For either of these precious blessings of God, a "better hope" is needed. God's grace is the "better hope" that allows us to "draw near to God," initially in new birth and continually in a maturing intimacy.

Holy Father, You are perfect in character. Your law is perfect in standard. Your law rightly demands perfection of me. Father, I ask that You remind me often that I cannot live up to that divine requirement on my own resources. Bring to my remembrance this inability of Your law. Stir my heart to trust in that better hope. Lord, I desire to walk closely with You. Thus, I trust in Your grace as the only sufficient hope that will allow me to draw near to You, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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January 8th

Not Hearing the Law

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? (Galatians 4:21)

When people do not really hear what the law of God is saying, they may still desire to be under the law. Those who are lost and dying in the world often underestimate the message of the law. They may imagine that it is only calling them to attend religious services or to join a religious organization. In missing the message of the law, they choose to remain under it, trusting in their own best behavior to pass any final judgment concerning heaven or hell. This is a matter of "not hearing the law."

Many who are redeemed to new life in Christ, also want to remain under the law for spiritual growth and service. This is another case of "not hearing the law." Any believer who expects to please the Lord on the basis of "best efforts" does not really hear what the law speaks as God's will.

The law of God is not suggesting that we "be better." It is demanding that we "be holy," as holy as God. The law is not implying that we "be nicer." It is requiring that we "be loving," as loving as Christ. The law is not proposing that we "try harder." It is insisting that we "be perfect," as perfect as our Father in heaven.

The law of God is not asking us to improve ourselves or to be better than the next person. Many times this inaccurate statement is heard: "Just do the best that you can; what more could God require?" Well, God is demanding far beyond our human best. "Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?" (Galatians 4:21). God's law is demanding that lives "be holy," "be loving," and "be perfect." Moreover, He Himself is the standard of this holiness, love, and perfection.

Dear Lord God, You are holy and loving and perfect. In and of myself, I am none of these. I stand before You without any human resources that could measure up to these heavenly realities that You alone possess. I thank You for Your mercy. I praise You for Your grace. I humbly bow before You, asking that You work more and more of Your holiness in and through my life. With no other hope than You, I ask that more of Your love might fill my life. Admitting my complete inadequacy, I ask You to transform me more and more into Your perfect image. Through Christ I pray, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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January 7th

One More Summary Message of the Law: Be Perfect

"Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides a startling summary of the law of God: "be perfect." Our Lord had just been teaching about God's law. His instruction provided a much deeper understanding of the law than the teachers of Jesus' day had grasped. He showed how the law goes far beyond external behavior alone.

The format Jesus used was "You have heard that it was said…But I say to you." In Matthew 5:27-28, He addressed the commandment on adultery in this fashion. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." When lustful imaginations are entertained in our thoughts, adultery has already occurred, as far as God is concerned.

In verses 21-22 Jesus used this same pattern of instruction to reveal God's perspective on murder: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder,' and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment." When vengeful anger floods our thoughts, this is harboring a murderous spirit within the heart. Actual murder and vindictive anger both deserve the same judgment. Clearly, God's commandments can be transgressed by the unseen attitudes of the heart, as well as by the visible actions of the body.

Again, Jesus summarized such teaching on the law by saying: "be perfect." In the law, God requires a perfection that measures up to the perfect character of Himself. The law is saying that we are to hold within our hearts and manifest through our actions a character that matches God's. "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."

Dear Heavenly Father, these words are so humbling and convicting. You are so perfect in every way. I am so imperfect in every area. Lord, even actions that I think are acceptable in Your sight can be polluted by unacceptable attitudes that fall far short of the standard of Your perfections. Thus, I cast myself upon Your mercy and grace, looking to You for the only remedies that will ever suffice, even Your forgiveness and Your transforming power, through Christ my Lord and Savior, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
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January 6th

Another Summary Message of the Law: Be Loving

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40)

In His response to the question, Jesus supplies another summary of the message of God's law: be loving. "Love the Lord your God…love your neighbor." Jesus then revealed that "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Every command in the law of God is related to one of these two commandments.

"Love the Lord your God." The primary demand of the law is an all-out love relationship with the Lord God Almighty. God is to be loved "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." From the depths of our being, love is to be flowing out toward the Lord. In every expression of our personality, love is to be poured out toward God. In every thought of our minds, love for God is to be the motivation and the content. Any aspect of life that does not indicate a comprehensive, unrestricted love toward God is in violation of His law.

"Love your neighbor." The secondary demand of God's law is an unselfish love toward every other person. We are to love others "as ourselves." Some have wrongly used this phrase to urge obedience to an imaginary third commandment: "We need to learn to love ourselves"?! No, Jesus said there are only two commandments here. This second one is a call to give others the consideration and care that we all have given to ourselves throughout our lives. Jesus later intensified this second command by saying, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you…" (John 13:34).

The message of God's law is: be loving. Love God fully. Love others sacrificially.

Dear Lord God, I bow before You as the God of infinite love. I have come to love You, because You first loved me. Yet, my love for You is so feeble in light of what You deserve and what You command. O Lord, my love for others is so often diminished by my own selfishness. I humbly ask that You would work in me a more profound love for You and a more selfless love for others, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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January 5th

One Summary Message of the Law: Be Holy

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols, nor make for yourselves molded gods: I am the LORD your God.'" (Leviticus 19:1-4)

What is the overall message of God's law? How could a person summarize the law of God? In this statement to Moses, the Lord mentions a few of the commandments from His holy law. He speaks of proper treatment of parents. He calls for a weekly day of rest. He prohibits the worship of idols. Then, He provides a two-word summary of His law: "be holy."

In this call to holiness, the Lord holds forth Himself as the reason for, and standard of, living holy lives. "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." God is holy, so He requires holiness to be a distinctive trait of His people.

What is the holiness of God? It has to do with His character. Holiness speaks of that which is innate with God. It is inherent or intrinsic to His character. Also, it contrasts that which is foreign to His being. In the Lord God there is perfect righteousness, and in Him no unrighteousness dwells. Complete moral purity abides in God. Conversely, in Him there is not even a trace of moral evil. In fact, everything about Him is spiritually pure and morally unpolluted.

This holy character of the Lord God is the standard that the law holds forth for humanity. God's chosen nation, Israel, was given this standard in writing. All others have this standard written on the conscience. "(Gentiles) show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness" (Romans 2:15). All who are born into this world are measured by God's law, which demands that the holy character of God be seen in their lives before God. This includes how they relate to God and to one another. The message of the law is: "be holy."

O Holy Father, I worship You for Your perfect holiness. None is holy, O Lord, besides You. You are pure and righteous in all of Your being and all of Your doing. Father, I am aware of, and convicted of, my lack of inborn holiness. I confess that I could never produce a life that would measure up to Your holy standards. I thank You for the gracious forgiveness that is available in Your Son, Jesus Christ. I take comfort in, and find hope in, the righteousness that Your Son can bring to those who trust in Him day by day!

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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January 3rd

The Magnitude of God's Grace

In Him we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…To me, who am less than the least of all saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable [unfathomable] riches of Christ. (Ephesians 1:7; 2:7; 3:8)

What is the magnitude of God's grace? How extensive are His resources of grace? So often we drastically underestimate God's supply of grace for us.

God is rich in grace. When He forgave our sins, He did so "according to the riches of His grace." Think of the bountiful measure of grace that was bestowed on us to remove our guilt and shame. God generously poured out His grace and washed away our iniquities. Yet, in doing this He did not deplete the treasures of His grace.

In Ephesians 2:7, God speaks of the "exceeding riches of His grace." The Lord's grace is far beyond any richness that we have ever yet comprehended or experienced. God's storehouse of grace is so abundant that He will continue pouring it upon us for the "ages to come." Yes, it will take eternity for the Lord to fully demonstrate His grace toward us. This everlasting demonstration involves showing His kindness toward all who are in Christ Jesus. Think of it—from the boundless resources of God's grace He can make us the objects of His kindness for ever and ever!

One could liken the riches of God's grace to an infinitely vast ocean. Think of the immensity of the oceans of the world. Although they are magnificent in scope, every ocean can be searched out or fathomed. Every ocean has a bottom that can be reached. Though vast, they are finite. But not so with God's grace. Paul testified that the Lord gave him grace to go forth and proclaim the "unsearchable [unfathomable] riches of Christ."

For us, there is more grace available in the heart of God than there is water in all of the oceans of the world! Truly, no matter how much grace we have already discovered in Christ, we have only begun our search.

Heavenly Father, I am awestruck at the magnitude of Your grace. Forgive me for underestimating that grace so often. Enlighten the eyes of my heart that I might know the richness of Your grace. May the immeasurable ocean of Your grace supply my daily need, through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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January 2nd

Grace Upon Grace in Our Lives

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father; full of grace and truth…And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for [upon] grace. (John 1:14, 16)

The grace of God is found in a person, Jesus Christ. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Through His Son, the Father now proclaims His full message. "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2). One of Jesus' titles is the Word. When He became a man, He was God's incarnate message, His Word to humanity. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." As the early disciples watched Jesus living His perfect life of godliness, they were looking at the glorious revelation of God's uniquely begotten (that is, virgin-born) Son. "And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father." His life was an overflowing demonstration of divine grace and truth: "full of grace and truth."

Jesus showed us the kind of life that God's grace could develop in us—a life of truth, a life of godly reality. Jesus came as the One to offer that fullness of grace to all who would trust in Him. Now for those who depend upon Him day by day, life is explained and developed "grace upon grace." God's grace first establishes a layer of forgiveness and spiritual new birth. Then, layers of growth, transformation, fruitfulness, victory, maturing, service, etc. are added as His grace is received by faith.

Oh, what fullness is available to us in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him" (Colossians 2:9-10). Our wholeness of life comes from His fullness. Wherever we are in our spiritual pilgrimage, progress has come through receiving by faith from the fullness of His grace. Whatever remains to be accomplished must transpire in the same manner, receiving more fully of His fullness. Yes, daily Christian living is to be "grace upon grace"—upon grace, upon grace, upon grace—until we stand face to face someday with our Lord of grace!

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to dwell among humanity. I worship You for the fullness of grace available in You. I appreciate so much the layers of Your grace that You have built into my life. I reach out to You with expectation for the grace needed in the days ahead. This I ask in Your holy name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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January 1st

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

God wants us to know His grace. He wants us to learn about it, and then experience it at work in our lives. Grace has rightly been described as "unmerited favor." The acronym, "God's Riches At Christ's Expense" catches more of its majesty. Grace is God freely providing for us (as we trust in the work of His Son) all that we will ever need, all that we will ever yearn for, all that He has commanded us to walk in and become—realities that we could never produce on our own, could never earn, and could never deserve. Grace offers what every human desperately needs, but what God alone can provide.

This grace is found only in a person, the Lord Jesus. It is the "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." Thus, it is accessible only through an ongoing personal relationship with Him.

Grace was made available to us by Jesus' willingness to take our spiritual bankruptcy upon Himself, that we might partake of His spiritual richness. Before coming to earth below, Jesus enjoyed heavenly riches above ("that though He was rich"). He knew the infinitely rich fellowship of the Father and the Spirit. He received the rich worship of angelic beings. He enjoyed the limitless rights and privileges of deity.

Then, for our benefit, Jesus voluntarily became poor ("for your sakes He became poor"). He humbled Himself to walk as a man among sinful humanity. He who was adored above became despised below. He who shined forth in glorious divinity in heaven was clothed in humble humanity on earth. He who created all things was slain by those He created. He who existed in eternity past died in time. He who was holy took our sin upon Himself.

Through these workings of His grace, all who believed in Him would become spiritually rich ("that you through His poverty might become rich"). Now, we whose "righteousnesses were as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) have become "the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). We "who once were not a people…are now the people of God" (1 Peter 2:10). Now, we have been "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).

Dear Lord, I thank You and praise You for Your great grace toward me. May I increasingly know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ through a growing relationship with Him. May I become an instrument of Your grace in the lives of others, all for Your glory and honor, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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December 23rd

Jesus' Call to Pray without Ceasing

Pray without ceasing…Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…"And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him?" (1 Thessalonians 5:17 and Luke 18:1, 7)

Praying without ceasing is the way to relate rightly to the God of all grace. Jesus called His followers to live in this prayerful manner when He told a parable that contrasted a godless human judge with God, our righteous judge.

The primary message of this parable would be that men should persistently pray at all times. "Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart." Jesus used the illustration of a wronged widow who was appealing for help from an unjust judge. At first, the judge had no interest in assisting her. However, when she persisted, he relented and gave her relief. "Though I do not fear God nor regard man, because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me" (Luke 18:4-5). The ungodly judge granted her relief, although he was not motivated by fear of God nor by compassion for man. His action was merely self-serving. Jesus then contrasts this to the holy motivations of our loving God, who responds to the needs of His children, as they call upon His name. "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him?" (Luke 18:7). The Lord Jesus hereby encourages us to pray without ceasing.

Jesus' own life was an example of praying persistently. At times, Jesus was up before dawn for extended prayer with the Father. "Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed" (Mark 1:35). On another occasion, He prayed the entire night through. "Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12). In addition to His rich private prayer life, Jesus prayed regularly in public as well. "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes…Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them… Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me" (Matthew 11:25; Luke 9:16; and John 11:41-42). If Jesus, the Son of God prayed habitually, how clearly we are to do the same.

Jesus, my Lord, I want to heed Your radical call to a path of unceasing prayer. I want to follow Your wonderful example of a life of habitual prayer—in private and in public. Lord, stir my heart to such prayer, by Your empowering grace, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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December 18th

Even More on Relating Rightly to the God of All Grace

The God of all grace…Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God…He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (1 Peter 5:10; 2 Corinthians 3:5; and Hebrews 8:6)

If we are going to live by grace as God intends, we must get to know "the God of all grace." As we get to know Him, humility and faith develop in our lives. They are relational realities. They become real in our lives as a result of getting to know the Lord better and better. As we walk with the Lord in humble dependence, we are living by the grace of God. The Lord gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6), and faith accesses grace (Romans 5:2; 4:16). The Scriptures indicate that there are many ways to relate rightly to the Lord in humility and faith. In our previous meditation, we saw that living by the Spirit and living by resurrection power are two examples of this truth. Now we will consider two more examples.

Living by the sufficiency of God is a profound opportunity to relate to the Lord in humility and faith. This heavenly perspective begins with a declaration of our own inadequacy. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves." It is true that we disciples of Jesus Christ are so inadequate that we are unable to produce any of the Christian life ourselves. Jesus Himself taught this radical fact. "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5b). If we embrace this humbling truth, we are walking in humility before the Lord. The corresponding declaration points us to the source that we need. "But our sufficiency is from God." Only God's resources are sufficient to produce the kind of fruitful spiritual life that God calls us to live. Jesus taught this great truth as well. "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit" (John 15:5a). If we accept this encouraging truth, we are walking in faith toward the Lord.

Living by the promises of God offers another significant opportunity to relate to the Lord in humility and faith. "He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises." The promises of the old covenant of law (which are basically, "Do these commands, and you shall live"—see Leviticus 18:5) depend on man's ability and faithfulness. The better promises of the new covenant of grace depend upon God's ability and faithfulness. Abraham was "fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform" (Romans 4:21). Sarah "judged Him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:11). It is humbling to know that we can't perform well enough to enjoy the promises of the law. Contrariwise, it is faith building to know we can trust in the Lord to fulfill all His promises of grace.

Dear Lord of all grace, I humbly admit that I can only live by Your sufficiency and your promises. By faith, I look to You to do for me and in me what You alone can do, Amen.

Bob Hoekstra
blueletterbible.org/devotionals

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