A Deeper Friendship…

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Psalm 139:23-24 (KJV)

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

The moment of salvation marks the beginning of a relationship with God.

Only then can a person start to develop a deeper friendship with the Father, grow in knowledge of His Word, and serve Him.

Whether one comes to faith as a child or an adult, from that point on spiritual growth should be a continual experience throughout life.

Ultimately, God develops the believer’s character and Christian walk. But you may wonder, What part does the person play in maturing spiritually?

David’s prayer in today’s psalm answers this question.

He petitioned the Lord to examine his life and help him see it truthfully.

David knew the consequences of sinful choices as well as the joy of walking closely with God, and he desired to rid himself of anything that was an obstacle.

We, too, can pray for the Lord to reveal any areas of our life that are hindering our walk.

With a humble and honest heart before God, ask for the courage and willingness to look within.

Of course, when our Father shows us something that needs work, we should resist rationalizing the behavior, as this stalls growth.

What’s more, we must have patience; just as it takes decades to become an adult, spiritual maturity also takes time.

Maybe your spiritual growth has slowed or even stopped.

Or perhaps you simply want to make sure your heart is clean­ before the Father.

In either case, pray as David did—that the Lord would reveal anything blocking a close relationship with Him.

Let today be the start of a fresh season of growth in your life.

It’s All A Gift…

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Ephesians 2:1-10 (KJV)

1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Anyone who thinks of himself as a pretty good person ought to take a look at God’s assessment of humanity.

He says we all come into the world spiritually dead and are ruled by Satan, his world system, and our own sin nature, or flesh.

In the Lord’s eyes, we are children of wrath who deserve only punishment.

On the other hand, God is so pure and holy that He is totally separated from all sin and cannot look upon it with any favor or approval (Hab. 1:13).

Everything He does is appropriate and beneficial; by comparison, even mankind’s righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).

Yet even though we have nothing of value to offer Him, the Lord wants us for His own and has done everything necessary to draw us close.

Those of us who have placed faith in Jesus Christ have been made spiritually alive in Him, and all our sins have been forgiven.

There’s a striking contrast between what we were and who we now are in the Lord.

But this change has nothing to do with how good we’ve been.

Even the faith with which we respond to the Savior comes from God. We can never make ourselves righteous; it’s all a gift from Him.

And once He declares us justified, we will never be pronounced guilty again.

God has said that in the ages to come, He wants to show the “surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us” (Eph. 2:7).

For all eternity, we will be showered with this awesome demonstration of His love.

As great as our blessings are now, they’ll pale in comparison to what awaits us in heaven.

The Complexities of The Transaction…

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Romans 3:21-26 (KJV)

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might

The sinful condition of mankind presents us with a dilemma: How can a holy, righteous God forgive our sins?

If He deals with us only on the basis of His justice, every human being would suffer the eternal punishment of His wrath, which their sins deserve.

But if He extends mercy instead of justice, no one would pay the penalty for sin, and God would then cease to be just.

There was only one way the Lord could stay true to His nature and at the same time forgive our sins.

The solution was to satisfy His justice by pouring out His wrath on a substitute.

Then the penalty for sin would be paid, and He would be free to extend mercy to sinners.

This is the only plan that accommodates both aspects of His divine nature.

So Christ came as our substitute; He took the punishment for our sin, enabling us to experience the Father’s mercy.

Now, by placing faith in Jesus, anyone can be justified–that is, declared legally righteous.

God’s plan of salvation is simple enough for a child to understand.

Yet at the same time, the complexities of the transaction that occurred at Calvary are far beyond human comprehension.

Although we may not fully grasp what transpired there, we can know that the cross is the greatest possible display of the Lord’s love for us.

Can you even imagine the cost of your salvation?

The magnificent plan of the Father and the willing cooperation of the Son prove your tremendous value in God’s eyes.

From His perspective, you are worth all the pain and suffering that was necessary to secure your eternal presence with Him in heaven.

An Inheritance Reserved For You…

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Ephesians 1:9-14 (KJV)

9   Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Did you know that you are an heir to unimaginable wealth that will never fade away?

If you’re a believer, then God has an inheritance reserved for you in heaven.

In fact, He says you have already obtained it. (See Eph. 1:11.)

Your right to this treasure is not based on anything that you’ve done, but on the one to whom you belong. If you are a child of God, then the inheritance is yours and will be “revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5).

No one can take our inheritance from us, because God has guaranteed it by sealing us with His Holy Spirit of promise.

The transaction is complete and merely awaits the ultimate consummation when everything will be brought under the headship of Christ.

This seal shows His ownership and authority over us, and one day our full redemption will come.

Naturally, we all want to know what we’re going to inherit.

Much of that is beyond our earthly comprehension, but Scripture gives us a few hints.

It will involve the transformation of both our body and soul.

The goal for which God predestined us will be completed as we stand before Him, conformed to the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:29; 1 John 3:2). And these weak, perishable bodies will be changed into strong, glorious ones that are free from sin and death (Phil. 3:20-21).

Why has God done all of this for us?

Amazingly, He says it’s so that throughout eternity He can show us “the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).

In love and gratitude for such amazing goodness, let’s devote each day of our life to living for Him.

His Purposes For You…

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Psalms 9:1-2 (KJV)

1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and exult in you;I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

We are given amazing privileges when we trust in Jesus.

Recalling these promises is a good way to maintain a thankful heart, even when facing challenges in other areas.

Consider four such blessings:

  1. Christ’s gift of salvation.No matter what trial we’re facing, it is microscopic next to the enormity of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. The cross was a steep price to pay, but the Savior willingly took our place in order to offer us forgiveness and eternal life.
  2. Assurance of God’s love.The Lord cares for us unconditionally–that is His very character (1 John 4:16). Unfortunately, the storms of life can cause us to question this, but Romans 8:31–39 unequivocally tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love.
  3. Answered prayer.We have the awesome privilege of talking to the Father about anything burdening us–and He never grows tired of listening to His children. Our omnipotent, omniscient God is not only able to help us in any situation; He also knows the best possible way to do so.
  4. A personalized plan.The Lord has a will, plan, and purpose for our lives that He will accomplish if we obey Him. No one is exempt from adversity, but we can trust God to bring good from everything He permits to come our way.

Hardships, temptations, and tests will touch us all, but the Lord allows difficulty for a reason–even when we don’t understand why (Rom. 8:28).

Therefore, submit yourself to the Father, thank Him for His wisdom, and be confident that He will accomplish His purposes for you.

A Life of Integrity…

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1 Peter 3:13-16 (KJV)

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

Knowing God’s Word and understanding what we believe are essential for growth in Christ and protection from deception.

However, these alone aren’t the final goal.

We are not left on earth merely to know for ourselves what God has said.

Rather, we’re to share His good news. In other words, we’re to be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks [us] to give an account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Peter 3:15).

The word defense means “an answer one gives to explain himself.”

Believers should be ready to give an account of their motives and reasons for holding on to their hope in Christ.

Because of busy lifestyles, many Christians have never taken the time to really think through their views and beliefs.

When someone challenges them, they feel a sense of panic because they’re totally unprepared.

Giving an account for our faith must be accompanied by a gentle, respectful delivery.

Aggressively dumping a load of truth on a questioning person rarely leads him to God, but a gentle answer opens hearts as well as ears.

And remember, people watch to see if all we profess is backed up with a life of integrity.

A Christian who is living a hypocritical lifestyle will have a worthless testimony.

These verses were not written to scholars; they were intended for ordinary people with jobs and families.

The task isn’t impossible, yet it requires time spent reading and studying God’s Word.

In setting Christ apart as the Lord of your heart, you will find that time with Him becomes a joy, not a sacrifice.

Philosophies That Sound Good…

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2 Timothy 1:12-14 (KJV)

12 For the which cause 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 that which I have committed unto him against that day.
13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
14 That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

All people have a belief system whether they realize it or not.

Even those who claim there is no God have faith that He does not exist.

What we believe affects every area of our life and shapes each decision we make, yet few of us take the time to really think about what we accept as true.

All belief systems have a foundation.

Some people base their convictions on what fits their lifestyle, reasoning, and desires.

But that is not to be the case with Christians—Jesus calls His followers to adapt life to their faith in Him and the authority of His Word.

Anytime we add other philosophies or ideas to Scripture or pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe, we create our own version of faith, based on personal reasoning.

God’s Word is the only true and reliable foundation for belief, because it contains the recorded thoughts of an eternal, omniscient God.

All other concepts must be measured against Scripture to determine their validity.

Knowing what the Bible says is essential for developing a sound system of beliefs founded on the truth and wisdom of the Lord.

This world offers many philosophies that sound good but are laced with lies.

A faith anchored in what Scripture teaches is your protection against deception.

Each time you face a problem or decision, search God’s Word for the answer.

Begin your day by reading the Bible and asking God to help you understand what He is saying.

He loves communicating with His children, and as you spend time with Him, He’ll open your mind to know His thoughts.

He’s Working Out The Details…

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Romans 8:28-29 (KJV)

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Nothing that happens is beyond God’s control.

Ultimately, whatever comes into our life is either sent by our Father or permitted by Him, and that which does not enter is withheld according to His will.

But believers sometimes get so caught up in the moment that they forget about the Lord’s omnipotence.

Then when life is challenging or uncomfortable, the temptation is to react against whatever seems to be causing them trouble. Fired? Blame the boss. Single? Blame the opposite sex.

To illustrate this idea, think about a child who must swallow a nasty-tasting antibiotic.

In a fit of frustration, he slaps away the bottle from his mother’s hand, even though the container is only a “secondary agent.” Mom is the one who dispenses the medicine, but since he cannot slap her, he turns his irritation against the vessel.

When we “slap away the bottle,” we take out our anger and resentment on the vessel the Lord is using, instead of accepting that His will is at work.

God does assure us He’s working out the details of life in a way that will ultimately benefit us, but we can’t assume this means everything will turn out to our liking.

Sometimes it’s easier to turn our wrath against an earthly agent than to be honest with our heavenly Father about frustration over our circumstances.

But the Lord welcomes honesty. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul cried out to Him in anguish (Matt. 26:39; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

If we recognize that God is in control and guiding our future for good, then we will not stay discouraged for long.

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