Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul’s exhortation to be regularly testing the sincerity and purity of your own faith is not given in order to make you doubt your salvation every other day. Faith in Christ is exactly that: faith in Jesus’ finished work, not in our own faithfulness. However, we are to be regularly doing the hard work of honest self-appraisal.
Lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:4). (Today’s is the last in a brief series of meditations on the Lord’s Prayer.) James says no one can say God has tempted him; this request, then, is for God to keep us from situations where we might fall. It is a recognition of the dangerous, bait-riddled, sin-inducing nature of this world. If love of money doesn’t get us, perhaps the temptation to fit in with the crowd will.
God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). There are countless emotional obstacles that keep us from freely praying to God each day, and moment by moment. But there is one overriding reason, Paul says, for you to fight through and go to God in prayer: the Holy Spirit himself is the one beckoning you, drawing you into God’s presence. I was struck recently, in reaching this passage, by the fact that each of these nouns refers back to the Spirit.
David Brainerd observed, “The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best.” The answer to the question “Does prayer make a difference?” is definitely, “Yes!”. But let’s consider how and why the Bible teaches us that prayer matters so much.
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Imagine a woman named Jane. She is a mature and growing Christian who loves Jesus, gives wise counsel, and helps others come to know more about Jesus … but she does not pray, read her Bible, or go to church.
Paul in Ephesians 1:23 describes the church as the body of Christ. And in Ephesians 2:20 Paul goes on to explain that Jesus Christ himself is the cornerstone of the church. As if this were not enough, Paul further insists in Ephesians 3:10 that the manifold wisdom of God is being made known, through the church, to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. In 1 Timothy 3:15 the church is said to be “a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
Sometimes it is said regarding a friendship or romance that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But when it comes to our interaction with God’s Word, it is more accurate to say that “absence makes the heart grow cold.” If we are not regularly exposing ourselves to the Word of God, we tend to lose our appreciation for its value and power. And as our appreciation for the Word of God grows weak, so does our appreciation for God himself.
Paul briefly exhorts in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 for believers to “Pray without ceasing.” Yet some of us might ask the question: “Why?” Why pray without ceasing? That seems a tall order for busy people who have many life obligations on their plate already. But consider the biblical inducements to prayer by asking yourself a few clarifying and self-examining questions:
Here’s a brief meditation I wrote down from Psalm 119, a great text for Bible reading. You might find it encouraging as you continue looking for wonderful things in God’s law this year: “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me (Psalm 101:3). There is, according to God’s Word, a kind of healthy hatred — a hatred for sin and its ravaging effects. As I was contemplating this reality recently, I thought of at least four ways in which a healthy hatred for sin should evidence itself in the sanctified life:
I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). Paul, writing to the church at Corinth to correct their problems, confesses that he himself has to be careful to avoid sin. In fact Paul intimates he goes to great lengths — disciplining his body, keeping himself under control — to avoid the pitfalls of willful sin. But why? Did Paul not believe in the perseverance of the saints, or in the eternal security of believers?
The fourth of the Ten Commandments is found in Exodus 20:8-11, encapsulated with “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…” Some well-meaning Christians contend that this command is no longer applicable to us today because we are “not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14), and because some see Christ as the fulfillment of this law per Colossians 2:16-17:
Although the writing of the Bible spanned some 1,500 years and now even the most recent book of the Bible is almost 2,000 years old, the unashamed contention of historic Christianity is that the Bible is error-free from start to finish. The Bible makes numerous and uncompromising claims as to its own authenticity and divine origin (over 3,800 such claims).
Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). I was thinking recently about cases where a person who has been a professed believer, maybe even a well-known Christian leader, falls into public sin or even apostasy, and walks away from the Christian faith. Sadly, there have been many such cases in the news lately. We often think, and maybe even say, afterward that in hindsight there were some tendencies we could see in that person’s life that led to their eventual demise:
I recently finished reading through the Bible for the sixteenth time. While this is a personal milestone I’m thankful for, I certainly am not boasting about it. In fact, when I consider that George Mueller, who was converted at the age of 20 and died at the age of 92, read the Bible through 100 times while simultaneously caring for over 10,000 orphans—I am a bit embarrassed and reminded I have a long way to go!