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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Greater than the greatest

Matthew 11:7-19 / Luke 7:24-35…

John was no weak minded, immature believer. He was the most confident man ever. He was fearless against the religious establishment (Matthew 3:7). Jesus said he was not a reed shaken with the wind; that is, he was not tossed about by circumstance. He was a rock, he stood up to Herod and that is why he was imprisoned. He lived in the wilderness, not delicately, and had camel’s hair as clothing, not soft raiment (Matthew 3:4). John the Baptist was used to and prepared for hard living, even the dungeon. John wasn’t weak, and in fact, Jesus said he was the greatest man who had ever lived.

So why does Jesus say that the least in the kingdom is greater than the greatest? From a vocational standpoint, John the Baptist had the greatest calling, but from a spiritual standpoint, we are greater in the sense that salvation is greater than vocation. Now we have the greatest job, proclaiming that the king is coming again. Fellowship with God, with each other, and triumph over sin will all be complete in heaven. The one thing we do here that we cannot do in heaven is telling people about Jesus. How do you “tell” people? You live for Christ, win others to Christ, and edify your brothers and sisters in Christ. To reject this wisdom is to become as a Pharisee or a selfish child.

Still, when you get frustrated, and fail, and fall; when you have doubts, despair, and depression; Jesus doesn’t call you a failure, He doesn’t call you weak, He calls you great. Even when you feel like the least Jesus says you are greater than the greatest. We can fail but He hasn’t so we don’t ultimately. Instead of thinking “I have to do something great for God”, realize God has done something great for you. This is the gospel; this is our peace, our joy, our safety, our satisfaction, our rest. We don’t have to be the greatest for Jesus to give us the greatest love of all.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The crisis of circumstance

Matthew 11:1-6 / Luke 7:18-23…

John the Baptist saw more signs than anyone ever. He had been prophesied as being the herald to the Messiah (Isaiah 40:3 / Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6). He knew it (John 1:23), as did his parents (Luke 1:17, 76) and Jesus (Luke 7:27). He was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15), leaping in his mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus (Luke 1:41). John heard directly from the Almighty (Luke 1:80, 3:2 / John 1:6). He knew his role (John 3:26-30). He knew the role of the Messiah (Luke 3:16). He had humbled himself before Jesus (Matthew 3:14). God told John what the sign of the Messiah would be (John 1:33-34), and he heard God declare Jesus to be His Son (Mark 1:11). John proclaimed Jesus to the multitudes (John 1:29, 36).

All this, but by now he had been in prison for perhaps as much as two years, and had obviously become depressed. Even the greatest of the saints can experience doubt. John’s career had come to an end, and he was wondering if he had understood Jesus rightly. Jesus doesn’t speak to his emotions (and John was family), He sends John back to the Scriptures (Isaiah 35:5-6). Jesus provided reassurance, but notice that this would be faith in the report of others. Jesus was tender, but truthful: John, you’ve done your job, the king has come, and the kingdom has been inaugurated.

God sometimes doesn’t meet our expectations, but we are blessed when we seek Him further instead of draw away in offense. We often are tempted to stumble over God’s providence, but even when we can’t trace His hand we can trust His heart. Sometimes our faith fizzles out. Instead of looking inward (at our lack or our doubt), or outward (at our circumstances or at others), we look upward (at our God and Savior).

The guilt we feel about our doubt is not something that we have to sit under until we outrun it through our good works and obedience. Instead, guilt over sin, doubt and despair are vehicles that drive us to the cross where we see the culmination of Jesus’ obedience for us. Jesus puts the gospel of grace and His own person and work in focus. When we drop the football, remember, Jesus has already scored the winning touchdown.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When crowds collide

Luke 7:11-17…

Think about this scene for a moment. Here we have two great crowds, going different places, for different reasons, but coming toward each other. One was a fervent crowd, the other a funeral crowd. The one crowd was following death, the other crowd was following Life. When they met in the middle, and Jesus proved to be the master of ceremonies, they all became one fearful crowd. The power of God starts the fearful parade. This fear is a sacred awe of God’s utter holiness. It involves respect and veneration in the presence of such absolute majesty.

When life and death collide…Jesus wins (Acts 2:22-24 / Revelation 1:18). We will all die (Hebrews 9:27), but the question is, do you feel free enough to truly live (John 11:21-26 / Hebrews 2:14-15)?

Don’t try and crowd Jesus out of your life, because Jesus is the ultimate in crowd control, and He will eventually separate everyone into the two groups of eternity (Matthew 25:31-46).

Who are you following? Which way is your crowd headed? Are you on a collision course with God, or with…?

My prayer for you is that if you are going the wrong way that Jesus will meet you in the middle, and take over your show.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

The sign of faith

Matthew 8:5-13 / Luke 7:1-10…

Man’s nature is not submission but rebellion; however, Jesus calls submission to authority a sign of great faith. This man had understood that Jesus was in submission to His Father (John 5:17-19, 30). He knew that all he needed was a word from Jesus and his servant would be healed. Humility understands the authority of God and the misery of man without Him. It lifts up its estimation of Christ and lowers itself in submission.

Many problems in life can be traced back to a misunderstanding of submission to authority. We thought we could do it our way and it messed us up. We ruin our relationships and wreck our faith because of rebellious attitudes. We quibble with the clear teachings of the Bible regarding submission and obedience. Obedience is about our actions toward authority, while submission is about our attitude toward authority. God is the focus of submitting to governmental authority (1 Peter 2:13-17), to workplace authority (1 Peter 2:18-20), and even to those who cause us suffering (1 Peter 2:21-25, 4:19). Respect for and obedience to authorities is important because it is an expression of God’s authority over us.

Think about Jesus and His relationship with the Father, and you will realize that the essence of spirituality is submission. The Gospel started by the submission of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). Therefore, because of Christ, as we learn submission we experience His power (Philippians 2:12-13). Submission is the sign of faith, not to always get what we want, but knowing that God will give us what we need, even when it hurts, especially for the sake of others.

Will you trust God to be the authority in your life? Show Him the sign.

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