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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.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Some will be single

Matthew 19:10-12…

Considering the standard that Jesus had just given for purity in marriage (Matthew 19:1-9), the disciples wondered if perhaps it would be best to remain single. Jesus says that while some can remain single and be wholly devoted to the Lord, most cannot do this and remain pure.

God wants all people, married or unmarried, to live in sexual purity. People fail to harness their sexual energy when they believe that sexual activity is the only viable outlet for it. Yet all of us are called to some level of self-control. Some are gifted to be able to be single and do this, but most of us cannot do that. So we are called to honor God with our spouse.

For there are eunuchs…this means someone who does not engage in sexual activity. Some are born that way, some are made that way, and some choose to be that way for the sake of devotion to God. Such was the Apostle Paul, who encouraged those who might have the gift of singleness that he has (1 Corinthians 7:7), but he also realizes not all do (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). If you are content being single, and if you wish to devote yourself that way to the Lord, then that is good. But it is better to marry if you cannot control your passions.

The truth is that you can be devoted to God and have sexual desire. You can also be devoted to God and have control over your sexual desire. For some, singleness is a gift to be received from God. We must not automatically relegate these gifted people to secondary status.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Divorced from humility

Matthew 19:1-9 / Mark 10:1-9…

Using what was a dispute between the leading teachers of the day (Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause? / cf. Deuteronomy 24:1-4), the Pharisees were testing Jesus. This is an important point. They were not coming to the Word with humility. Are we guilty of the same thing? Humility isn’t an attitude that thinks we cannot know the interpretation, it is an understanding that we always need to check our motivation (Psalm 19:12-14).

What we must remember is that Jesus was addressing a particular question, and that this is not the whole biblical picture on this topic. Here Jesus presents sexual uncleanness as grounds for divorce. Paul gives another ground as desertion by an unbelieving spouse. Of course when a believing spouse is deserted by an unrepentant “believer”, in the light of appropriate church discipline, the situation becomes that of a believer divorced by an unbeliever. In effect this abandonment of marital obligations can be grounds for divorce (cf. Exodus 21:10-11).

It is unfortunate that some try and shackle people with a chain of guilt. It is just as unfortunate that others will try and give people paper wings. Jesus was restricting divorce, not refusing it, or recommending it. Being biblical doesn’t simply mean technical, but also compassionate, and real. There are many factors involved. If we were to be perfectly technical about it, who can say that they have never committed impurity in their heart (Matthew 5:27-32)? If all we are doing is looking for prohibition or authorization in these passages, we can miss the heart of God.

When Jesus said that man should not separate what God has joined together, He was not saying it was impossible to do it. God hates that divorce happens (Malachi 2:16) but this does not mean He refuses to recognize divorce when it occurs. God wants people to stay together, but He wants each partner to be faithful to their wedding vows too. When Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife,” He recognized divorce as a fact of life (cf. John 4:16-18). When He said “except for”, He recognized that there are legitimate grounds (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:10-15). This doesn’t make all divorces right. But it does mean that not all divorces are wrong. 


Friday, August 18, 2017

Justified prayer

Luke 18:9-14…

These prayers reflect the pride and self-righteousness which the Lord will judge when He returns, and the repentance and faith which He will reward when He returns.

Justification means being declared righteous before God. Often overlooked is the fact that when the Pharisee prayed he was thanking God. He was not saying how great he was by himself. He knew he needed help, but felt that his cooperation with God is what justified him. This is subtle but is explained by saying that for some to justify is to be made righteous rather than to be declared righteous.  The difference is the difference between a saving faith that relies on an external atonement for sin and a misplaced faith that relies in an internal abatement of sin.

This is the great danger, the teaching that the imparted righteousness whereby we can indeed do good works is the grounds of our justification, instead of the imputed righteousness of Christ to our account. Our good works give evidence to our faith (Matthew 7:20 / James 2:18) but they do not save us (Romans 3:20). God does indeed develop righteousness in everyone to whom He imputes righteousness, but we never achieve perfection in this life (Philippians 3:4-19).Works are the fruit, not the root of justification (Ephesians 2:8-10).

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. Justification cannot be done on the basis of our works, but must be based on the merits of Christ (Galatians 2:16). We can never earn, deserve, or merit God’s forgiveness. What we must do is to accept the sinless life and atoning death of Jesus Christ as our substitute. Christians should be thankful that we have been given a measure of freedom from the power of sin in this life, but we must be careful to never equate this with our righteous standing before God. You are not to thank God for your righteousness compared to others, but thank Him for His righteousness accredited to you because of the Atonement (2 Corinthians 5:21).