8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
- What is Lent? The Lenten season is 40 days starting from Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. And this season is a time for reflection, repentance, and prayer.
- So, what are you reflecting on this season? Repenting of? Praying for?
- Scripture points out that when we have been born again in Jesus – there is a radical transformation that takes place. The Apostle Paul clarifies this here by saying that you “must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
- The question is, do we consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus? Do we consider what the gospel says about who we are and what we’re called to be… and does that translate outwards in how we live?
- And so, maybe during this season of Lent, we have to ask ourselves, where are my struggles to live out this Christian life? Where do I see the sinfulness of my heart? Remember, sin isn’t just the “bad” that you’ve done... it’s whatever that you are bowing down to other than God. It could be our families, our children, our work, our self-image, our accomplishments… the list goes on and on.
- So, where do we start this Lent season? I think Psalm 139:23-24 is a good place to start. It states, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Let’s make this our prayer as we begin this Lent season… that God would search our hearts and lead us to repentance. That God would also remind us of the good news of the gospel. And may He then lead us to joyful obedience.
- Spend some time being still before God and to pray through Psalm 139:23-24.
- Where are your struggles this season? Where do you find yourself hindered from obedience to God?
- *The material for this year’s Lent season has been adapted from Will Walker and Kendal Haug’s book: Journey to the Cross – Devotions for Lent. If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s on Amazon.
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
- Right before this passage, Jesus had just talked about being salt and light in the world. Is Jesus contradicting Himself here by this saying? No. We are to be witnesses in the world and to be useful in the world… yet at the same time, Jesus gives us this reminder. Why?
- I think that Jesus is urging us to look at the motivations within our hearts for why we do certain things… even when it’s for God. There is the temptation to work/serve to show our devotion to God to others, or to show our spiritual maturity before others. And especially during Lent, we may be tempted all the more to be prideful and show others what we have given up for the Lord. But, Lent is more than that… it is a season where we are focusing on tearing our hearts away from our self-absorption and turning to the Lord instead.
- So, what does that look like for you today? When you read this passage, what pops up is that there is a call to a life of holiness. It’s not “if” you fast, but “when.” You are supposed to do it. But, since we can twist even the good works into self-righteousness, Jesus is reminding us to be on guard. In fact, He reminds us that the real goal is to be recognized by your Father, not others.
- You do this by entrusting yourself to God. For example, when Jesus fasted for 40 days, He was entrusting Himself to God by forsaking food and being nourished on the Word of God. So, what would it look like for you to depend on Jesus in this way for the next 39 days? Turn your dependence away from worldly things and focus on God’s good presence in your life through Jesus Christ.
- Where have you been tempted to be prideful about your devotion/spiritual maturity?
- If the real goal is to be in the presence of Jesus this Lent, what could you give up for a time so that you can focus on deepening your relationship with Him?
9 But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10
- When John the Baptist began his ministry, he proclaimed from Isaiah 40:3, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” What if we looked at Lent in the same way? How should we prepare the way of the Lord?
- Now, before you start thinking, “what should I do” and begin to think about what you are able to contribute, reread this passage. It is about what God has prepared for His people who love Him. God’s Spirit reveals to us where He is taking us. Sometimes, the way before us seems so clear, but most times, we aren’t quite sure what we are to do next. We hear the sermons about trusting God. We go through Bible studies where we talk about trusting God. And yet, I wonder how many of us actually take the time to pause, be still, and listen to the Spirit’s urging in our lives? How many of us actually pray for our hearts to come in alignment with what God wants, not just our desires for something tangible in our lives? How many of us are willing to wait… not just for moments during the prayer, but for hours, maybe for days or even as long as weeks or months?
- Sometimes, it is through the blessings He provides that we see His work in our lives. And sometimes, it is through the wilderness that we see that God was working in our lives. And at the end of it all, sometimes, we couldn’t have ever imagined the road that God would take us on. Yes indeed, “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
- Now, if the point of Lent is to reorient ourselves to God, how can we shake up our lives where we can cling onto Jesus all the more? To be patient and wait for the Lord to lead our lives in His magnificent ways?
- Here’s an excerpt from Journey to the Cross that may help: “The point of giving things up (for Lent) is not to be reminded of how much we miss them, but rather to be awakened to how much we miss God and long for His life-giving Spirit. This means, of course, that Lent is not only about giving up things. It is also about adding things, God things… Don’t worry about whether or not your sacrifice is a good one. It’s not a contest. Just make your aim to know Christ more fully, and trust Him to lead you.”
- As you pray, be willing to let the Holy Spirit guide you instead of you coming up with things to do. Be willing to be open to wherever that road may lead, trusting that the One who promises to be with you is in fact with you now and always.
- Spend some time in prayer today… and be willing to just be still and know that the Lord is with you.
- What are some things that God may be leading you to give up this season?
- What are some things that God may be adding to you this season? And how would those things help you to depend on Christ more?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
- Lent is a journey that ends with the hope of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Yet, the journey (like the Christian’s life journey) can be hard if you take it seriously because sometimes the journey will take you through the wilderness. And wilderness travel, regardless of time period, is always hard. There are dangers, there are hardships, there will be times when you want to give up, and times when you feel a failure. But, how do you persevere through it all?
- Maybe for some of you right now, life (not even the Christian life) is hard. There is no time for anything, let alone a disciplined life with God. But, before you feel discouraged, read on and hear the good news.
- These verses remind us of who we are following: Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. He is the One who went before us and ran the perfect race from start to finish. He saw that His life would end at the cross. He knew the pain and suffering that awaited Him. But, notice how v.2 says He looked to the “joy that was set before Him.” The joy that was set before Him – the joy of living out God’s will, the joy of saving His people, the joy of bringing into adoption future brothers and sisters into the family of God.
- Jesus did the work already. And so, the writer of Hebrews is able to encourage us by telling us to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” and to run the race set before us. What does that look like?
- First, I think it begins with repentance – recognizing the desperateness of our situation before God… that we don’t have all the answers, that we don’t have what it takes, that we are not righteous. That, for me, is the weight that we lay aside.
- Second, believe the gospel – what it means that Jesus has gone before me to the cross, that God accepted His sacrifice on my behalf… that I am no longer under condemnation and no longer under wrath. That He is with me always.
- Third, obey – to run with perseverance the race (the life, the calling) that God has placed you on. A race has boundaries, so do our lives. It’s not a burden or a lack of freedom, but I want to challenge you to see it as God’s gracious provision to you (so that you don’t go off the rails). Obey and experience the joy of close fellowship with the Lord as you run this race.
- What “weight” and sin clings to you now? Why do you find it difficult to let it go?
- How can you believe the gospel today? And how does the gospel help you, encourage you, to obey?
13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
- This week, we will be focusing on repentance. And so, we begin with the question: what is repentance?
- When we think repentance, I think our first thought is that of “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry for hurting you. I’m sorry for lying. I’m sorry for my sins. And usually, we are quick to do it again. Maybe you noticed this endless cycle in your life as well too. And at the end of the day, it just becomes routine and meaningless… it’s just words that we say… there’s no change.
- But, the definition of repentance is about turning away. Turning away from the wrong and turning to God. And this process usually begins with anguish. Think about what Joel is saying here. Don’t rend your garments (which was a sign of deep anguish). Rend your hearts instead. A pastor I know once said this about repentance: “own your sin.” In other words, repentance isn’t just mouthing the words of “I’m sorry.” Repentance is a deep, penetrating look at the underlying issue behind why you sinned and admitting it. It’s not just the “I’m sorry because I yelled at you.” It’s going deeper into what in your heart has caused the yelling – and don’t just say, “it’s pride… it’s usually pride” and then that’s it. No. It’s exploring the depth of the sin’s roots that have entangled your heart so completely to the point that you may just think it’s normal… but it’s not. It has enslaved you in its grasp. And no one is immune to this. And it should cause anguish… anguish at how much we sin, anguish at our inability to do anything about it, anguish at disobeying God.
- But, instead of just staying at the anguish at your inability to escape the clutches of sin that’s entrenched in your heart… repentance is also about turning to the Lord for help. Now, why would anyone want to come to a Holy God, who is wrathful on sin (and sinners) and ask for help? Hear the good news that Joel speaks in today’s verse: “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
- Be encouraged by God’s grace and mercy, His slowness to anger, His steadfast love, and rend your heart before Him… and the promise is also equally binding in Scripture – that He will forgive… that there is now no more condemnation in Christ Jesus our Lord. And from this good news, may you be encouraged to continue to obey the Lord.
- What are some areas in your life where you need to rend you heart?
- How can knowing that the Lord is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” help you to turn away from your sins and instead turn to the Lord?
7 I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
8 For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely.”
And he became their Savior.
9 In all their affliction he was afflicted,
and the angel of his presence saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
- In a prayer of confession in The Worship Sourcebook, it states, “Our Father, forgive us for thinking small thoughts of you and for ignoring your immensity and greatness. Lord Jesus, forgive us for forgetting that you rule the nations and our small lives. Holy Spirit, forgive us for quenching your power and squandering your gifts. We confess that our blindness to your glory, O triune God, has resulted in shallow confession, tepid conviction, and only mild repentance. Have mercy upon us in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
- Why is our confession (and the resulting repentance) so shallow? The writer of the prayer says that it’s because we are blind to God’s glory. We ultimately are not satisfied with who God is. Yet, in this passage, Isaiah looks to God… he worships God. And I think that is the cure for our unrepentant hearts.
- Isaiah writes here about recounting the steadfast love of the Lord – the fact that God has given His good to His people is what causes Isaiah to worship. Verse 9 particularly highlights who Jesus is… He was afflicted for our transgressions… and that is why we lift up our eyes to Jesus. Jesus was lifted up on the cross - reminiscent of the bronze serpent lifted up in the wilderness to save the people of Israel (Numbers 21:9). Yet, Jesus would be the better cure than what Moses provided for the people. In Jesus, there is true forgiveness before God… there is complete redemption.
- Will Walker and Kendal Haug write in their book Journey to the Cross, “Repentance is a deep feeling of grief that causes us to return to God and to worship him above all else. The posture of repentance is to acknowledge our humanity before God, and to grieve our wayward hearts. But even in this low place, we do not hang our heads as those who cannot see past our failures. We lift our eyes to Jesus.”
- Lift your eyes to Jesus today.
- What do you need to repent of today?
- What prevents you from worship today? Think about what it would look like for you to lift up your eyes to Jesus.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
- I wonder how many of us think of God’s word as “sweeter than honey.” We sometimes find studying God’s word to be tedious or hard, or discouraging because of what it asks us to do… but I don’t think we would say that it’s “sweet.” Why is that?
- Perhaps, it’s because we live in a culture where everything is about positive feedback… and we have a negative view of Scripture – that it is just a book of laws to keep, that it is hard to obey. Think about Facebook or Instagram or any other social medium. It’s all about the views – how many views, how many likes, how many thumbs up did I get. And perhaps, it’s training us to not want any negative feedback.
- And when we read Scripture, we think about the “Thou shalt not…” statements. Or “how sinful we are” passages. Maybe, it’s demoralizing to you to think about sin. But, the psalmist here writes that through God’s word, he gets understanding. Think about what he’s saying – God’s word reveals to him the full truth… not a distorted view, not the view that he wants, but the real view of what’s going on.
- Yes, we are fallen. Yes, we do sin and fall short of God’s glory. But at the same time, the gospel reveals to us God’s amazing grace upon us through the gift of Jesus Christ… that even while we were still enemies, God loved us, rescued us, redeemed us… adopted us in as children.
- We remember the good news of the gospel - that we can never earn our salvation. But, Jesus took our place of judgement. Isaiah writes, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (53:5)
- O, how sweet are God’s words to us. And God continues to remind us through His word that He delights in us. So, how do you delight in Him? It is through being satisfied in Him, to exalt Him. We begin to do that through His word… His word is a “lamp to my feet and a light to my path” – that we may walk with Him every step of the way.
- We gain understanding through His word, we repent of our false ways, and we follow Him.
- Is God’s word sweet to you? Why or Why not?
- Spend time meditating upon God’s word during this Lent season… and may it lead you to repentance, to hope in the power of God at work in your life, and to continued faithfulness in obedience.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:5-9
- There’s a reason why John calls God, light. Light has two purposes here = 1. intellectual truth 2. moral truth. It is intellectual b/c light is about making the truth known. Light brings out what is true in the darkness. For example, if you are in a dark room, there’s something there and you don’t know what it is. But, in the light you see exactly what it is. We see who God is through Jesus Christ.
- Now, light is also about moral truth = moral purity. V.6 “if we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Light discovers what is hidden in the dark… but our God is light. His nature is to reveal Himself to us (truth) and reveals us in all our sinfulness… in His light, nothing is hidden, we are exposed (EX: Adam/Eve – they were naked and ashamed).
- The truth is, we cannot say that we are sinless… V.8: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. And v.10: “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
- But light isn’t just about seeing… it also encourages movement. V.7 talks about us walking in the light. Light enables sight so that the person is enabled to walk. It’s not just about seeing who God is, but following, obeying, serving God. The problem is that people want fellowship with God on easy terms… but as one commentator says, “religion without morality is an illusion.” In other words, you can’t just talk the talk, but you gots to walk the talk.
- You have to ask yourself, “if I profess faith in Christ, am I walking in the light? When people see my life, is it lived in the truth of the gospel? Am I practicing a purity in my life?” If not… you have to ask yourself, what is preventing you from doing it?
- I believe we don’t walk in the light much because we forget the next part of the passage. It’s one thing to say v.9 “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” it’s another to live as if it is true. Can God truly forgive me of everything? Even when I sin again?
- It’s hard to live free from this without understanding Christ as our advocate and how He is our propitiation (atoning sacrifice). Propitiation shows us that God’s wrath is real. If you have a Holy God, a just God… that means that God’s wrath is a Holy antagonism to all evil. And we are all sinners (v.10). But, John is saying that God is (v.9) just, so the punishment must be paid… but He is also faithful (He will keep His promises – He will send a Redeemer). That’s why Jesus is the propitiation, not the propitiator (God will take care of it Himself – through the work of Jesus Christ, our advocate).
- Tim Keller puts it in this way: that our advocate does not plead with God that we are innocent… oh, no. That would imply that we are capable of delivering ourselves from sin. But what He does is, He acknowledges our guilt… we are sinners (that’s what light does, right?). But, then He presents His work on the cross as the ground of our acquittal. What Jesus says is not, “oh Father, he had a bad day so give him a break…” but, “Father, see the marks on my hands, feet, and side… I paid for it already.” John Calvin writes, “Christ’s intercession is the continual application of His death to our salvation.”
- And this is our motivation for how we live… only through His work. You can try hard not to sin (and you shouldn’t sin)… but you will fail, and when you fail, you have an advocate with the Father (2:1-2). As you lean upon the work of Christ, you are already practicing walking in the light… you are acknowledging that you are far from perfect, you need help. But by Christ’s work you are already made acceptable to God.
- Therefore, we can live for Him and practice the truth (no matter how hard) b/c He is faithful and just.
- What does the light of Christ reveal about you today?
- What does it look like for you to rest on the work of Christ?
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
- I think most of us would say that none of us want to reveal our transgressions. We don’t want to confess. We don’t want to be the first one to say “sorry.” But, I think this points to the pride in our own hearts.
- We either think that we have it all together because everything seems to be fine. Or, perhaps we think that we need to have it all together… so sharing our transgressions would be to admit that there’s something lacking in me. And so, instead of owning up to our sinfulness, we try to justify it… we try to nuance everything – by making excuses of how complicated things are, or how difficult things may get or are, etc. Or, maybe we downplay it and hope that God will overlook it.
- But, God’s word tells us that there will be no prospering for those concealing their transgressions. Why? Simply: because you don’t want to change. You want to stay where you are at. You don’t want to go through the mess of seeing AND taking care of that sin in your life. In other words, you want to be God in your life. You want to do what you want.
- But the good news is that the one who confesses and forsakes sin will obtain mercy. Tim Keller writes, “sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from God.” And so, repentance is to look to Him for your identity… to depend upon His mercies every moment.
- God sees through your excuses, your justifications, and your transgressions. Come before Him and admit your brokenness because His mercy is better than wallowing in your sin. His mercy is better than living in darkness. His mercy is better than the momentary (though it feels longer) pain of confessing and repenting.
- Let His mercy and forgiveness wrap you in Christ’s righteousness this day. And live in the hope of His promises for you.
- Why do you find it difficult to confess your transgressions?
- What would it look like for you to truly rest in God’s mercy – to take to heart that there is now no more condemnation for you in Jesus Christ?
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
- As we wrap up the first full week of the Lent Devotionals for 2018 (Repentance), what are your thoughts going forward? Hopefully, this week has encouraged you to see repentance as the start to living out obedience to God… and to lead lives of obedience rejoicing, for God’s “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” (v.10) In a nutshell, Walker and Haug write, “Repentance is a response to God’s grace, enabled by his Spirit, and focused on fellowship with him.”
- Here’s a Prayer of Confession from The Worship Sourcebook that you can pray through today: “God of compassion, in Jesus Christ you did not disdain the company of sinners but welcomed them with love. Look upon us in mercy, we pray. Our sins are more than we can bear; our pasts enslave us; our misdeeds are beyond correcting. Forgive the wrongs we cannot undo; free us from a past we cannot change; heal what we can no longer fix. Grace our lives with your love and turn the tears of our past into the joys of new life with you. Amen.”
- Where has God convicted you this week? What actions do you need to do in response?
- How has this week (repentance) led you to grow more in affection for Jesus’ work on the cross?
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
- This week is humility week. What does humility mean for you?
- Oftentimes, we think of being humble as a desirable trait in others. We don’t like the people who are brash, who boast about themselves or their accomplishments. Yet, at the same time, we don’t want to be humble. Perhaps, we think that being humble is about being a servant… and we don’t want that. Sometimes, even in the act of trying to be humble, we make it about trying to be recognized for it – ironic, no?
- But, if we take a look at this passage, humility isn’t about thinking less of yourself… it’s about thinking of others more. Not because the other person can offer you something in return… but, it’s about loving that other person, wanting what’s best for them even if it costs you.
- And this is probably the hardest thing to do… but we are called to do it. So, the question is, how can we do this?
- First, where does our pride come from? Walker & Haug write, “The desire to be lifted up is rooted in a lack of faith. We are worried about what others think because we are not convinced that God delights in us. We are anxious because we do not believe God will meet our needs. We vie for attention because we do not think God rewards what is done in secret. We compare ourselves to others because we forget that Jesus is our righteousness.”
- Second, where does our humility come from? From the cross. God’s grace gives us humility because it reminds us that if we could have lifted ourselves up, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come and do it so completely for us. From there, God’s grace comforts us – where we know He cares for us and takes care of us… and that turns us into servants ourselves, who graciously serve others.
- Christ became a servant and counted us more significant. Therefore, we must repent of our pride and come before God in humility.
- Are you humble? Really dig deep – is there a spirit of humility, where you are resting on Christ’s work… or just wanting others to acknowledge your humility?
- Why is it so hard to be humble? How can the cross remind you to be humble today?
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- We began talking about humility yesterday. And what a passage to come to today. This is the humility of Christ – though He is God, He became man… and He came to serve. Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Think about it: from the beginning of the incarnation, Jesus lived a humble life. Humble origins – being born in a manger to a poor family, sitting and eating with sinners and tax collectors, to suffering (“and they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him”), and eventually to death on the cross. Jesus came and obeyed the Father and in that obedience, it led Him to the cross.
- When Jesus was in the garden, on the night before the crucifixion, Jesus was greatly troubled. And He prayed for the “cup” to be removed from Him. “Cup” was the Old Testament’s imagery of God’s righteous wrath. Jesus was acknowledging that that was what He came to do… God’s wrath would be poured out on Him.
- What a horror it must have been for Jesus. And yet, Jesus places Himself in God’s will… “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Not what I will, but what You will.
- Think about the humility of Jesus today… we see it in the way He is obedient to the Father. What does humility look like in your life today?
- Think about the humility of Christ… what it cost Him to go to the cross.
- Where is the Holy Spirit working in your heart today to move you to humility?
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,”
1 Peter 3:18
- How can you grow in humility? That’s the question for today.
- Peter reminds us here in v.18 that Jesus, “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God…” Christ, the Holy One, the righteous… died for us, the unrighteous. Doesn’t get more unfair than that. But Jesus went through the suffering on the cross and He brought us in as God’s children. That is the blessing for us.
- As a result, Christians have a different understanding of humility. Being humble doesn’t mean that we are the doorstep for everyone else to walk all over us. Humility comes from seeing who we are accurately… in light of what Christ has done for us, though we didn’t deserve it and which we could never do ourselves. Yet at the same time we were brought in as children of God out of His grace too.
- And so, humility begins as we continually confess Christ as Lord. Edmund Clowney, in his commentary on 1 Peter, writes, “We recognize His lordship and confess His transcendent deity… to break the throttling grip of fear we must confess God’s lordship with more than mental assent. We must confess it with our heart’s devotion. Setting Him apart as Lord means bowing before Him in the adoration of praise.”
- As we bow before the Lord, this shapes how we view others around us… and we are able to be humble before them as well.
- Where are the major areas of concern for you today?
- How does the gospel change your heart to look with humility at yourself? At others?
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
- Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Will Walker and Kendal Haug write, “humility is not thinking less of ourselves than we ought to think, but simply thinking of ourselves less.”
- The problem is that we want to exalt ourselves. We do not want to think that anyone is higher/better than we are. In some way, in the back of our minds, we think we know more, that we are better, that we can do more, etc.
- Now, here in this passage, Zechariah is prophesizing about the coming king. He is the righteous king, He brings salvation. But, He comes on a donkey. Think about that humble image. Warhorses are big and powerful and projects the image of someone that is mighty… everyone must look up at the rider. But, a donkey is something different. It’s smaller, slower… definitely not as majestic.
- Why does Jesus come in on a donkey? I think the symbolism here is this – Jesus comes in, not to conquer with the sword… He comes in on an animal where He can’t run away. He comes to Jerusalem to die… to bring peace between God and sinful people. Our battle bows will be broken. He will give us peace. And He will rule in our hearts.
- If Jesus came in such a humble way to bring salvation to us who don’t deserve it, how can we be prideful in our conduct? We humbly submit to Christ’s rule in our lives and let it flow into how we treat others… thinking of the other more.
- Let’s pray this prayer from The Worship Sourcebook: “Loving God, you rode a donkey and came in peace, humbled yourself and gave yourself for us. We confess our lack of humility. As you entered Jerusalem, the crowds shouted ‘Hosanna: Save us now!’ On Good Friday they shouted ‘Crucify.’ We confess our praise is often empty. We sing ‘Hosanna,’ but cry ‘Crucify.’ As the crowd laid their palms in front of you, you took no glory for yourself. We confess that we want to be accepted and take the easy way. We do not stay true to your will. Forgive us, Lord, and help us to follow in the way of obedience. Amen.”
- Where are the mercies of God in your life? Spend some time today thanking God for His tender mercies in your life.
- How does the humility of Jesus lead you to be more humble today?
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
- What sense do you get from Mary’s statement here? I think it’s so easy to just read this and immediately classify it as praising God and leaving it there. But, I want to challenge you to ponder upon what Mary is saying and how it applies to you today.
- Though it is praise of God here… there is a warning here as well too. For example, “His mercy is for those who fear him.” Or, “he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones.” And so, the question is, do you fall into this group?
- I think that we run into problems when we think we have what it takes to earn God’s favor. Maybe we don’t think about it exactly like that, but I think subconsciously, we do. How? We may put a lot of stock in our belongings – if we have, we think God has blessed us for what we have done (serving, reading the Bible, etc). If we don’t get what we want, maybe we think God has not blessed us – because we have failed in some way.
- But, if you think about why Mary’s praising God, it doesn’t exactly make sense. Sure, she’s going to give birth to the Savior, the Messiah. But, she will face hardships because of her obedience to God. She’s not married… only betrothed, and yet she will be pregnant. She will lose control over her body (being pregnant will do that to you I’ve heard)… she doesn’t even get to name the child… the engagement may get broken (it doesn’t, but she doesn’t know that yet)… and in those days, only a divorce could break the engagement (and we read in other passages that Joseph actually thought about divorce). There may be the scandal of adultery - which the penalty could lead to death. There may be questions and some behind the back snickering/gossip going on because the child may be considered an illegitimate child… which will then force shame and ridicule upon her and her family for the rest of her life… and later, her child will be executed on the cross as a criminal.
- And yet, Mary’s response is gratefulness to the Lord. She is humble. Why? She realizes the greatness of God, the mercy of God… and that is enough for her. And true humility will bring about praise to God.
- Where do you find your humility because of God in your life?
- How has this week (humility) led you to grow more in affection for Jesus’ work on the cross for you?
1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
2 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
4 Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.
16 The heavens are the Lord's heavens,
but the earth he has given to the children of man.
17 The dead do not praise the Lord,
nor do any who go down into silence.
18 But we will bless the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 115:1-8, 16-18
- We now come to the end of our third week of Lent. How has the journey been so far? Have you been keeping up with the devotionals?
- This week, we’ve been talking about what it means to be humble. And I think that the first step to genuine humility is in the clear recognition of who God is. In this psalm, the psalmist describes the differences between God and idols. The idols may look real and alive, but are really fake – they are powerless. Yet, God is “in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (v.3)
- God does all that He pleases. What has God done?
- He has given to His people. He has steadfastly loved His people. He has been faithful to His people. And so, it is with humility we come before the Lord – that a God who is so great would bless us with His presence. And so, it is with humility we come praising Him, to worship Him (to declare His great worth in our lives).
- And so, as we end this week… here’s a prayer for you to ponder upon today from The Worship Sourcebook: “Almighty God, in Jesus Christ you love us, but we have not loved you. You have opened your heart to us, and in our pride we have spurned your care. You have given us all things, and we have squandered your gifts. We have grieved you and caused hurt to others, and we are not worthy to be called your children. Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we are ashamed and sorry for all we have done to displease you. Cleanse us from our sin and receive us again into your household, that we might nevermore stray from your love but always remain within the sound of your voice. Amen.”
- In what ways do you struggle to look to God? Why is it so easy to bow to your idols?
- How does the fact that God has given you His steadfast love and faithfulness bring you to humility?
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
- It’s interesting how we see something that’s not whole and automatically assume that a person has done wrong… as if they deserved it as punishment. But, Jesus’ answer here sheds some light upon how fallen creation has become and the wonderous grace of God at the same time.
- And so, we come to this third week of Lent, and we will be talking about suffering.
- And the first question is always: why is there suffering in the world? And some will just brush it off by saying that God is good… which is true, but it doesn’t address the issue of suffering - which is very real. Others will only see the suffering as punishment by an angry God. But, what is the purpose of suffering for the Christian?
- The Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:7 “so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” John MacArthur calls suffering the “tested residue of faith.” It’s a confidence that is gained in passing the test – in persevering in the suffering. So, for the Christian, suffering leads to perseverance… it is about growth in dependence upon God. It is a test to see the genuineness of your faith. Are you trusting in the promises of God regardless of what is going on in your life?
- Additionally, for the Christian, suffering not only forms you but eventually gives you true joy. True joy is more than happiness from positive external events… because there will be bad events in your life too. But, John MacArthur writes, “salvation joy results from the deep-rooted confidence that one possesses eternal life from the living God through the crucified and risen Christ, which joy will be fully realized in the glory of heaven.” Think about it in this way: even in the midst of suffering, God knows, God cares, God loves, and God is working in that suffering and through that suffering to refine you.
- Just like this man… he may have been born blind… but God’s grace gives him sight to see… not just for the sake of him being able to see the world around him… but to “see” with spiritual eyes His Savior.
- What is your understanding of suffering?
- How does suffering challenge your faith? How does suffering encourage your dependence upon Christ?
And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 this was the Lord's doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
- When we read this passage, we tend to side with the owner of the vineyard. We think that he was patient and he was just in his actions against these bad tenants. We link what we know of the gospel to this and we praise God that He gave us His Son to die on the cross in our stead.
- But, I wonder if any of us actually make the connection that we are the tenants. We have no right to the “vineyard.” Yet, we think we are the owners and can do whatever we want. Even when the heir comes, we do not respect Him… we don’t obey Him… we seek to take Him out of the picture of our lives.
- Why is this our attitude? Perhaps, it’s because we don’t want to suffer. We think suffering is losing… that suffering is shameful… that suffering is about discomfort. Yet, what is the Bible’s view of suffering for the Christian? Suffering in a fallen world is inevitable. But, there is also a purpose to it for the Christian. Walker and Haug write in their devotional book that “Jesus’ death does not take away our suffering, but it gives profound meaning and purpose to it.”
- Jesus would suffer… He would be rejected. Yet, “this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Through Christ’s suffering, we are justified. And through our suffering, it is sanctification for us. Walker and Haug, “By this we are reminded that suffering is not a setback to our agendas, but rather an orientation to God’s agenda, which is to form in us the character of Christ.” Suffering helps us to see that we are in need of our Savior and that He is with us always… and that He is at work in our lives to grow in us repentance, humility, and faith.
- And so, even in the suffering, the hope that we have is that we are given His Spirit – who intercedes for us (Romans 8:26). Therefore, we look forward to the consummation of all things when God will “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
- What do you fear about suffering? How has that led you to disobey God?
- Jesus suffered for your justification. Do you believe that? How does that change your view of your suffering?
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar's.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they marveled at him.
- It seems so simple in theory… “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Yet, we have so much trouble with this statement. Unfortunately, money does have far more sway in our lives than we’d care to admit. How much is God’s? How much is the government’s? How much do I have left… for me?
- Every day, we are tempted to sustain ourselves by any means necessary. We are tempted to look to my needs (and my family’s needs) without thought to others. When suffering hits due to money issues, we panic and we doubt. But, I think this points to the fact that we worship whatever promises to give us what we want now. We don’t want to suffer through the waiting.
- But, what would it look like for you to see that Jesus is far better? And that He is with you?
- Brothers and sisters, God does not remove you from the storms in your lives… but God takes care of us - even through the storms. Even though we may not feel more at peace or more joyful during suffering… God does promise us His Spirit – the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our lives.
- Remember: Christ suffered on the cross in place of us… the ultimate pain of suffering was taken care of by Jesus. And that means that the Holy Spirit is with you. 1 Peter 4:14 states that even in the suffering, even when insulted on behalf of Christ, you are “blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
- If that is truly the case, it helps us to release our dependence upon how much we want now… and we can freely give abundantly to others. We can grow to think of others more and to provide for them in their suffering, for what is ours has been given to us by God.
- How important is Jesus to your perspective on life?
- What will it look like for you to live your life knowing that you are God’s child, that His will and process is better, and for you to hunger after God?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother's breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother's womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
- When I think of suffering, I’m always reminded of this psalm. What a line to utter, right? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
- In the midst of suffering, it may seem as if God has turned away from us. We cry out, we pray, and yet, there seems to be no answer. There is a restlessness in our hearts as we are filled with anxiety, worry, and doubt. Sometimes, it seems foolishness to wait and trust in the Lord.
- But, Jesus also cried out to God this line from Psalm 22. Jesus suffered more than anyone has ever suffered. But, Jesus stayed on the cross… for you. We see Jesus being perfectly obedient even unto death. And so we have hope. God’s love for us is not based on our circumstances… but it is based on the work of Jesus on the cross for us.
- And so, suffering and despair for the Christian can lead us to dependence upon God. We see that there is suffering, but we also see how God’s great and steadfast love was given to us in Jesus Christ. And so, we hold onto the promises of God. We trust Him for He has rescued His people.
- And so, here’s a prayer for us today (from The Valley of Vision): “Strengthen me against temptations. My heart is an unexhausted fountain of sin, flowing on in every pattern of behaviour. Thou hast disarmed me of the means in which I trusted, and I have no strength but in thee. Thou alone canst hold back my evil ways, but without thy grace to sustain me I fall. Keep me sensible of my weakness, and of my dependence upon thy strength. Let every trial teach me more of thy peace, more of thy love. Thy Holy Spirit is given to increase thy graces, and I cannot preserve or improve them unless he works continually in me. May he confirm my trust in thy promised help, and let me walk humbly in dependence upon thee, for Jesus’s sake.” Amen.
- Have you ever felt like God wasn’t there for you? But, what does it mean to you that Jesus suffered and stayed on the cross for you?