Today’s devotion comes from Matthew 7:24-29.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house;  and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.  Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house;  and it fell—and great was its fall.”

When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching;  for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”  Matthew 7:24-29.

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How do we act on Jesus’ words?

In summary, we seek His kingdom and His righteousness.  Matthew 6:33.  We enter by the narrow gate.  Matthew 7:13.

On Whom do we rest?

In summary, we rest upon the Rock, the LORD God Almighty.

“Trust in the LORD forever,
For in God the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.”  Isaiah 26:4.

Other doctrine broadly trusts in themselves to contribute and maintain sufficient works or at least sufficient alleged free-will choice of Christ in order to be saved.  In sum, they trust in their flesh.

But, Reformed Doctrine narrowly trusts in God to provide and preserve everything that they need for salvation.  In sum, they trust in God alone.

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2.

Today’s devotion comes from Matthew 7:12-23.

“13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  16 You will know them by their fruits.  Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;  DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”  Matthew 7:12-23.

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Yesterday’s devotion was the longest devotion (or at least one of the longest devotions) that I ever posted.  Today, I wanted to provide a summary of it.

Most people think they can believe what they want and do what they want and still be saved.

This Scripture refutes such belief by its repeated warnings.

As an example of one of the warnings, Jesus states:  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”  Verse 21.

There is not a broad range of acceptable truths.  There is one narrow truth.

There is not a broad range of acceptable gospels (good news).  There is only one narrow gospel (good news).

“Enter through the narrow gate;  for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  Verses 13-14.

“And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Luke 13:23-24.

Scripture exhorts us to seek for wisdom and the kingdom of God as one would seek for silver or hidden treasure.

“If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;  Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God.”  Proverbs 2:4-5.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again;  and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”  Matthew 13:44-46.

Today’s devotion comes from Matthew 7:12-23.

“12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate;  for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  16 You will know them by their fruits.  Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;  DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”  Matthew 7:12-23.

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In this devotion, we will focus on verses 13-14.  “Enter through the narrow gate;  for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

We find similar verses else where in Scripture.  “And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?”  And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door;  for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”  Luke 13:23-24.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”  Matthew 22:14.

Scripture emphasizes the importance of truth.

Jesus said both in Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7:  ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’”

Jesus also stated in John 16:13:  “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth;  …”

Jesus also stated in John 4:23-24:  “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth;  for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Not any kind of worship will suffice, but “worship in spirit and truth”.

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.  For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.  For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  Romans 11:1-4.

Not any kind of zeal will suffice, but zeal “in accordance with knowledge”, or in other words, in accordance with truth.

“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”  2 Thessalonians 2:13.

Not any kind of faith will suffice, but “faith in the truth”.

There are those who “did not receive the love of truth so as to be saved”.  2 Thessalonians 2: 10-13.

Not any kind of love will suffice, but “the love of truth”.

The Broad Way of Most Doctrine Compared to the Narrow Way of Reformed Doctrine a/k/a Calvinism 

Most doctrine (including specifically Arminianism) is like a broad bridge open to everyone, but it only goes half-way across the river.  Such doctrine teaches that God loves everyone, Christ died for everyone, and God wants to save everyone, but it is up to man to contribute something worthy of salvation.  The only difference between the unsaved and saved is that the saved does works or maybe as little as uses his  alleged free-will to, so to speak, jump from the end of the bridge, across the river, to the shore of salvation.  Arminians believe that everyone has an equal opportunity to be saved, but that Christ’s death completely saved no one in particular.  Only those who do sufficient works or who take a sufficient “free will leap of faith” to the shore of salvation will be saved.  Thus, the bridge is wide, open to everyone, but it only goes halfway across the stream.  Accordingly, the saved have reason to boast for contributing to their own salvation and showing themselves worthy of salvation.

In sharp contrast to most doctrine (including specifically Arminianism), Reformed Doctrine a/k/a Calvinism is like a narrow bridge only open to God’s elect, but the narrow bridge goes all the way across the river to the shore of salvation.  Reformed Doctrine a/k/a Calvinism teaches that God only loves His elect and only wants to save them and that Christ died only for the elect.  In summary, God does everything necessary for the salvation of His elect.  Reformed Doctrine a/k/a Calvinism teaches that man is totally depraved (first point of Calvinism) that he is “dead” in sin, hostile to God, cannot please God, cannot understand the things of God, and is in bondage to sin and Satan, such that God must do everything for the elect, including making them alive (regenerating them), giving them faith, sanctifying them, and preserving them to salvation, so that all of God’s elect will be saved.  Accordingly, God’s elect have no reason to boast for God provided everything needed for their salvation.

Can people believe whatever they want and still be saved?  Or, in other words, will Arminians be saved?

I realize that even posing this question may seem arrogant to the reader, but even if this question is not expressed, many churches and leaders think that they are the keeper of the keys to heaven.  Each group tends to scoff at another group in front of them who they think are too liberal and let too many people think that they are in the kingdom, and yet they will criticize the group behind them as being too conservative and too strict and too narrow-minded and too not caring.  Each group on the spectrum thinks of themselves as moderate and true.  So, hopefully the reader will be patient with me.  Maybe, I am too conservative and too strict and too narrow-minded and too not caring, but reader, please remember that another group in front of you may be thinking the same thing about you as you try to warn them and bring them into the kingdom.

So then, will Arminians be saved?  As true Calvinists, our simple answer is “Yes, if they are God’s elect.”  But, Scripture says more, much more, and warns us of false prophets and misleading claims to be saved.  Scripture exhorts us to distinguish the good from the bad “by their fruits”.  See Matthew 7:15-23 above.

Because Scripture does not specifically include Arminian doctrine in any of its passages concerning doctrine, I can only give my opinion as to whether or not Arminians are saved.  Yet, I do think it is a good question to tackle.  Scripture warns us to not be complacent about our salvation, to “enter through the narrow gate”, so we will tackle this difficult question.

I certainly think some (or maybe even many) Arminians will be saved.  There are some “Arminians” who may be taught but do not believe enough of the Arminian doctrine.  They may be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine,” as stated in Ephesians 4: 14, but not “fall from the faith”.  I think I have been in this class in my travels between various Protestant churches where Arminianism was taught, and even today I struggle to avoid the subtle influences of Arminianism and stay true to Calvinism.  I struggle to avoid the temptation of seeking to be perfected by the flesh.  I struggle to hear with faith.  See Galatians 3:1-5.  Thus, I think that there are “Arminians” who believe or teach Arminianism from lack of understanding of Scripture but who will be refuted by knowledge of the truth and who will repent and come to the truth.

I think that there are some Arminians who who do not believe in the truth.  They stubbornly believe or teach Arminianism in “vain worship of God” and are not truly saved.  They cling to “free will” and their own feelings of justice above Scripture and stubbornly hold to their belief that their God would not unconditionally elect certain people to salvation.  They cling to their own image of God that fits their own sense of “free will” and justice.   To the God revealed in Scripture which is best summarized by the doctrine of Calvinism, they declare:  “That is not the God I serve!”

However, whether we are an Arminian or a Calvinist, Scripture does exhort us to not be complacent about salvation.

“AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS ARE SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?”  1 Peter 4:18.

For one example, for even us who claim to be a Calvinist and claim to be elect, we are told to add moral qualities to our lives so that we “make certain His calling and choosing you”.  2 Peter 1: 5-11.  This is consistent with verse 12 in today’s Scripture:  “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

We may claim that we love the Lord!  Will having a zeal for God be enough to be saved?  Paul states that for the Jews, zeal was not enough – “For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.  For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.  Romans 10: 2-3.

And, Jesus said:  “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven;  … Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord’ did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”  See Matthew 7:21-23 above.

The point of the foregoing is to show that salvation is not easy.  We should not be complacent, certainly not as an Arminian, and not even as a Calvinist.  We should seek the truth and the soundest doctrine and follow all of Scripture with all of our mind, heart, and soul.

The Apostle Paul himself said:  “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;  but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:12-14.

Scripture exhorts us to seek for wisdom as one would seek for silver or hidden treasure.  If we are to so seek for wisdom with all of our heart, how much more should we seek the true doctrine of salvation with all of our heart!!!  “If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;  Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God.”  Proverbs 2:4-5.

Scripture does not tell us to be casual about our faith or doctrine.  Scripture does not use words like “moderation” or “tolerance” or “love and acceptance” for describing how we should handle doctrine.  Just the opposite, Scripture pounds the table repeatedly that we should seek God, love and serve Him, “with all of our mind, heart, and soul”.  Deuteronomy 4:29:  “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”

We should seek the soundest doctrine as we would seek hidden treasure.

Just because some Arminians are saved in spite of their doctrine does not mean that it is wise to follow Arminian doctrine.  Just because some students drop out of school and become successful does not mean that it is wise to drop out of school.  Just because Christ knocked Paul to the ground on his way to persecuting Christians does not mean that any of us should continue following false doctrine until Christ knocks us to the ground.  Just because we are given grace does not mean that we should continue in sin.  Romans 6:1-2.

There are very stern warnings in Scripture!!!

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD.  For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.  Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD.’”  Jeremiah 17: 5-7.

Arminians will deny being like this man who trusts in mankind, but the Arminian trusts in his “free will” to be the determining factor as to whether or not he will be saved.  He chooses Christ through his “free will”.  He keeps his faith through “his free will”.  He turns away from the LORD of Scripture who unconditionally elects and declares:  “That is not the God I serve!”

On the other hand, the Calvinist trusts in the LORD alone to handle all the points of salvation.  The Calvinist continually seeks the LORD and focuses on the LORD and His works.  Salvation is not a joint accomplishment between God and man to the Calvinist.  The Calvinist knows that if salvation was dependent even as little as 1% on himself, that he would not be saved.  He truly trusts in the LORD alone for his salvation and attributes his salvation to grace alone.

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.  Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know Him who said:  “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.”  And again, THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.”  It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Hebrews 10:26-31.

I think this Scripture applies to Arminians who steadfastly continue to hang on to Arminianism despite receiving knowledge of the truth of Calvinism.  They hang on to the false doctrine that Jesus died for everyone (“Universal Atonement” – The Third Point of Arminianism) and they love to speak about the power in Christ’s blood.  But, Arminians realize that their doctrine forces them to conclude that Christ’s blood (as they claim, shed for everyone) by itself did not save, “purchase”, or “redeem” anyone, because they admit that most people are not saved.  Arminians claim that it is up to man to generate his own faith through his own free will in order to make Christ’s blood effective to save.  They claim that the only difference between the saved and the unsaved is not Christ’s blood, because everyone gets the blood, but rather the only difference is whether or not a certain individual will generate his own faith through his own free will to make the blood effective.  According to this logic of these Arminians, man’s faith, not Christ’s blood, is the determining factor as to whether or not one will be saved.

Because Arminians talk about the blood all the time, it is true that in a sense they are trampling it, not in the sense of being hateful to it but in the sense of treating it as ineffective by itself, like the description in Matthew 5: 13:  “… if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again?  It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”

This Hebrews 10:26-31 Scripture does not apply to the person who steadfastly rejects Christ.  That person did not receive the knowledge of truth as stated in Hebrews 10:26.  That person is not sanctified, so to speak, as is stated in Hebrews 10:29.  That person does not talk about the blood of Christ.  Rather, this Hebrews 10:26-31 Scripture speaks about those received or were exposed to knowledge of the truth and were sanctified so to speak but nevertheless denied the power of the blood and insulted the Spirit of grace.  Rather, this Scripture applies to Arminians who love to talk about Christ’s blood all the time, but who really treat Christ’s blood as ineffective by itself, that it does not actually “save”, “purchase”, nor “redeem” anyone, because they teach that most people are not saved and that it is up to man to generate his own faith through his own free will in order to make Christ’s blood effective to save.

Likewise, the Arminian can be compared to the one who insults the Spirit of Grace as is mentioned above in Hebrews 10:29.  Think of a situation in which your father took you out to a very expensive dinner and even left the tip in addition.  However, you did not think that the tip was sufficient so you add your $5 to the tip.  Wouldn’t your father be insulted that you thought that what he did was not enough?  Likewise, Arminians insult God by their doctrine that believes that the blood of Christ is not enough, they feel that they must add their own tip of faith.  The Calvinist thinks of faith as a gift of God;  the Arminian thinks that faith is their own gift to God which is necessary to secure salvation.

Love of Truth

Other Arminians may not go as far as to cling to the doctrine of Arminianism, but they do not think that doctrine nor even truth is that important.  They may seem righteous by claiming and even acting as if only love is important and that they only need the Bible, but they really don’t have a love of the truth.  They don’t diligently continue in their search for God with all their heart and soul.  They rest on their image of God and show no or little desire to search the Scriptures to learn more about God and His works.  In summary, they have not received a love of the truth.  I also do not think that this other class of Arminians are saved.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-13 may describe these Arminians:  “and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.  And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness”.

John 16:13 describes the work of the Holy Spirit in the saved:  “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth;  …”  If these certain Arminians steadfastly continue to refuse or ignore the truth, then they demonstrate by their fruit that they do not have the Spirit of truth in them and that they are not saved.

Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon said:  “… I will go as far as Martin Luther, in that strong assertion of his, where he says, If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.  It may seem a harsh sentiment;  but he who in his soul believes that man does of his own free will turn to God, cannot have been taught of God, for that is one of the first principles taught us when God begins with us, that we have neither will nor power, but that he gives both;  that he is `Alpha and Omega’ in the salvation of men.”  [Free Will – A Slave, A sermon delivered Sunday morning, December 2, 1855, at New Park Street Chapel, London, England.]

Conclusion

In conclusion, Scripture keeps coming back to the importance of truth.  We have seen that zeal is not enough.  Claiming Jesus as your Lord is not enough.  Doing miracles is not even enough.  There are those who worship God in vain who teach or believe in doctrines based on the ideas of man.  Those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth.  The Spirit of truth guides the saved into all the truth.  On the other hand, there are those who “did not receive the love of truth so as to be saved”.

Today’s devotion comes from Matthew 7:7-11.

“Ask, and it will be given to you;  seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”  Matthew 7:7-11.

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Who is God?

There a lot of descriptions of God in Scripture, but the one that is seen the most (or maybe one of the most) is the description of God as “our Father”.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.  …”  Ephesians 1:2-7.

Consider what the Heidelberg Catechism states.

“Q. 26.  What believest thou when thou sayest, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?

A.  That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them;  who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father;  on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt but He will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body;  and further, that He will make whatever evils He sends upon me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage;  for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.  Heidelberg Catechism.

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba!  Father!”  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,”  Romans 8:14-16.

“Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba!  Father!”  Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son;  and if a son, then an heir through God.”  Galatians 4:6-7.

In the “Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus taught us to start our prayers in this way.  “Pray, then, in this way:  ‘Our Father who is in heaven, …”  Matthew 6:9.  When we do so, we focus on both the fact that God is Almighty (being in heaven) and therefore able to grant our prayer request and the fact that God is our Father and therefore is willing to grant our prayer request.

Consider how many times a book of the Bible starts by reminding us that God is our Father.  Here are some examples.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore.  Amen.”  Galatians 1:3-4.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 1:2.

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”  Colossians 1:2.

“Paul and Silvanus and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:  Grace to you and peace.”  1 Thessalonians 1:1.

“Paul and Silvanus and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:  Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Thessalonians 1:1-2.

“To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”  1 Timothy 1:2.

“To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”  Titus 1:4.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philemon 1:3.

“Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”  2 John 1:3.

“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,

To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:  May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”  Jude 1:1-2.

In conclusion, the following verses provide a good summary.  These verses help us to understand the love of God for us because He is our Father.  And, this belief, this hope, is important.  As we were reminded by the Heidelberg Catechism and the Scripture shown in this devotion, we cannot believe in God without believing that He is our Father and that He loves us and that He gives us what is good.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God;  and such we are.  For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  1 John 3:1-3.

Today’s devotion comes from Matthew 7:1-6.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged;  and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:1-6.

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“Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself;  for you who judge practice the same things.  And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.  But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS:  to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;  but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.  There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For there is no partiality with God.”  Romans 2:1-11.

But, as shown by the following Scripture and Belgic Confession, although we do not judge those outside the church, we do need to judge those within the church in order to protect the church.

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;  I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.  But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Do you not judge those who are within the church?  But those who are outside, God judges.  REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.”  1 Corinthians 5:9-13.

And, in addition to removing the openly wicked from the church, we have to be particularly careful to discern and judge those false prophets who may at first appear innocent but who seek to come within church and teach and mislead the church.  They need to be removed as well from the church.

Judging those within the church is called discipline.  Discipline is so important that it is one of the three marks of the true Church.

“Article 29:  Of the marks of the true Church, and wherein she differs from the false Church.

We believe, that we ought diligently and circumspectly to discern from the Word of God which is the true Church, since all sects which are in the world assume to themselves the name of the Church.  But we speak not here of hypocrites, who are mixed in the Church with the good, yet are not of the Church, though externally in it;  but we say that the body and communion of the true Church must be distinguished from all sects, who call themselves the Church.  The marks, by which the true Church is known, are these:  if the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein;  if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ;  if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin:  in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church.  …”  Belgic Confession.

In conclusion, generally, we do not need to judge.  We should not judge.  In the language of today’s Scripture, we often cannot tell the difference between a speck of sin and a log of sin.  And, we are too prone and even eager to judge others and justify ourselves.  Only God is almighty and capable of perfectly knowing everything and perfectly judging everything.

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”  Hebrews 4:13.

“… God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”  Romans 2:16.

Today’s devotion comes from Matthew 6:25-34.

“25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink;  nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  28 And why are you worried about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow;  they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?  You of little faith!  31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’  32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things;  for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow;  for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:25-34.

—————–

Other doctrine likes to focus on man and what man does or what man should do.  Accordingly, other doctrine focuses on verse 33 and ignores the rest of this Scripture, because other doctrine can misrepresent verse 33 as all about man’s doing and can try to put control of man’s fate in man’s hands as paraphrased by my words:  “If you do this, then you can get that.”

But, Reformed Doctrine focuses on God and Who God is and what God does.

First, God is the Creator Who takes care of His creation.  We see this in verses 26 and 28-30.  We also see it else where in Scripture.  See Psalm 104:10-30 of which I only quote part of it below.

“10 He sends forth springs in the valleys;
They flow between the mountains;
11 They give drink to every beast of the field;
The wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
They lift up their voices among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from His upper chambers;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of His works.

14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the labor of man,
So that he may bring forth food from the earth,
15 And wine which makes man’s heart glad,
So that he may make his face glisten with oil,
And food which sustains man’s heart.”  Psalm 104:10-15.

Second, God is the Heavenly Father Who will do even “much more” for His children.  “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?” Verse 26.  “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?  …”  Verse 30.

“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”  Matthew 7:9-11.

In summary, we see this focus on Who God is as the reason why we should not be anxious in the Heidelberg Catechism.  Notice how the following Question and Answer refers to both God as the Creator and God as the Heavenly Father.

“Q. 26.  What believest thou when thou sayest, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?

A.  That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them;  who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father;  on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt but He will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body;  and further, that He will make whatever evils He sends upon me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage;  for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.  Heidelberg Catechism.

In conclusion, if Jesus emphasizes that the birds do not earn the care that God gives them, and yet God cares for them, then why do we try to emphasize what we do as the reason why God will care for us?!  “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?”  Verse 26.

Today’s devotion comes from Matthew 6:16-24.  Here is a link to this Scripture – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+6&version=NASB

I quote only the following verses.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21.

—————————-

“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”  John 6:27.

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”  Colossians 3:2-4.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;  who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”  Philippians 3:20-21.

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance;  and he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;  for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”  Hebrew 11:8-10.

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.”  Hebrews 12:22-24.

What is Heaven like?

Here is a link to my article which include some Scriptures describing Heaven – https://reformeddoctrine.com/heaven/

“Walk about Zion and go around her;
Count her towers;
Consider her ramparts;
Go through her palaces,
That you may tell it to the next generation.”  Psalm 48:12-13.

Today’s devotion comes from Matthew 6:7-15.

“7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.  8 So do not be like them;  for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

9 “Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.’

14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”  Matthew 6:7-15.

———————-

We can pray with confidence that God will hear and grant our prayer requests, because He is our Heavenly Father.

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba!  Father!”  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,”  Romans 8:15-16.

“Q. 26.  What believest thou when thou sayest, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?

A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them;  who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence) is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father;  on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt but He will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body;  and further, that He will make whatever evils He sends upon me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage;  for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.”  Heidelberg Catechism.

And, as a daughter does not worry about forming perfect words before telling her father what she wants, we need not worry about forming the perfect prayer.

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness;  for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;  and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:26-28.

Our Lord gave us the Lord’s Prayer as an example of how we should pray.  It can help, but too often we use it without thought as a magic wand.  Too often, we use it in meaningless repetition as our Lord tells us not to do.  “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.  So do not be like them;  for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”  Verses 7-8.

But, if we really think about why we should pray in this way and focus on the meaning of those words and our relationship to God and use our own words most of the time, then the Lord’s Prayer can help us.  Here is a link to what the Heidelberg Catechism states about it.  This link begins a Lord’s Day 46 and you can use the arrows to proceed through the following Lord’s Days until it ends at Lord’s 52, the end of the Heidelberg Catechism.  http://www.prca.org/about/official-standards/creeds/three-forms-of-unity/heidelberg-catechism/the-third-part/of-prayer/lord-s-day-46

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  Romans 8:32.

Posted by: Bill Hornbeck | April 5, 2018

“glorify your Father who is in heaven”

Today’s devotion comes from Matthew 6:1-6.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them;  otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret;  and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites;  for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”  Matthew 6:1-6.

——–

What is the difference between this chapter’s Scripture (“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them …) and the prior chapter’s Scripture in Matthew 5:14-16 (“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, …)?  At first glance, they seem inconsistent.

But, as we meditate on these two Scriptures, we understand that there is a huge difference between works that glorify us and works that glorify God.  The full reading of Matthew 5:16 states:  “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  In sharp contrast, the people Jesus is describing in today’s Scripture did those works to glorify themselves.

Therefore, when we see works that superficially appear to be good, let us discern whether those works glorify the doer or God.

Works that glorify man point to man’s power and man’s goodness.

Works that glorify God point to God’s power and God’s goodness, and they are the only truly good works.

Other doctrine point to man’s power (free-will) and man’s goodness.

But, Reformed Doctrine points to man’s lack of power and man’s lack of goodness, that is, man is dead in sin, which Reformed Doctrine describes as “Total Depravity”, the “T” of TULIP.  Reformed Doctrine then points to God’s power and God’s goodness.  Regarding this second point, Reformed Doctrine points out that God has done everything for our salvation from the beginning of “Unconditional Election” through “Limited Atonement” through “Irresistible Grace” to the end of “Preservation of the Saints”, the “U”, “L”, “I”, and “P” of TULIP, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Reformed Doctrine of Salvation.

“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say?  “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  Romans 4:2-3.

“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”  1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

Today’s devotion comes from Matthew 5:21-48.  Here is a link to this Scripture – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5&version=NASB

I quote only the following verses.

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court;  and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court;  and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’;  but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you;  for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you;  for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

“It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’;  but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery;  and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;  for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:21-22 and 27-32 and 43-48.

———————

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Verse 48.

If we cannot even superficially obey the Ten Commandments, then how can we obey these perfections of the Ten Commandments?!

The purpose of this Scripture is not to teach us to practice a hyper-righteousness based on the Law.  We cannot even practice a regular righteousness based on the Law.

Rather, the purpose of this Scripture is to lead us even more to Christ to seek that perfect righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith in Christ.

If Paul, a Jew, even a Pharisee, could not achieve a righteousness based on the Law, then why do we think that we can achieve a righteousness based on the Law?!

Rather, Paul sought that righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith in Christ.

“although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh.  If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:  circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews;  as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church;  as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,”  Philippians 3:4-9.

Perfection can not come from the flesh.  

“For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”  Hebrews 7:18-19.

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.”  Hebrews 10:1.

“Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  Galatians 3:3.

Perfection can only come from God.

“14 For by one offering He (Christ) has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.  15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us;  for after saying,

16 “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM
AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:
I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,
AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS
I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”  Hebrews 10:14-17.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6.

Perfect wisdom, perfect righteousness, perfect sanctification, and perfect redemption can only come from the Perfect One, Christ Jesus.

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”  1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

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