Your Present Deliverance 

“Obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:9).

Your present deliverance sets you free from the penalty and power of sin.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul says that “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (emphasis added). That emphasizes the marvelous reality of the believer’s present deliverance from sin. Peter stressed the same truth in 1 Peter 1:8, where he says that believers obtain as the outcome of their faith the salvation of their souls.

The Greek word translated “obtaining” in 1 Peter 1:18 literally means “presently receiving for yourselves.” It speaks of obtaining something that is due you as a result of your faith in Christ. “Outcome of your faith” refers to the logical result or end of faith. “Souls” speaks of the whole person. The entire verse could be translated, “You rejoice because you have and continue to hold onto the logical result of your proven faith—your ongoing deliverance from sin.”

You need ongoing deliverance because sin is an ongoing problem. You have new life in Christ, are a new creature in Him, and are no longer a slave to the penalty and power of sin, but you’re not yet fully glorified. Consequently you’re still subject to sin’s influence. Paul personalized that struggle in Romans 7, where he says, “The good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. . . . I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (vv. 19, 21, 24). The victory comes in verse 25, which says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Jesus is the Great Deliverer, through whom you have victory over sin, death, and hell. That’s the last spiritual privilege in Peter’s brief list, but it’s by no means the least. As you love and trust Him, you’ll know the joy of present deliverance.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise the Lord for your deliverance from sin’s bondage.

For Further Study

  • Review all the spiritual privileges and sources of Christian joy we’ve discussed this month. Keep them fresh in your mind as you face the challenges of each new day.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Enjoying Fellowship with Christ

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8).

Fellowship with Christ is built on love, trust, and obedience.

The recipients of 1 Peter, like us, had never seen Christ but they enjoyed fellowship with Him just the same. And their fellowship was genuine because it was marked by love, trust, and obedience.

The love Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1:8 isn’t shallow emotionalism or sentimentality. It’s the love of the will— the love of choice. His readers had chosen to love Christ despite never having seen Him physically. Such love is marked by obedience, as Jesus affirms in John 14: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. . . . He who does not love Me does not keep My words” (vv. 15, 24). To have fellowship with Christ is to love and obey Him.

Another element of fellowship is trust. After hearing reports about Christ’s resurrection, the disciple Thomas declared that he would trust Jesus only after seeing and touching Him. Jesus honored his wishes, saying, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27). But then Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (v. 29). We as Christians are among those who believe in Christ, not having seen Him.

The result of loving and trusting Christ is “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). This joy is something beyond the ability of speech and thought to convey. That’s obvious even on the human level—as evidenced by the thousands of songs that have attempted to communicate the joy of being in love. “Full of glory” refers to the divine element in Christian joy. It’s a supernatural endowment bestowed and energized by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

Enjoying fellowship with Christ is one of the supreme privileges of your Christian life. Strengthen and enrich that fellowship by learning the Word and relying on the Spirit. As you do, you will learn to love and trust Christ more deeply.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to teach you how to love and trust Him more faithfully. Thank Him for the joy that comes as you do.

For Further Study

  • Memorize Matthew 22:37.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Receiving the Kingdom Like a Child

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (vv. 14–15).

– Mark 10:13–16

Returning to our study of Mark’s gospel today, we pick up our study in Mark 10:13–16. Since coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration (9:2–13), Jesus and His disciples have been on their way to Jerusalem for the final week of His life, and He has been teaching on various subjects on the way. In 10:13–16, Jesus explains how it is that we receive the kingdom of God.

The first thing we notice is that Jesus talks about our receiving the kingdom of God—not our achieving the kingdom, our making the kingdom happen on earth, or our exercising any kind of strenuous effort to enter the kingdom of God. Now, it is true that God is pleased to use His people to grow and advance His kingdom. “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matt. 24:14). The church makes disciples—kingdom citizens—by preaching the gospel, baptizing believers, and teaching them all that Christ has commanded (28:18–20). Nevertheless, the kingdom of God is not something that we make happen. It is fundamentally a gift, something that our Creator gives to His people because of His great love for the world (John 3:16). We do not walk into the kingdom; rather, the kingdom embraces us. Our faith is not something we work up in ourselves, and though we must actively trust in Christ, this active trust by which we become kingdom citizens is best pictured as our coming to the Savior with empty hands. We come admitting that we have nothing to give to God but that we depend fully and completely on His unmerited favor. We open the empty hand of faith to receive God’s promised blessing; we do not merit our heavenly citizenship.

Jesus uses the example of a child to illustrate this point. We must receive the kingdom “like a child” (Mark 10:15). Here, the Greek word translated as “child” refers to the youngest and most helpless of children. Christ is calling us to utter dependence on Him as the way into His kingdom. We take great joy in our young children, and the arrival of a baby is one of the happiest times in our lives. But the youngest children cannot do anything for themselves. They cannot make any tangible contribution to the functioning of the household. In fact, they are desperately needy. That is how we are in relation to our Father in heaven. We rely completely on His mercy for our salvation and, indeed, for our every need. Only by admitting this can we be part of the kingdom of God.

Coram Deo

  • Augustus Toplady’s hymn “Rock of Ages” includes this line: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” These lyrics wonderfully encapsulate Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10:13–16. We come into the kingdom only by admitting that we have nothing to give, that all we can do is rely on Christ for grace and forgiveness. But once we are in the kingdom, we continue to come to Him admitting the same things. We never lose our need to depend wholly on Jesus.

Passages for Further Study

  • 1 Samuel 3
  • Luke 18:15–17

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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Christ’s Law-Based Ethic

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (vv. 21–22).

– Matthew 5:21–26

The twenty-first-century church faces many challenges, not the least of which is widespread misunderstanding of the ethics of Jesus. Popular portrayals and understandings of Christ see Him in the mold of one who had a “live and let live” attitude, who made no real moral demands. According to these portrayals, Jesus certainly had nothing to say about human sexuality, and He never would have been so narrow-minded as to preach that salvation is available only for those who trust in Him.

Regrettably, these depictions of Jesus have shaped the thinking of too many Christians, leading them to believe that our Lord opposes law with love. Contributing to this problem has been misinterpretations of texts such as today’s passage. On our first reading, at least, Jesus appears to be correcting the law of God, which implies that the Mosaic legislation is not a sound guide to making ethical decisions.

Dr. R.C. Sproul often notes that we must read the text of Scripture carefully and give it the benefit of a second glance. When we do that with Matthew 5:21–26, we realize that Jesus was not “correcting” God’s law at all. Jesus introduced the principle He was correcting with the statement, “You have heard that it was said.” Why is this significant? First-century Jews prefaced their citations of Scripture with the phrase, “It is written.” Jesus Himself followed this practice (Matt. 4:4), and we also see it in the Apostles’ writings (Rom. 1:17; 1 Peter 1:16). “You have heard that it was said” identified the Pharisees’ oral tradition, the body of unwritten interpretations of Scripture that the rabbis passed down from one teacher to another. Matthew 5:21–26 records not Jesus’ correction of Scripture but His correction of the Pharisees’ misinterpretation of Scripture.

Our Lord, in truth, taught an ethic grounded firmly in God’s law. No one statement can say everything, so we understand that the commandments are elliptical statements. They include certain aspects that are tacitly understood. Every commandment has both negative and positive aspects, not all of which are stated explicitly. Negatively, the law against murder proscribes unjustfied killing and it also proscribes the unjustified anger at the root of every murder. Positively, the law against murder enjoins the safeguarding of innocent lives. Christ’s teaching in today’s passage reveals the depth of the commandment against murder, thereby emphasizing, not diminishing, the importance of God’s law for Christian ethics.

Coram Deo

  • Christians are ambassadors of Christ, representatives of His sovereign reign over creation. As such, we have a special responsibility to represent our Lord’s actual teaching. The only way we can do that is through careful study of our Savior’s words. Sitting regularly under the preached Word of God, personal Bible study, small-group Bible studies, and other such things are how we will grow in our understanding of the words of Jesus.

Passages for Further Study

  • Psalm 119:96
  • Isaiah 48:17–19
  • Mark 7:1–13
  • 1 Corinthians 7:19

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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Situational Ethics

“When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death” (vv. 28–29).

– Exodus 21:28–32

Joseph Fletcher ranks among the most influential intellectuals of the twentieth century. Fletcher, an Episcopalian priest who became an atheist in his later life, is best known for his book Situation Ethics: The New Morality. First published in 1966, the book cemented Fletcher’s standing as one of the founders of the system known as situational ethics.

Fletcher rejected the traditional law-based approach to Christian ethics in favor of making the circumstances of each particular situation the norm by which right and wrong are decided. It was not that he explicitly rejected every moral absolute, for he said that the principle that has to be followed in every ethical decision is that we must do what love demands in the particular situation that we face. But Fletcher did not define what love demands according to any fixed, transcendent norm; rather, the situation itself determines the most loving response. So, for example, adultery could be the most loving thing in one situation while love could demand chastity in another.

The problem with situational ethics is not that it calls us to take into account the circumstances of the ethical situation. Biblical case law, in fact, shows us that applying God’s law properly in any context requires that we know as much as possible about the specifics of the context in which the decision is being made (see, for instance, Deut. 22:23–27; 1 Cor. 7:12–16). The problem is not even that doing what love requires is a bad principle, though it is reductionistic since the Lord has given us many transcendent principles and commandments. After all, the Apostle Paul tells us that “love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the ful lling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). Thus, if we love God and others rightly, we will have followed the other ethical principles the Lord has revealed.

At the end of the day, Fletcher’s ethic is wrongheaded because it separates God’s law from love. We are morally obligated in every situation to do what love demands; however, the real royal law of Christian ethics is that we ought always to do what the God of love demands—not what we think love requires. We are not allowed to define love on our own. As fallen creatures, we routinely mistake our own opinions for what our Creator defines as love. But we dare not do that, for John says, “God is love,” and therefore God alone determines what love is (1 John 4:8). If we would fulfill the Lord’s command to love, we must look to His law to identify true love.

Coram Deo

  • Sinners justify all manner of ungodly decisions by appealing to what they think love compels them to do. That is a grave error. We are not autonomous creatures who can be laws unto ourselves with respect to figuring out what love means. Instead, we must trust the only sure source for defining love—the Word of God. If we would love God and neighbor, we must define love according to the standard the Lord has given us.

Passages for Further Study

  • Leviticus 19:18, 34
  • Joshua 22:1–6
  • Galatians 5:14
  • 1 John 3:18

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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God’s Law in Nature

“When Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law” (v. 14).

– Romans 2:14–15

If there is only one, true creator God, then only the law of our Creator can serve as the fixed, transcendent basis for human ethics. We find our Creator’s law in Scripture, particularly in the Mosaic law, which includes ceremonial and civil regulations designed for ancient Israel as well as moral commandments that apply in every time and place. In particular, as Christians from nearly every theological tradition have understood, the Ten Commandments express these unchanging moral requirements.

Christian theologians have also noted that one does not have to have access to a Bible in order to know these transcendent moral standards. Having the commandments inscripturated in texts such as Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 is a great benefit, for God’s special revelation clarifies His requirements for sinners whose hearts have been dulled to His standards. Nevertheless, one does not need the Bible to have a basic understanding of God’s law. There is such a thing as natural law, law that the Lord has given to all people in creation. Even the Gentiles—those outside of God’s covenant with Moses and who therefore lack Scripture—sometimes do what God’s law requires, albeit imperfectly, outwardly, and superficially (Rom. 2:14). Our Creator has inscribed His basic demands on the consciences of the creatures He has made in His image (Gen. 1:26–27). Even the stoniest of human hearts has awareness of these commandments, meaning that sinners cannot say on judgment day that they did not know what God wanted from them.

Scripture testifies to the existence of God’s law in nature, but we also find evidence of it in various human law codes. Legal systems vary in many ways from culture to culture, but there are certain laws that we find in every society. All cultures, for example, prohibit the taking of innocent life. Fallen people have in many ways twisted and suppressed God’s original law against murder (Gen. 9:5–6), but one would be hard-pressed to find a culture that says murder is ethically permissible.

Deny natural law and the only possible end is moral relativism. Thus, the ascendancy of moral relativism in the United States and other Western countries has attended the widespread denial of natural law. Recovering natural law would go a long way toward steering the West out of the dead end of moral relativism.

Coram Deo

  • People try but fail to suppress the voice of natural law on their consciences. Any reminder of that law is anathema to them because they exert such strenuous efforts to silence the voice of conscience. As we call attention to natural law, people will try to silence us. Yet we must press on to help people see the reality of their sin. That is the most loving thing we can do—help people know they are sinners so that they can turn to Christ for forgiveness.

Passages for Further Study

  • Psalm 19
  • Acts 17:22–34
  • Romans 1:18–32
  • 1 Corinthians 5:1

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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Our Ethical Basis

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

– Judges 21:25

Twenty-first-century America is full of citizens who profess that there is but one absolute truth, and that is that there are no absolute moral standards. It is a self-refuting belief system to be sure, for if one denies that absolute truth exists, that rules out any absolute denial of absolute moral standards. Nevertheless, people hold to this denial most absolutely, and the social cost has been enormous.

Modern America is not the first culture to have embraced moral relativism, denying that there is a fixed, objective, transcendent standard of right and wrong. Israel during the time of the judges also embraced moral relativism. The book of Judges depicts a recurring cycle of events in which the ancient Israelites sinned, God handed them over to their enemies, the Israelites cried out for deliverance, and God delivered them. At the end of each cycle, the whole process would start over again. The concluding verse of Judges explains the reason for this trouble: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25).

Here we have an important insight into human nature, particularly fallen human nature—without a king, people will quickly descend into doing whatever seems right to them. The absence of the king in the period of the judges was twofold. First, there was no human king, no representative of God’s righteous rule to direct the people. More importantly, there was no king in the sense that the Israelites did not acknowledge or obey the one, true King, namely, Yahweh, who created all things.

Yahweh, although He had a special relationship to Israel, was not only the God of Israel. He gave a law to Israel that contained many commandments designed only for the ancient Israelites, but as the New Testament shows us, His law also contains transcendent norms designed for all people (Rom. 2:14; 13:8–10). In fact, even the culturally bound rules in the law of Moses reflect transcendent principles.

If there is only one God and He has a law, it is not only Christians, Jews, Muslims, or people in any other religion that are bound by this law. Everyone God creates is answerable to His law. God and His law are the universal basis for ethics—not just for Christian ethics but for human ethics. This law reflects the very moral character of our Creator, of our King, and we cannot please Him or do what is right if we do not know His law.

Coram Deo

  • Dr. R.C. Sproul notes that Christian ethics are theonomic, that is, governed by God’s law. This does not mean the church is called to institute a theocracy in the civil realm. It does mean that no correct ethical decision can be made apart from reflection on God’s law. Many Christians neglect the study of the law of the Lord, but if we do not seek to understand His commandments, we will lack the wisdom needed to discern between right and wrong in our decisions.

Passages for Further Study

  • Psalm 37:30–31
  • Matthew 5:17–20
  • Romans 7:12
  • James 2:12

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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