Sunday, October 22, 2017

What Faith In Jesus Means

October 22 (Romans 3:22)

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.  (NLT)

Romans 1:5 says that we have the privilege and authority to tell people what God has done for us, and Romans 3:22 makes it perfectly clear what that is.  We are made right with God, not by following rituals or procedures or trying really hard to be good.  We are made right, justified, with God by putting our faith in Jesus.

So what does that mean?  People talk about it all the time, but what does it actually mean?  Just a few verses later in Romans 3:25 we get the answer.  “People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”  We must believe that Jesus Christ voluntarily sacrificed His life for us and that He shed His blood as a sacrifice to cover our sins and make us pure and holy in God’s sight.  That’s it.  That is what it means to place our faith in Him.  That is what it means to be made right with God.  That is what it means to accept the gift of eternal life.

And as the verse for today concludes, this is true for everyone.  It is true for Jews and Muslims.  It is true for people who live in the country and people who live in the city.  It is true for those who grew up in Christian homes but never really believed and for those who have not once heard the name of Christ.  The offer is there for every single person…either to accept or to reject.

Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for my sins with His own life and blood.  There is nothing that could possibly repay such a gift, so may my life be a fulfillment of Jesus’s command to take this message everywhere.  In His holy name I pray.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Privilege and Authority To Witness

October 15 (Romans 1:5)

Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.  (NLT)

Some friends and I were texting recently about the rapidly deteriorating state of culture and society, and I replied, “My friends, the world of man is coming apart at its weak and frayed seams.  We must go forth and know nothing among our brethren but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”  I was thinking of 1 Corinthians 2:2, but evangelism is more than just a good idea in troubled times.  It is what we have been called to.

It would be amazing news if scientists revealed tomorrow a cure for cancer, but it would not be greater than the Good News of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.  Through Him God has made a way for us to avoid the punishment of eternal separation from Him through death.  This message and no other is the most important thing you and I will ever talk about with anyone.  It is our privilege to be called to the role of divine messengers of God’s grace, and we have the authority from God almighty to share it.

Does the work of Jesus make its way into your conversations?  Does what He has accomplished in your own life season your interactions with others?  When it does, those who need to know the true gift of God through Jesus, not the caricature of Christianity presented in social media, will come to believe and obey Him, and He will receive the glory.

Lord, open my lips and free my tongue to tell those in my life what You have done for them.  Cast out my hesitation, nervousness, and fear and make me bold in the Holy Spirit to speak on Your behalf.  May all that I do and say bring glory to my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Light Of God's Grace

October 8 (Romans 8:1)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (ESV)

The eighth chapter of Romans may be the most beautiful, encouraging, life-giving passage you will ever read, and it begins with one sentence that captures the sum total of the human story.  It explodes from the page with the declaration that there is now no condemnation, but for the word “now” to be necessary, there is the implication that condemnation once existed for us.  Let that sink in a moment.  You deserved condemnation by the Lord God of the universe.  I deserved condemnation.  Every human being who has ever drawn a breath has deserved the condemnation of God.   That is our heritage thanks to the sin of Adam and Eve and compounded by our own daily acts of rebellion.

Go back to that fantastic adverb “now.”  Now, in the era in which you live, that is no longer the case.  The condemnation is gone.  It is taken away.  Is that true for everyone?  Well, the opportunity for it to be true exists for everyone, but to take advantage of the incredible offer of the removal of God’s condemnation, we must have our life in Jesus Christ.  We must have surrendered to Him.  We must have confessed our sins and sinful nature, repented, and been baptized in Him.  We must have become new creatures, allowing His nature to become our own.

Now, if that describes you, then read the rest of Romans 8.  When you do, the light of God’s grace will stream through the window of your heart and illuminate your very soul.  And if you know you have not surrendered to Christ Jesus, despite what others may think based on your good deeds, read Romans 8 to get a picture of what the true, real, and genuine life in Him looks like.  You will find yourself on your knees, crying out to Him for such a life, and He will rejoice to give it to you.

O Lord, Your grace overwhelms me.  Nothing is as beautiful.  Nothing means more to me.  I love and praise You with all that I am!  May my life reflect to others the light of Your glory and grace.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Who has given His life for me and to me, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Staying True To The Call

October 1 (Luke 12:35-36)

Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.  (ESV)

The class in the room next to the one in which I teach is a French classroom, and the teacher stands in the door each day during the passing periods holding vocabulary cards.  Her students must define one of the words before entering.  She was absent recently, and I was impressed with her students when I saw them taking her spot and doing what she always does.  They were holding the cards for their classmates to define as they came to class. 

I have no way of knowing whether Jesus will return while I am still alive, but if He does, I want Him to find me doing what He has called me to do.  I am glad for my call and want to fulfill it in ways that please Him.  I want Him to take joy that one of His servants has served Him well.

If He were to return tomorrow, where would He find you?  Would He find you using the gifts He has given you, developing them, and putting them to use in work for the kingdom of God?  If Jesus entered any aspect of your life, would He join you in what you were doing because He could recognize the work as His own?

Lord Jesus, I consecrate the work of my life to You.  In great works and in small, in my response to major callings and in my fulfillment of daily activities, may all I do, say, and think be to Your glory.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Jesus The Light

September 16 (John 1:5)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (ESV)

On a sunny day as light streams through the windows, it is impossible to see the light.  It illuminates everything.  You are surrounded by it, and because it is impossible to be apart from it, it is not possible to see it truly.  Now consider the brilliance of a star in space.  It blazes fiercely, defiantly against the darkness, and while the darkness may surround it, it cannot overcome the light, but rather retreats and dissipates as the rays press ever outward.

The oldest Christian hymn outside the Bible is Phos Hilaron.  It dates to just over 200 years after Jesus and opens by calling Him “O joyous light.”  Now think again about the stars in the far-flung galaxies of space.  Call up an image of the unending blackness and the lights that pierce it.  Jesus is the light that created those stars.  He traveled the infinite distance from heaven to become flesh and shine upon earth as no star could ever do.  And that supreme, powerful, creative light is a joyous one.

The word hilaron in the title of that ancient hymn gives us our word “hilarious.”  Yes, Jesus is the hilarious, wonderful, joy-filled light of everything!  Radiance, explosive radiance that literally takes over darkness…that is Jesus.  That is your Savior and God, my friends.

Oh, Jesus, I can hardly express my joy when I think of You, when I truly ponder all that You are.  In the words of another great hymn, “Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart.  Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.  Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 10, 2017

When You Can't Feel God

September 9 (Matthew 27:46)

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (ESV)

I have no faith that my wife loves me, nor that my children do for that matter.  At least I have no faith in their love when I am with them, for they make it abundantly clear in an infinite number of ways.  My faith in their loves kicks in when I am not in their presence, when I cannot see or hear them or feel their tight embraces.  It is rather like the lights on the instrument panel of my car.  When it is dark, those lights come on, but when there is sufficient natural light, they dim and go away.

I could hope that you would feel the love of God all the time, but you won’t.  Jesus Himself did not feel it as He cried out to His Father on the cross, so you can take it to the bank that there will be times when you cannot feel His presence or may even begin to think that He has abandoned you.  This is the time for your faith.  You keep going.  Yes, you keep going in the practices of the Christian faith even when it feels like one gigantic farce.  Yes, you keep praying and keep reading the Bible even when it feels like a waste of time.  Yes, you keep attending worship even you when feel like a fraud and are not even sure you really want to worship a God Who seems not to care about you.  That, my friends, is what it means to live in faith.

Even the challenging cry of “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me,” is a cry of faith, for though it may feel as if it is being hurled into emptiness, it is being heard on the far side of the dark.

Father, hear my prayer.  I am struggling right now, and it is hard to take even one more step.  I don’t even know what to ask of You.  I can only hope that You know my heart and know what is best.  I can only hope that You will direct my steps and bring me back into the light.  I long for Your presence, even as Jesus longed for it as He hung on the cross.  Restore me to life, Father, even as You did Him.  In the name of Jesus, I pray this.  Amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Unite My Heart

September 2 (Psalm 86:11)

unite my heart to fear your name.  (ESV)

We have become a new species.  We are no longer homo sapiens, Latin for “wise human being.”  We have become homo crazyicus distracticus, or “crazy distracted person,” itself a branch of homo modernicus, “modern man.”  In fact, talking about how distracted we are and weighing the benefits and the drawbacks of our tech-dependent, interconnected society, has become a commonplace.  You know it as well as I do.  Your heart and mind are like a glorious, stained glass panel that has been shattered into a million jagged fragments.

I need to pray this one part of Psalm 86:11 over and over again, for I am at my best when my heart is united and focused on God.  I long for those moments when it is.  I truly do.  Yet there are just so many things pulling at my attention, from genuine responsibilities to the blinking lights of distracted temptation.

Friends, many of us have entered a state where it is almost impossible to marshal our thoughts into anything like coherence.  We simply cannot slow down or shut out the noise.  Fortunately, help is just a cry away.  Pray the words of this verse and notice their purpose.  We cry to God to unite the pieces of our distracted hearts not just so we can have a few moments of peace, although that is a pleasant benefit, but to focus more clearly on Him.

Father, unite my heart to fear Your name.  I am struggling to do this on my own.  I want to be with You, to sit in Your presence, and to hear Your voice, but I just cannot shut out the noise of life.  Unite my heart to fear Your name.  I pray this in the name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, amen.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven R. Perkins