TOZER DEVOTIONAL-Chewing on Scripture

A commentary, as everyone knows, is a book written by a commentator, and a commentator is one who comments on what God has said, hoping thereby to make us understand what God meant.

The commentary may be good if we know how to use it, harmful if we do not. Its usefulness lies in this, that it provides background material which the average Christian is not able to gather for himself and thus often proves a real aid in the study of the Bible.

But it is not an unmixed blessing. It has at least three serious weaknesses. One is that it soon becomes known as an “authority.” Let a man be quoted often enough and be dead long enough and he is likely to be canonized by his grateful readers and his writings given oracular standing before the Christian public. The pronouncement of a revered commentator often exercises over the mind of a Protestant a sway as tyrannical as that of a papal bull over the conscience of a Catholic.

Another disadvantage of a commentary is that it tends to destroy the art of meditation. We find it easier to turn to the commentary than to brood long and lovingly over a difficult passage, waiting for the light to break. This habit of taking the quick and painless way to knowledge is particularly bad for the minister, for it often sends him into the pulpit with borrowed armor. Even if what he learned is true, he got it by consultation instead of by meditation and the quality is sure to be impaired.

A third weakness of the commentary, or at least of the commentary habit, is that it makes for a uniformity of belief not only on major theological tenets, which is desirable, but on minor ones, which is not. Let a hundred preachers lean on Matthew Henry or Adam Clarke. Then let each preacher be heard by 500 parishioners each Sunday for a year. Result: you have thousands of Christians accepting as divine truth the religious opinions of two good and wise men, opinions which may in the first place have been nothing more than educated guesses. And yet, in spite of these drawbacks, a commentary is a good and useful tool for any Christian to own

http://www.cmalliance.org/devotions/tozer

Sin . . . exceeding sinful Romans 7:13

Beware of light thoughts of sin. At the time of conversion, the conscience is so tender, that we are afraid of the slightest sin. Young converts have a holy timidity, a godly fear lest they should offend against God. But alas! very soon the fine bloom upon these first ripe fruits is removed by the rough handling of the surrounding world: the sensitive plant of young piety turns into a willow in after life, too pliant, too easily yielding. It is sadly true, that even a Christian may grow by degrees so callous, that the sin which once startled him does not alarm him in the least. By degrees men get familiar with sin. The ear in which the cannon has been booming will not notice slight sounds. At first a little sin startles us; but soon we say, “Is it not a little one?” Then there comes another, larger, and then another, until by degrees we begin to regard sin as but a little ill; and then follows an unholy presumption: “We have not fallen into open sin. True, we tripped a little, but we stood upright in the main. We may have uttered one unholy word, but as for the most of our conversation, it has been consistent.” So we palliate sin; we throw a cloak over it; we call it by dainty names. Christian, beware how thou thinkest lightly of sin. Take heed lest thou fall by little and little. Sin, a little thing? Is it not a poison? Who knows its deadliness? Sin, a little thing? Do not the little foxes spoil the grapes? Doth not the tiny coral insect build a rock which wrecks a navy? Do not little strokes fell lofty oaks? Will not continual droppings wear away stones? Sin, a little thing? It girded the Redeemer’s head with thorns, and pierced His heart! It made Him suffer anguish, bitterness, and woe. Could you weigh the least sin in the scales of eternity, you would fly from it as from a serpent, and abhor the least appearance of evil. Look upon all sin as that which crucified the Saviour, and you will see it to be “exceeding sinful.”

http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/morningandevening/

Don’t Focus on the Negative by Mark D. Roberts

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In the classic stereotype of conservative Christianity, Christians are people who “Don’t drink. Don’t chew. Or go with girls who do.” You might add to this list of don’ts: Don’t swear. Don’t gamble. Don’t dance. Don’t have sex before marriage. Don’t hang out too much with unbelievers. Don’t ask too many questions. Don’t miss church.” If you grew up in a conservative Christian environment, you can probably add to this list.

Ephesians 4:22-24 would agree that there are certain behaviors that you, as a Christian, should not do. You have been taught to “put off your old self” or, more literally, “your old man [anthropos]” (4:22). This old self has to do with “your former way of life,” a life contrary to the teachings, example, and gospel of Jesus Christ. (Whether this means all the traditional “don’ts” of conservative Christianity are right I’ll leave for another day.)

But, as we have seen, the Christian life is not simply a matter of “don’ts.” It also has to do with being renewed in the core of our inner being, an ongoing work of the Spirit that transforms who we are from the inside out. This renewal involves, among other things, adopting a new mind, a new way of thinking about everything.

Following Paul’s metaphorical language, this teaching about the Christian life would leave young believers rather like newborn babies, brand new and stark naked. But Paul isn’t finished. According to Ephesians 4:24, they were also taught “to put on the new self [anthropos], created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:24). No spiritual nudity here.

Yet, many Christians seem to forget this and to minimize the “putting on” aspect of our life in Christ. We can focus so much on the negative that we neglect the positive. Or, we limit the positive to internal renewal, rather than a complete renewal inside and outside. We forget, as Paul explained in a previous passage of Ephesians, that when we receive God’s grace through faith, we become “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (2:10). Doing these good works is an essential element of putting on our new self.

To be sure, there is a time and place for Christian to be clear about the negative, about beliefs and behaviors that are part of the “old man.” Yet, if we put most of our energy into opposing what’s wrong, we’ll have little left for doing and teaching what is right. May God give us the grace to put on our new self, to live each day in imitation of Christ, whether we’re at home or work, whether we’re among friends or enemies, whether were gathered as the church or scattered as the church in the world.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you think about your Christian experience, have you been in settings that emphasize the negative ore than the positive? Why might this have been the case? What would help you to consciously and consistently “put on” your new self in Christ, to do the good works for which God’s has recreated you?

PRAYER: Gracious God, as I consider this passage, I’m reminded of how easily I can focus on the negative. I can readily pay attention to what’s wrong in the world, in my work, in the lives of my colleagues or my family members. I can spend more time thinking about my shortcomings and sins than considering how I might live positively for you. Forgive me, Lord, for the imbalance in my life.

Help me, I pray, to indeed put off the old self. May I turn away from sin as I turn to you. Yet, help me not to focus so much on what’s wrong in me that I neglect to put on the new self, a new way of thinking, doing, and being. O Lord, as you renew me on the inside, may that renewal show forth in new actions, new words, new thoughts, and a new way of living. To you be all the glory. Amen.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/dont-focus-negative

Does Becoming a Christian Mean Rejecting Every Bit of Our Life Before Christ? by Mark D. Roberts

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In yesterday’s reflection, I noted that becoming a Christian isn’t a matter merely of adding a few new behaviors to your otherwise unchanged life. According to Ephesians 4:22, you were taught to “put off your old self.” More literally, you were taught (or should have been taught, at any rate) to take off your “old man” as if you were stripping off an old coat. But does this mean you have to set aside everything about your former way of life? Do you have to do everything differently if you’re going to live as a faithful Christian?

Common sense would say “no,” as would the example of Paul himself. When he began serving Christ, Paul continued to speak Greek, work as a tentmaker, wear ordinary clothing, and so forth. He also rebuked new Christians who thought, for example, that becoming a Christian meant leaving their marriages (see 1 Cor. 7) or ceasing to work because Christ was coming back soon (2 Thess. 3:6-13).

If, then, we are free to continue in some behaviors from our pre-Christian past, how do we know which aspects of life constitute our “former way of life” that we’re supposed to put off? How can we identify the old man that needs to be removed like a ratty old jacket?

The context of Ephesians 4:22 helps us to answer this question (as does the language of the verse itself, which I’ll examine tomorrow). In verse 20, Paul spoke about “learning Christ” (literal translation). In verse 21, the new believers “heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” Thus, the former behavior that we ought to put off, the old man that needs to be stripped off, is that which is inconsistent with Jesus Christ: his teaching, his example, and his death and resurrection, the core of the gospel.

Must we reject everything about our pre-Christian life when receive God’s grace through Christ? No, that’s neither possible nor advisable. Rather, we allow Jesus, our Savior and Lord, to become our teacher. We begin to weigh everything in our lives in light of him. What he reveals to be evil, we cast off. What he eschews, we avoid. Things we tend to do that are inconsistent with the gospel must be stripped off.

Tomorrow, we’ll examine another aspect of the “old man” that is inconsistent with Christ. For now, I’d encourage you to reflect on the following questions.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What aspects of your life in the past, or even today, are inconsistent with the teaching of Jesus? With the example of Jesus? With the gospel of God’s grace through Jesus? Have you stripped off these behaviors? How, by God’s grace, might you do so even more?

PRAYER: Gracious God, help me to understand which aspects of my life should be stripped off. May I see with greater clarity than ever before ways in which my behavior is inconsistent with Christ, his teaching and living. Show me where my way of life contradicts the gospel. By your grace, help me to see my “old man” clearly so that I might get rid of it. To you be all the glory. Amen.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/does-becoming-christian-mean-rejecting-every-bit-our-life-christ#.UvERIRBdWFs

Full Christianity: Doing, Thinking, and Being, Part 6 by Mark D. Roberts

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

So far in our close reading of Ephesians 4:17, we have seen that full Christianity is a matter of doing andthinking. Today, we’ll add being to the list. Christian faith not only shows us how to live and teaches us how to think. It also tells us who we are.

If I were to ask you who you are, how would you answer? You might start with your regional identity (I’m a Texan) or your job (I’m a lawyer). You might tell me your religious affiliation (I’m a Baptist) or ethnic background (I’m Italian). You’d probably mention your role in your family (I’m a wife and a mother) or perhaps the fact that you’re single. If we met far away from home, you’d probably identify yourself by your nationality (Soy de México) or with reference to the major city where you live (I’m a New Yorker.) If you live in Texas, you might very well tell me what football team you root for (“Gig ’em” or “Hook ’em horns”).

Jews in the first century A.D. saw themselves most of all in terms of their ethnic, religious, and national heritage. They were Jews, fundamentally. Their Jewishness made them distinctive from all others. Everyone else was a Gentile, a non-Jew by definition. The categories of Jew and Gentile defined Jewish self-understanding and experience, especially for those Jews who lived outside of Israel.

From this perspective, the recipients of Ephesians were Gentiles, as Paul had identified them in previous chapters (2:11, 3:1). Though there may have been a few Jews among the recipients of this letter, the majority were not Jewish. Thus, we would expect Paul, as a Jewish man, to identify them as Gentiles, and that’s what we find in the opening chapters of Ephesians.

But then we come upon Ephesians 4:17. Here, Paul writes, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do . . . .” Wait a minute. Aren’t the recipients of this letter still Gentiles, though now of a Christian variety? Not exactly. Paul speaks to them as if they were set apart from the Gentiles. Yet, they did not become Jews when they received the good news of God’s grace in Christ. According to the traditional Jew/Gentile schema, they remained Gentiles. However, Paul’s language in verse 17 implies that they are not really Gentiles anymore. It’s as if the formerly Gentile believers have become an altogether new thing, like a third race, different from Jews and Gentiles. (See also 1 Cor. 10:32, 12:2, Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11).

The assumption behind Ephesians 4:17 is that becoming a Christian involves a fundamental change in one’s identity, in one’s way of being in the world. Once you have received God’s grace through Christ, you are not the same person anymore. You are newly created by God through Christ to be someone altogether new. So, though you will still adopt the many labels assigned by your culture, you will still be a Texan or a Baptist or a mother and so on, your fundamental identity will be defined by your relationship with God through Christ. You will be a saint, set apart by God for him and his purposes. You will be a beloved son or daughter of God the Father and therefore a brother or sister in God’s family. You will be a Christian, one whose life is characterized most of all by Jesus Christ, your Savior, Lord, teacher, model, and friend.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: So, prior to reading this reflection, if you were asked who you are, how would you have answered? To what extent does your relationship with God through Christ define who you are? Do you see yourself as a Christian most of all? If so, why? If not, why not? What other identities compete for first place in your sense of self?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for choosing me as your own. Thank you for making me your beloved child, your servant, your co-worker in your redemptive and restorative work. Thank you that I am a Christian, one who has been saved into relationship with you through Christ.

As you know, Lord, there is so much in this world that seeks to define me, to tell me who I am. Help me, I pray, to know myself most of all as you know me. Help me to be the person you have created and re-created me to be. May my identity in you take precedence over all others. Amen.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/full-christianity%E2%80%94doing-thinking-and-being-part-6#.Ut-YgRAo6t8

Finding God at Work and Learning from Mistakes: Best of 2013 Work by Marcus Goodyear

In 1924, Howard Butt, Sr., wrote a letter to his fiancé, Mary Holdsworth. He had not yet achieved great success with his grocery company, but he had grand visions of what a Christ-centered business could be. He wrote,

“We have no right to live to ourselves alone… we cannot evade our duty to God and our fellow man. And it is a mistake, even from a selfish viewpoint, to try to do so, for we make ourselves grow small and our happiness is more limited by so doing.  …any other foundation would not support the edifice we dream of building.  May God give me strength to so live as to always deserve your faith, and may He help me build my character to what you want it to be.”

Here we are, 89 years later, still sharing that same grand vision through Howard Butt, Jr., and David Rogers. We are still looking to God to give us strength and help others integrate their faith and their work as the Butt family has done. They knew then what we have preached for decades through the H. E. Butt Foundation, Laity Lodge, and The High Calling: God cares about our work. Let us not make ourselves small by thinking work is merely a task to be done or a check to be earned.

To help you remember the importance of your own daily work, enjoy the best work articles of 2013 from The High Calling.

The Five Biggest Career Mistakes Christians Make

by J. B. Wood

Too many Christians lose sight of the sacredness of work, the benefits of education, the spiritual value of a career, the impact of our potential influence in the marketplace. Here are five of the most entrenched mistakes that can tangle up your career path. [Read More]

Should Christians Get Paid Less Because Their Work Is “Ministry”?

by Ed Cyzewski

My friend Lisa is an extremely successful graphic designer. A local church asked her to redesign their church’s logo and help them implement it on all of their materials. Because Lisa is a Christian, they did not pay her. After all, wasn’t it ministry? [Read More]

Leave Room for God’s Surprises in Your Career Path

by Stephen Martin

I once made a list of the best things that ever happened in my career, and I was responsible for almost none of them. Conversely, when I’ve tried to force things, they’ve often blown up in my face. [Read More]

Four Things to Do When You Make a Mistake at Work

by David Rupert

On one hot August day while working on the roof with my dad, I didn’t properly secure the ladder. Through a negligent sideswipe of my body, I bumped into the ladder and watched it fall helplessly to the ground. We were stuck. My dad was very quiet. This was bad. [Read More]

Expect the Unexpected: Discovering the Wonder of God in Your Workplace

by Margaret Feinberg

A few months ago, I lost my driver’s license. The replacement required me to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles. DMVs can be some of the most lifeless places, but even there I witnessed the love and compassion of Christ in a particular employee. [Read More]

http://www.thehighcalling.org/work/finding-god-work-and-learning-mistakes-best-2013-work#.UsK3tPRDs8w

“Christ” offends people

A few years ago, a prominent Christian group removed the word Christ from its organization’s name. The organization defended its name change, citing research which revealed that 20 percent of non-Christians were alienated and offended by the name of Christ. So they stated that they were merely looking for a name that would make the organization more effective in sharing the gospel.

It surprised me that only 20 percent of non-Christians are offended by the name of Christ. The apostle Paul warned that to preach “salvation through the cross of Christ” would offend people (Galatians 5:11). The Jews who were expecting a mighty conquering Deliverer stumbled over the suffering Servant. The world laughed at the ludicrous idea that a dead man could save. “So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Even today, the name of Jesus is persistently and progressively being rejected and removed from schools, courts, and all of society.

Like the believers in the early church, Christians will be intimidated, pressured, and warned not to “speak or teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). But we must persist in proclaiming Him for two reasons: First, “there is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (v.12). “To those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Second, “if anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father” (Mark 8:38). —K.T. Sim

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1 Corinthians 1:18-25

So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense (v.23).

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What did Jesus say about the way we should live in a world that’s hostile to Him and His message? (Matthew 5:10-16).

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Why is the name of Christ so offensive to those who don’t believe in Him? How are you lifting up His name to those around you?

http://www.godtube.com/devotionals/our-daily-journey/christ-offends-people.html

Tozer Devotional-Dealing With the Roots of Fretfulness

Dealing With the Roots of Fretfulness

The Holy Spirit in Psalm 37:1 admonishes us to beware of irritation in our religious lives: “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong.”

The word “fret” comes to us from the Anglo-Saxon, and carries with it such a variety of meanings as bring a rather pained smile to our faces. Notice how they expose us and locate us behind our disguises. The primary meaning of the word is to eat, and from there it has been extended with rare honesty to cover most of the manifestations of an irritable disposition. “To eat away; to gnaw; to chafe; to gall; to vex; to worry; to agitate; to wear away”; so says Webster, and all who have felt the exhausting, corrosive effects of fretfulness know how accurately the description fits the facts.

Now, the grace of God in the human heart works to calm the agitation that normally accompanies life in such a world as ours. The Holy Spirit acts as a lubricant to reduce the friction to a minimum and to stop the fretting and chafing in their grosser phases. But for most of us the problem is not as simple as that. Fretfulness may be trimmed down to the ground and its roots remain alive deep within the soul, there growing and extending themselves all unsuspected, sending up their old poisonous shoots under other names and other appearances.

http://www.cmalliance.org/devotions/tozer?id=930

Tozer Devotional-Sin’s Cure

Sin’s Cure

Only God could reconstruct the world and allow for such reversals of fact; but anyone can tinker at it theoretically. Had Hitler, for instance, been a good and gentle man, six million Jews now dead would be living (making allowance for a certain few who would have died in the course of nature); had Stalin been a Christian, several million Russian farmers would be alive who now molder in the earth. And consider the thousands of little children who died of starvation because one man had a revengeful spirit; think of the millions of displaced persons who wander over the earth even today unable to locate mother or father or wife or child because men with hate in their hearts managed to get into places of power; think of the young men of almost every nation, sick with yearning for home and loved ones, who guard the empty wastes and keep watch on frozen hills in the far corners of the earth, all because one ruler is greedy, another ambitious; because one statesman is cowardly and another jealous.

To come down from the bloody plains of world events and look nearer home, how many wives will sob themselves to sleep tonight because of their husband’s savage temper; how many helpless, bewildered, heartbroken children will cower in their dark bedrooms, sick with shock and terror as their parents curse and shout at each other in the next room. Is their quarrel private? Is it their own business when they fight like animals in the security of their home? No, it is the business of the whole human race. Children to the third and fourth generation in many parts of the world will be injured psychologically if not physically because a man and his wife sinned inside of four walls. No sin can be private.

Coming still closer, we Christians should know that our unchristian conduct cannot be kept in our own back yard. The evil birds of sin fly far and influence many to their everlasting loss. The sin committed in the privacy of the home will have its effect in the assembly of the saints. The minister, the deacon, the teacher who yields to temptation in secret becomes a carrier of moral disease whether he knows it or not. The church will be worse because one member sins. The polluted stream flows out and on, growing wider and darker as it affects more and more persons day after day and year after year.

But thanks be to God, there is a cure for the plague. There is a balm in Gilead. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

http://www.cmalliance.org/devotions/tozer?id=934

Tozer Devotional-Spiritual Burdens and Worry Weights

Spiritual Burdens and Worry Weights

It was not to the unregenerate that the words “Do not fret” were spoken, but to God-fearing persons capable of understanding spiritual things. We Christians need to watch and pray lest we fall into this temptation and spoil our Christian testimony by an irritable spirit under the stress and strain of life.

It requires great care and a true knowledge of ourselves to distinguish a spiritual burden from religious irritation. We cannot close our minds to everything that is happening around us. We dare not rest at ease in Zion when the church is so desperately in need of spiritually sensitive men and women who can see her faults and try to call her back to the path of righteousness. The prophets and apostles of Bible times carried in their hearts such crushing burdens for God’s wayward people that they could say, “My tears have been my food day and night” (Psalm 42:3), and “Oh that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people” (Jeremiah 9:1). These men were heavy with a true burden. What they felt was not vexation but acute concern for the honor of God and the souls of men.

By nature some persons fret easily. They have difficulty separating their personal antipathies from the burden of the Spirit. When they are grieved they can hardly say whether it is a pure and charitable thing or merely irritation set up by other Christians having opinions different from their own.

http://www.cmalliance.org/devotions/tozer?id=931