David Guzik’s weekly devotional, based on a verse or two from the Bible.

Time to Wake Up

Time to Wake Up

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)

Accident investigators say the car was airborne for about 150 feet (30 meters) before it crashed through the roof of Joanne and Mahlon Donovan’s house in Derry, New Hampshire. It was about 3:00 in the morning, and a 20-year-old woman who was later arrested for drunk driving drove the car. Her car came crashing through the ceiling and dropped right over the Donovan’s bed. “The thing was right in front of my face,” Mr. Donovan, 65, said. “I could feel the heat from the exhaust system coming right through the sheets.”

Time to Wake Up

Scary enough. Yet even more frightening was that, according to the Associated Press story, the wife of the home didn’t wake up. Joanne Donovan slept right through it. Mr. Donovan had to shake her awake after the crash.

It’s amazing what we can sleep through. God can do an awe-inspiring work among many, but others can sleep right through it, spiritually speaking. In Romans 13:11, we find out what it takes to keep us awake, or to awaken us from our spiritual slumber.

First, Paul wrote about knowing the time. Often, when we oversleep it is because we didn’t know the time. We wake up late, and in a panic look for the time, and get a sick feeling – “I’m late! I overslept!” Spiritually speaking, if we know the time we won’t sleep when we shouldn’t. And when we look around at the world today with open eyes and an open Bible, we see that the time is short. If we really believe Jesus is coming soon, if we know the time – then we will wake up.

Second, Paul wrote about what would happen at the right time: now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The coming of Jesus, and the completion of our salvation, is closer than ever. Every day since God worked in your life and you first decided to follow Jesus, the time has become closer and closer, and the finishing of your salvation comes nearer and nearer. When we remember how wonderful it will be to have our salvation finished – no more sin, no more death, no more of the weakness of this flesh – that will keep us awake.

Right now, are you taking a spiritual nap? Perhaps there is some spiritual activity in your life, but you might as well be sleepwalking through it. So, the right prayer for you today is, “Lord, wake me up. Help me to know it is time to awaken. Get me excited about the completion of my salvation.” God loves to answer that kind of prayer.

Even if you are sleeping so soundly that if a car crashed through the roof of your house, you wouldn’t know it, God can still make you awake and keep you awake for His glory.

Don't Conform, Transform

Don’t Conform, Transform

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

Romans 1 through 11 is heavy on right thinking, on good theology. Starting with chapter 12, the Apostle Paul focused more on living out the truth already presented. Because of what God has done in the believer, they should not be conformed to this world. This warns us that the popular culture and thinking in rebellion against God will try to conform us to its ungodly pattern, and we must resist that process.

Don't Conform, Transform

The opposite of being conformed to this world is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The battleground between conforming to the world and being transformed is in the mind of the believer. Christians must think differently. “I don’t want to be conformed to this world. I want to be transformed. How do I do it?” By the renewing of your mind. The problem with many Christians is they live based on feelings, or they are only concerned about doing.

The life based on feeling says, “How do I feel today? How do I feel about my job? How do I feel about my marriage? How do I feel about worship? How do I feel about the preacher?” This life by feeling will never know the transforming power of God because it ignores the renewing of the mind.

The life based on doing says, “Don’t give me your theology. Just tell me what to do. Give me the four points for this and the seven keys for that.” This life of doing will never know the transforming power of God, because it ignores the renewing of the mind.

God is never against the principles of feeling and doing. He is a God of powerful and passionate feeling, and He commands us to be doers. Yet feelings and doing are completely insufficient foundations for the Christian life. The first questions cannot be “How do I feel?” or “What do I do?” Rather, they must be “What is true here? What does God’s word say?” This is how minds are renewed and lives are transformed.

As we are transformed on the inside, the proof is evident on the outside, as others can see what the good and acceptable and perfect will of God is through our life.

Here is how to live out the will of God:

– Keep in mind the rich mercy of God to you – past, present, and future.
– As an act of intelligent worship, decide to yield your entire self to Him.
– Resist conformity to the thoughts and actions of this world.
– As you focus on God’s truth and follow Jesus, God will transform your life.
– Your life will prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Don’t conform – transform by the power of God’s Spirit and His truth.

Of Him, Through Him, and To Him

Of Him, Through Him, and To Him

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?
Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

This is Paul’s triumphant conclusion to the consideration of Israel in the place of God’s eternal plan. As Paul thought about God’s great plan of the ages, he broke into praise. Paul realized that God’s ways are past finding out, and God’s wisdom and knowledge are beyond us.

Of Him, Through Him, and To Him

Only God has this depth of the riches. The wisdom and knowledge of God are beyond us, and we should always speak humbly of our knowledge of His counsels and decrees. The quotations from Isaiah 40:13 and Job 41:11 emphasize God’s wisdom and sovereign conduct; no one can put God in debt to them. You can try all you want – but you can’t out–give God. He will never need to repay a debt to anyone.

Though we can’t go to the depth of God’s wisdom and knowledge, we rest in knowing that He has all things under His care. It is stated with such simple words, we can miss the power of the truth that of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.

God’s great plan is all of Him. This plan came from God. It wasn’t man’s idea. We didn’t say, “I’ve offended God and must find a way back to Him. Let’s work on a plan to come back to God.” In our spiritual apathy and death, we didn’t care about a plan, and even if we did care we aren’t smart enough or wise enough to make one. It is all of Him.

God’s great plan is all through Him. Even if we had the plan, we couldn’t make it happen. We couldn’t free ourselves from our own prison of sin and self. It could only happen through Him. The great work of Jesus on our behalf is the through Him that brings salvation.

God’s great plan is all to Him. Ultimately, it’s not for me, it’s not for you, it’s all to Him. It is all to the praise of the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:6). It’s for His pleasure that we are created, and we find our fulfillment in bringing Him glory and honor.

At the end of it all, we can only say this of God: To whom be glory forever. The fact that we can’t figure out God makes us glorify Him even more. When we understand some of the greatness of God, we worship Him even more passionately.

If you’re caught in the quicksand of a self-centered life, joyfully receive the liberating truth: all things are of Him, through Him, and to Him.

Where Faith Comes From

Where Faith Comes From

So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

We often want to think faith or unbelief has to do with the circumstances or environment we find ourselves in. When faith is weak or unbelief is strong, it is easy to think, “Of course I’m having a hard time trusting God. Look at the mess I’m in.” Yet the link between our situation and our trust in God isn’t what we might think.

Where Faith Comes From

We find an example of this from the Book of Numbers. In Numbers 13, Moses sent twelve spies into the promised land. They each saw the same things as they surveyed the land, and all twelve spies came back to report to Moses and the nation of Israel. Ten of the twelve spies said the land was indeed good, just as God had said – yet they said that the enemies of the land were too strong and taking the land would be a suicide mission.

Among those twelve spies, two objected. They presented the minority report. They also agreed the land was good, just as God promised, but they believed God would work through them to conquer even the strongest enemies in the land of Canaan. Those two faithful spies knew if God’s word was right about the land – the LORD said the land was good and it was – then God’s word would also be proven right about the promise to give them the land despite the strong enemies. Seeing God’s word fulfilled gave them the faith to believe God’s promise for the future.

The ten unfaithful spies and the two faithful spies saw the same things – they saw the same grapes, the same men, the same land, and the same cities. Yet two of the spies came back singing in faith, and the other ten were filled with a sense of certain doom. It wasn’t their experiences that made the difference – all twelve spies had the same experiences. It was something more profound than what they had experienced.

Ultimately, faith does not come from circumstances or environment, but from our heart – specifically, from the work of God’s word in our heart. We often want to blame our unbelief on the difficult times in life, but faith or unbelief are not connected to our circumstances.

A story illustrates this principle. There were two sons who had a terrible, alcoholic father, but the sons were different from each other as adults. One was a responsible, godly man, successful in family, business, and life. The other became an abusive alcoholic just as his father was. When asked why they turned out the way they did, each had the same answer: “With a father like mine, how could I have turned out any differently?”

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

Today, bring yourself to God and His word, with their faith-building power, and don’t wait for an environment or circumstance to build faith in you.

Loved and Hated

Loved and Hated

As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Romans 9:13)

The Apostle Paul wanted to explain why it might seem that God had forsaken Israel. In this part of Romans 9, he showed that it was all according to God’s careful plan. The seeming rejection by the Jewish people of their Messiah, Jesus Christ, didn’t surprise God. His wise plan was working out through history.

Loved and Hated

In the past, this plan hasn’t always been easy to understand from a human perspective. It isn’t immediately clear why God chose Jacob to be the heir of God’s covenant of salvation instead of Esau. God chose Jacob over his older brother Esau before the twins were born, and it wasn’t because God knew their works in advance. In Romans 9:11 Paul explains that it was not of works. Instead, the reason for choosing was found in God who calls and plans. It was God who decided that the older brother Esau should serve the younger brother Jacob.

In the days of Malachi the prophet, God repeated His choice, saying Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated (Malachi 1:2–3). That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? It’s a hard thing to have God against you, much less to have God hate you.

Strangely, it seems that Esau was a blessed man. He had a blessing from his father Isaac (Genesis 27:39–40). He eventually had a blessed family and all the material blessings he could desire (Genesis 33:4–9). He fathered a nation and many descendants (Genesis 36). In whatever way God hated Esau, it wasn’t a curse that cast a shadow over his entire life.

The thought in Malachi 1 and Romans 9 is much more like “accepted” and “rejected” more than our normal understanding of the terms “loved” and “hated.” God did not hate Esau in the sense of cursing him to a doomed life in either this world or the next. Yet regarding the inheritance of the covenant, it could be rightly said that God hated Esau and loved Jacob. One become the heir of the covenant of Abraham, one would not.

Our greatest error in considering the choices of God is to think God chooses for arbitrary reasons, as if His choices were random and senseless. God chooses according to His divine wisdom, love, and goodness. We may not be able to understand God’s reasons for choosing, and they are reasons He alone knows and answers to, but God’s choices are not random or impulsive.

God has an unfolding plan of the ages, and He guides all things towards the glorious fulfillment of that plan. He chooses who and what He wills according to His genius and wisdom. Though God may choose one and reject another for a specific role in His plan, all are invited to receive what God freely gives in Jesus Christ. You can rest in the wisdom and love of God today.

No Condemnation

No Condemnation

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)

This declaration is both great and simple. It is great because of its staggering implications; it is simple because it is so straightforward and easy to understand. There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Since God the Father does not condemn Jesus, neither can the Father condemn those who are in Christ Jesus. They are not condemned, they will not be condemned, and they cannot be condemned.

No Condemnation

The use of therefore is important. It means this comes from a logical argument. It’s as if Paul begins, “I can prove what I say here.” This is what he proves: if we are one with Jesus and He is our head, we can’t be condemned. You can’t acquit the head and condemn the hand. You can’t drown the foot if the head is out of water. Joined to Him, we hear the verdict: no condemnation.

Please notice that the verdict is not “less condemnation.” That’s where many believe they are – thinking our standing has improved in Jesus. It has not been improved, it’s been completely transformed, changed to a status of no condemnation.

We need to consider the corollary: If you are not in Jesus Christ, there is condemnation for you. It’s not easy or pleasant to speak of, but it is necessary. If you are not in Christ Jesus, you have not escaped condemnation.

This place of confidence and peace comes after the confusion and conflict that marked Romans 7. But this chapter is more than just the answer to Romans 7; it ties together thoughts from the very beginning of the letter. Romans 8 begins with no condemnation; it ends with no separation, and in between there is no defeat.

It must be said that the words, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit are not found in the earliest ancient manuscripts of Romans and they do not agree with the flow of Paul’s context. They were probably added by a copyist who either made a mistake or thought he could “help” Paul by adding these words from Romans 8:4. While it is true that those who are in Christ should not and do not consistentlywalk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, this is not a condition for their status of no condemnation. Our position in Jesus Christ is the reason for the standing of no condemnation.

We receive this glorious declaration from God’s throne. We receive it though we certainly deserve condemnation. We receive this standing because Jesus bore the condemnation we deserved, and our identity is now in Him. As He is condemned no more, neither are we.

It’s a great way to begin every year, every month, every week, every day: “I am in Christ, there is no condemnation in Him.” Believe and receive it today.

Why Jesus Came

Why Jesus Came

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In the gospel of John, there are five dramatic places where Jesus told us why He came, each beginning with the words, “I have come.” So, why did Jesus come?

JESUS CAME TO BE A SERVANT: For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 6:38)
Jesus came down from heaven, down from His place of complete majesty and glory and refusing to enjoy its splendors for a time. Jesus came as a submitted servant to do the will of God the Father.

Why Jesus Came

JESUS CAME TO DIVIDE MEN: For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind. (John 9:39)
Jesus is the great divide of humanity; we either accept Him or reject Him. Our choice does not determine who Jesus is; it determines who we are. What we think about Jesus says more about us than it does Him.

JESUS CAME TO GIVE LIFE: I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
In Bible terms, eternal life isn’t just long life, it is a quality of life we enjoy right now in Jesus Christ. For the Christian, eternal life doesn’t begin when we die but as soon as we receive it as a gift from our rescuing God. Jesus came to give us this life.

JESUS CAME AS A LIGHT: I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. (John 12:46)
We sing this idea in the song, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”: “Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light.” It wasn’t only the streets of Bethlehem that were dark, but the whole world was in spiritual darkness until Jesus came. He brings light, not only to the world, but to every life who will receive Him.

JESUS CAME TO BRING THE TRUTH: For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. (John 18:37)
Jesus came to earth for a purpose greater than making people feel good. He came to bear witness to the truth. With the eye of your heart, look at the Babe in the manger, and consider why He came. Is He not greater than you and greater than us all? If He is, the fact of His coming matters more than any good feeling we might have or do not have. His person and His truth give us something greater to live for – something greater to give Him.

O holy Child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

The Sinfulness of Sin

The Sinfulness of Sin

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But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. (Romans 7:8)

Romans 7 powerfully shows the weakness of God’s law when it comes to solving our sin problem. In fact, sin within us has a way of taking opportunity by the commandments. Paul described the way in which the warning “Don’t do that!” may become a call to action because of our sinful, rebellious hearts. It isn’t the fault of the commandment, it’s our fault.

The Sinfulness of Sin

In his book Confessions, the great theologian of the ancient church Augustine described how this worked in his life as a young man. I’ll paraphrase a bit from his well-known book: “There was a pear tree near our vineyard, heavy with fruit. One stormy night we naughty youths planned to steal the pears. We took off a huge load of them – not to eat them, but to throw them to the pigs, but we ate just enough to have the pleasure of forbidden fruit. They were nice pears, but it wasn’t the pears that my miserable soul craved, for I had plenty better at home. I picked those pears just to steal them. The only feast I got was a feast of iniquity, and I fully enjoyed it. What was it that I loved about stealing? Was it the pleasure of acting against the law? The desire to steal was awakened simply by the prohibition of stealing.”

What Augustine wrote about the pears rings true. Once God draws a boundary for us, we are immediately tempted to cross that boundary – which is no fault of God or His boundary, but the fault of our sinful hearts.

So, sin within us can take opportunity by the commandment. The weakness of the law isn’t in the law – it is in us. Our hearts are so wicked that they can find opportunity for all manner of evil desire even from something good like the law of God.

There was a beach hotel in Florida worried that people would fish from the balconies. They put up signs, “NO FISHING FROM THE BALCONY.” After that, they had constant problems with people fishing from the balconies, with lines and sinker weights breaking windows and bothering other guests. They finally solved the problem by simply taking down the signs – and no one thought to fish from the balconies.

Because of our fallen nature, the law can end up working like an invitation to sin. This shows how great the evil of sin is – it can take something good and holy like God’s law and twist it to promote evil. Sin warps love into lust, an honest desire to provide for one’s family into greed, and the law into something that ends up prompting sin.

As Paul so beautiful shows in Romans, this is why we need Jesus. God’s law is good and has its purpose. But only Jesus can solve our sin problem. Look to Him today.

United with Christ

United with Christ

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For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Romans 6:5–6)

It is a simple and powerful declaration: by faith in the person and work of Jesus, we have been united together with Him. This close union is both in His death and in His resurrection. God has both experiences for us. Some are eager to be united together in the glory of resurrection but are unwilling to be united together in His death.

At the same time, some Christians are focused solely on the “crucified life,” failing to see that it is a part (and an essential part) of a bigger picture: preparation for resurrection life.

United with Christ

Another part of “united with Christ” life is that our old man was crucified with Him. For the believer, the death of the old man is an established fact. It happened spiritually when we were identified with Jesus’ death at our salvation. The old man is the self that is patterned after Adam, deeply ingrained in rebellion against God and His commands. The system of law is unable to deal with the old man, because it can only tell the old man what the righteous standard of God is. The law tries to reform the old man, to get him to “turn over a new leaf.” But the system of grace understands that the old man can never be reformed. He must be put to death, and for the believer the old man dies with Jesus on the cross.

In place of the old man, God gives the believer a new man – a self that is instinctively obedient and pleasing to God; this aspect of our person is that which was raised with Christ in His resurrection, patterned after Jesus (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).

God uses our death to the old man, the sin nature, to liberate us from sin. Strictly speaking, we don’t battle the old man. We simply reckon him as dead. We still must deal with the flesh, which is distinct from the old man but has learned much from our nature inherited from Adam. But we deal with the flesh as free men and women in Jesus Christ.

Our slavery to sin can only be broken by death. In the 1960 film Spartacus, Kirk Douglas played the escaped slave Spartacus, who led a brief but widespread slave rebellion in ancient Rome. At one point in the movie Spartacus says: “Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he is not afraid of it.”

We are set free from sin because the old man has died with Jesus on the cross. Now a new man, a free man, lives. Today, live united with Jesus Christ, reckon the old man dead, and yourself a new man or woman in Jesus.

Adam's Fall and Our Fall

Adam’s Fall and Our Fall

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Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)

Among many today, a literal belief in Adam and Eve is unfashionable. Yet, if we are to agree with the Apostle Paul, we should believe in a literal Adam (Romans 5:14). More importantly, if we are to agree with Jesus, we should believe in a literal Adam (Matthew 19:4-6).

Adam's Fall and Our Fall

If we believe what the Bible tells us about Adam, we see that he was created innocent of all sin. When God said that all things were good, He said it after creating Adam. But Adam didn’t stay innocent. When he rebelled against God’s command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he disobeyed in the one thing God told him not to do. Every day, we are tempted with a wide assortment of sin; but Adam could only sin in one way – and he found it.

When we feel guilty because of sin, we often resolve to never do that sin again. The idea is, “I’ve don’t something bad, but I can make a new start of things and do better.” Can you imagine that Adam and Eve felt the same thing? They probably said to each other, “We’ve done something terrible. But we never have to do it again. Let’s make a clean start from this point on and never disobey God again.” Obviously, if they ever made such a promise, they failed. So do we.

Unfortunately, man’s history from the time of Adam’s sin is a downhill slope. Things have gone from bad to worse. We find ways to advance in technology and cultural sophistication, but all that progress seems to make better and more sophisticated ways to sin. Adam and Eve must have been stunned to find not only had they sinned once but also now they were in the grip of sin. Since we are all born sons of Adam or daughters of Eve, we are caught in the same grip.

Humanity has accomplished many great things. We’ve put men on the moon, and we’ve destroyed whole cities with nuclear weapons. No matter what we accomplish or how much progress we make, we just can’t stop sinning. When Adam and Eve fell, they unleashed the second most powerful force that is ever-present in the universe: the sin and rebellion of man.

The only thing more powerful than the sin of man is the love of God. Romans 5:20 tells us, where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. We can’t stop sinning, but we can’t out-sin the grace of God. No one is rejected before God because they are too great a sinner; they will be rejected because they have not trusted in the person and work of Jesus and received His grace – God’s provision for sinners like Adam and like us.

Are you believing Jesus now? Have you thanked Him for His grace today?