Quenching the Fire of Revenge

Daily Devotional: Day 114

“But He [Jesus] turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them . . .” (Luke 9:55-56, NKJV).

 One day, Jesus had to pass through a Samaritan village on His way to Jerusalem. But when the people realized that He was headed toward Jerusalem, the people wouldn’t receive Him. This upset two Jesus’ disciples, James and John. So, they asked Jesus if He wanted them command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did (see the Scripture for further study below). Recall that at the time of Jesus, the Jews despised the Samaritans and would have no associations with them. Likewise, the Samaritans wouldn’t associate with Jews (cf. John 4:4-9). Jesus was not pleased with His disciples’ request. His response to James and John is what we see in today’s Scripture.

The Bible says that Jesus rebuked James and John and wasted no time in reminding them of His mission in the world. Jesus reminded James and John of two things. First, He told them that they didn’t know what manner of spirit were of. What ‘spirit’ was Jesus referring to? The answer is in the next verse. Jesus said that He had not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. Notice the contrast between what the disciples wanted and what Jesus wanted. In this incident, we realize that James and John were not on the same page as their Master. They wanted to destroy the Samaritans who refused to welcome Jesus. But Jesus’ desire was to save, not destroy.

From today’s story we learn the importance of having the same mind as the Savior. Jesus’s mind is to save. And He wants us to have the same mind. The ‘spirit’ we are of is not a spirit of destruction, but a spirit of mercy, compassion and salvation. When we meet people or minister to them, at times impatience and bias can get in the way, and this attitude can make us deviate from the ministry of mercy and compassion Jesus has entrusted to us. God has blessed us with the power of His Holy Spirit. This power is not for cursing or commanding fire to consume our enemies. Let’s have the same mind as the Savior and focus on saving, not destroying.

Pray to the Father about what you’ve heard today.

For further study:  2 Kings 1:1-15

A Priest Who Understands You

Daily Devotional: Day 79

“Therefore, He [Jesus] had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18, NASB).

The Bible says that to become our Savior and High Priest, Jesus had to become like us in all things, not just in some things. The only exception is that Jesus didn’t sin. This means Jesus knows what it means to suffer; He knows what it means to feel hungry and thirsty; He knows what it means to lose a loved one; He knows what it means to be happy and accepted. But He also knows what it means to be rejected and despised; He knows what it means to be betrayed by a close friend; He knows what it means to forgive someone who doesn’t “deserve” forgiveness.

Jesus knows what it means to belong to a family; He knows what it means to love and be loved. But He also knows what it means to be discriminated against based on one’s ethnicity, religion and social status; He knows what it means to be homeless; He knows what it means to be persecuted for one’s beliefs; He even knows what it means to be a refugee in a foreign country.

Wait, there’s more. Jesus knows what it means to be denied justice and a fair trial; He knows what it means to have your friends abandon you in your time of need; He knows what it means to be taunted and tortured. He knows what it means to be tempted to sin; He knows what it means to laugh or cry.

And finally, He knows what it means to die. So, believe Him when He says He is fully representing you as your Priest and Intercessor in heaven. Whatever temptation or hardship you’re going through, Jesus gets it and He has your back. He didn’t promise life will be easy, but He promised to be with you. Today, encourage yourself in Jesus, knowing that He understands you fully and will never abandon you.

Prayer:

Daddy, thank you for Jesus! He is my faithful and merciful High Priest, and I know He’ll never abandon me. I’m anchored in His love forever. In the Name of Jesus. Amen. 

For further study: Luke 7:11-17

Come as You Are, But Don’t Stay as You Are

Daily Devotional: Day 73

When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:12-13, NKJV).

After Jesus called Matthew to follow Him, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus at table. The Pharisees noticed it, and they weren’t pleased. Consequently, they complained to Jesus’ disciples saying, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard the complaint and defended his actions by pointing the Pharisees to the Scripture in Hosea 6:6, where God says He desires mercy and not sacrifice. Let’s briefly examine Jesus’ response to find out what this Scripture passage means for us today.

The Pharisees criticized Jesus, because they didn’t understand His mission. They only saw the “bad optics,” so to speak, of Him hanging out with sinful people. They saw only the surface and didn’t realize that Jesus was, and is, the Heavenly Physician who heals the sin problem that ruins sinners. Jesus needed to welcome the sick so He could heal them. He needed to welcome sinners so he could set them free from the bondage of sin and offer them the freedom of righteousness.

Jesus saw beyond the surface. He saw broken people who needed healing and restoration; he saw sinners who could be transformed into saints for God’s glory. And only by welcoming them could He save them. But notice that after welcoming them, Jesus saved them from their sinful conditions by calling them to repentance.

In our world today, masses of people, especially the youth, are confused by current trends in the media and the educational system. The Church can’t afford to add to the confusion. If the Church doesn’t wake up and name things for what they are; if we treat sin lightly in the name of the often-misguided notion of inclusiveness and a vague understanding of love, many souls will be lost and their blood will be on our hands. True, Jesus loved and welcomed sinners. We should do likewise. Yet, we also know that Jesus didn’t shy away from naming sin and calling sinners to repentance. So, why should we be different?

Jesus welcomed sinners, but He didn’t allow sinners to set the agenda or the tone for His ministry. He was loving, caring, compassionate, merciful, forgiving, direct, blunt and unapologetic, all at the same time. Lesson for the Church today is: Welcome sinners, but don’t let them dictate what you can preach and what you can’t preach. Welcome sinners, but don’t fall into the trap of political correctness.

Our modern society is corrupting morals and encouraging – even celebrating – immorality. If the trend continues, we won’t need an expert to tell us what will happen in the near future. We the Church, have a divine mandate to rescue the perishing. Our weapon is love plus truth. It’s unwise and utterly irresponsible to ask sinners to come as they are and neglect to call them to repentance. The only hope for sinners is love and truth; not love divorced from truth. Love is meaningless if it is not accompanied by truth. And truth is powerless if it is not accompanied by love. We have a golden opportunity to bless this generation with the power of Christ’s love and the power of His truth. 

Prayer:

Dear Father, your will is for all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Empower your Church to minister love, truth and repentance to this world. And as we do that, bless our efforts with a harvest of repentance and salvation. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Titus 2:11-15

Shocked By His Mercy

Daily Devotional: Day 52

“And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil” (Jonah 4:2, KJV).

From time immemorial people have tried to put God in a box. Even today, people don’t seem to get it. Some have got their own notions of God, based on their own expectation of who God is supposed to look like and how he’s supposed to act in a given situation. The truth is, God is sovereign. He’s not under our control, and he doesn’t respond to our stereotypes. In today’s Scripture passage, Jonah, a prophet of God, was shocked and became depressed because God showed mercy to the people of Nineveh. In Jonah’s mind, the people of Nineveh deserved to be punished for their sins. He was, therefore, disappointed and upset when God forgave the people after they repented of their wickedness. 

In chapters 3-4 of the Book of Jonah, we learn that God sent the prophet to go warn the people of Nineveh about their evil behavior. Jonah was hoping they wouldn’t repent, so that God would punish them. But, to his disappointment, the people repented and God didn’t punish them. Today’s passage (Jonah 4:20) tells us about Jonah’s response to God’s decision to spare the Ninevites.  Basically, he says, “I knew it! I saw this coming! This is why I didn’t want to go to Nineveh. You always forgive those who repent, even horrible people. How disappointing!” Like Jonah, we’ve all got our own incorrect expectations of how God is supposed to deal with people. We look at certain individuals or groups of people and we hope they go to hell. Fortunately, God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts. Of course, God hates evil, and if sinners remain unrepentant, he’ll send them to the lake of fire (See Revelation 20:11-15). But the truth is, God takes no pleasure in the death of sinners (See Ezekiel 18:1-32). He, therefore, gives sinners enough opportunity to repent and be saved. The time has come for us all to pray that evil people repent and be saved. If these are people close to us, we’ll do well to reach out to them with the truth of the Gospel and hope they listen to us. If they don’t listen, at least we’ve done our duty.

Prayer:

Dear Father, you’ve shown me mercy. I know that you want all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Make my heart like yours. And fill me with the desire to see people repent and get saved by your grace. Touch all who walk in darkness, and draw them to your light. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Ezekiel 33:1-19

Bet on God

Daily Devotional: Day 26

And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man” (1 Chronicles 21:13, KJV).

One day, possibly out of presumption, King David ordered that the Israelites be numbered. This move, the Bible says, was provoked by Satan. God responded in anger and determined to punish the King. David, therefore, had to choose from one of three punishment options. Option A: Three years of famine. Option B: Three months destruction by David’s enemies. Option C: Three days of pestilence over the land. Classic case of “Pick your poison.” Which of these options would you choose if you were in David’s shoes? Today’s Bible verse tells us that David chose option C. What is significant isn’t David’s choice per se, because each of the options came with a heavy price. The highlight of David’s choice is his reason for choosing option C. Given the choice between falling into the hands of man versus falling into the hands of God, David chose the latter. Essentially, David said that he would rather suffer at the hands of God than suffer at the hands of men. And his reason was that very great are the Lord’s mercies. In other words, in David’s opinion, God – even in his anger – is exceedingly more merciful than any man. David was right about God. In the middle of the pestilence, the Bible says that God repented and terminated the punishment. This incident has valuable lessons for our relationship with the Father.

Your opinion of God is very important. Don’t take it lightly. Who you think God is, has consequences for your life. No matter how bad your situation is, be sure to bet on God’s great mercies. Man will only take you so far. Even your most trusted friends can abandon you when you’re down. God is delighted when you think good thoughts about him. He loves it when you think of him as very great in mercies. At a difficult time in his life, David magnified the mercies of the Lord over his failures. Would you bet your life on the mercies of your Father? Make it a habit to speak, imagine and expect that the mercies of your Father shall prevail over every misfortune in your life. 

Confess:

 Morning by morning, my Father’s mercies are new upon me. It’s my privilege to sing of his faithfulness now and for all eternity. No matter what happens, there’s one thing I know: my Father’s goodness and mercies shall follow me all the days of my life. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Psalm 118:1-29

In his mercies,

Pastor Steve