Good Morning Devo for 8.31.2021: Christians are Called to Fight… in the Right Way

August 31 (JPG)

Good morning! Prior to my arrival at my current church, I pastored for eight years at a church in Lexington, Kentucky. I look back on those times and those people with great fondness. One of the members (I’ll call her Linda, for that is her name) had a love for the Lord that just energized her. Every Sunday morning, when I would see her, she told me, “Bro. Matt, I’ve put your armor on.” In other words, she prayed for me and went through all the pieces of the armor of God for me. Why? Because she knew that preaching the Word and the Christian life in general engages in spiritual warfare.

In other words, it’s a fight!

As the verse for the day shows us, the lines of battle are not against the things of this world ultimately. No, the battle is in the heavenlies. As a result, the verse prior, we are called to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). That’s right–Satan works to execute his plan against God’s people and all of God’s creation. This armor helps us to stand firm and understand Satan’s schemes.

The armor contains six pieces, each with a different function:

  • Belt of truth: Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) so we need to put the hem of our garment in our belt so we are walking in truth and not tripping on falsehood.
  • Breastplate of righteousness: The breastplate protects the vital organs in battle. For the Christian, this protects him from the accusations that Satan hurls his way and secures the heart.
  • Shoes for your feet: These shoes ready one for the obstacles that Satan puts in the Christian’s path as they advance into Satan’s territory.
  • Shield of faith: The shield extinguishes the darts of doubt and fear that Satan hurls the Christian’s way.
  • Helmet of salvation: God protects the mind of the believer from the false doctrines that harm the Christian.
  • Sword of the Spirit: This sword is the Word of God, the Christian’s only offensive weapon whose power leads Christians to holiness and ensures Satan’s inability to overcome.

Don’t forget prayer:

… praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:18-20).

We are called to fight! Let’s engage in the warfare rightly, with Christ as our champion!


Good Morning Devo for 8.30.2021: We Never Move Beyond the Word of God

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Good morning! We need to know this–that God’s word will not return empty! I as a preacher need to remember that, regardless of how folks seem to receive the Word (whether outwardly praising or inwardly processing) that the Word is at work. As Christians, we need to be in the Word so the Word will work. You need to come to church with some form of Scriptures in your hand reading and hearing.

We never move beyond the Word of God. Every organization, every home, every school, every church has a culture that operates by certain convictions which have developed over the years. Some of those convictions come from a particular authority or vision and others materialize over the span of time. As generations move forward, those traditions are passed from one generation to another. Those traditions can on the one hand be used to provide stability and security and can be very helpful if grounded in God’s Word. On the other hand, if traditions are developed by those who are proud and anxious, traditions can be used as leverage for control and, as far as church is concerned, work to develop what many believe “church” should be.

Tom Nichols wrote a book called “The Death of Expertise.” He writes,

The United States is now a country obsessed with the worship of its own ignorance. It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography; they don’t, but that’s an old problem. . . . No, the bigger problem is that we’re proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything.

Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters (1st ed.). (London: Oxford University Press, 2018).

Paul wrote to the Colossian church that in Christ “are all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). The Word equips us in Christ to live for Christ among His people in His world. We know that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and that His Word has the same qualities and capacity.

Again, we never move beyond the Word of God! May the Word of God move in us!

Sunday Sermon: “In an Unworthy Manner: Approaching the Table Rightly”

This morning, we observe the Lord’s Supper. We do so as Jesus commanded us, giving this to us as an ordinance of the church (meaning, this, along with baptism, He ordained for us to continue to observe and practice until His return). Therefore, this observance, this ordinance must receive our full attention as part of the ebb and flow of our worship as a body of Christ. So much so that Don Whitney even asked his readers in one of his books, “Would you ever change your schedule and your priorities to be present at a worship service because the Lord’s Supper is to be served there?” It’s of such great importance, that this is referred to in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 1 Corinthians and alluded to in John. 

Gregg Allison reminds us, “Baptism is the initiatory rite of the Christian faith; the Lord’s Supper is the continuing rite.”  From earliest times in the church, baptism is a part of this experience of the Lord’s Supper.  Baptism is the very basic and very first step of obedience—ordained by Christ himself.  And from earliest times, if this basic, primary, and obvious step of obedience are not observed, one was not permitted to partake of the Supper.  An area of our Christian walk needed to be addressed! In fact, if you are a follower of Christ and have not followed in believer’s baptism, follow in Christ’s steps and in His service and be baptized. 

Every two months, along with Good Friday and the Sunday before Christmas, we observe and celebrate what many call the Lord’s Supper, Communion (with God and with each other), or the Eucharist (which is a Greek transliteration meaning, “giving of thanks”).  

But the fact is, there is no timetable—only that it be observed.  Why?   The symbols of the bread and wine stand as a memorial to what Christ has accomplished to redeem his people.  They are signs of the real thing.    

I love what J. C. Ryle says on the subject:

I make no excuse for including the Lord’s Supper among the leading points of “practical” Christianity. I firmly believe that ignorant views or false doctrine about this ordinance lie at the root of some of the present divisions of professing Christians. Some neglect it altogether; some completely misunderstand it; some exalt it to a position it was never meant to occupy, and turn it into an idol. If I can throw a little light on it, and clear up the doubts in some minds, I will feel very thankful. It is hopeless, I fear, to expect that the controversy about the Lord’s Supper will ever be finally closed until the Lord comes. But it is not too much to hope that the fog and mystery and obscurity with which it is surrounded in some minds, may be cleared away by plain Bible truth.

My aim, like Dr. Ryle’s, is for us not to be ignorant of the subject.  Christ called for us to observe it, and observe it we shall.  With a gravity, a joy, a simplicity, and a connection—that connects us to all believers everywhere, past and present, 1st world to 3rd world, rich or poor… the ground is level at the foot of the cross!    The Lord’s Supper stands as a banquet upon which all of God’s people may feast. 

Spurgeon Saturday: We Do Not Admit All Persons Indiscriminately to the Lord’s Supper

OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

We do not hold it right to admit all persons indiscriminately to the Lord’s supper; we believe the Lord’s table is the place of communion, and we would have none there with whom we cannot have true Christian fellowship. We can commune with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ, however different may be their views upon some points of doctrine. So long as we find it possible to have fellowship with them, we believe it to be our duty to welcome them to the supper of our Lord. When, through unholiness of life, lack of piety, or unsoundness in the fundamental truths of the gospel on the part of those who apply to us to be received as communicants, we feel that we cannot commune with them, we hold it to be our bounden duty, as God hath given us authority in his Church, to prevent those from drawing nigh unto the table who would but commune unworthily, and so eat and drink unto themselves judgment, as the word in the 29th verse should be translated. Among our Baptist churches, fashioned, we trust, somewhat nearer to the Scriptural order than certain others we wot of, we do exercise at least some measure of discipline. We require from those who are members of the church, and who are, by reason of that membership, entitled to commune, that they should, at their reception, give us what we consider satisfactory proofs of their conversion; and we require of them, afterwards, that their conduct should be consistent with the law of Christ; otherwise, we should not in the first place receive them, or having received them, we should not be long before, by the Scriptural process of excommunication, we should remove from our midst those members whose lives and conversation were not in accordance with the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Charles Spurgeon, “Preparation Necessary for the Communion,” MTP 45:2647 (1857)

Good Morning Devotional for 8.27.2021: Do We Know Anything of Asking, Seeking, Knocking?

August 27 (JPG)

Good morning! Every so often, we need to hear from other faithful voices of the past. Let’s hear from J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) on Matthew 7:7-11:

The last lesson contained in this passage is the duty of prayer, and the rich encouragements there are to pray. There is a beautiful connection between this lesson and that which goes before it. Would we know when to be “silent,” and when to “speak”—when to bring forward “holy” things, and produce our “pearls?” We must pray. This is a subject to which the Lord Jesus evidently attaches great importance. The language that He uses is a plain proof of this. He employs three different words to express the idea of prayer. “Ask.” “Seek.” “Knock.” He holds out the broadest, fullest promise to those who pray. “Everyone who asks, receives.” He illustrates God’s readiness to hear our prayers, by an argument drawn from the notorious practice of parents on earth. “Evil” and selfish as they are by nature—they do not neglect the needs of their children. Much more will a God of love and mercy attend to the cries of those who are His children by grace.

Let us take special notice of these words of our Lord about prayer. Few of His sayings, perhaps, are so well known and so often repeated as this. The poorest and most unlearned can tell you, that “if we do not seek—then we shall not find.” But what is the good of knowing it, if we do not use it? Knowledge which is not improved and well employedwill only increase our condemnation at the last day.

Do we know anything of this asking, seeking, and knocking? Why should we not? There is nothing so simple and plain as praying–if a man really has a desire to pray. Sadly, there is nothing which men are so slow to do—as sincere secret prayer. They will use many of the forms of religion, attend many ordinances, do many things that are right—before they will do this. And yet without this, no soul can be saved.

Do we ever really pray? If not, we shall at last be without excuse before God—unless we repent. We shall not be condemned for not doing what we could not have done—or not knowing what we could not have known. But we shall find that one main reason why we are lost is this—that we never asked that we might be saved.

Do we indeed pray? Then let us pray on, and not faint. It is not lost labor. It is not useless. It will bear fruit after many days. That promise has never yet failed, “Everyone who asks, receives.”

Good Morning Devo for 8.26.2021: God Has Given Us All We Need to Do All He Commands

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On December 31, 1988, a playoff game took place between the Philadelphia Eagles and the hometown Chicago Bears. The game started off normally enough with a clear sky, brisk cold, what some would say “football” weather. During the 2nd quarter of the game, this dense fog rolled in off Lake Michigan making it difficult to see more than 15-20 yards for the rest of the game. The announcers could not see the field—even those on the sidelines did not know what was happening in the middle of the field. The game even earned a nickname: “The Fog Bowl.” This game and the conditions surrounding it provide an apt metaphor for 2020 and beyond.

I remember preaching about all that we believed God was going to do with us at the beginning of the 2020 calendar year. By the end of the year, with the presidential transition struggling to get off the ground, with the COVID fatigue moving into its ninth month and everyone living with a low-to-high level frustration settling in and displaying itself in various ways, fracturing our churches from within and fracturing churches, delaying getting back to “normal,” a dark fog descended upon us.

What we need is encouragement. Peter reminds us:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 

2 Peter 1:3-4

I believe it is up to the church of Jesus Christ to model what this like from an authentic faith and godly character not just in good times but in times of struggle as well. God is exposing the idols and the fractures that already existed but were covered by good times and things moving in our apparent favor. We have a frustration right now, but I believe God wants to set us free from that frustration, from that desire to see things go the way we want rather than getting on board with what God is up to.

Yes, He is working. His goodness and faithfulness are not quarantined to just good times and smooth sailing. The entirety of Hebrews could be summed up with three words: “Jesus is better”—than the angels, than Moses, than Melchizedek, than the old covenant—better!

Say this with me: “God will give you everything you need to do everything He commands.” Even now? Yes. But things aren’t “normal.” True, but God is not confined by “normal.” But “church” isn’t the same. But the Great Commission is not quarantined, everyone!  How does God equip us? By the Spirit! And through the Spirit we receive what we need.

“Are You Ready to Give Up?” Good Morning Devo for 8.25.2021

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Good morning! Ones who possess godly character are ones who ‘do not lose heart’ — a sentiment Paul first stated in 2 Corinthians 4:1. Paul received awful treatment and abuse about his inner character, but also received abuse from the punishment from persecutions on the outside — but he remained resilient on two fronts.

First, his inner nature is being renewed.  Paul is able to persevere and stay the course because of the renewal of his inner nature.  This is a good thing because his outer nature was wearing out not only due to age (for as soon as we are born, we are destined to die), but also to the fact that his ministry took an even greater toll on him.  It is possible to literally wear yourself out for God.

If there is one man you could say wore himself out for God, it was David Brainerd.  In fact, the library has a book by Jonathan Edwards on “The Life of Reverend David Brainerd,” who lived in Colonial America and ministered to the American Indians in the Northeast United States.  He ministered so vigorously and in such brutal conditions that he died at the age of thirty.  Robert Murray McCheyne, the great preacher from Scotland from centuries past, died at the age of 28.  Their bodies wasted away, but they totally expired doing God’s work with all their vigor. 

Another way Paul remained resilient was that he kept his heavenly home in mind.  Look at verse 17 and 18:  “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”

Notice the contrast.  First, the affliction of this life in contrast to the glory of the next.  That affliction is seen as ‘slight’ compared to the ‘weight’ or the mass of glory that awaits.  ‘Momentary’ is contrasted with the ‘eternality’ of the glory that awaits!  “Slight?”  “Momentary?”  This here shows Paul’s perspective, for in 2 Corinthians 11, Paul shows the extent of what he went through as a servant of God.

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  [25] Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;  [26] on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;  [27] in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  [28] And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.  [29] Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?  [30] If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.  (2 Cor. 11:24-30).

Not only this, but Paul was also persecuted for his speech and how he did not speak with the world’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:3), plus he was also criticized for his ‘unimpressive appearance.’ 

Paul possessed a resilience fueled by the persevering work of the Spirit. It’s only through the Spirit that we can hold on! Are you ready to give up? Remember, it’s not how you hold on to Christ but how Christ holds on to you. He’s got you, dear Christian. Never give up!

“No Shame Here”: Good Morning Devo for 8.24.2021

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Good morning! Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel.  Some are appalled that this notion—that the apostle Paul could ever have trouble in this area.  How could Paul, after his conversion experience that was so spectacular, ever be ashamed of the gospel and of His Savior?  As one commentator put it, it’s only when you have the capability of being ashamed that you could, by comparison, say that you are not ashamed. 

Times may arise that you are ashamed of the gospel. It may affect your reputation, you may lose your job, you may desire to commit some sort of selfless act–and the list goes on. Yet, we must continually and intentionally look the glory of the gospel and the power of salvation this brings to all.

Charles Spurgeon once preached:

Those who are once justified are justified irreversibly. As soon as a sinner takes Christ’s place, and Christ takes the sinner’s place, there is no fear of a second change. If Christ has once paid the debt, the debt is paid, and it will never be asked for again; if you are pardoned, you are pardoned once forever. God does not give a free pardon . . . and then afterward retract it and punish man . . . He says, ‘I have punished Christ; you may go free.’ And after that we may ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God,’ that ‘being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ . . . . In the moment they believe, their sins being imputed to Christ, they cease to be theirs, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to them and accounted theirs, so that they are accepted.[1]

Spurgeon, “Justification by Grace,” NPSP 3:126.

When we have surrendered to Christ and the penalty of our sin has been removed (justification), God grants a peace that passes all understanding.  We have access to grace!  We have joy in the hope of the glory of God!  Suffering comes?  We rejoice!  It brings endurance, which develops character, which produces hope.  How? 

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).  The Holy Spirit is sent by God to show us the Father, to convict us of our sin, to guide us into all truth, to regenerate us unto salvation by grace through faith, and will continue to counsel us in the days ahead.  This is how we know of God’s power—it’s called change. 

Good Morning Devo for 8.23.2021: “Do You Fear Fearing God?”

Good morning! If God is love, then why would we need to “fear” him? A number of years ago, I wrote a blog post on “Do You Fear Fearing God?” where I interact with the Dutch puritan theologian Wilhelmus a Brakel (1635-1711). He defines the fear of God as follows:

Filial [Godly] fear is a holy inclination of the heart, generated by God in the hearts of His children, whereby they, out of reverence for God, take careful pains not to displease God, and earnestly endeavor to please Him in all things. It is a motion of the heart.

Let me reproduce that blog post here:

Below is an extended excerpt regarding the applications and implications of this holy fear:

You will indeed observe your deficiency in this, but you will also be able to perceive that the Lord has put the principle of His fear within you.

(1) Do you not desire that disposition of the fear of God as we have described it in the foregoing? You do not only acquiesce in this, judging it to be good and fitting, but you grieve that you have so little of it and are desirous for a greater measure of it. This is an indication that you are already a partaker of it, for the servants of God are described as such. “…Your servants, who desire to fear Your name” (Neh 1:11).

(2) Do you not perceive heartfelt intentions and initiatives to walk in the fear of the Lord? Can you find any delight in having subdued a sin and in having done some good, unless this has been done in the fear of God? And perceiving your deficiency and impotence toward that which you love, is it not frequently your earnest prayer to God—that He would fulfill His promise to you in putting His fear in your heart? Behold, there you have evidence that you have the nature of those who fear God. This was David’s prayer: “Unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11).

(3) Is your desire for the fear of God entirely impotent and your prayer entirely fruitless, or do you perceive the principles of it in your actions? Does not God reveal Himself to you in His majesty? Does not your heart say that the Lord is indeed worthy to be served? Are not reverential motions stirred up within you toward God? Do you not at times bow in reverence before Him? Has it not been your experience that, due to a sense of His majesty, you have cast your eyes downward, closed your eyes, and covered your face with your hands? Did not a holy trembling come upon you at times, and was it not your delight if these motions became more sensitive—yes, did it not cause you to rejoice when thinking upon this afterwards, wishing it to recur and that it would always be thus? Would you not have committed many sins, and neglected many holy things—if the fear of the Lord had not prevented you? Does not the fear of God nip many sins in the bud, and does not this motivate you to perform your duty? If these things are within you—you must be convinced of the truth, even though the measure is yet small. You will observe your disposition in Job: “I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things” (Job 31:23). Such was also true for Nehemiah: “…but I did not do so—because of the fear of God” (Neh 5:15). Acknowledge therefore this received grace, and it will render you capable to read the following rebuke and exhortation, with benefit.

The fear of God is, yes, in a sense holy terror, but it shines from a reverence and awe for His holiness and our desire to conduct ourselves accordingly by His Spirit.

May God grant us a holy, godly fear by His grace and for His glory!