Fear! No Fear!

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

Mary praises God saying, “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). Zechariah, on the other hand, says, “We, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:74). Which is it? Does He have mercy on those who fear or can we serve Him without fear? Yes! I admit, it is possible Zechariah is referring to a fear of the enemies. That is, he might be saying that because we are delivered from our enemies, we can serve God without fearing them. That is a lot like the prayer we hear so often in worship assemblies today saying, “Thank you for letting us gather here without fear of persecution.” My struggle with that is when Christianity started, that is exactly what all Christians faced. Perhaps we can read this as we have no reason to fear our ultimate enemy, Satan. There is definitely truth to that. I can worship God without fear that Satan is going to win. However, I think this struggle we have between scriptural commands to fear God and scriptural promises that we don’t need to fear God comes down to a very simple principle. It was one I was taught back in my college days when I was trained as a trim carpenter. A table saw is a powerful thing. One wrong move, and a finger is gone or an artery cut, and you’re bleeding out on the wood (my boss was always more concerned about blood getting on the wood than leaving my body). However, when you recognize the power and fear it–not a paralyzing terror, but a healthy fear–then you take the proper precautions. When you take the proper precautions, you don’t have to fear the saw. Another illustration comes to mind. When driving, if I fear getting a speeding ticket, I drive the speed limit. When I drive the speed limit, I don’t have to fear a speeding ticket. As odd as it sounds, my fear removes the need for my fear. God has mercy on those who fear Him. Because of that, we have no need to fear Him. Today, because you fear God, go forth without fear.

Next week’s reading is Luke 2.

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Let the Day of the Lord Govern Today

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 5.

Deliver such a one to Satan? Are you kidding me? That will not look good on us. He might claim we are abusing him. He might sue us. Our neighbors might think we are mean. Society might judge us as harsh and unloving. Yet, between now and the day of the Lord, he might just repent because of this action and on the day of the Lord his spirit will be saved instead of condemned. Not to mention, if the church doesn’t take this action between now and the day of the Lord, he will almost definitely lead others to sin and destruction. No doubt, delivering an impenitent sinner to Satan is painful and fraught with temporal, cultural, societal dangers today. But the Day of the Lord is coming. We need to let the Day of the Lord govern today. And, to be sure, Paul’s application in this chapter is only one of a myriad of arenas in which we need to let the Day of the Lord govern today. I get it, we are living in today, but today will be over in just a few hours. The Day of the Lord will linger forever once it comes. Don’t live for today; live for the Day of the Lord.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 6.

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Humble Exiles

Today’s reading is 1 Peter 5.

Christ’s exiles are holy and honorable, but we must also be humble. In other words, we don’t get all uppity about our holiness or our honorableness. We recognize Satan is on the prowl. He is looking to destroy our holiness and our honorableness. And we are not so holy or honorable that we can’t fall prey. We must humble ourselves before God and one another. We must walk in humility in order to be exalted by God. We must walk in humility to have victory. Thank God for the victories of holiness and honorableness He has granted in our lives, but let’s not get lax. Keep up your guard. Keep up your humility.

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Peter 1.

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Saving the Gentiles

Today’s reading is 1 Peter 4.

There is a common idea floating around today among those who call themselves Christians. The idea is if we want to save people, we need to become more like them. Thus, Christians are encouraged to hang out with those still living in sin even while they are committing their sins. Go to their parties, drink at their bars, support their events that promote sin, etc. By doing this, we are told, they will know we aren’t “holier-than-thou” and that we really do love them. We are even told stories about Gentiles who were impressed and said nice things about Christians who behaved this way. Here’s the rub. That is simply not what the apostle Peter says to do. He says we’ve already spent enough time living like the Gentiles. We’ve already spent enough time in their parties, at their bars, at their events. Peter even admits, “Yes, the non-Christians will malign you.” But that didn’t change his stance. We don’t save the Gentiles by acting like the Gentiles. Those Gentiles who will be saved, will be saved by seeing our holy and honorable conduct and realizing as much as they want to malign us, they really don’t have a leg to stand on. Then they ask us about our hope. In this way, save the Gentiles. God’s way.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Peter 5.

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Honorable Exiles

Today’s reading is 1 Peter 2.

While we live here in exile from our homeland, not only are we to be holy, we are to be honorable. Yes, we are to be distinct, set apart, and in some ways separate. We are set apart by God for sacred use to bring praise to His excellency. But that is not the same as being a jerk, and some Christians present their holiness like jerks. We need to conduct ourselves in such a way that when the citizens of the world want to find some way to complain about us, dismiss us, write us off, or even speak ill of us they don’t have a leg to stand on. It means we suffer dishonor, but still treat others with honor. It is by this powerful mixture of holy and honorable living that some of the worldly will be provoked to listen to the gospel message and glorify God in the day of visitation. We will not convert people to Jesus by becoming more like the world; we need to be holy. But neither will we convert people by being holier-than-thou; we need to be honorable.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Peter 3.

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Holy Exiles

Today’s reading is 1 Peter 1.

Peter is writing to exiles, but it wasn’t just the Christians of his day who were exiles. We are exiles. We are not in our home land, in the country of our citizenship. Like the Israelite exiles in Babylonian captivity and those who remained a part of that dispersion for centuries to come, we are a community belonging to Jesus dispersed in exile behind enemy lines. What should we do? How should we live in this exile? Peter’s first key is “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” The world wants us to become more like her. The worldly are excited and compliment us when we become more like them. However, be aware, we will not help the worldly become more like Jesus when we become more like the worldly. We are to be holy, set apart, sacred, distinct. We will fail at that often, but that failure is not cause to give up the goal and pursuit. We are to be holy exiles.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Peter 2.

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Why Judas?

Today’s reading is Mark 4.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus picked Judas as one of the twelve? He knew the future. He knew how it would end up. But He picked him anyway. Was Judas a bad guy and Jesus just needed a bad guy to make sure He got betrayed in the end? I don’t think so. Judas was apparently good enough that none of the rest had a problem with him being in charge of the money bag. He wasn’t an obviously bad, awful man filling a spot and biding time for Jesus. I suggest Judas was chosen because Judas was qualified. By God’s grace, he had everything he needed to be a great disciple of Jesus and a great apostle. However, at the same time, he also had everything he needed to be a betrayer. The fact is Judas is just like us. We have everything it takes to be a traitor, but by the grace of God we also have everything it takes to be great disciples and servants of Jesus. The question is which will we choose. Start today. Which will you choose today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Mark 5.

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