Daily Devotions

Predestined

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What To Pray For​


READ THE SCRIPTURE: COLOSSIANS 1:9-14
...so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work...
Col. 1:10
As Paul continues this prayer for the Colossians, he mentions activities that believers can deliberately choose to do. This is very instructive not only for how to pray for others, but also for how to live our own lives. First, Paul prays that you may live a life worthy of the Lord. When you understand what God has made you to be, that you are his child, cherished by him, your guilt and sin taken care of, and that God is your loving Father who protects you, guides and guards you, and when you see him in all his majesty and beauty then you will become concerned about whether your behavior reflects his beauty, and what others will think of your God when they are watching you. That is a life worthy of the Lord. In others of his letters the apostle urges Christians to walk worthy of their calling. We are to be concerned about our impact upon others, how our lives are impacting theirs, and what our actions make them think about our God.

The second activity that Paul prays for is that they might seek to please him in every way. The chief aim of every believer ought to be that he is pleasing to God; that he seeks to live in a way that delights God. What quality of life is pleasing to God? The Scripture probably puts it most effectively in a negative way. In the book of Hebrews we are told, Without faith it is impossible to please God! Faith is what pleases him. Every time Jesus approved or commended people it was because of their faith. You have great faith, he said to the woman who pled with him to heal her flow of blood. Your faith is great, he said to a centurion who asked him to heal his servant. Whenever our Lord commends people for anything it is because they believe him and act on what he says. They don't conform to the customs of people around. Rather, they swim against the stream of life and stand firmly upon what he says, trusting him. That is what pleases God.

Here is the third activity Paul prays for: bearing fruit in every good work. The fruit, always and everywhere in Scripture, is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, and peace, in our relationships and actions regarding others; concern, compassion, encouragement, and help in a time of stress, bringing a word of peace into a troubled, hostile atmosphere. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. That is what Paul is talking about: bearing fruit in every good work.

Father, today as I walk with you help me to live a life worthy of you, pleasing you in every way and bearing fruit in every good work.

Life Application​

What are three instructive ways to pray for our own lives and others'? Are we aware of the significance of these prayers in terms of their life-changing effects?

Daily Devotion © 2014, 2022 by Ray Stedman Ministries.
 

Predestined

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The Strategy of the Spirit​


READ THE SCRIPTURE: ACTS 13:1-13
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers... While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.
Acts 13:1-2

The turning point in the book of Acts began with a group of Christians in the church in Antioch who are exercising the spiritual gifts that were given to them. Listed here are certain prophets and teachers; men who had the gift of prophecy, and others who had the gift of teaching. While these men were performing their gifts, busy doing what God had equipped them to do in the church, the Spirit of God spoke to them.

There are many people who are looking to God to lead them in some dramatic way. They think they must go away and hole up in a cave somewhere to commune with nature in order for God to speak. Once they get away on a mountain somewhere then he will speak in some dramatic fashion and send them back with a great sense of call. Perhaps some here have been waiting thirty or forty years for that to happen, and it has not happened yet. It's probably not going to happen at all because God does not call us that way very often. Sometimes he does, but usually his call comes when one is busy exercising his gift where he is. These men were busy employing their gifts, and, in the midst of their activity, the call of the Spirit came.

I do not know how he spoke. It may have been through a prophetic utterance of one of these prophets as they were gathered worshipping and ministering. Or it may well have been that he spoke as he speaks to many today in what we have learned to call insistent unanimity, i.e., a deep conviction shared by everyone in the group that the Spirit of God desires a certain thing. This is often the way God works. He spoke to men who were already at work doing what they knew. You can steer a ship or a car if it is moving, but it is very difficult to steer it when it is sitting still. God loves to see people at work in what they know to do, and then he will give them further direction.

Notice also two elements of the Spirit's sovereign choice: He chose the men, and He chose the work. He said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. He did not tell the church what that work was although he had told Barnabas and Saul what it would be. We do not find out what it is until we read on and see what they did. But the Spirit had spoken to these men, and had laid on them a deep concern to reach out to the world around; then he said to the church, Now set them aside for this purpose. That is the way the call of God came in this initial thrusting out toward the uttermost parts of the earth.

Dear Father, make me an obedient follower of the strategy of the Spirit. Teach me to use my gifts in serving you and to trust that you will lead me.

Life Application​

Is the strategy of the Spirit the operating principle for how we observe and obey his calling? Do we serve with the expectancy that God will make clear his choosing of persons and their gifts and calling?

Daily Devotion © 2014, 2022 by Ray Stedman Ministries.
 

Predestined

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The Radical Word of Justification​


READ THE SCRIPTURE: ACTS 13:32-39
Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
Acts 13:38-39

Paul makes a shattering statement in this message in Pisidian Antioch. Here were people who thought the Ten Commandments were the greatest word that God had ever given to men. They were trying their best to live up to them. They thought that the way to God was to obey the Ten Commandments — to do good. But now Paul comes to declare to them that they will never find acceptance by God in that way.

Rather, Paul tells them, God has found a way to accept us even though we cannot be good enough in ourselves, and that way is through Jesus Christ. This shook these people. They had never heard anything like this before! This is the first occasion where we have record of Paul's using that great word which is so frequent in the book of Romans, justification by faith.

What does it mean to be justified? Most people think it means to have your sins forgiven. It does mean that, but it means more than that. Justification means to have your sins forgiven in such a way that God's honor and integrity are preserved by it. I served in the Navy for two years and then was honorably discharged. When I was discharged it meant that I was separated from the Navy. They were through with me, and I was through with them. But what I liked about it was the word honorable. It was an honorable discharge. I could freely show my discharge papers to anyone. There was no blot on my discharge. But I knew certain men in the Navy who were dishonorably discharged. They were just as separate from the Navy as was I. The Navy was just as through with them as it was with me. But, there was a blot on their discharge, a stain on it. They did not like to show their discharge papers to anyone.

So what Paul is really saying here is that — if you merely had your sins forgiven, if God forgave in the way that most people think he does: i.e., you just come to him, and he is such a loving God that he says, Oh, forget about it, that's all right, don't worry about it; you're such a great fellow and I love you so much that I'm just going to ignore it — if that were the case, then God's honor would be impugned. His character would be defiled by that kind of forgiveness. He could no longer be regarded as the God of justice and truth; he would be a partaker in my sins and yours. But God has found a way, through Jesus, to lay the guilt of our life and heart upon his own Son. Thus he can preserve his honor and character and integrity while at the same time he is rendered free to show his whole love to us. That is justification. Because of the cross, nobody will ever be able to point to God and say, Oh, you let people off who are guilty! In the cross of Jesus, God poured out all his justice upon him. And in that cross, in the agony and the anguish of it, the world can see a picture of how faithfully God does obey his own laws. And yet, the wonder of it is that, because of it, God's love is freed to be poured out to us.

Father, my heart is stirred as I think of the mercy that you show to me, this marvelous justification by which all that has lain heavily upon my conscience has been washed away in the blood of Jesus Christ. How wonderful this is, Lord; teach me never to forget that I have been justified.

Life Application​

Have we missed the truly radical implications of God's righteous forgiveness? How can we do less than offer our lives in worship and gratitude for the majesty and wonder of God's amazing grace?

Daily Devotion © 2014, 2022 by Ray Stedman Ministries.
 

Predestined

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The Power of Obedience​


READ THE SCRIPTURE: ACTS 14:1-10
In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, Stand up on your feet! At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
Acts 14:8-10

Notice the amazing way God began to open up this city. Paul and Barnabas had no idea what they were going to do. They did not form a committee and say, Well, let's see if we can get the Chamber of Commerce report on the city's population distribution. Then we could divide it into squares and evangelize in a systematic way. They had no plans other than to be there and to do what God sent them to do — to preach. So they walked right into the market place and began, trusting the Lord to have prepared certain people, to have people of his choosing ready to open the door to the city.

As they proclaimed the gospel that is what happened. As Paul was preaching — probably for several days in a row — sitting in the marketplace was a man who had been lame from his birth, who had never walked. He was evidently well-known throughout the city, having been there all his life. He heard what Paul said, and believed what Paul declared about the power of Jesus, the mighty Son of God. Paul looked at him and saw in that man's eyes the faith to believe. Suddenly, unquestionably led of the Spirit, he said to him, Stand up on your feet. And the lame man, though he had never walked in his life, made the effort to obey. He had faith enough to try, and the moment he began to obey, the power to obey was given.

That is exactly the way the Christian life works. It does not make any difference whether the problem is physical, emotional, or spiritual; you are going to be held in its bondage until you begin to obey the Word of God about it. When you make the effort to obey, God will set you free. But he will never move until you obey. That is the way faith works. Most people are kept from seeing God at work in their lives because they keep waiting for God to do something, in order for them to believe. No, he has already done all that he is going to do in advance. When you believe what he says, then he will give you the power to be free. This miracle is a mighty parable of the many who have been spiritually lame, unable to take a step toward God, but who have been set free to do so by the gospel. It cracked the city wide open. The whole populace immediately took note of Paul and Barnabas in their midst.

Father, like the apostles, help me to trust in a living God who is changing people's hearts and delivering their minds from the grip and power of the evil one. Help me to rejoice as I, too, see the power of obedience to the Word of God in my own life.

Life Application​

Which comes first, faith or obedience? What is the significance of the order? Obedience to what? Faith in what--or whom? Does the union of obedience and trust describe our daily walk with God?
Daily Devotion © 2014, 2022 by Ray Stedman Ministries.
 
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