We call it rhetoric, for no one in his right mind would really say such a thing. Someone with as much insight and realism as the great and mighty apostle Paul certainly wouldn’t say it in all seriousness, even as much as he might have been down on himself for his pre-Christian past. But let us not brush off his words so lightly.

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
1 Corinthians 15.9-10 NET Continue reading

FaithfulnessMany have abandoned the truth of the gospel. Others, upon learning of original Christianity according to the New Testament, have refused to follow Jesus and remained in their way of perdition. Even in the midst of suffering, Job maintained his commitment to God’s commandments.

I have not departed from the commands of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth
more than my daily food.
Job 23:12 HCSB Continue reading

People of the world think the truth is too hard to tell others. So they don’t tell a dying person, for example, that he has little time left to live. They deprive the person of taking advantage of his last days on earth and preparing himself for eternity.

So then, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Galatians 4:16 NET

Telling the truth to one needing to hear it is to be a friend. Paul saw the Galatians abandoning the gospel and losing their salvation. He had to tell them the true situation, so that something worse would not happen to them, the loss of God’s grace.

Ignoring the truth never contributes to a solution.

He who loves, tells the truth.

Brazilians have a phrase to talk about someone with every advantage. They say the person has both the knife and the cheese in hand. Much like we’d say a person is in the catbird seat. Someone with the upper hand.

Jesus Christ has the Spirit without restriction, and because of this he speaks the words of the Father, from whom he has received all things. He therefore needs nothing, and owes nothing to no one.

For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.
John 3:34-35 ESV

In Christ, the Father has concentrated all his effort, has delivered everything in his hands. Why, then, do people run to lesser beings to ask a blessing, to seek grace? The list of such beings is long and wouldn’t fit in a short meditation like this, but it’s worth noting that, if another figure appears on the religious radar, that religion doesn’t have God’s approval.

If Jesus has been given everything by the Father, all others are left with nothing.

 

In marriage, a man and woman abandon their interests in other people to dedicate themselves exclusively and totally to each other. When God becomes our Lord, something similar happens. This was true of Israel, and Moses’ words apply to Christ’s people today:

Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you except to revere him, to obey all his commandments, to love him, to serve him with all your mind and being.
Deut. 10:12 NET

Many call themselves Christians, many say they’re religious, but it’s all in vain if they do not serve God above all others and with all their being. It’s just a lie to think that one can conduct one’s life as others do and still receive God’s approval.

It must be said that, as the Israelites did, many play at religion. They don’t take God’s word seriously. They don’t know his will. They impose on the Lord their own ideas. They carry God in their pocket and pull him out only when it serves their desires. Maybe they say a little prayer now and again, or do some good work sometime, but their life as a whole is dedicated to a home-made idol. They obey only those divine laws they find convenient.

So the great question is: Does the Bible verse above describe my life? Or the previous paragraph?

Lord God of Israel and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, make me to discover my duties toward you. Teach me to fear and love you.

A denomination here exists called “The Church of Christ in Brazil.” My translation, literal. Today, a follower on my church Twitter account wrote to ask if we were “in Brazil” or “of Brazil,” from the one that had a certain pastor as president. I wrote to say that I never read in the New Testament about the church having a president.

Just goes to demonstrate that you can’t say “church” with anything attached to it without people thinking in denominational terms. I usually avoid it. On the Internet, however, I’ve used “church of Christ,” among other descriptions, so brethren can locate us. I’m not so sure that it’s a good trade-off, though. Continue reading

Now an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Luke 10:25 NET

The ultimate test is getting the right answer to this question. The expert, above all people and more than all issues, should have had the answer on the tip of his tongue. He wanted, however, to harm Jesus. Our Lord wanted to bless him with life through this question.

Only the “honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15) will find eternal life, and not the one who wants to justify himself (Luke 10:29).

When, like the expert, you stand up, let it be to get eternal life, rather than escaping the responsibility to confess Jesus as Lord and obey him in everything. Let it be to love God totally, and your neighbor as yourself.

Translated from the Portuguese-language devotional “Deus Conosco”, following the 2011 New Testament reading schedule. Join us!

Text: Matthew 20

Memorize: “He said to her, ‘What do you want?'” Matthew 20:21 NET

In two stories in sequence, Jesus asks people what they want. In the first, he asks “the mother of the sons of Zebedee [who] came to him with her sons, and kneeling down she asked him for a favor” (v. 20). And no small favor at that! In the second, two blind men cry for mercy, so he asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (v. 32), as if he didn’t know already.

He denies the first, while he grants the blind men’s desires. With his questions about what they want, he shows both his willingness to consider the requests, at the same time indicating that he doesn’t fill in blank checks. Continue reading