Bible in One Year

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September 23 Day 266

What Difference Does Jesus Make?

  • ‘My life has completely changed. I now look at the world through different eyes... I feel love for everyone and an inner peace that I never imagined could exist.’
  • ‘I had been living my life in a dark hole, I was carrying a great weight on my shoulders... that burden has gone... and I am filled with great hope, joy, excitement and love, and all I want to do is to serve Christ in whatever form he chooses.’
  • ‘I feel like I have found love and conquered death in one day.’

I have interviewed hundreds of people around the world who have come to faith in Jesus. The question I ask over and over again is, ‘What difference has Jesus made?’ and the genuine answers given by the people I have quoted are typical. The difference Jesus makes is massive, eternal, and impossible to comprehend fully.

September 22 Day 265

Understand Your Value

Have you ever felt like a failure, or of no use to God, or thought that God wouldn’t want to answer your prayers?

Until I first read Colin Urquhart’s book, In Christ Jesus, I had never realised how significant that little word ‘in’ is in the New Testament. Understanding that, as a Christian, you are ‘in’ Christ Jesus revolutionises how you see yourself, your self-image, your identity and how you understand your value to God.

Write your name on a piece of paper. Take hold of your Bible to represent Christ. Place the paper in the book and close it. You are in Christ. Where the book goes you go. Where the paper goes he goes. You are not part of the book, but you are now identified totally with the book.

Paul uses this expression, ‘in Christ Jesus’, over and over again. God has taken hold of you and placed you in Christ. In Christ, you have received ‘every spiritual blessing’ (Ephesians 1:3). All of the blessings, including those that the Old Testament speaks about, are yours in Christ.

September 21 Day 264

Never Give Up

Sir Winston Churchill has been described as Britain’s greatest ever leader. He lived a long, heroic life and he rallied a nation with his inspiring rhetoric. One of the most striking parts of his biography is that he had to resign from the Admiralty during WWI over the failed Dardanelles campaign. He had failed spectacularly, yet he was to learn not to give up.

I was told that once, when he returned to his old school, Harrow, to address the boys, the whole school assembled to listen to his words of wisdom. The great man arose to speak: ‘Young men; never give up, never give up, never give up.’ The entire speech lasted only a few seconds. Then he sat down. No one present ever forgot his words.

That is, at least, the popular version of the story. Churchill did indeed say words to that effect, but as part of a longer speech. Towards the end he said, ‘Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.’

In today’s generation, our lives have become so instantaneous that anything requiring patient perseverance can appear unattractive. We require instant returns and instant results. But sometimes the biggest pay-offs are a long time coming.

September 20 Day 263

How to Deal with Conflict

‘The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people!’ wrote G.K. Chesterton.

Conflict is inescapable. Even for those of us who shy away from confrontation, it is impossible to avoid. As we go through life, we will inevitably encounter people with whom we will have conflict. Additionally, for a Christian, an internal conflict exists between the desires of our sinful nature and the Holy Spirit.

We may also experience conflict when we stand up for the truth within the church, or when we engage with the prevailing culture. Even in the UK, a country that has traditionally been seen as ‘Christian’, the culture is becoming increasingly hostile towards the Christian faith.

September 19 Day 262

Refuse to be Trapped by Your Past

He had no one to help him become a lawyer or a politician. He was not interested in the army. He had no desire to be a doctor. Therefore, the only obvious career move in those days for a man of his background was to become a clergyman in the Church of England.

He tried to make himself acceptable to God by keeping the whole law, inwardly and outwardly. He got up early. He prayed. He denied himself. He tried to earn forgiveness and peace by increased effort. But he ‘groaned under a heavy yoke’.

On 24 May 1738, at 8.45 pm he heard someone reading a book by the great reformer, Martin Luther. He later recalled, ‘While he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given [to] me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’

John Wesley became one of the greatest preachers ever, preaching over 40,000 sermons centred on freedom through faith in Jesus Christ. He had, as he put it, ‘exchanged the faith of a servant for the faith of a son’. He was free at last.

‘Freedom’ is the word that best sums up the Christian life. You, too, are free. Therefore, refuse to be trapped by your past.

September 18 Day 261

God is Nice and He Likes You

‘This seemingly insubstantial fact revolutionised my life,’ wrote Adrian Plass, author of The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37¾. He continued, ‘I became a Christian when I was sixteen years old, but it wasn’t until I was thirty-seven that I absorbed an essential truth. God is nice and he likes me.’

Sadly, deep down many people think that God is not that nice, he does not like us very much and he spends most of his time being cross with us. This could not be further from the truth.

In the passages for today, we see how much more than just ‘nice’ God is – his goodness, amazing love and faithfulness. We also see that not only does he ‘like’ you, he loves you – you are his ‘precious and honoured’ child (Isaiah 43:4).

September 17 Day 260

The Best Way to Lead

Who is the servant of the Lord?’ This was the question that the Chief Financial Officer of Ethiopia asked the evangelist Philip: ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ (Acts 8:34).

The title ‘servant of the Lord’ is one of great dignity, reserved for leaders such as Abraham, Moses and David. But in the four ‘servant songs’ (Isaiah 42:1–4; 49:1–7; 50:4–9; 52:13 – 53:12) a distinct concept of ‘servanthood’ comes into sharper focus.

The role of this ‘servant’ can be illustrated with the St Andrew’s cross. (St Andrew, brother of Peter, is believed to have died on a diagonally traversed cross, which the Romans sometimes used for execution. It therefore came to be called the St Andrew’s cross, and is the flag of Scotland.)

  

 

 

 

 

 

Originally, God intended that all humankind should be his servant. Then, after the fall, God chose the whole nation of Israel to serve him. But even his chosen race was not faithful to him. So the focus, continuing to narrow, became a mere ‘faithful remnant’. Ultimately, only one individual was completely faithful (shown by the central intersection of the cross). This was Jesus.

Jesus revealed what Israel (and indeed humankind) should have been. He was an Israelite sent to Israel, totally identifying with his nation and yet remaining distinct from it. No earthly king or prophet meets the description used in all the servant passages in Isaiah. Yet, Jesus does – perfectly.

Where Israel failed, Jesus succeeded. Furthermore, it is God’s plan that the church, through the victory of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, can and will succeed. So, the St Andrew’s cross broadens out again as the members of the church of Jesus Christ become the servants of God with a mission to call all humanity back to their original creation purpose.

September 16 Day 259

God Loves Imperfect People

I am far from perfect. I sometimes find it hard to believe that God really loves me – especially when I mess up, fail or make bad decisions.

Actually, no one is perfect – apart from Jesus. But God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son to die for us (John 3:16). Therefore, God must love imperfect people. In fact, ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).

God knows that perfect people do not exist. We all fail. God’s love for you is bigger than your mistakes. God loves imperfect people.

Everyone knows that their marriage partner is not perfect, their children are not perfect, their parents are not perfect, and their friends are not perfect. But we love imperfect people. If we love imperfect people perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that God loves imperfect people even more.

September 15 Day 258

How to Deal with Unexpected Difficulties

President J.F. Kennedy once remarked that ‘when written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.’ Every crisis is, at the same time, an opportunity. Crises are often caused by unexpected difficulties.

All of us have problems. Many of us will face crises. How do you respond to a time of trouble, danger or unexpected difficulties in your personal life? How do we respond to unexpected difficulties in the church or in our nation? What do we do when we are ‘at [our] wits’ end’? (Psalm 107:27). What do we do when the ‘truth of the gospel’ is at stake? (Galatians 2:5). How do we respond to ‘a black day’ in our lives? (Isaiah 37:3, MSG).

September 14 Day 257

'Are You Saved?'

I have a picture sitting on the windowsill in my study of Bishop Westcott. It was given to me by his great-grandson. The nineteenth-century English scholar, Bishop B.F. Westcott, was Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University.

On one occasion he was approached by a zealous undergraduate who asked him, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘Ah,’ said the Bishop, ‘a very good question. But tell me: do you mean…?’ And then he mentioned three passive participles of the Greek verb ‘to save’, indicating that his answer would depend on which of the three the student had in mind (the English translation is given here in italics). ‘I know I have been saved,’ he said; ‘I believe I am being saved; and I hope by the grace of God that I shall be saved.

‘Salvation’ is a huge and comprehensive word. It means ‘freedom’. As the Bishop pointed out, there are three tenses of salvation: you have been set free from the penalty of sin, you are being set free from the power of sin and you will be set free from the presence of sin.