Category Archives: Ray Stedman Sermons

Devotional by Ray Stedman for December 31- The God of Peace

Topic:The God of Peace

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21

Humanity possesses great nuclear submarines by which the oceans can be traversed without ever coming to the surface. The secret of their tremendous power lies in a nuclear reactor hidden away in the depths of the submarine. That remarkable force does not need any refueling but is constantly giving off energy, so the submarine never needs to go into port for refueling. So it is in the life of a Christian. In these two verses is revealed the nuclear reactor for every Christian.

Look at the elements of this: “Now may the God of peace.” In this letter we have seen what peace is. The nearest modern equivalent is emotional health. In Christ we are in touch with the God of emotional health, the God who intends life to be lived on a peaceful level. With him is linked the Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep. I came from Montana and know much about sheep. If you are from the city you have probably thought that if you “leave them alone they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them.” But I can assure you it is all a lie! There are two outstanding characteristics of sheep: They have no wisdom, and they have no weapons. They are forever running off and getting lost and unable to find their way back, and if anything attacks them they are utterly helpless to defend themselves. That is why they need a shepherd. That is why we need a shepherd, and why the Bible likens us to sheep. We have a Great Shepherd of the sheep. He is our resource, our provision — a God who is concerned about us, and a Great Shepherd who is there to watch us — because we have no wisdom and we have no weapons for our defense.

Linked with them is this great process that is spoken of here, “who brought again from the dead … by the blood of the eternal covenant.” There you have the cross and the resurrection. The cross means the end of the old life of self-reliance, and the resurrection sets forth the power of the new life. That is the power that is released within the Christian by the indwelling Christ within him. We talk about the conquest of outer space but the greatest conquest ever made was when the Lord Jesus conquered inner space by moving into the heart of man, to plant within us the greatest power by which life can be lived — a power that heals and makes whole.

The result of all this is that God will equip you with everything good that you may do his will. This is the secret of effective service. You do not have to ask God to do this, he is there to equip you with everything to do his will. There is a full supply here and full ability. God is going to work through you, not apart from your will, but right along with it. You choose, you start out, but he is there to carry it through.

Then there is full acceptance, even before it happens. “Working in you that which is pleasing in his sight.” You know you are going to please God, you know that you cannot help but please him when you walk in this way and live on this basis. You are fighting a battle already won. But if we try to live in the self-effort of the flesh, we are fighting a battle already lost. This whole thing is wrapped around with the most life-changing phrase ever uttered by man, “through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” “Through Jesus Christ” — that is the secret of life, that is the way God intended man to live. What good news for this present life! God intended it for you, that you might live in your present circumstances, wherever you are.

Father, help me to grasp and understand these truths, but more than that, give me the courage to step out upon them, that I might enter into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Life Application

The life-giving, life-changing Presence of our indwelling Christ is transcendent power of which nuclear-powered submarines is but a replica! Are we opting to stray as helpless sheep, or are we ‘beholding the glory of the Lord’, being transformed into His image?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for December 30- Nonconformity

Topic:Nonconformity

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:4-5

Nonconformity to the world must certainly involve these areas. The loose sexual standards of our generation and the intense materialistic spirit of this age constitute a constant peril to our hearts, and we must beware of them. We must realize that God has undertaken to sustain the sacredness of marriage and that he unceasingly, unrelentingly judges violations of it. Therefore, we dare not heed the fine sounding declarations being made today about a “new morality,” as though we had passed beyond the ancient standards and they no longer had significance.

As this writer reminds us, God judges the immoral and adulterous. He does not mean that God looses lightning bolts from heaven against them, or that he causes terrible diseases to come upon them; these are not the forms of judgment. But we can see the judgment of God in the anguish and pain which sweep like a plague across this land. They are due to the breakdown of moral standards. The certain deterioration of life is the judgment of God. It is the brutalization of humanity, so men become like animals and live on the level of animals. This is so apparent in our day.

Then there is the danger of materialism. We must swim against the strong currents of a luxury loving age. We must not give in to the pressures to “keep up with the Joneses,” the mad rush to have all that the world around us has. The weakness of the Church is due in large part to the failure of Christians to be content with what God gives them.

This does not mean that all Christians should take a vow of poverty. There is nothing like that in the New Testament. God allows levels of prosperity that are different one from another. The point the writer makes is not that there is anything wrong in riches, but that we must learn to be content with what God has given. Contentment is not having what you want; it is wanting only what you have.

It is difficult to know where to draw the line between a proper increase in the standard of living, and needless luxury which is really waste, but the secret is given in the latter part of the verse: “For he has said, “I will never fail you nor forsake you.”” That is the promise of God. He is our great and unending resource and will never fail us. Here is the strongest negative in the New Testament. The original carries the thought, “I will never, never, under any circumstances, ever leave you or forsake you.” It is a mighty declaration and on the basis of it the writer says we should declare, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid (of loss or poverty or anything else). What can man do to me?” If I have God, what can man do to me? The point is that we must be content to take only what God gives us.

Lord, help me not to conform to this world, always grasping for more. Teach me to be content and to believe that you will never leave nor forsake me.

Life Application

Is either affluence or poverty making us restless and discontent? What effect does our discontent have on our marriage? Whom, or what do we trust to both determine and provide our essential needs?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for December 29- Coming to Mount Zion

Topic:Coming to Mount Zion

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm… But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:18,22-24

The writer is here speaking of that which motivates us in the Christian life. We are not to be driven by fear. Not by the Law with its demands upon us, “Do this, or else.” Not by self-effort, not by the gritted teeth and the clenched fist and a determination that we are going to serve God. If we serve because we are afraid, as the Law frightened Israel in the terrible scene on Mt. Sinai, we will lose something from God. It is not fear that is our motive; it is fullness, it is what God has given us.

You have come not to this Mount Sinai, but to Mount Zion, the place of grace; “and to the new Jerusalem, the city of the living God.” You have come under a new government. “And to angels.” Angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those who are to be the heirs of salvation, i.e., Christians. “And to the church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven.” This is those who are born in Christ, sharing his life with our names written in heaven. “And to God, the judge of all,” whether they are Christians or not. “And to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” These are the Old Testament saints, men and women of God who lived in the days when the promise was given before the cross, who looked forward by faith and who are waiting now for us. “And to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” A mediator is not someone up in heaven somewhere, in some distant reach of space; he is an indwelling Christ. He is available to us. He is right here to be our strength, our righteousness, our wisdom, whatever we need. When Abel’s blood was shed it cried out for vengeance, as the book of Genesis tells us, but Jesus’ blood did not speak of vengeance — it speaks of access, of vindication, of the fact there is no problem between us and God that is not settled by his blood. There is no longer any question of guilt. We can come completely accepted in the Beloved.

Thus, with all this on our side there is no need to fail, is there? That is the point he is making. Certainly it gets rough, certainly it gets discouraging, surely there are times when the pressures are intense, but have you reckoned on your resources? Have you forgotten them?

Gracious Father, I am so grateful that by grace you have led me to Mount Zion. Now help me to stand strong, and to be yours in every circumstance of life.

Life Application

Have we entered Mt. Zion, where joy and freedom from fear is our spiritual heritage? Is our worship and our works motivated by God’s grace, and His love which casts out fear ?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for December 28- A New Kind of Living

Topic:A New Kind of Living

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Hebrews 12:12-15

Here the writer summarizes the practical results of trials in our life: They make possible the demonstration of a new kind of living, which is what the world is looking for. The world is not at all impressed with Christians who stop doing something the world is doing. But they are tremendously impressed with Christians who have started living the kind of a life they cannot live. That stops them! That is the life he is setting before us here.

First it starts with correction. “…strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,”” That is, if you keep on going the way you are going it will only get worse — that which is lame will be put out of joint. But stop it and strengthen these things. Stop being so weak, stop being so anxious, so worried. How will the world get the impression that Christ is victor if they look at you and you are always in defeat? Strengthen these things and learn how to live in peace with your neighbor, to “live in peace with everyone.” And above all, seek to be holy because, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

What does this word mean? Holiness is the exact Greek word that is also translated in this letter sanctification. To sanctify means “to put to its proper use.” When a man or a woman is believing that Christ indwells him and gives him everything he needs for every minute, he is being “put to the proper use,” the use for which God intended man. This is holiness, this sense of dependence and availability to God. This is what makes the world sit up and take notice as they see Christians living the kind of life that is always adequate for every circumstance.

The second phrase has to do with our concern for others: “See to it that no one fall short of the grace of God.” We are not to live our lives to ourselves. Others are looking to us and we have a responsibility to them. He points out the something that will stop the grace of God in any person’s life — bitterness. Bitterness is always wrong. No matter how justified the cause of bitterness may be, to have a bitter attitude as a Christian is always wrong, for resentment and bitterness are always of the flesh. The trouble is, they are highly contagious diseases. If one person is bitter and continues in an unforgiving, bitter spirit, others are infected by this and it spreads and defiles many. This is the problem in many a church today. So, if you see someone around you that has this problem, help him to see that this is a terrible thing that will wreck his life, making it impossible to grow as a Christian.

Here, then, is the ministry we are to have: To have a life in ourselves that is characterized by a display of that holiness, that sanctification, that proper use of our humanity that makes God visible in us, and to manifest it in a deep concern for the welfare of others, that no one else miss the grace of God.

Father, by your Spirit teach me this new kind of living, which will result in me being set apart for exactly those purposes you have created me for.

Life Application

Are we intentionally dependent and available to the power and Presence of the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ? Do we allow bitterness toward others to obstruct God’s grace in us, and through us to others?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for December 27- Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

Topic:Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

We are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses,” he says. That does not simply say that people who have died and gone on to heaven are looking down on us from above. It means that these people are saying something to us, they are testifying to us, they are witnesses in that sense. Their lives are saying that we ought to lay aside every weight, i.e., whatever hinders faith. You never say, “Yes” to Christ without saying, “No” to something else!

“And the sin that so easily entangles.” What is that? That is unbelief. That is the failure to take revelation seriously. Then, what? “Run with perseverance,” with persistence, keeping on no matter what happens. How? By “fixing our eyes Jesus,” that is the answer. The others we read of here can inspire us, challenge us, and some of the men and women of faith who have lived since these days can do the same. I read the life of Martin Luther — what a challenge he is to me; and of John Wesley, and D. L. Moody, and of some of the recent martyrs of faith, Jim Elliot and others. How they have challenged my life and inspired me to make a fresh start; to determine anew to walk with God, and to follow their example. They challenge us to mobilize our resources, clench our fists, set our jaws and determine that we shall be men and women of faith. But if that is our motivation we shall find that we soon run out of gas. It all begins to fade and after a few weeks we are right back in the same old rut.

The secret of persistence is in this phrase, “fixing our eyes on Jesus.” Look at these men and women of faith, yes, but then look away on Jesus. Why? Because he is the author and finisher of our faith. He can begin it and he can end it, complete it. He is the pioneer, he has gone on ahead. He is also the perfecter of faith. He himself ran the race. He laid aside every weight, every tie of family and friends. Every restraining hand he brushed aside that he might resolutely walk with God. He set his face against the popular sin of unbelief and walked on in patient perseverance, trusting the Father to work everything out for him. He set the example.

But there is more than example in this phrase; there is empowerment. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus because he can do what these others cannot do. They can inspire us, but he empowers us. Moment by moment, day by day, week by week, year by year, if we learn to look to him we find strength imparted to us, because he indwells us! That is the secret.

You can find strength to venture out and start this life of faith today in him. You also discover strength to continue. He is not “up there” somewhere. As this book has made clear, he is within us, by faith. If we have received Jesus Christ, he dwells within. He has entered into the sanctuary, into the inner man, into the place where we need strength, and is available every moment for me. Therefore, in Christ, I have all that it takes to meet life.

Father, thank you for a living Lord Jesus who is no distant person, one that I cannot know and talk to, and draw strength from and lean upon. But he is my living Lord, ready to make available to me all that I need in every hour.

Life Application

Are we grateful for the testimonies of exemplary lives of faith, many of them martyrs, now with Christ? Who is our ultimate example of endurance, and our sole empowerment to follow His example?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for December 26- Faith That Anticipates and Acts

Topic:Faith That Anticipates and Acts

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Hebrews 11:8-10

Faith believes that God has revealed something about the future; not everything, but something. And what he has revealed is quite enough for us to know. Faith seizes upon a revealed event and begins to live in anticipation of it. Therefore, faith gives our life a goal, a purpose and a destination. It is a look into the future.

We see this in Abraham. He is an illustration of the meaninglessness of time in the life of faith. It is amazing how far Abraham saw. Abraham lived about two thousand years before Christ. We live about two thousand years after him. Yet Abraham, looking forward by faith, believing what God had said would take place, looked across forty centuries of time and beyond to the day when God would bring to pass on earth a city with eternal foundations. Abraham saw what John sees in the book of Revelation, a city coming down out of heaven onto earth. That is a symbol of that for which we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” (Matthew 6:10). That is what Abraham longed for, an earth run after God’s order, where people dwell together in peace, harmony, blessing, beauty and fulfillment. Because of that he was content to dwell in tents, looking for that coming.

You can see this quality of anticipation also in Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Isaac and Jacob both knew that God intended to make nations from their sons, and their final prayers were based upon that fact. They prayed in anticipation of what God had said would come, and blessed their children on that basis. Joseph, when he was dying, saw four hundred years ahead to the coming exodus from Egypt, and he arranged by faith for a funeral service in the promised land. He did not want to be buried in Egypt. Thus he symbolized his conviction that God was going to do exactly what he had said. And eventually it happened exactly that way.

You can see how faith anticipates in the case of Moses’ parents who, when he was born, saw that he was “beautiful in God’s sight” ( Acts 7:20-21 ) and they acted by faith to save him from the edict of the king that all male children should be slain ( Exodus 1:16,22 ). This was more than the natural desire of parents to preserve their children from death. But these parents knew there was a promise of deliverance from Egypt for their people, and they knew that the time was near. God had foretold how long it would be. They were given assurance that this boy had been singled out by God, they trusted God’s word and, acting on that, they defied the king and hid the child for three months ( Hebrews 11:23 ).

Related to this quality of faith which accepts as certain a promise of the future is a second quality, that faith always acts. There is today a very common misconception that thinks of men and women of faith as so occupied with the future that they sit around, twiddling their thumbs, doing nothing. We have all heard of those who are “so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly good.” That is the common concept of faith. But that is not faith; that is fatalism! Faith works! Faith is doing something now, in view of the future. If you are folding your hands and waiting for the Second Coming you are not living the life of faith. The life of faith is that which acts now in view of that coming event.

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities you give to anticipate and act upon what you have promised. Teach me to see that city from above which one day will come down.

Life Application

Is our faith rooted in Biblical revelation which produces our life expectancies, purpose and destination? Are our prayers and actions guided consistently by that purposeful faith?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for December 25- What Faith Is?

Topic:What Faith Is?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see… And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:1,6

In Hebrews there is an element which is regarded as essential to the Christian life, and that is faith. It is what makes the Christian different from the non-Christian. Henry David Thoreau, once said, “If I seem to walk out of step with others, it is because I am listening to another drum beat.” That is an exact description of faith: Christians walk as though listening to another drum beat.

This chapter centers on what faith is. Faith is greatly misunderstood and there are many peculiar ideas of what it is. Faith is not positive thinking. Faith is not a hunch that is followed. Faith is not hoping for the best, hoping that everything will turn out alright. Faith is not a feeling of optimism. Faith is none of these things, though all of them have been identified as faith.

What is faith then? Faith begins with “things hoped for,” that is, it starts with a sense of discontent. You can never have much faith unless you are dissatisfied with the way you are now, and are longing for something better. That is why, all through the Bible, the great enemy of faith is a complacent spirit, an attitude of self-satisfaction with the status quo. But if you are dissatisfied, if you are looking for something better, then you are in a position to exercise faith.

Then comes “the conviction of things not seen” — not only a desire for something better, but an awareness of something else: That is faith. It means we become aware that we are surrounded by an invisible kingdom, that which is seen is not the whole explanation of life, there are realities which cannot be seen or touched, and yet which are as real and as vital as anything we can see. This is so beautifully seen in the words and teachings of our Lord Jesus. He speaks of God the Father as though he were standing right there. He does not see the universe as an impersonal machine, grinding and clanking along, as science so frequently does, but he sees it as an invisible, but very real, spiritual kingdom.

Again Verse 6 says the same: “He that comes to God must believe that he is, that God exists.” There are some who say, “That’s the hard part.” No, it is not. The easiest thing in the world to do is to believe that God exists. It requires effort to disbelieve. Everyone starts out believing God exists. It is only when they are carefully trained to disbelieve that any come to the place of declaring God does not exist. Light from God is streaming in on every side and all we need to do is open our eyes to see it. That is why children have no problem with this. The concept of God ought to be one of the most difficult ideas for children to grasp, since God cannot be seen. But children have no difficulty at all in believing that God exists.

Are you a person of faith? Is there a hunger for something better in your life? Is there a conviction that God is ready to answer your cry? In fact, he has already answered it, in Christ. Are you ready then to commit yourself to obey what he says, to accept his verdict, his viewpoint, as the true one despite the clamant cries that will pour into your ear from every side, saying this is wrong? That is what faith is, and if you are that kind of person you can join this parade of faith.

Father, thank you for this revelation of what faith is today. How I feel the need of it, as I live in the midst of a confused and bewildered society. Grant me the simple faith of a child. Teach me to live according to it, though it be through difficulties, trials, heartache and tears.

Life Application

Are you hopeful for that which you hunger for — your not-yet-completed maturity in Christ in your life? Will you rest in the indwelling Christ to work out His life in your salvation, bringing what He has promised to completion? ‘The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.’ — 1 Thes. 5:25 (NIV)

Devotional by Ray Stedman for December 24- Living By Faith

Topic:Living By Faith

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
Hebrews 10:32-35

Ray Stedman

The author recognizes that most of these to whom he writes had already given proof of true faith and genuine birth. Their early Christian years were marked by love and joy and hope, despite hardships and persecution. They had followed Christ at cost to themselves. They had submitted themselves to the Lordship of Christ, even when their own will would have been different. That is the mark of reality, the proof of faith. They cheerfully and compassionately accepted the persecutions, deprivations, and hardships that came their way. They took Christ’s yoke upon them, obeyed his Lordship, and manifested it by love and good works. They were living by faith.

You can do these things only when you live by faith. When you have accepted God’s word and recognized that Christ is who he says he is, that the history of the world is going to turn out as he says it is, and that the values of life are what he says they are, then, and then only, can you do this kind of thing. They just need to do one more thing — keep on! That is all. They are doing the right thing, just keep on doing it. The road will end at the dawning of a new day and the coming of the living God.

Does your way sometimes seem hard and difficult? Is it, perhaps, often lonely and exposed to the reproach of others? Do not despair, do not give up. That pattern has been predicted. If you live by faith; if you accept what this word says as true, and you see that it is working out in history exactly as God said it would; if you are counting on his strength to bring about all that he promises; if you thus live by faith, then, though it be through perils and dangers, you will arrive for “the just shall live by faith,” (Romans 1:17 KJV). Not by circumstances, not by outward appearances, but by faith in what the Word of God says. You need only to continue to reach the goal, to endure. It could well be translated, in modern parlance, by the word “toughness.”

In Hebrews 11, there are some illustrations of men and women who have lived by faith. These are the tough people of history. They have endured, they have toughed it out, they have stuck it out. They faced all the pressures, all the problems, all the confusing duplicity of life, but, because they had their eye fixed on One who never changes, they were tough; nothing could move them aside or divert them. That is what the apostle is calling for, that inner toughness which meets life steadfastly, unshakably, is never driven off its position of faith. It constantly meets every encounter, every challenge by resting upon the Word of God.

Teach me, Lord, to live by faith, even when all seems to be going wrong in my life.

Life Application

If or when the integrity of our faith is tested by hardships and persecution, does it qualify? Are we then alert to others’ needs for encouragement so that we may stand side-by-side regardless of the circumstances?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for December 23- Spur One Another On

Topic:Spur One Another On

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25

Ray Stedman

How do you spur someone to love and good works? These two things are always the mark of true Christianity. Christians are never judged by the confessions they make, or the creed they recite; it is always by their deeds. How much practical love have you manifested? How far have you responded to the cry for help from someone near you, someone who is destitute or disappointed, who needs an encouraging word or a helping hand or a generous check? This is the ultimate test.

How do you achieve this? He suggests two ways: First, by not neglecting to meet together, that is very important: “Not giving up meeting together, but encouraging one another.” That suggests the character of the meetings. They are not to be discouraging meetings, they are to be encouraging meetings. They are to be meetings where you can hear again the tremendous, radical principles of Christian faith and to see again in human lives the mighty power of the One whom we worship and serve; and where you can understand how God works through human society, how he is transforming and changing men everywhere. To thus meet together is to encourage one another in these things. That is what Christian services ought to be like: To hear the Word of God so that it comes home with power to the heart, and to share with one another the results.

If our services were more like this, we would not have trouble in getting people to come. Too often church services are the kind pictured in the story of the father who was showing his son through a church building. They came to a plaque on the wall and the little boy asked, “Daddy, what’s that for?” His father said, “Oh, that’s a memorial to those who died in the service.” The little boy said, “Which service, Daddy, the morning service or the evening service?” But meetings of Christians are to be encouraging things, and this is one way we stir up one another to love and good works.

The second way is a watchful awareness of the time. “All the more as you see the Day approaching.” “The Day” is the certain return of Jesus Christ. As evil becomes more subtle, as it becomes more and more difficult to tell the difference between truth and error, good and bad, right and wrong; as the clamant voices of our age pour out deceitful lies, and we find the whole of society permeated and infiltrated with false concepts that deny the truth of the Word of God, we need all the more to gather together and encourage one another by sharing the secrets of life in Christ Jesus.

Father, thank you for the opportunity to spur others on to love and good deeds. Help me to not neglect meeting together with other believers and paying attention to the fact that the Day is drawing near.

Life Application

As the media delivers its often bewildering, increasingly threatening news, are we faithfully and fruitfully meeting with others of the family of God? Are we holding one another accountable as living expressions of the Word of Truth and Love?

Devotional by Ray Stedman for December 22- What Does God Desire?

Topic:What Does God Desire?

After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:8-10

Ray Stedman

Here is what God really wanted. God never cared a snap of his fingers for all the rivers of blood that flowed on Jewish altars. He had no interest in them except as they taught something. What did these sacrifices point to? A human body in which there was a human will which continually chose to depend upon an indwelling God to obey a written word! That was what God wanted. When Christ came he paused on the threshold of heaven, and said, “A body hast thou prepared for me.” Within that body was a human soul with the capacity to reason, to feel and to choose. That will, in that human body, never once acted on its own, never once took any step apart from dependence upon the Father who dwelt within. That is the principle that God has been after all along; that is what he wants.

He has no interest in ritual, in candles, in prayer books, in beads, in chanting, in any ceremony. Ceremonies mean nothing to God. What he wants is a heart that is his, a life that is his, and a body that is available to him. That is why Paul, in Romans 12, says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1 KJV).

When our Lord Jesus acted on that principle, he allowed the direction of his life to come from the Word of God: “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” Every temptation he entered into, every problem that came his way, he referred to what God had said, “It is written,” “It is written,” “It is written…” That program took him to the cross, calling on him to lay down his life. By means of that sacrifice, we are free now to join him on this program that is God’s original intention for man.

In verse 10, this word sanctified is widely misunderstood. It is usually looked upon as some kind of religious sheep-dip that people pass through, and they come out holier and purer on the other side. But it is not that. The word sanctified simply means “to put to the proper, intended use.” That is all it means. You are sanctifying the chair that you are seated on right now. You sanctify your comb when you comb your hair. Sanctification simply means “to put to the intended purpose.” This verse is simply declaring that when we adopt the same outlook as Jesus Christ, when, in dependence on him, we are ready to obey the Word of God, we fulfill our humanity. We are being used in the way God intended us to be used. There is one mark of that which is unmistakable: We are willing to lay down our life in order that the will of God be done! I do not mean we rush out to die. It means giving of yourself, giving up for the moment something that you might desire to do. It means that we become content to lose standing, if necessary in the eyes of the world. We no longer regard that as important in our life. It means we give up material comfort or gain if this will advance the cause of Christ: We live in a simpler home in order that we might invest money in his enterprises. We are willing to be ignored, or slighted, or treated unfairly, if, in the doing of it, God’s cause will get ahead.

This is what God wants, this is what he is after. Not great cathedrals and beautiful buildings and ornate ritual and ceremony, God does not care for these. God wants lives, bodies, hearts that are his, available to him to work in the shop and the office and the street and the schools and everywhere people are, that his life may be made visible in terms of that person, in that place. That is Christianity.

Father, may I know the joy of ceasing from my own efforts and resting quietly upon your ability to work in me.

Life Application

Fulfillment of our entire destiny for time and eternity is possible because Jesus Christ our Savior said ‘Here I am — I have come to do your will, O God’. Do we realize the liberating power to live or die that comes to us through Him when we say: ‘Thy will be done’?