Tag Archives: 2018 Ray Stedman

Devotional by Ray Stedman – Pay Careful Attention! – A daily devotion for December 6

Topic:Restoring Dominion
A DAILY DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 6TH
READ THE SCRIPTURE: HEBREWS 2:5-9

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Hebrews 2:8b-9

Ray Stedman

This passage describes humanity’s present state of futility. Here is the whole story of human history in a nutshell: God created us to exercise dominion, but we do not yet see everything in subjection to us. We attempt to exercise our dominion, but we no longer can do so adequately. We have never forgotten the position God gave us. Throughout the history of the race, there is a continual restatement of the dreams of humanity for dominion over the earth and the universe. This is why we cannot keep off the highest mountain. We have got to explore the depths of the sea. We have to get out into space. Why? Because it is there.

Humans consistently manifest a remarkable racial memory, a vestigial recollection of what God told them to do. The trouble is that, when we try to accomplish this now, we create a highly explosive and dangerous situation, for our ability to exercise dominion is no longer there. Even in the individual life this is true. How many have realized the dreams and ideals you began with? Who can say, I have done all that I wanted to do; I have been all that I wanted to be. Paul in Romans puts it, …the creation was subjected to futility, (Romans 8:20 RSV).

But, we do see Jesus, the writer says. This is our one hope. With the eye of faith, we see Jesus already crowned and reigning over the universe, the man, Jesus, fulfilling humanity’s lost destiny. In the last book of the Bible there is a scene where John beholds the One seated upon the throne of the universe while thousands of angels are crying out in unending worship before him. The call goes out to find one who is able to open the book with seven seals which is the title deed to earth, the right to run the earth. A search is made through the length of human history for someone worthy enough to open the seals, but no one can be found. John says he wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll. But the angel says, Do not weep for the Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered and he can open the seals (Revelation 5:5 RSV). When John turned to see the Lion, to his amazement he saw a Lamb, a Lamb that had been slain. As he watched the Lamb stepped up to the throne and took the book, and all heaven broke into acclaim, for here at last was found One worthy to own the title deed of earth.

This is what the writer sees here. Here we see Jesus, who alone has broken through the barrier that keeps us from our heritage. What is that barrier? What is it that keeps us from realizing our dreams of dominion? It is put in one grim word: Death! Death is more than the ending of life. Death, means uselessness; it means waste, futility. Death, in that sense, pervades all of life. You can see the signs of it all along.

But Jesus fulfilled the qualifications to realize humanity’s heritage. He became lower than the angels, he took on flesh and blood, he entered into the human race to become part of it, Here we see Jesus, who alone experienced death. He tasted death for every man, and in doing so he took our place. He thus made it possible for those who throw in their lot with him to find that he has removed the thing that gives death its sting. In Jesus Christ mankind has that one ray of hope, given him to realize the destiny God had provided. Christ has come to begin a new race of people. That race includes himself and all those who are his, and to that race the promise is that they shall enter into all the fullness God ever intended man to have.

Thank you, Father, that you sent your Son to die for me, so that I could be restored and joined with you in that dominion that you created me for. Open my eyes that I might see him more clearly.

Life Application
God’s loving, sovereign plan is that we as His subjects should reign in life. How has He provided for this possibility? Are we living by means of the resurrection power of our indwelling Lord Jesus Christ? If not, why not?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – A Son or a Servant – A daily devotion for December 4

Topic:A Son or a Servant
A DAILY DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 4TH
READ THE SCRIPTURE: HEBREWS 1:5-14

For to which of the angels did God ever say, You are my Son; today I have become your Father? Or again, I will be his Father, and he will be my Son?
Hebrews 1:5

Ray Stedman

The writer of Hebrews is now comparing Jesus with the angels. The ancient world made a great deal of angels. They worshipped them in many of the ancient religious rites. Angels are the demigods of the Roman and Greek pantheon. Therefore, this letter was written to people who particularly had an interest in angels. This subject may not interest us as much today as it did then, but it is still a tremendous revelation of the person of Christ.

The Lord Jesus, says the writer, has a greater name than the angels, primarily because of his relationship. The contrast is between a Son and a servant. Angels are servants, but Christ is the Son.

I once visited a ranch as the guest of the hired man on that ranch. When we came onto the property we had to drive around the big house and go to the bunkhouse in the rear. I stayed with him there in the bunkhouse and never once got into the big house with him. There were some beautiful sorrel horses in the pasture and I suggested we take a ride. He said, Oh, no, I’m not permitted to ride those horses. So we had to ride some mangy fleabags out to the pasture. A few weeks later I became acquainted with the son of the household, and he invited me out to the ranch. When I went out with him, it was entirely different. We went right into the big house and he took over the place, as all teenagers do. After a sumptuous meal we went out and rode the sorrel horses all over the range. What a wonderful time we had.

That is the difference between a son and a servant, and that is the difference between Christ and any angel. He is greater because of his relationship, the fact that he is a Son. Blood is always thicker than water.

As C. S. Lewis points out, what we make with our hands is always something different than we are, but what we beget with our bodies is always the dearest thing in the world to us because it is part of us. Thus, the angels were made; the Son was begotten. What we beget has the same nature we have; what we make is always different. The angels, being made, cannot have the same relationship as the Son, who was begotten.

Here is the final answer to the cults. Both Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus Christ was nothing more than an angel, the highest created angel. They identify him with Michael, the Archangel. But this passage in Hebrews utterly demolishes that theory, for Christ is a Son, and not an angel. To what angel did God ever say, Thou art my Son.

Our Father, the claims of the Lord Jesus are incomparable, they can never be surpassed. I pray, therefore, that I may face up to this, and realize that there is no way of working out the problems of human life except as I work them out in fellowship with him.

Life Application
Does the Lord Jesus Christ occupy His rightful and exclusive place as God in our thoughts, words and deeds? Are we guarding against the worldly pantheon of false gods while delighting in our rich inheritance in Christ?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – He Holds All Things Together – A daily devotion for December 2

Topic:He Holds All Things Together
A DAILY DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 2ND
READ THE SCRIPTURE: HEBREWS 1:1-4

The Son is the gleaming brightness of God’s glory. He is the exact likeness of God’s being. He uses his powerful word to hold all things together.
Hebrews 1:3a

Ray Stedman

That is an amazing statement. It is put in the present tense, saying that he is the One who is keeping things going right now. Stanford University is the site of a linear accelerator, a mighty two-mile long atom smasher. It is a great lever with which scientists try to pry the lid off the secrets of matter and discover what is in the miniature world of the atom, the neutron, and the proton. Linear Accelerator scientists have discovered a complexity they never dreamed of, and they have found particles that they cannot even invent enough names for. But one thing they are consistently discovering is that there is some strange force that holds everything together. They do not know what to call it, and they do not know how to identify it. They talk about a kind of cosmic glue that holds things together. Isn’t it fascinating that here in the Word of God you have that exact kind of terminology used of Jesus! If you want a name for the force that holds the universe together it is very simple: His name is Jesus. He sustains the universe by his powerful word.

That is not only true of the physical universe, including our bodies and all that we are, but it is true of all the other forces and powers in the universe — physical, psychological, social, spiritual, whatever; he is in charge of them all. After the resurrection, when our Lord appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee, in the most forthright terms, simple, artlessly, he said to them, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matthew 28:18b KJV) This means he not only controls all the physical forces of the planet and the universe, but he controls all the events that occur upon them. This is something Christians tend to forget. We get so used to seeing things through the secular eyes of the media, and other propaganda forces around us, that we forget that behind the events that fill the pages of our newspapers is a mighty controlling hand that brings them all together, permitting some things to happen, restraining other things.

I recall the life of General Douglas MacArthur and those turbulent days of World War II when he was the Commander in the Pacific; then his moving on to Japan where he became a virtual Emperor; then the days of the Korean War where MacArthur was the Commander. It is fascinating to me to remember the headlines and the events that seemed so important at the time. I remember how angry the whole nation became at President Truman when he dismissed MacArthur, and the tremendous, ecstatic response the General received when he returned, first in San Francisco and later in New York. The whole nation was almost groveling at his feet.

And yet those events seem far away and insignificant now. They do not seem to have much bearing on today. I know that these events that capture our attention today are likewise going to seem faded and trivial soon. Yet they are not without meaning. The Bible tells us a mighty hand is shaping the destiny of nations and of individuals. All of these things have been and will always remain in the power of him who sustains the universe by the word of his power.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you are the One who holds all things together. Teach me to trust in you, even when things seem to be falling apart.

Life Application
Do we have a world view in which the Lord Jesus Christ is the centrifugal force? Is this merely intellectual — or does the power of His Presence translate into confident trust in the everyday events of our lives?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – God’s Final Word – A daily devotion for December 1

Topic:God’s Final Word
A DAILY DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 1ST READ THE SCRIPTURE: HEBREWS 1:1-4

In the past, God spoke to our people through the prophets. He spoke at many times. He spoke in different ways. But in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son. He is the one whom God appointed to receive all things. God made everything through him.
Hebrews 1:1-2

Ray Stedman

When you open the Old Testament you are reading the Word of God spoken to the fathers by the prophets. I hope you understand and value the Old Testament. What a marvelous book! How many different ways God spoke in that book — in dreams, in visions, in sudden appearances — in that wonderful act of inspiration that nobody fully understands where somebody speaking the words that come to his mind and heart is uttering the words of God.

And it comes to us in many different forms, as the writer of Hebrews says. You open Genesis and you have first, the very straightforward but majestic and moving tale of creation, of the fall, and of the flood. This is followed by the simple narrative of the lives of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then the story of Moses and the Exodus, and the thunderings of the Law, coming at last to the sweet singing of the Psalmist, the homespun wisdom of Proverbs, and the delicate tenderness of the Song of Solomon. Then the rest of the Old Testament is filled with the exalted visions of the prophets, these mighty men who spoke to times of crisis in the nation and yet lifted their eyes up and saw far beyond the horizons of time to great events that God was going to bring into being when the seasons rolled around.

Yet, when you finish the book, and you have heard all the matchless oratory of the prophets, you still realize that God’s voice has not answered the deep questions of the human heart. It is only when you open the Gospels and begin to read of Jesus, who he was, what he did, where he went, what he said, how he acted, how he lived and the way he handled situations, that all the utterance of the prophets begins to merge into one great voice and we get God’s final word to humankind.

Not far away from where I used to live in Montana is what is called, The Three Forks of the Missouri River, the place where three rivers flow together to form the Missouri. They rise up in the mountains in the western part of Montana and they form this great river, the Missouri, that flows on down through Montana and then into North Dakota, South Dakota, through Missouri, and joins the Mississippi along with the Ohio. Altogether this forms the greatest river system and drainage network that the world knows. All these rivers drain out of hills and valleys and mountain ranges that are far separated from one another, and I always think of that when I think of the way the Old Testament has flowed together to form the one great voice that speaks in the New. All the various themes that God introduces to humankind in the Old Testament are brought together in the voice of Jesus. He is God’s final word to man, greater than the prophets, fulfilling everything they have written.

Lord Jesus, you are God’s final word. I thank you that I can see how all the entire story of the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in you.

Life Application
Are we missing the grandeur of the world’s greatest epic through neglect of either the Old or New Testaments? Is the Person at the epicenter of it all central in our personal lives?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – Established! – A daily devotion for November 30

Topic:Established!
A DAILY DEVOTION FOR NOVEMBER 30TH
READ THE SCRIPTURE: ROMANS 16:25-27

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
Romans 16:25-27

Ray Stedman

Those remarkable words constitute a summary of the whole letter to the Romans — a beautiful finale to this great epistle. You will notice that the goal the apostle has in view in writing this letter and summary is that we who read this letter may be established.

Have you ever had the desire to be established? Many people think they are established when they are simply stuck in the mud. Most of us think that being established means that all progress ceases. We sit down, camp there, and that is it. In that sense, there are many Christians who are established. But when Paul speaks of our being established, he means putting us on solid, stable ground. Have you ever erected a picnic table and tried to find a place where all four legs touched the ground at the same time? You tried to establish it so that it would not rock, or become shaky, or uncertain. That is the idea that Paul has in mind in this word establish. God wants to bring you and me to a place where we are no longer rocking or shaky or unstable, but solid and secure. The idea is basically what all human beings look for — an inner security from which you can handle all the problems of life. You become dependable, and have a true sense of worth, so that nothing gets to you, or shakes you up, or throws you off balance.

This is the goal of all Christian teaching in the New Testament (and especially the goal of the letter to the Romans) that we believers might be brought to that place of security where we are not shaken by things, so that we do not lose our tempers easily, or get frustrated, angry, resentful or hostile; where we do not scream at our children, or yell at our mates, or get upset at the neighbors.

Notice the resource that the apostle counts on to make that happen: Now to him who is able to establish you… It is God himself who is responsible for this. You and I are not given the final responsibility to bring this about. Isn’t that encouraging? Now there are things he asks us to do: We are to understand what he is saying to us in this letter, and we are to willingly cooperate with it and give ourselves to it. But even if we do not, Paul is saying, we do not have the ultimate responsibility to bring this about. God will do it.

God did it with Paul. Paul was a brilliant young Jew with an ambitious heart, a sharp mind and a strong sense of achievement, due to his notable gifts and his desire to become famous. Yet God broke him, softened him, changed him and put him through circumstances that Paul did not understand at the time. This finally established him, so that no matter what came, he remained strong, steady, trusting and certain. That is the great good news of this letter. Now to him who is able to establish you…

Thank you, Lord, that you have promised to establish me in the faith and bring me to a place of security and strength in you.

Life Application
Are we merely part of the establishment, or are we firmly established in Christ as our true identity? Are we fully and confidently engaged as His fruit-bearing servants?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – Paul’s Friends – A daily devotion for November 29

Topic:Paul’s Friends
A DAILY DEVOTION FOR NOVEMBER 29TH
READ THE SCRIPTURE: ROMANS 16:21-24

Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives. I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you his greetings.
Romans 16:21-24

Ray Stedman

Here in the final paragraph Paul takes his pen and writes the last words himself. Up to this point he has been dictating this letter to a man named Tertius. The name indicates that he, too, was a slave. His brother, Quartus, is mentioned in Verse 23. They are educated slaves who have become Christians. They can read and write, and are part of this group in Corinth.

You can picture them gathered in the home of Gaius, this gracious host of the city, mentioned in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Gaius opened his house to the entire Christian community, so here is Paul, sitting there with his friends. Tertius is writing down the letter, and the others are gathered around listening to Paul as he dictates, and profiting much from the writing of these great truths. With Paul is his dear son in the faith, Timothy. Paul spoke of him always in the highest terms; his beloved son in the faith, who had stayed with him so long and remained faithful to the end. The very last letter Paul wrote from his prison cell in Rome was to Timothy. Paul also mentions Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, his relatives.

Here in Romans 16 are six members of Paul’s family, kinsmen who are now Christians. Some were Christians before him, but some Paul influenced toward Christ. Lucius appears to be the same one who comes from Cyrene, mentioned in Chapter 13 of Acts as one of the teachers in the city of Antioch. Jason was evidently Paul’s host when the apostle went to the city of Thessalonica. Paul stayed in Jason’s home when a riot broke out in the city. Sosipater may be the man from Beroea, mentioned in Acts 20 as Sopater. Paul met him in Macedonia and may have accompanied him to Jerusalem with the offering to the churches there. The final name is Erastus, director of public works in the city of Corinth. You can see how the gospel penetrated all levels of society, with slaves, public officials, consuls, leaders of the empire, all sharing an equal ground of fellowship in the church of Jesus Christ. All class distinctions disappeared within the church and that is what happens whenever the church works.

These Christians were noted for four things: First, they were not their own. They did not have a right to direct their lives any longer. Second, they believed that life is a battle. It is not a picnic. They were engaged in warfare that never ended until they left this life, so they kept on fighting. Third, they believed that there is need for rest and leisure at times, but only to restore them to go back into the battle. They never envisaged retiring for the remaining years of their lives. They only envisaged getting adequate rest to come back and fight through to the end. Finally, they understood that the gifts of the Holy Spirit among them opened up a ministry for every believer. No Christian was without a ministry. Some of these dear people had only the gift of helps, and that is a great gift. They could not teach or preach but they could help, and they did, right to the end. This passage reminds us that God has called us all to a ministry, and we all have to give an account for what we have done with our gifts. We had better find out what they are and get to work, get involved in the battle, because God has not called us to a picnic ground. He has called us to a battleground.

I pray that you will grant to me, Lord, similar faith that I too may share with you in a time of testing, a time of rebuke and pressure and persecution and trouble, and stand steadfast to the end, for your name’s sake.

Life Application
What four commitments were commonly shared among these early Christians? Do we share with them liberation from class distinctions, honoring our mutual members of the family of Christ?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – The God of Peace – A daily devotion for November 28

Topic:The God of Peace
A DAILY DEVOTION FOR NOVEMBER 28TH
READ THE SCRIPTURE: ROMANS 16:17-20

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
Romans 16:17-20

Ray Stedman

There is a very helpful passage here on what to do about problems within the church: Here is a group of people who are professing Christians, but who, to judge by the apostle’s language, are not truly believers. The danger, as Paul outlines it, is that they create factions within a church — that is, little dissident groups that gather about and emphasize one particular point of doctrine or teaching, to the exclusion of everything else. That is always a problem within the church when people think one particular thing is most important. We have people today who emphasize tongues, or prophecy, or some phase of teaching that they think is the mark of a true believer, to the exclusion of everything else. Paul warns about this.

The second thing they do is introduce practices or ceremonies that Paul calls obstacles to faith, certain rituals or practices that these groups insist are the marks of true Christianity. They build a sense of superiority. They say, If you have this mark, then you really are a Christian. Their motives, Paul says, are not to serve Christ, even though they say they do. These factions are really out to advance themselves, to get a following, to gain prestige. You can tell by the way they act that is what they want. Their methods are to come on with smooth and plausible talk. They always use scriptural language. They always appear to be the most dedicated and devoted of believers. Have you noticed how many of the cults today are trying to go back to the Scriptures, arguing from them a groundwork for their faith? Another method is flattery. They make Christians feel important. They lift them up above the rest and give them a peculiar mark of distinction, and flatter their egos as being members of the true church. These factions always cause division.

When some group like this appears, many of us tend to want to rush in and excommunicate them, read them out from the pulpit, or violently attack them. Paul does not say to do any of those things. His advice is to keep away from them. Ignore them. You Christians in Rome have a reputation for obedience. You have a spirit of wanting to obey what the Lord says. Now here is your word from the Lord: Do not follow them; do not get involved with these separatist groups. When you obey this, God will work. The God of peace, who will preserve the peace of the church, will also crush Satan under your feet. Something will happen to open the eyes of people to the unscriptural position of these groups, and they will lose their following. The peace will be preserved without warfare and dissension.

Father, thank you for these men and women who long ago preceded me in the pilgrimage of life. Help me to be a peacemaker among your people even when those around me might try to cause dissension.

Life Application
Have we discovered the useless folly of endless debates? How can we better fulfill our calling to the ministry of reconciliation? Do we see the wisdom of letting God deal with unruly dissidents?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – By Faith In Me – A daily devotion for November 26

Topic:By Faith In Me
A DAILY DEVOTION FOR JULY 26TH
READ THE SCRIPTURE: ACTS 25:1-26:23

Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
Acts 26:16-18

Ray Stedman

Here is the heart of Paul’s message before King Agrippa — his own transforming experience with Jesus Christ, in which in a nutshell he lays the good news out before the king. What a marvelous declaration of the gospel! Here from the words of Jesus himself, as Paul recalls hearing them on the Damascus road, is an accurate analysis of the problem with humanity. What is the matter with people? They are blind, Jesus says, blind and living in darkness.

Two thousand years later that is exactly what is wrong with our world. People do not know where to turn; they do not know where the answers lie. They do not even know how to analyze the problems accurately; they cannot see what is happening. They cannot predict the end of courses they adopt nor of the forces which they loose. They do not know where we are going. They are utterly blind, like men staggering around in a dark room, groping and feeling and trying to find their way through the course of history. This sense of being lost pervades our society. Two thousand years later we can see the truth of Jesus’ words. How accurately he analyzes the problem!

Then the Lord Jesus analyzes why men are blind. Because, he says, they are under the power of Satan. Behind the darkness is the great enemy of mankind, who is twisting and distorting the thinking of men, clouding their eyes, and spreading abroad widespread delusions. He has loosed into this world a great flood of lying propaganda. And everywhere today men and women have believed these delusions and lies.

You hear them on every side. All the commonly accepted philosophies of our day reflect the basic satanic lie that we are capable and adequate and independent, able to run our own affairs. You also hear that if you live for yourself, take care of number one, you will find advancement and fulfillment in life. And you hear that material things can satisfy you, that, if you get enough money, you will be happy. All these lies permeate our society. That is the power of Satan.

But the power of the gospel is that it comes in to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the power of God. God has found a way to forgive men’s sins, to wipe out all the guilt from the mistakes of the past, from all that they have done in their ignorance and enslavement to the lying propaganda of Satan, and to give them a resource from which they may live in fulfillment and strength. That is what Jesus means by a place among those who are sanctified. How do you get this? Jesus says precisely: By faith in me. That is why we believe him when he says, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man can come unto the Father but by me. We have no other choice, because it was Jesus himself who said that all this happens by faith in me. Wherever men have turned to him, they have indeed turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the power of God.

Father, how grateful I am that this same mighty, delivering power is just as available to people today, that you can turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, and forgive their sins, and set them free, and give them an inheritance, a new position, a new resource from which they may live.

Life Application
Have we been so impacted by Jesus, the Light of the world, that we are passionate to spread his Light into the deep, dark blindness that holds this world hostage to the enemy? Do our lives demonstrate the transcendent wisdom and power of Jesus? Are we spreading the fragrance of Jesus everywhere?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – Pioneers or Settlers? – A daily devotion for November 25

Topic:Pioneers or Settlers?
A DAILY DEVOTION FOR NOVEMBER 25TH
READ THE SCRIPTURE: ROMANS 15:17-29

Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation…
Romans 15:17-20

Ray Stedman

Concerning the principles of his ministry, Paul tells us five things: First, everywhere he went he found himself boasting, or a better translation is rejoicing. He said, I rejoice, I glory in Christ Jesus, in my service to God. Why? Because when this man came into a city, he usually found it in the grip of Roman authority, and ruled with an iron hand. He would find the people in widespread despair, empty and longing for something they could not find, and fallen into terribly degrading habits that were destroying homes and the very fabric of society itself. He would find them in the grip of superstitious fears. No church existed where he went, but after he had been there a while, and had begun to preach these tremendous themes, light began to spring up in the darkness. People were changed; they began to live for the first time. They discovered why they were made, and excitement appeared in their lives. So Paul just spent his life rejoicing over what was happening. That is the kind of ministry he had, and he gives us the secret of it in Verse 18: I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done. That is the greatest secret God has to teach man — that man was designed, not to do something to make God happy, but to let God work through the man. God would do the work — that is what Paul said, .. Christ has accomplished through me.

Paul’s life and ministry were constantly characterized by the display of the power of God to change lives. Then look at how widespread his ministry was (Verse 19): So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. Jerusalem is way down on the eastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia. Paul had traveled up and down that coast, on into what we call Turkey, in Asia Minor, up and across the Dardanelles, into Europe, then into Macedonia and Greece. He had gone into what we call Yugoslavia (Illyricum). And the nature of his ministry was pioneering (Verse 20): It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. He never wanted to build on another man’s work.

There are two kinds of Christians: Some want to be Settlers, to live around the courthouse and let the mayor run everything. They have lost all desire to reach out. But then there are the Pioneers, like Paul. They want to be getting into new areas that have never been touched adequately. I believe this is characteristic of the Spirit of God. He loves to thrust out into new areas.

Some of us are praying for a thrust into unreached and needy areas, to touch folks who have never been touched much. You should pray to be able to reach into these areas, that something will develop that will have the touch of God upon it. And this is Paul’s great hunger. We are to reach out with the good news, as Paul did.

I pray that I may not forget that I am still in the battle, and I am still to be your instrument. Help me to partake of the apostle’s spirit and press on, until you are ready to call me home.

Life Application
Have we settled for apathetic complacency though surrounded by evidence of personal and worldwide spiritual warfare? What steps are urgently needed to be God’s messengers, empowered by His wisdom and indwelling Presence?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – A Bold Reminder – A daily devotion for November 24

Topic:A Bold Reminder
A DAILY DEVOTION FOR NOVEMBER 24TH
READ THE SCRIPTURE: ROMANS 15:15-16

But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:15-16

Ray Stedman

You would think that a church that was theologically knowledgeable, able to instruct and counsel one another in the deep problems of life, and filled with a spirit of goodness and compassion, would hardly need anything more said to them. Yet it is to that kind of church that Paul addressed his letter to the Romans. He says they needed three other things.

First, they needed a bold reminder of the truth. I saw a man the other day with a string around his finger. The string was to remind him of something. The fact that we so easily forget things is somehow built into our humanity and I think one of the greatest proofs of the fall of man is that we have such a hard time remembering what we want to remember, yet we so easily remember what we want to forget! We even need to be reminded again and again of these great themes of the gospel. That is why in, Chapter 12, Paul says, You need your mind renewed by the Holy Spirit, (Romans 12:2). That is one reason to gather every Sunday: We need to have our minds renewed. We need to be called back to a vision of reality. Living out in the world, as many of you are, working every day among non-Christians, it is so easy to be sucked into the attitudes of the world around. It is so easy to get the idea that life is designed to be a pleasant picnic, that we can work toward the day when we can retire and enjoy ourselves. I find that attitude prevalent among people everywhere, but that is not what the Bible says. The Bible says we are in the midst of a battle, a battle to the death, against a keen and crafty foe. He wants to discourage us and defeat us, and to make us feel angry and hostile. He knows how to do it, and he never lets up. This life is not designed to be a time of relaxing. There are times when we need recreation and vacations, when we can slow down a bit. But you never see Paul talking about quitting the battle. You cannot quit, as long as life is there. So Paul tells us that we need to be reminded, day by day and week by week, that we are in a battle and that we have a crafty foe.

The second thing the apostle said the Christians at Rome needed was a priestly ministry. He told them, You not only need to be reminded of the truth, but you need an example to follow. You need somebody you can see doing this kind of thing. That is what pastors have the privilege of doing. They are called of God, not only to be an example of leadership, but also to be like a priest working in the temple, to awaken among people a sense of worship, a sense of the greatness of God

The third thing they needed is that, the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Every congregation needs this. We need to labor, to pray, to work, to counsel, to evangelize. But all of the activity of the Christian life is of no avail if it is not sanctified by the Holy Spirit, if it does not have in it that touch of God, that unction from on high, that divine wind blowing upon the dead bones and making them come to life. Paul is reminding them here of the ministry of prayer, and the need to remember that God himself must touch something — otherwise it is dead and useless. So Paul calls this church at Rome back to this tremendous reality. They had so much, but they needed this as well.

Lord, continue to remind me of my need for these three things. I continue to need a bold reminder of the truth, a priestly example and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Thank you that you are more than willing to provide these things.

Life Application
Has the daily exposure to worldly affairs and ideas diverted our minds from our heritage of Truth and Love? Have we settled into complacency when that knowledge and goodness is so urgently needed?