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Devotional by Ray Stedman – The Scandal Maker- A daily devotion for January 5

Topic:The Scandal Maker
A daily devotion for January 5th

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him
Mark 2:15

Ray Stedman

This evidently was a farewell dinner Matthew gave for his friends, his tax-collecting buddies. He was saying farewell to his work and friends and leaving to follow Jesus, the one who would travel from place to place. It was also an opportunity to introduce them to his newfound Lord.

What a collection of rascals must have been there that day! All the tax collectors of the city, all the sinners, all the despised social outcasts were sitting there. As the scribes of the Pharisees passed by, they saw that right in the midst of it all, among the “beer bottles” and the “poker chips,” sat Jesus. And they were absolutely scandalized! It was obvious that He was the friend of these men. He was not lecturing them. He was sitting among them and eating and drinking with them. The scribes were simply appalled at this and called the disciples aside: “Why does he do things like that? Doesn’t he know who these people are?”

Jesus’ answer is very revealing. He actually agrees with their remarks. He says, in effect, “You’re right, these are sick, hurting, troubled men. Their style of life has damaged them deeply. They don’t see life rightly; they are covering up many evils; they are false in many ways. You’re right, these are sick men. But where else would a doctor be?”

He says something to them that rightly focuses their attention and turns their gaze back toward themselves. He says, “I came to call not the righteous, but sinners.” That is, those who think they are righteous, as these Pharisees did, are actually more needy than those they regard as social outcasts. These Pharisees were actually more deeply disturbed than the tax collectors and sinners, but they did not know it. But Jesus was saying to them, “To those who think they’re righteous, I have absolutely nothing to say. But to these who know they’re sick and are open for help, I am fully available as a minister to their souls.”

Our Lord made several things emphatically clear by this reply. First, He indicated strongly that when people think they have no need of help from God, they are in no position to be helped. There is nothing to say to them. But our Lord always put His efforts where men and women were open to help, where they were hurting so much they knew they needed help.

The second thing our Lord reveals is that people are more important than prejudice. Prejudices are preconceived notions formed before we have sufficient knowledge, usually mistaken or distorted ideas with which we have grown up. When prejudices are in opposition to the needs of people, they are to be swept aside without any hesitation. We Christians must learn to treat people like this–regardless of what their outward appearance may be. That is the way Jesus approached people everywhere.

Father, thank You for Jesus’ courage, which dared to challenge human traditions. Grant that I may see myself and others as You see us–sick people in need of a physician.

Life Application
Do we need to repent of the self-righteous judging that separates us from God’s forgiveness for our own sins, and from caring compassion toward other sinners?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – Warning, Warning! – A daily devotion for December 9

Topic:Warning, Warning!

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
Hebrews 3:12-14

Ray Stedman

We share in Christ if that faith which began continues to produce in us that which faith alone can produce, the fruit of the Spirit. This is an important warning of this book; a warning against the danger of hardening — of hearing the words and believing them, understanding what they mean, but of taking no action upon them. The peril of holding truth in the head, but never letting it get into the heart. But truth known never does anything; it is truth done which sets us free. Truth known simply puffs us up in pride of knowledge. We can quote the Scriptures by the yard, can memorize it, can know the message of every book and know the whole book from cover to cover, but truth known will never do anything for us. It is truth done, truth acted upon, that moves and delivers and changes.

The terrible danger which the writer is pointing out is that truth that is known but not acted on has an awful effect of hardening the heart so that it is no longer able to act — and we lose the ability to believe. This is what the Lord Jesus meant when he said to his disciples, If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one should rise from the dead, (Luke 16:31).

A man said to me, If we only had the ability to do miracles like the early church did, then we could really make this Christian cause go. If we could perform these things again, and had faith enough to do miracles, we could make people believe. But I had to tell him that after thirty years of observing this scene, and studying the Scriptures, I am absolutely convinced that if God granted us this power, as he is perfectly able to do, so that miracles were being demonstrated on every hand, there would not be one further Christian added to the cause of Christ than there is right now! At the close of Jesus’ own ministry, after that remarkable demonstration of the power of God in the midst of people, how many stood with him at the foot of the cross? A tiny band of women and one man, and they had been won, not by his miracles, but by his words.

This is why God says up in verse 11, I swore in my wrath, They shall never enter my rest. That is not petulance. That does not mean God is upset because he has offered something and they will not take it. That is simply a revelation of the nature of the case. When truth is known and not acted upon, it always, on every level of life, in any area of human knowledge, has this peculiar quality: It hardens, so the heart is not able to believe what it refuses to act on.

Father, may I heed this important warning and act upon that truth which you have shown me.

Life Application
Are we trivializing the eternal loss to our souls of simply knowing, while deliberately failing to live, biblical Truth? What is the short term as well as long term loss?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – God’s House – A daily devotion for December 8

Topic:God’s House

Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
Hebrews 3:5-6

Ray Stedman

Six times in this short section the word house appears, the house of God. There is a very common misunderstanding abroad in our day, especially among Christians, which uses the term, the house of God to mean a church building. There is nothing more destructive of the greatest message of the New Testament than that belief! A building is never truly called the house of God, either in the New Testament or the Old Testament, in the present or in the past. Certainly no church building, since the very beginning of the early church, could ever properly be called the house of God. The early church never referred to any building in that way. In fact, the early church had no buildings for two or three hundred years. When they referred to the house of God they meant the people. A church is not a building, it is people!

Even the temple or the tabernacle of old was not really God’s house. Let someone point out the fact that no building today can properly be called the house of God, and some Bible-instructed Christian nearby wisely nods his head and says, Yes, you’re right. The only building that could properly be called the house of God was the temple. It is true that those buildings were termed that in Scripture, but it is meant only in figure. They were never meant to be the place where God dwelled.

In the sixty-sixth chapter of his magnificent prophecy, Isaiah records the words of the Lord, saying, Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool — where is the house which you would build for me? … All these things my hand has made, (Isaiah 66:1-2 KJV). Paul, in preaching to the Athenians, reminded them that God does not dwell in temples made by hands, (Acts 17:24 KJV). Even as he said those words the temple was still standing in Jerusalem. No, God does not dwell in buildings.

Then what is the house of God that is mentioned here? The answer is very clearly stated in Verse 6. We are his house. We people. God never intended to dwell in any building; he dwells in people, in men and women, in boys and girls. That is the divine intention in making men, that they may be the tabernacle of his indwelling. Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians, Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you which you have of God? (1 Corinthians 6:19a). God’s purpose is to inhabit your body and to make you to be the manifestation of his life, the dwelling place of all that he is.

In this house of God which is ever people, Moses ministered as a servant, but Christ as a Son. Therefore, the Son is much more to be obeyed, much more to be listened to, much more to be honored and heeded, than the servant. Moses served faithfully as a servant. What is the ministry of a servant? A servant is always preparing things. He must prepare meals, he must prepare rooms, he must prepare the yard. He is always working in the anticipation of something yet to come. His work is in view of that which is yet future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. What is the role of a son in a house? To take over everything, to possess it, to use whatever he likes. The house was made for him.

Thank, you, Lord, that you have come to dwell in me. What a privilege it is to be your house!

Life Application
Incredibly, the Spirit of God has chosen the believer’s body as His temple! Who, then, is to be worshiped? For what purpose does the Risen Christ honor us with all the resources and power of His Presence?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – Pay Careful Attention! – A daily devotion for December 5

Topic:Pay Careful Attention!

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Hebrews 2:1-4

Ray Stedman

The writer says that we need to pay attention! This convinces me that the writer of this letter was a preacher. There is nothing more heartbreaking than preaching to people week after week and to see them constantly exposed to truth that you know could transform their very existence, and yet to see them lose the whole effect of this because they do not pay attention.

There are two reasons why this message is particularly valid: First, it is valid by comparison with the Law. If the word spoken by angels, that is, the Law of Moses, had validity and those to whom it was given found that it was absolutely true in experience, then this message also is true. If angels could give a word like that, how much more the word that comes by the Son?

The second confirmation is, this message is valid in view of the form of its communication to us. It was spoken, first, by the Lord! What Jesus Christ has to say is the most authoritative word the world has ever heard. This message did not originate with the apostles, it did not come to us by means of prophets, it came through the Lord himself. That is not all. It was also confirmed by eye witnesses and attested by signs sent from God himself, by wonders and miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit. What an impelling argument this is!

It all focuses down to one question which the writer leaves hanging in the air: How shall we escape if we neglect such great salvation? That is not a threat, it is simply a question. It is addressed both to the Christian and to the non-Christian: To the non-Christian it says: Where are you going to go? How will you get out of God’s universe? How can you escape, and why attempt to do so? Especially when his purpose is not to curse but to bless? How can you find deliverance by any other route, since it does not involve the One who is behind all things?

To the Christian he is saying, it is not enough that we know Jesus Christ: We must use him. We can lose so much, even knowing him, unless there is a day-by-day walk with him. We lose peace and freedom and joy and achievement. We are subjected to temptation, frustration, bewilderment, bafflement and barrenness without him. And if we do not go on as Christians, if we do not grow, a serious question is raised: Have we ever really begun the Christian life? Or is this but a self-deceptive fraud, attempted to meet outward standards but without any inward change in the heart? He leaves the question hanging in the air, haunting, unavoidable: How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

Lord Jesus, help me to pay careful attention and not to neglect such great salvation.

Life Application
Are we giving priority to the most significant issue of time and eternity: our salvation? Do we properly fear God as sovereign and righteous, while honoring His holy Presence as our eternal Advocate?

Devotional by Ray Stedman – The Power to Cleanse – A daily devotion for December 3

Topic:The Power to Cleanse

He provided the way for people to be made pure from sin. Then he sat down at the right hand of the King, the Majesty in heaven.
Hebrews 1:3b

Ray Stedman

Jesus is the final and complete word of God to man because he has solved the deepest problem in human life — the problem of human sinfulness. Everybody today is asking, in the face of some of the tragic things that are happening, What’s wrong with humanity? What’s wrong with life? Why is the world in a such a mess? Why are our papers filled with murder and violence and hate and corruption and darkness? The answer of Scripture universally is, Man’s sin, or, to put it even more realistically, and more helpfully, to us, Man’s selfishness. That is what lies at the root of it all, the terrible taint that all of us possess that can never be washed away by our own efforts. Like Lady Macbeth, we all want to cry out and curse the spot and stain. Yet it is never gone.

The amazing declaration of Scripture is that the reason the Creator of the world became the Babe of Bethlehem was that he might make purification for human selfishness, that he might solve the insoluble problem, and wash away the UN-washable stain. The good news is that every one of us who has found Christ, who has come to him, and who follows him finds again and again that he has the power to cleanse us. He has the power to put away the guilt of the past, whether it is the past 50 years of life or the past five minutes of time. He has the power to cleanse it, and wash it away, and to set us on our feet again with a clean slate and a fresh page to write on every day, to live life again in the power and the grace of the living God. That is the greatest message of all. When he had made purification for sins (what agony, what terrible hurt is involved in that phrase), he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Jesus is Lord: this was the early creed of the Church and it is the creed of all who come to know him now. He has solved that desperate problem of human life; he is in control and in charge of all human events.

Father, thank you for the Lord of Glory. It is with very inadequate words that I seek to set forth the amazing wonder that he, this Lord of Glory, should give himself to come in the form of a helpless child and become a man, that he might die for me to set me free and make purification for sins. Thank you for this. I pray that I will never forget that I am a redeemed creature, that I have no value in myself, but have eternal value in the One who loved me and gave himself for me.

Life Application
Have we been scandalized by our own selfishness? Are we learning to bring this intolerable burden to Jesus for our cleansing and healing? If not, to whom shall we go, what path shall we take? Is there another?