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Closer Walk365 Daily Devotions That Nurture a Heart for God
ZondervanCopyright © 1992 Zondervan
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Chapter OneDiscipleship: Following the Master's Footsteps
Matthew presents Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah ("Anointed One") of Israel. Writing to a Jewish audience, Matthew draws heavily on Old Testament prophecies to convince his readers that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
But you needn't be Jewish to benefit from reading Matthew's gospel. This tax-collector-turned-disciple presents some distinct impressions about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a worker of miracles, a preacher of parables, a lover of people. Everywhere He went, He taught people what right living was all about, modeling His teaching with His own life.
Jesus chose a twelve-member team of traveling companions-called disciples-who followed Him everywhere and learned much from Him. Their lives changed dramatically as they came in contact with the life-changing Savior. But discipleship is just as important for your own personal life. After all, you as a follower of Jesus Christ are also His disciple. Such an assignment must not be taken lightly. Jesus often spoke of the high price of being His disciple-alienation from family, self-denial, loss of earthly possessions, physical abuse, even martyrdom!
Jesus knew that being His disciple would demand nothing short of a transformed life. Furthermore, before His departure from this earth, Jesus commanded His followers to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Disciple-making, in other words, is a continuing responsibility; the Great Commission has been entrusted to all those who confess Christ as their Savior.
This should be an exciting month in God's Word-a month of change, of growth, of becoming more like Jesus. It will be a month to help you develop a heart for God.
God Present in Touchable Form
"And they will call him Immanuel"-which means, "God with us" (Matthew 1:23).
What does a greeting have in common with a good-bye?
Simply this: Good-bye is short for "God be with you." And that's who is introduced in the first chapter of Matthew-Immanuel, whose name means "God with us." For Jesus Christ is the God-man, the long-awaited Messiah.
Centuries earlier, God had promised through the prophets to come and dwell among men. John Calvin describes how Jesus fulfilled that promise.
WALK WITH JOHN CALVIN "Scripture often speaks in terms of God being with us when His help and favor are by us, and when He reaches out in His power to protect us.
"In Christ the presence of God was tangibly displayed to the people, no longer in shadows. He would certainly be no true Mediator if there were not in Him an undivided bond of each nature, human and divine, to tie people to God.
"Which again brings home to us that Christ was God revealed in the flesh, and it is right that He puts on the title 'Immanuel.' So this name must make us think first of the divine majesty of Christ, to bring us to reverence it, as is due to the one and everlasting God.
"As often as we see God and man in the one person of Christ, we may be certain that we possess God, if by faith we are joined to God."
WALK CLOSER TO GOD Today you begin reading the remarkable account of how the Son from heaven came to live as a man on earth, and His every word, every work, every step, is worthy of note.
Think of it! Jesus began His earthly life as a baby, yet He existed in the beginning with God. At birth, He was laid in a manger, yet He created the tree it was made from.
Jesus Christ is God's "good-bye" gift to you, that you might greet each new day with the words, "Hello, Lord!"
Have you done that yet today?
In the Path of the Magi
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him (Matthew 2:11).
Parts of the Christmas story are anything but idyllic. For example: the cold night, the stable full of livestock, the rough feeding trough as a crib. But parts of that dramatic occasion can scarcely be exaggerated. For instance, the angelic visitors and the wise men who came to worship the infant King.
John Chrysostom will help you appreciate the mystery and majesty of that first Christmas.
WALK WITH JOHN CHRYSOSTOM "Let us follow the Magi; let us separate ourselves from our worldly desires that we may see Christ, since they too-had they not been far from their own country-would have missed seeing Him. Let us depart from the things of earth.
"Let us rise up and run to the house of the young Child; though kings, though nations, though tyrants interrupt our path, let not our desire pass away.
"The Magi, too, would not have escaped their danger from the king unless they had seen the young Child. Before seeing Him, fears and dangers and troubles pressed upon them from every side; but after the adoration, there is calm security.
"Do thou therefore likewise leave the pomp of this world, and hasten to Bethlehem, where is the house of the spiritual Bread.
"Only let your coming be to honor and adore, not to spurn the Son of God. Do this with trembling and joy."
WALK CLOSER TO GOD The greatest gift given on that first Christmas came from God Himself-the priceless treasure of His Son. And the wonder of that gift is still reason enough for you to bow in adoring worship today and sing these familiar lines:
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord.
A Heritage in God's Family
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).
In Matthew 3, a man named John bursts upon the scene, looking and sounding like Elijah the prophet. According to the Old Testament, that was precisely as it should have been.
Another Man named Jesus came to be baptized by John. Coincidence? Or the long-awaited Messiah (Anointed One)? The audible voice of God supplied the answer.
Matthew Henry, prolific 18th-century Bible commentator, reveled in the Christian's privileges in Christ. If you are "in Him," you enjoy a rich heritage in God's family, as Mr. Henry explains.
WALK WITH MATTHEW HENRY "Jesus is God's 'beloved Son,' not only 'with whom' but 'in whom' God is well pleased. God is pleased with all who are in Christ and are united to Him by faith. Hitherto God had been displeased with the children of men; but now His anger is turned away, and He has made us 'accepted in the Beloved.' Outside of Christ, God is a consuming Fire, but in Christ He is a reconciling Father.
"This is the sum of the whole gospel: God has declared by a voice from heaven that Jesus Christ is His beloved Son. With this we must by faith cheerfully concur and say that He is our beloved Savior, in whom we are well pleased."
WALK CLOSER TO GOD What is your heavenly heritage? Forgiveness. Acceptance. Salvation. Indescribable wealth in Jesus Christ, all because you are "born again" into God's family, giving you the right to call God your Father. That's your legacy. You are rich in Christ ... but do you live as a King's heir?
You are forgiven, but do you nurture feelings of guilt? You are accepted, but do you try to "repay" God for what He has given as a free gift?
It's hard to live like a pauper when you know you're as rich as a king. And focusing on your heritage in the family of God can be exciting.
Don't be surprised if something changes when you do. And don't be content until it does.
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4).
Relying solely on the word of God
Oh, for a word that, when spoken, would automatically
... wash the dishes
... write the report
... heal the pain
... sweep away the problem.
In the desert, Satan tempted Jesus to "say the word" and so satisfy His hunger. But Jesus chose instead to speak another word, a word more powerful than any magic formula-the Word of God.
Charles Spurgeon describes the scene and its implications for the modern-day Christian.
Relying Solely on the Word of God
WALK WITH CHARLES SPURGEON "Our Lord was led into the wilderness, where the Devil adapted the temptation to the circumstances: He tempted a hungry man with bread.
"He put it very cunningly. One single word, and the hard stone of the desert would be bread. But out flashed the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Our Lord will fight with no other weapon.
"He could have spoken new revelations, but He chose to say, 'It is written ...' There is power in the Word of God which even the Devil cannot deny.
"Our life and sustenance are not dependent upon the visible. We live 'not by bread alone,' though it is the usual means of support. The Word of the Lord which made the heavens can assuredly support all it has made.
"Jesus would not distrust the providence of God, but would wait His Father's time for feeding Him. He would by no means be driven to an act of unbelief and self-reliance."
WALK CLOSER TO GOD "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).
Oh, for a word which, when spoken, would cause Satan to flee.
Such a word exists! Three times Jesus employed it, declaring, "It is written ..." You dare not confront your wily Enemy without it.
Excerpted from Closer Walk Copyright © 1992 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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