Strength for Today: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Strength for Today: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

by John MacArthur

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Overview

This daily study reflects Pastor John MacArthur's heart for Scripture, taking an in-depth, expository approach to reveal the poignant truths of the Bible, one passage at a time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781581344073
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 04/28/2002
Series: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 794,884
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.95(d)

About the Author

John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, where he has served since 1969. He is known around the world for his verse-by-verse expository preaching and his pulpit ministry via his daily radio program, Grace to You. He has also written or edited nearly four hundred books and study guides. MacArthur is chancellor emeritus of the Master’s Seminary and Master’s University. He and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four grown children.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Commitment to god's Standards

January 1

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

EphEsians 4:1

* * *

Just as organizations have rules their members must follow, God has standards Christians must live by.

When someone is part of a group, he or she is obligated to follow its laws or standards. American citizens are required to obey the laws of the United States. Employees must conform to the rules of their company. Athletic teams are expected to listen to their coach.

Most of us want to be part of a group because with belonging comes acceptance. This desire to conform can be quite strong, sometimes dangerously so. During Jesus' time, "many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God" (John 12:42-43). Those rulers were so committed to their religious system that they damned their souls by rigidly adhering to its code.

Some people think belonging to the church is different though. They want the blessings, rights, and privileges of being a child of God, but they're unwilling to conform to biblical standards. But God expects Christians to live a certain way. Paul told the Corinthian believers to remove from their midst all who live immorally (1 Cor. 5:1-2). In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 he says, "Keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us."

Since people can join athletic teams and businesses and follow the rules, since people can be so fearful of being cast out of their society that they forfeit their souls, since people can be so devoted to things that don't matter, shouldn't Christians make an even greater commitment to what matters most? In EPHESIANS 4:1 -6 Paul tells us how we can "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called" (v. 1). Let's commit ourselves to obey God as we learn what He requires of us.

* * *

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to show you areas where your commitment to Him is lacking, and for help in strengthening those areas.

For Further Study: Read John 9. What were the parents of the man born blind most committed to? G What effect did that commitment have on them?

Becoming What you are

January 2

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the callingwith which you have been called."

EPHESIANS 4:1

* * *

The Christian life is simply becoming what Christ has already made you.

Suppose immediately after you were saved, the Lord stamped your forehead with the words, "Watch me. I'm a child of God." How would that affect your lifestyle?

We may not have a physical mark like that, but we do bear the name of Christ in this world. When we first put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we became part of His family (Gal. 4:1-7). He "freely bestowed" His grace on us (Eph. 1:6). He "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (1:3). And we have a rich, glorious inheritance in heaven (1:18). As God's children, we indeed have many rights, honors, and privileges, but He expects us to behave like His children. Just as a child honors his father by obeying him, we honor God by walking worthy of Him. Our actions must be actions He would approve. Our desires must be His desires. Our goals and objectives must be His goals and objectives.

One of my seminary professors once told me that the whole Christian life is simply becoming what you are. Because you are a child of God, you need to act like a child of God. In fact, the root of the Greek word translated "worthy" in EPHESIANS 4:1 speaks of equalization and balance. There ought to be perfect harmony between who you are and how you live. We lapse in our commitment to Christ when we fail to live that way.

Remember, though, that our obedience to God must not be a conformity to rules and regulations out of fear or legalistic pride. It is instead a conformity to righteousness out of gratitude and a deep love for Christ. Our desire to be worthy children is a result of understanding and appreciating all He has done for us.

Philippians 1:27 says, "Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." In other words, match your conduct to the gospel. The exalted reality of the gospel demands an exalted lifestyle.

* * *

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Lord to help you act like His child.

For Further Study: Read 1 John 2:6. Christ is our supreme example of the worthy walk. G Find examples in the Gospels where He demonstrates His commitment to the Father. G How can you follow His example today?

From Doctrine To Duty

January 3

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

Ephesians 4:1

* * *

There can be no right living without right principles.

Imagine someone saying, "I have some extra money lying around. I think I'll send a large check to the government." Absurd, isn't it? But every year, honest wage-earners fill out forms and give part of their income to the government. Why? It's not because they are generous but because there is a law — a doctrine — that says they have to.

Unless people know the reason for what they should do, it's unlikely they'll make a commitment to do it. Paul understood that, so he always taught doctrine before duty. "Therefore" in EPHESIANS 4:1 links the doctrine of chapters 1 — 3 to the duty of chapters 4 — 6. Doctrine and duty are inseparably linked; duty always flows out of doctrine. Right living is based on right principles.

Paul told the Colossian church, "We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (1:9). For what purpose? "So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord" (v. 10). Spiritual knowledge, wisdom, and understanding make up the pathway of a worthy walk.

When pastors teach duty without teaching doctrine, they weaken the Word of God because they've eliminated the motive. They may be able to stir up emotions, but that brings no long-term commitment. The pastor's responsibility is to teach the truth of God, and the hearer's responsibility is to obey it.

Of course, the source of God's truth is His Word: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Knowing the Bible well is our means of equipping ourselves for a righteous life.

As we think about our worthy walk, let's avoid emotionalism and legalism, and instead focus on living what we learn from a thorough and personal study of God's Word.

* * *

Suggestions for Prayer: If you have neglected studying the Bible, confess that to God, and ask Him to give you a greater desire to learn His Word.

For Further Study: Read Ephesians 1 — 3 and list all we are or have in Christ. Knowing what God has given you, can you do any less than commit yourself to Him completely?

Guarding Against Sin

January 4

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

Ephesians 4:1

* * *

Knowing and obeying God's Word helps us walkworthy by protecting us from sin.

While we are discussing the importance of knowing right doctrine before right duty, let's see one way knowing the Bible helps us to walk worthy: it protects us from sin. From time to time you might hear people who have a fatalistic attitude toward sin saying, "I couldn't help myself" or "The Devil made me do it." Such excuses are foolish for Christians to make since God has given us the means to resist temptation.

The psalmist said, "Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee" (Ps. 119:11). Without knowledge, we are defenseless and vulnerable. Knowing God's truth — by study and by application — enables us to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. Anyone who puts his faith in Jesus Christ but who does not keep God's Word constantly at the forefront of his mind will find himself entrapped in sin again and again.

Although we must know God's Word to defend ourselves against sin and to obey God's will, there is a danger. Once we know His truth, we are held accountable for what we know.

Second Peter 2:21 speaks of apostates, those who knew about Jesus Christ but returned to their former life without ever committing themselves to Him: "It would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them." James 4:17 says, "To one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin."

* * *

So not knowing is better than knowing and not obeying. What's best, of course, is knowing the Word and obeying it, because it is our spiritual nourishment: "Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2). For a Christian, neglecting the Word is spiritual starvation.

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask forgiveness for times you have known the right thing to do but have not done it.

For Further Study: Read about a young man who gave in to temptation in Proverbs 7. Contrast him with Joseph in Genesis 39. What was the difference between them? G Think about how Psalm 119:9 relates to them, and to you.

Approaching Life from a Divine Perspective

January 5

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

Ephesians 4:1

* * *

To mature in our faith, we must learn tosee things from God's perspective.

Paul was a prisoner of Rome. Why then did he call himself "the prisoner of the Lord"? Because he had the ability to see everything in terms of how it affected Christ. No matter what happened in his life, he saw it in relation to God. His questions were, "What does this mean, God?" and "How does this affect You?"

When a problem comes in life, we are prone to say, "Oh, woe is me!" and wonder how it will affect us: Will it cause me pain? Will it cost me money? Too often we think only on the earthly level. But like Paul, we should think on a heavenly level: What is God trying to teach me? How can I glorify Him in this? In fact, a good definition of Christian maturity is: automatically seeing things in light of the divine perspective.

This perspective, this God-consciousness, is the only right way for Christians to live. David said, "I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely" (Ps. 16:8-9). Because David was always aware of God's presence, he found joy and security, and no trouble could disturb him for long.

Paul was the same way: he knew there was a reason for his imprisonment and that Christ would be glorified by it (cf. Phil. 1:12-14). Paul wasn't preoccupied with how it affected him, and thus he was able to rejoice, even in prison.

"God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). Nothing happens outside of God's control. Let's trust that He knows what is best for us.

* * *

Suggestions for Prayer: If you tend to get discouraged or complain when troubles come, ask God to forgive you and help you see troubles from His perspective. Acknowledge before Him that He is in control of everything.

For Further Study: Paul's attitude toward difficulties was cultivated by the experience he describes in 2 Corinthians 12:2-10. What did Christ teach him about troubles in verse 9, and how did that change Paul's outlook?

The Passssion Fueling the Worthy Walk

January 6

* * *

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

Ephesians 4:1

* * *

A passion for Christ is what compels usto live an exemplary life.

What do you think of when you hear the word beggar? You probably picture a haggard person in tattered clothes with an outstretched hand asking for money or food.

Would it surprise you to know that the apostle Paul was a beggar? He didn't beg for money, though, but for people to follow Christ. The word translated "entreat" in this verse means "to call out to someone with intensity" or "to plead with someone."

Paul pleaded with many people. He begged Herod Agrippa to hear the gospel (Acts 26:3). He told the church at Rome, "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice" (Romans 12:1). To the Corinthians he said, "We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20). When Paul was committed to some principle of divine truth, he implored people to respond. He didn't approach the ministry with detachment or indifference.

Paul again feels compelled to beg in EPHESIANS 4:1 : "I ... entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." He doesn't just coldly say, "It is essential that you walk worthy." He begs them. Why? Because when you don't walk worthy, God is not glorified in your life, you are not fully blessed, the church cannot fully function, and therefore the world cannot see Jesus Christ for who He is. So much depends on our worthy walk. Paul pleads with us, to show how vital it is.

* * *

Paul's passion demonstrates an important truth: while knowledge is necessary in the Christian life, it is our desire to be like Christ that compels us toward righteousness. And when we have that desire, it will be natural for us to beg those around us to follow Christ as well.

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to give you the heart of the apostle Paul who said, "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20).

For Further Study: Read Philippians 3:7-14. What characterized Paul's zeal? G Which of these characteristics do you lack? Look for ways to bolster them as you daily work through this book.

Divine Resources for Walking Worthy

January 7

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

EPHESIANS 4:1

* * *

A worthy lifestyle is possible only by depending on God's resources.

Walking is often used in Scripture as a symbol of the Christian life. It is simply a reference to your daily conduct or lifestyle — a day-by-day, step-by-step commitment to follow Christ. As Christians we "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). John wrote, "This is love, that we walk according to His commandments" (2 John 6). Paul said to walk in good works (Eph. 2:10) and to please God in our walk before Him (1 Thess. 4:1).

In EPHESIANS 4:1 Paul is saying, "Let your lifestyle be worthy of the calling to which you are called."

You may ask, "Is it possible to walk this way?" Yes, but only on this basis: you must devote yourself to be strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:16), Christ's Word must dwell in your heart, His love must penetrate your life (vv. 17-19), and you must be "filled up to all the fulness of God" (v. 19), who "is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (v. 20). We must live by the resources God has given us to walk the worthy walk. We'll never do it by just knowing the theology and then trying really hard.

Are you trying to live as a Christian without prayer, without studying the Bible, or even without giving much thought to Christ except on Sunday? Are you trying to be righteous without relying on the Holy Spirit? If you are, you will be frustrated in your efforts. You must commit every day and every moment to the Lord, trusting in His strength. Besides, why would you want to live on your own power when you can live by the power of God?

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for giving you the Holy Spirit, who gives you the power to walk worthy before Him and others. G Pray each day that the Holy Spirit will strengthen you to live in a way that pleases God.

For Further Study: Read Galatians 5:16-25. From your understanding of today's study, what does it mean to "walk by the Spirit"? G What does walking by the Spirit protect you from?

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Strength for Today"
by .
Copyright © 1997 John MacArthur.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, ix,
Daily Readings, 11,
Through the Bible, 379,
Scripture Index, 385,
Topical Index, 395,

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