Life and Submission

Read: John 15:9-17
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (v.13).

Jesus taught us to lay down our lives for others. At its most costly moments, I believe this submission of our wills happens in four progressive stages.

The first stage is recognition. We are presented with a need or a person for whom a decision of submission must be made.

The second stage is deliberation. There will be a cost to our submission. At the very least, it will cost us time or money. In the most extreme cases it could cost us our lives. It will almost certainly call our own plans and aspirations into question.

The third stage is relinquishment. If it is God who is beckoning us to sacrifice—not guilt, manipulation, or duty—we will need to release our time, money, dreams, or lives into His hands. Expect to wrestle at this point. Expect to clutch and claw at what you’re about to give up.

And these last two stages are vital in our efforts to reach the final stage of submission itself. If we dismiss the need without a thought, we risk robbing someone of love and disobeying God. If we submit without consideration of cost, we risk offering a commitment without substance.

All of this is an echo of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). He who relinquished divine privilege to take on human flesh, who said the laying down of life was the true mark of love, who “was crushed with grief” (Matthew 26:38) and sweated at the cost of submission, and who relinquished His body to a cruel cross and nails—He, even He, spent hours wrestling over submission in that garden.

For the Christian, however, submission ultimately results in life. Relinquish your life for Jesus’ sake, and you will find it (Matthew 10:39). The seed that dies produces the harvest (John 12:24). After Jesus’ submission came His resurrection.

—Sheridan Voysey

Taken from “Our Daily Journey”

Loaded Questions

Read: Job 4:1-11
Stop and think! Do the innocent die? When have the upright been destroyed? (Job 4:7).

If making your guest squirm uncomfortably is the measure of success, then the TV journalist performed magnificently. Referring to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the reporter asserted to a religious leader: “Either God is all-powerful and He doesn’t care about the people of Japan and their suffering, or He does care about the people but He’s not really powerful. Which one is it?” The question commits a logical fallacy. The underlying presupposition—God is either A, or He must be B—doesn’t reflect reality.

In the Bible, Job’s epic trials were compounded with a little “help” from his friends. Eliphaz thought his troubles were well deserved. “Do the innocent die?” he asked. “Those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same” (vv.7-8). Job must have done something evil, or he wouldn’t be suffering. The truth, of course, was far more complex.

In the movie Bruce Almighty, “God” lets a disgruntled TV reporter try to play God to one small area for a brief time. He gives Bruce only a couple of rules, one of which is, “You can’t mess with free will.”

Astonishingly, that’s a limitation God places on Himself. He doesn’t mess with free will. At the dawn of the human race, God placed two trees in the middle of the Garden of Eden. One of them came with a simple instruction to the first man: Don’t eat from it! Adam and Eve chose poorly (Genesis 3:1-7), and the result has been a cursed creation ever since (Genesis 3:14-19).

Choices have consequences. We collectively chose through Adam to rebel against God (Romans 5:12-19). In the process, all creation became cursed (Romans 8:20). But God didn’t leave us there. His story is one of love and redemption (Romans 5:6-11). But He leaves it to us to reject or accept it.

—Tim Gustafson

Taken from “Our Daily Journey”

Knowing the Deeper Things

Read: 1 Corinthians 2:9-11
No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit (v.11).

As scientists have continued to search the Mariana Trench, which lies 26,000 feet under the Pacific Ocean’s surface, they’ve discovered a new species of fish never seen before—one which researchers describe as a mix between a puppy, an angel, and an eel. It’s mind-boggling and humbling to think that even after so much time and effort has been spent trying to understand this planet, there’s still so much that we don’t know about all that God has created.

Even more important, for thousands of years men and women of God have explored the depths of Scripture to know Him better. And because we know from John 1:1 that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” who came in the flesh (Jesus), there’s no better means through which we can know more of God than through the Bible. And yet, we can’t understand God using our own wisdom and insight—we need the Holy Spirit to guide us. Paul made this clear as he instructed, “No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:11). It’s only through the Holy Spirit that we can begin to understand the deeper truths of God (v.10).

This is a crucial reminder for me as a pastor, but also for all believers, that an essential part of reading, understanding, and teaching Scripture is the work of the Spirit. Having grown up in a Christian home, I may sometimes feel that praying before doing any of these things is a ritual that has little purpose. Not so! Praying before diving into Scripture is so vital, for without the Spirit’s help we’ll simply scratch the surface of who God is and the amazing things He’s planned for us (v.9).

—Peter Chin

Taken from “Our Daily Journey”

Knowing God

Read: Psalm 103:8-14
The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love (v.8).

Pastor A. W. Tozer wrote, “What comes to mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” If Tozer were alive today, he might discover that his quote is obsolete for many Christians. Our problem is not so much what enters our mind when we think about God, but rather that we’re not thinking about Him enough. Like a distant rich uncle, God tends to come to mind only when we need something from Him. Perhaps we would think more about Him if we better understood who He is.

One of God’s attributes is love (1 John 4:8,16). His matchless love is reflected in the perfect relationship experienced by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three Persons selflessly (from the Greek word agape) revealing the beauty of God in their individual roles—all one loving God. Jesus modeled this reality when He prayed in Gethsemane, “Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine” (Luke 22:42).

God’s selfless love overflowed the boundary of the Trinity at creation. He did not need to create you and me, but it is just like God—who is love—to create others to love.

He possesses other attributes, such as holiness, that comprise His complete character. But God “does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve,” but “is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him” (vv.10,13). His selfless way continues despite our sin. He is “slow to get angry,” giving us time and space to repent of our sin and turn to Him (v.8). God “loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16).

Today, let’s truly think about God—Creator, Redeemer, and selfless Lover of you and me.

—Mike Wittmer

Taken from “Our Daily Journey”