Day 225: The Resurrection Life

2 Chronicles 35-36; Romans 8:1-17

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 36:15-16
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.

Romans 8:1-2
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

We finish 2 Chronicles today with not much fanfare… The Chronicler flew through the last four kings of Judah in lightning fashion – and blasted through the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to end with hope…the declaration of the re-building of the temple by the Persian (Gentile) king, Cyrus.

The Davidic Covenant stands strong. The rebuilding of the temple is the first step toward restoration for God’s people as they look forward to the coming of their Messiah!

Fast forward to Romans 8, and we find one of the most hope-filled chapters in all of the New Testament. It is Paul’s celebration of the gospel and the Messiah’s saving work on the cross. You can sense the exuberant joy in his words as he describes the work of the Spirit in the believer’s life to both save and sanctify.

Let me tell a story that illustrates the beautiful principles in Romans 8…

My daughter, Anne, was injured in a horrible automobile accident when she was 5 years old. She almost died, but God in his mercy preserved her life. She now lives with a traumatic brain injury.

She continues to make great strides in her recovery, but in the first year after the accident, if you corrected her… “Anne, please don’t touch that,” there was something in her brain that made her touch “that.” She couldn’t stop herself. She would touch it over and over and then start to cry because she knew she shouldn’t do it, but she couldn’t stop herself. It was heartbreaking.

In a way, her struggle was an allegory of Romans 7-8…. In her heart, she loved the “law” and wanted to obey, but her flesh was broken and she had no power to fix it (7:22-23). Her desire to do what was right caused her to grieve the brokenness in her flesh. She needed help from outside of herself. She needed to be rescued…

Since then, Anne has experienced much physical healing so that she can now overcome her impulse to disobey a command. But she doesn’t take that for granted! She knows that obedience with a pure heart is only possible with the help of God’s Spirit in her. And the Spirit is so evident in her life! She has a miraculous ability to understand deep spiritual concepts and Biblical truth. She looks to God for help and trusts him with a precious child-like faith. The Spirit inside her is evidence that she is a child of God. Romans 8 is Anne’s testimony!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! (Romans 8:15-17, The Message)

These verses also describe the restored people of Israel. Christ is their hope, and Christ is their salvation!

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Day 223: Hezekiah

2 Chronicles 29-32

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 30:9
“For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”

2 Chronicles 32:26
But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.

The Chronicler devotes more words to Hezekiah than to any other post-Solomonic king. Unlike the parallel account in 2 Kings which focuses mainly on Hezekiah’s conflict with Sennacherib, the Chronicler chooses to highlight Hezekiah’s religious reforms and his celebration of the Passover.

The Chronicler was writing to the post-exilic community in the hopes that they would learn valuable lessons from the good and the bad of their history. Therefore, Hezekiah is presented as a “second Solomon” who enjoyed great wealth and favor with God because of his religious faithfulness.

But there is so much more to Hezekiah’s story. He was a faithful man – but he was also flawed. Before the conflict with Sennacherib, in the height of his glorious reign, Hezekiah became prideful. So God orchestrated the circumstances in Hezekiah’s life to bring about repentance. Hezekiah was struck with an illness, and the prophet, Isaiah, brought a message from God saying that Hezekiah would die.

This was God’s grace. This was Hezekiah’s chance to repent.

Consider David. He was not perfect, but he repented for the wrongs he committed and God pardoned him by His grace.

How many kings started off well and then become prideful during their reigns? Too many! In each instance, God gave them the opportunity to repent, and most of them chose to walk away from Him in pride.

Humility is not for the faint of heart. Repentance is not an easy pill to swallow. But it is the way that leads to life.

Hezekiah chose repentance. His life was extended 15 years and he was given the opportunity to lead his nation in one of the greatest shows of faith recorded in the pages of the Bible. His faith in God against the sure destruction by the Assyrian ruler, Sennacherib, was glorious.

Hezekiah struggled with his sin nature just like the rest of us, but when God offered grace, he seized it. He grabbed it and held on as if his life depended on it. …Because his life did depend on it! And so does ours. Let us not let go of the grace that is our salvation!! We must walk in the way of the humble… we must walk in repentance and faith.

Day 221: The Power of Grace

2 Chronicles 23-25; Romans 5

Key Verses

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Grace. Romans 5 outlines two men and two systems. As children of Adam, we have inherited a sin nature and just condemnation. However, through Jesus Christ, we have the free gift of life.

Paul makes the point that Christ died for us “while we were still sinners.” It is Christ’s death that opens the door to life for “the ungodly.” And then he goes on to reason that Christ’s gift of life is far more powerful than Adam’s sin. Condemnation for all came through the one sin of Adam. Whereas life through Christ’s sacrifice is able to overcome the millions of sins that have been committed since Adam!

Sometimes it’s hard to spot God’s grace at work in the Old Testament – but only because it’s wrapped in the package of the Old Covenant. Consider how God’s grace presents itself in today’s passage from 2 Chronicles…

We read about two kings, Joash and Amaziah… both described as doing what was “right in the eyes of the Lord,” but each with qualifiers… Joash only did was right during “all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2). And Amaziah is described as doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, “but not with a whole heart” (25:2).

The life of Joash
After all of the good Joash did to repair the temple, when Jehoiada the priest died, Joash, together with his unworthy comrades, “abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols” (24:18). As you can imagine, this infuriated God – but a closer look reveals God’s grace. Don’t miss it…

Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention (2 Chronicles 24:19).

Joash had sinned, and he deserved God’s just punishment. But before the punishment came, Joash was given the opportunity to repent. If Joash would have repented and turned back to the Lord, there would have been forgiveness. Why?? “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

Joash did not repent. Instead, he turned further away from God and killed the son of Jehoiada. He rejected the grace of God, and suffered under God’s judgment as he was defeated by a small army and murdered by his “comrades.” If only he had heeded the word of the prophet…

The life of Amaziah
Joash’s son, Amaziah, didn’t fare much better. He also began his reign well, initially obeying the word of the Lord and enjoying victory in battle. But then he turned away from God to worship idols. See if you can find God’s grace in the text…

Therefore the Lord was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel” (2 Chronicles 25:15-16).

God sent a prophet to warn Amaziah – so that hopefully he would repent. But Amaziah refused to listen to the word of the Lord, and in-so-doing rejected the grace of God.

The Grace
God’s grace can always overpower sin… “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). But. We have to receive it through repentance and faith for it to defeat the sin in our lives…

If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? (Romans 5:17, The Message)

Day 220: A Strange Exchange

2 Chronicles 21-22; Romans 4

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 21:6b-7
And [Jehoram] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.

Romans 4:16
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all [Abraham’s] offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

After faithful Jehoshaphat died, his first-born son, Jehoram, was crowned king of Judah who then killed all of his brothers so that no one would challenge his throne. The royal line of David was dangerously thin – and lay in the hands of a murdering madman who rebuilt the high places and led the people into idol worship.

But it gets worse.

All of Jehoram’s sons were killed in battle except for Ahaziah – who took the throne upon Jehoram’s death. Ahaziah made an alliance with the evil son of Ahab and was killed by the same man who was ordained to destroy all of Ahab’s family. Ahaziah and all of his brothers were killed and there was no one to rule Judah!! So Ahaziah’s evil mother, the daughter of Ahab, took control of Judah and killed everyone in the royal family.

What??!!... The entire royal line of David was destroyed because of their alliance with Ahab’s evil family??  What about the promise that a Royal Branch of David would rule in peace forever??

Ah! We have to keep reading… The narrative continues like a Shakespearean play as we discover that Ahaziah’s sister (who was married to the faithful priest, Jehoiada) hid Ahaziah’s infant son from the royal mother’s massacre. There is one from the line of David who lives! And in tomorrow’s reading, he will take the throne in dramatic fashion!

This is the tragic history of Israel. Paul argues in Romans 4:15 that “the Jews, who had the written law, had even greater responsibility for their sin and as great a need to be saved from God’s wrath and justified by faith*.” The tragic events detailed in today’s reading definitely make it clear that all of Israel had a great need to be saved!

Paul teaches in Romans 4 that all people need to be saved by faith – that the Jews couldn’t trust in their possession of the law – or in their sign of circumcision – to save them. But that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised and before the giving of the Mosaic law (Romans 4:11).

Paul’s argument is clear. Heritage and Circumcision do not make you righteous. That is evident from the horror of today’s Old Testament passage! Rather, it was Abraham’s faith that was credited to him as righteousness.

Paul says that we, also, can be counted as righteous when we “believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord” (Romans 4:24).

We are given credit for being righteous – only because of our faith – not because of our actions. It is a strange exchange. It’s an exchange based on grace!

*quoted from note on Romans 4:15 from the ESV Study Bible, Crossway

Day 219: Jehoshaphat’s Prayer

2 Chronicles 20; Romans 2-3

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 20:12
“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Romans 3:23-24
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

The Jews had become accustomed to God’s favor. After thousands of years of being God’s chosen race, they wrongly assumed that possession of the Mosaic law gave them favor before God – which was true – but only as a means to reveal their sin and need for repentance – the law was NOT to be used as a means to judge other nations.

The Jews erred by placing emphasis on the external signs of the covenant – like possession of the law and circumcision. But Paul forces their eyes inward to reveal that true Judaism had always been about the internal state of the heart…

…no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Romans 2:28).

In essence, Paul had to reframe all of Jewish history in the context of grace. The Jewish nation did not earn God’s favor by observing the law…No! They only brought the wrath of God on themselves because they could not observe the law perfectly (Romans 3:10-18). When did the people receive God’s favor and blessing? When they repented and turned to God in humble reliance!!!!

Consider today’s story from 2 Chronicles 20. What was Jehoshaphat’s response when confronted with a great enemy? He gathered the people (with their wives and children) to the house of God and prayed. He humbled himself and called out to God for help! And what was God’s response?? Grace. God showed up in a mighty way and delivered His people from the hand of the enemy. But. God did have one requirement… faith. He told the people to “go down against them” but “you will not have to fight this battle.” In other words, the people had to confront their enemy with faith that God would keep His word. God’s deliverance came through repentance and faith!

This is the gospel at work. This is grace at work.

Paul goes on to teach at the end of Chapter 3 that the Jews were never justified by works – only by faith (3:21-24). He even argues that God endured the sin of the Jewish nation only by looking forward to Christ’s death on the cross which satisfied the wrath of God on their behalf (3:25).

We must not fall into the old sins of the Jewish nation. We must never think that our good words earn us favor before God! Rather, we must cling to the truth that God’s kindness toward us is undeserved – and has one purpose – one extremely important purpose…

…God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)

Let Jehoshaphat’s prayer be our example… Let us humble ourselves in absolute reliance on our God. And may His kindness produce in us… repentance and faith!

Day 218: Saved by Faith…Alone!

2 Chronicles 17-19; Romans 1

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 17:3-4
The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel.

Romans 1:16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

We begin Romans today… which is Paul’s longest and most detailed theological dissection of the gospel. The church in Rome was a mix of both Jewish and Gentile Christians – but the majority were Gentiles. This letter probably arose out of tensions between the Jewish and Gentile Christians to define the precise gospel – applicable to both salvation and daily living.

I think I could write a 2,000-page essay on Paul’s salutation alone. He packs so much theology into those few verses!! What stands out to me, however, is how Paul manages to validate both the Jew and the Gentile. Paul mentions that Jesus is the “Son of David” (vs.2) which satisfies the Jewish believer. And then Paul goes on to proclaim that the grace of God is for “all the nations” (vs. 5).

Paul gets right to the point and gives a clear definition of the gospel in vs. 16-17. These verses act as the foundation for the rest of Romans. The gospel is simply this: Righteousness before God is not earned. It is granted to both the Jew and the Gentile by the same means: through faith.

This is how Old Testament believers attained salvation. They trusted in God. (Period). Observance of the law was the way in which they demonstrated their faith – it was not a means to earn their salvation.

We read of two kings in 2 Chronicles 17-19… Jehoshaphat was described as “seeking God” and not in idols. He had faith in God. Jehoshaphat wasn’t perfect, but his upright actions were evidence of his internal faith. Ahab, on the other hand, was one of the evilest kings in all of Israelite’s history. According to Romans 1:18-20, Ahab was without excuse. Even if he had no knowledge of God (which he did) he would still be held accountable for his disbelief because God had revealed his “eternal power and divine nature” through His creation.

Both kings were blood descendants of Abraham – but only one was accepted into God’s Kingdom. There is no distinction between salvation in the Old and New Testaments. Salvation is by grace, through faith, alone. Our outward actions only act as evidence of the internal state of our hearts… Do we have hearts that trust in God alone for our salvation and satisfaction?  Jehoshaphat vs. Ahab = Faith vs. Unbelief. Where do you stand? There is no excuse for unbelief!

Day 365: Grace

Malachi 1-4Revelation 22

And we are left with one.

One last day.

One last book.

One last chapter.

The book of Malachi makes me uncomfortable. Malachi wrote to the uninspired Jewish exiles. They had returned from captivity and rebuilt their temple and city – yet God seemed to not come back with them. There was no evidence of His Presence. And all of the promises of the grand restoration seemed to go unmet. The people doubted God’s goodness so they slipped into complacency. 

The sins of the exiles hit too close to home…Malachi accused the people of half-hearted devotion. Whether it be the sin of not giving God their best (1:8), compromising God’s holy standards (2:11), or bitter disappointment with difficult circumstances (3:14-15), God was displeased with their lack of faith. He challenged the people to trust him – to test His faithfulness (3:10)!

Which leads me to: One last question.

Are you willing to take God at His Word?

Despite your difficult circumstances or unanswered prayer – or the fact that God seems distant. Maybe you’ve sinned so greatly, you don’t believe God could forgive you. Or maybe you’ve strived to live a holy life, yet your world seems to be crumbling beneath you. Whatever this temporal and visible world might be screaming at you, are you willing to take God at His Word?

Do you believe that the curse will be reversed (Rev. 22:3) and God will create a new earth where there will be no more sin and no more pain? Do you believe as one who is redeemed in Christ, that you will one day see Him face to face and reign with Him forever (Rev. 22:4)?

Well…believe it! For Jesus said, “These words are trustworthy and true.”

You might wonder (like me)…How? How could this be true? How could the God of the universe stoop so low to grant His children such a glorious inheritance?”

The answer is one word: grace

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates (Revelation 22:14).

Can we wash our own robes? Can we scrub the mire of our sins away? No. The blood of the Lamb washes away our sins. He clothes us with HIS righteousness so that we might come into the presence of a Holy God. We stand by His grace, alone.

What is the last sentence in the revealed Word of God? The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen!

(Tune in January 1, for my last post – summarizing the greatest lesson I’ve learned from our year through the Bible.)

Day 329: An Imperishable Story

Psalms 111-113; 1 Peter 1

Psalms 111 & 112 are both acrostic poems that are meant to be read together. Psalm 111 presents the overarching “big story” of God’s character and salvation plan. While Psalm 112 presents the effects of God’s saving power on the individual – resulting in a “little story” that brings glory and honor to Him.

This is the same pattern that Peter uses in his opening chapter of his letter to the dispersed Gentile Christians.

Peter uses beautiful, graphic language to paint the glorious big picture of salvation for the believer…

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

With the larger story in mind, Peter then encourages these suffering Christians to live out a “smaller story” in a manner that will bring glory to God!

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct (1 Peter 1:13-15).

Likewise, we are to keep the sweeping  big story of redemption – from creation to our heavenly future – always before us as we struggle as spiritual exiles in this dark and difficult world. This eternal perspective enables us to live our individual stories with passion and zeal for our Savior!

Day 325: Faith and Works

Psalms 98-101; James 2

Some believe that James’ emphasis on works contradicts Paul’s teaching of justification by faith, alone (James 2:24). But when James speaks that faith without works is dead, he is speaking of a flimsy belief that even the demons share (James 2:19). Both Paul and James teach that works are an outward evidence of an inward saving faith.

If someone claims to believe in Christ, but their life shows no evidence of this belief, then there is no evidence of a saving faith. In this sense, James’ claim that “faith without works is dead” makes sense. James uses the example of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. This act revealed or “justified” the existence of Abraham’s faith as described in Hebrews 11:17-19. Without the outward act to prove his faith, Abraham’s faith was as good as dead (James 2:17).

Bottomline, our actions reveal our beliefs. To use James’ example in the beginning of Chapter 2, if we treat rich people with more kindness than the poor, we believe we have the power to judge others. If we judge others instead of showing mercy, we believe we are not in need of mercy ourselves. For better or worse, our outward actions reveal the inward state of our hearts.

What works do others see in your life? Do others see acts of mercy & compassion? I shudder to think of what others might see in me! I pray for God’s strength to not just be a hearer of his word but a “doer” as well!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:2).

Day 324: Be Doers of the Word

Psalms 95-97; James 1

The book of James was written by James the Just, the half-brother of Jesus. The book begins similarly to an epistle, but after the greeting, the rest of the book is a collection of wisdom sayings focusing on works of righteousness.

Thinking of James as a list of Christian proverbs is a helpful framework from which to read James – especially since he covers a broad range of topics throughout his book. He covers trials, temptation, poverty, blessings, anger, speech, obedience and social justice in the first chapter alone!

The main emphasis of this first chapter is for Christians to not just be hearers of the word, but doers as well (James 1:22). As we hear the word of God, our hearts are either hardened against it or softened under it. There really is no middle-ground… Our response to God (even on a daily basis) is either humble repentance and faith or a hardness of heart that leads to self-will. James is pleading with Christians who are experiencing great poverty and persecution to trust in the almighty God and submit themselves to His authority by acting in obedience to His word.

For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness (Psalm 95:7-8).

How will you respond to Him today? With indifference or defiance? Or with humble dependence and obedience? 

But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1:25).