Hope Despite a Changing World

Where do you place your hope and security? If it’s in governments, financial markets, or education, you will be disappointed. Our world is always changing. Trusted governments fail, great economies falter, and strong institutions prove to be unstable. When this happens, people struggle with fear and insecurity.

The world, however, won’t become more trustworthy. Ever since the time of the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-32), people have been promising a better civilization, but no man-made advance has permanently enhanced life. Certainly some institutions go through periods in which humanity is greatly benefited, but ultimately any part of society that challenges God won’t last. It’s because the talented and knowledgeable people involved are also sinful people. Greed, pride, and lust have brought about the downfall of many civilizations.

Brilliant, charismatic leaders may claim to offer a better tomorrow, but no man or woman is the solution to the world’s problems. Only Christ can deliver on His promise of hope to those of us who trust in Him. He lives in us, guiding our path, comforting us in loss and sorrow, and promising an eternal future of heavenly bliss.

This changing world can be a scary place—especially for people who trust in themselves. But those who trust in God can have hope and confidence because even in a chaotic environment, He is the one constant. His Word is always true, His power is absolute, and His promises are certain. Human institutions fail, but when Jesus Christ returns to rule the earth, all will be made right.

How can you know God?

It all starts with accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ provides a relationship with the Father and eternal life through His death on the cross and resurrection, see Romans. 5:10.

Romans. 10:9 promises, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." If you have not yet begun your personal relationship with God, understand that the One who created you loves you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. He wants you to experience the profound depth of His care.

Therefore, tell God that you are willing to trust Him for salvation. You can tell Him in your own words or use this simple prayer:

Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you have just prayed this prayer, congratulations!

You have received Christ as your Savior and have made the best decision you will ever make—one that will change your life forever!

Developing a Servant Spirit

Personal ambition and servanthood aren’t always compatible. In fact, they are often at odds with each other. A servant’s goal is to please his or her master in whatever way is required, but personal ambition strives for self-advancement. Jesus’ words from today’s passage must have sounded foreign to the disciples’ ears since, according to the thinking of their culture, greatness was acquired by striving for it, not by serving.

Like them, we live in a world where many people are seeking to make a name for themselves. They set goals, make plans, and do whatever is necessary to achieve what they’ve set out to do. But as Christians, we’re to live by a different standard: exalt Christ, obey His commands, and serve Him faithfully by doing His will, not our own.

We’re not called to gain fame and fortune by leaving our footprints in concrete for all to admire.  Our task is to humbly follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Whether our lives have a large or small impact is up to God, not us. The greatest acts of service are not usually flashy displays; more often they’re commonplace gestures like being kind to strangers, ministering to fellow believers, and praying for others. 

Jesus humbled Himself, surrendered His rights, and obeyed God even to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). Being His servant begins with the same attitude. It requires helping others when it’s not convenient, doing tasks that are not glamorous, and obeying the Lord even if it’s costly. We aren’t on earth to build our own kingdom but to faithfully serve God as He builds His.

Improving Our Prayers

Are you satisfied with your prayer life? I don’t know too many people who would answer yes to that question, because most of us know that we fall short in this discipline. Even the most mature believers recognize their need for improvement, and one of the best methods for doing that is examining scriptural prayers and using them as a model.

Several of Paul’s prayers are recorded in his epistles, and they supply wonderful insights about different ways to pray. In today’s passage, we see two foundations for prayer.

A Humble Attitude. Paul’s physical posture of bending his knees served as a reminder of his submissive position before the heavenly Father. He knew there was nothing in himself that would cause the Lord to hear and respond. He had access to the throne of God only through his relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul did not make himself the center of the conversation but focused on the Lord and the church for whom he was interceding.

A Focus on God. The foundation of Paul’s prayer life was the Trinity. The apostle understood that God the Father adopts all believers worldwide into His family for eternity; that there are glorious riches found in God the Son; and that God the Holy Spirit has limitless power. The requests Paul made for the Ephesians were based on almighty God’s matchless abilities, resources, and power.

Although we can confidently approach the Lord’s throne of grace, we must always remember that we are but humble servants, and He is our exalted God.

Having a Rich Prayer Life

Prayer is an amazing privilege because it involves conversation with our heavenly Father. Yet, if we are honest, there are times when it seems more like a duty than a joy.  This is especially true if we reduce our prayers to a formula or routine, which can deaden our desire to talk to God.

In today’s passage, Paul’s prayer is just the opposite—it is full of life, spiritual truths, and love for his Lord. He asked God to do a great spiritual work in the Ephesians’ lives and, by extension, in ours as well:

To gain a greater comprehension of Christ’s love for us. Although it’s beyond our ability to fully grasp the vastness of our Savior’s love, Paul prays that we will be so firmly rooted and grounded in this truth that we will become controlled by it and “filled up to all the fullness of God” (v. 19). Experiencing Jesus’ love motivates us to obediently live for Christ and enables us to care deeply for others.

To be strengthened with the Lord’s supernatural power. Paul both praises God’s matchless power and invites it into our hearts. The most important battles take place inside us—in our minds, wills, and emotions—and Paul wants to ensure that the power of the Holy Spirit will be at work in our lives. When we welcome His authority, God can use us in meaningful ways, and what’s more, we will exhibit the life of Jesus in fuller measure.

Although physical and material needs are important, the apostle’s prayers more often focused on the spiritual welfare of others. That is a good example for us to follow as well.

Comebacks After Setbacks

Whether you have recently become a believer or have followed Christ for many years, you’ve undoubtedly discovered that the Christian life is a series of highs and lows. The truth is, we are never ultimately defeated because Christ overcame sin and death for us on the cross. Yet Scripture still warns us not to yield to the sinful desires of our flesh, conform to this world’s evil system, or fall for the schemes and lies of the devil. 

Since we are not totally free from the corrupt influences in and around us, the Lord has provided a way for us to come back and be restored. It is called confession, and it involves humbling ourselves, telling God what we have done, and agreeing with Him that it is wrong. Then God promises to forgive and cleanse us so that we might be restored to fellowship with Him (1 John 1:9). The good news is that we are not alone in this battle with sin.

We have God’s Holy Spirit, by whom we put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13).
We have God’s Word, by which we grow in respect to salvation (1 Pet. 2:2).
We have God’s grace, which instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and live righteously (Titus 2:11-12).
We have God’s promise that He will complete the good work He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6).

When you sin, think of confession not as a dreaded duty but as a gracious gift of God. Take advantage of this privilege without shame, knowing that restoration is on the other side.

Too Sinful to Save?

Sometimes people avoid Christ’s offer of salvation because they feel they’ve messed up so badly that their sins are unforgivable. Perhaps that’s how John Newton, a former slave trader, felt before he experienced God’s mercy and penned this line from his famous hymn: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

The apostle Paul had similar feelings—he saw himself as the foremost of sinners. But that didn’t stop him from believing in Jesus as his Savior and Lord. In fact, as he looked back at the wonderful display of divine grace in his life, Paul recognized he was being used as an example of how far God’s grace can reach.

Jesus came to save sinners. So if you are a sinner, His grace is available to you for salvation. In other words, if Paul’s and John Newton’s sins were forgivable, so are yours. In fact, those who regard themselves as wretches are in a better position than many who consider themselves good and think a Savior is unnecessary. God’s grace comes to those who acknowledge their sin and see the need for salvation.

No matter how vast your sins, God’s grace is greater. The truth is, all human beings are wretches because no one can be good enough to earn acceptance by a holy God. You can either be condemned in your sins or turn to Christ, whose blood paid your penalty for sin so you could receive a full pardon. If you accept His gracious salvation, God may even use your past as a witness so that other sinners can be saved.

Citizens of Heaven

An old gospel song says, “This world is not my home. I’m just a-passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” Does this describe how you think about life? As believers, we face the danger of forgetting that our citizenship is in heaven—it’s all too easy to start thinking of this world as our home.

Whenever anyone turns from sin and trusts in Jesus for salvation, that person’s name is forever recorded in heaven. It’s as if the new believer is already there. Ephesians 2:5-6 puts it this way: God has “made us alive together with Christ … raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” As a further guarantee of our spiritual position in heaven, we’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise as a pledge of our inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14).

But for now, we live here on earth and are subject to pain, illness, infirmities, and death. However, when Christ returns, He will transform these weak, mortal frames into glorious bodies like His. Although we don’t know exactly what we’ll look like, we can be sure that our new heavenly bodies will far exceed the ones we have now.

Are you eagerly awaiting that day, or have you been captivated by the fleeting pleasures and pursuits of this world? Since the earth is only our temporary home, we must be careful not to become too attached to the things it offers. A right understanding of our eternal citizenship changes our perspective and priorities in this life, prompting us to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth.

God Is With Us

God is always with us, even though we at times cannot sense His presence. There may be situations where we feel really close to Him, yet on other occasions, He might seem distant and uninvolved in our life. As believers, however, we can be certain He is our constant companion whether we’re aware of Him or not. This truth can empower and transform your life.

There are two statements in today’s passage that are the foundation for our confidence about God’s presence with us. Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17). Then He added, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love Him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (v. 23). What an amazing reality—the triune God has taken up residence in those of us who have received Christ’s forgiveness and salvation.

With this truth anchored in our mind and heart, we can know that no matter what we’re going through—even the loss of a loved one—we are not alone. Being in Christ, we have His peace in the midst of storms. That’s because there are none more powerful or knowledgeable than almighty God, who indwells us and gives us His comfort and strength. 

We must remind ourselves of God’s presence because, unfortunately, it’s tempting to forget. But the more we remember He is with us, the better we can discern His work and comfort in our life. Let’s pray to keep this aspect of God’s character at the forefront of our mind.

The Wages of Sin

God sent His Son to take our punishment by dying in our place. Unless believers understand this provision, they will doubt their salvation. We can’t be good enough to earn heaven. All are born with a corrupted nature; therefore, we will at times sin, no matter how hard we try not to. The Bible compares our attempts at righteous deeds to filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).

On its own, mankind has but one option with regard to sin: to die in it and spend eternity separated from God. But the Father so loved the world that He chose to punish His Son in our place (John 3:16). It was a severe price to pay. Holy God cannot look upon the squalor of sin, so when Jesus became sin for all mankind, the Father had to turn away (2 Cor. 5:21). The physical suffering of crucifixion was terrible, but nothing compared to Jesus’ wrenching horror when the Father left Him. The devastated Messiah cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).

Jesus accepted separation from the Father so we wouldn’t have to. When Paul said that the wages of sin was death, he was referring to eternal separation from God (Rom. 6:23). As believers, we are saved and forever reconciled with the Lord because of what Jesus has done.

The Savior took our place and accepted humanity’s punishment for sin. He and the Father have done the hard work of salvation so that you and I can live a life of peace, freedom, and hope and never be separated from our Creator. If you believe that Jesus Christ—the Son of God— died for your sins, then you too are saved.

What Is Heaven Like?

Heaven is the believer’s future home, and we’ve all wondered what it’s like. But the Bible gives us only a glimpse. Even if God revealed more in Scripture, we’d be incapable of comprehending it. As earthly creatures, we lack the experience or frame of reference needed to understand the eternal realities of that dimension.

Desiring to know more about heaven, some people have sought information outside of the Bible, often in books written by people who claim to have gone there. However, the only legitimate source of facts about heaven is God’s Word—nothing else can be depended upon to have a sure foundation in truth.

When Paul was caught up to the third heaven, he “heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak” (2 Corinthians 12:4). None of his letters include any details of his experience. God also entrusted the apostle John with a vision of heaven, but human language is inadequate to convey the realities of that otherworldly realm.

Although we may not be able to visualize everything John describes, we can all relate to what he says about those things that are absent in heaven: There will be no more tears, death, mourning, or pain (Revelation 21:4). What’s more, we will never become stressed, exhausted, frustrated, angry, or sick, because our new bodies will be imperishable, sinless, and powerful (1 Corinthians 15:42-43). Heaven is a perfect environment with no sin or sinners in it. And best of all, God will dwell among us.

Who Will Be in Heaven?

Most people think that when they die, they are going to heaven. If you asked why, the majority would say they have been good people or their positive deeds outweigh any negative things they’ve done. Yet the sad reality is, most people will not find themselves in heaven—and that includes some who claim to be Christians.

It may not be a popular topic of conversation, but our Savior knew that hell was essential to understand. In today’s reading, He uses illustrations of contrasting gates, trees, and houses to point out that there are only two possible destinies after death: heaven and hell. Jesus is warning us about a most sobering reality—that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” actually belongs to Him (Matt. 7:21-23).

What, then, distinguishes a true follower? John 14:15 tells us those who love the Savior will keep His commandments. This obedience begins with believing Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:36). In other words, the first step is to humble ourselves before God, admitting that we’re sinful and deserving of condemnation. Next, we must call out to Him, requesting the forgiveness for which His Son’s blood was shed on our behalf. From then on, we’re to live only for God.

If you hear the gospel but stop short of obedience, ask yourself, Do I fully understand the goodness of God’s love? That should inspire you to obey the Father. Looking good on the outside isn’t enough to enter the kingdom of heaven. Remember, to those who truly receive Him, He will give “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Won’t you make sure you’re among those destined for heaven?

Discovering God’s Will

Life involves all kinds of choices—some are small and mundane, while others are more consequential. Including God in our decision-making is always the wisest course of action. Scripture we have memorized is something the Holy Spirit uses to help us discover God’s will.

There’s a two-part process I find beneficial in making decisions, and it can also help you with choices regarding relationships, finances, health, employment, and other important matters. The first step involves assessing the heart, mind, and will. To receive the Lord’s direction, we need a clean heart, a clear mind, and a surrendered will. Sinful habits can cloud thinking and keep us from understanding His plan. Confessing our sins and turning from them brings cleansing and clarity (1 John 1:9). A stubborn will that says, “I want my way” prevents us from heeding God’s instruction. Instead, we need to lay down our desires and commit to saying yes to His plan.

The second step is to wait patiently on the Lord for His answer. It takes courage to stand firm, especially when others are telling us what they think we should do. Our own emotions may also be pushing us to act now, but we must resist moving ahead of God. To be patient means trusting the Lord while we wait to learn His answer and discover His timing.

Discerning God’s plan requires preparation of our heart, mind, and will. It also often requires patience. During our time of waiting, we are to follow His known will—to be a faithful servant in His kingdom, loving Him with our whole heart and loving our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39).

Conviction Versus Condemnation

Our heavenly Father desires that we walk closely with Him. To help us, the Holy Spirit guides us on the right path and redirects us when we are headed in the wrong direction. In other words, He convicts us when we are in danger of straying.

Conviction is God’s loving hand steering us back to the path that leads to life. To better understand the concept, picture a parent whose toddler begins to chase a ball into a busy street. The youngster has only one desire at that moment: to retrieve the toy. The parent, however, would be negligent if he or she did not stop the child.

We, like the toddler in this example, view our life from a limited perspective. If our heavenly Father stops us from achieving a desire, it seems frustrating. But we must remember that the Almighty is acting out of His love for us.

Conviction begins even before salvation. The Holy Spirit reveals our wrongs to help us recognize that we need forgiveness. When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and choose to follow Him, we are born again. Only then are we free from the penalty of sin. At the same time, we are still human and will make some poor choices. So, even after we are His children, God continues to redirect us.

Conviction is different from condemnation. Remember that “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). So though believers at times will sin, they are justified by Christ’s sacrifice and free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1).

Conviction for the Believer

Recently I spoke to a heartbroken woman. Her father was dying, and he was cold toward his family and God. He desired no contact and refused to discuss any spiritual matter.

But God is able to reach anyone—even someone hostile to the faith, as we saw with the apostle Paul’s conversion. Yet Scripture also teaches that though the Lord is patient toward man, He may eventually give individuals over to the hardness of their own heart. In other words, He may let them have their own way in rejecting the Savior.

The situation is different for believers, however. When we, in our humanness, continue to sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us so we’ll get back on track. At that point, we can humbly repent and follow Him or ignore His voice and continue to sin. If we persist in error, our Father will keep calling us back. But the danger is that our hearts may become desensitized and we could eventually cease to hear His warnings.

Thankfully, we are children of God, and He loves us too much to let us remain in a sinful pattern. Though chastisement and conviction are never pleasant, He knows our traveling down the wrong road would result in much greater heartache (Prov. 3:12). The Lord is a shepherd, using His staff and rod to lovingly bring us to green pastures.

On the Christian journey, temptations to stray falsely promise to satisfy our longings. Stay closely connected to Jesus through prayer and Scripture. Be listening so you can obey immediately when He calls you to change course. In the long run, living God’s way is what brings the greatest joy.

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