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Reassurance About Judgment

The Bible describes two kinds of judgments—one for those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ and one for those who do. For believers, judgment is an evaluation of the person’s life. While that may sound alarming, we can find comfort in these truths about our judge:

Identity. According to John 5:22, our judge will be Jesus. We can trust the One who laid down His life for our sake, brought us into God’s family, speaks to the Father on our behalf, and intercedes for us faithfully.

Character. Christ’s holy nature ensures that He will be fair. His omniscience means He can’t make decisions based on inadequate or faulty information. And His character is perfect, so He won’t make mistakes or treat certain people more favorably than others.

Purpose. Jesus will evaluate our life according to what we’ve done on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10). But because He already bore the punishment for our sin at the cross, our judgment has to do with rewards, not chastisement (1 Peter 2:24).

Christians can look forward to a new body that will never experience pain or death. What’s more, we will enjoy Jesus’ presence forever (Psalm 16:11; John 14:3). We do not have to fear judgment, because we can trust our Judge and His intentions.

How to Know You’re Saved

The most important issue we must settle in this life is our eternal destiny. Throughout history, local churches have been composed of both believers and unbelievers, and it’s often difficult to tell the difference. That’s why John wrote his first letter. He wanted to assure the true Christians of their salvation and warn those who professed belief but lacked saving faith.

John gives a fourfold test describing the beliefs and practices of genuine believers:

  1. Right understanding of Christ and salvation (1 John 2:18-27). To be saved, we must have the true gospel and the only Savior, as described in God’s Word.
  2. Right attitude toward sin (1 John 1:5-29, 1 John 2:1-2). True believers hate their sin and are quick to confess and turn from it.
  3. Right practice of obedience (1 John 2:3-6). God’s commands are not burdensome to those who belong to Christ. Although they fail at times, the overall direction of their life is one of obedience.
  4. Right relationship with God’s people (1 John 2:7-11). Christ produces within His true followers a love for fellow believers, demonstrated by a desire to be with them.

If you have doubts about your salvation, reading the book of 1 John will help you settle the issue.

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!

Suffering Alone

When we face hard times, it’s important to remember the One who promises to be by our side. While Paul was suffering from a thorn in the flesh, God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In other words, “I’ll take care of you.”

But Jesus doesn’t set aside a reserve of grace and assistance to help us six months from now. We get exactly what we need when we need it. He says, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” (Heb. 13:5 NLT). Jesus won’t break that promise, and we can find strength in Him.

We may never know why friends or loved ones forsake us in a time of need, but as painful as their abandonment may be, we can let it teach us to rest in God. Sometimes the only way we will learn to lean on the Lord is by finding that all other supports are gone.

At some point, we all experience heartache. But one thing is certain: Jesus will be standing by our side to strengthen and deliver us in our time of need. One day we’ll have the privilege of looking back over our life and seeing how He proved His faithfulness over and over again.

Reasons to Trust

It’s easy to trust God when life is pleasant. In difficult times, though, it can be challenging. Yet that’s exactly what God tells us to do: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you” (Psalm 50:15).

We can trust the Lord for several reasons. One is because of His love for us. We see it clearly demonstrated through the Father’s character, Jesus’ atoning death, and our adoption as a child of God.

Another reason we can rely on Him is His infinite wisdom (Rom. 11:33). He always knows what is best for us. We don’t understand all that goes into God’s plan—compared to the full, clear view He has of our life, we see just part of the picture. So, what He chooses for us may not always make sense.

We can also depend on God because He is sovereign. Remember that our Father can accomplish whatever He—in His wisdom and love—chooses to do. He is in complete control of all things; even Satan must get His permission before taking action (Job 1:9-12).

We understandably don’t like adversity and may feel tempted to ask, “Why, Lord?” Yet by recognizing that God acts in love, wisdom, and sovereignty, we can know that He’s permitted the situation and has our long-term best in mind. So we can replace “Why?” with gratitude and trust.

Distracted Listeners

Have you ever tried to have a discussion with someone who wasn’t really listening to you? It can be frustrating. It’s practically impossible to get your message across, but it also shows the other person’s selfishness.

When we have something to share, we naturally want undivided attention. Guess what—God is the same way. He speaks with a purpose and expects our complete focus and attention. If we have been walking with Him, we will often hear His voice immediately. It may come as a gentle whisper in our spirit, or it could be an obvious, miraculous sign.

But we don’t always walk perfectly with the Lord, do we? When we’re distracted, God must do something to get our attention. He may give us a restless spirit or speak a word of wisdom through a friend. He might even do something drastic, like bring about an unexpected move or career change.

When we’re not tuned in to the Spirit, God’s warning signs can feel like spiritual attacks. Could He be trying to break through your distractions? Prayerfully consider how He may be speaking to you, and see if you can discern His message.

Listening Through Restlessness

When we’re too preoccupied to hear God’s voice, He may get our attention by giving us a restless spirit. The book of Esther gives us a wonderful example of this.

In the sixth chapter, we see that King Ahasuerus “could not sleep so he gave an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they were read before the king” (Est. 6:1). As a result, Ahasuerus became aware of an assassination plot that had been foiled by a man named Mordecai. Filled with gratitude for this act of service, he made plans to honor him.

What Ahasuerus could not have known, though, is that Haman, one of the royal advisors, was plotting to hang Mordecai and exterminate the Jewish population (Est. 5:14). As a result of the king’s intervention, Mordecai and the rest of the Jews were saved.

Now, what started this process? A restless night. The king didn’t know why he couldn’t sleep, but we know: God was trying to get his attention.

How often has this happened to you? You go about your life, but a restlessness seems to hang over you. In such moments, ask, “Lord, what is it You want to tell me?” You’ll discover that God can speak to you in your unrest.

A God of Grace

In all our attempts to know God, we must face the fact that ultimately He is beyond our understanding. From our perspective, His attributes may seem at odds with each other. For instance, He is a God of vengeance (Psalm 94:1) who will judge the earth (Psalm 98:9), but He is also described as compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (Ex. 34:6). God in His utter perfection is all of these things—without any contradiction at all.

The Lord will judge unrepentant sinners, yet He is gracious to all who trust in His Son for forgiveness and salvation. Grace is His goodness and kindness lavished upon everyone who receives it. It’s totally undeserved because there is nothing we can do to make ourselves acceptable to Him. And on the other hand, we can do nothing to separate ourselves from His grace. This is God’s gift to believers in Christ, and it can never be taken away from us.

We were saved by grace, are sustained by it every day of our Christian life, and will be recipients of the surpassing riches of divine grace for all eternity. What an amazing gift from our Father!

Full of Grace and Truth

To gain a greater understanding of God’s grace, we need only look at Jesus, who was the personification of grace and truth. Both were perfectly displayed in Him, and neither was ever compromised in the slightest. With truth, Christ made people aware of their hopeless, sinful condition; with grace He offered forgiveness to all who would come to Him in faith.

This is clearly seen in Jesus’ interactions. People willing to admit their sins were drawn to Christ and His offer of forgiveness. But the Pharisees, who saw themselves as righteous, didn’t think they needed His grace. And so they rejected it, mistakenly believing that their legalistic practices made them acceptable to God (Rom. 9:30-33).

For the greatest display of grace and truth, however, we must look to the cross. There, our Savior suffered the just penalty for sin so God the Father could extend grace to those of us who believe in His Son. Now divine goodness, love, and mercy pour over us in an endless supply of “grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Having such an abundance of God’s favor should fill us with gratitude and overflow into Christlike responses toward others as well.

Growing in Prayer

One of the best ways to improve your prayer life is by imitating prayers in Scripture. Consider starting with Paul. When you read the prayers in his letters to the churches, you will notice three characteristics that distinguish them—an accurate understanding of God, joy in others’ salvation, and a desire for the Lord to continue the good work He began in their lives.

Even though Paul wrote many letters from prison, his concern was not for his release—it was for the health of the churches and the spiritual maturity of believers. Whenever he received word of their growing faith, increasing love, steadfast hope, and partnership in the gospel, he responded with joy, praise to God, and continued intercession on their behalf.

Does intimate knowledge of the Lord and love for your brothers and sisters in Christ fuel your devotional life? If you are longing for greater depth in your prayers, follow Paul’s example by spending time in God’s Word, pondering who He is, what He has done, and what He desires to do in the lives of His people. Then put these thoughts into prayers for the spiritual growth of fellow believers.

Recognizing Christ’s Voice

You may not want to think of yourself as a sheep, but that is a term Jesus used to describe His children. His sheep are all those who have trusted Him as Savior—and they are the ones for whom He laid down His life. Scripture says these sheep are identified by three characteristics: They know their Shepherd, hear His voice, and follow Him.

Our Shepherd knew us before the foundation of the world. He sought us when we were lost, calling us each by name into His flock. We responded in faith by following Jesus, and from that point onward, we’ve been growing in our knowledge of Him and in our ability to obey His voice.

Yet sometimes we are rebellious sheep who, because of self-centeredness, fail to heed Christ’s Word. We begin to ignore His directions and choose to listen to competing voices that promise to give us what we want. As we go our own way, it becomes harder to hear Christ’s voice.

When we have difficulty hearing the Lord, the best remedy is to surrender our personal desires and fix our attention on what God wants. Only then will we again be able to discern our Shepherd’s voice calling us back to Himself.

Instruction From the Lord

The incident in today’s passage demonstrates a common struggle for believers: At times God’s Word or ways might be different than what we want. When the Lord does something that’s not in line with the result we hope for, we may respond with anger, fear, rebellion, or despair.

This conflict between us and God can happen whenever our desires clash with His or when we consider our own reasoning to be superior. Although we may think our disagreement with the Lord is no big deal, Jesus’ response to Peter indicates otherwise. When the apostle set his mind on man’s interests rather than God’s, he was distracted by the devil’s lies instead of supporting Jesus’ work. That’s not a place any believer wants to be in. Although some passages in the Bible may challenge our faith and call for self-denial, we shouldn’t let any initial reluctance keep us from obeying the Lord.

Remember, God’s understanding far exceeds ours because He is eternal and omniscient. Everything in His Word is true and “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The exchange between Peter and Jesus should serve as a reminder that God knows what He’s doing and is worthy of our trust and obedience.

God’s Encouraging Presence

When we are in despair, it’s difficult to sense the Lord’s presence with us. The circumstances seem to overwhelm what we know to be true—that His Holy Spirit abides in us forever. We long for an awareness that He cares, but in our distress, it is easy to forget the ways He makes Himself known to us:

  • The Scriptures. The first place we should go to find the Lord is His Word. His instructions lead us through dark valleys, His promises give hope, and His attributes provide comfort and assurance in the face of uncertainty.
  • God’s Providential Care. The Lord is sovereign over all events and uses them to achieve His purposes for the world and for each believer’s life. As circumstances unfold, look for God’s hand at work.
  • The Spirit’s Guidance. The indwelling Holy Spirit manifests Himself by bringing to mind scriptures that offer encouragement or direction. He is also our Comforter, who comes alongside during trials and helps us to endure.

Remember that God is near when you’re brokenhearted or crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Call out to Him saying, “Lord, I need you.”

The Gift of Prophecy

Spiritual gifts are a tremendous blessing from God. They are given to enable believers to serve for the good of the church, which is the body of Christ. But we are warned not to think more highly of ourselves if we happen to have one of the more “impressive” gifts. In other words, it’s important to remember these abilities were bestowed on us for the benefit of others, so we are never to get puffed up.

One of the more visible gifts is prophecy, which today can be defined as the ability to speak forth the truth of God’s Word. Believers with this gift typically have a strong biblical perspective and an ability to accurately handle Scripture. They are able to discern false doctrines and warn God’s people about deception. Their desire is to promote obedience to the Word and address heart issues that could lead people into sin.

Since the gift of prophecy is so influential, it’s essential for those who have it to be humble and motivated by love for God and His people. But this is also true for other spiritual gifts. Whether it is prophecy or something else, your gift must be exercised with godly character. After all, Paul says, “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).

Problem Solved!

Mankind was created to have a relationship with God, but that connection was broken when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. Now every human being is alienated from the Lord. And yet hope is not lost, because He had a plan of salvation in place even before creation: When the time was right, the Son of God would pay the penalty for mankind’s sin with His substitutionary death, opening the door for our forgiveness and reconciliation.

Because He is gracious, God saves us on the basis of faith in His Son. Then He gives us a new nature empowered by the Holy Spirit who comes to live within each Christian. The Spirit transforms our character into the image of Christ and enables us to live godly, obedient lives. And one day we will stand before our Father and be welcomed into our heavenly inheritance.

We need these truths firmly planted in our mind so we can grasp not only our desperate situation but also the goodness and love in God’s amazing rescue plan. He has proven His care for us in our greatest need. Will He not then provide for every other need in our life?

Obedient to God

Sometimes obeying the Lord is difficult and costly. In some areas of the world, Christians are even persecuted for their faith. When Peter and the apostles were ordered to stop teaching about Jesus, they appealed to a higher authority, saying, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). What motivated them to follow the Lord with such conviction?

  • God’s Sovereignty. The disciples recognized that God had carried out His divine plan of redemption through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Convinced that salvation was found in Christ alone, they had the courage to speak boldly about their faith. They did exactly what Jesus commissioned them to do and trusted Him to handle the consequences according to His good and perfect will.
  • Thankfulness. The apostles’ obedience was also motivated by gratitude to God. Even after being flogged for their faithfulness to Christ, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer shame for His sake and kept right on preaching.

Since God has rescued us from the bondage of sin, forgiven us, and brought us into His family, grateful obedience should be our response, too. Each day is an opportunity to acknowledge His sovereignty over our life and to trust Him.

A Life of Obedience

As Christians, we know we should obey the Lord, because the Bible is filled with commands to do so. But not all obedience is equal, as every parent can testify. Out of love, some children willingly do what they are told, whereas others comply while filled with anger and resentment.

Jesus pointed out the correct motivation when He said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23). It’s our love for Christ that should fuel our obedience. In fact, the only reason we can love Him is because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). And here’s how much the Father cared about us, even before we had any interest in pleasing Him: He sent His Son to bear our sins and die in our place so that we could be forgiven. And when we receive Christ by faith, God pours His love into our heart through His Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).

God’s love for us and our resulting love for Christ compel us to obey Him in all things. Instead of trying harder to comply, perhaps we should ask God to give us more love for Christ—because the more we love Him, the better we can follow His voice.

Justice and Mercy

The sinful condition of mankind presents us with a dilemma: How can a holy, righteous God forgive us? If He acts justly, every human being would suffer the eternal punishment of His wrath, which their sins deserve. But if He extends mercy instead, no one would pay the penalty, and God would cease to be just.

There was only one way the Lord could stay true to His nature and still forgive our sins. The solution was to pour out His wrath on a substitute. That way, the penalty for sin would be paid, and He could extend mercy to sinners—which accommodates both aspects of His divine nature. Thus, Christ came as our substitute: He took the punishment for our sin, enabling us to receive the Father’s mercy. Now, by placing faith in Jesus, anyone can be justified—that is, declared righteous. This is the greatest display of the Lord’s love for us.

Can you imagine the cost of your salvation? The Father’s plan and His Son’s willing cooperation prove your tremendous value in God’s eyes. From the Lord’s perspective, you are worth all the pain and suffering that was necessary to secure your eternal presence with Him in heaven.

It Is Good to Give Thanks

Have you ever wondered why the Bible repeatedly tells us to give thanks to the Lord? The main reason is because He deserves it. He created you and keeps your heart beating, so trying to claim your life as your own amounts to ingratitude. God created you to love Him, and He also sacrificed much to deliver you from your sin. Expressing thankfulness to the Lord honors Him by acknowledging all He has done.

Most of us would admit that our prayers are self-centered. We come with our requests, but how much time do we spend thanking God for what He has already accomplished? The psalmist in today’s reading advises us to begin and end each day by focusing on the Lord’s lovingkindness and faithfulness. Even if the past 24 hours brought pain or difficulty, we can still express appreciation for God’s presence as He carried us through.

This coming week, take time to remember what the Lord has done for you, and express your thanks. Be creative and try different ways to show gratefulness—sing, praise, and joyfully worship Him. When we keep the focus on God, His goodness can sustain us all day long.

God Is in Control

In today’s psalm, David discusses a fundamental attribute of God: His sovereignty. This means God has complete authority and control over all human beings and every aspect of the universe. It also means that “luck” and “good fortune” have no place in a discussion about Him. And because God is good, we can have full confidence in His absolute and loving control over every aspect of our existence.

When we trust in the Father’s sovereignty, we stand on two assurances. The first is that He is intimately involved in our daily life. No matter what, He never stops providing, protecting, and caring for every believer. He knows what we need for today and tomorrow.

The second is that the Lord will work every circumstance for our benefit—without exception! When situations are more demanding, our confidence may waiver, but Scripture promises “that 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).

You and I do not live by chance. As children of a sovereign God, we live secure and under His control. Trust Him to carry you through whatever trial stands in your way.

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