You can find the devotionals I wrote for week 8 of our 2015 Bible Reading Challenge below. Email me to take the challenge.
February 16, 2015
Scripture Reading: Leviticus 9-10 and Matthew 27:24-44
One of the unfortunate things about reading through the Bible in a year is that the Old Testament reading and the New Testament reading for each day are not directly linked together. But every now and then you come across a day when the two are very closely related. Such is the case today.
We have been reading in Leviticus over the last few days. Over that time we have seen the instructions that God gave concerning sacrifices and offerings. If you are like me, you have been overwhelmed by it all. The instructions God gave to His people were very thorough. He didn't leave out any details. It is intended to remind us that our God is a holy God. He does not play around with sin. He is holy, and He requires holiness from His people.
Then today we read a story about Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu. The Bible tells us that they offered unauthorized or strange fire before the Lord. This was done against God's commands. Immediately, fire came out and consumed them. They died as a result of their disobedience to God.
They thought sacrifices were something that could be taken lightly. They certainly didn't think they would lose their lives over it. God once again demonstrated His holiness. He requires obedience from His people. That is not partial obedience, but complete obedience to Him.
Now fast forward to Matthew 27. We are reading about the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. We are reminded of all the suffering He endured on our behalf. We are reminded that He is in fact the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.
The Leviticus laws and story of Nadab and Abihu certainly demonstrate that God is serious about sin and holiness. But the fact that God would have His own son murdered to pay for sin demonstrates even more clearly how serious God is about sin and holiness. God requires holiness from us. He does not settle for partial obedience; He requires complete obedience.
The comforting thing in all of this is not that we have been obedient to the level that God requires. We most certainly have not. Our hope is in Christ. Our hope is in His righteous life. Our hope is in His death in our place. God can look at us and see righteousness because of Jesus. God knows that we are not perfect. That does not mean He accepts anything less than perfection. He means that He has made a way for us to be perfect, through the shed blood of His own Son.
Prayer Focus: Give thanks to God today that you are not bound by the sacrificial laws of Leviticus. Give thanks to God that He sent His only begotten Son to die as a sacrifice for your sin.
February 17, 2015
Scripture Reading: Leviticus 11-12 and Matthew 27:45-66
When reading Leviticus, it is easy to focus on the endless list of laws God gives. It is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. But as I was reading Leviticus 11 today, I was overwhelmed by the grace of God. I saw three examples of God's grace in Leviticus 11.
First, I think it is important to note that God gave His people food to eat. We can sometimes focus so much on what the Israelites COULD NOT eat that we forget about all of the things they COULD eat. We do the same thing in talking about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil found in Genesis 3. God gave His people all of trees in the garden from which to eat (Genesis 2:16-17). There was only one tree from which they were not to eat.
The same is true in Leviticus 11. God created a wide variety of animals. Certainly He told His people that they could not eat certain ones. However, this left a wide variety of animals that they could eat. God's gracious provision is seen in this way in Leviticus 11.
Second, we see that God told the Israelites what was unclean. He could have kept this information to Himself. He could have allowed them to unknowingly defile themselves. Yet He graciously told them what not to eat. God desires relationship with His people. He sought to prevent them from defiling themselves by giving them the information they needed.
Finally, we see that God made a way for them to be made clean. This is perhaps the most gracious act of God seen in Leviticus 11. God told them what not to eat and/or touch. But He also made provision for them to be made clean if they defiled themselves. He told them exactly what they needed to do to be made clean.
This of course reminds us of the cross. It reminds us that we are all unclean. God has told us what to do to walk in righteousness. We often fail and defile ourselves. Yet God has made a way for us to be made clean through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We can be reconciled to God. He has poured out His grace on us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Prayer Focus: Give thanks to God for his sovereign provision. Give thanks to God for His grace in providing a way for you to be made clean.
February 18, 2015
Scripture Reading: Leviticus 13 and Matthew 28
Today's reading brings us to the end of Matthew's Gospel and one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. I am talking about the passage of Scripture that we typically refer to as The Great Commission. This commission from the lips of Jesus to His disciples has received many names through the years. One of my favorites is "The Marching Orders of the Church." I think this name embodies what Jesus was intending to do when He spoke these words to His disciples.
Jesus was getting ready to ascend into heaven. These men who had been following Him for three years would no longer have Him by their side. They would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve as leaders of the newly formed church, the body of Christ still present on earth. So Jesus gave them these instructions to guide them as they carried forth the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
While first given to the eleven (post-Judas), these words were not intended to be limited to Jesus' original disciples. These are our instructions. They are our marching orders as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Much has been said about these instructions, but I want to focus your attention on the primary command in the passage. That primary command is to make disciples. We do this as we go, and we do it by baptizing and teaching.
You will notice that the primary command in the passage is not to make converts. Now certainly making disciples begins with seeing people converted, but it must not stop there. We should measure the church's fruitfulness not merely by asking whether people are being converted, but by asking if they are being discipled.
God is certainly in the business of saving men and women, boys and girls. But He does not save them to leave them where they are. He desires to grow up each of us to be mature followers of Jesus.
So the application for each of us is to ask whether we are growing as disciples of Jesus. This is the will of God for you—that you would mature as a follower of Christ. Then we should ask whether we are participating in seeing others grow as disciples of Jesus. The Great Commission was not given to pastors only. It was given to all believers. We all share the responsibility of helping others grow in Christlikeness.
Prayer Focus: Pray that God would help you to grow as a disciple of Jesus. Pray that God would use you to help others grow as disciples of Jesus.
February 19, 2015
Scripture Reading: Leviticus 14-15 and Mark 1:1-20
Today we turn our attention to the second of four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark. Mark's Gospel is the shortest of the four, but the accounts of specific events are often longer than in Matthew and Luke.
Who was Mark and why did He write an account of the life of Jesus? The Mark who wrote this Gospel is the John Mark of Acts 12. Mark was not an apostle, but we see in the book of Acts that he was a close companion of the apostles. While some disagreement between Mark and the Apostle Paul shows up in Acts 15, reconciliation between the two appears to have taken place by the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy. Paul asked for Mark to come to him in his final days because he was "useful [to Paul] for ministry" (2 Tim. 4:11).
But what about the first twenty verses of Mark? We notice immediately that Mark does not begin his Gospel in the same way that Matthew and Luke began theirs. Matthew started with a genealogy of Jesus and a brief birth narrative. Luke begins with a rather extensive birth narrative. Mark begins with the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus' baptism is recorded for us in the first verses of Mark. We see the identity of this one that Mark is going to be telling us about. He is the one who is mightier than John the Baptist. He is the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. He is the Father's beloved Son with whom He is well pleased.
This is the one whose life Mark is going to trace through this Gospel. He is 100% man. He is 100% God. We will observe Him perform many miracles. We will see him show love and compassion to the down and out. We will see Him rebuke the self-righteous. He is the one who came to give His life as a ransom for many. He came to take away the sin of the world.
This is the Jesus we love. This is the Jesus we worship. Allow yourself over the next month as we explore Mark's Gospel to set your mind and heart on Jesus.
Prayer Focus: Pray that God through His Spirit would help you to see Jesus clearly through the Gospel of Mark.
February 20, 2015
Scripture Reading: Leviticus 16-18 and Mark 1:21-45
This is probably a good time in our journey through the Bible for us to pause and think about the Mosaic Law for a moment. We have seen all kinds of laws as we have moved through Exodus and Leviticus. What you may have noticed is that Christians typically believe that some of these laws are still in effect today and others are not. How do we distinguish between the two?
One answer that is sometimes given is that any law that is repeated in the New Testament is still applicable for Christians today. This approach is unsatisfactory. There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that the Old Testament has been abolished. In fact, Jesus said that He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.
But still, we do not observe laws concerning how to trim our facial hair (Lev. 19:27) or what kind of fabric we can wear (Lev. 19:19). But why? Is it simply because we don't like those laws and they seem terribly inconvenient? If that's not the reason, how do we distinguish between the laws that are still for today and those that are not?
Theologians have typically understood there to be three types of laws contained in the Law given by Moses to the people of Israel: moral, ceremonial, and judicial. The moral law is a reflection of God's holy character. It includes the 10 Commandments along with other laws that are moral in nature such as Leviticus 18 which talks about unlawful sexual relations. Because these laws are a reflection of the holy character of God, and God is unchanging, these laws do not change. They transcend time and culture. This is the law that Paul tells us in Romans 2 is written on our hearts.
Then there is the ceremonial law. These are laws that had to do with temple practice. Leviticus 16 gives instruction concerning the Day of Atonement. God gave His people very clear instruction regarding how they were to deal with their sin before a holy God. He also gave instructions concerning cleanliness to protect His people from disease and sickness. The ceremonial law is not completely detached from the moral law. Instead it is the application of the moral law. But we believe that the moral law has different application for us today. We no longer worship in the temple, and we have more knowledge concerning cleanliness and disease than the people of Israel in that day. Also, Jesus was he fulfillment of the sacrificial system.
Finally we have the judicial law. The judicial law was also application of the moral law. It gave instructions to the Israelites concerning how they were to deal with sin in their midst. What should happen to someone who kills one of God's image bearers? What should happen to someone who commits adultery? These questions and more are answered in the judicial law. Israel was a theocracy ruled by God. Therefore, God gave them clear penalties for certain sins. We do not observe the judicial law today because we do not live in theocratic Israel. We live in a different country with different penalties for things like murder. We are therefore subject to the governing authorities over us.
So why is all of this important? What application is there for us today? It is important that we not dismiss God's Law. We do not get to pick and choose which laws we like and which ones we don't. We must submit ourselves to God's standards for life revealed in the moral law because these standards are a reflection of the holy character of God. God says several times throughout Leviticus, "Be holy as I am holy." This is the call of God on our lives.
Of course, ultimately, this is only possible in the person of Jesus Christ. We are not holy. We have disobeyed God's moral law. We need grace and forgiveness. Our only hope is if we can have a righteousness that is not our own. That righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus. Jesus took on our sin on the cross that we might become the righteousness of God. May we repent of our sin and believe on the Lord Jesus, knowing that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Prayer Focus: Pray that God would give you understanding of His Law as you read and study. Thank God for the righteousness of God in Jesus. Thank God that you are no longer bound by the extensive ceremonial and judicial laws.