Author Archive
Michael Ross-Watson

Devotional: Finish What You Started

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:10-11

“So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it” [2 Corinthians 8:10-11 The Message].

A year before Paul wrote this epistle to the Corinthians he had challenged them to take up a collection for the saints living in poverty in Judea. They had enthusiastically embraced Paul’s request and begun to do what they had promised but had not finished what they had begun. Paul challenged them to finish what they had begun and not let their earlier good intentions grow stale.

Making a promise to do something is easy, but finishing what you started is often more difficult. Have you ever noticed the half way crisis! When you decorate a room it is easy to lose your enthusiasm when it is half done. It is often most discouraging when you set out on a long drive and have driven for hours, and then realise that you are still only half way to your destination!

When Nehemiah and the Israelites rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem they became discouraged when the wall was built to half its height. The workers complained to Nehemiah and said, “The strength of the labourers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall” [Nehemiah 4:6,10 NKJV].

Paul writes, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” [Philippians 1:6 NKJV]. It is God’s nature to complete that which He has begun. It is a godly characteristic to complete what we start and not to give up until it is finished.

A student in our church Bible School who knew that God had called her to study in the school decided to give up at the beginning of the second of the three terms and go somewhere else that seemed more attractive. I warned her of the danger of starting things and not completing them and how that could become a negative life habit. The student went on to complete her Bible School studies before moving on to the next step in her spiritual journey. She shared with us how grateful she was that she had completed what she had started, and we could see in her a real growth in stability and maturity.

Questions:

  • Why is it important to keep the promises that we make to God and complete the things that we have begun to do?
  • What have you begun to do and never completed? How do you feel about this, and what could you do to correct it?
  • Not completing something we have begun can be as seemingly insignificant as beginning to read a book but not completing it. When did you last read a book from cover to cover and really felt good about it?

For more of Pastor Michael Ross-Watson’s daily devotional series, please visit michaelrosswatson.com.

Devotional: The Natural Man and The Spiritual Man

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

“As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvellous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation” [2 Corinthians 6:1-2 NLT]

It would seem that among the Corinthians who had opposed Paul were people who had accepted God’s wonderful gift of salvation but sadly they had not continued to live it out in their daily life. The Bible teaches that once we receive salvation we must work it out in our lives [Philippians 2:12], but sadly there are those who do not move forward after making that initial decision to accept Christ. My father-in-law and mother-in-law are a prime example of this. They both attended the same evangelistic meeting in 1939, and both put their hands up to accept Christ. My mother-in- law grew dramatically in her walk with God, but sadly, her husband did not go on with Christ. One accepted Christ and went on with Him, and the heart of the other was unchanged. The only comfort is that at the age of 80, he finally surrendered to Christ.

One of the most difficult issues that churches may have to deal with are the people who attend, even taking a lead role, and who think they are Christians, but are not really in a right place with God. It is questionable whether they are really saved. They operate in the flesh rather than the Spirit, making natural rather than spiritual decisions. Late in his life Paul wrote a warning to Timothy about supposed Christians who were living ungodly lives. He wrote, “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.”

These people may even teach but have a counterfeit faith [1 Timothy 3:1-9].

From the way that Paul wrote to the Corinthians it seems that he regarded those people who opposed him as not really saved, and he pleaded with them to be saved. This would certainly solve the problem of their attitude to Paul. In urging these people to turn to the Lord and be saved Paul quoted from Isaiah,

“In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you” [Isaiah 49:8]. Later in this same epistle Paul challenges people in the church to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves [2 Corinthians 13:5].

Questions:

Why is it so important that as God’s children we constantly examine ourselves to make sure that we are in the faith?

When Jesus spoke to the church in Laodicea, He rebuked them for being neither hot nor cold [Revelation 3:14-22]. Why do you think that their spiritual condition was such an offence to Jesus?

Why are people in the church who live and operate in a form of religion but deny the power of the Gospel in their lives so damaging to God’s work?

For more of Pastor Michael Ross-Watson’s daily devotional series, please visit michaelrosswatson.com.

Devotional: Love And Truth Are Inseparable

Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:5-8; Genesis 32:22-33

“I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him” [2 Corinthians 2:5-8 NLT].

Just recently I heard someone say to another person, “Just tell Jesus that you love Him and you will go to heaven!” As soon as I heard this I felt uneasy because it is so far removed from the Biblical concept of what a Christian is. We are to love Jesus but also must embrace truth. In the famous “love chapter” Paul writes, “Love rejoices with the truth” [1 Corinthians 13:6 NIV]. Love and truth are two inseparable twins. Elsewhere Paul says that we are to speak the truth in love. This is a key to growing into maturity as a Christian [Ephesians 4:15].

Paul is writing to the Corinthians in the context of someone who has caused a lot of trouble in the church. It is possible that this was the same Christian Brother who had been in an immoral relationship with his father’s wife or step-mother [1 Corinthians 5:1ff]. His sin was damaging to the church, and the church had refused to deal with it. Following Paul’s letter the church repented of their complacency and dealt with the issue and the man had been punished [2 Corinthians 2:6 NIV]. It appears that the man had been sorrowful and repented. The necessary discipline given out of love for both the church and this offender had achieved its goal, and it was now time to put that in the past. So it is that Paul encourages them to forgive, comfort and reaffirm their love for him [verse 7-8].

Because love and truth go together it is sometimes called tough love! Love does not flinch from doing what is right. Some of our young pastors in Indonesia had issues of sexual immorality. They would be asked to step down from ministry for a period of twelve months, to give them time to consider their actions and repent. Most, but not all of them, came through this time as much stronger Christians and better leaders. This is love and truth working together.

We read in the story of Jacob that God had to hurt him in order to get his attention. The Lord put his hip out of joint, but it was an act of love, and the resultant change in Jacob’s life was stunning. God loved him enough to hurt him!

Questions:

  • Why do you think that people have pretended that love is simply a soft and pleasant emotion that does not deal with truth?
  • Have you ever experienced God’s tough love in your own life, as He deals with unresolved sinful issues?
  • Why is church discipline so necessary and important, but so difficult to put into practice?

For more of Pastor Michael Ross-Watson’s daily devotional series, please visit michaelrosswatson.com.

Devotional: Friendship with Jesus

Bible Reading: John 15:9-17

Facebook has given a whole new meaning to friendship, when we can befriend or unfriend someone within seconds, but true friendship goes far deeper than this. In my own experience I have thousands of acquaintances, but a few deep and treasured friendships. The writer of Proverbs sums up the meaning of true friendship in the following verses:

Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times” [NKJV]; “A friend is always loyal” [NLT].

Proverbs 18:24 – “a real friend sticks closer than a brother” [NLT]; “a [true, loving] friend who [is reliable and] sticks closer than a brother” [Amp. Bible]

Proverbs 27:6 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” [NKJV]

Proverbs 27:9 – “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense” [NLT]

In summary, God’s Word says that a true friend is loyal, reliable, honest, counsels wisely and is a delight. In our text today Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants; but I have called you friends” [John 15:15]. Friendship is always a two-way thing, and in both parties these characteristics of loyalty, reliability, honesty, wise counsel and delight apply.

Abraham was called the friend of God because of his close relations with God and his faithfulness to Him [2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23], but now Jesus calls all those who are His disciples, and who abide in Him, His friends. They are loyal, reliable, faithful, honest and delight in Him. They abide in His love, love one another, and seek to honour and obey Him [John 15:9-13].

As King of Kings you might expect Jesus to regard us as His servants, but instead He calls us His friends. Servants do what they are told. They do not necessarily know the reason why their master wants something done – they just do it. But Jesus, treating us as His friends, reveals to us His purposes, and His Father’s plans. This is what He created us for – for fellowship, closeness, friendship and intimacy. He created us to walk with Him, delight in Him and enjoy Him. “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel” [Psalm 103:7]. It is one thing to see the acts of God, but to His friends He shows them His ways. In conclusion, the word friends that Jesus used, [v.15] in both Greek and Aramaic [the daily language of Jesus] is very intimate and actually means “those cared for from the womb.” That’s how much Jesus treasures us as His friends!

Questions:

  1. We sometimes sing an old hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” What does friendship with Jesus really mean to you?
  2. Because Jesus calls us friends He delights to reveal to us the deep things of God. How is this seen in the prayers of Paul in Ephesians 1:15-23 & 3:14-21?
  3. What is your response to Jesus calling you His friend? How should that be life changing?

Taken from Pastor Michael Ross-Watson’s online devotional, michaelrosswatson.com.

Devotional: Why did Jesus raise Lazarus?

Bible Reading: John 11:39-44

Jesus deeply loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and found a home in their home. So the raising of Lazarus was an act of compassion towards this family that Jesus loved. There was, however, a far deeper purpose to it than that. Jesus said that it was for the glory of God and that the Son of God may be glorified through it [John 11:4]. It was a sign that was intended to help people believe, including Jesus’ own disciples [John 11:15].

He deliberately raised Lazarus from the dead rather than heal him, because He wanted people to see something even greater than healing, and that in doing so it would help them to believe. He wanted them to see the glory of God, but what exactly does the phrase, ‘the glory of God’ really mean? A dear friend of ours once said that he finds it difficult to understand what the glory of God is.

In one of his sermons John Piper said, “The glory of God is the infinite beauty and greatness of God’s manifold perfections. The infinite beauty—and I am focusing on the manifestation of his character and his worth and his attributes, all of his perfections and greatness are beautiful as they are seen and there are many of them. That is why I use the word manifold.” [John Piper’s sermon, “To Him Be Glory Forevermore” preached on December 17, 2006]. It is so difficult to describe the glory of God, except to say that it is who He is! It is the manifestation of His presence, His beauty, character, and attributes!

Isaiah said that everyone who is called by the Name of the Lord was created for God’s glory [Isaiah 43:7]. Our attitude towards everything in life will change when we catch a glimpse of the glory of God. Our whole reason for living will be different. The apostle John saw the resurrected Christ, but his vision of the glorified Christ in all His majesty and splendour must have been even more special [see Revelation 1:9-17]. John could never have been the same again after that experience.

So often it is our own human desires that get in the way of God’s glory. Many years ago a dear friend of ours died following childbirth. Her husband was devastated, and asked us and other friends to meet with him at the mortuary and believed that his wife would be raised from the dead. Nothing happened! Today, the husband is happily married for a second time, with a lovely family, and he recognises the remarkable things that God has done in his life as a result of the pain of his first wife’s death. God has been glorified as a result of the death of this lady, just as He was glorified in the raising of Lazarus. Truly, the ways of God are beyond human understanding. May we never lose the sense of the mystery of godliness!

Questions:

  • How would you answer someone who asked you why Lazarus was raised from the dead, when someone they loved was not raised from the dead?
  • In what way would you say that your life glorifies God?
  • Would you pray the prayer of Moses, “Lord show me your glory” [Exodus 33:18] and believe for a new experience of God in your life?

Taken from Pastor Michael Ross-Watson’s online devotional, michaelrosswatson.com.

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