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!
- 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.
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!
- We sometimes sing an old hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” What does friendship with Jesus really mean to you?
- 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?
- 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.
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!
- 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.
This week, Pastor Michael Ross-Watson delves into God’s word to remind us of our right to be called children of God.
Bible Reading: Romans 8:12-17
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:10-13].
I have been so blessed in recent weeks as we have sung the song, “I am no longer afraid, I am a child of God.” As we have sung this song in our church I have wondered, without being judgmental, if everyone singing the song really is a child of God. These verses in John’s Gospel make it clear that only certain people have the right to call themselves children of God.
More than thirty years ago my wife and I adopted a baby. It was a remarkable adoption. We took Timothy when he was one day old but for six months we could not call him our child. After the required six month due process we went to court and Timothy became our legally adopted child, and that gave him the right to call himself our child.
Not everybody is a child of God, and sadly some who might think that they are, are not! There is a legal process in becoming a child of God. Paul likens it in Romans to adoption, where God has adopted us into His family and calls us his children. Only then do we have the right to call ourselves God’s children.
John makes it clear what the process is that gives us the right to be called the children of God. This process is really one but has three parts to it – receiving Jesus, believing in His name and being born of God.
We must receive Jesus personally. His own people rejected Him [John 1:10] but to become His children we must receive Him. Have you personally asked Jesus to come into your heart? Have you welcomed Him into your life?
We must believe on His name. The word, believe needs to be explained. It is not a passive belief in Jesus and it is far more than a mental persuasion. The Bible says that even the devil believes [James 2:19]. The word, “believe” means to adhere to, to trust in, and rely upon! Are you relying upon Him for salvation? Do you trust Him for everything? Are you adhering to Him?
We must be born again of God. We will look much more closely at this when we look at John chapter three, but what John tells us in chapter one is that this birth is not by human descent – not of blood, nor by human effort – not of the will of the flesh, nor by the will of any other person – the will of man, but of God [John 1:13]. This new birth is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life when they turn from sin, receive Jesus, and trust Him as their Lord and Saviour.
As you have read today’s reading do you have in your heart the assurance that you are a child of God? If not why not surrender your life to him today? If you are His child, then why not thank Him today.
Taken from Pastor Michael Ross-Watson’s online daily devotional, michaelrosswatson.com.
Revisit a 2013 devotional by Pastor Michael Ross-Watson and glean from his wisdom, the STRENGTH to weather tough times.
This morning I was impacted by the words of Jesus to Peter, “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” [Luke 22:31-32]
Going through a tough time is not easy but there are some wonderful fruit that develop in these times.
God is with us in these times and is working for our good. Literally, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those and are called according to His purpose” [Romans 8:28]. He makes no mistakes and is working in us a deeper work of His grace. Nothing can happen to me that God does not know about or will be to my harm. When we are walking in intimacy with God even Satan cannot touch us without God’s permission. Right now God is good and will not allow anything to harm me.
God is with us in these times to transform our character. To a great extent, despite God’s call on Peter’s life and the revelations that God had given him, he was still very self-confident and proud. From such an attitude he could say, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and death” [Luke 22:33], “I will never stumble” [Matthew 26:33], and “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” [Matthew 26:35]. Through the sifting that would take place Peter would be transformed.
Look at every character in the Bible whom God used and you will see God shaping them through pain, rejection and deep trials.
Job’s testimony was, “When He has tried me I shall come forth as gold” [Job 23:10]. Right now God is purifying me and making me more like His Son.
God is with us in these times and Jesus is praying for us. Jesus said to Peter, “I have prayed for you.” Similarly Jesus, as the Great High Priest, “always lives to make intercession” for us [Hebrews 7:25]. Elsewhere is called our Advocate [1 John 2:1] who stands before the Father on our behalf. Even the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us when we don’t know how to pray for ourselves. He is praying that our faith will not fail and that we might be strengthened. Right now all of heaven is on my side and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding for me.
God is with us in these times to prepare us to be a blessing to others. Jesus knew that Peter would come through this trial and when he did so it would be a different Peter who had been commissioned to strengthen his brethren [Luke 22:32]. Whatever the end of the trial may be it will result in others being blessed and strengthened, as well as us being purified and transformed more into the likeness of Jesus.
Before his ordeal Job heard of God, knew the truth, sought to live righteously and honour God’s laws, but after the trial he said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.” [Job 42:5]
We may not understand why these times come, but God calls us to trust Him in tough times and to believe that He is at work. Let us not allow our enemy to pervert our perception of God’s character our question His loving care. He will never do anything to harm or destroy us, and whatever He does or does not do is in our best interest.