devos from the hill


1 Comment

The Work of God Through Us

Today’s devotional is from Ligonier Ministries

 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”    – Philippians 2:12–13

Paul often depicts authentic Christian living as the imitation of God and, since Christ is God incarnate, the imitation of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1; Eph. 5:1). He has such imitation in view in Philippians 2:5–11 when he exhorts us to have the same mind as Jesus in how we serve others. In other words, we must have the same goal as Jesus in not seeking our own interests in a way that denies the good of others.

Christ’s obedience to His vocation was an essential part of not pursuing His own ends at the expense of others, as 2:5–11 explains. Thus, it is clear that our obedience is an essential part of imitating the Savior. As a consequence of Jesus’ submission to the will of His Father, all the Lord’s disciples, patterning their lives on His example, must submit to the Almighty’s will. What is this will? That we “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (vv. 12–13).

The Apostle gives examples of what it means to obey God and work out our salvation in verses 14–18. Today we will note what the call to work out our salvation says about persevering in faith. Scripture explains that we are not saved by signing a card, raising a hand, or walking an aisle for an altar call. Instead, we are saved by the possession of an authentic, living faith. This faith manifests itself through good works of repentance, confession, and service to God and neighbor (Luke 23:39–43;Matt. 7:21–27; James 2:14–26). None of these works get us into heaven; only the perfect righteousness of Christ, which we receive by resting on Him alone by faith alone, gives us access to the Father (Gal. 2:15–16; 2 Cor. 5:21). Yet those who are resting on Jesus alone demonstrate this faith by their works (James 2:14–26).

Persevering in faith, which is evident in our perseverance in good works of service, is achieved as we, by the Spirit, strive to serve the Lord, repent when we fail, and rely always on His enabling mercy (1 John 1:8–9). Simply put, it is living a life that does not take the gospel and its implications lightly. At the same time, even though we play a role in perseverance by obeying God’s commands, heeding His warnings, and more, the very fact that we do persevere is ultimately grounded in divine sovereignty. God wills and works out our salvation through us (Phil. 2:13), and His elect cannot fail to stay in faith until the end of their lives. Augustine says that “[we] are to work with fear and trembling so th

Coram Deo

Augustine says that “[we] are to work with fear and trembling so that [we] will not, by attributing the good working to [ourselves], be elated by the good works as if they were [our] own” (ACCNT 8, p. 245). Even as we are aware that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, we must also know that ultimately it is God who gives us the desire to persevere and moves us to do so. Indeed, salvation is of Him from first to last.

Passages for Further Study

Ezekiel 36:26–27
Hebrews 7
Philippians 1:6
Jude 24–25


1 Comment

Confirm Your Calling, Develop Your Faith

Today’s devotional is from Staffer, Ryan Renfrow
A look at 2 Peter 1:3-11, with focus on 5-7.

…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (ESV)

Peter reminds believers that because of the divine power of the Gospel we have everything we need in life and godliness –What more do we need, really?

While we may have access to all we need, it is still possible for the believer to become unfruitful or ineffective in the knowledge of Christ. We find here, Peter’s desire for the believer to grow in the faith which first led them to the Lord Jesus Christ.

John Calvin when reading this passage said our “faith ought not to be naked or empty”. C.H. Spurgeon commented that Peter’s list is of qualities that are jewels to be adorned. Piper reminds us this is not a list of qualities to add to our faith, but rather qualities that further develop our faith.

Let’s think about that.

Faith alone is what turns us from guilty sinners into righteous sons and daughters. And Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that faith is a gift from God. This faith that saves us is not the finish line but the starting point to a life rich in meaning and purpose. Our faith is meant to strengthen, deepen and manifest fuller as we experience more and more of God and his glory in our lives.

Consider this analogy; God has built a beautiful house just for you and called it “faith.” He invites us into this house of faith, to be in relationship with him through his Son, Jesus Christ. When we accept his offer, we dwell in the house of faith with Him. Once inside we begin to explore cabinets, look behind doors, we learn more about what living in relationship with God is like. What does he expect? How does he treat others? We discover more and more truths about his divine nature. Who is he? What’s he like? We learn to adjust our thoughts and actions living in this new house. Faith becomes a place of great growth, great trial, and great reward.

If you visited my house today, you would quickly see reflections of me. You would see pictures of people I love and things of sentimental value. These fixtures become part of my house, they add to the quality, they tell stories of who I am.  These fixtures turn my house, into a home. In the same way, think of Peter’s list of qualities as furnishings to our house of faith.  Peter desires the believer to strive for virtue and knowledge and steadfastness because these greatly adorn the faith we were given from God. These qualities not only become the fruit of a full faith, but they deeply nurture the roots that confirm our faith more and more.

When we are loving God supremely and loving other’s sacrificially, we will find ourselves pursuing more knowledge of the Lord, practicing better self-control, exhibiting greater steadfastness in trials, desiring more of God’s glory, caring more deeply for fellow believers and loving others more genuinely.


Leave a comment

Thoughts on Grace

Our English word, “grace” comes from the Greek word, “charis.” It is used over 155 times in the Bible.

Consider what these men of God have to say about grace…

J. Vernon McGee– God is overloaded with GRACE. You and I just don’t know how gracious He is. He has an abundance of GRACE. GRACE has been defined as unmerited favor, but I call it love in action. God didn’t save us by His love. He gave His Son, and it is by His GRACE that we are saved. He has so much of it. You may say, “Oh, I am so wrong on the inside, so sinful.” Go to Him and tell Him you are wrong on the inside and ask Him for GRACE to overcome it. He will give you GRACE. He is the living Christ, interceding at God’s right hand for you. Now some may doubt the surplus of His GRACE. May I say to you, all the medicine in the world cannot cure the sick; the remedy must be taken. Likewise, God has the GRACE, my friend; lay hold of it! It is possible for a man to die of thirst with a pure spring of water right before him. He has to drink of it; he has to appropriate it before it can save his life.

Ray Stedman  – GRACE is your heritage as a Christian no matter what your circumstances. GRACE is all God’s power, all His love, all His beauty available to you.

D.L. Moody – A man can no more take in a supply of GRACE for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of GRACE from day to day, as we need it.

Thomas Brooks – Saving GRACE makes a man as willing to leave his lusts as a slave is willing to leave his galley, or a prisoner his dungeon, or a thief his bolts, or a beggar his rags.

Erwin W. Lutzer – When the mask of self-righteousness has been torn from us and we stand stripped of all our accustomed defenses, we are candidates for God’s generous GRACE.

C.H. Spurgeon – Self-consciousness is a sure sign that there is not much depth of GRACE.

Thomas Brooks – The life of GRACE is the death of sin, and the growth of GRACE the decay of sin. (Rom. 5:20-21, Rom. 6:1, 11)

Vance Havner once gave the following acronym for GRACE:

G stands for Gift, the principle of GRACE. (Eph. 2:8-9)

R stands for Redemption, the purpose of GRACE. (Eph. 1:7)

A stands for Access, the privilege of GRACE. (Rom. 5:1-2)

C stands for Character, the product of GRACE. (2 Cor. 5:17)

E stands for Eternal Life, the prospect of GRACE. (Titus 3:7)

D.L. Moody – The law tells me how crooked I am. GRACE comes along and straightens me out. (Rom. 5:20)

Stephen Olford – Without this GRACE there is no pardon for the past, no power for the present, and no prospect for the future.  (2 Cor. 12:9, 1 Pet. 1:13)

Stephen Olford – GRACE is God’s goodness and severity converging. GRACE is God’s mercy and justice uniting. GRACE is God’s love and power redeeming.

Augustus Toplady  – GRACE finds us beggars but leaves us debtors. Continue reading


1 Comment

Beauty for Ashes – Isaiah 61:1-3

God has blessed Mars Hill with an incredible team of men and women who love Jesus – the risen, reigning, and returning King. Together, we passionately pursue Him as we work to see the Great Commission fulfilled. Together, we study the Scriptures. We embrace and celebrate the mystery of faith and the magnificence of our AWESOME God. And we long for our Savior’s return, when we will know fully as we are fully known.

The Holy Spirit has breathed unique wisdom, discernment and gifts for service into each member of our staff. That said, we are delighted to commence a new series of devotionals, in which each member of our staff will be sharing insights from their inimitable journey with our Father.

We hope that God’s redemptive work in our lives will resonate with what He’s doing in yours.


Today’s Devotional is from team member, Beverly Bates.
Beverly is Assistant to the VP of Administration and she cares for the team in countless ways.

A big part of my family heritage is: attending church! I grew up in a rural Ohio farm community and not only attended the same, small, country church that my great great grandparents went to, but I was very involved in the church.

The summer after my third-grade year was an exciting time for me! I was finally old enough to attend Church Camp, which meant a whole week away from farm chores, picking green beans, hoeing the garden, mowing cemeteries, and picking cherries from Aunt Rowena and Uncle Fred’s cherry trees.

At Camp St. Mary’s I looked forward to the week of vacation activities: swimming in a pool every day, making craft projects, canoeing in the canals, and singing around the campfire.

Camp was a fun place, and it is where I accepted Jesus in my heart. I did not share my good news with anyone back home, which means I was not encouraged in my faith or discipled by anyone.

Around the age of 13, I thought I knew everything and became a Smart Aleck!

I started making stupid choices and hanging with the wrong crowd. Eventually, being young and dumb, and giving in to peer pressure, at the age of 17 I made a poor choice that would affect my future in ways I did not think of at the time:  I made the choice of turning my back on God.

It would be another six years of going down the wrong path before I realized I needed to rededicate my life to the Lord, which I did!

The Lord is helping me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and to live daily in a way that brings honor and glory to Him.

From what I have observed during my 16 years at Mars Hill, my co-workers, and our board members relentlessly pursue the Lord, and it is my desire to do the same. Because of Christ living His life in me and through me, I don’t have to live in bondage to sin any longer but have been set free to obey Him. I thank the Lord that He has placed good leadership at Mars Hill to help me grow in my faith journey. Continue reading


2 Comments

The Significance of the Resurrection – Part 1

What if Jesus did not rise from the dead?
Lesson 57 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

– 1 Corinthians 15:14–19

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the Bible passage above, the Apostle Paul makes a very strong statement about the significance of the resurrection. Carefully dissecting this passage, Paul says that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then at least six things are true:

  1. our proclamation of Jesus and the message of Jesus is in vain (v.14)
  2. our faith in Jesus and the message of Jesus is unfounded, and thus worthless (v.14,16)
  3. those who proclaim Jesus are liars and witnesses against God – basically blasphemers (v.15)
  4. we are still hopelessly in bondage to the power of sin (v.16)
  5. we are all doomed to die, and death will forever separate us from our loved ones (v.18)
  6. we are pitiful people if we hang our hopes on, and live our lives according to, a lie (v.19)

 

Bible scholars since the time of Paul have emphasized that what Jesus accomplished on the cross has meaning only if it was followed by His resurrection! In this lesson, and the next, we’ll consider the significance of the resurrection by looking at Paul’s argument in greater detail.

All of Paul’s preaching was based on who Jesus claimed to be, as it was revealed to him and the other apostles (Jesus’ inner circle of disciples).

Numerous times Jesus claimed that three days after His crucifixion, He would rise from the dead.1 If Jesus spoke falsely about this, then everything He said was suspect, and worse, He could not be God because God cannot lie. Continue reading


1 Comment

The Wrath of God Poured Out on Jesus for You

The incredible meaning of propitiation.
Lesson 55 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.

– Romans 3:25

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

– Hebrews 2:17

…and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

– 1 John 2:2

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

– 1 John 4:10

At the cross Jesus took our sin upon Himself. He paid the penalty for our sin. He became our substitute. At the cross God’s justice was satisfied, and His love fulfilled. Then Jesus said, “It is accomplished.” And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.

– The HOPE, Chapter 10

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we considered that Jesus’ work on the cross resolved a dilemma of divine proportions: it fulfilled God’s love for man and, at the same time, satisfied His righteous justice in regard to sin. There is something more that was satisfied by Jesus on the cross – God’s anger at sin and its destructive effect on this world.

Have you ever heard or read of something so evil that it turns your stomach? Many people respond to these kinds of stories by saying, “If God is so good, then how can He allow such a thing to take place?” When people say this, it is an indication that there are some truths of which they are not aware.

Regarding sin and its effect in the world, God has more anger than we can understand. But there is a reason that God doesn’t just pour out His anger and judge this sinful world immediately. We can know this reason from 2 Peter 3:9-10 , “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”

From this verse we see what will someday happen to this world and all of its works–it will all be burnt up. Ultimately, God isn’t trying to preserve or rescue this sin infected world; He is creating a new one (Revelation 21:1). But as much as God is angered by sin in this world, this verse also tells us Jesus is not slow about His promise (to return and to judge the world), but He is patient because He wishes that none should perish. In other words, as intense as His anger is over sin, His love for people is even more intense.

Though His judgment of this world may not be immediate, it is imminent and inevitable.1 And it will be terrible. This brings us back to the point of today’s lesson. Continue reading


1 Comment

Whom Does God Consider Righteous?

It’s not about trying to be good, but trusting God.
Lesson 27 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And He took him (Abram) outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

– Genesis 15:5–6

Now Abraham and Sarah lived in Canaan for a long time, but they remained childless. Again, God spoke to him saying that his descendants would be like the stars of the heavens…too many to count. Abraham believed God, and God counted his faith as righteousness.

– The HOPE, Chapter 5

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we saw how Abraham responded in faith to God’s calling and promise. God called Abraham to leave his home and journey to an unknown land, and promised that He would make Abraham the father of a great nation. Today’s lesson looks at Abraham several years after that initial step of faith, and still Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were childless! Again God speaks to Abraham, promising that his descendants would be like the stars–too many to count (Genesis 15:5). Abraham had no evidence that he would have even one child, let alone a multitude of descendants. But Abraham believed God, and God reckoned (or counted) it (his faith) to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). This verse is one of the most important in the Bible, for it sums up the basis by which a person can be right with God, and have a relationship with God.

The word “righteousness”1 has to do with law, morality and justice. In Biblical terms, one who is righteous is without guilt. He is perfect or “right” in relation to the law. However, if you flipped the pages of your Bible to Romans 3:10, you would read that, “There is none righteous, not even one.” Abraham was infected with sin, just as every person since Adam (see Lesson 18). If we were to more closely examine Abraham’s life, we would see clearly that his life fell short of perfection.

Only God is perfect! He alone is holy and righteous! And because God is holy and righteous, He cannot tolerate or overlook sin. Sin violates the character of God and ultimately He must judge it. Simply put, sin drives a wedge between God (who is sinless) and man (who is sinful).

The word “reckon”2 (or “credited” or “counted” as some translations read) could be considered an accounting or a mathematical term. If God were to do an audit of Abraham’s righteousness based on Abraham’s own merit, he would be found lacking. But because he trusted God, Abraham was credited by God with a righteousness that was not his own.

To better understand the concept of being “reckoned righteous” consider the story of a judge who served during the great American depression.3 One night a man was brought into his courtroom. The desperate man had been caught stealing bread to feed his starving family. As the man explained his story, the judge felt sympathy for him, but the law left the judge no option. I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days in jail. Then, moved by compassion, the judge reached in his own pocket and pulled out ten dollars to pay the fine. Continue reading