devos from the hill


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The Law – God’s Mirror

A mirror can reveal a dirty face, but can’t clean the face.
Lesson 38 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

– Romans 3:20

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the last two lessons we considered the Law that God gave to the Hebrew people. God promised that if the Hebrew people obeyed the Law they would be blessed, but if they disobeyed the Law they would be punished. We also saw that God, knowing the Hebrew people would not be able to fully and consistently keep the Law, provided a way to cover their sin through the offering of sacrifices.

But there is yet another important aspect of the Law we must consider. Many people have the idea that the Law was given as a means for man to be right with God. But the Bible is clear (Romans 3:20) that no person can gain right standing (be justified) with God by keeping the Law. Think about it. If we could keep the Law perfectly (although we can’t), we would still be infected with the sin which was passed down to every person through Adam (see Lesson 18). Sin separates man from God. Even if you had never sinned, the sin in you would still separate you from God.

As we study the Bible, we learn that the Law is like a mirror – for both God and man. In the Law we see a true reflection of God’s character. That reflection reveals that God is holy and righteous. But in the Law, we also see a true image of ourselves. Our inability to keep the Law reveals our inadequacy, for the Law clearly reveals that we do not measure up to God’s standard of holiness and righteousness. Something in us prevents us from measuring up, and according to Romans 3:20, that something is sin.

A mirror can be helpful to show you if your face needs washing. But it cannot be used to wash your face. No one in their right mind would take a mirror and rub it on their face to remove dirt. That requires a cleansing agent such as soap. So it is with the Law. The Law reveals sin, but it is not a cleansing agent. It cannot cleanse us from sin, but it can show us our need to be cleansed. It can create a sense of need for the promised Deliverer, the only One who can take away sin! Continue reading


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A Covering for Sin

The sacrifices covered sin, but did not take it away.
Lesson 37 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

– Exodus 25:9

And each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it; and you shall anoint it to consecrate it.

– Exodus 29:36

And I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. And I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. And I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God.

– Exodus 29:43–45

Now God knew that because of the sin that had infected humankind, the people would not be able to keep these laws. So God told Moses how to build a sacred place where His presence would dwell among them, and the people could bring animals to be slain as offerings for sin. The blood of the animals would be as a covering so that God would not look upon their sin. But while these sacrifices covered sin, they did not take away the sin.

– The HOPE, Chapter 7

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

When God gave the Hebrew people the Law, He knew that, because of the sin that had infected humankind (Lesson 18), they would not be able to keep the Law. It might appear to have been a cruel thing for God to give the Hebrew people a standard He knew they could not live up to. But let’s look a little deeper. Man’s greatest need is to have a healthy relationship with God. Because the Law represents the character of God, man cannot side–step the Law and be right with God. The Law represents who God is. Just as God is holy, righteous and good…so also is the Law (Romans 7:16). Man must be rightly related to the Law if he is to be rightly related with God.

Being full of grace, mercy, and wisdom, God provided the Hebrew people with a way to maintain their right relationship with Him even though they would inevitably break the Law. As it is said in The HOPE, So God told Moses how to build a sacred place where His presence would dwell among them, and the people could bring animals to be slain as offerings for sin. The blood of the animals would be as a covering so that God would not look upon their sin. God’s instructions for this sacred place of sacrifice, known as the tabernacle, are detailed in Exodus 25-27. God’s instructions for the offerings to be given there are detailed in Exodus 29-30.

In Exodus 29:36 we read that this offering was for “atonement.”1 The word “atonement” comes from the Hebrew word “kaphar”2 which literally means “to cover.” (This was the same word that was used when God told Noah to “cover” the ark with pitch.) When offerings were said to be an atonement for sin, they were in a sense “covering” the sin. Now it would be foolish to think that God, the One who sees and knows all things, is blind to sin, as if He could not see through an offering. It would be more accurate to say that God honored the offering by choosing not to look upon the sin or judge the sin…at least for a period of time. Continue reading


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The Law – A Sacred Trust, A Holy Calling

The Law – A Reflection of God’s Holy character.
Lesson 36 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”

So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord had commanded him. And all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.

– Exodus 19:3-8

From Egypt, God led the Hebrew people to a mountain in a desert called Sinai. It was here God said that if the Hebrew people obeyed Him, then they would be blessed as His treasured possession, and they would represent Him to all the nations of the earth. The people said they would do whatever God asked. And so it was, with lightning and thunder, and smoke and fire, God descended upon the mountain. And Moses went up the mountain to meet with God. On tablets of stone, God wrote laws by which to live and be blessed. He gave them to Moses to give to the Hebrew people. It was a sacred trust, a holy calling. For these laws were the ways of God.

– The HOPE, Chapter 7

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

What an honor! What a responsibility! Through trials and miraculous triumphs, the Hebrew people had been set apart from all the nations of the earth to enter into a covenant with God. This covenant was centered around the Law that God gave to the Hebrew people through Moses on Mount Sinai. Known as the Ten Commandments, this Law is recorded for us in Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:6-21. In this covenant God promised that if the Hebrew people obeyed His Law, then they would become His people and He would bless them. If they disobeyed His Law, then He would punish them.

The blessings and curses associated with this covenant are detailed in Deuteronomy 28. While this covenant is primarily defined in terms of the Hebrew people and their relationship to God, the ultimate significance of this covenant extends to the entire world. In the Exodus 19 passage quoted above, God promises that if the Hebrew people obey Him, then they will be to Him “a kingdom of priests.” Basically, a priest is an intermediary between God and man. A priest leads people to God and is God’s representative to people. Continue reading


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No Throw–Away People

With God, everyone has value.
Lesson 29 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.

– Genesis 17:20–21

But God told Abraham not to be troubled, for Ishmael would become the father of a great nation. And through Isaac, God would fulfill His promise to bless all nations.

– The HOPE, Chapter 5

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we saw how Sarah attempted to fulfill God’s promise of a son by giving her maid, Hagar, to Abraham. And with Ishmael and Isaac becoming the fathers of all Arabic and Jewish people respectively, we also noted the tragic consequences that have resulted from this act to this very day. While this story is often reduced to a simple moral lesson – don’t get ahead of God or the results will be devastating – to view this story in such a one- dimensional way is to treat Hagar and Ishmael as mere “throw–away” characters, people who were simply necessary to the plot in order that we might learn a moral lesson.

But as we also observed in the previous lesson, it is not that simple. The God of all grace is always up to something far greater than we can understand. According to the Biblical account (Genesis 16:4-8), not long after Hagar conceived Ishmael, Sarah began to despise her and treat her harshly. Hagar fled from Sarah’s presence into the wilderness, and there the “angel of the Lord” (which is thought to be a manifestation of God Himself) met her and spoke to her by name. Hagar is the first person in the Bible to encounter “the angel of the Lord,” and this is the first time in the story that Hagar is addressed by her name. Up to this point there is no record of Abraham or Sarah referring or speaking to Hagar by name. Rather, they refer to her as “your maid” and “my maid.”1 To God, Hagar is a person with real value, made in His very image!

The angel of the Lord then tells Hagar to return to Sarah and submit to her authority. But He also makes a great promise to Hagar and her son. Ishmael’s descendants will become a great nation that cannot be counted.2 The angel does not tell her that it will be easy for her, but He does tell her God has given heed to her affliction. The God of the entire universe has acknowledged her personhood and identified with her situation. Hagar then calls God, “El Roi,” “The God Who Sees.”3 Hagar is the first person in the Bible to give God a name, and she honors God with her obedience. Continue reading


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Working Out Your Salvation – Your Role and God’s Role

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

“. . . work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:12b-13

Most religions of the world teach that by following their tenants you will over time be changed into a different, better person. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that the moment you are born again (Eph. 2:4-7, John 3:1-6, Tit. 3:5), God changes you into a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). He plants a new nature in you (makes you a partaker of His divine nature 2 Peter 1:4), and the rest of your life on earth becomes a process of cooperating with Him to grow and mature that new nature as an expression of His life in and through you. This process is what the Bible calls sanctification.

Perhaps nowhere else in the Bible is this truth so powerfully and succinctly stated than in Philippians 2:12-13. Here we apprehend a truth that may require a lifetime or more to comprehend. Jonathan Edwards expressed the importance of understanding this verse, writing that, “from St. Paul a sentence hit me when I was about twenty-two that has shaped my theology ever since, ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to do His good pleasure.’”

In two sentences, this passage sums up the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God. Here, we have come upon a new math. The natural mind can calculate x%(God’s role) + x%(man’s role)=100%. But the equation in this verse is only completed with 100% God and 100% man. In the realm of theology, “quietists” stress God’s role in sanctification, to the virtual exclusion of any human effort. “Pietists”, on the other hand, emphasize self-effort at the expense of reliance on God’s power. Here, Paul makes no attempt to reconcile divine sovereignty and human responsibility, but boldly proclaims both. Continue reading


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Are You Ready for Another Day of Labor?

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

Emile_Claus-the_Harvest

Does the title to this devotional cause a happy feeling to rise up within you? Probably not. Many of our feelings about work are no doubt shaped by the curse that came after the fall (Gen.2:17-19.) But God, who redeems fallen things, is able to change our perspective on work.

On June 24, 1894 Congress passed a law making the first Monday in September a legal holiday, Labor Day. Yesterday was that day. How did it work out for you? On the morning after, were you ready for another day of labor, or would you rather have another day off?

Paul closes the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians with a strong statement that speaks directly to our attitude about labor. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (v.58). Reading this verse, two questions jump out, “What is the work of the Lord?”, and “Why should we have this attitude about it?” Continue reading


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The Deadly Folly of Doing God’s Work Man’s Way

Mars Hill Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter

The ark of the covenant; a chest of acacia wood, 45 inches long, 27 inches wide, and 27 inches deep. It contained the tables of the law, the pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod (Heb. 9:4). The lid of the ark was the place where God’s presence was manifested. During the days of Samuel, the Israelites took the ark from Shiloh into battle and lost it to the Philistines (1 Sam. 4:3-4; 10-11). In 1 Chronicles 13 and 2 Samuel 6 we read of David’s attempt to bring the ark from the land of the Philistines to Jerusalem.

What begins with seemingly good intentions ends with disaster. One of David’s men is struck dead by God when he tries to keep the ark from falling off a cart, and David becomes so angry about the matter that he just leaves the ark with a nearby family and returns to Jerusalem without it. What went wrong?

Counsel without Wisdom – David’s first step was to consult every leader in Israel regarding the matter. “Then David consulted with the captains of the thousands and the hundreds, even with every leader” (1Ch 13:1). But David did not seek God, or search the scriptures concerning the thing he was about to do. Apart from God there is no wisdom, even in a “multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 24:6).

Praise without Power – Then David further masked over his error by staging a huge praise event around the return of the ark. “David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, even with songs and with lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals and with trumpets” (1Ch 13:8). According to 2 Sam.6:1, there were over thirty thousand men involved in the event! God is not impressed with pomp and ceremony. God looks at the heart. Quoting from Isaiah 29:13, Jesus said in Matt 15:8, “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Continue reading


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Active and Passive

Mars Hill Staff Devotional – July 31, 2012

For today’s staff devotional, we discussed “Being versus Doing”.
Key take away: He is the initiator and we are the responders.
Our role is to say “yes” and follow. His role is to lead and do what
only He can do . . . in us, through us and around us.

Active and Passive by Ray Stedman
Read the Scripture: John 15:4-11

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me (John 15:4).

Notice that our Lord divides this passage into two sections. There is an activity that is to be done, and a passivity that is to be acknowledged. We are to remain in Him (that is active, something we do), and we are to let Him remain in us (that is passive, something we allow Him to do). Both these relationships are essential, not one as opposed to the other, but both together.

When our Lord says Remain in me, He is talking about the will, and the decisions we make. We must decide to do things that keep ourselves in contact with Him. The Holy Spirit has placed us into Christ. Now we must maintain that relationship by the decisions we make, such as exposing ourselves to His Word and having a prayer relationship with Him. We remain in Him when we bear one another’s burdens and confess our faults and share in fellowship with one another. All of this is designed to relate to Him: Remain in me. If we do that, we are fulfilling this active, necessary decision of the will to obey His Word.

This is what Bible study and prayer are all about. They are not mere mechanical practices that every Christian ought to do in order to get brownie points with God! No, they are means by which we know Him. If you open your Bible and begin to read it without the conscious expectation that it is going to tell you something about Him, you will read in vain. If you try to pray as though it were some exercise in which you chalk off fifteen minutes’ worth, mechanically going through a list, it is a valueless experience. But if you pray because you are talking with One whom you love and want to know more of, sharing with Him out of the fullness of your heart, then prayer becomes a beautiful experience. That is remaining in Him.

But that is only part of it. Jesus says, Remain in me, and I in you. There is also the other side–Let me remain in you. That has to do with empowerment, enablement. You can make choices, but you cannot fulfill them. And though you are responsible to make choices, you are not responsible for the power to carry them out. There you are to depend on Him, to let Him abide in you. You are to rest upon His ability to see you through. As you venture out on that basis, you expect Him to carry you through.

Both of these are absolutely essential. Making decisions and then trying to do the whole thing yourself is going to produce intense activity, but no results. On the other hand, letting Him take all the responsibility and making no choices at all will also produce a fruitless life. We must determine to expose ourselves to Him; we must seek His face in the Word, in prayer, and in fellowship with others. And then we must count on Him to see us through, to supply that enabling power that makes us able to love and forgive and rejoice and give thanks. When we do, we are remaining in Him and letting Him remain in us.

Father, teach me the proper balance between making hard choices to remain in You and resting in You to do in me what only You can do.

Life Application: What is the tremendous difference between our will power and our activity power – between our power to choose and our power to do?

Copyright © 2007 by Elaine Stedman — This daily devotion is from the book The Power of His Presence: a year of devotions from the writings of Ray Stedman; compiled by Mark Mitchell. It may be copied for personal non-commercial use only in its entirety free of charge. All copies must contain this copyright notice and a hyperlink to http://www.RayStedman.org if the copy is posted on the Internet. Please direct any questions you may have to webmaster@RayStedman.org.

http://www.raystedman.org/daily-devotions/john-13to17/active-and-passive


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The Spiritually Lazy Saint

Mars Hill Staff Devotional – July 10, 2012

This morning’s study was from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” (link featured below).

Key take aways:
– Work can actually be the counterfeit of spiritual activity. In other words, work for God can be a
counterfeit of the work of God.
– Are we willing to let Jesus take us where we would not naturally go? Are we willing to be made willing?
– Jesus Christ never encourages the idea of retirement.

What do you think? Post a comment. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Find the devotional we used here:
“The Spiritually Lazy Saint” http://utmost.org/the-spiritually-lazy-saint