Monday

We Can't Ignore Our Role in Christian Maturity - 2 Thessalonians 1, Philippians 2:12-13

Human effort, God changes us
Paul commends persecuted Thessalonian believers for their faith in the midst of trials (2 Thessalonians 1). 

He then prays a wonderful prayer for them. It’s what I like to call an “Our Part, His Part” passage, of Scripture. 

Paul prays: 

1. That the Thessalonians will live worthy lives – our part

2. That God will give them power to accomplish everything prompted by their faith – God’s part

The “Our Part” of the Bible is often ignored in modern Christianity.

This is partly due to a popular description of God’s love not found in Scripture: “unconditional love.” If God's love were unconditional in every aspect, He'd have no expectations of us. But He does.

God's love is better than unconditional – it’s a love that refuses to leave us in our sin. 

"Therefore,my dear friends ...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling [seriously and deliberately], for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.Philippians 2:12-13

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To read more about the incorrect use of "unconditional love": Better Than Unconditional 

To do a short Bible study on this devotion examining several other "our part, His part" passages, check out today's Bite Size Bible Study.

Friday

Good Things Can Sometimes Be Unpleasant - Hebrews 12:5-11 and James 1:17

God gives good things, God's disciplines
God only gives good gifts, but that doesn't mean we'll find them pleasant at the time... 

"Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father.." James 1:17

People sometimes quote this and say it's proof that nothing unpleasant ever comes from the hand of God.

However, some things we consider unpleasant are actually good for us.

We grow through hardship in ways we cannot grow through pleasant circumstances.

We "suffer grief in all kinds of trials" so that our faith can prove genuine (1 Peter 1:6-7).

I have grown more through unpleasant circumstances than easy ones, and I know this is true for my Christian friends.

Sometimes God only allows bad things and uses them for our good (Romans 8:28).

But He also brings unpleasant things into our lives to produce great good in us (Hebrews 12:5-11).

"No discipline* seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11

* God punishes us to turn us from our sins, but sometimes discipline is "training," not brought on by disobedience but by our Loving Father's desire to produce stronger faith in His children. 
See God Punishes and Punishment, Consequences, and Condemnation

Thursday

7 Claims of False Teachers and "Christian" Cults

False teachers, Mormonism, Christian cults
Beware of any group that approaches the Bible in any or all of these ways.

1. They claim Scripture is incomplete or corrupted, and they possess the only pure knowledge of God.

2. They claim to have "extra revelations" which contradict Scripture.

3. Knowing that certain Scripture passages refute their beliefs, they create explanations that are historically, academically, or linguistically inaccurate. 

4. They ignore New Testament passages that put an end to certain Old Testament laws (e.g. dietary).*

5. They believe that until their “prophet” or founder came along, God allowed the Gospel to be corrupted and misunderstood for hundreds of years. Included in their list of those who were unable to discern God's truth would be martyrs, missionaries, and great theologians.

6. They claim that Jesus is not God.
(John 1:1-14; 1 John 4:1-3

7. They claim God’s purpose is to give us wealth and/or ease on earth. (Matthew 10:32-39)

*See this collection of 4 articles explaining which Old Testament laws apply to us today.

Related 1-Minute Devotions:
Deceptive Evangelism
Upside-down Truth
Is Mormonism a Cult?

Wednesday

Will You Give Up Your Seat or Remain Selfish? - Philippians 2:3-4

Rude people, selfish people, selfishness, Christ gave up His rights
We live in a selfish world but Christians should be different...

You can learn about selfishness on city buses.

I’m proud of my husband, who at sixty-six-years-old is quick to give up his seat while younger men stay seated. 

Recently, we boarded a city bus to see an able-bodied couple occupying four seats, two for themselves and two for their luggage, violating bus policy.* 

They ignored older people with packages and canes who walked past them looking for seats. 

Neither moved until a visibly frail older woman asked the man to give her one of his seats. 

Whether riding buses, waiting in lines, driving in traffic, talking with sales clerks ... whatever we do, Christians should be "lights" (Matthew 5:16).

“Don’t be selfish …Don’t look out only for your own interests ...In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:3-8 

We deny ourselves out of love for Christ Who denied Himself for us (Matthew 16:24).
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Note: Elderly Christians or those with disabilities or injuries are not selfish to remain in their seats on buses.
*This city bus line specified on signs on the bus walls that all packages must fit on passengers' laps or under the seat.

Tuesday

How Does Scripture Define Love? Matthew 22:36-40, 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13, Golden Rule, Agape Love
We use “love” for:
  • Lust -using someone for pleasure
  • Addictions- obsessive, destructive desires
  • Simple pleasures- e.g. “I love hamburgers”
  • Sacrificial love- e.g. a godly mother
  • Romantic love- shallow or deeply committed.
People who say they "love" God, parents, spouse or friends may have nominal, selfish love or sacrificial, life-changing love.

Scripture explains genuine love:

Agape – based on the virtue of the lover, not the worthiness of the loved one, as God’s love for mankind. Unfortunately, the word “unconditional” (not found in Scripture) has replaced the word “agape” and promoted misunderstandings about God’s love.*

1 Corinthians 13 describes perfect human love - our goal.

Golden Rule love” - not necessarily based on affection or familiarity but on the Biblical truth that human beings are created in the image of God and should be treated fairly, justly, humanely. 

Let’s study Scripture to learn more about God's pure, perfect, Agape love so we can love God and others biblically (Matthew 22:36-40).

* See "God's Love is Better Than Unconditional"
* Scripture also uses two other adjectives for love phileo (brotherly love) and eros (sexual love).
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