Category Archives: Doctrine

Hello, Athens! (Acts 17)

Scripture reading – Acts 17

Today’s Scripture reading follows Paul’s ministry in Philippi, and what some might describe as a “hullabaloo” (i.e. uproar, tumult, clamor) that was created after he and Silas were falsely accused of teaching “customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans” (16:21). Those men were thereafter beaten and jailed (16:22-24). The next day they were set free and departed from Philippi (16:39-40), traveling “through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica” (17:1).

Acts 17 – Paul and Silas’ ministry in three prominent cities of the first century: Thessalonica (17:1-13), Berea (17:10-14), and Athens (17:15-34).

Notice that it was Paul’s custom to go into a city, and on the Sabbath enter into a synagogue, and boldly declare Jesus as the Messiah (i.e. the Anointed One) and Savior (17:1-3). Time and space prevent me from an in-depth study of Paul’s ministry in those cities; however, I trust my amplification of some key verses will be a blessing.

The city of Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-13)

Acts 17:1-3Now when they [Paul and Silas] had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was [i.e. as was his custom or habit], went in unto them [the Jews in the synagogue at Thessalonica], and three sabbath days reasoned [disputed; preached; conversed] with them out of  [from] the scriptures [i.e. The Old Testament Scriptures], 3  Opening [explaining; setting forth] and alleging [setting forth], that Christ must needs [ought; should] have suffered [experienced pain], and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach [declare; proclaim] unto you, is Christ [the Messiah].

The response of some was to believe; however, the response of many was to reject Jesus Christ and oppose witnesses.

Acts 17:5-7But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy [jealous over Paul’s success], took unto them certain lewd [evil; wicked] fellows of the baser sort [vulgar; good for nothing], and gathered a company [crowd], and set all the city on an uproar [tumult; disturbance], and assaulted [rushing at] the house of Jason [a man who was a Christian], and sought to bring them [Paul and Silas] out to the people [for the purpose of publicly accusing and attacking]. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned [made an uproar] the world upside down [made an uproar] are come hither also; 7Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary [oppose; against] to the decrees [laws; ordinances] of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

The city of Berea (Acts 17:10-14)

Acts 17:11 – These [the people of Berea] were more noble [i.e. noble minded] than those in Thessalonica, in that they received [accepted] the word with all readiness of mind [eagerly; joyfully], and searched [examined; investigated] the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

The city of Athens (Acts 17:15-34)

Known for both its scholarship and idolatry, Paul journeyed to Athens and seeing the idols of that ancient city in every place, he boldly declared Jesus Christ in both the synagogue and public places.

Acts 17:16-17 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit [soul; inward man] was stirred [provoked] in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry [i.e. was full of idols]. 17  Therefore disputed he [reasoned; preached; teach public twin ] in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons [religious; reverent], and in the market [i.e. The town square; public thoroughfare] daily with them that met with him [that he chance to meet].

Acts 17:20-22For thou bringest certain strange things [surprising; shocking] to our ears: we would know [understand; desire to know] therefore what these things mean. 21  (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22 Then Paul stood [standing] in the midst [center; lit. he seized the opportunity] of Mars’ hill [a hill in Athens; a meeting  place], and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things [everything] ye are too superstitious [religious ;i.e. fearing the gods of idols ].

Acts 17:29-31Forasmuch then as we are the offspring [family; people] of God, we ought not to think [suppose; regard] that the Godhead is like [similar; i.e. the nature of God] unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven [scratch; etched; sculpted] by art and man’s device [thought or imagination].30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at [overlooked;  do not punish]; but now commandeth [ declares] all men every where to repent [change of mind accompanied by sorrow]: 31  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge [condemn] the worldin righteousness [justice] by that man whom he hath ordained [i.e. Jesus Christ]; whereof he [God] hath given assurance unto all men, in that he [God] hath raised him [Jesus Christ] from the dead.

We might imagine the shock to the pride and feelings of those men of Athens who, in the words of the Scripture, did nothing more than want to “tell, or to hear some new thing” (17:21). Here was a man who boldly declared what they knew in their hearts, that the God of creation and heaven (17:29a) is nothing like the idols they had sculpted with their own hands and imaginations (17:29b). Paul warned, God would no longer overlook their willful ignorance, and was commanding “all men every where to repent” (17:30).

Like in our own day, many mocked and rejected the Gospel (17:32a), some desired to hear more (17:32b), and there were some who believed (17:34).

What about you? What do you believe? Is your heart ready for God’s judgment? (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Time for a Spiritual Self-Portrait (Galatians 4-6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading completes our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our devotional commentary will focus on Galatians 5:19-25.

Paul challenged believers in Galatia to “Stand Fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (5:1).

There were many things that might have shaken the faith of first century believers living in the Roman province of Galatia. There was the ever-present threat of persecution, the rejection of family and friends, and the ever-present pressures and influence of living in the midst of a sinful, pagan culture. Understanding the cultural temptations that surrounded them, Paul’s letter urged believers to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). What is the “lust of the flesh” that the Spirit will enable a believer to overcome?

The “lust of the flesh” is manifested in what Paul defined as “the works of the flesh” (5:19-21).

1) Galatians 5:19bSexual immorality (“adultery, fornication”) and moral debauchery (“uncleanness, lasciviousness”)

2) Galatians 5:20aReligious sins (“idolatry, witchcraft”)

3) Galatians 5:20b-21aRelationship sins (“hatred [hostility], variance [contentious], emulations [envy; jealousy], wrath, strife, seditions [divisions], heresies [departure from the Truth], 21 Envyings”)

4) Galatians 5:21Moral corruption (“murders, drunkenness, revellings [drunkenness; sinful indulgence]”)

Did you notice the sins of first century Galatia are the sins of our 21st century world?

The heart of man has not changed, and the nature of sin is passed from generation to generation, from father and mother, to the son and daughter. Though “the works of the flesh” are characteristic of our fallen world and society, they have no place in a believer’s life. Paul warned, “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21b).

After admonishing believers concerning the “works of the flesh,” Paul turned his focus to a brief exposition of the spiritual graces that the Holy Spirit should manifest in the life of a believer when he is fully-yielded to the work and leading of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit-Filled Life (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that the Holy Spirit will produce a spiritual transformation in a believer’s life (5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy [gladness of heart], peace [tranquility], longsuffering[patient; restrains from vengeance], gentleness [kindness, without harshness], goodness [good deeds toward others], faith[conviction], 23Meekness [not soon angry; humility], temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law.

When a man is genuinely saved, and the Holy Spirit is present, there will be “fruit of the Spirit.” The degree of fruit produced, and evidenced in a believer’s life, will be dependent on their walk with the LORD, and obedience to His Word.

Realizing that the “works of the flesh” have no place in a believer’s life, there should be a transformation that is noticeably evident:

Where there was hatred, there is love. Where there was wrath, there is joy. Where there were divisions, there is peace. Where there was wrath, there is patience. Where there was contentiousness, there is gentleness. Where there was envy, there is goodness. Where there was heresy, there is faith. Where there was murder and hate, there is meekness. Where there was drunkenness and self-indulgence, there is self-control.

How can this be? How might a believer get victory over the “works of the flesh,” and his life and spirit evidence the “fruit of the Spirit?” Paul’s answer:

Galatians 5:24–2524 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Friend, I encourage you to take a few minutes and do an honest, self-evaluation of your life and spirit. Is the “fruit of the Spirit” apparent in your life?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Troubles in Galatia (Galatians 1-3)

Scripture reading – Galatians 1-3

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Paul’s epistle to believers living in Galatia (modern Turkey). Galatia, lying due north of the isle of Cyprus, was a Roman province in the 1st century. The Greeks referred to the people of the region as “Gauls” (a name derived from the Latin word, “Gallia”), and they are believed to have been Celtic, a Germanic tribe of western Europe. Major cities of the southern region of Galatia included Antioch of Pisidian, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.

What was Paul’s purpose in penning this epistle to Galatia?

The content of the letter reveals that false teachers had infiltrated the churches in Galatia, and were calling into question Paul’s credibility and authority as an apostle, and were also undermining the doctrine of grace that was central to the Gospel.

Paul had two objectives in writing the epistle: The first was a defense of his apostleship; The second, a defense and declaration of the Gospel of Grace through Jesus Christ.

Leaving no doubt as to his purpose in writing to Galatian believers, Paul commenced the letter introducing himself as its author, and boldly declaring his apostleship was “not of men, neither by man” (1:1b). In other words, he declared that he did not look to a council of men, nor an ecclesiastical authority. Paul proclaimed that his commission as an apostle was from God, writing: “by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised [having raised] him [Jesus Christ] from the dead;)” (1:1c).

Four Qualifications of an Apostle

The Scriptures reveal that a man had to meet four qualification to be an apostle. The first, he had to have seen the LORD after His resurrection (Acts 1:22; 9:3-5; 22:6-8; 1 Cor. 9:1). Secondly, he had to have received His calling from Christ Himself (Luke 6:13; Acts 9:6; 22:10; Galatians 1:1). The third qualification was that his teaching had to be divinely inspired (John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 9:15; 22:14; 1 Thess. 2:13). Finally, he must evidence the power to perform miracles as a sign of his apostleship (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; 14:8-10; 16:18; 10:10-12; 1 Cor. 12:8-11).

Paul met all four of the requisites of a man divinely appointed as an apostle. Not only had he been commissioned “by Jesus Christ” (1:1b), he was called by “God the Father, who raised Him [Jesus Christ] from the dead” (1:1c). He also had the witness of “all the brethren” (1:2), which were traveling with him. Though not named, it is certain the believers in Galatia were aware of those men who labored with Paul.

The Recipients of the Epistle – “unto the churches [assemblies or congregations] of Galatia” (1:2b). The epistle has a general address to the believers of “the churches of Galatia,” and the letter would have been read publicly, and shared with each of their assemblies.

I have merely introduced Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians; however, it is good to note not only who is writing, but also why. Most importantly, however, is to remember that all Scripture is divinely inspired., literally God-breathed.

2 Timothy 3:1616 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Secret to God’s Power (Acts 4-6)

Scripture reading – Acts 4-6

One would not presume the miraculous healing of a lame man, a man unable to walk from his birth, would be the catalyst for rousing opposition to the Gospel (Acts 3:2; 4:22). However, such was the case when members of the Sanhedrin, among them the high priests, Pharisees, and scribes (4:1-6), realized the death of Jesus Christ was not the end, but only the beginning of a movement that would turn “the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

Peter, preaching with boldness the Gospel of Christ, had accused the people of Israel saying, “14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15)

Calling on the people to repent, and “be converted, that [their] sins may be blotted out” (3:19), Peter’s preaching was suddenly interrupted. “The priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them [Peter and John, Acts 3:1],Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold [prison] unto the next day.” (4:1-3, 13).

In spite of the abuse, and opposition to the Gospel, “many of them which heard the word [the Gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection] believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (4:4). The next day, Peter and John (note Acts 3:1; 4:13) were brought before the Sanhedrin to be tried by the same men who not long before had presided over Christ’s trial, and finally demanded His crucifixion (4:5-7).

The Interrogation (Acts 4:7-16)

The members of the Sanhedrin repeatedly demanded, “By what power [authority], or by what name [person], have ye done this [i.e. healing the lame man and preaching]?” (4:7) Peter’s response to their examination is instructive and noteworthy for believers facing adversaries (4:8-12).

Peter was “filled with the Holy Ghost” when he responded to his enemies (4:8). He did not respond to his inquisitors in the flesh, but was yielded to the Spirit, and empowered to speak as God would have him to respond.

Peter’s response was respectful, and not spiteful. He acknowledged the office and position the leaders held with the people, and addressed them as, “rulers of the people, and elders of Israel” (4:8b).

Peter’s faith evoked boldness and courage (4:9-11). He did not shy from identifying Jesus Christ as the source of their power to heal the lame man, and leveled against his enemies the weight of their guilt in crucifying “Jesus Christ of Nazareth… whom God raised from the dead” (4:10).

Leaving no doubt that in Christ alone is forgiveness of sin, Peter declared, “12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (4:12).

The religious leaders were amazed at “the boldness of Peter and John,” and marveled that “unlearned and ignorant men” who lacked rabbinical schooling (4:13), would have insight and discernment into the Scriptures. The Sanhedrin knew Peter and John were Galilean fisherman, but what could explain their wisdom? The leaders, “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (4:13).

The Intent of the Adversaries (Acts 4:16-18)

Unable to deny the healing of the man who had been lame since his birth (4:16), but rushing to find a solution to the spread of the Gospel (4:17), the religious leaders threatened Peter and John, and “commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (4:18).

The Instruction of a Righteous Response to Enemies of the Gospel (4:19-21)

Unwilling to be silenced by threats and intimidation, Peter and John answered their interrogators saying, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (4:19-20).

God is the Judge of right and wrong, and His authority exceeds all human authority. Jesus Christ had commissioned, and empowered them to preach (1:8), and they would not, and could not be silent.

Rather than silencing the apostles, Peter and John’s faith propelled believers to glorify “God for that which was done” (4:21). When Peter and John reported what had been said to them by “the chief priests and elders,” the people “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (4:23-24) and prayed, acknowledging God as Creator and Sovereign. They trusted God, and prayed, “do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (4:28).

Acknowledging the threats of their enemies, they prayed for God to give them boldness to speak (4:29). As they prayed, the foundations of the place were shaken, and the Holy Ghost filled the people and “they spake the word of God with boldness” (4:31).

I close inviting you to notice that God’s power was present when there was unity among believers, for the people “were of one heart and of one soul” (4:32).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Are you ready for Christ’s coming? It may be today! (Acts 1-3)

Scripture reading – Acts 1-3

Today’s Scripture reading brings our chronological study of the Bible to the “Acts of the Apostles.” Luke, whom Paul referred to as a physician (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24), is credited as the author of the Gospel that bears his name and the Book of Acts, where he introduced himself, not by name, but as the writer of a “former treatise” to a believer named Theophilus (Luke 1:1-3; Acts 1:1).

The Gospel of Luke gives us a historical record of Christ’s birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. The Acts of the Apostles records the actions and activities of the Apostles, beginning with Christ commissioning His disciples to preach the Gospel: “be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8), and concluding with Paul’s powerful prison witness in Rome, the capital city of the world in the first century (Acts 28:16, 30-31).

There are several foundational truths we should notice in this introduction to the Book of Acts.

Because the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central hope of believers (Luke 24:39-40; 41-43; Acts 1:3), Jesus remained with His disciples forty days and emboldened them with “many infallible proofs,” an experience that imparted to them boldness and forever transformed their lives (Acts 1:3).

Assembling the disciples for His departure (1:4), Jesus exhorted them to wait for the promise of the Father…ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” (1:4-5). After promising them “power” and authority, He commissioned them to be witnesses (1:8), and as they watched, He “was taken up; , and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (1:9). Two angels, appearing as men in “white apparel,” appeared and gave the disciples a promise that has been the hope of believers for 2,000 years: “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (1:11).

The promise of the imminent return of Jesus Christ forever changed the disciples’ perspective on their lives and ministry. Often guilty of self-promotion and wondering which of them would be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom (Luke 9:46, 22:24), their focus became preaching the Gospel and calling sinners to repent of their sins and turn to Christ (2:22-24, 32, 36-38).

Knowing Jesus Christ promised to return, but not knowing the hour, James exhorted believers:

James 5:7-9 – Be patient [longsuffering; slow to anger] therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman [farmer] waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early [autumn] and latter [spring] rain. 8Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts [keep hope alive]: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9Grudge not [stop complaining & grumbling] one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

I do not know when the LORD will return (Acts 1:7), but I believe it is imminent, and will be sudden, and unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You want Proof? I’ve Got Proof! (Luke 24, John 20-21)

Scripture reading – Luke 24, John 20-21

A shepherd’s memo and invitation to those who follow the 2020 edition of www.HeartofAShepherd.comToday’s Scripture reading is the 319th Bible reading of the year and is a milestone as we conclude our chronological study of the Gospels.

This year, 2020, brought not only a pandemic, but also unprecedented attacks on liberties I fear we too often take for granted. We have experienced an erosion of freedoms, as social mediums and news organizations joined forces to silence blogs and posts that are contrary to their social agenda and narrative. My Heart of a Shepherd’s Facebook Page was disabled without notice, and without any means of appeal. 

If you have not done so, I urge you to subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com, and insure you will continue to receive these daily Bible devotionals.

The proofs of Christ’s resurrection, the Great Commission, and the command to preach the Gospel are the concluding themes in our study of the Gospels.

Luke and John record undeniable proofs of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. Mary Magdalene (John 20:1), and several other women, including Joanna, and Mary the mother of James (Luke 24:1, 10) had arrived at the tomb “the first day of the week, very early in the morning (Luke 24:1) and found “the stone rolled away from the sepulchre” (Luke 24:2).

Although Jesus had on several occasions prophesied His death, burial, and resurrection, Mary Magdalene had leapt to the conclusion that the Lord’s body had been removed by His enemies (John 20:1-2). Without waiting on the other women, Mary bolted from the tomb, taking news to Peter and John saying, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (20:2).

The other women had entered the tomb, and were frightened by the appearance of “two men,” two angels who “stood by them in shining garments” (Luke 24:4) and asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (24:5)

Without waiting for the women to answer, the angels reminded them how Jesus had foretold His death, burial and resurrection, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:7).

Those women, remembered “His words,” and with joy left the tomb and ran to tell the disciples the news that Jesus was risen. The disciples, however, “believed them not” (Luke 24:11). That “same day at evening,” being “the first day of the week” (John 20:19), Jesus appeared to His disciples and said to them, “Peace be unto you” (20:19).

Proving His bodily resurrection from the dead, Jesus showed the disciples the physical scars of His crucifixion, in both “His hands and His side” (John 20:20). Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not there when Jesus revealed himself, and expressed his unbelief saying, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (20:25).

Eight days later, Jesus appeared a second time to His disciples (John 20:26), and said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (20:27). Thomas, laying aside his unbelief, confessed his faith in Christ saying, “My Lord and my God” (20:28).

Jesus was more than a prophet, or a great teacher. No mortal man could die and be raised from the dead apart from God. The days that followed Christ’s bodily resurrection, and the signs and miracles He performed (20:30), enflamed the hearts of His followers to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection with boldness and power.

John writes, “31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (20:31).

What do you believe? Do you believe the revelations of the written Word of God? Do you believe Jesus Christ was crucified for your sins, and on the third day was raised victorious from the dead? John wrote later in life his unwavering confidence in Christ:

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Judas: Remorse is Not Repentance (Matthew 27; Mark 15)

Scripture reading – Matthew 27; Mark 15

Rich with drama, the passages we are reading today bring us to the spiritual crossroads of human history. The unfolding drama is providentially God’s redemptive plan of salvation for man’s sin, conceived in the heart of our Creator before the foundation of the world was laid.

Today’s devotional could focus on many aspects of this path to the Cross; however, I must limit myself to one thought: Judas, his remorse, and death.

The chief priests and the Sanhedrin, having condemned Jesus to die (Matthew 27:1-2), had taken Him away to the palace of Pontius Pilate where He would be tried, and sentenced to death by the civil authority.

Judas had watched with remorse, the effect of His decision to betray Jesus into the hands of His enemies (27:3). For three years, he had been privileged to be Christ’s disciple. Along with the other disciples, he had listened to Him teach, and witnessed miracles that could not be explained apart from God’s power and anointing. Nevertheless, Judas was, like so many, a follower, but not a believer that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Judas, seeing Jesus was condemned, and desperate to make right his wrong, went to the chief priests and elders with the thirty pieces of silver burning in his hands. He confessed to them, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4a).

Poor, sad, miserable soul; Judas realized too late the scorn those religious hypocrites held not only for Jesus, but also for him. They answered Judas with contempt, “What is that to us? see thou to that” (27:4b).

What terror of soul! Those religious pretenders cared nothing for Judas’ soul and offered him no counsel (27:5a). He realized too late that there was no place, and no one to whom he could go to find relief for his wickedness. Unable to bear the weight of his sin, and his betrayal of “innocent blood” (27:4a), Judas realized no act of contrition could ease his guilt. Casting down the thirty pieces of silver, he fled through the streets of Jerusalem, “and went and hanged himself” (27:5b; Acts 1:16-19).

Magnifying the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, though set upon the murder of Jesus, they disingenuously debated among themselves the unlawful expenditure of blood money, the silver Judas had returned and hurled at them (27:6b). In a plan to conceal their sin, they proposed an act of charity and purchased “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (27:8). Unknowingly, they had fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10) that was recorded by Zechariah, stating:

“So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:12–13).

The public would learn the secret of their purchase, and called the place, “The field of blood” (27:8).

What sorrow, depravity, and travesty of justice and piety! Such is the way of the wicked, and the sorrow of remorse without sincere repentance. Judas was filled with regret; however, he failed to confess his sin to God. With no recourse except repentance, Judas found himself in a state of hopelessness. His remorse was too little, and his repentance came too late.

Friend, don’t make that mortal mistake. Confess your sin to God, and turn to Him knowing Christ has borne the penalty of your sin on the cross.

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

JESUS CHRIST: The Way, The Truth, The Life (John 14-17)

Scripture reading – John 14-17

The setting of today’s Scripture is in the midst of our LORD’S final Passover with His disciples, and precedes His departure from the house to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Having washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:4-12), and Judas having gone out into the night to betray Him (13:21-30), Jesus told His followers He was to depart (13:33). Peter asked, “Lord, whither goest thou?” to which “Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards” (13:36).

Christ’s revelation that He was going away, and the disciples could not follow, was distressing (13:31-36).  When Jesus foretold that Peter, the most outspoken of the Twelve, would deny the LORD three times that very night (13:38), the disciples were well-nigh overcome with fear and anxiety.

They had believed, as had many in Israel, that the Messiah would be a political Savior, and would free the nation from servitude to Rome. They were not looking for a Redeemer who would save them from their sins; they were looking for a Messiah who would overthrow Rome and restore the sovereignty of the nation. They had left everything, and everyone to follow Jesus. How could He say He was leaving them, and they could not go with Him?

Jesus answered the fears of His disciples with assurances that have been a comfort for believers for nearly 2,000 years (14:1-6). Consider three comforts found in Jesus’ promises.

The first was an Earthly [present; immediate; temporal] Comfort: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” (14:1). Don’t allow your heart to be overcome with fear and anxiety. If you trust God, whom you have not seen, trust in Christ whom you have known and seen. Christ promised, comfort in troubles and trials, and comfort in sickness and death. David wrote of that same comfort in Psalm 23.

Psalm 23:4 – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod [protects] and thy staff [guides] they comfort me.”

John 14:2-3, promised the disciples an Enduring Comfort.  It is a comfort to have a place you can call home; a place to “hang your hat,” and “lay your head at night.” Although He was going away, Jesus calmed His disciples’ fears, promising them an eternal home.

John 14:2–3In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Finally, Jesus promised an Eternal Comfort that we can find in Christ alone (14:5-6). Thomas, one of the Twelve, was shaken by the news of Jesus’ departure, and asked: “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (14:5).

Jesus’ answer provided Thomas with three assurances: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (14:6).

1) Jesus is the ONLY Way. He is “the door” and by Christ alone can a “man enter in, [and] be saved” (John 10:9).

2) Jesus is the TRUTH. There can be only One TRUTH; everything and everyone else is a LIE. (John 1:14; 17:17)

3) Jesus is the Promise of LIFE. In Christ alone is the promise of a blessed, and eternal life. (John 3:16, 18)

Acts 4:12 – “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Is Jesus Christ your Savior?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Tribulation and the Signs of Christ’s Coming (Matthew 24)

Scripture reading – Matthew 24

Today’s Scripture reading is a parallel passage to an earlier devotional from Mark 13. The geographical setting of Matthew 24 is the Mount of Olives, and the passage of Scripture is known as “The Olivet Discourse.”

Jesus, having prophesied the destruction of the Temple, was asked by His disciples (Mark 13:3), “Tell us, when [what time; how long] shall these things be [i.e. when will they come to pass]? and what shall be the sign [token; i.e. distinguishing mark] of Thy coming [advent; return], and of the end [completion; consummation] of the world [age]?” (Matthew 24:3).

Christ answered the disciples’ questions with a sweeping prophecy that fills the balance of Matthew 24 and Matthew 25. Jesus identified eight signs as “the beginning [i.e. the birth pangs] of sorrows” (24:8) that will precede His Second Coming. There will be:

1) A great deception led by a proliferation of “false Christs” who will deceive many (24:5).

2) International conflicts: “wars and rumors of wars” (24:6-7a)

3) Universal, natural disasters: “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes” (24:7b)

4) An increase in persecution, martyrdom, and hatred for believers (24:9-10)

5) A great apostasy and falling away of pseudo-believers (24:10)

6) An increase in false prophets who “shall deceive many” (24:11)

7) An allure of sin that will diminish a love for righteousness and Truth (24:12)

8) The universal declaration of the Gospel to all nations and people (24:14)

Far from the utopia liberal progressives have promised for more than a century, the world has grown more volatile and violent. We are witnessing the inevitable abyss of atheism and moral depravity (Romans 3:10, 23). And yet, the worst is yet to be.

Jesus warned, “For then shall be [shall come to pass] great [high; large; prolonged] tribulation [affliction; distress; trouble], such as was not since [from] the beginning of the world to this [until] time, no, nor ever shall be” (24:21).

The world will witness unparalleled sorrows as the end draws near (24:21) and believers in that day are urged to be cautious, knowing “there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible [which it is not, because God will protect His people], they shall deceive the very elect” (24:23-24).

The saints in that day will be looking for the coming of Christ. Many “false Christ’s will arise” (24:24); however, when He returns, His coming will be unmistakable. He will come “as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (24:27).

The end of the Tribulation will be marked by signs in the heavens. There will be the terror of darkness, when “the sun [shall] be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light” (24:29a), and the solar system fails when “the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (24:29b). In that day, as the earth is shrouded in terrifying darkness, Jesus Christ, the “Son of man in heaven,” will be seen “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:30). His coming will strike terror in the hearts of men as “all the tribes of the earth mourn” (24:30).

To those saints who believed in Christ during the Tribulation, His coming will be glorious, for He will “send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (24:31).

What a glorious day that will be! Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Are You Ready? (Mark 13)

Scripture reading – Mark 13

Today’s Scripture reading is Mark 13, and presents us with the doctrine known as “Eschatology: The Doctrine of the Last Things.” Remembering the setting of Mark 13 is the final week of Christ’s earthly ministry and foreshadows the Cross, we find Jesus preparing His disciples for events that will soon upset their expectations of an imminent earthly kingdom.

Jesus foretold two catastrophic events in Mark 13. The first, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in the disciples’ generation. A generation being 40 years, that prediction did come true in 70 AD when Rome conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple (Mark 13:3-8, 14-21, 28-31). The second calamitous event will follow the Great Tribulation (13:14-23) and is still future: The end of the world system (13:24-31).

The balance of today’s devotional focuses on a private conversation between Jesus and four of His disciples: “Peter and James and John and Andrew” (13:3).

Mark 13:1-5

As Jesus departed the Temple, the disciples said to Him, “Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” (13:1) In essence, taking national pride in the Temple, the disciples were saying, “Look at the great stones that make up the Temple, and its beauty.”

Jesus’s response shocked His disciples, when He answered their boasts saying, “Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (13:2).

The disciples were astonished by Jesus’ prophecy. To the Jewish people, the Temple was the holiest place on earth. They realized, if the Temple were destroyed, and reduced to a pile of rubble with not one stone left in its place, then it would also mean the destruction of Jerusalem, and Israel.

Going out of the eastern gate of the city, Jesus ascended the Mount of Olives, and sat down (13:4). Looking to the west He could see the Temple on Mount Moriah, the highest peak of the city, and the place where Abraham had offered his son Isaac.

Stunned by Jesus’ words, four of His disciples approached Him and asked two questions: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?” (13:4).

Notice the four did not ask, “Why must this Temple be destroyed?” or “How can we avoid the destruction of the Temple?” Instead, the disciples questioned, When shall these things be? What shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?

Jesus’s answer revealed where or on what, He desired His disciples to focus: “Take heed lest any man deceive you” (13:5).

“When?”, was not to be the concern of His disciples or followers. The date and hour when the Temple would be destroyed, or the end of the world would come, was and is God’s business. Jesus taught His disciples, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (13:32).

The believer’s role is not to predict the day or the hour the Lord will return. Instead, “Take heed lest any man deceive you” (13:5). Be prepared for the coming of the LORD: “Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is” (13:33).

Mark 13:33 is rich in its exhortation to believers: 1) “Take ye heed,” keep your eyes fixed, for you cannot know when the LORD is coming; 2) “Watch,” stay awake, be vigilant, be busy with the tasks God has given you; 3) “Pray,” constantly praying in anticipation of the LORD’S return. His return will be sudden, and unexpected, “as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

Revelation 3:3 – Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith