Tag Archives: Stewardship

Keep the Faith! Wear Your Spiritual Combat Boots to the Grave! (2 Timothy 1-4)

Scripture reading – 2 Timothy 1-4

Our chronological reading schedule brings us to Paul’s final epistle, and his second letter to Timothy, whom he addressed as “my dearly beloved son” (1:2a). The date of 2 Timothy is presumed to be sometime between A.D. 65-68, and was written during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome.

2 Timothy 1:1-12

Paul’s letter evidences the agape’, self-sacrificing love and concern that he had for Timothy, a man whom he loved as his spiritual son. The epistle was purposed to encourage the young preacher, and assure him of the apostle’s love, though he found his own ministry limited to Nero’s prison (1:2-4).

After affirming the sincerity of Timothy’s faith, and reminding him of his godly heritage (1:5), Paul began to challenge and exhort him to not lose heart: “Stir up [rekindle] the [spiritual] gift of God, which is in thee” (1:6). Take courage: “God hath not given us the spirit of fear” (1:7a). Don’t fall victim to shame, whether it is to give testimony for the Lord, or identify with Paul as “his prisoner” (1:8). Understand that preaching the Gospel will bring its share of “afflictions,” but accept them in “the power of God” (1:8b).

Paul reminded his “son in the faith,” of his own life and testimony as a “preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles (1:11). He declared, “12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (1:12).

2 Timothy 1:13-2:26 – The next verses and chapters build upon the responsibility that Timothy, and every other preacher of the Gospel bears.

The preacher is challenged to herald the Word of God with conviction (1:13), and not be deterred by adversaries (1:15). He is to “be strong” (2:1), “endure hardness” (2:3), be disciplined in studying the Scriptures (2:15), and not get entangled with foolish, pointless, vain conversations (2:16). He must not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or fight that has no righteous purpose (2:23).

2 Timothy 3

2 Timothy 3:1-9  describes the ungodliness, and wickedness that will be characteristic of the last days. Reflecting on his own life and ministry, Paul challenged Timothy to be a godly example, and be true to his godly heritage, and the Scriptures he had been immersed in since he was a child (3:10-17).

2 Timothy 4

Though he realized his life and ministry were in their twilight; Paul’s love for the Lord, his passion for the Gospel ministry, and his affection for the saints of God were undiminished (4:6-8).

He had suffered persecution, and knew the sorrow of desertion (4:10a, 16). He understood his death was imminent; however, he had experienced the Lord’s presence, and strength (4:17), and was confident the Lord would “preserve [him] (4:18a). Paul was determined that he would not quit until the Lord was finished with him and took him home to heaven (4:18b).

For nearly two millennium, Paul’s life, and the manner in which he approached his last days, has served as an inspiration to believers. The aged apostle left us not only an inspiring example, but a challenge to finish our course in life, and keep the faith (4:5-8)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Challenge to Grow Up! (Hebrews 1-6)

Scripture reading – Hebrews 1-6

Nearing the conclusion of our chronological study of the Scriptures for the year 2020, we come to the book of the Bible identified as Hebrews. Some of your Bibles might suggest the title, “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.”

Because of the length of today’s reading assignment (Hebrews 1-6), I have purposed to keep the devotional brief, while giving you some historical details that I hope might enrich your study.

The Author of Hebrews

Many scholars, and preachers have supposed the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by the apostle Paul. If he is the author, he neglected to identify himself in its opening salutation as he did in his other letters (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; and so on). There is much about Hebrews that would commend itself to Paul as its author, especially the fact that it was certainly addressed to Hebrew believers.

The Date of Hebrews

The date of the writing of Hebrews is uncertain; however, most scholars agree that it must have been composed to Hebrew believers before Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed (A.D. 70). Persecution and imprisonment were beginning in the Roman empire, in fact, Hebrews 13:23 mentions that Timothy was expected to soon be “set at liberty.”

The Recipients of Hebrews

I have already expressed the opinion that the letter was written to Hebrew believers. Those saints would have had knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, and understood the references to the priesthood, the Temple, and sacrificial offerings (10:11).

I also propose that the epistle was written to a second generation of believers, especially since the author takes to task some of the saints who were failing to evidence spiritual maturity (5:12-13). They had been privileged to sit under the preaching of the Gospel, and instruction in the God’s Word (Hebrews 5:14; 13:7). The author expressed great disappointment that the recipients had failed to grow into spiritually mature believers.

A Closing Thought

Could it be there are some reading today’s Scripture who might see themselves among those who “ought to be teachers” (5:12)? To be content with the “milk” of God’s Word and remain a spiritual preemie? No wonder there are many 21st century believers who are spiritually anemic, and lack spiritually discernment.

Hebrews 5:14 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Let Your Light Shine! (Titus 1-3)

Scripture reading – Titus 1-3

Today our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Paul’s Epistle to Titus. This letter was most likely written after Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, following his visit to the infant churches on the island of Crete. We know Paul was set free from prison sometime after his epistle to the believers in Philippi; however, the cause of his liberty is not revealed (although it may be that his accusers from Jerusalem had failed to appear before Caesar to bring a witness against the apostle.).

Like 1 Timothy, the Epistle to Titus is included in the books of the Bible known as “The Pastoral Epistles.” Though addressed to Titus, it appears the letter was meant to be read to the churches in Crete among whom he was a minister. Paul’s purpose seems to have been that of assuring the churches that Titus was empowered to act upon Paul’s authority.

As we observed with Timothy in an earlier devotion, Paul had a loving bond with Titus and addressed him as “mine own son after the common faith” (1:4). Titus was a Greek convert, and is identified in the Scriptures as an uncircumcised Gentile (Galatians 2:3). He was also a member of Paul’s inner-circle, and his “partner and fellowhelper,” privileged to be recognized as Paul’s co-laborer (2 Corinthians 8:23). Titus was entrusted and charged with the responsibility of ordaining “elders [pastors] in every city” on the isle of Crete (Titus 1:5-9).

Unlike contemporary letters that conclude with a parting salutation and signature, the Epistle to Tituscommences as Paul has all of his letters, introducing himself as its author, and stating his calling and authority as “a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (1:1).

Titus 1:1 captured the essence of Paul’s calling as a minister: A “servant,” literally a slave subject to the will of God. An “apostle,” a messenger sent to bear the message of another, and representing the authority of the sender, Jesus Christ. A custodian of the Faith, and a purveyor of the Truth that promotes godliness (1:1).

I invite you to pause and consider that, though you and I do not bear the authority of the apostle Paul, we are nevertheless the servants of God, the witnesses of our faith in Jesus Christ, and bear the responsibility of speaking the truth and promoting godliness (1:1).

Jesus taught His disciples the same responsibility (Matthew 5:13–16) in His Sermon on the Mount when He said:

Matthew 5:13–16 – “13 Ye are the salt of the earth [salt having a natural cleansing, healing, and preserving nature]: but if the salt have lost his savour [meaning to have been contaminated, compromised, and unfit for use], wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world [guiding lights, guiding sinners to Jesus Christ]. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven [unlike the world that seeks the spotlight for themselves, and the applause of men; believers are to direct the focus of the world to Jesus Christ].”

Fellow believer, we are living in a day that is growing spiritually darker, and even the smallest of God’s lights (believers), will stand out in such an hour.

Let’s shine for Christ, in words and our works!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Philippians: An Epistle of Joy (Philippians 1-4)

Scripture reading – Philippians 1-4

Our study of Paul’s “Prison Epistles” concludes with the beloved Epistle to the Philippians, and was written to “all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (1:1). Though written in particular to believers in Philippi, the epistle has been providentially preserved for the saints of all ages.

Introduction to the City of Philippi

The city of Philippi, located in eastern Macedonia, was on a major traderoute between Asia and Europe and was the gateway between two continents. The city had a large population, was a center for Greek culture, and had become a thriving commercial center in Paul’s day.

Apart from Paul’s epistle, there is little mention of Philippi in the New Testament. It was in Philippi where we first met the Jewess named Lydia, a woman described as a “seller of purple,” and who became a believer in Christ, the Messiah (Acts 16:14-15). Paul and Silas had also been jailed in Philippi, following an uprising led by some who protested their trade in idols was being harmed. When God had sent an earthquake that opened the doors of the prison, Paul bid the jailer to not take his own life; and he and his family became believers and were baptized (Acts 16:30-34).

The Circumstances of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians

Scholars believe the letter was sent by Paul to Philippi sometime between 60 and 65 A.D. The apostle, now an elderly statesman of the Gospel, was under house arrest, and humanly speaking appeared to be on the shelf of ministry service. Unable to travel, his future uncertain, and the reality of martyrdom being a very real fate, it would have been an easy step for Paul to despair of life.

Though bound by Caesar, Paul was a prisoner of the Lord and his heart effused with the joy of ministering to believers. Instead of an epistle conveying gloom and despair, Paul penned a letter expressing love and joy! He was buoyed by a mutual love and affection that he shared with the believers at Philippi. His care and expressions of love fill the pages of this epistle (1:2-4, 7, 9). Even in the midst of his own bondage, Paul writes, “I pray, that your love may abound [abounding love] yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (1:9).

Following the example of the apostle’s self-sacrificing love and ministry, the believers at Philippi had evidenced their love and affection for Paul in very tangible ways. They were, as many have observed:

Models of JOY: Jesus first; Others second; and Yourself last.

Appreciating the abundance of God’s grace bestowed on them through Paul preaching the Gospel, the Philippians gave sacrificially, even out of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). They became models of self-sacrificing giving, disregarding their own needs, they gave cheerfully “by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). When Paul was in need, they sent a generous offering to support his ministry (Philippians 4:14-16), even sending Epaphroditus, one of their own to minister to Paul in Rome (2:25-30).

I have merely touched upon the mutual love Paul and the saints at Philippi had for one another. Suffice it to say, their affectionate bond should encourage 21st century believers and their ministers to cultivate the same loving relationship between those who minister, and those who are served.

Philippians 4:1 – Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Are One of a Kind; Embrace the Difference! (1 Corinthians 12-14)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 12-14

Today’s Scripture reading speaks to several important doctrinal issues; however, the overriding subject is Spiritual Gifts.

1 Corinthians 12 draws a portrait of the early church and its diversity. Not only was there a variety of spiritual gifts present (12:4-10), but there was also a multi-cultural membership that included Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free (12:13). Realizing differences can breed the potential of misunderstandings, Paul reminded believers that God has sovereignly “set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (12:18) that He might bring unity and oneness.

To enjoy peace and unity, and to function as God intended, it was important for believers to value each other in their place. To illustrate that truth, Paul gave an extended visual using the physical body and its various members (hand and foot, ear and eye). He observed that there is a symbiotic relationship between members, whose function is dramatically different, yet in their place they work in harmony for the furtherance of the body as a whole (12:14-21).

Paul observed, there are “many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble [weak], are necessary (12:20–22).

Lest jealousy or division arise among the people, Paul made the observation that every member, attractive or unattractive, strong or weak, had a place and should be valued for their individual role and function (12:23-24). Each member has a necessary place in the body of Christ, for “God hath tempered the body together” (12:24).

All members of God’s family should have a loving bond with other members, and evidence a sympathetic concern for others (12:25). When “one member suffer[s], all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (12:26).

Let’s face it, we are different! We can allow our differences to divide us, or we can choose to love and appreciate one another as individual members of “the body of Christ, and members in particular;” meaning valuing every member for their place and function in God’s perfect plan (12:27).

I close inviting you to consider: Are you functioning as a faithful member in the “body of Christ?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Four Spiritual Principles for Ministry and Missions (Acts 13-14)

Scripture reading – Acts 13-14

While the inception of the Great Commission was found in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8, the birth of missions is recorded in Acts 13-14. I invite you to consider some simple, but central principles for missions found in Acts 13. 

The first, God calls to missions those who are serving (Acts 13:1).  Barnabas and Saul (i.e. Paul, Acts 13:9) were named among the “prophets and teachers” who were at Antioch (13:1). When God called that dynamic duo of preachers to be ordained and sent out by the church in Antioch, they were numbered among those who “ministered to the LORD” (13:2).

A second principle of missions is that Gods call is specific (13:2).  We read, “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (13:2). There were many serving in the church at Antioch; however, the Holy Spirit explicitly called Barnabas and Saul to a specific ministry: “for the work whereunto I have called them” (13:2b).

The third principle of missions is separation (13:2-3).  A call to missions will often mean a parting, a separation, from home, family, friends, aspirations, and comforts. Barnabas and Saul’s departure would be defined by seas, distant lands, hardships, persecutions, and adversaries.

A fourth principle of missions is that the leaders of the church sanctioned and confirmed Gods call on Barnabas and Saul.  We read, “when they [the church and its leaders] had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (13:3).

Called by the Holy Ghost, set apart for service, and ordained by the elders of the church in Antioch, Barnabas and Saul, accompanied by John Mark (13:5), set sail for the island of Cyprus (13:4-6). They traveled the island, preaching the “the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews” (13:5). There is a subtle change in the leadership of the missions team that began as “Barnabas and Saul” (13:2), and came to be identified as “Paul and his company” (13:13). Soon after the change in leadership, John Mark left the team, and returned to his home in Jerusalem where his mother resided (13:13; note Acts 12:25). We are not told why John Mark departed, but it will later be revealed that his departure would become a catalyst for Paul and Barnabas to divide their team and go their separate ways (15:36-41).

Unlike Paul and Barnabas who were faithfully serving in the church in Antioch when God called them, I fear many 21st century believers are content to be spiritual spectators. The questions Paul expressed in Romans 10 should haunt us all.

Romans 10:14-15a – “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15  And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Pray for Laborers! (Luke 10)

Scripture reading – Luke 10

The Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, is one of the most instructive and moving of the twenty-four chapters we find in Luke’s gospel.

We find a model for the Great Commission (Luke 10:1-20), and an answer to life’s most important question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:25-29). Jesus taught a moving parable that is universally recognized as, “The Good Samaritan,” an illustration of mercy and loving compassion for others (10:30-37). Finally, there is a warning to those tempted to be busy and distracted with much that is good, and like Martha, miss the most important thing, our daily time with the LORD in His Word (10:38-42).

Luke 10 begins with Jesus appointing “seventy” (i.e. seventy disciples), and sending them out “two and two…into every city and place, whither he himself would come” (10:1).

The number of disciples sent out, being seventy, no doubt surprises some believers. There were many who followed Jesus, besides the Twelve He had called to be His disciples. I invite you to consider the verses that precede the commissioning of the seventy (Luke 9:57-62), and be reminded that not all who followed Jesus were sincere believers. For instance, there was a man who volunteered to follow Jesus (Luke 9:57), but when Jesus reminded him the life of a disciple was one of self-denial and sacrifice, he turned back (9:58). Jesus commanded another man, “Follow me” (9:59), but he would not until his father had died and he could claim his inheritance (9:60). There was a third man who came to Jesus and said, “Lord, I will follow thee” (9:61), but his affection for home was greater than his love and devotion to Jesus (9:62).

Having chosen seventy disciples out of the great multitude that followed Him, Jesus instructed them to go before Him, two by two, into every city and village where He would soon come and minister (10:1). Jesus then challenged the seventy with the spiritual need of those among whom they would labor (10:2).

Luke 10:2 2Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

The seventy were challenged with the image of the opportunity (“The harvest [of needy souls] truly is great” – 10:2a), the magnitude of the need (“but the labourers [preachers and teachers of the Gospel] are few” – 10:2b), and the challenge to do something every believer is compelled to do: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c).

Jesus knew that He was within months of the Cross, and there was an urgency for the Gospel to be taken far and wide throughout the villages and cities of Israel (Matthew 9:37-38). Though the opportunity to reach lost souls was stunning, the reality was that so few would be willing to take the Gospel to them. John wrote in His Gospel:

John 4:35 – “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields [of lost souls]; for they are white already to harvest.”

What can a believer do in the face of so great a need of lost souls?Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c).

Pray for laborers. Pray for men and women who will dedicate their lives to serve the LORD, and take the Gospel: Jesus Christ crucified for our sins, buried, and raised from the dead.

Pray with urgency, knowing “the harvest truly is great” (10:2a). Pray with fervency, for “the laborers are few”(10:2b). Pray perpetually, until the LORD answers your prayer and sends forth laborers (preachers, teachers, and missionaries) who will faithfully sow the seed of the Gospel.

As you pray, ponder the question: Are you willing to go?

Matthew 28:19–2019Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Uses Simple Things (Matthew 15; Mark 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 15; Mark 7

We noted in an earlier devotional the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-43; John 6:1-14); and we find a similar miracle in today’s Scripture reading that is known as the Feeding of the Four Thousandor The Miracle of the Seven Loaves and Fish (Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 8:1-21).

The setting was a hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 15:29), at a place Mark identifies as Decapolis (Mark 8:31). Whereas the feeding of the 5,000 had taken place in Galilee at Bethsaida (Luke 9:10) and was attended by Jewish people; Decapolis would have had a population that was predominately Gentile. In other words, the feeding of the 4,000 not only put the faith of the disciples to the test, but also challenged their prejudices towards Gentiles.

Now, the fame of Jesus had reached Decapolis and there “great multitudes” came seeking Jesus, and bringing their loved ones who were “lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others” (Matthew 15:30, 38). Believing Jesus could, and would heal their family and friends, the people “cast them at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them, “31Insomuch that the multitude wondered [marveled], when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel” (15:31).

After ministering, and healing the sick and afflicted for three days, Jesus was sensitive that the people had “nothing to eat” (15:32). It was at the close of the third day when Jesus declared to His disciples, “I have compassion on the multitude…I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” (15:32).

When Jesus fed the five thousand, He had questioned Philip how they might feed so many. On this occasion, the disciples questioned Jesus, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” (15:33)

The disciples, perhaps expecting Jesus would perform a miracle, stated the obvious: They lacked the means to feed the people. The disciples knew it was not a question of whether or not Jesus could perform a miracle. The question was, “Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness?” (15:33)

Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes” (15:34).

Taking the resources, the disciples had available, Jesus “commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude” (15:35-36). There was not only enough to feed the multitude, there were leftovers that “left seven baskets full” (15:37; Mark 8:8).

There are several lessons we might take from this event.

The first: The challenge to look past our prejudices, and see the need of lost souls around us. When Jesus fed the 5,000, the disciples were among their own people, the Jews of Galilee. In Decapolis, however, the population was mostly Gentile, and a people the Jews would have disdained. Nevertheless, the people were hurting and hungry and Jesus had compassion on them (15:32).

A second lesson: God uses for His work and ministry, the resources we have at hand, no matter how little or humble.

The question for the disciples was not, “What would Jesus do to feed so many?” The question was, Would the disciples give what they had to the LORD, so that He might minister to others through them and their offering?”

I fear many believers go through life without ever grasping that simple truth:

Your ministry is dependent, not on your ability, but on your availability.     

1 Corinthians 1:26-27, 29 – “26 For ye see your calling [invitation to accept the benefits of salvation], brethren, how that not many wise men [wise in the estimation of man] after the flesh [nature of man], not many mighty [powerful; strong], not many noble [noble birth; high in rank; i.e. king, price or ruler], are called: 27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound [make ashamed; dishonor; confuse] the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things [feeble; impotent] of the world to confound the things which are mighty… 29  That no flesh [no mortal man] should glory [boast; rejoice] in His presence [the Presence of God].”

Will you dedicate to the LORD all that you are and have, whether little or much?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Cost of Being a Disciple (Matthew 8; Mark 2)

Scripture reading – Matthew 8; Mark 2

We pick up our reading in the Gospel of Matthew with Jesus having completed His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  From now to His death on the cross, a throng of people will follow Jesus as He preaches and performs miracles throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Judea.

Matthew 8 – Three healing miracles are recorded in Matthew 8 that attest to Jesus’ divine power and authority over nature. 

The first miracle was the healing of a leper (8:2-4) who came to Jesus expressing his faith saying, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (8:2).  Down through history, leprosy has been a dreaded skin disease, one that eventually eats away at the flesh and appendages. Leprosy was an incurable disease and a leper’s life was that of an outcast. Alienated from his family and society, the leper was a miserable, hopeless soul (Isaiah 1:5-6). The leperous man, coming with faith and seeking compassion, was immediately cleansed and made whole (8:3).

The second miracle was the healing of a Roman centurion’s slave (8:5-13).  A centurion was the commander of one hundred soldiers, and he was no doubt living in Capernaum as a peacekeeper of Rome. Unlike a typical, battle-hardened Roman soldier, the Centurion had become sympathetic to, if not a proselyte of, Judaism.   The Jews said of him, “he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue” (Luke 7:5); thus endearing himself to the Jews of Capernaum.

While the Centurion’s position and good works were commendable, they were not the essential qualities we find concerning his character in this passage. Notice the Centurion was a man of humility. In spite of his position, he came to Jesus confessing, “I am not worthy” (8:8-9).  Humility is rare in the world, especially among the rich and powerful; however, knowing his servant was dying, the Centurion humbled himself and came to Jesus.

Consider also the evidence of the Centurion’s faith that was demonstrated in his request: “Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (8:8). His was a remarkable faith that Jesus commended as superior to the faith He had found among His own people (8:10b). Predicting the Gospel would be received by many Gentiles, Jesus foretold the Centurion was one of many who would become citizens of heaven (“many shall come from the east and west” – 8:11), while many Jews (“children of the kingdom”) would reject Jesus and be sentenced to “outer darkness: [where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12).  Confirming his faith in Jesus, the Centurion’s servant was healed (8:13).

I close with what I will describe as a First Claim Principle (8:19-22).

Two men came to Jesus and proposed to become His disciples.  One man turned back when he was told a disciple must be willing to sacrifice earthly possessions and comforts (8:19-20).  A second man came, desiring to be numbered among Jesus’ disciples, he proposed to wait for his father to die before following Jesus.

First Claim Principle: No man can be a disciple, a true follower of Christ, unless he is willing to sacrifice his personal ambitions and plans to follow Him (8:18-22). 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“He Knew What Was in Man” (John 2-4)

Scripture Reading – John 2-4

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures continues today with the Gospel of John 2-4. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is John 2.

John 2

Our Scripture reading begins with a statement that connects us with recent events in the previous chapter: “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there” (John 2:1).

Jesus had arrived in Cana of Galilee and joined His mother Mary. Together they attended a wedding celebration (2:1), one to which Jesus and His disciples were invited (2:2). The wedding feast was the setting for Jesus’ first public miracle when He turned water into wine (2:1-11), and in doing so “manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (2:11). With this first miracle, the faith of the disciples grew from Philip’s confession that Jesus was “the son of Joseph” (1:45), to them seeing His miracle and believing He was the Messiah (2:11).

Jesus had then gone up to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed (2:13-23). As He entered the Temple, He was appalled at the sight of the corruption He found there. The Temple had become a house of commercialism and exploitation (2:14) of those who came there to worship.

With righteous indignation, Jesus took in hand a “scourge of small cords” (2:15a), and drove them all out of the Temple, the sheep and oxen, and over turned the tables of the money changers (2:15b). The commotion was so great, that Temple officials demanded, “What sign [i.e. sign of authority] shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (2:18) In other words, what right do you have to take upon yourself the purging of this Temple.

The LORD answered with a sign, but not one that would be recognized until His death, burial, and resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). The Jews were incredulous by the absurdity of one who could raise up the Temple in three days, citing the fact the edifice where they worshipped had taken forty-six years to build (2:20).

Interjecting His own explanation, the apostle John confessed that neither He nor the disciples realized Jesus was speaking of His own bodily resurrection, “the Temple of His body” (2:21-22).

Jesus began to perform miracles in Jerusalem and there were “many who believed in His name when they saw the miracles which He did” (2:23). Jesus, however, “did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (2:24-25). You see, there were many who believed Jesus, for they had observed His miracles; however, Jesus knew their hearts, and He did not believe in them (2:24-25).

God knows your heart better than you know yourself!

The prophet Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The LORD declared to Jeremiah, “I the LORD search the heart, try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

The LORD admonished His prophet Samuel, “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What is in your heart?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith