February 16, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew
Romans 15-16 | Sunday: Romans 15 shows us Paul’s desire. To paraphrase, Paul’s holy ambition was to “preach the gospel where Christ has not been named.”
What is it that you long to do with your life for the sake of the kingdom? Is your ambition holy? Is it in line with what Scripture teaches? Is it mainly about your own glory or about the glory of Jesus?
Our ambition may not sound as dramatic as Paul’s, but it is still wise to have one. What is your holy ambition?
Romans 16 gives us some insight on what false teachers often look like. Look carefully – they are often outwardly smooth and attractive. Paul writes that “by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive” (v. 18).
For a classic message by Piper on Romans 15 called ‘Paul’s Holy Ambition’, see here.
Click here for Piper’s free online book called ‘A Holy Ambition’.
For a helpful message by Piper on false teachers from Romans 16, see here.
Genesis 28-31 | Monday: God chooses the girl nobody wanted. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, yet God showed special love to Leah for just that reason. God loves to favor those who are not favored the most in the world. This is why most of us are Christians. When we consider who we were when God called us to Himself, we have to conclude that we were nothing special.
Think of the Apostle Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:
“26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'”
Or think of the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 11:
“25 At that time Jesus declared, I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
God often chooses to bless those who are least impressive so that no one will think that God chooses us because of our brilliance, or moral accomplishments, or outward attractiveness, or our strength.
As Jeremiah wrote,
“23 Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.'” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Our boast should be in the Lord alone.
For an NAC sermon on Genesis 29 called The Girl Nobody Wanted, see here.
Here is a shorter video segment.
Judges 12-16 | Tuesday: Tim Keller shares some helpful thoughts on Judges 13:
“[W]e are told that, as usual, ‘the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord,’ with the familiar result that God gives them over to their enemies, in this case the Philistines (13:1).
The phrase ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’ has been a repeated refrain in Judges (2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6) – this is the last time it appears. Although in fact, there is a phrase which appears twice in the double conclusion of the book, which says the same thing in a different way: ‘in those days … everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (17:6; 21:25).
The writer is making the point that many of the things the Israelites did were not evil ‘in their eyes.’ In other words, by their perception, most or all of their behavior was perfectly acceptable. They did not go about thinking: I know this is evil, but I am going to do it anyway. Yet, ‘in God’s eyes,’ the behavior was wicked.
This teaches us two truths about sin. First, the definition of sin. This term ‘the eyes of the Lord,’ in contrast with our ‘ow eyes,’ teaches us that sin does not ultimately consist of violating our conscience or violating our personal standards or violating community standards, but rather consists of violating God’s will for us. . . .
Second, these phrases show us the deception of sin. They remind us how easily self-deceived we are. The Israelite had psychological and cultural rationalizations and supports for their sin, so they were in a kind of ‘group denial.’ In their own ‘eyes’ or perception, there was nothing wrong with what they were doing. There was a deep, suppressed knowledge that they were out of touch with God, rejecting his will (Romans 1:18); but at the conscious level, they had no over guilty and they had lots of explanations for their lifestyles.” (Judges for You, p. 124-5).
As we see Samson, and others, making obviously foolish and rash decisions, we should stop and think.
Where in my life am I doing things that might be obviously or subtly foolish from a biblical point of view but which I may be trying to rationalize as normal – even good?
At which points are our ‘eyes’ more important in judging our lives than God’s?
Psalms 21-23 | Wednesday: Psalm 21 is connected with Psalm 20 which we looked at for last weeks reading. As the ESV Study Bible points out, “These two Psalms form a pair of royal psalms. Psalm 20 is a prayer that God will give success to the Davidic king, particularly in battle. Psalm 21 gives thanks to God for answering the request of Psalm 20.”
A the the Gospel Transformation Bible points out, “David trains believers to pray for more than just everyday nusances. We must also pray ‘your kingdom come’ (Matt. 6:10), and this psalm assures us that these things will happen.”
Psalm 22 is almost impossible to read without seeing Jesus so powerfully potrayed. This is a great Psalm to meditate on during Good Friday.
“In an unparalleled way,” writes Jonathan Parnell, “Psalm 22 captures the suffering of the Messiah in the first person… ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ and, ‘I am a worm and not a man,’ and, ‘I am poured out like water.’ We step inside the mind of the afflicted man — of Jesus — to feel his pain and see his faith.”
What was to a lesser extent true of David became fully and literally true in the death of David’s greater Son. Of all the words Jesus could have chosen to express His anguish on the cross, He chose the opening words of Psalm 22. We stand on holy ground as we read these words which proceed from the midday darkness of Calvary.
Psalm 22:14-15 says: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” Adrian Rogers powerfully said: “The One who made all the oceans and rivers and fountains of water was parched with thirst as He died for you and me.”
Psalm 23 is a wonderful and famous Psalm. Verse four says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” This is such a comforting promise for us as believers. Adrian Rogers pointed out however that “Jesus walked that lonesome valley of death all by himself.”
Job 15-16 | Thursday: In Job 15-21 we have what D.A. Carson calls “a second cycle of arguments from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, with responses in each case from Job. In many ways the arguments are repeated, but with deepened intensity. Almost as if they are aware of the repetition, the three friends say less this time than in the first round.”
“This is not the fault of theology and theological arguments; it is the fault of the ‘miserable comforter’ who fastens on an inappropriate fragment of truth, or whose timing is off, or whose attitude is condescending, or whose application is insensitive, or whose true theology is couched in such culture-laden clichés that they grate rather than comfort.”
Isaiah 40-44 | Friday: This is the beginning of one of the most important portions of the Old Testament. Isaiah 40-66 is one of the most quoted and alluded to sections of the OT in the New Testament. It helps us better understand the four Gospels, Acts, and Revelation (not to mention numerous NT books).
The basic promises in Isaiah 40-66 at least include:
- the Lord will return to Zion (in the person of Jesus rather than a pillar of cloud);
- a messenger in the wildness will prepare the way (the Elijah-like figure of John the Baptist)
- Israel will become a light to the Gentiles (the nations!);
- Israel will be perfectly represented by a mysterious ‘Suffering Servant’ who will endure the ultimate exile away from God, suffering for the sins of others, though being innocent Himself. He will be buried after death and will yet have prolonged life (pointers to a resurrection).
- Upon the return of the Lord (Yahweh), the kingdom will come on earth as in heaven, including a New Jerusalem and a New Heavens and New Earth (new creation).
- Israel will finally be rescued out of exile.
- When all of these things occur, it will be evident to all that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is the only true God. He is the only God who predicted these events before each of them took place. He is sovereign over world history, unlike the mute and deaf idols that the nations worship.
These promises are all fulfilled in the New Testament era, but in ways that were hard to imagine by the Old Testament saints. This is why Paul calls fulfillment of the OT promises in Jesus a great “mystery.” It is something partially hidden that has now been revealed. These aspects of the gospel were partially known and yet not fully grasped before the resurrection of Jesus.
This is why the disciples were so shocked when Jesus said He was the Messiah/Christ and yet He was going to be betrayed and killed. They didn’t have a category for a suffering Messiah. This further explains why that first Easter morning was such a shock.
Matthew 20-22 | Saturday: Matthew 20 begins with a parable about the workers in the vineyard. D.A. Carson points out “that this parable is primarily not about the workers at all but about the amazing grace and compassion of the employer.”
“God’s grace makes some who are last first. The point of the parable,” Carson concludes, “is not that all in the kingdom will receive the same reward but that kingdom rewards depend on God’s sovereign grace.”
Matthew 20:28 is such a powerful verse that says: “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
“At this point,” writes Carson, “Jesus presents himself—the Son of Man—as the supreme example of service to others.” If we are finding it difficult to clothe ourselves in humility and if we are stuggling with various forms of pride, I think it would do us all good to dwell on verses like Matthew 20:28.
In Matthew 21:23-27 we have this powerful exchange between Jesus and the chief priests and the elders:
“And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus answered them, ‘I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?’ And they discussed it among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From man,” we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’
“Far from avoiding the religous leaders’ question, Jesus answers it so that the honest seeker of truth, unswayed by public opinion, will not fail to see who he is, while those interested only in snaring him with a captious question are blocked by a hurdle their own shallow pragmatism forbids them to cross. At the same time Jesus’ question rather strongly hints to the rulers that their false step goes back to broader issues than Jesus’ authority, it is because their previous unbelief has blinded their minds to God’s revelation.”
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (v. 38-39).