Author Archives: Josh Combs

Matthew 28:19

Trinity | Devotion #3: Matthew 28:19
Joshua Combs | Lead Pastor

“…the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….” Matthew 28:19

At the time of Jesus, polytheism (the belief and worship of more than one god or goddess) was the major religious viewpoint. Except for the Jewish Nation, who were monotheistic (believed and worshipped one God), the belief in many gods and goddesses was essentially a globally accepted idea. The prophets of the Old Testament stood against Israel’s acceptance of other gods (Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”), while the apostles in the New Testament spoke against the predominantly Greco-Roman worship of many gods and goddesses. Jesus came and unequivocally declared Himself as God (more about that next week), but made it clear that He was doing only the will of His Father. Other than the cross of Calvary, no greater and more emotional example of this exists than in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed, “My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus had authority over sickness, disease, demons, weather, and the whole of creation, yet He willingly submitted His will to God the Father. In the same way, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, telling the disciples, “He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). We see very plainly in Scripture God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Please understand, not three gods, but one God in three persons. We would say, the triune God. Christians are not polytheists; we are monotheists. We believe in one God, who exists in three distinct persons. The study of the Trinity is like exploring a profound mystery, and yet within the pages of the Scripture the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are seen and more importantly, presented as one.  

In Matthew chapter 28 as Jesus is preparing His disciples for His eventual ascension into Heaven, the Lord gives to His followers what we have come to know as “The Great Commission.” Jesus charges His followers with the mission of preaching the Gospel throughout the world, and then “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….” (verse19). The commission to those believers and to us is not to casually be acquainted with or even benign to the Trinitarian existence of God, but to take practical action that acknowledges the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is not necessary for salvation, but a truly saved person will be baptized, publically declaring their faith that God sent His Son to die on the cross and rise again three days later. Jesus then sent the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us. Even as Jesus, who was baptized by John in Matthew chapter 3, comes up out of the water, the audible voice of God the Father is heard, and the Holy Spirit is seen descending like a dove on Jesus. The Trinity was present at the baptism of Jesus and is present at all future baptisms as well.

Romans 3:20-24

Salvation by Faith Alone & Grace of God | Devotion #3: Romans 3:20-24
Joshua Combs | Lead Pastor

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight…” Romans 3:20

One of the important truths of the Scripture that we must understand is there has only ever been and only ever will be one means of salvation. For some this may be a radical thought that differs substantially from what you have been taught. Nonetheless, it is true. Throughout the whole of human history, one method of salvation has been given.

Some have, in error, taught that obedience to the Law of Moses was how the saints of the Old Testament were saved and reached the glory of Heaven. Romans 3:20, clearly teaches, “…by works of the law no human being will be justified….” Clearly, Abraham, Moses, David, and every other ancient saint was not justified, redeemed, or saved because of their adherence to the Mosaic Law. This principle continues today; no person regardless of the depth of their personal devotion can restore a right relationship with the God of the universe simply by following the letter of the law. Just a few verses later, Paul writes, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are unable to obey the law (James 2:10). So, if the law does not provide a means of salvation, what is the law’s purpose? God has given us the law because “…through the law comes knowledge of sin” (3:20). God’s Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai with the sole purpose of revealing how far from God’s holiness and perfection we truly are.

That understanding leads us to the great and rather depressing reality that we cannot save or rescue ourselves from God’s wrath that is on us. The principle question of this portion of Romans chapter 3 is, “How can we be made right before God?” The Scripture says, “…the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

God in His marvelous grace, sent Jesus to pay the price for our sin on the cross of Calvary. He was buried but rose again on the third day. It is through Christ’s atoning work on the cross that the gift of salvation is offered to mankind. We receive that gift, “…through faith….” We believe in what Jesus did as the only means to rescue us from the deserved punishment from God that we were facing.

Back to the original point, God’s Word gives only one way of restoring a right standing before a Holy God, “…by grace you have been saved through faith.” Abraham, Moses, David, and the saints prior to the cross looked forward in faith (see Hebrews chapter 11) to the cross, while we look back in faith to the work of Christ on the cross. Salvation has always ever been and always ever will be by grace through faith.

John 17:17

Inerrancy of Scripture | Devotion #4: John 17:17
Joshua Combs | Lead Pastor

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17

The night that Jesus was betrayed, He prayed for me. He prayed for you. He prayed “…for those who will believe in me through [the apostles’] word” (John 17:20). He prayed for unity in the church. He prayed that we would see His glory. He prayed that we would love the Father and each other. He prayed that the heavenly Father would keep us from the evil one. He prayed that God would sanctify us, setting us apart for His holy purpose and service. 

Jesus prays, simultaneously teaching us, that the cleansing (sanctification) process would happen through truth. In John 8:32, Jesus is confronting the religious leaders and says, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth is what purifies our hearts and sets us free from the flesh, releasing the powerful clutches of sin that enslaves us. But what is the truth? In Jesus’ High-Priestly prayer in John chapter 17, He concretely states, “…your word is truth.” 

Truth is a major theme in the Gospel of John. Only hours after the High Priestly prayer, Jesus tells Pilot, “…I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). But what Jesus states is profoundly important. Jesus has both called Himself truth (John 14:6) and referred to God’s Word as truth. What Jesus means is crucial for every believer to understand. Jesus declares the unchanging reality that God’s Word, the Scripture, is Truth. 

It is through the truth of the Bible that we understand God’s infinitely perfect glory, the depth of our sin, and see the redemptive plan of God unfolding and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The truth not only helps us see the glorious nature and plan of God but truly leads us to love Jesus, the Truth (John 14:6), more. This is so simple and yet so profound. When we read the Scripture, we discover the unchanging truth of God who is Jesus, who sets us free from sin and “…cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We must daily commit to being in the Truth (Scripture) so that we may know the Truth (Jesus, our Savior).


Lesson Twelve | Devotion #2: Ezra
Joshua Combs | Lead Pastor 

“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Ezra 7:10

Around 722 BC, the nation of Israel fell to the Assyrian empire and was taken into brutal captivity. While the nation of Judah, just to the south, remained a nation longer (around 586 BC), the Babylonian Empire besieged Jerusalem, and the nation soon fell. The nation of Judah was taken into Babylonian captivity (this is where we get stories of Daniel and his three friends) and for the next several generations that are where they would languish. They experienced quite a fall from the heights of the reigns of David and his son Solomon to now ceasing to being a nation. The people were enslaved or slaughtered, and the temple was pillaged until all that remained was just a shell of its former glory.

The love of the Lord is steadfast. God raised up crucial leaders at pivotal times to preserve and restore His people, among the most important were Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, Esther, and Ezra. Each of them served a particular cause that the Lord had laid out for them. Nehemiah was used to restore the social infrastructure of the city of Jerusalem and thereby the stability of the entire nation. Zerubbabel led the people back to the nearly abandoned nation. Esther rose to the heights of Persian power and preserved the people from a holocaust type execution by the vicious Haman.

Ezra was the spiritual leader. The Scripture, throughout the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (probably both written by Ezra), details the crucial role of not just social structure and preservation of life, but the nations wholehearted return to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Ezra was both student and teacher. He was a brilliant student of Scripture. The Bible says that he, “…set his heart to study the Law of the Lord….” It was not just to learn for personal pride; he longed to draw the people back to God. Nehemiah chapter 8 records Ezra proclaiming the words of God from “…early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand.” He stood upon “a wooden platform” and without any hesitation called the people to repentance, by simply telling them what God said. According to Nehemiah chapter 9, the people repented.

However, for all of the public ways that God used the priest, Ezra, there is a small phrase in Ezra chapter 7 that must be true of all God’s people. The Scripture says, “…Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Notice Ezra was a brilliant student and powerfully used teacher, but the phrase in between is crucial. He had a personal commitment that he was going to do what God’s Word said. He was not simply going to learn what God said and pass that along to others; he was first going to be obedient to the Lord himself.

To truly to be used by God, we must not just hear what He says to do and then pass that along. We must make a personal commitment to be a hearer of the Word and then a doer (James 1:22).


Lesson Ten | Devotion #2: Hezekiah
Joshua Combs | Lead Pastor

2 Kings 18:5 says, “…there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.”

Here the Scripture declares Hezekiah as the greatest king in the history of Judah. The question is why? What distinguished him from among the twenty total kings the nation would have? The answer is found in the same passage. Hezekiah was certainly not flawless, but to understand why the Lord would crown him, not just king, but the best of all kings is a powerful lesson to each of us. Here are a few reasons the Bible gives for King Hezekiah’s success.

1. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord – 2 Kings 18:3
2. He removed the high places and all other idols – 2 Kings 18:4
3. He trusted the Lord – 2 Kings 18:5
4. He held fast to the Lord and kept the commandments – 2 Kings 18:6
5. The Lord was with him – 2 Kings 18:7

That is a stunning spiritual resume. As noted earlier, Hezekiah was not perfect; however, the Lord prospered this great king.

We live in a time far removed from the culture, geography, and history of Hezekiah, yet our differences of principle are not too far off. Like Hezekiah, we too must choose whose standard of right we will follow. One of the great indictments of the Scripture is the idea of people doing “…what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). A purely subjective and relativistic view of right and wrong has always doomed society. God’s objective truth must always be the standard by which we determine right and wrong.

Similarly, Hezekiah had to deal with pagan idol worship along with religious idol worship (See 2 Kings 18:4). The people had begun to worship both pagan gods and goddesses, but also they had begun to worship the bronze serpent that Moses had lifted up in the wilderness. Something God had used had been perverted and transformed into an idol. When we honestly look at culture and the church, the number of idols is stunning. They certainly go by different names and look differently than Hezekiah’s time, but are nonetheless idols that we have given our worship (See Romans 1:25). We must strike them down and remove them from our lives. God refuses to occupy the same space or compete with an idol.

The Scripture tells us that Hezekiah “prospered.” Many people, both Christian and non-Christian, desire to prosper. Sadly, however, we want God’s blessings and presence without trusting Him or obeying Him. Other kings before and after Hezekiah felt entitled to God’s provision, blessings, and protection, yet God refused to bless them because they were prideful, rebellious, and wicked. More and more we encounter this today in the church. We find “God’s people” living sinful and rebellious lives, demanding with an entitled mentality God’s help. We have turned God into a waiter who must meet our every need when we call for His attention. This is simply wrong and not the way “it” works. We must, as Hezekiah did, “hold fast to the Lord.”

Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 |

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.