Devotions

Author Archives: John Rigg

Poor in Spirit • Devotion #1: Bankrupt

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the poor?” The Bible often challenges us to believe contrary or differently than we currently think or act. This “blessed” statement was made by Jesus as He taught His disciples on the side of a hill near the Sea of Galilee. The biblical account, which is now called The Sermon on the Mount, records Him saying that there is a blessedness or happiness that comes from being poor.

Do you remember the board game Monopoly? In order to succeed at this real estate game, one player must remain financially solvent while driving all other opponents into bankruptcy by shrewdly buying and developing pieces of property. I recall playing this game for hours and hours, only to be driven into poverty by one of the other players in the end. I do not remember winning that game much, and I certainly did not feel blessed ending up in bankruptcy! Someone once said, “Money can never buy happiness.” Apparently, that person never played Monopoly, as the winner always seemed happy to me.

Jesus’ proclamation, “Blessed are the poor” may seem a little shocking to us at first probably because we have a tendency to go through life as if we were playing Monopoly all the time. We define poverty as the state of being we are in lacking material possessions. Being rich, on the other hand, means that our possessions are many. As in Monopoly, the very idea of being poor carries with it the stigma of unhappiness. This is why Jesus’ statement seems outrageous at first. He makes it sound like that in order to enter into a blessed life, we must be poor.

However, it helps us to understand that Jesus is not talking about mankind’s external condition but their internal poverty, or spiritual condition. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He was communicating that true blessedness occurs when a person recognizes that they are spiritually bankrupt, see their own inability to do anything, and turn to Him to supply their spiritual need.

Not only are the “poor in spirit” blessed, but “the kingdom of heaven” is theirs as well. No prideful, self-reliant person has ever obtained a place in God’s kingdom. A real understanding of our spiritual poverty is critical in breaking our prideful spirits. Humility must come before the true blessedness of the kingdom can be obtained. The spiritual bailout that we all need can only be found by looking to the person of Jesus Christ. 

“Blessed are the poor?” Probably not if you are playing the game of Monopoly, but certainly true for all those who have seen their spiritual need and have turned to the Savior.

Back to Reach • Devotion #1: Why Back to Reach?

While serving in South Africa with the ministry Key of Hope, someone took my wife and me to a place just west of Port Shepstone called Oribi Gorge, about 75 miles south of Durban. Words cannot describe what we heard, saw with our eyes, and touched that day. The gorge carved out of sandstone, is approximately 19 miles in length, 1,300 feet deep, and over three miles at its widest point. We experienced sensory overload that day as this surprisingly quiet place was stunning to observe and a thrilling place to set foot. 

From that day forward, whenever we had the chance to expose someone to the wonders of Oribi Gorge, we went out of our way to do so. Seeing the wonder in their eyes as they, too, were overwhelmed by what they heard, saw, and touched brought us great joy!

In a similar way, the apostle John describes what he and his fellow disciples had heard, seen, and touched concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1 John 1:1 (NKJV), he says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.” 

In this letter, John explains to the recipients just why he was writing to them. He and the disciples that were with him had been changed forever by their encounter with Jesus Christ. They were bearing witness that the gift of eternal life and a restored relationship with the Father had been given to them. John wanted them to know that this was also available to them as well.

He continues in verses 2-3 (NKJV), “The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 

Sin has broken the relationship between God and mankind. Nevertheless, God the Father has atoned for sin through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross and made it possible for anyone to have a right relationship with Him once again through faith, for now, and forevermore.

In verse 4 (NKJV), he adds, “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” 

The joy that John had received from the Lord was what he wanted others to know. John understood that the world could not offer complete or lasting joy because the source of worldly joy is only temporary (2 Peter 3:10). 

As much as my wife and I wanted others to experience the grandeur of Oribi Gorge in South Africa, the joy that would be produced from our visits could only be temporary. Only a proper relationship with the Lord can produce a joy that is full, complete, and eternal.

So, why do we emphasize going back to reach?

Why is it important that you and I commit to reaching others with the message of the Gospel?
It is so that their “joy may be full.”

Lesson Nineteen • Devotion #6: Don’t Make Me Come Back There!

When I was a young man, back when seat belts in a car was not a thing, my brother and I would be cutting up and horsing around while our dad was trying to drive. Naturally, this would not go on for long before we would get our first warning, “Will you guys settle down back there!” Of course, being young boys, we did not always heed the first warning and a more intense, second warning would soon follow accompanied by a piercing stare from the rear-view mirror, “Don’t make me come back there!” That usually did it for us, we listened and submitted to dad’s authority.

While the Apostle Paul lived some 2,000 years ago, his problem was the same as my dad’s. He often had to convince those he ministered to of his authority and records himself having a “don’t make me come back there” moment in 2 Corinthians chapter 13, This will be the third time I am coming to you. ‘By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.’ I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare – since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you (2 Corinthians 13:1–3 NKJV). 

Although Paul’s words are slightly different than my dad’s, they seem to be written with the same intensity, “If I come again I will not spare.” Apparently, there were a minority of believers in the city of Corinth that were not taking Paul’s teaching on sin very seriously and continued in it. Evidently, Paul had told them previously that he would return and expose their sin to the rest of the church. He quotes Deuteronomy 19:15 which states the Old Testament practice of establishing a pattern for verifying the truth of an accusation, by using two or three witnesses. 

What Paul was saying to them was that he would not spare them the embarrassment of exposing them at the risk of their sin destroying them or the others. This same practice, more famously taken from Matthew 18:15-20, is used today by God-fearing church leaders to restore those caught up by sin and to stop the spread of sin into the lives of others.

Paul then gives the unrepentant sinners the evidence they were looking for by stating that his unwillingness to tolerate sin was actually proof that Christ was speaking through him, “Since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me.”

All too often the disciplining of sin in the church today is overlooked for all the wrong reasons. You have probably heard some of them:

  • We are not to judge people.
  • Jesus loves everyone.
  • Christians are to forgive everyone.
  • People make mistakes.

Fortunately, Paul understood the price that Jesus paid for the remission of sin and was willing to take a stand against its spread in the church. By caring for the flock of God and by teaching them that their spiritual growth and God’s blessing will require the disciplining of sin, Paul was displaying his authority as God’s minister, as well as the power of God and His Word. 

Just as my dad’s statement, “Don’t make me come back there”  was a way to restore our relationship, church discipline is required to restore our relationship with God. 

Lesson Fifteen • Devotion #5: Good Boasting, Bad Boasting

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:23–24

So yes, Jesus warns us that not every pastor, Christian on Facebook, or Bible Study in the Christian bookstore is authentic. This may seem like an odd statement, but the Apostle Paul struggled with this same problem in his day. In 2 Corinthians 10:17–18, Paul writes, “‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” 

Paul was fighting against false prophets and teachers that were trying to discredit him and his message. He is teaching us how we can spot them.

First, false prophets will always boast in themselves. Christian leaders today will often communicate that they are the only ones who can understand the Word of God or interpret it accurately, thus commending themselves. Of course, their messages and teachings are almost always mingled with truth to keep their deception going.

Secondly, Paul says that you can also recognize a false teacher by their motives. In 2 Corinthians 10:14-16, he says, “For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.”

Paul and his disciples were always concerned with the furtherance of the Gospel and increasing the faith of others. This is not the motive of false teachers. Their gospel is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ but one that is designed to draw people to themselves and away from Jesus.

Next, Paul uses the phrase, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” He somewhat summarizesJeremiah chapter 9 that prophesied the coming destruction of Judah, a people that were great at looking good on the outside but lacking in the true knowledge of God and His holy character. Paul was reminding us that the true prophet of God will align his character with that of a Holy God. His inside will match the outside. If Paul boasted, it was in the Lord. It was “good boasting” as God is the One who shapes our hearts and character (Psalm 33:15).

Finally, Paul issues a warning for bad boasting, “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” Paul is eluding to a previous statement made in this letter, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). 

Deception is out there, hopefully, through Paul’s teaching, you and I are now better equipped to recognize the difference between good boasting and bad.

Lesson Eleven • Devotion #3: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In 1982, The Clash, a British punk rock band, released the song entitled, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”If you are familiar with the song, your head is already banging up and down and the air guitar is out of its case. I will pause here and give you a moment.

Selah

If you are not familiar with the song, oh well, you are not really missing anything.

The question posed in the song’s title is one that I believe should challenge every Christian. As we read through the Word of God, we learn that the free gift of God’s salvation is not to be kept to ourselves and that we should be ready to share it freely.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:19

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’”Mark 16:15

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’” John 20:21

The New Testament message here is that believers should be spreading the good news of the Gospel to those that do not yet believe. However, then we read passages like this one in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14). 

Paul’s words say that believers are not to attach themselves to unbelievers. So, do these passages contradict each other? What is a believer to do? Should I stay or should I go?

Notice Paul’s command, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”

The term “yoked together” may be a bit foreign to us today, but not to the people of Paul’s day. A yoke was a wooden beam normally used between a pair of oxen or pairs of other animals to enable them to pull together to do the work. An example of an “unequally yoked” pair of animals would be that of an ox and donkey. These two animals vary greatly in size, strength, and demeanor. Placing these two animals in the yoke together would mean that they would constantly struggle to get any work done. Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 6:14–15, “For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

By using the phrase “unequally yoked,” Paul was hoping his spiritually regenerated readers would recognize that they were different than unbelievers. They now live in two different kingdoms, serving two different kings, and like a yoked ox and donkey, they will always struggle. 

As Christians we should always be interacting with the unsaved with the goal of reaching them for Christ. However, we should never be engaged in any of the sinful pleasures or activities of those that have hearts unchanged by the Gospel. The work of the believer should stand in stark contrast to that of the unbeliever.

So, should I stay or should I go? 

Go, but do not stay.



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