Joel Arnold is on the Bible Faculty at BJMBC.
Transform your understanding of the Bible with this 25-day sweep through Scripture.
Read the Bible in 25 days?!?
Another year at BJMBC is nearly finished. The holiday fever has begun as students struggle to stay focused through their last week of classes.
But this year we challenged our students to end the year by blowing the top off of their expectations; to do something so radical it sounds impossible and to use their Christmas break in the best possible way. Specifically, we challenged them to read through the entire Bible in 25 days.
It’s a little crazy, but less crazy than you think. It’ll take about 2-3 hours per day, starting this Saturday.
And now we are inviting you to join us. We have a schedule (see below), a Facebook accountability group to keep everyone motivated, and more than enough excitement. Here are a few practical suggestions to make it possible:
Make the Impossible Possible
1. Be alert.
Don’t read lying down. We all know where that goes. Stand up, or walk around while you read if you need to.
2. Be active.
Buy a cheap award Bible and mark as you go. Keep it super simple—underline things that amaze you. But resist the temptation to get too detailed.
3. Be fast.
There are times to read the Bible slowly and digest every word. There are other times to just keep moving. The goal is to get a fly-by overview of your entire Bible. Discipline yourself not to stop—just keep moving!
4. Be creative.
You could read some books out loud together with friends. (Extra fun is to read it like a play with parts!) Or try reading and listening to an audio book at the same time. I suggest not relying on audio Bibles alone, though—your mind will wander.
5. Be accountable.
Have someone hold you accountable, either a friend or a family member. Or join the Facebook group for daily encouragement and check-ins.
Reading the Bible intensely in a short time transforms the way you understand it.
Why do we view so much of God’s words to us closed, confusing and opaque? Maybe because we don’t read the whole thing! Or maybe because even when we do, it is spread out too far for us to notice the constant, rich patterns in the tapestry?
The most powerful memory I have with reading Scripture was one Christmas break when I decided to read the Bible in as short a time as possible. It was like flying over Scripture in a helicopter. I’ll never forget it. It changed my life.
No question, reading like that is a lot of work. There will be days when you feel like quitting. Life will happen and you’ll have to catch up.
But I’m also absolutely certain that no-one who finishes this project will regret it. One month from now, you could have a radically expanded vision of the richness of Scripture. What better thing could you hope to accomplish in the next 25 days?
Come join us!
Dr. Atan Taclob is on the Bible Faculty at BJMBC.
We know prayer plays a vital role in missions and ministry. But we don't always know how to offer specific, gospel-centered requests for those on the front lines. Here are seven Scripture-based prayer requests we can pray for pastors and missionaries today.
In his epistles, the apostle Paul often encourages believers to live a life of prayer. However, there are five passages in which he asks churches to pray for him and his co-laborers in the ministry.
1. “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
Chronologically, this is the first time Paul asks a church for prayer for himself and his ministry.
This general prayer request may sound like it was added hastily or unintentionally at the closing of his letter. But Paul’s request in 1 Thessalonians 5:25 is purposeful and loaded with evangelistic zeal. Behind this general prayer request lies the many conflicts, heartaches, and physical and emotional sufferings that Paul had already suffered during his second missionary journey:
But we can also add to this list the various trials and oppositions that Paul experienced during his first missionary journey:
Although this first passage is somewhat general in nature, the next four passages in which Paul asks for prayer are all very specific in nature.
2. “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
3. “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed” (Romans 15:30-32).
4. “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2-4).
5. “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:19-20).
7 Specific Prayer Requests for Those in the Ministry
If we combine all of these prayer requests, it is clear that there are seven specific things for which Paul is asking for prayer. These are the same seven things that we should pray for those who are in the ministry.
1. The fast spread of the gospel.
"that the Word of the Lord may have free course" (2 Thessalonians 3:1a)
2. Acceptance of the gospel among unbelievers.
"that the Word of the Lord may . . . be glorified, even as it is with you" (2 Thessalonians 3:1b)
3. Protection from evil men.
"that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men" (2 Thessalonians 3:2)
"that I may be delivered from them that do not believe" (Romans 15:31a)
4. A well-received ministry to the saints.
"that my service . . . may be accepted of the saints" (Romans 15:31b)
5. Opportunity to share the gospel.
"that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ" (Colossians 4:3)
6. Clarity in presenting the gospel.
"that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak" (Colossians 4:4)
7. Boldness in presenting the gospel.
"that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel . . . that therein I may speak boldly" (Ephesians 6:20)
These prayer requests all have one thing in common—the gospel.
Paul was consumed with the gospel. He lived a gospel-centered life.
He petitioned churches for gospel-centered prayers.
Knowing that many prayed to God for Paul, can we say that God answered their prayers?
God delivered Paul from many dangers. Through his ministry many souls came to know Christ. Churches were planted and strengthened. And at the end of his life, Paul was able to say, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."
A crucial part in the success of Paul as a Christian and as a missionary was the fervent prayers of churches to God for him.
We also can help other believers succeed in their Christian life and in their ministry by praying for them with these prayer requests in mind. Let us labor in advancing God’s kingdom on earth by praying for one another with these gospel-centered prayer requests.
Download a copy of these 7 prayer requests for your church or personal use.
On Tuesday, November 12, BJMBC honored the 70th birthday of Jeanne Raymond, missionary to the Philippines for 34 years. In addition to her work as a homeschool teacher for missionary children, Jeanne taught at BJMBC during many of those years, and has given her students an excellent example of what godly femininity, selfless service to God, and a heart for prayer looks like.
During this special chapel service, she also shared the following wise words of advice for the students.
Wise Words for Bible College Students
1. If you want to know the will of the Lord for your life, the best thing you can do is be in the will of God today.
The Lord will lead you by opening up opportunities for you to serve. While you are still in college, get as much experience in ministry as you can, whether that means
2. The Lord usually leads us step-by-step; He doesn't usually lay our whole life out before us.
When I graduated from college, the Lord didn't lead me into mission work right away as I thought He would. Instead, He led me into teaching in a Christian school for several years. That was God's preparation for me, because He knew that one day I would be teaching homeschoolers. I also taught a Sunday school class at my home church, went on visitation, helped in the bus ministry, and prepared the devotions for the monthly ladies group. The Lord will be able to use any experiences and education you have for the future.
3. The Lord will lead you by opening opportunities for you to serve and by confirming those through His Word.
Before I made the final decision to come to the Philippines, I asked the Lord to confirm His will through His Word. He did that for me through several passages of Scripture. Ask the Lord for confirmation of His will through His Word. In the future, as you face trials that might discourage you, you can lean on those passages for encouragement.
4. Always be flexible when making your own plans.
It isn't wrong to plan, but sometimes the Lord has other plans. Be submissive to His will because His plans are always the best. Don't run ahead of the Lord, and don't lag behind. Learn to wait on the Lord. Sometimes we think our timing is better than His, but the Lord is never late.
5. The key to fruitfulness in the ministry is how much time we spend with the Lord each day.
If we spend little time reading His Word and praying, we will accomplish little that has lasting eternal results. Serving the Lord is less doing and more being: specifically, being right with the Lord. Reading and meditating on the Word of God is where we get our wisdom, insight, discernment, vision for what God can do through us, spiritual perception, foresight, understanding, and discretion.
6. The more we pray, the more we will see God work.
Be a person of prayer. If you truly become a man or woman of prayer, you will see God accomplish things you could never accomplish in the lives of the people to whom you minister. He will make up for the abilities you lack. Don't forget to pray the Scriptures back to the Lord.
7. Go back to the Cross often.
Let the Cross of Christ ever remain dear and precious to you. Don't forget the sacrifice of Christ that saved you.
8. Don't compare yourself to anyone else.
If you want to be wise, don't compare yourself to anyone else, don't compare your abilities to anyone else's, and don't compare your ministry to anyone else's. Just be faithful in what God has given you to do and focus on that. Also, don't be critical of others who are ministering; instead, encourage and build them up. We are all pressing toward the same goal--seeing people saved.
9. Keep growing in the Lord for His glory, no matter what age you are.
Pictures from Ate Jeanne's years of ministry in the Philippines
Keep your focus on God's Word with these beautiful printables.
Deuteronomy 6 reminds us that God’s words should be always on our hearts, written on the doorposts of our houses, on our gates, and even as a sign on our hands and between our eyes.
A pretty good modern equivalent for that might be to keep God's Word visible on the tools we use every day—our gadgets and computer desktops. What if we made special effort to put Scripture before us everywhere we go? What if we printed beautiful designs of Scripture and put them all about us? But where to start?
Beth Naval, a graduate of BJMBC and professional art designer created the following layouts and made them available for your benefit and edification. Put the word of God all around you, memorize it, love it and let it change your life!
Please contact the BJMBC office in order to contract Beth Naval for her professional design services.
Timothy W. Berrey is the Director of Graduate Studies at BJMBC.
Have you personally experienced the gift of God's love?
HOW MUCH DOES GOD LOVE YOU?
1. He loved you long before you loved Him.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:4-5).
2. He refused to just let you perish in your sins (like you deserve).
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
3. He sent His Son into the world to take on humanity so that you could have eternal life.
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).
4. He poured out His wrath against your sin on His own Son.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).
5. Because His just wrath against sin has been completely satisfied, He now offers you mercy instead of wrath, life instead of death, eternal kindness in Christ Jesus instead of inescapable bondage to sin and to Satan—all (because of His grace) through faith alone.
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:1-9).
6. He wants to rescue you from your current sinful lifestyle, apart from any works of your own, by the cleansing and transforming work of the Holy Spirit, freely available through Jesus Christ.
For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:3-6).
7. He allows all who have received His Son Christ Jesus by faith to be called one of His children.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God (I John 3:1).
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).
8. He is calling you through the Gospel (through what you are reading now!) to enjoy the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and experience eternal comfort and genuine assurance.
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ….Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace… (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, 16a).
9. He will not make you wait until you arrive in your home in glory in order to enjoy His presence but will instead make you His home during your life on earth.
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).
10. He guarantees you victory over anything that you think might separate you from His love.
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).
God Loves You!
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Miss Ruth Potter is on the Music Faculty at BJMBC.
How can we teach Bible stories in our Sunday schools and Bible Clubs in a way that remains true to God's intention for each story and also makes direct application to a child's heart?
Sabrina is probably the brightest little girl in our Sunday School. Her intense brown eyes watched closely as I told the story of Adam and Eve one Sunday morning. Finally, I showed a picture of a broken Adam standing next to an animal sacrifice.
"God requires a blood sacrifice for sins," I explained. "Are we still sinners today?"
"Then why don't we offer animal sacrifices any more?"
Her eyebrows knit.
The next picture was of Christ on the cross. Her gasp was audible, and the light of understanding flashed in her eyes.
It was a rewarding moment for me as a teacher of young children. But not every week is that exciting! Like most teachers, I sometimes grope for a simple way to explain a difficult concept or even have trouble figuring out what concept I need to communicate in the first place. I want to be true to what God intended by each unique story.
Here are some questions I try to ask myself when preparing a Bible story for children:
1. Where is this story in the big picture of the Bible?
Did it take place before the coming of the Messiah or after?
Was this story part of God's preparing the world for the sending of His Son or His shaping of the church, His body?
2. What is God Himself doing in this story?
Before examining any of the characters' wrong or right choices, we must point children to God's qualities displayed by His working in the story. Is there inspired commentary about His perspective throughout the plot? Is the story about brave David who killed a giant or is it actually about a magnificent God who can enable a shepherd boy to do something beyond his ability?
3. What can we learn from the main character's actions?
Were they wise or foolish? If the passage doesn't explicitly say it, are there other passages that address those choices that would shed some light on God's mind about it?
4. What does this story show about man's plight before a holy God?
Just because you are not telling the story of the crucifixion does not mean that aspects of the gospel are not shown every week as we teach the Bible.
5. What main principle is seen in this story that applies to a child's everyday life?
Expanding a child's understanding of the size and holiness of God must be our first passion, but leaving them with a principle they can live that week is also valuable. Keep in mind that all children have the roots of adult-size struggles and sins in them. Teaching them early how to recognize their own flesh and declare war on it could save them a lot of heartache later.
What motivated the Bible character to choose right or wrong? Were they selfish, jealous, disobedient, or hopeless? Did they lie, steal, or disrespect their neighbor? Were they proud, humble, lazy, or unfaithful? Children often struggle with these same sins in their home or school life. Don't be afraid to point out the obvious application to a child's life; the Holy Spirit will take that and use it in the children's hearts.
Teaching and ministering to children is a blessing and a privilege. It is a wonderful way to impact the next generation for the Lord. It requires study and a thorough contemplation of the passage you are teaching. But the results can make a difference for eternity!
Would you like to print a copy of these questions to share with your Sunday School teachers and children's ministry workers?
Dr. Philip Kamibayashiyama is the Director of BJMBC.
How can you find genuine happiness in the new year?
Are you happy this new year? We wish people a happy new year, but are we fully happy ourselves?
Actually, relatively few people are happy, even those who seem to be full of fun and excitement.
Why is this?
Often we are unhappy because, as we look back over the past year, we see that things in our life have not improved the way we wanted them to. Your circumstances have probably not significantly changed. Your pressures and problems are still there. Even if your circumstances have changed somewhat, many people in your life remain the same. Most of all, you yourself have not changed much in a year. If you admit that, at least you are humble and honest about yourself. That humility opens the door for change. God does give grace to the humble – those who honestly admit that what God says about their sinfulness is true.
What is the root reason why people are unhappy?
It is because a person becomes like his god. Emptiness is the nature of idols, and our hearts are idol factories. This is why not only pagans but also God’s people worshipped false gods and idols. OT history repeats over and over as if in a loop that people want a god besides Yahweh. Idols can be in the heart; therefore, John wrote near the end of the New Testament: “Brethren, keep yourselves from idols.” The point is that idols are empty (“vain” tôhû; see 1 Sa. 12:21). Therefore, those with idols in their hearts become empty and unhappy in heart.
But it doesn’t have to stay this way! This new year can be different. You can be different. But how?
First of all, realize that the answer is not ultimately in removing problems and pressures from your life. You should avoid overextending yourself, but your God can also do miracles beyond imagining. Secondly, the answer is also not in reforming yourself by your own willpower. You probably know that many New Year’s resolutions--even good ones--do not last past January, because our flesh and our heart fail.
Surprisingly, the answer and means to change is renewing your mind. Your mind includes the thoughts of your heart – having different desires, different values, a different view of life, and a different response to what you will face this year.
Biblically speaking, we cannot change ourselves. But God changes us when our heart is focused on Him. Isaiah 26:3 sings to the LORD, “Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusts in Thee.” God keeps us in peace (shâlôm: wholeness; contentment; happiness) when our minds are on Him. Our minds stay on God when we trust in Him. Where our thoughts dwell tells us where our hearts are.
Consider this application: when you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you want to see? The honest, humble answer of many people would be posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media. What you set your mind upon indicates where your heart is. When it is on vain or empty things, that moment of pleasure will end with an empty, unhappy heart.
Instead, to truly find joy, we need to set our hearts and minds on our glorious God and Savior Jesus Christ. Set your affection on things above. This means to delight in God’s Word and meditate on it day and night. If you do that, this year will be significantly different because you will be changed. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed…” (2 Cor. 3:18a).
May you have a truly happy new year.
A Free Gift for you: 12 Resolutions for Glorifying God this year.
Dr. Joel Arnold is on the Bible faculty at BJMBC.
Whatever else we would say about Luke’s story of the angels and the shepherds, it’s definitely memorable. But less clear is the point. Why did it happen? What does it mean?
I’m going to argue that there’s something huge going on here. I’m going to argue that this event was a teaser—a short preview of what the Messiah would do. It’s proof that someday people and angels will worship side by side, giving glory to this newborn child. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Angels can worship too.
Let’s start by turning the camera around from how we normally view the scene. Why do we always see it completely from the viewpoint of the humans—the shepherds? Look at it not from the view of the men on the ground, but the angels in front of them. Several things come to mind:
Now put that into the grid of what happened here. Angels were there when Satan fell. Angels saw the good creation and man’s subsequent fall into sin. For thousands of years they watched people wallow in the filth and horror of sin.
And yet they were also sent to deliver promises—the hope of a redeemer who would finally deliver mankind from death and sin (Gen 18:1–15; Heb 2:2). They worshipped the Son in heaven’s throne room for thousands of years (Dan 7:10). Then, one day, the glorious Son takes flesh and is conceived in the body of a Jewish woman. An angel delivers the news to Mary (Luke 1:26–38). Nine months later, angels are commissioned to share the grand announcement. After millennia of waiting, hoping and watching, the horror of this wicked world will come to an end. The promise has arrived. The Messiah is here.
Are these angels dispassionately relaying information like heavenly robots? Or should we not remember Peter’s words that the angels also longed to look into God’s masterful plan? They also marveled and wondered at the Old Testament prophecies about “Christ’s sufferings and the glory to follow” (1 Pet 1:10–12). Take even a cursory look at their words, and you’ll discover that the announcement comes straight from the Old Testament!
What are these angels doing? They’re worshipping! They themselves are in awe at what God has starting doing and they can’t help crying out with joy.
Shepherds Join the Heavenly Worship
Now consider the shepherds. Classic art, Sunday school papers, and scenic calendars all get it wrong:
To this point in the story we can be shocked by the contrast. A throng of heavenly beings before a few shepherds? A dark, quiet hillside suddenly transformed by blazing light? The angels have come from the grand splendor of heaven and now they stand in the squalor of a sin-sick earth.
Heaven Meets Earth
And yet this contrast—heaven vs. earth—stands at the center of the story. It’s in the poetry that the angels sing.￼
Heaven has been full of glory for thousands of years. Earth has been a horror of sin and its consequences. Until now. Because through the Messiah, at last, peace has come.
We discover that this brief interchange on a hillside in Galilee had much more significance than we might think. The angels shared the news, but just as important they also worshipped together with the shepherds.
Remember the glory that shone around them? That glory didn’t come from the angels like we assume. Read closer—“the glory of the Lord shone round about them.” For a few minutes, that Galilean hillside became a foretaste of great things to come. For a few minutes, angels and men stood together in awe at the miraculous thing God was doing for planet earth.
What’s the Point?
One more response awaits. We can notice a pattern in how both the angels and the shepherds responded.￼
Not only did shepherds worship with the angels, but they even responded the same way.
And this pattern becomes an imperative to every reader. You’ve received the message. You’ve heard the good news. The hope of planet earth has finally come. This Christmas season, rejoice in awe together with the angels at what God has done. Tell anyone you can about this salvation that He has sent. And then fall before Him yourself and worship.
Timothy W. Berrey is the Director of Graduate Studies at BJMBC.
In 2018, Tim Berrey led the BJMBC Footsteps of John and Paul Study Tour to Turkey and Greece. The following is an excerpt from the Footsteps of John and Paul devotional book.
Ancient Ephesus was a city dear to both John and Paul. Paul labored here first and, in fact, visited the city on multiple occasions. Even as early as his second missionary journey, when he directed Aquila and Priscilla to take up residence there, he seems to have felt it God’s will for him to minister there at some point in the future. Almost three years of his third missionary journey were devoted to preaching Christ in Ephesus and only the riot in the nearby amphitheater convinced him the time had come for him to move on. However, the “damage” (so to speak) had been done. Before he left, “all Asia had heard the word of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:10).
Even after he left Ephesus, he remained burdened for the church and wrote them an epistle preserved in our Bibles as his “Letter to the Ephesians.” The courier of his letter was none other than Tychicus, an Asian believer who was probably from Ephesus and likely a convert of the Apostle Paul. Paul’s personal footprint in the city was further extended by the ministry of Timothy, his closest son in the faith, whom he personally requested to help the church to stand against some who were teaching false doctrines (1 Tim. 1:3-4).
Church tradition consistently affirms that Ephesus later became the headquarters of the Apostle John’s ministry in the Roman province of Asia, much of which he seems to have traveled, overseeing churches and encouraging believers.
Ephesus was home to the Temple of Artemis (Diana), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This huge structure was four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens and was revered by many in Asia as the chief place of worship to the goddess Artemis. As Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, speaks of their spiritual “rags-to-riches” story, he climaxes by pointing out that the church, the “new man” composed of both Jews and Gentiles, is actually being built into a Temple or, in more direct terms, God’s dwelling place.
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:21-22).
How ironic this must have been to the Ephesian church. They—not the nearby Temple to Diana—were actually the dwelling place of the one true God and could now experience all of His divine fullness.
Of course, one cannot think of Ephesus without thinking of Christ’s words to them in Revelation 2, where He censures their faltering love.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love (Rev. 2:4).
Strikingly, almost no other New Testament letter of Paul uses the word “love” more than his letter to the Ephesians. Everything we enjoy as believers is because of God’s love for us (Eph. 2:4). He bestows on us so much grace because of our union with His beloved Son (1:6). Rooted and grounded salvifically in His love, we are to go on to experience the infinite dimensions of Christ’s love for us.
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God (Eph. 3:17-19).
We are then to mimic God’s love by loving others the way He and His Son have loved us (5:1-2). Paul ends his letter by praying grace upon all those who love the Lord Jesus with an undying love.
Grace be with all who have undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 6:24; HCSB).
The church at Ephesus evidently triumphed over the false teachers of Timothy’s day, but the resurrected Jesus’ comments spoken to the Apostle John reveal something lacking in their love. His criticism reminds us that one can work hard in His name and hate false teaching but do so without the love that He deserves.
Hymn for Meditation:
Here is Love (William Rees)
Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Loving-kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout heav’n’s eternal days.
On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.
Let me, all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only,
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see;
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.
In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and pow’r on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.
Pastor Albert Tiangco pastors Promised Land Baptist Church and teaches theology and language courses at BJMBC.
Christians are engaged in a spiritual warfare. Every day is a battle. Often, this non-physical engagement occurs as God’s children face temptation. Believers are enticed to sin relentlessly in this age—the allurement of the world, ubiquitous (1 Jn. 2:15f; Jam. 4:4), the inward seduction by man’s sinful nature, unrelenting (Rom. 6:12f), and the temptations of Satan, attractive (Gen. 3:1ff). The incarnate Son of God experienced such unrelenting temptations, perhaps even to the most potent degree that the Enemy can offer. In each temptation, the Lord Jesus came out victoriously (Heb. 2:17-18). The Lord’s temptations recorded in the Gospels present key principles or truths that can lead every believer to triumph (Mt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-13).
The Holy Spirit led Jesus to be tempted by the devil (Mt. 4:1). The first truth towards triumph is that God has total control over all the temptations we face. Just as Satan won’t be able to tempt the Lord apart from the permission of the Holy Spirit, so the enemy cannot touch us beyond what God has allowed. God will not allow His children to face temptations beyond their ability to resist (1 Cor. 10:13). Since the Lord was led by the Spirit, He was in the center of the will of the Father. This leads to the second truth: Great temptations come even (and perhaps more so!) when one is in the very center of God’s will for his/her life. If you are following God, expect more ferocious enticement to do otherwise.
The story of the Lord’s temptation follows the narrative of His baptism in Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts. Christ’s baptism signified the commencement of His public ministry. The temptation, therefore, came just right after He launched into what the Father sent Him to do. He was tempted no less than by Satan himself. This shows that great temptations come when one enters upon service for God or when one has decided to do something for the Lord. It is not a coincidence, therefore, for example, that temptations to be impure come with more appeal and force at the time when one has committed to live a pure life for God. This reminds us that temptations are designed ultimately to render us useless for the Lord; Satan is never really concerned about man’s happiness. The Devil ultimately views each people as means of attacking God.
Matthew sets the context of the first temptation: Jesus had just fasted for 40 days and nights and became hungry. Fasting, in the Scripture, is often, if not always, accompanied by prayer. Why did He pray for that long? Perhaps as a preparation for His public ministry and for facing Satan’s temptation. The truth here is that facing temptation is a very serious matter. It is a battle, not a game. We need to totally depend on God for victory. One’s prayer life, then, indicates one’s view of spiritual warfare. It is small wonder that many Christians fail to overcome temptation because many believers fail to prepare for battle by praying for victory.
At the height of Christ’s hunger, Satan tempted Him to act independently of the Father’s will and turn stones into bread. Temptations are appealing. If it isn’t, no one will sin. Even in the very first temptation Satan garbed his lies with wisdom by using a wise creature. As one poet has stated, “Not all that glitters is gold.” Believers must not be deceived; hindi kailanman sulit ang magkasala. Satan’s first temptation illustrates that often temptations urge us to meet our legitimate needs through illegitimate means. For instance, it is not wrong to provide for you family, but taking a job that would prevent a believer from regularly taking part of corporate worship is an illegitimate means because it hinders you from obeying a God’s clear mandate.
Satan begins his second temptation by quoting Scripture (Mt. 4:6). He was tempting the Lord to presume on God’s care. The next truth is that temptation to sin can also come in a form of misinterpreted and misapplied Scripture. Ironically, sometimes Christians justify their sins by appealing to certain “verses” in the Bible. An extreme example is that some believers argue against the necessity of church attendance by appealing to verses about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit—“I have the Holy Spirit and my Bible. I don’t need to go to church.” This reasoning fails to consider other parts of the Bible that mention the importance of corporate meetings (e.g., Heb. 10:25). One’s interpretation or application is wrong when it contradicts a clear Scriptural statement.
In the third temptation, Satan bluntly asked the Lord to worship him in exchange for earthly wealth, glory, and power (Mt. 4:8-9). The essence of all temptation is putting self before God and others. There is a sense that all sin is an act of pride and selfishness (cf. Isa. 53:6—“All we like sheep have gone astray...”). The essence of temptation is so much in harmony with what Satan really is all about–coveting the place of God (Isa. 14:13-14).
The Lord’s responses to all three different temptations were the same. He achieved victory through God’s Word. The key to victory in times of temptation is Christlikeness: knowing and obeying God’s Word. Treasuring God’s words in our hearts keeps us from sinning (Ps. 119:11). God’s Word is the sword of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:17). Believers must fill their minds with God’s Word, specifically, with passages that directly address their current struggles. But equally important is that Christians must be resolved to obey God’s Word. Jesus did not merely quote verses; He obeyed them.
Reading, learning, growing. God calls us to be changed through His Word. At BJMBC, our goal is to speak truthfully and clearly about that Word, while we prepare a future generation of students to proclaim it.