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Lord, you have been our dwelling-place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or before you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. Psalm 90:1-2  (Read Psalm 90)

I cannot fully grasp the fact that our God is eternal – without beginning and without end. He always has been and always will be. That is what the Lord God has revealed to us about Himself.

As it was revealed to Moses, so it is: “Lord, you have been our dwelling-place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or before you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.”

Through every generation of man’s existence, man’s life has been totally dependent upon the Lord God who is and was and always shall be and who made us and gave us life and breath!

Before He created the mountains or formed the earth and the world, the Lord God was and is God. Of course, this is not speaking only of the everlasting Father and the eternal Spirit, but of the Son (cf. John 1:1ff.). As prophesied by Micah the prophet, the one born in Bethlehem to be our Savior and King is “from of old, from everlasting” (5:2). It is as Jesus Himself said, “‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,’ says the Lord, ‘who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Rev. 1:8).

The truth that the Lord God is eternal can only be disheartening to those who refuse to repent of their evil ways and trust in Him for mercy and forgiveness, for this same God testifies of everlasting punishment for all who do not believe and take hold of the good news of forgiveness and life in the Son. It is hard to fathom condemnation and punishment unending! Cf. 2 Thess. 1:7ff.; Luke 16:19ff.; Mark 9:42ff.

On the other hand, the witness of Scripture to the eternal existence of God is nothing but comfort to those who believe. Not only do our daily lives in this world rest in the hands of an everlasting God who works all things for our good; through the blood of the Son shed for all upon the cross, our sins are forever washed away and forgiven and we have the blessing of life without end in God’s eternal kingdom! Cf. Psalm 103:11-12; Micah 7:18ff.; John 3:16,18; 6:40; 11:25-26; 14:1ff.

This too is beyond the grasp of my limited understanding. How can a dying man live forever? And yet, in Jesus Christ, every believer shall! Our sins have been washed away in Jesus’ blood; and, as Christ was raised up on the third day, so also we shall be raised up on the Last Day to live forever with Him in the mansions of heaven! In Jesus, sin and death has been overcome. In Him, we shall live forever without sin and without death. Praise be to our eternal God and Savior!

O Almighty and everlasting God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we praise You for giving us life through the innocent sufferings and death of the Son in our stead on the cross, and we trust in You to raise us up as Christ was raised and give us life with You forever in Your eternal and glorious kingdom. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with your free spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12

By nature after the fall, all of our hearts are full of “evil thoughts … murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). Instead of loving the LORD and desiring to do His holy will, our thoughts, as a result of our fallen and sinful nature, are “only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

As Christians, who trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for salvation, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and gives us love for God and holy thoughts and desires. As the Bible says, we are “washed … sanctified … justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Our bodies are now temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).

Yet in this world, we are still sinners. Like David, we need to acknowledge our sins, turn to the LORD for His grace and forgiveness, and pray that God would create “a clean heart” and “renew a right spirit” within us.

When we consider how we continue to come short and fail to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit through the Word, we deserve to be cast away from the presence of the LORD and have His Holy Spirit taken from us. How we grieve God’s Spirit when we go our own way and sin rather than give heed to the admonitions and warnings of God’s Word (cf. Eph. 4:30)! With David, we all have reason to pray, “Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.”

When we turn aside from following the Holy Spirit – when we turn into sin and evil – the joy which comes from being an heir of salvation and walking with the Lord is overshadowed by guilt and despair. We feel God’s wrath upon us. We know that we have failed again and are deserving of His everlasting punishment (cf. Ps. 32:3-4; 51:3-5).

But, like David, we look to the LORD God for mercy, acknowledging our sins and failures to the LORD and turning to Him in faith for pardon and forgiveness for the sake of the Son, Jesus Christ, and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead.

We pray with David in Psalm 51:1-9: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving-kindness. According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, I have sinned and done this evil in your sight, so that you may be justified when you speak and clear when you judge. Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts. And in the hidden part you shall make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness so that the bones which you have broken may rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.”

And, we also pray with David: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with your free spirit.”

Only God’s Spirit can restore in us that joy of knowing that through faith in Jesus we have forgiveness for all our sins and eternal salvation! Only the Holy Spirit can uphold us and keep us in the true and saving faith!

We then pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with your free spirit.” Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version.]

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“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1-3

We might expect that it is those who live by a certain religious code of ethics who will partake of the kingdom of heaven, but Jesus says otherwise: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

It is not the haughty and self-righteous who will inherit the kingdom of God, but the one who humbly acknowledges before God his spiritual poverty and sinfulness in thought, word and deed.

Do you remember Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the publican? Who is it who went home from the temple justified before God? It was the tax collector who wouldn’t even raise his eyes toward heaven but could only say, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:9-14).

In Isaiah 66:2 God says, “But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Cf. Psalm 34:18 and 51:16-17.

God desires that we humble ourselves before Him, confess our utter sinfulness and spiritual poverty, and receive His pardon and forgiveness for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for our sins.

Are you “poor in spirit”? Turn to Jesus and be blessed with a place in His eternal kingdom for the sake of His shed blood.

O Dearest Jesus, I am a sinner and fail to measure up to the righteous demands of Your holy Word. I have sinned in my thoughts, desires, words and deeds. But you kept God’s commandments for me, and You went to the cross and took my punishment. Have mercy on me and forgive me for the sake of Your shed blood, and receive me into Your eternal kingdom. Amen.

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Many think Jesus here refers to blessing and comfort for those who are sad now and cry much in life due to hardship and tragedy. But a study of the Scriptures will reveal that Jesus speaks of mourning over one’s sin and disobedience to God’s holy commandments. He speaks of sadness over our failures to love the LORD our God and live holy and God-pleasing lives.

In Joel, chapter 2, God warned His people of His impending judgment upon them for turning away from Him in their hearts. Verses 12-14 say: “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”

Those who are truly sorry for their sins and lament their rebellion and disobedience to the LORD and His Word will find comfort in the good news of forgiveness and life in God’s Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Isaiah 61:1-3). “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2). Jesus fulfilled all righteousness in our stead and then bore the full punishment for our sins when He was crucified and died upon the cross. His resurrection proves that an atonement has been made for the sins of all (cf. Romans 4:23-25).

With David, we pray, “Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:3-5).

Indeed, it is true: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

My dear Lord Jesus, I have sinned and failed to love You and keep Your commandments. For the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for my sins, forgive me and cleanse my heart that I might love You and serve You always. Amen.

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

In this world, it appears that it is the forceful, outgoing and sometimes unscrupulous who are blessed, and the humble and meek get nowhere. But Jesus says just the opposite. It is the meek and humble who are blessed, “for they shall inherit the earth.”

Psalm 37 (verses 1-11) says the same thing: “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

Why does Jesus say these words? To warn us against the folly of thinking that we are blessed and do well for ourselves by being self-assertive, less than honest and meek in our dealings with others, and unwilling to trust in the LORD and live our lives in accord with His Word. Jesus would have us repent of our wickedness and turn to Him for forgiveness, and He would have us live our lives in accord with His Word, trusting and relying upon Him for blessing.

And those who do so will be blessed – if not now in this life, when Jesus returns to establish His eternal kingdom. Then, indeed, the meek shall inherit the earth!

Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me for being envious of the wealthy and powerful and for seeking to get ahead in this life by being selfish, deceitful and less than honest and considerate in my dealings with others. Give me faith to trust in You and live my life in accord with Your holy Word. Amen.

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Those who honestly look upon themselves in the mirror of God’s law will see that they are unrighteous and unholy by God’s standard. The Bible tells us that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

But, for the sake of the shed blood of Messiah Jesus, we sinners are made acceptable in God’s eyes – all our sins are washed away in Jesus’ blood and God counts us righteous through faith in Him! Cf. Ephesians 1:6-7; Colossians 1:19-23; Romans 3:21-28; 4:5.

One of the marks of a true believer in Christ Jesus is the desire to be like Him. John writes: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

A true believer trusts in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of his sins and to be counted righteous in God’s eyes; but a fruit of such faith is the desire to live a righteous and holy life for Jesus while awaiting His return (cf. Romans 6:1ff.; 2 Corinthians 5:15-17; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:1-21). Indeed, one who knows of his own sinfulness and utter failure to live according to God’s holy will and who also knows and trusts in Jesus Christ as His Savior will also hunger and thirst after righteousness.

And such are blessed because “they shall be filled.” Through faith in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross, they are already accounted perfectly righteous and holy in God’s eyes. And, during this earthly life, the Holy Spirit is at work transforming those who trust in Christ into His image, giving them a desire to live for Christ Jesus and keep His commandments (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:4ff.).

But, as true believers also know, we will not be entirely free of sin until we are with our Savior in heaven. Then, we will finally be like Him and see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

The Scriptures say, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (Psalm 17:15). Then, indeed, we “shall be filled.”

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for bearing upon the cross the full and just punishment for my sins and winning for me God’s pardon and peace. Thank You for counting me to be righteous in Your sight for the sake of Jesus’ shed blood. By Your gracious Spirit, give me also a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and grant that this hunger and thirst be satisfied both now and hereafter in eternity. Amen.

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7

One who knows God and has received of His mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus will also show mercy unto others. That is why Jesus teaches us to pray: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). He also adds the explanation: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21ff.), the king’s servant who was forgiven an enormous debt but would not then show mercy to a fellow servant who owed him only a small debt in comparison showed his lack of appreciation for the mercy shown him and forfeited that mercy. He was delivered to the torturers until he paid his debt in full. And Jesus says, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:35).

Whether we realize it or not, God has shown great mercy to each of us. He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve (cf. Psalm 103:8-12) but, instead, laid the guilt and punishment for all our sins upon His own Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Isaiah 53:6). Jesus took our punishment and suffered and died in our place that God might be merciful to us, forgive our sins and give us a place with Him in heaven. Even now, God is patient with us, desiring that all would repent and turn to Him for mercy and forgiveness in His Son (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).

When we are graciously brought to faith in Jesus and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness, we will also be merciful and forgiving toward others, desiring that they too would be saved. Thus, the Scriptures urge us to “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Then, on the Last Day, when Jesus returns in judgment, those who have received God’s mercy in Christ Jesus and, as a result, also show mercy to others will receive mercy from the LORD God. But those who have not received God’s mercy and forgiveness through faith in His Son – and thus were not merciful unto others – will not receive mercy of the Lord but suffer the tortures of hell to pay in full for their sins!

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for being gracious and merciful to me and sending Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to bear my sins, die in my stead and rise in victory. Graciously grant that I receive Your mercy and forgiveness by faith and also show mercy unto others. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

Psalm 24 asks the question: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (verses 3-5).

Who is it that will be privileged to stand in God’s presence and see His face? Jesus says it is “the pure in heart.” But being pure in heart is more than just outward obedience to God’s commandments; it is loving God with all the heart, mind and soul, and having nothing but holy thoughts and desires as well!

The problem is: Whose heart is pure?

Jesus said of the most religious people of His day, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8, quoting from Isaiah 29:13). He also said, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15:19,20).

How can we have a clean and pure heart? Only through faith in the shed blood of Jesus, for the Bible tells us that it is His blood that “cleanseth us from all sin” and makes us acceptable in God’s sight (1 John 1:7; Ephesians 1:6,7; Colossians 1:12-14,19-23)! For the sake of Jesus, God reckons those who trust in Him to be righteous and holy.

Of course, those who trust in Jesus’ blood and righteousness for pardon and acceptance in God’s eyes also desire to be “pure in heart.”

After confessing His sin and turning to the LORD for forgiveness, David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). And so, we also who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins desire that God would create in us pure and undivided hearts to love and serve Him and keep His commandments, for it is our desire to see our Savior when He appears and to be like Him (cf. 1 John 3:2-3; Psalm 119:1ff.).

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, my heart is evil and defiled by sin. Forgive my sin for the sake of Your blood, shed for me upon the cross, and create in me a clean heart that I might love You and serve You all of my days. Amen.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

Though God will not tolerate our sin and rebellion against Him and does not mince words in telling us the truth about our sinfulness and His condemnation of sin, God is a God of peace. He does not desire our condemnation and so sent His own dear Son to bear the punishment for our sins, and He calls upon all of us to repent and turn to Him for full pardon and peace.

When speaking about the coming day of judgment, the Bible tells us: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9; cf. Ezekiel 33:11).

The Bible also says that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).

As children of God through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Galatians 3:26), we who now have peace with God for the sake of Jesus’ shed blood also seek to live in peace with others. Like our heavenly Father, we desire that others, too, repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and peace with God. Like our heavenly Father, we cannot tolerate sin and rebellion against God and we must not hesitate to speak the truth of God’s Word; but we do so in love, desiring that our fellow sinners repent and return to their Father in heaven for pardon and peace (cf. Ephesians 4:15).

St. Paul writes, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians. 5:20).

Though some who claim to follow Christ are quick to stir up contention and strife; that is not what Jesus would have us do. The Bible tells us: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18; cf. Hebrews 12:14; Psalm 34:14; Mark 9:50). While we must hold fast to and contend for the true teaching of God’s Word, we are not to become involved in foolish arguments over things not clearly laid out in the Scriptures (cf. 2 Timothy 2:22-26; 3:1-17). Who is won for the truth through bitter strife and arguments anyway? Rather, all we can do is bear witness to the truth with a kind and humble spirit and let God’s Spirit do the rest.

Paul writes to the church in Ephesus: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph. 4:31 – 5:2).

Remember Jesus’ words: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, Prince of peace, so often my ways are not set on peace, but on strife and contention. Graciously forgive me for the sake of Your holy and precious blood, shed on my behalf, and give me a heart like that of our heavenly Father – a heart that holds fast to the truth but also seeks peace through humble submission to God’s truth. Amen.

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

Paul wrote to Timothy: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

It is a fruit of saving faith in Jesus Christ to desire to live for Him and keep His Word. Those who repent of their rebellious and sinful ways and trust in Jesus for forgiveness and life do not desire to continue in sin and opposition to God and His ways. Rather, they desire to be more and more like Jesus who died for them and rose again.

The Bible says: “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15; cf. Romans 6:1ff.).

They continually acknowledge and confess their sins and failures to the LORD God, receive His forgiveness for the sake of Jesus’ shed blood, and seek God’s help and strength to amend their lives and live for Him (cf. Psalm 51; 1 John 1:7 – 2:2).

However, in a world that is becoming more and more evil (cf. 2 Timothy 3:13), those who go against the flow and seek to keep God’s commandments are not well received. They suffer persecution. But those who are persecuted in this world for seeking to live righteous and holy lives for Jesus their Savior are indeed blessed of God and can even rejoice in their suffering, for they have a place in God’s eternal kingdom (cf. 1 Peter 3:14).

This does not mean they have a place in God’s eternal kingdom because of their suffering here in this world. Rather, they are blessed, even in the midst of their suffering, because they have a place in God’s eternal kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ, their Savior!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, give me a steadfast heart, a heart which trusts in You alone for the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation, a heart which loves You and seeks to live for You even in the midst of suffering and persecution in this world, and a heart which rejoices because You have granted me a place in Your eternal kingdom for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

Before His crucifixion and death, Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me” (John 15:18-21).

Followers of Jesus do not seek persecution, but it is a fact that those who follow Him and hold fast to His Word will suffer persecution (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12). The world does not like to be reminded of its sinfulness and the coming judgment of God, nor do worldly people like it when one turns from his former evil ways to Jesus for forgiveness and life. Followers of Jesus are a constant reminder to the people of this world that they are on the wrong path and will soon be judged by God.

The Old Testament prophets, too, were a reminder to those whose hearts had turned away from the LORD that they were turned aside from the truth and headed for God’s judgment. And, from the blood of Abel to Zechariah, many of these true prophets of God suffered great persecution and even death for their testimony to the truth (cf. Matthew 23:31-39). Those who thought they were righteous by their own practice of religious rites did not want to hear of their sin and need for repentance.

Many might see the suffering and persecution which comes upon followers of Jesus even today and think that surely they are not blessed of God, but Jesus says, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Those who follow Jesus are blessed, even if persecuted here in this world, for they have the blessings of heaven for the sake of Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death in their stead and will also be greatly rewarded for their faithfulness to the Savior!

Dear Lord Jesus, grant that I not shrink back from faithfulness to You, but trust you, follow You, live for You, and proclaim Your Word to those around me in the world. If persecution comes, grant me the strength to endure and faith that looks forward to the eternal rewards of heaven which are mine for the sake of Your blood, shed on the cross for my sins. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 (Read Genesis 1)

The opening words of the Bible, those found in Genesis 1:1, proclaim a foundational truth upon which all of Christianity rests: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

If these words are not true, then the rest of the Bible’s claims about man’s accountability to God, God’s impending judgment upon man’s sin, Christ’s redemption, God’s forgiveness and eternal life with Him in heaven are all meaningless.

Those who reject the Bible’s teaching regarding God’s creation have rejected all that the Bible teaches because it is all interwoven and a part of the same truth. Those who do not believe in the God who was there in the beginning and who created the heavens and the earth and everything in them cannot legitimately lay claim to be followers of Christ or to be Christian.

However, in the same way as the work of an artist testifies to the existence and skill of the artist, so the existence and wondrous design of all things testify to the existence and infinite wisdom of an almighty God who created all.

The Bible itself declares, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3).

Everywhere in this world, regardless of people’s race or language, the testimony of all creation cries out and announces to everyone that there is an all-wise, all-powerful God who created all things. The majesty, grandeur, and the very intricacy of all around us say loudly and clearly for all to hear, “There is a God!”

This same God has revealed Himself to all of mankind in His Word, the Bible. From the very first words of the Scriptures, we see that God already was in the beginning when He created the heavens and the earth. We see that not only the Father, but the Spirit was in the beginning; for “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).

The apostle John writes of Jesus, God the Son: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

The one true God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – was there in the beginning and created all things. This same eternal God provided for the salvation of all mankind when the Son became man and paid the due price for our sin by suffering and dying on the cross and rising again from the dead on the third day.

He will still be when this world comes to a close, and He will be our judge. Those who believe on His name, trusting in Him for forgiveness and life everlasting will be saved; but those who do not trust in Him stand condemned already for not believing in the name of God the Son, their Redeemer and Savior (cf. John 3:13-18, 36).

O almighty and eternal God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – thank You for revealing Your majesty to us through your glorious creation and for revealing Yourself and the salvation You have provided for us through Your life-giving Word, the Bible. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“And having come to them, Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Going, therefore, disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you; and, look, I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20 (literal translation of the author from the Greek)

Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day. He was exalted to the right hand of God the Father in heaven, a position of power and glory in which he fills and rules over all things for the benefit of His Church, all who believe in Him and trust in Him for salvation. He pours out His Holy Spirit, who, through the Scriptures, reveals to us our sinfulness and the punishment we justly deserve and then reveals to us God’s offer and promise of pardon and forgiveness through faith in Christ our Savior.

He entrusts His disciples (us included) a commission to disciple the nations. He told them and He tells us: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Going, therefore, disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you; and, look, I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age.”

I don’t often retranslate a Bible passage from the Greek but, in this case, it is helpful to understand what it is Jesus is telling us. And most Bible translations come a bit short in conveying the full message of this passage.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that English doesn’t really have a verb form of the noun “disciple.” A disciple is a student and follower of a teacher. And, as in the case of Jesus’ disciples, a disciple follows his teacher and learns everything he can about his teacher’s doctrine and life so that he can be like his teacher, holding to the same beliefs and views and emulating his teacher’s life.

The King James Version and many of the older translations used the word “teach” for the verb form of disciple since teaching is the main function of a teacher with his disciples. Some confusion and misunderstanding resulted from the KJV translation because Jesus’ great commission also includes teaching people to observe all that Christ taught and commanded, but the Greek word for teaching is not the same as the Greek word for the verb form of “disciple.”

Most more modern versions translate the Greek verb disciple as “make disciples.” While that may be a bit closer to the original meaning, we are reminded by Scripture that we do not make anyone a disciple of Jesus. That is the gracious working of God the Holy Spirit, working through His Word.

English translations often fail, as well, to reflect the Greek construction of Jesus’ great commission. It includes one main verb, “disciple,” and three participles which show us how we are to disciple the nations, the “ethne” or ethnic family groups of the world: by going out; baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and by teaching them to observe all that Jesus taught and commanded.

And the fact that this command was not just for the eleven apostles is made clear from Jesus’ word and promise assuring us that He is indeed still with us throughout all the days of this age.

Jesus’ great commission certainly reflects discipling or making disciples of the true God, the Triune or Three/One God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and yet one God.

Jesus, the eternal Son of God and Creator of heaven and earth was made man and redeemed us by His death on the cross. He died that we might be pardoned and forgiven through faith in His name and have access to the Father. In fact, there is no other way to come to God the Father but through faith in Christ Jesus, God the Son! Cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 John 1:3.

Jesus poured out upon His disciples and all who believe His Holy Spirit — it is the Spirit who reveals to us who Jesus really is and brings us to trust in Him and His cross for salvation. And, we are baptized into the name of the one true God — in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 28:19; Deut. 6:4ff.). To be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38-39) is to be baptized in the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit as well for God is one and Jesus commanded baptism in the name of the three Persons of the one Godhead. And, as the Scriptures promise, God works through baptism in His name to join us to Christ in His death and His resurrection and to wash away our sins and make us His own dear children through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Titus 3:4-7; Acts 22:16; Gal. 3:26-27).

As believers, Christ has entrusted us with the task of discipling the nations for the Triune God. We do this, not through church-growth programs or through having exciting and emotion-stirring styles of worship. We do this by going out into the world and encountering people of all ethnicities and nations. We do this by baptizing in the name of the Triune God. We do this by teaching all that Christ taught and commanded as given to us in His Word, the Bible.

What does this mean for pastors and believers today? Christ Jesus has entrusted us with the great task of being missionaries to people of all nations and ethnicities. And to disciple them, we need to go to them with the Gospel promises of forgiveness and life through faith in Christ Jesus, baptize them in the name of the Triune God, and teach them all that Christ teaches in the Bible.

And, Jesus has not left us alone in this great task. He has promised us that He is present with us, even to the end of this age.

O gracious Savior, we thank You for Your death upon the cross to redeem us and make us Your own. Keep us trusting in You that we might be disciples of the true God and also disciple the nations for You. Amen.

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