Morning & Evening

February 11
Morning
“And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” — Act_4:13
A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ. You have read lives of Christ, beautifully and eloquently written, but the best life of Christ is his living biography, written out in the words and actions of his people. If we were what we profess to be, and what we should be, we should be pictures of Christ; yea, such striking likenesses of him, that the world would not have to hold us up by the hour together, and say, “Well, it seems somewhat of a likeness;” but they would, when they once beheld us, exclaim, “He has been with Jesus; he has been taught of him; he is like him; he has caught the very idea of the holy Man of Nazareth, and he works it out in his life and every-day actions.” A Christian should be like Christ in his boldness. Never blush to own your religion; your profession will never disgrace you: take care you never disgrace that. Be like Jesus, very valiant for your God. Imitate him in your loving spirit; think kindly, speak kindly, and do kindly, that men may say of you, “He has been with Jesus.” Imitate Jesus in his holiness. Was he zealous for his Master? So be you; ever go about doing good. Let not time be wasted: it is too precious. Was he self-denying, never looking to his own interest? Be the same. Was he devout? Be you fervent in your prayers. Had he deference to his Father’s will? So submit yourselves to him. Was he patient? So learn to endure. And best of all, as the highest portraiture of Jesus, try to forgive your enemies, as he did; and let those sublime words of your Master, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” always ring in your ears. Forgive, as you hope to be forgiven. Heap coals of fire on the head of your foe by your kindness to him. Good for evil, recollect, is godlike. Be godlike, then; and in all ways and by all means, so live that all may say of you, “He has been with Jesus.”
Evening
“Thou hast left thy first love.” — Rev_2:4
Ever to be remembered is that best and brightest of hours, when first we saw the Lord, lost our burden, received the roll of promise, rejoiced in full salvation, and went on our way in peace. It was spring time in the soul; the winter was past; the mutterings of Sinai’s thunders were hushed; the flashings of its lightnings were no more perceived; God was beheld as reconciled; the law threatened no vengeance, justice demanded no punishment. Then the flowers appeared in our heart; hope, love, peace, and patience sprung from the sod; the hyacinth of repentance, the snowdrop of pure holiness, the crocus of golden faith, the daffodil of early love, all decked the garden of the soul. The time of the singing of birds was come, and we rejoiced with thanksgiving; we magnified the holy name of our forgiving God, and our resolve was, “Lord, I am thine, wholly thine; all I am, and all I have, I would devote to thee. Thou hast bought me with thy blood-let me spend myself and be spent in thy service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to thee.” How have we kept this resolve? Our espousal love burned with a holy flame of devoutedness to Jesus-is it the same now? Might not Jesus well say to us, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love”? Alas! it is but little we have done for our Master’s glory. Our winter has lasted all too long. We are as cold as ice when we should feel a summer’s glow and bloom with sacred flowers. We give to God pence when he deserveth pounds, nay, deserveth our heart’s blood to be coined in the service of his church and of his truth. But shall we continue thus? O Lord, after thou hast so richly blessed us, shall we be ungrateful and become indifferent to thy good cause and work? O quicken us that we may return to our first love, and do our first works! Send us a genial spring, O Sun of Righteousness.

Rylisms

February 11
Fifteen Days in a Friendship of Grace
“Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.” (Gal_1:17-18)
“I remember well when I first learned this wonderful truth about God’s Grace,” Peter began. “And strange as it may seem, I didn’t learn it from Jesus. There were many things Jesus did not say to us. It was because, as He put it, we “were not able to bear it now.” (Joh_16:12-13). He was right.
When I think back over all the times I argued with Him about this or that, it amazes me that He ever told me anything at all! Don’t laugh; for the same is true for you. Right?
And here’s a question for you. Are you willing to let someone who comes along after you show you something that you don’t yet know?
We don’t know everything, and that’s why its best to always be teachable. And don’t be surprised who the “teacher” might be! I mean, if God would use a jackass to speak to stupid Balaam, whose to say what He might use to speak to you!
Laughter erupted in our group as everybody pointed at me. “I’m sure that’s not what he meant,” I said. We all had a good laugh then.
“Then, who was it that taught you about God’s grace?” we asked.
“The apostle Paul, of course!” Peter said. “He knew more about it than all the rest of us put together.”
“You can only imagine how astonished we all were when we first heard the reports of Paul’s conversion. Frankly, we didn’t believe it.
The man was monstrous and unmerciful; breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. He made havoc of the church, entering into every house and hauling away men and women, putting them in prison. Indeed, some he even put to death.
“So, yes, we found his conversion to be a bit of a stretch. But clearly we underestimated the power of the Lord.
“Paul was indeed a new creation in Christ, old things had passed away and all things were becoming new. He came a stayed with me for about two weeks and we talked at great length about many things. And one thing towered above all others in Paul’s mind – it was the Grace of God.
“His understanding of grace was different than what we had been taught from our childhood. We had viewed grace as God’s favor, given in kindness to the undeserving. But this was not the message Paul brought to me.
“Grace is the power of Christ working in me and through me,” he said with such passion and conviction, one could hardly resist him. “I got this directly from the Lord Jesus Himself,” he would add; underscoring his resolve in making sure I understood it.
Paul was not only convincing; he was right.
“I myself had indeed experienced the grace of God on many occasions, but did not fully understand it at the time. I just knew that the power of the Lord was surging in me and through me in ways that left me amazed with what happened. Think about it – my shadow healed a man! I guess you could say I took the heat off of him. Yet, it wasn’t me; it was the grace of God in me.
Or how about the day John and I walked into the Temple and saw a man begging alms. “Alms?” I asked, “How about a pair of legs?” And it happened! He jumped up and started dancing and shouting; got us thrown out of the Temple and arrested by the Council. Nevertheless – about five thousand more turned to follow the Lord because of it.
“Fishers of men,” Jesus said. “Fishers of men.”
Yes, I had experienced the Lord’s power many times; but those fifteen days with Paul helped me to understand more fully that it was the grace of God in me – and through me. It was the power of Christ helping me do His will.
Paul and I became fast friends. Our visit together also showed me that, while Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, and I to the Jews – we both were life-long friends on one mission: Proclaiming to all the Gospel of God’s Grace!

Devotional Sermons

February 11
Forgiveness and the Cross
“There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” Psa_130:4
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Col_1:14
There are millions of people for whom divine forgiveness is a great and thrilling fact. They could no more doubt it than they could doubt their being. Quite possibly they do not understand it, but one can enjoy things he doesn’t understand. We daily use and enjoy a hundred things of whose nature we are ignorant. I light my room with electricity or revel in a glorious summer morning though I know practically nothing about electricity or the sun. And among these things stands out divine forgiveness as the greatest. For millions it is an experienced reality. It is the spring of joy, the source of liberty, the starting-point of victorious endeavor. Forgiven, the barriers are gone that raised themselves between the soul and God. Estrangement from their Creator has given place to sweet communion.
Why Was the Death of Jesus Necessary?
But the difficulty for many people is how forgiveness comes through the death of the Lord Jesus. Why can’t a God of love forgive His children as the father of the prodigal forgave his son? When a wife forgives her husband, she doesn’t need the intervention of another. She forgives him just because she loves him with a love that expects a brighter tomorrow. When a father forgives his erring child, it is a private and personal transaction where the intrusion of anyone else would be impertinence. Why, then, should our heavenly Father call for more than a repentant heart? Why should restoration to communion demand the agony and death of Jesus?
This difficulty is often aggravated by the glorious ringing note of the Old Testament: “There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared, and plenteous redemption that thou mayest be sought unto.” Well, men say, that is enough for me, I needn’t complicate matters by the cross; and they forget that the Old Testament is never final but rather God’s avenue leading to the new. I give a child an apple, and tell him to eat it for it is good for him. It is only afterwards that the child learns why that apple should be healthful. A little boy puts coals on the fire, confident that they will warm the room. But why the coals should have their warming properties he only learns when he goes to school or college. That is heaven’s universal ordering, first the fact and then the explanation. Life would be impossible to live if we could not use things till we understood them. And as God orders the whole of human life, so He does with Scripture, first proclaiming the eternal truth and then showing us the secret of it. The cross of the New Testament is not an intrusion on an old simplicity. The cross does not complicate forgiveness: it explains it and shows how it is possible. “There is forgiveness with thee,” cries the psalmist; and the New Testament interprets that—Yes, there is forgiveness through the blood.
God’s Divine Assurance
Surely it is evident that without the cross we could have no assurance of divine forgiveness. It is only in the life and death of Jesus that we can be perfectly sure of a forgiving God. God reveals Himself in nature. Could we be perfectly certain of forgiveness there? Even though nature carries glimpses of it, are these sufficient to assure the heart? Neither in nature nor in human history is there the luminous proof the sinner needs that there is forgiveness with God. That proof is given in Christ, and in Christ only. Only in the life and death of Christ can we be perfectly sure that God forgives. When we see Him dying on the cross for us in a redeeming love that traveled to the uttermost, God’s forgiveness becomes certainty. A child in his earthly home needs no such argument. He is perfectly familiar with his father. He sees him every evening and has his kiss before he falls asleep. But the heavenly Father is different from that—-clouds and darkness are about His throne—and so His children need for their assurance something that our children never do.
Again, we must not forget that earthly fatherhood can never exhaust the fullness of the Deity. In Him lies the fount of moral order without which life would be intolerable. A father at home who is a judge may freely forgive his child, but he cannot act like that on the bench. The morale of the State would go to pieces if the judge were to act just as the father does. He is to administer the law, and were every repentant prisoner forgiven, law would become a byword and a joke. That, as one of the Reformers put it, was a problem worthy of God—how to maintain and magnify the law, and yet freely forgive the transgressor; and God’s answer is the cross of Christ. There we learn what heaven thinks of sin. There sin is seen in all its awfulness. There we behold the grandeur of the law in the very glance that tells us of forgiveness. The pardon of God is not the worthless pardon of an easy and tolerant good nature. He is just, and the justifier of all them that believe.