Daily Devotions: Biblical Liberty
God Has Given Christ All Authority
"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth.'"
Matthew 28:18 (NKJV)
Authority is a term that brings to mind many thoughts. As people, we like to be in control, but the reality is that we must surrender control to Jesus' lordship over all. The Greek word used for authority in the scripture above is exousia. It literally means power to act. Jesus has ALL power to act in heaven and earth. As Christians, we have the freedom to choose Jesus and release all control to Him. Remember, He has all the power to act in heaven and earth. When we surrender freely to Jesus, we are tapping into incredible power!
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Replace the word authority with power to act. If you are like most, you like to be in control. We all like to have power. One of the great paradoxes in life is we must freely surrender our power and control to Jesus. Surrender brings true power and control. We tap into a power source that mediated all creation and raised Lazarus from the dead. When we come to the end of ourselves, we get to the beginning of a surrendered relationship with Jesus. He has authority and power over all that is seen and unseen.
Galatians 5:1 (HCSB) says, "Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand rm then, and don't submit again to a yoke of slavery." God's design is for us to freely choose Him. In Christ we nd freedom from the burden of sin. In Christ we nd power and authority that we cannot acquire on our own.
The scriptures today pose an interesting question: Are you living in your own power and authority, or have you freely surrendered to Jesus? A surrendered life has access to incredible power through the One who has been given all authority in Heaven and earth.
God Requires That We Live In Obedience
"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him... He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked."
1 John 2:3-4, 6 (NKJV)
A pastor friend of mine once told me he was a fruit inspector. What he meant was those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ live differently than those who are not under His authority. Those who honestly follow Christ have a changed heart. A changed heart desperately seeks God. 1 John 5:3a (NKJV) says, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments."
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There is to be evidence of a changed heart in all those who follow Christ.
How can we know that we are in Him? Verse three says we will have a desire
to follow His commandments. We will all stumble at points, but a strange transaction takes place when we place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Our earthly desires fade away, and we have a new desire to become more like Him. We want to please Him and follow His commands. God's love is most perfectly displayed in those who have given up their former desires and embraced God's perfect law.
Ephesians 4:20-24 also describes the transaction that takes place when we put off the old man (corrupted by earthly desires) and put on the new man (freed by obedience in Christ). "That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
The scriptures today pose an interesting question: Would a random person you encounter at the store or in the workplace see evidence of Christ living in you?
God Requires That We Love Those Around Us
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."
Matthew 5:44 (NKJV)
It is interesting to watch the presidential debates and see the strong language and attitudes candidates have towards one another. What would a candidate look like who lived out the verse above? Would people actually vote for a presidential candidate who displayed love, blessing, goodness, and prayer? There was a time in our nation when we did select and prefer Christians as our leaders. If any evidence is needed, just listen to the words of President George Washington's rst Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay: "Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."
Today's devotional is not necessarily meant to be political in nature, but to make you think about God's command to love one another. The Apostle Paul said it like this: "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31-32, NKJV). We have all been forgiven of much, and the least we can do is forgive others when we are wronged. Re ect on this verse for a moment: "This is real love - not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacri ce to take away our sins" (I John 4:10 NLT).
The scriptures today pose an interesting question: Do the words you speak and the actions you display show the love of God dwells in you?
God Requires We Live At Peace With Others
"Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,' says
Romans 12:17-19 (NASB)
There is often a misconception the New Testament replaces the Old Testament, or the New Testament is to be viewed as superior to the Old Testament. Today's scripture is a good example of how the New Testament ful lls, or completes, the Old Testament. The two work in concert with one another. Paul wrote Romans 12:17-19 by re ecting on Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 32:35. The message in Romans is ampli ed by incorporating truths from the Old Testament.
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Our culture today tells us to take things into our own hands and create our
own paths to success. God tells us to live within the complete freedom that
He offers: freedom to treat others with respect and to let the pains of the
past go; freedom to love others, even when they seek to hurt us; and freedom to choose peace instead of vengeance. The world would have us become slaves to vengeance, evil, and wrath, but God frees us from these things. Living in submission to God gives us liberty to be at perfect peace in any circumstance.
Jesus' half-brother James said, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience" (James 1:2-3 NKJV). We can have joy knowing God is in control, and we do not go through this life alone.
The scriptures today pose an interesting question: Do you trust God enough to release all pains, burdens, and hardships to Him?
God Requires We Obey Government Authorities
"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God."
Romans 13:1-2a (NASB)
It can be hard to follow some leaders in this country, especially when those we are to follow might not be those for whom we voted in an election. The early church had some trouble following the governing authorities, but Paul shared the message above with the church in Rome, and instructed them to submit to civil authorities as ordained by God.
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Nothing on this earth happens without God allowing it to happen. While we, as Christians, might not like what is happening in the government, we are still called to set an example. The Roman emperor Nero, who was in power when Paul penned this message to the church, brutally persecuted Christians in Rome. Christians are to display Christ regardless of who the leader is, or how bad the persecution might be. This is not something we can do on our own. God must dwell in us and change our hearts to be submissive and loving in all circumstances.
I Peter 2:17 (NKJV) says, "Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." Peter, too, was familiar with governing authorities persecuting Christians. He knew that by living a Christ- lled life others would take notice of the difference in him. And that difference opened doors for Peter to share the rescue plan that God launched through Jesus Christ.
The scriptures today pose an interesting question: Do your actions and words about governing authorities point others toward Christ?
We Must Obey God Rather Than Man
"But Peter and the apostles replied, 'We must obey God rather than any human authority.'"
Acts 5:29 (NLT)
Yesterday's lesson was about obeying governing authorities. Today's lesson
is framed around this question: What if the governing authorities are directly opposed to what God has called us to do? Today we look at the exception to the rule.
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The context surrounding this scripture is amazing. It begins with the Great Commission when Christ told His disciples, "go... and preach the Gospel" (Mark 16:15). Peter and John were imprisoned by the religious leaders and told not to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Miraculously, an angel freed them, and they immediately went back and started preaching the Gospel again the next morning. They were brought back before the religious leaders and placed on trial. The religious leaders reprimand them for preaching the name of Jesus, and the verse above is Peter's response.
There is a time and place for civil disobedience when governing authorities threaten to go against what God has called His people to do. John Macarthur's ministry, Grace to You, says it like this, "There are times when we must obey God rather than men, but we believe that we should disobey the authorities only if they command us to do something directly against God's law." As stated earlier, this is clearly the exception to the rule outlined in Romans 13:1-2. Biblical liberty frees us from the bondage of this world and joins us with God's will in all things. Note the Apostles, "departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41 NKJV).
The scriptures today pose an interesting question: Are you willing to obey God, even if it means disobeying the government?