Morning Devotional

The Crux of Christianity

Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples … who had come to hear Him.

[Luke 6:17-18]

This week we will look at some of Jesus’s most familiar words, called the Sermon on the Mount. Although these are some of Jesus’s most familiar teachings, they are also some of His most misunderstood words.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, and if somebody asks us for our coat to give them not only our coat but our shirt as well. Many of these words seem impossible to keep. How in the world can these commands apply in a world like ours today?

Throughout the ages people have gone to one of two extremes when it comes to the Sermon on the Mount. Some people say the Sermon on the Mount is a list of requirements of what people must do to go to heaven when they die. Now, if that is true–if Jesus was giving us a list of impossible requirements to keep in order to go to heaven–then Jesus was no better than the Pharisees. Remember what Jesus said about the Pharisees? “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders” so that they cannot enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 23:4). The Pharisees had a long list of dos and don’ts that were impossible for anybody to keep. So Jesus is no better than the Pharisees if He gave us this list and said, “This is how you go to heaven.” I don’t think that is what Jesus intended in this sermon.

However, other people go to the opposite extreme when it comes to the Sermon on the Mount. They say that these words have no application for our world today. They see the Sermon on the Mount as the constitution for the millennial kingdom. They say, “This is the way we are all going to act when we get into the millennial kingdom in the future, but we can’t do that today.” This is the extreme that many evangelical Christians go to. I even attended a seminary that taught that the Sermon on the Mount has no application for today.

Is that what Jesus is saying? As I read these words in Luke 6, there is nothing to suggest that this message is for some future generation. In this sermon Jesus is talking about how we are to act as Christians. Yes, His words are difficult. If you believe that this world is all there is, then these commands are impossible to keep. And you have no motivation for keeping these commands if this world is all there is. But when you know what Jesus knows about the future, you can be generous in your attitude toward difficult circumstances and difficult people.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Evening Devotional

A Sabbath Snack

He was saying to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

[Luke 6:5]

Even though we are no longer under the Old Testament’s restrictions, I believe there are some valuable principles about the Sabbath we can observe today. Before we look at those principles, let’s look at Jesus’s Sabbath squabbles.

The first squabble I call “The Case of the Hungry Disciples.” It is found in Luke 6. “Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. But some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” (vv. 1-2). Jesus and His disciples were heading somewhere on the Sabbath day. They were very hungry, and they didn’t have a McDonald’s to pull into. What could they do for food? They walked into a wheat field, grabbed some heads of wheat, plucked them from the stalk, and plopped the grain in their mouth. That was a snack that would tide them over.

Some Pharisees saw them and said they couldn’t do that. Now you may think, “Well, they shouldn’t do that. That’s stealing.” No, that’s not stealing according to the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 23:24-25 there is a provision that if you were going through somebody’s field, you could take some heads of grain and feed yourself. But the Pharisees added to God’s law, and they said you couldn’t reap, thrash, winnow, or prepare any kind of food on the Sabbath day, and therefore the disciples were breaking the Pharisees’ rule.

How did Jesus answer? “Jesus answering them said, ‘Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?’” (Luke 6:3-4). This is a reference to 1 Samuel 21. David and his men were fleeing King Saul. They were hungry. They had no place to eat, so they went into the tabernacle, saw the 12 loaves of showbread that were dedicated to God, and they ate them. This showed that God is more interested in the spirit of the law than the letter of the law. That’s what Jesus said.

Now somebody might say, “If you start interpreting God’s law however you want to, then that leads to chaos.” Look at how Jesus responded in Luke 6:5: “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus was saying, “Hey, don’t forget who I am—I am God. I am the One who wrote this law to begin with. I can interpret it any way I want.” And by saying such a thing He enraged the Pharisees.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Evening Devotional

What Is the Sabbath?

Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

[Mark 2:27]

What is the Sabbath? Contrary to popular opinion, the word “Sabbath” does not mean “seventh.” Instead, it comes from the Hebrew word “Shabbat,” which means “to cease or desist from any kind of work.” Somebody has said it means to cease from even thinking about working.

The idea of the Sabbath comes from the Fourth Commandment, found in Exodus 20:8-11, which says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”

What was the purpose of the Sabbath? The Sabbath was never meant to be a burden to God’s people; it was to be a blessing to God’s people. In Mark 2:27 Jesus made it clear that “the Sabbath was made for man.” The Sabbath is God’s gift to us. God our Creator has given us a maintenance program to ensure our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And part of that maintenance program for us is observing the Sabbath. We are to do all our work in six days, and then we are to do something different on the seventh day. The Sabbath is a gift to us.

Unfortunately, the Pharisees took what was a blessing and turned it into a burden. They came up with a long list of man-made regulations about what you could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath. They said it’s okay to ride a donkey on the Sabbath, but you can’t carry a switch with you to make the donkey go faster because that would be making the donkey work. Or they said you can drink vinegar on the Sabbath, but you can’t gargle with it because gargling is work. They came up with all of these ludicrous restrictions of what you could and could not do on the Sabbath.

What about the Old Testament rules about the Sabbath? Should we follow those? The apostle Paul addressed that issue in Colossians 2:16-17. He said, “No one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” The Old Testament laws about things like food, drink, and the Sabbath were simply a shadow pointing to Jesus Christ; and now that Jesus has come, there is no reason to go back and keep those Old Testament laws. If you want to keep these Old Testament laws, go ahead and keep them; but don’t judge others who choose not to keep them. The same truth applies to us today. For example, if you don’t want to dance, fine. If you don’t want to go to the movies, fine. But don’t make your personal convictions somebody else’s obligation.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Morning Devotional

Squabbling Over the Sabbath

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

[Exodus 20:8]

How would you react to the following situations?

Situation number one: A friend tells you he has been offered a promotion with a much-needed increase in salary. The only catch is that his new position will require him to work every Sunday. But your church has a Saturday night worship service. His question to you is this: “Is Saturday night worship the same as Sunday morning worship? Should I take this new position or not?”

Situation number two: You had a hectic week. You didn’t have time to go to the hardware store to get a new blade for your lawn mower. So on Sunday, while you are munching on a doughnut at Sunday school, you mention to a friend that as soon as church is over you are going to the hardware store. Your friend is horrified. “You’re going to shop on Sunday? Don’t you realize that by shopping on Sunday you are encouraging a store to stay open, and that means employees will be missing church?” How do you respond to that objection?

Situation number three: Your child has been offered a spot on a select sports team that travels out of town three or four weekends every month. Being on the sports team will give your child a very good advantage in securing a college scholarship. The only problem is that your child will miss church almost every Sunday for a year. You are concerned, but the coach says, “Don’t worry. We will have a devotional thought on the field before the game every Sunday.” Do you allow your child to participate or not?

All of these situations have in common the fact that they deal with the issues of the Fourth Commandment: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Does that commandment apply to us today who live under grace and not the Law? Are there principles of the Sabbath that apply to us even in the age of grace?

Few issues cause more controversy in the church than the Sabbath. That shouldn’t surprise us. Even Jesus had His own share of squabbles about the Sabbath. Jesus was constantly doing battle against the Pharisees–the sect of Judaism that was seeking to destroy Him. The Pharisees criticized Jesus for hanging out with sinners. Well, who else does the Savior hang out with except sinners? That’s why He came: not for the righteous but for the unrighteous. And this week we will see that the Pharisees also criticized Jesus for the way He kept–or didn’t keep–the holy day of worship called the Sabbath.

This week we will look at two of these interactions and learn some invaluable principles that apply to us 2,000 years later about what we ought to do on the Sabbath.

~ Dr, Robert Jeffress ~

Evening Devotional

A Friend of Sinners

“They say, ‘Behold … a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

[Matthew 11:19]

There are three principles that we can learn from Jesus’s interaction with the Pharisees in Luke 5.

First, evaluate all advice you receive by the Word of God. Yes, the book of Proverbs says that we should “listen to counsel” (19:20). But before we follow other people’s instruction, we ought to ask, “Is this what the Bible teaches, or is it just that person’s opinion?”

Second, tolerate differences in other Christians. A member of my extended family can eat a carton of ice cream and not gain a pound. Yet I can just look at a bowl of ice cream and my cholesterol goes up 30 points. We have different metabolisms. That means my family member has freedom that I don’t have. I have to impose rules on myself in order to stay healthy, but he doesn’t have to abide by the same rules I do. Now it’s the same way in the Christian life. If the Word of God doesn’t say you can or can’t do something, then you need to follow what your conscience says, because God may lead you in a different way than He leads another Christian. Other Christians may have the freedom to do something, but God may say to you, “I know you, I made you, and this would be too much of a temptation to you.” And just because God leads you a certain way, don’t assume He is going to lead other Christians the same way. When it comes to things the Bible doesn’t discuss, command, or prohibit, we need to let God lead people and not impose our opinions on them. Romans 14:13 says, “Let us not judge one another anymore.”

Third, associate with unbelievers. Christ has left you and me here to influence non-Christians to become Christians so they can experience eternal life. But the longer we are Christians, the fewer non-Christians we tend to hang around. The time we know the most non-Christians is as soon as we are saved. Too many Christians think, “I can’t be around non-Christians because I might get contaminated or become like them.” No, God has called us not to isolate ourselves from non-Christians but to influence non-Christians. That doesn’t mean we date them or marry them. It doesn’t mean we go into business with them. But we are to try to influence them, and you will never influence people you don’t hang around.

We need to take our cue from Jesus. Jesus was known as a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). Jesus didn’t hate sinners. He loved sinners and rejoiced when they came into a right relationship with Him. In contrast, the Pharisees hated sinners. They wanted to live separate from sinners. But God loves sinners and rejoices when they come to salvation.

Make no mistake about it–Jesus hated sin, because He saw the way it destroyed people’s lives. Jesus hated sin, but He loved sinners. He spent time with them. He prayed for them. Jesus loved sinners and rejoiced when they came to faith in Him, and so should we.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Evening Devotional

A New Covenant

No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined.

[Luke 5:37]

There are a lot of people who try to match the New Testament with the Old Testament, but it doesn’t work. Like putting new wine into an old wineskin, the New Testament does not fit the Old Testament. It just expands it and breaks it.

Many people are confused about this. They ask, “Why do we obey certain parts of the Old Testament, but there are some parts that we don’t obey?” Other people say, “Christianity is just as bad as Islam because the Old Testament commands that you stone people to death. So what’s the difference between Christianity and Islam?” Have you ever had people ask you that?

Here’s the simple answer: The Old Testament is called “old” for a reason. It is not what we live under today. The Old Testament is finished. It is done away with. It points to Christ, but the old is gone.

There were three parts of the Mosaic Law. First, there was the moral law, which dealt with issues of morality–do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie. Second, there was the civil law, which dealt with how to punish those who in society break the civil law. Third, there was the ceremonial law, which had to do with the sacrificial system and the feasts. The Old Testament had all three of those parts to it.

Under the New Testament–the new agreement with God–the Old Testament has been done away with. What part of the Old Testament has been done away with? First, the ceremonial laws have been done away with. We no longer offer sacrifices, because there is no need to. Jesus is our sacrifice. We don’t keep the feasts, because they were just a shadow of the substance of Christ. Now that Christ has come, we no longer follow the shadow. Second, we don’t live under the civil law. America is not ancient Israel. We are not a theocracy. The civil law was for Israel at a particular time. We don’t stone adulterers or gay people. That’s all been done away with.

The only other portion of the God’s law is the moral law–do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie. The only parts of the moral law we keep today are the commands that are repeated in the New Testament. In the New Testament we are told not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to steal, and not to lie. All the commands that are repeated in the New Testament are commands we live under. But we don’t keep anything else in the Old Testament. We live under the new agreement. And under the new agreement there is absolutely no allowance for violence against anyone. There is no way to justify any violence under the teaching of Jesus Christ. That’s the difference between the Old and the New Testament.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Evening Devotional

A New Covenant

No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined.

[Luke 5:37]

There are a lot of people who try to match the New Testament with the Old Testament, but it doesn’t work. Like putting new wine into an old wineskin, the New Testament does not fit the Old Testament. It just expands it and breaks it.

Many people are confused about this. They ask, “Why do we obey certain parts of the Old Testament, but there are some parts that we don’t obey?” Other people say, “Christianity is just as bad as Islam because the Old Testament commands that you stone people to death. So what’s the difference between Christianity and Islam?” Have you ever had people ask you that?

Here’s the simple answer: The Old Testament is called “old” for a reason. It is not what we live under today. The Old Testament is finished. It is done away with. It points to Christ, but the old is gone.

There were three parts of the Mosaic Law. First, there was the moral law, which dealt with issues of morality–do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie. Second, there was the civil law, which dealt with how to punish those who in society break the civil law. Third, there was the ceremonial law, which had to do with the sacrificial system and the feasts. The Old Testament had all three of those parts to it.

Under the New Testament–the new agreement with God–the Old Testament has been done away with. What part of the Old Testament has been done away with? First, the ceremonial laws have been done away with. We no longer offer sacrifices, because there is no need to. Jesus is our sacrifice. We don’t keep the feasts, because they were just a shadow of the substance of Christ. Now that Christ has come, we no longer follow the shadow. Second, we don’t live under the civil law. America is not ancient Israel. We are not a theocracy. The civil law was for Israel at a particular time. We don’t stone adulterers or gay people. That’s all been done away with.

The only other portion of the God’s law is the moral law–do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie. The only parts of the moral law we keep today are the commands that are repeated in the New Testament. In the New Testament we are told not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to steal, and not to lie. All the commands that are repeated in the New Testament are commands we live under. But we don’t keep anything else in the Old Testament. We live under the new agreement. And under the new agreement there is absolutely no allowance for violence against anyone. There is no way to justify any violence under the teaching of Jesus Christ. That’s the difference between the Old and the New Testament.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~