Evening Devotional

What Is Natural Revelation?

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

[Romans 1:20]

What does creation tell us about God? First, in Romans 1:20, Paul said that in natural revelation we see God’s “eternal power.” How do you explain the intricacy, the design, the complexity, the vastness of this universe? Chance did not do this. Chance has no power. It is the power of God. It is through creation that we see a testimony of God’s eternal power.

Second, Paul said that through creation we can learn of God’s “divine nature” (1:20). When God came in human form in Jesus Christ, we learned from Jesus many things about God the Father. Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). But even apart from Jesus, apart from the Bible, there are some things we can know about the character of God simply from looking at creation. One thing we can know about God’s character just from nature is His kindness. The universe is a testimony to the kindness of God. In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey, and they came to Lystra. Because they were able to work miracles, the people started to worship Paul and Barnabas and call them Hermes and Zeus. Paul quickly corrected them and pointed them toward the true God. He said in Acts 14:15-17, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Paul was saying, “Even though you wandered away from God, God still left a witness for Himself.” Everyone in this universe can know of the kindness of God.

We hear the question all the time: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Yet a bigger question is: “Why do good things happen to bad people?” We are all bad. We have all wandered away from God, and God continues to bless everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, with His gifts, whether it be rain, food, family, friendships, or health. God does that as a witness to Himself. These gifts of God are the kindness of God that should lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). The Bible says we can know from creation about the goodness of God.

No one will go to Hell for rejecting a Christ they have never heard of. Those who go to Hell will go there because they rejected the limited knowledge of God that God sent them through creation. That is what Paul was saying here. Everyone has received the knowledge of God. That general knowledge is not sufficient to save us, but it is sufficient, if rejected, to condemn us.

The Reasons for God’s Wrath

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

[Romans 3:23]

This week we are looking at what the Bible says about the wrath of God. Who deserves God’s wrath? In Romans 1:18, Paul said, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Later in Romans, Paul said all mankind deserves God’s wrath. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). Everyone stands guilty before God–both Jews and Greeks.

Paul also talked about people who have never heard the gospel. Have you ever heard people ask, “What about people who have never heard the gospel? Surely God will not send them to Hell.” In Romans 1, Paul showed that even though they have no Bible and have not heard of Christ, they, too, are guilty and deserve God’s wrath. Why is that? Paul said that they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (1:18). The problem with the unbeliever is not that he lacks the evidence to know of God’s existence but that he lacks the desire to know of God’s existence.

There are three reasons that those who have never heard the gospel deserve God’s wrath. First, Paul said that people who have never heard the gospel have still received the knowledge of God. ” For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (1:20). You do not have to have a Bible or hear a gospel presentation to know there is a God. You do not have to be visited by a missionary to know that God exists. Every person knows that truth. How do they know it? They just have to look around at creation. God has given every person a knowledge of Himself. Creation is shouting the fact that there is a Creator.

Second, Paul said that the unrighteous have rejected this knowledge of God. “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (1:21). What did they do with that knowledge of God? Romans 1:18 says they suppressed it; they stifled it. They rejected the knowledge that they had.

Third, Paul said that the unrighteous have replaced their knowledge of God. They “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (1:23). Instead of accepting the true God, they have rejected the true God and replaced Him with an idol. That idol might be a statue of a person or an animal. It might be another god that they have created in their own minds. It may be a philosophical system. But every person who rejects the knowledge of the true God always replaces that knowledge with a false god.

Good News from a Distant Land

Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

[Acts 18:5]

I have been fascinated with the Empire State Building since I first went to the top of that building when I was six years old. For many years, it was the tallest building in the world. Awhile back, I watched a documentary on the Discovery Channel that talked about the construction of that great building. How is such a massive structure able to stand under its own weight, to withstand the high winds that beat against it, and even to survive the occasional airplane strikes against it–and yet it remains strong? The secret of the Empire State Building, the documentary said, is its foundation. The documentary showed some 1920s newsreel footage of workers pouring thousands of pounds of concrete and steel beams into the hole beneath the building. The secret of the Empire State Building’s greatness is its foundation.

How can you make sure that your faith remains strong in spite of the adversity, the attacks, and even the doubts that beat against your faith? The secret is making sure that you have a strong foundation. And that is what the book of Romans is all about. The book of Romans is the strong foundation for the Christian faith.

Romans was a letter written to a particular group of Christians in a particular setting, yet the content in the letter applies to all of us. Because it is a letter, it follows the form of a letter. We do not write that many letters anymore, do we? We usually communicate through email, Facebook, texting, or Twitter. But if you have something really important to send somebody, you will send it in a letter. And today’s letters have a form to them. At the top, you put the date. Then you put the address. Next is the salutation, then the body of the letter, and so on. In Paul’s day when you wrote a letter, you also followed a particular form, but it was different than ours. Letters in that time started with the name of the writer, followed by the name of the recipient. Then you would include a word of greeting, followed by the body of the letter. The writer, recipient, and greeting are what we find in the first seven verses of Romans 1. But far from being a simple formality, these introductory words from Paul to the Roman Christians are packed with significant truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Romans 1:1, the sender of the letter identifies himself with one word: “Paul.” Some people think that God changed his name from Saul to Paul after his conversion. But that is not true; Paul always had two names. Saul was his Jewish name that was given to him by his Jewish father. But because he was born in Tarsus and was a Roman citizen, he was also given the Roman name Paul. He was both Saul and Paul from the beginning. Interestingly, the word “Paul” means “small.” We know from extrabiblical information that he was small in stature even though, as we will see in the book of Romans, he was mighty in faith.

The Choice

The blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.

[Deuteronomy 11:27-28]

As the Israelites stood on the brink of the Promised Land, Moses was saying to them, “For 40 years you have experienced both blessings from God and curses from God. Which do you want for your future?” For the Israelites, God’s blessings meant prosperity. They had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Now God had promised to give them a land that was bountiful and fruitful, and would provide for all their needs. “It is yours,” Moses told them, “if you obey God.” But material prosperity is not the only kind of blessing God gives us. Sometimes the blessings of obeying God include harmonious and fulfilling relationships with other people. Sometimes God’s blessing means protection from evil and calamity in our lives. Sometimes God’s blessing results in peace of mind no matter what is happening around us. God was saying, “If you obey Me, there are real and tangible benefits that you will experience.”

In Deuteronomy 11, the word “curses” can be translated “discipline.” For 40 years, the Israelites had experienced the discipline of God. They saw God open the ground and swallow the rebellious leaders of Israel. They experienced fiery bites of serpents because of their disobedience. They had seen Miriam, Moses’ sister, struck with leprosy because of her disobedience. They had seen God discipline Moses because of his disobedience. They had seen the discipline of God. Moses was saying, “Having seen both, which do you want for your future? If you want God’s blessings, then obey Him. If you want God’s discipline, then disobey Him.”

If you want to experience God’s curses, then disobey Him or simply neglect Him in your life. I am not suggesting that all problems in your life are the result of disobeying or ignoring God, but some of them are. If you are a child of God, then the Bible says that He loves you too much to allow you to continue to disobey Him or ignore Him without any consequences. In fact, the Bible promises that if you are a child of God and you are living disobediently to God or wandering away from God, then He will send painful discipline into your life–not because He hates you but because He loves you. Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” If you are a child of God and disobey God or ignore His commands, then there will be real consequences in your life.

Today, you and I face the same choice that the Israelites did. As you stand on the brink of a new year, you need to ask yourself, “What do I want for myself and my family in 2018? Do I want God’s blessings, or do I want His discipline?”

Evening Devotional

Jesus’s Claim to Be the Only Way

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

[John 14:6]

Did Jesus believe that there are multiple paths to God or that there is only one way to God? Let’s look at what Jesus said about the idea of God’s exclusive offer of salvation.

First, Jesus taught there are two possible eternal destinations for people. In Matthew 25:46, talking about the judgment, Jesus said, “[The unrighteous] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” We are not all going to the same place when we die. The Bible says there are two distinct destinations for everyone who dies.

Second, Jesus taught that most people will spend eternity in hell. Not long ago, someone was telling me about his visit to another country. He said, “With the billions of people there who don’t know Christ, it makes you wonder how Christianity can be the only way of salvation.” The fact that only a few and not the many are going to be saved verifies that Jesus was telling the truth, because Jesus said the majority of humanity will spend eternity in hell. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” According to Jesus, there are two spiritual paths in the world: one that leads to eternal life, and one that leads to eternal death. Most of humanity is on the road that leads to eternal death.

Third, Jesus taught that He is the exclusive way to heaven. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” When people accuse you of being intolerant and hateful because you insist that Christ is the only path that leads to heaven, remind them that you are not making up that doctrine; you are only repeating the words of the founder of your faith, Jesus Christ. When people have a problem with exclusivity, it is because they have a problem with Jesus.

Jesus wasn’t the only one who taught that He is the exclusive way of salvation. The New Testament writers also said Jesus is the only way to heaven. Think about the apostle Paul. In Romans 1:16, he said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Paul said there is only one way to be saved. Or think about the apostle Peter. What did Peter say about the exclusivity of Jesus? After he saw the resurrected Christ, Peter was transformed into a courageous defender of the faith. One time the Jewish officials told him to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. How did Peter respond? In Acts 4:12, he said, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” There are not many names; there is no other name except the name of Jesus. He is the only way to eternal life.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Morning Devotional

Jesus’s Formula for Success

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.

[Philippians 2:5]

Yesterday, we saw King Herod’s formula for success. Today we will contrast Herod’s formula for success with that of another King who is found in Matthew 2, the real King of the Jews: King Jesus. What is the philosophy that guided Jesus’s life and His desire for success?

To answer that question, we will look at Philippians 2:3-5. Paul says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” There are several mottos that sum up the attitude that governed Jesus’s life.

Motto number one: “If you’ve got it, you don’t have to flaunt it.” You know one way to spot a weak leader? He is always running around reminding everybody that he is in charge. Jesus never had to do that. Philippians 2:6 says, “Although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself.” Jesus is co-equal to God the Father. He existed from the very beginning, and He will exist for all eternity. Jesus is not a subservient figure to God. He is equal to God the Father. So why was Jesus, co-equal with God, willing to take off His heavenly robe and come to earth to empty Himself?

That leads to the second motto that describes Jesus’s philosophy: “Others first.” In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The fact that God was willing to implant His being in that tiny embryo in Mary’s womb has great implications for all of us. The incarnation, the coming of God in the flesh, means that God understands you. He has walked where you have walked. There is no heartache, no trial, no sadness you face that Jesus Himself has not experienced.

But the primary reason God took human form is the reason Paul mentions: “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). At Christmastime, we try to work up all this sentimentality over a baby being born in a manger. But if we are honest, there is nothing unusual about babies being born. Babies are born all the time. The story of Christmas begins with the manger, but it has to move to the cross before you understand the significance. This baby was not any baby; He was God in the flesh. He was a baby who was born to die. And the reason He came to die on a cross was so that He could take the punishment from God that you and I deserve for our sins. The Bible says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And because of that, our deserved payment for sin is eternal death. Every one of us deserves to spend eternity in hell, separated from God. Jesus came to satisfy the wrath of God that we all deserve.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Evening Devotional

Two Kings, Two Philosophies, Two Destinies

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

[Philippians 2:9-11]

One motto that explains the attitude of Christ regarding success is this: “The way up is down.”

For all their differences, King Herod and King Jesus shared one thing in common–they both died excruciating deaths. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Herod died of “ulcerated entrails, putrefied and maggot-filled organs, constant convulsions, foul breath, and neither physicians nor warm baths led to his recovery.” Jesus, the Son of God, died from the most painful type of death known to man: crucifixion. But that is where the similarity ends.

When Herod died, his body rotted in the grave, and his spirit was dispatched to an eternity in hell. When Jesus, the Son of God died, on the third day God raised His body from the dead. Forty days later, He ascended into heaven, and He is coming back again. Paul says in Philippians 2:9-11, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Herod and Jesus. Two different kings, two different philosophies, two different destinies.

Herod said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” “Don’t get mad; get even.” “Do unto others before they can do unto you.” Jesus said, “If you’ve got it, you don’t have to flaunt it.” “Others first.” “The way up is down.”

Which path are you following to success and significance? Herod embraced the world’s philosophy for success, and his life ended in humiliation. Jesus embraced God’s formula for success, and the result for Him is eternal exaltation. God says the way to be great is to be a servant. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

That’s what Christmas is all about.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~