Evening Devotional

What to Do When Memories Won’t Go Away

A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.

[Proverbs 19:11]

What are we to do if the memories of our sins toward God and others, or other people’s sins toward us, won’t go away? Let me give you some practical suggestions I have found helpful.

First, release those memories if possible. It is true that every experience is chemically and electrically recorded in our brains, but it’s also true that some of the trivial hurts we experience can be dismissed from our consciousness if we choose not to dwell on them. Somebody came to me after a church service and said, “Pastor, I want to ask your forgiveness for something I said to you two years ago.” Well, I didn’t remember what they said. Either when they said it I was preoccupied with something else, or I didn’t think it was that significant. I just let it go. Therefore, it wasn’t part of my consciousness. Whenever possible, we ought to dismiss minor offenses. That’s why Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”

Second, recall your own failures. Admittedly, some of the past wrongs done against us can’t be easily dismissed; they require action. In a former church I served, one of the leaders was caught in immorality. A church member told me, “I can’t look at this person without thinking about what he did. Every time I see that person I think about the sin he committed.” I said, “Let me give you this suggestion. You are not going to be able to quit thinking about that. So whenever you see that person and remember what he did, I want you to recall a sin you have committed–a secret sin so embarrassing that if it were displayed for the whole church to see, you would crawl under the pew. Whenever you look at that leader and recall his sin, remember your sin as well.” That’s what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 7 when He said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (v. 1). Jesus was not saying, “Never make a judgment about anyone or anything.” Instead, He was saying, “Don’t pronounce a final condemnation of declaring that somebody is beyond God’s forgiveness.” He continued, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (v. 2).

Third, when memories of an offense won’t go away, remember your past act of forgiveness. Do you remember the Westerns that used to be on television on Saturday mornings? I watched them all the time, and I even had a little toy set of gun and holsters that I used to wear. The good guys in those television shows never went around with only one gun; they always had two pistols. And when they would confront the evil guy, with lightning speed they would pull both pistols out of the holster. We need to use that same principle whenever we are confronting painful memories. Yes, it is true that we are likely going to recall what somebody did to us, but with lightning speed, we ought also to pull out the other pistol and remember that we forgave that person. Don’t ever pull out one without pulling out the other.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Morning Devotional

Choosing the Apostles

When day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.

[Luke 6:13]

After Jesus prayed all night, “He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles” (Luke 6:13). What is the difference between a disciple and an apostle? A disciple is a follower of a rabbi. A disciple seeks to imitate not only his leader’s words but also his example. To be a disciple of Jesus means to model your attitudes, actions, and affections after Jesus. It means to love what Jesus loved, to act like Jesus acted, and to think like Jesus thought. Then out of Jesus’s disciples came twelve apostles. An apostle is one who is sent forth. The twelve apostles were a unique group chosen to proclaim the message of Jesus.

I observe three things about the list of apostles in Luke 6:14-16, as well as in the similar lists in Matthew 10:2-4 and Mark 3:16-19.

First, the lists begin with Peter. Peter was the leader of the apostles, but do you know what’s interesting? Peter was the greatest failure of all the apostles. He denied Jesus three times. He was a major screw-up as an apostle. Yet Jesus chose Peter to be the leader. Doesn’t that give you hope? It doesn’t matter how much you have failed or what is in your past. God can take your mistakes, forgive them, and redeem them.

Second, the lists end with Judas Iscariot. Judas is the one whose betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver led to Jesus’s crucifixion. You may think, “Why did Jesus choose Judas? Did He make a mistake?” No, it was part of God’s plan. Jesus chose Judas because He knew God could use the evil in Judas’s own heart to accomplish His purpose. God can take evil people and evil circumstances, and He can use them for your good and for His eternal purpose.

Finally, the lists are comprised of young men. When we think about the apostles we tend to think about old guys. However, most Bible scholars believe these men were probably in their late teenage years, early twenties at the most when Jesus chose them to be apostles.

Luke 6:20 tells us that when Jesus began to teach, He turned His gaze toward His disciples. We need to remember that the Sermon on the Mount is a message for Jesus’s followers, not for the unsaved. There is nothing in this passage that tells you how to go heaven when you die. There is nothing about God’s forgiveness through Jesus, the cross, or the blood of Christ. This was a message for Jesus’s disciples. Interestingly, Jesus was in the midst of relentless criticism from the Pharisees, but He did not spend his time answering the criticism of the Pharisees. Instead, He focused on investing His time with His followers.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

Evening Devotional

Jesus’s All-Night Prayer Meeting

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.

[Luke 6:12]

This week we are learning about the Sermon on the Mount. The setting for this sermon is key to understanding what Jesus is saying.

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). What “time” is the verse talking about? The answer is in the preceding verse. “But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus” (v. 11). The Pharisees were enraged by Jesus and His teaching, so they plotted to kill Him. Jesus was aware that His time on earth was very limited, so at this time He went off to pray all night.

Have you come to grips with the fact that your time on earth is limited? The inevitability of death produces one of two reactions. One reaction is to eat, drink, and be merry. If this life is all there is, then you should have all the pleasure, recognition, and money you can get, because one day you are going to die. The second reaction, the one that lasts beyond your death, is to invest your life in something that will outlast it. The Bible says there are only two things that will last for eternity: the souls of people and the Word of God. So if you want to have a life that continues after you die, then you will spend your life investing the Word of God in the souls of people. That’s what Jesus decided to do. He decided to instill His teaching in people.

That is what discipleship is all about. Discipleship is spending your limited time on earth helping other people be faithful followers of Jesus Christ by instilling His Word in them. Remember what Paul said to Timothy? Paul knew his life on earth was limited, so he said to his young protégé, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). We need to entrust the message of the gospel to other men and women who will carry on the faith after we die.

That’s exactly what Jesus did. Jesus knew His time on earth was limited. He wanted to pass along His message to twelve men who would spread it throughout the world. He needed guidance from his heavenly Father about which twelve men to choose, so He had an all-night prayer meeting to seek God’s wisdom in making the right choices.

By the way, what are you so concerned about in your life right now that you would devote just five minutes a day to pray for? Is there anything in your life–your children, your work, the health concern of a friend or yourself–that you are willing to spend five uninterrupted minutes a day praying for? Jesus knew how important prayer was, so He prayed all night.

~ Dr. Robert Jeffress ~

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 ~