Highways To Zion

Highways to Zion is a weekly devotional message on WVMC FM designed to encourage you in your daily walk with Christ through lessons from everyday life.  Here are the archive's of past devotional messages.

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Week of November 23rd

GIVE THANKS

Psalm 136 begins with the words, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His loving kindness is everlasting." After two more verses exhorting us to give thanks, the writer gives an overview of God’s acts of loving kindness toward Israel. These include His acts of creation, redemption from slavery in Egypt, rescue of His people from the armies of Pharaoh, guidance through the wilderness, defeat of mighty kings on their behalf, endowing them with a land of their own, and remembering us in our low estate. Remembering God’s gracious acts on our behalf is always a good way to spur us to give thanks.

When God finished his work of creation, He looked at all He had made and said it was "very good" (see Genesis 1:31). In spite of war, injustice, prejudice, and pollution, this old world is still a very beautiful, nurturing place. And God made it just for us. Thank Him for making the blue sky, the green grass, the sunshine to warm us, and the rain to water the earth. Thank Him for the picture of new life every spring, the abundance of harvest in the summer, the dazzling brilliance of the fall foliage, and the serenity of new-fallen snow.

God’s redemption of the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt foreshadows the redemption of God’s people from slavery to sin, which was accomplished at the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. In Romans 6, the Apostle Paul tells us we have been released from the grip of sin’s control. "Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be made powerless, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin . . . for sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Rom. 6:6,14). How grateful I am for God’s amazing grace that provided a way for my escape from the bondage of sin.

Just as Pharaoh’s armies pursued the Israelites, so the evils of our culture pursue us daily and seek to recapture us. But the truth of God is that Jesus’ sacrifice was adequate not only to redeem us, but also to rescue us ongoing. Galatians 1:4 says, "the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age." Thank God that His activity in our lives does not end with our salvation, but continues as He sanctifies us and preserves us in the midst of a perverse generation.

And as we make our way through this life, which at times can seem very much like a wilderness, we can have confidence that God is leading us. In Psalm 23:3, David says of the Lord, his Shepherd, "He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake." And Isaiah the prophet assures God’s people that, "He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you . . . Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left." Thank you, Lord, that you have not left us alone, without direction, but You lead us by your indwelling Holy Spirit.

While we may not experience human authorities opposing us, the Scripture tells us that we do war against rulers in the unseen realm. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). And the good news is that the war has already been won. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross won complete victory over sin, death, and Satan and his forces. Col.2:15 sums it up succinctly: "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through [the cross]." Are you weary and wounded from the battle? Take heart, and give thanks to God that Jesus has won the victory!

God gave the people of Israel a land to be their home. It was a land "flowing with milk and honey" (see Exodus 3:8), a good place to live. God made the earth for us, and life here is pretty good. But on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus said, "In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3). We can’t begin to imagine the wonders of the new heaven and new earth. Or will we even care what our surroundings look like in comparison to being in the presence of Jesus? Thank you, Lord, that though we live now in these fallen, mortal bodies on a beautiful, but imperfect world, we can know that "our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20). We will have an eternal home far beyond anything we could imagine.

Just as God saw the suffering of His people in Egypt and took action to rescue them, so He sees our broken and helpless condition. King David wrote in Psalm 103:13, "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." When Jesus was criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners, He said, "it is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32). One of the greatest gifts God can give to anyone is to see himself as he truly is – fallen, broken, and desperately in need of a Savior. Then we can truly give thanks for "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24).

Think back over your own personal history. Remember how God saved you from the things that held you captive. Remember how He has delivered you from the temptations of this age. Remember the finality of Christ’s work and the totality of His victory. Remember that you have a place that Jesus is preparing just for you, in heaven, in His presence. Remember how He has met you in your weakness and trials. Remember, and give thanks.

© J.H.Nichols 2004


Week of November 2nd

ENJOYING GOD

Some people are easier to enjoy being with than others. The people we enjoy being with the most are those who love and accept us just as we are. They don’t view us with a judgmental eye; they don’t try to manipulate us or make us feel guilty. They are not "high-maintenance," requiring our unending efforts to maintain the relationship. They neither envy nor pity us, but are content to be our friends no matter our station in life. May I propose that God is just such a friend?

The Westminster Catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It does not say it is to worship God and serve Him; nor does it say to fear God and obey Him forever. It says the thing God wants most for his human creatures is that they glorify Him and enjoy being with Him.

God does, in fact, love us despite the fact that we are sinners who are completely incapable of making ourselves acceptable to Him. He demonstrated this love "in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). Jesus’ death removed the barrier of sin that separated us from God; His perfect life is now how God sees as acceptable those who belong to Christ.

God is the righteous and holy Judge, before whom no one will offer any excuses. As Hebrews 10:30-31 says, "For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God." Yet because Jesus knew He would take the wrath of God against all sin, He was able to say, "He who hears My word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life" (John 5:24). God’s righteous judgment was executed against His Son, and so He no longer looks at Christ’s people with a judgmental eye, but with love and compassion.

Knowing how utterly sinful we are and how great a price Jesus paid to purchase our forgiveness seems like it ought to increase our sense of guilt. But from the very beginning of His ministry Jesus declared His mission to be "to bring good news to the afflicted . . . to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners" (Isa. 61:1, Luke 2:18). And later He said, "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). The Old Testament sacrificial system, while it pictured the sacrifice of Christ, was incomplete, that is, it did not really take away people’s sins, but was a constant reminder to them that they were sinful (see Heb. 10:1-18). Jesus offered Himself as one sacrifice for sins for all time (v. 10, 12) and consequently God does not remember our sins against us any more (v.17). That is the truth and that is true freedom from guilt.

If ever there were a perfect example of "high maintenance relationships," the sacrificial system was it. I’ve often wondered how the Jews of old had time to do much of anything else besides bring their offerings and sacrifices. In contrast to this, the only thing we need to do to maintain our relationship with God is to continue to trust Him and do what He says. While this is not always an easy thing to do, it does get to the heart of matters more effectively than symbolic acts. The Bible’s positive admonitions to good works and personal transformation may be summarized by Eph. 2:10. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." And 2 Cor. 9:8, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." Whatever God calls us to do, whether outward good works toward others or inward cooperating with His Spirit in our own sanctification, we may be sure He will provide the grace to do it.

God knows how frail we are, how incapable we are of being "perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Our sin is abhorrent to Him. Yet in His compassion, He accepts our weaknesses, delighting to work in and through such lowly creatures to demonstrate His character to the world and bring glory to Himself. "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that he may nullify the things that are" (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

Because of Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension to make continual intercession for us before the Father, we can know we are loved, forgiven, reconciled to God, saved from His wrath, bathed in His love, showered with His grace, and promised an eternal inheritance with Christ. What’s not to enjoy about that?


© Judy Nichols 2014


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