This past year has been a wonderful time of growth as we’ve read through the Bible each day. Thank you so much to all our writers and moderators who have helped make this past year such a success! Even though we’ve finished our Bible Reading plan, we are going to keep growing and pursuing God in this upcoming year! Subscribe to the blog to get devotions about Bible Study, gaining Wisdom, how to live in the Spirit, and more!
After Jesus radically cleansed the Jerusalem Temple by driving out the thieves that were there, he came to a fig tree because he was hungry. Unfortunately, the fig tree was not producing any figs at this point in time. In a bizarre twist in the story, Jesus condemns the barren tree and it begins to wither. What is even more confusing about this story is that Jesus never explains it.
This is what most people today believe happened with this tree: Jesus was condemning the current Jerusalem for producing the fruit of righteousness that God desired. The story has basically nothing to do with the tree itself; it was a prophetic condemnation on Israel for not doing what God wanted them to do. They were simply going through the motions of their religious practice, and lacked what they truly needed: a love for their God, and a love for the people around them.
We do not want to be condemned by Jesus for not “bearing fruit”. We need to make sure that we are producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in our lives, and “being Jesus” to the rest of the world. We need to act as faithful stewards of the grace that has been given to us. We need to be “good trees”, producing fruit that God would be proud of.
In Matthew 20, Jesus gives a parable about a man who went to hire servants to work in his vineyard. He hired one worker at 9:00am, another around noon, a third at about 3:00pm, and a final servant around 5:00pm. At the end of the day, he gave them all the wages that he had promised to them. However, the first worker was very upset that the last worker got the same amount of money that he had gotten (I’m sure we would react the same way).
The point that Jesus is trying to make in this parable is that, no matter how long you have been following Christ, you will all get the same reward in the end. Now, that may be troubling for some, but it is important to remember that none of us deserve the gift of immortal life (Romans 6:23). We need to be appreciative of the fact that we will inherit immortal life because of Christ, and not be mad that somebody else didn’t “put as much work into it” as we have. Anyone at any time can accept Christ before he comes back, and have the same reward.
The challenge today for you is to offer this gift to somebody else that has not accepted Christ as their Savior. Don’t allow them to say, “It’s too late for me”; it does not matter when you believe the gospel. The most important thing is that you just believe. Offer the gift of salvation to someone today; you just may save their life.
We often wonder about what sort of rewards are waiting for us when we start a task. If we offer to mow the lawn for our parents, we usually expect some form of reward for that, or if we want to start a job, our first thought is, “How much money will I get from this?” In Matthew 19:27, Peter asks this very question of Jesus. He says, “Behold, we have left everything and followed you; what then will there be for us?”
Don’t you often wonder what will be your reward for following Jesus? This is simply in our human nature to want some form of reward for taking on any task, especially one as demanding as following Jesus. Jesus tells Peter this: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for my name’s sake, will receive a hundred times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Isn’t that a glorious promise from our Savior? Not only will we have to wait for him to come back to inherit immortal life; we can receive some reward now while we wait. This does not mean that we will get rich by any means, but it does mean that you will be given something great in this life for your service to Christ.
What has God given you through Christ? Have you ever had to leave something behind in order to follow him? Today’s challenge is to focus on the good things that God has given you, instead of the negatives that come with following His Son. And remember to always look forward to Christ’s return, where we will inherit immortal life in a perfect world, without sin, sorrow, or pain.
In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus gives his disciples a parable that is related to forgiveness. In the parable, a man is presented before a king to pay back the debt that he owes. Unfortunately for the man, the debt that he owes is extremely high and impossible to pay back. The king is shown to be compassionate, and forgives the man for the debt. The story then takes a turn for the worst; the man does not forgive a slave for the debt that he owes, even though the debt owed to him was absurdly smaller than the debt he owed to the king. He faced great punishment when the king found out.
The principle of this parable is this; forgiveness is crucial to being accepted by God. We have been forgiven our debt of sin before God, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, which is a debt that can never be repaid. We need to have an attitude of forgiveness because of this fact. Nothing that anyone else has done to us can even compare to what Jesus had to go through for us, so we need to be ready to forgive, just as we were forgiven.
Have you forgiven others this week for wronging you? Is there something that you need to let go of? Do you have an attitude of forgiveness today?
After Jesus’ disciples failed to drive out a demon in Matthew 17, Jesus comes along and takes care of it for them. The obvious question they have is, “Why could we not drive it out?” Then Jesus tells them something very powerful: “Because of the littleness of your faith…” We see here that faith is supposed to be the driving force behind everything that we do as Christians; unfortunately, if Jesus were here today, he would probably say the same thing to the majority of us.
What exactly is faith? Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” There are a lot of things that we cannot currently see: God, Jesus, the kingdom of God, the dead rising, sin being wiped out, etc. However, if we have faith that those things are real, or will be made real in the future, then we can accomplish almost anything for the sake of Christ. We need to have unwavering faith that Jesus died for our sins and is coming back again to establish the kingdom of God. Without this hope, what is keeping us going in this life?
How is your faith today? Are you able to believe that the impossible is possible today in the name of Jesus, or are you skeptical of what can happen? “If you have faith as a mustard seed… nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20
In Matthew 16:13-16, Jesus asks his disciples a very important question: “Who do you say that I am?” While others had been calling Jesus by different titles, Peter comes up with the correct answer. He says, “You are the Messiah (Christ), the Son of the living God.” This is a powerful statement that Peter makes here. He is declaring that Jesus is the King and the Savior of the whole world!
Now the same question needs to be asked of us each day; “Who do you say that I am?” Many people claim that Jesus was just a very good moral teacher. Others claim that he was a prophet of God, but not God’s Son. Who is Jesus to you? And how does that impact your spiritual life?
If Jesus truly is the promised ruler of God’s kingdom from 2 Samuel chapter 7 and Daniel chapter 7, then that means that Jesus “makes the rules” for our lives, not the other way around. Accepting Jesus as the Messiah does not simply mean we are forgiven of our sins; it means we have agreed to walk the path that he has set before us. Are you willing to follow Jesus? Even if it is difficult? Who is Jesus to you?
In a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees over traditions that the Pharisees held to, Jesus quotes a passage from Isaiah 29: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” (Matthew 15:8,9 NASB) This is critical for understanding what it truly means to worship God our Father. We cannot merely offer “lip-service” to our God, but need to be truly devoted to Him with our whole hearts.
How many times have we gone into church on Sunday morning, sang songs about God and Jesus, listened to a sermon, and then went home as if nothing has really happened? We have all done this at some point, and we pretend like we have truly been worshipping God by doing this; unfortunately, this is not what God desires. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5, we see what God truly wants: “Hear, O Israel! YHWH is our God, YHWH is one! You shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Jesus himself quoted this passage when someone asked him what the greatest commandment is in Mark 10:29-30. We can see that God does not just want us to say we love Him; He wants us to honestly have a deep relationship with Him as a father. The challenge for us this week is to not merely go to church because we are expected to go every week; let’s go to church because we honestly want to develop a deeper relationship with our God and His Son, Jesus.
Talon Paul is a pastor at the Maple Grove Community Church in Kokomo, IN. He is married to Rebbecca Massie from Ohio, and is originally from Oregon, IL. He has a deep love for God, his church, wrestling, and Pokemon Go.