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A Little Piece of Bread

“Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for [the Lord] Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

God promises to provide for all your needs.

In World War II the death of many adults left many orphans. At the close of the war, the Allies provided some camps to feed the orphans and to try and find a place to relocate them. The children began to develop and grow, receiving the finest food and care. But in one of the camps, the officials became perplexed because the children couldn’t sleep. They would eat three good meals, but at night they would lie awake. The camp authorities brought in some doctors to do a study of these orphans to find out why they couldn’t sleep.

The doctors came up with a solution. Every night when the little children were put to bed, someone would come down the row of beds and place in each little hand a piece of bread. So the last thing the children experienced at night was grasping a piece of bread. In a matter of days they were all sleeping through the night. Why? Even though they were fed to the full during the day, experience had taught them that there was no hope for tomorrow. When they had that bread tucked in their hands, they knew that at least they would have breakfast the next day.

Similarly, God has given you a piece of bread for your hand. That bread is this promise: “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). If you have that piece of bread in your hand, you can sleep.

You don’t need to stockpile for the future. God is the owner of everything in the world, and He controls all the assets to provide for you because you are His child. Life for the Christian consists not in the abundance of things he possesses (Luke 12:15), but in being content with the things that he has (Heb. 13:5).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His promise to provide for all your needs.

For Further Study

In Psalm 37:25, what was David’s testimony about the Lord?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

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August 21 – Jairus’s True Faith

“A synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live’” (Matthew 9:18).

Jairus’s belief that the Lord Jesus could honor his request to revive his daughter from death is especially extraordinary because Jesus had not yet performed a resurrection miracle. He had performed many healing miracles, but up to this point He had not brought someone back from the dead. So there was no precedent for such a request, yet Jairus asked it in faith.

Jairus’s faith surpassed that of the centurion, who believed Christ could “speak” his servant well prior to death (Matt. 8:9–10). It also topped that of Martha, who believed Jesus could have kept her brother Lazarus from dying, but relinquished hope once he died, even when Jesus said he would rise again (John 11:21, 23–24). With such unsurpassed faith that the Lord could resurrect his daughter by a mere touch, Jairus undoubtedly trusted Him for forgiveness of sins and newness of spiritual life, for salvation.

This episode also demonstrates that Jesus was not a religious guru with servants doing His every bidding, or a monk removed from everyday life, or a potentate at the top of a religious hierarchy who received people only through several layers of intermediaries. Instead He was the true Son of God who “became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and ministered personally and directly to meet believing requests of men such as Jairus.

Ask Yourself

Is your faith limited to the precedent of what you’ve seen Jesus do in the past? Or are you willing to believe Him for more than your eye has seen or your ear has heard? Bring a big need before Him today—in believing faith—and continue to watch for His answer.



From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.

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August 20 – Jairus’s Sense of Need

“A synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live’” (Matthew 9:18).

The accounts of this incident by Mark (5:22) and Luke (8:41) identify the synagogue official as Jairus. And everything he did in this encounter with Jesus demonstrated his humility and sincerity. His request of the Lord was a selfless one for something humanly impossible, and by making it he respected Christ’s power, compassion, and grace. Seemingly unworried about the reaction of his fellow religious leaders, he knew that only Jesus could help his daughter who had just died.

The Holy Spirit had obviously already worked in Jairus’s heart to bring him to this point. His request shows absolute faith that Jesus was able to do what was asked: “come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” Jairus’s sense of need was so urgent that he swallowed his fear and pride and came to Jesus without hesitation or doubt.

Often some tragedy such as this drives a person to Jesus Christ. Those who, unlike Jairus, are unaware of need in their lives will usually have no hunger for God. That’s why in evangelism, it is important to show someone their need of salvation and therefore of Christ as the only way to receive it. Jairus saw the emptiness of human resources in this situation and now knew Jesus was his last best hope. He may not have approached the Lord out of the purest motive, because his prime concern was his daughter’s life and his own despair. So his first thought was not solely to glorify Christ, but he did trust Jesus for help in bringing his child back—and he found Him truly accessible.

Ask Yourself

What needs do those around you have, perhaps without even knowing it? Identify several of them. As you go about your day, be aware of the needs they’re expressing. And as opportunities for spiritual conversation arise, show them the answer to their need in Christ Jesus.



From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.

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The Lord Who Provides

“Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, ‘In the mount of the Lord it will be provided’” (Genesis 22:13-14).

When God provides for a believer, He’s being true to His name.

The Old Testament gives God many names, but one of the most lovely is Jehovah-Jireh, translated in verse 14 of today’s passage as “The Lord Will Provide.” It is so much a characteristic of God that it’s His name. We would never question that God is love and great and mighty and holy and just and good. But some question whether God provides. They doubt and are afraid that God isn’t going to meet their needs. That is exactly what the Lord speaks to in Matthew 6:25-34 when He says, in summary, “Don’t worry about what to eat, drink, or wear.” The Lord is still Jehovah-Jireh. That is His name, and it is synonymous with one of His attributes.

God is a God who provides, and that is why David said, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread” (Ps. 37:25). The world digs and scratches and claws to make sure it has enough. Unlike the world, your Father knows your needs, and He will always give you what you need.

You don’t have to own everything, and you don’t have to control everything to meet your needs. You can receive what God gives you to invest in His eternal kingdom and put away all anxiety about your needs. Worship God with your life, and rest assured in His promise to provide for you.

Suggestions for Prayer

First Timothy 6:8 says, “If [you] have food and covering, with these [you] shall be content.” Does contentment characterize your life? If not, confess that to the Lord, and thank Him for the many ways He so faithfully provides for you every day.

For Further Study

Read the following passages, which show God’s faithfulness to provide: Deuteronomy 2:7; 1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 4:1-7. In what different ways does He give that provision?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

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Does Christ Want Us to Give Everything?

by Jeremiah Johnson

Sometimes you know what the sermon is going to be before the pastor even says a word. Certain Bible stories and Scripture passages naturally lead to familiar principles and well-worn applications. It’s not always easy to fight off that arrogant “Been There, Done That” feeling—especially for those of us who grew up in the church.

This passage from Luke’s gospel might prompt a similar response at first glance. Luke records a familiar vignette from the days leading up to Christ’s arrest and execution.

And [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)

You might expect a sermon on that passage to be a short treatise on self-denial, selflessness, humility, sacrificial giving, or vows of poverty—or some other point that is routinely wrung out of those verses. But as John MacArthur explains in his commentary on Luke’s gospel, those meanings and applications are utterly foreign to what is commonly known as the story of “The Widow’s Mites.”

All those ideas, however, are imposed on the narrative; Jesus drew no principle regarding giving from her behavior. The text does not record that He condemned the rich for their giving, or commended the widow for hers. There is no judgment made regarding the true nature of her act, nor is anything said about her attitude, or the spirit in which her gift was given. Since Jesus made no point about giving, neither should the interpreter. [1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Luke 18-24 (Chicago: Moody Publishers 2014), 168.

That might come as a shock to you—it certainly did to me when I first heard John’s sermon on this passage (titled “Abusing the Poor”). But in spite of seemingly universal agreement that this brief passage applies to the act and attitude of our giving, that’s simply not the point of the story.

It is not, as many suggest, a sweet little sidebar about God’s pleasure in our self-sacrifice. If it was, that meaning would be explicit in Christ’s words. It is simply bad hermeneutics to infer, suppose, or jump to conclusions about the point of this passage that extend beyond Christ’s recorded words.

Moreover, if you’re determined to make these verses a lesson about giving—that is, if you interpret Christ’s statement as an affirmation of the widow’s gift—the only legitimate point you can draw from the text is that God wants you to give absolutely everything you have, and resign yourself to a life of destitution. And we know that’s not biblical, because God’s Word is clear elsewhere about the importance of being a good steward with your money.

In fact, the only instance when Christ ever told anyone to give away everything they had was during His conversation with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:21). And we know that the Lord’s words were not a prescription for an alternate means of salvation or a pattern for giving, but a test of the young man’s true affections.

So if this anecdote from Luke’s gospel has nothing to do with giving, what is the point? Why did Luke and the Holy Spirit include it in this gospel account?

The first step to making sense of Luke 21:1-4 is to understand that these verses do not represent a change of topic or train of thought—that they belong in the immediate context of everything Christ said before and after the widow deposited her offering.

We need to remind ourselves from time to time that, while the words of Scripture were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, the chapter and verse numbers are not. In this case, the chapter break inserts a speed bump into Luke’s gospel that the apostle never intended. The verses immediately prior (Luke 20:45-47) contain Christ’s scathing critique and condemnation on the Jewish religious elite.

And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

And who were the scribes? Here’s how John MacArthur explains their place in first-century Israel:

Not all Pharisees were scribes, but the scribes were primarily Pharisees, who were interpreters and teachers of the law of Moses and the traditional rabbinic writings. Their teaching provided the theological framework for the Pharisees’ legalistic system of works-righteousness. The scribes were the dominant force in Judaism, not only theologically, but socially. Their views affected every aspect of life, and they also handled all legal matters, including property, estates, and contracts. They were revered, and given the respectful title of Rabbi (Matthew 23:7). [2] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Luke 18-24, 163.

The influence the scribes wielded was corrupted on several fronts, and their hypocrisy infected the entire nation. Christ’s criticism emphasized several examples of their overweening pride. But their corruption wasn’t limited to haughtiness and self-promotion. As John MacArthur explains,

[Jesus also exposed] a more sinister aspect of their hypocrisy—their rapacious greed that led them to prey on the most defenseless members of society. That the scribes would stoop so low as to “devour widows’ houses” graphically illustrates the intense desire for wealth that characterizes false teachers (cf. Micah 3:5, 11; 2 Peter 2:1-3, 14). . . . The Old Testament teaches that widows are to be protected and cared for (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18; 14:29; 24:17-21; 27:19; Psalm 68:5; 146:9; Proverbs 15:25; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:10), but the scribes consumed their meager resources. They took advantage of their hospitality, cheated them out of their estates, mismanaged their property, and took their houses as pledges for debts that they could never repay. [3] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Luke 18-24, 166.

The moment Jesus finished denouncing the scribes for “devouring widows’ houses” (Luke 20:47), His audience saw the reality of His words borne out in vivid, tragic detail. The widow’s offering was a devastating illustration of the wicked religious system Christ had just condemned. Through her final offering, this widow succumbed to an institutionalized scheme of works-righteousness that had bled her dry. In fact, it likely killed her, as Scripture tells us she gave up “all that she had to live on” (Luke 21:4) in her last-ditch effort to obtain a blessing.

In that sense, her gift was not an example for us to follow but a warning about how false religion preys on people.

As the story of this widow reveals, deceptive, self-righteous religion preys on the weak, the desperate, and the defenseless. Far from being pleased with her giving, Jesus was angry that the so-called worship she had bought into had taken her last cent. The Lord would go on to pronounce judgment on that very apostate Judaism in the next section. [See Luke 21:5-6; and for a more in-depth study of Christ’s condemnation, see John MacArthur’s sermon “Abusive Religion.”]

Money has always been at the heart of satanic religion (cf. Luke 16:14; 19:46; 1 Peter 5:2), consequently abuse of the poor by false religious systems has continued from our Lord’s day to our own. [4] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Luke 18-24, 170.

The corruption of first-century Judaism ought to sound familiar to us. Countless men and women today likewise give what little money they have—and often more than they can afford—to prosperity preachers, faith healers, and other religious hucksters in search of physical and financial blessings. Christian television is dominated by ministries that make outrageous promises of health and wealth if viewers will only first “sow a seed” of financial faith into their coffers. But the only ones who ever get rich are the vile false teachers themselves, while more and more people fall for their lies.

Just as Christ warned His disciples about the danger the scribes presented, we need to be bold and faithful about calling out the wolves who prey on people in God’s name. We need to be clear about what God’s Word says in all matters, and what it doesn’t—leaving these charlatans no room to operate their blasphemous Ponzi schemes.

That’s the lesson we need to take away from the story of this widow—that God’s people cannot idly stand by while false teachers twist the truth and line their pockets in God’s name. We need to be outraged when wolves attempt to fleece God’s flock. And we need to protect and care for those who are most susceptible to their lies.

       

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August 19 – Marks of the True Believer

“‘They put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved’” (Matthew 9:17b).

Like new wine poured into fresh wineskins, everything stays spiritually fresh for the true believer. First, he or she leads a life of unquestioning obedience and follows the Lord without conditions or excuses. Not long before His ascension, Jesus told Peter, “‘Follow Me!’ Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them . . . So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’” (John 21:19–22). Christians don’t question Christ’s will or unwisely compare themselves to other believers.

Second, like Matthew who invited sinners to his house to see Jesus, true saints have compassion on the unsaved. They want to see them saved, even though at times that desire gets supplanted by selfish concerns. Because they know “the fear of the Lord, [they] persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). The love of Christ will prompt them to witness to others (v. 14).

Finally, if we are truly Christ’s children, we will not follow any sort of legalism or ritualism as the scribes and Pharisees did. We’ll realize soon enough that these are utterly incompatible with the new life in Jesus Christ. It should also be clear to us that what was begun in the Spirit cannot be finished in the flesh (Gal. 3:3). The new wine of salvation and sanctification has no place back in the old wineskins of our life before conversion.

Ask Yourself

Is your life devoid of some of these freedoms? Does your heart often—or perhaps incessantly—cause Christian faith to feel as though it’s just another burden or pressure rather than the pure expression of who you are? What’s standing between you and abundant life?



From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.

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Recognizing God’s Ownership

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24:1).

God owns everyone and everything.

One day when John Wesley was away from home, someone came running to him, saying, “Your house has burned down! Your house has burned down!” Wesley replied, “No, it hasn’t, because I don’t own a house. The one I have been living in belongs to the Lord, and if it has burned down, that is one less responsibility for me to worry about.”

John Wesley viewed his material possessions from a biblical perspective, for Scripture makes clear that God owns everything. In 1 Chronicles 29:11 David prayed, “All that is in heaven and in earth is Yours” (NKJV). God is the sole owner of everything, including you, your family, your house, and your car. Therefore, if you lose a possession, you don’t really lose it because you never owned it.

Although God does own everything, He entrusts us to be wise stewards of all that He gives to us. Theologian Walter Kaiser wrote, “Material things, goods, and natural resources are in and of themselves ‘good,’ for they are all made by God: that is the constant refrain in the creation narrative of Genesis 1—‘and God saw that it was good.’ . . . The misuse of goods comes from unholy people. Forgetting that: (1) these are creations by God, (2) God gave men and women the ability to earn these possessions, and (3) goods must not be exalted to the level of ultimate or absolute concern and worth, people begin to worship the created realm rather than the Creator himself. Such idolizing of the things of this world violates the first commandment and leads to an inversion of values in life.” We should worship God as the owner of all things, thank Him for whatever He entrusts to us, and never allow our possessions to be a cause to forget Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you be always mindful that He owns everything and to view the possessions He gives you in a way that honors Him.

For Further Study

Read the following verses, which show that God owns everything: Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 25:23; Psalm 50:10-11; 89:11; Haggai 2:8.



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

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Are We Physically Healed by Jesus’ Stripes?

By Cameron Buettel

Most of us have heard of faith healers. They exist almost exclusively within the charismatic movement and claim to be divinely gifted to supernaturally heal the sick.

For these miracle workers to have any longevity—some of them have thriving ministries that last for decades—they need to develop the illusion of legitimacy. Sensational claims and spectacular crusades certainly play a role in drawing an enthusiastic crowd. But enthusiasm only gets you so far; they also require a façade of biblical authority. And for many of these false teachers, Isaiah 53:5 is the go-to verse, ripped from its context and contorted to fit their self-serving interpretation.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5, NKJV) 

Isaiah 53 is the most renowned Old Testament passage on Christ’s atoning work. John MacArthur refers to it as “the first gospel” or The Gospel According to God. It contains vivid and precise prophetic imagery concerning Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. And the “stripes” mentioned in verse five refer to the lashes Christ received at the hands of Roman soldiers.

Word-Faith charismatic teachers routinely claim that Isaiah 53:5 is proof that physical healing is inherent in the atonement—that it was won by Christ’s physical suffering. For example, Joseph Prince argues that physical healing is the right of all believers—something they can simply “confess” into reality:

But what came on [Jesus] was not just the whip stripping the flesh off His bare back, but your sicknesses and diseases. Each time He was whipped, every form of sickness and disease, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, bird flu and dengue fever, came upon Him. “The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Today, healing is your right because Jesus has paid the price for your healing. So if the devil says, “You cannot be healed,” just declare, “Jesus has paid for my healing. Disease has no right to be in my body. I am healed in Jesus’ name!”

Every curse of sickness that was supposed to fall on you fell on Jesus instead. He bore every one of those stripes, so that you can walk in divine health all the days of your life. The price has been paid so that you can rise up and get out of your bed of affliction! [1] http://www.josephprince.org/daily-grace/grace-inspirations/single/by-jesus-stripes-you-are-healed

Prince’s view of the atonement is really only a potential atonement. It doesn’t actually deliver you from sickness but rather gives you the ability to “rise up and get out of your bed of affliction.” And how do you activate the atonement to receive the healing that’s rightfully yours? Kenneth Hagin’s testimony provides the answer.

Hagin staked the credibility of his healing ministry on 1 Peter 2:24—a New Testament quotation of Isaiah 53:5—and his claims regarding his personal experience of divine healing:

Some years ago, I was awakened at 1:30 A.M. with severe symptoms in my heart and chest. I knew something about such symptoms because I had been bedfast and given up to die with a heart condition as a teenager.

The Devil said to my mind, “You’re going to die. This is one time you’re not going to get your healing.” I pulled the covers over my head and began to laugh. I didn’t feel like laughing, but I just laughed anyway for about ten minutes. Finally, the Devil asked me what I was laughing about.

“I’m laughing at you!” I said. “You said I wasn’t going to get my healing. Ha, ha, Mr. Devil. I don’t expect to get my healing! Jesus already got it for me! Now, in case you can’t read, I’ll quote 1 Peter 2:24 for you.” And I did.

After quoting the last phrase, “By whose stripes ye were healed,” I said, “Now if we were—I was! So I don’t have to get it. Jesus already got it! And because Jesus got it for me, I accept it, and claim it, and I have it. Now you just gather up your little symptoms and get out of here, Mr. Devil!” [2] Kenneth E. Hagin, Faith Food Devotions (Tulsa, OK: Faith Library Publications, 1998) Page unknown.

For Hagin, and countless other Word-Faith preachers like him, supernatural healings need only to be spoken into reality. Joyce Meyer expands on that idea, arguing that Satan is involved in the illegal activity of inflicting “sickness on us, and there is no good reason to let him do it.”

How do you stand against sickness? For starters, plead the blood of Jesus against the sickness and over every part of your body—your immune system, your organs, your blood cells and so on. Then speak the Word over your body. You can pray, “Father, I believe it’s Your will that I be in health. I believe that by the stripes of Jesus, I am healed. Your Word is health and life to my body, and it will accomplish that which You please and purpose.” [3] http:/www.joycemeyer.org/OurMinistries/Magazine/0703/Healing+and+Wholeness.htm

So according to Joyce Meyer, healing is a right but it isn’t always fait accompli for the Christian. It’s something that’s been provided for believers, but they need to successfully claim it. It needs to be confessed into reality—spoken into existence through the power of faith. Like Joseph Prince, Meyer describes a potential atonement that requires our activation. That’s a cruel doctrine to inflict on Christians who have sought healing but continue to spend their lives in wheelchairs, on respirators, and under medication.

The belief that Christ’s physical suffering somehow guarantees our physical healing in this life isn’t merely an abuse of Scripture—it’s a form of mental and spiritual torture to those who sit under such false teaching. It’s a lie that has left many churchgoers disappointed with the gospel. Rather than longing for their heavenly home, they are gripped by unrealized expectations in the here and now. The sickness they struggle with leaves them feeling like failures who lack the necessary faith to claim the healing that’s rightfully theirs.

The fact that everyone still dies should be proof enough that on this side of eternity all people are still subject to Adam’s curse. Sickness is a very real part of life in this fallen world, and no amount of claiming divine health is going to change that. Even the disciples of the early church didn’t rebuke their physical ailments into oblivion—they dealt with them as best they could like everybody else.

Paul left Trophimus behind during one of his missionary journeys because of illness (2 Timothy 4:20). He recommended wine to Timothy for his “stomach and [his] frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23). Epaphroditus got so sick he nearly died (Philippians 2:25–27). And sometimes God sent sickness to discipline members of His church (1 Corinthians 11:29–32).

So what does Isaiah 53:5 promise Christians if it’s not an offer of immediate, unblemished health for all Christians? John MacArthur sheds clear light on the matter in his commentary on 1 Peter 2:24 (which, noted earlier, quotes from Isaiah 53:5):

Christ died for believers to separate them from sin’s penalty, so it can never condemn them. The record of their sins, the indictment of guilt that had them headed for hell, was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:12–14). Jesus paid their debt to God in full. In that sense, all Christians are freed from sin’s penalty. They are also delivered from its dominating power and made able to live to righteousness (cf. Romans 6:16–22).

Peter describes this death to sin and becoming alive to righteousness as a healing: by His wounds you were healed. This too is borrowed from the Old Testament prophet when he wrote “by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Wounds is a better usage than “scourging” since the latter may give the impression that the beating of Jesus produced salvation. Both Isaiah and Peter meant the wounds of Jesus that were part of the execution process. Wounds is a general reference—a synonym for all the suffering that brought Him to death. And the healing here is spiritual, not physical. Neither Isaiah nor Peter intended physical healing as the result in these references to Christ’s sufferings. Physical healing for all who believe does result from Christ’s atoning work, but such healing awaits a future realization in the perfections of heaven. In resurrection glory, believers will experience no sickness, pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:1–4; 22:1–3). [4] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Peter (Chicago: Moody Press, 2004) 171–72.

To be fair, Matthew’s gospel does seem to make a connection between Isaiah 53:5 and physical healings that occurred during Christ’s earthly ministry:

They brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16–17)

But was Christ’s healing ministry His end game, or did it point to an eternal cure? After all, the people he healed still died. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he still eventually died again. People were healed but the curse wasn’t reversed. Jesus died for the sins of men, but men still continued to sin. He defeated death but His followers continued to die. There is an ultimate fulfillment of Christ’s atoning work that will not be realized this side of eternity (Romans 8:22–25). That’s why John MacArthur rightly observes:

Those who claim that Christians should never be sick because there is healing in the atonement should also claim that Christians should never die, because Jesus also conquered death in the atonement. The central message of the gospel is deliverance from sin. It is the good news about forgiveness, not health. Christ was made sin, not disease, and He died on the cross for our sin, not our sickness. As Peter makes clear, Christ’s wounds heal us from sin, not from disease. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). [5] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 8–15 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987) 19.

There is healing in Christ’s atonement but it’s obviously not fully realized in the present. Christians and non-Christians alike still feel the effects of the curse, and will ultimately die. Our ultimate perfect healing is certain, but it awaits us in the same way that we still await our resurrection bodies. And that shouldn’t bring disappointment to this present life. Rather, it is a glorious future reality for us to anticipate with great joy.

       

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August 17 – The Right Perspective on Fasting

“‘But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast’” (Matthew 9:15).

Fasting is meaningless if done merely from habit and if it doesn’t derive from a deep concern over some spiritual need. And as we saw yesterday, even the best and most foundational spiritual practices, if not done with sincere motives and right purposes, are only hypocritical and pretentious.

Jesus was obviously referring to His crucifixion when He said He would be taken away from the disciples. From that time on, it would be fitting to fast and mourn. Fasting naturally comes from a broken and mourning heart, but if it is performed as a shallow, mechanical ritual only, it is displeasing to God.

Jesus’ emphasis on internal matters such as forgiveness shows us that fasting must be held in the proper context of what’s truly important. It also demonstrates that He brought us radically different teachings and practices from those of traditional Judaism or any other religious traditions—Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, any sects and cults—that can stress externalism, ritualism, or any man-centered habits. When we fast, Jesus wants us to do so in light of His new covenant—not the old with its forms and shadows—and in a way that increases our compassion for others, causes us to be more humble and sacrificial, and gives Him all the praise and glory.

Ask Yourself

Are there ways to fast besides abstaining from food? In what other ways could you experience the spiritual benefits of fasting—the clarity of communication with God, the taming of selfish desires, the renewal of priorities?



From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.

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