Genesis 12, Nehemiah 1, and Psalm 11

Today’s scheduled readings are Genesis 12, Nehemiah 1, and Psalm 11.

This devotional is about Genesis 12.

Every large nation, every big, extended family, every large church or institution or corporation once started out as something small. Even if it scaled up quickly, it began with the idea and ambition of one person or a small group of people.

God promised Abram that he would become “a great nation” (v. 2) when all he had was his wife and nephew. In faith, Abraham believed God’s promises and rearranged his life to be obedient.

That’s verses 1-9. In verse 10 and following, however, Abram acted in fear rather than faith. He instructed his wife to deceive, putting her in jeopardy so that he could protect himself. It was quite a departure from the venture of faith we read about in verses 1-9.

Although Abram was inconsistent in his faith, God was faithful. Because of his promises, God acted supernaturally to extricate Abram and Sarai from the problem that Abram’s unbelief created.

Isn’t it amazing how good God is? He calls us to trust him and is patient with us when our trust in him buckles a little in the knees. If you are the kind of Christian who is always wondering if God still accepts you, let this passage encourage you. None of us is always completely obedient to God at all times. Far from it, actually. It is not our faithfulness that matters; it is the object of our faith. If your faith is in yourself–your consistency, your obedience, your morality, your dependability, or whatever, that will do you know good because you can never be perfect.

If your faith is in God, however, he won’t abandon you when you fail. His character, his promise, and the righteousness of his son applied to us is all that we will ever need.

John 13

Today’s devotional reading comes to us from John 13.

How could the disciples ask Jesus who would betray him (vv. 21-25), see a very clear indicator that Judas would be the one who betrayed him (vv. 26-27), but not be able to understand (vv. 28-29)?

One reason is, of course, spiritual blindness. There were many events in the life of Christ that were clear but not comprehended by the disciples of Jesus. This is, in one sense, merely one more of those.

But another reason is that Judas sure seemed like an authentic disciple. He did all the works the other disciples did. He seemed as genuine and pious as them all. This is why no one stood up and said, “I knew it!” when they saw Jesus hand Judas the bread (vv. 26-27). Instead of seeing who the sign Jesus gave them pointed to, they devised a more plausible explanation (v. 29).

This shows us how difficult it can be to distinguish genuine believers in Christ from the impostors masquerading among us. Some impostors will be revealed by sin and a lack of repentance as we saw here in Judas’s life. But other impostors, the scriptures seem to indicate, will successfully deceive everyone else and even themselves right up until the day of judgment (see Matt 7:21-22).

This should make us careful about questioning the salvation of others. Judas betrayed Jesus but Peter denied him (vv. 37-38). Those were not the same sin or even equivalent in wickedness but they both looked like unbelievers in the moment. So when people we love and respect sin, watch for repentance rather than assuming or suspecting unbelief in Christ.

These stories should give us pause, though. While assurance of salvation is real and really important, the Bible teaches that there are impostors among us. Search your heart and soul and be certain of your own faith in Christ. Then love other Christians and live for Christ to demonstrate your genuine faith in him (vv. 34-35).

2 Corinthians 13

2 Corinthians 13
Today we finish the Corinthian correspondence by reading 2 Corinthians 13.

Paul wrapped up this letter by warning the Corinthians again about his coming visit. He was hopeful, as we saw in earlier chapters, that his visit would be warm and affirming. Yet, he was concerned about how he would be received and whether or not he would have to deal with those who were in sin through church discipline (v. 2b). Rather than waiting for Paul to arrive and sort the situation out, it would be better if the church examined and corrected itself. So, Paul urged them in verses 5-6 to examine themselves “to see whether you are in the faith.” If someone is a genuine believer in Christ, certain things will be true. One of those things is dealing properly with sin in his or her life. Genuine Christians sin and may resist dealing with sin for a time, but no genuine Christian will be complacent when there is serious, ongoing sin in their lives over an extended period of time. Anyone who calls himself a Christian but lives in sin for an ongoing length of time is either headed toward God’s discipline in his or her life or not one of God’s children at all. Since the Corinthians were once again tolerating unrepentant sin in their church (v. 2), Paul called them to examine themselves.

There are some Christians who struggle with doubts about their salvation, some for many years. These believers live in a state of continual self-evaluation. Since none of us is perfect, there is always evidence of our sinfulness in our lives. Many Christians overlook all the positive growth and godly character qualities they have developed and focus only on their in struggles. This passage really isn’t for them.

Instead, this passage is for those who are highly confident of their salvation, but display little to know fruit in their lives–no souls saved, no growth in holiness, nothing really but an empty profession of faith. That person is in a dangerous place because their lives show more evidence of unbelief than of genuine faith.

Could that be you? Does your life give evidence that you are a Christian or do you comfort yourself that you are a Christian based only only your profession of faith?