Bible Reference: Matthew 4:18-22
Translation: New Living Translation (NLT)
Bible Text: 18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him. 21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
OBSERVATION: Accepting Jesus because mom pressured you to do so, or because your prospective father-in-law only wants his daughter to marry a believer, would receive a totally different commitment from you, than a personal encounter with God, where He called you to repentance for the way that you have totally ignored His gift of salvation. In our example today from the Scripture, God had a personal encounter with the disciples. I believe that you should also listen closely for the call of God on your life, and that you should quickly respond.
APPLICATION: Imagine for a moment if Peter and Andrew had concluded after meeting Jesus that He was a good man and would make a wonderful Savior for many people, especially for those who had time to follow Him around and observe His marvelous works. Imagine how little impact Jesus would have had on these two men if they chose to continue making a living and left Jesus alone to go and impact the brothers up the road who had nothing better to do. James and John had similar choices to make in verses 21 and 22, but like Peter and Andrew, these guys immediately dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus. Friends these stories were included in the Word to show us the impact of total surrender. I don’t believe for a moment that God intends for every Christian to give up our jobs to be obedient followers of His. However, I do believe that God is showing us that it is important for us to take a 180 degree turn from what we did as a sinner, so that we might prove to whom we now belong. We don’t need to prove it to God, for He knows our very inmost thoughts and desires, but we need to convince ourselves that we have seriously redirected our lives to following the Savior, the King of all kings, Jesus Christ. We need to prove it to our friends. We can’t continue doing the things of this world (Satan approved things) and still expect our friends to see a difference in our lives. Think about everyday scenarios: what do you do when you go on a diet? You can’t lose weight eating the same junk food and sweets that brought you to your obese state in the first place. What do you do when you get married? You can’t hang out with your buddies until the wee hours of the morning and expect to go home and find your new spouse happily waiting for you. So what about the Christian walk? I would dare say that you can’t live like the Devil and say that you are a Christian. We have to leave the garbage behind, much like the disciples left their nets and their boats behind, and choose to give God our all – our undying allegiance, our unwavering love and dedication. Show Him that You are serious about the decision you made to follow Him – perhaps He will use you like He did in the case of the disciples mentioned! Won’t that be awesome!
PRAYER: Gracious Lord, thank You for being patient with us. I’m afraid that too often we tend to try and continue doing what we’ve always done, yet expect different results, or worse still – try to convince ourselves that our allegiance has changed. Lord, I believe that these four disciples were so sold out to you that they gave up their fishing careers to become ‘fishers of men’ in your kingdom work. I am convinced that we need more folk like this today Lord, so that the world might know without a doubt who rules in our lives. Please work on us today and convict us of any shortfall You see in our lives and our commitment to You. May we be usable instruments in Your hands to reach the lost. I ask this in the strong and unwavering name of Jesus, AMEN!
Bible Reference: Luke 22:26-60
Translation: The Passion Translation (TPT)
Bible Text: 56 A girl noticed Peter sitting in the firelight. Staring at him, she pointed him out and said, “This man is one of Jesus’ disciples!”
57 Peter flatly denied it, saying, “What are you talking about, girl? I don’t know him!”
58 A little while later, someone else spotted Peter and said, “I recognize you. You’re one of his, I know it!”
Peter again said, “I’m not one of his disciples.”
59 About an hour later, someone else identified Peter and insisted he was a disciple of Jesus, saying, “Look at him! He’s from Galilee, just like Jesus. I know he’s one of them.”
60 But Peter was adamant. “Listen, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t you understand? I don’t even know him.” While the words were still in his mouth, the rooster crowed.
OBSERVATION: We are identified and referred to by the people and places that we hang around, and often by the clothes we wear. Imagine a doctor walking around your favorite store in a pair of shorts. Would you ever recognize him? Imagine a charismatic pastor sitting in a waiting room at the hospital in casual clothes calmly and softly chatting with a young lady, would you recognize him? Also, what if you traveled to a country that is unfriendly to the gospel, and the authorities identified you as ‘one of those Christians’. Would you quickly step forward and rejoice that God has answered your prayers? Join me as we meditate on the dilemma of Peter.
APPLICATION: With every good intention, many of us pray that others may see the character and love of Jesus in us, hoping that others might be drawn to Christ because of our testimony. Inside our churches we sing His praises, love on other like believers, and we may even shout ‘Amen’ in agreement to all that the Pastor has to say. All things that the Savior might be proud of, right? But what are we like in our business places? In our business decisions? In our after work parties? Or in our political affiliations? Will the servant girl identify us as ‘one of His’? We might very easily become entrapped in similar challenges with other associations in life. Like Peter, some may be afraid of the consequences that might ensue because of family affiliations, or political affiliations, or others. Friends, I believe that our challenge in this Scripture today is ‘What will we do with Jesus?’. Is He just a good relationship to keep mom, spouse, children and the pastor, happy and off our back? Is He good to know when things are really rough on us – medical challenges; dying relative; a child in trouble with the law; etc. or have you truly accepted Him as your Lord and personal Savior? I pray that you’ve developed such a relationship with Him that you are comforted by His love; His guidance; His wisdom; and His promise of eternity with He and the Father in heaven? Let me suggest that if you feel all of the latter, and you know that your eternity is secure in Him, then may I challenge you today to think about what your answers would be to the questions asked of Peter? For I believe that you will be challenged along the same lines as Peter was, while living this life here on earth. Decide this day whom you will follow, and to whom you will cling to, when challenged by the ungodly and those who are out to get you.
PRAYER: Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on through every step of this Christian life. Whether in the good times of rejoicing with fellow Christians, or in situations where we are faced with the daggers of the enemy, please give us the boldness to never back down from our association and relationship with You. After all, You bore the embarrassment and the sting of punishment for us while carrying out the plan of Your Father, so that the mean and the wicked of this world might have the means of salvation – union with God the Father. Thank You for Your sacrifice, and thank You for the love shown for us. Please embolden us with Your power and Your strength to never back down from our ties with You. Oh that You would rule and reign in us, until the day You call us home to glory! AMEN!
Bible Reference: Luke 22:47-48
Translation: The Passion Translation (TPT)
Bible Text: 47 No sooner had he finished speaking when suddenly a mob approached, and right in front of the mob was his disciple Judas. He walked up close to Jesus and greeted him with a kiss. For he had agreed to give the religious leaders a sign, saying, “The one I kiss is the one to seize.” 48 Jesus looked at him with sorrow and said, “A kiss, Judas? Are you really going to betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
OBSERVATION: A story that we’ve read and/or heard many times, yet the Holy Spirit will challenge you each time that you read it again. I bolded a statement that I was challenged with today as I read this Scripture. I trust that as we meditate on this, we might ponder what actions we take individually in betraying, or denying our Lord.
APPLICATION: Betrayal is one of the most painful human experiences. Discovering that someone we trusted has deeply hurt us pulls the reality rug from under us. We might look at Judas and wonder how could he possibly betray his Lord after seeing Him heal the sick; bring the dead back to life; feed the 5,000; show love to the unlovable; and sit down at the table with he and the other 11 disciples. Why Jesus even showed deep humility in washing the disciples’ feet. Yet for a small bag of coins, and a moment of recognition by the religious leaders, Judas escaped the reality of a loving Savior and joined the side of the enemy to crucify Jesus. I couldn’t help but ponder what we would feel like if Jesus looked into our eyes and asked the same question of us. Will you betray me with ______ Ed? Friends, we may not be in the same position as Judas, where we are selling out to the religious leaders, but I’m afraid that there are times that we hide our relationship with the Master. Perhaps in a public setting known for their stand against religious lingo, or Christian practices; Perhaps in the presence of government officials who are bombarded by fellow representatives who frequently speak of the separation of church and state; Perhaps just in a public setting, like a restaurant, where others may steer at you if you pause to give thanks for your food. I believe that anytime we fail to recognize Jesus in all walks of life, or are embarrassed to claim Him as your Lord and Savior, you are betraying the trust that He expects from you. Can you imagine hanging on a cross half naked and beaten to a pulp, because it was His way of displaying His ultimate love for us? Imagine if He would have backed out of that, because we were just not worth the pain it would cause our Lord? How would you feel about Him? Friends, is there anything you wouldn’t do in return for our Savior’s love and the provision of salvation made possible just for us? For Judas, it was a simple, everyday kiss that told the whole story of denial for him. What is it for you?
PRAYER: Precious Lord, thank You for never backing down on Your commitment to Your Father. Thank You for always loving us, and Your willingness to even be crucified just for us. Please touch our hearts today with a renewed sense of boldness and love for You. May our commitment to serving You be so strong that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God. Yes, we want to please our friends, please our government leaders, and be a noble citizen, but please give us the strength to never do any of that at the expense of serving You and being true to our commitment in loving You for all eternity. Oh that others may see Your love in us today and want to know You personally, before it’s too late. AMEN!
Intro: One of the great regulators of a well lived life is an established schedule. The older I get the more I need regular patterns in my work week. Since I now have come to the point of being able to hide my own Easter eggs, I keep my life more and more on track by establishing healthy patterns of activity in my daily life. God likes that idea. He likes it a lot, as we’ll see tonight!
Proposition: Since God is our Creator and Deliverer, we should “set aside regular times for worship, prayer and the study of God’s ways.”
(v.8) God’s Command – God commanded His people to set aside one day a week for the refreshment of their bodies and souls. This day was to be “Holy.” Holiness means, “set apart for God’s use alone.” What is meant by this? “Sabbath” in Hebrew means, “to sit down or to stand still.” The idea is to come to rest so as to give undivided attention to God. Sabbath as understood by the Jews was, “a day of quiet worship as well as refreshment for man.” Notice the very first word of this verse: “Remember.” Implied is the idea that this verse is NOT ORIGINATING A NEW COMMANDMENT BUT IS REMINDING GOD’S PEOPLE TO PRACTICE AN ALREADY EXISTING ONE. The concept of Sabbath goes all the way back to the Creation. (cf. Genesis 2:2-3) Notice that the practice of Sabbath was already in effect before God gave the Ten Commandments to His people. (cf. Exodus 16:22-30) Sabbath is A CREATION ORDINANCE, just as marriage is. This means that Sabbath is meant FOR EVERYONE FOR ALL TIME. Notice how these first four commandments build one upon the other: God alone is to be worshipped by His people; a right understanding of God is to be preserved by His people; God’s revelation of Himself is to be taken seriously by His people. Now, as the crowning jewel of the first table of the law, God reminded His people to “set aside regular times to worship, prayer and the study of God’s ways,” as the Book of Common Prayer expresses it. Through this regular practice the people of Israel in the past and the people of God today are to preserve our freedom of worship.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] God reminded His people to keep the Sabbath and to guard their freedom to worship Him.
[ILLUSTRATION] Remember “Blue Laws”? There was a time in our country when civil law specified that certain things simply couldn’t be done on a Sunday. In Virginia where I lived, liquor stores were not permitted to operate on Sundays, for example. Many years ago now, that custom changed. As I recall, no one seriously objected and the change passed with little fanfare. Whether you agree that “Blue Laws” were a good idea or not, the notable thing here is that social opinion changed and what was once commonly considered appropriate for everyone, slipped into history without a whimper. Why did this happen? Perhaps because the idea of keeping the Sabbath, even among Christians, came to be thought of as an old fashioned thing of the past. Government goes along with whatever the prevailing winds in the culture affirm.
[APPLICATION] We do not guard our freedom of worship by relying on a government of man, but by exercising our duty to worship faithfully week by week. If everyone who claimed to be a Christian obeyed God’s command to set aside one day a week for worship, prayer and the study of God’s ways, our freedom to worship would forever remain secure, for God Himself would be its guardian. Perhaps our culture has lost its respect for a day of worship because many believers have lost the importance of the day as well.
(vv.9-10) How to Obey God’s Command – The way God’s people are to celebrate the Sabbath is by confining our creative labor to six days, and ceasing from that labor on the seventh. Christians from earliest days have honored this practice by setting aside the first day of the week as “The Lord’s Day.” This coming change was signaled in the Old Testament book of Leviticus years before our Lord’s resurrection on the first day of the week. Leviticus 23:7; 15; 35-36 all referred to special times of sacrifice and worship on “the first day,” and each time in relation to “the very same feasts that point forward to the very same events that Christians now celebrate on Sunday!” Keeping the Sabbath was of highest importance for Israel and is for modern day Christians as well. By keeping a regular day of worship we declare:
THE SABBATH IS GIVEN AS A BENEFIT TO MAN. The commandment specified that no work was to be done by anyone in Israel on the Sabbath. Not the Husband (and the wife is included in this), nor children, nor servants (employees), not even livestock, or non-resident immigrants. “No work” did NOT mean God’s work couldn’t be done on the Sabbath as Jesus explained when challenged about His disciples’ failure to keep the Sabbath. (cf. Luke 6:1-5) “Nothing more than secular or servile work was intended by this prohibition. Jesus by precept and example gave liberty for works of love, piety and necessity.” So, what is the meaning of the prohibition? John Calvin gives us the best explanation: “God’s object at forbidding them to work had to go beyond the mere cessation of labor. God, by analogy signaled that they could not be approved by Him through their labors, but only by ceasing from their works.” In other words, what is pictured here is THAT IN ORDER TO BE APPROVED BY GOD WE MUST CEASE FROM OUR LABORS AND TRUST COMPLETELY IN GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, HIS SON.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Having one day a week for God reminds us and all those around us that we belong to God.
[ILLUSTRATION] Many of us wear wedding rings. Why do we do that? Maybe because it’s customary. Or maybe because our spouse expects it! But the best reason for wearing a wedding ring is because you are proud to proclaim to the world that you are irrevocably committed to your spouse. You can do that with words. You can do that by dressing alike when you’re in public with your spouse. You can put a bumper sticker on your car proclaiming, “Happily Married!” There are other ways, but wearing a wedding ring is the bare minimum witness to the fact that you are happily married.
[APPLICATION] Having regular times for worship, prayer and study of God’s ways is the bare minimum of witness to our relationship to Christ. By keeping regular times of worship we proclaim to ourselves and others that we truly believe God exists; God saves; God is God; that we are “happily married” to Him in the Body of Christ, the Church.
(v.11) Why Does This Matter? – In verse 11 God explained why Sabbath is so important in His eyes. SABBATH IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT REFLECTS GOD’S ACTIVITY AND CHARACTER. God labored six days in the creation. God “rested” on the seventh day. “God was not tired in Genesis 2:2-3…. God’s work was completed, and, therefore, there was no need to continue…. He only stopped His creative activity…. [to have] a time to enjoy by reflecting” on His Creation. In like manner, we are called to stop our activity for a while to reflect on our Creator’s priority. The Ten Commandments are also listed in Deuteronomy chapter 5. It is instructive to compare Exodus 20:11 to Deuteronomy 5:15 where a second reason is given for the importance of the Sabbath. Exodus 20:11 invites us to reflect on God our Creator. Deuteronomy 5:15 reminds us that our Creator is also our Deliverer. SO, THE SABBATH DAY IS AN INVITATION TO REMEMBER GOD’S UNCHANGING WORKS AND CHARACTER AS CREATOR AND DELIVERER.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Keeping one day a week to honor God never ceases because God’s actions and character never change.
[ILLUSTRATION] Gwen and I have been married for 45 years, and even though we’ve had plenty of time to get to know each other over those years, I still crave times when we can just get away by ourselves. We love our kids; we love our grandkids. We love all of you! We love our relatives and friends. But there are times when we just want to get away and enjoy each other. God is like that with each one of us! Is it too much to say that He craves one day a week in fellowship and refreshment with His Bride, the Church? Is it too much to think that He values each individual believer’s seeking His face regularly for worship? Prayer? Learning?
[APPLICATION] The command to set aside one day a week for worship, prayer and study of God’s ways is still in full force though we now live under the terms of the New Covenant. Since all Ten Commandments now serve as a rule of life for believers; since the fourth commandment is based upon a Creation Ordinance; and since this commandment is based on God’s actions and character which never changes, we ought not to think that keeping regular times of worship and refreshment have somehow gone out of date. Old Testament times or New, God still desires one day a week of personal fellowship and refreshment with each of His children. Christ still craves at least one day a week all to Himself with His Bride. That’s what love does!
Conclusion: Let’s pray.
 Book of Common Prayer
 Expositor’s Bible Commentary
 James M. Gray
Bible Reference: Judges 10:9-14
Translation: New Living Translation (NLT)
Bible Text: 9 …. The Israelites were in great distress. 10 FINALLY, they cried out to the Lord for help, saying, “We have sinned against you because we have abandoned you as our God and have served the images of Baal.”
11 The Lord replied, “Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me for help, and I rescued you. 13 Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!”
OBSERVATION: We have become such a spoiled people, that we seldom ever think of God turning His back on us. We hear it all the time: Oh, well, I will just ask God to forgive me; Oops, I shouldn’t have done that, but God will forgive me; God always forgives me; etc, etc. I’m sure you may have even uttered these words as well, so I hope that our Scripture passage will not be a shock to you today, for God told the Israelites “NO”! Meditate with me friends, for we must know the truth about God, and His plan of forgiveness.
APPLICATION: We hear so much about death-bed conversions – that is, folk who do not want to make a decision while they are healthy and enjoying life, but when they know that there is no choice and they are indeed dying, then they ask to know and accept Jesus. Friends, I’m not saying that those decisions are necessarily hopeless, but there are at least two dangers:
1. Who knows whether you will survive a fatal crash and have the ability, and possibly last opportunity, to accept Jesus before passing away from this world? We could be snatched from this world instantly and without further opportunity to accept Jesus.
2. The Israelites in this Bible story, were blessed by God, protected, guided and loved dearly, but they were easily led by Satan to follow other gods. However, when they got into serious trouble and needed rescuing, they didn’t turn to these ‘little’ gods for help, but rather turned to the Almighty God. The good thing is that, like the prodigal son, they came to their senses and they realized that they needed something/someone greater – God.
Words that I wish no one meditating on this would ever hear, “Go away for I never knew you” or “I will not accept you, because you rejected me and worked against me so much during your lifetime”. But the Israelites heard similar words because of their stubbornness and ungodly acts.
I would beg all that may meditate on this today, and especially all that I know and love, to not delay in surrendering your life to Jesus. Please know that He loves you, and loved you enough that He gave up life itself so that you may have life everlasting with Him in glory. That’s a gift offered to you today, but its only yours if you accept it. Please respond to this post if you would like to learn more about accepting the gift of eternal life with Jesus, I would be overjoyed to help you biblically with this. Alternately, you are free to read every detail in my Footnote, and follow the plan outlined in the Bible.
PRAYER: My prayer today is that I will always be steadfast in my faith and my commitment to Jesus. May He find me faithful. My prayer for family and friends who may read this devotional and might be afraid of giving up a life of ‘fun’ to accept Jesus, I pray that God would open your eyes and help you see that there is never as much fun when you are living in fear. Living life without the fear of hell and the fear of dying unprepared is a life of peace and assurance – a life worth living! Friend, know God and know peace! When there is no God, there is no peace. May God grant you the boldness and the strength to make the right decision today. AMEN!