Seven Days of Devotion
What's Bad about Bitterness
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Augustine reportedly had a sign on his wall that read, "He who speaks evil of an absent man or woman is not welcome at this table." That would have ended a lot of conversations, wouldn't it?
The Bible tells us to "get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior" (Ephesians 4:31). Slander speaks of saying evil things about others behind their backs.
Bitterness, which is an embittered and resentful spirit that refuses to be reconciled, makes the Holy Spirit sad and sorrowful. Yet some people like to be mad. They live for conflict. They live for arguments. They live for fighting. They seem to actually like it.
Then there are the people who avoid conflicts, and I will admit that I am one of them. I don't like conflict. I dread it in fact. But some people are just looking for something to fight about, and they seem to go from conflict to conflict. You probably know people like this. They are always mad at someone. They always have their nemesis, the one person who is the source of all their misery, and they are always talking about him or her. And they often are very critical, constantly nitpicking and trying to uncover things in other people's lives.
Yet I have made an interesting discovery: the person who has been covering up sin in his or her life typically is always trying to uncover sin in the lives of others. It never surprises me when I find that the most critical people are guilty of something far worse themselves.
So don't live that way. It grieves the Holy Spirit. If you let bitterness go unchecked, it could lead you to take the next step—and to something even worse.
God's ID Tag
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
In the apostle Paul's day, when goods would be shipped from one place to another, they would be stamped with a wax seal and imprinted with a signet ring that bore a unique mark of ownership. The same was true of an important document. It would be sealed in wax and then imprinted with a seal, and no one dared open it other than the intended recipient. So when Ephesians 1:13 says that a believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit, it means that God has put His imprint on that person's life.
In more contemporary terms, think of it as God's ID tag. You put an ID tag on your luggage so you can identify it as yours. After watching black suitcase after black suitcase come down the conveyor belt at the airport's baggage claim, I went out and bought some fluorescent smiley faces for my bag. I might look like a moron, but now I can quickly identify which suitcase is mine.
God has put an ID tag on believers as well. So when the devil comes to wreak havoc in their lives, he sees an ID tag that says they are the property of the Lord Jesus Christ. And he backs off. Not only do Christians have an ID tag that says they belong to God, but a deposit has been made in their lives. Ephesians 1:14 says the Holy Spirit "is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." The Holy Spirit is a deposit, proof that God is working in the believer's life.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit has been placed in your life. And He will make himself known to you, working in you and through you.
Known by Their Fruit
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you."
How do people know that you are a Christian? They can't see your heart. They can't see your faith—but they can see the results of it. Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:20). The only way someone can determine whether you are a follower of Jesus is not merely by your profession of Him, but by the evidence they see in your life. And that evidence should be spiritual fruit.
Fruit doesn't grow overnight. And sometimes the best judge of the growth in your life might be someone else. You can be very introspective and say, "Have I become more like Jesus in the last 24 hours?" But that would be like trying to watch your kids grow. The growth is subtle, yet someone who hasn't seen your children for several months will notice it. In the same way, you don't necessarily see spiritual growth in your own life. But someone else might say, "You have really changed. I see you are becoming more like Jesus."
Spiritual fruit is important, because Jesus said, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15:16). He is saying, "I want there to be fruit in your life."
But what is this fruit? Galatians 5:22-23 gives us the answer: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." We bear fruit by walking in communion with Jesus, by staying close to Him. And spiritual fruit is a result of that relationship.
What we really need today is to bear spiritual fruit in our lives so that others can say, "Now there is a follower of Jesus Christ."
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
There are times when you are so overwhelmed, so discouraged, or so afraid that you don't know what or how to pray. It is then the Holy Spirit will help you. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray.
Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as a Helper: "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever" (John 14:16). The word "Helper" that Jesus used comes from the Greek word parakletos, which means, "called alongside to help." It could also be translated as "aide" or "assistant." Some versions translate parakletos as "advocate," which is applied to Jesus in 1 John 2:1: "And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
The Holy Spirit has come to help you, to aid you, to assist you in your prayer. The Holy Spirit has come to be an advocate and plead your cause before the Father, to intercede for you. Why? Because we don't always know how to put words to our prayers.
The good news is that sometimes just a sigh or a groan will do. Prayer is not so much about the petitions you bring before God, although it can include that. Sometimes the most profound prayers are a sigh or a groan when you are overwhelmed and don't know what to say. The Bible tells us, "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26).
God knows what we are really thinking. He knows what we really need. So we can cry out to Him, knowing the Holy Spirit will intercede on our behalf.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
If you ever have had a time when you were discouraged or unsure of what to do and a verse of Scripture suddenly came to mind—a verse you didn't remember memorizing—that came from the Holy Spirit. It might have been a passage you heard in a sermon a month ago or 10 years ago, but there it was, vividly on display in your mind. That was the Holy Spirit, who brought to your remembrance what you needed to know.
The Holy Spirit helps us in our study, knowledge, and memorization of Scripture. Jesus said, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26).
Maybe there have been times when someone asks you a question and your mind goes blank. But all of a sudden, some thoughts came to mind, and you started sharing them. They were so good, you wanted to take notes on yourself. You thought, This is good stuff. Where did this come from? It came from the Holy Spirit. He brought it to your remembrance.
This does not excuse you from the discipline of Bible study. You still have to read it, study it, and memorize it. But having done that, the Bible promises that the Holy Spirit will bring these things to your remembrance.
The Bible tells us that "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). What does God want to show you today?
Power for a Purpose
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
When Alfred Nobel discovered an explosive element that was stronger than anything the world had known at the time, he asked a friend and Greek scholar for a word that conveyed the meaning of explosive power. The Greek word was dunamis, and Nobel named his invention "dynamite."
Dunamis is the same word that Jesus used when He told His disciples, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). In other words, "You shall receive explosive, dynamite power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."
Think about how this power transformed the first-century believers. Prior to Pentecost, Simon Peter couldn't stand up for his faith when strangers asked him if he was a follower of Jesus. After the power of the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, Peter stood up and boldly preached the gospel, resulting in 3,000 people being saved.
After Saul of Tarsus became a believer on the Damascus Road, God led Ananias to go and pray for him. He was then filled with the Holy Spirit, and from that moment on, he went out and proclaimed Christ in the synagogues.
This power is for a purpose. It is not power to be crazy or power to do weird things. It is power to be a witness . . . power to have the courage to tell someone about Jesus Christ . . . power to tell people about what Jesus has done for you.
Do you have this power in your life? Do you feel like something is lacking in your spiritual walk? Then you, my friend, are a candidate for the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
The Tug of Heaven
"We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace."
—1 Chronicles 29:15
Ever since childhood, I have always been a fan of Disney, even more so when Walt Disney was the creative genius behind the entire Disney empire. Like many of my generation, I was raised watching The Mickey Mouse Club and The Wonderful World of Disney. And I remember when Walt Disney unrolled a set of architectural plans across his desk and said to his television audience, "I want to tell you about something we are building now called Disneyland."
It was like the Promised Land to me. I could hardly wait to get there. And sure enough, every year I insisted that my mom take me to Disneyland for my birthday. I remember making a vow as we approached the park with the Matterhorn in view, that I would go to Disneyland every single day when I became an adult. (I haven't done that.) I was drawn to Disneyland because it held so much promise.
Disney was a dreamer who, deep inside, longed for something. He imagined a better world. You might even say that he was trying to create a heaven on earth. And Disney was that way for the same reason you are the way you are: you have been prewired to want something more in life. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that we have been born with eternity in our hearts. That is unique to humankind, to men and women uniquely made in the image of God.
We are on a quest because we long for something more. As Christians, we realize that our citizenship is in heaven and that our life on earth quickly passes. And as we know more about what is in our future, we begin to see this world for what it is. We know there is a heaven, because we can feel its tug.
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