Strength For Today

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

You can overcome whatever you’re going through — not by your strength, or your wisdom, or your prayers, or your experience — but through God’s grace.

His free, His matchless grace, independent of all works and efforts, independent of everything in us, flowing wholly and solely, fully and freely, out from Jesus to the needy, the guilty, the destitute, the undone.

You who are tried in worldly circumstances, remember what the Lord has said…

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

His grace is sufficient for you who are tempted.

“God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Cor 10:13)

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

His grace is sufficient for you who are burdened with family troubles, afflictions, and worry.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” (Ps 34:18-19)

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

Our weakness, helplessness, and inability are the very things which draw forth the power, the strength, and the grace of Jesus!

“My power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

Believer, never forget the words:

“My grace is sufficient for you!”

The free, the matchless, sovereign grace of God, is sufficient for all His people whatever state, or stage, or trouble, or difficulty they may be in!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

2 Very Different Prayers

Today we’re going to study the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector and learn why God accepted one and not the other. The parable is found in Luke 18:9-14:

Some Background

“Jesus spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” (Luke 18:9)

Jesus told this parable to people who were trusting in their good works to make themselves right with God. These were people who did good things, and thought that because they received praise from men, they would also receive praise from God. But Proverbs 14:12 tells us that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

The mistake they made was looking at things from man’s perspective instead of God’s perspective. Jesus had met people like this before in Luke 16:15 – “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” (Luke 18:10)

Jesus begins by holding up the best and worse society has to offer – Pharisees and tax collectors.

The Pharisees:

– Were a sect of Judaism. Their name means “separate”. They sought to live separately from the godless by strictly following the law.

– Believed in many of the same things Christians believe — the resurrection of the dead, future rewards and punishments, angels and demons, the providence of God and the books that make up the Old Testament.

– Put great emphasis on good works such as feeding the poor, visiting the sick and caring for orphans.

– Were loved and respected by the people. Mothers would pray their sons would grow up to be Pharisees.

Tax Collectors:

– Worked for Rome. The Roman government didn’t collect their own taxes. They divided the empire up into districts then sold the rights to collect taxes in each district.

– Were often Jews and were considered traitors because they served Rome.

– Made their money by overcharging people. For example if Rome said a person owed $100, a tax collector might charge $200, and pocket half.

– Were described as having a life of “unrestrained plunder, unblushing greed and shameless business”.

Now we would expect the Pharisee to be right with God and the Tax Collector to be condemned. But that’s not how the parable goes.

The Prayers

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’” (Luke 18:11-12)

Notice two things about the Pharisee’s prayer:

1) The Pharisee makes no mention of his sin. People tend to have the ability to see sin in others but not in themselves.

2) The Pharisee holds up his religious deeds as the reason he feels he’s right with God

Now let’s look at the tax collector’s prayer.

“And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13)

1 John 1:9 tells us that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And that’s what the tax collector did. He knew his sin was great, and that he had no way of paying for his sin, so he simply begged God for mercy.

Who Are We Comparing Ourselves To?

“’I tell you, this man – the tax collector – went down to his house justified rather than the other; For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

1 John 1:8 reminds us that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” That’s the Pharisee. He deceived himself into thinking he was without sin. Instead of comparing himself to God’s perfection, he compared himself to man’s imperfection.

Here’s another way to look at it: Let’s say I offer you a glass of water. You look at the glass and notice that it looks dirty. You say, “You know, this glass looks dirty.”

I respond, “Oh, the glass is contaminated with deadly bacteria, but don’t worry, it’s filled with spring water.” Would you drink it? Of course not, because it doesn’t matter how clean the water is, the glass has contaminated everything within it.

Think of the glass as our hearts and our deeds as the water that fills the glass. Some people lead very bad lives — like our tax collector — they fill their glass with ditch water.

Others – like our Pharisee — lead wonderful lives. They fill their glass with spring water. They boast because their glass is filled with spring water while the tax collector’s is filled with ditch water.

But it doesn’t matter whether your glass is filled with ditch water or spring water, the glass is dirty. The good deeds you offer God to earn your salvation are contaminated through sin and He cannot accept them.

But God will give a new glass to any one who asks.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek 36:26)

Christ’s heart is pure, and His work is pure, and His sacrifice on the cross is pure. Romans 5:9 tells us that those who call on Christ to save them are now “justified by His blood” and “saved from wrath through Him.”

Our good deeds, then, are not done to earn our salvation but done out of appreciation of our salvation.

God doesn’t take good people and make them better, nor does He leave bad people without hope. God, through Jesus Christ, takes sinners and makes them a new creation, forgiven, able to stand blameless, able to be called children of God.

Jesus Won’t Turn You Away

“Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)

We sometimes fear being rejected by Jesus, but the Lord answers all our doubts and put our hearts at ease with one simple phrase – “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out”

You say: “But I am a great sinner.”
Jesus answers: “I will never cast you out.”

You say: “But I am a life-long sinner.”
Jesus answers: “I will never cast you out.”

You say: “But I am a hard-hearted sinner.”
Jesus answers: “I will never cast you out.”

You say: “But I am a backsliding sinner.”
Jesus answers: “I will never cast you out.”

You say: “But I have served Satan all my days.”
Jesus answers: “I will never cast you out.”

You say: “But I have sinned against God.”
Jesus answers: “I will never cast you out.”

You say: “But I have sinned against mercy.”
Jesus answers: “I will never cast you out.”

You say: “But I have nothing to offer.”
Jesus answers: “I will never cast you out.”

If you come to Christ for forgiveness of sin He will forgive you.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”(Romans 19:13)

And again…

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

– John Bunyan

The Gospel Described In Two Words

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (Eph 2:4-5)

“But God.”

With these two words we come to the introduction to the Christian message, the peculiar, specific message which the Christian faith has to offer to us.

These two words, in and of themselves, in a sense contain the whole of the gospel.

The gospel tells of what God has done, God’s intervention; it is something that comes entirely from outside us and displays to us that wondrous and amazing and astonishing work of God.

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23)

And again:

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:13)

– D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

A Look At The Gospel (And How It Works)

The word gospel means “good news”. The best description of the gospel is found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:

“I declare to you the gospel…by which you are saved, if you hold fast that which I preach to you – unless you believed in vain. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Let’s break these verses down and see what we discover.

“I declare to you the gospel…by which you are saved, if you hold fast that which I preach to you – unless you believed in vain.”

The first thing we learn about the gospel is that it’s the message by which people are saved from God’s judgment.

God has chosen to save us – not because of any work or deed we’ve done – but by His grace, through faith in Christ. Salvation is God’s gift to us. (Eph 2:8, Rom 6:23)

Now let’s take a look at how the gospel works.

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried…”

God is perfect and we aren’t. We sin and are separated from God when we fail to live up to His standard. (Rom 3:23) We do this by either by not doing what He requires of us or by doing what He has forbidden us to do. Sin can occur in thought, word, or deed.

So before we go to heaven something needs to change. Our sin needs to be paid for.

To do this God became a man – Jesus Christ – lived the perfect life you and I couldn’t, and died on the cross as a payment for our sins. We find this taught in Romans 8:1,3:

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

If we call on Christ to save us from our sins, are sins are charged to His account and He pays for them (1 John 2:2). We are then “born again” (1 Peter 1:23) and able to enter heaven (John 3:16).

“…He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

After Christ died for our sins He didn’t stay in the grave. After three days He rose again.

When Christ was raised from the grave, it showed that the sacrifice He made was sufficient and accepted by God the Father.

If we put our trust Christ to pay for our sin we too can look forward to God raising us one day.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:9)

What good news that is!

Learn More: How Do We Know We’re Saved?

By Grace, Through Faith

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

God is gracious…

Because God is gracious, sinful people are forgiven, converted, purified, and saved. It’s not because of anything in them, or anything that ever can be in them, that they are saved; it’s because of the boundless love, goodness, pity, compassion, mercy, and grace of God.

It’s because “his love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:41) that we are not destroyed. It’s because “his compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:22) that sinners are brought to Him and forgiven.

Remember these things or you may fall into error by focusing so much on your faith that you forget that grace is the source of faith itself.

Faith is the work of God’s grace in us…

Faith is the work of God’s grace in us. No one can say that Jesus is the Christ except by the Holy Ghost. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

So faith is the result of divine drawing. Grace is the first and last cause of salvation while faith acts as an important part of the machinery which grace employs.

It’s important to remember that we’re saved “through faith,” but salvation is “by grace.”

Faith occupies the position of a channel. Grace is the fountain and the stream; faith is the along which the flood of grace flows down to refresh the thirsty.

But faith is only the channel and not the fountainhead, and we must not place it above the grace of God. Our life is found in “fixing our eyes on Jesus,” (Hebrews 12:2) not in fixing our eyes on our own faith. By faith all things become possible to us; yet the power is not in the faith, but in the God upon whom faith relies.

Encouragment for those whose faith is weak…

So you see, the weakness of your faith will not destroy you. A trembling hand may receive a golden gift. The Lord’s salvation can come to us though we have only faith as a grain of mustard seed because the power lies in the grace of God, and not in our faith.

Great messages can be sent along slender wires, and the peace-giving witness of the Holy Spirit can reach the heart by means of a thread-like faith which seems almost unable to sustain its own weight.

Think more of Him to whom you look than of the look itself. You must look away even from your own looking, and see nothing but Jesus, and the grace of God revealed in Him.

– Charles Spurgeon

How Much Faith Do We Need?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” – Eph 2:8

How much faith do we need to be saved? As an old bible teacher once said, “If you can grip Christ ever so weakly, he will not let you perish.”

A little faith can save just as well as great faith. This is because we aren’t saved by faith, we’re saved by grace. Faith is simply the means by which grace enters our lives. As our text teaches we’re saved by grace through faith. Grace is undeserved favor. Faith is trusting in grace to save us.

Maybe an example will help illustrate this point. Let’s say you and I get on an airplane. You have great faith that the plane will bring us to our destination safely. But my faith is weak. I have just e nough to get on the plane. I’m scared and full of doubt the entire time.

We both arrive safely, because reaching our destination doesn’t depend on the amount of faith we have in the plane, it depends on the plane’s ability to fly. We only need enough faith to get on board. The plane does all the work.

In the same way, we aren’t saved by the amount of faith we have, we’re saved by Christ’s ability to save us. Hebrews 7:25 tells us “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Your faith may be weak. But as Charles Spurgeon once said, “A trembling hand can receive a golden gift.” You simply need enough faith to trust Him to save you. He does all the work.

Of course we don’t want to remain in a place where we have such little faith. In our example my ride was much harder than it needed to be because of my lack of faith. And the one whose faith in Christ is weak will needlessly doubt the work He does in their life. They’ll always be anxious for one thing or another.

That’s not the way Jesus wants us to live our lives. In Matthew 11:28 He invites us to come to Him to find rest for our souls. Be still and trust Him. Know that He is God.

Why Are We Saved By Faith?

Why is faith selected as the channel of salvation?

No doubt this inquiry is often made. “By grace are ye saved through faith,” is assuredly the doctrine of Holy Scripture, and the ordinance of God; but why is it so? Why is faith selected rather than hope, or love, or patience?

FAITH WAS CREATED TO BE THE RECEIVER OR GRACE…

Suppose that I am about to give a poor man some money: I put it into his hand—why? Well, it would hardly be fitting to put it into his ear, or to lay it upon his foot; the hand seems made on purpose to receive. So, in our mental frame, faith is created on purpose to be a receiver: it is the hand of the man, and there is a fitness in receiving grace by its means.

Do let me put this very plainly. Faith which receives Christ is as simple an act as when your child receives an apple from you, because you hold it out and promise to give him the apple if he comes for it. The belief and the receiving relate only to an apple; but they make up precisely the same act as the faith which deals with eternal salvation. What the child’s hand is to the apple, that your faith is to the perfect salvation of Christ.

The child’s hand does not make the apple, nor improve the apple, nor deserve the apple; it only takes it; and faith is chosen by God to be the receiver of salvation, because it does not pretend to create salvation, nor to help in it, but it is content humbly to receive it. “Faith is the tongue that begs pardon, the hand which receives it, and the eye which sees it; but it is not the price which buys it.” Faith never makes herself her own plea, she rests all her argument upon the blood of Christ. She becomes a good servant to bring the riches of the Lord Jesus to the soul, because she acknowledges where she drew them from, and owns that grace alone entrusted her with them.

FAITH GIVE ALL THE GLORY TO GOD…

Faith, again, is doubtless selected because it gives all the glory to God. It is of faith that it might be by grace, and it is of grace that there might be no boasting; for God cannot endure pride. “The proud he knoweth afar off,” and He has no wish to come nearer to them. He will not give salvation in a way which will suggest or foster pride. Paul saith, “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Now, faith excludes all boasting. The hand which receives charity does not say, “I am to be thanked for accepting the gift”; that would be absurd.

When the hand conveys bread to the mouth it does not say to the body, “Thank me; for I feed you.” It is a very simple thing that the hand does though a very necessary thing; and it never arrogates glory to itself for what it does. So God has selected faith to receive the unspeakable gift of His grace, because it cannot take to itself any credit, but must adore the gracious God who is the giver of all good. Faith sets the crown upon the right head, and therefore the Lord Jesus puts the crown upon the head of faith, saying, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

FAITH LINKS MAN WITH GOD…

Next, God selects faith as the channel of salvation because it is a sure method, linking man with God. When man confides in God, there is a point of union between them, and that union guarantees blessing. Faith saves us because it makes us cling to God, and so brings us into connection with Him. I have often used the following illustration, but I must repeat it, because I cannot think of a better. I am told that years ago a boat was upset above the falls of Niagara, and two men were being carried down the current, when persons on the shore managed to float a rope out to them, which rope was seized by them both.

One of them held fast to it and was safely drawn to the bank; but the other, seeing a great log come floating by, unwisely let go the rope and clung to the log, for it was the bigger thing of the two, and apparently better to cling to. Alas! the log with the man on it went right over the vast abyss, because there was no union between the log and the shore. The size of the log was no benefit to him who grasped it; it needed a connection with the shore to produce safety. So when a man trusts to his works, or to sacraments, or to anything of that sort, he will not be saved, because there is no junction between him and Christ; but faith, though it may seem to be like a slender cord, is in the hands of the great God on the shore side; infinite power pulls in the connecting line, and thus draws the man from destruction. Oh the blessedness of faith, because it unites us to God!

FAITH TOUCHES THE SPRINGS OF ACTION…

Faith is chosen again, because it touches the springs of action. Even in common things faith of a certain sort lies at the root of all. I wonder whether I shall be wrong if I say that we never do anything except through faith of some sort. If I walk across my study it is because I believe my legs will carry me. A man eats because he believes in the necessity of food; he goes to business because he believes in the value of money; he accepts a check because he believes that the bank will honor it. Columbus discovered America because he believed that there was another continent beyond the ocean; and the Pilgrim Fathers colonized it because they believed that God would be with them on those rocky shores.

Most grand deeds have been born of faith; for good or for evil, faith works wonders by the man in whom it dwells. Faith in its natural form is an all-prevailing force, which enters into all manner of human actions. Possibly he who derides faith in God is the man who in an evil form has the most of faith; indeed, he usually falls into a credulity which would be ridiculous, if it were not disgraceful. God gives salvation to faith, because by creating faith in us He thus touches the real mainspring of our emotions and actions. He has, so to speak, taken possession of the battery and now He can send the sacred current to every part of our nature.

When we believe in Christ, and the heart has come into the possession of God, then we are saved from sin, and are moved toward repentance, holiness, zeal, prayer, consecration, and every other gracious thing. “What oil is to the wheels, what weights are to a clock, what wings are to a bird, what sails are to a ship, faith is to all holy duties and services.” Have faith, and all other graces will follow and continue to hold their course.

FAITH HAS THE POWER OF WORKING BY LOVE…

Faith, again, has the power of working by love; it influences the affections toward God, and draws the heart after the best things. He that believes in God will beyond all question love God. Faith is an act of the understanding; but it also proceeds from the heart. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness”; and hence God gives salvation to faith because it resides next door to the affections, and is near akin to love; and love is the parent and the nurse of every holy feeling and act. Love to God is obedience, love to God is holiness. To love God and to love man is to be conformed to the image of Christ; and this is salvation.

FAITH CREATES PEACE AND JOY…

Moreover, faith creates peace and joy; he that hath it rests, and is tranquil, is glad and joyous, and this is a preparation for heaven. God gives all heavenly gifts to faith, for this reason among others, that faith worketh in us the life and spirit which are to be eternally manifested in th e upper and better world. Faith furnishes us with armor for this life, and education for the life to come. It enables a man both to live and to die without fear; it prepares both for action and for suffering; and hence the Lord selects it as a most convenient medium for conveying grace to us, and thereby securing us for glory.

Certainly faith does for us what nothing else can do; it gives us joy and peace, and causes us to enter into rest. Why do men attempt to gain salvation by other means? An old preacher says, “A silly servant who is bidden to open a door, sets his shoulder to it and pushes with all his might ; but the door stirs not, and he cannot enter, use what strength he may. Another comes with a key, and easily unlocks the door, and enters right readily. Those who would be saved by works are pushing at heaven’s gate without result; but faith is the key which opens the gate at once.” Reader, will you not use that key?

The Lord commands you to believe in His dear Son, therefore you may do so; and doing so you shall live. Is not this the promise of the gospel, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved”? (Mark 16:16). What can be your objection to a way of salvation which commends itself to the mercy and the wisdom of our gracious God?

– By Charles Sprugeon

Made Rich by Faith

“For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.”
– Psalm 9:18

Poverty is a hard heritage; but those who trust in the Lord are made rich by faith. They know that they are not forgotten of God, and though it may seem that they are overlooked in His providential distribution of good things, they look for a time when all this shall be righted. Lazarus will not always lie among the dogs at the rich man’s gate, but he will have his reward in Abraham’s bosom.

Even now the Lord remembers His poor but precious sons, “I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinks upon me,” said one of old, and it is so. The godly poor have great expectations. They expect the Lord to provide them all things necessary for this life and godliness; they expect to see things working for their good; they expect to have all the closer fellowship with their Lord, who had nowhere to lay His head; they expect His second coming and to share its glory.

This expectation cannot perish, for it is laid up in Christ Jesus, who lives forever, and because He lives, it shall live also. The poor saint sing many a song which the rich sinner cannot understand. Wherefore, let us, when we have short commons below, think of the royal table above.

– Charles Spurgeon

Rest Is A Gift

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
– Matthew 11:28

We who are saved find rest in Jesus. Those who are not saved will receive rest if they come to Him, for here He promises to “give” it. Nothing can be freer than a gift; let us gladly accept what He gladly gives.

You are not to buy it, nor to borrow it, but to receive it as a gift. You labor under the lash of ambition, covetousness, lust, or anxiety: He will set you free from this iron bondage and give you rest.

You are “laden,” yes, “heavy laden” with sin, fear, care, remorse, fear of death; but if you come to Him He will unload you. He carried the crushing mass of our sin that we might no longer carry it. He made Himself the great Burden-bearer, that every laden one might cease from bowing down under the enormous pressure.

Jesus gives rest. It is so. Will you believe it? Will you put it to the test? Will you do so at once? Come to Jesus by quitting every other hope, by thinking of Him, believing God’s testimony about Him, and trusting everything with Him.

If you come to Him the rest which He will give you will be deep, safe, holy, and everlasting. He gives a rest which develops into heaven, and He gives it this day to all who come to Him.

– Charles Spurgeon