Crescendos of Grace

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.


Crescendos of Grace

By Jon Opgenorth on January 21, 2022

Read: Romans 11:11-24

So do not become proud, but stand in awe. (v. 20 NRSV)

Lake Emma sits nestled in a small canyon at 12,000 feet in the shadow of Colorado’s Mount Democrat. Standing on one side, I yelled “Hello!” at the top of my lungs, counting four or five echoes before fading out. An echo provides an apt metaphor for Paul’s understanding of God’s mission with one exception. The echoes of God’s grace don’t fade; they grow in volume with each reverberation.

Listen for the echo of grace in today’s reading. God fulfills his promises to Old Testament Israel in Jesus. The gospel sounds off! Many Israelites rejected Jesus. In their “stumble” and “trespass” (v. 11), the gospel echoes to Gentiles, who are “grafted in among the others” (v. 17). Paul experienced this pattern through Acts. He began in each city by preaching to Jews. When they rejected Jesus, he preached to Gentiles, and many were saved (see Acts 18, for example). Paul desires for his own Jewish people to see the echo of God’s grace towards Gentiles and become jealous, and so be grafted in again by God (v. 14). Their return will be as “life from the dead” (v. 15), exploding in good news to the world. The crescendo of grace grows.

There is only one response for those of us grafted in after others’ rejection: “do not become proud, but stand in awe” (v. 20 NRSV). We did nothing to deserve being included. The growing crescendo of grace simply swept over us. May our inclusion lead many others to become followers of Jesus. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, bow in awe of God’s grace.

 

 

 

Not Alone

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.


Not Alone

By Jon Opgenorth on January 20, 2022

Read: Romans 11:1-10

I have kept for myself seven thousand . . . (v. 4)

“It is very hard to be all alone in your faith.” A young Iranian shared those words behind tear-filled eyes as she recounted her testimony in a retreat held by Words of Hope. With church buildings closed inside Iran, this retreat was her only chance in a year to experience Christian community. Do you ever feel alone in your faith? Maybe you feel that way right now. It’s hard to be alone.

In today’s reading, Paul recalls the time described in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah told God how alone he felt. It seemed as if all of Israel abandoned God’s covenant and that he alone was left. He could not understand how so many could forsake God or how God could leave him alone to defend the faith. In that moment, God reminded Elijah that he was not the only believer. God preserved 7,000 others who had not worshiped the false god Baal.

Paul sees Elijah’s example as an interpretation for his day and for ours. Why do so many reject God’s gift of salvation in Jesus? Why does it seem some people’s ears cannot hear and eyes cannot see (Rom. 11:8-9)? Because salvation is based on God’s grace and not on our works (vv. 5-6). We cannot force ears to hear or eyes to open. Only God through the Holy Spirit can open what otherwise remains closed. It is hard when we feel alone in our faith. God promises that no matter our circumstances, we never will be. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, ask God to encourage those who feel alone in their faith.

 

 

 

Beautiful Feet

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.


Beautiful Feet

By Jon Opgenorth on January 19, 2022

Read: Romans 10:5-21

And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? (v. 14)

Two years ago I sat around a small fireplace high in the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh, India, among a few Monpa-language Christians. As I handed them SD cards with digital audio of gospel teaching and praise songs in their own tongue, my mind was drawn to Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” This family now had a new way to share the good news with their own people.

On its most basic level, salvation is remarkably easy: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (v. 9). It’s easy for us because Jesus did the work. He lived a perfect life and died as the perfect sacrifice in our place. By his death and resurrection, he made salvation for all possible. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (v. 13). Salvation is available for Jews like Paul and Gentiles like you and me and the Monpa.

There is one main obstacle. Before we can believe in our heart, we have to hear the message of Jesus. According to the Joshua Project, there are still 2 billion people on earth who have never heard about Jesus in a language they can understand, and more than 130,000 of them speak Monpa. “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (v. 14). Today, they can. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, remember those who have never heard.

 

 

 

When To-Do Lists Fail

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.


When To-Do Lists Fail

By Jon Opgenorth on January 18, 2022

Read: Romans 9:30-10:4

They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (10:2)

I love my daily to-do list. It keeps me focused on activities that will help accomplish my goals. I take pleasure in checking the boxes at the end of the day. And, if I do something that wasn’t on my list, I write it down so I can check it off! According to Paul, that’s exactly how many Israelites interpreted God’s law. They treated God’s commandments like a to-do list. Check off the boxes and you earn God’s righteousness. Sounds like a good way to know your salvation is secure, right?

Not exactly. While this approach does show a zeal for God, obedience to the law can never secure salvation because no one can obey perfectly in a way that satisfies God’s holiness. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). Pursuing righteousness through the law cannot work (9:31). True righteousness comes only through faith in Christ, who is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4).

Even the Old Testament saints were saved by faith in God’s promises and not by obedience to the law. Hebrews 11 says “by faith” repeatedly to remind us that salvation comes by faith alone in Christ alone. It is Christ alone who fulfilled the law of God perfectly so that he alone could offer “himself without blemish to God” (Heb. 9:14). Salvation is not a checkoff box on our to-do list. Thanks be to God! —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, place your faith in the righteousness of Jesus.

 

 

 

A Place to Belong

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.


A Place to Belong

By Jon Opgenorth on January 17, 2022

Read: Romans 9:19-29

Those who were not my people I will call “my people.” (v. 25)

In today’s passage, Paul deals with a challenging question about God’s mercy: why are some saved and others are not? It’s a question that Paul argues is essentially unanswerable in human terms. It’s like a piece of clay asking the potter, “Why have you made me like this?” (v. 20). The lump of clay doesn’t understand the potter’s purpose. Likewise, God’s ways are beyond us: “The LORD is the everlasting God . . . his understanding is unsearchable” (Isa. 40:28).

Instead, Paul focuses our gaze on God’s promise spoken through the prophet Hosea: “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people’” (Rom. 9:25). The mystery of God’s mercy means that we who have no claim to belong to God’s family are now included because of God’s sovereign plan. I sometimes take this for granted. And then God shows me this truth through people I meet.

Three years ago in Niger I met a woman who was a new believer in Jesus. Her family rejected her, abandoning her and her baby. With no people to call her own, she sought out the preacher whose voice she heard on the radio. When the church learned her story, a family welcomed her into their home. Two years later she finished Bible school and married a Christian man. Today she shares the hope of Jesus with women in similar situations. She wants them to know the second half of verse 25, “her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, thank God for including you in his family.

 

 

 

Children of Promise

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.


Children of Promise

By Jon Opgenorth on January 16, 2022

Read: Romans 9:1-18

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (v. 16)

Having older sisters who excelled in the high school and college I would attend brought an unexpected advantage. Professors who taught them assumed that I was just as smart. More often than not, I got the benefit of the doubt when the grade wavered between an A and a B. I felt (and sometimes acted) like I had a birthright to the Dean’s List. That didn’t work in seminary, where no professor knew the name “Opgenorth.”

Paul expresses anguish (v. 2) over his Jewish kinsmen’s reliance on their perceived birthright as descendants of Abraham. They rejected Jesus in part because they didn’t see the need for a Savior like him. They were Israelites by birth and, in their eyes, keepers of the covenant through obedience and sacrifice. They should have seen Jesus as the fulfillment of all God’s promises, but instead they sought his death by Pilate’s decree.

In the first half of Romans, Paul explained from the Old Testament that all people—Jews and Gentiles—are under God’s judgement as sinners, and all people—Jews and Gentiles—can be saved through the gift of God’s grace in Jesus. Even Abraham was saved by faith (Rom. 4:3) and not by works or birthright.

What good news! Salvation has nothing to do with being born into the right family or coming from a certain ethnicity. “So then it depends . . . on God, who has mercy” (9:16). Amen! —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, thank God for his mercy.

 

The New Jerusalem

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.


The New Jerusalem

By Laura Sweet on January 15, 2022

Read: Revelation 22:1-14

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (v. 4)

Think about the great nations of the world, and you will probably think of their capital cities: London, Paris, Tokyo, Moscow, and Washington, DC. These capitals represent more than places of power. They are also cultural centers, where art and history are on display. These great cities bear witness to the pride and spirit of their people.

The New Jerusalem is the capital city of the new earth! John describes this beautiful city in Revelation 22. The river of life, “bright as crystal” flows through New Jerusalem (v. 1). The tree of life, once found in the Garden of Eden, now brings healing and life to the nations (v. 2). Best of all: the New Jerusalem is the seat of power for the new earth, because the “throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it” (v. 3). There is no need for the sun or any other light source; “the Lord God will be their light” (v. 5). Here all things will be new, and humanity’s relationship with God will finally be restored: as God walked in the midst of Eden, so he will be in the midst of his people forever.

All this may seem hard to imagine, but God is at work in our lives even now, preparing us for this future. Truly he has made us new through Christ’s work of redemption, and is making us new by his Spirit. Someday soon, all things will be new as we reign with him forever! —Laura N. Sweet

As you pray, give thanks for this wonderful promise.

 

 

 

New Heaven and New Earth

New Heaven and New Earth

By Laura Sweet on January 14, 2022

Read: Revelation 21:1-14

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (v. 1)

Any fan of TV home makeover shows will tell you that there is a certain “formula” that every episode follows. They begin with a tour of the “before” condition of the house, and the plans to remodel. Then follows the account of the remodeling process—including prices and all the problems encountered. Finally, there is a “big reveal,” when the delighted homeowners see the finished project: an old house that looks new again!

Here, near the end of the Revelation, we see God’s big reveal—and it’s more than just a little remodeling! A new heaven and a new earth have been prepared for God’s faithful, redeemed people. And as the New Jerusalem descends to earth, we learn the best news of all: God’s dwelling place is with people again! The curse of sin that separated people from their God has been reversed. Finally, there is an end to death and pain and sadness. Here is the ultimate new beginning, as Jesus announces, “Behold, I am making all things new” (v. 5). This has been God’s ultimate purpose throughout human history—a recurring theme throughout the Bible.

John goes on to write about the city itself—the New Jerusalem. He describes it as “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel” (v. 11). Tomorrow we will focus specifically on what it will mean to dwell there with God forever and forever. —Laura N. Sweet

As you pray, think on Jesus’ promise that he will make all things new.

A New Body

A New Body

By Laura Sweet on January 13, 2022

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:48-58

This mortal body must put on immortality. (v. 53)

Eventually, everything will wear itself out. Cars, refrigerators, your smartphone and your favorite pair of jeans—they will either break or wear out or become obsolete. The same is true of these fragile bodies in which we live. It’s true that nowadays you can get some “replacement parts” (a new knee or hip, for example). But we know that, despite medical innovations, our bodies, too, will return to the dust from which they came.

Adam was made of dust, and so are we—our mortal bodies bear this image. But Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15 that God’s children also bear the image of “the man of heaven”—Jesus Christ (vv. 48-49). Since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, our mortal bodies will be raised from the dead, and they will be changed! We shall be given new bodies that are immortal and imperishable. It is in our new, resurrected body that we will see Christ’s final victory over sin and death, and we shall reign with him forever.

The Westminster Catechism states: “All the dead shall be raised up with the selfsame bodies, and none other” (chap. 32, sec. 2). As a believer your glorified, resurrected body will still be you—but with some definite upgrades! Strong, healthy, eternal—and gloriously delivered from sin and death. This is another blessing to look forward to as God makes us—and all things—new. —Laura N. Sweet

As you pray, thank God for this promise of a resurrected body someday in his eternal kingdom.

A New Future

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.


A New Future

By Laura Sweet on January 12, 2022

Read: Isaiah 25:1-9

He will swallow up death forever. (v. 8)

We have looked at what God has done for us to make us new creations in Christ, and what he is doing to conform us to the image of his Son. But the most glorious renewals are still in our future! God is making all things new even as he works to bring about our final redemption. We truly have a bright future ahead—a future where death is no longer the final word, nor the ultimate end of the story.

The prophet Isaiah comforts the people of God by revealing God’s future plans for them—“plans formed of old, faithful and sure” (v. 1). God will overthrow the enemy and judge the ruthless nations. His victory accomplished, he will then make a glorious feast of rich food and fine wine for all his people. National and racial divisions will be no more. And then, the greatest promise of all: “He will swallow up on this mountain . . . the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever” (vv. 7-8). A future with no death! Tears will be wiped from all faces; his people will rejoice forever in the salvation of their God.

Since man’s fall, the specter of death has haunted all of mankind. When Jesus defeated death on the cross, he brought a new future of life forevermore for his children. And not just life—but a life without sorrow or pain, forever in the presence of our God! —Laura N. Sweet

As you pray, think on the future joy that is yours in Christ.

The Friendly Church