A New Heart

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

–Ezekiel 36:26

God’s amazing grace produces radical change in our lives. We have a new awareness of sin that keeps us close to God. We have a new status as friends rather than enemies of God. We even have a new heart. In Ezekiel 36:26, God promised His people that one day He would give them a new heart, a heart that would be motivated to obey God not out of fear but out of genuine desire. He said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

When did that occur? Historically, it occurred after Christ was raised from the dead, and God sent his Holy Spirit to indwell every believer at Pentecost. Today, anyone who receives God’s grace and forgiveness also receives the power of the Holy Spirit, who makes us into a new person with a new heart and new desires.

Yet to fully appreciate the new heart that God gives us, we have to understand the old heart that still remains within us. Paul described the defectiveness of our old heart (which he called “the flesh”) in Galatians 5:17: “The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” What is the desire of the flesh? What does it produce in our lives? Look at verses 19-21: “Immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.”

Let me ask you a question: Do you ever have problems controlling your anger? Do you ever find it difficult to forgive somebody who has wronged you? Do you occasionally find your thoughts going someplace they should not go? Congratulations–that means you still have the remnants of an old heart inside of you.

Now let me ask you this: When you hear great worship music, is there something inside your heart that just wells up? Do you have a hunger to be with God’s people? Is there something about the Word of God that speaks to you when you read it? Do you find yourself wanting to know God better and to live a life more pleasing to Him? Those desires are not natural; they are supernatural. They are evidence that you are the recipient of a new heart as well. God’s grace not only provides a pardon from sin but gives us a new heart with the desire to please Him.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Under New Management” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.

Jesus’s Incomparable Sacrifice

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

–2 Corinthians 5:21

Yosemite National Park – California

After Jesus’s sixth and final trial, Pontius Pilate ordered for Him to be scourged and crucified. In our system here in the United States, it is the law that execution ought to be as painless as possible, but the Romans thought differently. One scholar described the horror of Christ’s punishment this way: “The heavy whip was brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back and legs. At first the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. . . . Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. . . .

“The heavy patibulum of the cross was tied across His shoulders. . . . In spite of Jesus’ efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious loss of blood, was too much. He stumbled and fell. The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tried to rise, but human muscles had been pushed beyond their endurance. . . . Simon was ordered to place the patibulum on the ground, and Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum was then lifted into place. . . . As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. . . . Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. . . . He suffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from His lacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of the cross.”

For those six hours, He looked down at the crowd and said to His Father, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Yet God knew what He was doing. In some inexplicable way when Jesus died on the cross, He experienced the punishment of God that you and I deserve. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul wrote, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This was the incomparable sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “God On Trial” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.

C. Truman Davis, “The Crucifixion: A Medical View,” New Wine Magazine, April 1982, 12-14.

The Secret Of Contentment

In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

–Philippians 4:12-13

Root Glacier – Alaska

The late Ted Turner, founder of CNN, was once asked what it was like to be so successful and wealthy. He said, “Well, I think it’s kind of an empty bag, to tell you the truth, but you have to really get there to know that.”

That is what a billionaire said about wealth–once you attain it, you realize it is empty. It is a mirage. Yet the love of money can easily lure you off track in your relationship with God.

To keep materialism from detouring your relationship with God, you have to learn the secret of contentment. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have.” Admittedly, that is a lot easier said than done, isn’t it? The truth is, no matter what income level you are at, there is always somebody who has more than you do. And you think, “If only I could have this amount of money, then I could have all my needs met, and I would be free from the love of money. I just need a little bit more.”

But remember Ted Turner’s words: once you get that little bit more, it is an empty bag. Money does not satisfy your deepest needs. The secret to having your needs met is to learn contentment.

The word “contentment” comes from the same Latin root as the word “containment.” A content person is one who is self-contained. That is, his satisfaction in life is not tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the square footage of his home, or the kind of car he drives. He is not looking to external things to fill him up; he is looking inwardly. And for a Christian, that inward resource is a relationship with Jesus Christ. No amount of money or possessions can satisfy the void of an empty life. That is why Paul said in Philippians 4:11-12, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

What is the secret of contentment Paul spoke of? He told us in the next verse: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” The secret to contentment is tying your sense of well-being to Jesus Christ. That is how you avoid the trap of materialism.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Detours That Destroy” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.

Ted Turner, as quoted in Gary Rosberg, “Guard Your Heart: For Out of It Will Flow Your Life Story” (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1994), 133.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org

A Life Without Regrets

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

–Mark 16:15

William Borden grew up an heir to a great fortune. By the time he was in high school, he was a millionaire–which in the early 1900s was a lot of money. He and his family assumed that he would one day take over the family business. So after he graduated from high school, before he was to enroll at Yale University, his family sent him on an around-the-world trip. He visited Egypt, Syria, China, Japan. And while he was traveling, God called him to spend the rest of his life as a missionary.

His father told him to wait a few years before making any big decisions; a friend told him not to throw his life away. But Borden was so certain of God’s call on his life that in the back of his Bible, he allegedly wrote these words: “No reserves.”

Borden went to Yale, where he organized weekly Bible studies and opened the first rescue mission in New Haven. During his freshman year, he went to a conference where he learned about millions of Chinese Muslims who were not served by any missionaries. And Borden decided he wanted to spend his life serving Muslims in China. Instead of taking over the family business after college, he enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary. He would not be deterred from his calling. In the back of his Bible under the words “No reserves,” he is said to have written two more words: “No retreats.”

After graduating from Princeton Seminary, Borden said goodbye to his family and friends and set sail for China’s Gansu province. He stopped in Egypt to learn Arabic and study Muslim customs so he could minister to them more effectively. But while in Egypt, he contracted cerebral meningitis. He died nineteen days later at the age of twenty-five. “What a tragedy,” you might think. “What a shame that somebody who was willing to give up so much died even before he got to the mission field.” But tracts about his testimony were distributed in several languages, and in 1914, China Inland Mission founded the Borden Memorial Hospital in the very province he had been hoping to serve. Because of Borden’s story, countless missionaries have been inspired to share the gospel around the world.

Borden did not live long enough to see the full results of his obedience to God. But as he lay dying in that Cairo hospital, he is said to have added these words to the back of his Bible: “No regrets.” The kind of faith that endures problems is a faith without reserves, without retreats, and without regrets.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Against All Odds” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.

Jayson Casper, “The Forgotten Final Resting Place of William Borden,” Christianity Today, February 24, 2017, https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2017/february/forgotten-final-resting-place-of-william-borden.html.

Trusting In God’s Character

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. . . . He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead.

–Hebrews 11:17, 19

In Genesis 22:3, God told Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

Every time I read this story, I think, “If God told me to do the same thing, to kill one of my children as a sacrifice to God, would I be able to do that?” If I am honest, I do not think so. But Abraham obeyed. He was fully ready to sacrifice Isaac until God intervened at the last second.

Hebrews 11 gives us the secret of how Abraham was able to obey God’s command: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. . . . He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead” (vv. 17, 19). The word for “considered” is an accounting term meaning “to add up, to weigh.” I imagine the night before they left for Moriah was a sleepless night for Abraham. I can just picture him tossing and turning as he considered what God had asked him to do. I am sure he added up all the reasons not to do it: It would break the heart of Sarah, his wife, and probably end the marriage. It would mean the child of promise had been killed and there would be no nation.

But then Abraham added up all the reasons he could and should obey God’s command. God had provided for him supernaturally and fulfilled every promise He had made. Finally, Abraham considered that God is able to raise people from the dead. That was the tipping point in his calculations. He reasoned that even if he killed Isaac, God would raise him from the dead. You know, Abraham had never heard of anybody being raised from the dead. He had never been to an Easter service. But Abraham knew God, and he believed that God could be counted on.

In his commentary on this portion of Hebrews, William Barclay noted, “For everyone at some time, there comes something for which there seems to be no reason and which defies explanation. It is then that we are faced with life’s hardest battle–to accept when we cannot understand. At such a time, there is only one thing to do–to obey and to do so without resentment, saying: ‘God, you are love! I build my faith on that.’” That is what Abraham did. He trusted in the character and the promises of God, and he obeyed.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Legacy Of Faith” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.

William Barclay, “The Letter to the Hebrews,” The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 181.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org

Christ’s Simple Appearance

Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.

–Luke 2:15

God’s indescribable gift–Jesus Christ–was preceded by elaborate preparation. God waited until just the right time to send His Son. But this gift was also missed by many because of its simple appearance. Luke 2:6-7 says, “While they were there, the days were completed for [Mary] to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Most people missed God’s indescribable gift because of the wrapping in which it came. You see, the Jews had been looking for the Messiah to be the King of kings. They expected him to come dressed in regal robes, not worn strips of cloth. Why did they expect that? The Jews were looking for a Messiah who would come and liberate them from their oppressors the Romans. They did not understand that their real need was for somebody to liberate them from their sins. That may explain why the angel chose to announce the coming of Christ to a group of shepherds. In the Jewish social scene, you did not get much lower than shepherds. They were the outcasts of society. But it was to this group that the announcement came. Look at verses 10-11: “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior.’”

Notice how the shepherds responded: “When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us’” (v. 15). The shepherds picked up and beat a path to Bethlehem to see the Lord Jesus Christ. Now contrast their response to that of the religious leaders in Matthew 2. When the religious leaders heard about the coming of the Messiah, they did not move an inch. How do you account for that difference in response? Simply put, the religious leaders were filled with pride. They did not need a Savior, or so they thought. But the shepherds were filled with humility. Because they were outcast from society, they understood their need, and they went immediately to see their Savior.

What is the greatest need you have right now in your life? You might say, “I need a fresh infusion of cash into my checking account.” Or, “I need physical healing, either for myself or for somebody I care about.” Or, “I need reconciliation with someone from whom I have been estranged.” But our greatest need, whether we realize it or not, is the need for God’s forgiveness. Somebody has said that if man’s greatest need had been for information, God would have sent an educator. If our greatest need had been for money, God would have sent an economist. But our greatest need was for forgiveness, so God sent a Savior. That is what makes Jesus Christ His indescribable gift, but many people missed it because of its simple appearance.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Gift Beyond Description” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.