God Is Loving
by Molly Coulter
Teacher, Prestonwood Christian Academy
Within every human heart is the desire to feel and be loved. While both the worldly and biblical views of love share similar properties such as meeting needs, sharing a sense of concern, and a desire for fulfillment, their primary focus and definition are very different. The world says that love is all about “self.” It’s conditional, based on feelings, and often temporary and unsatisfying. On the other hand, the Bible focuses on the “selflessness” of love. Biblical love is unconditional, not based on how we feel, and should be demonstrated to others because of the love that has been freely bestowed on us through Jesus Christ. I once read that “Biblical love seeks the other’s highest good without any thought for himself. This love is not based upon the worth, response or merit of the object loved.”
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Notice that the word demonstrates is in present tense, not past. Using the present tense of demonstrates implies that the Lord’s love toward us is an ongoing act that will be evidenced today, as well as tomorrow, and for all eternity. It also means that we will never be alone as the Holy Spirit lives within us. Just as His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22–23) so will His love be toward us. As believers, we are the recipients of His love not because of what we have done, but rather the goodness of His heart. Now, look at the word died and notice it is in past tense, implying that when Christ died on the Cross for our sins, it was a “done deal.” In an instant and only through His love, our sins were forgiven when He died for us.
1 John 3:16 says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” In this verse, we can see that the ultimate expression of God’s love was evidenced at the Cross when He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to die for us. Because of this, He tells us that we “ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Look at verse 18, which tells us, “Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in actions and truth.” While not many are called to sacrifice their physical lives for the sake of love, as believers, we are all required to show self-sacrificing love. We have to choose to love others, not because of how we feel or because they love us, but rather we are to love them because of what God did for us.
If the root of loving others for a Christian is selflessness, a great principle to live by is “I’m Third.” It simply means to put God first, others second, and yourself third. When we love others through big or small acts of service, we are ultimately loving God.
Many of you probably find yourself in a place where “little eyes” (such as your children or grandchildren) are watching your every move. Don’t forget that often, the best way to teach little ones to love and serve others is by including them in the process at an early age.
Here are some simple and practical ways to show love to others:
- Offer a cold Gatorade to the men collecting garbage.
- Take dinner to a friend who just had surgery.
- Take a family walk to invite your neighbors to an Easter service.
- Take a $20 bill to Walmart and let your kids help you pick out food, clothes, or other items for a family in need.
How are you going to show the love of God to someone this week? Take a few minutes to pray and ask the Lord to show you whom and how to love this week.
God Is Wrathful
by Kerby Anderson
President of Probe Ministries
Teacher, Examine Bible Fellowship
Perhaps you have seen the Facebook meme that shows a picture of Jesus confronting the moneychangers in the temple. The caption reads, “If Jesus returned, people would accuse him of not acting like Jesus.”
Obviously, many in our society have an inaccurate view of God the Son. But so many also have a false view of God the Father. They think of Him as our “non-judgmental buddy.” Ask anyone on the street to describe God’s character. You aren’t likely to hear too many people talk about the wrath of God. Yet it is that bad news that makes the Good News of the Gospel so important.
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9). We should fear the wrath of God because all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We are condemned sinners if we have not accepted Jesus Christ.
A recent gathering of theologians expressed their concern that many preachers and teachers are saying things such as “God is not angry with you.” That does not conform to what Paul writes in the first chapter of Romans, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” God is indeed angry with sin, ungodliness and unrighteousness.
The good news is that “Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). But let’s examine what Jesus had to do to save us from our sins. He took on the sins of the world and died a horrible death so that God’s wrath would be satisfied. He was “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Because of His death, “we have been justified by faith” and we can “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
How should we apply this to our daily lives? First, we need to view sin as God views it. We should not excuse sin in our lives or in the lives of other Christians. We should pursue righteousness and holiness.
Second, we should be even more grateful for our salvation. The bad news of God’s wrath should remind us of how great a salvation we received when Jesus went to the Cross to die for your sins and mine. That is the profound message of His death, burial and Resurrection.
God Is Faithful
by Hannah Morris
Children’s Ministry Associate, Plano Campus
Think about a challenging task you face, something painful that you would rather avoid. Maybe it’s a home improvement project or a work assignment that’s been sitting in your inbox. Perhaps it’s something more personal, such as a difficult conversation with a friend.
But you know, despite the unpleasantness of the challenge in front of you, it must be done. You must be faithful.
We want to be faithful, to be loyal and steadfast, but we often fail—we’re imperfect. But God is faithful in everything, even in difficult things or things that break His heart. In this Easter season, one such example comes to mind.
In Matthew 26:36–46, Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane, and just moments from His arrest that would lead down a painful path to the Cross. As He steps further into the garden, weighed by the reality of what’s facing Him, Jesus falls to His face and prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus is so taxed in this moment that He’s literally sweating blood. And yet, He continues:
“… nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In the midst of looming pain and a humiliating death, Jesus remains faithful. He places the Father’s will above His own wishes and marches forward into a sacrifice that had to be made, a sacrifice that would pave the road to reconcile man to God. Jesus chose faithfulness. Jesus chose you.
As you reflect on Christ’s faithfulness, are there areas in your own life where you fall short of remaining faithful to Him? Are you faithful with the family He has given you? Are you faithful with the job He has provided for you? Are you faithful with the money He has given you?
Take time to examine carefully the different areas of your life. Pray that the Lord would reveal to you where you lack faithfulness. Seek His counsel daily as you grow in faithfulness.
God Is Righteous
by Dr. Charles Hebert
Associate Minister of Pastoral Care, Plano Campus
Teacher, Champions and Faithful Saints Bible Fellowships
2 Corinthians 5:21
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” —2 Corinthians 5:21
There are some life-changing trades in modern history, some for the good and others that are ruinous. Kyle MacDonald started with one red paper clip and the goal of owning a home. One year and 14 trades later, he had a farmhouse in Canada. The Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth for $25,000, resulting in decades of infamy. God offers each person a trade that will transform who we are, who we will become and where we will spend eternity.
Jesus did not go to the Cross because false religious leaders plotted His death, though they did. He did not go to the Cross because Judas betrayed Him, though he did. Jesus was not crucified because an angry crowd intimidated Pilate to sentence Him to death, though they did. Jesus went to the Cross so that He could trade places with us.
Jesus suffered the wrath of God and died the death that each of us deserve. “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5–6).
Jesus took our sin so that He could give us His righteousness. This is the trade of a lifetime. We give Jesus everything about us that is ugly, crooked, rebellious, deserving of God’s wrath and trade it for everything about Jesus that is beautiful, straight, obedient, good, loving and deserving of God’s favor. Sixteenth-century theologian Zacharias Ursinus writes “God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.” We can exchange everything about ourselves that is wrong for everything about Jesus that is right.
We exchange hell for heaven, and a life without purpose for a life of purposeful ministry. Followers of Christ have been given this same ministry; we are Christ’s representatives on earth. We are to spend our life inviting everyone we know to make this trade of a lifetime.
God Is Forgiving
by Tasha Calvert
Director of Women’s Ministry, North Campus
Teacher, Bloom Bible Fellowship
Luke 23:34; Psalm 103:12
Though most in my family have used and repeated this phrase for years, I think it was my sister who originally said, “We are all one bad decision away from a Dateline special.” It stuck because it’s true. If you’ve ever watched an investigative crime drama, you know it often begins with a person who looks and acts like you and me. But, somewhere along the way, that person makes a decision that sets his or her life on an entirely different, tragic path.
You’ve likely not been the center of a crime investigation, but our humanity—in and of itself—sets us on a path that leads to death. Romans 3:23 says, “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And, though our decisions may not be chronicled on primetime television, the Bible is clear that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). However, unlike those cliff-hanging crime dramas, God doesn’t leave us to our sin and cut to a commercial.
Yes, our sin deserves death, and death it received—the death of Jesus. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, lived a perfect, sinless life and paid the penalty for all our sins through His death on the Cross—our small sins, our careless sins, the sins to which we are addicted, and even the sins which might cause Lester Holt to show up at our house with a camera crew from Dateline. It’s true—we are all one decision away from death. But, we are also one decision away from eternal life.
As Jesus hung on the Cross, an innocent man, He prayed to God, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus shed His own blood as punishment for our sins in order that we might be forgiven. When we truly repent of our sin and choose to accept the forgiveness of Jesus, the Bible tells us, “… as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions…” (Psalm 103:12). What’s more, the forgiveness of Jesus comes with the assurance of redemption. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
This Easter, there is one decision that can change your future eternally, a decision that holds the power of life over death. May we choose to accept the forgiveness Jesus offers to all who repent of their sins and follow Him, and be faithful to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave [us]” (Ephesians 4:32).
God Is Gracious
by Ben Lacey
Minister to Young Adults, North Campus
Teacher, Anchored Bible Fellowship
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” —Luke 23:39–43
There are many joys that accompany the Easter season. Each year we can look forward to beautiful weather, time with family, and reflecting on Jesus’ death and Resurrection. We can celebrate because of the grace extended to us through Jesus’ sacrifice. The New Testament speaks of this sacrifice in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each account offers details of the men and women surrounding Jesus at His death. Often, we try to find where we would fit into this story; however, you are hard pressed to find a more relatable person than the thief on the cross next to Jesus. We were not given his name, but his story remains relevant and real for us today.
Unlike Jesus, this man is justly being punished for breaking the law. We don’t know any further details of his crimes, but his sentence of crucifixion provides clarity to the seriousness of his transgression. Being in the presence of Jesus revealed to the man that he himself deserved to be there, but Jesus did not. The apostle Paul makes it clear in Romans 6:23 that the punishment for sin is death. Often, we can feel as though our punishment is far more severe than we deserve, but when we encounter the crucified Christ, it reveals the reality of our sinfulness, brokenness and guilt.
Like the thief on the cross, we cannot earn or buy God’s grace; it is only given to those who recognize their brokenness and believe in the person and work of Jesus. We can celebrate the good news that, Jesus, the sinless son of God, came not to condemn us, but to save us. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” The grace of God can be defined as “receiving what we do not deserve.” Jesus extends this grace to the thief on the cross by giving him life in paradise when he deserved death. We have the choice to receive the same incredible gift of grace that was given to the thief on the cross. The hope and joy of God’s grace isn’t just avoiding punishment for our sin, but spending all of eternity with Jesus.
Take time over the coming days to reflect and rejoice over the grace of God. Read and use Titus 3:4–7 today as a guide to pray and thank God the Father for the wonderful gift that He has given us in His Son, Jesus.
Introduction to the Easter Devotionals
By Dr. Jason Snyder
Minister to Adults, Plano Campus
Teacher, Truth Bible Fellowship
This year in the Prestonwood Easter devotional series, we are going to take a deeper look at how the Cross puts God’s character on display. In his masterfully written book The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer argues that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.” Given this truth, I believe it is of utmost importance for every believer to know and pursue God in a deeper way. When thoroughly examined, the Cross of Christ clearly displays the splendor of God’s character and gives rise to moments of earnest worship as we entertain these lofty thoughts. This year, as you receive these devotional thoughts, take pause to consider the character of God, to realize that He desires to be known by you, that He is “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27), and that when we know Christ, we know the Father (John 14:9).
God Is Sovereign
by Jonathan Adkins
Minister to Single Adults, Plano Campus
Teacher, Emerge Bible Fellowship
Jesus entered Jerusalem with people in the crowd shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Many laid down their cloaks on the road to pave a way for Him. On Palm Sunday, Jesus was at the height of popularity during His earthly ministry, and yet just a few days later, the crowd screamed for Jesus to be nailed to a cross and crucified (Matthew 27:22). How could Jesus have gone from celebrity to perceived villain? How could people rapidly change their minds so drastically to hate Him?
The God we worship is sovereign, having authority and influence over all of creation. The rejection of Jesus that led to His Crucifixion was all part of God’s sovereign plan, foretold many times both by the authors of the Old Testament (Isaiah 53:3: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief … and we esteemed him not”; Psalm 22:7–8: “All who see me mock me … ‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’”) and by Jesus Himself (Mark 8:31: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again”).
God’s plan to bring salvation through the death of Jesus was completed upon the Cross when Jesus took His final breath and said, “It is finished.” Jesus then bowed His head and gave His spirit to God (John 19:28–30).
The death of Jesus was not an accident, nor was it God’s backup plan to provide forgiveness of our sins. Rather, Jesus’ Crucifixion was God’s plan all along, something that had been foreshadowed time and again throughout history. The Cross of Christ shows us God’s plan in action, His will carried to completion.
Seeing God’s sovereignty in the Cross gives us confidence that God is in ultimate control of our past, present and future. Understanding this, we can rest in His sovereignty, knowing that nothing in life takes God by surprise. We can trust the promises of Scripture, believing that God uses all of life’s events for the good of those in Christ (Romans 8:28). We have hope both today and tomorrow, knowing our future is secure in His hands.