OYB: January 25

Filed in ReligionTags: Christianity, Devotions, One Year Bible

Today´s reading:
OT: Genesis 50, Exodus 1, Exodus 2:1-10
NT: Matthew 16:13-28, Matthew 17:1-9
Ps: Psalm 21
Pr: Proverbs 5:1-6

Today´s notable verse:

24Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

Matthew 16:24-25 (NIV)

A thought occurs to me: what, exactly, does Jesus mean here by "cross"? What is it that we must take up in order to follow Him? I understand the denial of self, but what of the cross? The cross is a burden, a punishment, a symbol of sin; but do these things represent what Jesus calls us to "take up" in order to follow Him? Aren't these the very things we give up to Him - the things He took upon Himself for us? So, if not these things, then what?

The One Year Bible Blog notes:

In Exodus chapter 1 verse 12 is awesome - "But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more quickly the Israelites multiplied!" It's amazing how when God wants people to flourish, they flourish! Even in the midst of oppression. This verse kind of reminds me of the flourishing of churches over the centuries and even today where the body of Christ is still often oppressed. It flourishes!

I would even suggest that opposition is beneficial to flourishing. This principle is true in nature (predators improve the health and strength of their prey, who otherwise become weak and even less healthy in their absence), it was true in the early Christian church (which saw exponential growth in the face of severe persecution), and it is true in the world today (see this study).

In verse 18 we read - "Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." Praise God for Jesus instituting the church! And all of the powers of hell will not conquer Jesus' church!

I think it is important to understand what Jesus is saying here, if we are to know how the church He instituted is to withstand the powers of hell. I believe that when Jesus says, "this rock", He is referring to Peter's previous statement:

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Matthew 13:16 (NIV)

I believe that Jesus here is instituting His church on the faith contained in Peter's statement about Jesus' identity, for it is our faith that is our bedrock. Even a "little pebble" (Peter) can withstand the gates of hell when founded on the "immovable stone" (rock) of faith in Jesus. Here is a very involved study of Matthew 16:18.

Comments from you & Question of the Day - In our Matthew readings today Jesus institutes the church. I'm curious what your thoughts are on the church today? And I'm not talking about any one denomination - I mean church as the overall "body of Christ" Christian churches worldwide. Do you personally go to church regularly? Why or why not? Have there been periods of your life where you have not gone to church regularly? Have these been good or not so good periods of your life? What would you say to someone now who might be reading this blog who does not go to church about church? How might you encourage someone to go to church? Why does it matter if they go to church or not?

My thoughts on the church today? I think the church isn't doing such a good job of "keep[ing] the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). I think the church has given up to worldly means many of the ministries for which it was instituted, such as caring for the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, and the imprisoned. But I also think that the church is still the single greatest agent for good in the world! I do go to church regularly. We are called not to "give up meeting together", but to "encourage one another" and to consider how we may "spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24-25). To me, a local church provides many things vital to the life of a Christian: an opportunity to serve, fellowship with other believers for encouragement, teaching, and admonishment, corporate worship of our Lord, and many others. Our salvation does not depend on the existence or regularity of our church attendance; however, the prosperity of our lives as Christians certainly does!