Devotionals

  • How Is Faith Alone?

    By Josh Moody

    During this fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation (dating from 1517 when Luther famously nailed his Ninety-Five Theses) we are remembering how God used faithful men and women to retrieve the gospel. At the center of this story is the doctrine of justification, that is, the particular way God makes children out of rebels. Amidst the constellation of titles released this year on the subject of justification is my recently published book, Justified in Christ, which compares the doctrines held by the legendary nineteenth-century Catholic, John Henry Newman, and an Italian hero of the Reformation, Peter Martyr Vermigli. Despite the intervening centuries, these men speak to us in fresh and practical ways. In what follows, I’d like to highlight a particular lesson that pertains to every conversation we have with our Catholic friends on the subject of salvation. Consider a classic landmine on which we often step: our message that…

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    February 16, 2017: Listen to Jesus

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Leviticus 1-4, Psalm 38, Matthew 17:1-13, Acts 23:12-35 Matthew 17:1-13: The next event, the famous Transfiguration, connects to the previous by the phrase “And after six days” (17:1). What will it mean for some not to taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom? Some will see that coming of the kingdom at the death and resurrection of Jesus, and some will get a foretaste of Jesus’ glory in just “after six days” (17:1)—that foretaste pointing towards Jesus’ death and resurrection itself (17:9). Jesus was “transfigured before them” (17:2). His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. Peter later reflects on what this event meant when he says that “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). They saw Jesus’ “majesty,” his glory, the glory of the one in the coming kingdom of God—the king of the kingdom and…

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    February 15, 2017: Take Up the Cross

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading:Exodus 38-40, Psalm 37:23-40, Matthew 16:13-28, Acts 23:1-11 Matthew 16:13-28: Peter’s confession of Christ is justly famous, for good reason, and yet frequently misunderstood at the same time. Jesus begins by asking who people say that he is (16:13). This is a technique for teaching, asking a question in good Socratic mode, not because Jesus was either ignorant of what people were saying about him, or especially interested in the popular vote. He wanted to use this question to get the disciples to give their answers so that he could create a “teachable moment” among his little band of followers. They answer telling him that basically people think that he is some sort of prophet, though exactly what kind of prophet is a matter of debate (16:14). Simon Peter then chimes in with the right answer, what he thinks himself: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (16:16).…

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    Changing Your Life

    By Josh Moody

    Life is on the wrong track. Many people today feel that way for one reason or another. Whether it be politics, cultural issues, moral matters or more prosaically economic realities, much of the Western world senses that times are not so much a’changing as a’worsening. Trusting God Writing long ago, the prophet Isaiah faced situations where the society around him was moving from a time of relative prosperity to increasing pressure from neighborhood superpowers. Isaiah’s message was, broadly speaking, quite simple. Trust in God. Do not fear. As Alec Motyer put it, “Justification by faith is not a Sunday truth bearing only on our relationship with God but also a Monday truth for the conduct of life in all its challenges.” Unfortunately, King Ahaz did not listen to this counsel. Instead of trusting God, he trusted in an alliance with Assyria—and the Northern Kingdom went into exile, the Southern Kingdom…

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    February 14, 2017: The Teaching of the Pharisees

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 34, Psalm 37:1-22, Matthew 16:1-12, Acts 22 Matthew 16:1-12: The contrast between those who received Jesus’ teaching and responded with faith (like the Canaanite woman, 15:21-28), and others (like the Pharisees), becomes yet more stark and glaring. The Pharisees, along with the Sadducees, come to Jesus to test him (16:1). And what a test! They want a sign. Wow. Have they been paying no attention at all? He just fed four thousand people with a small picnic (15:32-39); he has been healing countless numbers; he has been teaching vast crowds with authority. Every sign imaginable has been performed for them—if they have eyes to see and ears to hear. But they come “demanding” a sign. And therefore no sign will be given to them. Jesus is not a “jack-in-the-box” who will do their bidding; he is not a genie in a lamp that will come out and perform tricks…

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    February 13, 2017: Great Faith

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 34, Psalm 36, Matthew 15:21-39, Acts 21:27-40 By contrast with the Pharisaic refusal to accept Jesus or listen to God’s Word, but rather instead trump God’s Word by means of their own human traditions—by contrast with this approach to Jesus, and God, we come across now the faith of a Canaanite woman. No greater shock could there be to hear what Jesus said in verse 28 of this woman: “Great is your faith.” But she is asking Jesus to have mercy on her (15:22). She recognizes his Messianic identity (“Son of David”). Jesus appears to put her off—“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (15:24). But she persists. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (15:27). Later in Matthew chapter 28, we know that Jesus’ mission extends to all nations, but at this stage he was primarily focused…

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    February 12, 2017: Human Tradition

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 32-33, Psalm 35, Matthew 15:1-20, Acts 21:1-26 Matthew 15:1-20: Perhaps one of the most important teachings of Jesus is in a context where religion is common, and faith—real faith—must be contrasted against the mere externals of “Pharisaic religion” (under its various guises). It is possible to look very impressive on the outside, and follow all sorts of forms and ceremonial observances, fastings and the like, but actually be very far from having a genuine heart for God. The Pharisees and the scribes criticize Jesus’ disciples for not washing—meaning ceremonial washing—before they eat (15:1-2). But, as they point out, the real issue here is that they are not thereby following “the tradition of the elders” (15:2). In other words, they were going against the time-honored traditional teaching, so honored and upheld in Jesus’ time, and still so among religions of our own day. Jesus’ reply is stunning, and the right…

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    February 11, 2017: Out of the Boat

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 30-31, Psalm 34, Matthew 14:22-36, Acts 20:13-38 Matthew 14:22-36: Perhaps one of the most famous miracles of all dominates the passage in front of us this morning: Jesus walking on water. Many people have wondered whether it is really possible. Could it be possible that someone would walk on water? I have read, or heard, discussions about the properties of water and the physical mass of a human being, and the various discussion about how such a feat could be achieved. But all this is so much nonsense: the point of Jesus walking on water is that it is not possible—not humanly possible, anyway. That is why, at the end, they worship him as the Son of God (14:33). The primary purpose of this encounter, then, is to show us that Jesus is far more than a mere miracle worker—impressive enough as that would be. He is God incarnate,…

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    February 10, 2017: King Jesus

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 27-29, Psalm 33, Matthew 14:1-21, Acts 20:1-12 Matthew 14:1-21: John the Baptist, the greatest prophet, the one who made straight the path leading to Christ and prepared the way for him, is dead. As Jesus’ fame grows, King Herod begins to think that somehow John the Baptist has returned from the dead and is imbuing his spirit in Jesus, and that is why Jesus is doing all these miracles. The association in Herod’s mind between John the Baptist and Jesus Christ was a dangerous one: John had been beheaded. Matthew steps back to give the backstory. John had been imprisoned for calling King Herod to account for his relationship with his brother’s wife. Speaking truth to power is seldom a safe thing to do, especially when the man in power is Herod. Unable to countenance such opposition from an evidently holy man, calling him to a higher standard, Herod…

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    February 9, 2017: The Pearl of Great Price

    By Josh Moody

    Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 24-26, Psalm 32, Matthew 13:44-58, Acts 19:23-41 Matthew 13:44-58: More parables, with a final description of what took place after them—“A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown” (13:57). The first parable is of a treasure hidden in a field (13:44). A man discovers it and then sells everything he has to buy the field. The point is that this treasure, this kingdom, is so valuable that it is worth everything to get it. The second parable, the pearl of great value (13:45-46), makes the same point in a different way: the pearl, the treasure, is worth everything to get. The parable of the net (13:47-50) is of fishing—the picture is of someone, after fishing, sorting out the good fish into one set of containers, and throwing out the bad. The point is that at the end of the age, there will be a separation of…

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