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drawing near

Stepping out in Faith

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Stepping out in Faith
Stepping out in Faith
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By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Hebrews 11:8
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: The life of faith begins with a willingness to forsake everything that displeases God.

Abraham is the classic example of the life of faith. As the father of the Jewish nation, he was the most strategic example of faith available to the writer of the book of Hebrews. But the people to whom Hebrews was written needed to understand that Abraham was more than the father of their race; he also was, by example, the father of everyone who lives by faith in God (Rom. 4:11).

Contrary to popular first-century Jewish thought, God didn’t choose Abraham because he was righteous in himself. When called by God, Abraham was a sinful man living in an idolatrous society. His home was in the Chaldean city of Ur, which was located in ancient Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

God’s call to Abraham is recorded in Genesis 12:1-3: “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Note Abraham’s response: “So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him” (v. 4). He listened, trusted, and obeyed. His pilgrimage of faith began when he separated himself from the pleasures of a pagan land to pursue God’s plan for his life.

So it is with you if you’re a man or woman of true faith. You’ve forsaken sinful pleasures to follow Christ. And as your love for Christ increases, there’s a corresponding decrease in worldly desires.

I pray that your focus will continually be on fulfilling God’s will for your life and that you’ll always know the joy and assurance that come from following Him.

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God for the grace and spiritual fortitude to walk by faith today.

For Further Study: Memorize 1 John 2:15 as a reminder to remain separate from the world.

Rebuking the World

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Rebuking the World
Rebuking the World
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By faith Noah . . . condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Hebrews 11:7
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Your actions and words should rebuke our godless society.

Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Before moving in judgment against the most evil and corrupt society in history, God appointed Noah to build an ark, which became a symbol of life and salvation to all who believed God. For those who disbelieved, it represented impending death and judgment.

Concurrent with constructing the ark, Noah preached about coming judgment. Peter called him “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), and every board he cut and every nail he drove in was a living illustration of the urgency of his message.

God’s warning was stern and His message horrifying, but His patience and mercy prevailed for 120 years. As Peter said, “The patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark” (1 Peter 3:20). The people had ample warning of judgment, but they chose to disregard Noah’s message.

As sad as the account of Noah’s day is, perhaps the greatest tragedy is that man’s attitude toward God hasn’t changed since then. Jesus said, “The coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:37-39).

Like Noah, you are to proclaim righteousness to an evil and perverse generation by your works and by your life. Be faithful to do so even if people don’t want to listen. After 120 years of diligent work and faithful preaching by Noah, only eight people entered the ark. But God’s purposes were accomplished, and the human race was preserved.

Suggestions for Prayer: Sometimes you’ll encounter people who scoff at God’s judgment and mock your testimony. Don’t be discouraged. Pray for them, and be available to minister to them whenever possible.

For Further Study: Read 2 Peter 3. What effect should the prospect of future judgment have on your present behavior?

Building a Picture of Salvation

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Building a Picture of Salvation
Building a Picture of Salvation
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By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household.

Hebrews 11:7
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: The ark is a beautiful picture of salvation by grace through faith.

God called Noah to a gargantuan task. Conservative figures estimate that the ark was about 438 feet long, seventy-three feet wide, and forty-four feet high. That makes it almost one and a half times the length of a football field and more than four stories high. Its three decks totaled almost 96,000 square feet, with a total volume of about 1.3 million cubic feet. Naval engineers concur that its shape and dimensions constitute an incredibly stable ship design.

But beyond the enormity of its size and the precision of its measurements, the ark is a wonderful illustration of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. For example, Noah was instructed to cover the ark inside and out with pitch (Gen. 6:14). The Hebrew word for pitch has the same root as the word for atonement. The pitch kept the waters of judgment from entering the ark, just as Christ’s atoning blood keeps judgment from the repentant sinner.

The ark was large enough to hold two of each species of animals plus every person who turned to God for safety. Only eight persons chose to be saved on God’s terms, but had more come, surely God would have accommodated them. It is His desire that none perish, but that all “come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Those who perished in the Flood did so because they rejected God’s means of salvation.

Similarly, Jesus’ blood is sufficient to atone for every sinner and every sin since man’s fall in the Garden of Eden. No one who comes to Him will be cast out (John 6:37), and yet so few avail themselves of His gracious provision (Matt. 7:14).

Noah was a man who “walked with God” (Gen. 6:9), and yet he wasn’t without sin. That’s obvious from his drunken and immodest behavior after the Flood (9:20-21). But Noah, like every true believer, was justified by God’s grace, his faith being counted as righteousness. That has always been the basis of salvation (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:5).

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His amazing grace, by which He saved you and continues to cleanse you from every sin.

For Further Study: Read Romans 4:1-8. What is the main point of that passage? Who is the primary example?

Obeying in Faith

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Obeying in Faith
Obeying in Faith
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By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Hebrews 11:7
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: True faith works.

When James said, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), he stated a principle that’s consistent throughout Scripture: True faith always produces righteous works.

The people described in Hebrews 11 made their genuine faith known in the things they did. The same applies to us today. Paul said, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

Perhaps better than anyone else in history, Noah illustrates the obedience of faith. Scripture characterizes him as “a righteous man, blameless in his time . . . [who] walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).

I remember a sportscaster interviewing a professional football player and asking him what he thought of his team’s chances of winning the Super Bowl. The player replied, “We believe that if we just do what the coach says, we’ll win.” The team had absolute confidence in their coach, but they realized they had to do their part as well.

That illustrates the quality of faith Noah had in God, whom he trusted absolutely as he pursued a task that seemed utterly foolish and useless from a human perspective. Imagine instantly surrendering all your time and effort to devote 120 years to building something you’d never seen (a vessel the size of an ocean liner or battleship) to protect you from something you’d never experienced (rain and flooding). Yet Noah did it without question.

Noah’s faith is unique in the sheer magnitude and time span of the task God gave him to do. He didn’t argue with God or deviate from his assignment. Is that true of you? Are you pursuing your ministry as faithfully and persistently as Noah did his? Is your faith a faith that works?

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the ministry to which He has called you. If you sense there’s more you could be doing, ask Him for guidance. Pray for added faithfulness and tenacity in serving Him.

For Further Study: Read the account of Noah in Genesis 6:1–9:17.

Believing in God

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Believing in God
Believing in God
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Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is.

Hebrews 11:6
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Nothing you do can please God apart from faith.

Throughout history, people have tried everything imaginable to gain favor with God. Most turn to religion, but religion apart from Christ is merely a Satanic counterfeit of the truth.

Many trust in their own good works, not realizing that even their best efforts are offensive to God (Isa. 64:6; Phil. 3:8). And the more we try to justify ourselves, the more we offend God, because “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20).

Some trust in their family heritage or nationality. The Jewish people thought they were pleasing to God simply because they were descendants of Abraham. But John the Baptist warned them, saying, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with your repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matt. 3:7-9).

Apart from faith, man cannot please God. And the first step of faith is simply believing God exists. That isn’t enough to save a person—even the demons have that level of faith (James 2:19)—but it’s a start, and by God’s grace it can blossom into full saving faith.

God has given ample evidence of His existence. Romans 1:20 says, “Since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.” David said, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and the firmament is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1).

Creation itself proclaims the existence, power, and glory of God, and yet most people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18) by rejecting the Creator and by denying their accountability to Him. Rather than bowing to the true God, they pay homage to “Mother Nature” or evolution. How foolish!

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for the beauty of His creation. Worship Him as the giver of every good gift (James 1:17).

For Further Study: Read Romans 1:18-32. Is there a connection between denying God, practicing idolatry, and committing gross immoralities? Explain.

Walking with God

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Walking with God
Walking with God
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Enoch walked with God.

Genesis 5:24
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: Walking with God includes reconciliation, obedience from the heart, and ongoing faith.

When Scripture speaks of walking with God, it’s referring to one’s manner of life. For example, Paul prayed that the Colossian believers (and us) would be “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” so they could “walk [live] in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:9-10). To the Ephesians he said, “Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind . . . [but] be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you” (Eph. 4:17; 5:1-2).

The Old Testament describes Enoch as a man who walked with God. Though relatively little is said about this special man, we can derive implications from his life that will help us better understand what it means to walk with God.

First, Enoch’s walk with God implies reconciliation. Amos 3:3 says, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (niv). Two people can’t have intimate fellowship unless they agree. Obviously Enoch wasn’t rebellious toward God but had been reconciled with Him through faith.

Second, walking with God implies loving service. Second John 6 says, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” We obey Christ, but our obedience is motivated by love, not by legalism or fear of punishment.

Third, a godly walk implies continuing faith, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Colossians 2:6-7 adds, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith.” By grace Enoch believed God and pleased Him all his life.

Do those who know you best see you as one who walks with God? I trust so. After all, that’s the distinguishing mark of a true believer: “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for granting the reconciliation, faith, and love that enables you to walk with Him day by day.

For Further Study: What do the following verses teach about your Christian walk? Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 John 1:7.

Walking by Faith

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Walking by Faith
Walking by Faith
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By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

Hebrews 11:5
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: When you walk by faith, you enjoy intimacy with God.

Our second hero of faith is Enoch. Genesis 5:21-24 records that “Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

What a wonderful epitaph: “Enoch walked with God.” His life exemplifies the walk of faith. Adam and Eve had walked with God in the Garden of Eden, but their sin separated them from such intimacy. Enoch experienced the fellowship with God they had forfeited.

Enoch’s faithful walk pleased God greatly. And after more than three hundred years on earth, Enoch was translated to Heaven without ever experiencing death. It’s as if God simply said, “Enoch, I enjoy your company so much, I want you to join Me up here right now.”

Like Enoch, there is coming a generation of Christians who will never see death. Someday—perhaps soon—Jesus will return for His church, and “then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up . . . in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). Enoch is a beautiful picture of that great future event, which we call the Rapture of the church.

As you walk with God, He delights in you. You’re His child, and your praises and fellowship bring Him joy. Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.” Death simply ushers you into His presence for all eternity.

Let the joy of intimacy with God, and the anticipation of seeing Christ face to face—either by Rapture or by death—motivate you to please Him more and more each day of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the promise of Christ’s return.

For Further Study: Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. What events surround the Rapture of the church? How were the Thessalonians to respond to Paul’s teaching about the Rapture? How should you respond?

The First Disciple

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The First Disciple
The First Disciple
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Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. And Abel . . . brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.

Genesis 4:3-5
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: True discipleship is characterized by obedience to God’s Word.

In John 8:31 Jesus issued an important statement to a group of people who were showing an interest in Him: “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” Sadly, they rejected His words, proving themselves to be less than true disciples. Jesus went on to explain why: “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (v. 47). They listened but didn’t really hear. They were interested but not truly committed. They were hearers of the Word but not doers (James 1:22).

In contrast, Abel did what God told him to do. He was, in effect, the first disciple. He was probably a better person than Cain—more friendly, moral, and dependable. But that’s not why God accepted his sacrifice and rejected Cain’s. Abel trusted God, and his faith was counted as righteousness. Like Abraham, whose faith was evidenced by his willingness to obey God and to sacrifice his son Isaac (James 2:21-22), Abel’s faith was evidenced in his obedient offering. He didn’t rely on his own goodness but acknowledged his sin and made the prescribed sacrifice.

Perhaps God indicated His acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice by consuming it with fire, as He did on other occasions in Scripture (Judg. 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38). But whatever means He used, God made his pleasure known to Abel.

Abel’s brief life conveys a simple three-point message: we must come to God by faith; we must receive and obey God’s Word; and, sin brings serious consequences. If you hear and heed that message, you’ll walk the path of true discipleship and will be assured of God’s pleasure.

Suggestions for Prayer: Make it your goal to please the Lord in everything you do today. Seek His wisdom and grace to do so faithfully.

For Further Study: Read the following verses, noting what they say about pleasing God: 2 Corinthians 5:9; Ephesians 5:6-10; Philippians 2:12-13; Hebrews 11:6; and Hebrews 13:15-16, 20-21.

Worshiping God His Way

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Worshiping God His Way
Worshiping God His Way
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By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain.

Hebrews 11:4
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: True worship requires coming to God on His terms.

At the heart of every false religion is the notion that man can come to God by any means he chooses—by meditating, doing good deeds, and so on. But Scripture says, “There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). That name is Jesus Christ, and we come to Him by confessing and repenting of our sin, trusting in His atoning death on the cross, and affirming His bodily resurrection from the grave (cf. Rom. 10:9-10). There is no other way to God.

Centuries before Christ’s death, God provided a means of worship and sacrifice. Genesis 4:3-5 says, “It came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.”

Apparently God had designated a special time for sacrificing because “in the course of time” (v. 3) literally means, “at the end of days”—at the end of a certain period of time. Additionally, He initiated a particular pattern for worship and sacrifices. Otherwise Cain and Abel would have known nothing about how it was to be done.

God required a blood offering for sin. Abel came in faith, acknowledged his sin, and made the appropriate sacrifice. His offering was better than Cain’s because Cain neglected the prescribed sacrifice, thereby demonstrating his unwillingness to submit to God and deal with his sin.

There was nothing intrinsically wrong with Cain’s offering. Grain, fruit, or vegetable offerings were included in the Mosaic Covenant. But the sin offering had to come first. Like so many today, Cain wrongly assumed he could approach God on his own terms. In doing so, he became the father of all false religions, and his name became synonymous with rebellion and apostasy (cf. Jude 11).

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for graciously providing salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Be careful never to approach Him irreverently or presumptuously.

For Further Study: Read Jude 11. How did Jude describe the false teachers of his day?

Leaving a Righteous Legacy

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Leaving a Righteous Legacy
Leaving a Righteous Legacy
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By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

Hebrews 11:4
by John MacArthur, Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Key Principle: The character of your life will determine the legacy you leave to others.

Bible scholar James Moffatt wrote: “Death is never the last word in the life of a . . . man. When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something in the world. He may leave something that will grow and spread like a cancer or a poison, or he may leave something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that permeates the atmosphere with blessing.”

That’s illustrated in the lives of Adam and Eve’s first sons—Cain and Abel. Cain was an unrighteous man who sought to please God by his own efforts. God rejected him (Gen. 4:5). Abel was a righteous man who worshiped God in true faith. God accepted him (v. 4).

In a jealous rage, Cain murdered Abel, becoming the first human being to take the life of another. He forever stands as a testimony to the utter tragedy of attempting to please God apart from true faith. For “without faith,” Hebrews 11:6 says, “it is impossible to please Him.” Cain tried and failed—as have millions who have followed in his footsteps.

Abel, on the other hand, was the first man of faith. Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve had no need of faith in the same way as their descendants. They lived in the paradise of Eden and had direct contact with God. Their children were the first to have need of faith in its fullest sense.

Cain’s legacy is rebellion, heartache, and judgment. Abel’s is righteousness, justice, and saving faith. His life proclaims the central message of redemption: righteousness is by faith alone.

What legacy will you leave to those who follow? I pray they will see in you a pattern of righteousness and faithfulness that inspires them to follow suit.

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for righteous Abel and all who have followed his example. Ask Him to guard you from ever rebelling against His Word.

For Further Study: Read Genesis 4:1-16 and 1 John 3:11-12. What was God’s counsel to Cain after rejecting his offering? Why did Cain kill Abel? How did God punish Cain?

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