January 1—Good Children are Happy Children
Read Psalm 1
I sometimes remind my children: “Good children are happy children.” When they are obedient and kind, their conscience is at peace with God, and our home is a pleasant place to be. When they choose to disobey or act selfishly, not only do they feel troubled inside, but the rest of the home is upset as well.
That’s not true only of those who are young—it’s true of all of God’s children, no matter their age. Psalm 1:1 verifies this reality: Blessed—that is, happy—is the man who does not walk in the way of the ungodly, the sinner, or the scornful. In Proverbs 4:14 Solomon cautions, “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men,” before he says this about the path of the righteous: “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (4:18). You and I are called to grow in holiness with each passing day. Only then will we truly be happy.
Sing or pray Psalter #1
January 2—Our Delight, Day and Night
Read Joshua 1:1–9
How are you and I able to discern between the paths of the wicked and the just? From the word of God. The blessed man delights in God’s law, and he meditates on it day and night.
By nature we do not delight in God’s word. Too often we neglect to study our Bibles daily, much less day and night. So many other things seem more pressing, more important. No doubt this was true of Joshua as well. Not only was he the leader of a huge, homeless nation of people, he was also the captain of an army that faced the colossal task of conquering Canaan. Yet the Lord told him that he would prosper only when he meditated in God’s law day and night. In that way you and I also discern the way in which we should walk. In that way we too enter the promised land.
A new year lies before us. It’s my prayer that this devotional will encourage you to delight in God’s word each and every day ahead.
Sing or pray Psalter #2
January 3—Be Fruitful
Read Matthew 7:13–23
According to Psalm 1:3, the one who delights in the law of the Lord is a like a tree planted by rivers of water. This well-watered tree brings forth fruit. Fruit-bearing is not optional for the child of God. Jesus himself stated, “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit” (Matt. 7:17). The righteous, all of whom are given God’s Spirit and are watered with God’s word, must bring forth these fruits: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22).
Psalm 1:3 states that the tree brings forth his fruit “in his season.” Psalm 92:14 makes clear that for those trees planted in the house of the Lord, no season of life is exempt from fruit-bearing: “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.”
You and I are known by our fruits. Are we bringing forth the fruits of one who truly knows the Lord?
Sing or pray Psalter #251
January 4—Chaff Carried Away
Read Job 21
The Psalmist asserts that whatever the righteous man does prospers, but “the ungodly are not so.” Job’s three friends agree. They insist that some sin must be the cause of all Job’s trouble. But he defends himself as one of the righteous: “The counsel of the wicked is far from me” (v. 16). He too points at the prosperity of many wicked, but he recognizes that though they may die in full strength, “at ease and quiet,” the end of the wicked is terrible. When their short lives—whether prosperous or plagued—are over, they are blown into hell like chaff into the fire. Unlike the righteous, who are covered in Christ, they are unable to stand before the Lord in the great day of judgment.
Loved one, do not envy those who hate God’s church. Though they may cause the righteous grief, they are reserved for the day of destruction (v. 30). Rather, “draw near to God” and put your trust in him (Ps. 73:28).
Sing or pray Psalter #201
January 5—The Lord Knows Your Way
Read Jeremiah 29:1-14
We might wonder: if the Lord knows the way of the righteous, do why do we face so many trials and so much grief in life? If our own sinfulness and troubles do not weigh on us, likely the difficulties of our loved ones do. Perhaps you are concerned for your children’s future in this world as it grows increasingly hostile to Christianity. Maybe you are burdened by the awareness of brethren who are persecuted or imprisoned, live in poverty, or mourn.
Rejoice! The Lord knows our way. All things come not by chance, but by His Fatherly hand (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10). He endures “the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” in order “that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy” (Rom. 9:22–23). He knows the plans that he has for you, and they are thoughts of good, not of evil. He will show you the path of life, and bring you safely to your destination, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
Sing or pray Psalter #28
January 6—The Raging of the Heathen
Read Psalm 2
Throughout the Bible the nations of men are described as a tumultuous sea. How unbelievers despise God’s sovereign rule! How they hate his holy law! So the world leaders of today pursue peace among the nations and focus on the global economy, determined to overthrow his reign. “Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas,” writes the prophet Isaiah. “The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind.” (Is. 17:12–13).
It is God, after all, who made the sea. It belongs to him (Ps. 95:5). He set its bounds with bars and doors (Job 38:8–11). And though the nations rage against his Anointed, they only accomplish what his hand has determined before to be done (Acts 4:25–26). Our crucified and risen King will shortly destroy the beast that comes out of the sea. He will establish his kingdom, in which unbelievers will be no more.
Sing or pray Psalter #4
Janurary 7—This Day Have I Begotten Thee
Read Acts 13:13–43
We confess that God the Son is eternal, “begotten, not made” (Nicene Creed). In Proverbs 8:22–23 and 29–30 read, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” So what can be the meaning of Psalm 2:7: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, ‘Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee’”?
The question is answered in Acts 13:32–33. The day of which the psalmist prophecies is the day on which God raised Christ, the first begotten of the dead (Rev.1:5). It is the day we too were begotten “unto a lively hope” by the resurrection of our triumphant Savior (1 Pet. 1:3).
Sing or pray Psalter #29
January 8—Your Life is Worth Living
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12–58
In Psalm 2 we read that God gives his anointed dominion over all the heathen and the uttermost parts of the earth. Our Lord reigns, writes Paul in 1 Corintians 15, until all enemies are put under his feet. The last enemy? Death.
In 1 Peter 3:15 believers are instructed to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” In 1 Corintians 15 we find the answer that we are to give to that question: Christ’s resurrection. Christ’s resurrection proves that his work of justification was completed on the cross: there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus! (Rom. 8:1) Because he lives, we enjoy a relationship of faith with him. Because he lives, we are assured that our bodies too will be raised, for our head is incomplete without his body. Because he lives, we can rest in the knowledge that he also reigns and is coming again. Your life is worth living…because he lives!
Sing or pray Psalter #198
January 9—The Most High Rules in the Kingdoms of Men
Read Daniel 4
Ungodly rulers obtain their authority from God, to whom all power and authority belongs. “By me kings reign,” he declares in Proverbs 8:15.
We are called to submit to those in authority. The honor that we owe them is “due.” It is fitting to their God-given positions, and it is our duty to give, even if they are wicked. Daniel showed honor to Nebuchadnezzar. To the saints who lived under the anti-Christian government of Rome, Paul wrote: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Romans 13:1–2). In fact, we are called not only to give them honor, but to pray for them. (1Tim. 2:1–2). Pray for their salvation. Pray that God “may rule and guide them in all their ways, and that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (Jer. 29:7, Belgic Confession, Article 36).
Sing or pray Psalter #223
January 10—Blessed Are They That Put Their Trust in Him
Read John 14:1–11
Many dismiss Christianity as just one more religion. Do you know what makes Christianity unique?
First, in all other religions, people seek to merit salvation by their works. In contrast, God’s law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). That is, our inability to keep his law shows us our need for a savior.
Second, Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship of love between the triune God and those whom he has elected to be his children. So merciful is that God that he took upon himself our nature and the punishment due us for our sins!
Third, we know this God from the Bible, which is his infallible, inerrant, and all-sufficient recorded word. God does not add to that revelation of himself, not by other books, and not by people who claim they’ve heard his voice.
Finally, we base our hope on our Savior’s resurrection, the proof that he was God in flesh and that he fulfilled the work for which he came. He is the way, the truth, and the life: no man can be saved, but by him. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him!
Sing or pray Psalter #400
January 11—You Have a Three-fold Enemy
Read Psalm 3
When I was in high school, I read my Bible with a pink highlighter in hand, marking every verse that struck me as applicable to my life. Now, as I glance through the Psalms, I see that I didn’t highlight any verses that mention “my enemies” or “my foes.” That includes four of the verses in Psalm 3.
Why is it that we don’t like to think that we have enemies? Perhaps we are mindful of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Notice that even though Jesus commands us to pray for them, he still calls them enemies. They are not our friends. They despitefully use us. They curse us. They persecute us. They hate us.
Fellow believers, we have a three-fold enemy against whom Jehovah is our defense. Can you name that enemy? Can your children? Our enemies are: the devil, the world, and our own sinful selves.
Sing or pray Psalter #5
January 12—The Lord Has Put Away Your Sin
Read 2 Samuel 12:1–15
When David penned Psalm 3, his enemies were led by his son, Absalom. Absalom’s revolt is recorded only three chapters after the prophet Nathan confronts David regarding his sin: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me. Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house.” David cries to the Lord in Psalm 3, mindful of the cause of his troubles: his own sin. Yet he is mindful of these gracious words as well: “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”
You and I also suffer bitter consequences for our sins. Perhaps something you said has ruined a relationship. Maybe your own shortcomings as a parent have driven away a child. There are also our sins of omission, and the high cost of our refusal to do so many things that we are called to do. Praise the Lord, for he is faithful. Though he chastens, he hears us when we cry to him in repentance and grief.
Sing or pray Psalter #83
January 13—Your Enemies Are of Your Own House
Read Micah 7
In Matthew 10:34–37, Jesus teaches that “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Jesus’ words were not radical to those who heard them, for he was quoting the prophet Micah. And yet, the truth of his words stings. Perhaps, like David, you have a rebellious child. Maybe you’ve been forsaken by your spouse or by your father or mother. Perhaps one of your siblings walks in sin. These family members become our enemies, for when they walk in wickedness, they tempt us. Sometimes they tempt us to follow their evil way: after all, it often seems as if the consequences for their sins are very small. If not, they may tempt us to question God’s goodness, to doubt his sovereignty, and to deny the truth of his word.
Why does God allow our loved ones to become our enemies? He does so to prove that Jesus’ words are true; to make us fervent in prayer; to make us more dependent on those who are truly our brothers and sisters; and to cause us, like Micah, to put our trust in him, not in people or relationships.
Sing or pray Psalter #72
January 14—Thoughts in the Night
Read Psalm 4
Are you ever unable to sleep? There have been times in my life during which I was plagued with sleeplessness. Pressing decisions or worries made my mind restless and my faith weak.
David penned Psalm 4 in similar distress. In his restlessness, he turned to God, trusting that “the Lord will hear when I call unto him.” David communed with his heart upon his bed, that is, he called to mind the former loving-kindnesses of God toward him. He offered unto God the sacrifices of righteousness: a broken spirit, a contrite heart, and thankfulness (Ps. 51:17 and Ps. 50:14).
Can’t sleep? Don’t be anxious; rather, in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus (Phil . 4:6–7). And it will allow you to sleep.
Sing or pray Psalter #7
January 15—A Morning Prayer
Read Psalm 5
I write these mediations early in the morning, while my children still sleep. Before I begin, I often turn to Psalm 5: “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (vs.5).
What instruction does Psalm 5 have for the day that lies before us? This psalm reminds us that God is our king. The time, gifts, and possessions that he will give you and me today belong to him. How will we use them? This psalm warns us that God has no pleasure in wickedness: if we walk in sin today, we will not experience the comfort of his presence. Also, this psalm assures us that our King hears our cries: because of his mercy, we are not consumed. When we turn to him for direction, he will make his way straight before our face. He will defend us today, and he will destroy our three-fold enemy.
Believing these things, we can rejoice, no matter what the day may bring.
Sing or pray Psalter #9
January 16—The Lord Chastens Those He Loves
Read Psalm 6
Do you turn to the Lord when he chastens you for your sin? In this psalm David prays, “Lord, rebuke me, but not in anger. Rather, chasten me out of love.” Jeremiah prayed a similar prayer: “O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing” (Jer. 10:24). Both men recognized that to experience chastening is to know God’s love –“My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:5-6).
Our Father’s chastening takes different forms. David here prays for the healing of his body as well as the deliverance of his soul. Sometimes God chastens us by giving us over to sin for a time. At other times he plagues us with feelings of guilt or embarrassing circumstances. His chastening can take the form of broken relationships, sickness, or even physical death. Praise him! He loves us too much to allow us to continue in sin without reaping bitter consequences.
Sing or pray Psalter #12
January 17—Avenge Not Yourselves
Read Psalm 7
A “Shiggaion” is a wandering poem composed under intense emotion. The heading of Psalm 7 notes the origin of this Shiggaion: the words of Cush the Benjamite to David. Some speculate that Cush was a relative of Saul who accused David of attempting to harm the king without cause; hence David’s parenthetical remark in verse four. Whatever the case, Cush wrongfully accused David of evil, and David’s response is recorded for our benefit. Instead of seeking revenge, he turns to God in prayer.
Have you ever been wronged by another? Such an occasion becomes both a temptation from Satan, who would have your soul devoured by self-righteousness and hatred, and a trial from your heavenly Father, who would have you learn to more fully trust in him as your defense. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [that is, commit to the Lord the right to judge— Calvin]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19, 21).
Sing or pray Psalter #13
January 18—How Excellent is His Name
Read Psalm 8
When you were taught how to write a paragraph, your teacher likely taught you that a paragraph’s opening sentence usually states its topic and that its closing sentence typically also summarizes the main point. There’s no question about the message of Psalm 8: “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”
When the word Lord is spelled in all capital letters, as it is when it first appears in this Psalm, the reference is to God’s name “Jehovah” or “Yahweh.” This name reveals God as the self-existent, unchanging God. “But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee” (Psalm 102:27–28). God gave Moses this name at the burning bush. It is the name that the Israelites heard – and we also hear – before the reading of his law, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” No longer are we the slaves of sin! The most excellent, most majestic God is our Lord!
Sing or pray Psalter #275
January 19—The Work of His Fingers
Read Psalm 8
If the opening and closing sentences of a paragraph state its thesis, the sentences in the middle support the author’s main point. So too with Psalm 8. How excellent is God’s name? His glory surpasses the heavens.
Recently our family visited a local observatory. On the wall there was a print of a famous photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble Deep Field is picture of a tiny part of the night sky. A volunteer at the observatory told us that if we would hold a dime at arm’s length, the amount of sky captured in the photograph would be around the size of Roosevelt’s eye. Astronomers who studied the photograph determined that there are approximately 3,000 galaxies in that tiny bit of sky! How great is our God? How excellent is his name? The vast universe in which we live is but the dainty work of his fingers. And yet—wonder of wonders—he is mindful of you and me. And not only that: he also crowns us as kings of his creation.
Sing or pray Psalter #15
January 20—Praise Perfected
Read Matthew 21:1–17
Not long ago our pastor printed this quotation from Augustine in our church bulletin: “We stand in awe of the ocean, the thunderstorm, the sunset, the mountains; but we pass by a human being without notice, even though the person is God’s most magnificent creation.” The heavens declare the glory of God, though they have no voice. Infants and nursing children, so fearfully and wonderfully made, worship him, though they are unable to speak. And the little children that praised their soon-to-be-crucified Lord in the temple silenced the learned priests and scribes, for God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty (1 Cor. 1:27). That all-sufficient, unchanging God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined into your heart and mine the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:6–7).
Sing or pray Psalter #14
January 21—Become as Little Children
Read Matthew 18:1–14
You and I are surrounded by adults who’ve never grown up. We live in a culture that feeds self-centeredness and childishness. You and I are not called to be childish; we are called to have childlike faith.
“Childishness involves the refusal to acknowledge external authority, and thus a refusal to acknowledge one’s own limits and one’s own lack of uniqueness in this world.” In contrast, “to be childlike is to accept that one is not the measure of all things…it involves an acceptance of the power and authority of God, of the sufficiency of his revelation, and of the full adequacy of the salvation he has wrought in Christ. It also involves being involved in the local church, looking to the elders and the deacons for support and for nurture. It involves realizing that one does not stand apart from, or above, the body of Christ: one is part of it and under his authority as the head” (all quotations from Dr. Carl Trueman).
Are you characterized by childishness or by a childlike faith?
Sing or pray Psalter #366
January 22—God is Just
Read Psalm 9:1–8
So far this month we’ve read nine psalms, and every one of them has at least by implication referred to the justice of God. God is just, or, to put it another way, he is righteous. One who is just conforms to a certain law, or standard. God conforms to his own standard of perfection and holiness in everything that he does, and he requires that men and angels comply to that standard of righteousness as well. In that too he is just.
The truth that God is just is simple to understand, but it is hard to confess. Often it seems to us that God isn’t just. We disagree with the way he’s made us, with the gifts that he’s given to us, and with the position in life in which he’s placed us. We wonder if it’s just of him to demand of us a standard of perfection that we cannot meet. Along with the wicked, we question how he could choose to elect some and reprobate others. But “is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.” (Rom. 9:14).
Sing or pray Psalter #16
January 23—The Blessed Poor
Read Psalm 9:9–20
The God who is just is also the God who remembers the poor (v. 18). In him “mercy and truth are met together” and “righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10).
Who are the poor of whom David sings? They are those who are oppressed (v. 9); they are the humble who cry to God (v. 12); they are those who are troubled by their enemies (v. 13). They are, to put it in Jesus’ own words, “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3).
To confess that you are poor in spirit is to confess that you know that you are incapable of meeting God’s standard of perfection. It is to confess that you possess nothing that you that you could offer to satisfy his justice. It is to acknowledge that he is a good judge who gives to all sinners, yourself included, a just sentence: eternal hell.
Do the qualities of those who are poor in spirit characterize you? If so, blessed are you, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Sing or pray Psalter #385
January 24—The Son of Man is Judge
In John 5:22 Jesus said, “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” Matthew 16:27 reads, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
There is great comfort for us in knowing that the Son of man will judge us. The name “Son of man,” a name that Jesus often called himself, emphasizes his human nature. The one who will judge us knows what it is to be tired, to be hungry, to be sick, and to be injured. He understands what it feels like to be wronged by a parent, a sibling, a teacher, or a friend. He was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
He also comprehends far better than we the punishment that is due us for our sins, for he is the Son of man who was lifted up for our sakes (John 3:14). Let all men honor him.
Sing or pray Psalter #302
January 25—The Heathen are Perished Out of His Land
Read Psalm 10
If you are a believer, you need not fear the final judgment. Article 37 of the Belgic Confession says this concerning the day when our Lord will return and raise the dead: “Then the books (that is to say, the consciences) shall be opened. The consideration of this judgment is justly terrible and dreadful to the wicked and ungodly, but most desirable and comfortable to the righteous and elect; because then their full deliverance shall be perfected, and there they shall receive the fruits of their labor and trouble which they have borne, and they shall see the terrible vengeance which God shall execute on the wicked.”
The devil, the world, and your own sinful self will be stilled on the judgment day. No longer will you and I wrestle against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places. No longer will we do evil in spite of the good that we desire to do. So we look for that new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13).
Sing or pray Psalter #17
January 26—Lovers of Righteousness
Read Psalm 11
God’s righteousness is a communicable attribute – that is, it is one of his attributes that he shares with his people. We are not all-sufficient, and we will never be omnipresent – those belong to God’s incommunicable attributes. But God of mere grace imputes to you and me the righteousness of Christ (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 23). That is what it means to be justified.
When we are justified, we are given God’s Spirit, the “Spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:15). God adopts us to be his children! As our adoptive Father, God works two wonders of which earthly parents are incapable. First, he gives every child the full inheritance: you and I and all believers are given the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, the right to eternal life. Second, he takes his adopted children and makes them look like him! No longer do we bear the image of the devil: we bear the image of our heavenly Father. No longer do we love evil; we become lovers of righteousness!
Sing or pray Psalter #69
January 27—Our Gracious Reward
Read Romans 2:1–11
We cling to the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, yet Jesus declares, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give unto every man according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12). Is our reward of grace or according to our works? It is both.
In Lord’s Day 24 the Heidelberg Catechism acknowledges that God will reward our good works in this and in a future life. But even this reward is not of merit, but of grace, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). You don’t “work for Jesus.” Neither do I. Rather, it is the Spirit of Christ himself who works in us and through us. And it’s his own work for which he will reward us when we stand before his judgment seat! Do you understand why it is impossible for those who receive such a gracious reward not to bring forth fruits of thankfulness?! Praise him for such an undeserved, gracious reward!
Sing or pray Psalter #162
January 28—Fear God and Keep His Commandments
Read Ecclesiastes 12
What are the good works that God rewards? “Only those which proceed from a true faith, are performed according to the law of God, and to His glory; and not such as are founded on our imaginations or the institutions of men” (Lord’s Day 33). The wise preacher summarizes “the whole duty of man” this way: “Fear God, and keep his commandments.”
What does it mean to “fear God?” The fear of the Lord is reverence for God rooted in such deep love for him that one does not want to do anything that might offend him. Perhaps you have experienced a similar fear in an earthly relationship. If you are married, for example, you have likely had the opportunity to do something that you refused to do because you knew that it would hurt your husband or your wife.
“Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments” (Ps. 112:1).
Sing or pray Psalter #334
January 29—Driven by Delight
Read Ecclesiastes 12
Good works are the duty of righteous, but it is not enough that we perform good works out of a sense of duty. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees, who observed God’s law on the outside but were “within full of dead men’s bones” (Matt. 23:27). C.S. Lewis put it this way: “A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love—of God and of other people—like a crutch, which is a substitute for a leg” (C.S. Lewis).
This is the “true conversion” explained in Lord’s Day 33 of the Heidelberg Catechism. True conversion is “sincere sorrow of heart that we have provoked God by our sins, and more and more to hate and flee from them,” and “sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, and with love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.”
Good works are never performed out of a sense of duty: they are only ever driven by delight.
Sing or pray Psalter #40
January 30—The Crutch of Duty
Read Romans 7:7–25
Yesterday we considered that good works must be driven by delight, that is, by love for God and for his law. And yet there’s a conflict, isn’t there? Paul addresses it in Rom. 7:22–23: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” We know that as long as we remain on this earth, the legs of our spiritual new man are not what they will one day be. Too often we must lean hard on the crutch of duty when we should be delightedly skipping along. Then our prayer must be that of Psalm 119:35: “Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.”
Sing or pray Psalter #325
January 31—Do it With All Your Heart
Read Col. 3:18–25
Do you find that too often you are driven by duty rather than delight? Consider one more quotation from C.S. Lewis: “We do not wish either to be, or to live among, people who are clean or honest or kind as a matter of duty: we want to be, and associate with, people who like being clean and honest and kind. The mere suspicion that what seemed an act of spontaneous friendliness or generosity was really done as a duty subtly poisons it.”
How practically this applies to our lives. Do I submit to my husband because that’s what’s required of me, or because it’s my joy? Which mother do my children see? The one who does the laundry, bakes the cookies, or helps with homework because she sees it as her duty, or because it’s her delight? Which committee member do you prefer? The one who signs up out of obligation, or the one who serves out of love?
And so we are compelled to the cross, are we not? To the feet of the only one who could say this of and by himself: “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8).
Sing or pray Psalter #109