Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh
Sunday Services are at 10.30 am
Wednesday Stillness Services are at 10 am
Bible Reading Notes
These notes were compiled by the Reverend Dr James A P Jack. You will find reading the Bible rewarding and encouraging, but reading the Bible is not always easy!
These guidelines may help you.
July 1 2 Thessalonians 2:13–16
Paul turns in this passage to the love of God. God’s power is able to ‘make you his holy people’. However terrifying the future, the love of God is even greater. The danger will pass, and those whose faith enabled them to endure will ‘possess their share of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ’. No wonder Paul urges the Thessalonians to ‘stand firm and hold on to those truths’.
July 2 2 Thessalonians 3:1–5
Those in the front line of the spiritual battle are most exposed to danger, and so most need to be supported and protected by prayer. Paul realised this. At times he gives the impression of a strong person, impervious to inner temptations or outer dangers. Yet he was himself most aware of these threats, and, in humility, asked for help.
July 3 2 Thessalonians 3:6–12
We must distinguish between those who CANNOT work and those who WILL NOT work. Such behaviour is incompatible with the Christian life, but it also leads to a loss of Christian fellowship.
July 4 2 Thessalonians 3:13–18
Here Paul advises what must be done about those whose conduct belies their Christian faith. They are to be avoided and warned, though not treated as an enemy. After all these grave warnings Paul commends his friends to the one who is the ‘source of all peace’.
July 5 Colossians 2:4–10
Here perhaps is the greatest of all the characteristics of the Christian life – living in union with Christ. When the word ‘Christian’ was first applied to the followers of Christ, it was as a nickname (see Acts 11:26). In Antioch the believers were seen as Christ’s-people, hence the name ‘Christian’. It was their walking in union with Christ that gave them this name. May we also be seen to be Christian: walking in union with Christ.
July 6 Hebrews 12:1–11
All the competitors in a race are running in the same direction! They know where the finishing line is, and they force themselves to the limit of their physical strength to reach the line. The Christian also must have a clear knowledge of the direction his or her life must take – towards Christ. The Christian must strive and persevere. He or she must use the last ounce of his or her strength to reach Christ.
July 7 Ephesians 6:10–20
Living in union with Christ can be an experience of great blessing, but also a great trial. We must recognise that there are unseen forces in the world that would part us from Christ. If we are to be true to Christ then these forces must be resisted. Spiritual warfare is another characteristic of the Christian life. No soldier would dare enter battle without his armour and his weapons. Look also at verse 18 for the importance of prayer.
July 8 Matthew 6:5–14
When Jesus taught his disciples a short prayer, he included the petition ‘Keep us safe from the Evil One’. So often we think of evil as negative – the absence of good. The whole teaching of the Bible is that evil is active. It is a power from which we must be kept safe. Jesus realised that his followers would be at risk from this evil power, and so, in teaching them to pray, he teaches us to pray constantly that we be kept safe from it.
July 9 Matthew 4:1–11
These verses reveal Jesus engaged in conflict with the Devil. For Jesus, it was a real struggle against a living being. Belief in the Devil is much more than an abstract theory about the nature of evil. It is the awareness of a living reality whose great desire is to trap men and women. The Devil desired Jesus to ‘kneel down and worship me’. If he tried to gain power over Jesus in this way then we must be under no illusions that we will remain free from his attentions.
July 10 Genesis 3:1–13
Chapter 2 shows how humankind lived in a state of innocence and in harmony with God. Today’s passage shows that this innocence was lost and the harmony destroyed. How? Note that the loss was not occasioned by God, nor by humankind, but by a third party – here described as a snake. From this we learn that evil is something other than God and also other than humans.
July 11 Genesis 3:14–21
Evil is not a feature of the entire animal kingdom. The snake alone must bear the punishment for the deception of which we read yesterday. However, we must not jump to the conclusion that snakes as a species are evil. We shall learn later that one of the Devil’s main attributes is his ability to disguise himself. In this incident, for reasons best known to himself, he chose the guise of a snake in order to deceive.
July 12 2 Corinthians 11:7–15
‘Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light.’ Paul was finding his work frustrated by others who were claiming that they alone, and not he, proclaimed the truth. Note Paul’s comments on their activities in verse 13. From his experience, Paul came to the conclusion that Satan was able even to disguise himself as an angel of light if he so chose. His mastery of disguise was such that he could even appear to be the very opposite of his true nature.
July 13 Luke 10:1–12, 17–20
Jesus sent out 72 followers on a missionary expedition. On their return they joyfully reported that ‘even the demons obeyed us’. Jesus answered, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’ In such a situation it is generally best to abide by the simplest and most obvious meaning; in this case, that Jesus had actually seen Satan fall from heaven. This has given rise to the belief that Satan was originally an archangel in the presence of the God-head and, because of his own spiritual pride and presumption, was expelled.
July 14 Job 1:1–12
The picture is of a counsel of heavenly beings in the presence of God, with Satan among them. He talks with God as though by right. Like yesterday’s passage, this is rather flimsy evidence, yet it does support the view that Satan was originally a heavenly being before his expulsion. Even here we see him somewhat antagonistic towards God – God is pleased with Job’s attitude but Satan seeks to imply that Job’s virtue stems from self-interest.
July 15 John 12:27–36
In each of these passages Jesus is referring to his own spiritual ordeal, and so it is most unlikely that any earthly or physical ‘ruler’ is implied. It is a spiritual conflict in which Jesus is engaged. The ‘world’ here does not refer to the physical world of science and nature, but that which opposes the will and purpose of God. The ‘ruler of this world’ is therefore the leader of those forces which are opposed to God – in other words, Satan. This supports the view that Satan, a spiritual being, was expelled from heaven and continues his work of opposition to God.
July 16 Ephesians 6:10–20
Not only was Jesus engaged in a spiritual conflict with the Devil, as we saw yesterday, but his followers in every generation must inevitably be involved in the same battle. This is why we must put on the ‘armour of God’. The Christian life is far more than ‘being good and doing the right’. It is a spiritual battle and self-defence against the assaults of the spiritual enemy. We share in the battle, with Christ, to overcome the enemy.
July 17 Genesis 3:1–13
We have been learning something of the nature and origin of the Devil and now we learn of his methods. First, he distorts God’s Word; second, Satan denies God’s Word; thirdly, Satan distorts God’s motive. Still today there are those who distort God’s Word, deny God’s Word and question God’s motives.
July 18 Job 1:1–12
We learn of the saintliness of Job – he worshipped God, was faithful, a good man, careful not to do anything evil. We learn that he offered sacrifices lest any of his children sinned unintentionally. Here is one of God’s saints, yet Satan slanders him by implying that Job worships only for what he gets out of it, ‘Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it?’ A favourite trick of Satan is to slander the saints of God.
July 19 Matthew 4:1–11
Firstly, he implies doubt – ‘If you are God’s Son…’, suggesting that Jesus might not be God’s Son, and he challenges Jesus to prove that he is. Secondly, he uses scripture to suit his own ends. It is very easy to find a verse in the Bible which, taken alone, appears to prove anything. We must never interpret a verse in isolation but always in its context and in line with the general teaching of the Bible. Thirdly, he offers what we desire – but on his own terms. He offered Christ all the kingdoms of the world, ‘if you kneel down and worship me’. The implanting of doubt, the distortion of divine truth and the offer of easy success, these methods Satan uses to achieve his ends.
July 20 Matthew 13:18–23
Jesus had told his disciples the parable of the sower. They did not understand what he meant, and so he explains it point by point. Some seed had landed on the path and birds ate it up. Jesus now explains that there are some who hear the Word of God but, before it has time to take root in their lives, the Evil One snatches it away. Here we learn that Satan is at work even in the lives of young Christians (young in terms of spiritual maturity and not necessarily in terms of age) taking away the Word of truth even before they have time to understand it. Satan opposes our spiritual growth at every stage.
July 21 Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43
The good seeds represent those who hear and believe the Word of God and belong to the Kingdom of God. The weeds are ‘the people who belong to the Evil One’. Three important lessons here. Firstly, the Devil does not act alone but is supported by those who obey him rather than God. Secondly, there will come a day when those weeds will be gathered up and destroyed. Thirdly, the good seed will ultimately ‘shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom’.
July 22 John 8:31–47
This is a frightening passage! Jesus is talking with those who are confident in their spiritual ancestry. They may have been ‘Abraham’s children’ in terms of human descent, but they were not his spiritual descendants. Jesus tells them, ‘You are the children of your father, the Devil’. Here are men who assume they are on the side of righteousness, yet Christ assures them that they are in fact on the side of evil.
July 23 John 13:1-11
Why did Judas betray Jesus? The Bible says simply that the thought of betrayal was put into Judas’ heart by the Devil. But this does not excuse Judas for what he did. Later we will learn that we have a moral duty to resist such devilish notions. We have already learnt that there is armour that the Christian may wear for such protection. To be tempted is no excuse if we make no effort to resist such temptation.
July 24 Matthew 16:13–23
There were many rumours regarding the true identity of Jesus. He asked his disciples for their views, and it was Peter who declared, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’. For this Peter was highly praised. Later Jesus taught them that it was necessary for him to suffer and die. Peter rejected such a possibility. Note Christ actually calls Peter ‘Satan’. From this we learn that even Christ’s keenest and most gifted supporters may occasionally so fall from grace that their words and work may be in opposition to him.
July 25 1 John 3:1–10
There are those who are God’s children and others who are the Devil’s children. The distinction is not based on choice or favouritism but on whether or not we continue in sin. We all sin (Romans 3:23), but those with a sense of God’s righteousness know that sin is wrong and seek to avoid it. Others, with no sense of righteousness, are content to remain in, and even enjoy, sin.
July 26 2 Thessalonians 2:5–12
Satan is able to perform all kinds of false miracles and wonders so that he seems to be working with the power of God. From this we must understand that there are spiritual happenings which do not originate from God but from the Devil. The performance of a miracle or a spiritual sign is no guarantee that the person doing it is inspired by God (see Exodus 7:8–13). The Egyptian magicians were able to copy miracles done by Moses.
July 27 Hebrews 2:11–18
Jesus left heaven to share our human nature, ‘he did this so that through his death he might destroy the Devil, who has the power over death’. We must never underestimate the power or the influence of Satan, yet neither must we forget that by his resurrection Christ destroyed the ultimate power of the Devil. The Devil still survives, but the final victory belongs to Christ.
July 28 Genesis 13:1–13
What are our main sources of temptation? Circumstances made it necessary for Abram and Lot to separate. Lot had the privilege of choosing in which direction he would go. He chose the Jordan valley because of its fertile fields. But in that valley lay the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah ‘whose people were wicked and sinned against the Lord’. Lot saw the fertility, but failed to see the moral dangers. Later we read of the danger to which he had exposed himself. Still today many fail to see, or recognise, or understand, the dangers to which they expose themselves.
July 29 Genesis 25:27–34
Esau was the first-born, and, as such, had certain privileges, but he threw away these long-term privileges that his immediate hunger might be satisfied. This is one of the most common temptations: the satisfaction of a present hunger or desire, with the resulting loss of future blessing.
July 30 Joshua 7:6–26
Poor Achan succumbed to the lure of silver and fine clothes. Note how, in his temptation, he not only destroyed himself, but his family also. Moreover, his sin halted his nation’s advance into the Promised Land. Our sins and follies are far more wide-reaching than we realise. Our actions will inevitably affect others around us: for good, or for ill!
July 31 1 Kings 11:1–13
Achan was an ordinary soldier, but Solomon was king and renowned for his wisdom. Temptation is no respecter of persons! His temptation led him to disobey the divine command against foreign marriage. From this he was led into idolatrous worship. This happened ‘even though the Lord had appeared to Solomon twice’. He had been blessed in this way, yet that did not save him from his fall.