March 6 | Hosanna

Text: Matthew 21.6-11

Jesus’ “triumphal entry” is recorded in all four gospels. One word Matthew, Mark, and John include (that Luke leaves out) is “Hosanna.” While we often hear it in songs around Easter, its meaning can be difficult to understand. “Hosanna” originates in the Hebrew Old Testament and means “save me,” like something you’d yell if you were hanging on the edge of a cliff about to fall.

However, the word also shows up in the Greek New Testament and has a slightly different meaning. When Jesus’ followers cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David…Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21.9), they’re no longer saying, “Save me,” but “Salvation has come.” It’s the difference between hanging on the cliff versus having a rope thrown to you from your rescuer above. The meaning has changed from desperate need to joyful celebration.

This is true for us as well! Jesus has come, traveled the road to the cross, bore our sin, and been resurrected from the grave. We, too, can cry out “Hosanna,” salvation is here!

As you welcome God into the start of your day, worship the One who has come and rescued us. Listen to the song “Hosanna” by Hillsong. Personalize the words “Hosanna in the highest” as a prayer of worship and thanksgiving for all God’s done for you. Also, for a more in-depth perspective on today’s devotional, visit a teaching by theologian John Piper entitled “Hosanna.”

March 5 | Tears of God

Text: Luke 19.41-44

As Jesus crests the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem appears below him across the valley, he begins to sob. With prophetic eyes, he sees the Roman siege ramps assaulting the city as residents and their children are slaughtered. His rejection by the people will not only bring death to him, but death to many.

He’s heartbroken and overwhelmed with grief over the tragedy of a lost opportunity: the Jews were visited by their Savior, but they didn’t know it. Instead of receiving him, they killed him.

When we run far from God, we suffer terribly—God is grieved by the agony we bring ourselves. As God looks on the pain we incur running from him, we can almost hear these words of Jesus: “If you. . .had only known . . . what would bring you peace… You did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19.42a, 44b).

Though difficult, reflect on a moment of pain you or a loved one has experienced as a result of running from God. We all have one. Consider the fact God’s heart breaks over our pain as he desires us to return to him in repentance. Ask God to give you his perspective on this pain as you experience the fullness and blessings of his rule in our lives.

March 4 | Reaction

Text: Luke 19.28-40

Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem produced two polarizing reactions. First, many who traveled with him were convinced he was the coming King. These people rejoiced with loud and joyful praise as they celebrated the Kingdom he was to inaugurate (Luke 19.37-38).

Second, there were the antagonists: the Pharisees. These religious leaders had rejected Jesus, viewing him as a threat to their self-righteous system. They were aghast Jesus was receiving praise from his disciples and begged him to stop them (Luke 19.39).

Amid these sharply divided reactions, there was a third group: crowds who swayed depending on the developments of the day. One day they’re ardent followers, the next they’re keeping Jesus at a distance or actively hurling insults and verdicts of crucifixion. Their “conviction” lies solidly in public opinion: never grounded and always changing.

We, too, are challenged with how we will respond to Jesus. This week’s One Big Question . . . Can you pinpoint a time in your life when your opinion about Jesus shifted strongly one way or the other? Discuss this with your small group, close friend, or your family around the dinner table.

March 3 | Humility

Text: Luke 19.28-38

“Humility is the noble ability to hold your powers for the good of others, not for personal gain.” -John Dickson, Humilitas.

Jesus’ final approach to Jerusalem is called the “Triumphal Entry.” Riding a donkey toward the city gates, with scores of followers gathered around him crying out (Luke 19.38), Jesus makes his royal approach. Many believe he‘s about to inaugurate his new kingdom (he is, but much differently than they expect)!

In contrast, a Roman general would’ve approached the city on a white horse (not a donkey), followed by soldiers in full military regalia with banners lifted high.

But not Jesus.

In John 13.1-17 at the Last Supper, Jesus—the King above all Kings—dons a servant’s robe, kneels before his disciples, and washes their feet. Just hours later he would walk the Via Delarosa, the path of suffering, to bear our cross. In the same way, we’re to hold our strength in the service of others.

Today, write down two or three “strengths” you think God’s given you and consider how you can use those gifts to serve someone else. Set a deadline of this coming Sunday to complete this service.

March 2 | Rejected and Resolute

Text: Luke 13.31-35

This past weekend Jeff Manion, senior teaching pastor, began painting the picture of the five days preceding Jesus’ betrayal and execution. In Luke’s gospel narrative, Jesus doesn’t arrive in Jerusalem until chapter 19. Yet, even in today’s text (Luke 13.31-35), Jesus fully acknowledges he must go to Jerusalem to meet his execution.

Even though he knows he’ll be rejected, Jesus is resolute to see God’s plan of salvation complete.

It actually seems like Jesus intended to accelerate the plan of the Pharisees who sought to execute him: he performed miracles on the Sabbath (Luke 14.1-6), accused the Pharisees of rejecting God (Luke 14.12-24), and openly condemned them for their pride and love of money (Luke 16.14-15).

Above all, Jesus was determined to fulfill God’s mission for his life: to die on the cross as the payment for our sin. His eyes were resolutely set on Golgotha, the hill where he’d breathe his last and bear the full weight of God’s wrath for our sin.

As Jesus was resolute towards the cross, may our hearts and minds focus on the magnitude of Christ’s crucifixion.

As you welcome God into your week, and with Easter fast approaching, consider incorporating a “spiritual discipline” into your day: a fast, extended time in The Chair, or Scripture memory. Whatever you select, use this activity to set your heart and mind on Christ’s sacrifice for us.

February 27 | New Thankfulness

Text: Colossians 3.15-17

The practice of giving thanks … eucharisteo … this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see. ~ Ann Voskamp

In Colossians 3.15-17, giving thanks (gratitude) to God is mentioned three times. Part of our new identity in Christ is worshiping God with thankful hearts. Thankfulness isn’t just good manners; it should be a habit rooted in a deep experience and awareness of who God is and what he’s done for us.

We’re also “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4.1-3), shown in the way we live with others and worship God. Our new identity means we have new eyes, new ears, and new thoughts coinciding with those of God. Thankfulness releases the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, to fine tune our new identity.

Today, memorize Colossians 3.17 to remind yourself that in Christ, you are a “new you” with a new identity, choices, habits, and a heart of thankfulness. Praise and thank him for his glorious work in you!!

February 26 | New Habits

Text: Colossians 3.9-14

The new identity Christ gives us requires giving up old habits that defy God and then developing new habits in accord with Christ. This is especially true in the way we relate to others.

In Colossians 3.9-14 Paul uses the phrases “taken off” and “put on” regarding behavior. Just like taking off and putting aside the stinky clothes you wore to clean the barn, you’re to put aside behaviors that disobey God.  And just like putting on clean and lovely garments, you’re to groom your new self by behaving in the ways described in verses 10 and 12-14.

Your new identity requires loving others the way God does. One example is choosing forgiveness. When Jesus said to forgive a person seventy times seven, he meant to keep forgiving every time resentment returns (Mathew 18.21-22).

Today as you spend time with God, ask him to help you love the way he does, by forgiving—and continuing to forgive—someone he brings to mind.

February 25 | New Choices

Text: Colossians 3.5-9

When you’re new in Christ, you have a new identity which leads to new choices. Paul, the author of Colossians, makes it clear this is especially true in the areas of sexual purity and honesty. Modern believers sometimes like to overlook passages like Colossians 3.5, claiming they probably allude to ancient cultural issues such as Gentile temple prostitution and public bath houses.

But issues of immorality, impurity, passion, and evil desire are also prevalent today. In this era of lower TV/movie standards and the Internet, never have these temptations been so accessible.

Paul is adamant that our new way of life requires new choices: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3.5). Putting your immoral desires to death is a drastic word picture, but a corpse can’t engage in immoral thoughts and activities!

We must choose to put the old life to death and renew our minds with the true knowledge of Christ (God’s Word).

Today, as you lift your hands to God and welcome him into your day, ask him to help you identify an old pattern with which you struggle. Ask for his help to turn away and to replace any immoral thoughts with his Word.

February 24 | New Identity

Text: Colossians 3.1-4

The Prince and the Pauper, a classic by Mark Twain, is the story of two boys who look exactly alike and decide to trade their identities for a day. The prince, heir to the throne, has lived in a palace his whole life. The pauper is an uneducated street urchin.

Both bring their old identity to their new situation, causing difficulty: the pauper doesn’t know palace protocol and the prince has difficulty navigating survival on the streets.

Both of them struggle with the failures of a changed identity.

Accepting Christ as your Savior means you now have a new identity, too. But like the prince and the pauper, you may struggle with what you bring from your old identity. You might look at yourself, see flaws and failures, and feel like you haven’t changed at all.

The spiritual reality for Christians is that we’re made new by Christ’s saving grace. But the day-to-day reality is we must learn to “set [our] hearts on things above” (Colossians 3.1) and not live controlled by our “old self” habits. Remember, although you have a new identity in Christ, you’re a work in progress!

Today, thank God that Jesus continues to forgive, change, and mature you, as you listen to “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave.

February 23 | New You

Text: John 3.1-16

Many of us have times in our life when we want a “do over,” to erase from our life a bad choice or decision that follows us wherever we go. Jesus offers us the greatest “do over” we’ll ever get: accepting his death on the cross for your sin problem, he raises you with himself into a new life, free of sin and its effects.

He changes you into a new person, with a new identity, where there’s no longer condemnation for bad choices and actions.

Being a “new you” is what Jesus means in John 3 when he tells Nicodemus he must be “born again”: into a new life, with a new identity, and citizenship in God’s eternal Kingdom. But once you become the “new you,” God doesn’t take away your ability to make choices. Your new identity means you now must choose to follow Christ’s example in what you think, say, and do.

Therefore, if you’re raised with Christ there has to be a change in you. If you’re alive in Christ, then you don’t have to live like you are still “dead.”

As you welcome God into your week, consider this week’s Big Idea . . . I am not the “me” I used to be. Then, prayerfully consider how you can demonstrate that this week.