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16 July 2016

Keswick Convention: daily devotionals

Keswick Convention: daily devotionals

Power to Change – Becoming like God's Son

If you're missing out on the Keswick Conference this week, don't panic. Every day for the next three weeks we're bringing you a short
devotional written by speakers of the festival. Now, no one needs to miss out on the spiritual encouragement offered at Keswick. 

God has one main purpose for His people: that we should become like His Son. Christlikeness is something He planned from the beginning and will one day finally complete. But now we are in the process of change, becoming more like Jesus Christ. Really? How can we overcome the pull of sin? How can we live godly lives in a world like this? Is it possible to change? 

Keswick 2016 will inspire us with the goal to become like Christ and to live an authentic Christian life that provides a credible witness to the gospel we proclaim. 


This week's extracts have been taken from 2 Timothy (30 Day Devotional) by Michael Baughen with Elizabeth McQuoid (IVP, 2016). Available to purchase here.

Day 6

Read 2 Timothy 1:3–18. Key verse: 2 Timothy 1:12.

"That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day."

What do you say to someone who is suffering for being a Christian? What do you say to yourself when you are suffering for the sake of the gospel? Notice what Paul does. He lifts Timothy's eyes to Jesus. He encourages Timothy to look to Jesus who is the Lord of the gospel, and therefore the guarantor of the gospel. The text does not say 'in whom I believed' but 'whom I believed'. 'In whom' is an arm's-length relationship, but 'whom I believed' speaks of a close, devoted relationship to Christ. How often have you seen people who after forty or fifty years in the church, by the grace of God, come to trust Christ for the first time? That is the movement from 'in whom' to 'whom'. Knowing the Lord in this personal way is how our hearts are convinced of the gospel…

Day 5

Read 2 Timothy 1:3–18. Key verses: 2 Timothy 1:8–12 

"So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.  He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am."

Do you believe the gospel? Do you believe it enough to work for it, share it, and accept the inevitable suffering that comes with it?

Paul wanted to encourage Timothy that the gospel is the only answer for humankind. It's worth all the effort, the tiredness, the slog, the mockery, the persecution. He says to Timothy, and to us: don't avoid the gospel to avoid suffering, but share the gospel, whatever the cost. And there will be a cost. It is inevitable that those who share the ministry of the gospel will suffer (verse 12). But in the midst of our suffering God promises us His grace and power, enabling us to endure. Whenever we feel ashamed of the suffering or of standing up for the gospel, we need to take ourselves in hand and rehearse the gospel's unique and transforming truth. This is what Paul is doing in verses 9 and 10: "He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace."

Day 4

Read 2 Timothy 1:3–18. Key verses: 2 Timothy 1:6–7.

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on  of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self- discipline."

Do you know what your spiritual gift is? Paul tells us each of us has a gift (1 Corinthians 7:7), but many of us are not sure how to discover it or what to do if we find it. Here Paul reminds Timothy that God has called him to ministry and equipped him for it. He encourages Timothy to think back to when his gift was received through the laying on of hands. This laying on of hands is normally a sign of prayer to God in response to a person's commitment. So the church responded to Timothy's commitment to the task by the laying on of hands. Together they asked God to equip him for the task to which he had called him.

The important point is that Timothy didn't sit around doing nothing, waiting for God to send him the right gifts. God sends the right gifts when we respond to the right task. Imagine God's spiritual gifts as being like the flames of a fire. You have to keep fanning the flames and fuelling the fire to keep it fully alive…

Day 3

Read 2 Timothy 1:3–18. Key verses: 2 Timothy 1:3–5.

"I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also."

A little bit of encouragement goes a long way! Everyone needs encouragement; it's how we're wired. Your interest in someone else's life could have a profound impact, without you even realising it. Paul was deeply concerned for Timothy. Timothy was not an extrovert or a strong personality. He didn't find it easy to be a Christian leader, particularly when the going was rough. He had a natural tendency that we're all familiar with, to duck out of problems, suffering or controversy.

And Paul wants to strengthen him. So, in verses 3 and 4, he reminds Timothy that he is deeply concerned for him. Each of us needs to demonstrate concern for others…

Day 2

Read 2 Timothy 1:1–18. Key verses: 2 Timothy 1:1–2.

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dear son: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."

All of us are called to serve Christ. That service may be in your home, your workplace, university campus or in church. God has put you there, He has called you there, and you serve Him there,"by the will of God". Paul knows he is an apostle "by the will of God". He is in prison. He will never again be able to pioneer new churches. There will be no more missionary journeys. He is about to die for his faith. But Paul is still convinced that he is what he is, and where he is, "by the will of God". It's a phrase that should burn into us. When difficulties come, cling on to this truth like a rock in a storm.

It may be that like Paul you are no longer able to do many of the things you did in the past; but still see that what you are and where you are is "by the will of God"…

Day 1


Last words. Last words are important.

They are a brief glimpse into another person's soul. A final unveiling of what mattered most. The second letter of Timothy records Paul's last words.

He is in prison, near to death, dictating this letter to Luke for his young pastor friend Timothy. As he sits chained to a Roman soldier, Paul's passion for the gospel shines out. He uses his farewell message to urge Timothy to maintain his focus on the fundamentals of the faith. There will be distractions, opposition, and even suffering, but Timothy is to keep Christ and the gospel central to his life and ministry.

Paul charges Timothy, and the church in every subsequent generation, to share this gospel faithfully and urgently. This intensely personal letter invites us into Paul's prison cell, allows us to hear his last words, and gives us an insight into his devotion to God. It challenges us to think about our own legacy. What are we living for? Or rather, whom are we living for?

Day 7


Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10. Key verses: 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10

"They themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His son from heaven, whom hH raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath."

Many Christians struggle with doubt. "How can I be sure I'm really saved?" "How can I know my sins are forgiven?" These questions plague us, stripping us of joy and peace, and hampering our service. Of course, if it was down to us, and our abilities and reliability, then certainly our salvation would be in doubt. But our salvation is entirely dependent on that one single, blessed, central, all-sufficient person: our Lord Jesus Christ. These verses remind us that Jesus' resurrection is the decisive proof that his work of salvation was effective.

God raising Jesus from the dead was heaven's confirmation sign that his work at Calvary was complete. Jesus' resurrection was the Father's 'Amen' to the Son's cry: "It  is finished." The consequences of Jesus' work on the cross continue. However, when Paul says: "Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath", present tense, he doesn't mean that the work of salvation is still going on. Salvation was achieved once and for all on the cross…

Day 6 

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10. Key verses: 1 Thessalonians 1:6–8.

"You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it."

Who are your role models? Who are the Christians you look to for inspiration and encouragement in the faith? Here Paul promotes the Thessalonian church as a model. He does so not because the believers were perfect, but because of the priority they placed on the word of God. First, they received God's Word. Understanding and accepting the Bible message was core to their salvation and also tied them straight away into a system of imitation.

In receiving the word of God, they aligned themselves with the apostles, the men of the word, and with the Lord Jesus, that great man of the word…

Day 5

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10. Key verses: 1 Thessalonians 1:4–5.

"For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake."

My friend was explaining to her adopted daughter how loved and precious she was. So she said: "Other mums and dads just have to accept whatever child they get, but we chose you." Out of God's great love He chose us. God looked at us and said: "Yes, I want that one." We may worry: "What about my choice? Didn't I choose Jesus to be my Saviour?" Well, we need to remember that we were "dead in [our] transgressions and sins"(Ephesians 2:1). We couldn't even exercise repentance and faith: we were spiritually dead, without a spark of life. "But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ." (Ephesians 2:4–5). God had to take the initiative. There is no way we can come to life in Christ until He first gives us life. And He gave us life, simply because He loved us…

Day 4

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10. Key verses: 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3.

"We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

When people look at you, what do they make of your life? Is it obvious from your actions and behaviour that you are a Christian? In Thessalonica, the young believers were already bearing fruit. They were only weeks old in the faith and yet the evidence of their new life was obvious. John the Baptist once said: "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." (Matthew 3:8). And Paul is echoing his point. If we are truly repentant, it will show; spiritual experience is a matter not of claim but of evidence. And being fruitful isn't for the few, it isn't for some time in the future; it is something that happens from the moment we are saved. 

We demonstrate our new life in Christ by our faith in God, our love for others and our hope in Jesus' return. Notice that Paul doesn't apologise to the Thessalonians that their faith required hard work and endurance. He assumes it is quite normal that being a Christian is demanding. However, when we face struggles, we are often quick to wonder: "What is God thinking about?" Well, He is thinking about the fact that He calls us to live by faith, to live in love and to exercise hope. He is calling us to be what we are. The troubles and toils of life which demand faith, hard work and endurance are not unnatural experiences. They are the conditions God chooses for our growth…

Day 3


Read 2 Timothy 1:3–18. Key verses: 2 Timothy 1:3–5.

"I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also."

A little bit of encouragement goes a long way! Everyone needs encouragement; it's how we're wired. Your interest in someone else's life could have a profound impact, without you even realizing it. Paul was deeply concerned for Timothy. Timothy was not an extrovert or a strong personality. He didn't find it easy to be a Christian leader, particularly when the going was rough. He had a natural tendency that we're all familiar with, to duck out of problems, suffering or controversy.

And Paul wants to strengthen him. So, in verses 3 and 4, he reminds Timothy that he is deeply concerned for him. Each of us needs to demonstrate concern for others…

Day 2


Read 2 Timothy 1:1–18. Key verses: 2 Timothy 1:1–2.

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."

All of us are called to serve Christ. That service may be in your home, your workplace, university campus or in church. God has put you there, he has called you there, and you serve him there, 'by the will of God'. Paul knows he is an apostle 'by the will of God'. He is in prison. He will never again be able to pioneer new churches. There will be no more missionary journeys. He is about to die for his faith. But Paul is still convinced that he is what he is, and where he is, "by the will of God". It's a phrase that should burn into us. When difficulties come, cling on to this truth like a rock in a storm.

It may be that like Paul you are no longer able to do many of the things you did in the past; but still see that what you are and where you are is "by the will of God"…

Day 1

Last words. Last words are important.

They are a brief glimpse into another person's soul. A final unveiling of what mattered most. The second letter of Timothy records Paul's last words.

He is in prison, near to death, dictating this letter to Luke for his young pastor friend Timothy. As he sits chained to a Roman soldier, Paul's passion for the gospel shines out. He uses his farewell message to urge Timothy to maintain his focus on the fundamentals of the faith. There will be distractions, opposition, and even suffering, but Timothy is to keep Christ and the gospel central to his life and ministry.

Paul charges Timothy, and the church in every subsequent generation, to share this gospel faithfully and urgently. This intensely personal letter invites us into Paul's prison cell, allows us to hear his last words, and gives us an insight into his devotion to God. It challenges us to think about our own legacy. What are we living for? Or rather, whom are we living for?


WEEK 1 – Becoming Christlike, Peter Lewis (IVP, 2016) Extracts taken from Becoming Christlike by Peter Lewis (IVP, 2016). Available to purchase here.

Day 7

Three-dimensional people in a two-dimensional world

Years ago a young woman in our church who had been touched by the morning service and sermon said to me: "Why is it that these things which are so precious on Sunday often feel so distant by Wednesday, and my attempts to explain my faith at work come over as flat and unconvincing?" I replied something like this: "Don't be surprised, you must remember that you live in a flat world!"

Many people live two-dimensional lives where God is concerned. He is not allowed to enter with

His depth and purpose and meaning. And you have to pray and bear witness, where you can, to the fact that there is more, a great deal more, a whole dimension, which gives value and purpose to every life. You are now a three-dimensional person in a two-dimensional world: God, and a relationship with Him, is the third dimension. You have it, and they don't – many don't even believe there is a third dimension. But you must live it out in faith and love, and show its beauty, truth and power.

And in your church life you are helped to do so: in worship, in home groups and in fellowship in this community of three-dimensional people who know the God you know and follow His Son Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Day 6

Living in relationship

It is a feature of our humanity that we find our true identity and our real purpose in living in relationship with God and other people. In church we find our place as members of the

family of God, the body of Christ, the kingdom He is building for eternity. We find encouragement and affirmation in its Sunday gatherings and weekly home groups.

When you are assailed by unfair treatment at work or misunderstood in the world, you can find relief and appreciation in the community of faith. When you are sick or depressed or old and feeble, then you can read again your identity in God: the prayers of your church for you confirm it, their faith strengthens yours, and their care ministers to you. Week by week, finding yourself among the people of God, you know you have your place in the church of God and remember who you are and that you are not alone. This is God's way of reaching you in human words and with a human touch, reminding you where you belong and that you are His.   

Day 5

The place of prayer

It must have been a strange sight – a blind boy flying a kite with his father's help. A friend of the family who was watching dared to ask him a question: "What do you get out of this when you can't see the kite?" The answer was simple enough. The boy replied: "I can't see it, but I can feel the pull."

Christians might make a similar reply to the questions: "Why pray to a God you can't see? Why put so much effort into an exercise that is so unquantifiable?" The answer might well be: "I can't see what's happening, but I can feel the pull."

We pray for many reasons, but first and foremost because God commands it. God puts meaning into life and would not call us to a meaningless task. Second, we pray because God is glorified in it: His presence is everywhere so that He hears us, His perfect knowledge so that He knows our thoughts and hearts, His goodness and grace so that we are encouraged to come to Him even in our sin and need.

And we pray because we ourselves are changed by it – as we pray we grow: changes occur in minds and hearts and lives. We often find too that situations beyond our power are changed as we continue to pray, and sometimes the answers to prayer are dramatic.

Day 4

The Word of God – the traveller and the tripper

One of the most pressing needs among Christian believers today is to become better acquainted with the Bible. We need to read it systematically, alternating Old and New Testaments. 

Take time to read parts of the Bible that are less familiar to you. Become aware of the many popular helps and commentaries available through publishers like IVP. These will give background and body to the text. Some Bible study helps are very short daily readings; some offer an in- depth commentary on a particular book, giving the background and meaning of each chapter. One of the older guides posed a series of questions after each passage of Scripture, many of them calling for both self-examination and action.

Indeed, should we not always let the Bible question us as we read? Find the level that is right for you and determine to study God's word in all its truth and relevance for every age and every generation. Don't just 'dip', looking for an attractive verse or two. 

Donald Barnhouse was an American preacher well known for his illustrations. Speaking on the need for serious study of the Bible, he said: "The author of a celebrated travel-book on Italy once remarked that in his youth Italy had been the land of the traveller, but it had become the land of the tripper. 'They don't understand what they see,' he lamented. One girl who had 'travelled' in Italy said she remembered Rome as the place where the shoepolish spilled on her best dress, and Venice as the place where the hairdresser burned her hair with curling irons." Barnhouse asks the question: "Have you really spent time with the word of God, or are you a tripper?"

Day 3

The Spirit of God

Why are you reading this? Why are you interested in becoming Christlike? Perhaps you remember a time when you would not have thought of
doing such a thing, much less valued it above everything else and wanted it for yourself. The answer above and beyond all others is because the Holy Spirit has been working in your life right up to this moment, giving you a new understanding of the things of God, new desires for eternal life with him and a new determination to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

The Holy Spirit is the single and sufficient explanation for every Christian's life and faith. When you became a follower of Christ, it was the
Holy Spirit who first enlightened your mind so that you began to understand as never before. It was the Spirit who moved your will so that you began to want what you had never wanted before. And it was the Spirit who touched your emotions so that you could sing with meaning: "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all."

The Holy Spirit is God-next-to-us. Every time we hear God speaking in sensitivity and faith, it is the Spirit who is working. Every time we
respond to God's love in the gospel with joy and faithful obedience, it is the Spirit who is drawing, enabling and blessing us. Every time we take the good news about Jesus to others with courage and love, it is the Spirit who is moving out into the world – through us!

Day 2

The down-to-earth God - a voyeur culture?

In recent years reality TV has been hugely popular: programmes like Big Brother and I'm a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! can become compulsive viewing. In this connection, one Christian leader made the perceptive comment that we have become a 'voyeur culture', with many of us preferring to watch rather than take part.

When I first read that comment, my reaction was to agree, but with some complacency, because I have always found such programmes to be
mind-numbingly boring. Then I reminded myself that I like watching gardening programmes on TV, but do very little gardening myself – preferring to watch others instead. I even occasionally watch programmes where people build houses, or decorate or redesign rooms, although I'd be bored stiff doing it myself and would make a terrible job of it anyway. But seeing someone sawing away merrily, or laying bricks swiftly and accurately, or painting ceilings and walls, is really rather satisfying – in an abstract and uninvolved sort of way. So maybe I too am part of the voyeur culture after all?

But what of God? Is He too the God who watches from the sidelines, silent, uninvolved, immune? Or is he the God who passionately upholds creation and the world we spoiled, the God who gives us our gifts, and speaks in our consciences, and keeps our civilizations and families going; the God who supports the weak, comforts the bereaved, bears with the wayward, the careless and the selfish, and holds back His wrath from the wicked lest the whole world of fallen humanity be consumed in the chain reaction. That certainly sounds more like the God of the Psalms.

Day 1

Our place in God's eternal plan

One of the most profound and agitated questions of our time is this: Is there a purpose to life, to mine or anyone else's? Can I have any
freedom if I believe that there is a plan, and can I have any real peace or satisfaction if I believe that there isn't?

Very often the answer is that there is no plan, no purpose, no ultimate goal to human life. But most people wish there were. Our philosophy
says one thing, but our longings say another. For many, the good news of Christ is quickly dismissed as too good to be true. The evangelist and theologian Michael Green recalled a wine-tasting evening hosted by Christians to reach out to the community. As people spoke about their faith, a woman professor leaned over to Michael and whispered: "You know, I don't believe any of this." Michael replied: "Yeah, I know, but wouldn't you like to?" With that remark, tears welled up in the woman's eyes.

Her head told her 'no', but her heart yearned to hear 'yes'. The very fact that she was at such a gathering indicated that she was aware of this
tension and that she needed to pursue it.