DO YOU GREATLY REJOICE?
This morning my daily reading started in Luke chapter 15, which opens with three absolutely beautiful Parables about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And as I read these over and over, I began to wonder, do I and other Christians greatly rejoice?
Then I felt I guess what I would call sorrow and remorse for sin, because I realized how often and how much I have taken for granted my salvation and realized as I read these parables, they were speaking about you and me as gentiles. We so often take advantage of the things of the world and care about that which is seen, but we care not for the things we do not see.
We cannot see salvation, yet we know it exists because it is what the Bible is mainly written about. We do not see God, but we see evidence of His wonderful and beautiful creation all around us.
I want to encourage you to read the first to parables in Luke 15 and pray that your soul would not only rejoice if you truly are saved, but more so if you truly are not saved, that God would speak to you deeply and personally. I pray that if you have never been broken over your self-righteous keeping of the law, your good works, and that you did something to be saved and to maintain your salvation, you would let all of that go and that God truly would save you!
Also, remember, the parables are not allegories to plug you into the the picture and to read scripture at face value. For example, we are consider gentiles because we are not of true descent. NEVER make at twist scriptures to make it about you and your situations, rather see it as God’s story of His Son, Jesus Christ, the mighty Redeemer who came to seek and save the lost, even the most vile of viles. Now I cannot speak for you, but I know what I wretched sinner I was, and many times in my mind, I still am. That is why it is so important to read His Word daily, that we remember to give thanks and to greatly rejoice in our salvation! It might be a one time event, but it is one that we should celebrate and rejoice daily, for each day until Christ returns, He goes and seeks and saves the lost. He finds them on our streets, our schools, our places of business and workplaces, and many times employs you and I to be the salt an the light to them in these areas! We might hear of a plight, a trial, or maybe even they shared something they heard in church recently, but they are just not sure what to make of it. But dear reader, if you truly are a blood bought born again believer in Jesus Christ, I pray that you share in my pain and sorrow this morning for how little we give thanks for our salvation, how many times we we do not pray for the Salvation work God does 24/7 365 days a year, and especially when those whom He calls through the glorious Gospel, and they hear of His free grace and accept His pardoning mercies through repentance and faith through the works that only Christ could do on the cross of Calvary, we too shall rejoice greatly along with the angels and all of heaven singing GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST!
May these words be of encouragement that we should remember daily how great God’s salvation is, what it means every day and what it means when we will one day be with Him for all eternity. If you truly have been saved by God, you will never witness an miracle greater than being once lost and bound for hell, and now redeemed, adopted, brought into His fold where He holds you and nothing can snatch you from His hands!
DO YOU GREATLY REJOICE?
Christian love is the greatest and yet seems to be the hardest and most elusive concept to understand many times. Have you ever felt that way to? Well, I believe the Bible gives us the greatest reason as to why that is, but sadly, many do not take the time to read or study the Bible.
Our open quote (to me anyway) is a simple, yet bold proclamation on what true Christian love should be, and the Bible agrees as well. First God has told the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 6:5, and then Jesus Himself repeats it in the Gospel of Matthew 22:37-38 as well as Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27.
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.”
My opinion is this. Since Many have Bibles and yet do not take the time to read, to study, to pray, to grow, many love God little if at all. Going to church x amount of days per week, listening to sermons, listening to Christian music, is great and all, but in those times are you hearing God speak to you, is He leading and guiding your life for His glory, or is this just our self-stamping approval that we are “in”?
This is God, and this is His commandment. You shall love the Lord your God! Not others first, not self first, not anything in this world, love the Lord your God! If we cannot get this right, then that means love for anything else with be out of alignment with our faith, and that is where many are today. So first and foremost that needs to be corrected, and that starts by giving up the things of this world to spend more time with Him. After all, if the end of the Christians life with be eternity in heaven worshiping Him, praising Him, having a relationship with Him, don’t you think it is a good idea to start now?
Now the next part gets to be a little controversial in the Christian circles,and again a reason why we need to be in God’s Word. Many people think that the 10 Commandments are not important to the Christians life, that they need to be modified, changed, antiquated, but this is God’s Word, and not only does He make the rules, but said what He meant and meant what He said, so much so in Matthew 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
You see, just like in Jesus’ time, people did not like to be under the law, it was a burdensome yoke, and it still is today. Many wonder why it still matters that we know and see the 10 Commandments so clearly and have them on our minds daily, and the answer is very simple, because we are; vile wretched sinful creatures who sin much each day, and the 10 Commandments (God’s laws) remind us of that all the time. Don’t believe me, let’s do a little test then, we’ll start with an easy one. Remember, this is between you and God.
- Have you ever told a lie?
Duh! We all have!
2. Have you ever stole anything? (And just to clarify, stealing means ANYTHING that does not belong to you)
Ummmm. yeah, we all have!
3. Have you EVER looked at anyone with lustful intentions? (I don’t really have to explain this one I hope!)
Of course, we are human after all!
Okay, so by my own admission (I cannot and will not speak for you, but I will give you a hint, the Bible already has) I am a lying, thief, who is an adulterous person at heart! And these are only THREE of the 10 Commandments. If your flesh and pride are saying that you do not agree as of yet, and God has not convicted you guilty, then maybe refresh yourself with the other 7. If it has been awhile since you have read your Bible, they can be found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
We have become so self-centered, so worried about ourselves and little if at all about others, we want all the attention and love, and many have gone so far as to make themselves (a false) god. Many of the things I have said are proof positive that we DO NOT do as God command. He is not center of their life (if at all), they spend little time with Him (again if at all), and they do not truly love Him (if they did, the first to points would not exist). I think the great Puritan writer and Pastor Matthew Henry said it best in his commentary on Genesis (the fall of man that got us all into sin in the first place.)
“If sinners will but consider where they are, they will not rest till they return to God.”
Many of us give little to no thought where we are with God, and that my friends is a VERY dangerous place to be! Not only that, like Adam and Eve, that is EXACTLY where Satan wants you to be, separated from God! For if you do not belong to God, you belong to Satan, and He does NOT give up people from their bondage to sin that they may be God’s easily. That is why we need God all the more daily!
Many people might now be saying “yeah, well I…” and that proves right away where their focus and attention lies at, their focus is on what they have done, what they can do, and they want the credit (glory) for doing it, and guess what, that too is a sin! And all of these things and so much more is why Christ came to seek the lost, those who are (and still are) sick with sin, and those who have realized apart from God, there is no hope for them but eternal damnation in hell. This is why we need God’s grace and mercy!
Because we ARE so sinful! And until He gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.), You must be born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3), and the transforming of our minds and knowing God’s will (Romans 12:2) so that we are able to see with our eyes, hear with our ears and understand with our hearts, how sinful we are before a Holy (God’s first and highest attribute, without it there would be no pure law and justice), Righteous, Judging God, whose love is wrapped up in all who He is, and that He would grant us the ability to turn from our sins (repent) and put our faith in trust in Him and that we would be healed (spiritually); Mathew 13:14, Acts 28:26 both quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10. This is a brief nutshell is the Gospel.
There is so much more to say that is upon my heart, but I will leave you with this quote again from Matthew Henry
“Those who by sin have gone astray from God should seriously consider where they are; they are afar off from all good, in the midst of their enemies, in bondage to Satan, and in the high road to utter ruin.”
My prayer is that these words have not fallen upon deaf ears, have broken strongholds of Satans grips of sin on your soul, that it would give you much to think and pray about, so as the Bible commands in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 “
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.” And trust God and His Word, this is NOT one test that you want to fail! For the consequences are eternal!
I have touched on the subject in past writings and think I am going to go back to it and this time go a lot deeper. The problem that has been proposed to new Christians and even those who have been acting like Christians for some time is “How do I know what God’s Will (for my life) is?” Now I put the for my life in parenthesis because there is the basic will of God for all Christians lives and then is a called will of God beyond those of the general call such as a Pastor or teacher of the Word of God.
So in the opening quote of this devotional, we see listed two very important points of God’s will for the Christians life, one of which we do a whole lot more than the other. The other point we need to clarify when we are talking about God’s will is we need to look at it from the standpoint of duty or of service to Him. Not that He “needs us” but He desires us to worship Him, glorify Him, make Him known to the world in which we live in. Also, when thinking about it as a duty, do not think of it as work or a menial task, something taken lightly, that would be sinful and disdainful towards God. Rather look at you as the adopted child of God that you are, you have been called to work in the King’s court and all of duties assigned to the King’s servants are of great importance and God honoring; both to God’s glory as well as the child of God’s daily living and survival as well. Sometimes spending a lot of time in the presence and glory of God, is known as the Shekinah glory.
Now some of you who know me might think I am off my rocker and have switched to the word of faith movement, I assure you, I have not, and the link above clearly spells out what I mean by God’s shekinah glory. People who spend a great deal of time with God show evidence of it, not necessarily because they talk a good Christian walk, but because you can see they spend time in the Word of God often and you see what the Bible calls the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-25:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
So again, the opening quote speaks of the two what I would consider the most important duty of new as well as seasoned Christians, and that is prayer and meditation, and both of these need serious and humble attention if one truly wants to do God’s will. One of the jokes I have heard is “God gave man one mouth and two ears for a reason… To listen twice as much as he talks!” and there is A LOT of truth to that saying. Now I will leave the praying part up to you, but will give this one suggestion, don’t go to God with a laundry list of what you need, for He already knows the all situations in your life, and secondly, don’t try playing “Let’s make a deal”. But do talk to Him as your Father who has great care for you and your life, pour out your heart, cry your tears of sincerity, for He again knows. The part we are going to focus on the next two weeks is meditation (remember, listening) to what God is telling us. Here is the plan and the breakdown I am planning on using and comes from a section of the wonderful book by Puritan Pastor and writer Thomas Watson titled “The Saints Spiritual Delight” and you can either download a copy or read it for free over at Monergism books, a GREAT site for solid Christian writings and teachings. So Thomas Watson speaks in great detail the importance of meditation and what we should be focused on all the time, and that is God the Father, Christ the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
He starts out by saying “the subject-matter of meditation: what a Christian should meditate upon. I am now entered on a large field, but I will only glance at things; I will only do as the disciples did: pluck some ears of corn as I pass along. Some may say, Alas, I am so barren I do not know what to meditate upon. To help Christians therefore in this blessed work, I will show you some choice select matter for meditation. There are fifteen things in the law of God which we should principally meditate upon.” Here are the devotional / lessons for the next two weeks at least.
- ) Meditate on God’s attributes
a) Meditate on the Holiness of God
b) Meditate on the wisdom of God
c) Meditate on the power of God
d) Meditate on the mercy of God
e) Meditate on the truth of God
- ) Meditate on the promises of God
a) The promises of remission
b) The promises of santification
c) The promises of renumeration
- ) Meditate upon the love of Christ.
a) It would make us love Him again
b) It would cause out eyes to flow with tears for our Gospel unkindness
c) It would make us love our enemies
d) It woule be a means to support us in the case of Christ’s absence
- ) Meditate upon sin
a) Meditate on the guilt of sin
b) Meditate on the curse of sin
- ) Meditate on the vanity of the creature
- ) Meditate on the excellence of grace
a) Grace is precious in itself
b) Grace makes us precious to God
c) Grace is the best blessing
- ) Meditate upon your spiritual estate
a) Meditate about your debts
b) Meditate about your will
c) Meditate about your evidences
- ) Meditate upon the small number of those who will be saved
- ) Meditate upon final apostasy
- ) Meditate upon death
a) Meditate on the certanity of death
b) Meditate on the proximity of death
c) Meditate on the unvertanity of the time
d) Think seriously that dying is done but once
- ) Meditate upon the day of judgment
a) Meditate on the solemnity of this trial
b) Meditate on the universality of this trial
c) Meditate on the impartiality of the trial
d) Meditate on the exactness of the trial
e) Meditate on the outcome and consequence of this trial
- ) Meditate upon hell
a) Meditate on the pain of loss
b) Meditate on the pain of sense
- 13) Meditate upon heaven
- ) Meditate upon eternity
a) Meditate on eternal punishment
b) Meditate on eternal life
- ) Meditate on your experiences
a) Has God not provided liberally for you
b) Has not God prevented many dangers
c) Has not God spared you a long time
d) Has not God often come in with assisting grace
e) Has not God vanquished Satan for you
f) Have you not had many remarkable deliverances
It is going to be kind of a lengthy, yet very profitable journey, one of which I am excited and yet nervous at the same time. I do not know about you, but times of growth are great for me, but sometimes can be painful too. For their may be sins that we have not discovered about ourselves or have covered for a long period time that rotten flesh has covered and needs to salve of the Gospel to properly heal. So I hope you will be sure to check back each day for the journey and growth in learning about true Christian meditation and the importance of this God given duty!
I am super excited this morning to write on this devotional! Why? Because when you get to be my age and you learn something new, you learn to appreciate it more, especially when it is ordained by God! 🙂 However, I must apologize ahead of time for any rambling or disconnects, but shall do my best.
The quote above comes from Archimedes who was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer and considered to be the greatest mathematician of ancient history. However, it was another great Greek mathematician who discovered how to figure out the circumference of the earth. Can you imagine the knowledge between these two alone, the hours spent studying, the discipline, and the contributions to what we know today, long before any supercomputers or other modern day methods. So what do two dead Greek math geeks have to do with God and today’s devotional? When you think about it and put it all together, everything!
First off, I would like to give credit where credit is due, for this new found and heart changing view of sin and forgiveness goes to my previous Pastor from Grace Christian Assembly in Smyrna TN, Pastor Jim McClarty, and the wonderful sermon – Be The Christian Part 4 – The Benefits. The whole be the Christian series is fantastic and there is A LOT of other deep theological teachings and resources available on the rest of the churches web site as well.
Okay, so paraphrasing from Pastor Jim in part of this sermon, Pastor Jim mentioned that he was thankful that God allowed King David to understand the basics of geography, because King David mentions in Psalm 103:12 – as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Okay, as if that is not amazing enough in itself, here is the teaching part that blew my mind!
What we know now, King David did not know then, and that was how big the world actually is. Back in that time they did not know about the rest of the unexplored world that had existed like modern day North American and other continents. As the world was explored and developed over thousands of years, in 1909 the North Pole was discovered, and two years later, the South Pole in 1911. Now that you got a free geography refresher, have you ever wondered why there are not east and west poles (I’ll let you research that one for yourselves 😉 Okay, back to Pastor Jim’s preaching.
So If one were to walk towards the North Pole and keep walking, they would eventually be heading south. However, if one were to walk due east or due west, they would always remain going in that direction with no directional change end. One would always either be heading east or always west. Now when you put that together with what Kind David said in verse 103:12, we need a deeper and more impactful context. So Psalm 103:8-14
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
Look at all of these promises! Merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love! He does not discipline us forever, nor keep His anger. He does NOT deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our inequities! King David comparing the heights of the heavens to the earth (perhaps a conversation for another time) is how great the Father’s love is towards those who fear Him! Have you ever experienced such love on earth? I have experienced deep love, sincere love, but never perfect love, until knowing God’s love; for we are all sinners and incapable of such a love. Then we get to the east from the west portion, and speaks of how far He (God) removes OUR transgressions (sins) from US. This is something that we cannot do for ourselves, and why Christ came to die.
Even years later, the self-professed (at the time) chief of sinners, the Apostle Paul who says to His pupil Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15 – The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Christ came! Christ came! CHRIST CAME!!!! to save sinners, came for all hear of His great salvation. Yet, hearing does not mean saved. A changed heart, a changed mind by God and for God, that puts faith in us to believe that Christ is the Son of God. The gift of repentance and confession that God shows us how sinful we are and the heinous acts we have referred to as “transgressions” that we commit against Him daily, and not only give little to no thought to, we definitely forget quickly how far those sins are forgiven and forgotten for those that fear Him.
May this be of encouragement for you to read and meditate on Psalm 103 today, learn to fear God, trust Him completely if you do not already, surrender all of yourself to Him if you have not already, for He is Lord of all! And if you are a Christian, give thanks ALWAYS!! God loves that His children are happy and well taken care of, but likes that He too is thanked and praised because of the blessings given as well.
To many people (myself included) live in debt because we are not happy with what we have or the way things are. We think by having the next greatest thing will make us happier. So we do whatever we can to obtain it, and are happy for a brief moment, then begin to feel the guilt and burden when that first bill comes due.
Even now or nation is going further and further in debt at an alarming rate trying to keep the economy afloat by borrowing money they cannot afford to borrow, and more than likely, create a debt so great, that it cannot be paid back and much, if not all will have to be forgiven. That scares me on how many generations these poor decisions all over debt our future generations will be heavily burdened by.
But even more importantly as we focus on our day to day world around us, I often wonder how often I and others think about the greatest debt of all, the debt of sin, and this debt is so bad, that it’s wages are death.
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death.
This morning it reminds me of that Christian song “He paid a debt He did not owe” and look at the first few verses.
He paid the debt he did not own, I own the debt I could not pay
I needed someone to wash my sins away
And now I sing a brand new song, “Amazing grace”
Christ Jesus paid the debt I could never pay.
But let us look at this great debt that we owed in the form of the parable from the Bible in Matthew 18:23-27 –
Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
Now this parable speaks of a large volume of debt owed to a king, a debt so ridiculously large to drive home the point. But I also want to expand on it to modern day age, as like all debts, interests accrue. So back in the time when Jesus walked the earth he spoke of a man who owed 10,000 talents to the king, and back then it was a lot of money, but even more so today! That 10,000 talents today is an estimated $4,567,000,000! Yes, 4.5 BILLION dollars! And the debt in the parable is representing our sin, both individually, and collectively, and yet very few think of this, the greatest debt of all time and for all eternity!
This debt is so great that the second half of Romans 6:23 says this “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now let us not be like the second half of the parable where after this person was forgiven much debt and was released, found one who owed him little in comparison and has harsh with that person. When we become saved, we become indebted servants, and older version of the Bible use the term slave, unto Christ. Many hate those words and terms, but that is what it was like living in those days, and they are still words we can relate to. But being in service to Christ is not to repay a debt for a gift, for then it would not be a gift, and not only that, remember how heavy the debt was and the burdens it had upon us. No, we are to do good works, and part of those good works is telling others about the debt of their sins against a Holy and Righteous God, which is evangelism.
God does not save us so we can just sit around and wait to die! No God saves us that we might live! Live for His glory, live for the sake of our call, live for loving our neighbors as ourselves, and so much more! I pray that those reading today would take some time to seriously think about how much we sin daily, then compound that by the weeks, the months, the years, and then how old you are, and see how close you come to that 4.5 Billion sin debt, how much you contributed to it, and then think, are you truly thankful of being forgiven for so much Then think about, how do you reflect that forgiveness towards others. Remember I said in one of my others posts recently, forgiveness is hard! And yet, God willingly gave His only begotten not made Son, the glory of heaven, to come to earth to redeem sinful man! He paid a debt He did not owe, I owe the debt I could not pay.
There is a day of judgment coming, where all the debts owed to God will be called to reconciliation, one way, or another, and that debt is paid in full. That debt is either paid by you apart from Christ and your works and efforts will be judged and not good enough, and will be told “depart from me you workers of inequity”, or by Christs’ work on the cross of Calvary and God sees His Son’s precious blood covering us and we hear “Well done good and faithful servant”, because of Christ. Apart from God, apart from Christ, apart from the Holy Spirit, we have nothing good to offer God, yet, because of God, because of Christ, because of the Holy Spirit, we have ALL things good!
That is the reason we should be living like we are worth the price HE paid! For He is worthy to be praised, honored, and glorified in all things! The good times, and the bad! For he is worthy!
The image above (minus my handy dandy “not” art work) was on a t-shirt by a famous Christian t-shirt company years ago, and sadly I used to own that shirt back when I was the “hip” Christian. Now I am all for using t-shirts or other means for the Gospel and get people to ask questions, but make sure it 100% focuses on making God the main thing, and not you. I also remember churches that put on their marquee signs “Christianity, so easy a caveman can do it (puke!)” These things greatly diminish who God is and makes His grace cheap. And if being saved is so easy, then why kill your only Son with such a horrible death!
Sadly this has been going on week in and week out for years in many of our churches!
Man (gender neutral) by nature, have the innate tendency to fully depend on and trust themselves once they get to a certain age. Out ability is to grow in self-confidence, self-reliance, self-sufficiency so that we can have self-worth. MAN, that sure is a lot of self pride!
One of the biggest, most silent, devious, diabolical, wicked, evil and very little contested things in the church as a whole today, is Easy Believism. Easy believism means up have the ability to decide to become saved, that God’s grace is made cheap by you bypassing His will and whom He has elected (chose) to reveal His will to, all because you heard about how bad hell is, or how great He will make your life more meaningful, or some other reason. Easy believism is also man manipulating man, to get him / her to do something in response. If you have been in church for some time or many years, you may have experienced the whole show of “With heads bowed and eyes closed, if there is any one here who does not know Christ, raise your hand. Walk the isle, say a prayer, sign a card.” You know the routine, right? Just because your name is on a card and some membership roll of a church DOES NOT make you a Christian in any way, shape, fashion, or form; Christianity is NOT that easy!
I have been listening to a wonderful series by my previous Pastor when I lived in TN, Pastor Jim McClarty of Grace Christian Assembly on the Christian life, and this message here, “Be the Christian” (nice shameless plug, huh 😉 which EVERY Christian needs to hear! One of the heavy hitting parts of the sermon is when Pastor Jim reminds the hearer that Jesus Himself says to His disciples in Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. He wants me to do what! Yup, give up your life! Get over yourself, your pride, your self-sufficiency, your self-glory, your self-righteous, and follow me (Christ). Can you even begin to imagine what this nation would be like if Christians actually…. well, lived like Christians.
There are many other heavy words in the Bible for the Christian to do, for example; strive, struggle, sacrifice, be salt, be light, be a witness and a testimony for Him, walk in the Spirit, take up your cross and follow Him. Those certainly are not words of easy! God wants up to give up the things of this world, and trust Him in all things and give our lives (His really) back to Him in adoration, love, prayer, trust, faith, communion, service, and relationship.
I am one of the blessed ones that God revealed Himself over time. For in my earlier formation years, I too went through churches that their main theology was man centered, grace cheapening, theology lacking, and the like. Even though I was a member, I do not know how many times I went to the “alter calls” to be prayed over, but was not discipled for many years (and honestly still really have not), but by His true grace, removed me from such false gospel teachings!
Christianity is anything but easy and is very very narrow minded to the world! Remember in the opening, Jesus Himself said that the gate is narrow and the way to life (that is eternal) is hard. We in the western culture have had it far too easy (well most of us) for far too long and have come to expect much gain with little to no effort, and that is the same we expect from God. And times right now are beginning to get more difficult and fearful, and could possibly get much worse, and worry is setting in for many. If we who are professing Christians would read our Bibles, we would know that life has never been easy, and that trusting God in faith is key to dying to self and believing Him. In doing so, we become less fearful of this world and look more to the promised eternity to come. But the question you need to ask yourself and be completely honest, as your eternity does depend on it!
Has God called you, rasied you up from the dead sinful flesh, crucified on the cross of Calvary, and given you a heart to follow, honor, and glorify Him in ALL things? Or are you doing it all on your own? Again…
Hebrews 9:27 – And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.
Last week in Whodunit Part 1 we spoke of the importance and the difficulty of confessing our sins, because it admits guilt to the greatest crimes of all, and that is sin against a Holy, Righteous, Judging God. I wish I could say it might get easier this week, and for some it is, because we have a right focus on the Cross of Calvary, and that of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In doing so, a lot of people miss out on the importance and the spiritual blessings of these verses!
When we think about and understand the purpose of confession, what are some of the things that come to mind. Well, we already determined in part one the admission of guilt, and depending on the sin, we might even feel dirty, or shameful, we may feel weak, worthless, unworthy, broken, and that’s okay, because that is where God works His best, a repentant heart!
Although the translation I used for the devotional is from the ESV, I prefer the latter have of verse 16 from the KJV, for it says this “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Breaking this down, the first word, effectual, means producing or able to produce a desired effect. Our prayers are fervent, which means exhibiting or marked by a great intensity or of feeling zealous. However, these prayers are from a righteous man avails much.
But here is where we run into a bit of a problem. For Romans 3:10-18 says this:
as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
There are none who are righteous, no on understands, and no one seeks for God. That is, unless he or she is born again, spiritually, filled with the Holy Spirit who cleanses the unclean spirit in the person. Who by the effectual working of the blood of Christ on the Cross of Calvary, is the sinner, the unrighteous, the unholy person forgiven. For even Christ says of His accusers and executioners, “Father, forgive them, for the know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
But here comes the best part, remember our main word from Part 1, confession, well, it is also used in a positive context, which helps make our verse even more powerful. Let’s look at Romans 10:8-10: But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
The Word, the spirit of God, that is in a man’s (gender neutral) mouth and heart, is able to confess Christ as His Lord and Savior, thereby who has the righteousness of God, who He (the sinner) is confessing his sins to, and by confessing Christ as Savior, he also has an Intercessor, and Great High Priest, who takes these prayers before the throne of God. How much more do we need to be convinced of these promises of scriptures? Either we believe and act as adopted children of God, or we don’t. The fastest way to kill prayers is pride, doubt, and lack of faith.
We also tend to pray for things of this world instead of the things above, and we should not be worried of things here, including our health. The healing can be referred to a physical, but more importantly, a spiritual healing, one that is in the trust and care of Jesus Christ. Matthew 6:32-34 –
For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Hopefully we all now have a better understanding on the basic importance of confessing Christ as Lord and Savior and how it relates to Salvation as well as the importance of expanding on that and confessing our sins not only to Him, but to our neighbors as well. There is so much more that could be written, but I pray that has stirred the embers of the Holy Spirit in your heart to go and seek Him in confession and prayer and that He would humble us and lift us up in Christ and Christ alone.
THE SWEETNESS OF THE WORD OF GOD
Have you ever heard the saying “Honesty is the best policy”? Probably been awhile since you have heard that, right? Take some time to research where that came from some time, some thing that we all need to work on. But you might be thinking, what does that have to do with today’s devotional. Well, that is a rabbit trail for another time perhaps, but for today’s lesson, we need to learn to be very honest with ourselves when it comes to taking care of us spiritually, and to do so, we are going to have to be honest with ourselves, REAL honest!
Like many of you reading, I do not do the best job of taking care of myself in the physical sense. I consume more sugar than I should, eat more bacon than I probably should, let’s not even talk about the coffee intake (oh yeah, be honest with ourselves, sorry), very little physical exercise, poor sleep, and the list goes on. Does that sound like someone you might know? Unfortunately, bad habits like these carry over into other areas of our lives as well, especially our spiritual ones, you know, the one that we are supposed to be spending time with God spiritual life. Strike a spiritual nerve, kind of like a cavity on a physical tooth? Yup, me too, and that is why we are going to talk about changing those spiritual habits today!
Let’s start by asking ourselves a simple honest question, again, truthful. By being truthful God will show us our sins and heal us as well as help be honest with others (okay, enough of that rabbit hole 😉
What was the main topic of the last sermon you heard? What were some of the sub-points of the main topic? Like many others, most of the time we do not remember or can recall, and if we do, it is not for a very long period of time. We might be more worried about where we are going to go eat after church, or rush home to catch up on the big game, or some other thing of the world that wants to distract us from God’s Word. This is why proper meditation is needed. You want me to do what? Bend into all sorts of crazy positions that will take a team of doctors to untie me from, no thanks! No silly, that is NOT Christian meditation, and sadly many Christian not only meditate in the wrong manner, but have brought the worldly type into the church!
Christian mediation is a verb, more specifically an action verb, and it means to contemplate, think deeply about, study, wrestle with, ponder. So why is this so important to our spiritual life? Well, if it is anything like our physical life, we are in deep trouble! You know when we eat a poor diet like lots of sugar or saturated fat, what do we feel like? Sluggish, sleepy, lethargic, lack of focus, etc. Yup, that is the same way we are going to feel when we take care of (or lack thereof) ourselves in the spiritual manner.
When we do not digest the Word of God, we might as well be eating dirt and gravel and try to get through sinful dark world! Look back in my life, I cannot tell you how many times I said things like “God why did you do this to me” or “why were you not there when I needed you” You know, blameshifted our problems on to God, just like our federal parents Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. In reality, it is all us (I know I know, honesty!), because we never give much thought, if any, to what we were spiritually fed.
Just as bad, we also have a problem on the other side of the same coin, and that may be we had a poor teacher. Oh sure, we have some preachers who have the latest tips on how to be a more hip, cooler Christian by getting fired up over the entertainment the service opened with, maybe a mention or two of God’s Word, and spoke with great passion and eloquence, but all it was was sugar. Like our physical selves, you are going to have a quick high, and then…. CRASH!
This is why it is important we have a solid diet of God’s Word, that we have some substance to chew on to get us through life, and those tough times, the trials we all go through, and God’s Word tells us about and how to get through them. When we have the solid Word of God in us, it stays there when we meditate on it, we we are praying it, when we are preserving in it. Sadly though, many churches do not give much meat of God’s Word, and worse, some barely give any milk, and what they give is not of much spiritual nutritional value and spoils quickly. But again, we can blameshift (which is a sin by the way) the situation to our church or someone else, or we can be accountable to God for the Word He Himself not only inspired to be written down, but allows this nation to be free to study and talk about Him, and we waste those opportunities too! Imagine how different this world would and could be if the over 200 million professing Christians in this nation were reading, meditating, praying over God’s Word!
Hopefully I have given you much to think (meditate) upon and that you will work on changing your spiritual diet! We ALL have room for improving upon and growing in maturity in the Word of God. He is not going to force us to do it, but we also need to take accountability for ourselves and what we eat, just like we do physically. The question is, will you?
ARE YOU PLANTED PART 2
One of the greatest ways that the Bible teaches us, the students who study the Bible, the way to absolute truth and wisdom is by comparing and contrasting.
We may have at some point in our lives heard the idiom of “Comparing apples to apples or Apples to oranges”, which means comparing things that are alike to each other or indifferent.
So it is with the Bible. Imagine if God the Holy Spirit inspired man to write everything in the viewpoint of nothing to compare the Word to. Granted, the purpose of the Word of God IS to lead and guide into ALL absolute truth, for God cannot lie. Yet, since the fall into sin was so great, and man so easily deceived, many times God teaches by comparing and contrasting to lead us to the truth. Vivid imagery like light and darkness, good and evil, hope and despair, love and hate.
Yesterday we started out with such a description in Psalm 1, and it starts out on a positive note, Blessed!
However, we are not automatically blessed, for the scriptures say “Blessed is the man who walks NOT in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers”. Man is doing an action verb, walk(ing) and either in the ways of righteousness or in the ways of evil, and if walking in the way of righteousness, He is spending much time with God. If we too use our time wisely in study, prayer, meditation on the Word that we read, we will find we have less time for sin and are more at peace with God.
This psalm also has one of the most clear, most vivid descriptions of what takes place to evil wicked people, and this warning should get the attention of many, yet sadly does not.
Yesterday we read that the Blessed man, grows strong, bears fruit for the Kingdom of God, he does not wither, and continues to prosper in all that he does. BUT… The wicked are not so, but are like the chaff the wind drives away. Have you ever studied what chaff is? Chaff is the loose, outer covering on wheat and other grains that must be separated in the threshing and winnowing process of harvesting grain. Chaff is pretty much worthless and was either used in adding it to the feed of the livestock, for they were able to process it whereas humans cannot, or it was used for burning fuel, which would not last long for it was so lightweight and a quick burn time. God created ALL things with a purpose and of value, and like the chaff is to protect the grain within from damage and retain its purpose and value, so it is with the Word of God, the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer, in that they (believers) will not be burned with the judgment of fire.
When we study intently the Word of God, we find out how chaff was cleared from the threshing floor. Sometimes the grain lightly tossed in baskets into the air to blow the chaff away, but many times it has beaten and threshed or tossed about by the winnowing fork, or as we know it today as a pitchfork.
If we look again at our opening quoted scripture, shortly after John the Baptist says this in Matthew 3:12 “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
This speaks of the final judgment to come which is also referred to at the end of psalm 1:5-6 ” Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
This psalm and these words are both words of comfort and of concern. They comfort those that are truly saved, and should be of great concern of the judgment to come! They should also be of concerned to those who are saved in that we have work to do to a dying world! We were not saved just for us to have a good life, to lay back in comfort until we die. Oh dear child of God, may it not be so that are hearts or so calloused, so cold, to those that will one day be threshed and beaten into damnation and judgment. We have good works, Gospel works, that we are called and commissioned to! I dare say if we are not about the Father’s business as Christ was, we too might want to not only read this psalm, but pray through it that God would gives us eyes to see, and spiritual hearts to compare and contrast our own lives to that of His Word. We are to be daily self-examining ourselves, judging ourselves to His Word, not others.
Dear reader, I hope you see not only the seriousness in these few words in psalm 1, but will continue to make the Word of God a daily part of your life. By doing so, He will bless you when you seek Him with all your heart, all your soul, all you might, and all your strength. He will give you a peace that surpasses all understanding, especially in these times of uncertainty, and one day will come for His bride.
So again, are you firmly planted, or are you easily blown away like worthless chaff? Only you and God can determine that.
ARE YOU PLANTED PART 1
This is beautiful imagery using an analogy of what a true Christian is like. First we have that the Christian is like a tree planted by streams of water. Trees when properly planted serve purpose, and are not haphazardly planted. Trees that are also planted with purpose means that there was a planter. God, the creator of all things, created us, planted us in our mothers womb, bore us, daily sustains us by giving us life. We were the greatest of all His creation on earth that we would reflect the glory of His image to the world, which brings us to the next point in the analogy.
It signifies there was a specific place to be planted, in this case by streams of water. There are many verses in the Old and New Testaments on living waters, but the main one that comes to mind is when Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well in John 4:10-11. Even more importantly Jesus Himself says later in John 7:37-38
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
Now we know how important physical water is to survival of all creatures and humanity, more importantly is the spiritual waters, and in the case of John 7, Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit who had not yet, but who is yet to come after Jesus ascends into heaven.
Being planted near a stream also allows the tree to drink in a healthy manner without being drowned. If too much water is consumed too fast, it can have an adverse affect on the tree. Streams also representing a flow, a constant source of water, one that does not dry up. So it is with the Christian that is firmly planted daily in God’s Word, spending time and communion with their creator, being filled with the living water to withstand the challenges of their day.
As I stated earlier, these specifically planted trees have purpose, and in this case, they are supposed to bear fruit in yield its fruit in season. Newly planted trees do not bear fruit, but need to be properly tended to so that one day they will. More mature trees should be bearing much fruit as to also provide more good seed to plant other trees as well.
It is quite interesting that the Holy Spirit hear led the writer of this psalm to use the word yield, which is used in verb form eluding to the fruit having a purpose. When God invests in us, the planted tree, when He cares for, nurtures it, tends to it, He expects the trees to yield fruit. And not just any fruit, but that of the Gospel to the world.
Charles Spurgeon, the famous preacher and theologian quotes fellow Englishman and theologian, Adam Clarke “Fruit is expected, fruit is borne, and it comes also in the time in which it should come. A godly education, under the influences of the divine Spirit, which can never be withheld where they are earnestly sought, is sure to produce the fruits of righteousness; and he who reads, prays, and meditates, will ever see the work which God has given him to do; the power by which he is to perform it; and the times, places, and opportunities for doing those things by which God can obtain most glory, his own soul most good, and his neighbour most edification.”
We also see that the leaves of the tree do not wither. Just as the roots of the tree bring water into the base of the tree to give it growth and make it strong and firmly planted in the ground, the leaves also have a purpose. Just as in a natural tree is to gather in the sunlight and oxygen to help grow the branches and help in the bearing process for growing the fruit, the spiritual trees leaves gather breath from the Holy Spirit, and Gospel light from God the Father and Christ the Son. Without out these things, the tree will wither, dry up, and die.
However, a tree planted by God cannot wither and die, rather it will prosper. It is a prosperity that is not rich by means of this world, but is rich from the heavens above. For the things of God in the Christians life are far greater than anything this world has to offer. As the psalm starts out, so it will one day end, Blessed is the man!
But the question is, have you been planted by God?