Monday, August 30, 2021

A Righteous Man

 Psalm 15

There is an old legend about the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes.  In the legend, he spent many years of his life wandering around, looking for an honest man.  According to the legend, he never found one.  Our psalm for today is looking for the same thing, a good, upright, righteous man who may enter into God’s tabernacle, into His presence.  Is there such a person?  Let’s look into Psalm 15

King David is the author of Psalm 15.  For many years the Ark of the Covenant had been held captive by the Philistines, and it was David’s great desire to bring it back to Jerusalem.  Yet God is all-holy, and who, with their own sinfulness, can come into His presence?  The Bible clearly teaches that everyone, you, me, we all are sinful, and no one on their own is good, upright, or righteous (Romans 3:10; Romans 3:23).  Yet as we read through our psalm and the requirements of the people God will welcome into His presence, we wonder who could possibly fulfill these requirements.

On our own, we will consistently fall short.  There is only one who is sinless, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Whoever accepts Him as their Savior will have His righteousness bestowed upon them (II Corinthians 5:21; Romans 10:13).  We exchange our sinfulness for His righteousness, and are thus able to abide in God’s tabernacle, and dwell in His tents.

A saved person should exhibit indications of ethical integrity and moral responsibility.  God calls His people to be morally upright, and He gives us several  standards to determine how we are doing.  We read these in this psalm that David wrote.  A follower of the Lord Jesus should show in his lifestyle evidence of integrity.  His deeds should be just, and his words be true (vs. 2).  He doesn’t speak hurtful words to others, doesn’t harm others, nor bring a reproach to his family or friends (vs. 3).  A believer will try his best to not do any evil to his neighbor.  He won’t do anything to bring disappointment to his family, to make them a reproach in the neighborhood, or hang their head in shame.

As we continue on in our psalm, we read that one that God will welcome into His tabernacle and holy hill will be careful with whom they associate (vs. 4).  He rejects wicked, degenerate sinners as his companions and good friends, and instead fellowships with other believers.  We know that our behavior and thinking is frequently affected and changed by those we associate with, so if we wish to continue living in a godly manner, we should be associating with other godly Christians, not with the worldly, sinful crowd.

Another characteristic of a righteous and upright person is that they will hold themselves accountable (vs. 4).  He performs what he promises.  His word is his bond.  God keeps every promise He makes to us, and His Word is true.  He expects His children to also be honest in their word, keeping their promises, vows, and oaths.  As we see in several of these characteristics, words are powerful.  How we use them reflects our relationship with God.  We need to speak the truth, refuse to slander others, and keep our word and our promises.

David concludes his list with a final characteristic of a godly believer, and that is that he is not fickle or greedy.  He can’t be bought with a bribe, nor does he charge high interest in order to become rich at the expense of the poor (vs. 5).  Some people are so obsessed with money that they will change their lifestyle and standards to get it.  That is not to be the case with a follower of Jesus.

So, who may abide in God’s tabernacle, and dwell on His holy hill?  The answer is those who have the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, which we receive when we accept Him as our Savior.  Those who come to Him through the shed Blood of Jesus.  Only when we have the righteousness of Jesus, will we be able to faithfully show these characteristics in our life.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Do Not Add Or Subtract

 Deuteronomy 4:1-9

Accuracy is important, especially when a crucial message is being sent.  When we send a verbal message to someone through a third party, we want them to get the message correct, word for word what we said.  The same would go for a secretary taking a letter for the boss.  She needs to get the words of that message down correctly.  When bringing a message, it needs to be accurate, not adding any words of our own, nor taking out any words.  God feels the same way with His Word, the Bible.  Let’s look into our Scripture today from the Book of Deuteronomy.

The Book of Deuteronomy was God’s message to the people of Israel just prior to their entry into the Promised Land.  It was the final words that God spoke through His servant Moses, as Moses did not enter the land of Canaan.  He died on the eastern side of the Jordan River.  Throughout Deuteronomy Moses urged the people to stay true to Yahweh, and not be tempted by the false gods of the Canaanites.  He also told the people that they were to stay true to the Word of God, not adding or subtracting a single word, and they were to teach that Word to their children.

The Bible is the Word of God.  The Bible is sufficient for us.  It is complete, and it contains all we need for life and godliness.  Verse 2 warns us that we are not to add or to subtract from it.  That is a warning that God gives us at the close of Scripture, as well, in Revelation 22:18-19.  No human being, with their limited wisdom and knowledge, can change it. To presume to change the Bible is to assume a place of authority over God.  The religious leaders at the time of Jesus did this.  They elevated their own man-made laws to the same, or even greater level, than God’s Word (Matthew 23:1-4).

Moses continues on, pleading with the people to stay true to Yahweh, reminding them of what happened at Baal Peor (vs. 3-4).  We can read of Baal Peor in Numbers 25.  Throughout the wilderness wanderings of the people of Israel, God had warned them not to intermarry with the pagan people.  This was to be a rule, though frequently disobeyed, when they entered the land of Canaan as well.  The reason behind this order was because marrying a pagan, particularly a pagan woman, would lead them to quickly start worshipping their pagan gods.  We see this centuries later with King Solomon, and what brought about his downfall (I Kings 11:1-11).  In Numbers 25 we find that many of the Israelites were marrying the Moabite women, and worshipping their gods.  Many of the pagan worship rites included immoral sexual practices.  The Israelites began taking part in these, along with idolatrous worship of the false Moabite gods.  God brought swift and harsh judgment on them at Baal Peor.  Only those who held fast to God lived.  Though God often holds back and delays punishment, He does not overlook or wink at sin.  Judgment will come.

Moses continued instructing the people, telling them that they were to be God’s witnesses to the surrounding nations (vs. 6).  Israel was supposed to be a testimony to the world.  They were to be a witness nation, drawing the Gentiles to God.  The unsaved were to see God’s light shining through them, and thus desire to find out more about Him.  This is even more true of Christians today.  Is our Christian walk such that the unbelievers see Jesus in us, and want to find out more about Him because of how we live?

As we continue in our passage, Moses reminded the people that God was near them.  Unlike the pagan gods, who never cared about the people who worshipped them, Yahweh is the true and only God, and He loves and cares for His people (vs 7).   The life and words of Jesus, our Savior, abundantly shows this.  These pagan gods only demanded sacrifices, often human sacrifices.  Yahweh, though, loved us so much that He gave the sacrifice, the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus!  We can call on God for any reason, at any time, regarding any difficulty or challenge.

As Moses closes the Scripture today, he warns to take heed to follow God’s Word.  Take heed, watch out, be careful.  Evil is everywhere, always seeking to tempt us away from obedience to God, and His Word.  Sin promises a better life if we only follow the world’s way.  However that promise is empty, as it leads only to destruction.  God calls us to listen and obey Him, and not be tempted by what the world has to offer.  Who will we listen to and follow?  The choice is ours.

Friday, August 27, 2021

To Whom Shall We Go?

 John 6:60-69

Fickle people.  They change their loyalties, interests, and affections frequently.  They will follow after one thing until some little thing happens to change their mind.  They will be a supporter of a leader for a while, but then when the wind blows the other way or some challenge comes up, they drop away.  It is not pleasant to have fickle people in one’s entourage, and they do not help one’s cause at all.  Jesus faced some fickle people among the crowds that followed Him.  We will read about them in our passage of Scripture for today.

As our Scripture today begins, Jesus had been teaching the crowds of people.  After He gave His talk where He called Himself the Bread of Life, and that people would need to partake of this Bread for eternal life, many of the crowds turned away from Him.  Even some faithful followers were disillusioned with what Jesus had been saying that day, and they even turned away in unbelief.  This was one major, critical turning point in His ministry, one where people were faced with making a decision.  Would they accept what Jesus had said about Himself, or would they turn away in unbelief.  After this day only the true believers remained.

At this point in time many of the Israelites had a set idea of what they felt the Messiah should be like.  They wanted a warrior-king type of Messiah, one who would come and kick the occupying Roman empire out, one who would set up a king like their great King David from the past.  The actions and words were indicating that Jesus was the Messiah, but not the type of Messiah they wanted.  He never spoke of kicking the Romans out, nor of being an earthly king.  Jesus spoke of sacrificing Himself.  These crowds were unwilling to accept the bloody death of the Messiah, one who would sacrifice Himself.  This was an offence to the Jews, a stumbling block to them, and they turned away (vs. 61).  The cross is an offense to the world.

The weak-faithed disciples complained and murmured at what Jesus said.  His words were too hard and unbelievable, and seemed like either nonsense or blasphemy.  That is the case with many people today.  They have their own preconceived ideas of what Jesus should be like.  They love the idea of a Good Shepherd, a gentle Jesus.  However, when He says that He is the only way to heaven, when they read that we must be obedient children, give up our own ways, they turn away.  They want God on their own terms, they want salvation on their own terms, not by what the Bible says.  So they turn away, just like the people in our passage today.

There were several reasons why these false disciples left.  One was when they realized that Jesus was not going to be the conquering Messiah-King they were wanting.  Another was that He did not give in to their self-centered requests.  Some people turn away from God when they don’t get what they want.  They want a heavenly Santa Claus, and that is not who God is.  Some of the people turned away in our passage because Jesus emphasized faith, and not works.  That turns some people off today, as well, as their pride gets in their way.  And then, His teachings were difficult to understand, and some even seemed offensive.  What God’s Word really teaches gets some people angry today, too, and they decide they want no more to do with Him.

Jesus knew what was in their hearts (vs. 64).  They were not true believers, and were only attracted by the miracles and food.  When Jesus turned to the twelve apostles, He asked them if they were going to turn away (vs. 67).  The apostle Peter answered right away that he knew that there is no other way, no other One who has the Words of eternal life (vs. 67-68).

There is no middle ground with Jesus.  We either accept or reject Him.  The more people hear Jesus, the more they divide into two camps.  Many reject Him because they don’t like what they hear in the Bible.  Jesus’s Words, God’s Word the Bible, gives us life (vs. 63).  Jesus didn’t use flowery, placating speech to make the crowds feel warm and comfy.  He spoke hard, Biblical truths.  We need preachers and Bible teachers today who do the same!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Be A Spiritual Fireman

 Jude 1:17-25

Most of us have seen on TV shows or in the movies when a fireman goes into a burning building to rescue a person who is trapped inside, the flames hindering a safe escape.  The fireman rushes in to grab the trapped person, snatching them up and rushing out as the flames surround them and the burning beams start to crash down.  These rescues happen in real life, and they occasionally happen in people’s spiritual lives, as well.  In our Scripture passage today, we read that God has called us to be a type of spiritual fireman, rescuing those who are on the brink of hell.  Let’s look into our passage from the Book of Jude.

Our Scripture today begins with a reminder that the apostles of the early church warned the coming generations, (which would include us today), of apostates entering into the church with their false teachings (vs. 17-19).  An apostate is someone who has turned away from sound, Biblical doctrine, and instead believes false or heretical teachings, or believes nothing at all.  Throughout every generation, from the times of the apostles on through today, there have been those who have spread false teachings.  Paul warned Timothy of this in II Timothy 3:1-9, and warned other early church leaders in Acts 20:29-30.  Peter also warned us of this in II Peter 3:3.

Jude called these people “mockers”.  We see a lot of mockers of the Bible today.  They claim that God’s Word is not true and is not divinely inspired.  Even within some denominations we see some preachers claim that the Bible might contain some of God’s Word but that not all of it is inspired, which is false and heretical teaching.  Jude, Paul, and Peter each warn us to beware of these people.  These mockers especially scoff at God’s future plans as laid out in the Bible.  They pretend to know the truth, but deny that judgment will ever come.  Mockers in the world today ridicule genuine faith in Jesus and those who believe the Bible.

Scripture warns us that these apostate teachers claim to have great spiritual knowledge, but are instead very worldly and ungodly (vs. 19).  These apostates have separated themselves from those who teach solid Biblical truth.  They fracture the true church and believers, rather than unite them.  Jude warns that they do not have the Holy Spirit.  If one doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, then one is not saved.  We need to beware of revisionist teachings of Scripture, that replace sound doctrine with human doctrines (II Timothy 4:3-4).  They can be highly deceptive, so be careful to check every teaching against Scripture (Colossians 2:8; Acts 17:10-11).

After warning us, God, through His servant Jude, gives true believers some instructions (vs. 20-23).  True believers have a sure foundation in Jesus Christ.  We need to consistently pray that we stay firm and true on that Biblical foundation, being obedient and faithful, eagerly awaiting the Second Coming of Jesus.

Jude then urges us to try and witness to those who have fallen away into false teaching, and to lead them back into the truth (vs. 22-23).  Some of these are sincere doubters who deserve compassion, but need to be properly instructed.  Then there are those who are deeper into unbelief.  These need to be rescued before they become further entrenched on the road to hell.  They need to be snatched from the fire that awaits them, just like a fireman does a trapped victim.  There are also the outspoken apostates, those who are thoroughly polluted by false teachings, who still need to be rescued.  They need to be handled with care and fear so that we do not also get spiritually tainted.

Scripture here says we are to hate the sin that they are in.  We should have no love or sympathy for the sin, but have love and mercy for the sinner.  In doing that, though, don’t fall into compromise with the sin or the sinner.  We are to influence them for Christ.  Don’t allow them to influence us to sin.

Our Scripture passage ends with a magnificent benediction (vs. 24-25).  Jesus is able to keep us, through His Word, from falling into apostasy.  It is ultimately not through our own efforts that we remain on our feet as we walk in this world.  It is God’s power that keeps us standing.  We are eternally secure.  But others, those who follow the world, will come to a day when they will take a step and find out there is nothing to support them, and they will fall.  Let us follow Jude’s example and put on our fire gear, rush into the flames, and try to rescue the perishing, snatching them from sin.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Putting A Muzzle On

Psalm 39

I open my mouth and out comes words that I wish weren’t there.   Maybe words that are unkind and hurtful to others.  Perhaps words that are angry, or not completely honest.  Or maybe they are words that show a lack of faith and trust in God.  We all have occasions where we wish we would just keep our mouth shut.  In our psalm for today, David recalls a time that he had said things that he wished he hadn’t.  Let’s look into Psalm 39.

Sometimes we really need to put a muzzle on our mouth!  This was something that King David wished he could do (vs. 1).  He just wanted to tie his mouth closed so that those words he regretted saying would not get out!  We put muzzles on dogs to keep them from biting.  Our words can bite, as well.  They can be hurtful in so many ways.  We need to develop self-control to keep from saying wrong and hurtful things.

David knew that there were many ways he could be sinning with his words.  We know, of course, that we can hurt others with our words.  We can also use some very foul language that is not seemly for a believer to be speaking.  Then there are words that show a lack of trust in God, that can cause others to stumble in their faith.  Some Bible scholars believe that David had been complaining to others, or in other’s hearing about God and His perceived treatment of David, and why God was not punishing the wicked right away.  That David felt He was letting the wicked get away with their sin.

When David realized that his words were not right, he decided to keep quiet, but the burden inside of him was too great (vs. 2-3).  He tried to suppress his distress and complaint until he couldn’t hold it in any longer. Then David came directly to God, which is what he should have done from the start.  Sometimes we hold off coming to God with our problems, needs, or feelings, but we shouldn’t.  When David did come to God, he knew that He would hear him (vs. 12-13).

King David also realized that his words can give a bad witness or testimony in front of unbelievers.  This is very true.  Unbelievers are always watching the Christian.  They listen to everything we say.  They may not always act upon the godly things we say, and turn to Jesus.  However, when we say something we shouldn’t, they take notice, and our words can turn them away from God.  Never give anyone a reason to reject God because we’ve said something ungodly (Colossians 4:5-6).

David appealed to God for mercy because life is so brief (vs. 4-6).  Apart from God, life is fleeting and empty.  According to Scripture, our time and how we use it is important (I Corinthians 7:29).  The time we have to do God’s work is limited, so we must use it wisely (Ephesians 5:16).  We are on the earth for such a short time, we must be diligent to walk wisely.  Since we could appear before God tomorrow, we need to live for him today.  In spite of how brief and short life is, people spend so much time securing their lives on earth, and spend so little, or no thought about where they will spend eternity.  We shouldn’t just spend time, we should invest it.

As we study this lesson from God that He inspired King David to write, let's learn some of the lessons that David himself learned.  We need to talk less.  The more we talk, the greater the chance of saying something stupid, hurtful, and regrettable.  Before we do speak, pause and consider - are our words accurate?  Are they kind or cutting?  Are they necessary or needless?  Are they wholesome words?  Are they grateful to God and to others, or are they complaining?

Words are powerful, and once they are spoken, we can’t take them back.  How many relationships were destroyed because of the wrong words?  How many people carry the scars around for life because of hurtful or vicious words spoken to them?  And we may never know how many people decided to turn away from accepting Jesus as their Savior because of some ill-spoken words that someone said.  As David advised, sometimes we need to put a muzzle on our mouth!

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Choose Who You Will Serve

 Joshua 24:1-2, 14-25

Every day we make choices.  Many of them do not have long-lasting importance, but some of them do.  Some of our choices will affect our family for years to come, such as where we choose to live, where we will send our children to school.  Probably the most important decision we will ever make will affect our family for generations, and that is what God we choose to worship.  In our Scripture today we read of Joshua, in the closing years of his life, challenging the people as to which God they will serve.  Let’s take a look.

Years earlier, shortly before the death of Moses, God had appointed Joshua to be the one to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River and on to the conquest of the Promised Land.  Now, at the close of his life, Joshua gathered the people together to determine the course of their spiritual future.  Moses was gone.  He would soon be gone.  He knew the people needed to make an important decision.  Who or what they would worship was important.  It would determine their future as a people.

There would be the temptation to worship the pagan gods of the Canaanites where they now lived.  Some would remember the false gods of the Egyptians where they had been slaves for several hundred years.  Going back even further, there were the pagan deities from the ancestors of Abraham (vs. 2).  The River that Joshua referred to was the Euphrates.  Abraham and his family had lived in Ur, a city near the southern end of that river.  His father Terah had been a pagan, worshipping false gods.  Moon worship was strong in that culture.  Abraham would have been raised that way, until he came to follow Yahweh, the one true God.

The people had to decide whether they would obey the Lord, who had proven His trustworthiness, or pagan gods.  We too must all make a choice as to who we will follow.  Will we follow Jesus or other false religions of the world?  Or will we follow a worldly, self-worshipping lifestyle?

That day Joshua made a very public stand for himself and his family.  He and his family chose to follow and serve Yahweh (vs. 15).  Regardless of what the other people would do, Joshua made a commitment to serve God.  Joshua was faithful to the Lord.  He was faithful in instructing his children and family in God’s Word, teaching his children, and later grandchildren all about Yahweh.  We can’t just say that we want our family to follow God.  It won’t just happen by happenstance.  It is a deliberate choice we make with every decision and action of our life.  We must teach our family to follow God.  It won’t occur by chance.  We must model our faith by example, praying for them, and instructing them in the Bible and ways of the Lord.  This is what Joshua did when he said that he and his family would follow the Lord.

The people answered Joshua that they, too, would follow the Lord (vs. 16-18).  Joshua heard their promises, but knowing the people as well as he did, knowing how they had been unfaithful to Yahweh in their hearts all throughout the wilderness wandering, he questioned their sincerity (vs. 19).  God demands the believer’s total commitment to Him.  That is only possible when we depend upon the Holy Spirit each and every day.

Talk is cheap.  Joshua and his family committed themselves to follow Yahweh, and they were true to their word.  The people of Israel made a similar commitment, but very quickly fell away.  Within a very few short years after Joshua’s death they had plunged into idolatry.  The whole Book of Judges records this sad saga.

To follow God requires destroying whatever gets in the way of truly worshipping Him (vs. 23).  God is not satisfied if we merely hide these idols.  We must completely destroy them, removing them from our lives.  The Israelites did not do this.  They left them up in their lives, where they could tantalize them and lure them back into their clutches.  We cannot afford to let that happen in our life or in our family.  Anything that comes between us, our family, and God must be removed and destroyed.  Only then can we be sure our family will follow God.

Just as Joshua did, we are called to make a choice.  Will we follow Jesus, some false religion, or the world?  After death it will be too late to make a choice.  If we haven’t chosen Jesus, then we have chosen Satan and hell.  The choice is ours.  We need to decide.  We need to choose who we will serve.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Healing At The Pool Of Bethesda

 John 5:1-16

What were you doing 38 years ago?  That was a long time ago.  Some of you reading this might not even have been born yet.  Many might have been only young children.  I was in my mid-twenties and was working in busy downtown Chicago.  Imagine no internet, no cell phones!  It is also a very long time to be sick or crippled, and completely bedridden.  That was the condition of a man highlighted in our Scripture passage today.  Let’s take a look at the account of his meeting with the Lord Jesus.

There was a pool in the city of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus called Bethesda, whose water had healing qualities.  Occasionally an angel would come down and stir up the water.  Whoever was the first to get into the pool would be healed from whatever illness they had (vs. 1-4).  Because of that, large numbers of sick people gathered around the pool's edge, waiting for the water to be stirred.  Among them was a man who had been sick for 38 years.  The exact nature of his illness is not specified, however we know that he lay on mat, and was unable to get to the water first, despite being there for 38 years.

Then one day Jesus came by.  He saw this man.  His desperate condition did not escape the notice of Jesus.  Scripture says that Jesus knew that the man was ill and had been so for many years (vs. 6).  He asked the man if he wanted to be made well.  This man gave a very sad answer, stating that there was no one to help him get into the water.  There are times when there is “no man” there to help us, as with this man.  We have nowhere to turn.  That’s when we need to turn to God.  No man can do for us what Jesus can do for us.  Family may let us down, the church may disappoint us, friends forsake us, but Jesus will be there in the time of our greatest need.

No one, over 38 years, had ever helped this man.  He had no hope of ever being healed, and over time he had no desire to do much to help himself.  There was something in the man’s attitude holding him back from even thinking about receiving healing.  He had been in his condition for 38 years.  It had become a part of his identity.  Most of us, if we had been seriously sick for 38 years would answer Jesus right away, “Yes Sir!  Most definitely!”  However, there are some, if honest, who would not be so sure.  They have given up all hope, don’t believe healing is available, or even prefer the attention they get while sick.

The sick man’s discouraging answer did not stop the Lord Jesus from bringing him the healing he needed.  He told the man to get up, pick up his mat, and walk (vs. 8-9).  Immediately the Pharisees took notice, and confronted the formerly sick man about carrying his mat on the Sabbath.  They had seen the sick man for 38 years and had done nothing to help him, but now, right away, they condemned him for carrying his mat!  (vs. 10). Carrying a mat on the Sabbath did not break any Old Testament laws, as Sabbath laws referred to one’s job.  But it violated the Talmud, a collection of rabbi’s or man’s words, which the Pharisees followed even more closely than they did God’s Word.  The man answered and told them that the man who healed him told him to carry it, however he didn’t know who that was (vs. 11-13).

A short while later the man meets Jesus again, and He warns the man to stop sinning or something worse will happen (vs. 14).   This might imply that the man’s sickness was brought upon him because of his behavior.  Although Scripture makes it clear that not all disease is a consequence of someone’s sin, illness at times may be directly tied to one’s moral behavior.  One gets drunk and falls down a flight of stairs or in a car wreck, the injuries are directly a result of drunkenness.  Certain immoral behavior can bring some nasty diseases.  This man was healed physically, but needed to turn from his sins and seek God’s forgiveness, and be spiritually healed.  However, we unfortunately do not see that here.  The man turned around and told the Pharisees that it was Jesus who healed him (vs 15).  He had no gratitude.  He only resented that Jesus told him to mend his behavior.

The Pharisees tossed away the great miracle of healing, and saw only the perceived breaking of the Sabbath law, and was only breaking the man-made Talmudic law, which was adding to God’s law (vs. 16).  Jesus paid absolutely no attention to man- made laws!

In closing, do we see those around us who may need a helping hand to get to their blessing?  Are we there to help them up?  If we are the one in need, have we become too discouraged and given up hope?  Don’t give up hope, as Jesus is there, and He sees us.   Perhaps there are some who need to get their life in order, as that man did.  Reach up and accept Jesus today!


I pray that you have enjoyed and benefited from these Bible meditations that I have written for this blog.  I hope you will prayerfully consider donating as the Lord might lead you.  This blog is not run through a large ministry with a wide funding base.  I am an individual with limited financial resources.  Thank you and God bless.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Watch How You Walk

Ephesians 5:15-21

Picture in your mind, if you will, a person who is drunk, really drunk.  Most of us have seen such a person, either in the movies or on TV, or perhaps in real life.  They stagger and stumble around, and can’t talk coherently.  Police give sobriety tests, such as walking in a straight line heel to toe, which a drunk person would have difficulty doing.  This is because they are under the influence or control of the liquor.  The same is true of someone high on drugs.  The liquor and drugs have control over what they do and influences the way they act.  In our Epistle reading today, God tells us through the words of Paul, that He wants us under such control of something, but you can be sure it isn’t drugs or alcohol!  Let’s look at our Scripture passage.

As our Scripture passage begins, Paul has given the Ephesian church some instructions for how a Christian should be living their life.  God’s Word begins by telling us to watch how we walk (vs. 15).  We need to watch carefully how we live.  To be circumspect means to be careful to consider all circumstances and possible consequences, to be prudent.  To be careful of our actions and behavior is to live wisely.  The Bible calls some people fools, not because of any intellectual limits, but because of their unbelief, wicked and ungodly deeds.  Following God’s Word and His will is to live wisely (vs. 17).

Next, the Word of God tells us to redeem the time, because these are evil days (vs. 16).  We need to be making the most of every opportunity we have to do the will of God, especially in telling others about the Lord Jesus Christ, and salvation through His Blood.  Wickedness and evil are becoming more widespread.  As we have seen in the past 1 ½ years, we never know how much time we have here on earth.  People are dying without Jesus and going to hell every day.  We need to make the most of every day we have to tell others about Him.

As believers and followers of the Lord Jesus, we must clearly understand what the will of the Lord is.  To do that, we must be in prayer and in His Word every day (vs. 17).  God wants us to turn away from sin and leave it behind.  He wants that, not to be mean to us, but because He knows that it is not good for us.  Sin harms us and those around us.  Trusting God’s love for us will always work out for the best.

One of the things God wants us to leave behind from our former life in the flesh is getting drunk (vs. 18).  We have a better life now with Jesus.  As I mentioned at the start, someone who is drunk has the alcohol controlling what they say and do.  In the same manner, someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit is under His control, and will say and do what He wishes them to do.  When a Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit, He controls their thoughts, attitudes, and actions.  Being filled with the Spirit means that we live in submission to Him, under His control.  We can usually tell when someone is drunk, as their actions and speech give it away.  The same should be with Christians.  Our actions and speech should also give away that we love Jesus and are His children.  Neighbors know the drunk on the block.  Do they know that you are a follower of Jesus?

In closing, Paul tells us what some of the results of a Spirit-filled life will show (vs. 19-20).  Instead of some of the vile things that the unsaved talk and joke about, we should have the Word of God on our lips, singing hymns and other godly songs.  Our hearts should ring with the melody of Jesus.

The more we praise God and give Him thanks, the more the devil flees from our presence.  Praises and thanksgiving to God are our greatest defense against the wiles of the devil.  So keep a hymn of praise always in your hearts for the Lord!


Monday, August 16, 2021

The Loving Care Of The Creator

 Psalm 147

As we read through the Book of Psalms, quite often we see pictures of Jesus, the Messiah, verses or passages that point to Him in prophecy.  Many psalms prophecy the sacrificial death of the Messiah.  Today’s psalm shows a picture of Jesus in His healing and caring ministry, along with God providing for the needs of His children, along with all of creation.

Our psalm opens, just as so many psalms do, with a call to sing praise to the Lord God.  All throughout the psalm we read of the many blessings that He has given, not only to us, but also to other creatures.  Verse 3 is echoed in the words of the prophet Isaiah when he spoke of the coming Messiah in Isaiah 61:1.  Jesus quoted that passage of Isaiah in reference to His own ministry (Luke 4:18).   Jesus heals us from our brokenness, and forgives our sins.  In this psalm, and also in the passages of Isaiah and Luke, we read that God will heal the brokenhearted, those who are so overwhelmed by grief and disappointment, particularly by other people, that they find it hard to carry on.  Many of us could say that we have been brokenhearted in our lives, and perhaps still are.  Jesus calls the brokenhearted to come to Him, and He will bind their wounds.

As we continue in our psalm we see God as Creator of all of outer space (vs. 4).  Many people love to look out on a clear night and view the stars.  Where I live in the Chicago area, we don’t get to see too many stars.  When we can get out into the countryside, we can see countless numbers of stars.  With a good telescope one can even see some other galaxies.  They say that there are possibly 400 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy.  The Hubble telescope has discovered multitudes of other galaxies, so there are innumerable stars.  Yet Yahweh knows the exact number, and has given each one a name!  That can give us comfort.  If He knows and names each star, how much more does He care about those He died and rose again for!  Verse 5 proclaims God’s mighty power and infinite understanding, which is an understatement, considering the previous verse 4!

As the Creator of all creation, we read in our Psalm that Yahweh provides for all animals and plants on earth.  He provides the rain to grow the plants and crops that animals and people need for survival, along with water to drink (vs. 8-9).  If God cares enough to be sure that all the birds have what they need, won’t He also care for each of us?  (Matthew 10:29-31).

The psalmist proceeds to tell us that God takes no delight in the things in which man trusts (vs. 10-11).  We spend a lot of effort trying to sharpen our skills, whether they be intellectual ones or physical abilities.  We try so hard to be the best in one skill or another in order to impress others or to gratify ourselves.  But no matter our prowess, or how many people may think we’re the greatest, God is not impressed.  When we use our skills with no regard for Him, they are worth little.  God desires our reverence and trust.  Only then will He use our skills and strengths.  As verse 11 states, God is pleased with those who fear Him and trust in His mercy.  Our reverence for the Lord, and patient trust in His will, will work together to produce a faith that can bring us through any trial.

In closing up this psalm, I want to mention the several verses that reference various aspects of the weather.  Throughout the whole Bible we see how God has used all sorts of weather events to show His power and to accomplish His will.  He has used rain, lightning, clouds and hail many times to come to the aid of His people, and to bring judgment on the lost.  We already read in verse 8 of how God brings the rain to water the earth.  In verses 15-18 we have a picture of some cold winter weather.  He brings the snow, frost, and cold.  I am not one who likes winter or cold weather, and where I live, there is plenty of that.  When I have to go out into the frigid cold weather, I like to remember that portion of verse 17, “Who can stand before His cold?”  As we read in this psalm, weather doesn’t just happen.  God is in control of it all.

In this psalm we have seen that God is the Creator of all, and controls every aspect with His power.  Mankind and our abilities do not impress Him, and yet He loves and cares for each of us.  God delights in giving good things to His children.  Let’s remember to give Him praise!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Angry Words

 Proverbs 15:1-14

Words are very important, whether written words or spoken.  The words in books have drawn people to follow them, whether for good or for bad.  The particular words we choose to speak can forge a friendship, cause someone to fall in love, or make an enemy, all because of what words we have said.  King Solomon, one of the wisest men ever, along with a few other people, wrote the Book of Proverbs, a collection of wise sayings to help guide one’s life in a number of different areas.  In our Scripture passage today from the 15th chapter, we will look at a few proverbs that deal with what and how we speak, along with a few other proverbs.

Our Scripture passage opens with a rather well-known proverb, and one that could never really be disputed, that of  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (vs. 1).   Most of us can remember times when we responded back to some nasty words spoken to us with some angry, biting words of our own.  And what happened?  Was the dispute amicably settled then?  No!  Our angry retort only made the matter worse.  An argument can easily escalate to the point where a single harsh word can cause an explosion of anger.  If we answer an angry word with another angry word, it will only inflame the situation.  Scripture tells us that it is best to answer calmly and rationally, or not at all.  We need to turn away from anger.  Seek peace and use gentle words.

A soft or gentle word can remove the fuse from a hot and angry situation.  Do you prefer harshness and belligerence, or is gentleness evident in your words?  We need to watch our tongue and heal with our words, rather than hurt others.  The words we say can bring life to the spirit and well-being of others, or they can crush others, destroying their spirit and morale (vs. 4).  Since so many in the world today are so quick to cut others down with their words, this will set us, as believers and followers of the Lord Jesus, apart from the rest of the world.

As we continue in our chapter of Proverbs, I pause for a brief moment at verse 3.  Nothing ever escapes God’s notice.  Nothing will ever surprise Him or catch Him off guard.  God will always accomplish what He desires.  Some people think that God is not involved with the affairs of this earth, or that because of how bad things are, He just doesn’t care.  Others think they can do whatever they want, as God doesn’t see.  The Bible tells us both those ideas are wrong.  He sees and knows all.

We drop down to verse 8 and the Lord tells us that He rejects the offerings of the wicked.  If they think that a financial contribution to a charity will impress or placate Him, while they go back to their wicked ways, they are wrong.  External acts of worship are repulsive to God when the heart of the worshipper is wicked.

Verse 13 is another proverb that is well-known.  Negativity holds the power to drain our strength and crush our spirits.  Optimism has the power to do just the opposite.  As Christians we should intentionally fill our hearts with joy in Christ instead of dwelling on circumstances with sadness.  Then we will have cheerful thoughts, a positive outlook, and an unsinkable faith, no matter what.  There is no more effective testimony of a changed life than a joyful spirit.  Someone once said “Joy is the flag flying high above the castle of the heart, announcing that the King is in residence there.”

In closing let’s take a quick look at the last verse of our passage selection, verse 14.  Most of us try to be careful about what we eat, and try to avoid things that would be harmful.  What we feed our minds is just as important as what we feed our bodies.  What we read, watch, and listen to are a part of our mental diet.  We need to be discerning with that, as it will affect our whole life.  Seeking after godly knowledge is a mark of wisdom.

God gave us the Book of Proverbs to help guide our lives each day with His wisdom, to keep us on a godly, wise, and safe path.  Every time we read it, we can learn something to help us through life.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Eternal Security

 John 6:37-51

When we entrust our children into the care of someone, at the end of the day we don’t want to hear that they lost our child!  When the teacher takes the class into the big city for a museum trip, we don’t want to hear that she lost some of the students.  Nor do we want to hear that the scoutmaster lost some of the campers in the woods!  When we turn to God and accept the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we come under God’s special care and protection.  Can He lose us?  Let’s look at today’s Scripture passage and see what Jesus says.

As our passage opens, Jesus is talking to His disciples and the crowds of people who have come to hear His teachings.  Jesus assures His listeners, and us today, that whoever comes to Him for salvation will never be turned away (vs. 37).  All means all, whoever they may be - Jews, Gentiles, prominent businessmen, drug dealers, grandmas, or prostitutes.  No one has ever been turned away who came to Jesus, and no one ever will.  Sometimes, in some churches, the members might look with scorn on a poor person, or a person with an unsavory past.  They don’t want “sinners'' in their midst.  However, Jesus never turns anyone away, the good, the bad, or the ugly.

Jesus then goes on to say that He will never lose anyone who comes to Him, either (vs. 39).  The Bible is very clear that we cannot earn our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).  In the same token, neither can we lose our salvation once we have accepted Jesus as Savior (John 10:28-29).  This is a permanent, eternal transaction.  Once we are saved, we are eternally in God’s Hand.  God is not like an irresponsible child, and He will not let one of His children slip out between His fingers to get lost again.  Jesus said that He will not lose one person who comes to Him.  We cannot lose our salvation.  We are eternally secure!

As we continue, we find out who are the ones who are eternally secure in God’s Hand, and who are the ones who have eternal life.  As verse 40 states, that “everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life”.  The Him referred to in this verse is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  A person must believe in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. who alone offers the only way of salvation.

As Jesus spoke these words, the religious leaders and many of the people grumbled and murmured among themselves.  They did not want to believe Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God.  People want to come to God on their own terms.  They want to believe that their way is the right way, or that all ways are acceptable to God.  God’s Word, the Bible, though, says that Jesus is the only Way to God, and the only way to obtain eternal life (John 14:6).

The door is open for all to accept Jesus.  No one is turned away who comes to Him, but the key is, we must come to Him.  The Holy Spirit will speak and urge the lost, in many different ways, to accept Jesus (vs. 43-44).  However, they have to choose to believe and accept Jesus as their Savior.  They have to decide.  This offer is made to all.  Jesus said that if these people with whom He was talking to really knew the Father, as they claimed, they would accept Him as the true Messiah (vs. 45).

Again, they challenged Jesus to provide manna, just as Moses had given their ancestors.  The manna Moses gave could not impart eternal life.  It only provided for physical needs, and then only for a while, as they all eventually died.  Jesus is the Bread of Life, who came down from heaven.  Whoever accepts Him has eternal life (vs. 47-51).  To eat living bread is to accept Jesus into our lives and become united with Him by believing His death for us, His resurrection, and live for Him each day.

Throughout Jesus’s many discourses with people, including the Pharisees and other religious leaders, He did not use flowery, “seeker sensitive” words to avoid offending anyone.  Jesus told it like it was, regardless of their grumbling.  Too often ministers today, including some prominent TV preachers, won’t mention sin, won’t mention the need to be saved, won’t proclaim the Bible as God’s only Word, etc. for fear of offending people.  Jesus drew a line.  Either accept God’s Son as the only means of salvation and have eternal life, or don’t and spend eternity apart from God and damned.

Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior?  If so, then you can know that you have eternal life, and that you are eternally secure in God’s Hand.  He will never lose you!  If not, I urge you today to call upon Jesus, asking Him to forgive your sins, and accepting Him as your Savior, for now and for eternity.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Christian Behavior

 Ephesians 4:25-32

Instructions on the proper way to behave or act are often given to people.  They are given to people when attending school, joining social and athletic clubs, and when meeting important or prominent people, such as royalty.  Parents hopefully instruct their young children in good and proper behavior. In our Scripture reading today, Paul gives some basic instructions to both the new and the spiritually immature believers in the early church, along with reminders to all believers on how Christians should be acting and living their lives.  Since we all need reminders now and then, let’s take a look.

Our Scripture begins with the admonition to not tell lies (vs. 25).  That is a common, basic instruction that we were all taught as children.  It is also one of the Ten Commandments.  Unfortunately we find way too many adults who are quite comfortable telling lies all the time.  God is quite plain here in that we are not to lie.  This would include exaggerations, betraying a confidence, or making false excuses.  God’s work is based on truth.  Believers should be fit instruments for the Lord to use.  They can’t be if they are not truthful.

Next Paul moves on to talk about anger, where he instructs us to be angry, but not to sin with our anger (vs. 26).  God is speaking about righteous anger here, not permission to throw temper tantrums or bursting into fits of rage.  This is an anger that hates injustice, immorality, ungodliness, and other sins.  Jesus had righteous anger when He cleansed the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13).  Many of the prophets were righteously angry at the people of Israel for worshipping pagan gods, and mixing that worship with that of Yahweh.  The verse continues in telling us that all anger, even righteous anger, should be set aside at the end of the day, otherwise it can become hostile.  If we nurse our anger we will give Satan an opportunity to bring in sin and his evil designs (vs. 27).

As our Scripture continues, Paul gives a couple more basic instructions for believers to make a part of their lives, showing that they have turned away from their old lifestyle and are following Jesus.  He reminds us that stealing, taking anything that doesn’t rightfully belong to us, is a sin (vs. 28).  One should work to get what they need, not just helping ourselves to what doesn’t belong to us.  Foul language of any sort should never pass a Christian’s lips (vs. 29).  Instead, our words should be uplifting and encouraging to others.

Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit is grieved when believers refuse to change and turn away from the old ways of sin (vs. 30).  Just as we would become heartbroken if we saw a child of ours living a disreputable life, so also God is grieved when He sees us willingly choosing to remain in sinful practices.  When we accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit sealed, or guaranteed, that we belong to God.  He is the Guarantor of eternal redemption in Christ for those who believe in Him.  Because of that we need to pattern our life after Him, not after the enemy of our souls.

When we do house cleaning, we gather up worthless items we no longer want, and throw them out.  Verse 31 is a list of some behaviors that God wants us to get rid of, as they are worthless, and actually harmful to our spiritual life.  They include bitterness, which is smoldering resentment, wrath and anger.  We need to get rid of clamor, which is shouting and yelling, evil speaking or slander, and all malice, which is hatred and maliciousness.

As Paul concludes this passage, he tells us of perhaps the most important of these behavioral instructions, and that is to be forgiving of others (vs. 32).   When we forgive, we lay down all claims to retribution.  We cannot be secretly wishing the one who hurt us any harm.  True forgiveness says “Though you hurt me, I choose to pardon you.”  Do not dwell on the harm done, allowing it to destroy your life.  Those who have been forgiven so much by God should forgive others their relatively small offenses (Matthew 18:21-35).

Looking back over this Scripture we see that we need to curtail many of our old habits and behaviors, and replace them with new ones that are acceptable to God. If Christians continue in any of the sins in this Scripture, where they are becoming habits again, we allow Satan to get a deadly hold on our heart.  Instead of acting in sinful ways, we need to be forgiving of others.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Praising God No Matter What

 Psalm 34:1-8

When do you feel like praising the Lord?  Maybe on a bright, sunshiny day when you’re walking through a meadow of bright wildflowers.  Perhaps while standing on the ocean’s shore, or looking to the sky on a crisp, clear night.  We can easily praise Him when things are going fine, but what about when they aren’t?   Our psalm today was written by David when he was in danger, and his life was at risk.  Yet throughout the psalm he speaks of God’s deliverance and care of His children.  Let’s take a look

The circumstances surrounding the writing of this psalm is found in I Samuel 21:10-15, when David had fled into the country of the Philistines, and had taken refuge with King Abimelech (also known as Achish).  However, some of the men in Abimelech’s court remind him that David had previously fought and won many battles against them, and that he can’t be trusted.  Before they can lock him up and maybe kill him, David pretends to be crazy, and they let him go back into his own country.  Not safe in his own country because of Saul, not safe in another country.  Where can he find peace and rest?  Who could praise God then?  David could, and he knows we can, too.

David begins the psalm in verse one with the testimony that he will praise God at all times, continually.  Not just when things are going great, not only on the bright sun-shiny, flower-filled days, but when things are going terrible, as well.  Can we also say that?  Do we praise and bless the Lord only when things are good and pleasant?  How about when we are in a financial crisis, or in critically ill health, or after the death of loved ones?  David tells us here, praising and blessing are to always come forth from us.  It should be continual, not just in the good times.  This is something he not only instructed, he lived it as well.

Sometimes our trials may seem insurmountable.  However, God is greater than any trial we may face.  David called upon the Lord during his dark days, and found deliverance (vs. 4).  He turned to Him, and was never sent away ashamed (vs. 5).  God pays attention to those who call upon Him.  Whether He offers escape from the trouble, or helps us through the dark times, we can be certain that He always hears and acts on behalf of those who love Him.   We need to stop focusing on our difficulties, but instead, view everything through God’s Word and His promises.  Our problems will diminish, and God’s magnificence will grow.

David could look throughout his life and tell of innumerable times when God delivered him from serious danger.  He could recount times from his early days of being a shepherd and the dangers of wild animals, all the way through his final years as king, when his enemies came against him.  David knew God sent angels to protect him (vs. 7).  There could be many times when we have been protected or delivered from harm through the help of an angel assigned to guard us.  We will never know in this life how many things we were protected from by the angels assigned to us, such as fires, vehicle accidents or other freak accidents, harm from criminals, etc.  David knew there were countless times God protected him when he otherwise could have been killed, and he never stopped praising Him for that.

As our portion of Psalm 34 ends, David invites everyone to come and give God a try (vs. 8).  Have you ever had a friend or relative invite you to try out some food that you might have been hesitant to eat?  “Come on, try it!” they say to us.  They’ve tried it and found they liked it, and want us to enjoy it, too.  David has experienced God’s love, His blessings, His deliverance and care, and he wants others to also enjoy a relationship with Him.

How about you?  God has so much better to bless us with than the world has to offer.  When we see what He has to give us, why would anyone want to continue to pick through the world’s garbage?  Instead, come to God’s table.  His invitation is opened to you!

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Don't Forget To Remember

 Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Remember when you were a little child and you received a gift or a kindness from someone, and your parents needed to prompt you to say “thank you”?    Being quite young, you needed to be taught proper manners.  Hopefully those lessons stuck and we are polite, prompt to tell others thank you.  Yet it is amazing how many people have quickly forgotten those lessons!  The one that gets forgotten the most is God.  In his final lessons to the people of Israel before they entered the Promised Land, Moses is instructing them not to forget the Lord God, for He is the one who has given them everything they had while wandering in the wilderness, and everything they will have in their new home.  As we look into this passage, let’s also remember to be a grateful people, thankful to the Lord for all He has given us.

We tend to remember the good things and favors we do for others.  Those don’t slip our minds easily.  Yet how easily we forget what God has done for us, and “thank you’s” are slow to come.  Moses knew how the Israelites were, and knew that they would be quick to forget all that God had done for them.  He was not going into the land with them, and would not be there to instruct them, so he urged them to remember the Lord God (vs. 2).  We need to be constantly recalling what God has done for us.  We easily remember so many other things, many of which don’t really matter.  Why do we so easily forget the blessings God gives us?

One thing that Moses didn’t want the people to forget was God’s guidance and leading every day through the wilderness for the past forty years (vs. 2). If it wasn’t for His care, protection, and provisions they would never have made it through.  There were times that He needed to test or discipline them, yet His love and care was always there.  God promises to be there and lead us, too, throughout our life, even when we walk through seemingly wilderness periods.  He may test us to see whether we will obey him even when things are difficult.  When we look at how the world is today, all the difficult and scary things happening, believers can and should be thankful that we have the Lord Jesus with us each day, to carry us through.  We don’t need to try and struggle through on our own.

Moses reminded the people that the Lord also provided food for them every day (vs. 3).  Naturally this is something that we need to be thankful to the Lord for.  Obviously, physical food is important.  However, as we read in this verse, God’s Word, our spiritual food, is even more important.  It provides eternal life.  Physical food will only nourish our physical lives, which may, if we’re lucky, last 80 or 90 years.  Jesus quoted this verse to Satan when he tempted Him in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4).  Satan tempted Jesus to turn the rocks He saw into bread to satisfy His physical hunger.  However, Jesus knew that life is more than satisfying physical appetites.  Real life comes from total commitment to God.  He knew that our spiritual life is nourished from God’s Word.  The Bible is the Word of God.  It does not just contain the Word of God.  It is the very Word of God.

As we continue in our Scripture, we read that Moses reminded the people that God provided for all of their needs (vs. 4).  He provided their clothing.  He provided for their health.  These were miraculous provisions.  How many of us have clothes that we wear on a regular basis that are 40 years old?  Not many of us do.  Aside from the changing fashions over the decades, most clothes wear out after a few years, and we need to discard them.  The clothes that the Israelites wore the day they entered the Promised Land were clothes they had brought with them when they left Egypt, and they still looked brand new!

The Lord also promised that His love and care would continue on as they entered the land of Canaan (vs. 7-10).  Moses enumerated the food, water, and raw materials that God would give them, for which they needed to be thankful to Him for.  Do we remember to give the Lord God thanks for all the many blessings He has bestowed on us, or are we forgetful, thinking that we obtained all we have through our own industriousness?  As Moses admonished the people in verse 10, we too need to not forget God when our needs and wants are satisfied.  Remember to thank Him!

Friday, August 6, 2021

Considering Our Motives

John 6:24-35

People’s motives are important.  We may think that someone’s seemingly good deed was nice and noble, but their motive ended up being selfish.  We find out that the big businessman who bailed out the failing company, didn’t do it for kind and charitable reasons, as his ultimate motive was to take over the company, fire the workers and replace them with his friends.  That woman who gave large donations to various charities only did it to look good to her friends.  Other people may not have bad motives for what they do.  However their motives may be misguided, such as the work they do for the church, thinking that they can earn their way into heaven.  In our Scripture for today from the Gospel of John we see Jesus questioning the motives for why some of the people were following him.  Let’s take a look.

Earlier in the chapter Jesus had fed the multitudes with just a few small loaves of bread and a couple of fish.  That evening He sent the disciples in a boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while He stepped away to pray alone.  That night Jesus came to the disciples, walking upon the water, and they arrived on the other side of the lake, to the village of Capernaum.  The crowds who had been miraculously fed the day before followed Him there, questioning how He had got there (vs. 24-25).

Jesus, who knows what is in everyone’s heart (John 2:24-25), questioned them as to what their real motives in seeking Him out were.  He knew that though there may have been a few in the crowds who genuinely wanted to hear His message, most sought Him out because of the multiplying of the loaves and fish (vs. 26).  Most in the crowd that followed Jesus were motivated by superficial desires of food, rather than true spiritual desires.

Some people use religion for their own personal, physical, or financial benefit.  There are some preachers who teach that giving to their ministry will bring financial wealth or other blessings, and some will give solely to obtain those supposed blessings.  Some attend church with the hopes that they can get something from that ministry, such as handouts of food, clothing, or something else.  A true Christian will follow Jesus because they know He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).   Jesus implored the people here, and us today, to seek after spiritual food which will bring eternal life, not for food or other things which quickly perish (vs. 27).  This shoots down the Word of Faith movement which draws people who want God only if He makes them rich.  We should make an effort to gain eternal riches and life, not for things that are temporary.

The crowds then asked what kind of works they needed to do in order to gain eternal life (vs. 28-29).  Jesus responded by letting everyone know that there are no works that we can do to gain salvation.  One must believe and put their faith and trust in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God.  The only work that God requires is faith in His beloved Son, whom He has sent.  Otherwise works, however pious they may be, are dead works.

As we continue further, the people wanted to see a sign from Jesus, like their hero, Moses, had done.  Since Jesus had fed them bread, they wanted something similar to the manna he had given them (vs. 30-31).  They wanted to see a sign if He was really the Messiah.  The feeding of the multitude wasn’t enough.  They wanted Jesus to outdo Moses if they were to believe in Him.  The manna that Moses gave was temporary, and perished.  Jesus is the true bread, and when one accepts Him, they have eternal life (vs. 32-33).  The people asked Jesus for this bread, but they were thinking of physical bread, not what Jesus, who was that living bread, would give them (vs. 34).  We satisfy spiritual hunger and sustain spiritual life only by a right relationship with Jesus Christ (vs. 35).  He must be invited into our life in order to have that eternal, spiritual life, just as one must eat the bread to have physical life.  Those who come to Jesus in faith will never again spiritually hunger or thirst.  Jesus satisfies all spiritual desires.

There is a line between selfishly trying to use the Lord to get what we want, and humbly coming to Him with our needs and struggles.  Do we have a demanding spirit?  Is our time of prayer devoted mostly to our needs, or do we desire to spend time knowing Jesus better?  As our Scripture today taught, let’s check what our motives are when coming to the Lord, and make sure they are honorable.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Different From The World

 Ephesians 4:17-24

What would you think if you saw a butterfly that would only crawl around on the ground or on the small branches of a bush, and refused to spread his wings and fly?  If you could talk to the butterfly you might ask him why he isn’t flying around, and remind him that he is no longer a caterpillar.  When a poor person suddenly wins or inherits a lot of money, he is rich now, and shouldn’t continue to live in a run-down house or apartment, wearing patched up clothes.  We expect things to act like what they are.  This is a lesson that Paul wanted to teach the Ephesians, as we read in our Scripture today.  He wants believers and followers of the Lord Jesus to know that they need to stop acting like what they once were, to stop acting like the world, like unbelievers, and act like the redeemed children of God that they are.

When we get saved, we are called to a complete transformation, a total conversion to a new way of life.  This includes a renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).  We need to align our thinking with the truth of Jesus.  Believers are to renounce their pre-conversion lifestyle and sins, and become more and more in line with God’s ways (vs. 22-24).

Paul implores the Christians in the Ephesian church, and us today, to stop living like unbelievers.  Their thinking is ignorant and futile.  They have suppressed the truth. Their hearts are hard and spiritually insensitive.  They are given over to sensuality, self-indulgence, impurity, and greed.  Paul states that they live in the “futility of their mind” (vs. 17), without proper purpose.  All of their efforts to obtain happiness ends in failure.

As Paul continues, he tells how the unsaved are blind.  They aren’t physically blind, but instead have blindness of their hearts (vs. 18).  They have moral blindness.  The more they turn away from God, the more their hearts and will have been hardened.  This causes them to be separated from God.  This is a willful choice of the unsaved.  God does not predestine people to be condemned.  They exclude themselves from salvation because they choose to, because their hearts are hard and stubborn.

Worldly, unsaved people have lost all sensitivity, all feelings of shame (vs. 19).  They have also been desensitized to illicit sex, death, crime, murder, obscenity, and evil.  We can see that through the movies and TV today, and what we see online.  They have lost their conscience, or at the very least, completely ignore it.  It is as if they are past feeling what is morally right or wrong.  They are calloused, being so deep in sin.

This is what Paul is warning us of.  We are not to be like that.  We are believers and followers of Jesus Christ, and should not be like the world.  This type of behavior, this type of thinking and acting, should not be our lifestyle.  God’s priorities and the world’s are totally incompatible.  Before we are saved we do whatever we desire, indulging our fleshly desires and self-gratification.  Believers should put God above all else.  As we draw closer to Him, we will be less attracted to the ungodly practices of the world (vs. 20-24).  We are to replace ungodly habits with those that please God.  As we learn more and more of God’s Word, the Bible, we won’t live like the unbelievers do.

This is not generally an instantaneous change when we choose to follow Jesus.  It should, though, be a conscious choice to desire to follow His ways, and a gradual change should become evident. We have to make a conscious, moment by moment choice to depend on the Holy Spirit to form us into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

People should be able to see a difference between a Christian and a non-Christian because of the way we live.  We are to live as children of the light, not as those who are in moral and spiritual darkness.  We have been transformed, just like a butterfly has.  Live like a butterfly, not like a caterpillar.  We are children of the King, not children of Satan any longer.  Live like we belong to God!