8“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. 10“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry. 11It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” (Isaiah 55:8-11 NLT)
Confession time… I had to be reminded of this last Sunday. I went into the service with a rather bad attitude – not expecting much and, quite frankly, not expecting to do much. My intention was to wrap up the sermon from last week, maybe 10 minutes, and move on. I had a negative attitude and I allowed it to dictate to my thoughts and my behavior. I’m sorry. I have repented. Actually, I repented on Sunday as I felt the rebuke of the Holy Spirit as HE took over and did what HE wanted. It was amazing how the Word of God went out Sunday and in spite of my negative attitude and energy, was used to inspire more than a half an hour of confession, discussion, testimony and prayer! I sat on the stool, worrying about how long it was all taking, STILL not understanding or submitting to the power of The God as He manifested Himself among us. Shame on me. Lesson learned. Of course, like the imperfect human being that I am, there is no doubt that I will have to “learn” it again sometime.
Scripture teaches us that in our weakness, we are made strong by the Lord. (Re: 2cor. 12) Sunday I realized the fundamental fact of church – I and/or WE are not in charge, HE is. We are weak and left to our own devices will give into that weakness and purposely stand in the way of the will of God. We sorta can’t help ourselves given our selfish natures; but knowing that, honestly, is half the battle. Submit your weakness to the Lord. Understand that HE is in control and that HIS purposes will be se4rved REGARDLESS of how we feel or what we think or even if we intentionally stand in the way of THE WAY. Sunday, God sat me down, told me to be quiet and showed me what it means, once again, to be submitted. Thank You Lord.
15“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. 21“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ (Matthew 7:15-23 NLT)
These words from Matthew are not often thought of as one teaching, but they are. Jesus warns all who would follow Him about false teachers and how to recognize such teachers: Verse 20, “20Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” There it is, plain and simple. I know we like to apply it to other people, but I am asking you this day to apply it to yourself. You see, to use an old cliché, it is easy to talk the talk; but can you invest the effort to walk the walk? I hope you can. (I hope I can) because the last part of this teaching clearly indicates that we are judged on what is in our HEARTS not just what comes out of our mouths – and what is in our hearts is made clear to all by the actions in which we choose to invest. Jesus is clear, very clear, that the first action in which we must invest is submitting our lives to HIM. Many will claim to have done good deeds in the name of Jesus but in reality did them according to THEIR will – not HIS. It is not a great thing to get to heaven and brag to Jesus about everything you did in His name only for Him to say, “That’s great, but I never asked you to do any of that; you were too busy, however, to listen to what I really wanted.”
Devotion for April 12 2018
12Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived. 14But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 1I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: 2Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. 3For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 5But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. (2 Timothy 3:12-17; 4:1-5 NLT)
Explains a lot, doesn’t it? I could probably just leave this commentary right there and let scripture speak for itself. It does not take a person long to apply these Truths to individual lives – to the life of the local congregation – to the tension that exists between the church and the world as well as within the church itself. We professed Christians, more often than not, are the first to stray away from the simple teaching of Paul to his young apprentice. “Preach The Word,” Paul tells Timothy – THE WORD. Not your own thoughts, or commentaries, or movie plots, or biographies, or song lyrics. Not from personal experience or third-party anecdotes or what you or anyone else thinks ABOUT what the Bible says – We are told to preach WHAT the Bible says.
Scripture speaks of repentance and submission and obedience – yet in the lives of many believers we see no evidence of any of those. The Bible speaks of healthy human sexuality, but we are growing more and more afraid to talk about that in the face of secular and now “Christian” backlash. The Bible speaks of conflict management – but we learn that from Dr. Phil; money management, yet we follow the ways of secular bankers; and what a healthy relationship looks like, yet we turn to Oprah and soak in the wisdom. Who is raising our children - a God-following family or the television? Who is leading our youth - submitted Christian role models or the public education system and social media outlets? Does the family even matter anymore? It does to Christ – but do we care anymore what matters to Christ? It seems as though we as the church have come to a place of submitting Christ to our will – or believing we have done so anyway.
Does church serve people? Or does church serve Christ? Build a church to serve people, and people will come – much like they come to Disney World or Wal Mart. Build it for Christ and who will dare come? We should be willing to find out, but I think that we are too afraid. “We are blessed!” we cry. How do we know? Because we are big! We are rich! We are famous! People love us! We sing and we celebrate our perceived blessings as somewhere in the world (who knows or who really cares where) another submitted Christian, persecuted, starving to death, or put to death, closes his eyes for the last time thankful for the only true blessing – his salvation. God abhors our largesse and our idol worship; but we will not stop. How could we? It matters not if God loves us, as long as the world does.
These are sobering, challenging thoughts – at least I hope they are – and I hope that they cause all professing Christians as individuals, as families, as churches and as the church, to examine who they are and what they truly believe. Scripture is plain. Our faith is to be rooted in The Word of God. Our beliefs are to be rooted in The Word of God. Our churches are to be rooted in The Word of God. If we believe as leaders or as lay persons that The Word of God does not or will not yield the results that we want, then please forsake it and do not continue to use the power of the name of Jesus to lead people to Hell.
16You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.18“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. John 15:16-19 (NLT)
Love and hate. Jesus speaks always of LOVE or HATE. You never read a passage in scripture in which Jesus says something like, “If you think you might like me or maybe think that you want to be saved then you perhaps might want to listen to a little of what I have to say. Now I don’t want to offend you, and I’m sorry if I might, but….” NOPE – That’s not my Jesus! Thank God! (I mean it, literally, THANK YOU GOD!) Jesus IS Truth – He lives Truth and He speaks Truth. It is impossible for Him to be or act in any other way than with His immutable attributes – Truth and Grace.
So What of Love – and what of Hate? Well, the short answer is PICK ONE! Wait didn’t I hear this somewhere before? Yes! It was our old friend Joshua who, by the power of Holy Spirit taught his people, “14“So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. 15But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” But wait now, that’s the Old Testament, that’s not about Jesus… is it?
3“If the high priest sins, bringing guilt upon the entire community, he must give a sin offering for the sin he has committed. He must present to the LORD a young bull with no defects. 4He must bring the bull to the LORD at the entrance of the Tabernacle, lay his hand on the bull’s head, and slaughter it before the LORD. 5The high priest will then take some of the bull’s blood into the Tabernacle, 6dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD in front of the inner curtain of the sanctuary. 7The priest will then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar for fragrant incense that stands in the LORD’s presence inside the Tabernacle. He will pour out the rest of the bull’s blood at the base of the altar for burnt offerings at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 8Then the priest must remove all the fat of the bull to be offered as a sin offering. This includes all the fat around the internal organs, 9the two kidneys and the fat around them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver. He must remove these along with the kidneys, 10just as he does with cattle offered as a peace offering, and burn them on the altar of burnt offerings. 11But he must take whatever is left of the bull—its hide, meat, head, legs, internal organs, and dung— 12and carry it away to a place outside the camp that is ceremonially clean, the place where the ashes are dumped. There, on the ash heap, he will burn it on a wood fire. (Leviticus 4:3-12 NLT)
The nature of redemptive sacrifice is violence. It is violent and harsh and graphic and offensive to our sensibilities. We must understand, however, that sacrifice, as it is measured, must be all of these things – it must be an “eye for an eye” if it is to be offered in redemption of human sin for sin is violent; it is harsh and graphic and offensive. Do we understand, however, can we fathom even, the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice? His treatment was brutal, to be sure. The Messiah was beaten, scourged, tortured and ultimately, literally, hung on a piece of wood with long metal spikes. His body was broken, sacrificed as punishment for us – and the blood flowed.
It is through the blood of Jesus that the remission of our sin, what we call the ‘propitiation’ for our sin, was made. Not the blood of a pigeon; not the blood of a ram; not the blood of a goat or a bull – the blood of the perfect God-man Jesus, who was and is the Christ of God – given as a sacrifice so that not only the punishment of our sin would be satisfied, but the forgiveness of those sin – and future sin – would be brought to fruition. We are saved by the blood of Jesus. We are forgiven and able now to be in the presence of the Most High God. We are Holy, set apart by God, for God.
This is why we come to the altar when we profess our faith and belief in Jesus Christ; and it is why we say that we ‘give our lives’ to Jesus. You see, it is at that time that we do what little we can to return good-for-good and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to Jesus Christ and His church. As we are taught in Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) 1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
3Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
4How long, Lord God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?
5You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
6You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us.
7Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
These words are from Psalm 80, verses 3 through 7 (NIV) and they are beautiful. It is a heart’s cry to God. It is a heart’s cry for restoration and salvation. It is a heart’s cry for God to step in, step up for His people and make things right.
But is it God’s job to make things right? Is it God’s job, after the decisions that we make create the mayhem that they do, to step in and clean up our mess? Is God’s reason for being to tend to our needs and make straight our paths? I would simply assert that it is not. God’s word teaches us of this relationship that we enter into with our creator – and teaches us that there are decisions to be made and that there are consequences of those decisions. Will we submit to God’s will – or not? Will we trust Him with our lives – or not? Will we be intentional in our relationship with Him – or not? Will we live the life of the redeemed and speak the Truth about the Christ – or not? When we pass from this world, will be go to heaven and spend eternity in the presence of the Almighty – or not?
Powerful decisions with powerful consequences; and it is clear that we are to make them for ourselves. Remember the words from John 3, beginning with verse 17, “For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Jesus, as the Christ, does not stand in judgement; He stands as the Truth. We being judgement upon ourselves when we deny the truth.
Do you believe, as many do, that God exists to serve you? Do you then blame Him for the bad and demand from Him only the good? Do you believe that God has brought calamity upon you – calamity that you do not deserve because well, your YOU!? Do you believe that it is His job to serve you – and save you? If so, you probably agree with the psalmist above and have prayed many prayers for God to stop being mean and do the right thing for once.
Or…have you submitted to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you simply pray, “Here I am, Lord. Thy will be done.”
Pastor Brian is the senior pastor of Churchtown Church of God and regularly shares his thoughts & insight here - he invites you to join in the discussion of life & faith!