Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 22 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 43:2, 3 – Jacob and his brothers did not go back to retrieve Simeon until they were out of food again and only when they had to go. This was a very selfish family.
2. Genesis 43:6 – “Israel said, ‘Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?’” Israel (Jacob) blamed his sons for what happened and made it all about him. Jacob was a very self-centered, self-absorbed person who saw himself as the center of everything. Yet, God did not reject Him.
3. Genesis 43:32 – Prejudice is nothing new, but God’s word says that there are only two types of people, saved and unsaved. Nothing else matters.
4. Genesis 44:2 – Joseph is still emotionally torturing his family with resentful games.
5. Genesis 44:5, 15 – Joseph practiced divination (and had married into the Egyptian priesthood). It is incredibly difficult, nearly impossible, for God’s people to be a part of the worldly system without being influenced by it. How has culture influenced you to do things God forbids?
6. Genesis 44:24-29 – How unloved Jacobs sons not born from Rachel must have felt.
7. Proverbs 22:2 – Everyone is accountable to God.
8. Proverbs 22:3 – Wisdom enables you to predict the consequences of your actions and the actions of others. Wisdom enables you to avoid bad outcomes before they occur.
9. Proverbs 22:6 – Most of your habits were ingrained in you during childhood, and they are very hard to change. How important is godly parenting? Malachi 2:15 says that the purpose of marriage is to raise godly offspring. For parents, this is your primary responsibility in life.
10. Proverbs 22:7 – God wants His people to be financially self-sufficient with enough resources to also finance the work of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
11. Proverbs 22:9 – God will give resources to those He can trust to use them according to His purposes.
12. Proverbs 22:15 – Godly parents discipline their children in love so that later in life they will not be disciplined by someone who doesn’t love them.
13. Proverbs 22:19 – Above all else, a godly parent wants His children to trust in the Lord and to diligently follow Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate goal of parenting.
14. Proverbs 22:26 – Have no debt.
15. Proverbs 22:29 – God wants you to be skilled in your work.
16. Matthew 16:1-4 – “’You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ So he left them and departed.” The Pharisees were scholars of God’s word, they saw Jesus perform miracles; and the Son of God, Jesus, stood right in front of them, yet they still demanded more signs. The proof of God is all around us – it is self-evident. God is working all around us all the time, working on the hearts of unsaved, bringing about His ultimate plan of judgment and salvation. If anyone is empowered with the Holy Spirit and is not quenching the Spirit, they can see God’s presence, miraculous work, and activity in the here and now in a very powerful way. What does the Holy Spirit reveal to you on a daily basis? Do you need more evidence to obey God wholeheartedly?
17. Matthew 16:12 – “Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” The Pharisees and Sadducees used God’s word to promote self, to serve themselves rather than to truly serve God from the heart. They used God’s word to preach a form of moralism which seemed ‘good’. They preached legalism (self-righteous works) that were not truly motivated by selfless love for God and love for others. Just a little selfishness ruins the whole batch. Beware of ‘Biblical’ teachings that promote a self-righteousness rather than the righteousness of Jesus or that promote moral behavior over a genuine oneness with Jesus.
18. Matthew 16:23 — “But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” Poor Peter – one moment he is receiving tremendous praise from Jesus; the next moment he is receiving his harshest rebuke. Peter wanted to serve God Peter’s way to achieve the results Peter wanted. Peter wanted God to validate his vision for success which likely involved earthly comfort, security, and power. Ultimately, Peter’s vision of serving God was heavily biased on self – it was selfish. Peter was very confident and committed, more committed most, but his selfishness and pride made him reckless and unreliable (cutting off ears and abandoning Jesus). We committed Christians run the risk of making the same mistake, seeking to serve God on our own terms, deciding for God what success looks like, or seeking to have God validate what we want by claiming it for Jesus. We are tempted to serve God to fulfill our own desires for accomplishment, praise, success, and self-worth. And our human nature is always biased towards safety, security, and self-preservation. This is why so many sermons preached today are self-centered: “How to have a better ___ ….. How to be a better ____ , etc.” The Bible is often reduced to a theological self-help book. As the times grow more uncertain, many people turn to religion, not to glorify God as much as to find some answers for themselves to get them through life’s challenges. They are in pursuit of the blessings of God rather than God Himself. Many pursue ambitious goals and objectives, often with Christian packaging, that are far removed from what God intends; and many wear themselves out pursuing what God never intended for them. We get out of alignment with God’s will, and then, when we receive the natural consequences of this misalignment, we tend to put a spiritual spin on it that removes our responsibility from the equation. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” How important is it for us to be about God’s business? Service and worship that is acceptable to the Lord is selfless service – that should be our aim. It is not about us. Take the “I” and “me” out of it. It is all about Him. Seek to be “crucified with Christ.” Seek to “know nothing but Christ.” Jesus tells us today what it takes to be his true disciple
19. Matthew 16:24, 25 – “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” Memorize these verses and meditate upon them all day every day. Receive the Holy Spirit’s conviction from these verses. Deny self – the greatest battle anyone would fight is the battle against self. It is mostly revealed in how we treat others, particularly those other sinners who wrongfully hurt us (taking up the cross). Taking up the cross does not just involve persevering under persecution but rather suffering in the name of Jesus, seeking the reconciliation of the persecutor in the name of Jesus, loving the persecutor in the name of Jesus, reaching out to the persecutor in the name of Jesus, and following Jesus is joyfully obeying Him and taking up His attitude – “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who… emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant… and… he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) Again, the first challenge Jesus levies is – deny self. Among the three enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil, the flesh seems to be the greatest threat. Why? Because the enemy of ‘self’ is ‘inside the wire’, an internal tempter; while the world and the devil are external threats. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert, he was tempted externally but not internally, keeping Him free from sin. Conversely, we are tempted internally to seek our own desires rather than the will of God. Our selfish thoughts are sinful thoughts because they counter the Great Commandment and the First Commandment. Let’s take time today to consider our approach to God – how much of it is selfish? Let’s consider our service to God and look for hidden agendas within our hearts (if you can’t find them, you are not looking hard enough). Consider even how we are reading the Bible this year. How often do we approach God’s word selfishly, as if its primary focus was on us rather than the glorification of God? Let’s endeavor again today to die of self. This isn’t about submission; it is about complete surrender. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 22 Jan 18: Deny self. Seen note number 19 above.