Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 25 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 49:3 – Reuben was forgiven for a terrible sin, but he did not escape all of the consequences. He would never be who he could have been.
2. Genesis 50:15 – For the joy of reconciliation to be experienced, forgiveness must not only be received, it must be believed. Though Joseph had forgiven his brothers, they still greatly feared him and did not trust him. Likewise, Christians who don’t have genuine belief in the forgiveness they have received in Jesus remain in fear, shame, and doubt, lacking complete joy.
3. Genesis 50:19-21 – Joseph models for us how to respond to abuse from others: Leave judgment to God; remember that God is in complete control, knows exactly what is going on, and is using your circumstances for a greater good you cannot understand; forgive; and return good for evil, trusting that God will cover your losses.
4. Genesis 50:24, 25 – Joseph new what God was going to do with his family. The Bible says that God reveals His plans to His servants (Amos 3:7). What has God revealed to you?
5. Proverbs 25:2 – “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” The government-run education system in our country is based upon the assumption that one can acquire knowledge and wisdom without God as part of the equation, and today, the “enlightened” class increasingly reject God, pursuing greater knowledge for their own glory. However, God in His glory withholds ultimate truth for His followers, truth that can only be obtained through the Spirit. Man’s ‘knowledge’ is foolishness in God’s eyes (1 Cor 3).
6. Proverbs 25:7, 8 – “What your eyes have seen do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame?” Human discernment is always deceiving because we cannot see the whole picture that only God sees, hence the reason we should not judge others because we do not know what God knows about them and about the situation at hand. 1 Corinthian 4:5 says, “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” We cannot see what God sees. Again, without special revelation, we are called to simply obey the general revelation of God’s word. When we walk in general obedience, we won’t quench the Spirit and will be positioned to receive the special conviction of the Holy Spirit. In relationships, we must be led by the Holy Spirit.
7. Proverbs 25:19 – “Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.” Trust is the foundation of all relationships. It doesn’t take much to lose your credibility. Christians should strive to be unimpeachably trustworthy.
8. Proverbs 25:21, 22 – “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” God wants you to treat those who offend you with nothing but kindness. This is hard to do, particularly when you are caught off guard by bad behavior. Often our first response is to push back against offenders. Often our first, unguarded response reveals what is really in our hearts. Pay attention to your first responses, and pray for a genuinely loving heart that automatically loves the sinner who hurts us. Once again, God’s commands (His general revelation), go against ‘common sense’. Obey this command, and you will shock, potentially anger, those around you — “Don’t let her get away with that! Don’t be a doormat! You need to stand up for yourself!” It takes faith to resist the temptation to fight back and obey God when it just doesn’t seem to make sense. Walk in God’s word and see what happens.
9. Compare Proverbs 25:21-22 to Psalm 11:6. Reading the whole Bible gives you a much fuller understanding and appreciation of God’s word. The Bible reiterates key points — God calls us to return good for evil. God can deal with the sins of others far better than we can.
10. Proverbs 25:26 – “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” Don’t let the wicked influence your behavior. Prepare yourself to meet the wicked today by reading God’s word, praying for strength in obedience, and resolving in your heart not to sin at the moment of decision. How much feces would you allow in your drinking water? How much sin will you allow in your life?
11. Proverbs 25:27, 28 – “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory. A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Do not let your selfish desires and pride get the best of you today. Apply self-control which is given to you by the Spirit (not your own will power). We cannot overcome self with self. Self-control must come from the Holy Spirit. When tempted, turn to the Spirit for strength. Today, you will be tempted to follow your urges, passions, and your perceptions rather than the Spirit. You will be tempted to put self over God, to draw attention to yourself rather than to Jesus, to do what you want rather than what God commands. Self is perhaps your most tempting idol. In small ways that we often don’t consciously acknowledge (revealed in small decisions), we seek to place self on the throne rather than Jesus. Prepare yourself for the challenge and set your mind before the challenge. Be a selfless servant of Jesus today. When you inevitably catch yourself prioritizing self again, thank God that the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your sin, pray for forgiveness (repent), and start over – this is part of the sanctification process.
12. Matthew 19:21 — “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” In many different ways throughout the Gospels, Jesus said that the first step to following Him is to deny self. He means what He says. Obedience is only an issue where selfishness and self-centeredness remain. When we refuse to surrender all, only then do we say things like, “What exactly does the Law demand?”, “How many times must I forgive my brother?”, or “Who is my neighbor?” In self-righteousness, we want to give God only what He has specifically asked for, and we look very carefully within the boundaries of the Law to find a place within what is written to build our own glorious kingdom, a sanctuary from authority; we then build our palace far bigger than the temple of God within our hearts. However, what God has demanded is our everything, all of us. We are created to serve and glorify Him, and we were designed to have joy in serving Him. We were not created to serve self. The Bible says that we are Ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is an official representative to a foreign country who represents the positions and interests of the appointing nation. But what would happens if an Ambassador began to show loyalties to the foreign country, began accommodating the demands and positions of that foreign country at the expense of their own kingdom, or began working on the side to establish their own private residency and position within that foreign kingdom? Not only would that ambassador be removed from position, he would likely be labeled a traitor. Today’s Proverbs say, “The… LORD… overthrows… the traitor.” (Proverbs 22:23) Are we still trying to get something for ourselves? Do we still think that there is what is God’s and then what is ours? Have we not realized that it’s all God’s, including our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies? Are we really going to challenge God’s Lordship in any part of us or what we claim to possess? Do we still think that we are ‘somebodies’? Are we going to set out today to take care of ourselves and what we want? Or are we going to forget about self and serve wholeheartedly, all
13. Matthew 19:25-26 – You cannot use will power to deny self. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can give you power over self. Self cannot defeat self, but self is no match for the Holy Spirit. Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit over self.
14. Matthew 19:29 – You cannot stay where you are, with all that you have, and with who you are with and still follow Jesus. Meditate upon this – it only makes sense that a new creation has no need of its old things.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 Jan 18: Today, meditate upon and truly work at denying self for Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit will empower you to overcome self. Monitor and record your thoughts – how many are focused inward (on self) and how many are focused outward (on God and others). Evaluate your actions, whether they are self-serving or charitable. Evaluate your motives, why you do what you do. Are you motivated by fear, pride, duty, or love? Check your perspective – do you evaluate everything from your perspective and position (“How does this relate to me?… How does it affect me?… How does (s)he compare to me?…”) or do you evaluate everything from God’s perspective and position? Do you put everything in the context of your interests or God’s? Look humbly and deeply into yourself today. Keep your thoughts on Jesus and on serving Him through your every action. Deny self, take up your cross today, and follow Jesus with all that you are, all that you say, and all that you do. (Matthew 19:25-26)