Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 22 Mar 18:
1. Deuteronomy 7:2 — “…you must devote them to complete destruction.” God does not compromise with sin. When God forgives you and frees you from sin, He expects you to completely remove that sin from your life; this involves removing, as much as possible, those things in your life that would tempt you to sin. You might actually need to turn that TV off. You might have to choose Christian friends. You might have to limit your social media viewing. You might have to change habits in your life that you know are destructive. None of it is hard to do, but sometimes your divided heart makes these things seem impossible. The jelly doughnut doesn’t cause you to break your diet; it is the desire within you that does. Until you get better control of your desires, don’t bring home the jelly doughnut. When you get control of your desires, you no longer want to bring home the jelly doughnut.
2. Deuteronomy 7:3, 4 — “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.” The purpose of marriage is the raise up godly children. (Malachi 2:15) Since a person’s primary purpose in life is to know Jesus (be one with Him) and make Him known (John 17), since the marriage is intended to represent to the world Christ’s love for His church, since God calls a man and woman to be “one” in marriage, and since the marriage is to serve as God’s primary institution for discipleship of the next generation, a Christian must marry a person who will partner with them wholeheartedly, in mutual support, to know Jesus, make Him known, and to raise up godly children.
3. Deuteronomy 7:6-8 — “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you.” God chose you to be holy, not because of who you were but because He loves you. So, in response to His unmerited love, be holy.
4. Deuteronomy 7:9, 8:6, 8:11 — “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God…. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him…. Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes.” Notice how much emphasis the Bible places on the criticality of obeying God’s commands, a mandate repeated over and over again. God knows our weaknesses and gives us clear guidance and direction, along with the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin. We give in to temptation and sin when our “Yes” is bigger than our “No”, when the thing in front of us is bigger, more real, more powerful in our minds than the awesome reality and power of God. At the moment of decision, we make God small, insignificant, irrelevant, distant, or non-existent. We dethrone the LORD and worship the idol of our passions. For at least a moment, we forget God. The last “fruit of the Spirit” is self-control which comes from the reality of Christ in our lives. The power of self-control comes from truly knowing that the Lord our God IS God, from truly knowing Jesus, by glorifying (magnifying) Him in our hearts, by making Jesus bigger than any temptation or idol out there. We must walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh, practicing the presence of God. We must truly understand the implications of having the Spirit within us, of being the Temple of God. You are holy ground. God’s love is not determined by our obedience, but our obedience reveals our love for Him. God knows we are not perfected in love, and gives us His commands, in part, to reveal to us (not to Him – He already knows) where our hearts are still not right. God’s commands are intended to draw you closer to Him, not further away. Grace enables us to fail forward, always confident in God’s unchanging love for us.
5. Deuteronomy 7:13 — “He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you.” Blessings are the natural result of obedience to God.
6. Deuteronomy 7:21 — “You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.” One of the most, if not the most, repeated commands in the Bible is, “Don’t be afraid.” Fear is the opposite of faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.
7. Deuteronomy 7:22 — “The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you.” The challenges you are experiencing are there for a bigger reason you cannot understand, working together for good (Romans 8:28). Trust God’s plan through personal crisis. When life gets hard, get closer to Jesus, and keep your spiritual eyes open. God is doing something big in your life.
8. Deuteronomy 7:25 — “The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire.” God does not respect other religions, nor should you. Yes, we treat people with respect, and respect a person’s right to have a viewpoint, but we don’t respect false claims. We should always treat everyone with love, but that doesn’t mean we placate false narratives from false gospels. If you truly love someone, you must speak the truth to them in love.
9. Deuteronomy 8:2 — “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” God uses challenges to test your heart, not that He doesn’t know your heart (He knows it through and through) but so that the truth of your heart would be revealed to you. When faced with challenges, examine your heart from the integrity of your behavior. Do you act less loving when you are stressed? Do you become more selfish when resources seem limited? God wants you to see the truth of you so that you can grow to be more like Jesus and closer to Him. You cannot fix what you refuse to see; honesty with self and with others (humility) is the first step to change.
10. Deuteronomy 8:3 — “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” With grace, God gives you Holy Spirit power that you did not have before to empower change. When we see the truth of our sin, we can rejoice knowing that we are no longer trapped by our sin, that God gives us the power to change, supernatural power, far beyond mere will power. Ultimately, you cannot change yourself. Though you must work to change, it is the Holy Spirit within you that enables change.
11. Deuteronomy 8:5 — “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.” Often, God is using circumstances to discipline you, to show you something you refused to see merely through reading, understanding, and applying His clear word. For example, if you simply refuse to obey God’s clear command to forgive unconditionally, He may place you in a situation where you need unconditional forgiveness.
12. Deuteronomy 8:11-13 — “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied.” Christians are tested through hard times, but perhaps tested even more through easy times. We can turn blessings into curses through complacency and disobedience. Do you pray to God more during hard times than good times? Do you grow closer to God through hard times than good times? If so, perhaps God needs to keep you in difficult circumstances for you to accomplish your life purpose of knowing Jesus and being one with Him. If you want good times, be reliable in good times.
13. Deuteronomy 8:17, 18 — “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” A very common mistake made by Christians is growing prideful in God’s blessings. When you succeed, don’t think it is because of how great you are. Don’t take any credit for your accomplishments — always point to Jesus.
14. Proverbs 22:7 – “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” God does not want His people to be enslaved by debt.
15. Proverbs 22:9 – “Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” God blesses the giver – it’s a promise.
16. Proverbs 22:9, 16 — How many times does the Bible tell you to take care of the needy?
17. Proverbs 22:11 — Gracious speech is the mark of a pure heart.
18. Proverbs 22:26 — Avoid getting entangled in commitments to the ungodly. Don’t make promises you cannot keep.
19. Mark 3:4 — “And he said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent.” Since you have just read in Deuteronomy (the book most quoted by Jesus) about the Sabbath, you understand that the intent of the Sabbath was to stop work to acknowledge in faith that God was the provider. It was not intended for a day to stop serving others or ministering to their needs. A day of not working for self gives you even more time to simply love God and others.
20. Mark 3:14 — “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.” We are not called to simply know Jesus, we are also called to make Him known to others.
21. Mark 3:30 — “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’” Does your family think you are crazy because of your love and fidelity to Jesus? Are you a Jesus fan or a Jesus fanatic?
22. Mark 3:33-35 — “’Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” The real children of God are the ones who do the will of God, who remain faithful and obedient in thought, word, and deed. What you think, desire, and do reveals who you really are. Anyone can say they are a Christian, but God knows the heart, and actions reveal the truth of the heart.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 22 March: Today, clean house. Eliminate from your life the things that are unholy or impure — the things that might misrepresent God’s character and truth or that might tempt you to sin. Set the conditions in your life for fidelity and holiness. If you are like most today, you will have to change your habits of entertainment. (Deuteronomy 7:2)