Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 4 Apr 18:
1. Deuteronomy 33:8-11 — Obedience to God brings both responsibility and blessings.
2. Deuteronomy 33:24-29 — God is ready to help you. He has given you a unique position in all the world as one He has saved and called to the mission of reconciliation.
3. Deuteronomy 34:4 — God is faithful to the ways He has shown to His people whether they be realized as blessings or curses.
4. Deuteronomy 34:9 — God prepares new leaders for His people. God expects you to obey the leaders He has placed in authority.
5. Proverbs 4:18, 19 – “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” Faithful Christians grow more Christ-like every day – the change may be gradual but very apparent. Meanwhile the ungodly remain trapped in their sin. How has God changed you over the years? Some things to consider: How has your forgiving changed? How has your giving changed? How has your attitude and behavior towards your enemies changed? How has your disciple-making changed? How has your self-control changed? How has your peacefulness and thankfulness changed? Are you now a brighter light in the world, a more radiant beacon of God to others around you? Would those around you say that about you?
6. Proverbs 4:20-21, 23 – “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart…. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Key to life is protecting your heart from sin; critical to protecting your heart from sin is remaining in God’s word and storing it up in your heart.
7. Mark 12:7-11 – “’Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard…. this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” How could a loving God let bad things happen to good people? Well, there was only ever one good person, Jesus, and God used His persecution to bring about our salvation. We judge ‘good’ and ‘bad’ based upon our perceptions of the situation. But from God’s perspective, He is working all events for a greater good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose, and this should be marvelous in our eyes. The Lord will absolutely allow us to go through suffering, but as a loving Father who is preparing His children for great things. Parents hurt their infant children when they have them inoculated against deadly disease, and there is no way for them to explain the reason to their infant children. Yet, in pain, the infant children always reach out to their parents. We too, in suffering, must trust on our Father and reach out to Him.
8. Mark 12:17 – “Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” — All things are God’s and in God’s control; He allows government to control some things for a time, but never outside of His ultimate control. Jesus was challenged by others on His obedience and respect to the government. He then challenged others in their obedience and respect to God, the ultimate authority. If we had proper respect for God, governmental authority would not be required. Only through God’s mercy and grace do governments even continue to exist, and only by God’s ethical standard do they govern well. Yet, we are concerned, in practice, far more about obeying the government than obeying God, because the consequences of disobeying the government are more obvious to us – fines, imprisonment, even death. However, the consequences of disobeying God have an eternal impact. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) When we disobey the government, we have something to worry about. When we disobey God, we have much, much more to be concerned about.
9. Mark 12:24 — “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” The Sadducees had two problems: they did not know the Scriptures (they were missing the point of what they diligently studied), and they did not know the power of God. You cannot understand God’s Word if you don’t know God’s Word which requires continual study. But you also cannot understand God’s Word without the context of Jesus and the power and counsel of the Holy Spirit, which is only available to those who are born again, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” The whole Bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ, only revealed through Jesus. The goal of the Bible is our “knowing” of God, our unity with Him (see John 17). Without life in Jesus a person is spiritually dead and cannot understand the things of God. There are some who know the content of the Scriptures inside and out yet do not know the power of God. They study the Scriptures like a text book, a history book, a self-help book, or a philosophy book with the goal of living a better life or understanding more “about” God. They miss the ultimate goal of truly “knowing” God, walking with Him, following Him, becoming one with Him. These ‘scholars’ miss the blessings of eternal life that come from knowing Jesus – “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) There are also others who feel that they are very ‘spiritual’ or close to God yet lack desire to study the Scriptures, God’s word. But how we feel about God’s word is a direct reflection of how we truly feel about God. John 1 says, Jesus is the embodiment of the word of God. The Psalmist describes an intense hunger and thirst for God’s word which cannot be quenched – a passion driven by an intense passion for God. Jesus told His disciples to consume God’s word with greater import than food for the body. And the Bible tells us that through God’s word, we are enabled to follow God. Knowledge of the “message” is, of course, essential to the messenger, or Ambassador. Again, in our readings today, Jesus counters challengers through his mastery of God’s word. Proverbs 1 reminds us that God’s word is for both the “simple” and the “wise,” the young and the old. (Proverbs 1:1-7) Complacency in Bible study is an issue of the heart. One of the natural results of a relationship with God is a natural thirst for His Word. The Bible is not a self-help book designed to equip you to achieve your personal goals in life. The Bible is a guide to drawing closer, day-by-day to Jesus. I pray that we will have a greater and greater passion for God’s word and that it will equip us to experience to true power of God in our lives as we draw closer and closer to Jesus Christ.
10. Mark 12:25 — “Jesus said to them, ‘Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?'” You cannot truly understand the Scriptures unless you have received the Holy Spirit.
11. Mark 12:28-31 — “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” One thing I observe is that, whether they admit it or not, everyone picks their teachers in life. Everyone picks people they have chosen to trust (for whatever reasons) to help guide them through life, to help form their personal world view or paradigm about the meaning and purpose of life. Often, people pick teachers who say in sophisticated ways what they want to hear. Observe who people quote or reference in their comments on life issues. Aren’t you blessed! Your teacher is God! God has given you the Holy Spirit and His word to reveal the Truth. If you began your month in His word, you have heard from Moses, Solomon, and Jesus as they taught truth as received directly from the Father. You certainly can’t do better than that! What did you learn from them today through the counsel of the Holy Spirit? Moses reminded us how truly blessed we are that our Eternal Father, the Creator, the Ruler of All, loves us and is our refuge (Deuteronomy 33:27-29). Because God loves us, He gave us His word as our source of instruction as our King (Deuteronomy 33:3-4). In His love, God will personally teach us through His word, and we are blessed when we obey Him (33:8-11). Solomon explains that if we diligently search God’s word with all of our heart and seek to walk in it, we will “then… understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God,” true wisdom which can only come from God, not men. Solomon reminds us that, in His love, God has given you His directions for “every good path.” Jesus explains that we must know the word of God, but we cannot understand God’s word apart from the power of God which comes from a genuine love relationship with Him (Mark 12:24, 29-31). In fact, the key to everything is loving God with all that we are and loving others as an outpouring of our love for God. Our love must be without limits (Deuteronomy 33:9, Mark 12:43, 44). Jesus explains that, in a supreme act of love, God sent His Son, but sadly for some, this loving solution will become a cause for final destruction (Mark 12:6-9). God’s judgment is certain. In our love, we must pray for people to find a love relationship with Him before it is too late, and we must be fully committed to the Great Commission.
12. Mark 12:38-40 — False religion lifts up self and mistreats others for personal gain. Be wary of any “teacher” that seeks personal recognition or honor. Watch out for those who use the personal pronouns “I” or “me” a lot.
13. Mark 12:42, 43 — Love knows no limits.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 April: Work on you discipline today. Disciples of Jesus are willing to do, in fact are impassioned to do, what mere believers in Jesus aren’t willing to do. True disciples of Jesus are able to do what others aren’t able to do because they are empowered by the Holy Spirit with self-control. Pray that God will reveal to you where you are limiting the power of the Holy Spirit in your life do to self-centeredness. (Mark 12:24)