Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 11 Apr 18:
1. Joshua 13:1, 6 — “Now Joshua was old and advanced in years…. allot the land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have commanded you.” God inspired Joshua to make plans for the next generation. God’s plan has always been generational. God calls us to plan for generations to come too.
2. Joshua 13:13 — “Yet the people of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites, but Geshur and Maacath dwell in the midst of Israel to this day.” God’s plan will require you to do what you cannot do without Him or under your own strength. “I can’t” is often an excuse for disobedience that robs you of God’s blessings and a genuine experience of His power in your life. Don’t short change yourself by obeying only those commands you can do easily. Faith boldly dives into impossible odds. It doesn’t take faith to do what you know you can do. It takes faith to do what God told you to do when you don’t know how you possibly can.
3. Joshua 13:14 – “To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance.” Today’s readings reiterate four times that Levi received no earthly inheritance. As today’s “priests,” we too should anticipate no earthly rewards. Our inheritance is Jesus.
4. Joshua 14:5, 9 – God honors obedience.
5. Joshua 14:10-12 — “And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” Caleb is a great example for older people (and for anyone else). He had no desire or plan for “retirement”. He didn’t ask Joshua for a bass boat or a membership to a golf country club; rather he asked for the greatest challenge, to secure the hill country and the fortified cities in the Name of the Lord. He volunteered for this challenge in the hope that “the Lord will be with me.” Caleb remained healthy, vibrant, and influential in his later years because he chose to stay in the fight, to remain active and committed for God. His did not consider his age a drawback but rather a testimony and an attribute. God will use a faithful servant of any age to do great things in His name and through His power. In 1 Timothy 4, Paul encourages Timothy not to be concerned about his young age, but rather to serve God with confidence to the best of his ability. Naturally, young people lack a degree of experience, and older people lack a degree of vitality, but they both have equal access to the power of the Holy Spirit. Proverbs 20:29 — “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” God calls us to use what we have, and He warns that if you don’t use it, you will lose it (see Luke 16:10, and Matthew 25:14-30).
6. Joshua 14:12 – God’s most faithful followers desire the hardest assignments and trust God’s provision for success.
7. Proverbs 11:18b — “But he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward.” From Henry T. Blackaby — “There are many ways to invest our lives, but none offers greater reward than devoting ourselves to the pursuit of righteousness. Every area of our lives should reflect the holiness of God that is ours by salvation: our thoughts, so that nothing we think about would be inappropriate for a child of God; our actions, so that our lives demonstrate that we serve a holy God; our integrity, so that we are above reproach in all our relationships. Are you taking God’s righteousness in your life for granted? Righteousness is something you must allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life. Instead of sowing holy thoughts, are you allowing evil and sinful thoughts to grow in your mind? Are you allowing lust to grow unchecked within you? Does enmity, bitterness, jealousy, or unforgiveness remain in your life? Jesus said if we seek first God and His righteousness, everything else will follow (Matt. 6:33). There is great reward in sowing righteousness. What are you presently doing to plant holiness in your life? (1 Pet. 1:15). How are you putting righteousness in your mind so that your thoughts are holy? How are you cultivating righteousness in your relationships so that you maintain your integrity? Are you instilling righteousness in your activities so that your life is above reproach? If you want to harvest righteousness in your life tomorrow, you must plant seeds of righteousness today.”
8. Romans 1:1 – “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God….” Paul realized that salvation set him apart for the Gospel. His identity was “servant of Christ Jesus.” How do you introduce yourself to others? For what are you most known?
9. Romans 1:1 — “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God….” Paul uses the word “gospel” four times in the first chapter of Romans, a word that is used over 90 times in the New Testament. Paul says that he has been set apart for the gospel, that he serves with his spirit “in the gospel,” that he is eager to preach the gospel, and certainly not ashamed of the gospel which is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Jesus preached the gospel and then called us to preach the gospel to “all creation.” So what is the gospel? Without digging into the entire word study (though recommended if you have the time), the word “gospel” means “good news.” So, what is this good news for which Paul and so many others have been willing to give their very lives to share? Most Christians will say that the good news is that God has provided the way to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. But salvation from what? From what are we saved? Today, many, if not most Christians will answer, “saved from our sins.” However, we are not saved from our sins, we are saved from the wrath of God —
– “The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it–or the righteousness of another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well-being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God. The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead–so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith–and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him–and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.” (R.C. Sproul)
– Paul offers greetings and reviews the gospel which “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” the gospel of “Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace,” he immediately turns to “the wrath of God [being] revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” It is the awfulness of God’s wrath that warrants the urgency for salvation and that displays the true magnitude of Gods mercy, grace, and love through Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, too many have lost perspective of the Holiness of God and the seriousness of God’s wrath. God’s wrath doesn’t preach well today. Sinners are often characterized as merely misguided “victims” of circumstances, and sins are just “mistakes”, no longer something for which a person can be held totally accountable. Today’s more popular God has little if any wrath, rather affection all the time; He is now accepting and tolerant of anyone and everyone because “He understands that we are just human”. However, the Good News is only as good as the potential bad news — the looming wrath of God. Where there is no sin, there is no need of a savior, the good news becomes seemingly less relevant, certainly not worth sticking your neck out for. Remember, the first recorded word preached by both John the Baptist and Jesus was “Repent,” a word uses 65 times in the Bible but less and less from pulpits.
— Revelation 4:8 — Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!
— Revelation 8:13 — Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth.”
10. Romans 1:5 – “…we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations….” Christ’s Ambassadors were saved to call others to saving faith and obedience empowered by faith in and love for Jesus.
11. Romans 1:7 – “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints….” Rome was an ethically corrupt society. Those who are loved by God are called to be saints in a fallen world.
12. Romans 1:8 – “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” Is your faith being reported all over the world?
13. Romans 1:9, 10 – “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” The love of Christ compels Christians to love others earnestly, pray for them continually, and do all they can to draw them closer to Jesus.
14. Romans 1:11, 12 – “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” God wants Christians to earnestly seek to encourage one another and strengthen each other in their faith. Is this a top priority in your life?
15. Romans 1:14, 15 – You are obligated to preach the Gospel to all people, eagerly without favoritism.
16. Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Paul realized that some would be ashamed to preach the Gospel, but Paul reminds us that faith in God and love for others should overcome any shame.
17. Romans 1:18 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” World events reveal God’s wrath and a suppression of the truth of the Gospel.
18. Romans 1:19 – “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” Unbelievers have enough evidence to believe in God if they want to.
19. Romans 1:21 – “…their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” The more you reject the truth, the less likely you will ever accept it.
20. Romans 1:22 – “Claiming to be wise, they became fools….” Unbelievers believe they are wiser than believers.
21. Romans 1:24 — “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts.” As the old preachers says, whenever you see the word “therefore” in the Bible, you should ask, “What is it there for?” This word points to a relationship of causation and signals that you can’t understand what is going to be said next without understanding what precedes it. So, “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts” for a specific reason that is critical to our understanding: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Paul reiterates the point – “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie…. since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done…. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” God turned them over to their lusts because they rejected Him as God. Having chosen to reject God and disobey Him, their thinking became futile until their hearts lost all desire for God. This is a pride that God hates. (Proverbs 8:13) They became completely desensitized to their sin and went from bad to worse. Paul says that in observing this, the discerning can see the “wrath of God” being revealed. Ultimately, all sin is a rejection of God (even but for just a moment); it is treason, it is subversion, an affront to the Lordship of God. Knowing that God is God, knowing that Jesus Christ paid for our sins through His blood, we willing continue in that which He abhors – unthinkable! Fortunately, the Good News, as Paul points out, is that God gives us grace and peace through the Lord Jesus Christ, but this gift is certainly nothing to take lightly. With grace comes apostleship (or discipleship) “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all nations.” (Romans 1:5) Having received grace, we now “belong to Jesus Christ.” Just as rejection of God has a consequence of destruction, grace and salvation through faith has an obedience consequence, driving us to follow God in love (rather than fear or mere duty). The saved don’t just “believe in God” they surrender their lives to Him, becoming disciples, intent on making more disciples who “obey” all that God commands – this is the Great Commission. The goal of salvation is not that God will bless our lives and that we go to Heaven; the goal of salvation is that we glorify God and enjoy Him forever, that we grow in love and unity with Him and encourage others to do the same. We deny self, take up the Cross of Christ, and follow Jesus. In opposition to the world, the follower of Christ can only hate evil. (Proverbs 8:13) The one who hates evil won’t take it lightly, make light of it or overlook it. To do so, by definition, would be to make light of grace, or as Paul says, to trample underfoot the Son of God, to profane the blood of the covenant, and to outrage the Spirit of grace. (Hebrews 10:29) Today, the vast majority of Christians in America will entertain themselves with various forms of media which glorify that which God abhors, slowly desensitizing themselves to the horrors of sin. This should never be! It is time for repentance. Pray for revival (which must come from God).
22. Romans 1:24 – Unbelief is often revealed by sexual sin.
23. Romans 1:26, 27 – “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.” Homosexuality as with all other sexual sins (promiscuity, pornography, adultery, etc.) is the consequence of rejection of God’s truth.
24. Romans 1:29-31 – “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Like homosexuality, many other sins are the consequence of rejection of God’s truth.
25. Romans 1:32 – “They not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Approving of sin, tolerating it, or accepting it is also unacceptable to the Lord.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 April: Today, resolve to no longer focus on what you don’t have (youth, experience, talent, money, time, etc.) but rather to use what you do have to love and serve the Lord with all your “heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (see Joshua 14:10-12 and Luke 10:27)