Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 29 August 18:
1. Ecclesiastes 5:1 — “To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools.” To hear God, you have to be near God. Of course, this question of nearness is not about physical space but rather spiritual relationship, nearness in spirit. Jesus’ stated goal for us is that there would be no distance between us and Him, that we would be “one” with Him, in perfect unity — “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21) And Jesus revealed that those who were one with Him would, by definition, be one with each other – “…that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11) Our closeness with God is revealed in our closeness to others in God. Nearness is an issue of the heart – “…people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me….” (Isaiah 29:13) Nearness is about faith – “…she does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God….” (Zepheniah 3:2) Under the Old Covenant, based on adherence to the Law, revealed in the Old Testament, there were limits to how close the sinner could get to God – the Levitical priests offered sacrifices for the sins of the people, and only the High Priest could enter the inner room and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. But now, through Jesus, “Let us… with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Jesus has opened up the Holy of Holies to us through His death on the cross. “Not only must we draw near to Christ, we must draw near to Him in confidence. This does not mean that we come arrogantly demanding forgiveness as a right. We draw near in confidence not because of our own ‘rights’ but because of the person and work of Christ. We are confident because God, who was not obligated to redeem us, nonetheless promises to forgive us if we submit to Christ. Drawing near in confidence means that we firmly believe God’s promise of grace in Christ.” (R.C. Sproul) “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). In Christ, we have unmerited and inalienable salvation and access to God to draw near to Him in total assurance and confidence. So, do not quench the Spirit, grieve the Spirit, or get out of step with the Spirit through fear, pride, or disobedience – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:7-10)
– John 3:36 — Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
– John 14:15 — If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
– Acts 5:29 — But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
– Acts 5:32 — And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.
– 2 Thessalonians 3:14 — If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.
2. Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 — God expects you to keep your word and do what you said you were going to do. God warns us not to make vows carelessly.
3. Ecclesiastes 5:10 — “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.” The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Ultimately, money will not satisfy because we were made to love God and serve Him, not to serve self.
4. Ecclesiastes 5:13-17 — Riches and career successes are temporary and have no eternal value.
5. Ecclesiastes 5:20 – “For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” Joy comes from God.
6. Ecclesiastes 6:3 — “If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.” You must choose to enjoy life.
7. Proverbs 29 — All of Proverbs warns us and coaches us to understand that there are predictable consequences for not walking in the ways of God. Nothing can be more foolish than not doing what the Creator and LORD told you to do or doing something He told you not to do.
8. Proverbs 29:11 – “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Have you ever said something like, “I’m only venting”? Venting your emotions is foolish. Don’t do it.
9. Proverbs 29:18 — “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” Many ask what God wants them to do in their life as they stare at an uncertain future. God wants you to “do” His word, one day at a time. God’s word is the light for your feet, and the Holy Spirit will guide you from it. Our problem is not that God has not given us enough information to do what we should do, our problem is that we have not obeyed what He has already commended us to do.
10. Proverbs 29:22-25 – “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. The partner of a thief hates his own life; he hears the curse, but discloses nothing. The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Why make life harder than it has to be by listening to your emotions or to others rather than listening to God?
11. 1 Timothy 4:1 – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons….” Yes, some will ‘fall from the faith.’ But genuine faith does not fail. Those with genuine faith, a gift not earned, have complete assurance in their salvation.
12. 1 Timothy 4:7 – “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness….” Godliness requires training.
13. 1 Timothy 4:12 — “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Timothy desired to serve the Lord, yet he lacked confidence. He was young and sickly, and he did not possess the outward bearing that would instantly command the respect of others. (1 Tim 5:23) He, no doubt, seemed an unlikely candidate to boldly preach the Gospel to both believers and unbelievers during an age of persecution in the Roman Empire. Paul urged Timothy not to let his insecurities thwart him or cause him to be influenced by those bolder, more confident, more accepted, seemingly more successful teachers who preached popular lies. Paul urged Timothy NOT to argue with those who proclaimed “irreverent, silly myths.” (1 Timothy 4:7) Rather, Paul urged him to live as an example of godliness – “train yourself for godliness” – with the same diligence a professional athlete would have to train for the games – “toil and strive.” He urged Timothy to live a life that was spotless in “speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity,” to be a model for others to follow. Timothy’s life was to be the evidence of the God who called him. And from that position of holy credibility, Timothy was to preach the truth boldly and fervently (as opposed to living just a quiet example as some Christians suggest we should do). Paul told Timothy to “command and teach these things” – yes, command! Despite his youth and physical frailty, Timothy had some distinct advantages over his seemingly more powerful adversaries – he was empowered by the Holy Spirit; he was sincere; and he was well trained and experienced “in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine”. Paul urged Timothy to confidently press forward as a well-trained Ambassador of Christ under the authority of Christ – “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” And Paul encouraged Timothy to continue to strengthen his abilities – “Practice these things, immerse yourself in
them, so that all may see your progress.” Paul reminded Timothy of the two indissoluble, essential attributes that make a great leader – character and competence – and he reminded him to be self-aware of these attributes in his life: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Timothy was not to reduce himself to the level of those who desired to fight him – “Never wrestle with a pig in the mud because you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.” Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Under the authority of Christ who has empowered us with the Holy Spirit, we have been called to serve as his Ambassadors, a kingdom of priests, proclaiming the truth to the kingdoms of the world, commanding obedience to the LORD. Our strength and authority doesn’t come from our human abilities or position. Nothing should intimidate us. Even our weaknesses are used by God to demonstrate to the world His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9) We should “boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us].” I am afraid that the “seeker-sensitive” church has become too concerned about appealing to the world through superficiality rather than living holy lives while shamelessly proclaiming the truth to those who need to face the realities of sin against a Holy God. As Proverbs says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love…. and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” Don’t remain silent, and don’t argue; just lovingly and graciously speak the truth straight from the word of God, and let the Holy Spirit work in the hearts of others. Our words should be like “public reading of Scripture,” teaching and, yes, even exhorting, but always with love, gentleness, and humility. (1 Timothy 4:13)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 Aug 18: Train for godliness today. (1 Tim 4:7)