Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 5 October 18:
1. Isaiah 63:8, 9 — “And he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” Jesus was afflicted for the afflicted, offering salvation, redemption, love, and the hope of restoration and eternal life for those who would turn to Him. Let Jesus carry you.
2. Isaiah 63:10 – “But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.” They had access to the Holy Spirit, but grieved the Holy Spirit, becoming enemies of God. Horrifying!
3. Isaiah 63:14 — “So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name.” Never forget that, ultimately, it is not about you. Your purpose is to glorify God, and you do this by displaying a relationship with Jesus to others. If you focus on your relationship with Jesus, you won’t have to worry about proving it — it will be self-evident.
4. Isaiah 64:3 — “When you did awesome things that we did not look for….” God will bless you far beyond your imagination. God will answer your prayers far beyond your requests. He knows what is best for you; you don’t. Trust God to surprise you with more than you imagined.
5. Isaiah 64:5-7 — “You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.” Even what we believe is pure is filthy in God’s eyes. We are totally dependent on God’s grace. We are not capable of righteousness apart from salvation through faith in Jesus and the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
6. Isaiah 64:6 — “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Key to our relationship with God is understanding how wholly unworthy we are of His love, mercy, and grace; how insignificant we are before His Majesty; and how Magnificent He is. The greater you understand your own humility compared to His Majesty, the greater you will appreciate and glorify His love.
7. Proverbs 5:23 — “He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.” The first level of leadership, the foundation for all other leadership is leading self (which is actually demonstrating fidelity in following Jesus). Another word for self-leadership is discipline or self-control (a spiritual fruit). Self-leadership must be continuous, and if it fails, the person fails in all leadership at the foundational level. A person without self-control is completely untrustworthy and cannot lead others. Good leaders know the way and show the way. God leaders know Jesus, follow Him, and show others how to know Him and follow Him. If your leader is not following Jesus, he is leading you astray. If you are not faithfully following Jesus, you are leading others astray. As a leader, you are either with Jesus or against Him.
8. James 4:1-8 — “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 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.”
– Again, James reinforces the theme of self-control that comes through the Spirit. Jesus calls us to deny self, but quarrels always include a degree of selfishness and a lack of self-control which is evidence of your submission to the Spirit within you (see Galatians 5). James challenges you to consider the selfishness you display in quarrels. Your responsibility is not to control the other person or their actions. Your responsibility is to control yourself by being one with Jesus. Warning, self-examination is important and Biblical — “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Test yourself, but do not judge, or condemn yourself — “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself” (1 Corinthians 4:3). You can’t fix what you aren’t willing to be honest about, and you must strive to be conformed to the image of Christ, but in the process, don’t focus on the reality of who you are, focus on the reality of Jesus, the grace you have received through Him, and the unimaginable love God has for you, just as you are. Fix your eyes on Jesus more and more – only by seeing Him clearly can you even hope to rightly see self, and only by seeing Him clearly can you rest in His love – inspection not introspection.
– “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Do you ask God for what you want? If so, what is the motivation behind your requests? Are you still selfishly motivated though Jesus tells you that the first step towards following Jesus is to deny self? Again, James is challenging you to consider your heart and relationship with God, rather than blaming circumstances or others on your lack of peace. Make Jesus your true passion, and replace your worries with joy in Him.
– We often fight with others because we are actually fighting against God and the calling He has given us. As a priest on this earth, do you take responsibility for maintaining peace and interceding for those who sin? Do you understand that you walk as Christ’s ambassadors and that ambassadors never represent themselves? You can’t proclaim the gospel of grace while you aren’t displaying the gospel of grace when offended. God knows He is sending you out to hurting people who hurt people, and He knows that they are going to hurt you. His charge for you is to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him in the moment. God is giving you an opportunity to fellowship with Christ in His suffering for the sinful. Don’t get in arguments because of your pride; your pride is always counter to God’s will for your life of surrender and humility. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God has empowered you to overcome your natural passions that war within you, but you must “submit yourselves to God [and] resist the devil.” Part of the reason why God intentionally places difficult people in your life is to reveal the truth of what is in your heart, to give you a greater appreciation of the grace you have received, and to teach you how to love others. No one can cause us to be angry, bitter, or jealous; we do that to ourselves. We may be tempted outwardly, but we don’t have to be tempted inwardly. Quarrelling is foolish and makes you or the issue at hand the focus rather than Jesus. God has called you rise above it to win souls.
— Proverbs 20:3 — It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.
— Proverbs 16:32 — Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
— Ecclesiastes 7:9 — Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
— 2 Timothy 2:23-24 — Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil.
— Matthew 5:22 — But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
— Philippians 2:14-16 — Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
— 1 Corinthians 6:7 — To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
9. James 4:4 — “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” God compares the worldly Christian to an adulterer. Love and fidelity are inseparable. Will you be faithful to Jesus for faithful to the world? Who will you REALLY follow today? Will you chase after what everyone else is chasing? Will you get consumed in the worries of the world, or will you walk with Jesus? If you walk with Jesus you will have to walk away from the crowd.
10. James 4:7-8 — “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.” Submit, resist, draw near! Purify your heart! Be double-minded no longer. This is a life choice. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19) Being close to God is a choice that takes effort on our part.
– From Henry T. Blackaby — There may be times when God seems far away. You may feel as if your prayers go unheard. James said there is a simple reason for this and a solution. If you are far from God, it is because your sin has separated you from Him. God is unchanging. His character stays absolutely holy. His faithfulness remains constant; it is we who change. We allow sin into our lives. We choose our own direction. We spend less and less time with Him in Bible study and prayer. Then one day we realize that we have gradually grown distant from God. The solution, according to James, is straightforward. We are to draw near to God. As we realize our need to be closer to the Father and we begin to return to Him, He meets us even as the father hurried to greet his prodigal son (Luke 15:20). Drawing near to God requires you to take two actions. First, you must cleanse your hands (Isa. 1:15). You must cleanse your way of living. If you have been actively engaged in sin, you must renounce it. If you have done anything to offend or hurt someone, you must make it right. Second, you are to purify your heart (Ps. 51:10). You must make certain your attitudes, thoughts, and motives are right in God’s eyes and are in harmony with God’s word. Jesus warned that you cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). It is impossible to love anything else as much as you love God and still please Him. If God seems distant, do what is necessary to cleanse your hands, purify your heart, and draw near to Him.
11. James 4:11, 12 — “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” Your mission is to bring others closer to Jesus, not to drive them away. God has a heart for every sinner. Show no partiality to anyone. Share the Good News to everyone in love. Speak the truth about sin, but speak the truth in love — this is true love. Your job is not to promote condemnation but rather reconciliation.
12. James 4:13, 14 — “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Today is the day to submit, resist, draw near, purify, and glorify Jesus to others. Today is the day to love others as an act of love for Jesus. Don’t count on tomorrow or put off loving others today in hopes of doing it tomorrow.
13. James 4:16, 17 — “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” All sin involves thinking more highly of yourself than you ought, placing your own wants and desires ahead of the commands of Jesus. Using the word of God, the Holy Spirit convicts you of what you ought to do. If you choose instead to do what is most comfortable, convenient, or desirable to you, you sin, and you risk hardening your heart to sin.
– From Henry T. Blackaby — It is never a minor thing to know God’s will and not do it. God calls this sin. We can make excuses for our lack of obedience: “I’m just not ready yet” or “I’ll do it later!” or “I don’t think it will make a difference” or “I can’t afford to!” We rationalize, we procrastinate; yet, in God’s eyes, rationalization and procrastination are nothing more than disobedience. At times we deceive ourselves into thinking that good intentions equal obedient actions. They do not. A good intention without corresponding activity is disobedience. When we encounter God and He gives us a direction, it is not enough to write down the date in our spiritual journal, or even to tell our friends and church of our “decision.” God’s call is not to “make a decision” but to obey! Deciding to obey is not equal to obeying! (Matt. 21:28-31). Loudly affirming the necessity of obedience is not the same as obeying (Luke 6:46). Making commitments, even publicly, is not the same as obeying our Lord. Substituting our own good works is not the same as obeying. God told King Saul to wait until the prophet Samuel arrived. Instead of waiting, Saul took matters into his own hands and offered a sacrifice. Saul discovered, to his deep dismay, that other acts of supposed piety do not take the place of obeying a clear command from God (1 Sam. 15:22). As with Saul, God expects you to obey everything exactly as He tells you. Only obedience satisfies God’s desire for obedience!
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 Oct 18: Meditate upon today’s readings and endeavor to surrender the day to Jesus, doing only what He would have you do, for Him and not for yourself.