Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 8 October 18:
1. Jeremiah 4:1 – “If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.” For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.’”
– “If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver….” You are either going to follow Jesus or not. If you have decided to be a follower of Jesus, then do it; remove the things in your life that are compromising and do not waiver.
– We make light of sin. We make excuses for sin. We act like God doesn’t really care about sin. We think the grace of God makes sin a non-issue. We view sin as uncontrollable. But God’s word in Jeremiah and James holds us accountable for sin and challenges us to take a hard look at what is really in our hearts. James calls us to choose between friendship with the world or friendship with God. If you are a Christian and choose to “love” the world, the Bible calls that adultery! James says that in grace, we are to submit ourselves to God, resist the devil, and make the choice to draw near to God – this is an action. We must make the choice to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. To call yourself a Christian and live in casual sin is to be double-minded. “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
— “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 (James 4:1-8).”
2. Jeremiah 4:9, 10 – “’In that day, declares the Lord, courage shall fail both king and officials. The priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God, surely you have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘It shall be well with you,’ whereas the sword has reached their very life.’”
– God holds BOTH religious leaders and political leaders accountable for the sins of the nation. We have much to say today about the state of our political leaders, but what about our religious leaders?
– The nation who has turned from God has filled itself with religious leaders who tell them what they want to hear instead of the truth and therefore are surprised when judgment comes.
3. Jeremiah 4:19 – “My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart!” God is pained by your sin, and punishes in anguish.
4. Jeremiah 4:22; 5:2, 5, 6, 12, 21, 22-24, 30, 31 — “’For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not…. Though they say, ‘As the Lord lives,’ yet they swear falsely…. They know the way of the Lord, the justice of their God. But they all alike had broken the yoke; they had burst the bonds…. their transgressions are many, their apostasies are great…. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery…. They have spoken falsely of the Lord and have said, ‘He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine….’Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not. Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me…. But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God….’ An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their own direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?”
– The ways of the world appear wise to the ungodly. They are out of touch with the wisdom of God. Many ‘religious’ people see themselves as good when God sees them as evil. Statistically, when looking at unbiblical social trends, those who sit in pews on Sunday, don’t look much different than those who don’t.
– God says that only fools don’t have a love relationship with Him.
– Jeremiah was not prophesying about non-believers, people who didn’t believe in God, didn’t have God’s word, or didn’t have the ability (spiritual eyes and ears) to understand God’s word. He was prophesying judgment upon God’s “people” and “children” who claimed to be godly but were living as they pleased rather than in love and obedience to God. They were committing spiritual adultery and telling themselves that God was good with it. There was no genuine reverence for God, and the church leaders were all preaching what made the people feel good about themselves rather than preaching repentance. What should we do in times like these? Today’s readings from James say, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19, 20).” Again, James’ comments are not directed at people outside of the faith but rather those who have the truth and have wandered from it. We desperately need Christians who are willing to bring lost sheep back into the flock where the Shepherd leads.
5. Jeremiah 5:2 — “Though they say, ‘As the Lord lives,’ yet they swear falsely.” Jesus said it like this: “Why do you call me Lord, and do not do what I say?” Talk is cheap. Obedience is the demonstration of faith, hope, and love.
6. Jeremiah 5:3 – “You have struck them down, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.” God’s discipline is an opportunity to repent. Don’t continue to resist God’s discipline.
7. Jeremiah 5:19 – “And when your people say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.’” God fits the punishment to the sin.
8. Jeremiah 5:27 – “Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich.” Wealth does not prove you are in good standing with God.
9. Jeremiah 5:31 – “…the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” God wants His messengers to deliver what He says, not what people want to hear.
10. Proverbs 8:12, 13 — “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” Wisdom is greater than knowledge – wisdom is knowledge rightly applied, which requires the Holy Spirit’s counsel. Wisdom involves not only knowing what is right but doing what is right; it involves self-control, self-discipline, and willing obedience. Many know what is right, but don’t have the heart to do what is right. You will only be willing to do what is right when God Himself is your goal, your prize, your crown, your greatest love, your life aim. Pride and arrogance are the product of a heart that places self over God, and your mouth reveals whether you love God and others most or yourself the most. God hates perverted speech, yes, hates.
11. Proverbs 8:17 – “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” If love for Jesus is not your motivation today, you won’t see what God wants you to see today. Your goal, whatever it is, influences how you see and judge everything else. For example, a parent who has lost a small child in a large crowd, will frantically search for the child, paying little attention anyone or anything else, with the exception of those they think might be able to help them find the child. When you are seeking a closer relationship with Jesus, worldly distractions become irrelevant.
12. Proverbs 8:34-36 – “Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.” You must learn to see life from God’s perspective, to be guided by His word, and to be of one mind with Him. We must learn to do what God would have us do rather than what we would desire to do. Often, we must dutifully obey God’s word until our desires more and more become His desires, until our heart truly desires to do what He desires us to do. This is a daily growth process. If we refuse to do what we know God has told us to do, our hearts will harden, and we will lose the desire to obey more and more.
13. James 5:5 – “You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence.” Self-indulgence is ungodly and worthy of God’s judgment.
14. James 5:7, 8 – “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” The Christian life is a lifetime of cultivating a godly heart, one day at a time, patiently waiting for the Day of the Lord.
15. James 5:7-11 — Patience is a godly virtue. When the Bible speaks of patience, it is talking about patience that waits beyond natural life if necessary.
16. James 5:9 – “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” Do you grumble? This is a sign of distance from Jesus.
17. James 5:11 – “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.” A mature Christian is consistently Christ-like over time, steadfast, regardless the circumstances and with no need of praise.
18. James 5:14 – “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Do your elders pray for you when you need it?
19. James 5:16b – “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – From Henry T. Blackaby — God promises all believers that if we live righteously and pray fervently, our prayers will be effective and produce significant results. How do we treat a promise like this? We might argue, “But I do pray, and nothing happens!” Our problem is that we do not hold ourselves accountable to the Scripture. God’s Word says that prayer ought to accomplish much. If our prayer life is not accomplishing much, what should we do? If we are praying but seeing no results, should we conclude that this promise is untrue? Should we excuse this Scripture as impractical and unrealistic? Or should we examine ourselves to see if we meet its conditions? James says that fervent prayer avails much. Could it be that we are not as fervent in our praying as we should be? Fervent prayer means we do not quit easily. Fervent prayer means we purposefully spend sufficient time in intercession. Fervent prayer means we cry out to the Father, sometimes in tears, with our heart and soul. Fervent prayer comes as the Holy Spirit assists us in praying with groanings too deep for words (Rom. 8:26). According to James, our righteousness will ensure effective prayer. God’s standard of righteousness is different from ours, for He looks beyond our actions, even beyond our thoughts, directly to our hearts. How then should we hold ourselves accountable if our prayers are accomplishing little? If nothing happens when we pray, the problem is not with God. The problem is with us, for God’s word is absolutely reliable. If we adhere to what God requires, He will lead us to pray for things that align with His purposes, and God will answer our prayers in a mighty way.
20. James 5:16a – “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” – From Henry T. Blackaby — Confession is God’s provision to clear obstacles that hinder our relationships with God and with others. Confession is not just for those who don’t mind admitting their faults. Confession is a command, given to every Christian. James advised that when we sin, it is important for us to confess not only to God, but also to our fellow Christians. There is a tremendous freedom that comes as we openly acknowledge the sinfulness of our actions to others. If confession does not come out of repentance, it is merely admission, and not true confession. It is important to confess your sins specifically and not hide behind generalities. It is one thing to pray, “O Lord, forgive my sin.” It’s quite another to identify specifically in painful honesty. Whenever possible, confession ought to be made directly to those whom your sin has hurt. You are not to confess the sins of others but only your offenses. Confession is not a sign of weakness; it is evidence of your refusal to allow sin to remain in your life. Significantly, James linked confession with prayer. Your prayers will be hindered if you hold on to unconfessed sin. When James promised that the “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” he did so in the context of confession. If you wish to have a powerful prayer life, you must regularly confess your sin. Only when there are no obstacles separating you from God and others will your prayers be effective. Pride will discourage you from admitting to others the sinfulness of your heart. A desire to please God will compel you to confess your sin and rid yourself of its oppressive burden.
21. James 5:19-20 – “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
– Saving a sinner from sin is one of life’s greatest accomplishments. You can be a hero today by bringing back a wanderer. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” (Jude 1:20-23)
– From Henry T. Blackaby — One of the Christian’s greatest deterrents from sin is the life of another Christian. Some Christians maintain that it is none of their business if another chooses to sin. They are convinced that they are being judgmental if they respond to someone in sin. The world persuades them not to get involved, but this inaction prevents them from being an effective intercessor. As Christians we are aware that sin brings death (Rom. 6:23). Sin kills relationships, dismantles marriages, stifles joy, and destroys peace. When we see someone wander from the truth into error, how should we respond? When Jesus saw sin it broke His heart. He wept over entire cities as He saw them rejecting the truth (Matt. 23:37-39). He prayed fervently for His disciples to be strong when they were tempted (John 17). He warned those who were heading toward spiritual failure (Matt. 26:20-25, 34). Jesus was even willing to die to save people from their sins because He knew the devastation that sin causes. Jesus never stood idle as those around Him were led astray by their sin. He always took an active role in turning them back to God. “Minding your own business” will save you some discomfort, but it will not help a brother or sister who needs to return to the Lord. If you are truly aware of the grave consequences for those who continue in sin, you will be moved to weep even as Jesus wept. Pray fervently for your friend. That will safeguard your motives and prepare you to minister to him. Be alert, in the event that God asks you to confront your friend. If you do so, be loving and gentle lest you, too, be tempted (Gal. 6:1).
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 Oct 18: Focus on not grumbling today. (James 5:9)