Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 14 October 18:
1. Jeremiah 17:5 — “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”
– Everyone places their trust in someone or something. In whom do you really place your trust? In whom does the nation place its trust?
– The Israelites of Jeremiah’s day believed they could trust in their army, the diplomacy of their king, and their foreign alliances to protect them from the powerful Babylonian empire. They gave lip service to their trust in God, but their actions showed where their faith really was: in their military and financial might. God spoke through Jeremiah to warn them that He would not bless those who trusted in anyone or anything instead of Him. Placing your ultimate trust in anything other than God is idolatry. How can you know if your faith is not truly in God? Ask yourself these questions: Where do I turn when I experience a crisis? When I am hurting or afraid, to whom do I go? When I have a financial problem, whom do I want to tell first? Where do I seek comfort when I am under stress or discouraged? Could it be that you are saying you trust in God but your actions indicate otherwise? God often uses other people as His method of providing for you. Be careful lest you inadvertently misdirect your faith toward His provision instead of toward the Provider. God may meet your need through your friends, but ultimately your trust must be in God. The Israelites were so stubbornly committed to trusting in human strength instead of God that, even as the Babylonian army approached Jerusalem, they continued to desperately seek a person, nation, or army that could rescue them. They realized too late that they had neglected to trust in the only One who could deliver them. Don’t make the same mistake as the Israelites. Go straight to the Lord when you have a need. He is the only One who can provide for you.
2. Jeremiah 17:9, 10 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.’”
– What you care about most determines what you think which, in turn determines how you act. Your actions are the fruit of your heart, but often people pretend to be something they really aren’t, fooling others and sometimes even themselves. God is never fooled though and knows your true motives. For example, people may be very impressed by the ‘good deeds’ of someone, but God knows if those deeds are merely the product of prideful self-righteousness, an attempt to gain favor from others or merely feel good about themselves.
– A person can judge another person’s actions, whether they are good or bad, but God judges the heart, and the motives behind those actions. Only God knows the ‘why’ beneath the motives – why a people think the way they do – we don’t; therefore, we can’t judge the inner person, only God can. (Luke 11:17; Mark 12:15; Acts 15:8) We can’t even honestly judge our own inner person because we deceive ourselves – only God can. I believe the Bible calls Christians to ‘judge’ behaviors within the context of God’s word without judging the heart or worth of the person, something only God can do – “Do not slander a servant to his master.” (Proverbs 30:10) When we try to play god, either in self-judgment or judgment of others, we only cause pain and destruction. C.S. Lewis makes this observation: “Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by their moral choices…. When a man who has been perverted from his youth and taught that cruelty is the right thing, does some tiny little kindness, or refrains from some cruelty he might have committed, and thereby, perhaps, risks being sneered at by his companions, he may, in God’s eyes, be doing more than you and I would do if we gave up life itself for a friend…. It is as well to put this the other way round. Some of us who seem quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as fiends. Can we be quite certain how we should have behaved if we had been saddled with the psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and then with the power, say, of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it.”(C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 86-87) From our very limited position, we can only walk very humbly in forgiveness and seek to ‘abide in Christ,’ obeying his commands which are ever on our hearts, and testifying to the truth in word in deed. We must be in continual prayer to the Lord – “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” (Psalm 119:36) And, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Be careful not to be deceived by your own ‘good deeds’ which at their root may be nourished by pride, self-righteousness, feelings of unworthiness, or fear. Pray to God, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.” (Psalm 109:23)
— Romans 12:1-3 — I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
— Galatians 6:1 — Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
3. Jeremiah 18:6 — “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!” God knows how to bring salvation to your family, your friends, your community, and your world. Accordingly, He invites us to join Him in His divine work. Clay has no plans of its own — It is just clay to be molded by the hands of the Creator. As clay, we are to be moldable, pliable, totally submissive to the will of its master. At times we excitedly announce to God: “I’ve discovered my strengths and gifts, and now I know how I can best serve You!” At other times we inform Him, “I am aware of what my weaknesses are, so I know which tasks I’m not capable of doing for You.” Yet this isn’t characteristic of clay. God isn’t limited to working with our strengths. (2 Cor. 12:9-10) He can mold us into whatever kind of instrument He requires. When God’s assignment demands humility, he finds a servant willing to be humbled. When His work requires zeal, He looks for someone ready to be filled with His Spirit. God uses holy vessels, so He finds those who will are ready for Him to remove their impurities. If your tendency is to tell the Father what you can and can’t do for Him, repent, submit to His agenda, and allow Him to shape you into the person He wants you to be. Like clay.
4. Jeremiah 18:12 — “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans….” Only the ungodly fool believes he is in control of his own life. God determines the fate of every person. Those who choose to depart from God will suffer grave consequences.
5. Jeremiah 18:15 – “But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway.” If something has become a higher priority in your life than Jesus, you will turn and walk down the wrong path in life, away from Jesus. What is the primary motivation in your life? What is your life focus? Why do you really do what you do? Are you really following Jesus or chasing after something else?
6. Proverbs 14:5 — “A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.” The truth of your words and advice is determined by in whom you have placed your faith. If you are guided by the Spirit and are following Jesus, proclaiming only His word and not your own, you speak the truth and are a faithful witness. If, however, you are merely offering your own opinion based on ‘common sense’ or the teachings and traditions of this world, you are misleading others away from the truth, despite your good intentions. The only word that is inspired, the only word that you are allowed to proclaim as Christ’s ambassador is God’s word, not your opinion. Speak God’s word.
7. Proverbs 14:6-9 — “A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding. Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge. The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving. Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance.”
– Today there are many who scoff at simple Christian faith, thinking themselves so very wise. Their false wisdom can be quite deceiving. Have nothing to do with teachings void of Jesus. The foolish scoffer mocks the need for repentance and the need for reliance on the sacrifice of Jesus (the guilt offering). However, a true teacher starts and ends with Jesus. If your counsellor isn’t continually pointing you to Jesus but rather some form of moralism, psychology, or any other idea that rests on a hope other than Jesus, walk away.
– “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.” Christians make amends for sin when it is within their power to do so. Exodus 22, Leviticus 24, and Numbers have also speak to the principle of restitution.
8. Proverbs 14:12 — “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” People don’t usually pursue what they think is wrong but rather pursue what they think is right. The problem is that their thoughts are immeasurably far removed from God’s thoughts. Many are very committed to convictions that are very moral in the eyes of society and very sinful in the eyes of God, the Author of Justice. When people do what is right in their own eyes, they perish.
9. Proverbs 14:15, 16 — “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.” Don’t believe what you hear from others; believe God and His word. Very, very few read and obey God’s word. If you choose to do that, you will turn away from evil and the majority.
10. Proverbs 14:21 — “Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.” Own this verse. If you look down on others around you, you are a sinner — it doesn’t say you are sinning; it says you ARE a sinner — it is in your character not just in your behavior. Examine yourself from this perspective. Your generosity to the needy (both physically needy and spiritually needy) reveals what is really in your heart. The problem with being generous to the needy is that they are needy for a reason. They are usually dealing with the consequences of their own sinful behavior. They don’t deserve to be treated well — this is called grace, the same type of grace you have received through Jesus and in which your hope rests.
11. Proverbs 14:25 — “A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.” Jeremiah was a truthful witness. He spoke the truth no one wanted to hear in hopes of saving lives. Are you willing to proclaim Jesus to those who do not really want to hear it?
12. Psalm 120:1 – “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.” God will not refuse those who genuinely cry out to Him.
13. Psalm 121:2 – “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Faith comes from a true understanding and appreciation of who God is and what He has promised. If you have placed your trust in the Creator of all things who has promised to love you, what do you have to worry about?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 14 Oct 18: Recommit to trusting in the Lord and no one or nothing else; recommit to following Jesus and no one or nothing else. Walk with Him by obeying Him and watch His fidelity revealed in your life.