Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 24 October 18:
1. Jeremiah 38:4 — “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” The truth often hurts, but “wounds from a friend can be trusted.” In this case, the truth was hurting morale, which directly effects the strength of the fighting force. The officials had good reason to be concerned, but they were wrong in assuming that Jeremiah intended to harm them – quite the opposite was true. If you love someone, you must tell them the truth. Jeremiah was willing to tell the truth to those who did not want to hear it at great peril to his life.
2. Jeremiah 38:6 — “So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.” Jeremiah was faithful to God’s word, and God allowed him to be persecuted in a life-threatening way. What doubts would you have had in Jeremiah’s position? Do you need people or circumstances to validate your fidelity to God?
3. Jeremiah 38:19 — “King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, ‘I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me.’” King Zedekiah’s character was 180-out from Jeremiah’s. King Zedekiah was motivated by fear and self-preservation, ready to disobey God and destroy a city in hopes of saving his own skin. Where does fear and selfishness rule in your life?
4. Jeremiah 39:7, 8 – “He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. The Chaldeans burned the king’s house and the house of the people, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem.” There is no limit to the cruelty of the ungodly who do not know true love, love which can only come from God. Expect no mercy or compassion from the ungodly.
5. Proverbs 24:11, 12 – “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” These Proverbs cannot be repeated enough to Christians. Those without Jesus face terrible consequences on earth but, more importantly, eternal damnation. Christians can’t act like they are not responsible for those around them who are on the path of destruction. It is selfish to avoid uncomfortable conversations, keeping people from hearing the eternal truth they desperately need. Your enemies salvation should be of utmost importance to you.
6. Proverbs 24:32 – “Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction.” The truth of God’s word is revealed all around you as circumstances play out in the lives of others. One person observed that wisdom understands without experiencing. In other words, it is wise to avoid the mistakes of others by learning from the experiences of others without experiencing the same circumstances yourself. The Bible warns you on what you should do and shouldn’t do. Don’t put God’s word to the test. When others do, observe and learn even further.
7. 1 John 4:1 – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Go to the source for your understanding. Keep the Holy Spirit as your Counsellor and Teacher. The best another person can do to instruct you is to refer you to Him and repeat what He said. No one can add to God’s word. Go to God.
8. 1 John 4:2, 3 — “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”
– To be clear, other religions are ‘antichrist’ and DO NOT lead to God. “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:13-15) Only through the Spirit can a person truly confess Jesus – the Spirit within us causes us to uncontrollably “confess that Jesus is the Son of God.” It is amazing to me how many who call themselves Christians are more concerned about offending others than saving them from eternal separation from God.
– Many Christians, even pastors, have largely eliminated the name Jesus from their social discourse, choosing rather to preach a form of moralism rather than the Gospel. They justify this by claiming to be ‘seeker sensitive,’ not wanting to offend, not wanting to ‘lose their witness,’ etc. Whatever the reason, these teachers have not put Jesus Christ first, rendering them false teachers. The solution to man’s problems is not principles but rather a Person, Jesus Christ. We are Christ’s Ambassadors, not self-help gurus who put our spin on what Jesus said. Charity is not enough, education is not enough. What people need is Jesus – that is the only message of a true teacher.
– In your conversations, the name Jesus Christ will be the filter separating those being convicted by the Holy Spirit and those who are not. Many Christians get sucked into that comfortable, acceptable conversation and convince themselves that they are somehow fulfilling the Great Commission of making “disciples” who “obey” Jesus Christ. Start your advice with a call for repentance and surrender to Jesus and see who is still willing to listen. Those are the ones to invest in. Of course, you are likely to pay a hefty price for your faithful, uncompromised approach. John 14:6 — “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Is Jesus’ message your message?
9. 1 John 4:7, 8 — “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
– God’s main command for us is love. “God is love.” There is no love apart from God. God, The Creator, is the Creator of love and the source of love. People cannot produce or create love, only radiate the love they have received from God. The closer you are to God, the more you can truly love. Strive for unity with God, and you will grow more loving as a natural result. Anything that comes from another source and is presented as love is a lie, a false love. The closer you are to Jesus, the more you really know Him, the more you will love others with a real love, not the false, fake worldly version of love.
– Throughout the Bible we are commanded by God to love, demonstrating that love is a choice we have to make. However, it is impossible for us to make that choice if love is not “manifested” in us through Jesus Christ. We must be “born” spiritually through Jesus to have the Spirit of God (who IS love) within us. We can only “choose” to love God because God first chose us – “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) So, it seems to me that God has given us the ability to love (an ability that only truly comes from God) so that we have the power to choose to love – “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) As we choose to love one another, “God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12) But again, John makes it very clear that anyone who claims to have love apart from Jesus Christ has been deceived – “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15) Only through Christ can we be “perfected” in love. Jesus said that to abide with him we must also obey him, and John points out that this obedience should be based on love rather than fear. Since God has commanded us, above all else, to love, it is probably wise to search the Scriptures to understand what He means by love:
— John 15:13 — Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
— 1 Timothy 1:5 — The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
— 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
— Ephesians 4:2 — walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.
— Romans 12:9-21 — Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[c] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
10. 1 John 4:10-11 – “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” God has called us to emulate His boundless, unconditional love that is not dependent on the response of the recipient of our love. In fact, it is inevitable that this sort of love will involve bearing the burden and forgiving the offenses of those incapable of returning such love: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Out of obedience, which is a product of love, Jeremiah delivered God’s Word to the king and was subsequently abused to the point of near death. In response, he showed no bitterness or anger but continued to speak truth to them. Love cannot remain silent while people perish. As it says in today’s Proverbs: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Proverbs 24:11, 12) Finally, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18). Fear stands in the way of love. The anecdote to fear is unconditional forgiveness. Through Christ we have complete forgiveness so we can experience the joy of God’s love without fear of punishment. We now must provide the same type of forgiveness to others so that there is no fear of retribution that would stand in the way of reconciliation.
11. 1 John 4:12 — “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” The love you show others reveals how much you really know and love God and are used by God. Love is the proof of your salvation in Jesus.
12. 1 John 4:13 — “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” Again, love is impossible without the empowering of the Holy Spirit and irresistible while abiding in the Holy Spirit. If you are unloving, you either are not saved and lack the Spirit, or you are quenching the Spirit or are out of step with the Spirit due to sin in your life.
13. 1 John 4:15, 16 — “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So, we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
– The confession mentioned here is not simply a verbal statement, it is a life-altering conviction. It is a total surrender to Jesus and to His love. It is a confession that makes Jesus our life’s ambition. If you want Jesus above all else, He will never deny you.
– From Henry T. Blackaby — The greatest truth in all of Scripture is this: God is love. Understanding this in its full dimensions will set you free to enjoy all that is yours as a Christian. But you must accept that God loves you. If you grew up experiencing unconditional love in your family, this may not be difficult for you. However, if your early years were void of love, this truth may be hard to accept. God loves you, not because you deserve His love, but because His nature is love. The only way He will ever relate to you is in love. His love for you gives you an inherent worth that nothing can diminish. If you cannot accept the truth that God loves you, you will be limited in how you can relate to Him. When He disciplines you, you will not take it as an expression of His love. Rather, you may resent Him. When God says no to a request that is less than His best for you, you will conclude that He doesn’t care about you. Without a clear understanding and acceptance of God’s love for you, you will be disoriented to Him and to what He wants to do in your life. If you will accept God’s love, however, you will be able to return love to God as well as to others (1 John 4:19). Are you experiencing the profound sense of joy and security that comes from knowing you are dearly loved by God? Being assured of God’s love for you sets you free to enjoy the numerous expressions of love He showers upon you each day.
14. 1 John 4:18 — “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Those who love Jesus obey Him not because they are scared not to, but rather because they love Him and want to honor Him and glorify Him above all else. Love is a much greater motivator than fear. Only through faith and love can you please God. Everything you do that is selfishly motivated is unacceptable to God.
15. 1 John 4:19-21 — “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
– It doesn’t get much clearer than this. How you love others reveals how much you really love God.
– The best measure of your relationship with God is how you love others. This is why Jesus tied together the love of God and the love of others in His response to the question, “What is the greatest commandment.” Religious activities, religious knowledge, and charitable contributions are not measures of your godliness – genuine love is the measure of your godliness. If you don’t feel loving, check your relationship with Jesus Christ. What might be hindering that relationship?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 Oct 18: Today, consider how you love those around you, particularly those who are hard to love. What does your attitude towards others reveal about the truth of your relationship with Jesus? What might be standing in the way of your relationship with Jesus and with others? Pray that God will draw you closer to Jesus that you can genuinely love more and more. (1 John 4) Also today, don’t preach moralism, values, ethics, and principles — preach Jesus Christ! Don’t replace the Gospel with good ideas. Be an Ambassador for Christ, not self-help guru. Don’t talk about what you have done or what you think. Talk about what He did/does and what He commands. Go and “make disciples” who “obey” Jesus, not more motivated humanists who want to believe that self-control can be obtained apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. As His ambassador, how many times will you say the name Jesus Christ today? (1 John 4:1-6)