Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 6 November 18:
1. Ezekiel 9:4 — “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” This is the mark of God’s people, also described in Revelation 14:1 — “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” These are they who are in the family of God, united with Jesus and the Father. These are they who stand for Jesus in opposition of the world and often suffer for it. These followers of Christ are contrasted with those who have chosen to live as members of the godless earthly kingdoms and have a different mark — “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name…. If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath…. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.’ And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” (Revelation 13:16, 17; 14:9, 10; 17:5, 6 ) At some point, every person must choose to follow God as a citizen of God’s Kingdom or man and his kingdom. Those who choose to follow Jesus ultimately can have no partnership with the corrupt systems of this world and will have to stand in opposition. The Book of Revelation describes their ultimate fate — “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also, I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years…. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Revelation 20:4; 22:4) Many Christians wait for the day when they will have to make some obvious and dramatic choice to either reject God or be persecuted by the world, not realizing that they have already made this choice and make it every day. Will you compromise today and partner with corruption in order to get paid, to have security, to have ‘friends,’ and to live comfortably without conflict, or will you stand for what is right today regardless the cost? Will identify yourself as a follower of Christ today or as something else — an American, an employee of a particular organization, a member of a particular political party, etc? Will you put your life on the line to confront sin and proclaim the need for confession, repentance and salvation through faith in Jesus, as John the Baptist did? If you are Christian, you are an Ambassador for Christ, either an honorable one or a dishonorable one. As an Ambassador, you cannot represent two different entities.
2. Ezekiel 10:22 — “Each one of them went straight forward.” Followers of God walk straight paths, turning neither to the left or to the right. They are wholehearted and fully committed, not distracted by any temptation or worthless thing. None of us live this out perfectly, but this is the goal.
3. Proverbs 6:20-25 – “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck…. Do not desire her beauty in your heart.” Mothers and fathers should teach their kids the importance of the sanctity of marriage, and they should teach them God’s word that their desire for Jesus would be a more powerful influence in their lives than their passions, emotions, and urges.
4. John 5:5, 6 – “One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’” Jesus noticed and supported the people everyone else had long forgotten.
5. John 5:7, 8 – “The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’” For a long time, a man diligently looked to tradition, human wisdom, and superstition for healing when all he needed to do was trust and obey Jesus.
6. John 5:10 — “So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.’” People get angry when Jesus confounds their understanding and operates outside of their rules, beliefs, and values.
7. John 5:14 — “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” Jesus didn’t just address physical needs, but more importantly, spiritual needs. Jesus healed but also warned against sin. Unity with God through obedience inspired by genuine love is the goal, not a more comfortable life apart from God.
8. John 5:17 — “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’” Jesus did what the Father was doing; He wasn’t on His own program but rather was following the Father’s lead. Jesus’ agenda was The Father’s agenda. He only did what The Father told Him to do, regardless of what others thought He should do. Jesus didn’t act on His own initiative. He joined The Father in the work that the Father was already doing. Had Jesus done ministry like everyone else, the invalid would not have been healed but only ignored. How do you decide where to minister?
9. John 5:17, 19, 20 — “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working…. Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing…. I can do nothing on my own.’”
– Abiding in the Father, Jesus could see what the Father was doing when others could not. Jesus had spiritual vision and was led by the Spirit, not by the flesh or emotion. Christians often get this backwards; we come up with a plan to serve God based upon our human perceptions and then we get very busy with self-generated religious activity and ask God to bless it. Then, we measure success of that activity based upon outward appearances and our mortal standards. If the activity meets our standard of success, we tell ourselves God is with us, and if it doesn’t measure up to our standards, we tell ourselves that it wasn’t God’s will after all. Of course, God doesn’t follow our lead, nor does He measure success or failure on our terms. God’s thoughts are as far removed from our thoughts as the Heavens are from the Earth. But we get so caught up in our own activities that we miss, right in front of us, what God is actually doing. Today, don’t just get wrapped up in your own activities and initiatives; wait on God’s lead. Walk with eyes wide open today to see what God is doing. Pay attention to the circumstances God intentionally orchestrates before you today and seek to be wholly obedient to His word in your response. Look to minister to the needs of those around you today as you feel convicted. Look for where the Holy Spirit is convicting hearts around you and follow God’s lead as you serve as Christ’s Ambassador in the lives of others on whom He is working. How different will your day be if you only do what God is already doing?
– People are busier today than ever before, but how much of that effort is doing things God never asked them to do or wanted them to do. Even in religious activities, we can find ourselves doing what God had never asked. What will drive your day? Will you be about your business, someone else’s business or God’s business. Find out what God is already doing around you and join Him in that.
10. John 5:23, 24 — “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” You cannot love God and not Jesus. You cannot come to The Father apart from Jesus, His Beloved, one and only, Son. This reality doesn’t make sense and is downright offensive to those who want to approach God on their own terms. God is God. Jesus is Lord and Savior.
11. John 5:30 — “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Again, Jesus was informed solely by the word of God and walked in the word. Jesus is the embodiment of the word; He is The Word. When you walk in the word, you are walking with The Word.
12. John 5:39-42 — “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.”
– The world does not need Biblical principles, ethics, morals, and values; the world needs Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, the only Name by which people can be saved. Today, Christians are preaching “goodness” rather than Jesus, convincing themselves that they are evangelizing. If your message or “advice” doesn’t focus on the Person of Jesus, you are preaching another gospel which is not gospel at all but rather anti-Christ. Yes, Bible principles “work” in a practical sense, even for the unbeliever, but they don’t “save.” We are called to be Ambassadors for Jesus Christ, not Ambassadors for the law, or for morality.
– People approach the Bible in many different ways but mostly in a self-centered fashion, hoping to gain a better life on this earth. To many, the Bible is an encyclopedia of do’s and don’ts, a self-help book, or a history of lessons-learned. However, the intent of the Bible is to lead you to Jesus — the whole Bible is a testimony about Jesus, provided so you would go to Him in real, personal, and obedient relationship. Don’t just read the Bible for how to live your life. Read the Bible to unite with Jesus.
– “I do not receive glory from people.” God doesn’t need us to defend Him. Just share the truth with others, regardless of whether or not they want to hear it, and let God take care of the rest. You are just a messenger – be faithful to that.
13. John 5:43, 44 – “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
– Christians often say that they don’t want to “beat people over the head with the name ‘Jesus’” and close the door to future influence. So, they try to communicate biblical ideas in some vague way, as if that would inspire the unbeliever to pursue Jesus. And then there are others who tell themselves that they don’t have to say anything but just “act like Jesus,” again somehow inspiring the unbeliever to seek Jesus. Today, we have Christians who actually boast that they don’t say the Name “Jesus” because they don’t want to “lose their witness.” What? Christians avoid their ambassadorship to save their jobs and social positions, and they tell themselves that they are “salt and light” in their positions because they hint at faith and because they are good people. Often, they are seeking to draw attention to their own “righteousness” rather than to the person of Jesus Christ. What would Jesus do (WWJD)? He would not hesitate to proclaim the truth and be rejected. No one comes to the Son but the Father draws him. It is a copout to suggest that too bold a stand for Jesus is unproductive. It is God who produces, not us. The mealy-mouthed Christian is just a coward, usually with a great excuse. If more Christians boldly proclaimed Christ, we might have more unemployed Christians but also perhaps another Great Revival in America.
– What motivates you to do what you do? What or who has the biggest influence on your life? Whose approval do you seek most? To whom do you go to seek comfort? Who do you fear most, God or other people? Jesus said that the mark of a true believe is that they seek the will, praise, and glory of God above all else, and that their actions are determined by God’s word. Jesus was criticized by the religious leaders of His day for doing God’s will in the face of what men demanded of him. These religious leaders where the same type that Jesus called hypocrites (Greek word for stage actor) because that acted holy to gain the praise of men. Their good deeds were the product of pride rather than the product of genuine love for God. One scholar comments on these leaders — “they never were afraid of the judgment of God but only the judgment of people.” We can be led into sin and deceit when we honor and fear men more than we honor and fear God. Ask yourself today whose approval you are seeking. Endeavor to care not primarily what men think but to be first and foremost concerned with God’s perspective.
— Matthew 6:24 — No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 6 Nov 18: Don’t just get busy doing stuff today, getting wrapped up in the worries of the world. Only do what the Holy Spirit leads you to do; do it immediately and exactly how the Holy Spirit leads. Remember that God’s thoughts are not your thoughts. The Holy Spirit will always lead you off of your intended path to do what He wants you to do rather than what your simple minds thinks best in any particular situation. Where you are uncertain as to what to do, remain within the direction of God’s written word. (John 5)