Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 8 November 18:
1. Ezekiel 13:2, 3 — “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!”
– There are many competing messages out there, many proclaiming to be “truth.” There is only One Truth, and One Word. Anyone who is proclaiming anything other than Christ is proclaiming self-righteous fantasy that is cursed. Ezekiel was called by God to counter the false messages of his day with the word of God – so are you. How are you doing?
– Nations facing judgment have religious leaders who speak on behalf of God though God never spoke to them. Such false teachers can even use God’s word out of context to send a message God never intended. As Christians, we must be very careful not to misappropriate God’s word to bolster our own personal opinions. The Holy Spirit is required to rightly apply God’s word to a particular situation.
2. Ezekiel 13:6, 7 – “They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?” False prophecy and religion may be very popular and may make people feel good for a time, but ultimately it is powerless.
3. Ezekiel 13:9 — “My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations.” Those who falsely speak on behalf of God become enemies of God.
4. Ezekiel 13:10, 11 – “They have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall!” Peace is a popular and socially acceptable message, but there cannot be peace with God while sin remains unaddressed. Today, many preachers bring the ‘feel good’ message when people need to first feel bad, when people need to mourn and repent, turning to God for forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Those who are saved, are not merely saved from the earthly consequences of sin, they are saved from the wrath of a Holy God who can have nothing to do with sin. Sin is the wall which separates us from God. The popular preacher doesn’t seek to tear down that wall but rather seeks to whitewash it — clean it up, make it a non-factor. The message is one of cheap grace, converting the Bible into a self-help book for better living. We need to deal with our sin and the problem with our hearts.
5. Ezekiel 14:3,6, 7, 9 — “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?… Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations…. Anyone… who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, I will set my face against that man;… and you shall know that I am the Lord…. And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord… will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.”
– Idols are anything that come between us and God or that we rely on instead of God. False teachers lift up idols instead of lifting up Jesus Christ. False teachers promote themselves, another person, organizations, institutions, philosophies, ideas, etc. rather than Jesus Christ. While everyone is talking about politics, talk about Jesus.
– Your work, your family, your hobbies, your possessions, your plans, etc. can all be idols if they become the motivation for your decision-making, if they become your goal and your focus. In themselves, these ‘created things’ are neither good or bad, but when placed above God, they become bad for you. The love of God must be your motivation for every decision you make, and oneness with God must be your life goal and daily objective and focus. You were created for this purpose.
6. Ezekiel 14:4, 5 — “I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.” When you turn to God and seek a relationship with Him, He is going to deal with your idols. The Holy Spirit will challenge you to search your heart, discover your idols, and put them aside that your heart would be fully committed to the One True God, your source of life.
7. Ezekiel 14:10, 11 — “And they shall bear their punishment—the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike— that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord God.” God will deal with the false teacher AND the person who listens to the false teacher because His goal is to let nothing or no one lead other people away from Him. If you remain focused on Jesus and God’s word, you will not be deceived by the false teacher.
8. Ezekiel 14:13, 14 — “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God.” God punishes disobedience, and people are not saved by the righteousness of other people. But as God punishes a nation, He will deal with each person according to their own behavior.
9. Ezekiel 14:21 — “How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast!” God uses elements of His creation to punish people. The world sees all natural acts as merely the random product of scientific principles, seeing the will of God as a non-factor. Therefore, they scoff at the idea of judgment. The Christian realizes that God is the God of science and direct the course of all things according to His perfect will.
10. Proverbs 8:2 – “At the crossroads she takes her stand.” At the crossroads of life, you will choose to listen to wisdom or folly. Both are available to anyone and everyone.
11. Proverbs 8:13 – “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil.”
– Anyone with a right understanding of the Holiness of God, must hate evil. You cannot love God without hating evil, the thing He hates most. All sin hurts, destroys, and separates from the Holy God. Out of love, God cannot tolerate sin. If you tolerate sin, you lack true love. Today, our twisted world says that tolerance (of sin) is somehow a loving thing to do, and Christians are accepting that lie more and more.
– In pride, people twist God’s words in order to accommodate sin. This is the same trick used by Satan in the Garden of Eden – “Did God really say…?” Today churches are doing what the Bible expressly condemns, arguing that modern times require a new interpretation of God’s truth. God will not tolerate that.
12. Proverbs 8:35, 36 – “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.” God expects you to put forth the effort to diligently study His word to understand His truths. The wisdom of God is not just magically revealed to you.
13. John 7:7 — “The world… hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”
– Why does the world hate Jesus? Are you hated as Christ’s Ambassador?
– Today many in the church have shied away from testifying against sin, because they have been led to believe that it is judgmental or unloving, and they feel that it will only alienate them from the world. Jesus did not shy away from calling out sin, and he knew the world would hate him for it. John the Baptist was beheaded because he exposed Herod’s adultery, and of him, Jesus said that there was not greater man born of woman. One of the reasons sin is increasing so rapidly in our society today is because the church is largely silent. This should not be. We must testify against sin, but of course, we must do it from a position of love and genuine concern. We must do it to bring glory to God, not to ourselves, and we should never do it from a position of self-righteousness. We must approach those who are sinning with gentleness and grace. (1 Peter 3:15; Ephesians 4:2; James 3:17)
14. John 7:8 — “You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” Again, wisdom is knowledge rightly applied, and wisdom can only come from God. From their perspective, the disciples wanted Jesus to go to Judea that He would be glorified there. The purpose for their request seemed very good and reasonable. They had a good objective — to reveal Jesus to as many as possible. However, Jesus understood the Father’s ultimate plan that they could not perceive — in God’s plan, the timing wasn’t right to do the good thing they desired. Timing mattered. Only God can tell His followers when and how to apply his word. The Holy Spirit must direct your path.
15. John 17:12, 13 — “And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’ Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.”
– Everyone will make a decision of eternal consequence on who they think Jesus is. However, as Christians, Ambassadors for Christ, what we can’t do is remain silent about the truth of Jesus due to fear.
– Don’t be deceived. It is fear, not tact, that causes people to not speak openly about Jesus.
16. John 17:16-18 — “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”
– We don’t seek to be the teacher but rather the messenger of the teachings of Jesus. We don’t need to add to His teachings or defend them. Those who are seeking God will accept the message. Those who are not seeking God won’t.
– Jesus was the First Ambassador of the Father and our model for our ambassadorship to Jesus. We don’t represent ourselves in any situation, we represent Jesus, and this is a 24/7 job. We stand in the place of Jesus in any particular situation and communicate His will and desires. As Jesus said clearly, “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory,” and therefore speaks falsely. Don’t show people what you know or how smart and moral you are. Show them Jesus. God shares glory with no one. We are not ambassadors of good ideas or morality. We are ambassadors of Jesus. People don’t need to learn from you, they need Jesus. If you are simply trying to lead people to a more successful or moral life, you are misleading them. They need Jesus. Don’t let fear cause you to compromise the message and replace Jesus with a moral principle.
17. John 7:24 — “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” Again, appearances are always deceiving because what can be seen by our five senses does not reveal the spiritual realities of the situation, and spiritual understanding is not ascertained by human intellect but only through spiritual revelation which comes from God. Right judgment can only come from God, and we are only as right as we are united with God and attuned to His will.
18. John 7:26 — “And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him!” Jesus was not afraid to speak the truth openly though His life was seemingly threatened by authorities.
19. John 7:28 — “But I have not come of my own accord.” You are in the right place when you went there because God told you to go there and not simply because that is where you thought you should go or where you wanted to go.
20. John 7:37 — “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus is the source of life. There is no satisfaction outside of Him.
21. John 7:43 — “So there was a division among the people over him.” Though there is not real unity apart from Christ, Jesus is the great divider because everyone will choose either to follow Him or not.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 Nov 18: Endeavor today not to be influenced in your decision-making by any substitutes for God, your own desires, or even your own intellect. Seek the will of God first in every decision you make. Consider carefully why you are doing what you are doing. What is your primary motivation. Don’t be driven by mere fear, pride, ambition, or even duty. Be guided by the Holy Spirit and love for Jesus. Also, don’t lose sight of your God-given mission today — to bring others closer to Jesus. (see today’s readings).