Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 9 November 18:
1. Ezekiel 15 — Those who choose to build their own kingdoms on earth rather than to faithfully serve the Kingdom of God are good for nothing. The Bible repeats this over and over again. The whole Book of Ecclesiastes is a warning that all the people do for themselves rather than for God is meaningless, utterly meaningless. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Note that Jesus didn’t say you can do some things — He said you can do NOTHING. Many Christians wear themselves out trying to build their own kingdoms, missing what God has in store for them. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, fell victim to the deceit of earthly pursuits, and at the end of his ultimately unsuccessful life he said, “The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:11, 12) Our sole (or soul duty) is to serve God. Anything else is more than a waste of time, it is destructive.
2. Ezekiel 16:15, 16 — “But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore.” God describes His relationship with His people as a marriage and describes sin as adultery. It starts when pride creeps in, and we become selfish, self-centered, and self-righteous; we start to believe that the talents, abilities, resources, and opportunities God gave us are from ourselves and for ourselves. We seek to please ourselves more than we seek to please God, and we are motivated by our own desires, passions, and emotions rather than by the Holy Spirit.
3. Ezekiel 16:15, 30-34 — “How sick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute…. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different.”
– How differently does God describe sin than your church describes sin? While we tend to make light of sin, God describes it in the worst way, comparing it to unimaginable whoring and sin deserving of death. To fully appreciate the grace offered through Jesus, we must fully understand the severity of our sin and the nature of the One against whom we have sinned. True love for Jesus makes unthinkable sin unthinkable again. How well does the church communicate these words today? When was the last time you heard your pastor or preacher use the word sin or the word repent?
– “How sick is your heart, declares the Lord God?” A good question to continually meditate upon as you grow in your appreciation for Jesus and His grace and as you grow in your desire to have His heart.
4. Ezekiel 16:20 — “And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured.” When we stop truly loving God and draw away from Him, we lose our ability and desire to truly love others. People become instruments for our own pleasure, and when they do not fulfill our perceived needs, we view them as obstacles to happiness and resent them. One of the first places love is lost is within the family, those closest to us to affect us the most. This is why so many marriages fail today and why so many kids lose the benefit of sacrificial parenting.
5. Ezekiel 16:22 — “And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, wallowing in your blood.” All sin is the product of forgetting the reality of our relationship with God and forgetting the mercy and grace we depend on.
6. Ezekiel 16:28 — “You played the whore also with the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied.” Sin is a lack of satisfaction with God and with His provision in your life. We want more than what God desires for us.
7. Ezekiel 16:48 – “As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done.” God expects more from those who claim to know Him and follow Him. When a Christian sins like an un-believer, his sins are actually much worse than those of the unbeliever.
8. Ezekiel 16:49 – “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” Sodom is most remembered for “sodomy” and the terrible sin of homosexuality. However, God points out that the root of that sin was pride, gluttony, and self-centeredness. In their prosperity, they forgot God and became lawless to the basest degree. This is now a popular verse within the homosexual community who claim that it implies that homosexuality was not really the issue that brought about God’s judgment in Sodom (where we get the word sodomy) and Gomorrah. However, many, many other verses in the Bible, such as those found in Romans 1, reveal otherwise.
9. Ezekiel 16:59, 60 — “For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant.” God’s ultimate aim is reconciliation, and He has given us, His ambassadors, the mission of reconciliation. Reconciliation does not include acceptance of sin. We must reconcile with God on His terms, starting with repentance.
10. Ezekiel 16:60-63 — “Yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed…. I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.” Despite our whoredom, sin deserving of death, God establishes a new, undeserved, marriage covenant with us that should leave us totally humbled, speechless, grateful, submissive, and obedient. To sin (whore) again should be totally unthinkable. What is your response to grace?
11. Proverbs 9:8, 9 — “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” Both the wise man and the scoffer make decisions based upon what they think is right and best, but the wise man does so humbly, remains continually introspective, continually judges his behavior from the plumb line of God’s word, and is always willing to listen to the advice of other wise, godly people and learn.
12. Proverbs 9:17, 18 — “’Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’ But he does not know that the dead are there that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.'” The fool is always looking for a short cut and is driven by self-centered desires and emotions, lacking self-control and discipline, but the wise person is self-disciplined, self-controlled, and willing to make daily sacrifices for a future greater good.
13. John 8:1 — “…but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” Interestingly, this sentence begins in the last chapter — “They went each to his own house….” You may recall that in the last chapter, Jesus had delivered some hard teachings that most could accept, so they left Jesus. What Biblical teachings are you struggling with that have caused separation between you and God?
14. John 8:10, 11 — “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
– I have often heard people living in sin refer to this story to justify their sin — “Let him who is without sin… be the first to throw a stone at her,” implying that, because we are all sinners, God accepts our sin, and if anyone speaks out against sin they are just being judgmental. However, they never seem to mention Jesus’ final words to the woman — “from now on sin no more.” This was a kangaroo court designed to trick Jesus into an improper judgment (John 8:6). But Jesus had already stated that he did not come to do away with or change the Law. (Mat 5:17) Jesus held the accusers accountable to the letter of the law, an accountability that would have actually demanded their executions: Where were the witnesses? Where was the adulterous man? When Jesus commands that the innocent throw the first stone, he is referring back to Deuteronomy 17:6, 7 — “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” Also, Leviticus 20:10 is very clear — “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, BOTH the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” The accusers were not following due process and were standing on deadly ground: “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 19:15-19) I would submit that the accusers departed because they recognized their own guilt. What Jesus did not do is excuse the woman’s sin, though he did not condemn her for it. Jesus never excused sin but rather commanded, ““Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2). However there is a lesson for us here in that while we should challenge sin, we are all guilty and not in a position to condemn (judge) anyone — only God can Judge (determine the sentence). Saved by grace, we can only testify to the truth graciously and compassionately; ignoring sin is not loving or compassionate as sin itself is contrary to love. Jesus was very clear: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:31-34) Jesus desires to set captives free from sin. We are Christ’s Ambassadors.
– Jesus always calls us to repentance and a new life of obedience motivated by love.
15. John 8:24, 26, 28, 29, 38, 42, 49-55 — “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins…. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him….. I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him…. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me…. I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.”
– The Book of James reminds us that even the demons believe in Jesus, but saving faith surrenders all to Jesus and follows Him. Jesus modeled the faith He expects from His disciples – walking in His authority, speaking only His words, doing only was Jesus commands, empowered by the Holy Spirit, no longer walking in the flesh or for self.
– We are not the judge of others; we simply declare God’s word to the world under the authority of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit. We also bear witness to the activity of God in our lives as we live in obedience to Him. We bear witness to the God we know, not to a religion, and we honor God in word and deed.
16. John 8:34 – “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.’” If you have been saved, you have been freed from the bondage of sin and will no longer practice sin because of your genuine love of Christ and because the Spirit gives you self-control in love. You will still sin, but it won’t be your ultimate desire or practice. Through the sanctification process, you will sin less and less. Ultimately, the first sin and the sin that inspires all other sin is the breaking of the Greatest Commandment — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27). None of us are perfected in this love and, therefore, sin daily and depend solely on God’s grace through Jesus. However, this is our pursuit.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 Nov 18: Today’s readings really emphasize the requirement for obedience that is motivated by genuine love for God. Focus your day on obeying God, but not out of duty but rather out of love. Search your heart, and where you find a lack of love, pray, pray, pray, and continue your attempt to obey from a right heart. The Lord wants your heart, not just your service.