Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 7 December 18:
1. Joel 1:5, 11, 13, 14 — “Awake, you drunkards, and weep…. Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil…. Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar…. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” The prophet was calling a nation to repentance that didn’t realize they needed to repent. A humble people are in constant repentance. For Christians, the heart of continual repentance isn’t an uncertainty of saving forgiveness, which we have assured through faith in Jesus; this continual repentance is a deeply heartfelt desire to remove from our lives those parts of us that remain unloving, hurtful, destructive, and unworthy of the glory of God. This daily repentance is our striving for ever-increasing purity, holiness, and unity with Christ. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) You cannot fix what you aren’t willing to be honest about. It starts with daily confession (humble honesty) before God and to others. Repentance involves a godly sorrow, which is different than worldly sorrow – “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2Cor 7:10) We must be honest about the past, learn from it, but not wallow in it. The past is history, the future is a mystery (from our perspective), but the present is your opportunity. As Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Go, and sin no more.”
2. Joel 2:12 — “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord,’ return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;’” God sees past actions in context with the truth of your heart. Repentance must be from a genuine heart to be accepted, not just a superficial change in behavior. Again, superficial repentance is self-centered regret over getting hurt by the consequences of sin and seeking to avoid future self-inflicted pain and punishment. True repentance focuses on God and others, a heartfelt regret for dishonoring God and causing pain to others. True repentance drives you to humility, unconditional forgiveness, graciousness, and obedience. True repentance is empowered by the Holy Spirit and is a reflection of love.
3. Joel 2:12-13 — “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”
– God responds to the truly repentant and can replace what has been lost due to sin.
– God sees beyond our actions to examine our hearts. Genuine repentance, love, and faith comes from the heart. In fact, the Great Commandment says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart….” (Matthew 22:37). This is why in Matthew 5 Jesus says that if you have anger and lust in your heart, you are already guilty of great sin before the Lord despite having not committed murder or adultery. It is not enough to simply obey the letter of the Law; you must have a heart of obedience the comes from a heart of genuine love. The angry, lustful heart has broken the Greatest Commandment of loving God wholeheartedly. Today’s Proverbs tell us that “the Lord hates a heart that devises wicked plans.” (Proverbs 6:17) Yes, the God who IS love also hates. How do we fix our sinful hearts? We can’t. Only Jesus Christ can give you a new heart. Pray to the Lord that He will purify your heart.
Ezekiel 11:19, 20 — And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
— Psalm 51:10 — Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
— Psalm 86:11 — Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
— Psalm 119:32 — I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
— Psalm 119:36 — Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
4. Joel 2:28, 29 — “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” The Spirit is poured out to all Christians without distinction of age, sex, occupation, social status, or race. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) All people have equal potential access to the Holy Spirit in salvation and obedience. God’s Spirit does not discriminate. Christians should have nothing to do with any distinctions related to the flesh; we should not accept them as legitimate in any way; we should only acknowledge the truth of the Spirit. “But avoid foolish controversies.” (Titus 3:9) “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)
5. Joel 2 — God used Locust to destroy the land. God uses natural and forces, people, and circumstances to discipline. Most people don’t see God’s hand in unfolding situations, but God is in complete control and brings all things about for His purposes.
6. Joel 3:17 — “So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it.” God’s plan is to glorify Himself and to purify His people to worship Him wholeheartedly.
7. Proverbs 7:6-9 – “For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness.”
– Truth is self-evident and can be observed in life’s circumstances.
– God’s people come from all nations and places. Again, Christians don’t deal in man-made divisive notions of race, color, or national origin. These concepts are meaningless in the Spiritual realm.
8. Revelation 7:13 — “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” A great multitude of believers, “more than can be numbered, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” do not escape the great tribulation.
9. Revelation 7:14 — “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.” God’s people come out of the great tribulation because they were in the great tribulation.
10. Revelation 7:15 — “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.” In a sense, Heaven on earth is experienced being in the presence of God now, serving God in His presence day and night (see John 17). Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) Eternal life begins the day you accept Jesus as your Savior and grow to know Him more and more each day for eternity.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 Dec 18: Search your heart to find where you have grown complacent with certain sins. Repent and remove what is unacceptable from your life.