Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 23 July 19:
Luke 2:52 – “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
This verse reminds me of Proverbs 3:3, 4: “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” A Christian should model love and faithfulness, something the world desperately desires, something the Bible says is very hard to find, something that even kings long for – “Love and faithfulness keep a king safe.” (Proverbs 20:28) The Christian proclaims, through both word and deed, that true love and faithfulness come from the Lord and flow through His people. It is with God that “Love and faithfulness meet together.” (Psalm 85:10) David proclaimed, “I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.” (Psalm 40:10). If we are growing in favor with God, our behavior will naturally gain the favor of those around us, which gives us unique opportunity to proclaim the Gospel.
As Ambassadors of Christ and proclaimers of the Gospel, Christians must be very diligent to make sure that their behavior does not stand in the way of the message — “I urge you… to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4:1) The prophet Samuel stood before the whole Assembly asking if there was anyone he had ever wronged. (1 Samuel 12:3) On trial for his faith, Paul passionately proclaimed the Gospel while ensuring He lived consistently with the message: “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” (Acts 24:16) Paul reminds us that love demands a clear conscience – “love… comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)
Growing in favor with both God and man also means remaining obedient to God as well as to earthly authorities, as long as earthly authorities don’t demand disobedience to God. We see in today’s readings that Joseph and Mary also took great “pains” to honor both God and man – Jesus was born while Joseph and Mary were traveling to fulfill Caesar’s decree, taking great steps to obey the law at a most inconvenient time for Mary. Next, they went to the temple “according to the custom of the Law…. And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.” (Luke 2:27, 39) Jesus further models for us godly submission – “He… was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51) Obeying both God and earthly authorities will be very inconvenient and challenging for Christians, and it will often be “unfair,” but Jesus calls us to “go the extra mile.”
As Jesus warns and revealed by His example, the perfectly lovable Christian will still be rejected by men, but because of the Gospel, not because of their behavior. Those who reject Jesus will reject His ambassadors, further revealing the righteousness of God’s final judgment of those who reject love and the God who is Love. Peter summed it up well: “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor…. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (see 1 Peter 2, 3).
People see the outward you, but God sees the inward you. Both should glorify God. Our mission (the Great Commandment and Great Commission) is all about relationships. We are called to be people persons. We must learn to build loving relationships with others (particularly with those who are hard to love) as an act of worship to God. Strained relationships with others can be a signal of a heart problem — a relationship problem with God revealed in relationship problems with others. Where you lack favor, check your heart –
– 1 John 4:20 — …he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
– Luke 6:35 — But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
– Romans 12:18 — If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
– 1 Corinthians 8:9 — But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
– Philippians 2:3-8 — Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 July 19: With Jesus as your example, “increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Today, focus on humbly and diligently obeying and respecting all authority as an act of worship to Jesus, trusting Him for your protection and using your obedience as an opportunity to glorify God. (see Philippians 2:1-8, Ephesians 5:21, and Romans 13)