Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 28 July 19:
Psalm 86:11-13 — Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
David prayed not only for the ability to understand God’s word but also for a heart that desired to obey God’s word in love and thankfulness, not simply to receive blessings from God but to be united with God. David’s desire was that he would glorify God with his whole heart, and David explains his motivation – “For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” Do you share David’s prayer?
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15),” and he charged his disciples to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) To obey God’s word and to teach others to obey God’s word, you must understand God’s word. Bible study is an essential Christian discipline, and the Bible says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) However, Bible knowledge is not the same as Bible understanding. You must know the Bible through diligent study, but only through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-14; 1 Corinthians 2:14) and through Bible application (experience and practice) can you grow to understand what you know intellectually. Wisdom, knowledge rightly applied, comes from God – “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.” (Proverbs 2:6-8)
Knowledge and understanding are essential, but you must also have the heart to do what you know, and only through a heart of love can you become what you do, transforming virtues into character (who you really are inside). Some people will do what is right because they are scared not to or because they are seeking recognition or a reward (fear and pride); and some people will do what is right because they know they should (duty). Ultimately, however, fear, pride and duty can’t contain a person’s passions, nor are these motivations a foundation for genuine relationship. Only love endures, transforms and unites. Do you want a person to treat you well because she is scared not to, because she is hoping to get something from you, because she knows she should, or because she really wants to from the heart? Which motivation endures through all circumstances? Which motivation produces joy, peace, thankfulness and oneness? Fear, pride and duty are burdensome, heavy loads, as what you do wars against what you really want to do inside, who you really are. Love delights in obedience and service –
– 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
– Matthew 11:28, 29 — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Wisdom comes from God, but so does love. To grow in wisdom and love, we must grow closer to God who is the Source of both. (John 15) The aim of our Bible study, Bible application, and prayer must not be behavior modification alone or simply to receive the blessings of God; it must be unity with Jesus, truly knowing Him more and more and growing in our love for Him; and we must trust that the One who saved us, through His initiative and power rather than ours, and though we didn’t deserve it, will likewise sanctify us (transform us to Christ-like character) as we abide in Him.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 July 19: Abide in Christ in Christ today as the branch is connected to the vine, and bear the fruit of love which naturally emanates from that relationship.