Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 2 October 20:
James 4:7-8 — “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Submit, resist, draw near! Purify your heart! Be double-minded no longer. This is a life choice. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19) Being close to God is a choice that takes effort on our part, daily, consistent effort over time. When the Lord commanded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself,” He was clear that love requires we not only concentrate our thinking on how to love (“all…your mind,” not “double-minded”), but that we also endeavor, or struggle, to love with all of our might (“all… your strength”). You won’t do either of these without having the heart and soul to do it, but if you do have the heart and soul, you will love with your mind and strength naturally, with joy – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Yet, since none of us are perfected in love, we must be reminded continually to submit, resist and draw near. Like physical exercise and training, when we resist imperfectly with the faith and strength we have, with confidence in the Lord, our faith and strength grow. Also, when we do struggle, we don’t struggle alone but are empowered by the Holy Spirit with supernatural (beyond our natural abilities) power. However to experience the miracle, we first have to step out in the faith we have (see Joshua 3). “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 — No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
- Ephesians 6:10-18 — Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness….
- Luke 22:40 — And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
- 1 Peter 5:8-11 — Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
“There may be times when God seems far away. You may feel as if your prayers go unheard. James said there is a simple reason for this and a solution. If you are far from God, it is because your sin has separated you from Him. God is unchanging. His character stays absolutely holy. His faithfulness remains constant; it is we who change. We allow sin into our lives. We choose our own direction. We spend less and less time with Him in Bible study and prayer. Then one day we realize that we have gradually grown distant from God. The solution, according to James, is straightforward. We are to draw near to God. As we realize our need to be closer to the Father and we begin to return to Him, He meets us even as the father hurried to greet his prodigal son (Luke 15:20). Drawing near to God requires you to take two actions. First, you must cleanse your hands (Isa. 1:15). You must cleanse your way of living. If you have been actively engaged in sin, you must renounce it. If you have done anything to offend or hurt someone, you must make it right. Second, you are to purify your heart (Ps. 51:10). You must make certain your attitudes, thoughts, and motives are right in God’s eyes and are in harmony with God’s word. Jesus warned that you cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). It is impossible to love anything else as much as you love God and still please Him. If God seems distant, do what is necessary to cleanse your hands, purify your heart, and draw near to Him.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 October 20: Submit, resist, draw near!