Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 12 January 21:
A few notes from today’s readings, Part 1: Struggling With Sin and Wrestling With God —
Genesis 31:3 – “Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.’”
To remain with God, Jacob had to go where God was leading. What Jacob didn’t realize was that God was leading Jacob to a confrontation with Esau; He was leading Jacob back to the roots of Jacob’s deception. He was going to bring Jacob face to face with the reality of his infidelity. God had to deal with Jacob’s lack of integrity, and Jacob had to trust God through the process. When we know we have sinned terribly against another, the last thing we want to do is face them in our guilt, especially if we know they are resentful. When we know we have sinned terribly, the last thing we want to do is shed light on that sin, to expose it, to acknowledge it fully. However, unresolved sin and guilt is a barrier to relationships with God and with others and is a barrier to our spiritual growth. God doesn’t want us to carry that hidden burden but rather to surrender it to Him, to accept His total forgiveness, and to walk in repentance and the confidence of His grace. We must no longer drag the chains of guilt and continued sin but must walk in the freedom of Jesus, in obedience to Him out of love.
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- James 5:16 — Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
- Matthew 5:23-24 — So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
- Ephesians 5:8-14 — …for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.
- Hebrews 12:1 — Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
- Philippians 3:12-14 — Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Jacob was still trapped in the sin and guilt of deception, and the consequences were closing in around him – Esau wanted to kill him, and he had worn out his welcome with Laban’s clan. God was leading Jacob into crisis so he would be forced to face the truth of himself, but more importantly, the truth of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Along the way to His great confrontation, we see exposed some of the habits and attitudes associated with the deceptive life:
- “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me.” (Genesis 31:5) While it is true that some may never be willing to forgive you when God has, God’s grace is not an excuse to neglect our message and ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
- Genesis 31:19, 20, 31 – “Rachel stole her father’s household gods. And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee…. Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.” Deception is devastating to relationships. Secret sins in marriage are highly destructive, ungodly, and prevent the two from truly becoming spiritually one. Concealed sins between husbands and wives not only divide their spirits, but the consequences can be catastrophic to the family. A marriage must be completely transparent that the two may truly be one and that real issues can be resolved as quickly as possible. Note that the Bible does not conceal the sins of its ‘heroes’ but records them for posterity. This transparency directs all glory to God and reveals His incredible mercy and grace. God calls us to be open and transparent concerning our sins in order to remove all pride from us and to direct all glory to Jesus Christ who saved us wretched creatures for the wrath of God which we deserve.
- “Jacob had fled.” (Genesis 31:22) Avoiding issues isn’t resolving issues. God has given us the mission of reconciliation. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:8) Living at peace doesn’t involve avoiding loving confrontation when there is no peace within your heart or theirs. Leaders take the lead in reconciliation and don’t just leave things unsettled. If reconciliation means you pay the price of their sin, then pay the price – it is a far less price than Christ paid for you when you didn’t deserve it.
“What is your name?” (Genesis 32:27)
With Esau approaching, Jacob new the consequences of his deceptive life were closing in on him. As Jacob wrestled with God for His blessings, God had one question for Jacob: “What is your name?” Jacob had lived a lie. He left Laban with defiant self-righteousness, but now Jacob was in a struggle with the Truth which was convicting him of his ungodly character. Jacob means deceiver. Jacob had to come to terms with the reality of his sinfulness and depravity. God brought him to this moment of honesty with himself. Repentance requires humbly admitting the truth of your sinfulness and surrendering to the mercy and grace of God. Only then was Jacob ready to be called Israel — “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Genesis 32:28 — “Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’”
With Jacob’s life transformation came a new name – no longer would he be known as the deceiver but rather Israel — “Triumphant with God… who prevails with God.” Jacob [Israel] didn’t prevail against God in a wrestling match (in fact, he walked away with a permanent limp); he prevailed “with” God. He prevailed because of God, because God guided him through the greatest battle anyone will ever fight, the battle against self.
Genesis 32:29-30 – “Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’”
Do you know the name of the One with whom Israel wrestled, the One who left Israel marveling, having seen the “face of God”? Jesus is The Savior “and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Share your testimony and the Gospel to as many as you can for God’s glory.
A few notes from today’s readings, Part 2: Saved Into A Spiritual Family
Matthew 12:46-50 – “While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’”
This statement from Jesus is a bit shocking. But no more shocking than some of His other similar statements regarding family –
- Matthew 10:37 – “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
- Matthew 8:21, 22 — Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
- Mark 10:29-30 — Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
Is Jesus showing disdain for His own family or family in general? Is he being uncaring or unloving? How could Jesus say such things?
First, Jesus is not communicating a lack of love for His own family. Throughout His life, Jesus honored His family, and on the cross, one of Jesus dying concerns was for the care of His mother – “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:26-27)
Neither is Jesus de-valuing the importance of family in general. The Book of Mark records that Jesus sharply rebuked the Pharisees for violating the Fifth Commandment – “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:9-13) And Jesus inspired the writings of the New Testament authors who made very clear the importance of honoring family —
- Ephesians 6:1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
- 1 Timothy 1:8 — But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Jesus is not downplaying the importance of family and our responsibilities to family but rather is highlighting the greater significance of our spiritual family as brothers and sisters in Christ. Throughout this chapter (Matthew 12) and before, Jesus had been attacked by the Jewish religious leaders who trusted in their blood lineage and adherence to the Law for their righteousness and salvation. And when these proud Jewish religious leaders conspired against Him, Jesus reminded them of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Him – “I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles…. and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:18-21) Jesus is making a vital point that God’s family is a spiritual family rather than a blood family, and that righteousness and salvation is not transferred from person to person or earned through merit or works but come only through faith in Jesus Christ. To be born into God’s family, a person must be born again, born from above, or born of the Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ — “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
When we were saved through Christ and born again, we were born into a spiritual family and become heirs to His Kingdom:
- John 1:12 — But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
- Galatians 3:29 — And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
- 1 John 3:1 — See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
- Romans 8:29 — For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
- Acts 17:29 — Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
- Ephesians 1:5 — He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
- Galatians 4:5 — to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
- 1 John 3:2 — Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
- Hebrews 2:11 — For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
- Romans 8:15-17 — For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
So how close are you to your spiritual family (your brothers and sisters in Christ)? Do you honor your spiritual family? Do you pray for your spiritual family? Do you prioritize time with your spiritual family? Do you take care of your spiritual family, and do they take care of you? Your relationships within your spiritual family reveal something about your relationship with God. What do your relationships with members of your church reveal about your relationship with God?
- 1 John 4:7-12 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
- John 17:20-23 — I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 Jan 21: Pray that God will give you closer relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Prioritize your brothers and sisters today.