Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 29 March 21:
Mark 10:15, 24, 28 – “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it…. Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!… With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God….”
Meditate today on what it means to receive the kingdom of God like a child. As a parent, I have very vivid and powerful memories of the births of my children. My immediate love for each of them was overwhelming, though they were completely helpless, could do nothing for me, and had no real comprehension of my love for them. My love for them wasn’t and isn’t conditional or dependent upon their love for me; I love them because I love them. My desire for my children has been that they receive my love and grow in love and maturity so they may experience the fullness of life and joy and fulfill the purpose God intends for them. How much more does our perfect Heavenly Father love us and desire the very best for us? “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
Notice in the verses above that the kingdom of God is “received” and not achieved. The gift of grace is just that – a gift. We don’t earn God’s love, nor do our good deeds add to His love or our bad deeds subtract. The child’s behavior doesn’t change the father’s love for him or her, but it does affect the child’s joy, peace, experiences, consequences and relationships (with the father and others). We certainly don’t earn God’s love, but God wants us to experience the fullness of His love and to grow up in His love by remaining in His love – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)
“Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!… With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God….” (Mark 10:24-27) How hard is it for us to work our way into the kingdom of God? It is impossible. Jesus is reminding us of our utter dependence on Him as the way into His kingdom, salvation by grace through faith in Him and Him alone, not by works. Like newborn babies, we are solely dependent upon the love, grace, mercy, provision and instruction of the Father. Only by admitting this can we be part of the kingdom of God, and only by trusting in this can we have peace, joy, confidence and hope through the trials of life.
God calls us to a childlike faith, but certainly not a childish faith. God intends for us to grow up, to mature into Christlike character. The Bible calls this growth in Christ sanctification. Though we participate in sanctification, this too is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13; 12:1, 2; 1 Cor. 6:11, 19, 20; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:22–24; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 13:20, 21). God calls His children to holiness, and graciously gives what He commands (1 Thess. 4:4; 5:23). The Father’s way of growth for us is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but rather our effort dependent on Him (2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 3:10–14; Heb. 12:14). Abiding in Christ is understanding that without His enabling we cannot do good, but He is ready to strengthen us for all He has prepared in advance for us to do through Him (Phil. 4:13). Abiding in Christ involves trusting Him for both our provision and our growth, asking for His help constantly, and growing in faith as we receive His help (Col. 1:11; 1 Tim. 1:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2:1).
We abide in God’s love, grow in God’s love, and bear fruit in God’s love when we abide in God’s word – reading God’s word, meditating upon God’s word, praying God’s word, walking God’s word, and embodying God’s word. Through prayerful study and application of God’s word we grow in our knowledge, love and unity with The Word of God, Jesus:
- Romans 10:17 — So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
- Luke 8:11 — Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
- John 17:8, 17 – For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me…. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
- 2 Peter 1:21 — For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
- Matthew 4:4 — But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
- Matthew 17:5 — “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
- Hebrews 4:12-13 — For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
- Luke 10:39 — And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
- John 8:47 — Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
- John 8:31 — So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples….”
- John 15:7 — If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
- Luke 21:33 — Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
- Luke 8:21 — But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
- Philippians 4:6-7 — Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17 — Pray without ceasing….
- Romans 8:26 — Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
- Luke 11:9 — And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
- Jeremiah 33:3 — Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
- Matthew 26:41 — Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
- Ephesians 6:18 — Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
- Colossians 4:2 — Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
- 2 Chronicles 7:14 — If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
- Mark 1:35 — And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 Mar 21: Rather than focusing on self-mastery today, focus on the Master. Sit at the feet of Jesus in prayer and Bible study, listen, learn, grow, and be at peace. Don’t ask Jesus to walk with you; walk with Him – Follow Him. “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23)