Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 5 June 21:
2 Kings 5:13 — But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”
Simple pride stands between many people and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Many simply refuse to humble themselves to accept salvation on God’s terms – to them it is illogical, too unsophisticated, too accessible, too easy, illogical, unspectacular. The prideful mind can’t fathom the gift of total forgiveness and righteousness (being made right in the His sight) from God through the Christ which is undeserved, unmerited, and available to the lowliest of sinners, removing all pride of accomplishment, superiority, or special favor.
- John 3:16 — For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life….
- Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 1 Corinthians 1:18 — For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
- 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.
The mighty Syrian commander Naaman wanted to be healed but on his terms, in a way that appealed to his sense of pride, in a spectacular way fit for a great person, in a way that honored him rather than revealing his total dependence on mercy and grace. Naaman could not humble himself in order to accept God’s healing on God’s terms. He expected God’s prophet to honor him and treat him special. However, Elisha intentionally did not come out to see Naaman, sending a messenger instead. All Naaman had to do was accept the free gift of healing from God, but he considered it beneath him. The message couldn’t have been more clear or simple — ‘Wash, and be clean’. But the message was ridiculous to Naaman. Fortunately, Naaman’s servants were willing to talk some sense into him (likely at great personal risk), and Naaman relented. Who do you know that simply refuses to accept the simplicity of the Gospel? Are you willing to come near to them and appeal to them to be reconciled to God?
2 Kings 5:15, 16 — And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.”
Many who have received the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ still act as if they still need to earn it, so they try to work for it, pay for it in some way, or make some sort of exchange with God. Often, Christians do this without even realizing they are doing it. How offended would someone be if they gave you a priceless gift out of love, and in response you said, “Here’s $50 for what you gave me.” Consider how offensive it is to try to ‘pay’ for salvation (or earn it through deeds) which was given as a loving sacrifice through the blood of Christ. Don’t insult God, cheapen the Gospel, or distract from the Gospel message by trying to work your way into Heaven or in some way contribute to the sufficiency of Christ. And be very careful not to display your good deeds before others (boast) as if you somehow have anything to do with your own salvation. Yes, obey God, but out of love, not pride or duty (doing it because you know you are supposed to), and always give God the glory. When others are inclined to praise you for your behavior, use the opportunity to share the Gospel so “they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12) Finally, don’t sacrifice your peace, rest, security, and joy in Christ by trying to carry a burden of self-justification you can’t carry – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
2 Kings 5:18, 19 — In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” He said to him, “Go in peace.”
Many who accept God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ live powerless, insignificant lives because they compromise with the world, don’t walk in grace and loving obedience, and don’t proclaim the Gospel to others in word and deed and God intends them to do:
Naaman the Syrian was the only Leper cured by Elisha (Luke 4:27), not even any Jews were healed. Naaman could have been a powerful witness in Syria, but because he continued to comprise with the wicked practices of his culture for the sake of maintaining his position, the Bible records no other significant events in the life of Naaman — he was healed and then nothing. He is never mentioned again in the Old Testament. What might have happened in Syria if Naaman had acted like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel and had refused to bow down to foreign gods and had refused to conceal his faith in order to avoid conflict? Perhaps his impact would have transformed Syria like Daniel’s impact transformed Babylon. How has compromise hindered our impact on the world around us? The compromising Christian may be saved, but ineffective or irrelevant at a time and place when God seeks faithful witnesses. Consider what is happening today in America: Many are boldly proclaiming a position on politics or social issues, but how many people are boldly proclaiming Jesus Christ as the only Way to peace and reconciliation, and the only Truth, and as the only way to Life? How many Christians are acting like Naaman, quietly believing without having any real impact on the world – “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Elisha’s ‘Go in peace’ was not an endorsement but rather a dismissal. Having received healing and life, Naaman, in turn, should have committed his life to faithfully serving God without compromise. Elisha did not condemn Naaman, but neither did he commend him or commission him — Elisha was done with him. Christians often see salvation as having eternal life, but they fail to recognize that eternal life starts now (see John 17:3) and fail to understand we are not just saved for eternity, we are saved to live out “thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” to serve God now on earth, to be priests, ambassadors, salt and light, and to bring glory to God every day. Like so many others, Naaman apparently viewed his gift of life as something intended for him rather than for God’s glory. As demonstrated by Paul, Grace should compel us to live our lives for Christ alone, to know Him more and more each day and to make Him known more and more each day. Don’t render yourself irrelevant through compromise and lack of conviction. Serve God wholeheartedly.
2 Kings 5:26 — Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants?
A final point: To attempt to use the power of God in your life for personal gain is a curse. Make sure your motive in all you do is truly God’s glory and not self-glorification or self-interest. The grace you received from God was free (to you but not to Him) and God-centered. In the same way, give grace freely to others at your own expense in gratitude for the grace you have received and out of genuine love for those your Lord loved enough to die for, always proclaiming Christ alone (nothing about yourself) — “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.'” (Matthew 10:5-8)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 June 21: Be amazed by grace today. Walk restfully, peacefully and joyfully in the assurance of your salvation today, and proclaim the awesome simplicity of the Gospel to as many as possible today – “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)