Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 25 July 21:
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 earnestly 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 desired a heart that was united with God’s heart (Compare with John 17:17-23), and his desire was that he would joyfully obey and glorify God with his whole heart. David desired that His words and deeds would be the outpouring, or fruit, of a genuine love for God. David explains his motivation – “For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” Today’s verses reveal why David is known as “a man after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) He wasn’t merely seeking God’s blessings, He was seeking God Himself, to know Him intimately. To be truly one with Him. Do you share David’s prayer and Jesus’ prayer for you recorded in John 17?
- Luke 10:27 — And he answered, “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.”
- 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
Luke 10:27, the Greatest Commandment, explains that how much you love the Lord is revealed by how you treat others. How well you love God and others is determined first by a heart and soul which longs for God, and then through actions (using your strength to love) which are guided by the diligent study of God’s word (using your mind to love); and 1 John 5:3 reveals that the more we grow in genuine love for God, the less we view His commands to sacrificially love others as burdensome.
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) Obedience is the product of love which must be enabled by God but which is also be learned through study and application of God’s word as a life-long labor of love. 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, and information is not transformation. 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 only previously ‘knew’ 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). God gives us wisdom as we prayerfully step out in faith with the knowledge we have while the Holy Spirit coaches us into true understanding.
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, or because she knows she should; or do you want her to treat you well 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 because what you do wars against what you really want to do inside; your actions contradict who you really are. Love delights in obedience and service because your actions agree with your heart –
- 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) – 26 July 21: 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.