Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 4 November 21:
Ezekiel 13:3, 6, 10 — Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! …They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word…. Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace….
John 7:6, 7, 18, 19 — Jesus said to them…. “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil…. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”
Today’s readings contrast false prophets and teachers with God’s true messengers. The false prophet seeks to validate the wicked deeds of the rebellious, calling them good and acceptable before God, moral, just, and true. Whereas God’s true messenger exposes evil for what it is, calls for repentance, and proclaims grace to those who turn to Jesus. The world praises the false prophet which God condemns, and the world hates God’s true messenger who God commends. Today, Jesus points out that the false prophet or teacher has no real moral authority, seeks his own glory, and appeals to those who also seek their own glory too, while God’s messenger speaks under God’s authority and seeks to glorify God alone. Not only did the world hate Jesus because He exposed the truth of sin, called for repentance, and preached no other way for salvation but through Him, they called Him evil, possessed, crazy, paranoid, and dangerous.
What is your testimony to those around you, and how is it being received? Will you seek to influence others by your own authority and with your own message, or will you serve as Christ’s ambassador and remain faithful to the Gospel, the message of reconciliation through Him alone? Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:10-16) Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” (Luke 10:3) “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:13) “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” (Luke 6:22) “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)
- Luke 14:27-33 — Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
It is an incredible honor and blessing to be used by God as His messenger as He leads someone to Christ. However, Jesus explained that to receive such an honor, you must be prepared to be reviled, persecuted, maligned, hated, excluded, and spurned. Metaphorically, we must be ready to be crucified daily – “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Also, Jesus tells us how we should feel about such mistreatment: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” Afterall, this was Jesus’ example when He endured the Cross on your behalf – “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.” (Hebrews 12:2) Consider the Apostle Paul – He was beaten multiple times, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and finally executed for sake of the Gospel, and through it all, he said he had learned the secret of contentment and joy, desiring nothing greater than more opportunities to share the Gospel with more of his persecutors (read Philippians 1-4). For example, in Acts 21 and 22, we read that when Paul was being beaten by a mob intent on killing him and rescued at the last minute by Roman soldiers (all this after he had already been stoned and left for dead by a different crowd), Paul’s request to the Roman soldiers taking him away for his own safety was, “I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” (Acts 21:39) When people mistreat you because of your Gospel message, showing nothing but contempt for you and your faith, do you respond by seeking even more time to talk with them, even if it means more mistreatment? Pray that God will give you the same heart for sinners He has for them which is willing to selflessly suffer for sake of their salvation – “For the love of Christ controls us….” (2 Corinthians 5:14)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 November 21: Proclaim the Gospel today at all costs. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16)