Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 5 July 2022:
Deuteronomy 31:3 – “The LORD your God himself will go over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them.”
When the Lord sends you, He will bring the victory. Caution: Where He sends you will likely not be where you had intended to go, and His victory might not be your idea of victory. The victory Christ has in store for you is Christlikeness and that His Name would be glorified through your life. He will orchestrate your circumstances perfectly for that purpose, and He will give you experiences you don’t want so you can have the outcome you do want, much like good coaches make athletes train harder than they want to so say can win the games they want to win. There is no growth in the comfort zone, and there is no comfort in the growth zone. Learn to be uncomfortably content.
- Proverbs 19:21 — Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
- Romans 8:28-29 — And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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.
- Matthew 28:18-20 — 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.”
Deuteronomy 31:5 – “…according to the whole commandment that I have commanded you.”
God expects obedience in every area of life, obedience to the whole commandment, not just the parts of God’s word which come easy to us. Partial obedience is disobedience. How many times now has the Bible repeated this point?
Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Strength and courage come from knowing and trusting God.
Deuteronomy 31:9-11 – “Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests… you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.”
In Old Testament times, God’s word was given to the priests, and they were charged with teaching it to the people and administering God’s laws. The Bible says that now, all Christians are priests, charged with knowing God’s word, living by God’s word, proclaiming God’s word, and teaching God’s word. We should endeavor to be experts on God’s word and the embodiment of God’s word.
Deuteronomy 31:12-13 – “Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
God wanted everyone to be instructed on God’s word, including visiting strangers, but particularly the small children. God desires that children learn to obey and honor God as soon as possible. God has given parents the responsibility to make sure children know and obey His expectations so they may serve Him and Love Him.
Deuteronomy 31:16 – “Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them.”
God knows your temptation to make things a higher priority and influence in your life than Him, idols that cause you to break God’s commands, to stray away from Him, and to quench His Spirit in your life. Whenever we sin, it is because we have dethroned God in our hearts, at least for a moment – we still want Him as Savior, but we reject Him as Lord, committing cosmic treason. The Bible calls us spiritual whores at that point, worthy of stoning. If only we could see our sins the way God sees them, we would truly be “amazed by grace,” and start living accordingly.
Deuteronomy 31:20 – For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant.
Prosperity can lead to complacency, dissatisfaction with God and departure from Him to substitutes for God — idols. Both ease and hardship can draw you closer to the Lord or farther away, depending on the purpose of your heart. Make sure your purpose remains His purpose – to conform you to the image of Christ that the world may see Christ in you and turn to Him as well. If whatever is happening in your life is not making you more like Jesus, something is wrong. Before you blame your external conditions, consider your internal condition — examine your heart.
Deuteronomy 31:23 – And the LORD commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
Knowing you will often fail Him, God still fulfills His promises.
- Deuteronomy 31:26 – Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you.
God’s word witnesses against you when you depart from Him. It is absolutely that you remain in God’s word daily and that you humbly receive the counsel of the Holy Spirit as He uses God’s word to convict you of your sin while encouraging you in God’s grace to continue to grow into Christlikeness. Meditate on God’s word all day long, while remaining in constant prayer.
Deuteronomy 31:21, 29 – And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give…. For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I have commanded you. And in the days to come evil will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.”
Moses kept the people in line while he was around, but he knew that when he left, they would drift back into sinfulness. So, he made sure they had God’s word, but he also left them with a song to continually remind them of God’s commands and God’s mercy and grace to help them live the lives God desired for them. Do you need someone in your life to keep you in line, or are you guided by the Holy Spirit through God’s word? In addition to diligently studying God’s word daily, memorize God’s words and sing or listen to worship songs all day long as a constant reminder of God’s justice, mercy, and grace.
Philippians 3:5, 6 – “…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
Human qualifications do no impress God. You can be blameless in the eyes of the Law and at odds with God.
Philippians 3:7-10 — “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Religious efforts or personal accomplishments cannot compare with truly knowing Jesus. To know Christ, you must personally walk with Him day by day in obedience to His word. Join Him in His business of selfless love for others and experience His fellowship. There is great fellowship in suffering too. The Marines have a saying – “Adversity unites.” And veterans have a unique bond with those who fought together with them. In life, aren’t you closest with those who you have struggled with? In his tribulations, Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death.” (Philippians 3:10) Do you know that God uses your hardships to draw you closer to Him?
There is really only two religions in the world, that which depends on faith in Jesus Christ alone, and that which depends on some sort of human effort or worth for salvation. I have heard people describe these two religions as the “do” religion and the “done” religion with the first religion attempting to discover what we must do to get to Heaven and the second relying on what Christ has done that whoever believes in his name would not perish but rather have everlasting life. Paul called those who depend on human effort, accomplishments, and self-righteousness (even if they call themselves Christians) as “dogs” and “evildoers.” To “worship by the Spirit of God” is to put absolutely “no confidence in the flesh,” no hope in our own abilities to obtain righteousness through our efforts. Paul points out that, in human standards, he had every right to brag of his good deeds; however, his (our) very best deeds are nothing but filthy rags before The Holy God. Of ourselves, we have no merit or righteousness (being right with God). Our only hope is to “be found in him” (Jesus). Through faith, we are covered over with the righteousness of Christ. When the Father sees true Christians from the Judgment Seat, he sees us clothed with the righteousness of His Son, this covering provided as a gift of grace and love, a gift that is absolutely impossible to earn. Paul reminds us that Christ has made us His own and encourages us to live out that truth with all of our being – “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Don’t “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ,” driven by earthly passions, self-centeredness, and self-righteousness; rather remember that “our citizenship is in heaven [through birth in Christ], and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Reflect upon the good things you have done in your life. Why did you do them? Did you do them to be a “good” person, to feel good about yourself, to earn respect from others, to make the world a better place, to avoid guilt; or did you do them to “know Christ,” to united with him, to become “like Him” because of your admiration for Him? When Paul was still Saul, a very committed religious man, he did all the “right things” for the wrong reasons which brought him no closer to God than any other sinner and which did nothing to secure his salvation. When Paul, formerly known as Saul, had his eyes open by Christ (both figuratively and literally) he understood that his human “goodness,” his attempts to be personally righteousness, were totally unacceptable by God, no matter how proud he had felt or how much praise he had received from others. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Only the True Righteousness of Christ can cover over our sins and save us. When we do the “right things” for the wrong reasons, when we obey the law in pursuit of prideful righteousness, we are actually breaking the law by disobeying the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Even unbelievers can do seemingly good things, but God judges the heart. Our focus is not on the law for the sake of obtaining merited righteousness, our focus is on Jesus Christ, knowing him and becoming one with Him in genuine love. We are walking in a love relationship that is growing every day, and that love is reflected outwardly in all that we do and say. When we walk in love, there is no need for laws to constrain us. We do what we ought because our Greatest Love, Christ, desires it.
-- John 17:3 -- This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. -- 1 John 4:7, 8 -- Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. -- John 14:15, 21 -- If you love me, you will keep my commandments…. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. -- 1 John 2:3-6 -- And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. -- 1 John 5:2-5 -- By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Philippians 3:12-16 – 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. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Though justified (declared “not guilty”) once and for all in Christ, Paul was still being sanctified (separated from sin and conformed to Christ), which is a life-long process, often a frustrating one –
- Romans 7:21-24 — So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Sanctification starts with the new birth in Christ, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, when believers repent (turn around) from sin and are no longer under sin’s dominion but are rather ‘slaves to righteousness’ –
- Romans 6:11-18 — So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
In salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, we WERE FREED from the PENALTY of sin once and for all; we ARE BEING freed from the POWER of sin in our lives through sanctification (we are no longer prisoners to sin but are still influenced by it); and we WILL BE FREED one day from the PRESENCE of sin in our lives when Christ returns – “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (see Revelation 21) From the point of spiritual birth in Christ, through the grace and power of God, we spend a lifetime growing up in Christ, being conformed into the image of Christ, as God progressively changes our desires from selfish, worldly things to Him and Him alone. In salvation, we rest assured in the grace of God, in the power of God, and in the promise that He will complete in us the work that He started when Christ returns and we receive our glorified bodies (Philippians 1:6) –
- 2 Corinthians 3:18 — And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
- Colossians 3:10 — …and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
- Philippians 3:20-21 — But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
- 1 Corinthians 15:42-49 — What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect…” (Philippians 3:12) “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) In this life, we will not achieve perfection (1 John 1:8-10), but ‘resting’ and trusting in the grace of God, we still strive to realize what is already ours in Christ – “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10; also, 1 Thessalonians 4:4; Romans 8:13; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Peter 1:5-11)
Today, Paul gives us some good coaching on how to walk in the sanctification process: Don’t get frustrated. Acknowledge and never forget that you are not perfect but are being perfected through the power of the Holy Spirit. Press on! Don’t wallow in the past; learn from your mistakes, trust in God’s grace, and move on to what is ahead. Fail forward, not backwards. (vs 13-15) Find some good role models in the faith (but don’t idolize them) who can help you grow in your faith. (Philippians 3:17) And trust that God will do the work in you and complete the work in you. (Philippians 3:21)
Philippians 3:17 — “Keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
Surround yourself with people who will encourage you in your pursuit of holiness, people in the you can respect because of their love and faithfulness.
Philippians 3:20 — “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Your allegiance is to God before country or any other loyalty. Are you a faithful citizen of the Kingdom of God? Are you ready to serve your kingdom as a good soldier and to recite your oath – “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 Jul 22: Today, forget what lies behind, and strain forward to what lies ahead. Rest in God’s grace while striving for perfection –
- 1 John 2:5 — but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.
- 1 John 4:12 — No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.