Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, August, 1 August 2022:
Joshua 24:13-15 — I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’ “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
God owns it all and controls it all. He can give you whatever He wants to give you, and many people who are laboring against God don’t realize that they are really laboring for God. God works all things for His purposes.
A theme that is repeated over and over again in the Bible is that you cannot serve God half-heartedly. By definition, a casual response to God is really to deny Him as God. You cannot be partially committed to God and honor Him as God, and you cannot expect God to honor your partial obedience which is really just disobedience. Nor can you expect to wander from God and stay close to Him at the same time. Love of God results in obedience. Unity with God requires obedience. Only in God’s presence is there fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Today, Joshua tells the people to stop kidding themselves. Either serve God or stop pretending to. If we are using grace as an excuse to continue in sin, we are denying that we ever truly accepted grace in the first place – “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:26-29)
- Joshua 14:14 – Caleb…. wholly followed the Lord.
- 2 Kings 20:3 — “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.”
- 2 Chronicles 19:9 — And he charged them: “Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart:
- 2 Chronicles 25:2 — And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart.
- Psalm 119:2 — Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
- Luke 11:23 — Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
- Proverbs 25:26 — Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
- Revelation 3:16 — So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
Today, Joshua tells the people to either serve God or stop pretending to serve Him. Joshua tells the people to put away their false gods (substitutes for God) which they served instead of fully committing to the Almighty, Sovereign Lord. Likewise, we are called to put away our false god of ‘self’ which wars against the sovereignty of God –
- Luke 9:23 — And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
- 1 Corinthians 10:14 — Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry
- 1 Samuel 15:23 — For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
- Colossians 3:5 — Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
If we are using “grace” as an excuse to continue in sin, trivializing the blood of Christ which was shed to pay the penalty of those sins, we are in essence denying the Gospel and rejecting the new life in Christ – “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:9) “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 1:9)
“Choose this day whom you will serve.” Jesus modelled decision-making for us. His decisions came out of tremendous prayer. Consider the following observations from Henry T. Blackaby:
“It was common knowledge among the disciples that they would find Jesus praying during the early morning hours. When they needed Him, they knew to go to the place of prayer. When Judas betrayed Jesus, he led his cohorts to Jesus’ place of prayer.
Every time the Lord Jesus faced an important decision, He prayed. When He was being tempted to do things by the world’s methods instead of the Father’s, He prayed (Matt. 4). When it was time to choose His disciples, He prayed the entire night (Luke 6:12). The Son of God spent a whole night in prayer before choosing the twelve disciples. How long might it take us in prayer to clearly determine our Father’s will?
Because Jesus was so often surrounded by crowds, He knew He must find a quiet place so He could clearly hear His Father’s voice. Jesus had many people seeking to influence the direction of His life. His disciples wanted Him to go where the crowds were (Mark 1:37). The crowds wanted to crown Him king (John 6:15). Satan tempted Him to make compromises in order to draw a following (Matt. 4:3, 6,9).
Jesus knew that His mission was not to attract a crowd, but to remain obedient to His Father. It was prayer that set the agenda for Jesus’ ministry (Luke 6:12). Prayer preceded the miracles (John 11:42-43); prayer brought Him encouragement at critical moments (Luke 9:28-31); prayer enabled Him to go to the cross (Luke 22:41-42); and prayer kept Him there despite excruciating pain (Luke 23:46). Follow the Savior’s example, and let your time alone with God, in prayer, set the agenda for your life.”
- Mark 1:35 — “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
- Luke 5:16 — “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
- Luke 22:44 — “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
Jesus prayed continuously, passionately, and intensely. When challenges came, He prayed even more. Also, Jesus made it clear that some problems can be solved by nothing but prayer — “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 9:29) Jesus modelled the sort of prayer which the Bible teaches us is effectual: fervent (vehement) and perseverant prayer, not just desultory, casual, or dull. The prayers of the righteous come from the depths of the heart and are, as Paul described, a continual struggle, a wrestling within, or a pouring out of the soul before the Lord. (Colossians 4:12) However, this intense prayer is not desperate or hopeless prayer but rather confident prayer on the sovereignty, sufficiency, and providence of the Lord – “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 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.” (Philippians 4:5-7)
- 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,
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17 — Pray without ceasing….
- Romans 12:12 — Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
- Colossians 4:2 — Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
- James 5:17 — Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 — Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
How is your prayer life?
Everyone on earth chooses who they will serve, God or an idol. Some will verbally proclaim the Lordship of God and may even back their oaths up with religious activities and good deeds, but in reality, their hearts are not with God. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-23).’”
A person can do “many mighty works” in the name of God and still lack a saving faith. Also, born-again Christians can drift comfortably out of fellowship with God, replacing sound theology with a self-centered me-ology that plays by the religious “rules” and uses “good works” to legitimize to themselves and to others what has been termed “approbation lust” – the desire to be recognized, to promote oneself.
The desire for recognition or approval can become a powerful, all-encompassing motivator in life that can cause us to do our will for self-glorification while claiming, even convincing ourselves, we are doing the will of God. We can do “right” things for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way. Only you and God know what motivation is behind your daily actions. Pray that God will continually incline your heart more and more toward Him and less and less toward self. Examine yourself. Whenever you hear yourself saying or thinking “I”, ask yourself if that “I” is not short for “idol.”
- Isaiah 10:15 — Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
- Luke 18:14 — I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
- Romans 15:18 — For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed,
- Galatians 6:14 — But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
- Jeremiah 9:23 — Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,
- Proverbs 27:2 — Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.
- 1 Corinthians 4:7 — For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
- 2 Corinthians 11:30 — If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 — For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
- 1 Timothy 6:10 — For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
- Mark 8:35 — For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
- Read 2 Timothy 3 about the powerless form of religion vs. the true religion.
Joshua 24:19 – But Joshua said to the people, ‘You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.
Following God requires complete humility to see that you have no hope apart from the grace and power of God. God convicts the proud of their moral bankruptcy that they will turn to Him for mercy, grace, and power.
Joshua 24:31 – Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel.
Good leaders have a preserving effect on society by keeping people in compliance with God’s laws.
Luke 6:12 – “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.”
Jesus modeled prayer for us. When was the last time you prayed all night?
Luke 6:16 – “…and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”
Judas was originally hand-picked by Jesus, chosen by God. Yet, he became a traitor.
Luke 6:20-23 – “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 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! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”
Jesus’ approach to conquering the world is to change hearts, turning them to true love for God and others.
Jesus is described in this chapter as poor, hungry (remember the grain?), hated, insulted, and rejected. It appears that He intended for His words on radical giving and total sacrifice to be taken literally, yet the modern church wants to make this metaphorical or philosophical.
Luke 6:24-26 – But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
The Pharisees who criticized Jesus’ disciples for plucking and eating grain in the grain fields were rich, full, and did not have the heart to give as Jesus commanded or to follow Jesus in faith and love. However, they viewed themselves as more religious and righteous than anyone else.
Jesus says that true Christianity is uncomfortable, painful, and humiliating, not because of your foolishness, but rather because of your loving sacrifice to God and to others around you.
Luke 6:27-35 – But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
Everyone loves someone but what separates true Christians is their love for their enemies and those who are truly hard to love. Only a godly love truly loves the victimizer.
Everyone lends when they think they will be repaid or get something out of the deal. Christians lend freely expecting nothing in return. This doesn’t make any sense in the world’s economy.
Luke 6:35, 36 – “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Jesus demands radical, totally selfless love from those who would follow Him; He expects you to treat others the way He has treated you. This is true worship.
Luke 6:36 – Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
What motivates us to mercy is the example of God’s mercy bestowed upon us. Our gratitude and true faith is revealed in our mercy, particularly when mercy is personally costly and risky. What is truly costly is truly valuable, a gift worth giving.
Luke 6:37-38 — Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
Perhaps the most misrepresented verse in the Bible – “Judge not….” The popular use of Jesus’ words is to suggest that Christians have no business telling others what is right or wrong. The other popular interpretation is that you can only point out another person’s sins when you are perfect, and since you are not, keep your mouth shut. Unfortunately, most Christians spend little time in the Bible; so, when they are confronted with this inappropriate interpretation of Jesus’ words, they accept it. However, God calls his people to “judge” throughout the Bible and, at times, to rebuke and to correct others. Didn’t John the Baptist lose his head for calling out Herod’s adultery? Have we forgotten Both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ “Brood of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs” comments or Jesus whipping the moneychangers out of the temple? In Luke, following the topic verse for these comments, Jesus goes on to talk about judging others’ character by the fruit of their lives. 1 Corinthians 6 is all about “judging.” However, there is a right and wrong way to reveal the truth of sin to others. First, it must be with the right motives – coming from a heart of genuine love for the sinner with a desire to help and not to hurt. As the pastors says, if your words generate more heat than light, remain silent. Second, it must come from God’s word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit – we do not judge from our opinion. Third, it must come from a position of humility rather than self-righteousness – we are but starving beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. Fourth, it must be done graciously, compassionately, and gently. Don’t be a jerk for Jesus. As Jesus points out today, we are never to “condemn” in our judgment. We are not the Judge who delivers the sentence, we are but jurors, peer sinners who merely point out what God’s word says. Our judgment should be in accordance with James 3:17 — “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” We must warn people of sin but in love, with compassion, mercy, and gentleness, and graciousness. “Silence is consent.” To remain silent before sin, to ignore it, or condone it is truly unloving, cowardly, and negligent in our mission as Ambassador to Christ who begins His message with the word. “Repent.”
Luke 6:38 – “…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
How does God measure His blessings to you according to Jesus?
Luke 6:40 – A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Everyone has a teacher, whether they admit it or not. Who is your teacher, really? Is it a pastor, a celebrity, a family member, or a philosopher? You will always be limited by the limits of your teachers. Make your teacher and guide the Holy Spirit as you follow Jesus.
Luke 6:41-42 – Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
The Fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5 is all about what is in our heart and character. Only from a position character can we teach others about character. Making disciples (the Great Commission) involves first being a faithful follower of Christ. To be a leader, you have to be going the right way so others can follow. In today’s readings, Jesus modeled the radical selfless sacrifice to which He calls us.
Luke 6:43-46 — For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
How do your actions reveal what is really in your heart?
Luke 6:46 — “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Do not claim to be a Christian and call Jesus “Lord” if you don’t seek to obey Him as the KING of Kings. What you really believe to be true, what you really honor, and what you really love will be revealed by your actions. If you take the sin God abhors lightly, you need to check your heart and the truth of your faith.
Luke 6:47-49 – Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.
What you truly value most and place at the center of your life will determine everything else you do. If Jesus isn’t at the center of your life and the foundation of your life, your life is meaningless and destined for destruction.
Luke 6:48 – And when a flood arose….
Everyone goes through the floods or storms of life, but those whose life is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ will not be shaken while those whose foundations are something else will be destroyed. Lay your foundation on the Rock before the storm hits.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 August 22: Honor your Savior as your LORD too by obeying Jesus in every way. His greatest commandment was love. Love Him by loving others unconditionally. Take up your cross by forgiving and giving to those who don’t deserve it from you at all. Make it your challenge today to respond to every negative action by others with positivity, grace, and mercy. Examine the motives behind your thoughts, words and deeds today. Are you really serving God or something or someone else? Pray that God will renew in you an undivided heart. Share in the suffering of Jesus by accepting the hurt that hurting people do in order to reveal to them the type of love you have received from Jesus. Make this a part of your life testimony. Of course, as Jesus said, to be able to do this, you my “Deny self” and be willing to follow Him to that “cross.” In that, you will truly fellowship with Jesus, truly worship Him, and truly honor Him. (Luke 6:40-48)
Also, prioritize prayer this day forward – “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
“I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done…. Work, work from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” (Martin Luther)