Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 11 August 2022:
Judges 10:8 — For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead.
It can take a long time to change the character of a people so that they will again seek The Lord.
Judges 10:16 – So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.
Here is a short prayer devotional on Judges 10:16 by Pastor David Platt of McLean Bible Church:
Luke 14:7-11 – … do not sit down in a place of honor…. go and sit in the lowest place…. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Literally, it is hard for people to give others preferred seating, particularly if they are in positions of social status, but Jesus expects that attitude and so much more from His followers — He expects us to give others honor above ourselves and to leave it to Him to give us honor. A Christian who honors himself, who seeks praise for himself or herself is unfaithful. God calls us to embody humility. How is that going for you? True faith should drive you to complete humility. Pride is anti-Christian. We must cultivate humility, for it does not come naturally. One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that when God sees your genuine humility, He exalts you. (Review Proverbs 16:18 and Proverbs 25:27)
“There are two ways to attain high esteem. One is the world’s method: Take every opportunity to promote yourself before others; seize occasions for recognition and manipulate your way into the center of attention. The other way is God’s way: Humble yourself. Rather than striving for recognition and influential positions, seek to put others first. Cultivate humility, for it does not come naturally. One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that when God sees your genuine humility, He exalts you.
Proverbs 16:18 warns that if we put our efforts into promoting ourselves, we will be brought down. Jesus told of a man who tried to enhance his own image (Luke 14:7-11). While attending a banquet, he immediately claimed the seat of honor. When the host saw this, he humiliated this man by asking him to move to the least honorable place to make room for a more distinguished guest. Jesus said the wise thing to do is to seek the lowest position and allow others to exalt you if they feel you are worthy.
There is an enormous difference between the way the world honors you and the way God does. Proverbs 25:27 indicates that glory is not legitimate if you seek it yourself. When the world exalts you, you are the one who receives the credit. When God exalts you, others will praise Him for what He has done in your life. If you honor God, He will honor you (1 Sam. 2:30). Strive to humble yourself and bring glory to God. Allow Him to be the One to honor you in the way that pleases Him!” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Luke 14:12-14 — But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
Again, Jesus reiterates His demand for us to break from all worldly norms and expectations and give our very best (not scraps, hand-me-downs, or things we don’t care about) to the poor, knowing that there will be no earthly return on investment. The value of a gift or offering is determined by how valuable it is to you, and what you give is a demonstration of how much you love. But it also takes faith and hope to give, trusting that God wants you to give and hoping (having complete confidence) that God will provide for your future needs though you gave away what you had. How many different ways do Christians justify not giving? Which homeless deserve your very best, only the ‘responsible’ ones? Christians are called to give abundantly without prejudice, demands, or expectations. See the need, meet the need. See the opportunity to love, love. I reminder: giving doesn’t just involve things, it also involves time and effort. Sometimes it is harder to give time or effort than it is to give money or things.
Luke 14:15-24 — Jesus compelled us, the poor, unworthy, and spiritually homeless to join His banquet. The truth of what Jesus has done for us should incentivize our response to the poor and needy. We should also heed His warning that many who are invited to His banquet don’t actually show up.
Luke 14:27, 33 — And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Jesus’ demand for wholehearted, total commitment follows his parable of the “Great Banquet” which describes those who are too “busy” and concerned with the worries of the world to accept his invitation. This parable is similar to the “Parable of the Sower” in the Book of Matthew: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful (13:22).” We are busier than ever today. How hard does it seem to even find time to read the Bible every day, even more so to meditate upon it and put it into practice on a daily basis? How much time can we find in the day to walk with the Lord? At the end of a day, consider in what you invested your thoughts, time, energy, efforts, and resources. Was it directed toward advancing the Kingdom or was it oriented on self-preservation and worldly success? How much of what we “have to do” do we really have to do? When a man lamented that he didn’t have enough time in the day to do all that he needed to do, his Pastor replied: “You have just enough time in the day to do the things God wants you to do.” I pray for the wisdom to know the difference:
– Isaiah 55:8, 9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Luke 14:28 — 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?
Today, Jesus challenges us to truly consider the radical, fanatical steps and the personal cost required to follow Him. After many parables, He gives us the bottom line: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) Again, Jesus is not saying faithful Christians must live in abject poverty but rather that faithful Christians must not “love” stuff – “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.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Rather Christians should use all their resources as a means to fulfill the Great Commandment. If being wealthy were a sin, God would not have blessed His people with great riches throughout the Bible. Resources can be used for great good. In fact, Jesus ministry was funded by wealthy women (Luke 8:3), and there is a reason why Judas stole from the ministry funds – because there was money to steal (John 12:6). However, Jesus warned, “And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’” (Matthew 19:23, 24) We must be very careful to have stuff but not let our stuff have us.
Luke 14:26, 27, 33 — If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
This statement in the Bible can be confusing. How can God, who issues the second part of the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:27) to “love your neighbor as yourself” turn around and tell us we must hate our father and mother? Clearly, Jesus isn’t also going against the Fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) No, Jesus is speaking figuratively.
To understand this statement from Jesus, we need to first review the Great Commandment: “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.” The foundation of all other commandments rests on this one commandment, and our ability to love others is fully dependent on the quality of our love for God. Before we break any other commandment (which is always unloving), we have already broken the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” and the Great Commandment, “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….” Not only is Jesus the Logos, the Light, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He is also Love (1 John 4:8); He is the source of all real love, and our ability to love is only possible as the branches (us) are connected to the Vine (John 15), and as His love emanates through us and naturally bears fruit through acts of love to others.
We don’t create love but rather radiate or transfer love from the Source, Jesus – “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Without God there is no love, only artificial substitutes which ultimately fall short. What Jesus is saying in today’s verses is that to truly be His disciple, your love for Him must be so great it makes your love for anyone or anything else seem like hate in comparison. If you don’t put Jesus, who is Life (see John 17:3 and Psalm 63:3) first, you cannot live the life of joy God intended for you, and if you don’t follow Jesus who is the Way, you only lead others astray.
When you truly love God, you will naturally love others, which is why the Great Commandment has two inseparable parts – love God, and love others; these two are inseparable, and the way we love others reflects our love for God. In fact, John (known as the apostle of love), taught, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)
Jesus goes on to warn us to “count the cost” of discipleship – “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Why do you do what you do? What really motivates you? What concerns you? Where do you go for approval? In what do you invest? What is most important to you in life? If something or someone has more of an influence on your daily decisions than Jesus, then you have found your idol. There is a reason why I am in continual repentance and continually grateful for the Grace of God.
Luke 14:34, 35 — “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
You were created to be in union with Jesus and to serve Him on earth. If you are not serving your purpose, what good are you?
Today, Jesus wants you to really evaluate the fidelity and impact of your discipleship. Are you extreme, radical, fanatical, and truly shocking (even offensive) to other ‘Christians’ like Jesus was to the religious leaders?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 August 22: Today, abide in God’s love, and let His love shine from you to others. Love God by loving others in His Name.