Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 17 August 2022:
Judges 16:1 — “Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her.”
Samson, though called by God to serve Him mightily, completely defied God’s commands, something for which God will certainly hold him accountable as we continue to read. Likewise, God will not tolerate any unrepentant sin in your life. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
Judges 16:5 — “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies….”
Samson’s relationships were not godly or loving; therefore, he was not treated with love and faithfulness by those to whom he made himself vulnerable.
Judges 16:15 — “And she said to him, ‘How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me?'”
The ungodly talk about love, but they have no idea what love really is. Love can only emanate from the Source, which is God Himself. We don’t create love, we only share the love that flows from God through us. He is the Vine, we are but branches.
Judges 16:20 – And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.
“One of the signs of a heart that has shifted from God is the absence of spiritual power. If you are like Samson, you will not be immediately aware that God’s power has left you. Only after he tried to defeat his enemies did Samson recognize that something was wrong. He went against the Philistines as before, expecting their swift defeat. But this time the Philistines easily prevailed over him.
If you allow sin to creep into your life, if you refuse to obey your Lord, if you do not reconcile with those who have hurt you, your spiritual vitality is waning. You may assume everything is fine, but when you pray, answers do not come as they once did. You once had a positive effect on those around you, but now your influence is negligible or even harmful. Your life once brought reconciliation, but now you experience problems in your relationships. Those around you who have relied upon your strength are discovering that you are not as helpful to them as you once were. Your lack of spiritual power is not crying out for attention; but you are seeing subtle changes in your spirit and in your relationship with God.
How can you stop this spiritual decline? You must regularly repent of any sin. You must invite God to search your life to see if there are attitudes, relationships, or activities that need to be removed. You must fervently obey His will. If you walk with God in this manner, you will grow in spiritual strength and be used mightily by Him.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Luke 18:1 – “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
Prayer should be our substitute for fear and hopelessness.
Luke 18:1-8 – “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart….”
Prayer is not a one-shot affair.
Luke 18:9-14 — 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.
The two Christian character traits taught most frequently in the New Testament are love and humility. Love is the greatest commandment, but love is impossible without genuine humility. Pride is the opposite of humility and stands in the way of love. Pride is self-centered and values self over others. Love considers the other “more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) In our sinfulness, we are prideful and self-righteous, and in our self-righteousness, we dishonor God and mistreat others. Today, Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is directed at those “who trust in themselves that they are righteous and treat others with contempt.” (Luke 18:9) Jesus warns that everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted. Said another way, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Jesus began His teaching with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew. 5:3). The poor in spirit are those who understand their spiritual poverty and utter dependence upon the riches of God’s grace and righteousness credited to those who receive Christ. Even as believers, they see their continued sinfulness. The poor in spirit are like the tax collector who “would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” In contrast, the dutiful, prideful, self-righteous Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.” Humility and love begin with a deep sense of our own continued sinfulness. Notice that pride looks down upon the sins of others with an attitude of superiority.
In His teaching of the Beatitudes, Jesus continued, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew. 5:4). This second beatitude follows naturally the first. Those who see their continued sinfulness mourn over it – they repent of it. A humble heart is a repentant heart. Repentance is the beginning of saving faith and the habit of sanctifying faith – “Repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15) “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Turning to God, by definition, involves a turning from sin, which begins in the heart. There is the initial repentance at the point of salvation, but there is also the continual repentance through sanctification, both enabled by the Holy Spirit, both requiring humility, a poorness in spirt, relying solely on the riches of Christ. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, not by our deeds, but saving faith includes a continual, increasing passion for God and hatred of sin; it also includes an increasing love for others as Christ loves. “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” (Acts 2:28) We have been granted faith through His promise, and we grow in faith through His promise – it is a path we walk through life, becoming increasingly glad in His presence, which is increasingly removed from sin, increasingly bright in His Light, farther removed from the darkness – “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18)
In the Beatitudes, Jesus continues to identify the blessed as those who are the meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who are the merciful, who are pure in heart, who are the peacemakers, and who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The truly humble Christian who recognizes their sinfulness and repents of it will naturally act differently, treat others differently, and suffer wrongs differently. They will love and will never stop growing in love.
An essential attribute of saving faith is a humble repentant spirit which only grows over time. For God’s people, God’s word is a two-edged sword which cuts to the heart, convicting us of our sin, but also which gives us unshaking confidence in the power of His grace and His promise, which is grounded in His unchanging character, love, and faithfulness, not ours. (Hebrews 4:12) Resting assured in the righteousness of Christ, we now, as children of God, must grow up in righteousness, one day at a time. Part of this growth process involves growing in our understanding of God’s word. Remain in God’s word; be convicted by God’s word, repent, draw nearer to Christ, and walk confidently in the assurance of His grace.
Humility is the path to spiritual growth, receptivity to the Holy Spirit, and spiritual fruitfulness – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23)
- Proverbs 11:2 — When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
- James 4:10 — Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
- Philippians 2:3 — Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
- Psalm 25:9 — He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
Luke 18:17 – “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
God wants you to have a child-like faith, not a childish faith. Child-like faith trusts Dad to provide every need and rests securely in Dad’s protection.
Luke 18:18-30 — “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
People are motivated at the lowest levels by fear, pride, and greed. People are motivated at a higher level by duty, but the only motivation truly worthy before God is the motivation of love. If you love something more than Jesus, you will not follow Jesus far because your idols will draw you from Him. God’s first command to you is to love Him unconditionally. He can see the truth of your motivations that are behind your religious activity and good deeds. Dutiful action is not the same as loving action and will not last in the fire. None of us are perfected in love, and often we find ourselves obeying out of the lesser motivation of duty, but with a reliance on God’s grace, and in honest humility, God will use our dutiful efforts to grow us in love. Just don’t allow your duty to become prideful. One of the first signs of pride is comparing yourself to others. Re-read the story of Mary and Martha while they ate with Jesus or the story of the Prodigal Son for examples of prideful comparison.
Luke 18:22 — “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
The first step – deny self:
- Matthew 16:24 — Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
- Mark 8:34 — And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
- 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.
- Matthew 10:39 — Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
- Matthew 16:25 — For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
- 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.
- Luke 9:24 — For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
- Luke 17:33 — Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
- John 12:25 — Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Luke 18:27 – “But he said, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’”
God can do the impossible of transforming the human heart. We cannot fix our hearts or anyone else’s — only God can.
Luke 18:41, 42 — “’What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.’”
God knows what you want but still wants you to ask in faith.
Luke 18:43 – “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.”
When you truly experience the power of God in your life and truly appreciate it, you will follow Jesus and glorify Him unashamedly. If you have trouble proclaiming Jesus to others, perhaps you don’t know Him and appreciate Him as well as you should.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 17 August 22: Pray today that God will increase your humility, your receptiveness to the convicting of the Holy Spirit though His word, your holiness, your purity, your love for Him and others, and your confidence in His love and faithfulness as you grow in faith. Also, consider your motivation for why you do what you do. Where are you still motivated by fear, pride, and duty rather than true, unconditional love? “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24) How are you doing on step one?