Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 31 August 2022:
1 Samuel 5:3 — Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place.
Your idols cannot stand before the presence of God in your life. God will have nothing get in the way of your right relationship with Him. If you won’t deal with your idols, He will because He loves you too much to let them remain barriers between you and Him. How do you respond when God knocks down your idols? Do you just put them back up again? Don’t spend your days trying to keep your idols standing; instead, lift up Christ in your life.
1 Samuel 5:7 — The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.
The Philistines were suffering greatly because of the presence of the Ark of God. What was their solution? Separate themselves from the Ark so that they could be restored to their idols and their lives apart from The One True God. The Philistines saw the power of God and “believed” in God but did not have a heart to worship Him as God and follow Him (see James 2:19). The Philistines preferred to remove the presence of God (not really a possibility) rather than conform to Him. Are there any places in your life where you keep God at a comfortable distance so you can live as you desire?
- 1 Samuel 15:23 — For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.
- Colossians 3:5 — Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
- 1 Corinthians 10:14 — Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
- 1 John 5:21 — Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
Idols are not just worshipped objects but anything in our lives which occupies the place which should be occupied by God alone – anything which is central in our lives rather than God. Idols are those things rather than God by which we live and on which we depend, those things which hold such a controlling position in our lives, we will direct our time, attention, energy, and resources towards them rather than God and what He desires. Timothy Keller says, “When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, it is essentially an ‘idol,’ something you are actually worshipping.” Idols are usually things that we would consider good things or blessings such as work, family, friends, beauty, health, reputation, hobbies, service, and even religion. However, when good things or blessings become our focus and priority over Jesus, they become our spiritual stumbling blocks. At some point we will choose them over Him. Ironically, when we love something more than Jesus, we rob both ourselves and our beloved of true love – our misguided affection destroys us and our idol. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) There is no life in an idol. Where Christ is central, where the branch is connected to the vine (see John 15), there is life to its fullest. When you seek Christ first and foremost in your life, the good things in life (which some make idols) will naturally blossom.
It is important for us to understand that, while these idols in our lives (those requirements for our happiness which control our thinking and behavior) must be removed, they are all just subordinate idols to the ultimate idol of self, which 1 Samuel 15:23 and Colossians 3:5 indicate. They are all intended to serve our self-centered desires of love, security, personal fulfillment, self-righteousness, etc. Ultimately, we seek gods which serve us rather than seeking to live lives fully dedicated to loving, joyful service to the Sovereign, Almighty God, which ironically is the only thing that can bring us fulfillment. The primary idol we need to tear down is the idol of self – “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 Timothy 4:1 – Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons….
Yes, some will ‘fall from the faith.’ But genuine faith does not fail. Those with genuine faith, a gift not earned, have complete assurance in their salvation.
1 Timothy 4:7 – Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness….
Godliness requires training.
1 Timothy 4:12 — Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
Timothy desired to serve the Lord, yet he lacked confidence. He was young and sickly, and he did not possess the outward bearing that would instantly command the respect of others. (1 Tim 5:23) He, no doubt, seemed an unlikely candidate to boldly preach the Gospel to both believers and unbelievers during an age of persecution in the Roman Empire. Paul urged Timothy not to let his insecurities thwart him or cause him to be influenced by those bolder, more confident, more accepted, seemingly more successful teachers who preached popular lies. Paul urged Timothy NOT to argue with those who proclaimed “irreverent, silly myths.” (1 Timothy 4:7) Rather, Paul urged him to live as an example of godliness – “train yourself for godliness” – with the same diligence a professional athlete would have to train for the games – “toil and strive.” He urged Timothy to live a life that was spotless in “speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity,” to be a model for others to follow. Timothy’s life was to be the evidence of the God who called him. And from that position of holy credibility, Timothy was to preach the truth boldly and fervently (as opposed to living just a quiet example as some Christians suggest we should do).
Paul told Timothy to “command and teach these things” – yes, command! Despite his youth and physical frailty, Timothy had some distinct advantages over his seemingly more powerful adversaries – he was empowered by the Holy Spirit; he was sincere; and he was well trained and experienced “in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine.” Paul urged Timothy to confidently press forward as a well-trained Ambassador of Christ under the authority of Christ – “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” And Paul encouraged Timothy to continue to strengthen his abilities – “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” Paul reminded Timothy of the two indissoluble, essential attributes that make a great leader – character and competence – and he reminded him to be self-aware of these attributes in his life: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
Timothy was not to reduce himself to the level of those who desired to fight him – “Never wrestle with a pig in the mud because you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.” Jesus said, “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.” Under the authority of Christ who has empowered us with the Holy Spirit, we have been called to serve as his Ambassadors, a kingdom of priests, proclaiming the truth to the kingdoms of the world, commanding obedience to the LORD. Our strength and authority doesn’t come from our human abilities or position. Nothing should intimidate us. Even our weaknesses are used by God to demonstrate to the world His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9) We should “boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us].” I am afraid that the “seeker-sensitive” church has become too concerned about appealing to the world through superficiality rather than living holy lives while shamelessly proclaiming the truth to those who need to face the realities of sin against a Holy God. As Proverbs says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love…. and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” Don’t remain silent, and don’t argue; just lovingly and graciously speak the truth straight from the word of God, and let the Holy Spirit work in the hearts of others. Our words should be like “public reading of Scripture,” teaching and, yes, even exhorting, but always with love, gentleness, and humility. (1 Timothy 4:13)
“As you seek to follow God’s will, you may identify with Timothy. Perhaps some things about you seem to disqualify you from serving the Lord effectively. You may be sensitive because you are a new Christian or because you come from a sinful past. Perhaps you have little education or money or social status. You may have previously experienced failure in your service for God. Don’t allow this to intimidate you from following God’s will. Your area of weakness may be God’s means of demonstrating His strength (2 Cor. 12:9). Allow God to demonstrate His call upon you by transforming your life into a model of godliness.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
In today’s readings from 1 Timothy 4, Paul warns of false teachers – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons….” Jesus says, if you know Him and His voice, you won’t be deceived by these robbers – “All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” (John 10:8) The more we draw near to God and listen to Him by prayerfully studying and applying His word, the better equipped we are to spot false teachers – “As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:9)
Jesus also said that when we are near to Him and abide in His love, we will clearly recognize those who aren’t – “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)
Better than offering the sacrifice of fools. Don’t be foolish. Draw near to your Good Shepherd, listen to His voice and obey. Don’t wander off and suffer needlessly –
- Matthew 9:36 — When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
- 1 Peter 2:25 — For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
- Psalm 23 — The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
- Revelation 7:17 — For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 31 August 2022: Pray to God that He will reveal to you your idols. Don’t ignore the Holy Spirit’s conviction concerning things that need to change in your life which are hurting your fellowship with God and with others.