Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 7 September 2022:
1 Samuel 12:3, 4 — “Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you. They said, ‘You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.’”
Samuel lived a blameless life with no debts and no secrets, always willing to confess his sins publicly and always willing to make full restitution. This is the sort of person God uses mightily. Samuel understood that the way he lived his life before others reflected his relationship with God and affected his ability to perform his primary mission as God’s messenger. Samuel lived with such integrity, that he could confidently stand before everyone and challenge them to name any wrongs he might have committed. Do you live confidently with such personal integrity?
- Psalm 25:21 -- May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. - Psalm 26:1 -- Of David. Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. - Psalm 101:2 -- I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house…. - Proverbs 10:9 -- Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. - Proverbs 11:3 -- The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. - Proverbs 19:1 -- Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool. - Proverbs 20:7 -- The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him! - Proverbs 28:6 -- Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. - Proverbs 28:18 -- Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. - Titus 2:7 -- Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity….
Integrity, living true, requires complete humility, striving to live a life which honors the Sovereign Lord and which places the benefit of others above our own selfish desires, while continually admitting and correcting our errors (sins) to the best of our abilities; using private, prayerful confession as our opportunity to reset our hearts to the Lord and to rest in the efficiency of His grace, while also using public confession as a way to remain humble, seek reconciliation, restitution, and restoration, and to proclaim our dependence on grace and our hope in the Gospel.
“Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” Samuel also adhered to God’s command to make restitution to anyone you have wronged (see Exodus 22, Leviticus 5, Numbers 5). The principle of restitution is something that has largely been forgotten in the modern church, but Proverbs 14:9 says only “fools mock at making restitution.” To whom do you need to make restitution today?
1 Samuel 12:23 — “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.”
Also, Samuel prayed for sinful people and was willing to go through the difficult process of instructing them for their benefit and reconciliation, but he prioritized prayer first. Many are ready to instruct, but few are willing to pray. When we instruct, we are tempted to think that our abilities will make the difference. Prayer acknowledges that it is the Spirit which must affect the change in a person. Prayer also reminds us that it is never about us; we are merely instruments used by God for His glory to bring others closer to Him. Prayer gets the heart right before engaging the mouth. Careless words are never helpful. Guaranteed, when you earnestly pray first for the person you feel compelled to confront, it will not only change how you see them and how you engage them, it will keep you receptive to the counsel and movement of the Holy Spirit. Remember, only God can convict and change a person’s heart, not you.
2 Timothy 3:2,7 — For people will be lovers of self….
The root of all sin is a love of self over God and others, or selfishness. Sin always prioritizes self over God and others. Sin entered this world when Adam and Eve chose self over God – “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6) Sin starts in the heart, with what we truly desire most – “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Psalm 36:1) “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:4, 5) In selfishness and sin, we essentially dethrone God and attempt to make ourselves gods, deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong and what is true and untrue rather than submitting to God’s laws, commands and principles, committing what R.C. Sproul calls “cosmic treason.” John Calvin writes, “He who loveth himself claims a superiority in everything, despises all others, is cruel, indulges in covetousness, treachery, anger, rebellion against parents, neglect of what is good, and such like.” Today, self-love is praised in popular psychology, as a simple web search will demonstrate, and it is void of God, as are most self-help philosophies of the day, though many seek to adopt biblical language to validate their pursuit of self. Those in pursuit of self will often convince themselves God is on their side (like a neighboring ally), God doesn’t care, God is powerless, or God simply doesn’t exist. Regardless how someone justifies their sin, God knows and judges the heart.
Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Repentance is a change of heart which desires to love God and others over self, submit to the sovereignty of God, and obey God in love. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love…. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 14:15; John 15:10, 12) In his pursuit to “come after” Jesus, Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Paul understood that he had been saved by grace through faith in Jesus and not because of his works of love, and he also understood that only God could give him the ability to truly love; but in that knowledge, Paul was compelled to fan the flame of love in His life as an act of worship, which involved sacrificing self daily. Paul further encouraged others, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) In Christ, we are dead to sin and selfishness and alive in Christ and His love, a reality we more fully realize with each day as we practice sacrificial love in His Name.
- Galatians 5:22-26 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
- Romans 8:13 — For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
- Colossians 3:5 — Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Today, Paul warns, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:12, 13) Tomorrow, Paul will explain further, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4) Denying self and submitting to God is offensive, even blasphemous, to those who worship the idol of self; it is an afront to their entire worldview, exposing its foundational fallacy and hypocrisy. The love of Christ, which exposes the truth of selfishness and sin as an affront the sovereignty and holiness of God, will be characterized as hate and considered dangerous, a crime against humanity. Under their banner of love (which is self-love), the world will naturally seek to destroy Love (God is Love). What should be the Christian response? Deny self, take up your cross daily, follow Jesus, love others as He loves us, and proclaim the Gospel.
- Luke 12:51 — Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
- John 3:20 — For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
- 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 — For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ….
- Hebrews 4:12 — For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
- 1 Peter 2:12 — Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 September 2022: If you have not done so already, make a list of your family, church members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers for whom you should pray. Pray for them by name today — “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you (1 Samuel 12:23).” Also, make every effort to settle your debts today. If you have offended someone, seek forgiveness from them today and reconcile. Return what you have borrowed, repay what you have taken, and as much as possible, fix what you have broken. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.” (Romans 13:8) You may not be able to do it all today, but at least make the commitment and take the first steps. Deny self, take up your cross today (daily), follow Jesus, love others as He loves us, and proclaim the Gospel.