Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 16 November 2022:
2 Kings 5:13 — But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”
Simple pride stands between many people and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Many simply refuse to humble themselves to accept salvation on God’s terms – to them it is illogical, too unsophisticated, too accessible, too easy, or unspectacular. The prideful mind can’t fathom the gift of total forgiveness and righteousness (being made right in the His sight) from God through the Christ which is undeserved, unmerited, and available to the lowliest of sinners, removing all pride of accomplishment, superiority, or special favor.
- John 3:16 — For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life….
- Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 1 Corinthians 1:18 — For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The mighty Syrian commander Naaman wanted to be healed but on his terms, in a way that appealed to his sense of pride, in a spectacular way fit for a great person, in a way that honored him rather than revealing his total dependence on mercy and grace. Naaman could not humble himself in order to accept God’s healing on God’s terms. He expected God’s prophet to honor him and treat him special. However, Elisha intentionally did not come out to see Naaman, sending a messenger instead. All Naaman had to do was accept the free gift of healing from God, but he considered it beneath him. The message couldn’t have been more clear or simple — ‘Wash, and be clean’. But the message was ridiculous to Naaman. Fortunately, Naaman’s servants were willing to talk some sense into him (likely at great personal risk), and Naaman relented. Who do you know that simply refuses to accept the simplicity of the Gospel? Are you willing to come near to them and appeal to them to be reconciled to God?
2 Kings 5:15, 16 — And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.”
Many who have received the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ still act as if they still need to earn it, so they try to work for it, pay for it in some way, or make some sort of exchange with God. Often, Christians do this without even realizing they are doing it. How offended would someone be if they gave you a priceless gift out of love, and in response you said, “Here’s $50 for what you gave me.” Consider how offensive it is to try to ‘pay’ for salvation (or earn it through deeds) which was given as a loving sacrifice through the blood of Christ. Don’t insult God, cheapen the Gospel, or distract from the Gospel message by trying to work your way into Heaven or in some way contribute to the sufficiency of Christ. And be very careful not to display your good deeds before others (boast) as if you somehow have anything to do with your own salvation. Yes, obey God, but out of love, not pride or duty (doing it because you know you are supposed to), and always give God the glory. When others are inclined to praise you for your behavior, use the opportunity to share the Gospel so “they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12) Finally, don’t sacrifice your peace, rest, security, and joy in Christ by trying to carry a burden of self-justification you can’t carry – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
2 Kings 5:18, 19 — In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” He said to him, “Go in peace.”
Many who accept God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ live powerless, insignificant lives because they compromise with the world, don’t walk in grace and loving obedience, and don’t proclaim the Gospel to others in word and deed and God intends them to do:
Naaman the Syrian was the only Leper cured by Elisha (Luke 4:27), not even any Jews were healed. Naaman could have been a powerful witness in Syria, but because he continued to comprise with the wicked practices of his culture for the sake of maintaining his position, the Bible records no other significant events in the life of Naaman — he was healed and then nothing. He is never mentioned again in the Old Testament. What might have happened in Syria if Naaman had acted like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel and had refused to bow down to foreign gods and had refused to conceal his faith in order to avoid conflict? Perhaps his impact would have transformed Syria like Daniel’s impact transformed Babylon. How has compromise hindered our impact on the world around us? The compromising Christian may be saved, but ineffective or irrelevant at a time and place when God seeks faithful witnesses. Consider what is happening today in America: Many are boldly proclaiming a position on politics or social issues, but how many people are boldly proclaiming Jesus Christ as the only Way to peace and reconciliation, and the only Truth, and as the only way to Life? How many Christians are acting like Naaman, quietly believing without having any real impact on the world – “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘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.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Elisha’s ‘Go in peace’ was not an endorsement but rather a polite dismissal. Having received healing and life, Naaman, in turn, should have committed his life to faithfully serving God without compromise. Elisha did not condemn Naaman, but neither did he commend him or commission him — Elisha was done with him. Christians often see salvation as having eternal life, but they fail to recognize that eternal life starts now (see John 17:3) and fail to understand we are not just saved for eternity, we are saved to live out “thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” to serve God now on earth, to be priests, ambassadors, salt and light, and to bring glory to God every day. Like so many others, Naaman apparently viewed his gift of life as something intended for him rather than for God’s glory. As demonstrated by Paul, Grace should compel us to live our lives for Christ alone, to know Him more and more each day and to make Him known more and more each day. Don’t render yourself irrelevant through compromise and lack of conviction. Serve God wholeheartedly.
2 Kings 5:26 — Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants?
A final point: To attempt to use the power of God in your life for personal gain is a curse. Make sure your motive in all you do is truly God’s glory and not self-glorification or self-interest. The grace you received from God was free (to you but not to Him) and God-centered. In the same way, give grace freely to others at your own expense in gratitude for the grace you have received and out of genuine love for those your Lord loved enough to die for, always proclaiming Christ alone (nothing about yourself) — “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.'” (Matthew 10:5-8)
John 11:5, 14, 15 — Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was…. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus deeply, so He allowed them to go through a tremendous life crisis. The sisters asked for Jesus’ immediate help, but in His love, He delayed until Lazarus died. “Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother,” but where was Jesus in their time of great need? Martha and Mary couldn’t help but question why Jesus had apparently let them down — “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32) If He loved them so much, why would He let this happen when He had already demonstrated the power to heal?
“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Jesus’ delay was undoubtedly perceived by some to be inattentiveness or insensitivity. However, Jesus was fully aware of what was going on and had great compassion for Martha, Mary and all who were suffering through this crisis. Though Jesus “was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” by the pain experienced by those He loved, He didn’t prevent Lazarus’ death because He knew they needed to go through this crisis in order to realize a far greater joy of knowing from experience that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) They already knew Jesus could heal and perform miracles, but now they would know that Jesus is the Life — “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:26) Can you imagine how much deeper the relationship was between Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? Can you imagine how greatly God was glorified through Jesus’ relationship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus — “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36) “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)
If you have ever questioned why God allowed you to go through crisis or tragedy and seemed to leave your prayers unanswered, this story is for you. In His perfect love, God will never forsake you and will walk with you compassionately through hard times to draw you closer to Him and to glorify Himself through your life. Trust in God’s love through life’s challenges, draw closer to Him, and wait upon Him. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
- Romans 8:28-29 — And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
- Romans 8:31-32 — What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
- Romans 8:35. 37-39 — Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 16 November 2022: Be amazed by grace today. Walk restfully, peacefully and joyfully in the assurance of your salvation today, and proclaim the awesome simplicity of the Gospel to as many as possible today – “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) In your challenges today, focus on trusting God, drawing closer to Him, and glorifying Him before others through your confidence, joy, and peace.