Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 17 November 2022:
2 Kings 6:17 — “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
We cannot see the reality around us that only God can reveal. It is impossible for us to make sense out of the world strictly from our own perceptions. We must be enlightened, empowered, and guided by the Spirit. Only through the Spirit can you see the reality of the situation around you which is far different than what the eyes can see. The invisible is no less real than the visible, in fact it is more real; but people tend to believe only what they see and misinterpret what is actually happening. God’s word provides us spiritual guidelines to keep us aligned with the invisible realities of God’s will. It takes faith to follow God’s word when you can’t see the whole picture. God says, “Trust and obey.”
2 Kings 6:22 — Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.
Elisha taught the king of Israel to show mercy towards his enemies.
2 Kings 6:23 — So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.
Hospitality, mercy, and grace had a greater impact on Syria than hostility would have.
John 12:2-3 — Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.
This should be a familiar scene, Martha serving Jesus while Mary sat with the Lord. Remember the first time this took place as recounted in Luke 10?
- Luke 10:38-42 — Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
The primary difference in the two stories is Martha’s heart toward service. In both events, Martha served while Mary sat, but previously Martha served resentfully, anxiously, and pridefully, comparing her effort to Mary’s lack of effort. During the previous event, Martha’s attitude ruined her fellowship with the Lord and with Mary, and Martha ultimately presented Jesus with a complaint rather than a humble, loving, gift of service. Martha didn’t share Jesus’ heart of grace and, therefore, was out of fellowship with Him, much like the older son who lacked the father’s heart of grace towards the younger son in the parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 15) However, today Martha serves Jesus without complaint.
Jesus changes hearts. Interestingly, Luke doesn’t record this second meal between Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and Jesus, only the first, but John does. Perhaps because John appreciated firsthand how Jesus transforms resentful hearts into loving hearts. Remember, Jesus had nicknamed John a ‘Son of Thunder’ because John had suggested Jesus call down fire from Heaven to consume a Samaritan village which denied them lodging. (Luke 9:51-56) However, after walking with Jesus for three years, John became known as the “Apostle of Love,” and John wrote about love more than any other Biblical author. John even described himself as “The disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23; John 19:26; John 21:7) Jesus transformed prideful, resentful John into humble loving John.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. (2 Corinthians 13:5) How has God changed your heart? A good test is how you serve others. Do you serve others joyfully and peacefully without concern over reward or fairness, or do you find yourself resenting what others aren’t doing or the lack of recognition you receive from others? Does your service make you anxious and hinder your fellowship with God and with others? Or are you overjoyed to give people what they don’t deserve so you can display the grace of God to them?
- Luke 6:35 — But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
- Ephesians 6:5-8 — Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
- Hebrews 12:15 — See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled….
- Matthew 5:41 — And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
- 1 Peter 4:10-11 — As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- Galatians 5:13-14 — For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
- Matthew 20:28 — Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
- John 13:12-14 — When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
- Mark 9:35 — And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
- Matthew 23:11 — The greatest among you shall be your servant.
- James 2:14-17 — What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
John 12:3-8 — Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
God sees beyond words and deeds, judging the motives and the hearts of people. Judas claimed concern for the poor for selfish reasons. From his selfish, unloving position, he criticized Mary’s act of worship as impractical and wasteful. However, Jesus understood the intentions of her heart, to worship Him in humble gratitude. When Jesus says to Judas, “the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me,” I think he is saying much more than just “you can take care of the poor later.” I think he is saying that the poor remain, not because a lack of resources, but rather because a lack of love, love first for God and then for others. Mary understood that love starts with God and flows from God. We have no real love to give others unless we are abiding in Christ, and the love of Christ is flowing through us. Many people give to charities, not to love God and others, but rather to feel righteous or to get some sort of credit. How many charities have you seen named after a person rather than named to glorify God who provides everything? These self-centered philanthropic activities do provide some relief to people in need, but not only does the self-centered giver remain without “credit” from God, but these superficial efforts fail to address the root cause of the issues causing the need – sin. The heart of man’s problem is the problem with man’s heart.
- 1 Samuel 16:7 — But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
- 2 Chronicles 6:30 — then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind….
- Proverbs 21:2 — Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.
- Isaiah 29:12-14 — And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read. And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
- Jeremiah 11:20 — But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause.
- Matthew 15:19 — For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
- Mark 7:21 — For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
- Romans 10:10 — For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
- 1 Corinthians 4:5 — Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
- 2 Corinthians 5:12 — We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.
- Ephesians 6:5-7 — Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man….
- 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.
- Hebrews 10:16 — “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” Many, many people are involved in “Christian” ministry for selfish reasons, even though they quite often have not admitted it to themselves. For this reason, C.S. Lewis advised friends to not make ministry a source of livelihood. Be certain that your acts of ministry are in no way motivated by selfishness such as a desire to feel good about yourself, to feel righteous, or to be noticed by others. Only God truly understands your motives because you even deceive yourself; but with humility, God can show you where you are not motivated by love alone.
John 12:24 – Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
“Some things must die in order to be productive. Certain seeds will not germinate into a plant unless they freeze during the winter. Jesus knew that His death would bring salvation to the world.
The moment you became a Christian, your sinful nature died (Rom. 6:6), but there remained sinful aspects of your character that had not gone to their graves willingly. Before you became a Christian were you self-centered? You may discover selfishness lingering in your life when you ought to be freely sharing what you have in the name of Christ (Matt. 10:8). Did you have a volatile temper? Now as a believer, you experience moments when anger wells up within you. Were you driven by ambition? You may still find yourself with the same motivation as you strive for recognition and position in the kingdom of God.
If these sinful attitudes are allowed to remain alive, they will stifle the fruits of the Spirit. Your temper may prevent some from coming to Jesus. Your selfishness will hinder you from being a blessing to those around you. Your ambition could cause you to use others to meet your goals. Your family may be suffering because of some areas of your life that you have never allowed Jesus to put to death. It is futile to say, “But that’s just the way I am!” That is the way you were. But that person died with Christ; you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Allow God to complete His work in you and see what fruit your life produces.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
John 12:26 — Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Jesus did not live life for himself, asking God to bless him along his personal journey. Rather, Jesus lived only for the Father’s desires, plan, and will. Jesus did nothing unless the Father directly commanded him, and everything the Father commanded, He did. In Today’s readings we see that every single word that came out of Jesus’ mouth was commanded to Him by the Father (John 12:49). This obedience was exemplified by Jesus at a very young age – “‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’”
If God is God (of course He is), and we are called to serve and glorify Him (as we are), and glorifying God is the purpose of our existence (which it is), how could we do anything but what the Father desires. Jesus was the perfect example, and commanded us to follow Him as a faithful servant. So, what else in this world matters? However, today we read in both Ezekiel and John that pride gets in the way of our fidelity to the Lord. As described in Ezekiel, when we pursue our own paths for our own purposes and our own desires, we are putting ourselves before God and, in fact, calling ourselves god (Ezekiel 28:1-5). This self-worship is idolatry (Colossians 3:5) and putting a Christian spin on it does not change the truth of it. The Pharisees and those that followed them proclaimed their faith in God while they in fact refused to follow Jesus because they “loved praise from men more than praise from God (John 12:43).” Jesus warned that we cannot serve two masters. We are either about our Father’s business or pursuing the American dream. What is driving your actions today? What will you do today, what you think is best or what the Father has commanded? Whose words will you speak today, yours for the Father’s? In what will you place your trust, God or the economy and your job security? What will you fear today, God or man? What would happen if today we all boldly followed Christ in deed and no one or nothing else? See you on the battlefield. Many will talk about Jesus, but few will follow Him.
John 12:37 – “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him….”
Miracles do not lead to faith. Many people claim they don’t have enough evidence to trust in Jesus, or they may demand from God a ‘sign’ in order to trust Him. In fact, lack of faith is not an evidence issue but rather a heart issue. All the evidence in the world can’t make someone believe what they really don’t want to believe, love who they really don’t love, or follow who they really don’t want to follow. As James points out, the demons ‘believe’ in Jesus, but they still refuse to place their faith in Him – “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19)
John 12:41 – Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
Real prophets point to Jesus, never to themselves
John 12:47-50 — If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.
Sinners are judged by the Father, not by the messenger who testifies to the truth of God’s word and reveals sin through his testimony. Our job is to proclaim the truth, and we MUST point out sin and the need for salvation through Jesus Christ alone. The Father does the judging.
Many struggle with how to reconcile these verses with the following: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.” (John 5:22, 23) Also, consider John 9:39 – “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’” Christ came to bring salvation and restoration, to “proclaim the truth.” The Truth will stand as witness against all who reject His message when he returns to judge the living and the dead on the last day. This is better understood when we consider John 3:16 in context: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 November 2022: Pray that God will strengthen the love, grace, joy, and peace you bring to serving others. Pray that God will increase in you a heart that pours out your very best to others as a gift of grace, without need of recognition or reward, out of gratitude for the amazing, unmerited grace you have received through Christ, and because you simply desire to love God and others “with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27)