Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 17 December 2022:
1 Chronicles 12:18 — Then the Spirit clothed Amasai, chief of the thirty, and he said, “We are yours, O David, and with you, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, and peace to your helpers! For your God helps you.” Then David received them and made them officers of his troops.
Led by the Spirit, Amasai and the other troops were prepared to fight for David with the ultimate aim that “Peace” would be granted to David and his supporters. Sometimes, we have to fight for peace, peace which only God can ordain. David said, “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?— the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze…. For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me. You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed. They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them. I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets.” (Psalm 18: 31-34, 39-42) David understood that only God could give him victory, but he still had to fight to obtain it, and God would empower him to do it. Similarly, God has empowered you with His Spirit to become Christlike, but you have to pursue Christlikeness with all your heart in order to claim the gift you have received. Too many Christians are expecting God to do their part while simultaneously trying to do what only God can do in their lives. Trust God to do His part and remain trustworthy with the commands and assignments God has given you. God is not going to do what he has told you to do.
Psalm 145:2, 4, 11-13 — Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever…. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts…. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
Today’s readings offer perspective on how we should live in a fallen world as New Creations and ambassadors for Christ.
Living as an ambassador, as a sojourner, and as an exile in a corrupt world can be extremely challenging. It can be hard to maintain your perspective, and it can be hard to raise children without them being corrupted by the world around them. Lot for example, was a righteous man whose soul was tormented daily by the sin he experienced around him. (2 Peter 2:7) However, he failed to protect his family from the influence of the godless society; he lost his wife and his in-laws, and his daughters had become shockingly perverted. (Genesis 19:30-36) As Christians, we must learn how to snatch people out of the fire without getting burned ourselves.
Today’s Psalms give us practical instruction: Every day praise the Lord and share His good works with your children — every day, forever. Also, every day, teach your children and others about the power and sovereignty of God and about the glory and splendor of the Kingdom of God which endures throughout all generations. Explain the hope we have in Christ’s return and ultimate reign in a new heaven and new earth. This daily instruction to your family and others will also be a good daily reminder for you. Finally, live today in accordance with the principles and practices of the Kingdom you represent. Represent your King through your behavior and in what you communicate. Proclaim the Gospel!
- 2 Peter 3:13 — But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
- 1 Peter 2:11 — Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
- Jude 1:21-23 — Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
- Acts 5:40-42 — …and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
- 2 Timothy 4:1-5 — I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Psalm 145:18, 20 – The Lord is near to all who call on him…. The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
This is a conditional statement. The Lord is not near to everyone, not even to everyone who calls on Him, only to those who call on Him in truth.
You cannot approach God in falsehood and half-heartedness. God knows the difference between love and flattery.
Psalm 145:20 – The Lord preserves all who love him.
Who does God save?
Proverbs 17:1 — A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
It is what is inside that counts (what is in your heart), not your circumstances or any other external factors which will determine the impact of your life. It is not what others believe to be true or even what you say is true about you that matters but what is really true – the truth of your character. And it doesn’t matter if you are rich and talented or have a great personality, ultimately your character will determine your future. The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus said it this way: “ethos anthropos daimon,” – “Character is destiny.” The character that Heraclitus spoke of, “ethos”, from where we get the word “ethics,” which involves the collection of ones virtues, with virtues being measured by something Heraclitus spoke of, something of which Christians should be well familiar: “logos” – “that which governs everything.” Heraclitus, the “Weeping Philosopher,” did not have the advantage of the revelation of God’s Word – “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5) .” Heraclitus did not know that “that which governs everything” is Jesus, but he still understood that our conformity with the “Logos” determined our fate. The Bible calls living by the Logos, “wisdom,” and, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 4:7, 9:10) Today’s Proverbs point out that wisdom prevails over any situation.
The ancient Greek philosophers had another imperfect perception of the truth which Jesus made clear: You must be born again. The Greek philosophers understood that acting (the Greek word for stage actor is hypocrite) virtuous doesn’t make a person virtuous, rather a person had to truly be virtue, virtuous in their soul. To them, a virtuous person consistently does virtuous things because virtue is who you are inside. To them, the law was merely to contain the unvirtuous and had no purpose for the virtuous who are self-controlled from within their souls. But the Greeks did not understand the power of the Holy Spirit and believed that consistent hard work could slowly transform an unvirtuous person into a virtuous person. However, the Bible reveals that we can only be set free from sin through Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:2) When Christ is in us, we are virtue, and the law is no longer required to govern our once wild spirits. Our minds are now controlled by the Spirit (Romans 8:5) The Holy Spirit within us now obligates us to live by the Spirit which puts to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:12-15). Even so, the Bible points out that we must take hold of what we have already received. We must live by the Spirit and not quench the Spirit, grieve the Spirit, or get out of step with the Spirit. We struggle with the flesh and rely on God’s grace as we grow up in faith. As children, we must learn from the Father. The children of God naturally act like their Father. Don’t act godly; be godly.
Proverbs 17:2 — A wise servant will rule over a disgraceful son, and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
This is an interesting verse when considered in context with how God responded to the unbelief of many Jews by opening the door of salvation to the Gentiles. As Romans 11:11 says, “Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” Paul continues: “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” I believe that when “the full number of the Gentiles has come in,” the “Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare (2 Peter 3:10; see all of 2 Peter 3 to understand more on the topic). Who do you know and love that you want to see counted among that number? Have you told them about Jesus?
Proverbs 17:3 — The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.
The LORD tests the heart in the fire of trials and temptations.
Proverbs 17:6 – Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.
God intends family to be a blessing.
Proverbs 17:7 – Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a prince.
Don’t cheapen the grace you have received and dishonor God through disobedience.
Proverbs 17:9 – Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
Your mission is reconciliation. Everything you say and do should unite.
Proverbs 17:10 – A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.
Will you learn the life lessons from the Bible, or does God have to teach you a lesson the hard way?
Proverbs 17:12 — Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.
Fools are more dangerous to you than ferocious animals.
Proverbs 17:13 — If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.
Do not respond to Jesus’ sacrifice for you with sinful disobedience to Him. Do not respond to the unmerited gift of forgiveness (while you were still sinning) you have received through Jesus (which is your salvation from eternal death) by refusing to forgive those who have sinned against you.
Proverbs 17:14 – The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
Rarely do you ever really win an argument whether you are right or wrong. Just let it go and leave it to God to deal with whatever you have lost. When there is a conflict between you and someone else, the issue can become your idol (the focus rather than Jesus). Don’t let that issue cause you to lose sight of your goal of bringing that person closer to Jesus. If that person is focused on the issue or on you, they are not looking at Jesus. Is anything worth distracting you or someone else from Jesus?
Proverbs 17:16 – Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom when he has no sense?
Wisdom is the key to success in life, not circumstances, resources, talents, or knowledge.
Proverbs 17:20 – A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
A good life is cultivated by a good heart.
Proverbs 17:27, 28 – Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
If there is any doubt, remain silent. Everybody has something to say, but most of it is not worth listening to and does not promote reconciliation or wisdom. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” (Proverbs 18:4) The most important time to be silent is when you are feeling emotional (this is a warning of self-centeredness). Emotional words won’t be wise, godly words. You must first deny self and take up your cross. You must be compelled by the love of Christ to see that person as Jesus sees that person. As an ambassador for Christ, you are not allowed to represent yourself in that encounter; to do so would be to commit cosmic treason. Do not sin against the one who gave His life for you (though you didn’t deserve it) by seeking your own justification and glory from a position of self-righteousness. Leave justice to the Just One, and stay focused on the goal of reconciling people to Jesus.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 17 December 2022: Today, as you proactively engage a broken community, keep yourself in the love of God, praise the Lord, tell everyone about His mighty deeds and about the glory of His Kingdom. Influence without being influenced.