from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 9 January 2023:
2 Chronicles 7:1 – As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
God responds to prayer.
2 Chronicles 7:3 — When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
When the people clearly saw great miraculous signs from God, they were quite eager to worship Him and proclaim their allegiance to Him, but as soon as the obvious miracles ceased, the people were quick to disobey and drift from God, including Solomon, the wisest man on earth. Genuine faith and love is consistently and joyfully committed without the need for proof or reward. Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39) We are further instructed, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Trust in the Lord and remain loving and faithful without expecting God to prove to you His love and faithfulness.
- John 20:29 — Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
- Hebrews 11:1 — Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
- Hebrews 11:6 — And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
God warned the people that their faith would be tested when obedience was required without obvious signs from God, and that when (not if) they failed to remain faithful, repentance and prayer would be required – “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’” (2 Chronicles 7:12-14)
2 Chronicles 7:14 — If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
The sins of God’s people affect the land as does repentance. God has provided us with the prescription to heal our nation
2 Chronicles 7:22 — Then they will say, “Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.”
God deals with you in a way that both reveals His character to you but also glorifies Himself before a watching world. God will glorify Himself to the world through your life either through positive example or negative example. God will not be mocked. God punishes even those He has saved through grace. A loving Father disciplines His children. Better for the children though to simply obey.
Matthew 6:3-4, 6, 17 — But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Today, Jesus teaches on the secret life of the Christian which worships, gives, prays and fasts without anyone other than God knowing. Today’s teachings seem to contradict what Jesus taught in our readings yesterday – “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) So which is it? Is our devotion to be public or private? The answer is both.
Jesus is addressing both the fruit of the Christian life, which is observable to all, and the roots of the Christian life which is unseen by others. You can’t have real fruit unless you are truly united to the life of Christ and His love is producing genuine fruit through you. In John, Jesus says it this way –
- John 15:1-12 — I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
John later reiterates – “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)
Today’s verses address Christian character, who we really are rather than just who we say we are or who we appear to be to others externally. Someone once said, reputation is what others say about you, but character is what God sees in you. Are we truly abiding in Christ, or are we merely hypocrites, which means ‘stage actors’? Are our good deeds truly acts of love or merely performances to receive the applause of others? As we examine ourselves, Jesus challenges us to be root inspectors rather than just fruit inspectors.
Today’s verses are a reminder that we are fully exposed before God, and we can trust Him in our nakedness – there is no need to hide from Him as Adam and Eve did in the garden (Genesis 3:10). He knows the truth of us we often attempt to hide from others and loves us perfectly just the same. We can stop trying to perform for Him – He knows the true thoughts and feelings behind the prayers we utter, He knows the true motives behind our actions, and we can live openly and honestly before Him in full confidence of His love and grace as He completes in us the work He started – “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 8:29) Abide in Jesus privately, and Christ will be revealed naturally (not artificially) through you publicly.
Jesus’ last words to us in today’s readings are, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Many people today are anxious about what God thinks about them (guilt and fear), what others think about them, and about their futures. However, Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe.” (Mark 5:36) If you are a Christian, you have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by your efforts (Ephesians 2:8), through Christ you have been made righteous (right with God; Romans 1:17; Romans 5:17-19; 2 Corinthians 5:21), a genuine child of God (1 John 3:1). God, the Creator, the Sovereign, the Almighty loves you perfectly and endlessly, and nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:31-39). In Christ, you no longer must struggle for approval, and you no longer need to worry about your future – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Remember in Genesis 15, after God said to Abram, “Fear not,” God then went on to foretell the Jews’ future slavery in Egypt (Genesis 15:13) and the continuous conflict in the Middle East we still experience today (Genesis 16:11, 12)? God knows what you are going through and what you will go through, and He knows that you won’t handle your circumstances perfectly. God says, “Fear not…. Trust me…. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)…. I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5) Rejoice in the knowledge that you can stop performing, and it doesn’t all depend on you.
- Matthew 11:28-30 — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
- Mark 5:34 — And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
- John 14:27 — Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Some thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer below from Henry T. Blackaby:
Matthew 6:9b — … hallowed be your name.
“Our calling as Christians is to bring glory to the name of God. God’s name represents His character. Taking the name of God in vain misrepresents God’s character to others (Exod. 20:7). As Christians, we carry the name of our Savior. The way we live and relate to others is a direct reflection on the name of Christ.
Doing something “in Jesus’ name” is to do something that is in accordance with His character (John 15:16). It means that Jesus would be pleased to join us in what we are doing. If, however, our actions detract from God’s reputation, He will jealously guard His name. Sometimes we are too concerned with protecting the reputation of people but too little concerned with protecting the holy name of God. When the Israelites profaned God’s name before the nations by the way they lived, God “hallowed” His name: He made His name holy by punishing them (Ezek. 36:22). When David sinned before his nation, God publicly disciplined him in order to protect the holiness of His name.
We can so tarnish the name father before our children that it hinders them from loving God as their heavenly Father. We can be such unforgiving Christians that our sinfulness discourages people from seeking forgiveness from our God. We can show such disrespect for God as we worship Him that those observing lose their reverence of Him as well.
Our supreme desire should be to glorify the name of God by the way we live.
We ought to pray daily, as Jesus taught us to, that God’s name be treated as holy.
Matthew 6:11 — Give us this day our daily bread,
Jesus often reminded His followers not to worry. He told them not to be anxious about tomorrow’s needs or potential problems (Matt. 6:25). Rather, Jesus stressed a daily reliance on the Father, who provides for His children day by day. As the Israelites wandered in the desert, they had no way to get food. Miraculously, God provided manna that appeared on the ground each morning. God’s provision was sufficient for one day at a time. Each day the children of Israel received fresh manna as a tangible reminder of God’s love for them. If they attempted to store it for the days to come, they found that it had spoiled by the next day. It was impossible to stockpile God’s provision, because God wanted them to trust in Him, not in their pantry. God’s grace was sufficient for each day.
God wants us to trust Him daily with our needs. This trust does not make us poor planners or careless with our futures, unprepared to face what may come. Rather, it keeps our relationship with the Lord in its proper perspective as He reminds us daily of our dependence upon Him. God is aware of what tomorrow will bring and how we should prepare for it. He knows the problems we will face, and He has already made provision for us to overcome them. He asks us to trust in Him daily. Our faith in Him today cannot substitute for our trust in Him tomorrow. If we walk with Him closely today, we will be in the center of His will tomorrow.
Matthew 6:12 — and forgive us our debts…
Few things are more precious to receive than forgiveness. After carrying the burden of our sin, it is wonderfully freeing to know that the one we have wronged has completely forgiven us. Jesus told His disciples to ask God for forgiveness every time they prayed. Jesus knew that we would daily incur debts against God, as we inevitably fall short of God’s standard. A day does not go by that we do not need to ask God to remove our debt against Him.
Jesus warned that we should expect forgiveness from God as we forgive those who sin against us, for God will forgive us in the same way we forgive others (Matt. 6:15). God’s nature is forgiveness (Exod. 34:6-7). If we are to be His disciples, we must follow His example. If God will forgive our most relentless enemy, we can do nothing less. Jesus did not say that certain offenses are unworthy of our forgiveness. We have no biblical excuse for allowing unforgiveness in our hearts.
If you choose to withhold forgiveness from someone, your worship and prayers are futile (Matt. 5:23-24). Ask God to make you aware of those dark corners in your life where you are harboring resentment. A keen awareness of your own need for forgiveness will put the offenses of others in their proper light. Ask God to make you like Christ so that, even when you are being persecuted, you can pray “Father, forgive them.
Matthew 6:14-15 — For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Perhaps you consider yourself a forgiving person, but you are now facing someone whom you cannot forgive. Whenever you struggle to forgive, you need to revisit what you were like when God first forgave you. Ephesians 2 indicates you were a “foreigner” and a “child of wrath.” Yet God forgave your most grievous sin and rebellion against Him. While you were still rejecting God, Christ died for you (Rom. 5:8). This being so, how can you refuse to forgive those who sin against you? Forgiveness is not a spiritual gift, a skill, or an inherited trait. Forgiveness is a choice. Jesus looked down on those who had ruthlessly and mockingly nailed Him to a cross, yet He cried out: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). How, then, can we refuse to forgive those who have committed offenses against us?
Jesus said that the measure in which we are forgiving is the same standard God will use in forgiving us. God’s ways are very different from ours. God’s forgiveness is not based on standards we determine, but on the standards He established in His Word. God allows for no exceptions when it comes to forgiveness.
As we truly understand God’s gracious forgiveness in our lives, we will naturally want to express this same forgiveness to others (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Before you ask God for His forgiveness, take a moment to examine the condition of your relationships. Would you want God to forgive you in the same way you are presently forgiving others?” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 January 2023: Today, devote yourself to your private life with the Lord, and let it be revealed naturally to others. Let your unconditional forgiveness of others be the outward testimony of the unconditional forgiveness you have received through the blood Jesus shed on the Cross for you though you were an unworthy sinner. Share the Gospel in word as you share the Gospel in your deeds through unconditional forgiveness and giving.