YEAR 2, WEEK 5, Day 7, Sunday, 5 February 2023

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 5 February 2023:

2 Chronicles 34:1-17 – For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. … he broke down the altars and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel.

Revival involves a return to obedience, and when God brings revival, he also calls the revived to mission.

2 Chronicles 34:2 — [Josiah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord… and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

Let this be said at your funeral.

2 Chronicles 34:3 — For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images.

Discipleship involves constant, diligent seeking and purging.

2 Chronicles 34:9-13 – They came to Hilkiah the high priest and gave him the money that had been brought into the house of God…. And they gave it to the workmen who were working in the house of the LORD. And the workmen who were working in the house of the LORD gave it for repairing and restoring the house.

You should be working diligently in your church on a strategy to equip the church and spread the Gospel to your community and beyond.

2 Chronicles 34:18, 19 — Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king. And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes.

Discipleship and sanctification involve discovery of God’s word, diligent study of God’s word, being continually humbled by the Holy Spirit through God’s written word, and obeying God’s word, one day at a time.

2 Chronicles 34:19 — And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes.

Right relationship with God starts with repentance. This is not what most churches preach today. God uses His Bible as His primary instrument for repentance, revival, and sanctification.

2 Chronicles 34:21 — Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.”

God expects you to follow His word which reflects His character and His perfect will.

2 Chronicles 34:22 – So Hilkiah and those whom the king had sent went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter) and spoke to her to that effect.

The Spirit of God is not a respecter of position. In this case, the high priest knew that Huldah, who kept the wardrobe, would know God’s word through the Holy Spirit. Are you a person people know to seek when they need to understand God’s word and will?

2 Chronicles 34:27, 28 — Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.

Even through corporate punishment and judgment, God will honor your humble obedience. But you will likely stand out in the crowd as faithful before the Lord when everyone else isn’t. You will be set apart.

2 Chronicles 34:31 — And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.

The truly repentant respond to God’s grace with obedience.

2 Chronicles 34:32, 33 – Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.

Forcing obedience brings stability but doesn’t change hearts. External controls are no substitute for self-control. As soon as the external controls are gone, self-destruction is likely. Self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit.

Psalm 14:1 – The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.

Nothing has changed.

The obvious point of this verse is that atheism is utterly foolish. The less obvious point is that all sin (foolishness) is, essentially, a moment of saying, ‘There is no God.’ In sin, God has been removed from the decision-making cycle or rendered a non-factor, at least (or worst) subordinate to self. When the atheist rejects God, he essentially makes himself the god of his life — the one to be served, the decider of right and wrong, the only hope for salvation, etc. That person, though (s)he may appear fun-loving or respectable, is corrupt at the core and guaranteed to do abominable deeds.

On the other hand, the believer who sins has become his own god (idol) for the moment. The first letter in “idol” is “I”. When we make ourselves the priority against the First Commandment, we become the embodiment of foolishness, we become corrupt, and we are guaranteed to do abominable things. So, to restate the point — This verse does not apply just (or even primarily) to those self-proclaimed, at times outspoken, atheists out there; but also more importantly to the ‘practical atheist’, that person who proudly proclaims faith, but who thinks, speaks, and acts as if there is really no God. It is the person who proclaims faith without a true heart of faith that is perhaps most troubling because they, by their actions, bear false witness of the Lord before others; they proclaim a weak god of poor character. These are they who Jesus says, “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)

The practical atheist may believe ‘in God’ (as the demons do) but doesn’t ‘believe God’ in a way which loves, trusts, and obeys Him. Counter to Hebrews 11:6, the practical atheist doesn’t really believe God, the Holy, Almighty, Sovereign means what He says. The Practical atheist doesn’t take seriously the call to be a critical part of “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6). The practical atheist does not take Exodus 20 very seriously. The practical atheist recklessly takes matters into his own hands without waiting on God. (Exodus 14:14)

Psalm 15 points out today that the true believer is revealed by how they treat others — truthfully, fairly, compassionately, graciously, generously, etc; the true believer never takes advantage of those less fortunate (such as by lending money with interest – profiting from God’s blessings), and the true believer obeys God regardless the personal cost. (Psalm 15:4) Whenever we sin, we are essentially, at least for a brief moment, saying that God is not Lord. What a terrible thing. We must never take sin lightly as it is an affront to God. It is a constant daily endeavor to ensure that your Savior remains the Lord and Savior of your heart.

Psalm 14:4 – Evildoers… eat up… people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?

Again, sin is self-centeredness and selfishness that violates the First Commandment and the Great Commandment. Self-centered, selfish people always hurt themselves and others. We were created to be interdependent. Outside of love, you are like a fish out of water, struggling violently and hopelessly for life, only expediting death the more you struggle. Jesus is the Living Water required for life.

Psalm 14:5 – There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.

Again, we have a tendency to think in the physical realm and apply physical rules to the spiritual God. We tend to think of God being “with” us in terms of time and space – He is physically here and then He is physically not here. However, God is spirit and is not bound by the physical attributes of time and space. Being with God or walking with God is a spiritual condition that is determined by the heart condition and by obedience. God is omnipresent and unchanging. We choose to separate from God and lose awareness of His omnipresence when we choose to separate from Him in sin. He is still present, but we become blind to His presence. We are like an out of tune radio that cannot receive the unseen radio waves that are being transmitted continually. The radio waves don’t change; it is the radio that must be adjusted.

Psalm 15: 1, 4 – O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change.

Presence with God is an issue of the heart and requires obedience that is motivated by love. God does not expect you to overlook the sins of the unrepentant.

Psalm 15:1, 5 – Who shall dwell on your holy hill? … who does not put out his money at interest.

God does not intend for His people to lend money with interest. Money was originally intended to replace objects in trade. For example, rather than transferring a sheep, a person could transfer the worth of a sheep without the burden of logistics. However, interest adds no tangible (object) value but only transfers wealth from one person to another. Interest takes advantage of another person’s need. In most cases, one person needs or wants something they can’t afford, so they essentially give someone else who can afford it more than it is really worth. Interest creates a debt that makes a richer person richer and a poorer person poorer. The original word for debt is a word derived from another word meaning “snakebite: — it takes life from you slowly. The only time Jesus displayed violence directed at others was when He attacked the moneychangers in the temple, calling them thieves. There are many ways to gain wealth, and many ways merely transfer wealth rather than adding real value (production). God wants His people to add value to the lives of others.

Psalm 15:5 – He who does these things shall never be moved.

One last time – this is a spiritual statement meaning never moved from the presence of God, nor shaken by the broken world. You can be “with” God anywhere and under any circumstances, all depending on your faith, trust, love, and obedience.

Proverbs 5:12, 23 — …and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof!”…
He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.”

If you aren’t willing to endure the daily pain of discipline, you will suffer the pain of life regret.

Proverb 5:14 — I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.

You reap what you sow in life. Eventually, the product of the life you have chosen will be evident to all.

Proverbs 5:15 — Drink water from your own cistern.

Be content and thankful for what, and who, God has given you. Your contentment is like rays of sunlight on flowers, causing them to blossom. Much sin starts with dissatisfaction over the gifts God has given you. Be grateful and content with what God has given you, and do not compare your situation with that of others.

Proverbs 5:19 — “Be intoxicated always in her love.”

The most important institution established by God on earth is the institution of marriage. Husbands and wives reveal their love for God mostly by how they love each other. The primary testimony and witness of a married Christian is their relationship with their spouse.

Proverbs 5:21 – For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.

Sin starts in the heart, and God knows your heart fully. Consider carefully your thought life. Before you committed any outward sin, whether seen or unseen, you first desired to do it, and that desire was already a sin, breaking the Greatest Commandment of loving God completely. As Jesus pointed out, from your inner self, your character, flows your external existence. You may not have murdered anyone, but if, in your heart, you desired to, you are guilty of an even greater sin than murder, and that sin is failing to love the Almighty and other people as you should and as He commands. Putting your desires, even for a moment, above Him is cosmic treason against the One and Only Sovereign Lord. Don’t just repent of the sins you commit in secret, repent of your thoughts that dishonor God. Pray for a pure heart, and give thanks for God’s grace.

Proverbs 5:22, 23 – The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.

Do not let sin ensnare you!

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Obedience is a discipline – hence, the word disciple. Sinners lack self-control and self-discipline. They are not willing to make the small daily sacrifices each day required to invest in their spiritual growth and in their relationship with Jesus. They are defeated each day by their desires, emotions, and passions. Rather than being controlled by the Spirit, they are controlled by idols, created things that have become more influential in their lives than the Creator. What will control you today? What will be the source of your motivation? For what will you endeavor and why?

Sin, is a dangerous, deadly trap that exploits a person’s lack of self-control. The Way of life is Jesus and following Him. Disciples are those who truly follow Him and obey Him. The life of a disciple is, by definition, a disciplined life, a life of wholehearted obedience. Joy is found in obedience. The Christian who uses “grace” as an excuse for half-hearted obedience (or disobedience) is demonstrating an incredible lack of understanding and is dishonoring our Holy LORD. The more we truly appreciate our LORD, the more natural obedience becomes.

The first level of leadership, the foundation for all other leadership is leading self (which is actually demonstrating fidelity in following Jesus). Another word for self-leadership is discipline or self-control (a spiritual fruit). Self-leadership must be continuous, and if it fails, the person fails in all leadership at the foundational level. A person without self-control is completely untrustworthy and cannot lead others. Good leaders know the way and show the way. God leaders know Jesus, follow Him, and show others how to know Him and follow Him. If your leader is not following Jesus, he is leading you astray. If you are not faithfully following Jesus, you are leading others astray. As a leader, you are either with Jesus or against Him.

True disciples of Christ are known for their discipline, because self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), the natural product of a Spirit-filled person who loves Jesus above all. If you have a self-discipline problem in your life, search your heart, and pray that God will reveal to you what you cannot see in yourself that is quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 February 2023: Lead others by leading self and setting the example. Lead self by following Christ wholeheartedly, putting on Christ, reflecting Christ, and demonstrating Christlike character. All of your being should proclaim Christ to all Creation.

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