Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 5 April 2023:
Job 25:4-6 – How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes; how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!
The physical environment is tainted by the effects of sin, but among God’s physical creations, only man stands in rebellion against God’s purpose and needs God’s forgiveness. Though not perfect, bugs, birds, and bears all do what they were intended to do. But man, intended to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, willfully works against God’s purpose and will. Bildad understood that, in God’s sight, the dirt of the earth is cleaner before God than man. Unfortunately, in our pride, we don’t take God’s holiness as seriously as He does, we tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, and we tend to presume upon God’s grace, taking it for granted. Remember Uzzah who was struck down by God after attempting to prevent the ark of the covenant from falling out of an ox cart? (2 Sam. 6:5–11) Though Uzzah’s intentions were likely good, not wanting the ark to get dirty, he foolishly presumed his sinful hands were cleaner than the ground. Throughout the book of Job, the point is reiterated — we are all sinners, with no ability to make ourselves pure before God and in need of God’s mercy and grace. Wisdom requires humility and a proper fear of the Lord. Don’t let pride cause you to lose perspective, even for a second.
- Job 4:17 — Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?
- Job 11:4-6 — For you say, “My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.” But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.
- Job 15:14 — What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?
- Job 15:15 — Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight….
Mark 12:7-11 – “Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard…. this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?
How could a loving God let bad things happen to good people? Well, there was only ever one good person, Jesus, and God used His persecution to bring about our salvation. We judge ‘good’ and ‘bad’ based upon our perceptions of the situation. But from God’s perspective, He is working all events for a greater good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose, and this should be marvelous in our eyes. The Lord will absolutely allow us to go through suffering, but as a loving Father who is preparing His children for great things. Parents hurt their infant children when they have them inoculated against deadly disease, and there is no way for them to explain the reason to their infant children. Yet, in pain, the infant children always reach out to their parents. We too, in suffering, must trust on our Father and reach out to Him.
Mark 12:17 – Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
All things are God’s and in God’s control; He allows government to control some things for a time, but never outside of His ultimate control. Jesus was challenged by others on His obedience and respect to the government. He then challenged others in their obedience and respect to God, the ultimate authority. If we had proper respect for God, governmental authority would not be required. Only through God’s mercy and grace do governments even continue to exist, and only by God’s ethical standard do they govern well. Yet, we are concerned, in practice, far more about obeying the government than obeying God, because the consequences of disobeying the government are more obvious to us – fines, imprisonment, even death. However, the consequences of disobeying God have an eternal impact. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) When we disobey the government, we have something to worry about. When we disobey God, we have much, much more to be concerned about.
Mark 12:24 — Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?
The Sadducees had two problems: they did not know the Scriptures (they were missing the point of what they diligently studied), and they did not know the power of God. You cannot understand God’s Word if you don’t know God’s Word which requires continual study. But you also cannot understand God’s Word without the context of Jesus and the power and counsel of the Holy Spirit, which is only available to those who are born again, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” The whole Bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ, only revealed through Jesus. The goal of the Bible is our “knowing” of God, our unity with Him (see John 17). Without life in Jesus a person is spiritually dead and cannot understand the things of God.
There are some who know the content of the Scriptures inside and out yet do not know the power of God. They study the Scriptures like a text book, a history book, a self-help book, or a philosophy book with the goal of living a better life or understanding more “about” God. They miss the ultimate goal of truly “knowing” God, walking with Him, following Him, becoming one with Him. These ‘scholars’ miss the blessings of eternal life that come from knowing Jesus – “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) There are also others who feel that they are very ‘spiritual’ or close to God yet lack desire to study the Scriptures, God’s word. But how we feel about God’s word is a direct reflection of how we truly feel about God.
John 1 says, Jesus is the embodiment of the word of God. The Psalmist describes an intense hunger and thirst for God’s word which cannot be quenched – a passion driven by an intense passion for God. Jesus told His disciples to consume God’s word with greater import than food for the body. And the Bible tells us that through God’s word, we are enabled to follow God. Knowledge of the “message” is, of course, essential to the messenger, or Ambassador. Again, in our readings today, Jesus counters challengers through his mastery of God’s word. Proverbs 1 reminds us that God’s word is for both the “simple” and the “wise,” the young and the old. (Proverbs 1:1-7) Complacency in Bible study is an issue of the heart.
One of the natural results of a relationship with God is a natural thirst for His Word. The Bible is not a self-help book designed to equip you to achieve your personal goals in life. The Bible is a guide to drawing closer, day-by-day to Jesus. I pray that we will have a greater and greater passion for God’s word and that it will equip us to experience to true power of God in our lives as we draw closer and closer to Jesus Christ.
Mark 12:25 — Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?”
Again, you cannot truly understand the Scriptures unless you have received the Holy Spirit.
Mark 12:28-31 – “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
One thing I observe is that, whether they admit it or not, everyone picks their teachers in life. Everyone picks people they have chosen to trust (for whatever reasons) to help guide them through life, to help form their personal world view or paradigm about the meaning and purpose of life. Often, people pick teachers who say in sophisticated ways what they want to hear. Observe who people quote or reference in their comments on life issues. Aren’t you blessed! Your teacher is God! God has given you the Holy Spirit and His word to reveal the Truth. You certainly can’t do better than that! What did you learn from them today through the counsel of the Holy Spirit?
Jesus explains that we must know the word of God, but we cannot understand God’s word apart from the power of God which comes from a genuine love relationship with Him (Mark 12:24, 29-31). In fact, the key to everything is loving God with all that we are and loving others as an outpouring of our love for God. Our love must be without limits (Deuteronomy 33:9, Mark 12:43, 44). Jesus explains that, in a supreme act of love, God sent His Son, but sadly for some, this loving solution will become a cause for final destruction (Mark 12:6-9). God’s judgment is certain. In our love, we must pray for people to find a love relationship with Him before it is too late, and we must be fully committed to the Great Commission.
What is the purpose of your life? What is your goal in life? Jesus said the purpose and goal is love, first to love God with all your being and then to love others as the fruit of your love for Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Then, Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) He said we are to love others like He loves us; so, how does He love us? “While we were still sinners [offensive and in no way deserving of His love], Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) So, what kind of love is God calling us to as our goal in life? Jesus makes it clear — “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…. 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.” (Luke 6:27; Luke 6:35) Do you see your ‘enemies’ as your love objective, as your opportunity to fulfill your purpose in life, as your chance to worship God in truth, as your way to fellowship with Jesus in His suffering for the sake of mercy and grace to others?
The Bible says, “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 8:28, 29) In perfect love, God gives you ‘good’ times and ‘bad’ times and places ‘good’ people (though we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God) and ‘bad’ people into your life that you might learn to fulfill your purpose of love, “to be conformed to the image [character] of His Son.” What is the character of Christ? Perfect love. Only Jesus loved perfectly, but He gave us perfect love as our life goal, which should be our ambition. This was Jesus’ final prayer for us to the Father – “…that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26)
As Christians, we love God and show love for others, but not perfectly. John said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) In our imperfect state, sometimes (most often) love is still a burden, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Nonetheless, God commands (not a request or recommendation), “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) So, the Bible says, “Pursue love,” (1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22) “…and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4) We must be steadfast in our pursuit of love, and this is a daily, continuous endeavor. What does this daily endeavor look like? Jesus tells us — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me…. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 9:23; Luke 14:27) So, the disciple’s steadfast daily pursuit is sacrificially bearing a cross (living out the mercy and grace of Christ in His Name and in His strength) in relationships as an act of worship, crying out on behalf of others and in the Name of Jesus, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
“He who rules his spirit [is better] than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32) Controlling the heart is harder than conquering a city, and the person who demonstrates true love has demonstrated something more miraculous than the person who speaks in tongues, prophesies unknowable mysteries, heals the sick, casts out demons, and moves mountains. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Matthew 7:22-23) Though we are called to steadfastly pursue love, the ability to love can only come from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5). So, we must walk in the grace of God, ever repentant in our failures, confident in the sufficiency of Christ, diligent in our efforts, and continuously prayerful for the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power in our lives. As Saint Augustine famously prayed, “God give what You command and command whatever You will.”
Mark 12:38-40 – And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
False religion lifts up self and mistreats others for personal gain. Be wary of any “teacher” that seeks personal recognition or honor. Watch out for those who use the personal pronouns “I” or “me” a lot.
Mark 12:42-43 – And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.
Love knows no limits.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 April 2023: Our goal in life is love. The Greatest Commandment is love. We are called to love God with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Today, as you seek to walk in love, take steps to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2)” through the study of God’s word on love. The Bible [ESV version] translates the word “love” 652 times. Do a word search, and make a list of the verses which describe the attributes of love and which teach you how to love. Make a list and have a plan to commit these verses to memory. Below are just 20 verses to get you started in your meditations on love and your practice of love today —
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
- John 17:22-23 — The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
- 1 John 4:11, 12 — Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
- Hosea 6:6 — For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
- 1 Peter 4:8 — Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
- Galatians 5:22-26 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
- Luke 10:27 — You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
- 1 Timothy 1:5 — The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
- 1 Peter 1:22, 23 — Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.
- Romans 10-12 — Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
- 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
- 1 John 4:16 — So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
- 1 John 3:18 — Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
- 1 Timothy 4:12 — Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:5 — May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
- Colossians 3:12-14 — Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
- Philippians 4:8 — Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
- 1 Corinthians 16:14 — Let all that you do be done in love.
- Romans 12:9 — Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
- John 15:12 — This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.