Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 19 April 2023:
Job 39:26 — Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south?
Popular culture says that you are in control of your destiny. However, the wise understand how powerless they really are and how dependent they are on God’s grace, protection, and direction. The wise also understand the incredible limits of their knowledge and understanding, while the foolish boast in their understanding and even convince themselves that they can define God, or disprove God, the Creator.
Consider the fact that the public-school systems have removed God from the quest for knowledge in America and teach that God is not involved in the creation process, which they teach is the product of chance rather than purpose. But the Bible says, “How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what he has done!” (Psalm 19:1) “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” Paul said that God’s Creation leaves us no excuse for unbelief: “What may be known of God is manifest in them for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:19,20).”
God challenged Job to consider how the hawk reveals God’s incredible glory and the limits of man’s understanding. The hawk can see up to 8 times more clearly than the sharpest human eye and can see colors, as well as ultraviolet light, which means that they can perceive colors that humans can’t. They can reach speeds of 150 miles while hunting. Hawks mate for life, and the male does tricks in the air to impress a female, in a courtship dance that might last over 10 minutes. Hawks build nests out of sticks often over three feet wide, and when they lay eggs, both the male and female sit on the eggs, taking turns to hunt for food. Hawks are able to live just about anywhere — you can find them in tropical, moist areas and mountainous plains. Like many birds, the hawk migrates in the spring and the autumn, but different kinds of hawks choose different times in both of the seasons to migrate south or north. Who doesn’t get a bit excited when they see a hawk in nature? How could anyone convince themselves that these wonderful creatures are the product of mere chance?
Job asked for answers from God, but rather than answer Job’s questions, God told Job to consider His unfathomable glory, power, wisdom, and sovereignty. Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25, 26) “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” God’s glory, power, wisdom, and sovereignty are truly unfathomable, but so is His love. Rest in His during hard times.
Romans 6:18 – …and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
“Before you were a Christian you were a slave, in bondage to sin. Even when you did not want to sin, you were unable to do otherwise (Rom. 7:15-24). When God saved you, He freed you from sin, but you remained a slave. Now, rather than being bound to sin, you are bound to righteousness. In every area of your life you are obligated to do what honors God.
There are some who believe that when Christ sets them free, they are free to do whatever they want. That is not so. The apostle Paul realized that when he began following Christ he became a “bondservant” of Christ, and his life was no longer his own (Rom. 1:1). Now, rather than being enslaved to sin, he was enslaved to God and His righteousness. When people mistreated him, he had forfeited the right to respond from his natural feelings but was compelled to offer a righteous response. When he was tempted, he was no longer free to succumb to his feelings. Paul could not enter the workplace and act selfishly. He understood that, as a slave of righteousness, he was obligated to live a holy life, honoring his Master.
Righteous living is not an option for a Christian. Nor is it something we must try to do over time. It is an obligation, mandatory for every child of God. Our freedom in Christ is not freedom to do what we want. It is freedom to live righteously, something we could not do when we were in bondage to sin. Now that we are free to live righteously, we must allow the Holy Spirit to produce in us a holy, sanctified life (1 John 3:7).” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Romans 6:1, 2 — What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
True Christians don’t debate about obedience to God because obedience is the natural response to salvation. The love of Christ compels them to obedience. They don’t use grace as an excuse to continued sin or to make light of sin; quite the opposite, grace empowers them to obey and makes sin much weightier — “How could I trample upon the blood of Jesus?”
Romans 6:12-14 — Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Genuine love has the restraint on us that mere laws never could. Those who proclaim that they don’t live by the law but by grace as a means of justifying their sin might question whether or not they were ever really overcome by grace and crucified with Christ. We are not saved by works, but faith without works is dead.
Romans 6:15 — What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
Paul is desperate to make the point.
Romans 6:19 — Having been set free from sin, [you] have become slaves of righteousness.
Before you were a Christian you were a slave to sin. You were trapped in sin and unable to do otherwise but sin (Rom. 7:15–24). When God saved you, He freed you from sin. You are now a slave to righteousness. With salvation through grace alone comes the abilities, the inspiration, and the obligation to do what honors God. Contrary to what some preach, grace does not mean that you are free to do whatever you want. You have become a “bondservant” of Christ, and your life is no longer your own (Rom. 1:1). When you accepted forgiveness and grace from God through Christ, you forfeited the right (which you never really had) to live a self-guided life based upon your own “natural” desires and understanding. As a slave to righteousness, you are compelled to no longer act selfishly. You are obligated to live a holy life, honoring your Master. Righteous living is not optional for a Christian.
Having said that, we are not called to obey God from a sense of obligation, but rather from love. With salvation, we received the Holy Spirit power of love for the first time to overcome sin, yet, immature in our love, we still desire to sin (though we are no longer controlled by sin and don’t have to sin). We now sin because we want to, not because we must – as the old pastor would say, “Something is wrong with your ‘wanter.'” However, the more we grow in our love for Christ and the more we fully appreciate the grace we have received from Him, the more we will desire to remain faithful to Him in thought, word, and deed, not to earn His love but rather to demonstrate our love. When we truly love to serve the One we love, obeying Him is no longer a chore – “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 — No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
- Galatians 2:20 — “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Love is the remedy for sin. Jesus said, “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.” God’s love for us empowers us to love, and the more we learn to appreciate God’s love for us and “abide,” or live, in His love, the more we will naturally love, trust and obey Him, which is further manifested in our love for others.
God paid an incredible price to ‘purchase’ you from the slavery of sin – “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19) Again, however, Jesus gave His life for you not to be a task master but rather to be your intimate friend – “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) Jesus is not a supernatural killjoy, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life which brings you complete joy for eternity – “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
- 2 Peter 1:3-11 — His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Through Christ, you have already been granted “all things that pertain to life and godliness” so that you can now partake “the divine nature, having escaped the corruption… of sinful desire.” You have already been freely given the gift of eternal life and the ability to walk in the fullness of joy, you need only use and experience the gift you have received —
“Think of it like this: When one of my daughters was young, I bought her a Danish for the first time. With much excitement and anticipation, I paid for it and set it in front of her. But no matter how much I tried to convince her, she wouldn’t touch it. The Danish belonged to here in reality; it was hers! But it did not belong to her in experience until she took the first taste (and never turned back). God has invited us to participate in life with Him; it belongs to us through our faith in Christ. But only as our faith increases and we take up the promises in reality will it belong to us in experience.” (Pastor Colby Garmen, Pillar Church)
You are no longer the helpless victim of your sin. The victory has already been won. God does not have to win a victory over your sin; He already has! You only need to apply His victory to each area of your life. If there is a sinful habit, an ungodly attitude, or an unrighteous relationship that you need to put to death, claim the victory of Christ’s resurrection today. Then you will be free to experience the abundant life that God intends for you.
- John 15:9-11 – 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.
Romans 6:22 — But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Rejoice! You are now free to obey as slaves to God! Slaves do the will of the Master, period.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 April 2023: Today, live out the victory over sin you already have in Christ that your joy may be full and that you would glorify God.