Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 24 April 2023:
Ecclesiastes 2:1, 4, 7 – I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity…. I made great works…. I had also great possessions….
We were designed by God to be endlessly desirous and needy because we are made specifically to desire and receive His endless blessings of His Spirit and the joy of His presence. His Spirit is the Living Water which is intended to overflow from our cup that we would thirst no more. However, from the day when Adam and Eve sought “delight” in the forbidden fruit rather than God Himself (Genesis 3:6), mankind has sought fulfillment in substitutes for God which cannot satisfy our God-sized desire and need. Nothing apart from God will ever satisfy, and those who learn to abide in Him are ever dissatisfied.
There is no substitute for God in your life. Eternal life is knowing God, and life is about growing closer and closer to God. Joy comes from our relationship with God. Many, far from God, seek to find joy and fulfillment in other places — pleasure, wealth, accomplishments, work, etc – but this only leaves you empty and spiritually immature.
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 — There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
Gratitude and contentment are character traits of the faithful follower of Christ, and dissatisfaction is a character trait of the unbeliever. Denying self and holiness doesn’t mean eliminating pleasures from your life, it means eliminating sinful pleasures from your life and being pleased with whatever the Father has given you, even the challenges which are there to make you better (not bitter). Some people are just never happy. Christians who are continually in the presence of their Perfect, Sovereign, Loving God should never be unhappy. Knowing that God has promised that, for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose, He will make all things (good and bad) work out for good while He makes us like Jesus, should make us appreciate everything God places in our lives. Our attitude should be like that of the Psalmist who proclaimed, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
Romans 9:1, 2 — I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
Paul loved his people so much that he was willing to confront them with the truth, even at the expense of his relationship with them, even at the expense of his own life. He sought peace – peace between them and God, not peace with them (a truce) while they remained in sin. On the contrary, he was willing to cause conflict in order promote love, true love, love that can only come from fellowship with God. He would rather be hated that they might learn the love of Christ. John the Baptist had the same heart for Herod when he challenged Herod on his adultery. Do you have the heart for those around you to tell them the truth, to call them to repentance in love?
Romans 9:8 — This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
God has spiritual children on earth but no grandchildren. Spiritual birth is strictly between God and the individual and has nothing to do with earthly heritage. Galatians 3:29 — “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Romans 9:18 – So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
It is impossible for us to understand what God is doing in the lives of others or who God will draw to His Son. At one point, Paul, still known as Saul, actively persecuted Christians; would you have maintained hope in his salvation at that time, prayed for him earnestly from the heart, and sought opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to him? Or would you have view him as the enemy, seeking ill will towards him? The Bible reminds us that people are not the enemy; Satan who controls them is the enemy. People separated from God are the goal of our mission. Prayer is our primary weapon. It might have been wise to avoid Paul when he was still Saul, but during that time praying for him and remaining prepared to proclaim the Gospel to him in word and deed remained essential. Check your perspective and your heart very carefully when dealing with ungodly people, particularly ungodly people who threaten you in some way. Pray for them with a genuine heart for their reconciliation; and if you find any resentment in your own heart, pray that God will conform your hear to that of Jesus’ who died for those who persecuted Him.
Romans 9:32 – Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone….
Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is also dead. Salvation comes through faith. Obedience is the natural result of faith. Jesus is very clear, those who truly love Him obey Him because they love Him and are compelled to care deeply about what He cares about. Those who love Jesus need not be constrained by the Law. The Law is still valid, reflecting the character and desires of God, but no longer something one struggles over.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 April 2023: Today, always speak the truth in love when others need to hear it (Romans 9:1, 2). Remember that you are an ambassador for Christ, and your goal is to bring others to peace with God (reconciliation), not necessarily to keep the peace when sin abounds. Consider the words of Jesus — “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37).”