For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles
himself will be exalted. (Lk. 18:14)
In Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of two men, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Now tax collectors were hated by the Jews in Jesus’ day. This is because they literally were working for the enemy. The nation of Israel was being occupied by a foreign army, the Roman empire, and in order to fund their continued occupation, they exacted taxes from the Jewish population. Thus, Jewish tax collectors were extreme pragmatists—if you can’t beat them; join them. And so they worked for the Roman army collecting taxes from their Jewish neighbors and family. Gentiles (non-Jews) and tax collectors were viewed to be outside the covenant relationship with God. However, in this story which Jesus tells there is an interesting turn of events. You see the Pharisees were the religious leaders of that day. They meticulously held to the law, even tithing “mint and dill and cumin” (Matt. 23:23). Yet, we are told in this story that the Pharisee “standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get’” (vv.11-12). He was proud of all his good works and believed that God would be proud as well. But then Jesus tells us that “the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'” The tax collector was grieved by his sin. He knew he had no right to even lift his eyes to heaven, let alone ask God for mercy. Then Jesus says something that would have shocked his audience. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." What?! The tax collector went home justified in the eyes of God, and not the one who strove to keep all of God’s laws? Yes, because salvation is not about doing or not doing, but about glorying in what glorifies God and being grieved by what grieves God.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
When we go through difficult times in life, rejoicing is usually the last thing we think about. It is usually the furthest thing from our mind. Yet, Paul says as believers we should rejoice in our sufferings. How’s that? Why’s that? How can we possibly find or experience any amount of joy when we suddenly lose our job or are diagnosed with a serious illness or our marriage is in turmoil or we experience the sudden loss of a loved one? This is because Paul takes a long view of life. He goes on to say in Romans 5:3-6 that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” In other words, the rejoicing is not in the suffering itself, but in the long-term spiritual benefits from it. As we experience difficulty in life and as we cling to Christ through that difficulty, we become spiritually stronger. Our faith is strengthened. Suffering produces endurance. And as we continue through that endurance and as our faith in Christ is strengthened, we become more like Christ, our character is shaped into the image of Christ. And this Christ-like character produces increased hope in God. And hope never puts us to shame, or as the NASB words it, “does not disappoint because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” In other words, what helps us get through the difficult times in life is knowing that somehow God is using this for our good.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Someone once said the next time the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. This adage is popular because often Christians can struggle with the past, struggling to believe God has actually forgiven them or that he even can forgive them. But here is where the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is so important to remember. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” In the eyes of God, those who have repented of their sins and have placed faith in Christ have been justified and have had their sins atoned for. They have been born-again and are a new creation. Because of what Christ has accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection, God does not hold our past sins against, so then why do we? Stop beating yourself over your past and find your rest and hope in Christ.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)
Jesus tells us that the first great commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37), but what does that look like? What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind? Jesus is quoting from a passage in the Old Testament known as the Great Shema (Deut 6:4ff.). Shema is the Hebrew word for to hear or to listen. This is because it begins with the words, “Hear [shema], O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” But again, what does that look like? God goes on to say to them, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Notice. To love God with all your heart, soul, and might means that the word of God shall be on your heart, you shall teach them diligently to your children, shall talk of God’s word when you sit, walk, lie down, and when you rise up. That is, the word of God should consume every part of your day and life. Your entire world should revolve around God and his word. This is what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;
how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
It is amazing how many people think that if they perform enough good works, they just might make it into heaven. They imagine that God has this ginormous scale, and he places all the good a person has done on one side and all the bad they have done on the other and if the good outweighs the bad, they get a pass. However, the Bible makes clear that “no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3:23). This is because as Proverbs 21:27 makes clear, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination.” That is, for those who do not have faith in Christ and do live in obedience to the word of Christ, even the good they do is an abomination to God. This is because God created us for his glory and thus commands that everything we do be for his glory (Is 43:7; 1 Cor 10:31). Thus, anything we do that is not for God’s glory is sin, and an abomination in his eyes. Getting into heaven is not a matter of good works; it’s a matter of loving Christ and living for his glory!
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Today Christians around the world celebrate Good Friday. This is the day, two-thousand years ago, when Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. The question is why call it good Friday? This is because the Bible tells us that we are all sinners and, therefore, deserving of God’s wrath and judgement. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). When we look at the Ten Commandments, not one person (aside from Christ) has ever kept them all perfectly. “Honor your mother and father” (5th commandment). “Thou shall not lie” (9th commandment). “Thou shall not covet” (10th commandment). Who has never disrespected or disobeyed their parents? Who has never told a little white lie (if there was such a thing)? Who has never coveted (desired) something that belonged to someone else? And that’s only three out of ten. What about the other seven? How do you measure up? We are all sinners. As a result, scripture tells us that “the wages of sin is death”—eternal death, eternal damnation from God (Rom. 6:23). We all deserve the wrath of God because we have all sinned. But here’s the good news. God’s word also tells us that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”--Christ died in our place. Jesus, who had never sinned, paid the penalty for our sins, for those who turn from their sins and put their faith in Christ. What does that look like? The Bible tells us that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [of your life and choose to follow Him] and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Escaping from the wrath and condemnation of God is simply a matter of believing Christ died for your sins and then choosing to following him all the days of your life. All because of Christ’s death on the cross two-thousand years ago. Hence, good Friday. Not good for him, but good for us.
And he said to them,
"I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer."
Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin which means command or ordinance because this is the day, two-thousand years ago, when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper for the church and commanded them to “do this in remembrance of me.” Yet often when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper or when we think of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, we tend to think joyful thoughts. We tend to think of The Last Supper painting by Italian Renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci and think, ‘Aw. What a pleasant scene.’ But listen to the words of Christ when he institutes the Lord’s Supper: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Like a man getting ready to walk the green mile, he knew this was his last meal. He knew that in a few short hours he would be experiencing unimaginable pain and suffering. He was both frightened and heartbroken that sin had brought so much suffering and misery into the world. And yet he was prepared to be the Passover lamb for all those who will repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior. Today, take some time to reflect on Christ, the Lamb of God, who took upon himself the sins of the world.
The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)
My name is Hexon Maldonado, and I’m a news junkie. Always have been. It started when I was in fifth grade and asked my mother what the difference was between Republicans and Democrats. She said basically Republicans were for rich people and Democrats were for poor people. However, something about that answer seemed overly simplistic to that eleven-year-old mind. So, I wrote a letter to the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee, asking each what they believed and what they stood for. To my surprise, they each wrote me back and sent me copies of their platforms. I still remember lying in bed pouring over them carefully in order to understand what they each believed and where I might line up. Long story short, I remember being the only kid in middle school who would carry a newspaper to school and read it during lunch, and who could name all nine justices on the Supreme Court, the President, Vice President, his chief of staff, the Secretary of State, and the Speaker of the House. All this is to say, I’m not as into politics as I once was. The older I get, the more disillusioned I become. There was a time when I was once becoming very discouraged by the direction of our nation. But now I find much comfort in Proverbs 21:1. Because at the end of the day, God is in sovereign control of our nation. The collective will of our national leaders “is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” So now, instead of calling my congressman every other week to give him an earful as I once did, I go to God and offer my petitions to him—God is the power behind the power.
Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars. (Hosea 10:1)
When I was in the Army we would say “there are no atheists in foxholes.” That’s because when the bullets start flying and the bombs start dropping, suddenly everyone becomes religious and starts praying to someone. It’s interesting how all of life is that way. When things are going well, most people never think about God. They don’t think about what God wants or what might please him. They simply want to live for themselves. But when life throws them a curveball, when their world seems to be crumbling down around them, suddenly they’re asking, “Where is God?” This was the problem the nation of Israel had. It is for this reason God condemns them in Hosea saying, “Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars.” The more God blessed them, the more they seem to turn to other gods and engage in idolatry. Sadly, God’s people haven’t changed much from the Old Testament times. We tend to pray more and read our Bible’s more when life is hard. But when life is good… “Let’s skip church and head to the beach!” Too often we treat God like a genie in a lamp, calling upon him only when we need him.
And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold,
saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer,'
but you have made it a den of robbers." (Lk. 19:45-46)
As I write this Daily Thought, it is Palm Sunday. This is the day we remember the first day of the last week of Jesus’ three-year ministry before he is arrested, crucified, and buried. On this day, two-thousand years ago, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of peace, with a large crowd swarming around him waving palm branches and laying their cloaks on the ground in front of him as he went, shouting, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (v.38). He then strolls into the temple and sees all the people selling sheep and oxen and pigeons and goes ballistic, making a whip and driving them all out of the temple, screaming, “It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of robbers.” What is worth noting is that nowhere in the Old Testament does God forbid the selling of animals in the temple. They weren’t violating a clear command. Then why is Jesus so upset? God should not have to command behaviors that should be obvious. The temple in Jerusalem was the house of God, considered to be the throne room of God on earth, the designated meeting place between God and his people, a place of worship. They were treating a place intended to be holy as common, a place intended to be sacred as profane. Sadly, many Christians today treat church much the same way the Scribes and Pharisees did.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house,
to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God
through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5
Too often Christians make the mistake of thinking that what we do on Sunday morning, the corporate gathering of the saints for worship, is nothing more than an expanded Bible study, a place where we gather to study the Bible and then toss in some praying and singing just make it complete. But corporate worship is so much more than that. According to scripture, each believer, every Christian, is a living stone whom, when brought together, reconstitute the temple of the living God. Like the tabernacle in the Old Testament that was taken down and transported to a new location, and then when it was erected, the glory of God filled the tabernacle because that was the designated meeting place between God and his people. The Israelites understood that God is omnipresent, but they also understood that when the tabernacle was set up, that became God’s embassy on earth—a piece of heaven in the here and now. The place where the tabernacle stood was now sacred and holy ground, the very throne room of God. So also, when the saints come together as “living stones”, like the tabernacle with all its various pieces, they reassemble the temple of the living God. That place becomes God’s embassy on earth, heaven in the here and now, the very throne room of God. We stand in the presence of our King and worship him. Gathering with the saints for corporate worship is the most important event in which we can ever possibly participate in this world.
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.
The greatest prayer ever recorded in scripture (in my opinion) is Jesus’ high priestly prayer recorded in John 17. The best line from that prayer is v.23 where Jesus is praying to the Father for all future believers and prays “that they [believers] may be one even as we [Jesus and the Father] 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.” The line that always jumps out at me and that I find so encouraging is the tail end of v.23—“so that the world may know that you…loved them even as you loved me.” Notice Jesus is praying that the world and all believers would know that the Father loves us “even as”—i.e., just as, to the same degree—as he loves Jesus, his only begotten son. What is so encouraging to realize is that because of all that Christ as done for us—for those who have placed faith in Him—God the Father loves us as much as he loves his only begotten son. In light of Christ’s work in his life and death, those who have faith in Christ have had their sins completely atoned for and are cloaked in his perfect righteousness. Thus, when the Father looks at believers, he sees the same thing he sees in Christ—sinless perfection! Thus, the comfort is knowing that, as believers, there is nothing we can do to make God love us any less. God the Father loves us perfectly as much as he loves Christ himself! Hallelujah!
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
The other day I had the opportunity to share the gospel with a waitress who was waiting on our table. I was meeting with a friend, who is the pastor of a local church, and she overheard our conversation and asked what church we attend. When I asked her about her faith or whether or not she believed in God, she said she did. But then she proceeded to tell me that she worships God in her own way and that she does not believe it matters to God what we think of him or how we worship him, just so long as we do. I then asked her what she would think if she was in a relationship with a man who told her he loved her and wanted to be in a relationship with her, but really didn’t care to know anything about her or even to get her name right. He thought it would be perfectly fine to call her by some other name and simply make up information about her that he preferred. Would she want to be in a relation with that kind of person? Her answer, of course, was ‘no’. I then proceeded to explain to her that God is a real living being; he is a person who desires to be rightly known by those who worship him and desire to be in a relationship with him. It simply will not do to say, “I love God and I believe in God and I worship God, but I don’t believe he cares how we know him or what we believe about him.” God has made clear in his word, we either approach God on his terms or we do not approach God at all. God desires to be rightly known, and the only way to know God is through is Word.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
It is interesting that when Jesus was talking to the woman at the well, he says to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father” (John 4:21). That is, there will come a day when it won’t matter where you are when you worship God. No longer will people have to trek to Jerusalem to worship God. What will matter is how they worship God. He goes on to say to her that “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” What is important to note is that there are two elements necessary to worship God rightly, to worship God in a manner that is honoring and pleasing to him—in spirit and in truth. Just one chapter earlier, Jesus said to one of their religious rulers, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:3). When asked what that meant, he then says, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Those who seek to worship God must be born of the Holy Spirit—they must be born again. But spiritual re-birth is not enough to render God-honoring worship. Later Jesus will pray to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). God’s word is truth. Thus, to render to God worship which honors and pleases him, we must not only have repented and placed saving faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we must worship God in accordance with Scripture. We dare not create our own unique way of worshipping God. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.
If you’re a parent, then you know the challenge it is to get your children to choose their words carefully. With our children (we have four), we tell them often that it is not usually their behavior that gets them into trouble, but their words—sassy, argumentative, disrespectful, defiant. Hence, Proverbs 18:6 is a Bible verse we have shared with them often. “A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.” In other words, I like to remind them that if we ask them to do something they don’t like or disagree with, ‘Don’t say that out loud! You can think it, just don’t say it!’ But inevitably they just have to voice their opinion in very sarcastic or disrespectful tones. Don’t get the wrong idea. I have great kids who for the most part have been very easy to raise. Sadly, however, it is not just our children who seem to struggle to understand this. How often do we invite a verbal beating from our spouse or someone else because of our foolish words? The other person says something we don’t like or offends us and rather than respond in a Christ-like manner, with kindness and gentleness, we give into our flesh and lash out in response to get even. Fight fire with fire! Yet the apostle Paul commands that we “repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Rom. 12:17). In the end, if we would only pray for the Holy Spirit to help us control our tongues, to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19; 3:1-8), we would invite fewer beatings and be so much happier in the process.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
In the gospel of Matthew Jesus tells two interesting parables, back-to-back. He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (13:44-46). What is interesting about these two parables is that in both Jesus tells us that when these individuals discovered the treasure or the pearl of great price, one purchases the field and the other purchases the pearl. If these parables are meant to teach lessons about discovering and embracing the gospel, what’s with the idea of purchasing? Isn’t the gospel free? Yes, and no. It is free in the sense that we do not have to earn forgiveness from God or work for it. Jesus makes clear that all that is needed for salvation is to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). But this does not mean that God expects nothing in return for our salvation. This does not mean there is no kind of transaction which takes place between God and the sinner. There is indeed a transaction which takes place. God promises to give us all of Christ, all the blessings that come with Christ, all the forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal life. In exchange, God wants all of us. That’s the deal. We get all of Christ in exchange for all of us—the whole of our lives and affection and devotion, the whole of our heart, mind, and soul. And if we withhold any of ourselves back from God, then we get none of Christ. The exchange with God is all or nothing. All of Christ for all of us.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
(1 Cor 13:1)
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, the apostle Paul makes a startling statement. He says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” In other words, a person could be the most talented and gifted Christian in the church, the one who serves and sacrifices more than anyone, the one who gives more to the church than anyone else, but if that person does not have a genuine love for others and for the souls of others, if he truly does not desire to place himself last and set the good of others and the glory of God above his own interests and ambitions, then all his labor and sacrifice are meaningless to God. All his righteous deeds are like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). This is because the two greatest commandments, according to Christ, are not to ‘work hard for God and work hard for others,’ but to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39). Love is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.
Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding?
We live in a world filled with so much technology it seems as though there is nearly nothing we cannot do or accomplish. In fact, the last century has seen more leaps in technology than any previous one-hundred-year span. By the late 1800’s, the most impressive piece of technology was the locomotive. By the 1920’s, the first automobiles and airplanes had come into existence. By the 1930’s, radio. By the 1940’s, we had figured out how to split the nucleus of an atom. And by the late 1960’s, we put a man on the moon. Yet for all our scientific and technological advancements, as Job discusses (28:1-11, 16-19), we do not know how or where to find wisdom. The one thing that “cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx, or sapphire” (v.16), “nor can it be valued in pure gold. (v.19). Job will ask the question twice: “Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? (vv.12, 20). He concludes with this answer: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (v.28). Wisdom is found in God’s word and in living in obedience to God’s word. Specifically, the apostle Paul will say that true wisdom can only be found in Christ and in knowing Christ (Col 2:1-3). If you want wisdom, seek to know Christ.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Interesting conversation on Facebook the other day where someone asked if it is permissible for Christians to get tattoos. You can only imagine the plethora of responses to that kind of question. Seventy-four comments, last I checked, and growing. It is true that nowhere in the New Testament are Christians forbidden from getting tattoos. However, arguments from silence are never strong arguments. This is akin to paedobaptists arguing that nowhere in the Bible is infant baptism prohibited. Simply because God does not openly condemn a behavior should not be taken as implied consent. However, unlike infant baptism, the Bible does speak against tattoos. In Leviticus 19:28 God commands, “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.” In understanding this verse, many commit one of two fatal errors. First, it is in the Old Testament and not in the New Testament so it must not apply. This is a dangerous way of interpreting the Old Testament. The New Testament says nothing about marrying or having sex with your sibling (see Lev 18:6-18). Is incest now permissible? The second fatal error many commit is in thinking the basis for the prohibition is in the second half of the first clause: “for the dead.” Thus, so long as we are not cutting or tattooing ourselves “for the dead,” then these behaviors are permissible. However, the basis for the prohibition is the second clause which controls and explains the entire first clause: “I am the LORD.” God wants his people to understand we belong to Him—mind, soul, and body. We do not have the right to do with our bodies whatever we desire. The apostle Paul rightly understood this when he wrote: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (Jn. 3:36)
In the gospel of John, John the Baptist says two things interesting about Jesus. First, he says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life;…” That is, having eternal life, receiving forgiveness of sins from God, being brought into a saving relationship with Christ, is simply a matter of believing in the Son of God. The word “believing” from the Greek (pisteuō) means more than intellectual accent. It’s more than simply believing Jesus was who he claimed to be or that he died on the cross for sinners or that he rose from the dead after three days. The devil believes all those things as facts but is not any closer to getting into heaven than the day he first rebelled against God. Rather to “believe” (pisteuō) means to entrust the whole of your life to Jesus. It means to fully believe that he died on the cross for our sins and then, in light of that total belief, be willing to follow him and to live as he wants us to live. But the second interesting thing John says is that “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” He does not say the wrath (anger) of God will come upon the person who refuses to believe, but that the wrath of remains on him. In other words, God is currently angry with all those who steadfastly refuse to believe in him. We send a confusing message to the unbelieving world when we tell them, “Smile, God loves you!” Why bother to believe in Jesus if God loves them? We might get a better response if we wore t-shirts that said, “Frown, God is angry with you!”
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
Often it is believed that if one prays to God, he will hear them because God always hears those who call out to him. For that reason, we encourage friends and family, believers and unbelievers alike, to call out to God when times are tough. But is that wise advice? Proverbs 28:9 says, “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” If a person does not listen to and obey God’s law, when he prays, his prayer is an abomination to God. His prayer is an act of sin against God. This makes sense when we consider that scripture tells us that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). That is, anything we do (good or bad) that does not proceed from a heart of faith in Christ, a heart which truly believes that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to pay for your sin, is an act of sin against God because it is a form of mockery. Hence, God does not hear the prayers of unbelievers. But it is not just unbelievers whose prayers God does not hear, but also believers living in flagrant disobedience to God. Peter tells us that God will not answer the prayers of believing men if they do not “live with [their] wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7), and Jesus tells us that our prayers for forgiveness will not be answered if we are living with anger and bitterness in our heart toward others (Matt. 6:14-15). However, there is one prayer the unbeliever can offer to God which he will always hear—a prayer of repentance and faith in God (Rom 10:13).
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
It’s been said that the difference between a morning person and someone who is not a morning person is that the morning person wakes up and says, “Good morning, Lord!” The non-morning person wakes up and says, “Good Lord, it’s morning!” To make matters worse--it’s Monday! Yet the psalmist writes: “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24). Regardless of what we may be going through, every day is a gift from God and a reason to celebrate and rejoice. I don’t mean to sound like Pollyanna, and I certainly don’t want to diminish the real struggles that people face in everyday life. But so often we can make the struggles we have even more difficult by focusing on them too long, by giving them too much of our attention. When reflecting upon past and present struggles, Paul’s response was to say, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). We cannot change the past, so then let us press forward toward the goal, toward the prize who is Christ Jesus himself. If we keep our eyes more focused on Christ than on the struggles of this life, the load we bear can be a little easier to carry.
O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved.
As I was doing my Bible reading the other morning, I was reading from Daniel 9 where the prophet is given a vision of the seventy weeks to come, which is then to be followed by another seven weeks and then sixty-two weeks. As I looked down to read the study notes in my ESV Study Bible, I appreciated the approach the author chose to take in saying, “There are many suggested interpretations of the seventy weeks,” and then went on to outline the three most prominent views. He concludes by saying that “the important point is that God has appointed a certain amount of time until the end of his people’s suffering, and thus they should not lose heart.” That really is the point. So often we get caught up in trying to figure out the details regarding the End Times as we study God’s word with a commentary on Revelation in one hand and a world news outlet in the other hand, when if God wanted us to know the details, he would have just given them to us. God could have easily spoken to Daniel and told him exactly how many years it would be. He could have named the future king by name and could have given Daniel exact details. But he didn’t. Instead, God gives us just enough information to know that he has a definite plan. God is like any parent whom after telling his children we are moving to a new city, when the children begin to ask for details about the move, how this is all to take place, the parent simply says, ‘Don’t worry about it. I have it all figured out. You just need to pack your bag and get in the moving van, and I’ll take care of the rest.’ God wants us to take comfort in knowing that he has a plan, and we simply need to trust him.
Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?
In my years of ministry, I’ve discovered that when it comes to counseling with individuals, so often helping people work through their problems is really just a matter of discipleship. It is really just a matter of teaching them God’s word and helping them grow in their knowledge of God and in their faith. Thus, the first question I always ask when beginning counseling with someone is, “Are you reading your Bible every day?” Sadly, the answer I am most often met with is ‘no’. This usually prompts me to take them to Luke 6:46 where Jesus says, “Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?” It is a curious thing that Christians will call Jesus their Lord--their King—and yet not do what he tells them to do, not live as he tells them to live. God’s word provides us with all the answers to all of life’s most pressing questions. How do I fix my marriage? How do I fix my relationship with my kids, with my parents? How do I deal with a difficult boss at work? How do I stop being depressed? How do I forgive? So on and so forth. Our lives are often a mess because we do not do, we do not live and behave and relate to others as God commands us to, and this is because we do not know what God tells us to do because we do not read his word. Jesus goes on to say, “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” If you don’t want your house to crumble when the storms of life come crashing against it--read the Bible.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
It can be difficult to know what God would have us do, particularly when it comes to those aspects of our lives not talked about in the Bible. Where should I go to college? What career should I pursue? Should I marry this person? Should I take that job? We are told in Deuteronomy 29:29 that the “secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Thus, God has two wills. A secret will and a revealed will. The revealed will of God are those things written in “the words of this law”—holy scripture—for us and for our children that “we may do all the words of this law.” That is, so we might know how God would have us conduct our lives on a day-to-day basis. But then there is the secret will of God, those things about our lives which he has not made known to us—who we should marry, what job we should take, where we should live. Regarding these decisions, St. Augustine has been famously quoted as saying, “Love God and do what your heart desires.” His point is that so long as you are loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul, then your decisions should be driven with an ultimate view to glorify God and not by selfish motives or ambitions. If that be the case, then love God and do what your heart desires.
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