Mar 22, 2016
Mar 22, 2016
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29
A friend and his wife, now in their early nineties and married for sixty-six years, wrote their family history for their children, grandchildren, and generations to come. The final chapter, “A Letter from Mom and Dad,” contains important life-lessons they’ve learned. One caused me to pause and take inventory of my own life: “If you find that Christianity exhausts you, draining you of your energy, then you are practicing religion rather than enjoying a relationship with Jesus Christ. Your walk with the Lord will not make you weary; it will invigorate you, restore your strength, and energize your life” (Matt. 11:28–29).
Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Jesus’s invitation in this passage begins, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? . . . Walk with me and work with me. . . . Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (The Message).
When I think that serving God is all up to me, I’ve begun working for Him instead of walking with Him. There is a vital difference. If I’m not walking with Christ, my spirit becomes dry and brittle. People are annoyances, not fellow humans created in God’s image. Nothing seems right.
When I sense that I’m practicing religion instead of enjoying a relationship with Jesus, it’s time to lay the burden down and walk with Him in His “unforced rhythms of grace.”
Lord Jesus, I come to You today to exchange my frenzied work for Your pathway of grace.
Jesus wants us to walk with Him.
Now the offer is ours to accept. Our Lord invites us to come to Him and discover His “unforced rhythms of grace” and rest. The promise is for the joy of what He can do in us and in the lives of those He inspires us to love and serve.
1 Samuel 15:1-35
The most obvious way to step out of God’s will is to commit deliberate sin. In fact, this is so apparent that you might wonder why I’m pointing it out. The reason is that I often hear believers try to justify partial obedience.
King Saul tried to justify ignoring the Lord’s instructions. After God ordered the Israelites to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all their holdings, they spared the choicest beasts as well as the leader, Agag. Pleased with himself, Saul announced that he had done as commanded. But when Samuel questioned him further, Saul tried to blame the people (1 Samuel 15:15). A king’s subjects, however, cannot act in so brazen a manner without his knowledge and permission.
Saul didn’t stop there. He argued that the animals had been saved so they could be sacrificed to the Lord. He must have sounded quite righteous to his own ears. But Samuel was not fooled. He called Saul’s action by its proper name—insubordination (v. 23).
Our reason for partial obedience may sound logical, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re still in rebellion. Excuses and justifications won’t sway God in the slightest. He doesn’t alter His will to accommodate human desires or common sense. Instead, He looks for and takes delight in a faithful follower.
Are you trying to rationalize a decision or behavior? Perhaps you’ve offered reasons for pursuing a certain path. Or maybe you tried bargaining with God. I assure you He isn’t moved by any arguments. Remember: Partial obedience is disobedience in His eyes. And no sin is worth being outside His will.
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.” (Song of Solomon 8:7)
The Song of Solomon, as part of God’s inspired Word, is much more than an ancient erotic poem, as some have interpreted it. Solomon was given great wisdom by God, so that he “spake three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five” (1 Kings 4:32). Of these latter, he apparently considered this to be his masterpiece, his “song of songs” (Song 1:1). It can best be understood as a pure love song describing the courtship and marriage of Solomon and his first bride, long before he later married “many strange [that is, ‘foreign’] women” (1 Kings 11:1) who “turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4).
Another interpretation, favored by many Bible scholars over the centuries, is that the story is an allegory whose theme is the love of Christ and His heavenly bride, the true church.
That is, it really does seem to describe the love of young Solomon and his first bride. Such love had and still has God’s blessing, for the union of man and woman in permanent, loving marriage has always been God’s plan, ever since Adam and Eve (note Christ’s confirmation of this in Matthew 19:3-9). It is “the works of the flesh,” including adultery and fornication, that God condemns.
But the song can also bring great blessing to the reader as he sees therein the eternal love of the Lord Jesus and His heavenly bride. Our text verse, read in this light, is a glorious truth. Not even the waters of a great flood could quench such love, nor all the possessions of a wealthy king ever purchase it. It is true eternal love, bought by the blood of the Bridegroom and received with undying faith by His beloved bride. HMM
This psalm may be very fittingly read at this time, for it celebrates the Lord’s dealings with Israel until he had settled them in the land which he had promised to them as a heritage.
Praise the Lord for what he is by nature, for his own personal goodness deserves our adoration.
His sovereignty over all, and his transcendant superiority above all other existences should command our reverent praise at all times. All his power and majesty are sweetened with mercy.
How sweet is the chorus. It comes over and over again, but it never degenerates into a vain repetition. God is to be praised not only for his nature and dignity, but also for his works.
Psalm 136:5, 6
O thou Creator of all things, we magnify the mercy which shines in all thy handiworks.
What should we do without the sun? Could life itself hold out? And how cheerless would night be if the moon were quenched! Herein is mercy.
Each distinct blessing deserves a verse of praise to itself.
From nature, the psalmist turns to providence and sees mercy all around. Mercy is everywhere around us, like the air we breathe. Judgment to Egypt was mercy to Israel.
Destruction it was to Pharaoh, but that destruction was needful for the escape of the Israelites, and for their safety while in the wilderness, and therefore mercy was in it all.
Notwithstanding all their provocations, the Lord continued to lead them on; and in their case, as in ours, proved the eternity of his mercy. Time cannot rust it, sin cannot conquer it; throughout eternity it must and shall endure.
He makes the just punishment of some to redound to the gain of others, and thus in his judgments magnifies his grace.
Our personal experience is one of the sweetest notes of the song which celebrates infinite mercy. Our redemption is the joy of all our joy.
Daily providence which feeds the countless fish of the sea, and birds of the air, and beasts of the field, deserves our reverent gratitude.
The Lord reigneth in the highest above all, making heaven the throne of his glory. Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
1 Corinthians 10:12
There is an incredible story from history that demonstrates the danger of “cracks” in your spiritual life. The story comes from the city of Sardis, where one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation was located (see Revelation 3:1-6).
The city of Sardis was located very high on top of sheer cliffs that were almost impossible to climb. Because of their city’s high and remote location, the residents believed it couldn’t be penetrated or taken captive by a foreign enemy. It was this overconfidence that led to the demise of Sardis on more than one occasion.
Because those who lived in Sardis believed they were impenetrable, they felt sure that foreign aggressors couldn’t make war on them. As a result, they became proud, cocky, overconfident, lazy, and complacent. As this apathy took over, the residents smugly concluded that there was no other city as secure as theirs. As a result of this haughty attitude, they stopped giving attention to the foundations and walls of their spiraling city. Thus, while the people’s pride and overconfidence kept growing stronger and stronger over the years, they failed to notice that the foundations and walls of their city had begun to deteriorate and form massive cracks at the base of the walls.
At first the cracks were small and unnoticeable; but as time progressed, those tiny cracks grew bigger, deeper, and wider. Finally, the gaps in the walls became so wide that a human body could easily slip through them—but the people didn’t even realize that they were no longer secure! Due to the massive fractures in the walls and foundations, it had become very easy for an enemy to climb up the sides of the mountain, slip through the cracks, and march right into the city. Yet the city residents were completely unaware of the problem!
One night while the city of Sardis was sleeping, an enemy army scaled up the cliffs and slithered through the cracks in the foundations and walls of the city. It took only a few minutes for the enemy soldiers to creep through those fractures and silently make their way up to the top of the city walls. The invading army then settled into military positions with weapons fixed on the main routes of the interior so no one in Sardis could make a move without facing retaliation.
When the residents of Sardis awakened the next morning and ventured out into the streets, they were thrown into a state of panic and shock when they realized that they were surrounded on every side by an enemy force. Enemy forces had infiltrated into their midst before they knew those forces were even near!
Unfortunately, the city of Sardis is like so many of us. We become so busy with life, so tossed about by everyday cares, or perhaps so confident of our own abilities, that we become unaware of our own spiritual need. We go on in life as though we have no need to deal with the foundations of our lives, not realizing that tiny cracks are starting to form.
This kind of negligent thinking is usually accompanied by prayerlessness and insensitivity to the Spirit of God. A Christian who is too busy to get into the Presence of God is a Christian who will soon find himself in trouble, just like the city of Sardis.
This is why the apostle Paul said, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The word “thinketh” is from the Greek word dokeo, which in this case means to be of the opinion, to reckon, to suppose, or to think, as it is translated here in the King James Version. In this verse, the word dokeo expresses the idea of what a person thinks or supposes about himself. There is nothing here to verify that the individual’s opinion is correct; only that it is the prevailing opinion he has regarding himself. In just a moment, you’ll see why this is so important for you to understand!
Next, Paul says, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth….” The word “standeth” comes from the Greek word istemi, which simply means to stand, to stand fast, to stand firm, or to stand upright. But when the words dokeo and istemi are combined together as Paul uses them in this verse, it means, “Wherefore let anyone who has the self-imposed opinion of himself that he is standing strong and firm….” Then Paul adds the next critically important words: “… take heed lest he fall.”
The words “take heed” are from the Greek word blepo, which means to watch, to see, to behold, or to be aware. The Greek tense indicates the need not only to watch, but to be continually watchful. Paul is urging us to live in an uninterrupted state of watchfulness regarding our spiritual lives and the firm stance of faith that we claim to possess!
Why does he insist that we be so watchful? He goes on to say, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” The word “fall” is pipto, which means to fall. In the New Testament, it is used to depict someone who falls into a terrible predicament or into a worse state than he was in before. It can also depict someone who falls into sin; falls into ruin; or falls into some type of failure. The word pipto that Paul uses in this verse emphatically describes a downfall from a formerly presumed high and haughty position. Therefore, it isn’t just a little stumbling that Paul is referring to; it is a downward plummet that causes one to sorrowfully crash!
When you put all of this together, First Corinthians 10:12 could be translated:
“If anyone has the opinion of himself that he is standing strong and firm, he needs to be continually watchful and always on his guard lest he trip, stumble, and fall from his overconfident position and take a nose-dive downward to a serious crash!”
We must never become so smug that we fall into complacency. The day we allow that to happen, we are in big trouble! Like the city of Sardis, we may end up with huge cracks we aren’t even aware of. That is exactly when the enemy will slip in to take us captive in different areas of our lives. Therefore, we must match our confidence with watchfulness!
Unfortunately, it appears that the church in Sardis precisely mirrored the city of Sardis. Jesus told them, “… I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and are dead” (Revelation 3:1). At one time the church in Sardis had a great name and a testimony of being spiritually alive and vibrant. But because the believers in that church got too busy and failed to give heed to the foundational things in their lives, cracks began to form spiritually over time. Eventually the devil found a way to slip into that church to ruin its name and influence. Because of spiritual negligence, this church body lost its vitality until Jesus even said it was “dead.”
In Revelations 3:2, Jesus told them, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” I love this verse, for it alerts us to the fact that it is never too late to do something to fix the problem! Jesus said, “Locate the problem! Find a solution! Strengthen what you have! Do it before it’s too late!”
If you have a part of your life that is broken, cracked, or splintered, there is still hope that it can be restored. It may require emergency care to get it on life support for now, but it can be resuscitated and brought back to life again. Preventative medicine is always better than corrective surgery, so learn to take the right steps to avoid these problems.
It may seem like it takes a lot of time to stay watchful and prayerful about your spiritual life, but I assure you that it is less expensive and less painful than it is to crash spiritually and then have to fix things in your life that never had to be broken in the first place!
Lord, help me stay watchful regarding the condition of my spiritual life! I recognize that sometimes I get too busy and fail to pray, wrongly presuming that I am strong enough to be able to survive in a state of prayerlessness. Especially after what I’ve read today, I realize that this kind of smugness and pride has always gotten me into trouble. Therefore, I turn from apathy and the wrong kind of confidence, and I turn to the Cross! Please examine my heart and help me identify those areas of my life that need to be fixed or corrected. Once You reveal to me what needs to be changed, please give me the power to apply the needed correction.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I declare by faith that I am sensitive to the Spirit of God! The Holy Spirit shows me every area of my life that is weak and that needs attention. When the Holy Spirit speaks to me, I am quick to listen and quick to obey. I urgently act to bring correction to every weakness in my character and my spiritual life where the enemy might try to penetrate. Therefore, the devil has no access to me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Mark 4:26-29 gives us four helpful insights:
I. WE ARE TO FAITHFULLY SOW THE SEED ON ALL KINDS OF SOIL:
In the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-8, 14-20), Christ told of the person who threw the seed (the Gospel) on various types of soil (men’s hearts): hard, shallow, weed-infested, and “good.”
The sower’s job was not to inspect the condition of the soil, but to faithfully “scatter seed on the ground… ” (Mark 4:26b)
II. WE ARE TO STEP BACK AND ALLOW THE GOSPEL TO DO ITS WORK:
The inner-working of the Gospel upon a person’s heart is mysterious, God-directed, and beyond our control or efforts:
“Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain… ” (Mark 4:27)
III.WE ARE TO OBSERVE THE SOIL:
It important for us to understand that before reaping the harvest, an orderly and timely growth process must first transpire:
“First the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” (Mark 4:28)
IV. WE ARE TO REAP THE HARVEST:
Because of our inclination toward procrastination, we could easily miss the opportune time to reap the harvest: “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months and then comes the harvest‘?… I tell you… the fields are ripe for harvest. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (John 4:35; Mark 4:29)
I am intrigued with the fact that when Christ spoke of the partnership between sower and reaper He only offered a reward to the reaper: “One sows and another reaps… The reaper draws… wages… ” (John 4:37, 36)
Perhaps He knew that reapers were in scarce supply and needed the added incentive!
At any rate, let’s get out there and sow the seed, step back, observe, and… harvest!