Hear, O Israel
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called . . . endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1, 3
Shema Israel—“Hear, [O] Israel”—are the first two words in the Hebrew prayer known as “the Shema.” They are found in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” The prayer was central to the Jewish faith as the nation entered Canaan, a land filled with multitudes of “gods” The Shema affirmed that the God of Israel was one God, not many. To violate that belief was to violate the integrity of the Jewish faith.
The apostle Paul echoed the Shema in his call to Christian unity: “There is one body and one Spirit . . . one hope . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). To disrupt the unity of the Body of Christ with dissension or anger is to violate the integrity of God: Father, Son, and Spirit. Because God is one, His people must be one in “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (see Ephesians 4:3).
Let the words of Richard Baxter (below) inspire your thinking today about love and unity.
In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity. Richard Baxter
Ephesians 4:1-3 – In Depth – Pastor Chuck Smith – Bible Studies
I urge you . . . in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1
My great aunt had an exciting job in advertising and traveled between Chicago and New York City. But she chose to give up that career out of love for her parents. They lived in Minnesota and needed to be cared for. Both of her brothers had died young in tragic circumstances and she was her mom and dad’s only remaining child. For her, serving her parents was an expression of her faith.
The apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome urged Christian believers to be “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). He hoped they would extend Christ’s sacrificial love to each other. And he asked them not to think of themselves more highly than they should (v. 3). When they fell into disagreements and division, he called them to lay down their pride, because “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (v. 5). He yearned that they would show each other sacrificial love.
Each day we have the opportunity to serve others. For instance, we might let someone go ahead of us in a line or we might, like my great aunt, care for someone who is ill. Or maybe we share from our experience as we give another advice and direction. When we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, we honor God.
Lord Jesus Christ, You humbled Yourself and lay down Your life that I might live. May I never forget this most precious gift of grace and love.
1 Chronicles 29:10-14
A serious error has made its way into the church. Some Christians think that their beliefs and their wallet belong in separate spheres. The truth is, obedience to God includes how we handle our finances. He owns everything (Hag. 2:8; Psalm 24:1). Cash, possessions, and ways to earn more are gifts from the Lord; we are simply stewards.
A steward oversees the use and care of someone else’s riches. A wise steward bases financial decisions upon the owner’s rules for using and multiplying material goods. In our case, God has woven financial principles into the fabric of Scripture. Since money touches nearly every aspect of life, it is mentioned hundreds of times in different contexts. For example, God urged the Israelites to stay faithful to His teachings and to avoid the trap of self-reliance. He reminded them that the power to make wealth resides with Him rather than in their own hands (Deut. 8:17-18).
The minute a steward presumes that he owns the money he manages, trouble is at hand. He stops consulting the Owner and spends as he sees fit. Even in trying to do good, the wayward steward is ruled by his shortsighted perspective rather than by God’s omniscient view and gentle guidance. He will suffer the consequences of choosing his own way over the Lord’s.
Faith and finances are intertwined. The bottom line is that we cannot keep our money out of God’s hand, because He holds it all—we simply manage it. And we are to do so in the way He directs us. A maturing believer trusts the Lord’s principles for using and growing wealth.
“And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying . . .” (Leviticus 1:1)
This introductory verse to what many erroneously consider a dry and difficult book of the Bible actually introduces a remarkable phenomenon. All the rest of the chapter consists of a direct quotation from the Lord Himself. In fact, most of the rest of the book also consists solely of the direct words of God, except for an occasional interjection of a statement that God was still speaking. In all, 717 of the 832 verses in Leviticus (that is 86 percent) consist of the very words of God, directly quoted. This is more than any other book of the Bible, except for the books of the prophets, some of which also consist almost entirely of verbatim statements from God. The same situation is found in lesser, but still substantial, degrees in other historical books, not to mention the extensive quotations from the sermons and discourses of Christ in the four gospels.
While it is true that the Holy Spirit used many different means by which to convey the Scriptures (all of which are verbally inspired and fully inerrant) to writing, it is also true that, on many occasions, what amounts to the “dictation” method was used by Him. Evangelicals have often been intimidated by the scientists’ ridicule of this “mechanical theory” of inspiration, but they should not be. God is well able to use whatever means He chooses to reveal His word to men, and we should simply take Him at His word!
Leviticus is a guidebook for the consecration and cleansing of God’s people—especially His priests. In the New Covenant, all believers are priests, and therefore are expected to be consecrated and pure. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). HMM
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
—1 Corinthians 12:4-6
The time is more than ripe for a rethinking of the whole matter of spiritual gifts within the church of Christ. The subject has fallen into the hands of people for the most part extreme and irresponsible and has become associated with fanaticism in its various forms. This is a huge misfortune and is causing tremendous loss to the work of spiritual Christianity in our times.
Prejudices pro and con make the consideration of this subject extremely difficult, but its neglect is costing us more than we should be willing to pay. A revival of true New Testament Christianity must surely bring with it a manifestation of spiritual gifts. Anything short of it will create a just suspicion that the revival is something short of scriptural. NCA080-081
Thank You, Lord, that since Tozer’s time there has in fact been this rethinking about spiritual gifts. May we continue to see their proper functioning and renewed manifestation. Amen.
I will delight myself in Thy commandments, which I have loved.—Psalm 119:47.
This everlasting and compunctious study of duty,—duty to everybody, everywhere, every day,—it keeps you questioning all the while, rasping in a torment of debates and compunctions, till you almost groan aloud for weariness. It is as if your life itself were slavery. And then you say, with a sigh, “Oh, if I had nothing to do but just to be with Christ personally, and have my duty solely as with Him, how sweet and blessed and secret and free would it be.” Well, you may have it so; exactly this you may do and nothing more! Sad mistake that you should ever have thought otherwise! What a loss of privilege has it been! Come back then to Christ, retire into the secret place of His love, and have your whole duty personally as with Him. Only then you will make this very welcome discovery, that, as you arc personally given up to Christ’s person, you are going where He goes, helping what He does, keeping ever dear, bright company with Him, in all His motions of good and sympathy, refusing even to let Him suffer without suffering with Him. And so you will do a great many more duties than you even think of now; only they will all be sweet and easy and tree, even as your love is.
“He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great.” Ps. 115:13
This is a word of cheer to those who are of humble station and mean estate. Our God has a very gracious consideration for those of small property, small talent, small influence, small weight. God careth for the small things in creation, and even regards sparrows in their lighting upon the ground. Nothing is small to God, for He makes use of insignificant agents for the accomplishment of His purposes. Let the least among men seek of God a blessing upon his littleness, and he shall find his contracted sphere to be a happy one.
Among those who fear the Lord there are little and great. Some are babes, and others are giants. But these are all blessed. Little faith is blessed faith. Trembling hope is blessed hope. Every grace of the Holy Spirit, even though it be only in the bud, bears a blessing within it. Moreover, the Lord Jesus bought both the small and the great with the same precious blood, and He has engaged to preserve the lambs as well as the full-grown sheep. No mother overlooks her child because it is little; nay, the smaller it is, the more tenderly does she nurse it. If there be any preference with the Lord, He does not arrange them as “great and small,” but as “small and great.