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And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

People who read the Bible love it because it presents human life as it really is: the good, the bad, the ugly—and the funny. Take the time when the prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a power encounter on Mount Carmel. The contest was to see who was greater—the God of Israel or the god Baal. When Baal couldn’t deliver, Elijah spared no sarcastic efforts to humiliate the false god and his prophets (1 Kings 18:16-45).

Or take the time Jesus spoke to a group of Jews about spiritual freedom (John 8:31-36). They retorted, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” (verse 33) Never been in bondage? How about the four hundred years their ancestors spent enslaved in Egypt? How about the northern tribes of Israel being enslaved to Assyria? How about the two southern tribes spending seventy years enslaved in Babylon? And as they spoke, they were in bondage to Rome! It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

The spiritual freedom of which Jesus spoke comes only by grace and truth. It is possible to be free from the bondage of sin (Galatians 5:1).

Spiritual darkness is spiritual bondage.  Matthew Henry


The Freedom of True Discipleship (John 8:31-36)

A Wise Builder

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1

Sojourner Truth, whose birth name was Isabella Baumfree, was born a slave in 1797 in Esopus, New York. Though nearly all her children were sold as slaves, she escaped to freedom in 1826 with one daughter and lived with a family who paid the money for her freedom. Instead of allowing an unjust system to keep her family apart, she took legal action to regain her small son Peter—an amazing feat for an African American woman in that day. Knowing she couldn’t raise her children without God’s help, she became a believer in Christ and later changed her name to Sojourner Truth to show that her life was built on the foundation of God’s truth.

King Solomon, the writer of Proverbs 14, declares, “The wise woman builds her house” (v. 1). In contrast, one without wisdom “tears hers down.” This building metaphor shows the wisdom God provides to those willing to listen. How does one build a house with wisdom? By saying “only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:11). How does one tear down? Proverbs 14 gives the answer: “A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride” (v. 3).

Sojourner had a “secure fortress” (v. 26) in a turbulent time, thanks to the wisdom of God. You may never have to rescue your children from an injustice. But you can build your house on the same foundation Sojourner did—the wisdom of God.

By:  Linda Washington

Reflect & Pray

What foundation is your house established upon? How will you build your house this week?

Father, I need Your wisdom to build a lasting legacy for Your glory.

Lessons From the Prophet Jonah

Jonah 1

If you’ve ever tried to ignore the Lord’s commands or silence the Holy Spirit’s conviction, you’ve probably learned the same lesson Jonah did. He disliked God’s instructions and attempted to avoid the unwanted assignment by running away. But He soon discovered that you can never outrun God.

Rebellion toward our heavenly Father often takes one of two forms: a bold outright refusal to obey His instructions or a more passive approach of quietly pursuing our own agenda while disregarding biblical commands we don’t like. Whichever route we take, we can’t silence God. His Spirit’s conviction will follow us—even if we fill life with distractions to help us ignore Him.

What we must understand is that God is willing to pursue us, and that can involve stripping away diversions and bringing negative consequences to get our attention. He is a loving heavenly Father who disciplines us if we continue down the road of disobedience.  

 The Lord is always with you, but whether your relationship feels tense or peaceful depends on your willingness to do what He says. Let’s use Jonah’s example as encouragement to obey promptly rather than waste time running away and suffering the consequences.

Likeminded

“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2)

This emphatic command, along with the parallel terms, helps us understand the concept of “thinking” the same thing. “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Romans 12:16).

Such thinking also includes “having the same love.” There are two aspects of this love. First, the term itself (agape) would demand that all of Christ’s disciples “love one another: for love is of God” (1 John 4:7). This is often repeated to born-again believers so that our love for each other is so obvious that “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples” (John 13:35).

Godly love then produces “being of one accord.” This phrase is the translation of the Greek word sumpsuchos, which is a compound of the preposition most often translated “with” and the word for “soul.” Thus, the agape that we are to share results in a connection “with-soul” that binds the “likemindedness” in agreement with the mind and spirit of the Creator God.

We are finally commanded to be of “one mind”—slightly different from the “likeminded” opening charge of Philippians 2:2. The initial words are auto phroneô—“his thinking.” The last use is en phroneô—one (way of) thinking.

The entire context of the opening verses of Philippians 2 is to think like Jesus Christ thinks. “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). “Set your affection [phroneô] on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). This kind of “thinking” must have God’s love and soul embedded in the very core of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. HMM III

Where Are You at Calvary?

Matthew 26:47-27:56

AT the trial of our Lord, Peter, warming himself at the enemy’s fire, denies his Master. Beware of warming at the devil’s fire. Jesus answers the priest’s clear question, “Tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God,” with an unmistakable affirmative and prophesies His return. Judas returns the blood-money and hangs himself. He purchased his own graveyard with the proceeds of his iniquity. Trade with the devil and you buy a graveyard!

Pilate faced three options. The first alternative was cynicism or Christ: “What is truth?”; Christ is the answer to cynicism. In the choice between Barabbas and the Lord, he faced criminality or Christ; Christ is the answer to criminality’s problem. And Pilate faced the issue of Caesar or Christ. And every one of us faces the one supreme question: Shall we crown or crucify Jesus?

It seems that God so arranged it that every type of person should be represented at the cross. If you look closely, you will soon recognize your crowd. There were the soldiers, who only administered the wounds which all the sin of all the world caused. They sat and watched Him, and they gambled for His robe—and so do men today idly face Calvary and gamble away their gospel opportunity. If you are not a soldier of the cross you are a soldier at the cross.

There were the passersby who wagged their heads. It is fashionable to pass Calvary wagging the head. They misquoted His claims, they minimized His death, they mocked His Deity. So men today see no need for Calvary.

Next were the chief priests, scribes and elders. No group of men has behaved worse at the cross than the religionists. Today there are no worse enemies of Christ than those hypocrites whose names are on church books, who perhaps work in the church, read the Bible, pray in public, give money to the church, but who merely draw near with their mouths and honor with their lips while their hearts are far from God.

Then there were the people who merely stood there, beholding. They just looked on and did nothing. But all that anyone needs to do to be lost is just… nothing. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” They smote their breasts and returned home terrified. The publican in the temple smote his breast and went home justified because he truly repented!

The centurion went further. He feared greatly. He confessed that Christ was righteous; he called Him the “Son” and “God”; he glorified God. Yet one may do all this and be lost.

It is not surprising that the one who got most out of that awful day was the lowest character of them all, the repentant thief. The first person to enter Paradise after our Lord was a thief! But is it not in keeping with the whole tenor of the gospel that God has chosen those who are base and despised, and the ones who have profited most are those who have come “without one plea” except His shed blood!

One other group remains: those who loved Him. We sing, “Oh, How I Love Jesus,” but do we love Him crucified and do we love the old rugged cross?

After all, there are only two classes at the cross: those who rest upon the work He accomplished there for our redemption and those who reject the provisions of His love. Where are you at Calvary?

Joy—Always There

A joyful heart makes a face cheerful, but a sad heart produces a broken spirit.—Proverbs 15:13

Joy is a central characteristic of the Christian—and yet so many know nothing of it. They are under the lash of duty and not unabashed delight. They are artificial, not artesian. Someone once described such Christians as “creaking in body and soul as they limp along the highway toward glory.” They walk the road to glory, but they are certainly not walking the glory road.

The word “joy” (Greek: chara) is a strong and robust word. It is not resignation wearing a wan smile. It means a joy that is exuberant and overflowing. The summons to rejoice is sounded no less than seventy times in the New Testament, and the word chara occurs close to sixty times. The New Testament is a book of joy. Dr. William Barclay says that joy is the distinguishing atmosphere of the Christian life. He wrote: “We may put it this way—whatever the ingredients of Christian experience and in whatever proportions they are mixed together, joy is one of them.”

Even in the first year after the death of my wife, I was wonderfully conscious of Christ’s joy quietly breaking through the layers of my sadness and grief. Joy is always present in the heart of a Christian. It may not always be felt or recognized—but it is always there. And eventually it will break the surface, no matter what our situation or our circumstances. I have always maintained that joy is an inevitable part of the Christian life. Now I am sure. Oh, so very sure.

Prayer

Father, thank You for reminding me that when joy has its roots in You, then its fruits will eventually appear—no matter what happens. Eternal honor and praise be to Your wonderful name. Amen.

Further Study

Ps 16:11; 30:1-12; 126:1-6; Neh 8:10

What does joy bring to our beings?

How are tears linked with joy?

Holiness Defined

1 Corinthians 1:30

At conversion, we are “born of the Spirit,” and from that moment the Spirit of God within us begins His sanctifying work. If we commit sin after conversion, He brings us under conviction and leads us to confess the sin and seek God’s forgiveness.

The Holy Spirit not only convicts us of sinful acts, but convicts us of the sinful nature that lies behind those acts. He also gives the saved man longings after purity and likeness to Jesus. This work of the Holy Spirit may go on for years in the heart of the believer, until at last he comes to the place of full surrender and simple faith, whereby he enters into the experience of entire sanctification, being delivered from pride, unbelief and inbred sin.

Thus we may say that at conversion there is partial sanctification, and later on a definite second experience of cleansing from inward sin and the fullness of the Spirit, which we call entire sanctification. In this experience are included the entire cleansing of the heart from all sin (1 John 1:7, 9), the entire surrender of the will to God (Romans 6:19), and the entire filling of the heart with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

William Booth defined holiness as the blessing of a clean heart, while John Wesley regarded it as an experience of perfect love. Spiritual power cannot exist without spiritual purity. An unclean heart brings condemnation and weakness, hindering our prayer life, robbing us of peace and weakening our witness. Purity and power must go together.

Above all, we must realize that holiness is more than a doctrine, or a theory or even an experience. It is Jesus Himself. “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). How true it is that Christ is our sanctification.

Allister Smith, The Ideal of Perfection