Sunday, June 5, 2016

As he thinks in his heart, so is he

This morning I was reading Proverbs 23, and I came across the following verses:

Do not eat the bread of a miser,
Nor desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
But his heart is not with you.- Proverbs 23:6,7, NKJV, emphasis mine

The phrase “his heart is not with you” sounded familiar. I had read it elsewhere in Scripture, if in a slightly different form:

Therefore the LORD said:
“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder;
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden."
- Isaiah 29:13,14, NKJV, emphasis mine

“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophecy about you, saying:
’These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
- Matthew 15:7-9, NKJV, emphasis mine

This is the definition of a hypocrite: Not that they do not have feelings to back up what they say or what they do; No.
Hypocrisy goes deeper than our feelings. It goes to the inner man.

Hypocrisy is to be something entirely different on the inside than what you claim with your lips and even what you do with your life.

Hypocrisy is what Jesus condemned the Pharisees for. 

Jesus called the (scribes and) Pharisees “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27, NKJV)

In other words, they were not at all what they appeared to be:

They had every appearance of being holy, but they were actually unholy.
They had every appearance of being righteous, but they were actually unrighteous.
They had every appearance of men who loved God, but they actually did not love God.

What about me? Have I been “born again”? Or am I trying to fake a new birth by keeping the commandments of men?

Is there real change on the inside of me? Or only the appearance of it? 

Is there real "fruits worthy of repentance” being borne in my life? Or only bad fruit that looks good, but tastes disgusting? (see Matthew 3:8, NKJV)

I don’t want to “say[] to [Him], ‘Lord, Lord,’” and not “enter the kingdom of heaven”. I don’t want to hear Him say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (see Matthew 7:21-23, NKJV)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I live to hear Him call my name

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her. (John 20:11-18, KJV, emphasis mine)

This is one of my favorite passages in the Gospels. It is a simple exchange between Mary Magdalene, a woman Jesus delivered from seven demons, and her risen Lord. It opens with her at Jesus’ tomb. She came early and saw that the stone had been rolled away. She then ran to Simon Peter and John and told them of the empty tomb. The two disciples came themselves to the tomb, looked in and saw that it was empty and then left again, but Mary stayed behind, weeping.

When asked by the angels why she weeps, she answers, “Because they have taken my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” She is so distraught that she barely takes notice of the strangers in white, sitting in the tomb where Jesus used to be. She merely answers their question and makes to leave, when another stranger asks her the same question: “Woman, why weepest thou?” She assumes he is the gardener and says, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” Then…Jesus speaks her name...

“Mary,” he says.

“Rabboni--Master," is her reply.

She knows, at last, that it is her Lord.

I can only imagine how Mary must have felt at that moment:

Like being asked, "Will you marry me"? Or like saying, "I do"?

Like looking into the face of a baby you helped bring into the world?

Like being reunited with a best friend one hasn’t seen in years?

Like getting the lab test results back and showing ’no sign of disease’?

Like getting the call from a loved-one that they are okay; they were delivered from the disaster you heard or read about?

What a happy moment it must have been for Mary, to hear her Savior call her name. What a happy moment it is for us, when He first calls us out of darkness, into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). What a happy moment—and eternity—it will be for us, when He calls us by name, to enter into His Kingdom; into the rest and joy of our Master (Matthew 25:21; Hebrews 4:9).

I live to hear Him call my name...

Friday, January 15, 2016

Daily Bible Reading | Do Good; Show Mercy (Matthew 12)

And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. - Matthew 12:11-14, KJV
Is it not remarkable how little compassion the Pharisees showed their fellow man? 

Why in the world would they be angry with Jesus for healing someone? Shouldn't they have been happy that people were being delivered from the bondage of disease and misery--especially that sinners were repenting and trusting in God? 

But they were not happy. They were angry. They had no compassion. They had only self-righteousness that was threatened by One more righteous than they. It has always been so.

Cain was threatened by Abel because Abel was more righteous than he was, so Cain rose up against his own brother and slaughtered him. (See Genesis Chapter 4)

Joseph's brothers felt threatened by Joseph because their father loved him better and because God seemed to favor Joseph with dreams that one day his family would bow before him. So they rose up against Joseph, intending to kill him, but instead sold their own brother into slavery. (See Genesis Chapter 37)

Is it that remarkable that the Pharisees would rather see men and women remain in bondage than be set free on a Sabbath because of their man-made rules of what was and was not lawful to do on the Sabbath in order to be considered "righteous"? 

Unfortunately, it is not that remarkable when we understand human nature. 

How blessed we are to have a God who values us! How blessed we are to have a God who heals us! How blessed we are to have a God who cares! 

He demonstrates to us by His example, that it is better to show mercy and to do good than to keep the commandments of men. 
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? - Micah 6:8, KJV

Monday, January 4, 2016

Daily Bible Reading | The Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4)

“Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ””
Matthew 4:3, 5-6 NKJV,5-6.nkjv

“Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!””
Mark 1:23-24 NKJV

The demons knew exactly who Jesus was. Even when men were blind to the truth, the demons never were. They knew Jesus on-sight. So it is absolutely out of the question that the principle of the legions of demons--Satan--would be in doubt as to the identity of Jesus. You can be certain that Satan knew exactly who Jesus was. 

But Satan knows the truth and hates it! So he works to twist and turn it and corrupt it until it is unrecognizable. In the garden of Eden, he began by putting doubt in Eve's mind about the words of God: Did God really say...? And you can imagine Eve's response: I don't know...did God really say that? Maybe God didn't mean what I thought He meant...

If he can get you to doubt God's Word, he can get you to disbelieve, and then he has you; that is, he's gotten you to sin because unbelief shows a lack of faith in God's character. Basically, unbelief calls God a liar. 

So what did Jesus do when Satan called into question His identity--that is, what God had just said at Christ's baptism at the end of Matthew 3: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased? 

Jesus fought back with the truth!! 

He reminded Himself and the devil of what is and always will be true. Doubt found no place in Jesus; He knew God and trusted Him; He knew the truth and was prepared to use it in battle against the enemy. 

When the adversary comes at you with doubts, trying to get you to disbelieve God, fight back with what you know to be true. Fight back with the Word of God!

“For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.””
Romans 3:3-4 NKJV

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Daily Bible Reading | Enemy? Or Friend?

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 
... Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.   
- Matthew 2:1-3,16, NKJV
Contrast the response of the wise men with the response of Herod to news of Christ's birth: The wise men traveled untold miles to where the Child was born in order to worship Him; Herod on the other hand, became exceedingly angry and jealous of the Child born King of the Jews--indeed, he was so angry and so jealous that he sought to destroy the Child and did not care who he hurt in the process.

Here we see polar opposite responses to Jesus: The wise worship Him as the One true King; the foolish despise Him for threatening their autonomy.

The first is the response of those who love Him; the other the response of those who hate Him, and according to the Bible you are either one or the other, there is no middle ground (see Luke 19:27; Colossians 1:21; James 4:4). Some might consider this a false dichotomy but we are either God's enemies or our will has been overthrown by His great love and we have been made His friends.

Where are you in this story? Are you an enemy of God? Do you feel threatened by the promise that Jesus will return to reign in glory and to wreak vengeance upon His enemies? (see Revelation 19)

Repent today! Turn from your sins and turn towards God in faith and trust in Christ's life, death and resurrection on your behalf. Be reconciled to God! Do not remain His enemy, for none who stand against Him shall prosper!
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 
- 2 Corinthians 5:20,21, NKJV

Friday, January 1, 2016

Daily Bible Reading | Immanuel "God with us"

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us. 
Matthew 1:21-23, NKJV
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is truly remarkable.

That the Eternal Son of God would condescend to become a man is astonishing enough, but that He should become a fetus in the uterus of a peasant girl from Palestine--that He should spend nine months in the womb and then pass through the birth canal like any other human baby--is so scandalizing that millions of people around the world utterly refuse to believe that it took place.

Jesus of Nazareth might have been an actual man who lived and died in Palestine 2000 years ago, but he cannot be God. At least, that is what they say; that is also what the religious leaders said in the time that Jesus lived. It is the same story circulating for centuries: God couldn't possibly have become a man; it is blasphemy even to suggest such a thing.

And it might have been blasphemy to suggest such a thing...if God had not ordained it. But God did ordain it. The immortal, invisible, only wise God became mortal.

But why? Why would God take on human flesh? Why would the immortal become mortal?

God became Man in order to die.

This is quite literally the crux of the matter: the cross.

The Eternal Son of God became a Man so that He could die for the sins of His people. He came to offer Himself as a ransom for many. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins, so Jesus came as a Man to freely give His blood to be shed for us.

Denying either the deity or the humanity of Jesus Christ strips His cross of its power to save. He must be Man in order to die, and He must be God because only a perfect sacrifice would make atonement--a Lamb without spot or blemish--and only God is perfect.

Jesus Christ is the only hope for a cursed and hell-bound humanity. Look to Him today and trust in His cross--that it was enough to satisfy God's justice against your sin--and in His death and resurrection--that it holds the promise that all who trust in Him will be raised to glory with Him forever.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 
John 3:16-18, NKJV

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Living According to the Word - L.A.W.: Psalm 119:9-12

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes.”
Psalms 119:9-12 NKJV

One of the simplest ways we can begin today to "live according to the Word" (L.A.W.) of God is by doing what the psalmist sings of in verse 11--we can start hiding God's Word in our hearts. We can start memorizing the Scriptures. Why? Notice the reason the psalmist gives. It is not so that he can boast of his knowledge. It is not so he can show off to his friends and family. It is so that he might not sin against God. That is a good reason for memorizing the Scriptures--so they become so much a part of you that when you are tempted to sin, the Word is there in your mind and heart to convict you and keep you from sinning.

On a practical note, the Bible is a big book. Where should a person begin? How about beginning with a Scripture that will be immediately helpful to you? Think of a sin that you are often tempted to commit (ask God to reveal it to you) then find a Scripture (or several Scriptures) that deals with that sin. 

For me, I am often tempted to fear man. There are many great verses about the fear of man:

“The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”
Proverbs 29:25 NKJV

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
Psalms 118:6 NKJV

“So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?””
Hebrews 13:6 NKJV

I recommend memorizing the Word in the version in which you like to read it. For me, that would be the New King James but for you, it might be the NIV or the ESV or the NLT. Highlight the verse in your Bible so that it stands out when you read it during your regular Bible reading so that reading your Bible also works to reinforce your memory. 

Let me know in the comments whether you tried memorizing Scripture this week. 

Lord, we thank You for the gift of Your Word. I know that I fail to appreciate it as I ought to. Help us, Lord, to love Your Word as the psalmist did. May we joyfully hide it in our hearts that we might not sin against You. May our sin grieve us as much as it grieves You. Thank You for loving us and calling us sons and daughters. We are learning how to love You more and more. Thank You, Abba! Amen!