Romans 4 to 7 As I read this, all I could think about was what Martin Luther must have thought when he read this letter. What freedom he now had, as I do as well, freedom in Christ, freedom from sin, freedom to serve Him, not to gain heaven but because this is our gift back for our salvation. No wonder he took the church to task! They were like the Pharisees of old, and they needed correcting. No wonder he, like Paul, was willing to step forth to proclaim the good news: you are saved by faith, not by works!
God grants righteousness on our faith and not of works, which is precisely what Martin Luther, proclaimed and for which the church rebelled. Yet, like Martin Luther, we can declare righteousness because of this truth.
Now, as to death, we shall be like Christ in His resurrection, We die physically, but we shall never die spiritually; God so loved us that even while a sinner, Christ died for us. [Rom 5:8]Therefore, we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness, and we prove that through our works which takes us back to James. Prove your faith by your works. [James 2:17 -19] Rom 6:14 we are no longer under the constraints of the Law, but we are under grace. Rom 6:19, we are now slaves of righteousness for holiness.
Life Lesson: If we say we are righteous, live as righteous because of what Christ did.
Daniel 4 to 6 Daniel served under several kings and knew the ways of God because he spent time with God three times a day. Nebuchadnezzar was a wise king, but foolishly, he ignored the advice to repent of his sin, and God called him to account. Daniel interpreted the visual lesson of the handwriting on the wall for Belshazzar. Daniel boldly told him that he had not learned the lesson of “he who is prideful will be humbled,” from the experience of his grandfather. And then was Darius, who is a prime example of one who is the fool extraordinaire. Signing a law then regretting it was his major blunder. Wicked men of his court sought to elevate themselves and demote Daniel with an extreme measure of death in the lion’s den. Yet, Daniel remained steadfast just as Paul told the Corinthians: “be ye steadfast, immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord.” [1Cor 15:58]
Daniel survived to live another day, but the wicked men and their families became breakfast for the hungry lions. This is a truth that will not change: sin has its consequences, and often our families pay the price along with us.
Stay faithful to God, stay humble, because it is the righteous that shall prevail.
Genesis 38-40 We have seen the shame of Jacob’s sons. They are jealous, envious, and hateful to their younger brother Joseph. They scheme and finalize a sale of him to the Midianites. Ever willing to go the extra mile to cover his guilt, Judah leaves home, so he doesn’t have to see his father in his continual mourning state. You can run away, but at some point, you can be sure “your sin will find you out.” [Num. 32:23] Judah “went down” to his BFF’s home. Whenever we see that phrase, we can know Satan is at work behind the scenes. What better participant than Judah, who despised his inheritance much like Esau. As Satan seeks to undermine God’s plan by escalating the price, God will have the last word in His providential care of His own. Tamar is God’s tool to reveal to Judah that another is more righteous than he. That must have been a blow to his ego! Years later, we will see how God will use that truth to break his spirit, so stay tuned for the rest of the story.
In between this ego-driven story of unrighteousness, we are given the picture of God’s righteous servant Joseph. Although imprisoned falsely, he states what every believer should say when Satan tempts. “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” [Gen 39:9]
What is God teaching us through these two men? [Job 23:10] But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. and “Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked” [Prov 13:6]
Job 1 – 4 As God and Satan dialog, we find that God speaks of Job as His servant. Twice God asks Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” God wants Satan to see that he has missed the mark while Job has not. Job is faithful because he has a righteous fear of God. Satan seeks permission from God to sift Job and he does it with you and me. While Job is being tested we must watch and listen so we can learn what a righteous servant is.
Will we come forth as gold or are we failing to finish strong?
Job is a lesson in the standards God has for his servants; to be found blameless and have a reverential fear of God. Job rises to the occasion and sees that while he doesn’t understand this, he still will remain faithful, whereas Satan thinks that if all the protective hedges (as he calls them) are removed, Job’s real character will be revealed. Satan did it then, and he does it today. While Satan is busy trumping up false charges, Jesus is praying for us just as he did for Peter in Luke 22:31.
God knows His people; he knows you and me. He knows how we are facing this trial of the coronavirus, and He knows the ways of the evil one. When Satan speaks with God will he hear God saying:
Dr. Luke records for us the witnesses at the cross. Only
by the Spirit of God could one chapter hold so much that grabs our attention
and cause us to fall upon our knees in humble adoration for the Messiah who
gave all that we might worship Him alone.
Today of all days, we hear the very pilgrims who shouted
Hosanna, but now are shouting Crucify Him, Crucify Him! These were led by the
unrepentant religious leaders. They had been given the privilege of treasuring
and imparting the sacred scriptures. These leaders had been called, chosen, and
anointed and cleansed. Yet it is not the outward cleansing but the cleansing of
the heart that God desires. Jesus pinpointed their heart problem: But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean
the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and
wickedness.” [Luk 11:39]
God desires that we draw near
with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled
clean from an evil conscience..” [Heb 10:22]
Contrast this scene to the one criminal on the cross who
recognized and submitted to the Son of God. Listen to his words; Jesus,
remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In that one brief interchange,
Dr. Luke transcends earth to heaven so that beauty may come from the ashes of
sin, and we learn of the plan of salvation. First, one must revere God;
secondly, one must recognize that they are a sinner in need of repentance. Like
the criminal, we are justly condemned for our sin. We must seek His face and
His forgiveness. We then hear his response: “I tell you the truth, today you
will be with me in paradise.”
Note the promise: it happens today, not in the future. We will be with Him! We will be in paradise with Him.
Deut 7-8 Isaiah wrote that God is a promise keeper. He opens the eyes of the blind and frees prisoners. That could mean literally or spiritually and perhaps both. Our arch adversary seeks to keep God’s children both blind and imprisoned. But, when God delivers us, we should remember Jesus’ words: do not return to the adversary lest something worse happen. We must destroy the works of the enemy because if we do not, he and his demons will turn away our children from the faith to serve other gods. That was the warning Moses gave the children of Israel.
Secondly, God wants us to remember that he did not set his love upon us or choose us because of anything within us, but only because He loves us. It is because of his love that he promised to keep his oath and redeemed us from the prison of sin. We also need this reminder that within us lies no good thing yet because of His faithfulness He chose us from eternity past for His purpose. “The promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend” [Is 55]
So why do we not experience full pardon and freedom to see all that God has for us? It is because we simply do not want to destroy that which binds us utterly. We are comfortable in our sins. Until we come to the place that we desire God more than our sin that we will be free.
Numbers 22 Many preachers and SS teachers use the story of Balaam and the speaking donkey to enthrall audiences, but there is more to this story than just the donkey. God used Balaam in an unlikely manner to reveal his heart and the way Satan uses unbelievers in our lives.
God questioned Balaam about his visitors. “Who are these men? Balaam kept up a dialog with God about them, and on the surface, it seems that he was obeying. However, step by step, Balaam fell headlong into the temptation of earthly riches, which was stronger than obeying God. Like many today, Balaam tried to appear righteous by his answer that he could not curse Israel, but his actions prove the opposite. Balaam sought ways to obey God and yet get the riches the King offered. The last test came when God explicitly tested Balaam when he said: “if” these men have come to call you, get up and go with them. But, Balaam didn’t wait for the “if” clause and instead got up and went.
There are several lessons for us to glean. One is that if you say you must ask God for his wise counsel, you must take a stand and stand firm. A second lesson is God gives us tests to discern if we will obey His voice or our own.
Zechariah 3 “How Do You Stand; Guilty as Charged or Forgiven?”
Picture a courtroom scene with the accuser and the defender and you in the middle. You stand before the righteous judge who listens to both sides of the argument. One says you are guilty and provides the evidence. Heads turn and you as the criminal listen and wonder. Will I be convicted? Is there hope? Yet, you also know that your very presence in prison garb hardly is a testimony of any innocence but in fact your guilt. As the accuser cries out your crimes we hear from the bench: May the Lord rebuke you –not once but twice. And at that moment you see the accuser and the courtroom silenced.
How strategically God has placed this vision before Zechariah as a picture of us in all of our iniquities and prison clothing. We stand guilty but the Lord of Heaven’s Armies cries out: I was in the fire with him, but I snatched him out. Instantly, t the smoke and smell of fire were extinguished and you hear: remove his filthy clothes! What the accuser meant evil; God meant for good that His plan of redemption could be seen by all.
Gently and with love you hear; Follow my ways, keep my requirements and you will come and go with others. You will be a picture of my love, my forgiveness, and my blessing.
You have been forgiven and given a robe of righteousness. Go forth as God’s forgiven child.
Joel 1-3 If you just read the first chapter of the Prophet Joel’s message you would just groan and say no more, no more! Like the nation to whom Joel is writing you too may be facing a time of crisis. Yet, Joel starts by listing all of God’s post-it-notes, the first of which is: “He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, relenting of evil.” Be convinced that He Is the Lord your God! He is the Lord who dwells in Zion. Joel reminds the people that God will have compassion on His people and then asks, did you forget? He promised long ago to restore your grain as well as fresh wine and olive oil and you will be fully satisfied! Those words remind us of one of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” [Matt 5]
So after all of the locusts who devour and the priests who are in mourning and the farmers who are wailing, God reminds them that they are to proclaim a holy and sacred assembly and call out for help from the Lord.
Have you forgotten the message of Joel? God is speaking directly, personally and urgently to you to call unto Him and seek His face.
Jeremiah 5 Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet and as you wander through his diary you can see the tears on every page. Being sold out for God means you weep with those who weep and smile with those who smile. It is a mixed bag. It isn’t easy being God’s disciple in an angry world. God calls him because He knows Jeremiah will be faithful to the end. Are we?
As he walks the city streets of Jerusalem God is saying, I need you to be My eyes. What do you see? You live there. Is there even a single person who is dealing honestly? Is there even a single person who is trying to be truthful? If the answer is yes I will refrain from punishing.
Remember Abraham with God overlooking Sodom? Instead of God asking, it was Abraham. He asks God will you really sweep away the godly along with the wicked. What if there are 50 godly people and so on the argument went. In the end, Abraham’s pleading saved Lot because as Peter notes that he was righteous and in anguish over the debauched life of Sodom.
It isn’t easy being a disciple in an angry world. Does God count us faithful to be His eyes and ears? Are we willing to plead for God to spare the righteous?