Wax On, Wax Off

When I read Romans 13, I can’t help but think of the movie Karate Kid! The scene where Miyagi tells Daniel to put “wax on” and then “wax off” his car. The section that reminded me of this is verse 14 which says, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

The command “put on” comes from two Greek words which mean “in” + “under.” Literally it is used of coming under or putting on a garment. Here it is used figuratively to “put on Christ,” which has the sense of “to be like Christ in his character.” I am to be like Jesus in life. When people see me, they should recognize Christ’s character.

In contrast to this positive command of “put on” is the negative command “put off.” Specifically the text says “make no provision for the flesh.” In light of the grammar, it means literally, “stop planning ahead so as to satisfy the desires of your sinful nature.”

Since Paul said “stop,” he is aware that the readers were still struggling in this area. This also implies that Christians today can struggle with this. I also found it helpful to notice that the word translated “provision” is describing “thinking about and planning for the fulfillment of their sinful desires.” Paul goes so far as to tell the readers that they are lazy in their thinking because they are thinking and planning in their minds to fulfill their sinful desires and they need to stop!

As a whole, this verse could be translated “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, as a man puts on a garment, and stop living a life in which your first thought is to gratify the desires of Christless human nature” (Augustine).

Father, this challenge today is a great reminder for me to consciously strive to live life as though I am “putting on” Christ’s character. It also is a strong reminder that I should “put off,” or not be lax in my thinking. I must stop allowing my thoughts to drift to thinking about my sinful passions and also planning for their fulfillment. Help me to put on Christ’s character as a way of life and also take every thought captive to your obedience. Help me through the power of your Spirit to “put off” the bad and “put on” the good.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

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The Mask Of Love

If you are like me, you look forward to the encouragement from God’s Word when you read it. Sometimes though, like today, God can use his Word to convict as well.

Romans 12:9 is one of that passages that can hit you like a ton of bricks. It says, “Let love be genuine.” This is a short verse and easy to skip over. When I looked at it in more detail I saw some things that I need to work on.

First, the text literally says, the love must be genuine.” The emphasis is on the kind of love as a whole that we should express. It is not some general statement about love, but the love of the Christian faith, the love that separates it from all others, the love of the Christian faith is to be genuine, or unhypocritical.

It reminds me of what John said in 1 John 3:18 which says, “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” Biblical love is not a mask of words to hide behind, but it should lead to action. Lenski says it this way, “Where love is so highly esteemed as it is in the Christian Church, counterfeit love is often passed out as the real gold coin, and the lack of love attempts to hide itself behind the mask of love and of words that are supposed to have the sound of love.”

Ouch! It is so easy to talk in a way that implies genuine love toward others, but true love includes action. God did not just tell me he loved me, he proved it in his actions.

Father, today is a great reminder for me. How am I doing in expressing the genuine love of the Christian faith toward others? Do I mask a lack of activity with words or do I express your love to others through action. Help me to think about this truth and live it out daily. Thanks for proving your love to me!

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

By Few Or By Many

My heart was really encouraged this morning when I reflected on a time in Jonathan’s life when he attacked the Philistines. He contemplated taking a very dangerous course of action by attacking a garrison of the enemy with only his armor bearer to support him. He said this to his armor bearer in 1 Samuel 14:6, “for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” The meaning of this statement is that it is as easy for God to give victory through few as it is through many.

As Kenneth Chafin notes, this “doesn’t limit God to the minority but is a reminder that to be victorious in life does not require either consensus or a majority. So many people stand before situations in life where they are inadequate within themselves and they need to be constantly reminded what God can do with one, or a few.”

Father, so often in life I can find myself overwhelmed by circumstances. I evaluate situations based upon my ability to address them in my own power. You have designed life in a way that is intended to make me dependent upon you. Instead of giving up because a situation seems impossible, may you help me remember this very important truth! You can accomplish your will simply by your command to have it done. The people, the odds, the circumstances mean nothing to you.

Thank you for being a God that is bigger than my circumstances and bigger than my fears. You can do anything you want. Nothing can hinder your work. Help me to rest in the confidence that comes from believing this and from trusting in you to accomplish your will in my life because you know what it best.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

When The Pressure Is On

The events in 1 Samuel 13 are challenging to me. Here we have the new king Saul in a desperate situation and he struggles with what to do. He was feeling immense pressure to act. The Philistines were assembling to attack, but he was told by the prophet Samuel to wait until he arrived so that he could offer the sacrifices to God before battle.

In addition, his troops were deserting and it was the seventh day and Samuel still was not there to offer the sacrifices. What should he do? What would I do? What would you do?

On one hand, it seems very logical for Saul to take control of the situation because he was the king of Israel right? He understood God’s desire, but the situation required action and he decided to disobey God because he thought there was a better way.

The problem is that this event reveals a character flaw in Saul. As Saul painfully discovered, “No line of reasoning, however compelling, could ever justify disobedience to the Lord” (Bergen). Saul had assumed more authority than he had. He was simply to be faithful and trust God even though the circumstances SCREAMED immediate action. Saul was supposed to obey God by waiting for his timing and deliverance.

The flaw in Saul’s character led to the statement in verse 14, “The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart” and it was clear that Saul was not that man. The term “after his own heart” means that God was looking for a man to rule the nation of Israel that was “like minded” with his will. Saul did not understand that he was not really the king, God was still King and he reigned through his prophets. His role was to obey.

In relation to personal application today, there is the timeless truth that God is the only one who reigns over the world and should be the only one to reign over my life. Second, this story reminds us that it is never okay to disobey God’s known will regardless of what I think in relation to my circumstances.

Father, help me to remember where I fit in the chain of command. You are God and I am not. I need to follow you in obedience regardless of my evaluation of my present circumstances. Thank you for caring enough about me and my life that you are always in control even when I do not feel like it.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

A Burden For Others

Paul’s heart for those who do not know Jesus, specifically his Jewish brothers is clearly seen in Romans 10:1-4. He says that he desires to see them come to salvation to the point that he almost wished he could be condemned in their place!  What an amazing burden for his lost Jewish brothers!

Now that Paul was a believer, he saw what was holding the Jews back and he speaks frankly to the problem. In verses 2-4 Paul says, “they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

When Paul says they desire to know God, but “not according to knowledge,” he is not implying that they were not intelligent. The word is describing a “lack of full knowledge.” The Jews knew they needed to be righteous but they were missing something. Paul makes clear they had a faulty understanding of righteousness. What was wrong with their view?  The Jews were trying to establish their righteous standing before God on their efforts, and that is not possible.

Instead of an approach that is lacking full knowledge of how righteousness is obtained, Paul says that the Jews need to “submit to God’s righteousness” instead of try to earn it. What does he mean? The word “submit” was a military term describing soldiers under the leadership of a commanding officer. The Jews were not willing to yield to the Commander (Jesus) and accept the gift of righteousness he offers. They could not bring themselves to submit to Jesus as Savior and God.

Father, thank you for helping me to understand that I could not achieve a righteous standing before you. It is only by trusting in Jesus to forgive my sin and give me life because of his death and resurrection that I could be righteous in you eyes. I also am challenged today with the question, “who do I long to see come to Christ like Paul did?” Revive my heart for evangelism.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Keep It Simple

I love truth that is simple and easy to remember. Today I was struck by something that Samuel said in his farewell speech to the Israelites that is found in 1 Samuel 12:24 which says, “Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.”

Samuel warns the people to do three things or the implication was their continued disobedience would lead to God’s judgment. The first thing they were to do is “fear” the LORD. This word is describing the respect and honor that God is due because of who he is. The respect God wanted to see in his people was demonstrated by obedience to his will.

The second thing they were to do is “serve” God with a “whole heart.” The scholar Omansion points out that the heart “was considered to be the innermost part of a person. It was regarded as the center of one’s will, rational activity, and moral choice.” From the inner most being of each person, they were to give God undivided loyalty. They were to serve him faithfully and not pursue other gods which Samuel described in verse 21 as “empty” which means “nothingness.” All other gods are nothing compared to the LORD!

The third thing the people were to do was “consider” or “see” all that God had done for them. This third statement gives the reason for the first two. God had been amazingly good to his people! They should be able to see it all around them! The people had forgotten about God’s many blessing and were living without consideration of God’s favor which allowed for their very existence.

Why would Samuel want the people to remember these three things? Robert Bergen summarizes it well when he says, “Taken as a whole, these three obligations required a total involvement of each person; they mandated external, observable activity as well as internal motivations, attitudes, and perceptions.”

Commitment to God was not designed to be segmented or half-hearted. The Jews were to live out their faith in all of life. In fact, we could say, they were to “be the message” and not just talk about it.

Father, thank you for this simple yet profound reminder of your expectations of me. My life should show that I respect you by my obedience. My heart should be undivided as to its loyalty to you and I should be a very grateful person because of all that you have done for me.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

My Loyal Friend

I love reminders of things that I know are true but I often take for granted. This allows me appreciate these truths in a fresh way. One such reminder is the simple but profound statement in Ps 25:14 which says, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” The meaning of this text could be summarized by saying, “an intimate relationship with God is available for those who honor him and treat him with respect. Those who are friends with God will know that his commitment to them is real.”

What does it really mean for me to be the friend of God? According to Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, “In both Testaments the ideas of friend and friendship involve three components: association, loyalty, and affection.”

Friends share a meaningful relationship with one another and do so without fear of judgment. Friends are loyal to one another and stand up for one another. Friends share heartfelt concern for one another.

In relation to God, I have the privilege of sharing my heart with him knowing that he will always hear me and will always accept me. He is my biggest fan! In fact, in Ps. 139:17-18 it says that God never stops thinking about me! God’s loyalty to me is unquestioned. In Romans 8:31 I am told that God is “for me.” If God is for me, then I have nothing to fear. Finally, nothing can separate me from his love (Rom. 8:38-39). My friendship with God which comes through faith in his Son is the bedrock for my life.

The issue for me is not how well God does his part in our friendship, but how well I am living up to my end of the friendship? Am I spending the time required to help my friendship with God grow? Am I loyal to him? Is he the number one allegiance of my heart? Am I showing my love for him through my obedience to his desires?

Father, thank you for the reminder of my intimate, meaningful, and unchanging friendship with you. Your friendship is the strength of my life. Help me to make you the number one allegiance of my heart and live as your loyal friend.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

A Most Curious King

The story of the selection of Saul to be the first king of Israel is striking. The people had demanded a king to lead them instead of God. Obviously, that was a very bad decision and something that must have grieved God’s heart for no one could rule the nation of Israel like him.

Saul was the most physically impressive man in Israel. He was head and shoulders taller than anyone else. 1 Samuel 10 gives the facts around the coronation of Saul. Even though God had told Saul he would be king, the nation went through the formal process of drawing lots to identify who would rule over them. In verses 21 and 22 it says, “Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. .. and the LORD said, ‘Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’”

What? Saul, was given the Spirit of God to enable him (v. 6), he was given a new heart to serve him (v. 9), he was given a vision of his new role as Israel’s first king and yet he was not to be found at his own coronation! He had hidden himself from the people, but the nation still chose him to be their king instead of God. Saul’s actions seem to imply that even with God’s enabling, he was a seriously flawed man. It also was a foretaste of the trouble ahead when he would be king. Saul was a stark contrast to the perfect rule of the perfect God which the nation rejected.

Robert Bergen notes, “Saul’s vacancy at his own coronation suitably foreshadows a reign that would vacate responsibilities associated with the exercise of godly rule and perhaps suggests the lack of wisdom of those who preferred such a king to Yahweh.”

As easy as it is to find fault with Saul and the Israelites for wanting him to be their king, I really am guilty of doing something similar to that today. What do I mean? I want to be king of my own life rather than let God rule my life and heart as he desires. I often am convinced I know what is best and struggle to trust in God’s leadership.

Father, forgive me for my imperfection and my false perception of knowing what is best for my life. I need to learn from this example of Saul and remember that you are the only one qualified to rule my life. May my heart be pure and may I choose to follow your leadership in my life on a moment by moment basis.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Contemplation Builds Confidence

My encouragement today comes from Psalm 20:7-8 which says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”

Most people find their hope for deliverance in times of trouble in their physical skill, power or wisdom. David, the King of Israel teaches us to have a different anchor for such confidence. David says that he boasts or trusts in the name of God not his military assets. The word translated “trust” actually means, “keep in memory or ponder.” For David, the more he pondered God and thought about how God had protected him and provided for him, the more his confidence in God grew. This confidence impacted how he lived.  In fact, this impacted David so much that he turned this truth into a song.

As Allen Ross comments, “The object of his faith was the name of the LORD. God’s ‘name’ is His nature, His reputation and character. David’s faith came from meditating and pondering on the known reputation of God.”

I would consider David to be a great man of faith even though he was imperfect and made terrible mistakes. Yet, the source of his courage and faith and mighty acts came from his dependence upon the God he served, not upon his personal resources.

Father, this is a great reminder for me to ponder. I need to think much more intentionally about how great you are and meditate on all you have done for me in my life. My success in life comes from my dependence upon who you are not my gifting or resources. I am in need of your enabling to maximize the gifting and resources you have given me. Help me to be a man of faith who trusts in you to do great things for your Kingdom.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff

Introduction to Royalty

Romans 5:1-2 paints a grand picture of what faith has brought the person who will take God at his Word. Faith in Jesus gives us access to God. Notice how this passage describes this, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

The word that impressed me today is the word “access.” We have access to God because of our faith in Jesus. What does that mean? There are two word pictures that this Greek word translated “access” gives us. The first is described by Barclay as “introducing or ushering someone into the presence of royalty.” WOW! Because of Jesus and what he has done for us and our choice to believe in him, we have been brought into the very presence of God so that we may enjoy a relationship with him.

The second great picture of this word is also beautifully described by Barclay when he says, “In late Greek it is the word for the place where ships come in, a harbor or a haven. If we take it that way, it means that so long as we tried to depend on our own efforts we were tempest-tossed, like mariners striving with a sea which threatened to overwhelm them completely, but now that we have heard the word of Christ, we have reached at last the haven of God’s grace, and we know the calm of depending, not on what we can do for ourselves, but on what God has done for us.”

So what does this mean for you and I? We cannot forget what Jesus has accomplished for us through his death and resurrection and the salvation we enjoy because of our faith in him. We have been given entry into the very presence of the King of Kings and Lord or Lords. We also can rest in the haven of God’s grace knowing that we are safe, secure and protected by him. I didn’t earn this standing of grace and I can’t lose it either.

Father, your Word continues to amaze me. This one word “access” that we can so easily skip over is rich in truth. I am humbled at the thought that I have access to your presence and yet I also am so thankful that I am safe in the harbor of your grace and always will be.

Following Jesus with you,

Jeff