The deceitfulness of sin tells us that we can go ahead and sin even though we know it’s wrong, then we can ask God to forgive us and that’s all there is to it! But that’s rebellion against God and you can’t be both rebellious (determined to go your own way) and repentant (willing to go God’s way) at the same time. But there’s an even bigger problem with this kind of thinking.
Also read about chocolate covered dirt, foolish talk and dirty jokes.
In chapter 57 God, through the prophet, is rebuking his people for their continued turning to and reliance on false gods. God poses the question, “Is it not because I have held My peace from of old that you do not fear Me?” We might say it this way, “Do you keep sinning because I haven’t been hard enough on you?”
Is that true of us? Do we abuse God’s patience and mercy by thinking we can live any way we want and believing He isn’t going to deal with sin and faithlessness? Hebrews 3.13 says:
“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
The deceitfulness of sin tells us that we can sin now and ask forgiveness later, even though we know it’s wrong, as if asking for forgiveness involves some magic incantation or get out of jail free card. That’s rebellion against God and His Word. You can’t be both rebellious (determined to go your own way) and repentant (willing to go God’s way) at the same time.
Sometimes we understand the choice to sin will have consequences. Yet we can be like a stubborn, rebellious child, determined to do it anyway and just “take our licks.” The problem is that, while we can choose to sin, we don’t get to choose our consequences. Continue reading →
What should a mature Christian life look like? Is it the things we do, like going to church or reading our Bibles? Is it the “big sins” we don’t do, like getting drunk or stealing? What did Paul mean when he said, “walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph. 4.1)?
Verse 1 begins with “I, therefore, … beseech you …”
Therefore! Because of all the things Paul had just explained in chapters 1-3—because we are “in Him”—saved, redeemed, sanctified, justified, blessed, set free—we should “walk worthy of the calling with which [we have been] called” (v. 1)!
Now in these last three chapters of Ephesians, Paul begins to tell us how those truths should be lived out. Chapter 4 says:
We should work to have unity and peace in all our relationships—in our family, in our church, in the workplace—wherever God places us (v. 3).
We should no longer be spiritual babies, tossed to and fro by every appealing sounding doctrine or new spiritual experience that comes along (v. 14). Babies need constant attention, are easily upset and will believe in every “Santa Claus” that comes along! We need to be rooted and grounded in the truth instead of wanting someone to make us feel good or think we need to be entertained all the time. We need to “grow up” (v. 15)!
We are to speak the truth in love (v. 15). That means three things should happen. We should speak—not clam up or give someone the silent treatment—ever! Nothing justifies that behavior in the life of a believer. Second we must “speak truth”—not half truths, not omissions of the truth, but truth! And third it must be spoken “in love”—not because we want to give them a “piece of our minds” or unload on someone!
We should not act like pagans who don’t know God (v. 17). That means we can’t justify our behavior because, “Everyone else is doing it,” or because, “This is not the first century!”
That, obviously, means we don’t commit fornication or adultery. But it also means we don’t flirt if we’re married and we don’t flirt with someone who’s married, even if we’re single.
Ladies, it means we don’t dress like the covers of most magazines or some actress (and husbands, don’t ask your wife to dress that way, unless it’s in the privacy of your home). It means our beauty is to be primarily inner and spiritual. It does not mean we have to dress like a grandmother or be drab or unattractive.
It also means we don’t live with someone if we are not married to him or her … period! Having him stay at your house 2 or 3 times a week, or even occasionally, while you’re not technically “living together” is no better. You’re only deceiving yourself.
We’re not to be lewd, unclean or greedy (v. 19). No dirty jokes or sexual innuendos. No lies because “how else are you going to get ahead in business.”
We are to put off those habits and lifestyles of the old sinful nature (v. 22).
We are to work at renewing our minds (v. 23)—spending time in His Word, reading good theologically sound books, memorizing Scripture and meditating on it—thinking about how it is to be lived out in our lives personally.
We are to put on new righteous habits and lifestyles (V. 24).
We are to stop lying, deceiving, omitting, hiding and coloring the truth; and become open and honest in all our relationships (v. 25).
We are not to sin in our anger, but deal with it quickly (v. 26). There are some things that should make us angry, but we cannot use that as an excuse to sin. We must deal with those sinful thoughts, feelings, and actions quickly (don’t let the sun go down on them). If we don’t, we’re giving the devil an open window to crawl—or charge—through (v. 27). Continue reading →
Chapter 26.1-4 is a picture of the church and its blessings. Verse 1 says we have “salvation for walls and bulwarks” and verse 3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” The NLT says, “whose thoughts are fixed on you.” And the NASB says He will keep the one whose mind is “steadfast.”
When we belong to Him, our assurance of salvation (Jn. 10.27-30) is a wall or bulwark around our hearts and lives. We can trust that we are secure in our relationship with Him (Rom. 8.31, 38-39).
In verse 3, the word translated stayed or fixed means to “to lean, lay, rest, support, put, uphold, lean upon.”
The word steadfast means “firmly fixed in place: immovable, not subject to change: firm in belief, determination, or adherence.”
When our hearts and minds are steadfast, immovable, resting in the truths of Scripture and supported by God’s faithfulness to keep His promises, we will have perfect peace.
To get there we must spend time in His presence, saturating ourselves in His Word, talking to Him and listening as He speaks to our hearts. It’s impossible to trust someone whose character we don’t know, but as we read of His faithfulness to the generations before us, as we learn how He works in our lives through prayer, as we meditate on His promises we come to know Him. And when we do, we’ll be better equipped to put our faith and trust in Him.
Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock (NLT).
Christ is our eternal, never changing Rock. Trusting Him is the only way to true, lasting and perfect peace.
If you have never memorized verse 13, I would encourage you to do so. This verse is one of God’s great promises and is filled with good news and hope!
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
When we go through great difficulties, we often feel isolated and alone. But the temptations, tests and trials we undergo are “common to man.” Others have gone through them and have come out the other side and so can we.
God promises He will “make a way of escape.” Sometimes the way of escape is out of the trial, but more often it’s through the trial, yet we are “able to bear it” because of His grace.
And “… God is faithful …” No matter what we are going through God is faithful! He won’t leave us or forsake us, but will walk through it with us. He’s also faithful to filter the trial through His hands and not allow it to be more than we can handle without sinning … as long as we keep our eyes on Him and rely on His strength.
But that’s the key; we must keep our eyes on Him and rely on His power. And we must respond obediently. Many of our greatest difficulties arise because when we are in a test or trial, we respond sinfully and find we have only complicated the situation. We risk experiencing the consequences of our own sin and, often, find ourselves struggling with anger, anxiety, guilt, and depression.
Those emotions are like the warning lights on the dashboards of our cars telling us something is not right under the hood (in our hearts).
Instead, we should focus on James’ advice:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (Jas. 1.2-4)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t automatically want to be joyful when I’m in the midst of a test or trial! But this passage tells us we can be joyful if we remember that God is using the trial to mature us and make us more like His Son (Rom. 8.29).
James MacDonald, in his book When Life Is Hard, explains how God uses tests and trials to grow us and ultimately bless us. I have recommended it before, but I want to do so again. I have seen many lives impacted by the truths Dr. MacDonald shares in that study. And it’s not just for people who are going through severe trials, it’s for all of us as we face the ups and downs of life and struggle to understand what God is doing!
But there’s also bad news in 1 Corinthians 10.13.
The Bad News
Since God has promised no trial will be too much for us to handle in a godly way, if we choose to sin in response (with anger, bitterness, worry, an unbiblical divorce, etc. …), it’s just that … a choice! No one and no circumstance can make us sin.
Let’s pray that God will give us His grace to choose to respond His way as we face the ups and downs and struggles of life (Heb. 4.16).
What does the Bible say about marriage and divorce? What about remarriage, singleness, and sex, both inside and outside of marriage? Does the Bible really address those subjects and, if so, does it have any relevance for today?
Also read about some of the amazing animals God has created: the horse with all his strength and fearlessness, the hawk, the eagle and a huge sea creature called leviathan.
Finally, our Proverbs passage talks about the drunkard and how, even after the a hangover, he runs to look for his next drink. The world wants us to believe they can’t help it, that it’s a disease called alcoholism, but what does the Bible say?
Paul has a great deal to say about marriage, divorce, and singleness in this chapter. In verses 1-9 he explains that sex within marriage is God’s only provision for sexual fulfillment. That has not changed in spite of what our culture tells us.
I know this is a huge challenge for some of you who are single and want to be married. I want to encourage you that God has not forgotten you, that He is good, and that He will give you the grace to respond biblically to this challenge.
And to the married, verse 5 says:
5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
For those who are married, sex is to be continual. It is never to be withheld from one’s partner except by agreement and then only for the purpose of prayer and fasting and only temporarily. In the past, this passage was most often applied to women, but as my husband and I counsel, more and more I hear of women whose husbands are not interested in sex.
It’s ironic that in a culture where sex is everywhere—on billboards, on TV, on movie screens, and on the street—this has not freed people to enjoy God’s gift of sexuality. Instead, it has done serious harm. The reasons are many, and if you’re struggling with this situation, I would urge you to seek counseling for both you and your spouse if he or she is willing, or for yourself, if not.
Verse 19, “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”
As I read that verse, my first thought was, even though they constantly wandered away from God, they knew where their salvation could be found.
Many of us have done our best to raise our children “in the discipline and admonition of the Lord,” only to have them wander from the faith or fail to make a personal commitment to the Lord. We are often confused and discouraged, because we saw parenting as something of a formula. If I do “A + B” (take my children to church, teach them biblical truth, send them to church camp, etc.), then God will give me “C” (believing, obedient children).
We back up our belief with verses like Proverbs 22.6:
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
But this is not an iron clad guarantee that our children will serve God or that they will never rebel. Remember, God’s children rebel, too, and He’s the perfect parent.
What it means is they will not be able “to depart” from the truth. They won’t be able to escape what they know. They can choose to walk away, but the truth will follow them like their shadow and be there when they come to their senses as the prodigal son did (Lk. 15.11-31) and as the Israelites did on many occasions.
Notice verse 12.14 about Rehoboam, “… he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord.” The NASB says, “he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.” Other translations of that word include “to direct” or “to stand upright” or at attention.
Rehoboam was a mediocre king because he had a mediocre relationship with God. He never completely forsook God, he just never sought Him wholeheartedly. He didn’t pray as his father did for the wisdom he needed to rule the kingdom. He didn’t search the Scriptures to know the heart of God and get His wisdom. Matthew Henry in his commentary on the Bible says, “… he engaged not, his heart to seek the Lord …”
So how do we prepare our hearts to seek the Lord?
Our hearts, as the old hymn says, are prone to wander, we don’t automatically seek the Lord. We must purpose to do so. We first need to ask God for His help, then we need to read and study “at attention” and, finally, we need to set our minds, be determined, to obey those things He shows us. Continue reading →
Have you ever wanted to go out into the mission field? or record a Christian hit song? or be a great Bible teacher? And instead, you find yourself cooking and cleaning and teaching Bible verses to preschoolers. What does God have to say about housewives and kingdom rewards?
Psalm 68 is a psalm of prayer, praise and thanksgiving to God for His care over His people and for giving them victory.
But before we pass by too quickly, there’s a sweet phrase tucked into verse 12. It says, “and she who remains at home divides the spoil.”
What an encouragement this should be to you precious stay-at-home moms to know that God sees what you do as just as valuable and important to kingdom work as any other responsibility (more so, really, because you are raising the next generation for God). It’s also a reminder that you will share in kingdom rewards just as fully!
In chapter 1 King David is dying. (Those of us who are married and getting older can be thankful for electric blankets, none of that “virgin heating” for our husbands! You’ll just have to read the passage! 1 Kings 1.1-4) Continue reading →
Friendships can be confusing. Sometimes those who appear to be our friends turn out to be our enemies, at least spiritually, and our critics can be truer friends.
But what about unfair criticism or people who simply attack us? How should we handle it when we believe criticism is unjustified or motives are evil? Can God truly use those situations for good?
2 Samuel 15 & 16
Friends & Enemies: Kisses, Winks & Whispers
2 Samuel 15 & 16:
The Sovereignty of God When People Whisper & Criticize
In these two chapters, we see David’s trust in the sovereignty of God in what must have been two very difficult situations.
First, the broken relationship between him and his son Absalom has lead to bitterness and now rebellion on Absalom’s part. He has been secretly plotting to overthrow his father by deceiving the people. He is now on his way to take Jerusalem.
David gets word and is fleeing the city along with his household and hundreds of his men. When Zadok the Priest joins him, David says:
“Then the king said to Zadok, ‘Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me back and show me both it and His dwelling place. But if He says thus. “I have no delight in you,” here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him'” (15.26).
Then in chapter 16, Shimei, one of former King Saul’s descendants, follows David and his men cursing and throwing stones at him. Abishai, one of his generals, offers to take off Shimei’s head! David responds by saying:
“So let him curse, because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ And David said to Abishai and all his servants, ‘See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.”
Responding to Our Critics
This is a great example of how we should respond to criticism in our lives. Whether or not the criticism is justified, God has allowed it for some purpose. If it’s unfair or ill-intended, we can trust God to deal with it. Continue reading →
Are there areas of your life where you have failed to have victory? Are there some habits of the old man (what my old friend Pastor Morgan used to call the old idiot) that have crept back in or never fully left?
This was a time of relative peace, though as I said yesterday, there were still areas that needed to be fully occupied. There were also pagan tribes they never fully destroyed as God commanded. Those groups would be thorns in their sides for generations. They would draw them into false worship, attack their cities, and create a multitude of problems.
Isn’t that the way it is in our lives? He saves us, puts our feet on the Rock, gives us new righteous desires, and many things in our lives change. But, even though, we may have quit doing a lot of the things we used to do (sometimes because God has supernaturally removed the desire for those things), there are still “pockets of resistance”—areas of our lives where we hold on to “old man” habits (Eph. 4.22).
Maybe it’s a tendency to gossip, to harbor unforgiveness, to give someone the silent treatment, or to respond in sinful anger. Maybe it involves our thought lives … “After all, (we think) I’m not doing anything wrong!” We mistakenly believe we can play around with a thought or a fantasy without it showing up some where in our life or walk with God
The added danger is that as months and years go by without dealing with that area of sin and as we push conviction away, our consciences are seared and we become blinded. Continue reading →
As a nation we have complained, taken credit for God’s blessings, and kicked Him out of the government, the schools, and the public arenas of life. Has our complaining and rejection of God finally produced “fire in the camp”?
Chapter 11.1, “Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.”
God had been merciful to the Israelites. He had delivered them from 400 years of bondage in Egypt. He not only brought them out of Egypt without a fight, but had caused the Egyptians to give them a great deal of wealth as they left (Ps. 105.37). He led them and protected them from the pursuing Egyptian army and parted the Red Sea so they could cross on dry land. He comforted them and warned away their enemies with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
As they traveled their feet didn’t swell and their clothes didn’t wear out (Neh. 9.21). He fed them with food from heaven (manna), gave them water in the wilderness and demonstrated His power and presence over and over.
Yet … what did they do? They complained!
And what about us as Americans or you wherever you live? We live in perhaps the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth. Our poor are better off than the majority in many nations. God has blessed us with an abundance of natural resources, a beautiful land, creativity and ingenuity beyond measure. We have freedoms almost unheard of in the world: freedom to worship, freedom to vote, freedom to pursue an education, freedom to live where we want, even freedom to protest. Instead of being thankful we frequently complain.
Not only have we complained, but we have taken credit for the things with which He has blessed us and kicked Him out of the government, the schools, and the public arenas of life. Is it any wonder our complaining, unthankfulness, and rejection of God as a nation has finally produced “fire in the camp”?