“Religion or Christianity?” March 1

 

Religion or Christianity? - What is the difference between religion and biblical Christianity? And which one are you depending on to save you?What is the difference between religion and biblical Christianity? And which one are you depending on to save you?

 

Today’s Readings:
Leviticus 26 & 27
Psalm 29.1-6
Proverbs 10.22-25
Mark 7.1-13

 

Welcome to a new month of the “Bible in a Year” devotionals. I hope you’ll join us every day as we read through the Bible. Don’t worry if you’re here for the first time or only read occasionally. Anytime we open God’s Word we will find practical help and refreshment for our souls.

On to the Word …

 

Religion or Christianity?

 

Mark 7.1-13:

Religious Self-Righteousness

 

As we continue reading through the Gospels, we repeatedly find the Scribes and Pharisees looking for reasons to accuse Jesus. In today’s reading they accuse Him of failing to teach His disciples to obey the traditions of the elders.

Instead of responding, Jesus accused them of failing to keep God’s law while they condemned others for not keeping their human laws. They had turned from the worship of the true and living God to religion!

 

Religion or Christianity: What’s the Difference?

 

What is the difference between true worship (biblical Christianity) and religion? Continue reading

“Sin’s Invisible Hooks” April 30

 

sin

Are you playing around with some sinful thought or thinking about something from your past?

Sin is not something to be played with. In our pride we think we can handle it and it won’t get a hold on us. But sin has invisible hooks that can drag us down and take us places we never intended to go.

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. – unknown

 

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 1-3
Psalm 53.1-6
Proverbs 15.8-11
Luke 20.27-47

 

1 Samuel 1-3:

Multiple wives: provocation & ridicule

There’s so much in these 3 chapters! First once again, there’s the multiple wives issue. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, God never presents it as a good thing. He always shows the conflicts and problems that resulted.

Chapter 1:

¹ Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Verses 4-7:

And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.

It appears Hannah was Elhanah’s favorite. That may have provoked Peninnah to jealousy (not an excuse, by the way). In any case, she ridiculed Hannah because of her barrenness. Elhanah may have been a little provoked and frustrated himself. And he, certainly, doesn’t seem to understand Hannah’s longing for a son.

“Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1.8).

This was never the way God intended marriage to be.

 

Israelite womanHannah’s vow

11 Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

In the midst of it all, God heard the prayer of His humble servant, Hannah, and gave her a son. Notice how this faithful woman kept her vow to the Lord:

“Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her … and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh.. And the child was young … For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there” (vv.24-28).

Her son, by the way, was Samuel. He would become the first Prophet mentioned more than just in passing and would greatly influence the nation and God’s people. We will read more of his story as we continue through the Old Testament.

 

God’s judgment on willful, unrepentant sin

Next there’s the sad story of Eli and his two ungodly sons in chapters 2 & 3. This man knew what his sons were doing, stealing the part of the sacrifices that belonged to God and sleeping with women who came to the tabernacle, yet he failed to deal decisively with them. The boys themselves had so hardened their hearts through their sin and disobedience that “the Lord desired to kill them” (2,25). God added His judicial hardening to their willful hardening.

Romans 1 explains it this way:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (emphasis added).

This is sometimes called the downward spiral of sin. Notice, first of all, people know the truth, but suppress it. These two sons were priests; they had heard the truth. Their hearts were first darkened by their own sin and then “God gave them over” (removed His restraining grace) and allowed the natural consequences of their sin to run its course.

 

Sin’s invisible hooks

How did these two priests end up where they did? How did it start? What compromises did they make in their thoughts and attitudes along the way? How did they end up sleeping with women in the tabernacle? And can that kind of thing happen to us?  Continue reading

March 1 “Exchanging religion for grace”

Welcome to a new month of the Bible Challenge. I hope you’ll join us every day as we read through the Bible. Click on the Bible challenge link for more commentaries. And if you enjoy reading this, why not email it to a friend or post to your FaceBook page (see links at the bottom).

On to the Word …

In our stubbornness and pride, we find it so much easier to keep some external set of rules rather than accepting the Gospel and depending on His grace.

grace

Today’s Readings:
Leviticus 26 & 27
Psalm 29.1-6
Proverbs 10.22-25
Mark 7.1-13

Leviticus 26 & 27:

God’s response to repentance

God lays out the blessings of obedience and the consequences of disobedience in chapter 26. The blessings of the Mosaic Covenant were conditional on their obedience. But even under that covenant God honored repentance. Verses 40-42:

“But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt—then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land.”

Psalm 29.1-6:

Give Him the glory due His name

Verse 2, “Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” God is God even over all the forces of nature as the rest of this passage illustrates, “The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars, yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox” (vv. 5-6).

What would cause Lebanon and Sirion to skip like a calf? An earthquake maybe? Think about the up and down motions as the earth’s plates shift and move. What would cause mighty cedars to splinter? A hurricane or tsunami? God is God over all of His creation! And thus deserves “the glory due to His name” and all our worship.

Continue reading