Here in chapter 10, Jesus said of Himself, “I am the Good Shepherd” (v. 11) and in verse 4 He said:
“And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”
As we follow Christ, by reading His Word and obeying His commandments, we grow in our ability to “know His voice” and to recognize the voice of a stranger (Satan, v. 5). We become more and more discerning about the truth and God’s wisdom and recognize the enemy’s lies.
Knowing the Bible isn’t enough though, we must also “follow” the truth that we know. Knowledge without doing doesn’t bring discernment, it brings delusion (Jas. 1.22).
James 1.22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
So How Can We Know if We Are Hearing from God?
Go to the Bible. What does God say about it in His Word? God will not lead us contrary to His written Word (Tit. 1.2).
If we are one of His, we can know His voice, but the more time we spend reading and meditating on His Truth, the more clearly we will know and the more we will recognize a voice that is not His.
God will sometimes speak truth to us through sermons and other teachings, through our consciences, through people, and even through circumstances. But if it is Him, it will not contradict His written Word.
In chapter 3, God appears to Solomon in a dream and gives him a blank check to request anything he wants. Instead of wealth, or fame, or any material blessing, Solomon asks for wisdom to rule the kingdom.
God says there is a time when we can truly be “dumb as an ox,” but it has nothing to do with intelligence. How can understanding what really happened at the Cross help us overcome our own tendency toward foolishness and stupidity and, instead, help us grow in wisdom?
“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”
The word translated “stupid” comes from a word meaning “to graze.” One who hates to be corrected is unteachable like an ignorant animal, like the old saying goes, “dumb as an ox.” Not a very flattering picture.
Teaching and correction are part of God’s means of grace to help us grow and mature as believers. A refusal to accept correction reveals an attitude of pride.
However, those who “love instruction” and submit themselves to correction are co-operating with God’s means of grace. They are able to learn from the wisdom of others instead of suffering the consequences of foolishness and poor choices.
But criticism, especially when it seems unjustified, can be so difficult to receive.
Why, when we’re criticized, do we so quickly become defensive? Because we believe something much bigger is at stake, our reputation. We’re often so convinced of the need to prove ourselves right in the eyes of others that we’re willing to damage relationships to do so (Jas. 4.1-4).
Alfred Poirier in his little booklet Words that Cut from Peacemaker Ministries, says:
In short, our idolatrous desire to justify ourselves fuels our inability to take criticism, which, in turn, is the cause for much conflict. It is the reason that many marriages and family members split, factions form, and relationships grow cold. And it is the reason we so desperately need the direction provided in Scripture to begin forming a redemptive, godward view of criticism.
Proverbs repeatedly shows us the importance of being able to receive rebuke, correction and criticism.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Prov. 9.9).
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise (Prov. 12.15).
By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom (Prov. 13.10).
He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding (Prov. 15.32).
Rebuke is more effective for a wise man Than a hundred blows on a fool (Prov. 17.10).
And in Psalm 141.5 David said:
Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it.
Is that how you respond to criticism? I know I don’t. I fight the tendency to respond like a stupid ox! And lately, God has given me some excellent opportunities to see just how much of that tendency I still have!
So how can I (and possible some of you) become more like David?
The answer is in understanding just what God said about us at the cross.
At the cross God criticized, in fact, judged us as sinners whose only just punishment was death (Rom. 3.10-18, 23, 6.23). Alfred Poirier says:
In light of these massive charges against us, any accusations launched at us are mere understatements about who we are and what we’ve done!
To claim to be a Christian is to claim to be a person who has understood criticism. The Christian is a person who has stood under the greatest criticism–God’s criticism–and agreed with it! As people who have been “crucified with Christ,” we acknowledge, agree, and approve of God’s judgments against us. We confess, “I am a Sinner! I am a Lawbreaker! I deserve death!” Do you see how radical a confession that is?
But the good news is that God has not only judged us, He has justified us. When we realize that it’s not about our righteousness. We don’t have to boast or defend our goodness or performance. Now we boast in Christ’s righteousness.
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1.30-31).
And instead of becoming defensive when criticized, the wise realize there is value in it. Remember what David said, “Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness.”
If we remember we’re sinners, we can accept the fact that we have blind spots and, even when criticism is unjust, we can look for what God might be teaching us or exposing in our hearts. All criticism, ultimately, comes from the hand of our Sovereign God.
In these chapters God through the prophet continues to warn of coming judgments, but reminds them there will always be a faithful remnant (18.6).
As we see what’s happening here in our nation, we cannot give up or lose hope. We must realize that it’s our calling to be part of His faithful remnant. We are to be salt and light.
Philippians 2.14-15 says we are to:
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that [we] may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world” (emp. added).
How’s your light? Is it bright and clear? Is it dim and hidden by junk (sin or the cares of this world)? Or do you just whine and complain like everyone else?
If we are going to give hope to a lost and dying world, even in the midst of discouraging political seasons and other setbacks, we must point to the only source of real hope. Our hope cannot be in the candidate of our choice, the hope that our nation will wake up and turn back to God, or any other person or event.
The fact is we don’t know if any of those things will happen. Our hope must be in all the truths and promises of Scripture: God’s free offer of salvation to those who will believe, His divine supports here and now to those who belong to Him, and the reality of heaven and the promise of eternal rewards. And while our saltiness may sting at times, it must be balanced with the brightness of our lives that will cause others to want what we have.
Holding Out the Light, Not Taking Part in the Darkness
As the psalmist continues to recount the history of the Israelites, he includes these verses about their involvement with pagan religions, even taking part in the most detestable practices.
35 But they mingled with the Gentiles
And learned their works;
36 They served their idols,
Which became a snare to them.
37 They even sacrificed their sons
And their daughters to demons,
38 And shed innocent blood,
The blood of their sons and daughters,
Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
And the land was polluted with blood.
In 2 Corinthians 6.14-17 Paul said:
14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God …
“ Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord …”
Because we have not obeyed that command, like the ancient Israelites of Isaiah’s time, we are often more a part of our culture then we are separate from it. We are so afraid of being called “intolerant” or of being accused of being narrow minded or ignorant that we have accepted the world’s philosophy on many things or at least been intimidated into silence while unborn babies are being killed, history is rewritten, and truth becomes relative. Continue reading →
As Paul is winding up the book of Romans, he tells us that, as believers, we are able to admonish one another when biblically necessary. That means risking what people may think, even their rejection, in order to speak the truth in love when there is an issue that is hurting others, hindering their walk with God, or hurting the cause of Christ.
In our fast changing world, many things that were once universally considered wrong are now called right. Speaking up when God’s standards are at stake is going to be more and more costly … but God’s grace will abound to those who remain faithful to God and His Word.
And notice to whom this passage was written and what we need to do before we go to someone.
Verse 4, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
The Scriptures, in particular the Old Testament (like the book of Job), were written so that we might grow and learn by the examples of others, good and bad. God patiently instructs us in how we should change and shows us the results of unbiblical living. And as we grow and come to understand God’s love and grace, we find comfort in His faithfulness to those who remained devoted to Him.
Admonishing When Needed
Let’s look at one more verse in Romans 15:
“Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (v. 14).
Notice this verse is not written to pastors or counselors or spiritual leaders. It was written to the believers at Rome and by extension to us as believers. Paul says all of us are “able to admonish one another.” That word for admonish means, “exhort, admonish, and instruct.” Admonish means, “to rebuke or to advise or warn someone to do, or not do, something.”
So God expects us to be willing to get our hands dirty, to risk what people may think of us and even rejection, at times, in order to speak the truth in love to those who are sinning, as well as, those who need encouragement.
However, we must guard against a harsh or self-righteous attitude. We are to confront others lovingly, gently, tentatively, especially if we’re not sure of the circumstances, and humbly. That requires checking our own motives and a careful self-examination to make sure we take the logs out of our own eyes first (Matt. 7.3-5).
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.1).
As we continue to read through God’s Word, especially the book of Job, it’s tempting to grow tired or get confused by all that is happening. As we read of Job’s sufferings, his friends’ lack of mercy and grace, and God’s silence so far, we should ask ourselves some questions:
How will coming to understand this better help me be more patient in my sufferings and disappointments? How can I learn to trust God more? What can I learn from listening to Job’s “comforters“? What can I learn from Job about responding to unjust criticism?
Often when we fail to grow in our understanding of Scripture it’s because we fail to ask the right questions. Continue reading →
God’s love is not a pampering love, but a redeeming love. The nation of Israel was ungrateful and disobedient and He would allow them to suffer the consequences of their actions, but He would eventually restore them because of His love and mercy.
Is prayer a regular part of your life? Are you praying for God’s will to be done in the earth and in the lives of those around you? Are you quick to seek forgiveness from God in prayer? Do you pray for your enemies? Are you really a person of prayer?
Today’s Readings: Daniel 9 & 10
1 John 1.1-10
Daniel 9 & 10:
God & the prayers of His people
In chapter 9, Daniel had learned from his study of the Scriptures that the 70 years of captivity was close to its end. But instead, of passively waiting for that to happen, he humbly prayed, confessing the sins of his people and asking God to fulfill His promises.
Too often, we take a “Christian fatalistic” view that God’s going to do what He’s going to do. We fail to understand that God desires to use the prayers of His people as part of the process of fulfilling His will in the earth. Prayer doesn’t change God, but it ushers in the promises of God and changes us as we get involved in what God is doing in the earth!
In chapter 10 we see a glimpse into the heavenly battles which are behind the events of human history. Even though demonic powers are at work to influence nations and individuals to rise up against God, His people, and His work in the earth, it is God’s will which will stand.
Praying for our enemies
This psalm was probably written toward the end of the captivity in Babylon. Perhaps the people saw the weakening of Babylon and looked forward to the defeat and complete annihilation of the enemy who had so pridefully and harshly oppressed them.
As believers we, too, should look forward to the time when God’s enemies will be defeated and destroyed, but not out of malice or personal revenge. In fact, we should be praying for our enemies in the hope that: Continue reading →
As we read the prophets it may seem that God is saying the same things over and over. It’s easy to get weary of reading them. But as we read these prophesies concerning God’s judgment, we need to remember that God repeats things because we need to hear them repeatedly. It’s His mercy and patience at work.
Even today, God has faithful men and women who continue to sound the alarm, to warn of the dangers of sin and compromise in our society. But many want to cover their ears, or worse, attack those who speak truth. They call us homophobes, mean-spirited, and narrow-minded and accuse us of trying to force our beliefs on others. But we need to be like faithful Noah who both encouraged others to get into the ark and warned of the coming flood. We need to speak the truth in love, inviting others to come into the ark of salvation while warning of the judgment to come.
Tears & joy
This psalm was probably written about Israel’s eventual repentance and return from captivity in Babylon, but also applies to our repentance and salvation. Those who sow tears of repentance shall reap the joy of salvation. Continue reading →
As believers, we are part of a family. And as a family, we have responsibilities to one another. We also have a responsibility to lovingly speak truth to those who are lost. Each of us can make a difference.
In these two chapters the Lord speaks to the Philistines and the Moabites and warns them of coming judgment. Even though God would first use these and other heathen nations as instruments of judgment against the nation of Israel, He would also judge them.
Sometimes, in God’s sovereignty, He allows people in our lives to sin against us, too, because He knows He can use it to grow us and help us to become more like Christ.
Romans 8.28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Because something is popular or “the way we’ve always done it” doesn’t make it biblically sound. In fact, when a Samaritan woman met Jesus and pointed out what was popular in her religious tradition, He told her, “… those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4.24)—spirit, with the right heart attitude, and truth, according to His commands.
I know I run the risk of offending some today. I pray that I don’t, but even more, I pray that those who are offended will dig into God’s Word and prayerfully seek the truth for themselves.
Jeremiah 7 & 8:
Tickling their ears
The prophet continues along the same lines as yesterday’s reading, even repeating some of the same phrases.
In chapter 8 Jeremiah again speaks specifically to false teachers, priests and prophets:
10 … Everyone is given to covetousness;
From the prophet even to the priest
Everyone deals falsely.
11 For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’
When there is no peace.
Once again he condemns them for giving a false assurance of peace.
He also condemns the people because they were listening to falsehood. Even though our leaders are responsible for what they teach, we are responsible to make sure what we’re hearing and learning lines up with God’s Word! Because something is popular or “the way we’ve always done it” does not make it biblically sound. Continue reading →
In these chapters God through the prophet continues to warn of coming judgments, but reminds them there will always be a faithful remnant (18.6).
As we see what’s happening here in our nation, we cannot give up or lose hope. We must realize that is our calling—to be part of His faithful remnant. We are to be salt and light.
Philippians 2.14-15 says we are to:
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world” (emp. added).
How’s your light? Is it bright and clear? Is it dim and hidden by junk (sin or the cares of this world)? Or do you just whine and complain like everyone else? Continue reading →