Does salvation + time + knowledge = spiritual maturity? If not, where does it come from? From years of church membership? From learning how to use Bible software or getting 10 devotionals in your inbox? Does it come with a degree in theology? Or from attending Bible studies week after week? If not, what does it take? Continue reading →
Someone told my husband once about self-examination, “Why would anyone want that?!” But, self examination is an important part of our walk with God and can, actually, breathe life into our relationships with God and others and protect us from God’s judgment and discipline.
Paul warned us of the consequences when we don’t … sickness, problems, even early death. But how can we examine ourselves when our tendency is to justify our own actions and responses? What’s the standard?
And how, living in our sin-cursed world, can we re-inform our consciences biblically so we are more sensitive to the lack of love and other sins in our lives? And in so doing, grow and change?
Also, what does God think about sex? Does He say anything about it in Scripture?
Song of Solomon 1 & 2
1 Corinthians 11.17-34
Love, Sex & Self-Examination
1 Corinthians 11.17-34:
In verses 27-32 Paul gives instructions for how we should approach the taking of the Lord’s Supper. He says that we should use it as an opportunity to examine ourselves to see if there is any unconfessed sin or unreconciled relationships in our lives.
If so, we should confess them to the Lord and repent. Repentance is more than regret or feeling sorry, it carries with it the idea of a turning from our way and going God’s way. Paul said that because we fail to examine ourselves, many in the body of Christ are sick and some sleep (have died prematurely).
Of course, communion isn’t the only time we should examine ourselves. It should be a regular part of our walk with the Lord. How can we do that?
When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus said the whole law and the prophets can be summed up in two commands: Love God and love others. If we’re loving God as we should, we won’t look for loopholes for disobedience and obeying Him won’t be a burden, but a delight. That doesn’t mean our flesh will always like it, but our hearts will desire to please Him.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn. 14.15).
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 Jn. 4.20).
A good way to examine how well we are loving others is to study and meditate on 1 Corinthians 13.4-7 and ask, “How am I doing in each of these areas (remember our standard is Christ, not how we’re doing compared to someone else)?”
If you’re struggling in some relationship, it may be helpful to be specific. How did I do today or yesterday? How am I doing with my spouse, my children, my co-workers, strangers I meet, other drivers … Continue reading →
In chapter 13, after strongly rebuking his friends, Job turns his attention directly to God. He is at a loss to understand why all this calamity has come on him. In chapter 14 he talks to God about the frailness of humanity and seems to prepare himself to die, perhaps even yearning for it.
Be sure to read MacArthur’s notes for today’s readings. He jumps ahead to some of the later chapters as he explains that Job’s problem was not the belief that he was righteous, as his friends thought, but his over-familiarity in demanding an answer to why he was suffering such hardship.
We, too, can be tempted to demand answers to our “whys.” While I don’t believe God is put-off by sincere questions from his hurting children, we need to remember that He is God and we are not! Isaiah 55.8-9:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
In chapter 40 we will see Job’s reaction after God responded to all his why’s. He said, “I lay my hand over my mouth” (Job 40.4).
While we don’t know another person’s heart and can’t assume their suffering is the result of sin, … can sin sometimes bethe cause of our suffering or, at least, make it worse?
Also, with broken families and the pressures of living in a post Christian world, older believers have a mission that has never been more important. If you are a senior adult, do you know what that mission is and are you being a good steward of it?
And from our New Testament reading … Many people think they are children of God because they belong to a certain church, were raised in a Christian home, have “always believed in God,” have been baptized, taken communion, or are “good people.” But can any of those things save us?
In chapter 7, Job pours out his complaints to his friends and to God and tries to justify his desire to die and bring all this suffering to an end.
Though there are times when we have to exhort, even rebuke, one another because we have gotten into excessive sorrow or self-pity, there are, also, times when we just need to listen and let them pour out their hearts. Bob Kellemen calls it “soulcare.”
In chapter 8, another of Job’s friends, Bildad, responds with the same underlying belief that Job somehow brought this on himself. Though not everything he says is wrong, it is his assumption that Job caused his own suffering, which was wrong. Remember God Himself said Job was, “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1.1).
That doesn’t mean our suffering is never the result of sin. Often it is caused, or at least complicated, by our own sin. Mike Wilkerson, in his book Redemption says we are all fellow sinners and fellow sufferers. It may be that we were sinned against, sometimes in grievous ways. But sometimes we respond to the other person’s sin with anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, by turning to drugs or alcohol, by acting out sexually, or in other sinful and self-defeating ways.
And there are times when we must lovingly confront one another, even when we understand that the person was also sinned against:
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. 6.1-2).
How do we keep ourselves from ending up in the ditch because of some sinful response to another person’s sin?
Could you be a contentious woman? Do you ever find yourself arguing for argument’s sake? Do you feel like it’s your job to point out the other side of the issue? Do you enjoy a good debate? Do you have to have the last word?
Verse 9, “Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
My thesaurus uses some of the following synonyms: controversial, debatable, arguable, touchy. The Encarta Dictionary defines her as, “frequently engaging in and seeming to enjoy arguments and disputes.”
Do you ever find yourself arguing for arguments sake? Do you feel like it’s your job to point out the other side of the issue? Do you enjoy a good debate? Do you have to have the last word?
Ladies, we need to ask ourselves those questions without trying to justify or minimize our actions. If we can answer “yes” to any of them, let’s ask God to help us search our hearts (Ps. 139.23-24) and help us grow and change.
Here in these two chapters Hezekiah calls the people to repentance and worship. He sends runners throughout the land even to the Northern Kingdom to extend the invitation. Although most of the people in the Northern Kingdom “laughed at them and mocked them,” the people of Judah came together with “singleness of heart.” What followed was a great revival with the people giving in abundance to support the priests and Levites and the operation of the temple. And when they did, God blessed them abundantly.
Forgiving Like God Forgives
Verses 2-3, “You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people; You have covered all their sin. Selah. You have taken away all Your wrath. You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.”
When God forgives and covers sin, He ceases to be angry about it. We are told in Ephesians 4.32 to “forgive just as God in Christ also has forgiven us.” If we truly forgive we choose to cease being angry, too. It may take time for our feelings to completely come into line, but we can choose to treat that person with God’s love if we will rely on His grace. Continue reading →
Ananias and Sapphira sold some land and pretended to give all the proceeds to the church. They didn’t have to. There was no universal command to “sell all you have.” But they wanted to look good.
I wonder if God dealt with sin in the same way in our churches this Sunday, how many of us would walk out of there? Even though we may not often see this quite as vividly, God’s attitude toward hypocrisy and lying hasn’t changed!
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11.28-32:
“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”
Though Paul is talking specifically about the Lord’s Supper in this passage, we should be examining ourselves on a daily basis. Notice that Paul says, “many are sick and weak … and many sleep (have died)” because of a failure to examine themselves.
“I consider the time spent writing in my journal as Sabbath time – a time of rest and solitude, a time to come apart to be with God and to reflect on his Word, to search for his will, and to record the insights I receive. My journal has been the channel of many blessings” (p.17).
Journal Prompts for your Prayer or Scripture Journaling
Throughout the centuries, some of the greatest men and women of God have kept journals. But journaling isn’t just for spiritual giants. It’s for you and me.
If you find it hard to concentrate in your quiet time, a journal can help you focus on God and His Word.
Recording Scripture in a journal can help you remember and meditate on God’s promises.
If you have a desire to leave a record of your spiritual journey for your children or others, a journal is a great place to do so.
A journal can be a great place to capture ideas and pray for God’s timing and will.
It’s, also, a good place to record prayer lists, concerns and answers.
So What About You …
Do you keep a spiritual journal? Maybe you call it something else: a prayer journal, a Bible study notebook, or a Scripture journal.
Maybe you’ve thought about keeping a journal. You hear other people talk about it, but you think it would take too much time.
Maybe you hated writing in school and you can’t believe you’re even thinking about writing in a journal.
But a journal can be anything you want it to be. It can be handwritten or in an electronic format. Computers and tablets have dozens of apps and programs to fit every personality.
You can write a paragraph or a page, record a verse or a passage of Scripture, a prayer need or a prayer list. You can write everyday or only occasionally.
Here are Some Prompts to Try Out as You Journal or Experiment with Journal Keeping:
Start with the simple word “Yesterday …” then record the events of the day. At times this may lead into prayer for people or situations.
How’s your spiritual curb appeal? How do you look from the outside? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of the One who’s living in you? If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we would come up short, how do we change that? Here are 4 ways to improve your spiritual curb appeal.
As we continue reading through the book of Leviticus, I’m reminded that not only is “all Scripture” profitable to our everyday lives (1 Tim. 3.16-17), but we can begin reading anywhere and glean great, practical truths.
Leviticus 23 gives instructions concerning the feasts that Israel was to celebrate. These feasts acknowledged and helped them remember God’s sovereign work in their lives, just as Easter and Christmas should do for us.
That’s part of the tragedy with the commercialization of those holidays. Easter has become more about bunnies and eggs and less about Christ’s resurrection. Christmas is more about “what will I get” than remembering that the Creator of the Universe humbled Himself to be born in a stable, to be a little baby with dirty diapers, to grow to be a boy who respected and obeyed His parents, and finally, to be a man who was willing to be beaten, stripped and crucified for me and you!
Here in chapter 23, notice the feasts and the sacrifices involved food: meat and grain, oil and wine, things used in the preparation of a meal.
Remember that God repeatedly told His people He desired to dwell with them. In Revelation 3.20 Jesus said:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
1 Corinthians 6.19 says that we are the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” And in John 1.14 it says that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Old Testament feasts and sacrifices, in part, reminded them that the Creator God wanted to dwell with them.
That word “dwell” comes from a root word meaning “to tent or encamp, to occupy (as a mansion) or to reside as God did in the Tabernacle of old.”
His dwelling with us speaks of protection and communion.
The word “occupy” stood out to me. Does He really “occupy” your life? Have you allowed him to take over the whole mansion or is He expected to stay in the back room most of the time? Maybe He’s only with you on Sundays? Or maybe you’d say “no, He’s here all the time! I’m always talking about God and church!”
Spiritual Curb Appeal
Then the question becomes, how are you doing at living your life in a way that makes Him pleased to be there? Are you going places, watching things, reading things, listening to things or saying things that grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in you?
And how does His residence look to others? Real estate agents talk about curb appeal, how a home (or mansion) looks from the street. How do you look to others? How is your spiritual curb appeal? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of God?
God wants a relationship with His people. He wants to live in us and through us so we can be salt and light to the world. What a privilege and what a responsibility! If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we came up short, how can we change that? Continue reading →
As January comes to an end and the second month of 2017 begins, many of us will be thinking about the goals and resolutions we made just a few weeks ago. We’ll examine our progress (or lack of it) concerning a new diet, exercise plan or some other goal.
And when it comes to our health, we get numerous examinations and tests to ensure we stay as healthy as we can. When we go to school, we take examinations to test our proficiency in those subjects. But how many of us take time to examine our lives spiritually?
As the Lord delivered the Israelites out of their 430 years of slavery in Egypt, he gave them several things that were to act as memorials for them. First, was the Passover itself.
He, also, told them the first born of all their children and animals belonged to Him. They were to sacrifice the “clean” animals (more about that later) and were to redeem or offer another sacrifice in place of those animals not appropriate for sacrificing (13.13) and they were to offer sacrifices for their firstborn sons. This was to remind them of how the Lord had spared their sons and animals when He brought the final plague on Egypt.
As we continue with our Old Testament narrative, we will repeatedly see God instruct the Nation of Israel to set up memorials. We, too, need our own memorials. It’s so easy to forget what God has done for us and, instead, get focused on what we think He hasn’t done: the prayers He hasn’t answered our way or how He hasn’t blessed us like He has blessed someone else. We need to remind ourselves about the things from which He has already delivered us and the things He has done for us.
Even, if He never did another thing, we should remember the price He paid so our sins could be forgiven. That is the central focus of the Lord’s Supper, the New Testament counterpart to the Passover. It is a memorial to the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (emphasis mine)
Another focus of the Lord Supper is to remind us to examine ourselves. In the Old Testament leaven or yeast represented sin. As the Israelites prepared to leave Egypt and each time they took the Passover, they were to examine themselves and see if there was sin in their lives. We, too, are to ask God to show us if there is unrepentant sin in our lives before we take the Lord’s Supper.
27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Cor. 11, emphasis mine)
This isn’t the only time we should examine ourselves. The Psalmist prayed in Psalm 139:23-24: Continue reading →
Jesus gave a pretty serious warning in Matthew 7 when He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven …” There are people, sitting in church every Sunday, who believe they are headed for heaven when they’re really in danger of hearing those words, “I never knew you, depart from me …”
Read today’s post to see what won’t save us. Don’t let pride or fear of what people might think keep you from seeking answers if you think that could be you!
Also, read about the importance of removing the logs from our own eyes before we can be any help to others in “Judging Hearts & Log Removal,” what it really means to live “Life on the Rock,” about “God’s Favor,”“Our Higher Standard,” and from our Old Testament reading, “Why did Sarah laugh at the promise of God?”
Verses 1-5 remind us of the dangers of judging the hearts and motives of others (although we are to judge sin and even, at times, to lovingly rebuke one another, more about that in a later commentary).
Verse 5 points out that we must first judge ourselves! We are to see the sins of others as specks in comparison to ours. Our sins are the “logs” or “planks” that keep us from seeing clearly!
Verses 21-23 should serve as a serious warning to us:
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”
This passage should remind us that there are many people sitting in churches who think they are right with God, but who Jesus says are in danger of hearing, “I never knew you!”
Believing in God, coming to church, reading your Bible, teaching in church, serving in ministry, taking sacraments, doing good works, prophesying (God spoke through pagans and even a donkey once so this is not a test of spirituality), casting out demons, and doing wonders cannot save you! Continue reading →