True worship is more than a time of music and singing. True worship involves how we live our lives, whether we obey God or respond by hardening our hearts to His commands.
Also, God is a God of order and He has ordained authority as part of that order. No matter what we think, we are not living obediently if we aren’t fully submitted to the authority He has placed in our lives.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. 7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you will hear His voice: 8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work.
True worship is more than merely showing up at church to sing and raise our hands. It is submitting our hearts and lives to God in obedience and realizing that “He is God.” It’s then that we “will hear His voice.”
No matter how often we attend church or what kind of outward religious activity we perform, if we’re not submitted to God in our hearts, which is demonstrated by our obedience, we are no different from those who hardened their hearts, rebelled, and tested God.
In spite of all his miseries, Job could still say, “For I know that my Redeemer lives …” That should put most of us to shame! He went on to say, “… I shall see God.” So no matter what, he was sure of his eternal destiny. Continue reading →
“Mirror, mirror …” How many times a day do you look in the mirror? What do you think about more often: how you look to others or how you look to God? Do you spend more time looking at yourself, your life, your world or are you looking intently at God and His Word?
Bezelel and the others God had blessed with the talent and ability to craft the furniture and implements for this magnificent temple continued with their work. God was using all this beauty to give His people a little glimpse of His beauty and creativity and glory.
But one little verse jumped out at me as I read this passage.
“He made the laver of bronze and its base of bronze, from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (v. 38.8).
He made them from the mirrors of the serving women. Think about it. These were nomadic people living in a desert environment. But they were also women … women who experienced love and marriage and jealousy and a desire to look attractive to their husbands, or perhaps potential husbands.
We walk into our homes and there is a mirror in the entryway, a mirror in the bedroom, a mirror in the bathroom. We go to work or church and … more mirrors. Even in our cars, we flip down the mirror for a last minute look. But in the desert, if a woman had a brass hand mirror, I imagine that was really something … possibly a luxury … but they gave them up!
I have to ask myself, what would I be willing to give up for the glory of God? What is really more important to me, people seeing the beauty of Christ or how I look to others?
And I wonder, on what is my own gaze fixed? Is it more on myself or God and His Word? Am I focused on my life and wants or is my desire to use whatever I have to point others to Christ?
As I have said over and over in the last couple of commentaries, God is not withholding His wisdom. It is here in His Word, but we must look for it. It’s not about being smart … or memorizing half the Bible … or sitting in Bible studies week after week and filling our heads with knowledge. It’s about faithfully seeking to know Him better through His Word and time spent with Him. And it’s about having a heart to please Him by choosing to obey what we know to do.
Hebrew 5.14 says, “… solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
It is by knowing and obeying that we grow in wisdom and maturity. On the other hand, James 1.22 says if we are hearers, readers, or sitters in Bible study without applying it, we deceive ourselves. We may think we’re mature. We may even be able to quote a lot of Scripture, even stand up and teach a Bible study ourselves, but we are spiritual lightweights! Continue reading →
Are you growing in Christ? While we don’t earn God’s love through good works or stay in His graces because of them, a life that has truly been changed will produce different fruit. In fact, Jesus said, you will know a tree by its fruit (Lk. 6.44). The amount and quality of our fruit is often a good indication of our spiritual maturity. Today’s New Testament reading talks about some of that fruit.
We have finished the “Major Prophets”—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel. Now we are beginning the “Minor Prophets”—Hosea through Malachi. In the New Testament, once we finish 1 John we have only three epistles (letters): 2 John, 3 John and Jude, before we begin the book of Revelation.
1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (vss. 1-3).
Think about that, “we shall be like Him.”
Jude said it this way:
“Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault” (Jude 24).
God who saved us and declared us righteous is working in us in the present. He is using the “all things” of Romans 8.28-29, to help us become progressively more and more like His Son. But one day, when we stand before Him, He’ll finish the work He started in us (Phil. 1.6) and cause us to stand before Him without a single fault!
In the meantime, we need to read and study and memorize and meditate on God’s Word (Ps. 119.11; 2 Tim. 2.15) and with His help seek to become more and more like Him by obeying His commands. Jesus said the greatest of those commands is to love God and love others (Matt. 22.37-40).
Verses 16-18 of today’s reading:
16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
Let’s ask ourselves: How am I doing in that process of spiritual growth? Am I loving others sacrificially? Am I “laying down my life”—willingly giving up what my sinful heart desires in order to do what is best for others? Am I loving, not only “in word or tongue, but in deed and in truth”? Am I becoming more like Christ?
Does salvation + time + knowledge = spiritual maturity? If not, where does is come from? From years of church membership? From learning how to use Bible software or getting 10 devotionals in your in-box? Does it come with a degree in theology? Or from attending Bible studies week after week? If not, what does it take?
Does it happen simply because we show up for church week after week? Or get baptized, learn how to use Bible software or start serving in church? Does it come from attending Bible studies or displaying a Christian bumper sticker?
It’s not to say any of those things are wrong or that they can’t happen as a result of spiritual maturity, but in themselves they don’t make a mature disciple of Christ. In fact, James 1 says if we’re hearers of the word and not doers, we delude ourselves (Jas. 1.22-25). Often that delusion concerns our own maturity and level of obedience. We think we’re “OK” because we do Christian things.
Going back to our Hebrews 5 passage, let’s read it in the New Living Translation:
11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
The writer of Hebrews was addressing those who “ought to be teaching others” because of their exposure to the Word and Christian experience. Instead they were still babies and needed milk.
But solid food, food that is fit for those who are spiritually mature, is for those who have trained themselves or practiced doing what God says. Spiritual maturity comes as a result of obeying the Word on a regular basis.
But before you can grow spiritually, you must be born spiritually (Jn. 3.3). Do you need to examine yourself to see if you are “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13.5)? Do you struggle with doubts about the genuineness of your relationship with God? Make sure you understand the gospel. Don’t let another day pass without having the assurance that you belong to Him.
If you know you belong to Him, could there be some area of life where you are blinded by hearing and not doing? We all need to pray regularly for God to help us avoid spiritual blind spots and if there is some area where you know you’ve not obeyed God, repent and ask for His forgiveness and grace. Then step out in obedience.
Even as God prepared to bring His judgment on the people, He commanded an angel to go out and put a mark on every person who loved and worshiped Him and who grieved over the spiritual condition of the nation, just as He did before the death angel passed over in Egypt.
The same is true today. All those who belong to Him, those who are born again by the Spirit of God, have His mark. Ephesians 1.13-14:
13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
There will be a day of judgment for everyone. But sadly, there are many who look good on the outside, but because they don’t have a genuine relationship with the Lord are not sealed with the Holy Spirit. Continue reading →
Take the test: look into the mirror of God’s Word and ask yourself, “Which of these characteristics describe me and which don’t?” What do your answers tell you about your walk with God, your trust in Him, and your level of spiritual maturity?
In chapter 1 of James’ epistle, he compares the Word of God to a mirror (Jas. 1.23) and goes on to say that “if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it” (Jas. 1.25).
Here in this passage, Paul commands us to “set our mind on things above, not on the things on the earth” (v. 2).
This chapter gives us a great summary of what a mature Christian life should look like—kind of a composite mirror image of Christlike character. Read back through Colossians 3 and take the test. Ask yourself what you are reflecting to the world. Continue reading →
Philippians 1.6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
What a great promise! We can be confident, not in ourselves that we’ll somehow make it to the end, but if we belong to Him, He will finish the work He has started in us. God Himself is the guarantor of His promises.
It would be nice if He just sprinkled some pixy dust over us and we were instantly changed. But that’s not the way God usually does His work in us.
And … We often wish He would do that in other people’s lives, too.
When we’ve been unequally yoked and a husband comes to know the Lord, we want them to immediately be where we are. When someone close to us surrenders his or her life to God, especially if it has been a difficult relationship, we can be unrealistic in our expectations.
There is immediate change in our lives and the lives of others. Our eternal destiny has been changed. 2 Cor. 5.17 says we are new creations; we were born again by the Spirit of God, but it takes time for those changes to work themselves out in our daily living.
That’s not an excuse. In fact, as God shows us areas where we need to change and grow we need to respond to those promptings.
Heb. 5.12-14 says:
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use (the NASB says PRACTICE) have their senses exercised (TRAINED) to discern both good and evil.
Some of us are still babies sucking on milk because we don’t do the things God has told us to do. AMEN … or OH MY.
Even then, God doesn’t stop doing His work in us, but it’s going to take longer and probably involve more pain and hardship.
What processes does He use to complete the work He started in us? I like to talk about five major ways.
God changes us as we learn to do 5 things:
1. Count it all joy (James 1.2-8).
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually feel like being joyful when I’m in the midst of a trial. How can we count it all joy when we’re in a trial? Continue reading →