We’ll also read about:
- The schemes of the enemy & how the devil wraps up sin so deceptively.
- Imprecatory prayer.
- What happens when we don’t exercise self-control.
Isaiah 35 & 36
2 Corinthians 13.1-14
Is Your Faith Genuine?
2 Corinthians 13.1-14:
What Is the Test of Genuine Faith?
In chapter 12 of yesterday’s readings Paul wrote:
“For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced” (12.20-21).
After that sharp rebuke, the Apostle wrote:
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13.5 NASB).
As believers, we can and do sin, but genuine believers will experience conviction and, eventually, repent. If we can sin without any conviction, we too, should examine ourselves to see if we are really saved. A redeemed life will produce good fruit. Jesus said, “You will know a tree by its fruit” (Lk. 6.44). And John the Baptist warned the Pharisees, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Lk. 3.8).
No amount of “good fruit,” what is often called good works, can save us. The Prophet Isaiah said, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Is. 64.6). Paul said, “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3.20)and when writing to the Ephesians:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2.8-9).
We are saved by God’s grace when we put our faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. But Paul went on to say in the next verse:
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2.10).
While good works cannot save us, the result of a changed life is good works or fruit.
It will vary in degree and amount and even the speed with which it is produced, but that fruit should include:
- A desire to grow and change.
- A hunger for God’s Word.
- A love for other believers and for the world.
- Conviction of sin (about living together when unmarried, other kinds of sexual sin, drunkenness, unforgiveness and bitterness, dishonesty and other integrity issues, etc.).
One important thing to remember is that God’s grace not only saves us (Eph. 2.8-9), but also enables us to make the changes and obey those things He has commanded us to do. When we accept Christ by faith and are born again spiritually, God’s spirit takes up residence in us (Acts 2.38, 1 Cor. 6.19). He convicts us of sin (Jn.16.8), teaches us so we can understand God’s truth (Jn. 14.26), and gives us the power to live obediently (Acts 1.8).
Today’s Other Readings:
Isaiah 35 & 36:
The Schemes of the Enemy
Chapter 36 repeats a story from the life of Hezekiah (2 Kings 19). The King of Assyria had sent the Rabshakeh, a chief prince in the Assyrian court, as his representative to convince the Israelites to surrender. First, he stood outside the city wall and tried to intimidate them into surrendering. He even attacked their faith in God:
“Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, ‘The LORD will deliver us.’ Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered its land from the hand of the king of Assyria?” (v. 18).
When scare tactics didn’t, immediately, work, he tried sweetening the deal by saying, in effect, “Look, if you just surrender I’ll let you stay here in your own homes and your own land until later when I come back for you and take you to a really nice place, almost like this.”
In other words, see what I can do for you! Don’t trust your God, trust me!
Nothing much has changed when it comes to the deceitfulness of our enemy, has it? He’s still trying to deceive us into trusting in everything but the Lord.
If we’re single and want a mate, he often tries to convince us to quit waiting on God’s choice and look to the world. The result is the loss of our testimony and often a lifetime of consequences.
When it comes to material goods, he tries to convince all of us that we need more “stuff” instead of being content with what God has provided. In the process he steals our joy and the peace that comes from resting in God.
And when it comes to pleasure, he works hard to keep us believing that pleasure can only be found outside of God’s parameters when, in reality, the only lasting pleasure and satisfaction can be found in God.
But he wraps sin in such a pretty packages (Heb. 3.13) by telling us things like:
“You can have lunch with that married co-worker; you’re not doing anything wrong. You’re just friends. Besides he’s a guy; maybe he can help you understand your husband better.”
“Living together is fine as long as you’re ‘committed.’ After all, a wedding license is ‘just a piece of paper.'”
“You can try this drug just once, you won’t end up hooked!”
But many a workplace friendship has become a marriage-destroying adulterous affair. Even when it doesn’t become a full-blown affair, it damages the intimacy between a husband and wife and, often, destroys trust.
And while marriage may be attested to by a piece of paper called a marriage license, marriage is much more than that. It was created by God in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2.24) and is the building block of society. Jesus affirmed the institution of marriage at the wedding in Cana and when He spoke to the woman at the well in John 4.
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
Satan has no new tricks. He’s a deceiver. Jesus called him the father of lies (Jn. 8.44). And only the truth can protect us from his deception.
Well, how will Hezekiah and the people respond? To be continued in tomorrow’s reading …
This prayer by David against his enemies is called an imprecatory prayer. Probably most of us have felt like praying a prayer like this at one time or another.
“Set a wicked man over him, and let an accuser stand at his right hand” (v. 6). Lord, why don’t you do to her what she’s doing to me?
“When he is judged, let him be found guilty, and let his prayer become sin” (v. 7). I hope he gets caught!
“Let his days be few, and let another take his office” (v. 8). Lord, let his boss catch him and fire him. Let him see how it feels.
“And let strangers plunder his labor. Let there be none to extend mercy to him” (vss. 11-12). I hope she loses everything and has to file bankruptcy!
Unfortunately, that’s not in keeping with the spirit of the Scriptures. First, we must remember this prayer was prayed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and looked forward to the enemies of Christ whom a Holy God will someday judge. We, who are sinful creatures ourselves should not think we can judge someone else in this way.
Instead, Jesus told us:
“… love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5.44).
Without Rule Over Our Emotions
Verse 28, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.”
Emotions and real and can be powerful, but they are lousy leaders. May we seek to be under the control of the Holy Spirit and not our own emotions.
In the next few days we’ll talk about what it means to be a legalist, how we’re not only saved by grace, but kept by God’s grace and more.
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