Rivers of Living Water

Today’s reading:

John 6:25-7:44

My selection:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  John 7:37-40

For more reflections on this passage, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Does it matter?

Looking at life from the perspective of 40, 50 or even more years, it is possible to be completely mistaken about the importance of believing God and serving Him.

Today’s reading: Malachi 1-4; Revelation 22

18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. Malachi 3:18

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. Revelation 22:14-15

One of the advantages of a careful reading of the Bible is the reader gains God’s viewpoint on human history and destiny. Although Malachi wrote around 500 years before John penned his Revelation, these writings converge in a harmonious and glorious view of the final end of all things.

Malachi, like all the prophets, sees clearly the inward and outward sins of the people he addressed. He goes into detail about their idolatry, their failures in marriage, and their stealing God’s money. The Jews were presumptuous before God, thinking that either their status as descendants of Abraham exempted them from obedience or that the Holy One of Israel was unconcerned about righteousness in His people.

The prophet warns them that the day of the Lord was coming. They would see that there is a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. It does matter how one lives before God.

John points us to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Those who are accepted before God are those who recognize their sinfulness but come to have their robes washed in His blood (Revelation 7:14).   They do not presume upon God’s mercy but receive the salvation which is offered in the gospel. They have access to the tree of life. They enter the city by the gates. Meanwhile, those who remain in their sins, such as immorality, murder, idolatry, and falsehood, are outside.

It does matter. No one gets away with their sin. All sin will ultimately be punished. For those who do not believe, they will be punished and barred from the city where God dwells with His people. For those who believe in the Lamb, their sin has already been paid for with the atonement of Jesus Christ. He bore our sins so that by His wounds we may be healed (1 Peter:2:24).

Be sure you know that there is a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Thank you for walking through the Scriptures with me this year and, if we have not met here, may we meet in glory to worship the Triune God. Our life here matters and  it does matter forever.

Happy New Year!

Note:  Tomorrow I will begin another year in the Bible using the reading plan from my book, “Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 Days.”  You may purchase the book in either kindle or print editions by clicking here.

Don’t Put Out the Fire

Beware, Christians, we can act in ways that seriously jeopardize our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 62-64; 1 Thessalonians 5

10 But they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
and himself fought against them. Isaiah 63:10

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19

Need we be concerned about our responses to the Holy Spirit? Is there a danger we will in some way offend, resist, grieve, or quench the Spirit of God? Are we not secure in our relationship to God through faith in Christ? Could we, Christians, act in ways that seriously jeopardize that relationship? Both Isaiah and Paul tell us the answer is “yes”!

Isaiah described the attitudes of Israel as those of rebellious children, laden with iniquity, despisers of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 1:2-4). God’s people will go into captivity because they have turned the Lord against them through their rebellion and grieving of His Holy Spirit.

Paul commended the Thessalonians as those who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Certainly, they had been born again and delivered “from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Nevertheless, Paul was concerned about their spiritual well-being and, now, in his concluding words, he charges them not to quench the Spirit. He would not be saying this unless there were a danger that they could actually do it. He gives them several instructions as to their relationships with their leaders, their brothers who may be struggling, and their enemies. He tells them to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks. Then he adds, “Do not quench the Spirit.” He warns them about two wrong responses to prophecies: despising them and believing them without testing them. He urges them to hold fast what is good and reject all evil.

Yes, we are secure in our relationship to God through faith in Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit is God, the third member of the Trinity.  Our relationship to God is no different from our relationship to the Son and the Spirit.  Salvation is worked out in obedience (Philippians 2:12,13).  Where salvation through faith exists, there will be obedience and, as needed, prompt confession and  repentance for disobedience.

The Holy Spirit has been identified with fire (Luke 3:16; Acts 2:1-4). Paul is warning his readers about the danger of pouring water on the fire of the Holy Spirit in their lives through ungodly attitudes toward others, selfish living, prayerlessness, and other evils. The Spirit of God is Holy and never leads us into such behaviors. Today, be led by the Spirit. Beware of quenching or grieving Him.

 

Getting Re-purposed

Through Jesus Christ, you could say, we have been re-purposed for His glory.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 16-18; Ephesians 1

7 In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. 8 He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and he will not look on what his own fingers have made, either the Asherim or the altars of incense. Isaiah 17:7-8

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4b-6

The Bible is the story of creation, corruption, and redemption. The heavy emphasis is on the millennia-long work of God in human society to redeem His people from corruption. The battle lines were drawn in Genesis 3:15 when God told the serpent there would be enmity between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman. Indeed, that enmity is played out every day in the global battle between evil and good, rebellion and righteousness.

Isaiah speaks of a day when man would look to the true and living God, the Creator, who is the Holy One of Israel. In looking to Him, man would turn away from his own feeble religious offerings, his own efforts to commend himself to God, his false gods and blasphemous altars. Only by looking to God will anyone find forgiveness.

Paul elaborates on this in the first chapter of his letter to the church in Ephesus. In a tightly packed paragraph-sentence, the apostle lays out in soaring words the purpose of God for the world and His means of accomplishing it. At the heart of His purpose is His glory. We are called to live for the praise of His glorious grace. But in ourselves, we are not able or qualified to fulfill that grand purpose. We need redeeming from our corruption. God has done that by giving His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to bear our sin and guilt. Through Him we have forgiveness of sin, are adopted as His sons (yes, male and female both enjoy the privileges of sons), and sealed with His Holy Spirit while we wait for all this to be completed.

Repurpose is a recent word that means “to change (something) so that it can be used for a different purpose.” Although, to be precise, believers in Christ have recovered God’s original purpose for us, it is not a stretch to say that we who were spiritually dead, and who were following the prince of the power of the air, have been repurposed for God. What a glorious purpose! It is the only purpose worthy of all our life, all our strength, and all our love. May God give us grace to grow in fulfilling His purpose for our repurposing to the end.

 

Unquenchable Joy

Joy springs up in the life of those who have God’s Spirit in them.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 10-12; Galatians 5

1 You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:1-3

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Judah and Israel were concerned about national security and relief from the oppressing nations. Isaiah came to them to speak of a Holy God whom they had offended. He was justly angry with them. Israel would be defeated by Assyria. Judah was on probation. But Isaiah also gave them hope of a future in which they would know God’s salvation. They would be comforted in the knowledge that His just anger was turned away.

The sweet promise “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation,” brings to mind Jesus’ words in John 7:38,  “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Jesus was describing the Spirit that all who believed in Him would receive.

Paul tells the Galatians that in Christ they have freedom: freedom from their sin, guilt, and condemnation under the law. They have the Spirit of God and He bears fruit in their lives: love, joy, peace, etc.

There can be nothing to compare with the comfort which comes from being totally forgiven by God. No more just anger against us. If the Spirit of God lives in us, how can we not have a deep joy that springs up like water from a well? Let the joy of your salvation fill you today.

Why Life is Not Vain

The gospel of Jesus Christ shows us why the earthly life of believers, while far from as complete as it will be in glory, is also not vain as Solomon thought.

Today’s reading: Ecclesiastes 1-3; 2 Corinthians 9

20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?                    Ecclesiastes 3:20-22

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.                                  2 Corinthians 9:10-12

Solomon, who, I believe, wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, had the time, money, and motivation to invest in the pursuit of the meaning of life. But he came up with a rather bleak picture. His conclusion, after all that study and experimentation, was that “All is vanity.” The best humans can hope for, he concluded, is   “…to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;  also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man” (3:12b-13).  Somehow it feels like something is missing, something that transcends this world. Certainly, Solomon grasps this too, as he says, “…[God] has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (3:11)

But God’s self-revelation continued with the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the announcement of the Kingdom of God. Paul writes to those in Corinth who have heard this message and who are trusting in God’s Son for salvation. He tells them that their faith expressed in generosity for the poor is actually sowing a harvest of righteousness that results in praise and thanksgiving to God.

When God’s people use the resources He supplies to serve others, this action produces win-win results for all. Genuine needs are met. Those who give are blessed. God is glorified. Far from being a vain, useless enterprise, generosity and good works produces lasting fruit. Take opportunities to give today. May the eternal, triune God be glorified and may you be blessed!

Two Ways to Live

Today’s reading: Psalm 62-64; Romans 1

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.                                      Psalm 63:5-7

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.    Romans 1:21

Mankind is divided into two groups, those who find their satisfaction and joy in God and those who neither honor Him nor give thanks to Him. There are two ways to live and both are vividly contrasted in today’s readings.

The Psalmist opens his heart again and again showing us how much he longs for God. He is like one longing for water and air. He cannot live without his God. He finds his satisfaction in Him. He finds shelter and protection in Him. He praises God with joy. He sings of Him for joy. The worship of God is not a necessary but unpleasant discipline.   He finds delight in God.

By contrast, Paul describes people who take no interest in God. They have no time to praise Him. They give Him no thanks. They presumptuously go on their merry way in foolishness. They have no excuse for their negligence, because God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived in creation (vs. 19-20). Rather, than worship and thank God, however, they grow more foolish and exchange the glory of God for images of animals. They worship creatures, not the Creator.

Man is made to worship God and if he will not worship God he will worship something less than God for he must have an object of worship. It is common to call our celebrities “idols”. Why not? We worship them and they encourage it. The only problem is they are fallen humans, not worthy of worship. They, too, will be called to answer for their idolatry.

Find your satisfaction and joy in the eternal triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is magnificent. He is worthy of all our praise and worship. There are only two ways to live and the choice is clear. [1]

[1] To see a presentation of the gospel go to: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/

To the End of the Earth

Today’s reading: Ezra 9-10; Acts 1

While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. 2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.                                                                                                                      Ezra 10:1-2

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”                                                                                                            Acts 1:8

God prohibits His people from marrying unbelievers, but sends them to proclaim the gospel to those same unbelievers.

It is worth reminding ourselves that God promised in His covenant with Abraham that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Meanwhile, God told His people entering the Promised Land to destroy the pagan nations and not to intermarry with them. Whenever they disregarded this command, they suffered for it and brought problems on the nation. Yet there were clear exceptions where foreigners joined themselves to Israel and worshiped Yahweh. Some examples are: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, all who entered into the royal lineage of David and Jesus Christ.   Ezra was appalled at the arrogant disregard for God’s law shown by those who intermarried with the pagans. The kingdom had just experienced severe judgment, being ejected from their land and taken captive, in part, for their mixing in marriage and in worship with the heathen.

Yet it was always God’s plan to save people from all the nations. Jesus announced the imminent coming of the Holy Spirit to His Apostles. They would receive power and they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.   Their mission would not be fruitless. The result was the rapid expansion of the Church into the entire known world within a few generations.

The Church is called to be holy and evangelistic. Naturally, a tension is created as we seek to live and witness among lost people without adopting their beliefs and sinful lifestyles. Rely on the Holy Spirit, not your own power, and be a witness to Jesus. He is the only hope of the world. In Him shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

The Army that Self-destructed

Today’s reading: II Chronicles 20-22; John 16:1-15

21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”

22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23 For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. II Chronicles 20:21-23

“…the ruler of this world is judged.” John 16:11b

God will be glorified and defeat His and our enemies as we maintain our focus on Him, our confidence in Him, and our praise toward Him.

Here we have one of the most bizarre battles in all of history. Three armies are drawn up against Judah and King Jehoshaphat. The king is terrified, but he wisely turns to God for direction and wisdom. Reassured by the Lord, Jehoshaphat appoints a choir and marching band to go ahead of the army praising God. The Lord intervened on their behalf so that the three enemy armies began to kill each other. The praise band played while the opposition forces self-destructed. Jehoshaphat’s army watched. God was glorified.

Jesus spoke solemnly to His disciples on the night before His crucifixion. He told them they would suffer hatred, ejection from the synagogues, and even martyrdom, but He promised them the Holy Spirit. He assured them they would be at an advantage since the Helper would be with them, unlimited by the confines of a human body. The ministry of the Spirit would be to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Lord told them “…the ruler of this world is judged.”

Do you believe that what seems like the hopeless situation of the Church of Jesus Christ today is completely under God’s control? Do you trust Him to bring ultimate victory over the forces of the ruler of this world? Can you, like Jehoshaphat’s praise band, give thanks to the Lord, knowing that his steadfast love endures forever? Might we suffer?  Of course, but our hope is in the Lord.

Take heart. The ruler of this world is judged and his armies will self-destruct. Praise God in advance.

Who me? God’s Fellow Worker?

Today’s reading: II Chronicles 13-16; John 14

9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.                                    II Chronicles 16:9a

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.       John 14:12

God gives His people productive work to do and He supports them in His work. Paul understood his role this way when he wrote, “For we are God’s fellow workers.” (I Corinthians 3:9a).

King Asa had some good years but, sadly, he veered off course by trusting in the power of a foreign ruler instead of maintaining confidence in the God who had delivered him in former times. Why did he veer off? Perhaps, he thought he was strong enough to handle the situation without the Lord. Perhaps, he forgot that he was merely a steward of God’s people and that God would not abandon him if he was faithful and believing. Maybe it was all of the above. At any rate, his heart was not blameless toward the Lord and he paid for his unfaithfulness dearly, with continual wars for the rest of his life.

In John 14, there is a long list of ways that Jesus shows His love for His disciples. He is concerned to bring comfort to their troubled hearts, He wants them to be with Him, He reassures them that He is the way to the Father, He promises to send them a Helper, the Holy Spirit, and He tells them the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will be with them. There is another promise, however, that parallels my thoughts on Asa. That is, Jesus promised that His disciples would do the works that Jesus did, and even greater works than He had done, because He was going to the Father. His going to the Father coincided with His sending the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the disciples doing those promised greater works . Indeed, those unlikely and unlearned men would soon be changing history with the gospel (Acts 4:13).

Here we have two ways to approach our work and responsibility before God. We may rely on our own resources or the resources we can scrounge up from others, like Asa did. Or we may rely on God, maintain a clear understanding that we work with Him and that He will “give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”  Today, be neither overconfident nor overwhelmed, but walk blamelessly before God by Christ’s mercy and be His fellow worker.