Keeping a Clear Conscience

Today’s reading: Leviticus 5:14-7:38

A sensitive conscience is an asset to one whose mind has been trained and informed by God’s word. I would always keep my conscience tender.

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

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Preparing for the Bad, Last Days

What should we do to prepare for the end of time? Scripture is clear. Know God’s Word well.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 25-26; 2 Timothy 3

15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.”  Jeremiah 26:15-16

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Paul writes to instruct Timothy in his pastoral duties and also to alert him, and all of us who have lived since him, as to the dangerous, difficult times that were and are to come. We read the list which begins with “lovers of self” and ends with “having the appearance of godliness but denying its power” (vs. 2-5). Narcissism would be rampant with phony, hypocritical uprightness.

Paul was not worried that Timothy would go astray. He knew the depth of character of his protégé. Not only that, Timothy had the Scriptures his whole life, the Word of God which brings wisdom for salvation and goes on to teach, reprove, correct, and train all who know it.

Jeremiah affirmed to the rebellious leaders of Judah that he spoke God’s Word to them. They not only ignored it but pondered executing him for preaching it. He barely escaped death for standing on God’s Word. He might have died for preaching the truth, but his enemies would and did die by it.

How do we prepare for whatever may come? There’s nothing wrong with stocking up on food, water, and firewood, but without a deep knowledge of the Bible, it will be in vain. Be prepared, God’s way, by His Word, given to us that the man or woman of God  “may be complete, equipped for every good work” including enduring the bad, last days.

Being and Doing the Lord’s Work

Today’s reading: Psalms 136-138; I Corinthians 9

     The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands.                                                Psalm 138:8

Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?                                     1 Corinthians 9:1b

God’s people are both the object of His Providences and the means to accomplishing them. God’s people are used by Him in ministry and are changed by Him for His purposes.

David in Psalm 138 rejoices in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. He praises God for answered prayer, for strength in time of need. Now he experiences trouble, but his confidence is unwavering. God is firmly in control and will complete what He has begun. David knows he is God’s workmanship. “Please,” he prays, “don’t stop working in and on me!”

Paul, too, understood how God works in and through people that He has saved by grace through faith. He wrote to the church in Ephesus, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul adds another layer to this concept. God uses people to work for Him in the lives of others. Paul saw himself as a workman, a gardener, in the Lord’s work. The believers in Corinth were his workmanship. He had “sown spiritual things” among them (vs. 11).   He had proclaimed the gospel to them (vs. 14). Wherever he went he made himself a servant to all, adapting as much as possible to those he was seeking to win (vs. 19-23). He exercised self-control and disciplined his body in order to do what he was called to do, to complete the work assigned to him by the Lord.

You are probably a product of someone else’s work or ministry in you. Maybe you still are being discipled,  mentored, and shepherded. Be sure you are an eager, appreciative learner. If you are serving others in the gospel, be careful to run so as to win the prize. After all, you are the work of the Lord’s hands, and He also uses your hands to do His work. We are the Lord’s work, and we do the Lord’s work. May God be glorified in us and through us.

 

 

Do We Need the Old Testament?

Today’s reading: Psalm 105-106; Romans 15:1-20

1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!                             Psalm 105:1-3

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.                                                                                                 Romans 16:3

The Old Testament plays a key role in the life of believers in Jesus Christ giving them instruction leading to endurance, encouragement, and hope.

Paul makes his case to the Christians in Rome that the Scriptures that they had from the former days had a crucial place in their lives. It is hard to find a stronger passage in the New Testament urging the careful and continual study of the Old. After all, the Old Testament was the Bible that Jesus knew and frequently quoted. He relied on it when confronted by Satan and while dying on the cross (Matthew 4:1-11; 27:46; Psalm 22:1; Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:5). It was the Bible from which He taught the disciples about Himself (Luke 24:27).

Psalm 105 gives us a good example of why we need the Scriptures written in former days, if we are to fulfill our calling to glorify God (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Revelation 4:11). It includes both a call to praise (vs. 1-6) and content for praise (vs. 7-45).   Like several other psalms, this one focuses on praising God for who He is and what He has done in history for the people of Israel. It is easy to see God’s wisdom, faithfulness, power, and glory. Well, at least, it’s easy to see when you read this psalm. My experience personally and by observation of others is that it’s not easy to think of words with which to praise God. It is easier to look at the problems of our lives and our world than to spend more than a few minutes giving praise to God. We need the Old Testament, in general, and the Psalms, in particular, to instruct us and encourage us to praise the Lord.

Make it priority to know the Old Testament as well as the New. It will instruct you, sustain you, encourage you, and give you hope to finish the race.

 

The Christian and Personal Piety

Today’s reading: Job 21-22; Acts 10:1-23

14 They say to God, ‘Depart from us!
We do not desire the knowledge of your ways.
15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
And what profit do we get if we pray to him?’                                   Job 21:14-15a

1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.                   Acts 10:1-2

While no one is saved by good works or personal piety, those who are saved demonstrate their love for God through good works and personal piety. It was true in Job’s time, in New Testament times, and in our time.

Job describes the wicked who prosper as those who tell God to “get lost,” have no passion to know Him or His ways, and won’t serve God or pray to Him, but, instead, ask, “what’s in it for me?” If we want to know what the godly man or woman looks like, we can just reverse these descriptions. The godly seek God’s presence. They want God near them. They draw near to God and find that He draws near to them (James 4:8a). They want to know Him and His ways. They serve Him and pray to Him without hesitation and know that it is a privilege to serve Him and pray to Him. They do not look for some kind of reward. Knowing Him is the ultimate reward. Nothing else is needed or desired.

Cornelius, a Roman military officer, would seem to be an unlikely candidate for the roll call of faith. Not so. He was “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” Undoubtedly, his understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ was lacking, but God saw his heart and sent Peter to him to proclaim the good news. Cornelius was not saved by his piety, but it did show his passion to know the Lord and God heard him. He led his family in toward the Lord and had a soldier who was devout (Acts 10:7). It would seem that Cornelius’ fear of the Lord impacted his personal life, his family, and his professional life. By the way, we see included here the virtue of the fear of God, a quality notably lacking among people today.

How do you view your devotional life? Is it a joy? Do you anticipate being in the Lord’s presence? Is prayer merely for personal benefit or is it communion with your Savior? Is reverent fear of God a characteristic you seek to develop? Think about it. Make attitude adjustments as needed.

Stay with the Bible

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 20-22; John 10:22-42

12 Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed. I Chronicles 22:12-13

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? John 10:34-36

God’s Word must be heeded as His Son confirmed previous Scripture as authentic.

Jesus was continually questioned and criticized during His years of earthly ministry. It only got worse, and, of course, concluded with the arrest, trial, and crucifixion. In the incident mentioned here, He used Scripture to defend His reference to God as His Father and His claim to be the Son of God. In a parenthetical comment, He says, “…Scripture cannot be broken…” This is not His only reference to the veracity of the Bible, but it is a very clear one.   He knew the Word, used the Word, and applied the Word to real life situations and questions.

David advised his son, Solomon, who would succeed him as king. He told him that the Lord would be the One giving him charge over Israel. Solomon needed to understand that he was a vassal, a steward of the kingdom of God’s people, not his own autonomous boss. Furthermore, David emphasized the need for discretion and understanding to keep and to observe carefully God’s law if Solomon were to prosper.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35). Do you hold God’s Word in high esteem?   Do you know that Scripture cannot be broken? It is not wasted time you invest in the careful reading, studying, and obeying of the Bible. Stay with it.

Let’s read the Bible in 2015

In Psalm 119: 129-131, we read:

129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
    therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
    because I long for your commandments.

Do you agree that God’s word is wonderful, gives light, and imparts understanding? Do you long for His commandments?  Are you considering reading through the Bible in the new year? If so, let me suggest a plan and invite you to join me each day here to share the reading journey.

Beginning tomorrow, I will post a daily reading assignment which will take you through the Old and New Testaments simultaneously. Keep on schedule by either reading from your own Bible using your preferred translation, or pull up this blog and click on the reading assignment. You will instantly be taken to the daily assignment in the English Standard Translation from Bible Gateway.com. A year from now we will finish up the entire Bible.

What could be easier? What could be more important for your spiritual growth and blessing?

We, who are serious Christians or who are considering the Christian faith, should make Bible reading a regular part of our lives. But if you have never read through the Bible, you will see that it is a massive undertaking. It can be done and I have done it annually for many years. I do not recommend attempting a faster reading. I find it preferable to read daily at a steady pace taking some time to reflect on some of the verses.

The plan I am suggesting here begins in Genesis in the Old Testament and Matthew in the New Testament.

If you prefer to read at a slower pace you could opt to read only one of the readings each day and complete the entire Bible in 2 years instead of one. Either way the important thing is to get started and keep going. I will be here each day with a fresh posting to encourage you along the way. I hope you will join me on January 1.

John Carroll