Posts Tagged ‘God’

Galatians 4:12-15

In Galatians 4:12-15 Paul talks to the Galatians about what they should do. Paul knew well that he wasn’t sinlessly perfect. He wasn’t standing before the Galatian Christians, saying, “Look at how perfect I am. Don’t worry about following Jesus, just follow me.” He simply wanted them to follow him as he followed Jesus. “Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.” Paul knew the Galatian Christians should imitate his consistency. They started out correctly understanding and following the Gospel, but didn’t stay on track. They were led astray.

Stott explains “All Christians should be able to say something like this, especially to unbelievers, namely that we are so satisfied with Jesus Christ, with His freedom, joy and salvation, that we want other people to become like us.” We’ve been called to be salt and light, and to point the way to God through Jesus Christ. Paul had been like the Galatian Christians – having lived most of his life trying to earn his way to God by following the law. But he knew he fell short and needed a Savior. That’s how Paul was like the Galatians. Paul is direct with the people here, not because he was hurt, but because he wants them to return to the Gospel and grace.

Paul was in the region of south Galatia when persecutors tried to execute him by stoning in the city of Lystra (Acts 14:19-20). His attackers gave him up for dead, yet he miraculously survived. He had a physical infirmity of some sort. “You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.” The Galatians received Paul and didn’t dwell on his physical challenge. We don’t know exactly what the problem was – some believe it was an eye problem.

Fung explains “As physical infirmity and illness were regarded by Jews and Gentiles alike as a symbol of divine displeasure or punishment, there would have been a natural temptation for the Galatians to despise Paul and reject his message.” “What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.” The Galatians did not treat Paul with disdain. Even though Paul seemed weak and afflicted, they embraced him and responded to his message of grace and God’s love. While they didn’t hold his physical condition against him, they still lost their way around God’s love and grace.

Proverbs 30:1-6

Proverbs 30 is a collection of wisdom from a man known only to this chapter of the Bible. We’ll look at the first few verses of his work. When the men of Hezekiah gathered additional material for Proverbs they added these words of Agur. We have no other mention of Agur the son of Jakeh. It appears evident that Solomon was not the author of this chapter; and that it was designed to be distinguished from his work. Agur is defined as an oracle. Agur understood that his words here came from God. His words are filled with observations on life and the natural world. “The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle.”

It appears that Agur is weary and comes to God worn out. “The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out.“ He knows that when it comes to being compared to God, he appears stupid, like all of us do. “Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.” Many previous proverbs teach that humility is an essential aspect of wisdom. Here, with poetic exaggeration, Agur declared his own limitations when it comes to understanding and wisdom. Agur was also careful not to boast of his spiritual knowledge. He brings his lesson to us with great humility, not from a position of superiority.

Agur knows his place before God. “Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!” He asks questions to help us understand our limitations in understanding God and His creation. The wise and humble answer to each of these questions is, God, and not man. After challenging his readers regarding the natural world, Agur finished with a challenge regarding man’s limitations in spiritual knowledge. One can only know what is His name (God’s nature, character) and His Son’s name by God’s own revelation. In all these things, we humbly depend on God’s revelation for our knowledge. We know nothing in and of ourselves.

Agur valued and explained the purity of God’s word. It is all good and all helpful, being completely pure. Because it is pure it can and should be trusted. “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” Agur explained that God is a shield. The sense is that God gives His pure word to protect His people if they will use the wisdom and encouragement of His word to put their trust in Him. God’s word needs no addition or improvement from us. We don’t need to take away from His words or add to His words. If we do, we are targets of God’s rebuke and will be exposed as liars.

Proverbs 10:24-32

In Proverbs 10:24-32 Solomon reminds us that the wicked man or woman knows that all is not right, and that their day of accountability will come. They live in fear and these fears will one day come upon them. “What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever.” In contrast, the righteous man or woman also has a sense of what is to come, and is rightly filled with optimism and hope. Their godly desire will be granted and they will experience God’s blessing and righteousness. And just like the illustration used of the wise man who built his house upon the rock, the righteous man has a firm, everlasting foundation and can withstand the whirlwind and storm.

Solomon tells us that being lazy has consequences. The idea is of constant and extreme irritation, and to disappointed expectation. “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.”  Sounds irritating, doesn’t it?  But the one who sends a lazy man to do the work will be irritated by their laziness and lack of concern for hard work. The sense is that the lazy man irritates his managers more than himself. The sluggard can disappoint and provoke his master. So we must ensure that we are not sluggards to our heavenly Master.  God is not so willing to allow us to be sluggards in relation to His commands.

The one who fears and honors God will enjoy the blessing of a longer life. Sinful habits, guilt, and ungodly anxiety all take years from one’s life. “The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short. The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.” One of the many prices that the wicked man or woman must pay is a shorter time on earth because of those choices. God’s path is blessing and goodness for those who follow it. “The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless, but destruction to evildoers. The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not dwell in the land.”

But that path leads those who do evil to destruction.  God wins the battle between good and evil.  Those who do evil will never dwell in God’s presence.  He moves them out.  God’s righteous men and women are known for the wisdom they speak. A person’s heart is often revealed by their words. “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.” There is a sense of discernment in what the righteous say.  They know what is acceptable and pleasing to God, but the wicked have no filter and spew perverse words and hurtful language.  And they will be punished and cut off some day as a result of their poor decisions.

Proverbs 3:21-26

In Proverbs 3:21-26 Solomon continues speaking directly to his son.  “My son, do not lose sight of these – keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck”.  Solomon told his son the importance of constant attention to God’s wisdom and discretion. This requires not only a life-long pursuit with diligence, but also an appropriately surrendered heart that recognizes that God’s wisdom and discretion are greater than our own.  If we stop and think about it at all, that should be pretty obvious.  But sometimes we are going so fast and are so self focused we miss the realty that we’d be a whole lot better off if we let go and let God!

Walking in God’s wisdom is more than a good idea.  “Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble”. Did you catch that.  When we walk in God’s ways we have sure footing.  In principle, God guides those who honor His wisdom into paths of safety. There is nothing safer than living in the wisdom and will of God. No book, no seminar, no class, no degree, no mentoring, no anything can compare to the assurance of God’s safety when we walk with Him.  And as a bonus, when we are walking closely with God, the enemy can’t get near us because darkness can never be in the light.  It’s as safe as it gets – to walk in obedience to God.

Walking in God’s wisdom will also address fear.  “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet”. The wise life can let go of fear (you will not be afraid) and in the release of anxiety know the blessing of sleep. Confident in God, we need not be afraid of any attack or afront from the enemy.  Sleep is a true gift, and anxiety is often a reason that many don’t experience it well.  God’s wisdom in the antidote for that challenge. Solomon goes on to give us even more reasons why God’s wisdom is good for us. In a word, we can be confident and protected.

This is what he wrote: “Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught”.  When we walk in God’s wisdom and live obediently to His will, we are as safe and secure as we can be.  We’re promised these outcomes:

  • No fear
  • Sweet sleep
  • Confidence
  • Foot won’t be caught

God’s wisdom has so many benefits.  Why wouldn’t we live it?  Because it likely doesn’t align with our thinking.  We want to be in control and to things our way.  We struggle to accept that it truly will be the best outcome.  We overthink it.  We merely need to seek it, find it and live it.  Blessings will flow when we get wisdom in control!

Proverbs 3:15-19

In Proverbs 3:15-19 Solomon reminds us that wisdom and understanding are the most precious things we can ever have.  “She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her”. Wisdom is greater than all kinds of riches – silver, fine gold, or rubies. To have the wisdom that comes from God’s loving correction is to have something better than material wealth. Solomon was one of the wealthiest men of that time through inheritance from his father, and his own business dealings.  So he knew wealth, but knew even more the blessing of a close relationship with God and the fact that a wise and godly character were worth far more than material things.

Wisdom brings many benefits. “Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace”. Wise people live longer, enjoy great prosperity (riches) and esteem (honor). They live lives marked by pleasantness, peace, and happiness.  Learning wisdom may come with some correction and discipline, but the outcome makes it worth it.  Solomon goes on to tell us “She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed”.  Wisdom is life giving when we grab onto it.  And the outcome of our endurance in staying connected to wisdom is blessing.

Solomon refers to creation as a window into the wisdom of God.  “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew”.  It was not some haphazard big bang.  In His work of creation, God showed great wisdom. This is remarkably seen in both the large features and small details of creation. The universe around us has the marks of a brilliant Designer whose design shows His wisdom.  God reveals Himself through His creation.  He created a world of harmony with His wisdom.

Poole talks about one aspect of God’s creation and the order that was required to make it happen:

  • The universe has a just-right gravitational force. If it were larger, the stars would be too hot and would burn up too quickly and too unevenly to support life. If it was smaller, the stars would remain so cool, nuclear fusion would never ignite, and there would be no heat and light.
  • The universe has a just-right speed of light. If it were larger, stars would send out too much light. If it were smaller, stars would not send out enough light.
  • The universe has a just-right average distance between the stars. If it were larger, the heavy element density would be too thin for rocky planets to form, and there would only be gaseous planets. If it were smaller, planetary orbits would become destabilized because of the gravitational pull from other stars.

Solomon also makes reference to Noah and the flood when he wrote about the deeps breaking open.  God knew a judgment was needed, and He knew exactly how to make it happen.  God does not only grant wisdom, and build wisdom, He is wisdom and His creation puts an exclamation point on that truth.

Proverbs 3:11-14

Proverbs 3:11-14 has Solomon teaching his son how to deal with God’s discipline. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof”.  This is an important lesson for all of us to learn.  In giving advice to his son, Solomon taught him how to regard correction or discipline from God.  Clarke described God’s teaching us this way: ‘The word ‘musar’ [translated in this version as discipline] signifies correction, discipline, and instruction. Teaching is essentially necessary to show man the way in which he is to go; discipline is necessary to render that teaching effectual; and, often, correction is requisite in order to bring the mind into submission, without which it cannot acquire knowledge’.

So God is all about ‘spanking’ us when we need it in order to prevent sin from becoming a habit.  We should not run from God’s discipline, but learn from it and be encouraged that He loves us enough to deal with it.  Guzik wrote that God may discipline us to:

  • Expose a sin or evil not previously seen.
  • Show the nature of the problem and the need to address it.
  • Discourage previous sin or evil.
  • Guide us to the rejection of sin to embrace God’s best.

Solomon goes on to tell us why God disciplines us….”for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights”.

God’s correction of His people is a wonderful sign of His love.  If He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t go to the trouble of correcting us.  Because He does, he will deal with our sins, weaknesses and areas we fall short.  Correction is a true sign of love.  It’s no difference for a human father than for our heavenly Father.  Wiersbe explained it this way: “Sometimes He chastens because we have rebelled and need to repent; other times He chastens to keep us from sinning and to prepare us for His special blessing. No matter how much the experience hurts us, it will never harm us, because God always chastens in love

There is blessing that comes from God’s wisdom.  “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold”.  Solomon longed for his son to find wisdom and understanding.  These things sometimes come through receiving God’s discipline, but no matter the source, they are of high value.  Scripture tells us that wisdom and understanding are better than silver and gold.  Wisdom creates the kind of character and training that brings contentment and quality of life that money can’t provide.  It is of high value, and when we find it the outcome is amazing!

Proverbs 3:7-10

Proverbs 3:7-10 begins with Solomon reminding us to “Be not wise in your own eyes”. He is reinforcing what he just said in previous verses – that we should not lean on our own understanding but rely on God’s wisdom which is better and greater than anything we will ever have on our own.  He reinforces a common theme from his teaching: “fear the Lord, and turn away from evil”. This should naturally happen as we walk with God.  As we trust Him we get to know Him better and develop a healthy fear or reverence of Him.  That should cause us to run from evil that we might not fall prey to sin and disappoint God who loves us deeply.

Solomon makes the case that walking with God is good for us.  “It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones”. A life of surrender and trust in God has real benefits to our health.  It gives us peace and strength and provides a solid foundation for us not just spiritually, but physically as well.  Then Solomon dives into an area that many wish to avoid – our money.  “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce”.  The first truth we have to understand is that in all reality, everything we have is God’s already.  We truly don’t own anything, but are merely stewards of what he entrusts to us on this earth.

But that said, God does want us to intentionally return some of what He’s provided to Him. When we truly trust Him, we can honor Him with generosity that realizes He is the great provider and has inexhaustible resources. The word ‘honor’ really connects with the idea of sacrifice.  God wants us to demonstrate gratitude toward and confidence toward Him through our giving.  It is a recognition that God provided it to us in the first place, and we should gratefully return a portion of it to Him.  But Solomon goes further and tells us what we give should be our ‘firstfruits’.  It’s not the leftovers, should there be any, but rather the first and best of what God has provided.

The principle of firstfruits also means that we give to God in anticipation that He will provide more in return.  Solomon seems to indicate that God does bless our gifts when he penned “then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine”.  Our motive for giving should never be that of getting more in return.  But this principle is seen throughout scripture.  God is the master and distributor of unlimited resources. He knows how to prosper and take care of those who honor Him with the resources He has given to them.  God is good, all the time.  He blesses us beyond anything we deserve or can even understand.  Giving to Him sets things in motion for Him to bless us indeed!

Proverbs 3:1-6

Proverbs 3:1-6 begins with Solomon reminding his son never to forget his teachings, which were in fact God’s truth from the Word.  Solomon didn’t mean it was his in the sense of his own personal decrees and wisdom, but he was referring to God’s word that he had internalized and made personal. We all need to remind our families, and each other, not to forget what God’s Word says.  It never changes.  It is absolutely true.  It will determine what happens in the world around us. “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.”

Deciding to not forget God’s word is more than a mental exercise of memory. It is also connected to a life of obedience.  We are only able to actually keep God’s commandments if we make them part of our heart.  Obedience is a matter of the heart. Our goal in obedience is not mere outward conformity to God’s will, but a heart that loves and obeys Him. There is a real benefit from this life of obedience and a heart that obeys God. In principle, life and heart obedience brings long life and peace. But as with many things in Proverbs, we should regard these as true principles, not absolute promises.

Solomon wisely told his son to keep God’s steadfast love and truth close. They should be so close that it would be as if they were a necklace around his neck at all times and written on the tablet of his heart. “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.”  We will see over and over in Proverbs the concept of having God’s truth readily available to us.  That can only happen if we have God’s Word memorized so it is constantly on our tongue or in our mind.  And through meditation, we can take that truth and make it the foundation of how we make decisions and live life.

What’s the power of having God’s Word right there to guide us? “So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” Obedience has a great outcome, not only in God’s eyes, but also with fellow man. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Solomon advised his son to live a life of trust in God. Solomon had found that God was worthy to be trusted. If trust in God is to be true, it must be complete. To put half trust in God and half trust in self or something else is really failure to trust the LORD at all.

Trusting God with all our heart means to decide to put away our own understanding and instead to choose to trust God and His understanding, especially as declared in His word.  Trusting God with all our heart means to honor and acknowledge Him in all that we do. It is the choice to “invite” God into our everyday life and the choices we make. It is to practice the presence of God in the mundane things of life that happen every day. The outcome of trust, and following Him will be paths that are straight and aligned with His will. This is the principle of God’s response towards those who trust Him in the way described here – trust, do not lean on self, acknowledge Him – and our path will be straight!

1 John 3:1-2

In 1 John 3:1-2 John begins by reminding us just how much God loves us.  It’s not just a simple relationship – God has bestowed His love on us. “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children—think of it—and we really are!” John speaks in amazement about this manner of love that makes us children of God. His love has been lavished upon us. As believers we become God’s children no matter our race, age, health, gifts and talents – none of that matters.  All that is required is that we receive the gift of Christ and become His through love.

Guzik asks an important question about this amazing promise of becoming God’s children. ‘ What is it that makes us slow to believe the love of God?’

  • Sometimes it is pride, which demands to prove itself worthy of the love of God before it will receive it.
  • Sometimes it is unbelief, which cannot trust the love of God when it sees the hurt and pain of life.
  • And sometimes it just takes time for a person to come to a fuller understanding of the greatness of God’s love.’

Whatever keeps us from believing and receiving this gift needs to be pushed aside.  There is no greater gift we will ever be given.

God showed His compassion on us by going so much further than having pity on our sinful state and offering us a plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.  He could have stopped there saving us from hell and eternal damnation, which we bring on ourselves through our sinful choices.  But He went much further and calls us His children.  It demonstrates His unending and deep love for us, not based on whether or not we deserve it, but based on the fact that He has chosen to give it to us freely. “But since most people don’t know God, naturally they don’t understand that we are his children.” Here’s the problem – it’s not a God issue – it’s a human issue.  Most don’t know God.  So they can’t understand what He did to allow us to be His children.

Our present standing is plain. We can know, and have an assurance, that we are indeed among the children of God. “Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when he comes we will be like him, as a result of seeing him as he really is.” Though our present standing as children of God is plain, our future destiny is clouded. We don’t know in the kind of detail we would like to know what we will become in the world beyond. In this sense, we can’t even imagine what we will be like in glory. We have to trust God’s goodness and know that someday we will experience an amazing future as we become like Jesus!

1 John 2:1-2

1 John 2:1-2 has the Apostle continuing his exhortation around sin. “My little children, I am telling you this so that you will stay away from sin.” We know from the prior chapter that sin is a fact in the life of every person, hopefully an occasional fact, but fact none-the-less.  And we also know that there is forgiveness from that sin through Jesus.  But John wants to be clear that as Christ Followers we need to be concerned about sin.  And more importantly, we DO NOT have to sin.  We choose to on our own.  God does not make us sin.  The devil does not make us sin, contrary to the saying ‘the devil made me do it’.  In fact, we sin and need to stay far away from it.

That’s one of the lessons around sin we need to learn.  The best way to not sin is to stay far away from the temptation that causes us to choose sin.  All the resources for spiritual victory are ours in Jesus Christ and that resource is never withdrawn. Yet we will fall. “But if you sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. His name is Jesus Christ, the one who is all that is good and who pleases God completely.” The great news is that God not only knows we will sin, but He put a fix in the grand scheme of things to cover our shortcomings with the One who ‘pleases God completely’ – Jesus Christ.  We’ll never make it to eternal life with God any other way.

So God’s desire is that we don’t sin. Yet when we do, there is provision made – an Advocate, a defense lawyer on our side. Our Advocate is Jesus Christ Himself. But He is far more than an advocate as He stands in our gap between our lack righteousness and God the Judge who will stand in judgment when we leave this earth. Jesus is our defender, even when we sin now. God is not shocked by human behavior. He has seen it all in advance. So God made a way for sinful man to have eternal life with God. When we stand as the accused in the heavenly court, before our righteous Judge, God the Father. Our Advocate stands up to answer the charges on our behalf.

He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s.” A human defense lawyer argues for the innocence of his client. But our Advocate, Jesus Christ, admits our guilt – and then enters His plea on our behalf, as the one who has made an atoning sacrifice for our sinfulness that should lead us to eternal separation from God, save His death on the Cross. Alford wrote “Christ has, as our sin-offering, reconciled God and us by nothing else but by His voluntary death as a sacrifice and has by this averted God’s wrath from us.” That’s our Savior’s love for us.  And He did it for the whole world!

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