An article in my daily devotional booklet made me think about the purposes God has for my life. I used to spend most of my time (even as a Christ-follower) trying to run from difficulties, get people-approval, and make life comfortable and happy for me. But now I recognize that as the world’s way of life, not God’s way. His way is to love Him with all I am, keep His kingdom first, and love others—especially those who belong to His family. I think about the following verses (quoted from the New Living Translation):
Galatians 2:20: “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
From 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “…You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price….”
Since God bought me with such a high price, and now I belong to Him, I need to spend the remaining moments (or if God permits, years) of my life loving and serving God and bringing glory to Him.
Yes, I can obey God’s Word! I’m through telling myself the “I can’t” lie. Sometimes, when I would read a Scripture portion or verse, I would say internally, “God says to do _________, but I really can’t. So I’ll just skip that part and look for something I can do. For example, I would read Philippians 4:8 (“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.”). Then I’d think, Well, yes, but you know I’ve tried to think on these good things, and I really can’t. Other thoughts always take over. Then my mind runs wild, and I fall back into a negative outlook.
I repent. No more “I can’t.” No more excuses. I will choose to listen to the truth that by the power of the Holy Spirit I can obey God. I will choose life, not death. (Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”)
(Scripture quotes are New King James.)
How many times my thoughts stray from focus during the day! I find myself going over and over conversations or actions, thinking about what I should or shouldn’t have said or done. Or sometimes I’m planning what I’ll do if such and such happens or if so and so does this or that.
But I have hope. Since I’m in Christ, old things have passed away (died), and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). I have received the Holy Spirit who gives me power to put off the old and put on the new. When I catch myself thinking the old way, I can say to myself,
“No, self. Focus on the task at hand. If it doesn’t take much thought (comb hair, vacuum), think about the Scripture you meditated on this morning or heaven or Jesus or God’s attributes or other wonderful things.”
Then as I begin to focus on the good things and let go of the scattered thoughts, I will be obeying God’s Word by renewing my mind. (See Romans 12:2 and James 1:22.)
(Photo by Paula Satijn, “Mirror.” Found in Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulasatijn/79850464800/)
Psalm 103:17-18 “But the LORD ‘s love for those who respect him continues forever and ever, and his goodness continues to their grandchildren (18) and to those who keep his agreement and who remember to obey his orders.” New Century Version
God’s love lasts forever! His goodness extends to the grandchildren! What wonderful promises! But are they for me, or only for others? Am I one who qualifies to receive them?
Do I respect (fear in other versions) the Lord? Well, I do reverence Him and worship Him alone. I’m growing in letting my life revolve around Him and trusting Him above everything and everyone. Do I keep His agreement/covenant? I’m not sure what that looks like, but I know I belong to Jesus Christ, God’s Son and seek to follow Him, and I think that might be what it means to keep God’s covenant.
Do I remember His commands to do them (obey His orders)? God’s commands are to love Him with all I am and to love other people. I’m learning to do that more and more, although I still stumble. [Thank You, Lord, that Your mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and that there’s no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).]
Yes, these promises would surely be for me also.
The Commander of the Lord’s army gave Joshua instructions for conquering Jericho. All the soldiers, as well as seven priests carrying trumpets, were to march around the city once a day for six days. The Ark of the Covenant (representing God’s presence) was to be carried behind the priests. On the seventh day, they were to march around seven times, the priests would blow the trumpets, and everyone would shout. The walls would fall, and the city could be overcome.
So was it the marching, the trumpets sounding, or the shouting that brought the walls down? Or all three? I believe that the obedience of Joshua and the Israelites opened the way for God’s powerful Spirit to destroy the walls. Zechariah 4:6 says regarding Zerubbabel’s work on rebuilding the temple, “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
When I encounter seeming impossibilities, I need to listen to the Lord and obey Him completely. That will open the way for God to accomplish His purposes in and through me. Those who wait on the Lord renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). Lord, please teach me to wait to hear and then obey. Amen.
Looking back over my Christian life so far, it looks like too much of it has been spent serving myself. I believed I served Christ. I knew all the right words and all the right Scriptures. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, strength—most important. Love others as self—2nd. Take up your cross and follow Jesus.” “Walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh.” I could quote more.
But did I actually do those things? Many times, I was a hearer only. I didn’t ask, “How can I serve You, Lord, in this situation?” or “What do you want me to know and/or do and/or learn?” More often I asked (or said), “How can I get out of this difficulty?” “Please get me out of here!” “Help me through this.” “Please fix this, fix me, guide me, heal me, protect me” and on and on (or please do those things for friends or loved ones). It’s not that God doesn’t want to help with those things, but my focus was off. It appears that perhaps I thought Jesus should serve me instead of the other way around.
Lord Jesus, I want to truly love and serve You. Lord God, You alone are God. I repent of the many times I’ve served me instead of You. Holy Spirit, please work in me and change me as I yield to you and set the sail of my will to be an obedient servant of the Lord. Thank You, Lord for being so patient with me. Thank You for forgiveness for all of our sins because of the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Luke 17:7-10 “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘ Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘ Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘ We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'” New King James Version
“John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples fast, but your disciples don’t?’” (Mark 2:18)
Part of Jesus’ answer to their question was, “No one patches an old coat with a new piece of cloth that will shrink. Otherwise, the new patch will shrink and rip away some of the old cloth, and the tear will become worse. People don’t pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the wine will make the skins burst, and both the wine and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine is to be poured into fresh skins.” (Mark 2:21-22)
What do new cloth, old clothes, new wine, and old wineskins have to do with fasting? Maybe it’s this: Jesus is the new and living way to the Father (Hebrews 10:20, John 14:6). He Himself is the new wine and the new cloth. We don’t need to try to fit Him into the old wineskins of rules about fasting or patch Him onto the old clothing of rituals from the former covenant. Instead we can let Him show us the realities foreshadowed by the rules and rituals and point out to us the times that fasting and other practices are helpful, important, or necessary.
(Bible verses quoted from God’s Word Translation)