Updated: Jun 19, 2021
DO NOT LOVE THE WORLD
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
- 1 John 2:15-17
Here we have a command for Christian living - "do not love the world or the things in the world" (1 John 2:15).
The word used for "love" in connection to the world is 'agapao' and means "to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing." In reference to "the love of the Father" the word is 'agape,' meaning "affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love."
Seeking pleasure and contentment from things in the world that are passing away indicates an absence of affection for the Father. On the other hand, if we are doing the will of God (i.e. putting our faith and trust in Him), we will abide forever.
Does this convict your heart? It does mine! I can see how I let the things of this world crowd out affection for God. And so I also see my need for Jesus. He alone has perfect love for the Father and He knows that none of us can do God's will on our own.
Sister, let us press on to know and love God ever more deeply! As we taste and see His goodness, our affections towards Him will grow, and our love for the world will fade in comparison.
TASTE AND SEE
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear Him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
- Psalm 34:8-10
Have you tasted and seen that the LORD is good? How CAN we taste and see? Well, these few verses offer a few ways - take refuge in Him, fear Him, and seek Him. When we run to Him in our troubles, we find that He is a good, safe shelter. When we fear Him and seek Him, we realize that we are lacking no good thing as He provides for our deepest needs and heart desires. Psalm 34 is one of my favorites. I encourage you to read it in its entirety. I'm confident that in so doing you will taste and see that He is good. When you do, let me know what goodness you discovered!
THE WILL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Do you ever wonder if you are in God's will? I do! Praise God that this passage gives us a way to find out.
Are we rejoicing always? Praying without ceasing? Giving thanks in all circumstances? The point here doesn't have to do with specific life situations, but the attitude and overflow of the heart. Regardless of circumstance, we are called to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. We certainly can't do this in our own strength, but because Jesus is alive and seated at the right hand of God, we aren't left to ourselves! As we abide in Christ and depend on Him, we are strengthened by grace to obey. And as the hymn says, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." May we look to Jesus, let the things of earth grow dim, and find ourselves living out the will of God as expressed in these verses.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5
What blessed hope we have in Jesus Christ our Lord! Because He paid the penalty for our sin and defeated death through His resurrection, we can be born again. This is good news that never gets old. It is good news that we need to hear again and again as a means of transformation by the renewal of our minds (see Romans 12:2). May our hearts be filled with awe and worship as we celebrate the glorious victory of Christ Jesus.
LOVE LIKE JESUS
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
- John 13:34-35
As Jesus came to the end of His life on earth, He left the disciples with the commandment to love one another "just as" He loved. Just as Jesus was humble, seeking to serve rather than to be served, just as He loved them to the end (John 13:1), so are His followers to love. The commandment still applies to Christians today, for a Christian is a disciple. We don't have Jesus here on earth with us in the flesh, but we have the written word of God to teach how Jesus loved. We also have the Holy Spirit to teach us and remind us and guide us in truth (see John 14:26 and John 16:13) May we faithfully turn to the word of God to learn the love of Christ and then love one another just as He has loved. And may this love proclaim to the world that we are His.
If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared.
- Psalm 130:3-4
No doubt the answer to the question above is no one! None of us could stand before the Lord on our own merit. Romans 3:9-18 makes this very clear. God is holy; we have fallen short of His glory. BUT...God is also forgiving. He has made the way for our sins to be washed away. And the gift of forgiveness fills us with astonishment, awe, and reverence. Do you know this forgiveness? If not, you can! It's available to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 16:31). Martin Luther wrote a hymn based on Psalm 130. Here's a version by Indelible Grace:
JUSTIFIED BY FAITH
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Romans 5:1
Justification by faith was the theme of our workout devotions this week. What is justification by faith? It means that we are declared righteous not by our own deeds or works, but by believing in Christ Jesus. We were created by God, but have all sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). He laid out for us how to live, but we're all guilty of breaking His law, and to break even just one is the same as breaking them all (James 2:10). So, how do we get back into right standing with God? Scripture makes it clear that it isn't by our works, but by believing in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:16 says, "yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." Sister, God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin so that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life (John 3:16). What good news! Let us daily remember this gift of justification by faith and enjoy the peace we have with God as a result. If you have not yet received this gift and would like to talk about it more or pray with someone, please reach out to me or someone else you know who has.
OBEDIENCE & SURRENDER
And going a little farther He fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
My devotions and bible study this week led me to meditate on the obedience of Jesus Christ to the will of God the Father. Isaiah 53:10 says that "it was the will of the LORD to crush Him." And in Philippians 2:8 we read that Jesus "humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." The Father's will meant that Jesus would suffer and die on the cross. Jesus submitted and obeyed. What deep love for and complete trust in the Father Jesus had! Going to the cross meant intense suffering, mockery, and loneliness, but Jesus surrendered. In the Garden of Gethsemane, His soul was "sorrowful, even unto death" (Matthew 26:38), yet He surrendered. He knew one of His disciples would betray Him and the rest would desert Him, still He surrendered. His submission so beautifully demonstrates obedience motivated by love, doesn't it? We see Jesus so completely certain of God's love that He was willing to lay aside His own will for the will of the Father. In turn, I am encouraged to do the same. Life rarely goes as we would desire, but we are loved! And what joy is found when we follow our Savior on the road of surrender to our loving Father who works all things together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from Him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
- Psalm 62:1-2
In the midst of some emotional overwhelm this week, Psalm 62:1-2 brought me comfort and hope. Sometimes we just have to wait in silence, knowing that our salvation comes from Him. We can run around and seek that salvation elsewhere, but nothing else can deliver as He can. And as we turn to Him, our rock and fortress, we find the grace to remain steadfast.
Whatever we are facing now or whatever lies ahead, may we remember that God alone is our salvation. Be encouraged, dear sister, we are not alone!
LOVED WITH EVERLASTING LOVE
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
- Jeremiah 31:3
We know that God loves us. His Word tells us and we often remind each other of this truth. But do you ever struggle with knowing this reality deep in your heart? I do. Just this morning I was asking God to help me be more aware of His life-changing love; to not just know it in my head, but to dwell in and experience it.
I then went on with reading John 14. As I read, "You know Him (the Holy Spirit), for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you," (verses 17-18) God answered my simple little prayer!
In these words I saw (again, in a fresh way) that His heart's desire is for us to be with Him, in intimate fellowship. I then thought about how Scripture expresses and illustrates God's love for us even when not specifically speaking about that.
Back in the Garden of Eden, we see His love displayed in His mercy toward Adam and Eve. They sinned against God. God provided a covering for their shame and protected them from eating of the tree of life, which would have caused them to forever live in sin.
From here, we can keep going and see the heart of God displayed in His discipline, protection, call to holiness, promises, provision of salvation and eternal life in Jesus, and so much more!
He truly has loved with an everlasting love, and will both now and forevermore! May we have eyes to see and hearts to receive this amazing gift, now and always.
TURN YOUR EYES
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
- Psalm 119:37
I've come back to Psalm 119:37 and the surrounding verses several times this week. In my desire to sit at the feet of Jesus, out of submission and a desire to learn from Him, I often get distracted. I delight in His ways and want to follow Him, but am also prone to wander. And so I find comfort in this verse and join in the Psalmist's prayer asking for God's help to continue on the path of life.
THE GOOD PORTION
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
- Luke 10:41-42
This passage of Scripture has provided such rich meditations over the past few weeks. It is precious to behold how Jesus gently and lovingly interacts with both Martha and Mary.
When Martha gets upset that Mary isn't helping her, Jesus addresses her heart. He exposes how her anxiety has not left room for the one thing that is necessary.
When Mary sits down at His feet and listens to His teaching, Jesus doesn't turn her away or frown upon her defiance of cultural norms. Instead, He commends her for choosing the "good portion."
These verses convict me of the distractions of my own heart and yet draw me back into sweet fellowship with Jesus. Oh, the loving kindness of our Lord and Savior!
What Scriptures have been on your heart?
FIND REST IN CHRIST
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
- Matthew 11:28-30
How is it with your soul? If you are weary and burdened from an intense start to 2021 or from anything else, then there is good news! Jesus, who is gentle and lowly in heart, invites us to find rest in Him. He then calls us to take on His yoke, i.e. to submit to His ways, and learn from Him. In so doing, we find rest for His yoke is easy and His burden light. I love how this passage is used in the first verse of the hymn entitled "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" by Horatius Bonar:
I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Come unto Me and rest; Lay down, thou weary one, lay down thy head upon My breast." I cam to Jesus as I was, weary, and worn, and sad; I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.
If you'd like, you can listen to a version by Audrey Assad here. May we continue to enter the rest of our Lord Jesus, remembering how gentle and kind He is.
BY HIM, THROUGH HIM, FOR HIM
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
- Colossians 1:16
Who is the "Him" in this verse? Jesus! All things have been created by Him, through Him, and for Him. I especially love that last part - it's all for Him. He made everything - including you and me - for Himself!
What joy it brings my heart to know that I am His. And I pray the same for you!
SOFTLY AND TENDERLY
I love waking up with a hymn on my heart and in my mind. It is a beautiful way to start the day, isn't it? For my thoughts to already be on the Lord fills me with joy and peace. Then how wonderful when it sticks with me throughout the day, taking me back to Him again and again. To say that every day begins this way would be far from the truth. Plenty are the days when I wake up anxious, tired, moody...(fill in the blank). I suppose this reality makes the previously described scenario just that much sweeter.
Several times over the past week "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling" by Will L. Thompson has been on my heart and mind. It reminds me of that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We wander and stray, but He continues to call us home to Himself. The lyrics are below and you can listen to Keith & Kristyn Getty's version here.
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me; see, on the portals he's waiting and watching, watching for you and for me.
Refrain: Come home, come home; you who are weary come home; earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home!
Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, pleading for you and for me? Why should we linger and heed not his mercies, mercies for you and for me? [Refrain]
Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing, passing from you and from me; shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, coming for you and for me. [Refrain]
O for the wonderful love he has promised, promised for you and for me! Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me. [Refrain]
United Methodist Hymnal, 1989 As posted on hymnary.org
TRUE, LASTING TRANSFORMATION
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
- Romans 12:1-2
As we begin a new year, we are often bombarded with messages about making resolutions, setting new goals, and signing up for the next great challenge as a means of achieving some longed-for transformation. While these things can certainly be good and helpful, they can also take our focus off that which matters most. As children of God, our citizenship is in heaven and that is where we are called to lay up treasure (see Philippians 3:20 and Matthew 6:19-20).
Furthermore, the Word tells us where true, lasting transformation comes from. It doesn't come from conforming to the world (i.e. following the world and striving to live up to it's standards), but it comes from the "renewal of the mind" (i.e. changing the mind for the better by thinking in line with God's truth).
So as we ponder and plan out goals or resolutions for the year before us, let us remember that the real transformation our souls long for happens from the inside out; it comes as we follow after Jesus and set our minds on things above (see Colossians 3:1-4).
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