Today is Tuesday, the 13th of December, 2022, in the third week of Advent.
May the peace of Christ be with you always.
Twelve days until Christmas.
Update on the Covid situation at our house: S tested positive again, this morning, much to her dismay. She is feeling much better, more like her usual self, and hates having to wear a mask when she comes out of her room. C and I both tested again, this morning, and both are still negative. So that’s good. But we have activities and appointments on Thursday, for S, that will need to be canceled, I suppose. At this rate, we are going to run out of our “free” home tests.
Also, we are in a tornado warning until 8:45, this morning. It is 8:30 as I am typing this.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law. (Psalms 119:53 ESV)
A lot of folks might read that verse and focus immediately on the word “wicked,” thereby justifying their own “indignation” at all people who think differently than they. I prefer to focus on that bit about forsaking God’s law. Anyone who forsakes God’s “law,” based on this, can be thought of as “wicked.” And if you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I believe that the entirety of God’s law is summed up in two commands that Jesus gave us. Love the Lord your God with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. It is my opinion that the majority of the people who focus on justifying their own indignation toward who they consider to be wicked, are, in fact, wicked, themselves, because they fail in at least half of Jesus’s commands.
The bottom line is that we had best be careful anytime we start feeling indignant toward anyone.
Lord our God, may our lives be awakened, for you send your Spirit to blow through heaven and earth and you stir everything to life. May we long for your Spirit’s prompting. Grant that we not be overpowered by evil and sin. May we be born anew to be fighters for the highest good on earth, which leads into heaven. Hear the prayers of all people far and near who are sighing for the Savior. We pray for them all as we pray for ourselves, and you will hear our prayer. You will send power to lift up their hearts and souls so that there may be a great throng of your joyful people on earth. In spite of all the misfortune, adversity, and danger in the world, there will be a people exulting from one end of the earth to the other, a people trusting in you and sure of victory through the great grace you give in answer to our prayers. Amen.
I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you. Ezekiel 36:26–27, TEV
Today I am grateful:
- for all the prayers being lifted up by all the saints; in Your mercy, Lord, hear our prayers
- for the promise of victory in Christ
- for the great and everlasting love the Lord has for us who fear Him
- for the admonition to imitate Jesus Christ
- for all true followers of Jesus Christ, the community of saints
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
(Philippians 1:21 ESV)
“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”
(Isaiah 48:22 ESV)
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children— (Psalms 103:17 NIV)
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. (Psalms 103:11-18 NIV)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
(Luke 5:10-11 NRSV)
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 11:1 NRSV)
Who are we imitating? How did Jesus’s disciples learn to “share the Gospel?” For that matter, what was/is “the Gospel?”
If I were to ask that last question on Facebook or some similar social media platform, I would get all kinds of answers. Most of them would probably things like, “Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered and died on the cross and was buried and rose again on the third day for our sins.” Then verses like Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:8-9 would get quoted.
All of these things are true. But what is “the Gospel?” Jesus made it much simpler than all of this.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
(Mark 1:14-15 NRSV)
The Gospel, the euaggelion, the “good news,” is that “the kingdom of God has come near,” in the person of Jesus Christ, and we are called to believe that.
The way Jesus’s disciples learned to share this is that they spent approximately three years walking with Him. When I think about the kind of relationship that those twelve guys had with Jesus, I am very close to committing the deadly vice of envy.
I struggle, in the twenty-first century, to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe that He is here, with me, in the person of the Holy Spirit. I do believe that. But it is a struggle to maintain the intimacy of that relationship, with everything in this forsaken world screaming at me, full volume!
Between that and the fact that I am dust, and that this “treasure” that I possess is in this fragile, feeble “jar of clay,” and there are days that I simply feel like giving up.
But I press on. Because I know that’s the right thing to do. And I pursue that relationship, that intimacy.
So the disciples had a three-year, in-depth course on walking with Jesus and sharing the good news of God. Fast forward a few thousand years, and we find week-long courses on how to “witness.” I took several of those, back in the day. I learned lots of individual Scriptures by heart, some of which are rather yanked out of context.
But there is something that is blatantly missing in all of those crash-courses on witnessing.
The relationship. We are not taught how to walk with Christ, and we are not taught that that piece of life is an absolute requirement to being able to effectively share the Gospel. Maybe it was assumed? But I think it’s a dangerous assumption to make, that everyone who shows up at a “Witness Involvement Now” course, or an “Evangelism Explosion” course, is already walking that deep, intimate relationship with Jesus.
It took twelve men walking with Jesus for three whole years before they were released into the world, and even then, they occasionally got it wrong. How on earth do we think that we can learn it in a week, without the actual presence of Jesus teaching us, Himself?? Especially when walking with Christ on a daily basis is not even mentioned as the most important piece of the “puzzle.”
There’s a verse up there from Isaiah 48. It’s the last verse of the chapter.
“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”
(Isaiah 48:22 NRSV)
What on earth, you are probably asking, does this have to do with sharing the good news?
Maybe nothing. But I think peace has everything to do with it. Who are the wicked? Remember? According to that verse in Psalm 119, at the very top, it is those who forsake the law of the Lord.
They do not know peace. They cannot know peace.
There is a lot of “unpeace” in today’s “church.” There are myriads of alleged followers of Christ who don’t seem to have much peace in their lives. And I’ll confess that there are days when I don’t feel much peace. The last week has been a real struggle for me. There have been multiple days when I really struggled to come up with five things for which I am grateful.
When we forsake God’s law, when we fail to love Him with our entire being (all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength), and when we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves, we will not have peace. And this truth is wildly visible in the world around us, today.
And if we don’t have peace, there is no way whatsoever that we will be able to effectively share the good news that God’s kingdom is at hand. We can say the words, sure. But it will have no effect, because, truthfully, who would want any part of a “kingdom” that didn’t produce peace?
Now. Back to that business of imitating. Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” On the surface, that may sound arrogant, and I will admit that Paul does come across as arrogant, sometimes. But look more deeply. Paul is trying to imitate Christ, so that he will be imitable. He only wants people to imitate him if he is imitating Christ.
And that should be our goal. We should all be attempting to imitate Christ to the point that others would be safe imitating us. I don’t want anyone imitating me if I am not successfully walking with Christ in that deep, intimate relationship, similar to what His disciples must have had, being right there with Him for three years.
If we can successfully imitate Christ, we will be following His commands, which sum up the entirety of the Law and Prophets, and we will have peace. Then we will be able to successfully share the Gospel with this desperately dying world.
Father, have mercy on us. It breaks my heart to see the lack of peace, in general, among those who claim to be following Jesus. Show us, Father, how to have that deep relationship, that walk with Christ, that His disciples had. By some miracle, help us to have as strong a relationship with Him as His disciples had, when He walked with them in person. I find myself envious, sometimes, of the lives of those twelve.
Help me to walk with Jesus in such a way that I am always at peace, and, consequently, be able to effectively show the good news that Your kingdom is at hand, has drawn near, and is available for any and all who desire to walk in it. But we must be, I must be walking in it, truly, before I can share that news. Otherwise, I am nothing more than a faker, a poser.
Help me to love You with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength; help me to love my neighbor as myself, and help me to love the community of Saints as Christ loves us.
Have mercy on us, O Lord.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us. (Kyrie)
Grace and peace, friends.