If we are not ashamed of the gospel, why do the preachers in our church pulpits today feel as if they need to preach a “new” gospel that will grab people’s attention? Isn’t God’s Word enough? Why do they feel they need to “entertain” people so that they will come back? Why are churches identified by the pastor rather than the name of the church often times? Why are there sermon series from a book that a man wrote, instead of out of the Bible?
Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid reader, I always have been. But what I’ve learned is that what God may be stirring up in me, even in Christian fiction or a non-fiction work, is to go back to His word for clarity and direction. The reading may hit a chord in me that I was not even aware of, and when I realize I can identify, or not identify, with what is written, I need to go to His Word and allow Him to deal with it by the pure Word.
If the gospel is enough, and God’s power is all sufficient, why do we turn to secular means for healing before we turn to God? Listen closely, I am not opposed to modern medicine, that is the last thing I am saying. God gave man the gift of wisdom and discernment and ability to understand and develop medicine, etc. I have personally had many medical challenges the last several years, and God has been by my side through them all. He has used doctor’s for some of the treatment plans and He has chosen to heal me through His power in others. This leads us into the next two verses: For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (Romans 1:17-18)
When we suppress the pure truth of God’s Word, we allow the enemy free reign. And the Word then becomes twisted and weaker until God is nowhere in it. We all know the faith scripture, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Why does faith have assurance? Because the Word is filled with God’s testimonies and promises. Our “hope” isn’t based on a lottery ticket or “luck”. Our hope is in God the Father who will continue to do what He has always done, and to those of us who believe, “through His Son Jesus Christ”. I think we all can relate to conviction, but this conviction of things not seen is the very presence of God in us empowering us to believe in every Word He spoke. And because God doesn’t change, He will also do it for me if that is His will.
We’ve seen the results of this evil and powerless “religion” that people refer to as Christianity. God’s judgment has been clear. As we have “been ashamed” to stand up for the gospel, we’ve allowed prayer to be taken out of our schools, the Ten Commandments to be taken out of public government buildings, crosses to be removed from property, manger scenes to be forbidden , our children to become enslaved to drugs, alcohol, sexual addictions. Mental disorders have affected almost every household in one form or another. Homelessness has skyrocketed. Our children are abused and neglected, they run away and become entrapped in sex trafficing. Need I go on
It is depressing to contemplate where we have fallen, but I am not discouraged because God’s Word is clear (just read the Old Testament prophets) and we shall know that things can be turned. “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) While that promise alone is enough to shout about, let’s read the next verse which isn’t quoted as often: “Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:15)
Who is on the throne of your heart? Is it God? Do you believe that God can and will respond to His people? To you?
In the book of James, James writes to the church and states the same thing that the Apostle Paul did that we just read, but he states it just a little differently and may broaden our understanding: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)
Here we again see that the righteous man lives by faith, but he gets that faith by coming to the Lord in the Word and prayer and asking God for direction, and believing that whatever God answers is the answer he needs. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17) Good in this verse is the “good”, beneficial, profitable hand of God in the situation, and the perfect means full, complete, lacking nothing.
God is not our “genie”, but EVERYTHING from His hand is good and complete, whether or not we like the package it is wrapped in! It is all for His glory, the spreading of the gospel, the outpouring of His Spirit upon the earth. The next verse explains the process, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” (James 1:18)
We had nothing to do with our creation, why would we have the power to make ourselves righteous? The Word of Jesus brought us forth, (Psalm 139:13-14). Verse 18 states that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. What a perfect analogy, which God uses throughout Scripture. When a seed is planted in the ground, it must literally die before the outer shell breaks open and it can begin to grow. So it is with us, we must die to self so that the life of Christ in us can live.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (II Corinthians 5:15)
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (II Corinthians 7:1)
Ah...fear of the Lord. This truly is another whole teaching, but we will touch on the importance of it in this devotional.
“And He will delight in the fear of the LORD,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;” (Isaiah 11:3)
Did you realize that Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord? Then read the next two lines. In the book of John we read several times that Jesus did not speak or do anything other than what His Father imparted to Him. Now look at what James told the believers after he instructed them about God’s sovereignty. “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:19-22) (emphasis mine)
Jesus feared to hurt the One He loved, He also knew the great sorrow that would come from disobedience. Jesus relied solely on the Father’s plan for His time on earth. Could He have judged? Absolutely! Could He have made decisions and changed things in the time He was with us on earth? Absolutely! But as the Apostle John tells us, Jesus only did what the Father told Him to do, to say, or where to go. James applies that same truth to the life of a believer. We, too, need to be listening to the Father, not judging, not making decisions in our own understanding. He also addresses our character and how our words and actions not only affect us, but also influence others around us. And he sums it all up with the statement “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Be like Jesus, walk in His footsteps, fall in love with Him, learn to understand Him and His ways so that we may become like Him!
I know I’ve left you with a lot to bring to God’s table today, and, hopefully, it will bring it to His table. He will fill you with His desire for you in this life. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that it isn’t to be silent about who the Lord Jesus Christ is. It isn’t to be deceived by the false teachers and sit in a congregation having our ears “tickled” with a message that affirms the sin in our lives! Are you willing to stand up and allow yourself to be a vessel that God can use? Are you willing to stand for the pure word of the gospel of Christ?
Oh Father, I bow my knees to You this day and thank You for giving us greater understanding of Your word. Oh Lord, where has the fear of the Lord gone? There is much to be taught in that question alone. Oh, Abba, how I fear to hurt the One I love! But yet, I still do in my weakness. Thank You for Your conviction that quickly quickens within me to know I have hurt You by my word or action. The other side of that fear is that wrath that comes from the throne of the Righteous One!. The gospel has become so distorted and most people believe that You are a God of Love only and that there are no consequences to our unrepented sin. That has been deeply perpetrated in our pulpits in conjunction with the teaching that the Old Testament really no longer applies so that wrath no longer applies to us. Lord, I thank You that You are exposing the errant teachings and dividing the body into those who are willing to stand and “not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ”! Amen.