Making a Change

We noticed last week in our study of the prophet Hosea that Israel seemed to have an ongoing problem with worshipping statues of calves. We know this problem started all the way back in Exodus 32 when the people made two golden calves to worship even while Moses was still up on Mount Sinai receiving the ten commandments from God.

Hundreds of years later, they were still stumbling in the same old ways:

“With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves, That they might be cut off. He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, saying, ‘My anger burns against them!’ How long will they be incapable of innocence? For from Israel is even this! A craftsman made it, so it is not God; Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces.” (Hosea 8:4-6)

“And now they sin more and more, And make for themselves molten images, Idols skillfully made from their silver, All of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!’” (Hosea 13:2)

For that matter, many have remarked that the entire Old Testament reads like a roller coaster ride with the morality and corresponding prosperity of God’s people going up and down, up and down, over and over again as the people fail to learn their lesson.

But is that not human nature? In 2 Peter 2:22, we are told that it is a “true proverb” that “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” We fail time and again in the same exact ways.

So what are we to do about our recurring sin problems? The scriptural answer is that we must have our minds totally renewed.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A common saying goes that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The alternative, of course, is to do something new in your search for new and different results.

What will you commit to doing something this week that is new or different from what you normally do? What change can you make that will invite God to be your king, friend, and mentor like never before? Will you commit to making some change in your routine? To giving something up in order to focus more on Him? What about stepping out of your comfort zone in a new way? Or talking to someone about a part of you that has long been hidden? When we draw near to God, He will draw near to us, and make us new.

 

 

 

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Why Do the Right Thing?

It is no secret that God asks us to give up our sins, some of which may be very dear to our hearts. He asks us to change our lives in ways that can be difficult or painful. He asks us to give up our pride. He asks us to step out in faith and do things that get us out of our comfort zone. He asks for a lot.

So why should we do what He asks? Why do the right thing? Here are some possible answers:

So that life will be better for us here and now. After all, God’s commands are designed to protect us from harm. There can be no question that following where He leads is beneficial. In Mark 19:30, Jesus says of anyone who gives something up for Him, “he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age.”

So that we can go to heaven. In Matthew 6:20, Jesus encourages us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Romans 2:6-7 tells us that God “WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” Some day we want to hear Him say “well done.”

So that we won’t go to hell. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 says plainly, “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” For those who really believe all that the Bible says about hell (and the Bible says a LOT about it) this is a real motivation to do the right thing.

There are many other possible reasons to do the right thing. To be a good example to those younger than us. To avoid hurting family and friends. To keep a clear conscience. To maintain personal credibility.

But there is one primary reason to do the right thing that we must not forget.

We do the right thing because, as Christians, we don’t have a choice. God owns us. We gave up our rights when we died with Him through baptism (Romans 6). We signed up to be slaves of righteousness (also Romans 6). It is not we who live but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Our lives are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

We live in a society that esteems personal freedom over duty. Others may give us advice, but they are not to control us. No one can tell us what to do, we get to weigh the pros and cons and decide for ourselves. But the relationship between the Christian and his God is not this way.

God can and does tell us what to do. If you want to follow Him, you only have one choice: submit. We don’t get to pull out a list of pros and cons every time we want to sin, assess the situation, and decide whether discipleship seems personally advantageous. God either owns you or you do not belong to Him at all.

“Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

Jesus did not Promise to Make Us Comfortable

There is much about the Christian life that makes it rewarding.

We receive riches:
Paul told the Corinthians that they had “become rich” and had “become kings” because of what Christ had done for them (1 Corinthians 4:8).
The Romans were told that God is “abounding in riches for all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12).
The gentiles in Ephesus were told of “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).
The Philippians were told that “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

We receive abundant life:
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

We receive salvation:
Peter told his readers that they were “obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

We receive more than we give up:
Jesus told his followers, “there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)

But there are some things that we are not guaranteed, even as God’s children.

We are not guaranteed that life will be comfortable. Rather, we can expect:
Various trials.” (James 1:2)
Many tribulations.” (Acts 14:22)
Tribulation,” “distress,” “persecution,” “famine,” “nakedness,” “peril,” and “sword.” (Romans 8:35)
The hatred of the world. (Mark 13:13)
Insults, persecutions, and all kinds of false accusations. (Matthew 5:11)
Unjust suffering. (1 Peter 2:19)
Thorns in the flesh. (2 Corinthians 12:7)
The fiery darts of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)
Imprisonment. (Revelation 2:10)

By an accident of history and geography, we live in a land where the physical persecution of Christians is exceptionally rare. But this does not mean that the Christian life will be comfortable for us.

He has given us great riches in Christ. He has given us an opportunity for new and abundant life. He has offered us salvation. He has given us more than we could ever give back.

But He has not promised to make us “comfortable.” Will we not step out of our comfort zones, for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of the needy, and for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ?

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