17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! — Habakkuk 3:17,18 NLT
Happiness and pleasure are worldly things and are dependent on our external circumstances. They are fleeting and temporary. But joy, true joy, comes from the Holy Spirit that abides in us. It is dependent on our internal attitudes. It is eternal and no one, not even satan can steal our joy. If we lose it, it is because we give it away. It is our strength that gets us through every day. There are times when we may not be happy and our circumstances may not be pleasant, but how we respond to those times determines where we are on our journey with Jesus. When these times come, do we blame God and sulk like spoiled children or do we respond like Habakkuk and rejoice in the Lord”? When we don’t feel like praying, that is the time we need to pray the fervent, effectual prayers. When we don’t feel like shouting with joy, that is the time when we need to clap our hands and shout with a voice of triumph. Our joy is not based on feelings or circumstances but upon the sure knowledge that “God is our salvation and He has become our strength”. All day, every day, all our life long.
Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise! — Psalm 47:1
20 Since you died with Christ and were made free from the ruling spirits of the world, why do you act as if you still belong to this world by following rules like these: 21 “Don’t handle this,” “Don’t taste that,” “Don’t even touch that thing”? 22 These rules refer to earthly things that are gone as soon as they are used. They are only human commands and teachings.23 They seem to be wise, but they are only part of a human religion. They make people pretend not to be proud and make them punish their bodies, but they do not really control the evil desires of the sinful self. — Col. 2: 20-23 NCV
We think we are far advanced from the first century AD. In technology, dress, and the comforts of life, we are. But human nature itself has not changed much. We still have those who want to regulate everything that each individual does or wants to do. That is why we have so many laws that we can fill numerous buildings storing all the paperwork. But, as Jesus knew and we should have learned, external laws don’t keep us from sinning. Jesus pointed out to the religious leaders of His day that they kept adding man-made rules and regulations to the laws God had given them. These had no spiritual value since what goes into us that makes us obedient or disobedient, it is what comes out of us.
10 After Jesus called the crowd to him, he said, “Listen and understand what I am saying. 11 It is not what people put into their mouths that makes them unclean. It is what comes out of their mouths that makes them unclean.” — Matt.15:10, 11
As Christians, we have liberty, but we must use that liberty wisely in choosing what we do and what we don’t do. We must be sure that we are not adding to what God has said is right and/or wrong. We must not allow the things that we have chosen to rule our lives to the extent that they become our “god”‘ and we impose those things on others as if they were laws or commandments.
12 “I am allowed to do all things,” but not all things are good for me to do. “I am allowed to do all things,” but I will not let anything make me its slave. — 1 Cor. 6:12
Wrong choices are external symptoms of an internal problem. The problem is that we have not allowed God’s Word to conform our thoughts. If we bring all of our thoughts into captivity to God, we will not need external “dos” and “don’ts”. It will be our hearts desire to do what God wants us to do and not do the things He doesn’t want us to do.
4 We fight with weapons that are different from those the world uses. Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strong places. We destroy people’s arguments 5 and every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ. — 2 Cor. 10:4, 5 NCV
13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of cows sprinkled on unclean people made their bodies holy and clean. 14 The blood of Christ, who had no defect, does even more. Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself to God and cleansed our consciences from the useless things we had done. Now we can serve the living God. 15 Because Christ offered himself to God, he is able to bring a new promise from God. Through his death he paid the price to set people free from the sins they committed under the first promise. He did this so that those who are called can be guaranteed an inheritance that will last forever.–Hebrews 9:13-15 (GW)
God is waiting to show you the way.
The sacrifices offered by the priests of the tribe of Levi could only cleanse the exterior, it was sufficient to make their bodies holy and clean. However, it did nothing on the inside of the priest or the individuals. That is why it had to be repeated over and over. When Jesus shed His blood, it was the perfect sacrifice, cleansing not only the body, but the heart and the conscience of each person accepting His sacrifice. Because Christ offered Himself, He gave us a new promise and established a new covenant. His perfect sacrifice will last for all ages and will never need to be repeated. Once we accept Jesus as our Savior, our place in Heaven is guaranteed forever. He has given us His Holy Spirit as an earnest, a down payment ensuring us of our heritage.
14 This Holy Spirit is the guarantee that we will receive our inheritance. We have this guarantee until we are set free to belong to him. God receives praise and glory for this.–Ephesians 1:14 (GW)