God is not in competition with anyone or anything in the world. He will not accept the position of the leader in the race, The only position He will accept is being the only One in the race. He is not in some game to be the first on our list, He wants to be the only One on our list. He wants us to love Him so much that there is nothing or no one that we would not give up for Him. After all, that is exactly what He did for us. He gave up His glory and His position in heaven and finally, His very life. Why should He accept anything less in return? The world and satan tempts us with things that please the lusts of the flesh, they tempt us with our desires for beautiful possessions that please the eyes and they tempt us with power and positions that cause pride in our lives. We cannot love both, either we love Jesus or we love mammon. The time for the return of the true Christ is closer now than ever. We see and will continue to see wickedness in the world and more wickedness in high, spiritual places. We see people that we have respected in positions of leadership who have failed and we must arrive at the same conclusion that John did. If they had truly been one of us, they would have remained with us, but their going showed they did not belong with us.
27 Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!— Daniel 3:27 NLT
Shadrach, Meschah and Abednego had refused to bow to the ninety foot statue of Nebuchadnezzar. They, instead, chose to remain faithful to their God. They told the king that whether God chose to deliver them or not, they would always remain faithful. For their faithfulness, they were thrown into a fiery furnace that burned so hot, the soldiers throwing them into the furnace were killed. Rather quickly, Nebuchadnezzar learned that his plan to destroy the three men did not work. God joined them in the furnace and delivered them so completely that their clothes did not even have the smell of smoke on them. An amazing miracle! So, amazing that even the king gave the praise to the God of these three men. He also quickly promoted them to a higher position in the government. They were saved from the fire because they had more work to do here on earth. Contrast this to the deaths of the apostles whom God chose to deliver in a totally different way. He allowed them to die and to come on home to heaven. Their work here on earth was finished. I wonder which of the two methods of deliverance the three men in the furnace would have chosen, if the decision had been left up to them. Paul might have wondered the same thing.
There were many of the people, leaders in the religious communities and others who believed what Jesus was saying but refused to admit it in public. They were more concerned about what the Jewish leaders would say and do than they were about what Jesus said. They were afraid that they would lose their positions in the community and be removed from the synagouge. They would not admit publicly that they believed what Jesus said. When we read these verses, it is easy for us to criticize and judge these people for their lack of support for Jesus. But, if we stop, meditate and let the Holy Spirit lead us into the truth, we may just realize that we are sometimes like those people. Yes, our egos say we would never deny Jesus and perhaps, verbally we wouldn’t. However, we must look at our actions or our lack of action in certain situations. How many times have we been nudged by the Holy Spirit to say something to someone or do something for someone and by our inactions, we said “NO”. In those times, we became “secret believers” preferring silence over speaking out for Jesus, our Lord and Savior. How many times have we felt the shame when we are convicted of our inactivity by the Holy Spirit? Jesus said that “if you deny me before men, I will deny you before the Father”. If we do not speak out and our lifestyles do not show others that we are living for Jesus, then the truth of His words will judge us on the day of judgment. We must be willing to get out of our comfort zones and be ridicule, offended and persecuted because we believe the truth. There is only one God and only one Jesus who died for our sins. There is no other way to heaven.
Jesus starts this discussion by telling us how we should not pray. We are not to pray just to be seen and heard by others. If that is our motivation then the only reward we will get is the praise of those who see and hear us. Whether our prayers are realistic or ritualistic is not determined by where we pray or the words that we say. It isn’t the length of the prayer but the strength of the faith behind the prayer. One of the most real and shortest prayers is the cry of Peter when he was sinking in the sea of Galilee. His cry was “Save me, Lord”. Jesus immediately reached out His hand and brought Peter to safety. After He tells us how not to pray, He tells how we should pray. It is a short, powerful, beautiful prayer that covers everything from God’s holiness to our dependence on God for our daily bread. It covers forgiveness and God’s desire that His will would be done on earth even as it is in heaven. It shows us that we need the leadership of the Holy Spirit so that we will not be led into temptation but that we will be delivered from evil. We could pray this prayer continually and whether it becomes ritualistic instead of real would be determined by our attitude. God has given many examples of prayer in the Psalms where David cries out with all of his heart and might. He has also given us prayers of thanksgiving for His many blessings and benefits. When we reach the point that we have no words to express our desires, He has given us the Holy Spirit to pray through us, with us and for us.
It isn’t our words or our bodily position that determines whether our prayers are real or rituals, it is the attitude of the heart toward God and toward our fellow man that makes the difference. It is our faith that God can and will do these things for us and that we are willing to do these things for those around us.
18 “When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. — Deut. 17:18 NLT
God knew that once the Israelis had settled in the land and become comfortable, that they would look around and desire what the other nations had. They would grow tired of the judges and desire a king so they could be like the nations around them. God had given Moses several guidelines for the king once he had been anointed. Most of those were what not to do and had to do with position and possessions. But the positive thing he was required to do was to copy the whole body of the instructions on a scroll. To be sure, he did this himself, he had to do it in the presence of the priests. Then he must keep it with him and read it every day. One would think that this would have been sufficient to keep the kings in line with what God expected. But that was not the case. The majority of the kings were not godly and worshipped other gods. The lesson that we can learn from this is that head knowledge is useless unless it affects the heart. The devil knows the Bible but it doesn’t keep him from being the devil. Just reading the Bible on a daily basis will not change us. A heart change only takes place when we fully believe that Jesus, the Son of God, died for our sins. Just saying the words does not make it happen. We need confession and we need believing.
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. 10 We believe with our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we declare with our mouths that we believe, and so we are saved — Romans 9, 10 NCV
6 We are all infected and impure with sin.When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. 7 Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins. — Isaiah 64:6, 7 NLT
We were born in sin into a sinful world and as long as we live in this flesh, we will be affected by sin. In the flesh, we can do good deeds, but those good deeds will not get us into heaven. We can wash and clean the exterior but only the righteousness of Jesus Christ can cleanse the inside. Doing good deeds without Godly direction can be compared to painting a wooden house without repairng the rotten areas. It looks good to the world but soon the house will fall. When we look at our nation, there are still a lot of good things that we can observe but there are fewer and fewer God things. We have been blessed abundantly for so long that we have become comfortable and complacent in who we are. To worship means to honor and to honor requires obedience. When we aren’t obedient to God, we are putting ourselves in His place and trying to do His job. When we put other things above God and his commands, He cannot be Lord of our lives. Our God is a jealous God, He will be Lord of all or He will not be Lord at all. He has not and will not change. He does not negotiate nor bargain with us. But when we come to the end of the rope, if we reach out for His hand, He is always there to take our hand and carry us to safety. Let us examine our postions and agree with God. When we do, we will fall on our faces and plead for HIs forgivenss and mercy.
31 “He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else. 32 He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them! 33 Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. 34 For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. 36 And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”—-John 3:31-36 (NLT)
John continues to explain to his disciples who Jesus is and why he must decrease as Jesus increases. John’s understanding of all of this is beyond human knowledge. He tells us that Jesus speaks God’s words because God gives Him “the Spirit without limit”. Jesus agrees with this statement: So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.–John 5:19 (NLT)
John continues to explain that God has put everything into the hands of Jesus. Jesus also agrees with this statement: 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth—Matt. 28:18 (NLT)
This is why Jesus could say “your sins are forgiven” and “this day, you will be with me in paradise”. When we accept this truth about Jesus, we are forgiven of our sins and on our way to heaven for eternity. But on the journey, we have a purpose and a work to do, just as John and Jesus did. The work could never get us to heaven, but it does get us rewarded when we get there. When God calls each of us to do a work, He enables us to do that work by the Holy Spirit. We have access to “the Spirit without limit”. How much of that we receive is up to us. Just as we could not be saved without asking for and reaching out to accept the forgiveness, we cannot access the power of the Holy Spirit without asking for it and reaching out to accept it. Can we do the works that John and Jesus did? Jesus says we can: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.—John 14:12 (NLT)