Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 48:12-50:11; Ephesians 4:17-32; Psalm 69:1-18; Proverbs 24:5-6
The human race has been quite successful over its history. We have made quite a lot of progress especially over the past couple of decades with respect to technology and medicine. Yet there is still no peace on this planet. And people seem to be more evil than ever. That is because we haven’t relied on God by listening to His commands (Isaiah 48:18).
The human race is good at creating meaningless things that have no eternal value like iPhones and the rainy day cigarette holder or things that destroy anyone and anything we don’t agree with like atomic bombs. But we cannot create peace. We cannot create righteous living. The only way for us to attain these things is to obey God’s commands which are designed for this very thing. If we don’t not only will be not have peace, we have to experience God’s discipline (Isaiah 48:19).
The words in Isaiah 49 are the words of God the Son who would be called Jesus upon His birth as a human being. This chapter is filled with prophecy about His first and second arrival on earth. Even though Jesus was, and is, despised and rejected by governments (without question, a fulfilled prophecy) a time is coming when they will humble themselves before Him and serve Him (Isaiah 49:7). This will happen when Jesus rules the earth for 1,000 years after His return.
So many people reject Jesus because they think that He demands difficult things. But just the opposite is true. Jesus didn’t come to make life hard for us – He came to make it easier. He came to protect us and to give us freedom from the bondage and penalty of sin (Isaiah 49:9). He came to give us comfort (Isaiah 49:10). He came so that our lives could be easier (not necessarily easy) than they would be otherwise (Isaiah 49:11). Jesus, who is God in a human body, came to serve us. He did not come to conquer us. Instead He conquered our worst enemy – sin.
Jesus endured all the suffering that an unbelieving and arrogant world had to offer and He did so willingly (Isaiah 50:6). He did this because He understood the Father’s will for His life. God spoke to Him and He listened (Isaiah 50:4-5). Even though he knew what lie ahead – the mocking, the physical and verbal abuse, the pain of being nailed to a cross – He kept moving forward in life because He was totally committed to what God was doing through Him. He loved God – and God’s people – more than He loved His own life.
When people are abused or even the slightest bit offended they go running to a lawyer to demand their rights in court. Jesus did no such thing. He knew that this life on earth was nothing to defend. He did not get side-tracked by these distractions. His focus was on eternity. Not His, but ours.
Christians today face abuse too. In the Middle East Muslims threaten to kill Christians unless they convert to Islam. They take hostages in shopping malls in Kenya and kill the non-Muslims. Christianity is still illegal in China. Even the United States, the so-called place of freedom, has enacted numerous roadblocks (aka “laws”) making life difficult for Christians.
Yet we should not act like non-believers who sue to have our way. Jesus is our way. We need to remember that God sees everything and is always in control of every situation. Just like Jesus, we need to keep marching forward through life living for His glory instead of for our own comfort.
This segues perfectly into our reading in Ephesians today (the Bible is so consistent, isn’t it?). God, through Paul, commands us not to live like non-believers who live with no real direction in life (Ephesians 4:17). We should act differently. Not because we are better (we are not), but because we have something better. We have knowledge of God. We have His love. These are things the world does not have because it has rejected Him (Ephesians 4:18).
Many Christians try to “fit in” with their non-believing friends, family, and co-workers. This is wrong. We should stand-out. We should live differently. What we believe should not be a bumper sticker on our car or where we are on Sunday mornings. What we believe should be evident in our lifestyle (Ephesians 4:21-24). If it is, God will bless us and that will make those around us take notice.
Some ways in which we should behave differently than the world is we should not lie or let anger control us (Ephesians 4:25-26). We should not steal or use foul language (Ephesians 4:28-29). We should not grieve the Holy Spirit by doing worldly things when we should be doing godly things (Ephesians 4:30). I’d say this includes things like wasting time watching TV or working too much overtime. God didn’t save us and give us His Spirit so we could do things like that.
Finally, we should be kind to everyone and forgive everyone because that is exactly how God treats us (Ephesians 4:32).
Just like David in Psalm 69 we’ve all had times in our life when things seemed hopeless (Psalm 69:2). Yet, like David, we should continue to seek help from God (Psalm 69:3). But we need to approach God with humility (Psalm 69:5) and continue praying (Psalm 69:13). We should not turn to anyone or anything else in these times. God is the only one who can save us from the troubles of life (Psalm 69:18).
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