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Moralism

Babylon intolerance

In today’s Bible reading, John records the fall of Babylon the Great. I won’t go into the theories of what Babylon the Great is. But I will point out the command from God for His people: Come out and don’t participate in the sin of the world. (Revelation 18:4-5) While the rest of the world grieves the fall of Babylon, God’s people are to expose Babylon’s sins. (Revelation 18:6)

The world will never accept Believers who take their stand for righteousness. Regardless of what we may say or do, the world will never respect or tolerate those who are serious about their faith. Oh, they may accept, highlight, and celebrate it when a Believer rejects the faith. But unless that happens, the world knows it and the Christian faith are at odds.

Why would a Believer want the endorsement and recognition of the world? Why would a Believer want to “be cool” and try to be accepted? Tolerance will only be afforded to those who capitulate and endorse sin. Look at Paul’s chronicling of the progression of sin in Romans 1. First, sin is tolerated. Next, sin is accepted. Finally, sin is endorsed and celebrated. That is the natural progression of sin. It will always go that way… unless God performs a miracle and rescue a believer from the clutches of sin.

I have said on many occasions, lost people will act like lost people and we shouldn’t be surprised when they do. Only when God intervenes do sinners repent and turn to Jesus. As I stated in Saturday’s devotional, our natural way is to choose anything other than God. Reformer John Calvin rightly pointed out that our heart is an idol factory. We will always choose something, anything over God … unless God does a work in us.

Application

Has God done a miracle in your life? Have you turned your idol-making heart over to Him for Him to do a supernatural work? Self-justification and self-righteousness won’t work. Moralism (working hard to do the good and avoid the bad) won’t work. Only a miraculous work of God which results in your repenting and turning to Jesus, trusting His payment for your sin-debt will work.

If you haven’t turned to Him, don’t delay! Turn from your sin and turn to Jesus. Ask Him to do a miraculous work in you to make you more like Him from the inside-out.

If you have turned to Jesus, spend a few minutes today thanking Him for all that He has done (which is everything!) to make you right with His (and your) perfect, holy Father.

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In today’s Bible reading, three angels appear, proclaiming a different message.

“Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:7 CSB)

“It has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen. She made all the nations drink the wine of her sexual immorality, which brings wrath.” (Revelation 14:8 CSB)

“If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is poured full strength into the cup of his anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or anyone who receives the mark of its name. This calls for endurance from the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.” (Revelation 14:9-12 CSB)

Each message is different, but all convey the same essence: Glorify God, for His wrath is poured out on those who are not His own.

Application

The Gospel is a very simple message. But we tend to complicate it. Unfortunately, in our complicating the simple message, we water down what the Gospel message actually is. “It’s social justice.” Or “It’s prosperity gospel.” Or “It’s God’s love for us”.

According to the angel who has the eternal Gospel to preach to the world’s inhabitants, (Revelation 14:6), it’s “Glorify God, for His wrath is poured out on those who are not His own.”

When you’re telling people about the Gospel — and when you preach it to yourself — don’t leave out the very important message of God’s wrath. The Gospel is good news (literally, that’s what the word means). The goodness of the good news is highlighted when it’s contrasted to the badness of the bad news. When you understand the reality of God’s wrath, the goodness of the Gospel message becomes even more attractive than imaginable.

The gospel message isn’t, “Clean up!”, but rather, “Repent!” and “Turn!”. Without turning to Jesus, there really is no cleaning up that any of us can do. Part of the bad news is that we don’t have the capacity to clean up! Lost people need Jesus to clean them up.

Don’t shy away from telling the bad news, so the good news can be heard for what it is: Good News!

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Practicing the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible reading and Prayer

Today’s Bible reading is Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. In it, Jesus reveals the definition of eternal life. “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3 CSB) “I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from the world. They were yours, you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” John 17:6 CSB)

Eternal life isn’t about religion. It isn’t about behavior change: doing the dos and not doing the don’ts in the Bible. Eternal life is about relationship: knowing and being known. And as such, eternal life doesn’t begin when we cross over to the other side of eternity. It begins the moment we come to know Him on this side of eternity.

Application

Do you know Jesus? Do you have a relationship with Him? How personal is that relationship?

How much time do you spend with Him every day? Not every week, but every single day? As with every other relationship with anyone else, there is no other way to develop a relationship aside from time: logging time in God’s Word and seeking Him in prayer, and practicing the other Spiritual Disciplines.

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In today’s Bible reading, Paul highlights several solid marks of godly people.

Godly people are known by what they flee from: False doctrine, the love of money, disputes and arguments over words, envy, quarreling, slander, and evil suspicions. Paul argued against these things throughout his letters.

Godly people are also know by what they pursue and fight for: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. We dont’ have to agree on everything. Actually, it’s helpful if we don’t agree on everything! But the essentials of the faith are worth fighting for. Unfortunately, too often people don’t know what the essentials are. But godly people are careful and pick their battles. They know which hills are worth dying on.

Application

It’s important to note that Paul didn’t give us a list of dos and don’ts as distinguishing marks of godly people. Otherwise — as is our nature — we would use them as checklists to compare ourselves with others. That’s exactly what the Jewish leaders did in the First Century. They thought they were better than others because of the things they did and the things they didn’t do. Many Christians use checklists in the Twenty-First Century, too.

Instead, Paul gives us character qualities, qualities that we find in Jesus Christ, qualities that frankly we can’t manufacture on our own. As we grow to be more like Jesus, our lives manifest His character qualities.

One mark that Paul didn’t bring out here is love. He spends an entire chapter on the mark of love that distinguishes godly people. (1 Corinthians 13) And Jesus pointed out that people would know His disciples by their love for one another. (John 3:35)

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exam

I’ve had my share of tests. I’ve done well on many. I’ve done poorly on some. In today’s Bible reading, Paul urges the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they pass the test of faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Actually, Paul asks the Corinthians two question: 1) Are you in the faith? and 2) Do you see Christ in you? Paul implies that if the answer is no, then you don’t pass the test.

Paul uses two different Greek verbs when he asks the questions. The first verb means “to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing.” [1] The second verb means to “try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use.”[2]

Another way to ask the questions might be, “Examine yourself to see if you’re you a Believer” and “Test yourself as to how genuine your faith is.” In other words, Paul asks the Corinthians quantitative (yes/no?) and qualitative (how well?) elements of the tests. It isn’t enough to say, “Yes I’m a believer.” or “Yes, I adhere to certain religious beliefs.” Paul digs deeper.

Christianity is unlike every religion. Religions are based on believing certain teachings and seeking to appease a deity and/or to rid oneself of deficiencies. Some religions add an element of eternity, others do not.

But Christianity is a relationship, initiated by God, established by the sacrificial death of Jesus, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is completely different when seriously compared to every religion out there.

Application

I believe we need to ask these questions on a regular basis. It keeps us on our toes. It adds a present-day application of our faith test.

I mentioned to our church last Sunday that if you were married several decades ago and you have not had an ongoing and growing relationship with your spouse, something is seriously wrong!” If you claim to have been saved for several decades, but don’t have an ongoing, growing relationship with Jesus, something is seriously wrong!

Christians often rattle off that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But let me ask with Paul, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” and “If so, then how personal is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.
[2] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.

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