Hebrews 10:20 TLB
In the Old Testament there were more religious laws than anybody could possibly keep: over six hundred. And every time you failed, you had to offer an animal sacrifice as atonement. This resulted in people trying and failing; feeling guilty and trying harder; failing again and making more sacrifices. It was a never-ending cycle. Then Jesus came and opened up “the fresh, new, life-giving way…for us” to have a relationship with God. His way included forgiveness for sin, and the replacement of sacrifices with faith in Him. For many it was just too good to be true, so they kept working and trying to impress God with their goodness. Are you doing that? One Christian author writes: “I lived that way for years. It meant having to do everything perfectly; otherwise I was in trouble with God. Since this was an impossible standard to keep, it stole all my peace and joy. While I was trying to walk in love, I wasn’t a very loving person. I couldn’t give others what I didn’t know how to receive myself! I wasn’t receiving God’s mercy for my failures; therefore I couldn’t offer it to anybody else. I tried to follow all the rules, many that weren’t even scriptural – just things to feel guilty about. But thank God I don’t have to live that way anymore. Now I’m not working to be saved, I’m working because I am saved! My salvation isn’t based on what I do, but solely on what Jesus has done for me.” When you understand this truth, your relationship with God is no longer a job – it’s a joy.
Soul food: Exo 33-35; Luke 14:25-35; Ps 112; Prov 7:6-9
Isaiah 41:10 NIV
Loyalists: Loyalists love to be part of a great team. When life gets tough, we can count on them. They crave a cause to which they can give themselves, and want to be part of a group they can believe in. Loyalists want to help everyone else become better. They’re usually quite bright and articulate, although they may not always say what’s on their mind. If we’re loyalists, we might end up becoming cynical when we feel let down. We trust people and are loyal to them, and we don’t always get that in return, so we hold grudges and think they’ll never be there for us like we are for them. That’s why the Bible has so much to say about showing grace and forgiveness to each other. In Ephesians, it says: ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (4:32 NIV). As loyalists, we can also often perceive God as hard to please, and become fearful. Jesus told a story about three servants who were each given a sum of money to invest. The first two invested wisely, making a profit and pleasing their master. But the third, afraid of failing and upsetting his master, buried his talent in the ground (you can read the story in Matthew 25:14-30). God isn’t angry with us when we fail, but He does get disappointed when we don’t even try because we give in to fear. Throughout the Bible, God says to us ‘Do not be afraid.’ He doesn’t want us living in fear. He’s promises us that He’s with us. He says: ‘So do not fear, for I am with you.’ Will we trust Him?
Isa 17-21; John 6:35-51; Ps 98; Prov 27:23-24
Colossians 3:10 NLT
Lasting change happens gradually on the inside, often before there’s any outward evidence of it. Pastor Jim Penner says: “A friend of mine recently went through hip-replacement surgery…the joint had worn to the point where he walked with a limp and had to use a crutch. Thanks to the skill of a modern-day surgeon he was quickly up and around again. Yet for months after the surgery his limp remained…I ran into him this morning and the limp was gone. Where did it go? It had been there the day before. Had it vanished in the night? ‘You’re walking great,’ I said. ‘What happened?’ His response was priceless. ‘My physical therapist told me I had to retrain my brain.’ His brain had been trained to expect pain so he limped in anticipation. Even when he didn’t feel the pain his brain said, ‘Hang on. It’s coming!’ The Bible says in Christ you become ‘a new creature: old things are passed away…all things are become new’ (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV). But you have to change your thinking by believing, accepting, and acting on it. Christ has already done the restoration ‘surgery.’ Just like my friend was given a new hip, God has given you a new life. The old one is gone along with all the bad things you’ve done, thought, or said. You’re a brand-new creation. But you have to retrain your brain to accept God’s forgiveness and the restorative work Jesus has done in your life.” So: Retrain your brain.
Soul food: Zech 1-4; Luke 22:63-71; Ps 3; Prov 24:23-25
Jeremiah 23:6 NLT
The name Jehovah-Tsidkenu: The Lord our righteousness, was given by God through Jeremiah, announcing the coming of Jesus the redeemer: “I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line…And this will be his name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness'” (vv. 5-6 NLT). Before Jesus came, our righteousness lay in our own efforts. “We will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands…God has given us” (Deuteronomy 6:25 NLT). We absolutely failed that righteousness test! But “The Lord our righteousness” became our solution. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV). Notice: It’s only “in Jesus” that we “become the righteousness of God”! You’re not to try to do right so you can feel righteous before God, or to generate a supply of good works to draw from when needed. You’re to draw continually from the “righteousness” deposited in your account by Christ. It’s useless to look within yourself for humility, patience, kindness, love, etc. They’re not there! You must take them by faith from the supply stored up for you in Jesus. Guilty hearts can draw forgiveness, anxious spirits can draw peace, and weary souls can draw strength from Jehovah-Tsidkenu. You received salvation by faith alone. And in the same way you must draw righteousness, and everything else you need, by faith in what God has accomplished and stored up for your use in Jesus, The Lord our righteousness!
Soul food: Josh 16:1-19:23; Luke 20:9-19; Ps 20; Prov 23:10-12
Psalm 25:21 NIV
Integrity is all about us being a whole, honest person. And that means we are the same wherever we are, whatever we’re doing and whoever we are with. We can often end up putting on different masks or identities, depending on the situation. Maybe how we are with our parents is totally different from how we are with our friends. Or how we are at church is different from how we are at work or school. But if we have integrity, we are the same person. We may show different sides of ourselves to different people; we won’t always be completely vulnerable with everyone; but the essence of who we are, our true identity, is the same. The Bible says: ‘Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out’ (Proverbs 10:9 NIV). We live in a culture that celebrates talent over integrity, but we’ve got it backwards. Talent could fade over time. So could intellect and appearance. But integrity can last a lifetime if we prioritise it. Unfortunately, when we make mistakes our integrity can be damaged. Our good reputation can be shattered in seconds when we choose the wrong path. So we need to be asking God to help us stay on the right path. David prayed: ‘May integrity and uprightness protect me.’ And we can pray that too. If we do end up with damaged integrity, we can rebuild it again, it may take some time for people to trust us again but we don’t have to lose hope or give up. We just need to return to God, ask for His forgiveness and get back on the right path.
Zeph 1-3; Luke 9:46-56; Ps 42:6-11; Prov 19:15-17