Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
In Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, He touches on many subjects centred on the Laws God had given the Jewish people to follow. Keep in mind that He was speaking to those Jews (and perhaps some curious Gentiles) who had become His disciples. Try to imagine what it was like for them to be drawn to this unassuming man from Galilee. Yes, he was clearly a Jew, for many called Him Rabbi (or teacher). He taught in the Temple, and He performed miracles that were so spectacular they were beginning to think He was the Messiah. It had been over 400 years since they had heard or seen anyone like this man. And He said the most unusual things.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
As a new Christian, I trembled in fear over the verses above for many years. Mainly because, as a new Christian, I did not know how to study my Bible properly by taking things in context. So, if the verses above have left you doubting your faith, I want to put those fears to rest today. It is no coincidence that the above verses come immediately after the verses on false prophets. In fact, Matthew 7:13-29 definitely seems to have a theme regarding who we listen to, put our trust or faith in, and how we live our lives. Today's verses can make some Christians wonder if they are really saved. After all, if you prophesied in Jesus' name, cast out demons and did many wonders in His name, why would Jesus say He didn't know you? Probably because, as I previously discussed, the people Jesus refers to in these verses are false prophets and teachers.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
Have you ever noticed the first line of the verse above? I mean, really noticed it? If you haven't, let it sink in for a moment. What is God's ultimate will for you? Your sanctification. What does it mean to be sanctified? It means to be made holy or consecrated. God's ultimate goal for you, then, is that you would become holy and consecrated. Why? Because nothing sinful can enter heaven. This is why Jesus was born of a virgin. If he had been born the usual way, he would have been born into a sinful body. God needed a body to house His Shekinah glory on earth (His Holy Spirit). Jesus could do that because he was not born a sinner, and he never sinned while on earth. This is why he was the perfect sacrifice and why he could enter heaven. It is also why all who believe in Jesus Christ are saved. By His stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5), and we are forgiven of our sins (Acts 13:37-39). How then should we live?
If you live your life following Christ's example, you do well. If, however, you say in your heart, "I'm forgiven because I believe in Jesus, therefore it does not matter how I live my life. It is my own to live," then you are living a lie. When you believed in Jesus and accepted His gift of salvation, His forgiveness of your sins and His gift of eternal life, you were, in fact, agreeing to live your life in such a way that it would honour Jesus' sacrifice for you and bring glory to God.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
Do you count it "all joy" when you fall into various trials? It's not an easy thing to do, is it? It's hard to find joy when your life is falling apart. I speak from experience. I have had my fair share of trials. From a tumour the size of a grapefruit to an incurable disease to mistakes by doctors and a fall down a flight of stairs that left me partially disabled. According to the above verse, I am to count those trials as "all joy." With my five-month stay in the hospital last year that resulted in even more health problems, it seems a bit much to ask. But look at who wrote those words.
James, the brother of Jesus, whose death is debated even to this day, prayed so much on his knees that they became calloused and hard. Some commentaries say he was stoned to death because he refused to deny the Lord. Others say he was beheaded. Either way, he endured his fair share of persecution, as did the rest of the Apostles. Peter was crucified upside down on a cross. The Apostle John was boiled in oil - survived! - and was then exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he would write the book of the Revelation. The Apostle Paul endured prison, snake bites, whippings, beatings, and shipwrecks. Knowing the extreme persecution each new believer faced, James still asked us to count our trials as "all joy." Why? Because they are necessary to grow in our faith. When our faith is tested, we learn patience.
But we need to, as James suggests, let patience have its perfect work. If we only look at our trials and all the bad things that happen to us, our focus gets really distorted. We become depressed when nothing positive happens in our lives. We become discouraged, and if we don't see the real reason for our trials, we might even begin to doubt that God even loves us. Trials, sickness, hardships, call it what you will. If you are enduring them and you don't look at their ultimate purpose in your life, you will not count them as all joy.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways,
The verse above comes after King Solomon had finished the Temple in Jerusalem. He and the people celebrated its completion for twenty-three days, with offerings and sacrifices, music and praise. It was a joyful time, and God had made His presence known by causing fire to come down from heaven to consume the burnt offerings (2 Chronicles 7:1). His glory filled the Temple, and because it did, even the priests who were dedicated to Him could not enter the Temple.
Try to imagine what that was like. Fire came down from heaven, and this fire represented the glory of God. It completely filled the Temple, and everyone there saw it bowed their faces to the ground and worshipped God. Imagine how you would be feeling if you had been there. Indeed, you would be afraid. Fire from heaven is not a normal thing you see every day. You would also be in awe. You would be grateful because, as a person in that era, you would know about the gods of the other nations, and you would now be comparing them to the Most High God. And you would realize without a doubt that there was only one God, and all the rest were fake. You would also feel loved because the God of the universe had blessed your people by showing favour to you. The honour, the implications of that alone, would be overwhelming. Would you ever be able to get off your knees?
But the day came when the celebrations ended, and King Solomon sent everyone back to their homes. That night, God came to him and told him He had heard his prayer (2 Chronicles 6). He reminded Solomon that He had chosen the Temple as a place for Himself, a house of sacrifice. Then He said:
While reading Colossians 1:9-14, I was struck by the prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for the people of Colosse. He prayed that God would fill the people of Colosse with the knowledge of God's will through the wisdom and understanding that the Holy Spirit gives (Colossians 1:9). Why did Paul pray for that in particular? He answers that in the rest of the verse. So that they may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way. By asking God to fill the people of Colosse with the knowledge of His will, Paul is asking for them to grow in their faith. And how do Christians grow? Through the wisdom and understanding the Holy Spirit gives through God's Holy Word. As we read it, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes, ears, and hearts to its message, and we grow in the knowledge of God's will.
For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.
Before I begin my devotions, I always pray that God will lead me into all truth and that any words I write here will be words from Him, not from me. I want to be very careful about what I say because the Word of God is not to be taken lightly. So when I write, it is always with trepidation and with an ear listening for guidance from the Holy Spirit so that I do not go off on a tangent, leading God's people astray. I take the discerning of Scripture very seriously. So let's look at the verses above, and I will attempt to convey what I heard the Holy Spirit telling me about this passage.
The chosen and precious cornerstone spoken above is Jesus Christ. How do we know this? Scripture confirms it (Acts 4:10-12; Ephesians 2:20-22; Isaiah 28:16). What is the importance of a cornerstone? The cornerstone (also known as the foundation stone) is the first stone set in constructing a masonry foundation. This stone is the most important in the structure because all the other stones will be set around this stone. So it determines the position of the entire structure.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
One of the things I found most difficult when I became a Christian was learning not to be anxious or worried about things. Every time something troubling occurred, I would worry, or at the very least try to figure out how to make things work so that I didn't have to worry anymore.
When I ran across the above verse in my Bible, I couldn't understand how prayer and thanksgiving would make my worries go away. As far as supplication went - well...it took me a while to figure out what that even meant. So, let's look at these two verses and find out what they are really saying.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
The twenty-third psalm is probably the most well-known of all the psalms. It is memorized and said during times of fear, despair and grief. Like the Lord's Prayer, the twenty-third psalm was something I learned when I was very young. And also, like the Lord's Prayer, it was something that was recited at almost every funeral I attended. Why? Because Psalm 23 offers comfort and hope to a weary soul. But it also shows us the attributes of God and what our relationship with Him should be like.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, NKJV).
God transfers His holiness to us via His Holy Spirit. We are now the Temple of God, and as the verse above states, the Spirit of God dwells in us. So, today I want to look closer at the responsibility this brings for all Christians who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit.