John was referring back to Jesus when He said in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” But even this is a new take on the Old Testament Scriptures from Leviticus 19:18 that taught God’s people to, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The “new ” part is found in the word changes Jesus used. He changed neighbors (a specific group) to one another (a much broader group)… and yourself (a selfish & personal love) – to as I have loved you (the sacrificial love of Christ). So it becomes both a old and new commandment…old because love is defined by all God’s commandments, and new because we are to continually reapply the love of Christ in our everyday acts of love for one another.
An ever-present danger for Christians today is self-reliance. It can quietly and insidiously creep into our life as God uses us more and more. How? We start to put our confidence in ourselves and our abilities and talents rather than acknowledging that it is God, not us, that is accomplishing it. Pride and boasting gives way to a false sense of hope and self-sufficiency…that sadly always has disastrous results. We need then to remain humble and fully reliant on God and His divine power…for only He is trustworthy to deliver us from all obstacles that come our way…something of which we should readily admit we’re completely incapable of doing for ourselves.
The great Theologian, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “The brightest gem in the crown of God is His goodness.” And as any Believer who’s had a personal experience of God’s goodness in their life…we can add a hearty Amen! Numerous places in the Psalms we can read of God’s goodness towards us, “You are forgiving & good, O Lord.” (Psalm 86:5) “God is good & what He does is good.” (Psalm 119:68) and we can’t forget Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness & mercy will follow me all the days of my life, as I dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” But we can not just receive God’s goodness for ourselves…we must emulate it to others. (Galatians 5:22) And as we display God’s goodness to others… the moral quality of it…kindness, gentleness, & goodwill will shine forth as brightly as His crown.
The spiritual gift of giving to the needs of others should be done with a joyful heart…whether it’s money, food, or time. We are to give generously without a grudging heart, (Deuteronomy 15:10) nor with ulterior motives that just make us look good. That’s because the reason & attitude of why we give is as important as the actual giving. Paul talks about this in II Corinthians 8:11-12 when he writes, “Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means, For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” So it’s not about quantity but quality…nor is it giving under duress…it’s rather giving with a joyful heart & glorifying God in the process.
This verse tells of the two way street so to speak we have with the Lord . God isn’t fickle…He doesn’t change His mind, and He keeps all His promises. So we can have all confidence in Him that He will do what He says. That’s because God’s love & faithfulness is steadfast and true, and so our relationship with Him can be the same. And as we glory in His ever present light, we will find salvation, wisdom, and life.
Ministry is hard. Serving others is usually a thankless job done behind the scenes with most people unaware that it’s even happening. But we can’t become discouraged in our efforts…even when we become weary in our laboring. That’s because we’re not working for people, but for the Lord. And that should make all the difference in the world with our attitude. So remember, nothing you’ll ever do in the Name of the Lord will ever be futile or pointless…so don’t give up.
Maybe your mother used to remind you to, “Think before you speak” or “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” This Proverb reminds me of those warnings she’d give me…of not blurting out the first thought in my mind, but discerning between good and evil, true and false, right and wrong. Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” No wonder the folly of fools yields folly when only falsehood and treachery pour from their lips.
We all have been in difficult work situations. The boss is over-bearing, our co-workers stab us in the back, and the work environment is toxic….but we also know that God has placed us there for a reason. So we can either go to work everyday in a bad mood, willing to tough it out for another shift…or we can start our day by praying for the business, the management, and all the people we work with. Just think how praying for a happy, friendly and prosperous workplace would change everyone’s mindset and would be accomplishing God’s plan & purpose for you being there.
This entire Chapter in Ezekiel goes back to a old Jewish proverb about the fathers eating sour grapes, but it’s the children’s teeth that are set on edge…or as God said in Exodus 20:5-6, “I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of their fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” But in this Chapter of Ezekiel, God is abolishing that old proverb for a new one…The soul who sins will die. The bottom line is, we can be responsible to someone, but we can’t be responsible for them. Each individual has a free will, and their eternal fate is entirely up to the decisions they make…or not. Nor can we “fix” someone who is on the wrong path. Sure, we can encourage, counsel, and point the way, but the very best thing to do is pray for them…allowing the Holy Spirit to draw, convict, and compel.
After Peter’s compelling Gospel message to the crowd they were cut to the heart and asked, “What shall we do?” His answer was straightforward, “Repent and be baptized.” Start by acknowledging your sinfulness and turn from it. Follow that with a public display of the new moral reorientation of your soul by being baptized. And because of these you will receive spiritual renewal, forgiveness of sins, adoption by God, and the precious gift of eternal life.