On this Sabbath, let us rest and rejoice in God’s grace and forgiveness of our sins. Let us praise Him for His compassion for His people and let us thank Him for for His unrelenting and steadfast love. For even when our journey is ending here on earth, we can have the assurance and security that like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when we breathe our last we’ll be, “gathered to our people.” ( Genesis 25:8, Genesis 35:29, & Genesis 49:33) A going home of sorts to join all those who have gone on ahead to glory.
Repentance in this Scripture doesn’t specifically refer to our initial act of repentance that accompanied true saving faith in Jesus, but rather an ongoing turning from sin as a Believer. But this type of repentance may be harder to do then that initial Coming to Jesus moment we had at the altar years ago. The longer we’re a Christian the easier it is to quietly tolerate ungodly things in our life. We don’t want to get involved, or rock the boat, so we allow sinful things to accumulate around us. We may regret what’s going on and feel sorry about it…but that’s as far as it goes, with no change in our heart or behavior. But God demands more from us…a sincere decision to forsake this sin and turn back to Him. For our journey with God is one of growth and progress…and Yes, at times filled with profound sorrow for accepting sin into our lives.
Can you recognize right away when your life isn’t in step with the Gospel? When God shines Spiritual light and truth on the sin in your life do you look away, or do you confess your wrongdoing? Sin is so subtle, so cunning and crafty that we can be duped into false beliefs very easily. It misleads us by purring in our ear that what we’re doing “isn’t that bad” or that “everyone else is doing it”…but in reality, that sin is leading us towards Spiritual death and breaking God’s Laws. Sin has to be recognized for what it is…sin…not glossed over, or sugar coated, or called by another name…sin is sin. John wrote in I John 4:6 how to easily recognize when deception has infiltrated our life, “We are from God , and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of falsehood.”
Our relationship with God is a lifelong Spiritual transformation, where hopefully our will is fundamentally altered & there is a metamorphosis or a renewing of our mind. That’s because our relationship with the Lord is meant to be anything but stagnant…or as Ephesians 4:15 says, “We will in all things grow up into Him…” This growing up into Him means that as we behold His glory we are to then unashamedly shine that light before the world…a reflection in our own lives of the truth of His word as our relationship with Him grows. Our relationship with the Lord cannot be stagnant…it can’t be a one and done type of meeting of the minds where we say Yes to Jesus and then go on our own way. Nor can it be a fading glory that we only look back fondly on. Our relationship with God has to be active, alive, & growing continually…strengthened by faith and trust in the transformational process that’s called sanctification.
The original intent of the Old Testament Law (found in Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, & Deuteronomy 19:21) was to limit punishment to that which was equitable and fitting for the crime committed. What it attempted to do was to prohibit demanding a greater punishment sheerly out of vengeance. But here, Jesus is turning the Law on its head and telling us that we are to not to return evil with evil. He elaborated on this in Luke 6:27, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” In other words, when we are insulted or injured we are to return assault with nonviolence, and exploitation with generosity. For when our sinful nature wants to rise up in resentment, retaliation, and a demanding of our own rights, we switch from Godly anger to sinful anger quickly, our Christlikeness is totally absent, and we dishonor the Lord.
An old saying among orchardists is, “The most heavily laden branches always bow the lowest on the tree.” The Lord’s faithfulness to us doesn’t ever change…regardless of our actions. He is always loving, generous, gentle, gracious, and compassionate. And the result is a overwhelming of our soul…humbling our haughty heart, crumbling our tough outer crust, and pulverizing our pride. As Proverbs 25:15 tells us, “A gentle tongue can break a bone.” And the Lord’s unrelenting mercy can crush the most vilest of sinners, and flood the most arrogant with His lovingkindness…bringing them down in self-awareness of their folly & need for a Savior.
The misery, pain, and suffering that come into our lives can do one of two things…they can cause us to define ourselves as victims, or they can refine us to become victors. Just look at Joseph, whose brothers plotted to kill him and then sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelites traveling from Gilead to Egypt. He had every right to bemoan his plight and beseech God with, “How can You make any good out of this mess?” But God did! He turned tragedy into triumph…and rather than defining himself as a poor innocent victim, Joseph withstood the testing and came out as pure gold when he saved his entire family from famine.
If you get nothing else from this Devotional today…know that God will never forget you. He will never neglect your heart when you are hurting, He will never disregard what you’re going through as trivial or meaningless, and He will never ignore your cries for mercy. Your name is inscribed on the hollow of His hands as a permanent pledge… to constantly remind Him of you and His promise to always & at all times have you before Him.
Later, John writes of Christ laying down His life for us in I John 3:16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” So because Jesus emptied Himself of all but love…we can be filled. Because His blood was shed for us…our sins can be forgiven. And because Jesus finished His’s Father’s work…our life now has worth. Because of the love of Christ, He willingly laid down His life for us on the Cross…accepting death that we might be saved from eternal punishment…atoning for our sins and redeeming us by His sacrifice.
I’ll be the very first to admit that I’m a day planner & list maker, especially while I was working. But even today, despite being retired, I still make mental lists of what I want to accomplish for the day ahead. But what happens when something interrupts my well planned-out day? Am I compassionate, or do I just complain? Am I gracious, or do I grumble? This is when I have to reconsider this interruption as a divine opportunity. Think about it, Jesus’ planned Ministry day was interrupted a lot. In Luke 5:18-20, He was interrupted while He taught by a bunch of men lowering their friend down through the roof in order for him to be healed. In Mark 11:46-52, Jesus was stopped by a shouting blind Bartimaeus as He was leaving Jericho. Finally, in Luke 8:42-48, Jesus was on His way with Jairus to heal his daughter when a woman with an issue of blood grabbed ahold of the hem of His garment and stopped Him mid stride. To this group of people, these interruptions became moments of great importance to them, for they were all healed by Jesus. So the next time your day is intruded upon…think to yourself, How did Jesus react to His interruptions?