It’s difficult to comprehend the concept…but God’s Word is everlasting. Heaven and earth as we know it will vanish someday, but God’s Word will be forever…ceaseless, unending, and permanent for us to cling to when there’s nothing else. This eternal and enduring quality should then give us great confidence and joy every time we read the Bible…for His Word will stand forever.
Isaiah warned the people many times about the vain and worthless objects of worship they were placing their trust in. You can start in Isaiah 44:9 and read in this Chapter about a deluded heart that misleads mankind…of placing faith in man-made things rather than the God that created everything. But this Spirit of delusion doesn’t have to be just worshipping carved images and sacred stones…it can involve being prideful of our accomplishments, arrogant in our higher education, or pompous in the titles we have. But we need to also remember, “The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty…so man will be brought low and mankind humbled, the eyes of the arrogant humbled.” (Isaiah 2:12)
What jumped out to me as I read this passage was, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” Now we’ll all admit that this year has been a season of discontentment, and with the Holidays fast approaching, many of us have been forced to make very hard decisions about our usual family gatherings. Add this to the last nine months of frustration and it’s not surprising that we feel resentment and bitterness. But here we have Paul, who I don’t need to remind you is writing to the Church in Philippi from a Roman prison, telling them he is content. But how? In Colossians 1:11, again Paul is writing from prison when he encourages the Church to …”grow in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience…” Paul was able to grasp and draw on the Lord’s strength when his was waning. He was able to discover the previously undisclosed ability to not only endure but to handle anything thrown his way with grace and a quieted mind.
“Ask whatever you wish and it will be given you,” is not a blank check for us to use on every whim and fancy. For here Jesus is showing us that if we first abide in Him and His Words our requests will then line up with the Will of God. This is echoed in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His Kingdom and all things will be given to you as well.” Asking in accordance to God’s Will is developed by experience and exposure…by developing a deep abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, and immersing ourselves in His Word.
I think the most thought provoking phrase in these verses is, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” Now immediately our fleshly nature bristles at this statement and rejects the notion that we can’t take care of ourselves. But frankly, we can’t…we’re not skilled enough, competent enough, or powerful enough to do this life on earth alone…we need Jesus. We need that life-giving union between Jesus and us in order to be the very best person we can be. For as we stand firm with Him, He nurtures and sustains us as a young shoot grafted onto the vine.
“Remain in Me.” Jesus is telling us several times in this passage, but what is He saying? The Greek word for “remain” means to abide or dwell, but there’s more to it. It’s more than dependence, communion, and obedience…it’s a little used word now a days…sanctification. A example of sanctification is found in Ephesians 5:26, “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word.” Through Jesus’ sacrifice we are sanctified and made clean from the guilt and shame of sin. In other words, we are set apart and consecrated to Him…this is called sanctification or holiness unto the Lord and something all Believers should be striving for.
If our lives are in Christ it will be evidenced by the fruit we produce. This fruit being all the positive attributes described in Galatians 5:22…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But even when our lives are yielding good fruit, God may prune us…removing unwanted parts to insure greater productivity in the future. Now this type of pruning can be confusing and even painful during the process. For all we see is a ministry, service, or work that we really love and may have been doing for years…but God sees it as a obstacle to His greater plan and purpose. So by pruning that area of “small” fruit from our life, God makes way for a much larger crop in the future.
In the world today, where material things and the need to impress is flaunted everywhere, this simple proverb proves different. It tells us that the good and right thing to do is to live in quiet humility, not showy or flashy. It means living within our means, paying our bills on time, and having money in the bank. It means we don’t draw attention to ourselves, but live a life of integrity and honesty. But for those who make believe and feign status and wealth…they’re only deceiving themselves. They will bolster their so called life-style with a wallet full of credit cards that are all totally maxed out, all the while calling attention to themselves and their things… as the bill collectors call on their new and latest cell phone. We all need to realize then, this is not the way to live and surely not how the Lord wants us to use His resources.
In these verses, John the Baptist is speaking harshly to the religious authorities that have come out to the desert, by the banks of the Jordan River, to see what all the commotion was about. He cuts to the chase and uncovers the awful truth about them…they are pinning their hope on the shirt-tails of their distant ancestor, Abraham, and arrogantly presuming that their lineage will get them to heaven. But it doesn’t work that way…for them, or for us today. Repentance needs to be personal, taken seriously, and followed by evidence of said repentance…or as Paul explained in Acts 26:20 about his ministry to the Gentiles, “I preach that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
“He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.” (Psalm 7:15) The Hebrew word for “hole” in this verse, and “slimy pit” in the verses above is identical… of describing death as a giant pit. That’s because as much as we hate to admit it…most of the time the consequences we face from disobeying God are of our own making…we stumble into serious predicaments with no one to blame but ourselves. But the Lord is there, ever ready to bring us out if we will just turn to Him. And He will be faithful to place our feet on the firm foundation of Christ …or as Isaiah 26:4 tells us, “The Lord is the Rock eternal.” or Psalm 19:14, “O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Today, let us look to the steadfast certainty of standing on the Rock of Jesus Christ.