Lesson 1 -- second quarter 2009
March 1, 2009
© Copyright 2009
Are you at all uneasy about God knowing "the things that come into your mind"?
What effect on you have "the manners of the heathen that are round about you"?
How has the Lord been "as a little sanctuary" to you?
Does "I will recompense their way upon their own heads" sound OK to you?
What is our role in bringing about inner change within our own selves?
Throughout human history, God has kept track of everyone, especially His chosen people. When Adam and Eve strayed, God called them to turn around and return to Him. And He made a way by which they could return. When the Israelites repeatedly wandered away, God pled with them to change course and come back to Him. And each time He made clear the path on which they were to return. When the church has backslidden time and again, God has always sent His messengers to call her back to Himself. And, again, He has always provided a well-marked Highway of Return. Praise God!
Churches today need to contemplate the likelihood that God is calling them to turn from their wrong ways, pointing out both the errors and the path by which to return to full fellowship with Him. As individuals we each must also consider the possibility that God sees straying in our hearts. We must listen for His voice calling us back, directing us to the paths of righteousness. So I call for a return to godliness in two specific areas.
Sure, those two paragraphs are full of generalities, but God will gladly make them practical and specific for you. "And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart" (Jeremiah 24:7).
All around us sin increases and becomes bolder. Every day we come under more and magnified attacks from Satan, self, and the world. The world in which we live displays its "lostness" and degeneration more openly and blatantly. This generation grows increasingly comfortable with lust and immorality, with materialism and covetousness, with pride and self-assurance, with disobedience and rebellion. And God's people, living among such filth, inevitably become contaminated and soiled by it all.
It seems like every day I struggle with some of these common sins and attractions of the world. They draw me. They smudge me. They begin to guide my thinking and influence my values. My flesh thrives on them and my mind can actually get to enjoying them. That is worrisome. No, it is frightening! At times it is even disheartening and depressing. What can be done for me? (Keep reading; this is for you also!)
"He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify...and purge them as gold and silver" (Malachi 3:3). This morning I am personally blessed with the promise and assurance that God will purify me, cleaning me from the stains and smudges of sin's filth. Not only that, He will also refine me, restoring my values and thoughts to those which are His own. That gives me hope!
"Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:2). While it is gloriously true that God is the purifier, it is also true that He will not do that work in my life unless I ask Him to. Then He will gladly come and (with great vigor and expertise) He will wash me through and through. Isn't that wonderful! But now grab a hold of another verse in this Psalm -- "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (51:10). Oh my! There's that assurance again: If I ask Him, He will refine, restore, and renew me so that the sin about me becomes less effective in staining me in the first place. Praise the Lord!
"Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word...that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27). The love of Jesus for us led Him to sacrifice Himself for our cleansing and sanctification. Notice, though, that one of the ways in which He accomplishes this is with His Word. Thus, if I would be without the blemishing stains of sin and if I would be holy in my thoughts, values, and actions, I must make His Word an integral part of my life. Thank God for the Bible!
There you have it, my friend. We don't need better self-control and improved self-discipline. Our own efforts at cleaning up our lives will fail. We need God's purifying and refining. Better self-control and improved self-discipline will result from God's cleansing work in our lives, but those two wonderful character traits will not produce effective cleansing in God's eyes.
All this reminds me again of one of God's great promises to His besieged people: "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20). As we note and bemoan the increase and expansion of sin, let's also remember that grace out-increases and out-expands sin! I thank the Lord that "by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:10). May we together purpose to live humbly before Him who gives grace to the humble.
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