We don’t follow God primarily because we want to get something from Him, or at least we shouldn’t. We follow Him because we love Him, He is our savior, and nothing on earth can compare to having a relationship with Him. But we also shouldn’t ignore the fact that following God does mean we’ll receive good gifts from Him.
Following God gives us hope for eternal life. He promises that all who believe in Him shall never see death. Even if that were the only gift, it would be more than enough. However, the good things we receive from God don’t all wait until after you die. He also does wonderful things in our lives right now.
We can’t expect all (or even most) of God’s blessings will be physical ones, though. While He does promise to provide for our needs and even blesses some with physical prosperity, none of us escape trials and hardships in this life. In fact, Christians are promised they will suffer in following Christ’s footsteps. If we only expect God to do things for us in the physical realm then we’ll miss a lot of the blessings He pours out on us. So today, let’s take look at one Psalm that describes some of the incredible things that following the Lord can do for us.
Psalm 19 begins by saying, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” After waxing eloquent about how the universe reveals the Creator, David begins to speak of other ways the Lord, Yahweh, reveals Himself to us. Then David explains how those revelations affect those who believe. Read more →
The Old Testament often describes God as “slow to anger.” A more literal translation of the Hebrew is actually “long-nosed,” which makes no sense in English. But it’s a picture of a person who takes a long time to reach the point where they’re so angry that their nostrils flare and the air whooshes through their nose like a bull about to charge.
The phrases “slow to anger” and“long-suffering,” are both translated from two Hebrew words — “long” and “breath/passion/heat/anger.” The Greek equivalent is typically translated “patience” or “long-suffering.” It’s not about never getting angry, but about having control over when that happens and not flying off into a rage.
Anger is not inherently sinful. God gets angry, and Paul also tells us we can be angry without sinning (Eph. 4:26). But God doesn’t get angry quickly or without good cause, and we shouldn’t either. So how can we become “slower to anger” and “longer suffering”?
Quick Anger Fuels Strife
I think the dividing line between anger that is and is not sinful can be found in the effect that it has. Jesus throwing those who were exploiting believers out of the temple? Righteous anger. Me getting so upset at someone that I say something nasty which leads to conflict? Sinful anger.
God hates arrogance, wicked schemes, and discord. So if your anger is causing these (or anything else He hates), then it is leading to sin. There are several Proverbs addressing this. Here are a few: Read more →
Have you ever felt like your spirit is crushed and your heart broken? Like you’ve been pounded into dust or smashed to smithereens?
Those are the definitions for the Hebrew words shabar (H7665, broken) and dakka (H1793, crushed). I bring them up because I want to talk about this verse from Psalms:
Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. (Psalm 34:18, WEB)
When you’re ground down like dust and broken into pieces, God is there beside you. We often want Him to prevent or remove bad things but it seems that in most cases His preference is to walk with us through hardship rather than stop it from ever happening. We are promised deliverance, but in His timing, not ours.
The righteous cry, and Yahweh hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but Yahweh delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:17-19, WEB)
It’s clear from this psalm that righteousness doesn’t exempt us from bad situations. In fact, “many are the afflictions of the righteous” and they have to cry to Yahweh for deliverance. That holds true for believers throughout the ages.
I endured those persecutions. The Lord delivered me out of them all. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Tim. 3:11-12, WEB)
In 1 Corinthians, Paul makes several references to leavening and to Passover. For many readers today, these references mean very little because so many Christian churches have strayed from the roots of their faith, which Paul was referencing here. In order to really understand key passages of 1 Corinthians, we need to understand Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
I know some (perhaps quite a few) of you are Christians who don’t keep Passover, but I hope you’ll keep reading today’s post. I think you’ll find it interesting and maybe it’ll give you something new to think about and study.
The Passover story begins in Exodus 12. We’re nearing the end of the plagues of Egypt, and the Lord is telling Moses what the Israelite must do to avoid the final plague — the death of the first born. In the first month of the year, on the evening that begins the 14th day (Hebrew days begin at sunset), Israel was to kill a young male lamb, paint the door posts of their houses with its blood, then roast the lamb whole and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Ex. 12:1-13).
This day shall be to you for a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast to Yahweh: throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever. (Ex. 12:14, WEB)
The Lord goes on to describe a festival of unleavened bread (matzah) that follows the Passover. For seven days, no leavening (hametz) is permitted in anyone’s house and whoever eats leavened food will be cut off from God’s people (Ex. 12:15-20). Later instructions in Leviticus clarify the timing of all this, stating that Passover is on the 14th and Unleavened Bread begins with a holy convocation on the 15th, then ends with another holy convocation on the seventh day (Lev. 23:4-8). The two holy days are Sabbaths of rest where you are not to work, much like the weekly Sabbath.
The New Covenant Passover
Moving into the New Testament, the gospels make careful note of Passovers that Jesus kept during his ministry. The first is recorded in John 2:13-23. The second is skimmed over, though Luke 6:1 probably references the last day of Unleavened Bread. John 6:4 mentions the third Passover, and Christ’s final Passover is recorded in detail by all four gospels because that was the day He died.
He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will no longer by any means eat of it until it is fulfilled in God’s Kingdom.” (Luke 22:15-16, WEB)
He then proceeded to institute new Passover symbols for New Covenant believers. Jesus will not partake of the Passover again until the kingdom of God comes in the future, but He tells us to do so in memory of Him (Luke 22:17-20).
For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread. When he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “Take, eat. This is my body, which is broken for you. Do this in memory of me.” In the same way he also took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me.” (1 Cor. 11:23-25, WEB)
Honoring Jesus By Keeping The Passover
The passage we just read from 1 Corinthians is one of two obvious Passover references in this letter. Paul goes on to share instructions on how we’re supposed to prepare for Passover, as well as warnings about the dangers of not keeping Passover the correct way. Read more →
What does it mean to be “good”? Is it doing all the right things? Never messing up? Making sure you stay useful to God?
Not exactly. Biblical goodness does involve moral uprightness, having a good character, and doing the right thing. But Jesus also tells us, “No one is good but one, that is, God” (Matt. 19:17, WEB). So when we’re instructed to do and be good, there’s also an acknowledgment that we don’t already have inherent goodness inside us. For us, becoming good is a process that happens as we become more like God.
One of the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22 is “goodness.” It’s the Greek word agathosune (G19), which Zodhiates’ dictionary says “is character energized, expressing itself in … benevolence; active good.” It is a more active character trait than kindness, though the two are similar. When we have God’s spirit inside us, it prompts us to do the same sorts of things that God does because He is good.
Become Good By Following God
Oh taste and see that Yahweh is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Ps. 34:8, WEB)
Our God is good in every way. The Hebrew word tob H2896) means “good” in the broadest sense, including concepts like “better,” “beautiful,” and “pleasant.” There is no limit to the goodness of God, and “those who seek Yahweh shall not lack any good thing” (Ps. 34:10). Not only is the Lord good, but He gives goodness to those who seek Him and follow His example of goodness.
Who is someone who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking lies. Depart from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it. Yahweh’s eyes are toward the righteous. His ears listen to their cry. (Ps. 34:12-15, WEB)
The better our relationship with God is, the more readily we’ll follow His instructions and example of goodness. We don’t have to already be good for God to want us. We will, however, keep becoming better people the more we let Him work in us. Read more →
Meekness, gentleness, and mildness get a bad rap in today’s society. People tend to think of them as synonyms for being weak or boring. A door mat. But those three words I opened with are all possible translations of the Greek word praotes (G4236), which is listed as part of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.
The spirit of God is not weak or boring. It is full of power, and it is also “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.” Indeed, though we may not think of these traits as “powerful,” we cannot display them all unless we’re empowered by God. It takes a great deal of inner strength, commitment, and willingness to be transformed by God to live-out the fruit of His spirit, including gentleness.
The Meekness of Christ
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul opened one of his lines of thought with the words, “I Paul, myself, entreat you by the humility and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1, WEB). The traits of gentleness, humility, and meekness that the world spurns are key to understanding Jesus Christ’s character. Read more →