“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
Although personal workers often use these verses as an invitation to receive Christ as Savior, in its context, Jesus is speaking to the church of the Laodiceans. He is pictured on the outside of the church, knocking at the door, seeking to gain entrance. In itself, this is a somber image. Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for it. Of all places, He should not be on the outside looking in. Be that as it may, one has to wonder how many congregations are in the same situation. How do churches get that way? What would the Lord have them to do?
The answers are found in this familiar passage of Scripture. The location of Jesus on the outside of the Laodicean church was the result of their sin, particularly their sin of being lukewarm. Their complacency and self-satisfaction was nauseating to the Lord. This would certainly describe many churches and Christians today. The passion for God is absent. Lethargy has replaced spiritual hunger. Zeal has given way to slumber. Where there was once sincere worship, ritual now reigns. The thing that makes this condition so serious is the blindness of those infected. They see nothing wrong with where they are, and are therefore comfortable.
However, the Word of God helps us to see the need for revival. Jesus comes to this dying church, initiates dialogue, and offers intervention. In doing so, He gives them clear and nonnegotiable responsibilities. Out of love, He rebukes them and calls them to repentance. This is the response that God is looking for. When we have disobeyed God, there is no acceptable alternative. The Lord requires confession and repentance. They were to hear His knock, repent, and OPEN THE DOOR. He wants those who claim to know Him to listen to His warning, honestly recognizing the spiritual needs in their lives, and turn in a godly direction. He insists that we admit our woeful condition. We must admit the sin of seeking to live without His vibrant presence in our lives. We are to invite Him back into the place of prominence He deserves. Jesus wants renewed fellowship with His saints. He wants to “sup with” us. It is up to us to OPEN THE DOOR.
“As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.”
In our Scripture, a comparison is offered that serves as a warning against WANDERING. First, we see a bird that wanders from her nest. When the bird is on her nest, she is usually either sitting on eggs or feeding her young. It would be a dangerous thing for her or the young if she were to get too far from her nest. God uses this as an illustration of the man that wanders “from his place.” Just as the bird’s place is on or near her nest, we have “a place.” God has a specific place in His will for us to occupy. The closer we stay to that place, the better off we are. We are not spiritual nomads, just WANDERING aimlessly or without a fixed station or purpose. God has a place for each of us. When people get out of their places, they expose themselves to temptations and dangers that can be disastrous.
When God moves us, it is one thing, as with Abraham’s trek to the Promised Land. This is not the same as WANDERING, as though following some inclination or impulse. As with the bird, when we are out of our places, we are also absent from our duties. Her responsibility was to guard the nest and protect and feed the young. By WANDERING, she placed others in harm’s way. She left her offspring exposed to unnecessary dangers. Could we not say that the same thing can be true in our lives? When a person wanders away from his post, others will be adversely affected. When we wander from God’s place, we are forsaking our duties and God-given charges. When the prodigal left the father’s house, he was not only leaving his abode, he was also abandoning his responsibilities as a son.
If a man wanders from his place, who will take up the slack and fulfill his purpose in God’s will? The word “wandereth” implies a careless venture away from a designated place. To wander means “To rove; to ramble here and there without any certain course or object in view.” This aptly describes how a man often gets away from “his place.” He becomes haphazard about his place, as though it is not important or divinely appointed. Initially, he may not intend to abandon his place or his duty. Instead, he carelessly drifts away from the place God has placed him, but the results can be devastating. It is a wise person who is resolute in remaining in “his place.”
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
II Corinthians 12:9
The apostle Paul experienced things with God that perhaps no other mortal would ever know. His salvation came from a direct encounter with the risen Christ. He was the instrument God used to give us much of the New Testament. His missionary accomplishments could only be attributed to the hand of God that was resting upon him. He testified of being taken up to Heaven and seeing things that he was not able to share. To protect Paul from being prideful, God allowed him to have a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan that buffeted him. Whatever this thorn in the flesh was, it was so severe that Paul prayed three times for God to take it from him.
Our text is God’s reply to His servant. God’s grace would be sufficient for Paul. What a great promise this was for the apostle and what a comforting assurance it is for us. None of us know what the future holds. Sometimes there are disappointments, diseases, distresses, difficulties, or discouragements. Whatever we will have to walk through or endure, there is something we can be confident about – God’s grace for us will always be sufficient. He does not promise a problem-free journey, but He does provide us with an adequate supply of grace.
The next part of God’s answer for Paul was, “my strength is made perfect in weakness.” The weakness that Paul’s thorn in the flesh produced was the opportunity for God’s strength to be manifested. It is normal for us to think of our weakness as a liability or handicap. Instead, our weaknesses can be assets if through those weaknesses, God’s strength can be realized. In fact, it is dependence on our strength that makes us weak. Our human and fleshly strength will never be adequate.
There will always be endeavors or situations that require more than we can supply. It is in our times of weakness that we experience God’s grace and strength. With these promises in tow, Paul announced, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Realizing that our difficulties are opportunities for God’s power to rest upon us, we can make friends of the things that weaken us.
“And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.”
This verse of Scripture is a promise that was given to Israel, provided they obey God, avoid idolatry, keep the sabbath, etc. If they did not walk in His statutes, they would experience God’s chastisement. One of the wonderful things about this verse is that it reveals God’s love for man and His desire to fellowship with man. This thought defies comprehension; that Almighty God, in all of His holiness, would want to have companionship with lowly creatures like us. This has been His intention from the beginning. God walked with the first man, Adam. He obviously walked with many other individuals as well. He stood with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. His presence accompanied the nation of Israel, manifested as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
In the New Testament, we see Immanuel, our Savior Jesus Christ, walking with men. He came to His disciples walking on the water. His promise to those of us who are saved is that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and that He would be with us always. We see Jesus in the Book of Revelation walking among the candlesticks, which are His churches. God wants to walk with His creation. This is the great tragedy of sin: those who are unsaved will be separated from God both for time and for eternity. The good news is that God loves us. He wants to walk with us. He wants to be closer to us than we might imagine. The God who made the universe desires our companionship.
The sins that have separated us from God’s fellowship can be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. This is our privilege as born again children of God. The Holy Spirit indwells us and Jesus is our Friend. By faith, we can walk with Him. Not only is this the greatest privilege in life, it is also a solemn responsibility. Fulfilling our purpose in life demands that we walk in closeness to God. Sometimes the Bible calls this “abiding” in Him. As we abide in Him, we are able to know and follow His will, our prayers are answered, and we experience the joy that only an obedient Christian can know.
As we serve Christ, we are co-laborers with the Lord and for the Lord in the greatest work in the world. Are you walking with God today? His promise to walk among us is realized as we follow His will and obey His word.
“Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.”
Jeremiah is testifying concerning his attitude toward the words of God that were given to him. We notice that Jeremiah’s language reveals that he was convinced that they were indeed God’s words, saying “Thy words,” and “thy word.” This is such a simple, yet powerful thing to consider. The way we view the Bible will have profound effect on how the Bible affects us. There are those who approach the Bible critically, seeking to find some discrepancy or holding it to be the words of mortals rather than the very Word of God. Their unbelief hinders them from experiencing the mighty power of God’s Word working in them. The words that Jeremiah found were not always pleasant words for those to whom he delivered them. The words announced severe judgment and identified false prophets that plagued the people. It was because of these words that Jeremiah found himself persecuted and in prison. Nevertheless, when he found God’s Word, he received it. Even though the message was severe and unpopular, he laid hold upon it. He said, “I did eat them.” He took God’s Word into his heart and life. “I did eat them” paints a vivid picture of how we are to ingest God’s Word.
It is one thing to read the Bible or hear the Bible; it is another thing to engraft it into our lives. We are not to simply consider the Bible; we are to commit to the Bible. Jeremiah spoke of the truth as “the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” What a positive attitude toward the Word of God! He placed great value on God’s Word. We all should seek to cultivate a similar appetite for the Bible. Reading and loving the Bible is not the only thing that is required of consistent and growing Christians, but it is one thing that cannot be ignored. So often, we have found it to be true, that when a brother is struggling in His Christian walk, there has been neglect of the Word of God. Jeremiah said he greatly rejoiced in the Scriptures because of his identity: “for I am called by thy name.” This should be a characteristic of God’s children, those who are called by His name. There is something missing in the life of a professing Christian who is not interested in the Word of God. How can one love the Lord and not delight in what He has to say?
“Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.”
Luke 19:30, 31
Jesus was preparing to ride into Jerusalem, where He would soon be crucified. In fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, He would ride upon a borrowed colt. Our text tells us that Jesus instructed two of His disciples to go into the village where they would find the colt tied. If anyone asked them why they were taking the colt, they were to say, “Because the Lord hath need of him.” They obeyed the Master and found the colt just as He had said. When the owners asked the reason they were loosing the colt, they replied, “the Lord hath need of him.” The colt was brought to Jesus, and He rode into Jerusalem. The owners of the colt offered no resistance. For them, “the Lord hath need of him” was sufficient. If the Lord needed their animal, the Lord was welcome to it.
This should serve as a valuable lesson for us all. Whatever the Lord needs from us, we should readily give it. We do not know all the reasons the owners so willingly offered their colt, but I would like to suggest two reasons we should give God whatever He desires of us. First of all, we should give to Him because all that we have comes from Him. God is the owner of everything. We are only His stewards. The Lord has entrusted His resources to us that we might use them as it would please Him. How unreasonable and selfish it is to receive from God the things He gives us to manage, and then refuse to offer them when He needs them.
Another reason we should enthusiastically give God all that He needs from us is because of all that He has done for us. How could we be unwilling to provide what God needs when He is always providing what we need? He has given us so much. God gave His only Son, and Jesus gave His life for us that we might have eternal life. He has given us a new start in life through the new birth. He has given us the Holy Spirit to be our constant Comforter. He has given us a vibrant church family to be a part of and to serve Him through. He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. He has provided an eternal home in Heaven. How can we say “No” when He calls for us?
“Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”
Psalm 86:4, 5
David expressed what we have so often felt. He was in trouble, facing discouragement, and needed a spiritual lift. Sometimes our souls need refreshing. David knew where to go with his need. “Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.” By faith, we can lift our needs up to God. We can bring our despondent souls to Him for a spiritual tune-up. Our emotions are part of our souls. We don’t always feel as upbeat about life as we should. What would be the proper thing to do when we feel a little less than enthusiastic about our station in life? We could dwell on our problems, but what would that do for us?
Actually, there are times when our souls need reviving, and we cannot point to a particular thing that has us in the doldrums. Is there any hope for such a state? David learned to lift up his soul to God, and we can do the same. God can “rejoice the soul” of His servants. He can restore the joy and peace to our hearts. Our flesh sometimes wants to wallow in self-pity and concentrate on things that depress. Satan certainly wants to steal our joy and the sound of victory from our hearts and homes. But God is in the business of giving peace and purpose to His children. We can lift up our souls to Him because we know that “thou, Lord, art good.” God is good, and He cares about our needs. He knows what we are going through. Satan is an expert in trying to paint a hopeless picture for us when our souls are in deep despair. Sometimes the devil wants to make us think that God is not interested in our personal situation, but nothing could be further from the truth.
We also know that our Lord is “ready to forgive.” We need to make sure we get that truth fixed in our hearts and minds. He is ready to forgive. God wants to remove everything that stands in the way of uninterrupted communion with Him. We may, because of our guilt, be hesitant to confess our sins to God, but He is waiting to forgive. The psalmist also reminds us that God is “plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” He is ready to show mercy to us as we call upon Him. Whatever we are going through, whether it is large or small, the best thing we can do is lift it up to God.
“But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.”
Paul had revisited Ephesus and spent more than two years there. As was his custom, Paul initially went into the synagogue and preached the Word of God. All did not enthusiastically receive his message. As our text declares, he met considerable resistance from some. As we read this Scripture, we can see how the rejection of truth develops.
You will notice that those who heard Paul’s words “believed not.” They did not accept the Gospel message as truth. When a person refuses to believe the truth, the only thing left for him to believe is a lie. Then we see that they “were hardened.” Their hearts were hardened as they resisted the Word of God. The next thing we see is that they “spake evil of that way before the multitude.” Because they refused to believe the Bible, their hearts became more calloused to the truth. They began to slander the way of Christianity. We can see an obvious progression in this passage of Scripture.
There are severe consequences associated with the rejection of truth. Some of the hardest people are those who have heard the Word of God and have rejected it. We have been dismayed by the vicious words and critical attitudes of people who at one time listened to the preaching of truth. How does a person go from an apparent listener to a contentious opponent of truth? Sometimes it occurs as our text discloses. They close their minds to some matter of Biblical principle, refusing to submit to the authority of the Scripture. As they continue to resist the truth, they become more adamant. The harder they are, the easier it is for them to contradict and criticize. After all, if one is not going to obey the truth, it is only natural to try to save face and make the message or the messenger look wrong.
It is absolutely essential that we make a conscious and consistent decision to respect and follow the Word of God. The way we respond to truth will greatly influence our continued Christian growth. Sometimes the Bible requires us to adjust our way of thinking or surrender our opinions. When we hear the truth, we can either believe and accept it, or resist it with lasting and harmful repercussions.
“And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.”
I Samuel 3:10
Young Samuel was being reared under the tutelage of Eli, the priest. As the child lay down to sleep, he heard a voice calling to him. It was the Lord that called Samuel, but he did not recognize the voice as being a call from God. He assumed it must be Eli calling. After going to Eli three times, Eli instructed Samuel in this manner. Eli told Samuel the next time he heard his name called to say, “Speak; for thy servant heareth.” It was then that God called and Samuel responded. Samuel did not initially understand where the call was coming from, but he was certainly listening.
We can all learn something from the child Samuel. All of us should endeavor to become avid listeners. Are we really listening? Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and found yourself not listening, or had someone repeatedly calling your name or trying to get your attention when you were not attentive? It seems to me that people in our culture are having an increasingly difficult time listening. There are probably many reasons for this, but often it is the failure to place a priority on the matter of listening. Almost anyone would agree that our attention spans are getting shorter. Because of these factors, we must make a special effort to learn to listen, and to teach others to listen.
It is common to find those who talk almost unceasingly, but have hardly developed the ability to listen. This is equally true for adults and children. People are too easily distracted. Samuel gives us an example of a serious listener. When he did not understand where his call was originating from, he was willing to listen to Eli’s instruction. In doing so, he heard God’s call. How imperative it is that we are able to listen to those God provides to help us know God and grow in His grace. We cannot afford to be casual about this important matter of listening. We must discipline ourselves to pay close attention to those who are speaking. This would include our friends, family, and teachers. We should especially listen to those who bring us the Word of God; for in hearing them, we are also listening for God to speak to us. God wants to give us direction and instruction. “Speak; for thy servant heareth.”
“And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?”
Under the leadership of Joshua, the occupation of Canaan was under way. Cities were being conquered. Several of the tribes were busy subduing the land of their inheritance. The tabernacle was set up at Shiloh. Yet, there were tribes that had done nothing in regard to their inheritance. In the words of Joshua, they were “slack to go to possess the land.”
We cannot know all the reasons for their inactivity, but we can be sure that in the mind of Joshua, it was time to get serious about their responsibilities. We can all learn from this passage. Joshua’s question needs to be answered in our hearts. “How long are ye slack?” The word “slack” usually describes idleness, procrastination, or slothfulness. Just as the children of Israel were not to be idle about their responsibilities, we are not to be idle about ours.
Personally, I doubt if there has ever been a time in my Christian journey when I could not benefit by honestly doing an evaluation to identify slackness in my life. Have we not all been guilty of putting off things we know we should do? Are we aggressively seeking to advance the kingdom of God, as we should? Does our prayer time reflect the faith and urgency that the needs of the world demand? Have we been diligent to search the Scriptures and study the Word of God? Excuses and procrastination can result in wasted hours, wasted days, and wasted years. Joshua’s question was, “How long?” He did not want the children of Israel to become comfortable in their idleness. It is one thing to rest when weary from the fight; it is another thing to be idle and disengaged from the purpose God has for us.
Often God will use His servants, the preachers of the Word of God, to stir us from our apathy and indifference and to motivate us to service. One day, our day for duty will cease. We must be motivated to diligent service. There will come a time when our opportunity is over for occupying the land or possessing our inheritance. We cannot afford to wait or be idle. “How long” will we be slack about our solemn responsibility to our generation? What we are going to do for the cause of Christ and the help of lost souls must be done now.