HE WAS THERE ALONE

“And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.”
Matthew 14:23

As Jesus taught the Word of God and healed the sick, the crowds continued to grow. Multitudes thronged Him, wanting to hear and touch Him, and longing to see another one of His miracles. Amazed at the mighty power of His words and deeds, they gathered their friends and loved ones who were hurting, that the loving touch and compassionate message of Jesus might transform their lives. As His popularity increased and the crowds grew, there was something that Jesus needed that became increasingly difficult to find. He needed time alone, to pray, to rest, and to have communion with His Father. The Scripture records that “he went up into a mountain apart to pray.”

We should realize that if Jesus needed this time of prayer and solitude, so do we. Helpful lessons are embedded in this Scripture. We see that Jesus withdrew Himself. It was a deliberate choice that He made. If we are going to spend time with the Lord, we are going to have to take the necessary steps for that to be possible. To do this, we must be convinced of the necessity of a relationship with God that includes private prayer. Then we must arrange our schedules so that this is a priority. It will require denying certain other conflicting activities that will compete for the time we need to reserve for God. Some of those things may be good things, but they stand in the way of the best use of our time. We must choose to withdraw ourselves from all interferences.

We also see that Jesus prayed. This was not a time of solitude spent in leisure. He was not getting away from the crowds because they were bothersome to Him. He needed time to pray. We also need to spend time in prayer. We need to pray because it is good for us to spend time with the Lord. It is good for us to cast our cares on Him, knowing that He cares for us. It is also good for others. Time spent alone with God will make us more capable to meet the needs of others. In our time of prayer, we are able to lift the needs of others to God. Time spent in prayer is, likewise, good for God. We were created to bring pleasure to Him. We have been redeemed that we might fellowship with our Creator. May God help us to withdraw from our busyness and pray.

FORFEITED BLESSINGS

“Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.”
Psalm 81:13, 14

If God’s people would have taken His word seriously and obeyed Him, walking in His ways, the Lord would have given great victories. Israel was not always, in every occasion, disobedient and rebellious. But more often than not, they were not diligent about their spiritual responsibilities. They would trust and obey sporadically, but then revert back to their own ways. It is always too soon to quit trusting and obeying. The Psalmist records how God’s people forfeited a great opportunity to see Him work. The Bible says that He “should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries” had they only “hearkened unto . . . and . . . walked in my ways!” Deliverance could have come to Israel. God would have come through for them. Victory is sometimes closer than we can imagine. But they quit listening to God and stopped obeying Him. Had they continued to hearken to the Lord and walk in His ways, it would have been a different story.

There will always be temptations to quit doing what is right. It may very well be that the temptations to quit become even more intense when we are about to see a spiritual breakthrough. We need to persevere in faith. We need to keep listening to what God says. Israel turned a deaf ear to God. That is exactly what the devil wants us to do. He wants us to quit listening to God. He wants us to think that God cannot be trusted, or that God’s way does not work out for our good and His glory. He wants us to doubt the Word of God. He wants us to tune God out. I think there are a lot of professing Christians who sit in church, but are not listening to God. Israel ceased to obey God and take the high road of godly living. Satan wants us to make the same kind of unwise decisions as they did.

Many people are giving up on God’s ways and embracing their own ways. We are warned in the Bible that the way that seems right to man in the end will bring death. It is the enemy’s tactic to convince us that God’s ways are too old-fashioned. When we quit hearkening to God’s Word and stop obeying Him, we are forfeiting untold potential blessings. When we are tempted to quit living for God, remember that victory may be just ahead.

WHO IS ON THE LORD’S SIDE?

“Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.”
Exodus 32:26

Moses had just returned from forty days of communing with God on Mt. Sinai. He brought with him two tables of stone, whereon were commandments written with the hand of God. As Moses came near to the people, he found that they had fashioned an idol in his absence and were consumed in false worship. In his justifiable anger, he cast the tablets of stone down and broke them. He took the golden calf they had formed, burned it in the fire, ground it into powder, threw it into the water, and made the people drink the water. He then called for a commitment among the people, using these challenging words, “Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me.”

His question remains a pointed, precise, powerful, and pertinent question! Who is on the Lord’s side? I have heard people say that they did not like being pressed to make a commitment to God. It is interesting that those same people do not mind committing to a bank for a thirty-year mortgage or a car payment, but they do not feel they should make commitments about spiritual things. Personally, I think we all should make commitments that will affect our spiritual growth. We should be committed to faithful attendance to church, committed to tithing, committed to telling others about Christ, committed to reading our Bibles daily, committed to serving the Savior, committed to training our children, etc. We should call ourselves to commitments, and we should appreciate others who challenge us to stronger commitments.

We need to take a stand on the side of God and what is right. The people where we work should see that we are on the Lord’s side. Our family members should know that we are on the Lord’s side. Our friends should know that we are on the Lord’s side. Our neighbors should know that we are on the Lord’s side. Even our fellow Christians and church members should know that we are on the Lord’s side.

Whose side are you on today? Sometimes people want to remain neutral. They like being able to blend in with the side of evil and the side of righteousness. Let Moses’ question ring in your heart today. “Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me.” Let’s demonstrate our commitment to God and what is right.

REMOVE FROM YOUR PLACE AND GO AFTER IT

“And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.”
Joshua 3:3

Forty years had passed since the children of Israel had left Egypt in route to the Promised Land. An entire generation had died. Moses also died, not being permitted to enter Canaan. Joshua was about to lead God’s people across the Jordan River to inherit their promised possession. The congregation was to watch for the Ark of the Covenant. This would be their signal. When they saw the ark moving, they were to “remove from your place, and go after it.” It was the most sacred piece of furniture in the tabernacle. It was a rectangular shaped chest of wood overlaid with gold. The mercy seat was placed on the top of the ark. Kept inside the ark were to be the tablets of the law, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod that miraculously budded. The ark was placed inside the veil of the tabernacle. The ark represented for them the presence of God in their camp. When they saw the ark move, they were to “remove from your place, and go after it.”

These words of instruction, given to the Israelites as they moved into Canaan, inspire a principle worthy of our consideration and application. In so many words, the life of the Christian could be summarized in a similar way. As Israel, we are to remove from our place and go after the way God would have us go. Often we find that where God wants us to be is different from where we are, and possibly different from where we want to be. Joshua and the officers referred to it as “your place.” We must not think only in terms of a physical or geographic location, but also a spiritual place. We are to be willing to leave our place and pursue God’s best for our lives.

The thing that sometimes keeps us from the spiritual progress we should attain is that we are unwilling to give up our place for God’s plan and place for us. Our place may not necessarily be a bad place; it may even be a respectably good place. But, if it is not where God wants us to be, we have to be willing to leave it and “go after” the ark. We are to be following the Savior, pursuing His will, and pressing on to know the Lord. The Christian life is not a passive life. We are to be going after all that the Bible promises us. By faith and obedience, we are to lay aside our wills and go after what God has for us.

REJOICING TO HEAR HIS VOICE

“He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is ful-filled.”
John 3:29

Identifying the things that bring joy to a person reveals much about that person. What is it that causes us to greatly rejoice, our possessions, family, or success? John the Baptist mentions twice the source of his greatest joy. He said that he “rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice” and “this my joy therefore is fulfilled.” John was the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He was sent to prepare the way for the Lord to come and to direct people to the Savior. John described his relationship to Jesus as a friend of the bridegroom, and he rejoiced greatly to hear the bridegroom’s voice. John said that he loved to listen to Jesus and rejoiced to hear His voice. This was the source of John’s joy – to hear the Savior’s voice. The Jews had long waited for the appearing of the promised Messiah. John was chosen and privileged to proclaim His coming, then to identify Him, and also to baptize Him. How the sound of Jesus’ voice must have thrilled the soul of John!

It is a great joy to know that we, too, can hear the Bridegroom’s voice. Of course, we do not hear His audible voice, but we can hear His voice in our hearts. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice.” The Spirit of God communicates with our hearts through the Word of God. As we read God’s Word, He speaks to us. When we read the precious words of God, we should rejoice to hear His voice. The Holy Spirit indwells us and guides us into all truth. It is a wonderful thing when we know that it is God Who is speaking to us through His Word. As we read our Bibles daily, we should be listening for Him to speak to us.

Also, through the preaching and teaching of the Bible, we can hear God speaking to our hearts. It is not enough to simply hear sermons; we rejoice when we know that God speaks to us through the Scripture as it is proclaimed. Sometimes sermons do not mean anything to those who listen because they do not know the Shepherd. They cannot hear His voice. It is an encouraging thing to see in the listener’s eyes that he is longing to hear the Lord speak to his heart, and he rejoices to hear the voice of the Bridegroom.

WHEREIN HAVE WE ROBBED THEE?

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.”
Malachi 3:8

The prophet Malachi was speaking under the inspiration of God when he told the nation of Israel that they were guilty of robbing God. The people responded to this rebuke with a question, “wherein have we robbed thee?” If they were guilty of robbing God, they wanted to know precisely what they had done. The answer was simple and direct. They had robbed God in the area of their “tithes and offerings.” They were guilty of withholding their tithes and offerings from God. They had taken what belonged to God and used it for themselves. They were thieves.

Many people today would look at tithes and offerings as being given, or withheld, from the church, because it is at the place of worship that they are given. But the tithe, though it is given to and used through the church, belongs to God. Because of their sin, God told them that they were cursed with a curse and that the devourer was thus free to destroy their fruit. God gave them a wonderful promise, if they would repent and be faithful in their giving to Him, He would open “the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

Imagine someone robbing God. Why would anyone want to rob God, especially those who claim salvation and forgiveness of sins through the death of His Son on the cross of Calvary? Have we robbed God? Although the prophet Malachi specifically addressed the problem of disobedience in the matter of tithes and offerings, we could also say that we rob God in other ways. If we do not give God the glory that He deserves, could we not say that we are robbing Him of His glory? God’s creation continually testifies to His glory and honor, and we should also live for His glory. When we live for self, we are robbing Him of the glory He deserves. God is worthy of our constant praise and thanks. We should praise Him for all that He is and all that He has done, and thank Him often for His goodness to us. When we fail to do so, we are robbing Him of the praise and thanks that should be His. God is our Master, and He expects our faithful service. When we are not serving Him, we are guilty of robbing Him of the service that He is due. Perhaps we should ask God as Israel did, “Wherein have we robbed thee?”

HOLY BRETHREN

“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.”
Hebrews 3:1

The writer of Hebrews addresses the recipients of his letter as “holy brethren.” These readers were not unique or peculiar believers and were not recognized as being especially holy because of their unusual godliness. They were fellow Christians, those who had placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. All who are the children of God by faith in Christ could be addressed in the same way. We are “holy brethren.”

Both of these words, holy and brethren, describe our spiritual position through Jesus Christ. What an encouragement it is to meditate on the blessed state that we enjoy as followers of Jesus Christ. We are holy by virtue of our position in Christ. The word holy means “sacred or set apart, something or someone that is consecrated.” When a person is born again, he is, in his spiritual position, immediately set apart from the world and set apart for God. Of course, this position should be confirmed through our practice. But, it is not our conduct alone that makes us holy, but also our position in Christ. We belong to God. The moment we were saved, we were indwelt with the Holy Spirit, sealed unto the day of redemption, and seated with Christ in heavenly places. Our lives are not our own, and we are hid with Christ in God. This relationship is eternal, and the position is unchanging.

We are also brethren, as we have been placed into the family of God. The moment we trusted in Christ for our salvation, we were adopted into God’s family. The only way to enter this family is through a spiritual birth. When one is born again, God becomes his Father; those who are children of God are now brothers and sisters. There is much in the Bible about the way we are to love and treat each other as members of our spiritual family.

It is imperative that we see who we are spiritually, because we will be prone to live out this reality in our daily lives. Our belief affects our behavior. The more we understand that we are holy and set apart for God, the more we will expect ourselves to live like it. As we realize that we belong to each other as brethren, we will be more likely to appreciate and love each other as we are taught in the Scripture. Child of God, holy brethren, how do you see yourself?

OUR EXAMPLE

“He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
I John 2:6

The Bible is very clear about our responsibility to pattern our lives after the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to “walk, even as he walked.” We all have known, or known of, individuals that had such a godly walk that to be like them seems a worthy goal. Yet, the ultimate objective is not to imitate any mortal, but the Lord Himself. Paul encouraged others to follow him because he was following Christ, but the goal was to get others to follow the Lord. Our mission in life is to be like Him. Some might say, “I thought our mission was to win others to Jesus.” The simple answer is, “If we are seeking to be like Him, we will be winning others to Him.” No one ever loved or cared like Jesus did. No one ever obeyed and honored the Father like Jesus.

How might we begin to pattern ourselves after Jesus? The process begins with salvation. When we are saved, we receive the Spirit of Christ dwelling within. We should then take seriously the responsibility of obeying God’s Word. If we are going to “walk, even as he walked,” we must be committed to a life of obedience to the Word of God.

The command to follow the Lord’s example should be an incentive to take our spiritual walk very seriously. Unfortunately, we can find ourselves too casual in our spiritual growth because we have experienced a measure of progress, or because we have achieved a higher level of maturity than others. We should not compare ourselves with one another or be comforted because we seem to be doing better than they are. That kind of thinking will cause us to be complacent rather than aggressive in our spiritual development. Also, the challenge to be more like Jesus will help us realize that there is always room for growth and adjustment. None of us have nearly arrived. Only a person consumed with pride would think he is in every way walking as Jesus did. It seems that the closer we get to the Lord, the more we see the need to decrease and allow His work in us to increase. In addition, the realization that we are to walk as Jesus walked will undoubtedly motivate us to rely upon Him all the more.

We are not capable of duplicating the walk of Jesus in our own energy or ability. The only way that we can consistently improve in our daily walk is when He is living His life through us.

ALAS, MY LORD

“And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.”
Numbers 12:11

Miriam and Aaron raised their voices in protest because Moses had taken an Ethiopian wife. In doing so, they sought to justify their wrong attitudes by reasoning that God could speak to them as well as to Moses. They were way out of line as far as their conduct was concerned. God heard their words, and His anger was kindled against them. Miriam was stricken with leprosy. Aaron repented, confessing to Moses that they had sinned and acted foolishly.

In addressing Moses, Aaron referred to him as “my lord.” The word lord means “sovereign or master.” Aaron addressed Moses with the deepest respect and demonstrated a truly submissive attitude. The thing that makes this exchange even more noteworthy is when you consider how this trio was related. Aaron, Moses, and Miriam were siblings, children born to Amram and Jochebed. Aaron called his brother “lord.” This is a great example of respect for a position of authority. Although Moses, Aaron, and Miriam shared the same parents and were in every way equal as far as their family positions were concerned, God had placed Moses in a place of leadership and authority. We can assume that because they were all related by blood, Aaron and Miriam would feel that they deserved special privilege with Moses. Their comment about how God spoke to them as well as Moses makes it clear that they were having a problem with Moses’ leadership.

This scene is all too familiar for the honest Christian. Struggling with the decision or direction of those God places in authority over us is something most have experienced. We have all had those we are commanded to submit to, that we have disagreed with on some issue. It makes it even more challenging if they happen to be close friends or even related to us. There is a very natural tendency to think of them only in terms of their human relationship and forget the position that God has placed them in. Familiarity can cause us to treat them in a way that does not respect the position they occupy. Aaron understood his error and quickly adjusted his attitude and behavior. It took a moment, but he was able to recognize that his brother was also his spiritual leader. We need to do the same.

SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
I Corinthians 6:9-11

The Bible teaches the absolute necessity of the new birth. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” God is holy, and none of us are righteous within ourselves. Every person is in need of salvation. In our unregenerate and natural state, none will qualify for Heaven.

People are deceived about the seriousness of sin, the nature of salvation, and the requirement of rebirth and imputed righteousness. False teachers assure their listeners that good works or moral reform will gain an entrance into God’s holy Heaven. This is not true. That is why the text says, “Be not deceived.”

Thank God for salvation that brings forgiveness of sin and the new man of righteousness. God’s gift of eternal life produces transformed lives in those who are redeemed. Only God can create a new person through the miracle of the new birth. We can identify with Paul’s statement, “And such were some of you.” We may not be all that we should be, but thank God we are not what we once were. God can change anyone. When we are born again, we become new creatures in Christ. Our past is exactly that; it is our past.

Sometimes new believers have a hard time putting their past behind them because of guilt over past sins. It is important that we take God at His Word concerning our former lives. Our sins are under the blood; we have been justified by His grace; and we have peace with God.

Because we remember what we once were, it should help us have compassion on the unsaved and a desire to reach them with the Gospel. Nothing could have changed us like the power of salvation. We should never look, with a critical, judgmental eye, at others still bound in sin. But for the grace of God, we would still be there. The next time we get irritated or frustrated with the behavior of lost sinners, remember this: “And such were some of you.”