This week I began a month-long reading of the Old Testament book of Joshua (download the New Hope Worship Center mobile app for the reading plan and devotionals). Joshua is an exceptional example of a godly leader, having led Israel from the wilderness into the land God promises them.
Joshua gives us some insight into what is required to possess God’s promises:
- You will need to be strong and courageous. Josh. 1:6 says, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.”
- You will need to be obedient. Joshua1:7 says, “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.”
- You will need to continually declare God’s Word. Joshua 1:8 says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”
Meditating on God’s Word involves more than quietly thinking and pondering; it has more to do with speaking, saying, and declaring. Meditation on God’s Word may begin with the thoughts of your mind, but it includes and prioritizes the words of your mouth.
God said, “Joshua, don’t let My words stop flowing from your mouth! Keep declaring My promises and My covenant – no matter what you face! If you align your words with Mine, you will have success in what I send you to do!”
Are you speaking God’s promises over your life, or just rehearsing your problems? If your tongue is like a steering wheel, where is it leading you? James reminds us that the tongue is a powerful – even deadly – force when left to itself. But when you align your words with God’s Word, you ignite faith and allay doubt and fear.
Maybe the psalmist understood the power of our words when he prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart he acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
If your tongue is like a steering wheel, where is it leading you? The reality is, steering wheels should never be left unattended. The driver should control the direction of the car by rightly handling the steering wheel.
Stop letting your mouth run wherever it wants to. Get control of your tongue and you will get control of your life.
The no-judgment zone has gone too far.
Differences of opinion can be handled by those who are mature, but there are many who demand tolerance from others while refusing to extend the same toward those who see things from another perspective. Consequently, there are countless numbers of people who get offended at the thought of any form of absolute truth. If it doesn’t support their own thoughts, actions and beliefs, it is deemed judgmental and intolerant. They see it as condemnation.
That mindset has also crept into the way people view God and His Word. They want the blessings of God, but not His boundaries. They want His provision, but not His process. They want His intervention in crisis, but not His intrusion into root issues of a selfishness and pride.
The kingdom of God is not a no-judgment zone. Make no mistake, God is a Judge. But His judgments are entirely righteous. Only in God is justice truly found. The Father did not send Jesus to condemn the world – the world was already condemned by its own sin. Jesus came to set us free from our self-imposed condemnation.
The Apostle John wrote:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:17-18 ESV)
To be free from condemnation:
- Acknowledge the sinful motivations of your own heart. The Holy Spirit will reveal these things to you when you invite Him to reveal your heart to you.
- Declare that Jesus is not only the Righteous Judge, but also the One who sacrificed His life to set you free from your sin.
- Receive God’s forgiveness and ask Him to set you free from any bondage to the evil one.
- Earnestly seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that your character will be marked by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), and your life will be evidenced by the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12).
Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit and will set you free.
Condemnation comes from the enemy and keeps you in bondage.
Don’t mistake judgment for condemnation. God does not want you to be condemned, but He will confront your heart so that you can be set free.
The University of Texas invited Admiral William McRaven to speak to the graduates at the 2014 commencement ceremony. Expectations were high that the decorated military officer would inspire the graduates. Surprisingly, his nearly twenty minute speech could be summarized in three words: “make your bed.” He said, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” He profoundly asserted that changing the world begins with daily disciplines. The speech and subsequent YouTube video went viral, and, while it is yet to be seen if bedmakers will, in fact, change the world, certainly more beds are being made every day in America.
Have you ever gotten into someone’s car and had to move trash or clothes out of the way before you sat down? Maybe some fast-food wrappers, used straws, and napkins? Or what about this… Do you have a space in your dorm, apartment, or home that is a catch-all? You have stuff piled up, with every intention of going through it at some point. You just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
Its called clutter.
It happens in your room when you don’t make your bed or put your clothes away. It happens in your car when you live life “on the go.” It happens in your office when your “to-do” list outpaces your “done” list. But clutter also happens in your soul.
You may not be aware of this, but a huge percentage of people, when they make the faith-decision to accept Jesus as Savior, simply add Him to the clutter of their souls. He becomes “one more thing” in an already complex and distracted life. He is the “and 1”. Sure – a very important part of life – but still, only one part of a busy, fast-paced, sometimes chaotic and disorganized life. They may invite Jesus in, but they want Him to stay in, what Michael Jr. refers to as, “the good room” – the uncluttered place.
Meanwhile, the rest of the house (your soul) remains cluttered.
This is why a man can come to church on Sunday, but battle addictions, beat his girlfriend, cheat on his taxes, and flip someone off in traffic all in the same week. Anger, lust, dishonesty, and selfishness have never been removed. Jesus wasn’t allowed in those rooms.
Many people view Jesus as a nice Guest, for whom we should dress up, cook dinner, and entertain for an hour or two each week. What if we saw Jesus as a fiercely loyal friend, dressed in jeans, coming to your place like the crew from the TV show, Hoarders, and offering to clean the clutter with you? What would happen if you actually let Jesus have full access to your soul?
If your life is a house, who is the owner?
If Jesus is just a guest in your house, you’re doing it wrong. At some point you need to sign over the papers and give Him complete ownership.
Let’s be honest- you don’t need to be tweaked; you need to be transformed.
Clutter occurs when we have idols. Sometimes we call them passions or priorities. But these are things that we keep which really need to be gotten rid of.
When Paul ministered in Ephesus, he saw evidence of authentic transformation in people’s lives. These were people who dealt with the clutter.
“Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.”
Acts 19:18-19 ESV
Clutter is not the same thing as litter. Litter has no value. But, clutter in our lives represents those areas where we have invested lots of time, lots of money, and lots of energy. We’ve developed a sort of co-dependency with these things or people. To give it up would cost us.
So, do you still own your life and call the shots? Or does Jesus get to clean the clutter?
Persecution is part of being a follower of Jesus. He was “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53). As His followers, we not only know the “power of His resurrection,” but also the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).
Stephen was a respected man in his community, filled with the Holy Spirit, wise, and one through whom miracles and wonders were manifest. Yet, the truth he spoke was fiercely rejected, resulting in his arrest and eventual death by stoning.
Many people reject truth because they don’t want to face their own sins. They claim morality and justice, but only that which permits them to be the judge and determiner. Since the Garden of Eden, human nature is to “be like God,” determining and defining good and evil. In America, idolatry begins with “I” – in more ways than one.
Therefore, those who claim Jesus Christ as the only source of truth are labeled “exclusive” and “intolerant.” Spoken words of biblical truth are considered “hate speech.” Followers of Jesus are pressured to privatize their faith, while others parade their beliefs proudly.
[Note: Regretfully, there are a few followers of Jesus whose speech and attitude truly are hate-filled and arrogant, not reflecting the character of Jesus. Perhaps they are immature and not yet discipled, or hard-hearted and legalistic. Either way, hateful attitudes and spiteful actions are displeasing to the Lord and can be destructive to the testimony of Jesus. Still, many sincere and humble followers of Jesus are targeted and persecuted, simply because of their faith in and proclamation of Jesus Christ.]
Followers of Jesus will be persecuted. How then should we respond? Stephen sets the bar pretty high with his Christ-like response.
“Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Acts 7:58-60 ESV
Like Jesus, Stephen willingly gave his life.
Like Jesus, Stephen willingly forgave his persecutors.
Like Jesus, Stephen’s death served to give others new life. Did you notice that Saul was there, consenting to Stephen’s death? Think about the impact Stephen made in his life. Saul was educated, religious, and passionate about justice, yet he was actually an enemy of God. He would have known the story of Jesus and heard the details about His crucifixion. Now, standing in front of Stephen, watching him being stoned to death, Saul would have seen the similarities between Jesus and Stephen. But the greatest impact would have occurred when Stephen looked out toward his persecutors, and maybe stared directly into Saul’s eyes, and said, “Father. forgive them.”
That moment had to have been sealed in Saul’s mind and heart. Not long after that event, Luke tells us that Paul had a personal encounter with Jesus that transformed his life – and our world – forever. Stephen’s persecution was a part of Saul’s transformation.
Perhaps your words of testimony are being rejected. Maybe you’ve been marginalized, threatened, or even persecuted for your faith. The worldly mindsets and philosophies around us seek to box us in and keep us quiet. But know this – your testimony, both verbalized in words and visualized in action, is planting seeds of faith, which will grow and produce a harvest of souls for God’s kingdom.
Following Jesus is not an easy path, but it is a worthy one. This is why many believers in the early church had this to say about their persecution: “I was counted worthy to suffer for the One who suffered for me.”
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David was a hard-working shepherd.
David was a passionate worshipper.
David was a respected leader.
However, David also committed adultery, had Uriah killed, and displeased the Lord on several occasions. You would think that these sinful actions would have forfeited any promise for a significant role in God’s kingdom.
If your reputation is ruined, is your legacy doomed?
David’s road was certainly not an easy one. Sin indeed demands payment and comes with consequences. David faced heartache in both his family and his kingdom. However, God brought him through, eventually redeeming David’s reputation. He is not known for his failures; he is known for his heart for God.
David wrote this humble, prayerful song, expressing his desire to still be used by God:
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.”
Psalms 138:8 ESV
Actions matter. But heart matters more. And only God truly knows your heart.
Many people truly desire to please God, but have experienced personal failure. God’s grace is greater than your sin. His grace overcomes. You may have failed, but the race is not over yet.
Get up! Stop wallowing in the pit of shame – that hellish place where demons taunt you about your past and give you no hope for the future.
Repent! That word is far more important and liberating than you may have imagined. Confess your sins to God and to whomever else you need to confess. Be filled with sorrow for your selfishness and disobedience. Be determined to walk in a new direction to please God and honor others.
Follow Jesus! Every day. With your whole heart. Wherever He leads.
Let Jesus be the Savior.
He is very good at redeeming and restoring.
Photo: Ethan Schoonover via Flickr