Obedience: The Missing Link
Social media is the premier outlet for how we express ourselves, and in this digital age, there is so much emphasis on our outward appearance. Typically, when posting on social media, I am guilty of this as well. We use the picture with the best angle and the best lighting—and the aesthetics matter so much today that it can be difficult to be authentic. Plus, we may also prefer things that seem to be pure rather than what is actually pure, holy, and acceptable to the Lord.
In Matthew 23, we find that Jesus was concerned, and even confrontational, about whether or not a person was being authentic. He admonished His followers in those days, as He does today, to hear, practice, and obey what the church leaders taught regarding Scripture, but to not follow their showy practices.
“Everything they do is done for people to see,” Jesus said (Matthew 23:5 NIV).
Jesus warns us that the Pharisees, scribes, and religious people loved the look and feel of being holy and righteous—yet in their hearts, they were filled with pride. This upset Jesus greatly. He referred to people like that as blind and foolish and commanded them to clean up their matters of the heart. He wants us to address what is on the inside, too, so that what is seen on the outside will be a reflection of Him.
What Jesus was teaching wasn’t a new doctrine. In essence, He was showing us the reason why the Lord accepts our obedience over sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). In the Old Testament, Exodus 39 and 40, the Lord instructed Moses to set up the Tabernacle on the first day of the new year. He then gave instructions on where to place each item. Not only was each item to be placed in a special way, though, certain items for consecration had very specific instructions on how to do so. As Moses followed the Lord’s instruction, and even as he consecrated Aaron, his obedience resulted in God’s glory filling the tabernacle.
In the New Testament, the body is depicted as a tabernacle wherein the Holy Spirit may dwell. Now we see why Jesus was so passionate about the intents and motives of our hearts. It is because without holiness, we would not be able to see God’s glory in our lives. It is not lip service that pleases the Lord, but rather the willingness and obedience of our heart to invoke the presence of God.
Let us commit to letting the Lord’s instruction through His Holy Word shape our view of what is pure and what is holy. Let us follow the example of Jesus Christ and be His ambassador. And as we allow the Word of God to transform us, the inner workings of our heart will align with our outward expression and cause the Lord to smile on us and His presence to dwell with us.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:11).
While living for the Lord may not always be trendy or cause your media posts to go viral, you will certainly have the audience of our Father in Heaven—and His approval is worth it all!
Exodus 14:12-14 12Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 13Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
One minute they were worshipping God for their deliverance, and the next, they were whining about their fears. So it went for the next 40 years. How like us! I think that is one reason God chose the Jews; they so consistently demonstrate man’s vacillation from faith to fear. There before them was the presence of God in the form of a cloud. They saw the angel of God. They had seen the plagues on Egypt, but here, in what looked like impossible circumstances, mountains on two sides, a sea in front, and an army behind, they forgot all that God had done in the past and even what He was doing at the moment. Fear blinds us to spiritual reality. No wonder we so often encounter the words, “Do not be afraid” in Scripture.
Your condition is no different than theirs. God will take you to the same impossible places so that you can learn that all you need do is “to be still”. “The LORD will fight for you…!” It is God’s will to deliver you from the world and from trust in yourself, so that you can follow Him to the Promised Land. He will fight for you if you will let Him. What would have happened if the Children of Israel had attacked the trained army of Pharaoh, trusting in their own might? God always has a better plan. His plan builds our faith and shows the enemy that the LORD is God.
Scriptural advice: Be still. Do not be afraid. The battle is the LORD’s!
Rejoicing in Darkness – Streams in the Desert – February 6
- 20236 Feb
He turned the sea into dry land; they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him (Psalms 66:6).
It is a striking assertion, “through the floods” (the place where we might have expected nothing but trembling and terror, anguish and dismay) “there,” says the Psalmist, “did we rejoice in him!”
How many there are who can endorse this as their experience: that “there,” in their very seasons of distress and sadness, they have been enabled, as they never did before, to triumph and rejoice.
How near their God in covenant is brought! How brightly shine His promises! In the day of our prosperity we cannot see the brilliancy of these. Like the sun at noon, hiding out the stars from sight, they are indiscernible; but when night overtakes, the deep, dark night of sorrow, out come these clustering stars–blessed constellations of Bible hope and promise of consolation.
Like Jacob at Jabbok, it is when our earthly sun goes down that the Divine Angel comes forth, and we wrestle with Him and prevail. It was at night, “in the evening,” Aaron lit the sanctuary lamps. It is in the night of trouble the brightest lamps of the believer are often kindled.
It was in his loneliness and exile John had the glorious vision of his Redeemer. There is many a Patmos still in the world, whose brightest remembrances are those of God’s presence and upholding grace and love in solitude and sadness.
How many pilgrims, still passing through these Red Seas and Jordans of earthly affliction, will be enabled in the retrospect of eternity to say–full of the memories of God’s great goodness–“We went through the flood on foot, there–there, in these dark experiences, with the surging waves on every side, deep calling to deep, Jordan, as when Israel crossed it, in ‘the time of the overflowing’ (flood), yet, ‘there did we rejoice in Him!'”
“And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the door of trouble for a door of hope: and she shall sing THERE” (Hosea 2:15).
Author: Charles Spurgeon
“Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1
Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 23:23-28
Some people I know of are like inns, which have an angel hanging outside for a sign, but they have a devil within for a landlord. There are many men of that kind; they take good care to have an excellent sign hanging out; they must be known by all men to be strictly religious; but within, which is the all-important matter, they are full of wickedness. But I have sometimes heard persons mistake this matter. They say, “Ah! well, poor man, he is a sad drunkard, certainly, but he is a very good-hearted man at bottom.” Now, as Rowland Hill used to say, that is a most astonishing thing for any man to say of another, that he was bad at top and good at bottom. When men take their fruit to market they cannot make their customers believe, if they see rotten apples at the top, that there are good ones at the bottom. A man’s outward conduct is generally a little better than his heart. Very few men sell better goods than they put in the window. Therefore, do not misunderstand me. When I say we must attend more to the inward than the outward, I would not have you leave the outward to itself. “Make clean the outside of the cup and platter”—make it as clean as you can, but take care also that the inward is made clean. Look to that first. Ask yourself such questions as these—“Have I been born again? Am I passed from darkness to light? Have I been brought out of the realms of Satan into the kingdom of God’s dear Son? Do I live by private communion near to the side of Jesus? Can I say that my heart panteth after the Lord, even as the hart does after the water-brooks?”
For meditation: A true work of God both starts on the inside and shows on the outside (Philippians 2:12-13). The Christian is one who is “inside out”; the hypocrite is only “out”.