All of the nations that Israel encounters are involved in some form of idol worship. They imagine these gods and fashion these images in order to satisfy a desire—a God-given desire—to connect with something, with someone out there. Human beings know at some deep, intuitive level that God exists, life is sacred, and there are mysteries more profound than the daily grind. This is why every human civilization exhibits some form of religious life and devotion. But instead of seeking the God who is, people have a tendency to create the gods they want, gods that give them control over the complexities and problems of life. Israel is elected by God for a number of reasons. Perhaps two of the most significant are to bear witness to the one True God and to warn the nations against idolatry. According to Scripture, idol worship is not some neutral, unfortunate habit people get themselves into; it is more than just a waste of time, hope, and effort. It is a dangerous substitute—a counterfeit experience—that adversely misshapes and disorders their lives. To persist in idolatry is to give way to malevolent evils and to miss out on a relationship with the one True God.
But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for
“The just shall live by faith.”
“For what will it profit you,” Jesus Christ asked,
“If you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?”
So we see again how it is that they’re blind—their eyes shut to the truth in front of them, their hearts and minds refusing to think and really understand what’s going on. So without stopping to think about it, the fool says, “Gosh, I used half of the wood to build a fire, and baked the bread and roasted the meat over its hot coals. After I eat, I think I’ll use the rest of it to make a repulsive god. Maybe I’ll bow down to this leftover lumber.” A fool like this is feeding on ashes—his addled mind and deceived heart lead him nowhere. He can’t figure out how to save himself, much less see the error of his ways and say, “Is this idol in my right hand just a lie?”
Eternal One: Let that be a lesson to you, My people.
Don’t forget it, Jacob; O Israel, remember—you are Mine.
I made you; you are My servant; I will not forget you.
I have swept away your wrongdoing, as wind sweeps a cloud from the sky:
I have cleared you of your sins, as the sun clears the morning mist.
I have rescued you; come back to Me.
Sing, starry sky and every constellation, for what the Eternal has done.
Shout for joy, dark soil underfoot and deep caverns below;
Erupt in joyful songs, mountains and forests, and every tree in them!
Sing joyfully, for the Eternal One has rescued Jacob, His people;
The splendor of God will be revealed in Israel.
The Eternal, your rescuing hero who formed you before birth, declares,
Eternal One: I am the Eternal, Creator of all there is and will be.
I alone stretched out the heavens and spread out the blue earth.
I confound the lying swindlers who claim to tell the future,
and I make the fortune-tellers look like fools.
I stop the highbrow intellectuals in their tracks,
and I show the fault of their reasoning.
But I stand behind the words of My servants,
and I accomplish what they predict.
The one who says about Jerusalem, “This place will be built up again”;
about Judah’s cities, “They will be restored”:
I confirm their predictions. They will rise from their ruins.
After all, I am the One who needs only to say “Dry up” to great waters,
and your rivers run dry.
I am the one who says of the Persian victor over Babylon,
“Cyrus is My shepherd. He will accomplish what I determine.”
My word goes out concerning Jerusalem:
“It will stand, a glorious city, again”
and of My house within it, “Restoration will begin at once.”
Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either.
When we feel like we are not good enough to be loved by God, we should remember that God’s love is greater than our doubts. We must silence the sounds of condemnation so we can hear the voice of God’s loving assurance and remember that He has selected us to be part of His family.
My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. 3 All those who focus their hopes on Him and His coming seek to purify themselves just as He is pure.
Everyone who lives a life of habitual sin is living in moral anarchy. That’s what sin is. You realize that He came to eradicate sins, that there is not the slightest bit of sin in Him. The ones who live in an intimate relationship with Him do not persist in sin, but anyone who persists in sin has not seen and does not know the real Jesus.
Children, don’t let anyone pull one over on you. The one doing the right thing is just imitating Jesus, the Righteous One.
If you are wondering if your faith is authentic, take a look at your life. Are you doing what is right?
The one persisting in sin belongs to the diabolical one, who has been all about sin from the beginning. That is why the Son of God came into our world: to destroy the plague of destruction inflicted on the world by the diabolical one.
Everyone who has been born into God’s family avoids sin as a lifestyle because the genes of God’s children come from God Himself. Therefore, a child of God can’t live a life of persistent sin. So it is not hard to figure out who are the children of God and who are the children of the diabolical one: those who lack right standing and those who don’t show love for one another do not belong to God.
The central truth—the one you have heard since the beginning of your faith—is that we must love one another. Please do not act like Cain, who was of the evil one. He brutally murdered his own brother. Why would he do something so despicable? Because his life was devoted to evil and selfishness, and his brother chose to do what is right.
Brothers and sisters, don’t be shocked if the corrupt world despises you. We know that we have crossed over from death to real life because we are devoted to true love for our brothers and sisters. Anyone who does not love lives among corpses.
Do you ever wonder if you are just silently sleeping through days, months, and years? There is one indicator of real life: true love for others.
Everyone who hates other members of God’s family is a murderer. Does a murderer possess the beautiful life that never ends? No. We know what true love looks like because of Jesus. He gave His life for us, and He calls us to give our lives for our brothers and sisters.
If a person owns the kinds of things we need to make it in the world but refuses to share with those in need, is it even possible that God’s love lives in him? My little children, don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life, and live in the pattern of gracious love.
There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things. My loved ones, if our hearts cannot condemn us, then we can stand with confidence before God. Whatever we may ask, we receive it from Him because we follow His commands and take the path that pleases Him. His command is clear: believe in the name of His Son, Jesus the Anointed, and love one another as He commanded. The one who follows His teaching and walks this path lives in an intimate relationship with God. How do we know that He lives in us? By the gift of His Spirit. (1 John 3)
False Teachers and the Love of Money
These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
(1 Timothy 6:1-19)
THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED. (Matthew 4:16)
GOD’S PURSUITS, PRIORITIES, PRINCIPLES PRODUCE ABUNDANT LIFE IN CHRIST
–to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:79)
–a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)
The foundations of the earth are the LORD’S; Upon them He has set the world.
He will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
(1 Samuel 2:8-9)
Ah, how beautiful the feet of those on the mountain
who declare the good news of victory, of peace and liberation,
The voice that calls to Zion, that chosen place for God’s promise people,
announcing to them “Your God rules!”
“Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the One who is speaking, ‘Here I am.'”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, They shout joyfully together; For they will see with their own eyes When the LORD restores Zion.
Listen! My beloved! Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills.
(Song of Solomon 2:8)
Here is Your God!
Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!“ Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him And His recompense before Him.
In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.“
The Race of Faith
So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us.
We may feel alone, but we aren’t. We are surrounded by an army of witnesses.
They have run the race of faith and finished well. It is now our turn.
Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith.
He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor.
You will do everything You have promised;
Lord, Your love is eternal.
Complete the work that You have begun.