Reading: Joshua 21 and 22
But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.” Joshua 22:5 (NIV)
As I read those words, I feel something leap inside of me. “Yes! That's what I want Lord! To love you, to walk in all your ways, to obey your commands, to hold fast to you, and to serve you with all my heart and all of my soul! All those things – they are the desire of my heart.”
To love, to walk, to obey, to hold, and to serve – these are all verbs, “doing” words, the out-working of my inner faith. Without that faith, my efforts would be like branches on a hollow tree, sooner or later rotting and falling off. Without God's ongoing gift of faith to me, that's all I would be – a hollow tree.
But I am not a hollow tree. I am an “oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.” (Isaiah 61:3) There is an inner strength in me based not on my own virtue but on that of Jesus. How wonderful was that divine exchange that happened at the cross! Not only am I renewed and restored, but the Holy Spirit has come to live in me!
Now, as I love and walk and obey and hold and serve, I do so with the enabling power of the Spirit. He is willing me on! It's as if my faith is bursting into life. No wonder my heart leaps at the opportunity to express my love for God. He is truly the heart and strength of my life.
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness… Isaiah 61:10
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever. Psalm 28:7-9
See also, Surprise! It's Righteousness!
Reading: Luke 5:1-16
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Luke 5:12-13 (NIV)
The law of Moses contained various rules and regulations about skin diseases, and how these affected a person's “cleanness”. (See Leviticus 13). Being ceremonially unclean meant a person could neither touch nor be touched by another person, or that person would also become unclean. Neither could they “touch” God, because nothing unholy can stand in the presence of our holy God. Effectively, to be unclean meant to be cut off.
The picture was really a representation of the effect of sin in my life: it makes me unclean, and it cuts me off from the presence of God. Like an infectious disease, sin taints and infects everything it comes into contact with.
But in this story of the man with leprosy, something wonderful happens. Everything gets reversed! Jesus touches the man (that would have been a surprise in itself), but his holiness is not tainted. And instead of the unclean man making Jesus unclean, he himself is made clean by Jesus! Holiness has come, and the power of his uncleanness has been broken.
No longer is sin flowing out from me and causing damage. Instead, grace is flowing into me bringing holiness and restoration. In fact, everything is flowing in a new direction, and all because Jesus has reached out and touched me. The power of my uncleanness has been broken. Instead of being cut off, I am free now to enter and enjoy the very presence of God. I need to do this! I need every day to open my life to him to receive all that he has for me.
I am also free to reach out and touch others! God's grace flows not just to me but also through me. I need to open the penstocks and freely share with others the goodness that is flowing my way. The more that flows through, the more capacity I will develop to be able to share God's grace.
Jesus, thank you for your incredible gift. Thank you that everything now is flowing in a new direction – from you to me to others. Help me to know more of your grace, and to share it generously with those you bring across my path.
Reading: Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 10
The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover. Leviticus 16:2 (NIV)
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body… …let us draw near to God…” Hebrews 10:19-22 (NIV)
What a contrast between Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 10. It's so inspiring to read the two chapters side by side. Both highlight the holiness of our God, and the perils of approaching him in an unholy state. Aaron could enter the Most Holy Place just once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when sacrifices of bulls and goats were made, and strict protocol needed to be followed.
But that day, which continued to come around year after year, was just a shadow of a day that was to come. On the real Day of Atonement, my unholiness was dealt with once and for all. No longer would God warn me against entering his holy Presence, lest I die.
Now, a new and living way had been opened up “through the curtain”, so that not just the high priest, but every man, woman and child – including me – could enter freely into the very Presence of God, the Most Holy Place. It's what God wants for me, and Jesus has made it possible, “…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
What amazing words those are: I have been “made perfect forever”. That truth needs to permeate my entire being:
I have been made perfect forever…
God is perfecting holiness in me…
How can I now entertain fear or feelings of inadequacy? How can I remain conceited or self-righteous? I can't. But what I can do is embrace the wholeness and confidence that true holiness brings. I am acceptable! I can come into the very presence of our holy God without shame, not as one who is inadequate, but with joy, as one who has been made perfect forever!
This makes me feel so differently about myself. In the way I relate to other people, it gives me confidence and opens the way for love. And in the way I relate to God, it invites a relationship that is almost indescribable. Jesus has changed everything! Closeness with God is now attainable, and I can have it!
Thank you Lord Jesus for your indescribable gift. I accept! Please open my eyes to see you more clearly and know you more closely. I want to know more of your holiness. Please remove from me all that is false, and may the truth that is found in Jesus permeate every part of me, to the very core of my being.
“…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14
Reading: Galatians 1-5
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV)
We can live either under the law, in which case we must obey all of it, or live under grace, in which case we must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The intent of the law was that we learn to love God and love one another. Effectively, by following the Spirit, our lives will bear fruit that satisfy that intent, since “the fruit of the Spirit is love…”
It is for freedom that Christ set us free. (Galatians 5:1) It seems that freedom doesn't always come naturally to us. We are in danger of becoming slaves to the notion that we must earn God's favor. Obedience is still required, but to the promptings of the Holy Spirit our guide, our helper, our advocate. He brings forth the fruit in our lives.
Yippee! I am free! Free to love unconditionally, free to serve others, free to be joyful and enjoy the benefits of living under God's favor. I plan to enjoy it! I don't have to worry about whether or not I will make the grade. Actually, I flunked and it doesn't matter a jot because Jesus sat the test for me and passed with flying colors.
Thank you Lord for the freedom I have in Jesus to enjoy a relationship with you, free from guilt, and free from anxiety. Thank you for joy, and as I serve you, and serve those in my sphere of influence, I thank you that I serve as a free man.