Reading: Isaiah 60 and 61
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, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. Isaiah 61:10-11 (NIV)
It is God who is the source of all righteousness. He makes it spring up. He speaks and it happens. He creates the conditions which cause righteousness to grow. When I see righteousness in my life, it is evidence that God is at work. The willingness that allows this to happen – even that is a gift from God, and faith, hope and love, those eternal qualities which increasingly characterise my life, they all have their source in God.
So there is no room at all for pride – just gratitude and joy and praise. No wonder that “I delight greatly in the Lord, and that my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” And if God has clothed me, I can expect to look pretty darn good!
It's Spring! All sorts of plants are popping up in my garden, many of which I haven't even planted! It's the same in me. God is causing righteousness to 'pop up' and grow, in me. I don't need to strain to be righteous. I just need to give the Holy Spirit free reign to do his work in me, and up righteousness comes! It's not my doing. Rather, it's all his – his purpose and his delight. I just need to be willing and obedient, and then I will enjoy the fruit of righteousness in my life. This is what salvation by faith in Jesus is all about.
It is such a privilege Lord to be at the receiving end of your good plans and purposes. May you cause righteousness and praise to spring up in me, and may it be visible to all as a testimony to your goodness and love.
Reading: Matthew 28
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
Jesus had come to the end of three years with those who had followed him. He had taught them, discipled them, modelled behaviour for them, and brought about in them the gradual transformation of their hearts and minds. Now, Jesus reveals his master plan for all the people who were yet to come: Disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
We are the plan! But not just us standing alone. We go with and under the authority of Jesus, the highest authority of all. We go with the presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. We go in the power of the Holy Spirit who is with us and in us. We are to make disciples of every kind of person, from all walks of life. The word used in verse 19 for nations, ethnos, is also translated 'Gentiles'. Jesus is giving instructions that this new covenant is not just for the Jews, but for everyone.
“Go and make disciples“, from the Greek 'matheteuo': to become a pupil; to disciple; enrol as scholar; instruct, teach. Jesus instructs me not to “convert” people but to teach them and instruct them. Baptism may be an event, but to make disciples is a process that begins even before a conscious decision has been made to make Jesus lord.
As a teacher therefore, I can start teaching people who are not yet committed Christians. Discipleship is incremental; even small packets of “teaching”, in whatever form that comes, may help people to come closer to obeying everything Jesus has commanded us. No matter what my gifting, my life can provide opportunities for others to learn about what it means to obey the commands of Jesus. I can disciple people by the way I live.
Thank you Lord for calling me to yourself, for choosing me, and for those people who discipled me, especially my parents. Holy Spirit, please guide me into every opportunity to disciple others, whether by word or deed, whether formal or informal. Use me and my gifts to bring people closer in their everyday walk with you.
Reading: Exodus 34
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Exodus 34:29-31 (NIV)
“…his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” How awesome that when Moses was in the presence of God, his very physical appearance changed. He absorbed something of God's glory and majesty that could still be seen on his face after he had left God's presence, and to such a degree that the Israelites were afraid of him. How interesting that while Moses longed for the Presence of God, the majority of the people were afraid of it.
I want my face to be radiant because I have spoken with God. The time I spend “sneaking off with God” is my time to come into his presence and speak with him – to express openly what is in my heart, and also to seek his voice, to allow him to openly express to me what is in his heart.
Father, please transform me. As I come into your presence, please burn off the dross that you find, and make me radiant. I would love for others to see you and find you and know you more closely as a result of being with me. As I enjoy your presence in my life, will you draw others into your presence, and help me to bring people with me into that very privileged place.
See also: Meant For His Presence
Reading: Mark 14-16
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” Mark 16:6-7 (NIV)
“But go, tell his disciples and Peter…” Peter, who just three days earlier had done what in his mind was unthinkable – he had disowned Jesus, not once but three times, just as Jesus had predicted. How must Peter have felt during those three days, after having so emphatically insisted, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Mark 14:31 Did he have the courage to even let himself be seen by Jesus as he hung on the cross? I suspect not. He had stepped up to the plate and failed, dismally.
But Jesus knew. He knew Peter's despair and the bitter anguish of his soul, and on the cross Jesus bore in his body not just the failings of Peter, but the failings of us all. Soon, Peter's despair would be replaced by hope, and the angel was there to announce it: “Go, tell his disciples and Peter…” It's OK Peter. You failed and Jesus specifically wants you to know that he still loves you.
In many ways the redemption that Peter subsequently found in Jesus through that failure was the making of the man who would go on to lead the early church and eventually make good on his promise, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
In the kingdom of God, failure is not the end. In many ways, it's like a beginning. It's an opportunity for me to stand before God with empty hands and acknowledge once again that he is my everything. It's an opportunity for my heart to be softened and prepared so that hope can spring up afresh and arrogance make way for graciousness.
Lord, you know all too well that I have yet to reach a place of humility like the one Peter found himself in. But I pray that you would continue to perfect holiness in me as I journey with you, and if I meet failure along the way, please help me to grow from the experience, and to pass through it as one who has tasted more deeply the riches of your wonderful kindness and grace.
Reading: 2Corinthians 10 – 13
Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 (NIV)
“Aim for perfection“. That's not a phrase we often hear. More often we hear the phrase, “No one is perfect”, which of course is true, but it is generally an excuse for some misdemeanour or undesirable habit. “Generally I'm a good person, so cut me some slack – I can't be perfect in everything.” Yet here Paul is specifically encouraging us to be just that – perfect in everything.
“Perfect”, from the Greek katartizo: “to complete thoroughly, i.e. repair (literally or figuratively) or adjust:–fit, frame, mend, (make) perfect(-ly join together), prepare, restore.”
God has not left me with an impossible task, to be perfect. He is actively working in me, equipping me with everything good for doing his will. In Hebrews 13:20-21 Paul prays that Jesus may “equip us with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ…” So there is a wonderful cooperation that is taking place, as I aim for perfection, and God works in me what is pleasing to him. This is made possible by the divine exchange that took place on the cross. God is repairing me, restoring me, and completing me thoroughly. There is no room for self-righteousness or arrogance, but rather, a me that is pleasing and productive and good. I like this. Why wouldn't I want to work with God on this divine project.
Thank you Lord God that you are perfecting me. What a wonderful partnership, to be able to work together with you. I feel like a project in your workshop. Please continue, and make me into something beautiful that gives you pleasure.
Reading: Jeremiah 8:4 – 9:26
This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV)
More than anything God wants us to know him and understand him. To know him means also to know what pleases him. Here God spells out three things that please him: kindness, justice and righteousness, “… for in these I delight.” The people of Jeremiah's day would have known this, but what they knew differed from what they valued, as revealed by their actions.
What determines a person's values? In this passage, God implies that if we can but know him and understand him, our values will begin to line up with his.
Values could be defined as those things that I hold as valuable, things that delight me and in which I take great pleasure. The more pleasure something brings me, or that I believe will bring me in time, the more time and energy I will likely invest in it, and the more I'll be prepared to spend or sacrifice to obtain and safeguard that thing.
I suspect that some of the things I believe to be important and good have yet to become true values for me. I'd like them to be, but my actions betray me. The passions that motivate and delight my God have yet to fully grip my own heart. But that, more than anything, is what I want – to delight consistently in the Lord, and to live a life impassioned by those values that delight and impassion him.
Lord God, the only way for me to really understand you and know you deeply is for you to open your heart to me. Thank you that you are changing me from the inside out. Lord, those things you hold dear, I want to hold dear. Once again, I open my heart to you, and invite you to have free reign in me, that I might live a life passionately devoted to you.
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4