Speak Clean, Stay Clean

Daily Devotional: Day 197

“When he had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Matthew 15:10-11).

The words from your mouth say a lot about you. Your words also say a lot about the condition of your heart, for as Jesus says, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). As the mouth is, so is the heart. A sound and upright heart will produce wholesome and edifying words; while an evil heart will produce evil words. It is impossible to distance yourself from your own words, for your words are the external expression of your internal condition.

 When Jesus started His public ministry, he showed Himself to be the Interpreter of God’s Law. Up to that time, some of the high-ranking religious teachers in Israel had corrupted the purity of God’s Word by mixing it their own man-made ideas. They taught and presented these traditions as doctrines which had to be obeyed. It’s similar to what you observe in some religions and churches today. That’s not surprising, given what Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, ESV).

The Scribes and Pharisees complained when they observed that Jesus’ disciples did not wash their hands before eating. Jesus would have none of their criticism, so He took the opportunity to set the records straight. Jesus wasn’t against hygiene. He was against how the religious authorities conveniently set their own regulations (in this case, regulations of hygiene) over and above the commandments of God, thereby imposing unnecessary burden on God’s people. In the opinion of these religious teachers, eating without the washing of hands defiled a person. This leads us to today’s Bible passage where Jesus corrected their erroneous beliefs.

Jesus says, “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” This statement contains a powerful revelation about spiritual matters. Let’s focus on the last part of what Jesus said, i.e. what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a person. This means, your condition before God (defiled or undefiled) isn’t based on matters of hygiene regarding food and drink. What can defile you is what comes out of your mouth. When He talks about what comes out of your mouth, Jesus is referring to your words.

The Greek word translated “defiled” is koinoō (pronounced KOI-NO-O). The word means to make unclean, common or profane. What Jesus is saying is that watch your mouth, because bad or evil words from your mouth can make you unclean, rendering you defiled before God. As a Christian, you want to be clean. God says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). God is clean and He wants you clean as well.

Based on what Jesus said, your words play a vital role in determining whether you are clean or unclean. The Lord has made you clean through His Word and the precious Blood of Jesus. Don’t change that. When you speak, use mouth filters. Just as we have air filters in our vehicles and in our homes, use filters when you speak. Let your words be guided by the Spirit of God who dwells in you. Speak in a way that keeps you clean and edifies people.

As a child of God, avoid cussing, cursing, murmuring, trashing, bad-mouthing, gossip, slander, grumbling, muttering, and obscene or bad jokes. You may think these things are harmless. The truth is, they are not. If Jesus says your words can make you unclean, it means they can influence your destiny. Moreover, recall that no unclean thing will enter heaven (cf. Revelation 21:27). Next time you speak, remember what Jesus said and use filters. Speak clean, stay clean.

The blessing of our heavenly Father come upon you and remain with you today. Amen.

For further study: Matthew 12:33-37

Bible Prophecy about Self-Love in the Last Days

Daily Devotional: Day 160

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy” (2 Timothy 3:1-2, NASB).

We’ve been living in the last days since Jesus ushered in a new generation with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:14-21). The last days is a long period stretching from Pentecost to the Last Day when Jesus shall return to judge the living and the dead. During this ‘last days’ period, the Bible gives us prophecies regarding specific events that will occur. Some of these events have happened; others are happening now; and still others are yet to happen.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul predicts nineteen (19) specific moral traits that will be characteristic of people during the last days. At the end of the list, Paul cautions Timothy to avoid such people. Today, we will focus solely on the first trait: “men will be lovers of self.” Before we continue, let’s note that before Jesus came, people were showing these traits. However, Paul’s prophecy is signaling that these traits will become so pronounced, prevalent and so obvious that it will be impossible to miss or deny; not only that, the context also suggests that this trend is not expected to improve until Jesus returns.

Paul’s prophecy is unfolding before our very eyes with breathtaking accuracy. We are ‘officially’ in the age of self-love and self-worship. We have a new religion, and the god of this religion is SELF (me). The temple is me; the high priest of the religion is also me. Membership in the religion is restricted to one person, me. You’ll find this self-worship in nearly all facets of life.

Social media has become the ideal platform for self-glorification and vanity. Moreover, the emergence of SELFIE is a much welcome technology for lovers of self. With it, it’s easier now for people to pose from anywhere and flaunt their flesh for the world to admire, like and praise their looks. Adults and young people alike are caught up in it. Adults are behaving like kids, and kids are behaving like adults. Desperate for affirmation, some social media users, for example, will like their own post or post things like, “I love me,” “Happy Birthday to me,” etc. Self-centered worship has even crept into our churches. Our preaching is becoming more about self-improvement and self-realization; how to unleash the best you. Prayers and songs are tailored to fit this line of messaging with an emphasis on positive “I am” declarations.

We are even seeing a trend toward sologamy, i.e. self-marriage. Yes, people are marrying solo. It’s not legally recognized, yet. But make no mistake; the legalization of every lifestyle begins with the first step. If you’d like to find out more about this phenomenon, click here to see a news report about it.

We can understand why Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Bible prophecies are meant to instruct, warn and encourage us, so that we can watch and pray, and not be overcome by the snares of satan. A major obstacle between us and Jesus is our self. Let’s die to self and embrace the freedom in living for the glory of Christ alone.

The grace of our Lord be with you today. Amen.

For further study: Galatians 2:20

Christianity: Religion or Not?

Daily Devotional: Day 144

“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.  Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:26-27, NKJV).

In today’s Scripture reading, James is addressing Christians about pure religion versus vain religion. If Christianity is a religion, that should not be a bad thing. Paul described Judaism as a religion (cf. Acts 26:4-5), though we know that Judaism may also refer to nationality, ethnicity and culture. Jesus was a Jew, and He faithfully practiced Judaism, which means He practiced a religion. Jesus was religious, a man of religion.

We know, of course, that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and to usher in the New Covenant. But, Jesus did not attack Judaism for being a religion. What He attacked was the man-made doctrines and commandments which the Pharisees and other religious leaders had incorporated into Judaism, thereby corrupting the purity of the Jewish religion. The fact is, the Jewish religion was God’s own idea, not man’s idea. It was the Jewish religion which gave us godly people like Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Samuel, Elijah, David, Isaiah, Anna, Mary, Elizabeth, Zachariah, John the Baptist, etc.

A common expression among some modern Christians is, “Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship.” But what’s the difference between religion and relationship? And, whose job is it to define the difference? If Christianity is a religion, then it necessarily involves a relationship. Nowhere in the Bible is Christianity described as ‘a relationship.’ The attempt to create a dichotomy between religion and relationship is a modern human construct. It has no biblical basis. The phraseology is vague, confusing and misleading. All religion involves a relationship, but not all relationship qualifies as a religion. You can have a relationship with your bag, your clothing, your TV and your dog. But it does not mean you are involved in a religion.

When you are involved in a religion, it means you have some kind of relationship with  Deity that involves worship. The Bible term ‘religion’ is a translation of the New Testament Greek word threiskeia, which means worship (of God). Any practice which involves worship can be legitimately classified as a religion. Christianity involves worship of God; therefore, it is not wrong to call it a religion. 

The modern disdain for organized ‘religion’ – in Christian circles – can be traced, at least in part, to the Protestant reaction to centuries of abuse and oppression in the name of so-called religion. In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the reformers had had enough of the abuses within the Catholic ‘religion’ (its moral corruption, persecution, oppression, and departure from the Bible). Part of their reaction was an attempt to distance themselves from the term  or entity called ‘religion.’ If you are interested in the historical background to the modern distaste for religion or the confusion about the term ‘religion,’ the following articles will shed some light on the subject:

(http://www.christinyou.net/pages/Xnotrel.html), (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion).

Religion per se is not man’s creation, as some suppose. It is of God, but like everything from God, humans can corrupt it with their own ideas. Adam and Eve, and for that matter all humans, were created to know and worship the one true God. God gave us marriage, but we have corrupted it with all manner of ideas and evil practices. Today, marriage means different things to different people; so is gender. Shall we stop using the term ‘marriage’ because the meaning has been corrupted? Jesus gave us the Church, but today “church” means different things to different people. The Church has been adversely impacted by false doctrines and moral decay. Moreover, contrary to what the Bible teaches, when many Christians think of Church, what comes to mind is a physical building or a denomination. But, this state of confusion doesn’t mean we should distance ourselves from the term ‘Church.’

 In sum, Christianity is a religion; we should get used to that fact. What we need to do is to distinguish between God-inspired (pure) religion (cf. James 1:26-27) and man-made (corrupted) religion (cf. Mark 7:1-13); between pure Christianity which is described in the Bible and perverted (counterfeit) Christianity which is the product of human doctrines, traditions, and elaborate rituals.

The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your loved ones today! Amen.

Breaking Free of Idolatry

Daily Devotional: Day 91

“He [Hezekiah] removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan” (2 Kings 18:4, NKJV).

In the Bible, one of the greatest sources of contention between Yahweh and Israel was  the practice of idolatry. From the time God brought them from Egypt, Israel often gave in to the seductive power of idolatry. The problem grew worse especially after the reign of king Solomon. Many of the prophets spoke against it – to no avail. Of all the kings of Israel and Judah after Solomon, only two fully obeyed God’s command to destroy all idolatrous sacred objects and shrines: kings Hezekiah and Josiah.

Today’s Scripture tells us that soon after Hezekiah became King of Judah, he tore down all the high places and religious objects of pagan origin, including even the bronze serpent God asked Moses to make in Numbers 21:4-9; because, as the Bible says, up to Hezekiah’s time, the Israelites had been burning incense to it. The “high places” refer to dedicated pagan shrines and worship centers that were used for serving foreign gods alongside the true worship of God in Jerusalem.

In fact, before the Israelites set foot on the Promised Land, God strictly commanded them: “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things” (Deuteronomy 12:2-4).

In my native language, there’s a saying that “The tree which, if allowed to grow, can pierce you, it is not enough to chop down a piece of it; you must uproot it.” God hates idolatry in all its forms, including the practice of praying in front of man-made images or “sacred religious objects.” God’s command is unambiguous: Utterly destroy all things that compete with worship of the one true God.

Idols and “high places” we need to tear down include, but are not limited to, the statues and images we have created for prayer and worship purposes, amulets, charms, magical objects, occult practices, divination, psychic reading, casting spells, etc. 

If you have your own “high places” and sacred objects which you have incorporated into the worship of the one true God, you have a decision to make. By the power of the Holy Spirit I pray you’ll repent and gather the courage to get rid of them. Remember: God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth (cf. John 4:24).

Prayer:

Dear Father, I live to honor and worship you alone. In the Name of Jesus, I surrender and reject anything in my life that competes with your true worship. Amen.

For further study: Acts 19:18-41

Are You Religious?

Daily Devotional: Day 75

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27, RSV).

Religion is good (I’m not referring to institutionalized religious groups broadly labeled as “Christianity,” “Islam,” “Buddhism,” etc.). And today, the Word of God describes for us what good religion looks like. The Letter of James characterizes good religion as pure and undefiled before God. And it tells us that pure and undefiled religion consists in visiting orphans and widows in their affliction, and keeping oneself unpolluted by the corruption of the world. This is a succinct, yet powerful biblical definition of religion. It tells us in practical terms how to distinguish pure religion from false religion. The term religion used in this context, therefore, refers to observable evidence displayed by professed Christians who back their confession of faith with practical works of love, wholehearted devotion to God and detachment from a worldly lifestyle. 

God wants us to be attentive to the needs of vulnerable people in our communities. At the time James was writing, orphans and widows were in this category. Even today, there are millions of orphaned children around the world who are hoping to be received into a family. According to a 2012 report, in the USA alone, almost 398,000 children are living in the foster care system, out of which 101,666 are eligible for adoption (source: https://adoption.life/2015/us-and-world-orphan-statistics/). These are not the only vulnerable (afflicted) people in our society. We can also include thousands of homeless people as well as those who can’t afford a doctor, clothing or even a meal. We don’t have to look far. Some of these people are in our churches, some live in our neighborhood, and still others probably live next door. The Bible says that truly religious people should make it a priority to visit and assist vulnerable people among us. If they are fellow Christians, the obligation is even more urgent, because through the Blood of Jesus, they are our family.

God isn’t expecting us to solve everyone’s problem; but He is expecting us to do what we can, based our means. Finally, God says pure religion means abstaining from the defilement of the world. This is true, for as James 4:4 says, whoever is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. If there was ever a time to display pure religion, it is now. Are you religious?

Prayer:

Dear Father, thank you for all your blessings. Make me sensitive to the needs of people around me. And give me an open heart to reach out and bless them for your glory. Also, I give you my heart. Keep it unstained from the world. Thank you that you always hear my prayer. In the Name of Jesus.

For further study: Isaiah 1:1-18