Faith in the Unseen Jesus

Daily Devotional: Day 143

“Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him. Though you do not now see him [Jesus], you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9, ESV).

Today’s devotional is meant to dovetail yesterday’s message. Recall that yesterday we learned something about how God doesn’t want us to make images and bow down to them. The Father’s desire is for us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. God is spirit and invisible, and He wants us to worship Him that way until the Day we see Him face-to-face.

You also will notice that the Son of God became flesh (visible) to save us from our sins; but after His resurrection, He ascended – body and spirit –  to heaven and didn’t leave us any physical representation of Himself on earth. He promised, however, to be with His Church always, albeit in an invisible manner. He further sent us the Holy Spirit (Who is also invisible). All of this tells us that God wants our worship to be based, not on visible images or some physical representations of Deity, but based rather on faith in the unseen Presence of God. True worship requires this kind of faith –  living faith.

If we base our worship on what we can see, feel, touch and smell, we’re walking by our senses, not by faith. The Word of God says, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV, emphasis added). You probably recall the story of Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ. He hardened his heart and insisted that until he could feel, touch and see the risen Christ, he wouldn’t believe He was risen from the dead. Later, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and He upbraided Thomas, saying, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, NKJV, emphasis added). The blessing is for those who, without seeing, believe the word of faith. Feeling, seeing, touching, or smelling doesn’t require faith. If the Word of God proclaimed by believers is not enough for a person to have faith, but he demands to see, feel, touch and smell something before he believes, then Christianity isn’t for him.

Based on everything we’ve said so far, today’s opening Scripture makes sense. Look at it again. Peter describes the kind of faith which produces authentic worship. Writing to groups of predominantly Christian neophytes, he states that they have not seen Jesus, yet they love Him. He continues by saying, they do not see Jesus at the present time, yet they believe in Him and are filled with a joy so glorious and inexpressible. This is the meaning of living faith and the meaning of true worship. Therefore, if you need a man-made image or statue of Jesus to help you worship the Lord, you are practicing a different religion not Christianity.

The Father seeks worshipers who will worship Him is spirit and in truth, based on faith in His Word, not ‘faith’ in images and religious objects or articles produced by men. The Bible shows that one does not need to see Jesus (or contemplate any visible man-made images of Jesus) to believe in Him or love Him.  Our faith and our worship should, consequently, be based on an inner conviction produced by the living Word of God that is preached to us. And, when faith is alive, it will produce authentic worship and the fruit of peace, joy and righteousness in the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 14:17). Let’s worship the unseen Lord through living faith.

May the Lord bless and keep you today! Amen.

For further study: John 20:19-31

How the God of the Bible Does Not Want Be Worshiped

Daily Devotional: Day 142

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God . . .” (Exodus 20:4-5, NKJV).

Our relationship with God is like a love affair, modeled after a marriage covenant. Therefore, fidelity is key to the relationship. Fidelity requires exclusivity just as occurs between a husband and a wife. Once you understand that our relationship with God is like a marriage covenant, most things in Scripture will make sense to you. It will also help you to grasp the importance of personally remaining faithful to the voice of the Lord. Think about this: What is marriage without the fidelity of both parties? That is why the Bible says God is a covenant keeping God (cf. Deuteronomy 7:8-10). Our role in this relationship is faith, because faith means fidelity. 

Today’s Bible passage is part of the Ten Commandments. Pay attention to what God is saying. He says we should not make for ourselves a carved image in the likeness of anything in heaven, earth or seas. He adds that we should not bow to such images or perform any services to them. This commandment is based on the exclusivity of God’s relationship with us. This explains why He said that He is a jealous God. He is jealous not because He is insecure or because He needs us. No, God is complete in Himself and does not need us to feel secure. He is jealous in the sense that He has entered a love relationship with us which is based on the terms of a marriage covenant. He cannot, therefore, entertain that we turn to other ‘gods’ in the form of idols, images and statues, or something else. I once heard Oprah Winfrey say that she had a problem when she heard a preacher say that God was jealous – of her (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2SrZJlPnjk). It appears Oprah misunderstood the context in which the Bible declares the Lord to be a jealous God, and this misunderstanding may have adversely affected her notion of the God of the Bible for many years of her life.

Around the world, many people have a propensity to look for God or connect with Deity via so-called religious objects: statues, images, beads, crosses, crucifixes, talismans, scapulars, so-called pictures of ‘Jesus,’ etc. God detests such practices, because they amount to idolatry and they constitute a gross violation of His commandment. God is spirit, and He wants to be worshiped accordingly without any man-made objects serving as ‘bridges’ or ‘connectors’ to Him (cf. John 4:21-24). Furthermore, let’s recall that God made us in his own image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). It is, therefore, an abomination for human beings to turn to the image and likeness of creatures or objects, bow down to them, pay them homage, venerate or serve them within the context of prayer and worship.  

Let’s worship the God of the Bible in spirit and in truth, and we shall be blessed.  May Jesus’ face shine upon you today! Amen.

For further study: Revelation 22:8-9

The Power of a Purged Conscience

Daily Devotional: Day 128

“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14, KJV).

God is holy and pure. Therefore, the only way for anyone to have fellowship with Him is to serve Him with a purged or cleansed conscience. It is impossible to worship the Holy God with a conscience stained with sin. When you serve God with a purged conscience, you are operating with enormous supernatural power through the Holy Spirit who lives in you. You demonstrate calm confidence in the Lord’s presence, knowing that you have allowed Him to purge you. By contrast, when you serve or approach God with a guilty conscience, you are operating from a position of weakness. You may ignore or shut down the voice of your conscience, or desperately confess all the “I am” confessions, but that won’t fix the problem until you come to a place of purged conscience. There is no substitute for a purged conscience. Only the blood of Jesus can provide that.

 God sent His Son to shed His blood for us, because, among other things, He knows that a purged conscience is indispensable if we are to worship the Father in spirit and in truth. A purged conscience is, therefore, a quintessential part of the package of redemption that Jesus offers us. Without it, it is impossible for us to offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice (cf. Romans 12:1-2). This is what today’s Bible reading is telling us. Let’s delve into the text for more.

The Old Covenant based on the Law was given through Moses. Animal blood was often shed and sprinkled during various rites of purification and atonement (cf. Exodus 24:1-8Leviticus 16:1-34). The sprinkling of animal blood sanctified (cleansed, made holy) the worshipers. But this sanctification was external; it didn’t go far enough to purge the conscience of the people once for all. But the blood of Jesus – which is the blood of the New Covenant – did what the blood of animals could not do. The Bible says if animal blood brought some cleansing to those under the Old Covenant, how much more shall Jesus’ blood purge (i.e. purify) our conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Did you catch that? The “dead works” is referring to works of sin. Sin is a work; but it is a dead work because it only produces the fruit of death (cf. Romans 6:23). The purpose for purging our conscience is so that we can serve the living God. Do you see the point? You can’t serve the living God if your conscience isn’t clean before God.

When Jesus’ blood purges us from the dead works of sin, we are set free from the burden of a guilty conscience. Not only that, this purging empowers us to consistently perform deeds of righteousness, thereby maintaining a clean conscience before God. The result is that our worship of God becomes acceptable. An added blessing is that it helps us to grow in boldness and assurance before the Father. As you come to Jesus with a heart that has forsaken sin – through authentic repentance –  He will purge your conscience with His blood, and you will be free to worship the living God in holiness and righteousness. You shall walk with the boldness, power and liberty of a cleansed conscience. This is the life God wants for you. Just obey Him and see the results.

The Lord let His face shine upon you today!

Pray to the Father about this message that you’ve heard.

For further study: Hebrews 10: 1-22 (note v.1-2)

Rethinking Worship

Daily Devotional: Day 88

‘“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38, NKJV).

Your heart is not yours; it is for the Lord. God wants, not some of your heart, but all of it. He requires, not some of your devotion, but all your devotion. The Lord has no tolerance for half-hearted devotion. Recall that He warned the church in Laodicea that due to their lukewarm attitude, He would vomit them out of His mouth (cf. Revelation 3:16). Love is a two-way street. The Bible says that God first loved us; and His love for us has made it possible for us to love Him (cf. 1 John 4:19).

 In Christ Jesus, God has lavished all His love upon us. Therefore, the only reasonable and acceptable response to this radical love is for us to love Him back with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. This is the definition of worship: total consecration of your life to God, removing all resistance to His will.

Many of us have been raised, unfortunately, to think of worship primarily in terms of the 30-minute or 1-hour slot allocated for singing and dancing during Sunday or Saturday service. Today, when many people hear “worship,” we often associate it with loud music, drums, dazzling lights and intense emotional experience. Making music to God is part of worship, but it is by no means the definition of worship. The Bible truth is, worship is a lifestyleit is a way of beingit is a state of mind.

Worship encompasses a Christian’s whole life. It is not a moment on Sundays or a morning devotion. It is a lifestyle of holy living characterized by around-the-clock devotion to the law of God and submission to His will as expressed in the Bible.

Paul put it so well when he wrote to the Christians in Rome: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Let’s be honest: How many Christians have offered their bodies to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable?

The word “service” (from Romans 12:1) is a translation of the Greek word latreia. This word, among other things, means religious or sacred service, i.e. worship. True worship, therefore, means to voluntarily present your entire self to God as a sacrifice for Him to do with you as He pleases. When love for God consumes you, your only desire will be to please Him, not yourself. Let Christians arise and worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. Let’s rethink worship.

Prayer:

Dear Father, I bless you for your tender mercies. Thank you for lavishing all your love upon me. I give you all my heart, all my soul, and all my body as my reasonable worship. Lord, have your way in me. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Deuteronomy 6:1-25

The Danger of Diminishing God’s Word

Daily Devotional: Day 77

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word” (Jeremiah 26:2, NKJV; emphasis mine).

When you diminish God’s Word, you’ve diminished God. Period. The reason is, God is in His Word. Moreover, God’s Word is as good as Him. Consequently, by diminishing God’s Word, we diminish its power to fulfill the purpose God intends it to accomplish. A diminished Gospel leads to spiritual impoverishment and the illusion of being saved. But the reality is that a diminished Gospel cannot save; neither can it convey the power of God. Satan isn’t moved, I should add, by a diminished Gospel. To truly build people up, God’s Word must be delivered in its pure, unadulterated form (Cf. 1 Peter 2:2). This releases the full supernatural potency of the divine word. Those who receive the unadulterated Word receive the blessings contained in the Word and become transformed. We should also note that the Bible warns of severe consequences for those who tamper with God’s Word (Cf. Revelation 22: 18-19).

Jeremiah was appointed a prophet during a very difficult time in Judah, when most prophets had become false prophets to please the King and the people. In today’s Bible text, God sends Jeremiah to continue speaking the truth to the people of Judah. Notice the strong warning He gave to Jeremiah. He commanded him not to diminish a word. Jeremiah was under constant pressure and he faced death threats for the most part of his prophetic ministry. God knew about this pressure, so He warned Jeremiah to be strong and not diminish the force of God’s Word.

 By the mercies of God, I’ve been a minister of God’s Word in an official capacity for at least 12 years. And I can attest to the fact that there’s a constant temptation to diminish the force of God’s Word because people might be offended or be hurt by the complete truth. There’s a temptation to flow with what’s trending and sanitize God’s Word to please the masses. The temptation is real, and all the prophets of God in the Bible had to deal with it. Even Jesus Himself had to deal with this temptation during His earthly ministry. All of us teach God’s Word in different capacities, maybe as a pastor, as a parent, as a Sunday School teacher, as a friend, as a spouse, as a co-worker, etc. We all must be careful not to diminish God’s Word, because the day we diminish the Word for fear of people, we’ve basically denied Jesus. When we fear people more than we fear God, it means that the people have become our God. But the question is, whose judgment do we fear, that of people or that of God? I know from personal experience that it’s not easy, but  when we’re under pressure, that’s when our true faith (or lack thereof) in God is manifested. Let’s commit to deliver God’s Word in its pure state regardless of how people feel about it. Favor with God is better than favor with men. 

Prayer:

Father God, you’ve created me to live by your Word. Dispel from my heart every fear of people. Fill me with holy boldness to proclaim your Word as it is without diminishing it. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study:

1 Samuel 15:1-26