We all use pet names or nicknames to address those we love. We call our spouses/children “honey” or “darling”, or if you’re in the south “sweetie” or “sugar”. I’m sure you get the point, however, there are often times we overlook the places in scripture which God uses those types of terms to refer to his people. When God commissions Moses to go back to Egypt, He refers to Israel as His “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22) which was a place of honor and blessing. Before entering the promised land, Moses reminds the people the God had chosen Israel from among all the nations to be His “treasured possession.” But there is another place in which God uses one of these terms of endearment that we should take note of, especially since Paul reminds us that the Gentile believers (non-Jews/Israelites) are ingrafted branches into the tree that is Israel, God’s firstborn, His treasured possession.
Recorded in the Song of Moses (Deut. 32:1-43), God refers to Israel as Yeshurun, which is another term of endearment. Yeshurun means “upright one” and refers to the same people God calls his treasured possesion, but we should take note of how it’s used:
Yeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior. (Deuteronomy 32:15)
There is much more that follows in the subsequent verses. You should read them. Moses saw this day coming and actually predicted what would happen when the people had all they “needed.” They forsook the LORD and forgot all about Him. Judges 2:10 reminds us that after Joshua died, the next generation “knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for them.” How? How could God’s firstborn, His treasured possession, the upright one turn away from his Father. Maybe its a slow drift. Maybe it looks something like the prodigal son. Or maybe we just become so “self sufficient” that we don’t think we need the LORD.
I think its ironic how the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, left His throne to become a servant. Calls fishermen to follow him and not princes. Eats with sinners and tax collectors and not the religious elite. Then He reminds all who listen to him that it is the “poor in spirit” that will be blessed, and following Him will most assuredly draw persecution of some kind and requires his followers to deny themselves. And let’s not forget how He teaches His disciples to pray, “give us this day our DAILY bread.” It is my prayer that we at SCC do not become like the Yeshurun described in Deuteronomy. Instead, especially with revival approaching, I pray that we are making straight the path of the LORD. The maintenance of our relationship with Christ takes a daily effort. Consuming our “daily bread.” This week, take inventory of your own heart. What needs to change? What needs to continue? Remember, you are God’s treasured possession!
You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Sonship. and by him we cry “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:15-16)
Last week I was able to attend a conference called “Wilderness” that CIY puts together every October. This conference is unlike any other I have ever heard of. From Monday night through Friday morning you are given the opportunity to abide…to just spend time with God. Usually conferences keep you busy with workshops and main speakers. Not this one. This conference calls in a small group of ministers (our mentors) from across the country who are kind of the “been there and done that” guys who are there to help lead guys like me closer to God. Every morning we worship and pray together and are handed a piece of paper with the days Bible reading and questions. You have all day to spend with God with no time constraints to do this. The only thing you need to be at is lunch and supper. After supper is more worship and small group time with your mentor to discuss what you learned for that day.
This year was a very good year for me. The question I was being hit with all week was am I abiding? It’s a word that I read and known for a long time, but have never really put it to work in my own life. To truly live means that you live in God, which is through Jesus. It means that every day you choose to abide in Him. To choose Him over yourself. To choose Him over your desires. Am I abiding is a question that I will never forget. It has reshaped who I am. To abide in Him means that I have given it all to Him and relying totally 100% on Him. No part is held back, there is nothing left in my barrel (from last week…ask and I’ll tell you the story). It is all for Him and His glory.
So how would you answer that question? Are you abiding? Is God really who you are abiding with and relying on? Or is it someone or something else? 1 John 2:6 says, “Whoever claims to live (abide) in him must walk as Jesus did.” John doesn’t give any room for excuses here. He is very clear that we “MUST” walk as Jesus did. Not just on Sundays, but every single hour of every single day! Jesus knew the importance of abiding with God and that’s why every day he made time to spend with his father in heaven. Jesus knew there would be difficulties along the way, and so he chose to abide in God to find peace, strength, and rest because of them. Jesus was able and willing to do the will of the Father every day because he chose to abide.
Do you abide? It’s the question we should ask ourselves every day. Jesus himself tells us why we should in John 15:5. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” To remain in Him means to stay connected to Him. Are you abiding?
Frequently we talk about “those things” we wish we could get rid of in our lives. Habits, addictions, tendencies, sins that we recognize as being detrimental to our lives. We even go to great lengths to understand why we struggle with the things with which we struggle. Somewhere in the midst of this desire to find the cause of our issues I think we have lost the reality that “those things” are choices.
Don’t get me wrong, our past can give us an affinity toward certain habits and sins, but at the end of the day, we make the choice to indulge. This is how Paul explains it in Romans 6:16, “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” (NLT).
Recently, while reading The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges I was struck by this statement, “It is hypocritical to pray for victory over our sins yet be careless in our intake of the Word of God.” (page 75).
Our desire to get past “those things” while failing to regularly consume God’s Word is like someone wanting to run a 26.2 mile marathon but failing to regularly run in the months leading up to the race. We would look at a person who did this and think that they didn’t really want to run a marathon, and that they just wanted to talk about running a marathon.
Furthermore, when we are intentional about our intake of Scripture and put it to memory, the Holy Spirit brings those passages to mind at the right time. Maybe you need to start with Romans 6:16, so that when you are faced with temptation you can be reminded that it is your choice. You choose what to obey, temptation or God.
If you struggle with saying things you shouldn’t maybe you need to memorize Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those that hear.” (ESV).
If you struggle with lust it might be helpful to memorize Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (ESV).
Greed? Colossians 3:5, “ So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” (NLT).
Unforgiveness? Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you.” (ESV).
I could go on, but you get the point.
Understand, we have a choice Who/what we will obey. If we are going to be conformed to the image of Christ, for the sake of others, and to the glory of God, we must be intentional about our Scripture intake.
It’s your choice, who will you obey?
Blog posts from the Sterling staff, and maybe even the occasional guest blogger.