The overflow

Read: Genesis 38-40, Matthew 12:22-50

Whether it’s intentional or not, things are going in and out of us all day every day. I’m not talking about food here. Or maybe I am. But it’s the spiritual sort. We read an article. We drive past a billboard. We watch a TV show. We have a conversation with a friend. We pass by a stranger. It’s all stimulation and it’s all being absorbed one way or another. And what goes in is what will come out.

Matthew 12:34

Since there are a lot of things that go in that we have no control over, the situation may seem hopeless. But, as we discussed yesterday, there is always hope. Just because we can’t control all of the bad things doesn’t mean we have no control whatsoever over the good things. We just have to make sure that the good stuff outweighs the bad. It may be as simple as changing the radio station in the car on the commute to work, or putting down one book in exchange for another. In some cases, it may take a little more effort.

For me, it’s getting up earlier than my schedule requires so that I know I will have time first thing every day to spend in the Word of God. I can carry that with me all day.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

Jesus said that a tree—that’s us—is recognized by its fruit. A good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. Every once in a while, it does us good to take a look at the kind of fruit we bear. We cannot assume that it’s always good. And, once we’ve determined our produce, we may need to take a look at what we’ve been feeding it. Even if you believe you have pretty decent fruit, keep in mind it can always be better, and the better it is, the less chance there is of it turning on you. Your fruit affects those around you even more than it affects you.

So, what’s your overflow?

He knows

When everything around us seems to be going wrong, sometimes it can be difficult to believe in a good God. Where is He when children are starving? Where is He in the violence? Where is He in the political turmoil?

He’s right where He’s always been. Waiting.

Many people are inclined to believe that a God that would let the world destroy itself is either one that doesn’t care about humanity or one that doesn’t exist at all. But that’s not how this faith thing works. You see, God first loved His creation so much that He let them choose whether or not they would love Him back. He still lets us make that choice.

Picture a person you barely know. Maybe someone you’ve heard something about. Now imagine finding yourself in trouble. You know that person has the ability to help you, but you don’t know them. They don’t know you. Would you expect that person to come to your rescue? When that person doesn’t come to your aid, would you be angry with them? Of course not! So why would anyone make the same demands of God?

God is more than able to help anyone in any situation. He knows your circumstances better than you do, but He is not going to step in uninvited.

The Lord is good. When trouble comes, he is a strong refuge. And he knows everyone who trust in him.

Nahum 1:7 (NLT)

A person who takes refuge is a person who flees a distressing situation and runs toward a place of safety. In order for anyone to take refuge in God, we must go to Him.

God knows your struggles. He knows every difficult situation you have to face. He also knows your joys and your triumphs. He knows you. So, if you ever wonder why you can’t find God in your situation, perhaps it’s time to bring your situation to Him.

Daily Bible reading: Nahum 1-3, Revelation 13

Plead your case

Today’s culture has made the blame game popular. Everyone loves to be the victim and point out villains. We all want to have our voices heard, the chance to plead our case.

Listen to what the Lord is saying: “Stand up and state your case against me. Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints.”

Micah 6:1 (NLT)

Hey, that’s awesome! God is inviting us to state our case. If you have a complaint against God, now is the time to let it be known! Go ahead, let’s hear it.

“And now, O mountains, listen to the Lord’s complaint!”

Micah 6:2a (NLT)

Uh oh.

Here’s the deal, we all want to plead our case, but no one is interested in being pleaded against. It’s not fun. No one wants their faults or secrets pointed out. We don’t want to be blamed for anything whether we’re innocent or guilty.

Many are keen to paint God as a tyrant. The bully on the playground. The great villain of the ages. These people tend to be the ones hollering to have their case heard, but are the first to run and hide when someone calls them out on their own behavior. Here’s the lesson: don’t try to call God out unless you want to be called out yourself.

So how do we avoid having all of our dirty laundry aired with all of creation as a witness?

No, O people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what he required: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NLT)

You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You can either walk humbly with God and avoid a very public trial, or you can do whatever you want and face God as judge. It’s not difficult. God has not given us impossible instructions.

Moral duties are commanded because they are good for man. In keeping God’s commandments there is a great reward, as well as after keeping them. God has not only made it known, but made it plain. The good which God requires of us is, not the paying a price for the pardon of sin and acceptance with God, but to love himself; and what is there unreasonable, or hard in this?

Matthew Henry

Avoiding the punishment for sin is simple. We must love God and accept His love in return. That’s it. If you’d rather take your changes and plead your case, be my guest. But you can’t say that you haven’t been warned.

On his deathbed, Matthew Henry made this statement: “A life spent in the service of God and communion with Him is the most pleasant life that anyone can live in this world.” Wouldn’t you rather walk with God than fight against Him?

Daily Bible reading: Micah 6-7, Revelation 12

Everyone else was doing it

Who never used the excuse that “everyone else was doing it” when you were a kid? It was a pretty simple go-to reason for why you did something your parents explicitly told you not to to. But did it ever work? If you tried it, you may have received “if they all went and jumped off a bridge, would you jump off, too?” as a response. Of course you wouldn’t. You’re smarter than that. Yet you did do something for which your only reason for doing it was because everyone else was.

John warns against following evil influence. The influence he’s talking about has far greater repercussions than getting your bicycle taken away or being grounded from the internet for a week. It’s your eternal soul at stake.

Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.

3 John 1:11 (NLT)

The evil influence John is talking about here is that a man, Diotrephes, is going around telling the church that they don’t need to welcome or care for travelling ministers—a teaching that is completely contrary to the example Jesus set. But we can take this word of advice and apply it to far more than just travelling ministers. It is advice for life.

Influence comes at us from all directions—all day, every day. It’s unavoidable. It comes from Christians as well as unbelievers. It is up to us as individuals to determine how we let it affect us. In this passage, John gives us a pretty simple answer—know God. When we know and love God, good deeds will be the visible byproduct. If we don’t know God, evil deeds will be the byproduct. And we cannot assume that everyone who calls himself a Christian knows God (John’s warning here was against someone in the church).

It’s all so confusing! How am I supposed to know what’s what?

It’s a good thing that God doesn’t expect us to know it all. And it’s a good thing that He does know it all. And it’s an even better thing that He gave us His Holy Spirit to guide us in that regard. The closer we are to God, the more in tune we will be with His Spirit and can allow ourselves to be influenced by Him rather than those around us. And the stronger God’s influence is in our lives, the more of a good influence we will be on those around us.

If you need an influence to follow, Jesus is your prime example. Get to know him. Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it (even Christians), do it because Jesus did it.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 11-12, 3 John 1

Act out

A person stands on a stage speaking wise words with an eloquent voice. Their words are truth. Their words hold life.

A person sits in the crowd hearing words and, even though they are powerful, this person feels nothing. There is no change. They are hollow.

Then a stranger beside them gently takes their hand. Suddenly the world changes.

Which person is greater—the speaker or the silent hand-holder? Which one has more wisdom and understanding? We might be inclined to say that it’s the person speaking, but if their words have no effect, what use are they?

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don’t brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise.

James 3:13 (NLT)

Telling people what you know and what you can do isn’t the same as showing people what you know and what you can do. In the end, our actions hold far more sway than our words. Words, though they may be right, are empty unless our actions back them up. Words aren’t always necessary to convey a strong message. In fact, they are rarely needed.

We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way.

James 3:2 (NLT)

As Christians, especially as those who may not be in public ministry, we may struggle with ways to share our faith. We can’t find the words. Bringing up God in conversation always seems shallow and contrived. But what if words aren’t what we need to be sharing? I’ve personally had more people ask me about my faith based on my actions than my words.

When we act out Christ’s love and live a life of steady goodness so that good deeds will pour forth, we open doors that our words could never open. We make paths where our words could never go. We affect lives in ways words never could.

Don’t try to find the right words. Try to do the right deeds.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 24-26, James 3

Make common

We all know that common sense isn’t nearly as common as its name implies. And common sense isn’t the only thing that isn’t as common as it should be.

You are generous because of your faith. And I am praying that you will really put your generosity to work, for in so doing you will come to an understanding of all the good things we can do for Christ.

Philemon 6 (NLT)

The New Living Translation makes this verse pretty clear, but Barnes Notes on the Bible expounds on it even more.

Calvin has well expressed the sense of this passage, “…For although faith has its proper seat in the heart, yet it communicates itself to men by good works.” The meaning is, that [Paul] desired Philemon would so make common the proper fruits of faith by his good deeds toward others, that all might acknowledge it to be genuine and efficacious.

Barnes Notes on the Bible

My faith is personal. Yes, of course it is. It should be. But our faith should be anything but selfish. Like we discussed earlier this week, being a Christian, by definition, is to be Christ-like. And even Jesus, in his most personal moments, took the time to generously minister to others.

GENEROUS: Liberal, bountiful, free to give; strong, full of spirit; full, overflowing, abundant; sprightly, courageous.

That doesn’t sound much like something meant to be kept on the inside.

Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:24 (NLT)

James 2:26 states that …faith that does nothing is dead (NCV). Works or good deeds are not what saves us—grace has done that—but works are what prove our faith to everyone else. Works are what draw others to our faith. Works substantiate our claim to belong to Christ. And, as we act more and more like Christ, not only to we look more and more like him, but we get to know him better and have a deeper understanding of who he is and strengthen our personal relationship with him.

Like common sense, the fruits of our faith are not nearly as common as they should be. We shouldn’t have to tell others we’re Christians. Our good deeds should do it for us.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 36-37, Philemon

I insist

When we insist on something, we’re usually polite about it. Let me get the bill, I insist. We’re just being nice.

INSIST: Literally, to stand or rest on. To press or urge for any thing with immovable firmness; to persist in demands.

Not so polite now, is it? To insist on something is to stand firm, without moving or wavering. Paul, in his letter to Titus insists that he stand on the truth of the message of Christ.

But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. He declared us not guilty because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life. These things I have told you are all true. I want you to insist on them so that everyone who trust in God will be careful to do good deeds all the time. These things are good and beneficial to everyone.

Titus 3:4-8 (NLT)

Not only should we insist on the Truth, but we should insist on it for a reason—so that we will all be careful to do good deeds all the time.

Look at one who’s received a heart transplant. Someone had to die in order for that person to live. Now that they have a new heart, they will not—they cannot—go back to living the way they lived before. They must live a life worthy of the gift they received. The same goes for us. While we’re not going to drop dead if we don’t do good deeds, to live a life without change is hardly living a life worthy of the price Jesus paid so that we could be free from those things that tie us down.

We have been called to so much more than just a simple belief in Christ. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died and rose again to pay the price for our sins is only the beginning. God, the creator of the universe, has a plan for each of us. He, in His infinite grace and mercy, has far greater things in mind for us than we could ever comprehend. To keep on living the way we always lived is an insult to the price that Jesus paid.

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)

Let’s think about our lives. Think about the gift of grace we have been given. And think about the ways that we can live worthy of that gift one day at a time. Start with one good deed. Then another. Then another.

I insist.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 33-35, Titus 3