Distinguish

Read: Leviticus 10-12, Matthew 26:1-19

Let’s face it, once we’ve read through the incredible story of creation, the flood, Joseph and the exodus from Egypt, the Bible can get a little boring. It feels as though we’re in the doldrums and may never get out. But just because we don’t live under the old covenant doesn’t mean that the ideas and reasoning behind all those commands no longer apply to us.

But all of that was for the priests, wasn’t it? Yup, it sure was.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

Now that we’ve established that we are priests, we can look at some of this in a different light.

Leviticus 10:10

Before we start trying to make any distinctions, let’s find out what we’re trying to distinguish.*

HOLY: Properly, whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense. Hence, pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin and sinful affections.

COMMON: Usual; ordinary. Of no rank or superior excellence.

UNCLEAN: Not clean; foul; dirty; filthy. In the Jewish law, ceremonially impure, not cleansed by ritual practices.

CLEAN: Free from extraneous matter, or whatever is injurious or offensive. Free from dirt or other foul matter. Free from moral impurity; innocent.

There are some that believe God pulled some of His instructions out of a hat simply to see if Israel would obey. But since God had purpose in everything else He’d accomplished up to that point, I find it difficult to believe He’d throw in a few random instructions just to watch His people squirm.

In some cases, the instructions were for health reasons and, in other cases, the instructions were for cultural reasons. In everything God required of His people, the end result was that they were set apart. They were not like the other nations in the way they lived or worshipped. All of the parameters set before them set them on a straight and clear path to God Himself.

If we look at these instructions in that light, they certainly do apply to us.

God wants us to be set apart. Pure in heart. Free from sin and sinful affections. Why would we even want to be ordinary? God wants us to be free from extraneous matter. Why would we even want to foul up our lives with dirt or anything that is injurious or offensive? Just as these things applied to the priests under the old covenant, they apply to us all today.

Being set apart doesn’t mean we’re a weird cult with special Kool Aid. It simply means that we’ve been called to live a different life, free from distractions that would separate us from God. Everything we choose to keep in our lives that doesn’t make us clean or holy is a roadblock or pothole in our path to God. It hinders our relationship with Him.

God is not a backyard bully trying to make us do tricks to be mean. All He wants is a clear path between He and us. Jesus’ blood left the door open, but it’s up to us to distinguish that which either clears or clutters our path.

*As usual, my definitions are coming from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.

Uncommon and holy

You may have heard of a message of grace. Not just grace to cover sin when you first approach God in repentance, but a message of a grace that means you can live however you like and God will have to forgive you no matter what. Some may call it hyper-grace.

The conclusion of hyper-grace teaching is that we are not bound by Jesus’ teaching, even as we are not under the Law; that believers are not responsible for their sin; and that anyone who disagrees is a pharisaical legalist.

(Source)

To live a life under hyper-grace, means that, while one may accept salvation through Christ, they do not accept his teachings nor do they experience any real change in their life because of Jesus.

It’s a sad truth that there are many who profess Christianity live in what they believe to be grace, but it’s nothing more than self-condemnation. They devalue the sacrifice and blood of Jesus by expecting that God must forgive them no matter what—without ever having to come to Him in repentance.

Anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Think how much more terrible the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God and have treated the blood of the covenant as if it were common and unholy. Such people have insulted and enraged the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to his people.

Hebrews 10:28-29 (NLT)

Imagine a kid who comes home after having found a mud pit. The child approaches his parents with remorse because he knows that he cannot go into the house in his current state. Since his parents hadn’t yet addressed the repercussions of playing in the mud, they clean him off, put him in new clothes and bring him into the house. The next time they send him out to play, he is reminded to stay away from the mud. But that’s exactly where he goes. Once more, Mom and Dad clean him off, give him clean clothes and bring him inside. But once this happens a few more times, Mom and Dad aren’t so forgiving. Yet the kid only sees that he’s going to get cleaned up no matter what. Soon, he feels no remorse over his disobedience and simply expects that Mom and Dad will clean him up and dress him so that he can go inside. As the parents, how long will you allow this behavior? I doubt it wouldn’t be more than two or three muddy returns before the child is punished. Yet we should expect that God simply smile, shake His head, and immediately forgive us of far worse over and over and over again?

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we received a full knowledge of the truth, there is no other sacrifice that will cover these sins.

Hebrews 10:26 (NLT)

Do we slip and fall and get ourselves dirty? Yes, of course we do. And God is faithful to help us up and dust us off. But to keep on deliberately sinning is ignorant and insulting to all that He has done for us. God has called us out of the muck (Psalm 40:2). He has called us to live pure, clean lives. It is to our benefit as well as those around us.

Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:23-24 (NLT)

Grace is not a Get Out of Jail Free card to be played whenever we get ourselves in trouble, but rather a gift that should be treated with awe and reverence. We should be doing all that we can to remain under the cover of grace and to pull others into its shelter.

Grace is not common and unholy, but rather uncommon and holy.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 7-9, Hebrews 10:24-39

New strength

As many of us age, we may find ourselves longing for the strength of our youth. Our bodies no longer recover like they used to. Definition and tone has been lost to obscurity and perhaps a spare tire around the midsection. Once, hefting an entire load of groceries from the trunk and into the house seemed to take minimal effort. Now three trips are needed to make the haul. We want our old strength back. But until someone finally finds the legendary Fountain of Youth, that’s just not going to happen.

But what if, instead of regaining our old strength, we could gain an entirely new strength?

But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

I don’t think that Isaiah is talking about heading back to the gym with newfound energy, but when we wait on God, He will give us not only more strength, but new strength—one we never had before.

For I can do everything with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength I need.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

God doesn’t just give us the strength we want, He gives us the strength we need—the strength we need to accomplish His work and His will. He gives us the strength to put our focus on Him.

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8b-9 (NLT)

This new strength that is found when we wait on the Lord gives us the ability to do the things that Paul talks about in these verses. Our new strength give us the ability to set our minds on the things of Christ and resist those things that are not of him.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 39-40, Philippians 4

Find her

We often look upon wisdom as this elusive, nigh unattainable thing. Wisdom is just for a select few. Maybe you’re born with it, maybe you’re not. If you have it, hold on to it. If you don’t have it, good luck finding it.

How we ever began thinking that way of wisdom is beyond me. Wisdom isn’t a country club for the rich and famous. Wisdom is out on the street corner calling out to anyone who will listen to her. She cries out to the foolish and simple-minded aching to be heard above the dull roar of humanity.

I call to you, to all of you! I am raising my voice to all people.

Proverbs 8:4 (NLT)

Wisdom is for anyone and everyone who will stop to listen to her voice. Wisdom isn’t fleeting or coy. She does not play hard-to-get. She isn’t corrupt, but rather pure. We should all seek wisdom above all else.

Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge over pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can be compared with it.

Proverbs 8:10-11 (NLT)

Wisdom will not only lead you from foolish decisions, but she will lead you toward knowledge, understanding and wealth.

Unending riches, honor, wealth, and justice are mine to distribute.

Proverbs 8:18 (NLT)

But wisdom should not be sought for the purpose of gaining wealth. For if wealth is what you seek, wisdom is not what you will find.

I love all who love me. Those who search for me will surely find me.

Proverbs 8:17 (NLT)

This sounds a lot like something someone else said…

Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.

Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)

Wisdom and God go hand-in-hand. God formed wisdom before He formed the earth. If we find Him, we will find wisdom. If we find wisdom, we will find God. The two are inseparable.

For whoever finds me finds life and wins approval from the Lord.

Proverbs 8:35 (NLT)

Ask for wisdom. Look for her. Seek her. Find her. She will multiply your days and add years to your life (Proverbs 9:11).

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 7-8, 1 Corinthians 14:21-40

Evaporate

I know of only one way that can take pure water from soil—evaporation. You can try to strain it, but without an elaborate filtration system, the effort would be futile.

All of us die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. That is why God tries to bring us back when we have been separated from him. He does not sweep away the lives of those he cares about—and neither should you!

2 Samuel 14:14 (NLT)

If you’re chilling outside with a large glass of water sitting on the ground next to you and someone comes and kicks it over, you’re not going to try to salvage that water from the ground. You’re going to go refill your glass from the tap or a bottle. Once that water has been separated from the glass and become one with the earth, you have no use for it. It’s done for. You may even move your chair to cover the spot so you don’t soil your feet by stepping in it. It’s a mess.

At some point we all were (or maybe still are) a mess. We are that water spilled on the ground—impossible to put back where it came from. Only God can draw us out of the muck. We can try to scoop it all into a container. Maybe the dirt will settle and clear water will sit on top, but a little agitation will make it murky again. We can try to filter it through a strainer, but the fine bits of dirt and dust follow the water through and nothing will make that water clear again.

Or we can let God draw us out. He can gently lift us from the dirt like water evaporating in the warm air. We are pulled to Him in our purest form. All the dirt is left behind and we become clean again.

Let the clouds serve as a reminder of God’s grace and ability to draw you to Him. When He brings you out of the muck, all the dirt is left behind and you’ve been made pure.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 13-14, Luke 20:1-26