Going through the motions

We all go through motions every day. There are things we do that we’ve done so many times that we don’t even have to think about what we’re doing—getting dressed, brushing your teeth, pouring a cup of coffee, work, even commuting. We go through our daily routines by rote. Little or no thought is required. It’s easy to slip into those kinds of habits. Even when it comes to God.

I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is.

Amos 5:21-23 (NLT)

Ouch! Here God is, telling Israel that He will not accept the very things He gave them. Why not?

Yaweh did not desire the slavish observance of ritual, he desired right conduct, which in itself is an act of true worship.

International Bible Commentary

At this point in Israel’s sin, notice that God no longer referred to the festivals and offerings as His own. The attitude behind the sacrifices had become so focused on the action that God had nothing to do with them anymore and the actions belonged solely to Israel.

God has given us so much, so many ways to praise and worship Him yet we, like Israel, can easily slip into habits where we go through the motions, but our hearts and even our minds are no longer engaged.

Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.

Amos 5:24 (NLT)

Far more than mere actions of pious offering, God would have us live lives of perpetual worship. Fake it ’till you make it can only get us so far. Sometimes we just need to start, but if our entire lives become a series of hollow actions, God receives no glory.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30 (NLT)

Let us all strive to produce a river of righteous living. Let us put meaning to our motions so that our works become our worship.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 4-6, Revelation 6

Free gift

Like many of the Jews in Paul’s time, there are a lot of people now who are still under the impression that God won’t hand out His grace unless we work for it. If I can just do this one thing, then God will love me or if I can accomplish that, then I’ll be worthy. That’s not how this faith thing works.

So that’s why faith is the key! God’s promise is given to us as a free gift. And we are certain to receive it, whether or not we follow Jewish customs, if we have faith like Abraham’s.

Romans 4:16 (NLT)

God’s promise—salvation—is given to us as a free gift. All we need is faith like Abraham. So what did Abraham’s faith look like?

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything he promised. And because of Abraham’s faith, God declared him to be righteous.

Romans 4:20-22 (NLT)

All Abraham did was believe that whatever God said was true—whether he could see it immediately or not. In fact, the longer Abraham believed without seeing, the more he brought glory to God! God didn’t tell Abraham His promise would be fulfilled if only Abraham did A, B, and C. He simply made the promise.

But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.

Romans 4:5 (NLT)

The law is impossible to fulfill. God knew that when He gave it to Israel. The fact that we cannot fulfill the law on our own makes our need for a covenant with God obvious. That is why Jesus was sent to be the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17).

It takes all the pressure off of us when we come to the realisation that Jesus came and did what we could never do on our own. The only price we must pay to receive the free gift of salvation is our humility—admitting that we cannot do enough works to make ourselves worthy, but need to accept what Jesus did for us on the cross in order to be made righteous. I once heard a pastor say that the greatest fight to our faith is learning not to fight. Abraham simply believed and was made righteous. The more he believed, the more he brought glory to God.

…you are faithful to your promises, O God.

Psalm 71:22b (NLT)

Let’s stop complicating righteousness. It’s one of the easiest things in the world to receive. I was born into this world with a sinful nature. I cannot do anything to make myself worthy of God’s call. God made a way for me and it’s free. All I need to do is hold out my hand and accept it. It’s a free gift.

And really, who doesn’t want to accept a free gift?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 70-72, Romans 4

Because

Most days, I don’t feel good enough. In my head, I know I’m a child of God. In my head, I know that God has forgiven me. In my head, I know that, through the blood of Jesus, I’ve been made righteous. But I don’t feel it.

Thank goodness it’s not based on feelings. Not even a little bit!

My righteousness has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel or what I do to try and become righteous. While in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us to let our good deeds shine out for all to see, those good deeds to not make us righteous. So what does?

And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his faith.

Genesis 15:6 (NLT)

It’s almost difficult to believe it’s that simple. Believe. Have faith. Done. Because of his faith. Nothing more. God didn’t demand that Abram do all sorts of things to become righteous. Abram’s belief in God and his faith in Him were enough.

Today, don’t worry so much about how you feel when it comes to salvation and righteousness. Believe. Have faith. Let God take care of the rest.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 15-17, Matthew 5:27-48

Steadfast

Yesterday we looked at the word uttermost. We learned that, if something is done to the uttermost, nothing can be beyond it.

Today, let’s look at the word steadfast. This is another word that we come across often in scripture but not so often in our daily lives. If we don’t understand it completely, we may have a tendency to skip over it and never quite grasp the meaning of its context.

STEAD-FAST, adjective. Fixed in direction; steadily directed: firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment: unwavering: firmly established: firmly fixed in place or position.

Are you steadfast in anything. Do you know someone who is?

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.

Lamentations 3:22 (ESV)

Let’s expand that verse.

The [fixed, firm, steadily directed, resolute, unwavering, established] love of the Lord never ceases.

Not only is Jesus able to save us to the uttermost, but His love is right up there with His ability to make us righteous. Just as salvation from God is unwavering, so are His love and mercy.

lamentations-3-22

Daily Bible reading: Lamentations 3-5, Hebrews 8