Why are we drawn to return to our sin and slavery?

March 2, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1 (NIV))

What is it about human nature that makes us return to something that we know we should leave behind? We have all been guilty of doing this very thing, and probably much more often than we care to admit. Apparently, human nature since the fall from grace has always had us doing what can only be called self destructive behavior. We know that we shouldn’t, but yet we do. This type of behavior has been pointed out many times, but probably the most accurate and disgusting is the following.

As a dog returns to its vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.
(Proverbs 26:11 (NIV))

As I stated previously, we all do it. Even the man who is credited with bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles fought this aspect in his own walk of faith. Paul was a very intelligent person, but yet he didn’t understand the self destructive nature that he fought against.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
(Romans 7:15-20 (NIV))

This struggle that all of us face makes it clear why each of us are called to take up our cross daily. We are to deny that part of our human nature. We are to struggle with this sinful nature each and every time that it raises its ugly head in our lives. We are called to repent. Far too many people believe that this is a one-time occurrence, but it should be a daily attitude and activity. Do I even venture to say that, on some days, we may have to humble ourselves continually before the Lord and repent of our actions and our thoughts?

I know that we are a fallen creation, but I wish I had the magic answer as to why we return to our sin when we don’t want to. I wish I knew how to turn off that part of my life so that I never take my eyes off of Jesus. Just like Paul, I find myself doing the very things that I hate! I don’t know why! I long to do only what is good and righteous, yet on my own, this is not possible. I just know that we must be ready to fall on our knees whenever and wherever we may find yourself returning to our sin.

I want to leave you with one question that I hope you will take to heart.

Why are we drawn to return to our sin and slavery?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Do we love each other enough to fulfill the law?

February 18, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
(Romans 13:9-10 (NIV))

I hate to say this, but there are people who populate the pews of many churches throughout this world who harm other believers on a regular basis. What does that say about the way that we have faithfully taught what Jesus has commanded us to teach? It is easy to blame the people who harm others, but it is not so easy to take upon yourself the responsibility for their actions.

Should we bear the burden of the responsibility of the actions of other members of the Body of Christ?

I think that we are taught that we do!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
(John 13:34-35 (NIV))

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
(Romans 12:10 (NIV))

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
(Galatians 5:13-15 (NIV))

If members of the Body have not been taught how to stop doing harm, then the Body has not properly fed them the Word of God. They have not been nourished to the point where they know what is Godly and righteous. They have not been allowed to mature in their faith.

Suppose parents have a child and this child starts to eat solid food. As soon as the child starts to eat, the parents do not turn this child loose and tell him to prepare his own meals. The child must be taught what to eat, what is good for them, and what is bad. All of this must happen before the child can be entrusted to prepare his own meals.

Perhaps the church is guilty of being this neglectful parent. We expect people to intuitively know what God wants them to do, what they are to read and study, and how they are supposed to live. We have not taught them how to not be harmful to others. We have not taught them how to love one another.

What have you taught your “children” in the faith? Do we love each other enough to fulfill the law?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Repent and rekindle the fire!

February 4, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
(Acts 17:30 (NIV))

There are many types of things that we can be ignorant of. We can be ignorant of the Law. We can be ignorant of our sin. We can be ignorant of our need for a savior, and we can be ignorant of God’s calling upon our lives.

We can also be ignorant of our need to repent!

This applies individually and as a society.

As I look around, I see evil being called good and good being called evil. Our world is turned upside down. I recently saw that only 49% of our country profess to a belief in Jesus. Sadly enough, in the age range of young adults, that is only about 25%. We, as a society, are rapidly turning and are greatly in need of repentance. How can we, as a society, repent, when the people who feel the need to repent are now in the minority?

There is an old Jewish saying that if the whole world repents, then the Messiah will come. One man sat out to bring the world to repentance. However, he found that the world was too big, so he decided to focus on his country. This, too, was too big, so he decided to focus on his town. He soon found that this, too, was too big. He decided to start with his street. Then his house. He finally decided that he needed to start with himself.

Start with yourself!

We all have things that we tend to push under the rug, so to speak. These things are the sins that we have become familiar with and tend to ignore. In God’s eyes, these sins are no different from the ones that we have a tendency to point our fingers at.

We have become ignorant of our own sins. Have we been focusing so much on the sins that we see in the world that we ignore our own? We need to stop and take a look at our own lives in context. We need to pray that we are following God’s will. We need to pray that we can be that light that the world will see and not a spent candle slowly devouring itself.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV))

What good will we be if our light is going out?

Repent and rekindle the fire!

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Only the Lord is a perfect fit!

December 6, 2019

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.
(Psalms 19:7-9 (NIV))

Some say that there is a God shaped hole inside of our hearts that we strive to fill. Some fill it with wealth; some with power; some with lust; some with greed; and some with false religions. All of the people who try to force fit a “square peg into a round hole” are never truly at peace. They occasionally can make something “fit” temporarily, but due to the mismatched shapes, whatever they place there eventually works its way out.

When this happens, there is much pain, sadness and anger. Filling the space that was intended for God to fill only leads to false hope and aggravation. The Psalmist knew of this and conveyed this truth very eloquently in the above passage. This was before the idea of a “God shaped hole,” but it conveys the same underlying truth.

How are you trying to fill this hole that yearns to be filled?

Only the Lord is a perfect fit!

Copyright 1998 – 2019 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Do you worship like you are truly thankful?

November 28, 2019

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Then the Lord said,
“Because this people draw near
    with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me
    Consists of tradition learned by rote,
Therefore behold, I will once
    again deal marvelously with
    this people, wondrously marvelous;
And the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the discernment of their discerning men shall be concealed.”
(Isaiah 29:13-14 (NASB))

Are we guilty of “tradition learned by rote?”

Are our church services merely a series of traditions that we do because they are the way that we learned them? Do we understand the true meaning behind the traditions?

God spoke through Isaiah against meaningless traditions. Judgment was poured out on the descendants of Israel for simply doing “what they have always done.” They had forgotten that these traditions were actually acts of worship. Worship is not the act of doing things because that is the way they have always been done. It is a sincere reverence for God. It is a “thanksgiving” for what God has done for us, and not a series of rituals done in a certain sequence. God wants us to follow the intent of the Law, and not the letter of the Law. Jesus spoke against the Pharisees for following the letter of the Law without following the intent.

Are you bound by tradition learned by rote?

Are you truly thankful?

Do you worship like you are truly thankful?

Copyright 1998 – 2019 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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What is it that your life is recognized for?

November 5, 2019

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.
(Matthew 12:33 (NIV))

What is your favorite fruit? Is it apples? Perhaps it is pears. Some people love figs, while others love oranges. If you had a tree that gave you your favorite fruit, how would you care for that tree? If the tree began to rot, would the fruit still be as good?

Now, think of your life. What type of fruit does it produce? Each life produces something.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV))

The fruits of the Spirit also provide sweet nourishment. Someone who is loving and filled with joy will make the lives of others transform from the spiritual nourishment that they share. You life is the tree that produces that fruit.

If a tree is diseased, it cannot send the required nourishment and other resources to produce the fruit. The fruit will be small and will be lacking much when compared to fruit produced by a healthy tree. Consequently, how can your life produce healthy fruit if your life is diseased by sin? How can you produce enough love to share if you are callous and cold hearted? How can you produce joy if you are miserable and mean. Just as a tree can be diseased, a life can be diseased. Just as that disease will harm the fruit a tree produces, your disease that you carry within your life will also harm the fruit that you produce.

What makes us different from an actual tree is that we can make a decision to turn to the healing. We can turn to Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. He will give us the grace and mercy that will allow our lives to be healed. He will restore that which the sin has destroyed. He will give us the desire to produce good fruit.

What is your favorite fruit? Is it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control?

What is it that your life is recognized for?

Copyright 1998 – 2019 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Do you share the Gospel with the authority of Jesus?

September 10, 2019

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
(Matthew 7:28-29 (NIV))

Do you remember your most favorite teacher? What made them your favorite? Was it the fact that they really knew what they were teaching and that they were passionate about what they taught? They taught from authority, for authority means that they know what they are teaching. They were more interested in conveying wisdom and knowledge instead of rules and regulations. They taught with joy and enthusiasm.

Do you remember your least favorite teacher? What made this teacher different from your most favorite teacher? I would safely say that they are the ones who tried to teach rules and regulations instead of wisdom and knowledge. Do you remember the rules and regulations that they tried to teach? Probably not!

Consider that Jesus and the teachers of the law are identical to your most favorite and least favorite teachers. Jesus came to impart wisdom and knowledge with joy and enthusiasm. The teachers of the law taught rigid laws and doctrine. No wonder the crowds were amazed at His teachings. Up until this point in their lives, religious life was a chore dictated by very strict man-made rules and regulations that attempted to define and refine what God had commanded. Jesus came to set the captives free. He taught not of rules, but of grace and mercy.

We need to be careful that we do not teach as the teachers of the law, but, teach as Jesus taught.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV))

Jesus told us to go and teach of Him. How do you teach? Do you try to enforce rules or do you passionately teach of grace and mercy?

It is my desire to be passionate about what I am given to send out. I pray that you will always see the passion within these words. Do you share the Gospel with the authority of Jesus?

Copyright 1998 – 2019 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Do you believe in this golden rule?

August 23, 2019

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12 (NIV))

Practically everyone knows the first part of this passage as “The Golden Rule.” Still others have their own golden rule that says “He who has the gold makes the rules.”

Personally, I hate the second saying even though it is meant as a joke. Even so, too many people seem to believe that money buys power. The Bible tells us that money, if not prioritized appropriately, causes many problems.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
(1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV))

Money will cause many people to forget what was spoken of in Matthew 7:12. It causes people to treat others as if they did not matter. It causes people to mistreat others just so they can get more money or hold onto their money a little longer.

The love of money is the root of many evils. Money is fleeting. It can be destroyed. It can be lost in an instant. The evil that we do to gain money, or any other worldly possession or power, has eternal ramifications. It scars those whom the evil is done against, and more importantly, it causes even faithful believers to sin and turn from God’s Will.

We are to treat each other as we would want to be treated. Even if it were not a Biblical principle, it should be common courtesy to treat others as we would want to be treated. When we lose sight of this simple Biblical truth, we sin. We sin against other people. We sin against God. Perhaps we should even come to the realization that we may cause the one we have mistreated to sin out of anger.

How do you treat others? Do you see them as eternal, or do you see them as something to run over to achieve your goals?

Do you believe in this golden rule?

Copyright 1998 – 2019 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Have you accepted God’s grace?

July 23, 2019

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV))

God knows us better than any of us realize, for He knew that if our salvation was based on something that we had to do in our lives, then we would boast and brag that we had done it. This would result in a personality trait that God does not desire for us to have. We would have an arrogance and a “holier than others” attitude. God also knew that because of the fall of man from grace, no one would ever be able to achieve this on their own.

The Law was a good example of this. God gave us the Law in order to show us what we would have to do to achieve our salvation on our own. Everyone failed this test, and God knew that it would happen. He also knew that some would still try to pass this test and reject any help that He might send.

Luckily, though, He did send us help. This help is Jesus Christ. Only God could ever fully live up to God’s expectations of us in this world, so He elected to come to this world as a man in order to provide us grace and mercy.

I know that some people have a hard time admitting that Jesus was fully God, yet fully man. This is where the Trinity comes into play. Many people do not understand this either, yet, in their own lives, they are more than one persona.

Husband, father, son, employee, boss.

Mother, daughter, wife, employee, boss.

Many people assume all of these titles in their day to day lives. God has also assumed the positions of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The only difference is that God, as creator of everything, has the ability to separate these into individual entities in order to complete His Will.

When you think about salvation, think about what God has done in order for you to be saved!

Have you accepted God’s grace?

Copyright 1998 – 2019 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Do you acknowledge the One to whom scripture points?

July 10, 2019

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
(John 5:39-40 (NIV))

Have you ever known people like those whom Jesus spoke of?

You know the type. They can quote scripture. They know God’s Word thoroughly. They can argue any passage for they know the letter of the Law. They take pride in their knowledge, yet they fail to see that the letter of the Law is condemning and restricts life. These people enjoy learning about God, yet they miss the point that perfection is not attainable. They miss the simple fact that grace is attainable. It is a free gift.

Prayerfully, none of us are that type.

It is true that God’s Word holds the truth. It is true that God’s Word leads to salvation, for it points to the Word made flesh.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
(John 1:14-18 (NIV))

We must study the Scriptures, but we must realize that eternal life is not found in knowledge of facts, it is found in the truth that the Scriptures point to. The truth is Jesus Christ.

It is my prayer that no one would study God’s Word without the willingness to follow where that study leads. Countless prophecies foretold of the coming of Jesus. Countless more told of His crucifixion and resurrection. Many more tell of His return. Allow God’s Word to lead you to this conclusion.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
(John 14:6 (NIV))

Are you full of Biblical facts or do you fill yourself with the truth of Jesus? Do you acknowledge the One to whom scripture points?

Copyright 1998 – 2019 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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