James 4:7 – Submit, then resist

James 4:7
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Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

-If we resist the Devil and his ways then he must flee from us, but we can only resist after we’ve submitted to God.  The problem is when people try to push against Satan while at the same time living contrary to God.  Just so there’s no question about the matter, we cannot overcome the powers of darkness on our own; Hell is full of people who have tried and failed.  But “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)  Not only are they possible with God, but they are simple with Him.  The question is never whether you will be strong enough when sin rises, the only question that matters is will you be humble when God calls.

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Romans 8:38-39 – Fully Persuaded

Romans 8:38-39
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For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Here in Romans, Paul makes this statement illustrating his trust in the saving power of Christ.  Consider that Paul was saved in Acts 7, but it wasn’t until he wrote this epistle to the Church at Rome that he was able to say these words.  He had already believed/received Jesus, but over time he became fully persuaded about the character and power of the Lord.  The relationship between God and man runs far deeper than just the acceptance of salvation.  Over time and through trials, the Lord makes Himself real in our lives again and again, standing by the promises made in scripture.  We learn more about Jesus in the valleys than we could ever learn on the mountaintops.  I don’t know many people who ask for hardship, but hardship is really the only way to really understand how powerful and how dependable the Lord truly is.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 -The Good and the Bad

Ecclesiastes 7:14
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In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
-Who doesn’t like a good day?  When everything goes exactly the way you want it to.  There’s is a lot such a day can teach you about the Lord’s goodness and His blessings.  But those bad days- the kind where it seems like everything is working against you; it can be harder to see the value in those.  Nevertheless, God promises that He is using both the good days and the bad days to help us grow.  To what end?  The answer is found right here in Ecclesiastes 7:14, “that man should find nothing after Him.”  If God doesn’t give us blessings, how would we know to return to Him with thanksgiving?  Likewise, if the Lord doesn’t show us trials and suffering, how would we ever learn to turn to Him for comfort and peace?

2 Peter 1:16 – The Pure Word of God

2 Peter 1:16
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For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

-From the beginning, the early Church leaders were careful that the message of Jesus Christ be delivered in its pure form; that means not mixed with human wisdom, not mixed with interpretation, limited to that which they saw Jesus do and heard Jesus say.  If you’ve ever played the game where you pass a message through a can and string, you’ll understand why this is so important.  Just as the message passed along the can and string changes slowly until someone ends up with a completely different message, so too can the Word of God be changed by introducing a new idea here, an allegory there; until someone ends up with a completely different message.  Some of us may have grown up with a diluted Word and may have still heard enough truth to get saved, but what happens to that generation that inherits more falsehood than truth?  Keep God’s word clean and pure because His word is the only thing that He said would accomplish that which He pleases. (Isaiah 55:11)  He never made such a promise about anyone else’s word.

Romans 7:7 – By the Law

Romans 7:7
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What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

-God’s standards are so high and so straight that it is literally impossible for any of us to measure up to them; this is why Romans 3:23 teaches us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God“.  Does that make God’s commandments wrong since none of us can keep them?  God forbid.  Does it make God wrong for setting standards knowing that we would fall short?  Again, God forbid.  Since God alone is the universe’s only expert on what is good (Mark 10:18), God’s law serves as the only measure of what is good and right.  Without that measure, we would all simply have our own sense of right versus wrong.  Who would be able to say if one way was more appropriate or “more right” than another? But God’s standards are different; they are not opinions or suggestions, they are absolutes.  They define good because God is good.  They are right because God is right.  Anything else that is contrary to these standards is wrong.  “Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4)

Romans 9:16-17 – Used of God

Romans 9:16-17
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So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

-Despite Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to submit to God, God makes it clear that He is in control and is still Master in Pharaoh’s life.  It is evident in Scripture that God can find a way to use even the most rebellious of sinners.   Proverbs 16:4 tells us that “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”  He can turn any of us “as the rivers of water“. (Proverbs 21:1)  But there is a difference between being used by God and being used of God.  We learn in 2 Timothy 2:21 that “if a man therefore purge himself from [dishonour], he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”  God must sanctify us before He can use us.  But how can God sanctify us if we hide the areas of our life that are dirty?  How can we have godliness without repentance?  Consider Jesus’ words when Peter tried to hide from His offer of cleansing, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” (John 13:8)  “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

Matthew 19:26 – With God all things are possible

Matthew 19:26
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But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

-Notice that Jesus didn’t say that with God more things are possible, but that all things are possible.  This brings to light an important aspect of the Lord’s nature; omnipotence.  Although it may be beyond our ability to understand, it is nonetheless important to accept that God has no limit.  He can do anything, at any time, in any place.  He sees, hears, knows, and understands everything; He is not bound by time or space.  He’s not just more powerful than us, which implies that we could be measured on the same scale as Him; He is all powerful and beyond measurement.

1 Samuel 15:22 – Obedience Before Sacrifice

Psalm 51:16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

 1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

-We naturally tend to overcompensate for our weaknesses and deficiencies in life.  This can be a good thing depending on the situation, but how often are we guilty of trying to overcompensate in our spiritual lives?  What I mean is how often do we make choices that we know God does not approve of, then try to justify ourselves by casting light on some other area of our life where we are doing well.  In essence we are attempting to offer something to the Lord in exchange for holding onto certain sins.  Overcompensation does not work in God’s economy because God never wanted our sacrifices to begin with; only our obedience.  Not only are we not fooling God when we trade one for the other, we are in fact widening the gap between us and the Lord.

Exodus 15:22-25 -Bitter Waters

Exodus 15:22-25
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So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.
23 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.
24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
25 And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,

-While making the long journey between Egypt and the Promised Land, the thirsty Hebrew came upon a watering hole.  While usually a sight for sore eyes, in this case the waters were bitter and undrinkable.  This otherwise bad situation was made good by two things; 1) Moses cried out to the Lord, which is always a good start and 2) The Lord showed Moses a tree which, when cast into the bitter waters, made them sweet.  Not just drinkable, not just tolerable, but sweet as honey.  Notice that the tree does not soak up the bitter water like a sponge, the water is still there, but it is changed into something good, something profitable.  In our journeys we will often come upon waters that are too bitter to be swallowed.  But the Lord has another tree, fashioned into the shape of a cross, that when added to your circumstance will take away the bitter sting.  It won’t dry up your waters, they will still be there, but they will be changed into something profitable and sweet to the taste.

Proverbs 21:30 -Wisdom and Vanity

Proverbs 21:30
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There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.
-There is no truth out there that can contradict the Lord.  As the Creator of all things, it is impossible that there would exist “a thing” that wouldn’t in some way reflect back on the Lord’s existence and goodness.  Now of course the Lord is very aware that we humans are a prideful and egocentric bunch; there are all sorts of things that we think and hear and say that may be contrary to the Lord and yet the truth of Proverbs 21:30 still stands.  What does that tell us about the things that we think and hear and say that may be contrary to the Lord?  It tells us that all such wisdom is not really wisdom; all such understanding is not really understanding; and all such counsel is not really counsel.  Simply put, all these are not anything at all.  When Solomon observed them, he called them “vanity of vanities.”  However you choose to phrase it, anything contrary to the Lord is an empty promise, an empty nothing; it is simply empty.