We know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.
However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.
But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble. (1 Corinthians 8:6-13)
Paul addressed these words to believers who weren’t bothered by eating meat that had been offered to idols. Although idols were phony, and the ritual of sacrificing to them was meaningless, eating such meat offended other Christians with sensitive consciences. Paul said, therefore, that mature believers should avoid eating meat offered to idols if it would violate the conscience of weak Christians.
Christian freedom does not mean that anything goes. It means that our salvation is not determined by good deeds or legalistic rules, but by the free gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christian freedom, then, is inseparably tied to Christian responsibility. New believers are often very sensitive to what is right or wrong, what they should or shouldn’t do. Some actions may be perfectly all right for us to do, but may harm a Christian brother or sister who is still young in the faith and learning what the Christian life is all about.
Consider the freedoms you enjoy as a believer. How would that be a stumbling block to someone new to the faith? Think back to when you first believed in Jesus. How did believers older in faith encourage you? What can you do now to nurture a new brother or sister in Christ?
Have you ever felt as if God is fed up with you? Perhaps you feel your mistakes are too great to be forgiven. Maybe you wish you could go back to a time when things were better. If so, our key verse offers us words of encouragement.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” ~ Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
The prophet Isaiah spoke these words to Israel during a time when they were in captivity. They had lost everything they thought they’d keep forever. Because of their rebellion, they assumed God wanted nothing to do with them anymore.
Yet God responded: Forget the past. Whatever you’ve done or how far you’ve strayed, I’m doing a new thing in your life today!
Wherever you find yourself today, God is doing a new thing in your life. Our key verse from Isaiah teaches us how to embrace all He is doing.
It’s impossible to see where God is leading if we’re always looking back.
The Israelites longed for former days when they had God’s favor. They remembered when God made a way of escape through the Red Sea, when He protected them from the enemy and how He provided for their needs. The Israelites were looking to the past for present solutions. Yet, their past victories couldn’t do anything to free them in the present. They needed a new work. A new miracle. A new victory.
Just as a seed spouts below the ground before we see evidence of a new flower, God is already at work in us doing a new thing. It’s not something in the future. It’s springing up now. We can’t see it yet, but it’s in motion. God’s work of new life within us happens every day. He works to strengthen our relationship with Him, both spiritually and practically. We must focus on the work He is doing in our lives right now. Can you perceive it?
Whether we see possibilities or problems in our lives, God is making a way for us. The Israelites thought they didn’t deserve anything from God. Yet God doesn’t condemn His children, rather, He lends a helping hand.
“… I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19b)
Melany felt her life was nothing more than a wasteland, but God turned her past into a stream of new life. Her baby was adopted by a loving couple. And just as He did for Melany, God can transform your desert into a field of blessing. He can bring new life from an old, dried-up one.
No matter your past, God has already set into motion a new direction and a new purpose for your life. Will you commit to His plan?
Dear Jesus, I believe You’re working something new in my life. Help me recognize Your activity, and give me a grateful heart toward Your mercy that never gives up on me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
© 2017 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
|Prayer for His People: John 17:6-19|
“During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.” “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” (John 17:12-19)
The world hates Christians because Christians’ values differ from those of the world. Because Christ’s followers don’t cooperate with the world by joining in their sin, they are living accusations against the world’s immorality. The world follows Satan’s agenda, and Satan is the avowed enemy of Jesus and his people. Jesus didn’t ask God to take believers out of the world but instead to use them in the world. Because Jesus sends us into the world, we should not try to escape from the world, nor should we avoid all relationships with non-Christians. We are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), and we are to do the work that God sent us to do. A follower of Christ becomes set apart through believing and obeying the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). He or she has already accepted forgiveness through Christ’s sacrificial death (Hebrews 7:26-27). But daily application of God’s Word has a purifying effect on our minds and hearts. Scripture points out sin, motivates us to confess, renews our relationship with Christ, and guides us back to the right path.
Jesus prayed, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17). You can pray that prayer for yourself or someone else. In what ways has God already revealed his truth through his Word? How has his Word helped shape your priorities and purpose?
|Source: Life Application Study Bible, October 26, 2016
2016 © Tyndale House Publishers 351 Executive Drive • Carol Stream, Illinois 60188, US
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Got Your Back: Leviticus 25:35-55
“If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you. Do not charge interest or make a profit at his expense. Instead, show your fear of God by letting him live with you as your relative. Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.” (Leviticus 25:35-38)
The Bible places great emphasis on assisting the poor and helpless, especially orphans, widows, and the handicapped. In Israelite society, no paid work was available to women; thus, a widow and her children had no livelihood. Neither was work available for the seriously handicapped in this nation of farmers and shepherds. The poor were to be helped without charging any interest. God said that neglecting the poor was a sin. Permanent poverty was not allowed in Israel. Financially secure families were responsible to help and house those in need.
Many times we do nothing, not because we lack compassion, but because the size of the problem overwhelms us and we don’t know where to begin. God doesn’t expect you to eliminate poverty, nor does he expect you to neglect your family while providing for others. He does, however, expect that when you see an individual in need, you will reach out with whatever help you can offer, including hospitality.
Ask God to open your eyes to the desperate needs of people in your world. Consider what you can do to help alleviate those needs, to show compassion in Christ’s name. Then pray for the courage and wisdom to respond to the needs you see.
from Life Application Daily Devotional; 2015 © Tyndale House Publishers
Blissful Blessings: Leviticus 26:1-13
“Do not make idols or set up carved images, or sacred pillars, or sculptured stones in your land so you may worship them. I am the LORD your God. You must keep my Sabbath days of rest and show reverence for my sanctuary. I am the LORD.”
“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you the seasonal rains. The land will then yield its crops, and the trees of the field will produce their fruit. Your threshing season will overlap with the grape harvest, and your grape harvest will overlap with the season of planting grain. You will eat your fill and live securely in your own land.
“I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear. I will rid the land of wild animals and keep your enemies out of your land. In fact, you will chase down your enemies and slaughter them with your swords. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand! All your enemies will fall beneath your sword.”
“I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people. And I will fulfill my covenant with you. You will have such a surplus of crops that you will need to clear out the old grain to make room for the new harvest! I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your heads held high.” (Leviticus 26:1-13)
The people of the Old Testament were warned over and over against worshiping idols. We wonder how they could deceive themselves with these objects of wood and stone. Yet God could well give us the same warning, for we too tend to put idols above him. Idolatry is making anything more important than God, and our lives are full of that temptation. Money, appearances, success, reputation, security, and more can all become idols in our lives. As you look at these false gods that promise everything you want but nothing you need, does idolatry seem so far removed from your experience?
Not only do idols take God’s place in our lives; they also enslave us. God took the children of Israel out of bitter slavery and gave them freedom and dignity. We too are set free when we accept Christ’s payment that redeems us from sin’s slavery. We no longer need to be bogged down in shame over our past sins or by trusting in idols; we can walk with dignity because God has forgiven us and leads us to freedom. But just as the Israelites were still in danger of returning to a slave mentality, we need to beware of the temptation to return to our former idols and sinful patterns.
What are the idols and sins that continue to tempt you? Thank God every day that he has freed you from slavery to sin. And use your freedom to live for him.
from Life Application Daily Devotional; 2015 © Tyndale House Publishers