Your Reputation

John 3

What’s your reputation? The Bereans were known for checking Paul´s words against Scripture. Thomas was the doubter. Saul had a reputation for persecuting the Christians before he became Paul. The Pharisees were hypocrites.

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day, and at the time were esteemed by many. But in the eyes of God they were dangerous men who didn’t get it. Matthew 16:12 ¨Then at last they (the disciples) understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.¨ What a common misconception, right? The Pharisees had all the knowledge of the scriptures and Jewish traditions and laws. They were the teachers and leaders of the Jews. Yet Jesus rebukes them because they were missing a love for God.

This type of thinking reminds me of chapter 5 of Matthew where Jesus keeps on telling the people  that they have all heard what the law says but Jesus comes along and ¨tightens¨ up the law, by changing the outward focus inward- off of the laws and onto the heart. The Pharisees had all the knowledge of the scriptures and Jewish traditions and laws but no matter how much they seemed to do they missed the point- following God, not just the laws.

 From what the Bible tells us about the Pharisees we see them continually trying to trick Jesus into messing up, or catch him red handed going against God´s law. They are the ones who plotted and killed Jesus! With the exception of Gamaliel and Nicodemus and Paul, the Pharisees are recorded as hypocrites, blind guides, lovers of  money, and a brood of vipers. (Matthew 23:23-24, Luke 16:14, 12:34) The Pharisees´ hated Jesus and everything he did and said.

In John 3 we see Nicodemus, a Pharisee, come to Jesus at night. Even to come at night had to have taken guts. But when Jesus tells him that one must be born again before they can see the Kingdom of God, he is stuck in his thinking as a Pharisee. But he knows Jesus is different from the rest of the Jewish teachers. Later on in John, Nicodemus makes steps in not following the Pharisees when he convinces his colleagues to allow a trial for Jesus, and when Jesus was laid in the tomb, it was Nicodemus who provided the myrrh and aloes and worked with Joseph of Arimathea to care for the lifeless body of Jesus.

What do you want to be known for? Nicodemus could have been a stereotypical Pharisee but he stepped out to learn from Jesus, the Son of God. He wanted to follow God instead of people. 

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here Joshua 23-24 and John 3

Following God not Man

Don’t Be Deceived!

1 Kings 12 28c NIV sgl

1 Kings 12-14

Perhaps we will be able to learn a thing or two about unity and peace and not being deceived and the supreme importance of following God’s purpose and plan as we read the historical accounts of the break-up of the Old Testament country of Israel.  What a sad and difficult time it must have been.

Remember back to those who had insisted that they wanted to have a king in order to be a real nation like all the neighboring tribes and countries.  Samuel told them they didn’t need a king if they had God, but they didn’t listen.  They wanted to be just like everybody else.  So, sure enough, they got themselves a king – and all the heartache and turmoil that comes with trying to follow man instead of God.

As we begin our reading today Israel had survived almost 100 years under 3 kings (Saul, David and Solomon).  And, as Solomon’s son Rehoboam is poised to take the reigns, the split comes and Jeroboam takes control of most of the country.  The land previously given to the tribe of Judah (home to Jerusalem and the beautiful temple Solomon built for the whole nation to worship the one true God in) remains as Rehoboam’s territory.  Jeroboam quickly decides he must build something for all the rest of Israel to worship, so that they don’t return to Jerusalem.  Two golden calves were created.  If the people knew God and their history a little better this should have sent all sorts of red flags.

God sent one new, large, red flag for the people.  A man of God came from Judah to speak God’s Word and reveal God’s power against this new idol worship.  He turns down King Jeroboam’s invitation to dinner because the word of the Lord said he must return home without eating or drinking in this land he was speaking against.  However, when an old prophet lies and says that an angel appeared to him and told him to have the man of God come to his house….the man of God goes.  But that same day judgement is prophesied against this man of God (from God through the previously lying prophet of God).  And sure enough while traveling home the man of God is killed by a lion (who “strangely” enough, does not eat him, just kills him).

I must say I have had some trouble with this story.  Here’s the man of God on special assignment from God – and doing it quite faithfully.  Speaking God’s word, showing God’s power, turning down even the King’s attempt to wine and dine him.  He seems totally devoted to what God wants him to do.  And, then, someone lies to him.  Someone who calls themself a prophet – should be a good person to listen to, right?

Not always!

Don’t believe every word from one who says they speak for God — without consulting what GOD has to say about it!  God had not changed what He had said to the man of God.  And, so that is what the man of God was responsible to be listening to and following.  The man of God was deceived because he listened to the lie – and it cost him his life.  God is serious about people following Him and His Word, rather than what man says about God.

So, too, today I fear there are many who, like the man of God in 1 Kings 13, are trying to speak God’s word – who are at the same time being deceived – and it just might cost them their lives – as it did for the man of God.   2 Timothy 3:13 lumps both the deceivers and those who are being deceived together in one sad group.   It seems harsh.  But, God has revealed himself as a jealous God who requires obedience to Him, and not to man and man’s ideas.  There is a price to pay for turning from His life-giving words of truth to the lies man (and even kings or “prophets”) have said about God and what He requires.

There are countless voices speaking today.  It can be hard to know what to believe and listen to.  The truth is not always spoken by the one who speaks loudest or longest or believed by the largest crowd.  But the truth is always in God’s Word.  Seek It!   And ask yourself – is it actually GOD’s Word you are following, or just someone who says they are speaking for God?  Are you following man-made traditions that have been handed down about God – or are you following GOD?  Do a little research and find out where the religious traditions you believe come from.  Do they come from God’s Word or from human traditions?  Did we get the idea of going to heaven when we die from the Bible or from Plato?  Did God, Moses, Jesus, the disciples and Paul teach about One God or about a triune God theory that developed centuries after Jesus’ life on earth?

How will you make sure you are not following a man-made religion – perhaps one just as dangerous as the golden calves Jeroboam set up in his country?  Not all lies and false gods are as blatantly obvious as a golden calf crafted by the king.  Sometimes it may come in the form of a seemingly harmless new word from the prophet, a slight contradiction or addition to God’s eternal Word.  Remember God is the perfect teacher – His words do not need to be added upon to be enhanced or explained better.   You are responsible for not listening to the lies.  God gave us the Bible – His Word that is full of truth.  Let’s dig in deep and find what it says and follow it with our whole being so we will not be led astray with a lie like the people who followed a golden calf built by a king or like the man of God who listened to the lie of the prophet rather than the word given to him by God.  There are consequences for what you believe and who you listen to and follow.  Take it seriously.  God does.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+12-14&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will read 2 Chronicles 10-12 as we continue seeking God’s truth and how it affects our lives today in the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan