Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. (Romans 10:1-2)
Knowing God Rightly
“Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.” (A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy)
God really does care that we know him (John 17:3)… and know him rightly. Any old expression of religion won’t do and, in fact, often leads to a dangerous idolatry.
The Apostle Paul, passionately concerned for the salvation of the Israelites, admitted that they had a zeal, perhaps even an enviable zeal, for God. Yet he was quick to follow that admission with the sober truth that their zeal for God was not according to knowledge. They were wrong in their understanding of how to obtain righteousness.
The Appearance of Enthusiasm
In our day we give points to folks for the appearance of enthusiasm. Maybe they are very exuberant as they worship God. Perhaps there’s lots of “God-talk” liberally sprinkled throughout their conversations. It may be they actively serve their church. These are all good things to be sure.
However, what they (and we) must watch out for is a zeal that is without a true and proper knowledge of the living God. It’s not that we must first pass a doctoral examination in theology before we go to heaven. The key idea is that a shabby doctrinal or theological foundation can lead one astray. It can cause a well-intentioned person to unwittingly compromise his or her faith and drift to and fro with every new “Christian” book, television program, or religious movement.
In Exodus 34:6-7, God painted a beautiful picture of some of his attributes. He wanted Moses and the rest of his children to know and worship him rightly. He followed up in verse 14 by saying, “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” It’s not a coincidence that the first three commandments focus on this very issue.
It’s frightening how easily we can wander off the straight and narrow path. God provided a warning concerning this very thing in verse 16 when he told Moses to caution the people about choosing the wrong spouse, one who is described as not knowing and worshiping the one true God. He said that sort of choice would lead God’s people away from God and into idolatry.
Ignorance Isn’t Bliss
More is needed than zeal and good intentions when it comes to our relationship with God. It is certainly true that knowledge alone can “puff up” the young and immature in the faith. But that’s not the fault of the knowledge. That’s more of a commentary on where a person is in their faith-journey. The solution to this potential problem is not to ignore our call to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Instead, we ought to still seek such knowledge, but do so humbly, carefully, and in full dependence on the grace of God. Likewise, the purpose of our pursuit of knowing God should be for God’s glory and the good of others. Psalm 43:34a says,
Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. 4 Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.
A mentor of mine used to say the better we know God the more we will be able to love, follow, and trust God. It’s awfully difficult to love, follow, and trust someone you don’t know. It’s also hard to love and follow God if you don’t have a growing and maturing knowledge of God - what God has revealed about himself as well as how to live for him and with him in this world.
Almighty God, give me great and increasing passion and zeal for you. Yet please ground it in who you truly are. Help me to continue all the days of my life to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, that I might love you as I ought. In Christ I pray. Amen.
Do you agree that many Christians do not know much about God? If so, why do you think that is? What are some ways you can begin learning more about God – his Person, Works, Commands, and Promises? One resource I often recommend is A.W. Tozer’s, “Knowledge of the Holy”. Order it today and work through one chapter a week. Your view of God will expand, and as it does, so will your love, commitment, and trust of God.
Grace and Truth,
Joshua 24:14-15 - “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
James 4:4 - You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Choices, Choices, Choices
The road of life is filled with many choices:
Today’s Scripture highlights the most important choices we must make. And, as the rock group, Rush, observed, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
In the preceding verses of Joshua 24, Joshua took the children of Israel on an historical reconnaissance in order to remind them of who God is and what God had done for them in the past. Implicit in this was the covenant God made with Israel and how they too could look to the future fulfillments of God’s promises… IF.
When God made a covenant with Israel, it included blessings and curses. Obedience, faithfulness, and loyalty would be rewarded with divine blessing beyond their wildest imaginations. Disobedience, unfaithfulness, and treason, on the other hand, would result in God’s curses. It seems like a no-brainer as to which should be preferred.
And so, after laying out the history of God’s love for his people, Joshua presented the people with a choice. He told them to serve God only and to throw away the idols of their past. Whom would they serve – the gods of their ancestors or the living God? Joshua answered as the covenant head of his home by declaring publicly, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Gods of this Age or God of the Ages?
It is interesting, and quite telling, to see how this theme of choosing between the Living God and the gods of the age – between covenant-faithfulness and spiritual adultery – is repeated over and over again in God’s Word. The fact is, we will all bow before something or someone, simply by the living of our lives. Who or what will be that object of worship is the choice ever before us.
James lays the choice before us with crystal clarity. He says friendship with the world is hatred toward God. What exactly does he mean here? He’s not talking about loving people and ministering to them. Instead, he has in mind what Paul meant in Romans 12:2 – love for and conformity to the sinful, fallen, and disobedient patterns of this world, the kingdom or domain of darkness, as Paul puts in Colossians 1:13.
James follows by saying, “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James is essentially putting before God’s covenant people in the New Testament the same choice Joshua put before God’s covenant people in the Old Testament: Who will they bow their knees to: the gods beyond the River, the gods of the Amorites, the state, secular worldviews, modern American materialism, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy hedonism, the entertainment industry, sports, status, or even good things like work and family?
James calls people who bow to any of these things, “adulterous.” They have left their first love to cozy up to the gods of the Amorites and Egyptians.
People cry out for their free will, rights, and autonomy. God gives them that option, but not with impunity. There are consequences to foolish choices. People may choose Baal, Molech, Ra or the gods of this age if they so choose. They can exercise their moral choice to their heart’s delight. They can revel in their “free will.” But the wrath of God will be leveled against all unrighteousness and ungodliness.
But There’s Grace
Because of God’s grace, however, we learn God continually calls his children back to covenant faithfulness. He lovingly commands us to throw away the gods of our past and to love, obey, worship, and serve him instead. Each and every day that we are granted another day to live, we are given an opportunity for repentance and covenant-faithfulness.
So choose this day whom you and your household will serve. There’s only one right answer.
No Christian sets out to be idolatrous. How, then, do you think idolatry among God’s people happens? What are the “gods of this age” that compete for your allegiance the most? What are some ways you have found helpful in remaining faithful to the God of the ages? What counsel would you give a Christian brother or sister to help them turn from their idol and toward our Lord?
Grace and Truth,
Romans 1:21 - For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Much has been made over the last few years regarding the emergence of militant atheism’s evangelistic crusade to rid the world of ignorance. Specifically, these crusaders want to enlighten the minds of the masses who still believe God exists. For these spokesmen for atheism, belief in God is intellectually unsustainable and should by all means be abandoned. Not only that, these atheistic evangelists believe a person’s commitment to belief in God is actually harmful to children as well as to civilization as a whole.
Thankfully, their charges have been more than sufficiently answered at every turn by faithful Christian apologists. The atheists are getting all the press, but their arguments are unable to stand up to the Light of Truth.
A More Dangerous Breed of Atheism
Yet there is a more prevalent form of atheism that lurks in our land. Indeed, it can even be found in the church. It is what Cornelius Van Til called, “practical atheism.” A practical atheist is a person who professes to believe in God, and yet the God whose existence is professed does not seem to make any meaningful difference in that person’s daily life. Their beliefs, values, morals, and actions are not prioritized by their supposed belief in God’s existence. Put another way: If this person was to wake up one day and decide they no longer believed in the existence of God, their life would change very little. This is practical atheism.
In Romans 1:21, Paul describes the person who has suppressed the truth they know about God. Paul says that, in truth, all people know God exists. In fact, they even know things about his power and majesty. Yet, in order to maintain a certain way of living, they alter their belief system to accommodate their lifestyle. Like the hard atheist who formally declares there is no God, practical atheists deny God by the way in which they lead their lives. Paul teaches us that “although they know God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him…”
God at the Center
We glorify God when we seek to live purposefully and intentionally for him each day. We glorify God when we live to please, honor, obey, love, represent, bear witness to, and seek to be like him. That’s what a God-glorifying, God-informed life looks like. It’s also a life that is grateful to God for his goodness. This is more than tossing out a “thank you” every now and then at the beginning of a meal. Instead, it’s more of an all-encompassing attitude of gratitude. It becomes pervasive in one’s personality. This attitude glorifies God because it exalts God as the One who is worthy of such affection and appreciation.
How are you doing with this? Are you seeking to glorify God and be thankful to him in all things? Of course, none of us is perfect at this. We can all get fairly self-absorbed and self-centered in the goings on of our lives. We all, from time to time, become too preoccupied with lesser interests.
Yet the One who should be our greatest interest has told us we are to have no other gods before him. We are called to seek him first and foremost. We are instructed and encouraged to be holy because God is holy. His existence, in other words, should play a profound role in the lives of those who profess to believe in and follow him. He should be our ultimate Influence and his influence should saturate every sphere of our lives, for his glory and our good.
What are some of the ways you have observed people “suppressing the truth they know about God.” Why do you think they do so? Have you found yourself living throughout the day, making decisions and behaving with little or no reference to God? What are some ways you can more intentionally live for God each day? Talk to a trusted Christian friend about this devotion and brainstorm together, and then hold one another accountable.
Grace and Truth,
Jeremiah 32:38-39 - They will be my people, and I will be their God.  I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them.
The Promise Keeper
Our covenant-making, covenant-keeping God is ever pursuing and sustaining us. This passage from Jeremiah reminds us of this. God’s people had done every abominable thing imaginable in rebellion against God. They disobeyed him, ignored him, and chased after idols. And there were consequences. There always are.
Yet God had made a promise to Israel’s ancestors. And God keeps his promises.
A Promise Renewed
God once again renewed his covenant and declared he would draw his people back to him. Furthermore, he said he would “give them singleness of heart and action, so that they [would] always fear [him]…” What a blessing it is to have a single-minded passion and mind for God and the things of God – to serve him only! Such single-mindedness gives birth to a proper fear, or reverence, of God. For it is when we cease to fear God that we wander off in our own direction, after idols.
Compared to God, we are mere babes who do not know what is good for us. God has our good in mind, but not at the expense of his glory and honor. He will never sacrifice or compromise his character just so we can feel good about ourselves.
Pray for Revival
We must pray, even now, that God will revive our weary hearts, minds, and souls with singleness of heart and action so it might go well with us. But not only for us, but also for our children, the text reminds us. For God seldom works only with an individual in mind. Instead, he makes and keeps covenant with families and communities in mind – for a thousand generations.
Let us remember our covenantal faithfulness affects more than just ourselves. It touches those in our lives whom we may never even know in this life, but who may yet do great things for God. Let’s also remember our unfaithfulness has consequences as well.
O Lord, give us a singleness of heart for you and your Kingdom all the days of our lives. In Christ we pray. Amen.
Our hearts, minds and souls must be awakened by God. Today, start praying for your own revival and that of your family, church, workplace, community, city, nation, and world. Develop a weekly prayer-schedule that will include all these spheres of influence. Ask the Lord to give you a singleness of heart and mind for him and his Kingdom.
Grace and Truth,
Psalm 63:1 – O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Longing for God
I think I know what it means to thirst for God, to long for him, to hunger for him.
When I Feel Close to God
I believe there are two different circumstances in which I experience this longing. One is when I have been walking closely with the Lord. I feel it when I am spending much time with him in his Word, in prayer and meditation, in worship, in the reading of books by godly authors, and so on. The more I am with him, the richer my time with him, the more I discover I want to be with him, the deeper I desire to go in my relationship with him. There is a true sense of longing during such times.
When I Feel Far Away
And yet, as strange as it sounds, during those times in my life of spiritual draught and depression, I also long for him. However, there’s something qualitatively different about the feeling. When things are going well in my walk with the Lord, it seems my deeper longing for him will yield great fruit. I almost expect a rich encounter with him. Yet, when I feel distant from him, though I still long for him, I wonder if I’ll ever have again with God what I once had. It’s almost a “longing of despair.” Have you ever experienced that?
My experience is a good example of why it’s often unsafe to put too much stock in our feelings. Our feelings are fickle and they have the capacity to lead us astray. Not only that, but there are many things that can affect our feelings, such as our health, our sleeping patterns, our diet, the time of day, and our relationships. I often treasure my feelings, but I am very aware of how unreliable they can be.
It’s when we gauge our spiritual life based on our feelings that we can get ourselves into trouble. For example, one day with the Lord may be a wonderful blessing and you may be tempted to think you should be canonized as a saint. Yet, another day might yield the opposite experience and you may begin wondering if you’re even a Christian at all.
Instead of living on that sort of spiritual roller-coaster, wisdom calls us to trust in the Lord always and continue plodding along with him every day, regardless of our feelings or circumstances.
God Himself is Our Reward
Hebrews 11:6 says God rewards those who earnestly seek him. Deuteronomy 4:29 tells us if we look for the Lord with all of our heart and soul, we will find him. In these verses, and others throughout Scripture, we are encouraged by the Lord himself, to seek him. His promise is we will be rewarded by finding him. You see, God is the reward!
Feelings are great. God gave us feelings. But they too are affected by sin which often makes them unreliable. Therefore, don’t put all your trust in your feelings but in the God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He alone is the One we are called to seek, thirst, and long for. He alone is worthy of such a grand pursuit.
Walking Points: When do you find yourself most desiring God? During what circumstances in your life do you feel the greatest distance from God? Closest to God? What can you do today that will help you more faithfully “plod along” with God during the good times and the bad times? Share your insights with a friend.
Grace and Truth,
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