2017-10-23 The Cart Behind the Horse!

Good Morning!

Are you fully rested and ready for a new week? If not, may I again recommend Sabbath Rest for your Sunday? Grab hold of that Promise of God!

David Jeremiah started today’s daily devotional with the following line of scripture. I’m going to take it a little different path than he did.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father, who is in heaven.

Jesus says this as part of the Sermon on the Mount, right after the “Blessed are…” series. Powerful stuff. I find it interesting to see this verse first thing in my morning when last night I spent a great deal of processing energy on a book by Sinclair B. Ferguson entitled “Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification.” I am really digging this book. It is heavy reading but very rewarding. My take so far is that we are getting our ‘grammar’ all mixed up. To use a common analogy, we have difficulties in ridding our lives of sin because we ‘put the cart before the horse.’

Let me use Matthew 5:16 as an example. As many of you know, I am fond of this verse because we leave the “so that” part out, which is the part that really matters! It is the part that also stumps us. Sure, I can do all sorts of good works, but how do I get people to give glory to God for it? Let’s see which of these scenarios is more likely when we find out someone has quit smoking after years of addiction:

Former Smoker: I weaned off using the patch.
Audience: That’s great! Isn’t it amazing what science can do?

Former Smoker: I had acupuncture.
Audience: Wow! We could sure learn a lot from Buddha.

Former Smoker: I quit cold turkey.
Audience: My! What strong willpower you must have!

Former Smoker: By the grace of God, my chains have been taken away!
Most People: Wow, isn’t that great. (What a nut job!)
Some People: Amen to that!!

There is no question that people can break certain habits by the methods of this world. Christians can, too. That’s what makes self-help such a lucrative industry. But we all know how difficult it is, especially when several addictions are stacked one on top of the other. But that isn’t the path that Jesus is leading us down, is it? Quitting smoking is ‘good works’ – as is helping others to quit. To do it and have people give glory to God is the “fruit” we are striving for.

My own difficulties with weight stem from ‘putting the cart before the horse.’ As Sinclair Lewis explains, society – even Christians – think that we somehow are pleasing to God if we do good, as if it is a conditional thing. What we forget is that the only condition to pleasing God is whether or not we are his children. Once a child, we please him. If not a child, no chance. Furthermore, we forget that even Christians can’t earn favor by doing good without the right mindset. Let’s review the verse we looked at last week:

John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Sure, I can get a patch and quit smoking, but is that the fruit Jesus talks about? No, it’s not. Yet, if I go into the situation with humility, admitting that sin has beat me, and ask God to guide me based upon what Jesus has done for me, then I am abiding in Him and only then I will bear much fruit. It is then that other Christians will see what has happened and give glory to our Father who is in heaven. Plus, there may be a few non-Christians who take notice. As far as the rest of the world? It should be of no concern to us. They are enemies of God and incapable of worshiping Jesus anyway. We don’t need their praise. Am I not right?

It is the gospel that gives us the power. We abide in Christ through the message of the gospel. The gospel changes us from the inside out. (2 Corinthians 5:17) It transforms the way we think about things and renews our minds (Romans 12:2). For those of “us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18b) The gospel is just as much for sanctification as it is for justification. Notice “being saved” in the last verse.

So, let’s remember that we “can do all things through him who strengthens” us. (Philippians 4:13)

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Keep the cart behind the horse.

Father, please guide me with staff and rod, if need be, so that I may not put my cart in front of the horse and try to take the glory so rightfully yours for myself. No wonder I fail in my vanity! Why would you allow me to succeed when I refuse or neglect to give you the glory you deserve? Let me remember Moses, when he failed to give you glory when he struck the rock. Father, forgive me and show me the way to go. And, thank you for already giving me everything I need to bear the fruit you desire for me. Amen.

Copyright © 2017 Scott Powers

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