Many things in this world seem right. If I think back to days that have long since passed, there were many things that seemed right to me. Our definition of “right” evolves (hopefully improving as time goes on). I remember going from one extreme to the next. It’s easy to understand that the “seems” of this world don’t mean much. We are not living for the “seems” right but rather the “is” right.
When it comes to God and what He says is right, there is not a gray area. We like to talk a lot about the gray area. Things then aren’t right or wrong, or black and white. That’s what we tell ourselves. There’s this gray area. When we claim the gray area, we are able to bend the truth. We are able to accept the lies.
The Bible is clear. “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” Today, ask that the Lord reveal the path you are on right now. Ask that the Spirit opens your eyes to the truth, and remove any lies you may have accepted. Do away with the gray areas. Let go of what seems right. Cling to what God says is right and true and just.
“There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” – Proverbs 14:12 [NLT]
I have always had the gift of gab. It can be a good thing if I’m speaking life and spreading encouragement, inspiring people to dig deeper into God’s Word and live by faith over fear. But at the same time, this can be a bad thing. James wrote, “The tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.”
When we think of a spark that could set a great fire, we could think of revival. We can think of that teacher who inspired someone who did some grand thing in history. Maybe that one coach who inspired an all-star athlete. But the tongue is often seen as a dangerous weapon. And the small spark that sets a blaze, can set a fire that will burn everything in its path. That is why it’s compared to a forest fire. Think of all the wildfires that get out of control every year and cannot be contained.
Remember today the power of your words. Understand that someone you may say could turn into a forest fire. Be intentional with your words. Speak what is lovely, what is helpful, what is right, what is true, what is praiseworthy—speak encouragement and life into people day. Plant seeds of truth and love; don’t set a forest ablaze.
“In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” – James 3:5-6 [NLT]
He is your life
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. [MSG]
- Christ Raised (v. 1) – Raised along with Christ, raised to life with Christ
- Christ Ruled (v. 1) – Christ rules at God’s right side
- Christ Focused (v. 1-2) – Think about what is up there, not about what is here on earth]
- Set your heart on what is in heaven – Seek the things above
- Think – phroneó – Direct your mind to, seek for, observe, care for
- Christ Hidden (v. 3) – You died, your life is hidden with Christ
- You died – apothnéskó – dying off (separation / away from)
- Life – both physical & spiritual (present & future)
- Hidden – kruptó – concealed, secret, hidden
- Christ Glory (v. 4) – Christ gives meaning to your life, and when he appears, you will also appear with him in glory. Glory (doxa– “dox’-ah”) – praise, honor, glory, high renown, splendor
Bible Study Questions:
Seek the things that are above (v. 1) and set your minds on things that are above (v. 2)
These things make the subject of CAREFUL REFLECTION
Think on these things – Give them weight in your decision. Allow them to shape you.
1) In Philippians 4:8, Paul wrote, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT).
This is to be our FOCUS. This is part of seeking and setting your mind. What do these words mean? How does the world derail us from focusing on these things?
HONORABLE / HONEST / NOBLE / WORTHY OF REVERENCE
RIGHT / JUST
PURE / AUTHENTIC
LOVELY / ACCEPTABLE / LOVABLE
ADMIRABLE / GOOD REPORT / KIND AND GRACIOUS
EXCELLENCE / VIRTUE / VIRTUOUS
WORTHY OF PRAISE / PRAISEWORTHY
2) What can we do to follow Proverbs 4:23 command to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life”?
This is one part of a 12-week Sermon Series and Bible Study focused on Colossians. The 12 weeks include:
As I was walking Max down a familiar street, a young girl told her friend, “Cover your ears.” I chuckled a bit. I saw that there was a cat hiding under a nearby car. I assumed that she told the other girl to put her hands over her ears because she believed Max would notice the cat and start barking. I continued walking but quite soon found out why the little girl warned her friend.
From around the corner a large dog approached, barking as he ran in our direction. The girls held their ears as the dog continued to warn Max and I to keep our distance. Here I thought it was humorous that she thought Max would bark. Silly girls. Yet I was the silly one. I was the one also covering my ears as I walked away, shaking my head that I did not see the big picture.
In life we never really see the big picture. Only God sees the big picture. We see small glimpses. We know some things. We can hold on to His promises. We can walk in trust. We can only remind ourselves that He has a great plan. We do not need to see the big picture to live knowing that it is a great one, that He is good, that He is faithful, that He loves us and promises us life in abundance and eternal life with Him.
“For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” – Psalm 33:4-6 [NIV]
When a danger is called “huge” it should not be taken lightly. In this case, the people were being warned of the danger of associating with a country that worshiped false gods. The concern was that by living closely with these people, the people of Israel would begin to accept some of the practices and culture that was against the Word of God.
Jesus ate with sinners. He spent time with many people who were not pure. However as we read the Gospel, it is clear that Jesus did not spend all of His time with these people. He spent a lot of time with His Father in prayer. He spent a lot of time teaching and preaching as He traveled along with His disciples. He was so engrossed with His mission and He spent much time with the Word as was demonstrated during His time in the wilderness and while teaching. He often recited Scripture. It was written on His heart. It was at the core of His being.
If we do not go out in the world to share the Gospel, then the Gospel won’t get shared. We cannot isolate ourselves from the world to stay safe from temptation. Even in isolation, you will be tempted. Temptation is everywhere. But you can be cautious and keep yourself from spending too much time around “huge danger.” Paul wrote about focusing on what is worthy of praise. You can opt to take in a lot of negative and find out that what you take in will eventually come out. Or you can opt to focus on Him and the right, the pure, the lovely and find that it begins to pour from you.
“Don’t make any deals with them or their gods. They are not to stay in the same country with you lest they get you to sin by worshiping their gods. Beware. That’s a huge danger.”
– Exodus 23:32-33 [MSG]
We can look around and see so many things. As technology improved, we have the capability to see so much more than when you and I were younger. With this great advancement comes an open door to allow more things to pass by your eyes. Some things are great and some things we could do better without.
Paul told us to “fix our thoughts.” To put our attention in a particular area. To focus on certain things. It is something that I remind myself of daily. With all of opportunities we have to see things, it is clear that we need to filter what we see so as to focus on what is “excellent and worthy of praise.”
If you look at a magazine shelf at a store, you will see so much destruction. So much divorce. So much scandal. So much drug addiction. So much gossip. So much impurity. As you focus on all this sin, it starts to draw you inward. The marketing experts know what they are doing. You won’t see many “admirable” magazine articles plastered in the more frequently used aisles. You have to seek them out in the aisles rarely opened. But we are challenged to fix our focus. I say “challenged” because it is a challenge but it can be done. Today, be boldly focused. When you find yourself seeing things that are not worthy of praise, fix your focus. Allow more of what is good to come in, and gradually you will find that there’s a great benefit with this intentional focus on what is good.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Philippians 4:8 [NLT]
I always like to hear about good things. I do not want to hear bad news. I do not want to hear about bad things. I am sure you don’t like to hear anything bad either. In Isaiah we read that the people wanted to hear nice things. Not only nice things, but lies.
Would you rather hear the truth or a lie? What if the truth doesn’t sound so sweet? What if the lie sounds better? What if the lie sounds easier or more fun? Isaiah was referring to the people not wanting to hear about what was right, but what was nice to them. Today we can see evidence of this in our own lives.
Look around. Many people want to hear what is nice, what feels good or right to them. Some of the people are content with lies. The lies are better to them. Easier. Sweeter. Nicer. But the lies aren’t right. The lies aren’t the truth. Today, are you asking for nice things or do you desire the truth? Do you want what is comfortable or what is right?
“They tell the seers, ‘Stop seeing visions!’ They tell the prophets, ‘Don’t tell us what is right. Tell us nice things. Tell us lies.’” – Isaiah 30:10 [NLT]
There are many people who go to church weekly because it is the thing to do in life. You are supposed to go make your grand appearance each week. Some people believe that going each week means that they are saved. They are making the sacrifice of their Sunday morning. They have done their deed for the week. Some believe if they give to the church they are secure. If they tithe each week, they are good to go and need not worry about anything else.
Today’s passage states that God is pleased more so when we do what is right and just. When we live focused on righteousness and justice at the forefront, the sacrifices will be offered, but the heart will be very different. When you desire to do what is right and just because you love the Lord, the sacrifices mean something. They come from the heart. If you are only tithing because it’s something you are supposed to do, but you fail to even attempt to do what is right and just, what are you really trying to do? It could be seen as trying to buy you security. But you cannot buy security. Security only comes through Jesus.
God is pleased when we do what is right and just. God loves when we walk with righteousness and justice. It is how He created things to be in this world. Doing this is a much better thing than sacrifices. The sacrifices will come but the sacrifices are only true sacrifices when they are coming from a heart for God. If you have a heart for God, you would want to do what is right and just. He would always be your focus and righteousness and justice would always matter.
“The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.” – Proverbs 21:3 [NLT]
Rules. Instructions. Decrees. Commands. Regulations. Directives. Orders. Laws. Statutes. Stipulations. Guidelines. Directions. Requirements. Ordinances. Mandates. What words that bring us joy! Not usually. Many people skip over instructions. Some people try to figure out a way to break the rules or twist the laws. Some people barely like to make the requirements. Ordinances really do not include me. But in Psalm 19, David speaks about God’s Commandments “bringing joy to the heart.”
David says many things in today’s verses. He uses the words: perfect, trustworthy, right, and clear. I love this description. There’s no twisting His commands. There’s no way to barely follow. There’s no chance that it doesn’t include me. We typically think of rules as a negative—as a way to restrict us from doing what we would like, but look at how David describes the instructions of the Lord. They REVIVE THE SOUL. They MAKE WISE THE SIMPLE. They BRING JOY TO THE HEART.
Finally, he says they are clear—they GIVE INSIGHT FOR LIVING and they BRING JOY TO THE HEART. We look at so many self-help books and watch so many videos on how to do things. But everything is right here for us—and the Lord’s instructions are CLEAR. Why do we make it so complicated? Today, consider what the Lord’s instructions mean to you. When you start seeing the reason the Lord gave them to us, you will start to have this JOY that David spoke about in this psalm. You will start to say, “He loves me THAT much” and “He cares for me THAT much” – and it will bring joy to your heart. As your love grows, you will start to find joy in all of the Lord’s commands. You will even enjoy reading Leviticus.
“The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight for living.” – Psalm 19:7-8 [NLT]
We are not told exactly why Cain’s offering was unacceptable but Abel’s was pleasing to God. In Genesis 4:3-4, we see that Cain brought “some” and Abel brought “the best.” I think if I had to choose between some or the best, I would choose the best. Then in verse 7, Cain is told, “You will be accepted if you do what is right.” It is clear that Cain did not do what was right, and that possibly was linked with a poor attitude that needed correction.
We see this attitude problem from Cain when he gets jealous because Abel’s offering was accepted. God warned Cain that sin was crouching nearby and the attitude needed to be changed, but Cain did not wish to move toward God and seek the remedy. Instead he invited his brother to an outing and then killed Abel. Matthew said that Abel was the first to die for the truth (23:35).
We all have a choice—to be more like Abel or more like Cain when it comes to pleasing God. We don’t know much about these brothers, but we do know a few things. Abel gave the best. Abel did what was pleasing to God. Cain did not present a suitable offering. Cain did not seek out God when told he needed to change his focus. Abel gave all; Cain gave some. Where do you fit? Are you giving the best? Are you trying to live a life pleasing to God? Or are you getting irritated and wanting to do things your own way?
“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you but you must rule over it.’” – Genesis 4:6-7 [NIV]