Meditation–Bearing Fruit: Obedience or Performance?

God has commissioned us to bear fruit on His behalf, to be the shepherds of His flock, the teachers, the helpers, the baptizers, and even the foot washers, if necessary. But unlike men and women who see our outward acts of service as, perhaps, godly and obedient, God sees into our hearts and judges our motive. Are we acting out of graciousness and a desire to contribute — or are we just fulfilling an obligation we made or looking for commendation? The difference is important to God … and should be for us, too.


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“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)

“[Jesus] did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.” (John 2:25 NIV)

JESUS MUST HAVE BEEN SO FRUSTRATED!

67.Jesus_Welcomes_AllJust imagine: He created the world and everything in it. His greatest creation was mankind, which He made in His own image. Now, He watches with dismay as His creatures, filled with pride, disobey His various commands, all intended to help them live lives of abundance.

Then, in earthly form, He joins His fellow Jews in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, where He performed “miraculous signs” to show His divine nature and saw, in response, that “many people” believed in Him.

But Jesus was not fooled.

In the account that John gives us, we read: “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (John 2:24-25 NIV).

While the rest of us are buying into the superficial, Jesus is drilling into the core. While we see the smiles and handshakes, He sees the darkness and doubt.

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THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR: God knows our hearts, even though our compatriots are fooled by the veneer we project and often hide behind.

Susan Maycinik presented in Discipleship Journal a comparison chart between “Obedience” and “Performance,” where Obedience meant following God’s plans for our lives and Performance meant the rote carrying out of tasks, mostly to please others or convince them of our holiness.

“The line between obedience and performance can be a blurry one,” she wrote, but we know from reading Scripture, such as the passage from 1 Samuel 16, cited above, that while man sees the outward show, God sees the inner workings. We see the performance; He sees behind the curtain.

In this adaptation of her chart, where do you see yourself?

      • Obedience — Joyfully seeking quiet time with God
        • Performance — Reading a quick devotion to avoid guilt
      • Obedience — Meditating on God’s Word and using it in prayer
        • Performance — Scanning a Bible passage quickly to check it done
      • Obedience — Inviting guests to your home for dinne
        • Performance — Fretting over how well the evening will go
      • Obedience — Following God’s prompting to start a small group
        • Performance —Reluctant to share leadership with anyone in the group
      • Obedience — Doing your best
        • Performance — Wanting to be considered the best
      • Obedience — Saying yes to whatever God asks of you
        • Performance — Saying yes to whatever people ask of you
      • Obedience — Following the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit
        • Performance — Following a list of manmade requirements
      • Obedience — Springs from fear of God
        • Performance — Springs from fear of failure

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I NEED TO CONFESS SOMETHING.

Many times — more often than I should admit — I cross that thin line between acting with a servant’s heart and acting out of self-righteousnessJ10.JESUS_WASHING_FEETjpeg

Yes, I can tell the difference. When I am acting as Jesus did when He stooped to wash His disciples’ feet, I can feel the love in my heart and the joy of making a difference in someone’s life.

But when I’m busy serving my self, I’m looking for the applause, the acclaim, the recognition, and I lack the joy. I’m focusing, instead, on the sacrifice I made.

The Bible says,

“Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!” (Psalm 128:1 ESV)

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THAT IS WHERE I WANT TO BE.

I want to give my all to the Lord as He calls me into service. I want to do so because He gave His all to me to reclaim me — my life, my future, my eternity — for His own.

That is where you want to be, too.

If you don’t know Him yet as your Savior, please ask Him what He wants of you and then open your heart to His unending love.

If you have done that already, then you know exactly what I mean by saying, “I want to be obedient to the Lord, not to perform for man’s approval.”


68. Holy_Bible_CrossPRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, please forgive me when You’ve called me to a task and I give it half-hearted energy or complain while at task or look for commendation from other men. Lord, You are the One who called me to task, and You are the One who will judge my heart. I owe all to You, my Savior. Thank You for the gift of life. Please lighten my heart as I seek to obey You. In the name of Jesus, Amen


QUESTIONS:

  1. How often do you fulfill an obligation for a good and noble cause and (a) wonder if you’ll get the proper recognition you deserve from the organizers  and fellow volunteers or (b) feel the joy in your heart because you’re helping out where you believe God is calling you?
  2. Do you ever feel like Jesus can see right into your soul, and He knows that you really don’t want to be doing this job right now, even while you’re trying to convince everyone else you do?
  3. Can you fully embrace the instruction Jesus gave us in Matthew 25 when He said that however we treat “the least of these,” those who cannot do for themselves, we’re doing for Him? Does that give you greater joy in the task at hand?

Meditation–LIVING FOR ETERNITY: GOD’S PROMISES

How are we living our lives? Are we hyper focused on our personal agendas, striving to get ahead, enjoying our pleasures, and accumulating rewards? Or are we building our treasure in Heaven, as Jesus commanded? We can be assured of this: We are doing one or the other because they are mutually exclusive. We cannot pursue opposing ends at the same time. So, which is it? Jesus … or … us?

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“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

“Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” Colossians 3:2 (NLT)

 

THE BIBLE TELLS US our days are numbered.

The reminders are numerous. Here are just a few: Job 14:5, Genesis 6:3, Psalm 90:10, Matthew 10:30. 

48.GodsGraceGod knows what that number is for each of us, but we have only an estimation, based on actuarial tables, personal lifestyle, and family history.

That brings us to this question: Knowing that our time is short, what will we do with it?  

For those of us who are believers, we can look forward to an incredibly pleasant eternity with Jesus. Those who are not believers most likely do not foresee the fate that awaits them. 

The Bible says, “For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our everlasting home in heaven” (Hebrews 13:14 TLB).

Jesus told the repentant thief what He tells each of us who come to Him for forgiveness, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV).

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Knowing this world is not our home, Francis Chan, the noted pastor and author, urges us to live this life in light of all eternity. He says:

“People accuse me of going overboard in preparing for my first ten million years in eternity. In my opinion, people go overboard in worrying about their last ten years on earth.” (Francis Chan, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, Claire Love Publishing, 2014).

How have you lived your life so far? Have you made some mistakes, accumulated some regrets, long for a “do-over”?

Chan offers this ray of hope: “Don’t get overwhelmed by how much time you have already wasted, and don’t dwell too long on past mistakes. Just take the next step. And keep the end in view.” (Chan, Ibid.).

Heaven is our home. Jesus promised He would take us home to be with Him: “After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together” (John 14:3 CEV).

Ask God to forgive you for your sinful past, then put the past behind you. Reach for God’s love through His Son and His Holy Spirit.

Believe in God’s promises.


68. Holy_Bible_CrossPRAYER: O Lord our God and Heavenly Father. You are so faithful and true. You have promised an eternity in Paradise with You if we seek Your face and repent of our sins. O Lord, we do so with grateful hearts and thankful spirits. You are the Great Redeemer, the Creator and Protector of our souls. Take us to Your rest when our earthly journey ends. In Jesus’ name we lift this prayer. Amen


QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you live as though your days are numbered or as if tomorrow will never come? Do you believe the Lord’s admonition that we should place our trust in Heaven, where our possessions are secure, or in our own hands? That is, do you want to live for Christ or for yourself?

  2. Do you believe there is a Heaven? Jesus says there is. He also says there is a Hell. Do you believe that’s true? Do you know where you will spend eternity? It will be one or the other. Do you know how to guarantee you will spend it in Heaven?

  3. Are you being fed sufficiently in your spiritual life? Are you daily reading God’s Word, praying to Him, and gathering with other believers to “do life” together? Do you worship the Lord by singing praises and blessing His name or do you merely “attend” church?

  4. Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, just indicate in the Comment field. God bless!

Meditation: PETER’S THREE ANSWERS TO JESUS

We can learn so much about ourselves by studying the apostles’ lives. The largest character by far is Peter. When Jesus asked the Twelve who they thought He was, it was Peter who declared Him Lord. Later, this same Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Through God’s mercy, Peter was reinstated, proclaiming his love for the Lord, and becoming a lion for the Gospel. We, too, as disciples may vacillate between being bold and being cowardly. With God’s mercy, the Holy Spirit will strengthen our character over time so that, like Peter, we will end up saying, “You know all things, Lord. You know I love You.”

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“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  (Matt. 16:15-16 NIV)

“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” (John 18:17 NIV)

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” (John 21:15a NIV)

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AS BELIEVING CHRISTIANS, who can name our date of salvation and proudly carry our Holy Bibles to worship and weekly Bible study, our hearts beat proudly to read the words of Peter, the impetuous apostle, to the Master’s question.

After Jesus asked His disciples who their families, friends, and neighbors thought He was, He drilled down to the essential question that He asks of all of us:

72.Jesus_Teaches“Enough of this dancing around the issue,” He might have said. “In the end, it doesn’t really matter who these others think I am. The real issue is ‘Who do YOU think I am.’”

Yes, Peter jumps in with the God-inspired response: “You are the Messiah, the Christ of the living God, who was and is and is to come, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. All things were made through You and nothing was made except what was made by You to serve Your glory.”

While Peter didn’t make a speech, in essence, that’s what he was proclaiming.

We love to read his answer over and over because we know that is the correct answer—and in our hearts, it’s our answer, too.

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UNFORTUNATELY, THE STORY doesn’t end there.

There’s a second answer that Peter gives, at a different time in a different place, when the circumstances were different.

It’s one of denial.

“Are you a believer?” the co-worker asked. “Are you a follower of Jesus Christ, the alpha57.Playground-tauntsand the omega, the beginning and the end?”

“Oh, no, not me!” Peter responded. “Whatever are you suggesting? Where would you have gotten that idea? No, I’m just like everyone else. I don’t believe in that nonsense. A bunch of religious kooks, if you ask me.”

Sometimes, we act like the first Peter, but too often we tend toward the second Peter.

Maybe our words aren’t so strongly stated, but maybe it’s because we don’t speak at all.

We remain strangely quiet when the circumstances require us to speak up; we blend into the crowd when the circumstances require us to step forward; we look to “discretion” when the circumstances require us to be bold.

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WHICH PETER ARE YOU?

Truthfully, we probably are both Peters. Sometimes we do speak out our faith and we do so boldly without regard to the reactions of others. At other times, we’re not so sure we should speak out, and so we say nothing.

While being quiet could well be the correct posture at that moment, that moment soon passes, replaced by another moment, and in that second moment, our silence is denial of our Lord.

Fortunately, for believers, there is Peter’s third answer. When Jesus is resurrected, He corners Peter and asks him if he loves Him. Peter says he does. Two months later, when the Holy Spirit is given to him and the other disciples, Peter becomes a lion for the Lord.

After that, Peter never waivers, even unto the point of crucifixion. Legend says he demanded to be executed upside down, considering himself unworthy to be executed head up as the Master was.

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31-jesusteachingreligiousleadersGOD IN HIS MERCY gives us another chance … and another chance … and another chance.

With the Holy Spirit’s prodding, we slowly become more Christlike in our thoughts, actions, and words.

We will have moments of bold witness, and we will have moments when we fail to speak out when we should, but the Lord will give us more moments to share our faith.

Our prayers should be that over time, we’re more like the first Peter more often than the second Peter.

In the end, we should become the third Peter (see John 21:15-22).

“Yes, Lord, You know I love You.”

Then He will tell us what He told the third Peter:

“Follow Me. Feed my sheep.”

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PRAYER: Our Father God, we know that we will  let You down sometimes, even while we will step up boldly at other times. Help us grow in the Holy Spirit so that the bold times outnumber the timid times. Lead us to know when we should act, when we should speak, and when we should remain quiet and in the background. In the end, Lord, we should follow Your lead, not our own. In Jesus’ name. Amen

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QUESTIONS:

1. Are you a Christian who believes your actions speak of your love for God so that it is unnecessary for you to speak about your witness? Can you find biblical support for your position?  

>What do you make of Peter and John in ACTS 4 who proclaimed they were “unable to stop speaking” about the Lord and what they had seen?

2. Do you ever feel you don’t have the “right words” to say or that you don’t know the Bible well enough to witness or that your faith is either too new or too shaky to be a good witness?

>What do make of Jesus’ words in LUKE 12 when He says the Holy Spirit will direct your speech?

3. Have you ever experienced an opportunity to witness — in deed or in word or both — and failed to “pray up” before you began, figuring you had the situation well in hand?

>What do you make of Jesus’ admonition in JOHN 15 when He says that without Him we can do nothing?

4. Can we at LoveAndGrace pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.

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