Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 8 of “Fan or Follower – Keep Watch!” (LISTEN HERE).
“Watch out!” is a dire and impending warning that something dangerous is about to happen unless I change course very quickly.
“Keep watch!” is a indefinite indication that something is going to happen at some point and when it does happen I want to and/or need to be ready.
Sometimes “Watch out!” is easier because in a short period of time, one identifies the danger, avoids it and moves on.
Keeping watch can be long, tiresome, and bring inevitable thoughts of, “I don’t think this will ever happen,” and lead to apathy, indifference and doubt that keeping watch is even worth it.
Yet Jesus says, “Keep watch!”
Matthew 24:42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
When Jesus left this earth, he promised he would come back. The challenge? He didn’t give us a specific time or day, just a promise.
So, the challenge for us is this. Will we live today and every day with the awareness that today Jesus could return? Or will we slip to a thought that “It won’t happen in my lifetime” and become complacent and indifferent to the idea that he is coming back?
Perhaps it depends on the day.
It is certainly easy to get busy with each day’s activities without giving a thought that Jesus could return today. Jesus acknowledges this as he teaches:
Matthew 24:37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
The flood caught people off guard. Jesus said some knew nothing about the flood coming until the water swept them away. (There were 100 years for the word to get out about an impending flood…did they never hear or choose not to recognize the warning?) The point? People will be going about life without any awareness of Christ’s coming. Some will be ready. Some won’t.
Is Jesus advocating for “Stop life and wait for me to come!” No. The reality is life and its events will continue. However, Jesus doesn’t want us to live in ignorance or apathy of his return.
If you are reading this devotion, you are no longer ignorant. Jesus will return to this earth to judge the living and the dead and bring all believers, body and soul, to be with him.
If you are reading this devotion, you will be tempted to apathy. Like a teenager who throws a party in his parents home with the expectation they won’t be home for a long time, we can engage in life without any thought of our Savior’s coming or the life to which our Savior calls us. With apathy, we allow our sinful nature to run amuck figuring, “Jesus won’t be coming for a long time.”
But then the parents come home. Then Jesus comes.
We don’t want to be caught unprepared.
So Jesus encourages us, “Keep watch!”
Peter encourages us, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray” (1 Peter 4:7).
How are we to be ready? The devotions, I pray, this week will help!
Apply: Are you ready? Or does this devotion find a bit of apathy? Repent of apathy. Get ready!
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for your promise to return. Send us your Spirit so that at all times in all places, even as we go through the activities of life, we live in the anticipation of your return. AMEN.
Matthew 7:28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
Truth does something.
It carries authority.
It impacts people.
It stands out.
It amazes people.
Because our soul yearns for truth. We tire of discerning what is true and what is not. We want someone or something that we can count on, believe in, depend on. We want someone’s word to stand. We want what someone says to come true. Even if truth is hard to hear, deep down we want to hear truth over deception.
In political foray of midterm elections, we want a candidate to tell the truth. We cringe with skepticism when candidates seem to simply speak empty platitudes absent of substance and truth.
In the doctor’s office, we want the truth. Am I well or not? When we know whether we are well or sick, we can move forward appropriately. Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear, tell me what I need to hear.
In Jesus’ Sermon the Mount, he didn’t take a poll of the people to determine what was important to them and then speak about it. He knew what the people needed to hear and told the truth about it. He didn’t make things up. He didn’t say what he thought people wanted to hear. He simply spoke truth into the lives of people…because he knew they needed it.
The teachers of the law weren’t always giving it to them.
The Pharisees had clouded it over with their extra teachings.
Jesus spoke with authority, because he was speaking the truth.
Deception comes with hesitation. Truth comes with conviction.
Our country has a truth problem. Truth is hard to come by. Yet, as was said, everyone yearns for it. God says, “I’m giving it to you. Here are my Words.”
John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
The news won’t always give you truth. Social media won’t always give you truth. Even churches won’t always give you truth. But God will always speak truth in his Word. You don’t have to discern where it is or what it is, because every word is truth.
So as Jesus encouraged, hear these words and put them into practice. Let God’s truth given on every page of the BIble settle your soul, guard your heart and guide your steps.
Apply: What might you change in your schedule to allow time for God’s Word of truth to speak daily into your heart and soul?
Prayer: Thank you Lord for caring enough to always speak the truth to us. It carries great authority and great comfort for my soul. AMEN.
Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Whenever a hurricane strikes a coastal city like Ian did in the Ft. Myers, FL area, we see the effects of winds, waves, and flooding. A storm of the strength of Ian wreaked havoc on the barrier islands and many homes that enjoyed ocean front views are no longer.
This reflection is in no way to make light of or minimize the loss many families have experienced at the brunt of a powerful storm. The strength of one’s home and the security of a solid foundation are critical to withstand storms of hurricane strength.
The next hurricane is not a matter of “if,” it is a matter of “when.” So, if one is going to build or rebuild in this area, strength of the structure and its foundation matters.
It’s not a matter of “if” a hurricane will come in our lives, it’s a matter of “when.”
What storms are you in, facing or anticipating? Not physical storms, but spiritual ones. Satan loves to bring storms in life that beat against our faith and seek to destroy it. Some are gentle breezes…some “Cat 5” hurricane strength.
What do those storms look like?
- Maybe an unexpected death of a spouse or parent leaving us at a loss for the future.
- Walking into work and being fired and now without a job and regular income.
- World affairs that threaten lives or livelihood.
- A child that is following a path of poor choices, bad friendships, and destructive behavior.
- Addiction to cope with the challenges of life.
What is yours?
Jesus is not naive to think that storms will not come. In fact he KNOWS they will come and want us to survive these storms and come through them stronger in faith, not weaker. So he gives us his loving direction: Hear my Word AND put it into practice.
Both men in Jesus’ short parable hear the Words of God. One puts them into practice and another blows them off.
So what might that look like? Here are a few examples of hearing and doing the Word of God.
Psalm 50:15 and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” So when trouble comes, we call on the Lord…as a first resort, not last.
When we put wisdom from the Lord on managing our wealth into practice, we are are able to navigate a time without income.
Proverbs 13:7 One person pretends to be rich but has nothing; another pretends to be poor but has abundant wealth. – Proverbs 13:7
God’s truth guides our relationships and enables us to enjoy blessing out of conflict.
Romans 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord.
When we are navigating earthly challenges or facing our own mortality, the Word encourages us.
Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
These are just a small sample of encouragement for our souls as we navigate the winds and waves of life.
Truth of God put into practice is the foundation that cannot be shaken!
Apply: What challenges in life are shaking your spiritual foundation? What truth of God’s Word will serve to provide a solid foundation as you navigate the challenge?
Prayer: Lord thank you for your word of truth. Help me not to just hear it, but to put it into practice! AMEN.
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Are we understanding Jesus correctly that people who hail the name of the Lord and act in the name of the Lord will be sent to hell?
Religious? Spiritual people? Sent away from the Lord forever?
It catches the many off guard when Jesus says to them, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.”
As with all of Jesus’ words he tells us this because he loves us. He is warning us so we don’t fall into the same trap.
So what is the deception? What is the tactic Satan is using?
Satan loves to get us to believe that being outwardly spiritual and pious is what the Lord desires. He wants us to think that a good spiritual performance before God will earn a spot in heaven, or at least recognition by the Father in heaven.
I cringe when people at funerals say something like, “I know he’s in a better place because he was such a good man.”
Outward actions…Outward spiritual actions don’t save.
Jesus condemns superficial religious activity.
Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.
Outward activity without inner conviction is religious deception. The inner conviction the Lord is looking for is faith in him as Savior.
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
The heart, transformed by the Spirit of God, produces the will of God. Jesus says he will recognize those that do the will of God. What is the will of God?
John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
The will of God is produced from a heart that trusts firmly in the work of God.
As shocking as it may sound, the truth must be spoken. Only faith that has its substance in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will be welcomed into heaven.
Here’s the substance of saving faith:
Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Going through the motions of following Jesus will end in a harsh departure from the one you feigned to follow. However a heart of faith in the Lord Jesus will produce a life of good fruit and receive a welcome by grace to an eternity in heaven.
Apply: Did these words of Jesus shock you? For what do you need to repent? What happens when the Spirit of God works in your heart a trust and love for the Lord Jesus as your Savior?
Prayer: Lord, thank you again for your warnings. May all of my life be driven by a faith-filled heart which loves and trusts in God above all things. AMEN.
Matthew 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad (diseased) tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Do you remember when your parents said this as you crossed the road to catch the school bus? “Watch out for cars!”
Maybe as you went swimming in your favorite lake, “Watch out for snakes!”
Maybe as you caught wind of a Facebook or telephone scam, “Watch out for scammers!”
When we see danger, we warn people we love so they are not negatively affected. When we are warned, we know what to notice and avoid to prevent harm and danger coming to us or those we love.
The motivation behind Jesus’ words is his love for us.
Just prior to verse 15, Jesus said this in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Jesus desires that all of us enter eternal life with him, not apart from him. As he claimed in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
So, watch out for any one, any thing, any teaching that would teach or lead contrary to Jesus being the way to heaven.
The world around us promotes the opposite of Jesus’ statement. Many would like to believe and teach that wide is the path to heaven and narrow (if there is any) is the path to hell. Individuals claim, “All paths lead to God.” Other’s claim, “We all worship the same god, just call him by different names.” To claim otherwise is attacked as close minded, arrogant, or judgmental. A wide path to heaven sounds loving, accepting, non-judgmental. It looks like an innocent sheep.
But this teaching is dangerous deception.
Any teaching that distorts the truth that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven is Satan’s ferocious lies that he tells to lead us down the wide path to destruction.
Jesus warns us because he loves us. Jesus’ disciples warn us because they love us. Here are Paul’s words to the leaders of the church in Ephesus, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:29)”
The greatest threat to the Gospel of grace found in Jesus is any teaching that shifts the focus from the perfect performance of Jesus to the personal performance of the individual. Whether it is a teaching that makes salvation 100% dependent on your effort or 1%, each is equally as dangerous and damning.
Like a child ready to cross the street who doesn’t see the oncoming car coming at a high rate of speed, our Savior yells in love, “WATCH OUT!”
Apply: What teachings have you heard (or believed) that sounded really good, but when measured against the truth of the Bible they were destructive deceptions?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the warning. Give us wisdom and discernment to recognize and avoid any dangerous teaching that would lead us to turn to ourselves and away from Jesus. AMEN.