“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3: 1 – 4 ESV
I guess from the title you would expect the key scripture to be Joshua 24: 15 – “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Actually, the original scripture I read this morning that prompted these thoughts was Daniel 3: 15. In an odd kind of way, God appears to be reminding me that the truth of His Word is interwoven. The truth declared by Joshua, or the truth declared by Daniel, or the truth declared by the Apostle Paul serves as the truth that is to guide my life.
As I began my day this morning, I looked to a devotional from Experiencing God Day by Day. It was entitled a “Facing a God-Sized Choice.” The scripture was Daniel 3: 15 and reads this way in the ESV -- “Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Though this was the dilemma before the persons of choice Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at that moment, it is also the choice of each of us each day. No, we are not “thrown into the fiery furnace” or the lions’ den as Daniel for our choices (at least at the moment in this country), but we face similar God-sized choices. You might ask, “What is a God-sized choice?” I think the answer is anything that calls you to abandon God’s ways and put on the world’s.
Joshua came to that point, challenged God’s people with the truth that they had to choose, and boldly declared the choice he had made in his household. In Daniel 3: 15, as well as elsewhere in Daniel with the choice of Daniel, Daniel and these three men faced the choice to abandon God and worship man.
When I read the Daniel 3 account, I immediately thought of our youth lesson the other night. Thus the scripture basis for this writing, Colossians 3. The idea that we are to “set our minds on things above…..” Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not wake up one morning and – out of the blue – face the dilemma of rejecting God and embrace the ways of the world, as YOUNG MEN (in their teens at the time of their capture) they resolved to follow God. They set their minds on God, determined to live in accordance with his truth, and when an earthly king who saw himself bigger than God demanded their allegiance or they would face the fiery furnace or the lions’ den, they had no reason to fret or worry. They had been experiencing the presence and security of the Living God throughout their lives and KNEW they could trust God with this passing circumstance.
Nebuchadnezzar said worship me/pray to me or I will destroy you. But they chose to worship and pray to God. This man who thought he was greater than God said, “…if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” VIVIDLY he was shown that he was not the greatest as the fourth man in the fire protected and preserved, In the Lions Den, Daniel experienced the same protection.
Yes, there have been countless Christ-followers through the ages who have made the same choice – to follow God and not the ways of man. Their story includes persecution and sometimes a martyr’s death, but still there is the presence, protection, and provision of that “fourth man” in the fire. This world is not our home. Our eyes are not on the present, they are on the prize of being with Christ for all eternity.
The Apostle Paul testified in Philippians 1: 21 that “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He had learned what each of us needs to learn, our security is not found in ever-changing circumstance. Our security is found in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord of all. That security enables us to live for Him daily and trust Him with every aspect of this life and the life to come.
The devotional thought read this way: “Daniel's friends faced a God-sized choice: believe the government or believe God. Government offered food, shelter, and rescue from death. God offered an invisible protection from life's problems and hope for life beyond. Human wisdom had no problem making the choice. Faith faced a crisis. How do you respond today when God's ways contradict sound economic advice?”
So, the question before us today is not JUST how do we respond when God’s ways contradict the sound economic advice of the world. The question is, how do we respond when choosing God conflicts with anything and everything about the ways of the world. The other night, I challenged our youth to “set their minds on things above.” To resolve, as Daniel and his friends did at a young age, to be obedient to God NO MATTER THE WORLD. That is my counsel to the “youth” of every age.
The world is daily saying you must choose their ways. The world is saying, if you not choose the ways of the world you are foolish and you will face the consequences of your choice. The world is saying if you choose this way, there is no change of advancement or you might be “destroyed.” The Lord is saying, Trust Me—try Me-prove Me! Eternal rewards are awaiting us when we trust and obey!
I challenge you this day, to set your minds on things above and choose to follow Christ. I promise you the fulfillment that comes with complete surrender to the Living Lord!
Placing Christ In His Rightful Place
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:5-11 (ESV)
There is so much that “jumps out” when we read God’s Word. There is instruction, encouragement, examples of faithfulness, guidance, etc. that illustrate vividly the path we are to take as followers of Christ. When we do more in depth study of the text, or simply come to understand the culture of the day, the scripture often takes on a deeper/fuller impact on our understanding. This passage is such a passage!
Psalm 16:8 above reads, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”
In the culture of David’s day, a person’s closest friend and advisor would usually sit at the right of the person. Thus, we know the saying, “right hand man.” In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews refers to Jesus as sitting down after His resurrection "at the right hand of the Majesty on high." God gave Christ Jesus the highest honor that exists in heaven or on earth.
With that knowledge, we begin to more fully understand the significance of what David was saying in Psalm 16. BY acknowledging God's place at his "right hand," he is making a huge statement in a small phrase! He is stating emphatically that God occupies the most important position in his life. He is declaring that God has priority over every other person in his life and every other thing that could occupy his attention. He is saying to all that God is his closest friend and his trusted advisor.
David had come to learn through the experiences of life that he would be nowhere without the guidance and protection of God. He had come to the point that there was no question about where to put his trust. I think there is a truth we all can see in the accounts of David’s - as long as God was in His rightful place in David's life, David could take on anything the world had to offer. With God in His rightful place, come what may, David would not be afraid, could take on any enemy, and slayed the giants in his life. We can also see in the accounts of David’s life that when God was NOT in His rightful place that David, the people around him, and the entire nation of suffered! There is a great lesson for us today in this one statement. .
We need to realize that we can live with the same confidence that David did. That is WHEN we reserve the most high place in our lives for our Lord Jesus Christ! The piercing question before us is this, “Have we reserved the most important place in your life for God, or have you given the honor seat to someone (or something) else?” The truth is, only one guest can sit at your right hand.
Matthew 6: 33 tells us that we MUST seek FIRST Christ and His righteousness. To experience the fullness of Christ today, we must place Him in His rightful place. If someone else sits in that seat, you will be like David when he allowed something or someone else to occupy the seat at his right hand. However, if we make Him LORD of ALL, then we can experience the fullness of life that David is referring to in this Psalm.
Pray today that we will grow closer to our Living Lord Jesus Christ. Pray that we will place Him in His rightful seat of honor in our lives. Pray that we will LISTEN and HEAR the counsel of our Lord as we seek to honor Him with our lives THIS day!
Mark 12:30 “And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with your soul (your life) and out of and with your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment.” (The Amplified Bible)
Last night, I continued to lead a three-week Bible study on Pursuing Christ (this was week two and it may turn into a 5-week - LOL). The overall study is based on Matthew 6: 33, “ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We are dealing with the three key words in that verse – seek, first, and righteousness. This week, we dealt with the term first.
Is Christ REALLY first in your life? The key verse we used to look at this term is Mark 12:30. The principal commandment Jesus emphasized when asked “what is the greatest commandment?” is to love God more than anything (Dougald McLaurin paraphrased – LOL), and then the second is to love our neighbors!
What does it look like to “love God more than anything else?” I think we all need to examine our walk with the Lord and address this issue. If Jesus Christ is LORD of our lives and we are genuinely placing Him first in our daily lives, then our lives should look markedly different than people who have not accepted Christ. That is true for 16 year olds, 116 year olds, and all of us in between!
In our study I asked them some simple “thought questions:”
• What does it mean that Jesus is to be LORD/master of EVERYTHING?
• What does the word ALL mean?
• What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
• If Jesus is really first, then how is that displayed in the way we live our lives each day?
I believe these are questions we all need to answer in our daily lives. People around us need to see a real difference because we say Jesus is important to us. In fact, we sometimes sing “Jesus is all the world to me,” and what we really mean is SOMETIMES, He is all (with a very loose interpretation of the word all) the world to me.
Simple answer to be included in each of the above questions – everything means everything, all means all, and lord means lord (master of everything). As you set out this day, is Jesus Christ truly Lord of ALL in your life? If yes, then think about how that is to be displayed as you go throughout your day. If not, then what is holding you back from allowing Him to be Lord of ALL for you? What idols are you holding on to?
I challenged our youth to pray and seek counsel from the Lord through His word by choosing a life verse to help guide them through this season of their lives. I shared several of mine through the years, beginning as a teenager to this day. It was funny as I reflected upon the different verses through the years how they were applicable to what was going on in my life at the time. When I was immature in my walk and I was “learning” what it meant to be Christian, God gave me Ephesians 4: 17, 30, and then Ephesians 5: 1 – 2. Today it is 2 Corinthians 11: 28. In between, there has been several, but all have served to remind me of God’s expectations of His people during those seasons of my life and served as a quick guide to the way I am to live as a responsible follower of Christ.
Just in case you are wondering, the “nuggets” of the above life verses are simple and direct:
• In Ephesians 4: 17 Jesus says to me, Dougald do not live like a lost person…..
• In Ephesians 4: 30 Jesus says to me, Dougald do not cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live your life today…..
• Ephesians 5: 1 – 2 says, Dougald if you don’t know what to do, just imitate me….present yourself as a living sacrifice—one that is pleasing and acceptable to God….
• And 2 Corinthians 11: 28 reminds me, in addition to everything else before you, God has called you to be actively engaged in strengthening His church. As Paul declared in this verse, “besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”
I challenge you as you begin this day, to examine your life – is Jesus REALLY first? Have you made Him LORD of ALL? Perhaps you need to pray and seek a personal word from the Lord in a life verse that will guide you in this season of your life. You will NOT know God fully, nor experience that “life more abundant” Jesus came to give until you surrender all to Him.
“And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall heed My ordinances and do them.” Ezekiel 36: 37 Amplified Bible
After I listed my prayer for the church as we gather for worship today, someone commented, “Praying that the Holy Spirit will so fill us today that God will be lifted up and glorified in all we say and do!” What a wonderful prayer as we prepare to worship together as the BODY of Christ. In fact, this is such an appropriate prayer for each day of our lives as we strive to live a life that honors our Lord and brings people to Him.
The thought occurred to me – it is Holy Spirit, living in us, that prompts us to answer God’s invitation to come to Him/live for Him. When you and I LISTEN to His Spirit that lives within us, He will always lead us to the right decision when we face those daily “crisis of beliefs.” Unfortunately, it appears we are often not listening to Him and we go our own way. But as believers, we should pray that prayer that was commented above – pray that the Holy Spirit will so fill us that TODAY God will be lifted up and glorified in ALL we SAY—and ALL we DO!
What a revival would break out in His church today if that prayer was answered! And it should be easily answered, as it should be the heart’s desire of every Christ follower! What a difference it would make in our world for us to faithfully obey the prompts of Holy Spirit to live for Him and be His witness to the lost and hurting people that cross our paths daily.
I have modified my brayer just a bit:
Holy Spirit, live in me this day! So dominate my thoughts that in all things I hear what You are saying to me and what You are calling me to do. Holy Spirit, take away the self-centeredness that makes me ignore You. Clear my heart of the sin and attitude that keeps me from hearing Your voice and being obedient to Your guidance. Holy Spirit, bring to pass this day what You have purposed for me. I love You. My desire is to serve You. Make me who I need to be in Christ, so that others will see Christ in me and come to know You personally. In the precious, powerful name of Jesus, I pray. Amen!
Associational Missions Strategist at Tar River Baptist Association since November, 2000. Called of God to work with member churches to strengthen the local church in its efforts to impact lostness in THIS generation! I will ATTEMPT to add to this blog almost daily. People are free to use the ideas shared in any way they wish. The purpose of the posts are merely to help us in our search to BE the people God is calling us to BE in Him!