Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Morning Devotions

Is. 58:10- "If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness as the noonday."

Essential elements of the gospel message have been tragically separated in our day. As western culture modernized, the pace of life rapidly increased. The Church responded by withdrawing from engaging the world, by retreating within itself. The Church exclusively focused upon orthodox doctrine and personal purity. Some Christians realized that a third vital element of the gospel message was being ignored: the alleviation of the burdens of those on the bottom rung of society. Soon this missing element of the gospel message became for some the sole message, giving birth to the humanistic message of “the social gospel.” The social gospel was not concerned with doctrine or holiness. It's only concern was meeting the physical needs of the poor. The message of the Church experienced a two, or sometimes, three way split: dead orthodoxy, a private holiness, and a secular humanitarianism. No wonder the Church is viewed as irrelevant by the world around us. Our task is to unify these elements of the gospel message, revitalizing these elements as they are put in their proper order. What order am I referring to? Doctrine comes first, for all holiness and Christian mission originates with correct doctrine. Our view of God will determine our eternal destiny. It is correct doctrine which first teaches us concerning the holiness of God. It is correct doctrine which teaches us who Jesus is. It is correct doctrine that allows the lost to know just who it is they are to have faith in and who it is they are to bow down to as Lord. Correct doctrine allows us to distinguish between true and false spiritual experiences. If holiness is loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, we could not love Him so without correct doctrine telling us who He is. After all, we cannot love whom we do not know. Holiness originates from doctrine, and from holiness comes what John Wesley termed “social holiness.” Our love of God leads us to love those whom the world esteems the least. We seek to deliver the vulnerable from conditions and habits that oppress them, not only helping them better themselves, but making them disciples of Christ as well. Social holiness is one of the Church’s greatest instruments in transforming societies and individuals. By ignoring this important element of the gospel message, the Church has lost much of its prophetic voice. Isaiah 58 conclusively demonstrates this. All of Israel’s religious exercises meant nothing because injustice ruled the land. “…in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers. Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and strike with the fist of your wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high.” (v. 3-4). What is the proper fast according to God? “Is this not the fast I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burden, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (v. 6-7). Those who practice social holiness allow the image of God in them to be seen by all: “Then your light shall shine forth like the morning, your healing will spring forth speedily, and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am’…” (v. 8-9). This verse speaks of our witness for God being seen by all. But there is a condition if this promise is to be fulfilled: “…If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and the speaking of wickedness…” (v. 9). If social holiness is practiced from a pure heart, our message will be complete, we will reach a completeness of soul that doctrine and private piety alone does not give (v. 10-12). The Lord speaks of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of rest. But the Israelites turned it into a time to pursue their own pleasures, pleasures that kept others in bondage. Repentance would have brought true rest to the Israelites, and the promises of God’s Word would have been experienced in their lives.

All scripture quotations are from the NKJV.

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