Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Posts tagged ‘Philippians 3’

Tobiah in the Temple?

The Jews (some of the survivors, that is) were back from their 70-year captivity and trying to rebuild their lives back in their own land.  But it wasn’t the same.  This land was now heavily under the influence of non-Jews who felt threatened by the return of its former occupants.  In fact, their influence extended right into the highest rank of Jewish leadership, the high priest, Eliashib.  Eliashib was closely connected with the very two, Tobiah and Sanballat, who had tried every trick in the book to put a stop to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall.  (From the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament)

And now, thanks to this high priest, Tobiah had his own private quarters right inside God’s Temple!  And Sanballat was now related to the high priest by marriage!  Tolerance, right?  Inclusivity?  Well, God doesn’t tolerate this kind of tolerance.  His standard is holiness, which is borne out in the three main points of the vow the people took after repenting from “”the three big sins they kept falling into:  intermarriage with pagan neighbors, violation of the Sabbath laws, and neglect of Temple worship and its requirements.

So what’s the relevance of all this today?  The common thread is God’s requirement that His people remain untainted by that “lowest common denominator” that our own lower nature and the world around us relentlessly suck us into. 

God has much better things for us—things that lead upward to joy, peace, love, life, light!

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  (Philippians 3:13b-14 NLT)

God’s “Secret Service”

Did you know that God has “secret service”?  No, it’s not a team of armed men protecting Him.  (Peter, Jesus’ only self-appointed protector, proved that his aim was pretty bad.)  The “secret service” that Jesus recruits is all about our serving Him without calling attention to ourselves.  In Matthew 6 this principle is applied to giving, prayer, and fasting.  The key is motivation:  If my reason for doing things like this is human approval, they’re worthless in God’s eyes and I get no reward from Him.  What brings God’s approval is acts of “secret service” meant for His eyes only. 

Matthew 5:16 seems at first to contradict this because there Jesus tells us, “let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”!  The difference, I think, is motivation:  If I am doing it for God and others just happen to observe, God is glorified and pleased.

One more thing about “secret service.”  Those who guard important officials are focused on the welfare of the one they are assigned to protect—even if it costs their own lives.  In this way, my service for God IS like that:  My life is to be all about Him, no matter what happens to me.

…everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ … I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  (Philippians 3:7, 13)

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