Deuteronomy 13-14, Jeremiah 6, Psalms 69-71

Read Deuteronomy 13-14, Jeremiah 6, Psalms 69-71 today.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 13-14.

There was no freedom of speech in ancient Israel; however, the only banned speech was religious–blasphemy and false doctrine. Deuteronomy 13 sets forth regulations against false doctrine. Verses 1-5 told God’s people not to believe a false prophet, even if he performed some kind of miraculous sign (vv. 1-2a). God used miraculous signs to authenticate his messengers, especially Christ himself, but they were not the measuring stick for what was true or false. Just as Pharoah’s magicians were able to do some miracles (see Ex 7:11-12 for one example), Satan can sometimes do impressive things with his supernatural powers. But God taught here in Exodus 13 that He sometimes would allow false teachers with supernatural signs and wonders to come to Israel. His purpose for allowing them was to test “you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and all your soul” (v. 3). No matter how impressive a supernatural demonstration was, God’s people were to remain obedient to his written word (v. 4), not abandon his word for the words of a false prophet.

False prophets were a threat to God’s people because they incited “rebellion against the Lord your God” (v. 5a). Given all that God had done delivering his people from Egypt and protecting and guiding them through the desert to the promised land, Israel should have had no problem with restricted theological speech. If you know the true God, there is no reason to dabble in false doctrine; only danger can come from that. God’s prescription, then, for false prophets was the death penalty (v. 5a). 

Not only were false prophets with impressive supernatural powers to be refused and punished in Israel, but verses 6-11 tell us that even if you have a personal connection to someone who tries to turn your heart to another god,  you should still see that they are punished (vv. 6-11). “Show them no pity,” God’s word says. “Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (v. 10).

Verses 12-18 describe how to handle false teachers once Israel was established in the land. After investigating charges of heresy in a nearby town fully (v. 14a), God’s people were to publicly and completely purge the town of its false doctrine, then permanently destroy that town itself for not obeying God’s commands about false doctrine (vv. 15-18).

These sections remind us how seriously God takes his word and how destructive false doctrine is to true worship. While we live in a free society and do not impose such serious penalties on false teachers as Moses commanded in this passage, we should not toy with or tolerate deviations from God’s written word. It provides the standard for what is true or false; to entertain false doctrine just because there were signs and wonders involved or loved ones involved is to tolerate that which God says is destructive.

Watch carefully where you turn for spiritual information; your spiritual life (not to mention anyone living in your home under your authority) depends on holding fast to the purity of God’s word.

Leviticus 17, Isaiah 13, Proverbs 10:17-32

Read Leviticus 17, Isaiah 13, Proverbs 10:17-32 today.

This devotional is about Proverbs 10:17-32.

How people talk is a recurring theme in Proverbs 10:17-32. This passage tells us:

  • a fool conceals hatred with lies (v. 18a)
  • a fool spreads slander (v. 18b)
  • sin thrives in the presence of too many words (v. 19a)
  • a cautious (“prudent”) person knows when not to speak (v. 19b)
  • the words of a righteous person are very valuable (v. 20a)
  • the words of a righteous person strengthen many people (v. 21a)
  • the words of a righteous person are wise (v. 31a)
  • ungodly words will be silenced (v. 31b)
  • a righteous person knows how to use words to bring about a favorable result (v. 32a)
  • but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse (v. 32b).

Words can change the course of a person’s life. They can persuade someone not to do something sinful, dangerous, or deadly. They can provoke someone to do something sinful, dangerous, or deadly. The right words can encourage a hurting heart and the wrong words can discourage a hopeful soul. Words are how we came to know Jesus as our Lord but they can also entice someone away from God.

The lesson in this passage is that your walk with God will show itself in how you talk. If you speak truth in ways that build up and strengthen others, giving them insight into wisdom, then your words will have great value and God will use them in the lives of other people. That is a reflection of a growing walk with God.

On the other hand, if your words cause others to be tempted, to be seduced into sin, are hurtful and hateful, that shows that there are issues in your heart that need to be addressed.

Sinning in what we say is one of the easiest ways to sin that exists. James says we all stumble in many ways and only a perfect person never sins in what he says (James 3:2).

But as your walk with God grows, your ability to speak in ways that glorify God will grow, too. If you feel convicted about the things you say, ask God to use his word to root out the sins that cause you to say sinful things. Then replace those things with truth from your own reading of Scripture and the strengthening you receive in your small group and the teaching ministries of our church.

May it be said of us that our words “nourish many” (v. 21) are “the fruit of wisdom” (v. 31) and that they “know what finds favor” (v. 32a). Then God will be glorified by our words as they reflect his changes and growth in us.

Exodus 12:22-51, Job 30, James 3

Read Exodus 12:22-51, Job 30, James 3.

This devotional which is about James 3.

This chapter in scripture tackles one of the hardest sins to overcome–the sinful use of words. James himself acknowledged how hard it is to control what we say in verse 2 where he wrote, “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” Again, in verse 8 he acknowledged that “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

This passage about the tongue exists to explain James’ statement in verse 1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” That verse told us teachers in the church will be held to greater accountability by God for how we live our lives. It warns anyone thinking about teaching about the extra layer of accountability God will hold teachers to. Verse 2 gives one of the major ways in which God will evaluate our lives and our teaching. If we teach God’s truth but don’t have a tamed tongue, we will answer to God for that.

Teachers will be held to greater accountability because a person’s words reflect what is in his heart. Jesus said that in Luke 6:45.

So if God changes hearts, that then changes lives. Therefore, how a person speaks to other people is one of the clearest evidences of the growth (or lack of growth) in the Christian life. That’s what we see here James 3:2-18. Verses 3-6 describe how very large things (horses in verse 3, ships in verse 4) can be controlled by something very small. Likewise, the tongue is very small but has power to do great damage (vv. 5-6). Despite humanity’s ability to tame all kinds of animals, no man or woman has the power to tame the tongue (vv. 7-8); only God can do that (v.v 13-18).

We’ve all been hurt by the words of others and each of us has hurt others with things that we’ve said. Let’s not dwell on that today; instead, let’s focus on this thought in verse 18: “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” This verse is connected to the idea of the power of the tongue. When God’s truth makes us wise (vv. 13, 17), we seek to become peacemakers with our words.

Have you learned how to use words to make peace with others in your life? Who in your life do you need to talk with to make peace, as God wants?

Or, do you know people who are in conflict with one another? Could you use God’s wisdom and good words to help solve that conflict? These are good ways to put today’s truth into practice in your life today.

Examine the Evidence of Your Religious Beliefs as an Intentional Act of Faith

James 1:26: Examine the Evidence of Your Religious Beliefs as an Intentional Act of Faith

Many people have bad religious beliefs, but there is one kind of religious belief that is worse than all the others. Find out what it is and if you have it in this message.

This is message 12 in the series, Intentional Acts of Faith, a series about the New Testament book of James. It was developed by Pastor Brian Jones and delivered by Brian to Calvary Bible Church on Sunday, March 21, 2021.

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