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What the Bible says about Spiritual Priorities
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 14:26

Some who read this have been to the Feast and thus look forward to eight days of experiencing many enjoyable things: food, drink, activities, spending time with friends, and of course, the spiritual meals of eating and drinking in of God's instructions. Many sermons over the years have been preached about prioritizing our time and activities throughout the Feast, keeping God first over the physical abundance and events that can often relegate Him to second place. Some may have justified a physical approach to the Feast from an immature understanding of God's command in Deuteronomy 14:26, using the time and money God provides for the Feast as a vacation with friends and family, rather than an eight-day, spiritual-information-packed, learning experience.

God wants us to experience both the spiritual and the physical abundance that foreshadows the time when we will live and reign with God during His Millennial rest and on into His eternal Kingdom. However, we need to prioritize and balance our wants and needs with God's expectations—especially so during this short period of plenty when it seems we do not need God as much as we normally do.

God notices how we treat this eight-day period and assesses our actions to see if we really feel we do not need Him as much during this time of plenty versus the rest of the year when our daily struggles require His involvement in our lives. We may see the Feast as a time of fun activities, which is partially true, but it may expose how we would live if God were to bless us financially or how we would govern if He were to give us exalted positions in His Family.

Staff
Whatever Your Heart Desires

Proverbs 31:8-9

Basically, God says here, "Go to bat for the disadvantaged." However, He admonishes us to judge righteously.

We know that there are people in the world who, perhaps because they have too much time, money, or guilt on their hands, make it their duty to become advocates for various causes, often doing it without regard for the possible consequences. They may think they are supporting something that is good, but they sometimes never think through what their support might mean and what will result from it. If many of the causes out there were actually followed through to the end, we would be living in a socialist or communist state, and no one would like it. Nobody would be free.

Jesus says, "The poor you will always have with you." Because that is the case, the question then becomes, "How best can we help them?" Remember Martha and Mary and what Jesus had to say to Martha? "Martha, you are getting overwrought about all this. But Mary has chosen the better thing" (Luke 10:38-42 paraphrased). Jesus is teaching that there is a point at which service and good works become a distraction and a worry, crowding out the higher duties of listening to Him.

Thus, we need to remember that, even though we want to do good works, they will never save us. They are a fruit of righteousness. They are not the ultimate goal or the end. They just show that we have inculcated into us part of God's character, and the natural outgrowth of that is good works (see Ephesians 2:10).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Matthew 12:13

Jesus asks the man to do what had seemed impossible a moment before. At His command, the man places himself in full view of the synagogue's audience so that everyone present can witness it, and without even touching him, Jesus immediately heals him. When the man stretches out his hand for all to see, the crowd witnesses positive proof of Christ's power and holiness.

Despite the shame of his withered hand, the man still attends Sabbath services at the synagogue. He places a higher priority on worshipping God than on his personal discomfort. The principle illustrated here is that people should not use physical problems as an excuse for not going to church. A person should attend services when able.

The downside of missing services is that, eventually, spiritual problems with far more serious consequences will develop. No one can do much in service to God if he allows physical problems or handicaps to impede his worship and service of his Creator. In a sense, many of us suffer from withered hands. Sin so paralyzes us that we cannot serve God as we would like. Yet, anyone in God's church can be empowered to do the needed things for our Healer.

The real issue is faith. Jesus fulfills God's intention for the Sabbath day by restoring this man to health and strength. In answering Christ's call to step forward, the man shows what a little faith and obedience can do. This tests his courage and faith as he rises above his human fears. He entirely trusts Christ, and his healing is God's response.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Withered Hand (Part Two)

Matthew 24:38-39

In these verses, Jesus describes people involved in normal activities of life: eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. None of these activities are evil—in fact, they are necessary. He implies, however, that in focusing upon the everyday activities of their lives, they miss the signs, the evidence, which prove the imminence of Christ's return. The sad result is that they do not become aware until it is too late.

Laodiceanism is not a matter of laziness, but of spiritual indifference caused by giving attention to the wrong things. A Laodicean commits a subtle form of idolatry, paying undue attention to self-centered interests rather than the interests of our Lord. Setting aside those responsibilities to which he has been called, he favors activities and interests that Jesus simply describes as eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage. He has chosen carnal priorities over spiritual ones.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism

Luke 10:38-42

For the word "careful" (KJV) in verse 40, the margin reads "distracted," which is also how the NKJV translates it. In the Greek, it is the same word translated as "anxious" in Matthew 6. Anxiety distracts.

Consider doing a job under distracting conditions, when several things are competing for attention at the same time. Jesus says that no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). What will happen when a person's mind has two or more issues simultaneously vying for attention? Eventually, the person will dismiss one of them in order to pay attention to the one he chooses to give his attention to. That is the principle here. It is that simple.

If two matters work on the mind, they cannot be given equal time. The mind will shift gears so that one gets the priority over the other. We need to see this principle in relation to the Kingdom of God. By making the Kingdom of God our treasure and having a clear understanding that this principle is at work, Jesus wants us, by faith, to choose to set our will to make God's Kingdom our first priority. It is something that we must make the choice to do.

So Jesus says to Martha , "You are distracted [troubled, worried, anxious] about many things." There is nothing wrong with serving, but Jesus is showing that service has to give way to worship. Even if we understand that worship is a form of submissive service, it is ratcheted up several notches higher because it is service given directly to God. This is a gentle rebuke by Jesus urging Martha to leave her housework for the time and concentrate on the more urgent responsibility, because Christ would be living among them only a little while longer. Under this situation, Mary had made the right choice. She had a clearer understanding of the circumstance and made the better choice of the use of her time.

His words do not mean that Mary was any better than Martha, but in this case Martha had made the wrong choice. God thought this was important enough to inspire Luke to put it into His Word so that we could understand this principle. Jesus is not saying that one should do no housework, but rather, that Martha's failure to follow the higher priority was doing damage to her character. There is a time to set aside the service of others in order to serve God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian and the World (Part Eight)

John 5:1-16

Jesus' healing of the crippled man beside the pool called Bethesda is one of nine healing miracles involving water and one of seven performed on the Sabbath. Only the apostle John records it (John 5:1-16). It is impossible to be sure when the miracle occurred other than it happened on a Sabbath day.

John's reference to "a feast of the Jews" (John 5:1) rather than a "feast of the Lord" (Exodus 12:14; Leviticus 23:2, 37) illustrates the spiritual decline that had occurred among the Jews regarding God's feast days. People may typically start out with God being central to their worship, but they end up getting in the way and become the main focus themselves. The people had made this festival a feast of the people instead of continuing it as God's feast.

In His journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, Jesus expended a considerable amount of effort to be there in time for this Sabbath. In doing this, He set an example in terms of spiritual priorities and the sacrifices involved in putting spiritual matters first. Some Christians are unclear about spiritual priorities, desiring a convenient religion that requires little inconvenience and no sacrifice. Frequently, those who complain most about not getting enough out of church are often those who attend sporadically and involve themselves the least in church activities. Jesus, on the other hand, took great pains to fellowship and to help the people, especially on the Sabbath.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Cripple by a Pool (Part One)

Galatians 6:9-10

In its broader context, Galatians 6:1-10 has spiritual matters more directly in mind than physical needs. This does not deny that there are times to help out physically, but the chapter begins with, "If one sees a brother in a fault. . . ." This the real foundation of the charge in verses 9 and 10. It is concerned primarily with spiritual matters, where the church's problems really lie. The church's problems are spiritual in nature.

In terms of the ministry, from the top of the administration on down, its emphasis must be on "feeding the flock." If there is a spiritual problem within the church, and we are charged first with taking care of the church, then it means that the administration of the church has to shift gears and take care of that spiritual problem first. It has first priority, not the preaching of the gospel to the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part Four)

Galatians 6:9-10

We are to be doing good, and we are especially instructed to perform those acts for the members of the church. Remember, it takes a church to produce prepared, well-rounded sons of God. The church is the vehicle that God has given us to learn these things. God has put within the church all the factors, materials, and opportunities we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church

Colossians 3:2

Paul is telling us where the focus of our attention needs to be. We can give our minds over to a lot of things, for instance, to our jobs - and there is a place for that. We can give our minds over to physical things - exercise, eating well, and so forth - and there is a place for these, too.

Indeed, humans need to set their minds on many things, but they need to be prioritized correctly - put into the right niche and position. Then each of these things has to be seen in relation to the Kingdom of God. Our priorities must be set according to this standard - the overriding goal of our Christian lives.

"Set your mind on things above" adjusts the focus of our attention so that we do not become distracted by things that are less important for any longer than needed, so that they occupy the right proportion and amount of time in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Titus 2:11-14

Hebrews 4:1-2

The Israelites would not use their faith; they would not step out. They held back because the bottom line was that they did not really believe it.

Do we believe what we are hearing from the Word of God? If we do not believe it, we will do nothing. We only do what we believe.

Everybody in the world operates by this principle—they do what they believe! But do they believe God? No. We are in God's church because we believe, and because we believe in the right way, we obey God. In Hebrews 3, Paul equates "belief" and "obedience." It makes for an interesting study. Despite being significantly different, the effect of one should be the product of the other.

This is why one can find words like "belief" or "unbelief" in Scripture, and see in the margin that "obedience" or "disobedience" can be an alternate translation. The words can be taken either way.

We do what we believe.The real problem is becoming apparent. The reason the Hebrews were apathetic—the reason they were neglecting their spiritual priorities—was because their belief system had undergone a serious change since the time that they had first heard.

When Satan wants to divide or destroy a church, he often does so through inspiring changes in the doctrines. When the doctrines change, the belief system changes accordingly. And when the belief system changes, those who believe the same basic way will flock together, and those who believe a different way will coalesce into another group.

When a belief changes, a change in conduct must follow. This is what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness. They did not believe God, and they failed. They all died. That whole first generation died as a result of their disbelief.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today


 




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