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Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

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Job 2:1-8

In a single day, Job’s entire life was turned upside down by a conversation that he was not privy to. God offered Job up to Satan with the intent to demonstrate His goodness and greatness in the lives of his free creation. God’s trust in the ironclad tenacity of Job’s righteousness created a test of Job’s faith to prove to Satan that God’s love need not ever be manipulated, but it is offered up in pure faith and total trust.

Satan believed that if Job was hit hard enough, he would curse God to His face. However, Job trusted God so much that when his children would go out, he would go into prayer and ask God to cover them and forgive them in case they sinned.

Satan was permitted to unleash his complete trilogy of demonic attempt: to steal, to kill, and to destroy. In one day, Job’s livestock perished, all his children died, his land lay infertile, and his body is covered in boils.

Trying to make sense of his seemingly unjustified suffering, Job sat in a pile of ashes scraping the puss out of his boils. He is in the emotional abyss, sitting and making no moves—not actively bringing about any answer or change to his current condition.

This is a portrait of spiritual unforgiveness. This is what happens to us when we are suddenly hit by human injury. When we cannot forgive, life comes to a standstill. We sit just as Job did. Our sores still run open because the actions that we are taking are not making a positive difference at all. As the saying goes, “Unforgiveness is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die.”

We cannot expect forgiveness to be a gift bestowed upon us by God. Forgiveness will not come to us as a virtue, supernaturally or otherwise. Forgiveness requires that we exercise discipline and decide to forgive. God wants us to wake up in the morning and exercise forgiveness by acknowledging the forgiveness that we have received from God.

Acknowledging the love of God in our lives brings us together. The only reason we are alive today is because our good God forgave us of our sins. We should fight to forgive because we live forgiven. God has accepted our repentance and treats us as though we have never created an offense against Him.

We have no business sitting on the ash heap scraping our sores. It is stealing precious time from an otherwise blessed life. We are empowering our offenders to have far too much control over our souls. We were not destined to sit in unforgiveness.

Deuteronomy 26:1-5

The book of Deuteronomy is Israel’s attempt to recount the history of their becoming a mighty nation and the covenant people of God. In chapter 26, Moses gave the young nation detailed directives on how they are to enter, possess, and settle into the land that had been promised to them, forty years ago.

Now, they are unapologetically following the God of their freedom. With all of the displays of omnipotent power, anyone would conclude that God has been good to Israel. He kept all of His promises, including the one that Israel was about to enjoy.

As the Israelites are about to enter into the Promised Land, Moses says:

When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us. The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God. Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. Deuteronomy 26:1-5 (NIV)

We may have assumed that the first thing that Moses would tell them to do was to worship. We may have assumed that they should then set to building houses and defenses around the land. We might have even thought that the best reflection of gratitude would be to possess the land and then praise God.

But Moses says that the first thing that they are directed to do is to gather the firstfruit of the land and offer it to God. Don’t eat first. Don’t plan to worship first. Don’t think about how to put God first. Just respond by gathering the firstfruits as a way of acknowledging that all of the blessings are blessings from God.

But the question that we have to ask ourselves today is: “When did that change?” When did God go from deserving the firstfruits to maybe not even being offered anything from the fruit that he let us pluck? When did God move down the list?

Many of us don’t conceive of our fruit as spiritual. We have become convinced by our culture that it is evil to even think about money, let alone consider that before we enjoy or spend our money that we should be honoring God with our money.

Satan has worked a diabolical agenda on us. He has weakened us by focusing us on worship as the main priority over giving. We have been convinced that as long as we worship, we’re alright. However, giving is a core aspect of our faith and should be our first response to God, even before worship.

Exodus 2:1-9

Jochebed saw something in her son, Moses, that made her hide her son from the Egyptian death squads that were sent out to kill all newborn males. She was successful at having Moses fed, dry, and content enough that he would not be discovered. However, she knew that, one of these days, the death squads would see something or sense something that would put Moses at risk.

Whatever was special about Moses, Jochebed knew that she needed to release him to that possibility. So, she fashioned a basket and put possibility in it and trusted that God was the initiator of her discerning sight. Moses’ fate was determined by what the water carried him to. As Jochebed set Moses in the water, Miriam, Moses’ older sister, ran along, watching as Moses floated down the banks of the Nile.

Miriam was that Moses was noticed by the daughter of Pharaoh. When Miriam steps out and asks Pharaoh’s daughter if she should find a midwife for Moses, Pharaoh’s daughter says to find someone, and that she will pay them. Now, this possibility, Moses himself, is returned with no need to hide.

Right then, Moses became untouchable; he was protected by divine calling and human covering. If Jochebed had never released Moses, he would have never returned to her under that protection.

Some things that God gives us can never be ours unless we are willing to give them up to Him, potentially forever. Like Jochebed, if we don’t trust God to know better than we do, we may never discover that what we release to God in faith always returns to us better than when we released it.

Many of us have pushed away these possibilities in our lives. We hide and hoard them, but, as we see with Jochebed, these possibilities cannot live if we keep them to ourselves. God is warning us that our possibilities cannot mature unless we are willing to risk and release them to go through the process that God has destined for them.

But the good news is, if we can risk our possibility, God can take our possibilities and return them to us, having breathed upon them and sending them to their own divine potential.  

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV

How does the Lord transform the human mind and how does He gift human life? What does He do to make our unique personalities fit for His service? These are some of the relations that Paul hoped to disclose to the saints in Ephesus, and it all starts with knowing who we are in Christ.

If we do not know who we are in Jesus, it is impossible to enjoy the fullness of the gifts of God. If we do not know who we are in Him, we will never think that we are included in God’s intent for our lives and for creation. We will instead live, chasing an identity that competes with the inexhaustible riches that God wants to bestow on us in His grace. We will wake up every day frustrated with the mystery of God’s will. We will, like the prodigal son, take our inheritance and waste it.

We can live a long time without knowing who we are. We will protect the privilege of those around us by refusing to speak our truth or challenge others’ faulty thinking. That may not be life-threatening, but it will cause us to become a prisoner of others’ comfort at the expense of our own.

The gift that we are given along with salvation is an identity that was predestined for us. God made plans for our lives long before we physically existed. Many of us need to understand that: We are living a life that was pre-planned, predestined. That doesn’t mean that we are controlled because we can resist and reject this gift of God. It is bestowed as an inheritance from God.

The riches of God’s grace, that have been spelled out in His inheritance for us ought to convict us to surrender to Him. We should be living our lives with the guarantee of divine purpose, intentioned placement, unlimited access to Him, and spiritual power.

No matter the labels that we have been given or have given ourselves, no label should compete with the priority of our label as Christians. We cannot let our culture that is trying to create syncretism and spiritual pluralism force us away from owning our Christianity as the foremost part of our identities. We cannot let the fact that Christianity offends others in our culture to stop us from professing it.

We are followers of Jesus Christ. No matter what labels come to define us, they are not to the negation of our passion for Christ.

Therefore if you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead], keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]. For you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:1-3 AMP

Paul encouraged the Colossians to not get caught up in the toxic legalism that was infecting pure, relational spirituality. They had become so attached to rules and regulations that the Colossians had become performance focused.

Christ died so that we could live out our faith so that we might be free to enjoy God in fellowship. Paul asked the Colossians why they lived as though they belonged to the world if they died to it with Christ. The regulations of man have an appearance of wisdom, but they are imposed worship, false humility and harsh treatment of the body. They lack any value in restraining indulgence.

If we are caught up in rules and regulations, we can never live fully obedient to Christ. We cannot make our faith performance based. Our faith is a performance-free journey. This ought to be a relief to us, because we can never perform well enough to earn the enormity of God’s Grace. We are not consistent enough to earn the bounty of God’s blessings.

If we live a solely performance-based life, it takes what was meant to be a joyful journey and turns it into legalistic dread. With this worldview, Jesus can never be viewed as a friend. Instead, He becomes an inspection agent, always pointing out the places where we have glaring contradictions. Of course, this does not give us free reign to live any way we feel we are entitled to. When we make the decision to follow Christ, we also make the decision to live according to His Word, but when we enter into a loving relationship with Him, living a Christ focused life brings us tremendous joy and purpose.

If we live a solely performance-based life, we spend every moment thinking of the things we ought to do and ought not to do, and our lives become nothing more than avoiding sin. But the real sin is going the whole day without acknowledging the love of God. It is tiring and taxing to live like this. It creates a strong versus weak environment.

We cannot perform our way through our spirituality. We don’t need to figure out our stage presence every day. Our lives in Christ must become our lifestyle until we function in total freedom. We have already been set free, and that freedom shapes our performance—not the other way around.