People of the Way

Many Christians are familiar with Acts 11:26, “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” Some are less familiar with another term for believers, people of the Way (Acts 9:2). This is a term that marked them several times in the book of Acts (19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22). While it may have its roots in Isaiah 40:3, it became Luke’s most prominent title for the new movement, the followers of Jesus.[1]

Significant to the term, theologian John Murray states, “the nomenclature does evidence the total distinctiveness (emphasis mine) of the faith, worship, and life of the disciples of Christ.”[2] And biblical scholar David Peterson tells us, “Its appearance twice in this context (Acts 19:9, 23) suggests that Christians in Ephesus were being clearly identified as ‘constituting a socially cohesive movement, a movement arising out of and grounded in their shared faith in Jesus.’”[3]

Early Christian life was not just a system of belief, but a transformed way of life by which Christians became known. Murray tells us that James 3:13; 1 Peter 3:2, 16; 2 Peter 3:11 give us insights into character traits that would become a part of a life of the Way. “This is to say that the manner of life which Christian faith demands and produces is one of goodness, purity and holiness.”[4]

Paul uses the term “walk worthy” to describe transformed and transforming character that should be a distinctive part of Christian behavior. Colossians 1:10; Philippians 1:27 and Ephesians 4:1 are all texts that paint a picture that our lives ought to radiate distinctive behavior.

Jesus tells his disciples that their distinct behavior would result in them being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus speaks of the influence that the transformed attitudes of Matthew 5:3-12 will lead to, and the illumination that transformed lives will generate.

The Way became well-known according to Acts 24:22. Luke gives no indication of how Felix became well acquainted with the Way, but his overall narrative has suggested that Christianity was making significant progress in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, so that its beliefs and practices could be in some measure understood by those in high places.[5]

Christians did not influence or transform their culture by political activism. They did not influence through status or wealth. It becomes clear that the primary way of influence was through transformed behavior coupled with transformed attitudes coming from lives transformed by the Gospel. The Gospel changes people. This transformation makes them winsomely different from people of the world.

Have you become a person of “the Way?” Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? If not, see my earlier post titled Great News for 2021. Has the Spirit of God taken the Word of God and transformed your life by obedience of faith to the Gospel? Is your life growing more distinct from the world around you? Be a part of a community of believers that spurs you to growth helps you change. If you have questions, email me.

[1] Darrell Bock, Acts: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Baker Academic. 2007, p. 50.

[2] John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics, Eerdmans, 1957, p. 12.

[3] David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, PNTC, Eerdmans, pp. 544-545. See footnote 73 for more information.

[4] John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics, Eerdmans, 1957, p. 11.

[5] David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, PNTC, Eerdmans, p. 638.

Great News for 2021

Recently, President-elect Biden told us that “Things are going to get worse before they get better.” The year 2020 has been a year of unprecedented bad news. The Covid-19 death rate continues to climb as the year comes to an end. Experts are fearful it will continue to climb in the first months of 2021. Many have experienced the ravages of this disease personally. It has been a year of unparalleled racial unrest and tension. The 2020 presidential election was filled with ugly debates and name-calling. Many have experienced significant financial loss; some will never recover. While we hope for brighter days ahead, it may not be so.  Great news has been hard to find, but it can be found. It is in that ancient book, the Bible.

Perhaps one of the best-known verses in the Bible is John 3:16. It says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV

Four great truths appear in this passage.  First “God so loved the world,” God’s Love is Great.There are several items to consider. It does not say, “God loved the world,” but it says “God so loved the World.”  God’s love for the world is great. The rest of the text will explain matters.   But what is the “world;” what does that mean?  When the Apostle John (author of the Gospel of John), speaks of the “world,” he does not mean “everybody in the world,” but he speaks of all humanity in its “lostness,” its rebellion to God.  The Bible insists that humankind is not innocent or neutral, but in defiance and rebellion to their creator God. That includes you, that includes even me.

Colossians 1:21, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies . . .” Romans 5:8, “But God commended his love for us in this while we were sinners Christ died for us.”

Second, God’s Gift is Great. “that he gave his only Son.” He gave his unique, one and only son who was the second person of the trinity. The sacrifice of a life, one for another is a noble and good thing, but let’s examines the text closely.  The text does not say that God gave his life, but he gave his Son, he gave the life of another.  In Scripture the relationship between God the Father and the Son does tax our comprehension (a full explanation of the trinity, along with the Father and Son’s relationship to each other is not possible here), but one thing is clear: God’s love for his Son is greater than our love for our children. Yet, God’s love for man in his blatant rebellion is incredible.  God gave his beloved, sinless, perfect Son to redeem, to save his enemies, people who have gone far astray and live in high rebellion to him, to save these from their sin. We were not desirable; we were reprehensible in his sight.  His love, in spite of our unloveliness, leads to the next point.

Third, God’s Offer is Great. As we look at the text, it says, “whoever.” The offer is not limited to a certain segment of society, nor a certain class of people, not a certain race, but to anyone who believes…. Not white people, not conservative people, not Jewish people, but anyone, anyone of any race, creed, color, no matter how good or how bad. God’s offering is to “whoever,” anyone who would believe.

Further, God’s Offer is Great because it says “whoever believes.” Let’s state what it does not mean or say. It does not say whoever is a member of a church. It does not say whoever is baptized. It does not say whoever keeps the ten commandments or the Golden Rule as best as he or she can. It does not say if your efforts to be a good person outweigh your faults and failures. It says “whoever believes.”

What does it mean to “believe?” We cannot define “believe” as you or I might think, but as John uses it consistently in his fourth Gospel. (See John 2:23; 8:30,31,37-44). To “believe in” means to depend or to rely upon fully, to wholeheartedly cling to that person. You can’t rely upon yourself. You must acknowledge your lostness, your total lack and need for Christ, then depend fully upon Chris and the work that he has done for you on the cross.

Finally, God’s Salvation is Great.  “should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Perish has to do with eternal damnation, eternal torments away from the presence and kindness of God.  “Eternal life” in the Bible means more than something you get when you die. It is something that you receive now; purposeful, significant, meaningful abundant effervescent overflowing life in the here and now. Jeremiah says that God is “the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13): Psalm 63:3 says that enjoying God’s love is better than life itself. Psalm 36:8 speaks of enjoying God as “drinking from a river of delights.”  Jesus tells us in John 4 that he himself is the source of living effervescent life.  He calls on us to turn from our lostness and to trust in him fully and completely to save us from our sins and to begin to enjoy everlasting life now, today, and forever.  

Do you have eternal life? Have you trusted in his work for you on the cross? Would you do so now? Contact me at the email below if you have a need for more information or desire further interaction.


Christmas 2020 Thoughts and Wishes

Thoughts: Many of us will remember this as the Christmas of Covid-19. Many of us know people who have had it, and some who have died from it. If you have lost a loved one for any reason my heart breaks for you this season.  Somehow, losing a loved one to Covid puts a gloomier spin on it. Covid has touched my family: 1 daughter, 1 son (likely), 1 daughter-in-law, 1 son-in-law and 1 sister-in-law.  The final count is TBD. No deaths, but serious illness with some. We would like to be together and embrace; instead we have to social distance. We haven’t even discussed financial loss that many have experienced form this. I haven’t mentioned many friends who have been inflicted. Too numerous to count. All of them important. Someday, soon we hope, things will get better, back to “normal,” but maybe only a “new normal.”

Wishes: In spite of the dark shadows of Covid, I wish for you a hopeful and happy Christmas and New Year.  Genuine believers have hope for now and forever, and the sting of death is removed. “. . .He himself partook of flesh and blood, that through death (his death on the Cross) he might destroy the one who has the power over death . . . and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery,” Hebrews 2:14-15.  In Christ, we are free. We have help for today and hope for tomorrow. I invite you to consider the claims of Christ, turn from your life of slavery to death, and embrace the hope of life eternal, a life that you can begin to enjoy right now.  Grace to you.

Better Together: Churches of Like Faith Need Each Other

God is good to give believers the church. The church is his idea for the benefit of believers, the advancement of the kingdom and the glory of God.  While there are churches who have turned to a “different Gospel “(Gal 1:6) that need to be avoided, it is clear that there are churches of like faith that are given for mutual benefit. There is a concern for churches and pastors that want to remain isolated, and enjoy an Elijah complex (“I, even I only am left,” 1 Kgs 19:10, cf. 19:18). We see that in the New Testament churches of like faith fellowshipped together and were informed about the affairs of other churches. While keeping their autonomy, the cooperated together. Consider the following:

  • They shared the Word of God and fellowshipped around it.
    • Col 4:16; James 1, Revelation 2, 3.
      • Before the cannon of Scripture was complete, the churches copied letters to each other and shared them with benefit, Colossians 4:16. They knew about the state and affairs of other churches. In Revelation 2, 3, we see that praise to and concerns of the individual churches were to heeded by all the churches. As each individual church was addressed, each section ends with an inclusive “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (plural),” note Rev 2:7 and others. They fellowshipped in victories and they were admonished by the failures of others. Some churches want to hide their warts pretending that all is well with them. A knowledge of other churches’ sins as well as victories can serve as warnings and encouragements to all.
  • They shared workers.
    • Romans 16:1-2, Acts 18: 27-28, Philippians 2:25-29; 4:18
      • There was a sense among New Testament churches that each could benefit from gifted workers in other churches. This shows at least two things. First, that a church should be willing to acknowledge a need for help for gifted persons outside of their congregation and second, that churches with some gifted individuals should gladly send their best to other churches to aid them. Both Timothy and Epaphroditus were sent to serve. Epaphroditus was “your (the church of Philippi’s) messenger” who the church gladly sent to minister to the needs of Paul. Churches were willing to send their “A team” to serve other churches. It takes a spirit of humility to acknowledge a need and a genuine spirit of concern to offer the “A team.”
  • They shared greetings and a love for each other.
    • Romans 16:21-23
      • It seems that there was a knowledge of and an affection for not only those in their local congregations, but for this in other churches. In a day before modern communications, they heard of, cared for and served others.
  • They shared “war stories” for encouragement.
    • 1 Thess 1: 6-10.
      • The stories of spiritual growth in spite of “much affliction” were examples of encouragement for all to follow. This presumes that these churches knew of each other and celebrated others’ victories. Sometimes a pastor or church can think that they are the only one going through difficult times. It is important to hear and know of other churches victories as well as defeats in hard times.
  • They gave money for other needy churches.
    • Romans 15:25-27, 1 Cor 16:1-3; 2 Cor 8-9.
      • While we don’t know all the details, the above passages speak of a gift that the Gentile churches collected to aid the church in Jerusalem that was primarily Jewish in background. This was a collection that took planning (1 Cor 16:1-3) and was accomplished through a “severe test of affliction  . . .  and extreme poverty, (2 Cor 8:2).”  Paul was compelled to orchestrate this grand offering for another church for the benefit of others and the glory of God. God is pleased when churches sacrifice for other churches.
  • They cooperated in missionary endeavors.
    • 3 John 5-8
      • This passage speaks of some brothers who (v7) had gone out for the sake of “the name.” Gaius (probably a member of the Ephesian Church) was encouraged to continue to sacrifice so that these brothers, this missionary team could be sent forward in their ministry in “a manner worthy of God (v6).”  One church may not be able to completely support a missionary, but several working together can accomplish what one by itself cannot.
  • They met together for doctrinal clarity.
    • Acts 15: 1-35
      • Because of doctrinal concern (Acts 15:5) a large group of Apostles and elders (15:1-4) met together to clarify doctrinal issues. There is still a place for churches (and church leaders) of like or similar faith to meet together for encouragement and doctrinal clarification. In 1978, a group of evangelical scholars representing churches and denominations gathered together to sharpen the focus of biblical inerrancy. In 1982, a follow up meeting produced a further clarification on hermeneutics.  Because of so much confusion on sexuality, in order to clarify these matters church leaders met to from the Danvers Statement.


Christians need each other for growth and mutual exhortation.  The believer needs to be involved with a local church of biblical faith.  But individual churches of like faith while remaining autonomous should cooperate with churches of like faith for the advancement of the gospel.

A Bright New Day is Coming

As I write this 23rd day of August, 2020, life is so different than it was eight months ago. The nation, the nation, not to mention the world, is gripped with the Covid-19 pandemic that has shut down businesses and churches and caused quarantining. It has many uncertain about its origin and severity. Many are not sure that they can trust what their officials have said about it. All of this added to an election year where it has become a cow that the political parties have been milking hard to their own advantage.

Added to that are unparalleled rioting and looting in the streets of several major cities, all in the name of racial equity. This was prompted by the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. As of today, riots are still going on in some cities. Stores are looted, businesses destroyed, statues are torn down. There are cries to “defund the police.”  Even suburbia, once considered safe, now has protestors making threats and causing fear.

Needless to say, these are depressing and fearful times for many people. Christians are not excepted. Many see the answer in the upcoming election. On the presidential level, the differences could not be sharper.  This election may bring change, but not genuine hope the world needs.

Is there any hope for a better day coming? If you take the Bible seriously, there is great hope for today, and greater hope for tomorrow.  Let’s talk about the future for a few moments. I understand that the next event on God’s prophetic calendar is the rapture of the church, a day when genuinely faithful Christians will be snatched away from the earth to begin their journey toward their eternal home (1 Thess 4:13-18). This event triggers a seven-year event on earth called the tribulation, a time of unparalleled trouble (Rev 4:19).

After this seven-year tribulation, Jesus Christ will come (Revelation 19:11-16) destroy the anti-Christ and begin his literal geo-political millennial reign on earth (Revelation 20:6). It will be as real as any nation or kingdom that has ever existed on earth.

That kingdom will have a king (Isaiah 32:1; 24:23). He will be visible (Isaiah 33:17) and he will be Jesus Christ (Luke 1:30-33).

What do we know about this king?

  1. He will be qualified to rule like no other, Isaiah 11:2. There will be no character defects or weakness in him at all.
  2. Under his reign, there will be justice, not politics as usual, Isaiah 11:3. There will be no pay-offs or looking the other way when justice is needed.
  3. Wickedness and sin will be quickly punished, Isaiah 11:3-4.
  4. He will reign in justice but not in harshness, Isaiah 42:3
  5. His kingdom will not fail, Isaiah 42:4. Even great leaders fail eventually. Not this one.

What will his kingdom be like?

  1. There will be a proper estimate on moral values, Isaiah 32:5. Right will be right and wrong will be wrong.
  2. Sickness and disease will be nearly abolished, Isaiah 33:24; 35:5,6; 29:18.
  3. Longevity of life will be the norm, Isaiah 65:20-22. Funeral homes will not be needed.
  4. Food production will be incredible, Isaiah 35: 1,2,7; Amos 9:13-15. Famine and poverty will not exist.
  5. There will be genetic changes in animals, Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25. Animals will not be carnivorous.
  6. And best of all, it will be a time of unparalleled peace, Isaiah 9:6-7; 32:17-18; 2:4. The world will see peace like never before. The prince of peace is on the throne.

How can one enter this kingdom? Nicodemus was confronted with this question centuries ago, John 3:3, 5.

  1. One must be born again, John 3:1-17 gives a fuller explanation of this. If you have further questions about this email the author.
  2. After the new birth one must make this kingdom his first priority, Matthew 6:33. This will lead to rich rewards, 1 Tim 2:11-12; Revelation 20: 4-6.

Longing for these days and living in hope of these days makes present sufferings, hardships, sorrow and tears worthwhile and bearable, (2 Cor 4:17). Jesus the king will reign on earth. In times like these, we can have hope for today (Psalm 46) and bright hope for tomorrow. It is because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, his promises for today, and his coming to set up his geo-political kingdom in the future. Jesus’ presence in his kingdom is the prayer (Matt 6:10) and the longing of all saints of the ages (Rev 6:10). Is it yours?

Marriage is Just A Piece of Paper???

Marriage is just a piece of paper? I hear statements like this often: “Marriage is more than a piece of paper. It takes trust, loyalty, love, faithfulness . . . .” So why get married? Of course a good marriage takes all those qualities and more, but is that the best way to think about this relationship? Is your birth certificate “just a piece of paper?” Is a car title “just a piece of paper?” Is your driver’s license “just a piece of paper?” Is your 1040 “just a piece of paper?” Are death certificates “just pieces of paper?” No, they are much more, and so is a marriage certificate. One can drive without a license, you can be alive without a birth certificate, and of course you can be dead without a death certificate. Yet all of those “pieces of paper” are helpful, useful, and in some cases, absolutely necessary for transactions and transitions.

It used to be (and still should be) that a wedding was the solemnization of vows “in the presence of God and the company of witnesses.” It publicized, solemnized, and legalized a relationship. It was a line in the sand, a post along life’s pathway saying officially, “two have become one” (Genesis 2:20). All of this was (and still is) good for human flourishing. Marriages should keep people together who ought to stay together even when things are going poorly. It can be security for offspring in these relationships. It should be a reminder of a promise made. It can be protection for people when things go wrong. Marriage certificates give the spouse rights. In life, death and “divorce,” unmarried couples don’t usually have this protection unless they draw up legal documents. The written covenant, which is an expression of a verbal covenant, gives both goals to strive for. You agree to love, honor and cherish each other in good times and bad times; in sickness and in health; whether rich or poor; until death do you part. It helps to completely define the relationship.

A good marriage takes love, trust, loyalty, commitment, sacrifice and more. In some ways, it can’t be reduced to mere paper. But, there are compelling reasons for those who commit, who covenant to co-habit for a lifetime to solemnize these relationships with marriage. It isn’t mere paper. This “mere paper” that represented in marriage is security, it is public commitment between two people, it is a promise to keep, it is a goal to work for, and frequently, a document to protect rights.

Some Biblical Thoughts On Being Offended

Some Christians/people take offense when none is intended.

If I am offended, I have responsibility, Matthew 18:15-18.

  • I can either deal with the offense biblically, or
  • Let love cover it, believing the best about people, see below, Proverbs10:12.

If I am easily offended, I may be ultimately selfish and not loving in some areas of my life.

  • 1 Cor 13:4, 5 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful . . .

If I easily get my feelings hurt, I may be defective in my view of ministry, i.e., I am not very Christ-like. I think my “feelings” and interests are more important than those of others.

  • Phil 2:3-4 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 

If I am offended, my response to offense is always wrong if it 1) seeks revenge or, 2) seethes in resentment.

1.    Destroys, acts to condemn, seeks revenge, Romans12: 17, 19; 1 Peter 3:9 
2.    Endures, Eph 4:26,27; Lev 19:18  “bears a grudge,” seethes in resentment;Psalm 37:1ff

If I am easily offended, I am usually proud.

  • Proud people usually struggle a great deal with correction or criticism.  They presume themselves to be right. Often they cannot bear that someone else has found an area where growth is necessary or a fault that may need corrected, Proverbs 13:1, 1 Peter 5:5.

If I am easily offended, I may not be teachable or correctable.

  • Proverbs 19:20; John 9:13-34

If I am easily offended, I am likely not very open to biblical teaching

God’s word offends, 2 Tim 3:16.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof (this is offensive), for correction, and for training in righteousness.

Jesus offended people–that is a shock to many.

  • . . .his sayings are often hard because they run counter to well-entrenched presuppositions and traditional assumptions of life and human relations.  . . . But the Jesus whom we meet in the Gospels, far from being an inoffensive person, gave offense right and left. Even his loyal followers found him, at times, thoroughly disconcerting.  He upset all established notions of religious propriety. He spoke of God in terms of intimacy which sounded like blasphemy. He seemed to enjoy the most questionable company. He set out with open eyes on a road which, in the view of ‘sensible’ people, was bound to lead to disaster,[1]John 6:60-69.
People easily offended, especially when no offense is intended, usually need to repent of their pride, selfishness, and lack of love. They need to develop the same attitude as Jesus Christ, Phil 2:5.

[1] F. F.Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, pp.14, 15.

Did Jesus Endorse Riots?

The story of Jesus clearing the temple (John 2:13ff) is used as justification for the rioting, looting and destruction of property going on today. I do not intend to be argumentative. I do intend to shed light on a misused passages of Scripture. Take a minute to read this:

1) According to F.F. Bruce, biblical NT scholar, “Northwest of the temple area stood the fortress of Antonia . . .garrisoned by a cohort of Roman troops under the command of a military tribune, (According to Josephus, Jewish Wars 5.8).” The fortress was connected to the outer court of the temple by two flights of steps, so that a garrison might intervene as quickly as possible in the event of rioting.” In Acts 21:31ff we see centurions (plural, at least 200 soldiers) sent in to save Paul’s life in the Jerusalem Temple [same place Jesus overturned the tables].

2) This fortress existed in the in the days of Christ, so whatever happened in John 2:13ff was not considered violent in nature because the garrison did NOT spring into action. No lives were lost and no permanent damage was caused, and no garrisons were called to quell the action. In the eyes of the garrison, and in the eyes of the money changers at the temple, what he did was not worthy of garrison intervention. I should add that the event left a lasting impression on Christ’s disciples (John 2:17), but it was far from a riot!

When God Seems Distant–Brief Thoughts

  • Recently someone told me that God seemed distant and asked me why that happens.   When God Seems Distant. . .
    • First, many saints of God have gone through what you are going through; see for example Job 23:1-4. Spurgeon struggled with depression. You are not alone in this.
    • Second, what is apparent (what seems to be) is not always reality. God is indeed “an ever present help” in times of trouble to trusting saints, Psalm 46. Learn to rely on Gods’ truth, not your feelings. You may not feel God’s presence. That does not mean he is not there. God wants you to trust in his Words, not your feelings. Make decisions based upon God’s truths, not your feelings, Gen 4:4-7. Lean to live your life based upon God’s principles, not your feelings. You can and must go against your feelings frequently. When “my feelings or passions” are in the driver’s seat of my life, the car (my life) usually goes the wrong direction. When God’s principles are in the driver’s seat, the car always goes the right direction. Let your poor feelings drive you to disciplined truth searches in his Word. If you don’t read your Bible daily and pray, you need to start to do this now in spite of how you feel. When you do right (know and depend upon his words) you will eventually feel right. Learn that troubles and hardships are signs of his loving disciplinary embrace, Hebrews 12:7.
    • Third, sometimes God seems distant not because he has drifted away, but because you/I have drifted away. He wants us to “believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him,” Hebrews 11:6. Sometimes God seems distant because there is something I know I should do, but haven’t done it.  Make an effort to be reconciled to someone.   Seek someone’s forgiveness.    Confess/forsake known sin. Those of us who live in western culture (you and me) have been poorly conditioned by our society. We think it is terrible if we don’t have what we want or if we aren’t supremely happy. Truthfully, the scriptures would tell us that happiness is not goal to be pursued; it is the result of pursuing a goal.  Satisfaction is the result of fidelity to a purpose. For the believer, “it is that the chief end of man is to know God and enjoy him forever.” Remember God is more concerned with your holiness than your happiness. Jesus Christ died on the cross to deliver you from the power of sin, so that 2 Cor 5:15 might be fulfilled in your life. All of that is not to say that God wants us sad or depressed. Quite the contrary, a victorious life is one that brings pleasure and joy to the genuinely born-again believer. Psalm 16:2; Psalm 63: 2-4.

Is There Any Reason To Obey God When Obedience Won’t Change An Undesirable Outcome?

Is there any reason to obey God when your obedience won’t change an undesirable outcome into a more desirable one? What if God told you, “Nothing you do, no obedience of any kind will change an undesirable outcome into a more desirable outcome?” Would you still do right? Well, that is exactly what happened to Josiah in 2 Kings 22:16, 17. The prophetess Huldah told him that disaster would come no matter what. Yet, Josiah continued with the most extensive reforms Judah had ever known (2 Kings 23:1-25). Verse 25 says: Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

Yet, the next verse states: Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger.

Josiah does right, and nothing changes. So why would anyone serve a God like that? Maybe because they love him for who he is and what he has already done in history past. Maybe because the Spirit of God has put in their heart a desire to see God pleased in spite of the outcome. If you are obedient for what you can get out of it, then ultimately you are not being obedient because you love and worship a God who is totally worthy of your worship. What you are trying to do is manipulate God into doing what you want him to do. You are not interested in obedience, you are interested in yourself, you are at the center of your universe, and you are hoping, praying that God would give you your selfish desires by means of a divine bargain. “I’ll obey you God, IF you bless me.” People like that fail to see that the blessing is in the doing, the satisfaction of knowing their creator is pleased with their behavior.

I confess that to one who isn’t born again, and probably too many who would claim to be, all of this seems like nonsense. Yet along with the Psalmist, the believer can say, “You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing,” Psalm 16:2

Do you love the gifts or the giver? The blessings or the blesser? The creator or the creation? Sometimes God will take away his gifts, his rewards, his response to your “desired outcome” for your obedience to remind you that it isn’t about the gifts, it is about enjoying the giver. On occasion, God removes the blessings so you can be prompted to delight in the blesser himself. The creator will sometimes spoil the pleasures of his creation for his children so that they won’t become ignorant idol worshippers and live like pagans who “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator,” Romans 1:25.

So if life is difficult for you, if it seems like you have been obedient with no result, remember that you are thinking like an unbeliever. Ask God to help you enjoy him and find joy as you gain a right perspective on himself. See also Psalm 73.