Have you ever been at the wrong place at the wrong time? That’s what happened to a man named Simon. He was traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. As he was heading into the city, a large crowd was coming out. They were shouting and yelling at a man who was badly beaten. He was struggling to walk under the heavy load of the cross He was carrying. As he watched, the man must have fallen right in front of him, and it was clear He couldn’t go any further.
Matthew 27:32 says, “Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross” (NLT). The word “forced” catches my attention here. Jesus asked us to voluntarily take up our cross daily, but Simon was forced to do it. I believe that he stuck around to watch the crucifixion and later learned to take up his dross daily on his own.
If you think about it, He was also turned around. He was headed into the city, and because he carried the cross, he had to make an about face to head the other direction. When we accept Jesus as our savior, we are to repent of our sins. That word “repent” means to turn away and go the other direction. As Simon watched Jesus forgive those who crucified Him, he too repented of the sins he had committed and began to live different.
You and I have to learn to take up our cross daily, crucify our fleshly desires to it and turn away from those desires daily. When God’s spirit resides in us, there is a constant battle between His spirit and our flesh. If we’re willing to crucify our sinful nature and obey God’s voice, our lives will be forever changed. It’s up to each one of us to learn the lessons from Simon’s brief mention in the Bible. He is a picture of what God wants to do in each of our lives.
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
When I was in high school, we would have 2 hour practices after school. Coach always started and ended practices with running. He would say, “Since we aren’t the tallest team, we are going to be the best conditioned team.” There were some brothers on the team who lived in some apartments across from the school. While running, we would say to each other, “Hey, once this is over, let’s go jump in the apartment pool.” The thought of jumping into that cool water was often enough to keep us going.
There was something about diving head first into that water after practice that was so refreshing. We would swim from one end to the other under water to make sure our whole body got cooled down. It was so refreshing, and we needed that because a couple of us worked jobs in the evenings. After all day of school and a two hour practice, we still had a four hour shift to complete before coming home and doing homework. Refreshment was needed.
There are times when we need spiritual refreshing as well. Sometimes things seem to hit us one after the other. It feels like we never get a break from it all. Those times of spiritual refreshing come and keep us going. Other times, we face the consequences of our actions, and those can lead us to spiritual exhaustion. The Bible says we can have spiritual refreshing in those times too. Acts 3:19 – 20 says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins. If you do, times of spiritual strength (refreshing in AMPC) will come from the Lord” (GNT).
The word “repent” there means to change your mind and purpose and then return to God. When you’re mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausted, you can change your mind and purpose behind doing things so that you bring honor to God. When you do, it’s like jumping into that pool after a two hour practice. God brings a refreshing into your life that brings spiritual strength with it. Just like everything else in Scripture, the first step in activating God’s promises starts with you.
What in your mind do you need to change today in order to return to God’s way of thinking?
If you haven’t been living for His purpose and you’re worn out, pray that God would help you to return to living for His purpose.
I think we can all agree that there is a difference between saying something and proving something. When we were kids, we all had that friend that told tall tales. He was related to famous people. He was going to be on TV. He had a hundred dollars. You name it, he either did it or had it. After a while, we found the phrase, “Prove it!” It turns out, he could tell you just about anything, but he couldn’t prove any of it. Without proof, we had no reason to believe the things he said.
When I was younger, I heard someone ask, “If you were to be accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prove it?” That’s a tough question we should all think about. A court can’t convict anyone unless there is some form of evidence against them. In some cases, that evidence comes from first hand witnesses. Other times it comes from physical evidence left behind. What evidence are you leaving behind for others to know you are a Christian? Can others eye witnesses tell by how you live that you’re a Christian?
In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist was out at the river baptizing people when the religious leaders came to take a look. One of the things he said to them was, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (NLT). He knew they were manufacturing false evidence to try to prove they were righteous, but their lives contradicted that evidence. Jesus later said they were whitewashed tombs. They looked good on the outside, but were full of death on the inside.
Today’s devotion is not to say that you earn salvation by your works – that’s what the religious leaders were trying to do. It’s saying when you truly experience the power of God in your life, it changes you. Your life changes inside and out. You find that going to church isn’t evidence that you’re a Christian – living for God is. When you experience the power of salvation, you begin to leave evidence everywhere that you have repented and followed Christ. My challenge to you today is to take an honest look at the evidence in your life. What does it point to? Is it manufactured or is it natural from a changed heart and life?
It’s been my experience that there are different types of being sorry. The first type is one we’ve all been guilty of. It’s the “sorry I got caught” sorry. You’re forced to say you’re sorry because you were busted, but the only thing you’re really sorry about is that you got caught. There’s also the “sorry” sorry. That’s when you do something and do truly feel bad about it. You may or may not apologize with this one because there’s no accountability. Then there’s the “sorry after I got caught” sorry. With this one, you got busted, but that triggered the true sorry response. You realize you got out of control and apologize for it.
In II Samuel 11, David should have gone off to war, but he didn’t. He stayed behind and sent someone else to do the hard work in the war. Then when the final battle was to take place, David would go lead that charge, and take credit for the whole victory. While he stated behind, he saw a beautiful woman bathing. He sent for her and slept with her knowing she was married. When she told him she was pregnant, he sent for her husband to come back from the war hoping he would sleep with her and would think the baby was his own. When that plan failed, David had him killed in battle.
David sent for the woman, married her, and that was that. Well, at least until the prophet came and called David out. David broke down. He had a “sorry after I got caught” sorry moment. In that sorrow, he wrote one of the most heartfelt repentant prayers in Psalm 51:7-10. “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.”
David recognized right away that his sin was a heart issue. He also knew that even though he was guilty of adultery and murder, God could forgive him and restore him. He recognized that God responds to us when we truly are sorry for our sins and aren’t just offering lip service to him. He wrote in verses 16-17, “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” The type of sorry we are over our sins matters to God. He’s looking at our heart more than our words.
As you read the Old Testament in the Bible, you come across several places where the nation of Israel were summoned to pray to God as one nation. It was usually during times of captivity that they remembered the Lord, fell on their knees, repented of their sins and prayed. God heard their prayers every time, delivered them from bondage and returned them to their land. Some times it only took a few people to humble themselves before God and He would rescue them. I don’t know why sometimes it took the whole nation and others it didn’t, but I do know that God hears our prayers.
Today is the National Day of Prayer. It’s a day where we as believers have an opportunity to pray with a unified voice for our country and to repent of our sins as a nation. I understand that most Christians may not join in this day of prayer and certainly not all Americans will. Perhaps today will be one of those days where God will listen to the voice of a few and restore an entire nation. Today could be the day that starts a revival that turns the hearts of our people back to God. Revival is sparked by a few and then spreads untamed across the land. Will you be one of the few that sparks it?
The most famous scripture used for days like today is II Chronicles 7:14. It says, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (NLT)” This requires more than a one day commitment of prayer. It requires continual prayer for this nation. It requires us, who are called by His name, to seek His face beyond a day of prayer. The Amplified version says, “Pray, seek, crave and require of necessity my face.” We have got to seek God as if He were a necessity like air in our lungs if we want to see this nation return to Him.
I’m glad that we live in a nation where all but two presidents since George Washington have set aside national days to pray and to seek God’s face on behalf of our nation. The leadership that God has placed in our nation has always understood the value of prayer of its people for the nation. It just hasn’t always been understood by the people. When we pray for our nation, God hears our prayers and moves on our behalf. God desires to restore this or any nation who will get on their knees and seek Him. It starts with a remnant of people who will accept that call. It starts with you and me. Will you join other believers today and in the future to pray for our nation?