Devotional Thoughts for Today
Matt. 12:43-5 (NIV): “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”
It’s the job you’ve always wanted, and you thank the Lord for it. However, after 3 years of the daily grind of meetings, conference calls and business trips, often skipping church on Sundays, you can hardly remember the last time you have prayed or opened the Bible. The present condition is worse than the first!
The life of King Joash began quite inauspiciously. His father, King Ahaziah of Judah, and mother were murdered soon after his birth; then, his grandmother Athaliah “proceeded to destroy the whole royal family” (2 Chron. 22:10) so that she could rule Judah. Fortunately, someone rescued Joash and hid him at the temple for 6 years. Imagine that—six years of not seeing the sunlight!
But the tide of life turned in Joash’s favor when Jehoiada the priest, after successfully ousting Athaliah, made him the king; he was seven years old. And despite the sad and painful past, Joash, under the guidance of Jehoiada, “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD” (24:2), which included repairing the temple.
However, everything changed after Jehoiada died. Joash, after heeding bad advice, “abandoned the temple of the LORD . . . and worshiped . . . idols” (18). When Zechariah, the son of his mentor Jehoiada, spoke out, Joash, “not remember[ing] the kindness . . . Jehoiada had shown him” (22), killed him. Consequently, “because Judah had forsaken the LORD,. . . judgment was executed on Joash” (24). Not only was Judah defeated and looted by Aram, Joash was severely wounded as well. What did him in were his officials who “killed him in his bed” (25). The final condition of Joash was worse than the first.
Today’s parable actually had Israel in mind (Matt. 12:38-43). After comparing Israel’s unresponsiveness to His message to the responsiveness of the Ninevites to Jonah’s preaching, Jesus was underscoring the worsened condition of Israel’s heart.
How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen to us? For starters, don’t leave your heart and mind unoccupied: Fill your heart with gratefulness (Heb. 12:28 ESV) and humility (1 Pet. 5:6); fill your mind with the knowledge of God’s word (Heb. 4:6).
Dear Lord, I confess that I often do nothing about my declining spiritual life because to address it would mean having less time making money and doing the things that I enjoy. God, I don’t want to hit rock bottom spiritually; there is nothing good there. Help me to get serious about my spiritual life. Fill me with the Spirit. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 49
Lunch Break Study
Read 2 Pet. 2:20-22 (ESV): “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.  What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’”
2 Cor. 13:5 (ESV): “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
Rev. 2:4-5 (NASB): “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”
Question to Consider
- What concerns Peter? Why do you think that once the downward spiritual spiral is set off, the eventual condition often becomes worse than the initial condition?
- What does Paul suggest that we do to keep us from the downward spiritual spiral? How do we do this?
- What should we do once we realize what is causing us to be distant from God?
- He had the same concern that Christ had: the later state becoming worse than the former.Living the Christian life is not easy when temptations lurk everywhere. Anytime Christians sin rather ostentatiously, some probably expect divine punishment. When that doesn’t happen, they become emboldened to push the envelope. And once the devil, who always looks for someone (especially Christians) to devour (1 Pet. 5:8) is added to the mix, it can get exponentially worse.
- Paul recommends self-spiritual examination. How? I think we need to be honest about ourselves in the following areas: time spent praying, reading the word, offering, participating in church’s spiritual activities, etc. Some criteria are a matter of the heart: Do I really love God? Am I really dependent on Him? Do I even think about God? Do I truly believe in God?”
- Once we realize what or who is causing our downward spiritual spiral, God expects us to repent; that is, turn from the situation or person responsible for aiding and abetting our downward spiral. Example: when we first got married, we had an old black and white television set. We weren’t T.V. addicts, but we did watch Honeymooners that came on at 11:30 PM. Once we realize how much we loved that show, yet it affected our getting up in the morning (and morning devotions), we decided to get rid of the T.V.
Based on how you lived today (what you did, who you hung around with, what you said), examine your spiritual life. Do you need changes? In what areas? Giving? Character? Spending? Viewing habit? Forgiveness? Desire? Relationship? Figure it out and work on it. First step is to ask God for help.