Devotional Thoughts for Today
Jeremiah 9:4-5 (ESV)
Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.
Growing up, our schools taught us the dangers of peer pressure, often in the context of substance abuse and other unwanted behaviors. Sigmund Freud studied how an individual succumbs to the peer pressure of a group: his research showed that as individuals feel a sense of worth and belonging to the larger group entity, they will forego their own conscious personalities for the sake of the group. Surprisingly, much of this happens at the sub-conscious level, which makes it difficult to realize the influences of peer pressure; and so this is why peer pressure can be so dangerous—who you surround yourself with is who you will become.
In the context of our passage today, Jeremiah mourns over the influence the people of God have over one another. These are not just outsiders, but fellow believers who are deceiving each other to fall away from the Lord. This is the power we have over one another: we can either influence for the better, or in this case, for worse. For this reason, the author of Hebrews reminds us, “Let us consider how we may stir one another to love and toward good deeds.” To understand the word stir here is to imagine the spurs of a horse rider’s boots to keep the horse under its control. And so to love is more than simply to encourage one another and get along; it is also to correct and teach when necessary, even at the cost of awkward confrontations.
As we understand the power of influence, take a moment to ask yourself this: Who are the people I am influencing? Who am I being influenced by? Jeremiah clearly warns us to be wise in the people that we surround ourselves with. Are we accountable to a greater body that stirs us toward love and good deeds? May there be people in our lives who will not be afraid to gently rebuke us, to show grace in our failures, and to exhort us in love. Wherever we are, may we seek to be a body of believers who can influence one another to be more like Christ. Take a few moments to pray for our communities and the people in our lives.
Prayer: Father, I thank You for the people You’ve provided in my life. I pray You will use the people around me to speak truth into my life. Give me a humble heart to receive correction when needed. I also pray I can be a godly brother/sister to the people around me and that I may be a light to them. Amen.
Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 10
Lunch Break Study
Read Galatians 2:11-14 “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Questions to consider
- On what grounds does Paul condemn Peter?
- What does it mean to “be in step with the truth of the gospel?”
- What can we learn about Paul’s confrontation with Peter?
- Paul accuses Peter of allowing the fear of man (the circumcision party) to influence him, thereby separating himself from the Gentile believers. Commentator George points out, “They were acting as if their Gentile Christian brothers and sisters were still sinners while they, because of their ritual purity and obedience of the law, stood in a different, more favorable relationship to God.”
- Later in verses 15-16, Paul establishes the basis for his accusation against Peter. He reminds the believers that we are justified not based on the law or even our cultural upbringing, but Christ alone justifies us. The truth of the gospel is that ALL have been justified, both Jew and Gentile, so we are to welcome and love all.
- At a glance, it may seem as though Paul is out of line in speaking to Peter, the well-respected leader among the apostles. If I were Peter, I may have been a little embarrassed and offended for confronting me in front of others. But we see later in 2 Peter 2:14-17, Peter continues to be in good relations with Paul referring to him as his “beloved brother.” Peter is able to receive correction with humility while Paul corrects for the sake of the gospel.
Consider the people Jesus chose to surround himself with—uneducated fisherman, hated tax collectors, society-rejected women, and a bunch of nobodies. In a world that tells us to be affiliated with successful and like-minded people, may we be able to see people as Christ did. May we surround ourselves with brothers and sisters who will keep us accountable to the gospel. Spend a few moments to think about the people in your life— it can be a close family member or somebody you see on the way to work. May we be Christ to them.