September 7

Nehemiah 8:8-10 (NIV) 8They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. 9Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

Once the people dealt with the sin in their lives, they asked Ezra to read from the Book of the Law. When he opened the book, they all stood. Ezra began by praising God. All the people lifted their hands and joined in agreement that God was great, and then they bowed and worshipped. You'll find this natural order of things throughout Scripture. We come into His presence with thanksgiving and praise. Then we are drawn to worship in adoration, because we are undeserving of all His goodness.

Then Ezra began to read as the Levites spread throughout the congregation to help explain the word that was read. Ezra may have been reading in Hebrew as the Levites translated into Aramaic. Conviction of sin settled on the crowd as the Word was read, and they wept. The Word exposed the sin in their hearts and actions, and they were repentant of their past response to all of God's goodness in their lives. They could see how gracious it was of God to allow the nation to be restored.

But this was a time to rejoice. The walls were completed. The city was safe, and God had shown that His gracious hand was upon them. They had already dealt with sin in their midst. They had made restitution for their sins. Now it was time to celebrate. They were tired from a long stretch of hard labor. The Levites told them not to wallow in the past and the sins of which they had already repented. Now it was time to celebrate the goodness of God! When God really deals with us, and we come clean about our real condition, deal with the places we are not right with Him, then we need to move from grief to joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength to live in new life. Forgetting what is behind, we press forward in joy for all that God has done and is doing. Rejoice in His forgiveness. To wallow in past sins makes you ineffective in your new life. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Rejoice in the Lord always!

Consider: If in any area of your life that you are not right with God, repent, make the necessary changes, and then move from sorrow to joy because you are now right with God. The world needs to see the joy and peace that we have when we understand we are right with God.

September 7

2 Corinthians 3:6,17-18 (NIV) 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit

In this chapter, Paul shares a comparison of the fading glory of the old covenant and the surpassing glory of the new covenant that transforms the hearts of men. He has asked, "Who is up to the task of spreading the fragrant knowledge of Christ?" Then He says that we are, for the new covenant brings the life of Christ that enables us. The Spirit imbues us with His very life. The old regulations just pointed out sin and, therefore, sentences us to death.

The Spirit is the very presence of the Lord in us! He gives us the freedom to obey His voice and not hard cold rules. He can interpret the Spirit of the Word to us instead of being bound by strict legalistic interpretations. We are free from the chains of regulated behavior to obey the Spirit.

As we look to the Lord for direction and instruction, we reflect His glory. Instead of the cold, rigid rules, we act in the life giving Spirit. In doing so, we look more and more like Him. The attributes that are His are expressed through us, so that people increasingly see the glory of the Lord in our life, the work of His Spirit within us. The more we look to Him and walk in that communion, the more people see the likeness of Christ in us.

Consider: Does this describe your life? Are you being changed with ever-increasing glory? If not, perhaps you are not looking constantly to His Spirit but to the letter. Even in Christianity today there are those who look to hard cold letter instead of the Spirit of the Lord. Let His Spirit interpret the letter in a given situation and point you to the Scripture He would apply. Keep looking to Him expectantly for direction and instruction.