32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him. (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV)
Obedience is worthless when it does not come from a heart given to God completely. The scribe in today’s text perceived this truth when Jesus told him the first of all the commandments was to love God fully (Mk. 12:28-30). May we grasp this fundamental truth; Out of the heart comes the obedience that pleases God. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15). Without love for God in our hearts, our outward actions of obedience are null and void. Christ calls us to be obedient children, so we will not discount the place of obedience in the Christian’s life (1 Pet. 1:13-16, 22). Obedience from the heart pleases God and frees us from the bondage of sin (Rom. 6:17-18).
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. (Acts 10:1–2, NKJV)
People devoted to their families, jobs, and country are assets to any society. Those who respect God, pray, and are generous bring honor to themselves by blessing others. Cornelius, the centurion, was such a man. Just in his dealings with his fellow man, he had a good reputation among those who easily could be his adversaries (Acts 10:22). Many would say such people will surely go to heaven. Yet, for all his good traits, Cornelius was lost. His morality could not save him. His prayers did not save him. An angel appearing to him did not save him (Acts 10:3-4). The angel told him to send for Peter, who would tell him what he “must do” (Acts 10:6). Peter preached the gospel to him so he could be saved (Acts 11:14; 15:7-9). Peter told this moral, devout, prayerful, charitable person to “fear God and work righteousness” to be accepted (saved) by God (Acts 10:34-35). Peter commanded Cornelius “to be baptized in the name of the Lord” after hearing and believing the gospel (Acts 10:48). Good, moral people continue to need salvation from sin (Rom. 3:23). Their salvation is in Christ through His gospel, nothing else (Acts 4:12; Rom. 1:16; 6:17-18).
21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21–22, NKJV)
Wanting to follow Jesus is not the same as actually following Him. That may seem obvious, yet we easily convince ourselves we follow Him when the evidence says otherwise. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Doing the Father’s will begins in the heart and produces conduct consistent with the heart’s intention and devotion. This man had kept the commands of God from his youth (Mk. 10:19-20). But he lacked one thing. His heart was greedy and he trusted in riches more than God (Mk. 10:24). His love for personal possessions controlled his conduct toward others. His unwillingness to sell and give exposed his selfish heart. Why do we emphasize complete obedience to Jesus? Not because it earns us treasures in heaven, but because it expresses a heart that loves God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mk. 12:30; Rom. 6:17-18). One thing prevented this man from having heavenly treasures. If even one thing is hindering your obedience from the heart, repent, and do what Jesus says (Lk. 6:46). Jesus knows our hearts just like He knew this man’s heart. Do we (2 Cor. 13:5)?
36 And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37 When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” 39 And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. (Mark 1:36–39, NKJV)
Many people still look for Jesus. He said, “seek, and you will find” (Matt. 7:7). If you are not looking for Jesus, you should be (cf. Jno. 1:45). Scripture says God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). If you are searching for Him, then the relevant question is, “Where are you looking for Jesus?” Some think they find Jesus through religious tradition (cf. Matt. 15:7-14). Others, through an unexpected, even extraordinary personal experience (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9-12). Some preachers tell people belief, and the sinner’s prayer is the way to find Jesus (cf. Acts 9:9, 11; 22:16). I wonder, how many people say they found Jesus through gospel preaching (1 Cor. 1:21-24)? Yet, Jesus said that is why He came to earth (Mk. 1:38, 14-15). People “found” Jesus (they believed and followed Him) when He preached the gospel of the kingdom. If you want to find Jesus, you can (Matt. 10:28-30). Open the gospel He preached and read it, believe it, and obey it (Rom. 10:17; Lk. 6:46; Acts 10:34-35; 2:36-41). Seek, and you will find.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; (Romans 1:28, NKJV)
By definition, a debased mind is “unapproved” and, by implication, “worthless.” It does not stand the test and, therefore, is not approved. The Greeks used the word translated “debased” to metals and coins that failed the assayer’s test. So, it was cast aside, rejected, “reprobate” (KJV, ASV). The debased mind does not appear suddenly. The Holy Spirit explained that it develops when people no longer approve of holding on to their knowledge of God. Romans 1 catalogs the process and effects of divesting oneself of the knowledge of God (1:19-25). Foolishly refusing to hold God in one’s knowledge results in all manner of immoral conduct (1:26-27, 28-32). What we retain in our minds shapes our lives. We invariably spiral downward when we are comfortable with not retaining God in our thoughts. The gospel of Christ has the power to save us from the sin that is formed in and results from debased minds (Rom. 1:16-17). The gospel renews our minds when we believe, repent, and obey the Lord Jesus (Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 12:1-2). Otherwise, our sin put us under God’s wrath and righteous judgment of death (Rom. 1:18, 32). Retain God in your knowledge and follow His will.
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13–15, NKJV)
Life can turn on a dime. Plans made are often interrupted by forces beyond our control. Life is uncertain and brief. Time and chance play in our lives (Eccl. 9:11-12). When we live as if we control time and events, we are shortsighted, unwise, and even reckless with our lives. Freewill certainly plays a role in our lives as we anticipate tomorrow. Not only our choices but the consequences of others’ choices can have dramatic, even deadly effects. The driver who chooses to drive under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is a hazard to himself and others. Innocent lives suffer. Combining these realities with life’s brevity (life is like a disappearing vapor) draws our attention to the Lord’s will instead of selfish desires. We live under His providence and should learn contentment in times of both good and bad. As Job said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity” (Job 2:10)? Life happens. Be sure you are trusting the Lord’s will daily regardless of what happens.
8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. (Psalm 107:8–9, NKJV)
In the movie, Shenandoah, the father character played by Jimmy Stewart, prayed, “Lord, we cleared this land, we plowed it, sowed it and harvested it. We cooked the harvest, it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you. Just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.” Self-reliance without gratitude toward God is self-defeating foolishness (Rom. 1:21-22). Who gave us the land the clear? Who gave us our bodies with the strength to plow, sow, and harvest the land? Who gave us air to breathe that sustains our lives? It is God who abounds in goodness, who gives us “rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). Truly, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” (Jno. 3:27). Beyond these material things, God fills the hungry soul with bread from heaven (Jno. 6:35, 51). His enduring mercy redeems us from our spiritual enemies and gathers us safely unto His rest (Psa. 107:1-3; Matt. 11:28-30; Eph. 2:4-7). “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).
7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:7-8, NKJV)
God will provide. He had previously provided Abraham protection from danger, victory over foes, and abundant blessings. God had given Abraham an heir in his old age, Isaac, the child God promised him. Now, Abraham’s faith is supremely tested by God’s command to “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen. 22:2). With godly fear, Abraham obeyed the Lord (Heb. 11:17). God prevented Isaac’s death and provided a ram for the offering. Abraham named the place “The-Lord-Will-Provide” (Gen. 22:12-14). The imagery of this event shines brilliantly in the gospel. In love, God gave His only begotten Son to die for humanity as an offering for our sins (Jno. 3:16; Rom. 5:6-11; Heb. 10:5-10). God will provide for our needs. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:31-32)? Abraham did not forsake God, and God did not forsake him. God assures His faithful ones, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Oh yes, God will provide.
18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18–21, NKJV)
A growing number of educators, societal-influencers, and politicians are vigorously engaged in undermining the God-given family structure with their transgender ideology. One writer noted, “Nancy Pelosi and her fellow gender-inclusive enthusiasts have taken a bold and much-disparaged move to erase language that expresses the reality of familial relationships. In the name of inclusivity, words like “father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, son-in-law, and daughter-in-law” have been targeted for erasure from House proceedings” (Kimberly Ells, “The endgame of transgender ideology is to dismantle the family,” mercatornet.com). Wives (feminine gender) and husbands (masculine gender) form marriages, not the fornication of same-sex unions (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Gender is natural and biological; it is not a person’s fluid, personal perception of themselves. Children are the natural result of marriage’s union of male and female (Gen. 1:28; 2:24; 4:1-2). It is not bigotry to recognize these fundamental truths. Sin and moral chaos result when God’s truth is discarded, not the utopian unity offered by refusing to retain God and His truth in our knowledge (Rom. 1:21-32).
At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. (Acts 9:36, NKJV)
Tabitha’s name in the Greek language was Dorcas, which meant “gazelle.” Like a light-footed antelope blessed with speed, agility, and grace, Dorcas moved about graciously meeting the needs of others by her good works and charitable deeds. She personifies “pure and undefiled religion” that relieves “orphans and widows in their trouble” (Jas. 1:27). With the faith of a worthy woman, she extended her hand to the poor and needy by making clothing items for them (Acts 9:39; Prov. 31:19-20). Her acts of kindness blessed others’ lives and enriched the cause of the gospel (cf. Acts 9:31). Women of all ages will draw closer to God by imitating her faith. We also learn that it does not take some great and grand thing to get God’s attention. Simple acts of faith that serve others are seen and rewarded by the Lord (Matt. 25:34-40). Jesus said, “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42). Dorcas was “rewarded” with being raised from the dead (Acts 9:37-41). No doubt, her restored life meant she continued her good works and compassionate deeds. But her lasting reward is eternal life in Christ (Matt. 25:34, 46). May we lay up treasures in heaven by following her example of faith (1 Tim. 6:17-19).