Room for more. We may say it after a serving of delicious pie or cake. But do we say it about our brotherly love toward our fellow Christians? “We already love one another,” we might respond. The Thessalonian Christians were taught to love one another, and they were practicing it: “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more” (1 Thess. 4:9-10). There was room for more. Our capacity for brotherly love has no limit. It grows as we practice it. Later, Paul commended these brethren because “the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2 Thess. 1:3). Fraternal affection in the body of Christ is a mark of our mutual purposes, shared salvation, and common faith (1 Pet. 4:8-10; Jude 3; Titus 1:4). The next time you have room for more pie or cake, remember to make room for more brotherly love. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12:10).
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:17–18, NKJV).
It is comforting to know the Lord hears the cries of the righteous in their time of trouble. Through the psalmist David, the Holy Spirit explains who the righteous are that God hears and saves. It is “those who have a broken heart…such as have a contrite spirit.” God’s deliverance from sin’s crushing weight is available to all of us (1 Tim. 2:4; Rom. 1:16). But God’s salvation from sin’s trouble is received by the person who approaches Him with a heart burst into pieces because of sin. Crushed and crumbling in spirit, this is the picture of godly sorrow that produces “repentance leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10). The broken heart, the contrite spirit, no longer sees sin as desirable, alluring, exciting, and fulfilling. Convicted by its shameful disgrace against the Almighty, sin’s abhorrence and destruction are acknowledged (Ps. 51:3). We must come to ourselves like the prodigal son and realize the end of our sin is eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Today is the moment not to harden our hearts toward God and our sins against Him (Heb. 3:7-13). The Lord is near, wanting, willing, and waiting to save souls troubled by sin. Come to God with convicted hearts of faith, crushed in humble sorrow by sin, and obey Him. God will hear and save you (Acts 2:37-41).
7 I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons. 8 I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. 10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:7–11, NKJV)
Who is your counsellor? God had become David’s counsellor. God’s word instructed David and turned his heart to thankful praise for God’s guidance and assurances. In the night, David’s emotions yearned for God’s continual presence. The guidance and powerful comfort of God’s hand enriched his heart with gladness, removing doubts during troublesome times. David was secure because God was with him (“I shall not be moved,” v. 8). He lived in the hope of future life with God beyond the grave. God would make it so. His “Holy One” would not see corruption. David’s hope was fulfilled when Jesus, his seed, was resurrected (v. 10; Acts 2:27, 31; 13:35-37). David’s hope stirs our souls to follow the example of his faith. God’s “path of life” is where we, too, have “fullness of joy” in God’s presence (v. 11; 2 John 9; 2 Cor. 6:16-18). God’s word is the path of life that leads to eternal pleasures under the watchful guidance of God’s mighty hand (v. 12). Like David, let us praise God for the counsel of His word and rejoice in the hope set before us (Heb. 6:18-19).
3 The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. 4 Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!” 5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. 6 The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. 7 Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:3–7, NKJV).
Hebrew tradition ascribes Psalm 116 to Hezekiah upon his deliverance from death by Yahweh (Isa. 38). Others view it as a psalm of thanksgiving on the occasion of some other imminent peril (Spence, Pulpit Commentary, Psalms III, 70). Three attributes are ascribed to the Lord in thankful praise of His salvation from the “trouble and sorrow” of death and despair (v. 3). (1) God is gracious (v. 5). His “throne of grace” is ever accessible to our pleas for help in times of need (Heb. 4:15-16). (2) God is righteous (v. 5). He has promised to hear and answer our prayers (1 John 3:22; 5:14-15). He is upright to keep His word. (3) God is merciful (v. 5). His compassion compels Him to protect and secure us in our time of danger and doubt (Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 13:5-6). Christians learn to cast our anxious cares upon the Lord because we know He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6-7). God still hears us and delivers our souls from the sorrow, despair, and terror of sin and death. Our souls rest in God’s character. He will deliver us from every evil work (Phil. 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 4:17-18). “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). Let us rest in God and praise Him, for He has dealt bountifully with us in Christ Jesus (Ps. 116:7).
Through the apostle John, the Holy Spirit draws our attention to the kind of love God has for us. He says to “behold,” to see, be aware of and understand the nature of God’s love that blesses us to be called God’s children. John will go on to proclaim, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Today, let us behold and understand the depth and breadth of God’s love from three vantage points. (1) God’s love is sacrificial. He “so loved the world” that He gave His Son to be lifted up on a cross to deliver sinners from death (John 3:14-17). Love gives of itself to serve others (see the example of Jesus, Eph. 5:25-27). (2) God’s love is merciful. God’s “great love” is adorned by His “rich mercy” (Eph. 2:4). Love acts out of mercy to relieve others. With tender compassion, God saw our sin dilemma (death, Rom. 6:23) and graciously saved us through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:5-8). (3) God’s love is purposeful. “In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Love takes the initiative; it is neither negligent nor apathetic. As we behold God’s love for us, may we follow John’s appeal, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:12–16, NKJV)
The Lord heard and answered the lepers’ pleas for mercy. One of them not only knew he needed mercy, but he also knew how blessed he was when Jesus healed him (vs. 15-16). We all need God’s mercy. Indeed, we all live under the merciful forbearance of God (Acts 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:8-9). Are we thankful for God’s mercy? The Samaritan was a thankful man. See his humility as he falls on his face at Jesus’s feet, thanking Him for being healed. Are we like the other nine? Once fed and filled by God’s loving mercy, do we turn away with no thought of gratitude and humble thanks? God knows when we are not thankful to Him (Lk. 16:17-18). The Samaritan had faith. Jesus told him, “Your faith has made you well” (Lk. 17:19). Faith not only compels us to seek mercy; it induces us to fall at Jesus’s feet with humble thanks for His mercy that saves us (Titus 3:4-5). God is rich in mercy and saves us by His grace through our faith in Christ (Eph. 2:4-9). Like the healed Samaritan, let us humbly and thankfully glorify God for His mercy.
Christians possess riches unknown to the world. Our heavenly treasures abound, and we praise God for the spiritual bounty He gives us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We do not measure our wealth in dollars, land holdings, stocks, bonds, commodities, or other material possessions. All these riches are fleeting and attended by sorrow (Eccl. 5:10-17). Spiritual blessings are beyond the reach of moth and rust and thieves (Matt. 6:19-20). Here are just some of them: (1) Redemption from sin by God’s grace (Eph. 1:4-14). We are chosen, adopted, accepted, forgiven, saved, given an inheritance, and sealed. (2) Full assurance of understanding in Christ (Col. 2:2-3). His disciples abide in His word, know the truth, and are freed from sin (John 8:31-32). (3) Prayer (Phil. 4:6). Our Father hears the prayers of His children, so we continue earnestly in prayer (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). (4) The church (Eph. 1:22-23). We are members of Christ’s body and, therefore, “members of one another” (Acts 2:47; Rom. 12:4-5). What a rich blessing to be brothers and sisters together in Christ (Matt. 12:46-50). (5) An eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:18). Peter assures us it is incorruptible, undefiled, and reserved in heaven for us (1 Pet. 1:4). (6) A living hope (Eph. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3). Our hope secures our souls because Christ arose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:19-20; Acts 24:15). (7) Joy (Phil. 4:4). We rejoice in the Lord always, in good and troubled times (James 1:2-4). God does not add sorrow to those He enriches (Prov. 10:22). The world tries to do so, but we are of good cheer because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Gallup reported this week that “U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time.” “In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999” (news.gallup.com). New Testament Christians know the spiritual value of being members of a local body of saints (1 Cor. 12:12-27). The Lord arranged local churches for our spiritual edification (which includes worship), the spread of the gospel, and relief of needy Christians (Acts 2:42-45; 4:32-35; 11:22; 20:28-35). Churches of Christ assemble on the first day of the week to offer God worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Scripture shows how true worship honors God and strengthens Christians in the faith (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19). Therefore, membership in a local church is a responsibility of great importance to Christians (Acts 9:26-28; Rom. 16:2). Being a member of a local church identifies each Christian as part of a working group of believers striving to do God’s will (Rom. 12:4; Eph. 4:16; Rev. 2-3). Christians will be active members of faithful congregations (there is no floating membership or “membership-at-large” in the New Testament). May each Christian be committed to fully participating in assembled worship and the other scriptural work given the local church by the Lord (Heb. 10:24-25).
The Christians to whom Paul wrote these words were troubled with “disputes over doubtful things” (Rom. 14:1). The urge to demand others conform to our conscience over matters of liberties is strong. Left unchecked in our hearts, it leads to contempt and condemnation of each other (Rom. 14:3, 10). Critically condemning personal liberties had to stop to avoid being stumbling blocks and promote unity (Rom. 14:13; 15:1-3). Paul is not advising and advancing doctrinal and moral unity in diversity in Romans 14. He is advancing unity by respecting the consciences of each other in matters that are “clean,” “good,” “acceptable,” “pure,” in things God does “not condemn” (Rom. 14:14, 16, 18, 20, 22). By focusing our faith on God through His word guiding us, we avoid factiousness over different consciences toward God-allowed liberties. Christians glorify God by hearts filled with joy, peace, and hope by the power of God’s Spirit guiding us in truth (Rom. 15:5-7, 13).
1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: (Luke 15:1–3, NKJV).
Simply put, a parable is an illustration of divine truth. The illustration is taken from ordinary life events, from which the spiritual lesson is drawn. Greek dictionaries define a “parable” (parabole) as “a similitude…fictitious narrative (of common life conveying a moral)” (Strong’s, G3850). Understanding the parables depends on the condition of one’s heart. Jesus explained this in the parable of the soils, which He said is key to understanding the parables (Mark 4:13, 14-20). An open, honest heart receives its meaning, holds it fast, and bears good fruit (Luke 8:9-10, 15). Hard, closed hearts do not receive God’s word and fail to understand and apply the parables of the Lord (Matt. 13:10-22). In today’s passage, the scribes and Pharisees complained against Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners. They distorted the truth of the matter. The sinners came to Jesus to hear Him teach. He did not endorse their sins; just the opposite. He taught them the way of God in truth to save them. Jesus answered His critics with three parables. God is compassionate toward sinners (Luke 15:4-7), God values each and every soul (Lk. 15:8-10), and God mercifully forgives sinners who repent and return to Him (Luke 15:11-24). Like the elder son, the complainers were ungrateful of their blessings and unmerciful toward sinners (Lk. 15:25-32). Powerful lessons for those who have “ears to hear” (Matt. 13:9).