Strive for Excellence #350

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Not a few live by the motto, “Do just enough to get by”. Mediocrity lowers expectations and revels in halfhearted effort. It misses many of life’s opportunities because it refuses to commit itself to excellence. When death comes our activity on earth will forever end (“the night is coming when no one can work”, Jno. 9:4). Because life is short we must devote our strength to being the best at all  we pursue that is holy, just and good. Those who succeed do not simply “get by” – they commit themselves to do their very best. Christians need this attitude of excellence. Devote yourself completely to God, be a “living sacrifice” and serve Him with all your might (Rom. 12:1).

A Pattern of Good Works #349

Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7  in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8  sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. (Titus 2:6-8 )

It is a tremendously important opportunity and responsibility to set an example for others. Young men are here exhorted to accept the challenge to order their minds and conduct in ways that impact those around them for truth and righteousness. Young Christians have many peers who do not share their faith. Set an example for the unbelievers that will influence them for Christ and their salvation. Be their reason to obey and praise God; not their reason to reject Christ and His gospel.

Blessed If You Do Them #348

13  You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:13-17)

Jesus teaches by His words and by His examples. Washing His apostles’ feet was a stirring lesson on humble service, given precisely when they were bickering among themselves who was greatest (Lk. 22:24). Here is another crucial lesson: Knowing plus doing the Lord’s will is blessed, while knowing yet failing to do His will is not blessed. It is not enough to say you know God’s will; He wants you to also do His will. When you know and do God’s will you show yourself to be a follower of Jesus.

Do Not Sin Willfully #347

26  For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27  but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26–27)

While some sins are committed in ignorance (a lack of knowledge), some sins are committed with full knowledge of their sinfulness (Acts 3:17; 1 Tim. 1:13). Notice in our passage that the human will at work both to receive the knowledge of the truth and to sin in spite of that knowledge. This is a clear warning not to sin deliberately. No sinner who willfully engages in sin will be forgiven while in open rebellion against the Lord. Willful sin shows one is not fearful of God’s fiery indignation against His adversaries. And make no mistake; when a Christian sins willfully he makes himself God’s enemy. If you know the truth, then abide in the truth (Jno. 8:31-32). If you do not know the truth, learn it and live it. Choosing not to know the truth of God will not save you in the day of judgment.

Life and Death #346

21  “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23  For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Philippians 1:21–24)

The Christian’s perspective of life and death is radically different from those who have no faith. Like the apostle Paul, we see both the advantage of life on earth and the far greater benefit of death. We do not fear death; neither should we fear life. Christian, you have work to do in the kingdom of God (Eph. 2:10). While you have life, commit yourself wholeheartedly to it. Yet, all the while live for heaven, for leaving this vale of shadow and tears for the eternal home of the soul is “far better”. As you have life, be sure you are living with Christ. And, as life on earth is yours, be sure you are living for heaven.

Can Anyone Forbid Water? #345

46  For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 47  “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:46-48)

God, by the Holy Spirit, bore miraculous witness that Gentiles “should hear the word of the gospel and believe” (Acts 15:7-8). The hearts of Gentiles, just like Jews, would be purified by faith (Acts 15:9). Therefore, no one could justly forbid water from Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:47). Since God accepts whoever “fears Him and works righteousness”, Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:35, 48). Sinners are saved when they fear God and obey His commands to repent and be baptized (Acts 17:30; 10:48). Anyone who says repentance is commanded to be saved while not commanding baptism for the same purpose is not teaching the whole counsel of God. Who are we to forbid baptism for salvation when God and Christ’s apostles commanded it for that very purpose? Who are we to withstand God? (cf. Acts 11:17)

God Commands Repentance #344

30  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31  because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30–31)

God is longsuffering and just. His character demands that He righteously judge and punish sin – God does not ignore sin. His character compels Him to offer merciful forgiveness by commanding all sinners everywhere to repent and thereby escape His wrath against sinners. So, rather than immediately intercede with punishment against sin, God commands repentance while assuring us there will be a day of judgment, and the Man God raised from the dead will be that judge; Jesus. If you want to escape divine punishment for your sins then you must obey God and repent. Do it now. One day God’s longsuffering will end and His judgment will begin (2 Pet. 3:9-10).

Accepted by God #343

34  Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35  But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (Acts 10:34-35)

Unlike humans, God does not form judgments based on outward appearances. Things like race, ethnicity, gender, social status, accent or physical features do not form God’s impression of us – or anyone else. His impartiality implies His just treatment of each person. With impartiality God places the same conditions on all who seek His acceptance. Peter clearly announced whom God accepts: “whoever fears Him and works righteousness”.  Reverent, obedient faith is essential to please to God. These in no way earn His approval, but they do demonstrate your faithful trust that God will indeed accept you when you fear Him and do His will. Fear God and work the righteousness He commands you in His word, and with impartiality and justice He will receive you.

Worship and Serve the Lord God #342

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10  Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” 11  Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:8–11)

The devil offered Jesus the world and its glory if only He would worship him. He still uses that line on people today. Those who yearn for what they see with their eyes yield to his temptation. They fall down before the devil and pay homage to him by fulfilling sinful lusts. But, Jesus’ daily purpose and deliberate decision was to only and always worship and serve only the Lord God. In due time the Lord God would bless Jesus with glory, honor and power (see Jno. 17:1-5; Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:9-11). Set your eyes on eternity, not on worldly attractions. Walk by faith, worshiping and serving the God of heaven and earth, and He will sustain you unto the day of eternity.

Do Not Tempt God #341

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” (Matthew 4:5–7)

The devil is a master manipulator. Appealing to pride, he tempted Jesus to put God to the test to see if He would keep His word. But, Jesus refused his enticement. The devil quoted Scripture, but he left out an important part of the passage (Psa. 91:11-12). Jesus was indeed the Son of God, and God did indeed promise His protective care. But Satan left out a statement that would have exposed his temptation: “To keep you in all your ways” (Psa. 91:11). Jesus knew God would protect Him as He did the Father’s will, but, not if His way was against God’s way. So, Jesus exposed Satan’s unholy use of God’s word and refused to put God to the test. As Jesus quotes Scripture here he teaches us an important lesson: God’s word harmonizes. The devil twists the Scriptures. You can resist sin’s temptation by knowing the Scriptures and by handling them carefully.