21 Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ 22 And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” 23 Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air… (Acts 22:21–23, NKJV)
Paul had told the crowd how Jesus appeared to him, commissioned him to be His apostle, and saved him from his sins (Acts 22:1-16). He told them how Jesus appeared to him again, warning him to flee Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-20). The people of Jerusalem continued listening to Paul until he said the word, “Gentiles” (v. 21). Their hearts were so filled with hatred and contempt that they would not even consider the thought that Gentiles could be in the kingdom of God. Their hearts were closed to the gospel, being hardened by prejudice. They were ready to kill Paul rather than hear the truth he preached. Have you already made up your mind about some Bible teaching without considering what the Scriptures actually have to say? You cannot learn and follow the truth unless your heart is open and receptive to examining the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Be willing to listen and to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:43–44, NKJV)
Jesus challenged His audience to examine why they argued with Him and opposed His teachings. Why did they refuse to know and abide in the truth (Jno. 8:31-32)? Why couldn’t they understand what He was saying? Not because it was unknowable, but because they were not listening to Him with willing hearts. They were not committed to knowing and following His word (v. 43). Why were their hearts so closed that they would not believe and follow Jesus? Because they desired the sins of the devil instead of the truth of God (v. 44). The devil is a liar who convinces people not to believe the Bible, the word of God. He lies about Jesus, the Son of God. He lies about His gospel, God’s power to save. He lies about Christians as they follow the truth of Christ. At some point, all who reject the word of Jesus must face what is apparent: They are children of the devil, not children of God. That which we desire will be reflected in our attitude and actions toward Jesus and His word of truth.
12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13, NKJV)
When was the last time you made it a point to commend the elders of your congregation? They labor among you, watching out for your soul (Heb. 13:17). They deserve to be honored for their faithful work. Moreover, they are to be esteemed highly in love because of their work. Being an elder in a church ought not be a thankless job, or one where criticisms and complaints arise to disrupt peace. While the elders do their God-given work, let the brethren yield to their oversight, heed their admonitions and lovingly esteem them for the work they do. God be thanked for godly, diligent elders and brethren who recognize them as a blessing from God.
27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” 28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27–28, NKJV)
Mary was greatly honored to be the mother of the Christ, the Son of God: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk. 1:42). Still, Jesus said the greater blessing comes to the person who listens to the word of God (taught by Christ) and obeys it. This person who obeys the Lord is spiritually fortunate. Here, then, is a clear lesson on the necessity of obedient faith. Hearing God’s word but not keeping it brings no blessing from God. We dare not minimize the value Christ put on obeying the word of God. If you want the spiritual blessings of salvation, a relationship with God and the hope of eternal life, hear and obey the gospel of Jesus (see Jas. 1:22-25).
But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. (1 Peter 4:7, NKJV)
Peter and those to whom he wrote lived in the last period of history, i.e., the last days. We do, too. The last days were inaugurated by the death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation of Jesus Christ, and will continue until He returns (1 Pet. 1:20; Acts 2:16-17; 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:2). Our prayers should reflect our faith that this is so. We should pray prudently and seriously. Our prayers should be offered to God with vigilance, not carelessness. “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas. 5:16). Although we do not know when, we do know this world is coming to an end. Allow this great truth to compel you to live a holy and godly life (2 Pet. 3:11).
10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:10–12, NKJV)
Christians can falter in their faith (Heb. 6:4-8). These Hebrew Christians were becoming sluggish and lazy, apathetic toward their hope and their place of service in the kingdom of God. They needed to remember that God is just and that He would not forget their devoted labor and love “toward His name”. Continue to be diligent in your faith, for there is no “full assurance of hope” in neglecting the Lord’s will. Faith thrives when it endures to the end. That is the kind of faith that inherits the promises of God.
34 “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:34–35, NKJV)
Our heart is the source of our words, expressing what is in our heart. Jesus is quite emphatic that good words do not proceed from an evil heart. Conversely, a good heart does not speak evil things. We deceive ourselves if we think we can speak evil things and yet lay claim to having a good heart. So, we must “either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit” (Matt. 12:33). Be careful of the words you speak. They define who you are. Your heart is known by your words, and by them you either will be justified or condemned in the day of judgment (Matt. 12:36-37).