Sorrow and Salvation #880

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:3–5, NKJV)

Sorrow is not repentance. Nor is sorrow equivalent to salvation. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10). Judas was remorseful upon seeing Jesus condemned as a result of his betrayal. Instead of turning back to God, his despair led him to suicide. Clearly, his sorrow did not save him. The Lord is ready to forgive every soul (including you) whose sorrow over sin leads them to repent and follow Him. For the soul who is not a Christian, godly sorrow for sin leads to repenting and being baptized to be saved (Acts 2:37-38). For the disciple of Christ who falls into sin, godly sorrow produces repentance and prayer (Acts 8:20-24; 1 Jno. 1:9). The path out of sin’s sorrow is not despair and death; it is forgiveness through godly sorrow and repentance.

Uncircumcised in Heart and Ears! #879

51  “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,” (Acts 7:51–52, NKJV)

As Stephen addressed the Sanhedrin council, he leveled the charge of stubbornness against them as the “betrayers and murderers” of Jesus Christ, the “Just One” (Jer. 23:5-6). They bore the outward sign of the covenant in the flesh (circumcision), but inwardly their hearts and ears were uncircumcised; covered and calloused by their rebellion against God. They were guilty of resisting the Holy Spirit by refusing the word of God that the Spirit delivered through the prophets. Then, they fully rejected the Son of God Himself. This should be our warning not to believe we can please God yet reject His word, the inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Our heart and ears are uncircumcised when we resist and refuse the inspired word of God. Let us open our hearts and ears to God’s word every day, and follow Jesus Christ, who Himself is the Word (Jno. 1:1-3, 14).

The Pride of Life #878

16  But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17  Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:16–17, NKJV)

Pride prevents many from recalling the certainty and the brevity of life as they plan their strategies for life. Or, at least, pride prevents them from allowing these realities to turn their attention to God when making life choices. These arrogantly boast in themselves and their ability to live without God, to be the master of all they survey – even though they do not control life’s uncertainty or its brevity. Convincing themselves they are sufficient without God, they choose to live their uncertain and brief life sinning against the very One who gave them life. On the other hand, when we know and do God’s will (that which is “good”), we avoid sin and instead, attain the real purpose of life: to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13). May we ever humble ourselves before God to do His will. May we do the good His word reveals to us, and so by avoiding sin, equip ourselves for life, death and eternity.

Life and the Lord’s Will #877

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)

Two prevailing realities of life compel us to depend upon God and to respect His will. First, life is uncertain. To paraphrase Scottish poet Robert Burns, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. The uncertainty of life shows the wisdom of remembering God  and His will in all we do. Without Him we are left rudderless on the restless, stormy sea of life. Second, life is brief. We are here a very brief time, then like the vapor rising from the tea kettle, our life on earth is done. The brevity of life forces us to come face to face with our own mortality, and our need for guidance to a better shore. The Lord’s will, spoken in His Scriptures, assures us of spiritual life in Christ, and of eternal life when this life fades away (Jno. 10:27-28; 11:25-26; 1 Jno. 5:11-13). Put the Lord’s will first in your life. Then, come what may, life in the Son will be certain and never-ending.

Proven Character #876

19  But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20  For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21  For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22  But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23  Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.” (Philippians 2:19–23, NKJV)

Is there someone in your life on whom you know you can depend; A friend, a sibling, a fellow-Christian? All you have to do is call, and they are there in a heartbeat to help you. They share your values, your goals and your faith. Their character has been proven reliable by deeds of the past; you do not doubt they are genuine. They are an asset in accomplishing the task before you. Such a man was Timothy. Paul trusted him; he was trustworthy, honest and sincere. Paul knew Timothy would get the job done. Be a Timothy to others. Show yourself to be genuine in your concern for others. Be willing and ready to serve them. Be dependable, trustworthy and honest. By doing so you equip yourself to become a servant of proven character in the kingdom.

Shall we do evil that good may come? #875

And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:8, NKJV)

The end does not justify the means. The apostle Paul sarcastically slays the slanderous report that he was guilty of preaching such falsehood. “The end justifies the means” is worldly wisdom that rationalizes evil, cloaking it behind a veil of good intentions and good results. It is an outcome-based approach to spiritual things that uses results to justify unscriptural means of obtaining them. For example, the doctrine that there are “many ways to heaven” illustrates this futile attempt to approve what God rejects. The end (heaven) is used to prejudice against how one gets there (the means). “As long as you are sincere” replaces what God’s word says about how to get to heaven – because the end is good. But, while the end (heaven) is good, Jesus is the only Way (means) to the Father in heaven (Jno. 14:6). So, as grand and glorious as heaven is, our “means” of going there is determined by God. We cannot say “there are many ways (means) to heaven, so choose the way that suits you,” when God says there is only one Way (and that is the way that suits Him). All other ways fail. God’s word reveals the end and the means to attain what is good; both must be respected.

“I find no fault in Him” #874

Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” (John 19:4, NKJV)

Repeatedly the Roman governor examined Jesus of Nazareth, even scourging Him (a most vicious, brutal torture). And, repeatedly Pilate concluded, “I find no fault in Him” (Jno. 18:38; 19:4, 6). Yet, Pilate finally yielded to the mob for political expediency, and hand Jesus over to be crucified. Jesus was thoroughly innocent of the charges made against Him. More impressive still, is that His entire life was without sin (1 Pet. 2:22). Jesus once said, “But because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell you the truth, why do you not believe Me?” (Jno. 8:45-46). If His enemies could have convicted Him of sin they would not have sought out false witnesses to lie about Him (Matt. 26:59-61). Instead of obstinately refusing to believe Jesus, accept the testimony of truth that He is the Son of God. Honor Him with your full and faithful obedience. You are fighting a losing battle whenever you fight against Jesus and His truth.

“Become as Little Children” #873

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1–4, NKJV)

Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is not defined by prominence above others, or by power over others, or by preference before others. Greatness is defined by humility, such as is seen in a little child. By these words, Jesus thoroughly rejects the notion that we are born with a “sin nature,” a corruption that originated in Adam and is transmitted through his progeny to all of humanity. If we must “be converted and become as little children,” then little children do not possess corrupt hearts. Otherwise, Jesus’ analogy is meaningless. The child stands as the prototype for greatness in the kingdom. Those who are great in the kingdom are not driven by a sin nature. Like children, they are driven by the innocence of humility. Any doctrine that corrupts the innocence and humility of children before God and mankind is false and deplorable error.

Running Away From God #872

“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:2–3, NKJV)

Jonah did not want to obey God. So, he tried to run away from God, like many today who do not wish to obey God’s commands. As events unfolded, it became obvious Jonah could not run away from God. Neither can we. Jonah even paid to fulfill his futile quest, buying passage on a ship to a far away land. Like Jonah, many pay great sums of money as they try to rid themselves of God. They pay for drugs and alcohol. They pay for pornography. They pay for the indulges of the flesh and the excesses of worldliness as they try to escape God and His will. But, they fail, too. Even as they pay with their own souls, they only succeed in hastening the day of their destruction (Matt. 16:26). The irony is that God’s salvation is obtained “without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). Why do we pay for sin when God offers us the gift of salvation without cost to all who call on His name (Acts 2:21; 22:16). Run to God, not away from Him. Salvation is in His Son, not away from Him (Matt. 11:28-30; 28:19-20).

The House of Mourning #871

Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:2–4, NKJV)

The Bible says there is “a time to mourn” (Eccl. 3:4). Today, September 11, 2016, is such a time. Fifteen years after that dreadful day in America, we remember the thousands of lives lost, pay tribute to their memory and honor the untold sacrifices of family, of friends and of our nation. May we never forget. May we never forget. Life is not simply one big party. Death crashes the party – often unexpectedly, yet eventually and inevitably – for us all. The value of sorrow in this life is found in its ability to motivate us to greater good, to live godly and so prepare for our own departure from this earth. The time is coming when our soul will be required of us; we will die. Be wise then, and “set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live” (2 Kings 20:1). The house of mourning helps you do that.