4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:4–5, NKJV)
One’s worshipful praise of God expresses joyful thanks for His great blessings. Adoration is due Him by all who would come into His presence. Psalm 100 is a psalm of thanksgiving unto God. All the earth is pictured serving the Lord with gladness, and coming “before His presence with singing” (v. 1-2). As our Creator, He is due the honor of thankful praise (v. 3-4). Let us come into His courts with thankful praise because of His insurmountable character by which He blesses us: 1) His goodness. God is beautiful and deserving of our complete admiration. 2) His mercy. God is unfailing in His kindness, and is ever vigilant to show mercy “to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exo. 20:6). 3) His truth. Unfailing in its power to purify us, God’s word of truth endures forever (1 Pet. 1:22-25). God’s goodness, mercy and truth compel Christians to “enter His gates with thanksgiving” and praise His name. May we never overlook giving God the praise of thanksgiving.
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? (James 4:1, NKJV)
Is your life defined by constant skirmishes with others? If so, there is a war taking place in you. Your desire for personal pleasure and satisfaction fuels these contentions and fights with others (which you deem necessary in order to obtain your self-defined happiness). Hedonism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life.” A good life, according to this philosophy, is fulfilling your personal pleasures, desires and sensual delights. Invariably, this leads to selfishness and ill treatment of others, instead of kindness and love. In contrast to the hedonistic pursuit of worldly fulfillment (by which one becomes an enemy of God, Jas. 4:4), Christians “pursue peace with all people, and holiness” (Heb. 12:14). James previously advised that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas. 3:17). If you want peace with others and with God, then do not think and act like fulfilling your desires is the true course to happiness. A good dose of humility helps us win the battles in our war against the devil (Jas. 4:6-7).
1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ ” 3 Thus says the Lord God: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!” (Ezekiel 13:1–3, NKJV)
Does it make a difference what you teach religiously, as long as you are sincere? Yes. Because it makes a different to God, it ought to make a difference to us. It is an insult against God to teach something as being from God, when in fact it only comes one’s own heart (mind or will). It is putting words into His mouth. Such lies against God by the false prophets of Israel were among the sins that led to the nation’s demise at the hands of the Babylonian empire (approximately 600 years before Jesus was born). Even now, more than a few sincere, religious people accept and promote the false teaching that “it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.” What Bible passage teaches that? Truth is God’s word, not what I choose to define as truth (Jno. 17:17). Only the truth of God that is revealed in the word of Christ will free us from sin. Only by abiding in the word of Christ are we truly His disciples (Jno. 8:31-32). Be sure to speak and obey His teachings, and not the teachings that originate in the human heart. The Scriptures reveal the difference (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:19–21, NKJV)
The apostle commands three actions of faith in our passage: 1) Singing, 2) Thanking, and 3) Submitting. The Lord arranged singing as a worshipful way to praise Him while also speaking to fellow worshipers (“teaching and admonishing one another,” Col. 3:16). Not only through song, but always and for all things, we give thanks to God the Father. Our full thanksgiving is due to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, by faith in whom we are sons of God (Gal. 3:26-29). Just as children should be thankful to their parents, even so we give thanks to our Father. While worldly wisdom seeks to dominate others, we submit to one another in holy reverence. Humble, submissive service, not high-handedness, defines our relationship to our brothers and sisters in Christ. So, let us sing rich praises to the Lord, with thankfulness for everything, yielding ourselves to one another as we walk in godly fear. These are among the marks of faith that define the children of God.
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:2-3, NKJV)
God does not measure people on the basis of their outward appearance. Although the world honors and rewards people for their handsome looks, such things matter not to God; He looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). The most normal looking person can do the most extraordinary things. Surely then, we ought to give special attention to beautifying our “inward” person, rather than emphasizing our perishing flesh (2 Cor. 4:16; 1 Pet. 3:3-4). Christ did not draw people to Himself because He was the most handsome man around; Quite the opposite. Nothing about His outward appearance was attractive. Yet, He attracts people of faith unto Himself (regardless of their appearance) because He was lifted up for the sins of the world (Jno. 12:32). God does extraordinary things with what appears ordinary. Though ordinary men and women, the faith of Christians is “the victory that has overcome the world” (1 Jno. 5:4). That’s extraordinary!
30 “take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:30–32, NKJV)
Religious truth is not settled by going along with what other religious people do. Israel was strictly warned not to follow the abominable religious practices of the idolaters in the land of Canaan. To do so would have been tantamount to adding to or taking away from God’s word. Like Israel, we must not go beyond what is written to us by the apostles and prophets of Christ (1 Cor. 4:6). We must abide in the doctrine of Christ in order to be in fellowship with the Father and the Son (2 Jno. 9). Adopting the newest moral and religious norm will approve us to other people, but it will not approve us to God. When we are tempted to change your doctrine and practice to be like those around us, we must not yield, but say, “Do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:17, NKJV)
Religious hucksters who peddle the word of God hinder and harm the spread of God’s truth. The “prosperity gospel” that enriches its preachers while giving false hope to those captured by its promise of material wealth comes to mind. Then there are those who offer miracles and plead for your money so they can continue their curing crusade – all “in the name of Jesus.” (We speak as foolish people!) The apostles of Christ did not play on the covetous desires of their hearers, nor do we. They did not make merchandise of the word of God. Those who do so today deceive many, and help harden hearts against the truth. The apostles’ doctrine is about saving lost souls from sin, not lining the pockets of the peddlers of error (Acts 2:41-42). Paul said, “I do not seek yours, but you” (2 Cor. 12:14). He sought their salvation, not their material goods. Gospel preachers seek souls for Christ; False teachers seek souls for themselves. Beware those who handle the word of God deceitfully and adulterate the purity of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:2). How will you know the genuine gospel from the counterfeit, and the false teacher from the truth teacher? By their fruits you will know them (Matt. 7:15-20). Do they agree with the apostles of Christ? If not, they are not of God (read 1 Jno. 4:1, 6).
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. (Hosea 4:6, NKJV)
Israel had rejected the knowledge of God by forgetting the law of God. They considered God’s law to be “a strange thing” as they rushed to the altars of idols (Hosea 8:12). Please notice the effect of their rejection of knowing the law of God: God rejected them. They were headed for destruction. We, like them, have free will, with the ability to choose whether or not to know God and follow His will. But, we must realize that God will bring us into judgment when we reject knowing His truth. On the other hand, we obtain freedom from our sins by knowing the truth of Christ and abiding in His word (Jno. 8:31-32). Do not deceive yourself. You cannot be saved in heaven by rejecting God’s law here on earth. We will reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7). Implant the perfect law of liberty into your heart, be a doer of the word and be blessed (Jas. 1:21-25).
2 “Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” ’ ” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” 5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:2–5, NKJV)
The remnant of Israel had returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile more than fifteen years earlier. As the people settled in and refurbished their own houses, the temple of God was still in shambles. Instead of hastening to rebuild God’s house, the people made excuses as they ran to finish their own houses (Hag. 1:7-9). God’s prophet rebuked their negligence, prompting them to action (Hag. 1:14). Even now, there are Christians who are more concerned with their personal affairs than they are with the house of God, His church. They do not faithfully worship God nor put His business above their own. Consequently, God’s house (the church) lies in the ruin of neglect. If this describes you, then it is time to “consider your ways,” repent, and put the Lord’s will first, before your own interests.
18 But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. 19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble.” (Proverbs 4:18–19, NKJV)
What path are you taking in life? Are you living for heaven, or for the here and now? In this passage, Solomon had just advised his son to avoid and turn from the path of the wicked (Prov. 4:14-15). Like a dark path in a deep cavern, the way of wickedness is dangerous, leading to a spiritual downfall. The way of the upright is illuminated by truth, showing the course that avoids sin and leads to eternal life (Jno. 3:20-21). Be careful to use God’s word to light your path (Psa. 119:105). Learn it, meditate on it, implant it deep in your heart, and live by it (Jas. 1:21-22).