8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. 9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:8–11, NKJV)
Christians are under commandment to love one another. Christ’s command to love each other “as I have loved you” is the truth that is in Him and in us (Jno. 13:34-35). How a Christian thinks and acts toward his fellow-Christian either shows he is walking in the light, or that he is in darkness. We dare not say we are in the light while hating a brother; such talk is the foolish deception of sin. We cannot be in the light and also hate our brother. Therefore, refuse every impulse and temptation to hate, and act with goodwill toward each other. Love refuses to be a cause of stumbling. Love is not driven by hatred, animosity, bitterness and malice. If it is your aim to walk in the light, then you must “walk in love” (Eph. 5:2). The path of hate is dark and deadly. The path of love lights our way to the eternal day. Choose carefully the path you take.
14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. 15 But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.” (1 Corinthians 9:14–15, NKJV)
A mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to see and assess a situation beyond oneself, to see the broader implications and outcomes of one’s actions, legitimate though they may be. And then, to forego one’s right for the sake of others. Here, Paul showed such maturity, acknowledging the right to be materially supported for preaching the gospel. Yet, in the case of the Corinthian church, he chose to forego his right for the sake of their spiritual development (see 1 Cor. 9:16-18). Too many times we say, “I have a right” (liberty) to do something, then press our freedom regardless of how our action impacts others. Such a decision is evidence of spiritual immaturity that can contributes to sin. For instance, Paul also said he would not eat meat if, by doing so, a brother who was weak in conscience was led to sin by violating his conscience (1 Cor. 8:10-13). Would you give up eating meat for the sake of your brother’s soul? Or would you proudly profess, “I have a right to eat meat, and I will, regardless of the circumstances.” Having a liberty does not make using it mandatory. At times, it is wiser to forego a liberty, and by so doing “save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1–3, NKJV)
The horror inflicted upon these worshiping Galileans by Pilate did not mean they were worse sinners than everyone else. The misfortune of others is not our solace when bad things do not happen to us. It is easy to measure ourselves against others. We can always point to someone and perceive them and their sin to be worse than ourselves. By doing so, we can rationalize our own sins, while continuing in them, unabated. Jesus emphatically says this is distorted thinking that will condemn us. Unless we repent of our sins, we will perish – regardless of what others do or do not do. Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to the “perfect law of liberty” (the gospel), and correct yourself by doing God’s will (Jas. 1:22-25). Otherwise, “you will all likewise perish.”
17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. (1 Corinthians 11:17–18, NKJV)
It is disruptive and discouraging when Christians are not united in spirit, doctrine and practice as they “come together as a church.” Such was the state of affairs in the Corinthian church, and the apostle registered his protest. Clearly, God was not pleased with them. There is a clear and important lesson here for us: Sin prevents the true worship of God (Jno. 4:23-24). A local church nullifies its praise of God in assembled worship when brethren are divided against one another. Just because brethren assemble under one roof does not mean that church has Christ’s approval. Indeed, when sinful attitudes and actions exist in a local church, both true worship and effective edification are hindered. Therefore, it is essential that Christians solve personal disputes of sin among themselves so their worship is not impeded. It is necessary that truth, not error, defines our conduct when the church comes together. God has no praise for those who offer Him corrupt praise.
1 Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. 4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah (Psalm 61:1–4, NKJV)
David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, raised his voice in a cry of lamentation to God. This causes us to reflect on the abiding truth that God attends to the prayers of His people. When your heart is overwhelmed, weakened and strained by the burdens of life – illness, grief over the death of loved ones, uncertainties and doubts – it is God who hears and gives you shelter from all these storms. Like David, trust God to lead you to safety and salvation. He is your defense against every enemy, a comforting presence when life overwhelms. Trust in the protection of His wings and His dwelling place. Say with David that God is “my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved” (Psa. 62:2). Truly, God is “the rock that is higher” than any of us. He hears and heeds prayers that trust in Him. Pause today to meditate on God’s comforting presence and His promise to be “a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1).
“But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (Mark 4:20, NKJV)
Good seed, planted in good soil, produces good fruit. This simple principle is used by Jesus to illustrate the type of heart that listens to the word of God, accepts it and bears abundant fruit. According to the parallel verse in Luke 8:15, this is the “noble and good heart” that also patiently keeps the word of God. We must be honest with ourselves when we hear the word of God. Otherwise, God’s word will not convict us (of our sins), correct us and save us. Notice that Jesus does not assume the heart is filled with total depravity and therefore incapable of hearing, receiving and keeping the word of God. The “noble and good heart” bears fruit when it hears God’s word, and so obtains divine approval and blessings. Such were the hearts of the Bereans in Acts 17:11-12. Our hearts must be good soil that receives and keeps the word of God. Let us refuse to have a hardened heart (like the wayside soil), or the rocky soil (shallow and ungrounded), or the thorny soil (choking out God’s word due to other cares and concerns). What is the condition of your heart?
18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:18–19, NKJV)
When thorns and thistles take over a field, the crop will not be productive. Weeds choke out the good plants, robbing them of nutrients, rain and sunshine, until eventually they die. Christ used this to describe the heart that is so crowded with internal influences that no room is made for the word of God to grow and bear its fruit in one’s life. We must make room in our hearts for the word of God, otherwise, our overcrowded hearts will choke out God’s word from our lives. Jesus identified 1) The cares of this world, 2) The deceitfulness of riches, and 3) the desire for other things as the culprits we must weed out of our hearts. Life is brief and uncertain, so live for heaven (Col. 3:1-4). Riches are deceptive, and will never satisfy our yearnings of eternity (Eccl. 3:11; 5:12). Desiring other things instead of seeking first God’s rule and reign in our lives will always choke out the word of God from our lives (Matt. 6:33). Pull out the weeds from your heart, lest you wither and die spiritually.
16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.” (Mark 4:16–17, NKJV)
Stony ground is not a productive seed bed for plant growth. The rocky soil prevents the growth of a stable root system, which is necessary for nutritious, vibrant development and fruit production to occur. Without sufficient roots, the sun scorches the plant and it dies. Even so, a heart without spiritual depth does not give rise to strong, faithful discipleship. This heart is likely driven by emotion, joyful over initially hearing the gospel, it gladly receives it. But, with discipleship comes external pressures that test one’s faith. Tribulations or persecutions will arise when one follows the word of God (2 Tim. 3:12). When tested by the heat of spiritual conflict, the person with a shallow, emotional heart (instead of a secure faith) will “fall away” (Lk. 8:15). Emotion without a deeply-rooted faith is not spiritual strength; A good reminder for us all, lest we confuse spiritual excitement with strong faith.
14 “The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.” (Mark 4:14–15, NKJV)
Satan wastes no time snatching away the word of God from hardened hearts. Like birds eating seeds off a well-traveled path, Satan plucks away God’s word from hearts that are closed against the truth. Closed minds refuses to give the word of God a fair hearing, therefore, they are not penetrated by the word of God. The gospel remains powerful to save, but it will not save the person who refuses to listen to and heed God’s message of salvation (Heb. 4:12). God does not force His word down people’s throats. The deceitfulness of sin darkens many hearts, calcifying their sensitivity toward the gospel of Christ. So, be very careful never to let sin deceive you into hardening your heart against the word of God (Heb. 3:13). Heart condition matters when it comes to hearing and receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25–27, NKJV)
Resurrection. To be raised from death to life again. What an astounding power to do such a thing! A dead, decaying body, animated with life once more. Jesus would soon raise Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead, showing His power over death (Jno. 11:38-44). Jesus is the “resurrection and the life” who will one day give life to every dead body of flesh. At the last day, all who have died “shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). Jesus also has power over spiritual death. He is the “resurrection and the life” for “whoever lives and believes in” Him. These “shall never die” spiritually (Jno. 11:26). Resurrection from the spiritual death caused by sin occurs by the power of God every time a sinner is “buried with Him (Christ, jrp) in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). Every sinner who “lives and believes” in Christ is resurrected out of the death of sin unto spiritual life. Live and believe in Jesus Christ for victory over sin and death, now and forevermore.