In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1, NKJV)
The hypocrisy of the Pharisees was regularly exposed by Jesus (Matthew 23). It was hypocritical of them to claim allegiance to God while in practice they elevated their religious traditions above the commands of God, binding them upon others as essential (Matt. 15:1-9). They considered people to be unholy if they did not follow their binding traditions – even viewing Jesus a Sabbath breaker (Matt. 15:1-2; Jno. 5:18). Disciples of Jesus must continue to beware of this sort of hypocrisy. Attempting to honor God with religious traditions that are formulated, advocated and popularized by men as if they were from God, is just as hypocritical today as it was in the first century. Genuine faith does not claim faithfulness to God while laying aside His word for man’s will. Yet, the temptation to do so is great. We see it everywhere; from worship liturgies unknown in Scripture, to denominational churches, doctrines and works that are foreign to the word of God. We see it in the liberal attitudes of inclusion that reject Bible authority for all we say and do (Col. 3:17). Jesus said, “Beware.” Pretending allegiance to God while rejecting His commands in favor of human doctrines is a leaven of destruction (Matt. 15:9).
“For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35, NKJV)
With these words, Jesus ranked the spiritual relationship one has with God in His family as more profound and fundamental than one’s relationship with family in the flesh. Doing the will of God brings us into familial relation with Jesus, but to disobey the will of God forfeits our right to claim a relationship with Jesus. With similar emphasis, Jesus said in another place, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37). Our first priority, then, must always be Christ and doing the will of God. While we love our families in the flesh, our Heavenly Father’s will takes precedence. Let us shape and mold ourselves after His will first, and then we will be better equipped to put all of our earthly relations in their proper places.
The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands. (Proverbs 14:1, NKJV)
A woman has tremendous influence over her family. Instead of pitting one gender against another (like many do today), God created woman as His crowning achievement to complete what was lacking in man (Gen. 2:18-23). The wise woman knows this, and sets her heart upon being the strength that builds up her husband and children. She chooses words that comfort and soothe, that instruct and support the family in the way of righteousness. She is careful not to tear down her family with harsh words and critical comparisons. She holds godly values and goals which are informed and framed by the word of God, not the standards of this age. “She watches over the ways of her household” and “fears the Lord” (Prov. 31:27, 30). Ladies, please understand that you hold great power over the success or failure of your house. Bring to your home the faith and grace that allows love to flourish, not the strife and turmoil of sin that will surely pull it apart. Beautify yourself “with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God,” building up your house with the strength of holiness (1 Pet. 3:4).
1 Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. 3 And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn;” (1 Kings 2:1–3, NKJV)
This world needs men of faith, integrity and character. The world needs men of God who meet their responsibilities to their families, to their neighbors, and to their God. As King David was about to die, he charged his son Solomon to show himself to be a man by faithfully obeying the law of God. Even so today, God wants men who will not shy away from obeying the Lord’s commands and following His judgments. Men must step up and meet the challenges that life brings – not with the weakness of faithlessness, but with the strength of faith and duty. Be the man God wants you to be; the man God made you to be. “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?” (Prov. 20:6) When people look at you, do they see a faithful man? That depends on you.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Romans 1:26–27, NKJV)
When God’s word speaks, we either believe it and conform our thinking and our lives to it, or we reject it, raising ourselves above and against God. As an example, take the subject of homosexuality. The Bible is crystal clear on the matter. Homosexual uses of the body are not normal and natural, but express “vile passions” that are “against nature.” God’s truth clarifies LGBT issues for us, just like soap and water cleans a dirty window. Such conduct is described as “vile passions;” “Against nature;” “Leaving the natural use of the woman;” Burning “in their lust for one another;” “Men with men committing what is shameful;” Producing a just penalty for “their error” that is due and received. Until one will believe God’s truth on the subject, he or she will exchange the truth for the lie that gay love is just the same as straight love (Rom. 1:24-25). It is not. But you see, when people worship themselves and serve the lusts of their hearts instead of God, every lie is preferred over the “word of the truth of the gospel” (Col. 1:5). God’s word is truth (Jno. 17:17). God’s truth frees us from our sins when we believe it and obey it (Jno. 8:31-32). Do you believe the truth, or have you exchanged it for the lie?
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:22–25, NKJV)
It is truly sad to watch human beings in the death spiral of sin. Pride blinds the unbelieving heart, producing all manner of false gods and therefore, false hopes. While God desires all men to be saved, that choice must be freely made; He will not force us to follow Him. When lust reigns in one’s heart, the shame of moral defilement results. As the body is used to serve lustful impulses instead of honoring God, divine truth is exchanged for foolish lies. The moral defilement of unbelief amounts to worshiping and serving ourselves instead of our Creator. Do not be defiant against God; that will always end poorly. Instead of sin’s death spiral, be lifted up from its darkness by following the Jesus, the light of the world. Hear His word and follow it, and move out of darkness into light (Eph. 4:17-24).
1 Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion; and to You the vow shall be performed. 2 O You who hear prayer, to You all flesh will come. 3 Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them. (Psalm 65:1–3, NKJV)
God’s sovereignty is in full view in this psalm, as David and the citizens of Zion yearn to praise Him. Those who inhabit Zion (God’s kingdom, His people) set their hearts upon praising God. David cites two reasons his opening refrain for us to praise God. These reasons compel us to honor and extol His greatness, while keeping our pledge to serve Him. (1) God hears our prayers. He alone is the God who is near, who hears and answers the prayers of His children (1 Pet. 3:12; 1 Jno. 5:14-15). Although sinners mount up against God’s people, “by awesome deeds of righteousness” God will answer us and deliver us from evil (Psa. 65:5) (2) God forgives our sins. God provides atonement for our sins through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:10). These are among the reasons Christians yearn to worship God. God hears us and God saves us! Lift up your voices, inhabitants of Zion! Our God reigns!
Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (Acts 24:25, NKJV)
Ah yes, a convenient time. “Not now,” says the heart that has been hardened by sin, when urged to repent. “I want to be left alone,” says the defiant soul who refuses to be snatched from the fires of sin and destruction. “Maybe later,” says the reluctant soul who has not yet taken full responsibility for his or her transgressions. Felix heard the truth of God and was terrified by its prospect, yet he would not yield his heart and life to it. Claiming to be interested in a more suitable, opportune time to believe and obey, Felix put off doing God’s will. From all we are told his convenient time never came. It never does. It is not convenient to obey the gospel. The heart must be changed. Sin must be admitted and ceased. Different living must begin. These things are not easy; they are not convenient. But, they are necessary if we are to follow Jesus (Lk. 9:23-25). Being saved and being a faithful Christian demands the focus and fortitude of faith to forsake the sins of the past and to live according to the will of Christ. Immediately, without delay. Especially when it is not convenient.
18 You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment. 19 You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. 20 You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:18–20)
Our elected representatives are presently considering a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. A righteous nation seeks to appoint judges who will judge among the people with “just judgment” (v. 18). Such justice requires impartiality – a judge who will not be bribed or swayed by the outward circumstances of either the plaintiff (seeking judicial relief) or the defendant. Poverty and wealth hold no preferential sway over the righteous judge. If it does, then injustice will prevail. Israel was told, “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15). Impartiality is required if justice under the law is to prevail. The judgments of God’s law are “true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). Therefore, let us use them to “judge with righteous judgment,” without the bias of circumstance or the prejudice by emotion (Jno. 7:24).
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Proverbs 27:6, NKJV)
True friends tell us what we need to hear, when we need to hear it. They know the difference between sparing our feelings and watching us make dreadful mistakes that damage our lives and our souls. Friends have our best interest at heart, and give us sound counsel, even when it brings a momentary pain (wound). Such a friendship is forged in the crucible of life’s trials, its joys and sorrow, its pain and grief. That is the friend we need. That is the friend we ought to be to others. Feigning care and concern, while paving a path of deceit in order to gain an advantage over someone, is not the action of a true friend. The next time your friend tells you what you need to hear – even though it is painful to hear – thank them for it. They are a true friend. The world needs more of their number.