We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6, NKJV)
We hear a lot about fake news these days. Vying for attention and credibility, fake news causes people to doubt all news as tainted. Similarly, there are many fake gospels in the world which give skeptics an excuse to reject the genuine message of Christ. Yes, many “false prophets” peddle their bogus gospels, and we must test them to see if they are from God (1 Jno. 4:1). The test is whether their message agreea with the testimony of the apostles of Christ, who heard, saw and handled “the Word of Life” (1 Jno. 1:1-4). The New Testament is our standard of truth; whatever does not conform to it is fake. For example, salvation by “faith only” is a fake gospel, since the Scriptures say, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). The gospel that says Christians cannot fall from grace is fake, since the Scriptures say, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). We must test the gospels people preach to us, to know whether it is the truth, or error. By searching the Scriptures and comparing what we hear to what they says, we can discern between fake gospels and the true gospel of Christ.
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:35–36, NKJV)
This passage is particularly instructive about what it means to preach Jesus. Preaching Jesus identifies Him as the suffering Servant of God who sacrificed His life (Acts 8:32-34; Isa. 53:7-8). It includes teaching about sin and salvation from it. The Ethiopian was lost, and wanted to be saved. The water would facilitate his salvation. When he asked Philip about baptism, he had not yet announced his personal faith in Jesus, since Philip stated that as the condition upon which he could be baptized (v. 37). To preach Jesus means preaching baptism, since the Ethiopian immediately asked about it when he saw water. How else did he know about baptism, expect that Philip spoke of it when he “preached Jesus” to him? Surely, he told the man what Jesus preached about baptism: “He that believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk. 16:16). The Ethiopian confessed his personal faith, stopped the chariot, and Philip baptized him (Acts 8:37-38). The man joyfully went on his way, because he was saved when he believed and was baptized. Christ continues to save sinners the same way, today. What hinders you from being baptized to be saved?
“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19, NKJV)
From creation, God gave mankind authority to subdue the earth. But, with the introduction of sin, that task became must more laborious and demanding, until finally, this body wears out and dies. By physical exertion we must meet the tasks of the day, while unavoidably moving toward the time when we will work no more. Our mortality teaches us to use our time wisely. It draws our attention to a crucial decision: Shall we only live for what is decaying (this physical life), or shall we live so as to prepare ourselves for immortality? We are not only dust; our spirit will return to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7). Will you have access to the tree of life in the heavenly garden of God? Or, will you reap the corruption of sin that you have sown on this earth? This choice belongs to each of us. Choose your priority wisely Jesus said, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you” (Jno. 6:27). The food of this world perishes. A life that follows Jesus reaps everlasting life.
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19–20, NKJV)
This Bible passage enjoins upon faithful Christians the task of rescuing a struggling, sinning Christian from spiritual death. It forever exposes and opposes the false teaching of “once saved, always saved.” Here, the soul that needs saving is a Christian who: (1) Has wandered from the truth. We must walk in the truth to be secure in our salvation (Jno. 10:27); (2) Needs turning back. The person is headed in the wrong, spiritual direction; His present way is “error.” You see, there really is only one way that leads to life (Jno. 14:6); (3) Has sinned. The person is “a sinner,” “in error” and in “death.” He/she is lost. You see, doctrine (teaching) affects salvation. False doctrine is error; a wandering from the truth. Wandering from the truth into error is a real danger. When it happens, the spiritually strong must become first responders, trying to save a soul from death (Gal. 6:1). In what more worthy endeavor can you participate? “He who wins souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30).
7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:7–8, NKJV)
Your life affects many others, and they also affect you. To borrow from the 17th-century English poet, John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” Even more than being members of the human family, Christians are “members of one body” (the church). Our lives impact each other. Therefore, our choices must honor God as well as bless others. God does not teach us to isolate ourselves. Indeed, the very essence of brotherly love is outward-looking “for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). In the body of Christ, when one suffers, we all suffer; when one is honored, we all rejoice (1 Cor. 12:26). No one is an island.
The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself. (Proverbs 11:25, NKJV)
Generosity is a mark of unselfishness. The miser selfishly hoards and is stingy toward others (Prov. 23:6-8). Not only should we generously share our material blessings, we should generously share other things, like our time and our abilities to help others. It is “more blessed to give than to receive,” and those with a giving spirit experience a bountiful return on their generosity. Often, that return is not measures materially, but in the spiritual blessings that come from serving others. “He who has pity of the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Prov. 19:17). The generous soul gives without thought of return, but the generosity is seen by the Lord, and He rewards it beyond measure (Lk. 14:11-14). Take time to open your heart and your hand to others, and you will be enriched. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Lk. 6:38).
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth. (Psalm 119:142, NKJV)
In this post-modern world, where men and women take the unjustifiable liberty of redefining truth to be relative, shifting and changing, God’s eternal truth continues to be absolute. It is the one supreme law that governs and judges us all. Just as there is “no variation or shadow of turning” of God’s righteousness, neither is the variability in the nature of truth (cf. Jas. 1:17). Whether one speaks of the law He gave specifically to Israel (the Old Testament law), or the law of Christ, the accuracy and certainty of His rule is firmly established. This gives Christians assurance as we live in a “post-truth world,” where truth is minimized as emotions shape public opinion, moral excesses and even religious faith. God’s truth is not shifting sand. The sayings of Jesus are truth, and when we believe and do them, we build our life a solid foundation that lasts into eternity (Matt. 7:24-27).
8 I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images. 9 Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them. (Isaiah 42:8–9, NKJV)
The true and living God inhabits eternity; He is not confined by time, since He created it (Gen. 1:1, 5). This distinguishes Him from the lifeless, powerless images carved by men’s hands and praised as if they have any power at all. The fulfillment of God’s prophetic utterances declares His glory and demand that we praise Him. When one prophesies in the name of God and it does not come to pass, that person has spoken presumptuously, and is not a true prophet of God (Deut. 18:22). Jesus said, “Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He” (Jno. 13:19). Fulfilled prophecy testifies to the accuracy and the reliability of God’s inspired word, the holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15-17). The words of God’s prophets always came true. By and by, when they fail, the words of the false prophets are shown to be false. We can trust the truthfulness of the Bible, because its prophecies are fulfilled by the very God who gave them.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:19–22, NKJV)
The Christian’s hope in Christ goes beyond the here and now; it reaches into eternity. Our hope “enters the Presence behind the veil” – into God’s holy and heavenly habitation (Heb. 6:19). The future resurrection of all the dead is at the heart of our hope; without it, our faith crumbles (1 Cor. 15:12-19). The empty tomb of Jesus is an ever-present witness to the fact that the dead will be raised. Indeed, His resurrection from the dead was the beginning – “the firstfruits” – of the dead (v. 20). Just as the firstfruits of the field foretell the harvest to come, the resurrection of Jesus signifies the future resurrection of all the dead. Bodily death came into the world as a result of Adam (Gen. 3:19). Bodily resurrection will happen because Christ was raised. Christ’s prediction of our resurrection is assured by His resurrection (Jno. 5:28-29). The Christian’s hope will be realized on the great hour when “all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jno. 5:28-29). Our hope is secure. Death is not the end.
He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly. (Proverbs 13:24, NKJV)
Many of us have been on an airplane and witnessed an unruly child. Undisciplined and out of control, the child disrupts the entire cabin with screaming or other displays of defiance. This reminds us that discipline is a combination of instruction and correction. One cannot expect a child to behave who has not been taught acceptable behavior. The “rod” of correction comes after the instruction, and only when the instruction is not accepted. In order to be effective, corrective discipline needs to be “promptly” applied. Failure to do so invites even more resistance. The rod of correction is not a rod of abuse; they are two very different things. As God disciplines His children in love, and sets an example for parents to follow. “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).