Your Faith is Not Negotiable #1041

12  But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her… 15  But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. (1 Corinthians 7:12, 15, NKJV)

Some Christians question whether they must end their marriage to an unbeliever, in order to be faithful to Jesus. The apostle applies Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 19:6 – “what God has joined together, let not man put asunder” – and answers, “No.” Is the unbeliever is willing to allow the Christian to live his or her faith, do so and bring a godly influence into the home (1 Cor. 7:12-14; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). If that willingness is not present, and the unbeliever sunders the marriage (being unwilling to have his or her spouse to live for Christ, v. 16), the Christian is “not under bondage in such cases.” That is, the Christian is not now, and never has been a slave to the unbeliever (see 1 Cor. 7:23). This verse does not teach another cause for divorce and remarriage, that is, desertion. (Marriage is for life, with one cause for one party to be free to remarry, the cause of fornication, Matt. 19:3-6, 9.) Instead, it teaches the believer that his or her faith is not negotiable – even in a marriage. Do not surrender your faith for the sake of pleasing any person; “you were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). God has called you to be at peace with Him (v. 15). So, do the will of God, not the will of men.

New Heavens and a New Earth #1040

Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13, NKJV)

The basic meaning of the expression “heavens and the earth” is that of a dwelling place, a habitation. In Genesis 1:1, God created the physical world – “the heavens and the earth” – for humanity to inhabit (Gen. 1:26-28). We later find a similar expression used with a spiritual meaning (Isa. 65:17; 66:22). Isaiah spoke of God creating “new heavens and a new earth” in which people would come to worship before Him (Isa. 65:17; 66:23). Isaiah was speaking of the church – the habitation or dwelling place of God’s people (Isa. 2:1-4). God dwells with His people (the church), and they with Him (2 Cor. 6:16-18). Christians are raised out of the death of sin to sit “in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6). We become citizens of a new kingdom when we are saved in Christ (Col. 1:13). Christians inhabit a new and spiritual realm, the church (Acts 2:47). Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). When Peter used the expression “new heavens and a new earth” in 2 Peter 3:13, he was looking forward to yet another dwelling place of God’s people – the eternal kingdom, our heavenly home (2 Pet. 1:11). In visionary form, John saw this “new heaven and a new earth” where righteousness dwells (Rev. 21:1). Entrance into it will be abundantly given to faithful Christians (2 Pet. 1:10-11).

When you suffer for following what is good #1039

13  And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14  But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (1 Peter 3:13–15, NKJV)

Peter does not say Christians will be free from harm when we follow what is good. On the contrary, suffering for the sake of righteousness will happen. God blesses the Christian who endures such troubles and threats (cf. Matt. 5:10-12). Just as God assured Isaiah that He was his “sanctuary” (holy abode and sure protection) in the face of opposition, so the Lord is for us (v. 14; Isa. 8:12-14). As you “sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart” (NASB), you will be equipped with the necessary faith to be prepared to give an answer for your hope in Christ. So that, even when you suffer for what is good, you will not grow weary. If Christ is not Lord of your life, then you will not long endure suffering for the sake of what is right. Instead of faltering when defamed for being a Christian, let us say with Paul, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

Changing the Rules #1038

And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. (Jeremiah 36:23, NKJV)

The United States Senate changed a filibuster rule today, thereby allowing a vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch. This rule change was called the “nuclear” option, since it was the course of last resort. This reminds us that men unsuccessfully try to change God’s rules. King Jehoiakim tried to ignore God’s rules by destroying the scroll of God’s word (which condemned his sins and called on him and his nation to repent). He refused to be ruled by God’s word, because he had already refused God as His ruler. His effort failed (Jer. 36:27-32). Even so, we are tempted to try to change God’s word to fit our own desires (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3-4). The Senate can change their rules because they made them. We cannot change God’s rule (word), though, because it is not our word (Heb. 1:2). We didn’t make the rules, He did. Respect for God demands that we honor Him by submissively obeying His word. Do not try to change His word (His rules) to fit what you want. That will never end well for you.

Bible Context and Judging #1037

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. (Romans 14:13, NKJV)

Understanding the context of a passage of Scripture is crucial to making proper application of it. Without respecting context, Scripture is twisted and perverted (2 Pet. 3:16). For example, some believe one should never render a judgment concerning another person. One appeal made to support this conclusion is today’s verse . Yet, Jesus said we are to “judge righteous judgment,” and, “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?” (Jno. 7:24; Lk. 12:57). His inspired apostle said the local church must judge “those who are inside” it (1 Cor. 5:12-13). So, there are judgments we can and must make. The context of today’s verse concerns how to treat each other when differences arise over matters that make no difference to God (Rom. 14:1-5). It addresses matters that are not sin and error, since whether one practices it or abstains from it, God equally accepts both (Rom. 14:3, 6). This text concerns things over which God allows us to exercise personal liberty, since no sin occurs in such things (like eating meat or not, 1 Cor. 8:8). In context, Romans 14:13 forbids the critical condemnation of one another’s personal liberties. We must not demand that others conform to our own conscience when that matter makes no difference to God. To do so puts a stumbling block before another. It is binding where the Lord has not bound.

Render to Caesar…and to God #1036

15  Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16  And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17  Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18  But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19  Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21  They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:15–21, NKJV)

In their vain attempt to ensnare Jesus, the Pharisees and Herodians assumed intrinsic conflict between the government of God and the government of men. Yet, the kingdom of God is spiritual; it is “not of this world” (Jno. 18:36). The kingdoms of men exist by the will of God, who is Sovereign over all (Acts 17:26; Dan. 4:25, 32). Therefore, there is no inherent conflict between God and “Caesar.” God commands us to pay our taxes and honor our rulers (Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17). Christians willingly submit to the ordinances of men unless doing so violates the revealed will of God (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-16; Acts 5:29). Christians are not anarchists, but patriots, who “honor the king” as they “fear God” (1 Pet. 2:17).

“What May be Known of God” #1035

18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19  because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:18–19, NKJV)

God has shown His power and deity to mankind. This truth, that “may be known of God,” has been revealed by God Himself (v. 19). The very existence of this universe testifies of His creative power and divine nature (Rom. 1:20). The psalmist David recognized this when he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” (Psa. 19:1-3). Since God’s creation speaks of His power and deity, all who reject and oppose this truth are “without excuse” and under divine wrath (Rom. 1:20). God’s wrath is directed against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness” – these sins “suppress” (hold down) the truth that God has made known about Himself. Sins against God and against men display faithlessness that is seen and punished by our Creator. Therefore, God’s wrath against sin is an incentive to know Him and obey His truth, not oppose Him.

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you” #1034

5  “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:5–7, NKJV)

Jesus is the source of all spiritual life. By abiding in Christ, we are a “branch” that bears much fruit. But, we are spiritually barren and dead – lost – when we do not abide in Him. Obviously, Jesus did not teach universal salvation. Verse 6 clearly states the condition upon which one will be cast into the fire and burned; “if anyone does not abide in Me.” Therefore, we must abide in Christ to avoid being lost. What does it mean to abide in Christ? Verse 7 helps our understanding. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you” – one who lives according to the words of Christ is the disciple who abides in Christ (see John 14:21, 23). Christians put the word of Christ into their hearts and by obeying Him, bear much fruit. If you do not follow His word, then you are not a fruitful branch. Your spiritual life depends upon abiding in Christ, the Giver of Life. Without abiding in Christ – following His word – you will be gathered up and burned like a lifeless, barren branch.

“I kept back nothing that was helpful” #1033

18  And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, 19  serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20  how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,” (Acts 20:18–20, NKJV)

These words were spoken by the apostle Paul to the elders of the church of Ephesus (Acts 20:17). He had lived among them for three years (verse 31). His service to the Lord was marked by  humility and zealous endurance, even while the Jews of that city plotted against him (Acts 19:8-9). In spite of this, Paul continued to courageously proclaimed the gospel of Christ. He understood what we must also perceive, namely, that the gospel saves sinners and protects Christians from the enemies of the faith. This is why we seek to declare the gospel publicly and privately. The gospel is God’s power to save the lost and equip the saved to do God’s work (Rom. 1:16; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Nothing should be held back; It must all be preached. Avail yourself of every opportunity to teach and to be taught God’s word. It helps you serve God “with all humility” and with the zealous courage of faith.

“Like Sport to a Fool” #1032

To do evil is like sport to a fool, but a man of understanding has wisdom. (Proverbs 10:23, NKJV)

People take pride in sporting accomplishments, whether their own, or those of their favorite teams. An example of this is “March Madness,” the annual NCAA college basketball tournament, which is down to the Final Four this weekend. Fans are passionate about their favorite team, joyful in victory and dejected in defeat. Sometimes, fans mock and deride the opposing team as they support their own. When it comes to doing evil, many people act the same way. They delight in the pleasure, joy and excitement of sin. They deride the suggestion that their sin is harmful. But, it is foolish to take a dismissive attitude toward evil. On the other hand, wisdom directs the person of understanding to see the danger of doing what is sinful. The wise person knows the end to which evil brings those who practice it, and turns away from it. “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14). God’s warning is clear: Do not make sport of sin. Only the fool does that.