Good News of Peace #1084

And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15, NKJV)

From heads of state to lowly peasants, pleas for peace are heard around the world. God, in the gospel of Christ, has sent the world a message of real and lasting peace; a peace that is formed between God and sinners. Peace requires at least two things. First, removal of the adversarial conflict must occur. The fighting must end. Paul draws from the prophet Nahum, who saw the feet of the messenger who announced that God was about to remove brutal Assyria from the scene; God judged and destroyed the adversary (Nahum 1:12-15). Even so, sin has put us at war with God. The oppressive yoke of sin must be broken in order for peace with God to exist. The enemy of sin was defeated at the cross of Jesus. Secondly, sin’s conflict must be replaced with the tranquility of divine fellowship. Even so, Paul calls upon Isaiah 52:7, as Isaiah spoke of the beautiful feet that proclaim salvation to Zion, because, “Your God reigns.” The gospel of Jesus Christ offers forgiveness, replacing alienation with peaceful harmony between God and those who are saved in the Son. What beautiful news of peace we proclaim!

“My strength is made perfect in weakness” #1083

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7–10, NKJV)

One little tidbit of internet inspiration I came across said, “God will cancel every trouble in your life.” That sounds comforting, but it is very unscriptural. God did not cancel every trouble in the life of Jesus, Job, Joseph, David, and many, many others. Today’s passage shows that God did not remove Paul’s fleshly ailment, but, He gave Paul the grace and strength to endure its pain and trouble. Rely on God’s strength to help you weather the trials and trouble of life. Trust and obey the Lord in times of trouble, and by His strength, you will prevail.

Careful to Maintain Good Works #1082

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. (Titus 3:8, NKJV)

Paul, the apostle of Christ, exhorted Titus to constantly assert that Christians should concentrate on practicing good works. We must fight the temptation to rely on the accomplishments of the past to define our faith in the present, as well as in the future. When Paul said to “maintain” good works, he used a word that means “to take the lead in” devoting oneself to the moral duty we have to God. We are obliged before God to practice the good works of God (Eph. 2:10). Paul had just told Titus to remind the brethren to these good works (Titus 2:11-12; 3:1-3). Use today to reinvigorate your decision to carefully practice the good works of moral purity and doctrinal fidelity. Those around you will profit from your faithful life.

Respect Older Men and Women #1081

1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2, NKJV)

I suppose the younger generation has always been tempted to grow impatient with their elders. It should not be so. Israel was instructed to “rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). Children should be taught to respect their parents. In turn, this trains young people to treat older men and women with similar dignity. Simple expressions like, “yes, ma’am” and “no sir” naturally flow from the lips of those who learn and live respect for their elders. Even when Timothy would have to disagree with an older man (which would invariably occur as he worked as an evangelist, 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 2:24-26), he was to show respect in his demeanor and in his words. Elihu is an excellent example of how a younger man respectfully approached older men with whom he disagreed (Job 32:4-10). He waited to speak, listening to the older men first (v. 4). He spoke with respectful humility, acknowledging his youth before the aged (v.  6-7). He did not shrink from speaking God’s truth, asking the aged for a fair hearing (v. 8-10). Treat those older than you with respect, not annoyance; with dignity, not disdain; with humility, not haughtiness. By doing so, you will be respected in return (1 Tim. 4:12).

“Why should you die, O house of Israel?” #1080

31  “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32  For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31–32, NKJV)

That fact that a child of God can fall away and be lost (“die”), does not mean God desires it to be so (see 1 Tim. 2:3-4). The prevention lies with the child of God who sins. God calls on His sinning children to repent: “cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” Without doing so, they would die in their sins. But, with a new heart, a new life can be lived. Without the change of heart that is called “repentance,” one’s conduct will not be successfully corrected. And so, sinners, including Christians, are urged to repent when there is sin in their lives (Lk. 13:1-5; Acts 8:12-13, 22-24). The world is lost, and needs salvation in Jesus (Acts 4:12). For a Christian to live in sin and not turn to Christ by repenting and ceasing his sin, is to invite certain and eternal death. Turn and live, “For why should you die?”

“That’s not fair!” #1079

25 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. (Ezekiel 18:25–26, NKJV)

When pointing out the Bible teaches it is possible for a Christian to fall away from Christ and be lost, we hear the same objection that was made by Israel in the days of Ezekiel: “That’s not fair!” (See yesterday’s Sword Tips #1078 on Ezekiel 18:24, as well as Gal. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:1-3.) Nevertheless, God rebuts and rejects that objection for what it is, an inversion of the truth of the matter (cf. Isa. 5:20). God said it is unfair to conclude that a person can be rewarded, even though he “turns away from his righteousness” and “commits iniquity” (v. 26). It is a slanderous and appalling insult against God and His justice to propose that one can do evil and the outcome be good (Rom. 3:8). “The soul who sins, shall die” is given as a warning that sin – whether committed by God’s people or by God’s enemies – will receive a just and impartial punishment (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Rom. 2:6-11). Be careful not to attribute any unfairness to the Lord God. Instead, let us humbly conform our faith and our lives to His word, because “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9).

“When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness” #1078

But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. (Ezekiel 18:24, NKJV)

We are tempted to think of our lives like scales, and as long as the good outweighs the bad, we are okay. But, God will not judge us based on whether we have more good than bad, or vice versa. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). Today’s verse assures us that if we turn away from righteousness and commit iniquity (lawlessness against God), our righteous deeds will not be remembered. We will experience the punishment of death because of our unfaithfulness. The guilt of our sin brings eternal death (Rom. 6:23). This is another verse that teaches the possibility of apostasy. If it is true that once you are saved you can never be lost, then this verse is meaningless and God’s word is false. John said, “everyone who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jno. 3:7). But if we commit sin, we commit lawlessness (1 Jno. 3:4). We cannot live in sin and be counted righteous. Let us heed Ezekiel’s warning and not turn away from righteousness, but instead, pursue it (2 Tim. 2:22).