10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (James 5:10–11, NKJV)
Perseverance. Steadfast endurance, patient continuance. Perseverance defines a growing, fruitful faith, come what may. When opposed, the patient perseveres, waiting for the divine blessing they know will come (James 5:7). By patience, the heart is established (James 5:8). Knowing the Lord is just and that He will execute justice against evil is our incentive to persevere through the sufferings imposed by the unjust. The prophets and Job are examples of such perseverance. God’s prophets were threatened, harassed, rejected and killed, yet still they rose up early and spoke God’s word to a rebellious people (Jeremiah 26:1-6). Job’s suffering was intense, but he endured, and God’s merciful compassion was abundantly supplied. The Lord will return, bringing blessings to those who trust Him and patiently wait for Him. Even when the way is hard, add perseverance to your faith, and it will bear fruit unto eternal life (2 Peter 1:5-8).
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NKJV)
Whose friend are you – God’s, or the world’s? The world is the system of evil that opposes God and His will (1 John 2:15-17). A Christian cannot join hands with the world, doing and endorsing what the world does, without becoming God’s enemy. Simple as that. James uses adultery to make the point. The world celebrates adultery. When husbands and wives commit adultery, the world calls it a “love affair,” but there is nothing loving about it. The entertainment industry (movies, television, the internet, etc.) celebrates adultery. The porn industry persuades it. But, God is very clear: The sin of adultery is not a love affair, it is a lust affair (James 4:1-3; Hebrews 13:4). Jesus said, “You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). The worldly-minded do not love Jesus, because they do not obey Jesus. They are driven by selfish desires. They are God’s enemies. Do not be counted among them. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:6-7).
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4–6, NKJV)
Of this passage, David Whitehead, Senior Pastor, GraceNYC.org, wrote, “even though there may be variations of Christian belief, they are all tethered to one hope, Jesus Christ. This means that the church should be a place of unity with diversity” (theDailyBibleVerse.org). Faith, he says, is expressed in different ways, even as that faith comes from one source. Surely, he must know that one source of faith does not produce different expressions of faith, any more than one source of water yields both fresh and bitter water (James 3:11). Whitehead continues, “the day will come when that source will call us together” (Ibid.). The apostle Paul is not describing an aspirational anticipation of future events. He is describing the present reality. Far from this being an endorsement of ecumenical “unity with diversity,” it is a bold declaration of the platform of truth upon which we are “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Unity in Christ has one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all. Without this platform of truth in place, unity in Christ does not, and will not, exist – even when diversity is excused, and even celebrated.
12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. (Ecclesiastes 12:12–13, NKJV)
As you see from the above notation, this is the 1200th Sword Tip. Seeing that number reminded me of today’s passage. People will always write books. And, people will continue to read and study them. Yet, making intellectual pursuit the goal of one’s life “is grasping for the wind,” as Solomon explained in Ecclesiastes 1:17-18. God’s word, the Bible, is complete; it will not be added to by God, and it cannot be improved upon by human wisdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19). Bible study is essential. But, Bible study is not an end in itself. Reading and knowing God’s word is vanity, unless we “fear God and keep His commandments” (verse 13). That is the purpose of life. The Bible teaches us why to fear God and how to obey Him. This is why we read, learn and study the Bible – so that we may live reverently, obey God completely, and thereby, fulfill our God-given purpose. By God’s good grace, may that ever be the purpose that drives our lives (2 Peter 3:17-18).
16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You shall have peace”’; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’” (Jeremiah 23:16–17, NKJV)
The false prophets in Jerusalem during the life of Jeremiah sound much like the false preachers today, who tell people such things as, “Let your conscience be your guide,” and, “join the church of your choice,” and, “God will accept every person who has a sincere heart” (that was the very falsehood for which God punished His people, verse 17). Living “according to the dictates of his own heart” brings a person under God’s wrath, not God’s approval and pleasure. Such worthless teaching made the people spiritually worthless (verse 16). When Jeremiah opposed these false prophets, they tried to have him killed (Jeremiah 26:4-14). A person who tells you God’s truth is not your enemy; don’t make him out to be one (Galatians 4:16). Speaking God’s truth has never been popular. But, we must speak truth, attempt to save souls and please God. We dare not speak error to please men, for by doing so, we lose our souls, and they remain lost, too (Galatians 1:10; 4:16; 1 Timothy 4:16).
Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. (Psalm 119:18, NKJV)
The law of God is full of extraordinary things. There we find things too difficult for man, yet fully accomplished by our God. We marvel at the fulfilled prophecies it contains, where God has declared the end from the beginning, bringing about His purposes (Isaiah 42:9; 46:10). We are humbled as we see God’s great love and amazing plan to save us from our sins through the sacrifice His Son for us (1 John 4:9-10; Philippians 2:5-8). Gazing into the law of God, we learn of faith, of devotion and sacrifice, of God’s mercy, and justice. Therein we perceive God’s perfect standard of truth, and its power to convert the soul (Psalm 19:7; Hebrews 4:12). Take time each day to look into God’s law. Allow the Lord to open your eyes to His glory, power and blessings. Read the Bible and see it for what it is; the word of God that can save you, guide you through life to the shores of eternity and the everlasting home of the saved (Psalm 119:41, 105; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:7-8).
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20–21)
There is an inseparable link between loving God and loving fellow Christians. (The “brother” in this passage is one’s fellow Christian, a fellow child of God.) We cannot love God while hating a brother. Hatred is a dark, sinister, and deceptive sin. It can masquerade as self-vindication when we have been slighted (or, think we have been slighted) by another. Left uncorrected, hated festers, convincing us we are truth-tellers when we say we love God. But, in fact, we are liars. As you concentrate on loving God “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” be careful not to sabotage your effort by holding animosity in your heart against your brother. Remembering the Golden Rule helps: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. (Proverbs 28:9, NKJV)
Prayer is not an unconditional blessing. This way of viewing prayer is quite different from the way most view it. But, today’s passage makes the conditional nature of prayer very clear. God’s ear is not open to the person whose ears are closed to the law of God. Simply put, we cannot live in disobedience to God, yet expect God to be open and responsive when we decide to pray to Him. Prayer is not an escape hatch we take as a final resort. It is not a fire escape when all other possibilities are exhausted. Prayer is the ongoing communication of God’s child to the Father in heaven. “Pray without ceasing” is an active way of life for the person who listens to God’s law and follows it (1 Thess. 5:17, 18-22). Prayer is a spiritual blessing Christians have “in Christ,” precisely because we choose to “turn away from evil and do good” (Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 3:10-11). We must prepare ourselves to be heard by God: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). Get right with God. Open your ear to hear and obey His law. Then, your prayers will be a blessing to God’s ear, and not an abomination.
Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, NKJV)
Marriage is a figure of the relationship between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:22-32). Under this figure, we learn how to conduct ourselves toward Christ. And, we learn how God expects us to conduct ourselves in our marriages. Jesus Christ loved the church and sacrificed His life to cleanse and sanctify her (Eph. 5:25-27). His sacrificial love compels the church to eagerly submit to Christ (“the head of the church”) in everything (Eph. 5:23-24). Like Christ, the husband is the “head of the wife,” and is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:23, 25). And, “just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:24). Jesus is the great Servant-Leader, who died so His bride, the church, could live. As a husband, you must be a Servant-Leader, serving the best interests of your wife with sacrificial love. And, just as the church adores and honors Christ by following His leadership, the wife is to respect and honor her husband by following his leadership in all things. Such unity of mind and purpose between Christ and His church produces a fulfilled, holy, and eternal relationship (Eph. 5:27). Likewise, marriage thrives when God’s will is followed by the husband and the wife. Husband, love your wife and be the leader God wants you to be in your home. Wife, honor your husband with loving respect.
I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me. (Psalm 119:30, NKJV)
We are taught from an early age to think about the course of life we wish to pursue. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is often asked of the youngster who is just beginning to be aware of the great, big world outside. One may choose any number of career paths in life, but the way of truth is by far the most important path to take. All other courses of life ought to be measured by truth. The psalmist had already made his choice; he would follow the path of truth. So, like a map, he laid out God’s righteous judgments before him. They would guide his steps. They would direct his values, his character, and his faith. God’s judgments “are true, and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9). Be sure that whatever course of life you pursue, it is measured and directed by the truth of God. By doing so, you will find good success that reaches into eternity. But, to shun God’s holy judgments will insure a destiny of despair, from which there will be no escape (Romans 2:1-11).