17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. 19 Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (John 19:17–19, NKJV)
Calvary is the Latinized form of the Place of a Skull, the skull-like hill where Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:33). With criminals hanging on either side, Jesus was nailed to a cross until dead. Crucifixion was execution by torture, a most horrid, gruesome event. (The word excruciating derives from the Latin excruciatus, “from, or out of the cross.”) Nails driven through the hands and feet would damage nerves and send fiery bolts of pain through his limbs. Already severely weakened from being scourged, every breath became increasingly labored and shallow. The weight of his body prevented normal breathing, while every movement caused more shots of agony to course through his body. Soon, dehydration became another factor leading to death. Sometimes legs were broken, quickening death, but in Jesus’ case (John 19:32-33). Finally, exhausted and racked with agony, the body releases its last breath and death comes mercifully (John 19:30). Jesus endured crucifixion so we can be saved. Our sin deserves the eternal agony of hell (Romans 6:23). Jesus died so we can live. No one ever cared for you like Jesus (John 15:13; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1). Do you care for him?
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! 9 Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. 10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. (Psalm 34:8–10, NKJV)
David’s life was in danger. King Saul was pursuing him, and when he fled to Gath of the Philistines, he had to pretend to be insane to escape threats on his life (1 Samuel 21:10-15). When we fall into trials we are tempted to accuse God. How is it that these perils did not shake David’s faith in God? Today’s passage shows us how David’s resolve was strengthened in the face of trials. First, he knew God blesses those who trust in Him (v. 8). David believed God’s word and promises. Trust in God overwhelms trials in this world. Second, David feared God (v. 9). Reverence for God, who provides and protects His people, keeps its focus on God in the day of calamity. Third, David continued to seek the Lord. God’s will and pleasure, not his own, ruled David’s life. Do not allow temptations and trials of life to diminish your faith. Like David, trust God, fear God and seek God. The Lord is good. He will bless and sustain His holy ones, for they rely on Him and see His goodness.
“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.” (James 2:1, NKJV)
Impartiality is a trait of God Himself; “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). We must resist and reject the temptation to show favoritism in our judgments and our treatment of others. We cannot hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and do otherwise. Partiality is motivated by appearance, which exposes its unjust nature (John 7:23-24). Partiality grants an undue advantage to one, while unjustly withholding that same advantage from another (see James 2:2-4). Impartiality is a mark of justice, while partiality is unjust. God was quite clear in His law to Israel to be impartial in their treatment of others: “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” (Leviticus 19:15). Did you catch that? Neither poverty, riches, power or nobility were to inform and influence their judgments. Righteousness was to direct their judgments and their treatment of others. Judges were charged not to show partiality in judgment (Deuteronomy 1:17). Showing favoritism and bestowing benefits based on appearance rather than truth is not love for one’s neighbor. When we show partiality in judgment we “become judges with evil thoughts” (James 2:4). Let us be just in all our dealings, without partiality.
“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6, NKJV)
The life and peace God grants the spiritually minded is set in sharp contrast to the outcome of being carnally minded. Eternal death is its ultimate reward. Even in this life, the person who lives for the indulgences of the flesh is already spiritually dead (1 Timothy 5:6). Carnality is living by and for the flesh. It is antagonistic to God and His will both in mind and conduct. To be carnally minded not only fails to be spiritual, it produces anti-spiritual behavior. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-2, the apostle said the Corinthians were carnal rather than spiritual because they had not matured in Christ; they were still babes who were not partaking of the solid food of truth. Their carnal thinking produced “envy, strife, and divisions” toward their fellow Christians. By doing so, they had become anti-spiritual. Their display of conflict showed their nature and character was being controlled by the flesh instead of by the Spirit of God (whose fruit is “love, joy and peace,” 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:22). Our conduct will show whether our mind is on the flesh, or on the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. (Romans 8:5–7, NKJV)
Many people are trying to be spiritual. To do so, they turn to gurus who tell them the key to being spiritual is a quest for enlightenment that connects with one’s inner-self and with the world. They become convinced the meaning of life is within themselves as they yearn for spiritual fulfillment. This humanistic approach to spirituality vividly contrasts to what the Spirit of God says it means to be spiritual. To be spiritual is to set one’s mind on the things the Spirit of God has revealed, and then “live according to the Spirit” (see Romans 8:1-2). The things of the Spirit comprise His revelation of God’s mind (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). The carnal mind refuses to subject itself to God’s law; it thinks the way of man is in himself (Jeremiah 10:23). The spiritual person submits to the law of God precisely because his mind is set on the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13-16). This leads to life and peace. What the world calls being spiritual is in fact, carnal. And, what Christ calls spiritual is rejected by human enlightenment. Which will you be today; carnal or spiritual?
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26, NKJV)
The world hates those who follow Jesus. If you think that language is too strong, please recall it is Jesus who said it: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Everyone who practices evil hates the light of truth because it exposes their sin (John 3:19-20). When you obey truth its light shines brightly, and the world of darkness hates you for it (John 3:21). Those practicing sin will speak evil of you for not joining them in their sins (1 Peter 4:4, 12-14). If you are more concerned with what people think about you than with what the Lord thinks of you, then you fall under the “woe” Jesus pronounced in today’s verse. People will speak well of you when they know your life and words will not expose their sins. If that is the case, then you are not being the light of the world (Matthew 5:16). “Take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). Resolve to please God, no matter what people say about you (Galatians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 5:9).
27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” 28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27–28, NKJV)
Mary was indeed blessed among women, by giving birth to Jesus, and by having such a son as He (Luke 1:42, 46-48). Yet, “those who hear the word of God and keep it” are blessed more greatly than Mary. The Roman Catholic Church has heaped blessings upon Mary that cannot be heard by listening to the word of God. They venerate Mary, claiming for her all sorts of powers and position nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. Catholicism’s Mariology views Mary as the Mother of God and advocates her Assumption (that sinless Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul), her Immaculate Conception (that Mary was born without original sin), and her Perpetual Virginity (which contradicts Matthew 1:25; 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). Other Marian doctrines describe her as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix with Jesus Christ. Prayers are offered to Mary, with expectations of blessings. Yet, you must hear the Roman Church to learn these dogmas and doctrines. Jesus said we should hear the word of God and keep it. When we do, we will not have the Vatican’s blessing, but, we will have heaven’s blessing.
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42, NKJV)
People of faith can be distracted from listening to the words of Jesus. Like Martha (who believed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, John 11:27), we can busy ourselves with things we believe are necessary and forget what is truly needful. Martha wanted to listen to Jesus, but the distractions of serving her guests pulled her away. She was annoyed that Mary was not helping her, to the point that she questioned the Lord’s apparent lack of concern. We must not blame others, or the Lord, when we become distracted from our spiritual opportunities. Nothing is as important as sitting at the feet of Jesus to hear His word. We must choose what will not be taken from us – faith in Christ that come from hearing His word. Refuse to be pulled away from Jesus by mundane things. Be sure to “have ears to hear” the word of Jesus (Luke 8:8).
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (Romans 4:3–4, NKJV)
Obedience to Christ is not a work of merit that nullifies grace. The theology of Calvin has persuaded untold millions that obedience is a work that “earns” or merits salvation. If true, then James contradicts Paul, for he said, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:21-23). Faith is made complete by obedience. There is no contradiction in Scripture, only with Calvinism’s faulty definitions of faith and works. Like us all, Abraham was a sinner in need of grace. Only perfect law-keeping (sinlessness) would nullify grace and make salvation a debt (Romans 4:4). The faith that saved Abraham was not sinless, but it was obedient (as witnessed in the matter of Isaac). Through the gospel, it is obedient faith that God counts for righteousness today. Obedience earns nothing; it is the action of a dutiful servant (Luke 17:10). Obedience is the work that justifies the ungodly, for without it, faith is dead (James 2:20). Obedient faith, not faith only, justifies sinners (James 2:24).
57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end. (Matthew 26:57–58, NKJV)
Peter followed Jesus at a distance, to see how things would end. Earlier that night, Peter had pledged unflinching allegiance, “even if I have to die with You,” I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:35). But now, warming himself at the fire of the enemy, his reactions were quite different. Three times he denied knowing Jesus, even cursing and swearing his refutation (Matthew 26:69-75). You cannot successfully follow Jesus at a distance. That is the place of the spectator, who easily criticizes, but rarely participates. The light grows dim as we move away from the source, Jesus Christ (John 8:12). Attending an occasional worship service, offering an infrequent prayer, and giving lip service to following Jesus will tempt you to deny the Lord, just like Peter. Instead of distancing yourself from the Lord, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).