He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. (Proverbs 17:27, NKJV)
Hearts are disquieted by uncertainty and doubt. When His apostles’ hearts were troubled, Jesus calmed them with assuring words of truth that shored up their faith (John 14:1-11). Understanding God’s word is a divinely-given resource to combat the anxious mind. Faith in Christ and His word leads us to a place of contentment, reassurance and hope in the face of life’s storms. On the other hand, multiplying our own words without knowledge feeds pride but fails to soothe the soul (Job 35:9-16; 38:2). Our spirit is calmed when our faith is informed by God’s word. Whatever uncertainty you face, seek God’s answers in the Bible. Understanding God’s word can calm your spirit as you put your trust in what He says. If your spirit is troubled, spend time with God’s word and gain understanding.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:9, NKJV)
To be justified means to be declared righteous, free of guilt and innocent of sin. The death of Jesus is the basis for our justification from sin. Without it we would have no way to be freed from the guilt of our sins and the wrath sin brings (Romans. 3:19; 6:23). The New Testament attributes the sinner’s justification to many things, including God’s grace (Romans 3:24), man’s faith (Galatians 2:16), and the works of faith (James 2:24). God’s love prompted the sacrificial death of His only begotten Son on Calvary’s cross (Romans 5:6-8). Although Christ died for every sinner, only those who have faith in Jesus are saved from wrath through Him (Romans 3:26; 5:9). Yet, sinners are not justified by “faith only” (James 2:24). Faith is dead without obedience to the word of God (James 2:17, 20). Do you have faith to do whatever Jesus commands of you? Or, is your faith merely an affirmation without obedience? Whoever “fears God and works righteousness” is acceptable to Him, not because they earn justification, but because they believe God justifies them by the blood of His Son when they obey His word (Acts 10:34-35). It should not surprise us that water baptism is the action of obedient faith by which sinners obtain justification by Christ’s death (Romans 6:4; Acts 22:16). The nature of your faith is crucial in assuring your justification by the blood of Jesus.
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8, NKJV)
Without strength. Ungodly. Sinners. Such was our spiritual condition when Christ died for us. We are impotent to save ourselves from our sins. Ungodliness is powerless to cleanse the ungodly. Sinners are incapable of freeing themselves from the bondage of sin. We were neither righteous nor good when Christ died for us. That Christ died for us cannot be attributed to our own righteousness or goodness. It can only be ascribed to the great and matchless love of God. The defining trait of God’s love is that He sent His Son to die for us when we were His unloving, unlovable enemies (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10). The depth of God’s love for us compels us to love one another, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Love is not merely stated, it is demonstrated. God has shown us true love. Now, let us go and love as He has loved us.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10, NKJV)
It is notable that the apostle John addresses Christians in this passage – those who “walk in the light” are warned not to deny their sins (1 John 1:5-7). Yes, Christians can sin, and Christians can yield to the temptation of denying their sin. But, to do so is a futile exercise of self-righteous deception. Denying one’s sin is a failure to take personal responsibility for sin. The truth is not in the person who denies his own sin. On the other hand, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse our unrighteousness when we freely and fully acknowledge our sins to Him. When you are tempted to deny your sin, remember that to do so makes you a liar. Furthermore, you also make God a liar, because God’s word says we all have sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Christians refuse to be controlled and ruled by sin (Romans 6:6-14). When you sin, do not become a liar by denying it. Confess your sins to God. Repent and pray, and God will forgive you (Acts 8:22). What joyous release! What wonderful mercy we have in Christ.
38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38–39, NKJV)
Jesus had just explained that following Him will bring conflict into your life (Matthew 10:34-36). Even family members will oppose you when you follow Jesus. Yet, we must still love Jesus more than family. This is a cross we must bear to be worthy of Christ. Compromising His truth for the sake of peace with family makes one unworthy of being His disciple (Matthew 10:37). Indeed, whenever we put our own life (our interests, desires and pleasure) before doing the will of Christ, we will lose it. Only when we surrender all for the sake of Christ will we have life. Following Jesus first and always brings eternal life; following ourselves always bring eternal death (Proverbs 14:12). Living by faith requires that we bear whatever burden must be borne to be true to Christ. When compared to the burden of sin, this burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:37, NKJV)
Jesus demands our first allegiance. The closest relationships we have are not to be given greater importance and priority than our faithfulness to Jesus Christ. In this matter, Jesus does not ask of us what He did not also do. Jesus did the Father’s will, even when His brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:5). Jesus gave preference to those who follow the will of God instead of His own mother and brothers by saying, “whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:49-50). We cannot choose family over God’s truth, because truth sanctifies us, not family (John 17:17). Jesus was very clear about what discipleship requires. It requires loving Him more than we love our parents, our children, our siblings and everyone else. Otherwise, we are not worthy of Him and cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:26). The general religious community does not know this Jesus. The world certainly does not know this Jesus. Not a few Christians have trouble knowing this Jesus, too. But this is the true Jesus! Family does not define faithfulness and fellowship with God in the Lord’s church – the word of Christ does (1 John 1:5-7; 2 John 9-11). When you choose to follow Jesus, you are choosing to love Him more than your earthly family.
34 Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ (Matthew 10:34–36, NKJV)
The Prince of Peace brought spiritual warfare to the earth (Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, 1 John 3:8). His gospel marks the dividing line between truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong. Truth has that effect; it divides the closest of relatives. Our adversary the devil uses our earthly relations (parents, children and spouses) to slander our loyalty to Jesus and tempt us to choose family over faith. Will you compromise truth and abandon your faith for the sake of your father, mother, child, spouse or in-law? Not everyone the Christian loves will love God. Borrowing from Micah 7:6, Jesus strips away the illusion that we can follow Him without fighting the good fight of faith. Your faith must not be in other people, no matter how closely related you are to them. Your first allegiance is to Jesus and His truth. He is our means of peace with God and with those who follow Him (Ephesians 2:14). Jesus preached peace, but every day He battled the forces of unbelief. He expects you, dear Christian, to wage the same fight (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; 1 Timothy 6:12; 1 John 5:3-4).
13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us. (Acts 16:13–15, NKJV)
Paul and his companions looked for an opportunity to teach the gospel, and a group of women were found by the riverside. Among them was Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened “to heed the things spoken by Paul.” How and why did the Lord open Lydia’s heart? Does He still open hearts? First, Lydia was not shown preferential treatment over the other women. God opened her heart the way He does today, by the power of the gospel she heard. God’s saving word addresses the heart, convicting and converting the lost (John 16:8-13; Romans 1:16). Lydia’s heart was opened “to heed” the things Paul said (to give close attention to and respond). The gospel prompted her to answer God’s call to believe and be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:15-16). Her actions were deemed “faithful to the Lord” inasmuch as Paul and his companions lodged at her house. Lydia chose to heed the gospel and by doing so, she was faithful to the Lord.
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27, NKJV)
James does not make excuses for the religious person who will not bring his tongue and heart under the control of God’s word (James 1:22-26). With striking contrast, he now identifies the person who is clean and unstained before God. It is the person whose actions match his words and deeds. It is the person who attends to the needs of the homeless and widows. Moved by compassion, this person relieves their suffering as he is able, just like the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). This is not a church-coordinated action, arranged by committee and financed by a church treasury. It is the action of the person whose religion is “pure and undefiled.” This same person is careful to guard his moral purity by withholding himself (or herself) from the defilement of the world (1 John 2:15-16). This person knows he or she lives before the true God who sees every action and knows every thought and motive of the heart. Devote yourself to the pure and undefiled religion that is revealed in God’s perfect law of liberty. Be a doer of its work and you will be blessed (James 1:25).
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. (James 1:26, NKJV)
This warning from the inspiration’s pen is penetrating, straightforward and universal in application. It strikes at the very heart of self-righteousness and the hypocrisy it so readily breeds. No one is so greatly deceived as he who thinks he is something when he is nothing (Galatians 6:3). James is telling us that what we think about our personal piety does not make it so. Being actively religious does not insure one’s usefulness and acceptability to God. The heart is deceived that thinks the fruit of its lips have no bearing on its virtue. The tongue that wags with backbiting gossip, profane innuendos or contentious murmurings exposes a heart that is not devoted to God. Such language reveals a heart that is devoted to itself. The heart from which such language spews shows it is willing to hurt others (while justifying itself). We must bring our tongues under control by bringing our hearts under control. We do that by looking into the perfect law of liberty and being doers of the word (James 1:22-25).