Willing Hearts Give According to Ability #1636

10 And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; 11 but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. 12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. (2 Corinthians 8:10–12, NKJV)

Christians in Jerusalem were in desperate need of relief, and the Corinthian church desired to serve them. Their desire to help had prompted them to begin to help a year earlier (v. 10). Apparently, they had not yet completed this work. (Paul had previously instructed them on this matter, 1 Corinthians 16:1-3.) Now, Paul counsels them to bring their actual giving into harmony with their desire to help (2 Corinthians 8:16-9:15). Paul explained God did not expect from them what they were unable to give (v. 12). God would accept their giving based on their willingness and their ability to do so. We thus conclude that a willing heart plus one’s ability produces giving that Gods accepts. The Macedonian churches had set an example of willing hearts plus generous giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Giving without a willing heart becomes coercion. Readiness to give without following through becomes empty rhetoric. With willing hearts, may we fully give according to our ability, we may be confident of the Lord’s acceptance.

Live What You Preach #1635

1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” (Matthew 23:1–3, NKJV)

Emphasizing the need to live what we preach, it has been said, “Seeing a sermon is better than hearing one.” Certainly, those who teach God’s word need to live God’s word. Otherwise, a stumbling block of hypocrisy is laid that is not easily removed. So it was with the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus confronted and confounded with His truth. Since they taught God’s law to Israel (“sit in Moses’ seat”), the Lord expected people to observe God’s law when they taught it. Yet, Jesus warned against following the example of these hypocrites because they did not follow the law they taught. We must see that God holds us accountable for our own spiritual responsibilities. We cannot blame hypocrites for our sin. We must also learn to distinguish between a teacher of God’s word who may sin and corrects it, and the hypocrite who pretends to be what he is not. A Christian’s sin does not automatically make that person a hypocrite. That happens when we pretend to be something we are not. Genuine faith prevents hypocrisy while fueling faithfulness to do the will of God.

“By This We Know Love” #1634

16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16–18, NKJV)

How do you know someone loves you? Is it because they say, “I love you”? Well, that helps. But, saying “I love you” is convincing for only so long. We know someone truly loves us by how they treat us. Christ put His love into action by sacrificing His life for us. Likewise, we are under love’s moral obligation to sacrifice ourselves to help our brethren. While many suppose hate to be the opposite of love, in fact, love’s opposite is indifference. When we are apathetic toward someone we will not show them active goodwill (love). Indifference easily discounts and disregards others. We may say we love them, but our apathetic conduct toward them proves differently. Jesus is the embodiment of love because He “laid down His life for us.” Instead of closing our hearts to brethren in need, we must “lay down our lives” for them. That is when the love of God abides in us. Do not be deceived, beloved brethren.

Great Unity #1633

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. (Acts 4:32, NKJV)

By this time the Jerusalem church had well over five thousand men, plus women and children (Acts 4:4). Although there were vast differences in their ethnic backgrounds, their occupations, their languages and much more, these thousands of believers had “one heart and one soul.” One Bible commentator observed, “As in a living body only one heart beats, and as it is animated by only one (soul, jrp), so it was true of this great body of believers” (R.C.H. Lenski, Acts, 186). Their common faith was the church’s pulsing heart and breath of life. This is manifestly distinct and different from the denominated landscape of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Furthermore, the Jerusalem church’s unity was marked by generosity. Their commonality was not communal living or communistic socialism (private property rights were not being forfeited, Acts 5:4). Instead, they were unselfishly fulfilling the needs arose among them (Acts 4:34-37). Their unity of faith is an enduring example for every church of Christ to imitate (John 17:20-21).

Esteem Others Better than Yourself #1632

3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4, NKJV)

Combative mindsets and contentious conduct permeate society. The works of the flesh (“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like”)  are producing devastating results all around us (Galatians 5:19-21). Look at the contrast in today’s passage with the works of the flesh. Selfish ambition thrives in the arrogant heart that sees others as “less than” we are. Pride feeds the desire to look out for ourselves first – before others. When we estimate others to be better than ourselves it follows that we will not injure and harm them through the works of the flesh. (Look at that list again and see how often our sins invariably hurt others.) By developing hearts of humility we become servants of others instead of users and takers. Living for others instead of ourselves protects us from sin as it spreads the influence of righteousness. Be the salt of the earth by maintaining a humble heart that values others and becomes a blessing in their lives (Matthew 5:13).

Preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom #1631

14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14–15, NKJV)

The preaching of Jesus was radical, revolutionary, and redemptive. Those who envision Jesus as a soft spoken, mealy-mouthed professor of theology have woefully missed the mark. Undeterred by the imprisonment of John, Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom in Galilee (see Matthew 4:12-17). This passage is a big problem for premillennialists (those who believe Christ’s kingdom was not established in the first century). The kingdom of God is linked to gospel Jesus preached. If God withdrew the kingdom and substituted the church (as they say), then how can they be sure the kingdom’s gospel was not also withdrawn? Put another way, since the apostles preached the gospel from Pentecost onward, the kingdom Jesus said was “at hand” also arrived through the gospel they preached (Acts 1:6-8; 2:1-4, 33-41; Colossians 1:13-14). Jesus said His kingdom, which is not of this world, came during lives of His contemporaries (Mark 9:1; John 18:36). Will you accept the good news of the kingdom that calls you to repent and believe the gospel? We hope so. After all, that is what Jesus preached.

“He Ran and Worshiped Him” #1630

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. (Mark 5:6, NKJV)

Quite a number of people believe every part of their daily life constitutes worship. Today’s verse (it is not the only one) shows that is not so. Worship (“to pay homage to, to prostrate oneself in homage”) is a particular action by the worshiper given to the object of worship. Please notice the man was not worshiping Jesus when he saw him from a distance. The man was not worshiping Jesus when he ran to Jesus. It is when he arrived that he “worshiped Him.” Christians are instructed to worship God “in spirit and truth” – such are true worshipers (John 4:23-24). Worship involves particular actions directed toward God (prayer, singing praises, the Lord’s supper, giving, and preaching God’s word (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:15-16; 11:23-26; 16:1-2). Therefore, worship is more than just going to the lake or mountains and communing with nature. God has revealed the worship He accepts. It is our obligation to offer it to Him without our subtractions or additions. Let us live holy, devoted lives every day, and let us worship God as Scripture directs, with right hearts (“spirit”) and God-approved actions (“truth”).