15 For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, 16 And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”— Therefore you shall flee! And, “We will ride on swift horses”— Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!” (Isaiah 30:15–16, NKJV)
God extended the blessings of repentance to Israel in spite of being “a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord” (Isa. 30:9). Even though they told God’s prophets, “Do not speak to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa. 30:10), God was willing to save them if only they would repent. Yet, they sought alliances with Egypt instead of reliance upon the Lord (Isa. 30:1-7). We are also tempted to rely on the strength of human alliances instead of relying on the Lord’s word and way. Human wisdom is accepted over the pure gospel of Jesus (1 Cor. 1:18-25). Human philosophies are heeded instead of divine directives (Col. 2:2-3, 8-9, 20-23). Human doctrines and practices are clung to instead of a “thus saith the Lord” (Col. 3:16-17). Human pride is followed instead of humbly submitting to the Lord’s word (Jas. 4:6-10). Like Israel, salvation will be ours if only we will repent. Truly, God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Flee to the Lord for His salvation, not to the false hopes of men that will never save you from sin and will never secure your fellowship with God.
21 “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. 22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.” (Amos 5:21–22, NKJV)
If you are under the impression that God accepts whatever worship is brought to Him, then please give close attention to today’s passage. During the days of Amos the northern kingdom of Israel was immersed in idolatry, immorality, and injustice against one another (Amos 5:25-27; 4:1). They oppressed the weak and rejected the word that God sent them by His prophets (Amos 5:10-15; 2:11-12). They attempted to worship the Lord with gold calves (set up by Jeroboam as a hedge against the reunification of Israel and Judah, 1 Kgs. 12:26-30). Israel could not come before God with impure hearts and unclean hands and be accepted by Him. Neither can we (Jas. 4:7-10). It is the height of hubris to ignore the word of God that explains how we must worship Him “in spirit and truth” while confidently asserting God is pleased with us (Jno. 4:23-24). Such arrogance is rejected by God, who “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6). You see, it matters how we worship God as well as what type of heart we bring before God when we worship. Let us humble ourselves before God and obey His word, so that our worship will be in spirit and truth. Otherwise, our worship will not be accepted by the Lord.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8, NKJV)
Paul was thankful for the faith of the Roman saints. More specifically, he was grateful to God that their faith was favorably spoken of throughout the world. Here’s a simple question to ask as we ponder the meaning of faith. If faith is only mental assent or agreement, then how would people throughout the world know about their faith? When faith is uncoupled from the works of faith (obedience), it is profitless and cannot save a person (Jas. 2:14). When faith is not active it is dead, because it is alone (“by itself,” Jas. 2:17, 20). When faith has no corresponding action, it is unseen (Jas. 2:18). When faith is defined as nothing more than agreement with some truth, it is no more than what the demons possess (Jas. 2:19). Faith is more than mental assent or agreement with some statement of truth. The faith of the Roman saints was observable through their obedience to the gospel. The Scriptures confirm their obedient faith: “For your obedience has become known to all” (Rom. 16:19). Their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world because it was known through their obedience. Your faith is shown through your obedience to Christ (Jas. 2:18). Saving faith is an obedient faith (Jas. 2:14, 24-26). Commit yourselves to showing your faith by always obeying the Lord.
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:1–2, NKJV)
Two transgressions are rebuked here, sin between a Christian man and his father’s wife, and the church’s arrogant indifference toward the man’s sin. The church failed to apply discipline (in an attempt to save the sinner and to protect the church from additional sin, 1 Cor. 5:4-7). Today, churches are accepting all forms of sexual immorality in the name of tolerance and inclusivity. Yet, the Bible still condemns these sins and calls on fornicators and adulterers to repent (Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Churches of Christ have joined the ranks of these compromisers by refusing to apply corrective church discipline to Christians who sin and refuse to repent. This comforts sinners in their sin while it weakens the faith of others (1 Cor. 5:6). It is not easy or pleasant to apply corrective discipline, but is the faithful thing to do. Its purpose is to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5). When the Corinthian church followed the apostle’s teaching and disciplined the sinner, it prompted the man’s repentance and restoration (2 Cor. 2:3-11). Furthermore, the church was vindicated of its previous sin in the matter (2 Cor. 7:9-11).
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19–20, NKJV)
May disciples of Jesus Christ protect themselves from outside harm when they assemble together? The doors where these disciples assembled were “shut” – closed, secured, made inaccessible – “for fear of the Jews.” This word is used of prison doors (Acts 5:23), of the temple doors (Acts 21:30), and of the door shut by “He who has the keys of David” that no one opens (Rev. 3:7). The appearance of Jesus brought them peace and gladness. Yet, when they assembled eight days later, the doors were again “shut” when Jesus appeared to them. The fact that Christ is with His people when they worship does not prevent a church from securing its safety when it assembles for worship. The prayers made for Peter by many disciples at the house of Mary were offered behind a closed gate that had to be opened from the inside (Acts 12:12-16). Their careful security was not due to a lack of faith, it was a prudent course of action given the present danger of persecution (Acts 12:1-5). Certainly, churches may secure their safety when they assemble to worship God. The principle to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” surely finds application here.
18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.” (Mark 7:18–20, ESV)
The Law of Moses contained dietary restrictions for Israel which distinguished between clean and unclean animals (Lev. 11). Jesus removed those limitations, explaining that food does not defile a person (Col. 2:14-17). Evil that comes from within our heart defiles us (Mk. 7:21-23). Demanding abstinence from certain foods as a way of holiness is apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Yet, some faiths that forbid certain foods in the name of Jesus. One example is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose Word of Wisdom (Doctrine and Covenants 89) forbids “hot drinks,” which Church leaders have explained means abstaining from coffee and tea (“Vaping, Coffee, Tea, and Marijuana,” New Era, August 2019). Seventh-day Adventists typically follow a vegetarian or vegan diet due to supposed revelations of Ellen G. White (“What Do Seventh-day Adventists Eat?,” seventhdayadventistdiet.com). By contrast, the Bible says that “food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” (1 Cor. 8:8). When it comes to righteousness, we must be more concerned about what comes out of our hearts than what goes into our stomachs. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:32–34, NKJV)
We learn the depth of God’s willingness to forgive as we meditate on Christ’s words while He hung on the cross. God is ready to forgive sinners who answer His gospel call to repent (Lk. 5:32; Matt. 11:28-30). We should also understand what did not happen when Jesus prayed for His enemies. He was not tolerating their sins. His murderers were not forgiven immediately (like the repentance criminal, Lk. 23:39-43). We must not confuse Christ’s prayer as accepting them as they were. They would have to believe the gospel, repent, and be baptized in His name for their sins to actually be forgiven (Acts 2:36-38). Some believe sins of ignorance will not condemn a person. That is false (Acts 3:17-19). Some believe God accepts people regardless of their moral condition. That is also false. Sin separates us from God (Isa. 59:1-2). Jesus died so sinners can approach God’s presence and obtain merciful forgiveness (Heb. 10:19-20). We pray for sinners to be forgiven, and we teach them the gospel so they can believe, obey, and be saved (Mk. 16:15-16). Jesus died to save sinners, not so that God will accept us even as we continue practicing sin (Rom. 6:1-2; 2 John 9).
14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 7:14–16, NKJV)
We can understand the teachings of Jesus by listening to them. It concerns us when Christians take exception with that simple statement of trust in the inspired word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 5:17). When we reduce the teachings of Christ and His apostles (who taught His commands, 1 Cor. 14:37) to personal and relative “interpretation,” we have elevated ourselves above the Lord and surrendered our allegiance to His authority (Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 3:17). In today’s passage, Jesus taught that spiritual corruption does not occur because of what one eats, but is due to what comes out of the heart (Mk. 7:17-23). Understanding that evil proceeds from the heart and is identifiable is not a personal, relative, or so-called traditional interpretation of the Scriptures – it is what Jesus said (read Mark 7:20-23). We ought to ask ourselves, “Do I have ‘ears to hear’ Jesus?” If so, you will understand Him. Do not be deceived by attempts to persuade you that understanding God’s word amounts to accepting a tradition about the Scriptures. Truth is not open to different interpretations or opinions. Therefore, neither is understanding it. We open our hearts to the devil when we close our ears to the word of God by reducing an understanding of it to “our tradition.”
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21–22, NKJV)
We are impressed by the love, forbearance, and compassion it takes to forgive those who sin against us. Peter may well have thought forgiving his brother seven times went over and beyond the normal expectations of forgiveness. But, Jesus used Peter’s figure as a springboard to explain the limitless nature of genuine forgiveness. His hyperbole of “seventy times seven” is not to be taken literally, but as emphasizing the boundless nature of forgiveness. His lesson is driven home as we contemplate our heavenly Father’s complete (and repeated) forgiveness of our sins. Moved with compassion, God forgives us completely when we seek His mercy (Matt. 18:23-27). Refusing to forgive those who sin against us reveals an unmerciful heart that prompts God’s just anger against us (Matt. 18:28-35). Let us meditate on how God forgives us. He does so promptly, compassionately, lovingly, completely, and repeatedly. We marvel at the depth of God’s compassion for us, at the breadth of His forbearance toward us, and at the magnitude of His love that readily takes us back into His fellowship (1 Jno. 1:9). “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psa. 86:5). How we forgive others must imitate God’s forgiveness of us.
54 And when they came out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, 55 ran through that whole surrounding region, and began to carry about on beds those who were sick to wherever they heard He was. 56 Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well.” (Mark 6:54–56, NKJV)
Do you recognize Jesus? I do not mean the imaginary images painted and sculptured centuries after He walked the earth. Nor do we mean the fictionalized thoughts of our own hearts. Do you recognize the real Jesus (the Jesus of the Bible), who He is, what He has done, and what He can do for you? Do you recognize His character? His gospel? His heart of mercy? His power to save you from your sin? His truth that sets you free from sin’s bondage? Do you recognize Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16)? These people ran to Jesus with their loved ones because they knew of His power to heal. We ought to run to Jesus for our souls to be healed of sin. They tried to touch the hem of his garment, for when they did, they were made whole. We can’t touch His garment, but we can contact His saving blood that redeems us from sin. That happens when we have the faith to be baptized into His death. When we do, we die to sin and have new life in Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 22:16). Run to Jesus. Believe and obey His gospel for salvation. He is merciful. He will save.