Wisdom Fears the Lord #1913

12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. (Proverbs 8:12–13, NKJV)

Wisdom is the insight and discernment that applies knowledge sensibly and carefully. Solomon will go on to say that wisdom begins by fearing the Lord: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psa. 111:10). We cannot miss the point that wisdom hates evil because it fears the Lord. Wisdom does not love, endorse, or promote evil. Instead, wisdom knows and despises the evil of pride, arrogance, the path of sin, and the profane, perverse mouth. The contrast is vivid: Should we make life choices out of pride and arrogance, we are not fearing God, we are not doing His commandments – we are not wise. The gospel says, “See then that you walk circumspectly (carefully, JRP), not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). Today, choose wisdom as your companion. Live carefully by fearing God and doing His commands, and it will be so (Matt. 7:24-25).

Brood of Vipers #1912

Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33, NKJV)

Christ’s words were scalding as He exposed the sins of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. “Woe to you…hypocrites!” “Blind guides!” “Fools and blind!” “Serpents, brood of vipers!” May disciples of Jesus follow His example of exposing, rebuking, and even pronouncing God’s condemnation of those who teach error and, by it, lead others into sin? Some say, “No, this was Jesus! He knew men’s hearts, but we don’t. We are not Jesus; we cannot do this.” Yet, here and elsewhere, Jesus addressed both the sinful conduct and the motives of heart that produced their error and sin. Both teachings and behavior, whether good or evil, come from the heart (Matt. 12:35). When He warned against false prophets, Jesus said: “you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-16). Since we can know false proclaimers of God’s word from the fruit of their teachings, surely we are to warn others of the danger their error poses (Paul did this, 1 Tim. 4:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18). Couple this with the undeniable truth that disciples follow their Master’s example, and we have ample right and reason to carefully identify and denounce sin and error (Lk. 6:40). Perhaps we should ask, did Jesus sin by using such harsh denunciations? No. Was His heart pure when He did? Yes. And, our hearts can be pure and our conduct without sin when we follow His example of warning against error and identifying those who promote it. Indeed, our hearts must be pure as we examine and expose error, lest we fall under the same condemnation (Rom. 2:1-2; 1 Tim. 4:16). God’s truth is our guiding light to expose sin and to advance righteousness (Jno. 3:19-21).

Judge What is Right #1911

56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? 57 Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? (Luke 12:56–57, NKJV)

Jesus scolded the people for being unwilling to judge the time of the Messiah’s presence among them. They read the signs of the sky and the earth and drew correct conclusions about the weather (Lk. 12:54-55). Yet, when they saw the signs that identified Jesus as the Messiah, they resisted and refused to judge what was right (Lk. 11:29-32). Even what is apparent is obscured when hearts are hard against the truth. God has made His power and presence known through His creation, yet many refuse to believe in Him. They do not judge what is right. God has revealed Jesus to be the Son of God by raising Him from the dead. Still, multitudes refuse to believe in Him. They do not judge what is right (Rom. 1:4). The gospel plan of salvation is preached to the whole world, yet few enter the narrow gate and walk the way that leads to life (Mk. 16:15-16; Matt. 7:14). They do not judge what is right. You see, Jesus expects us to make judgments, but they must be righteous (Jno. 7:24). Like judging changes in the weather, we are to assess the evidence given in God’s word and judge what is right and be without offense until the day of Christ (Phil. 1:9-10).

To Forbid or Not Forbid: That is the Question #1910

47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:47–48, NKJV)

Many Bible teachers say believers “should not be baptized” for salvation. Others confidently forbid water baptism for salvation, but then teach it is necessary to obey Jesus. This doublespeak fails to see the biblical link between water baptism and salvation. Does it harmonize with the Scriptures to separate water baptism from salvation while also commanding it as a mark of loyalty to Christ? No, it does not. The Bible answer is clear; Obedience by believers is essential to being saved by Christ. Scripture says, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). Christ saves those who obey Him. Peter had just preached that “in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35). To work righteousness is nothing less than to obey the gospel (Rom. 6:17-18). If it is proper to exclude (forbid) the command of baptism from salvation, then no amount of obedience bears on one’s salvation (including “Lordship baptism”). Yet, Scripture affirms that saving faith includes obeying the commands to confess one’s faith, to repent of sins, and to be baptized. These works of righteousness are obeyed by believers who want to be saved (Rom. 10:9; Acts 17:30; Acts 2:37-38). And, Jesus saves them (Heb. 5:9).

A Saved Relationship with Jesus #1609

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)

A relationship with Jesus Christ is essential to being saved from our sins. That is not in dispute. When one is outside of Christ (not in a relationship with Him), that person is without God and without hope (Eph. 2:12). The blood of Christ brings sinners into Christ, where we have blessed peace with God (Eph. 2:13, 16-18). The pertinent question is, how does the sinner enter a saved relationship with Christ? Is it through a profound, unique experience that is different for each person? Is it through a sinner’s prayer uttered from a heart of faith and repentance? Are we left to self-define how and when Christ comes into our hearts, and when we enter into Him? No. Every sinner is saved by the same means, in the same way (Acts 4:12; 10:34-35). Nowhere does the Bible say we are at liberty to self-define when Jesus enters our life. Scriptures say sinners put on Christ and are saved when they are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27; Mk. 16:16). We are lost in sin and outside of Christ until our sins are washed away by Christ’s blood. This cleansing by His blood happens at baptism and is when one becomes “a new creation” “in Christ” (Acts 22:16; 2:37-38). According to Scripture, until the blood of Christ washes away our sins, we are not in a relationship with Christ, regardless of how we feel or what we have experienced. May we rest our hope of salvation on what the Scriptures say, instead of on feelings and experiences.

Listen to Jesus Early and Often #1908

Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him. (Luke 21:38, NKJV)

The excitement in Jerusalem had been building daily, ever since Jesus came into the city riding on a young donkey. Anticipating the deliverance of Israel from the oppression of her enemies, the people had lined His pathway with clothes and palm branches as He entered the city (Matt. 21:1-11; Lk. 19:36-40). Their king had arrived (Jno. 12:13)! People came early each morning and listened attentively to Jesus (Lk. 19:48). The crescendo was nearing its apex, but the climactic event would not be as the crowd envisioned. Soon, in frenzied dismay, they would cry out, ”Crucify Him!” Until then, Jesus kept teaching in the temple daily. “Why did He bother?” you ask? The Son was doing the work His Father gave Him (Jno. 12:27-36). Now, we have what He taught that week in the inspired Scriptures for our faith and salvation. I wonder, are we as eager to hear what Jesus says as they were? And if so, are we also eager to do what He says? We cannot correctly call Jesus our Lord if we believe what He says but do not obey Him (Lk. 6:46). Let us always listen to Jesus – early in the morning, late at night, and all through the day. May we believe Him, obey Him, and so be delivered from sin and death as citizens of His kingdom (Jno. 18:36-37; Col. 1:13-14).

Do Not Love the World #1907

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17, NKJV)

The “world” of which John writes is the system of evil that opposes God. The world is the dominion of Satan and is antagonistic toward the Father, His will, and His love. Many stiffen their necks against God’s commands not to sin (like the command in verse 15, “Do not love the world…”). But, God has a reason for giving us “thou shalt nots” – He wants us to love Him instead of loving the world. God wants us to have eternal life instead of living under the control of Satan, and then dying eternally. Loving the world is set in motion by the things of the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Therefore, we must arrest the cravings of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life. From godly sorrow, let us repent of loving the world (2 Cor. 7:10). Let us redirect our hearts toward heaven (Col. 3:1-4). Loving the world gives momentary pleasure (Heb. 11:25). But, the things of the world will never satisfy the heart’s yearning for completeness, contentment, and comfort. Ultimately, the world brings desolation, despair, and death.

House of Prayer or Den of Thieves? #1906

45 Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Luke 19:45–46, NKJV)

The corruption of God’s house of prayer is on full display as Christ’s indignation raged against those who had turned temple worship into an oppressive and lucrative business enterprise (Matt. 21:12-13). Jesus used Isaiah 56:7 to expose and condemn their unholy treatment of God’s house and God’s people. Now, the church is God’s holy temple (Eph. 2:19-22). Despite Christ’s pointed warning against defiling God’s house, people continue to defile God’s house of prayer, the church. The reconfiguration of the church constitutes a departure from the faith the Spirit expressly warned would happen (1 Tim. 4:1-3; Gal. 1:6-10). Over time, the church’s worship became polluted with rites and rituals not found in the covenant of Christ. The church’s organization was turned into an ecclesiastical hierarchy ruling over independent congregations of saints. The church’s work became contaminated by material pursuits as people made merchandise of the gospel (2 Cor. 2:17). Jesus does not look on approvingly while the will and wisdom of men corrupt His church (Col. 2:8, 20-23). The church does not belong to us; it belongs to Christ. Christ’s gospel continues to disrupt the innovations that defile God’s house under the guise of progress and advancement (1 Tim. 6:20-21; 2 Jno. 9).

Excuses, Excuses #1905

16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’” (Luke 14:16–20, NKJV)

We are masters at making excuses. The great supper and the invitation to come to the prepared feast is figurative of the kingdom of God and God’s invitation to come to His feast of salvation and “eat” in His kingdom (Lk. 14:15; cf. Isa. 55:1-4). God’s invitation to salvation from sin is sent to every soul, yet few come. Many still say, “I have other, more pressing things to do.” “Necessary” things. “Important” things. “Valid” concerns. Yet, every excuse belies the greater value we place on ourselves instead of on the kingdom of God. (Gaining the whole world is not worth losing your soul, Matthew 16:26.) The host told his servant, “none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper” as a result of their excuse-making rejection of his invitation (Lk. 14:24). God has prepared everything for your salvation in His Son (Matt. 11:28-30). Do not refuse His invitation. Believe and obey the gospel, and enter the kingdom of God (Mk. 16:15-16; Col. 1:13-14).

April’s Fool, but not Life’s Fool #1904

Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief. (Proverbs 14:13, NKJV)

Today is April Fool’s Day (April 1), the traditional day of playing light-hearted pranks on friends and even strangers. Laughter and good humor is good, but even as we laugh, our hearts may sorrow and grieve. As we seek out laughter and entertainment, we may be making decisions that will ultimately bring us sorrow and grief. These are the decisions that reveal foolishness instead of wisdom. We ought to pause and ask ourselves whether we are making choices that are heaping up for ourselves sorrow, grief, and eternal regrets (Rom. 2:5). The Bible says the real fool says, “There is no God” (Psa. 14:1). To ignore the truth of God’s presence and power is a fool’s errand (Rom. 1:18-23). The Bible says real fool chooses to be deceived by intoxicants. God says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1). Broken lives, broken homes, and broken souls testify to the evil of this behavior (Prov. 23:29-35). The Bible says the real fool believes life is all about the things he possesses. Jesus explained that life is not about what we possess (Lk. 12:15). God said to the man who had laid up many goods for many years, “Fool!” because he had not been rich toward God (Lk. 12:20-21). An April’s Fool Day prank may fool us, but we must not fool ourselves by choosing foolish and sinful things and calling them good.