18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18–19, NKJV)
We are bombarded with bad news every day. Threats, corruption, wars, diseases, intrigue, and death; these are the daily headlines. Today’s citation was first given by the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 61:1-2). Jesus read it in a synagogue in Nazareth and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk. 4:21). Jesus came announcing good news. He was anointed by God to preach the gospel and, by it, to proclaim the healing of hearts and liberty from sin’s captivity. His gospel assures the poor in spirit of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). To blinded hearts, it gives sight (Jno. 9:35-41). His gospel proclaims freedom from sin’s oppression to all who believe and obey (Rom. 6:17-18). The gospel of Christ declares the presence of God’s favor and grace (“the acceptable year of the Lord”). God’s grace has appeared to everyone in Christ, offering forgiveness of sins and fellowship with the Almighty as it produces faith (Tit. 2:11-12; Rom. 10:17; Eph. 1:13). Do not be overwhelmed by all the bad news around us. Listen to the good news of Christ. It will save your soul and lift your heart heavenward every day.
5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:5–8, NKJV)
Christians are one body in Christ and members of one another. We are interconnected, joined together in Christ by our common faith and common salvation (Tit. 1:4; Jude 3). (The local church is described this way in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.) God has blessed us with different gifts, and He calls on us to use them for the benefit of His church. To achieve this requires us to serve each other with humility. Remembering the church belongs to Christ (not us) helps us focus on helping one another instead of demanding that others do our bidding (Phil. 2:1-8). The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served (Matt. 20:28). Like Jesus, use today to focus on serving someone instead of expecting someone to serve you. Doing so will strengthen you and the body of Christ.
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25, NKJV)
In this familiar Bible verse, a reason to be honest with one another is given in it, with another reason given just prior to it. “Therefore” draws our attention to what was just said, namely, that we have “put on the new man which is created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). When we heard the gospel and “learned Christ,” we were taught to put off the old person of corruption and “deceitful lusts,” and to be “renewed” in the spirit of our mind (Eph. 4:20-23). We choose to be honest and to stop being deceitful. Honesty is a choice of faith. Secondly, we tell the truth because we are members of each other in the body of Christ (v. 25). The hand does not lie to the arm; the ear does not lie to the eye. Neither are Christians to lie to one another. As members of the body of Christ (His church), we are connected to each other – “members of one another” (Rom. 12:5). Christ (our head) knows when we do not speak the truth, so we ought not to try to deceive one another. Honesty is a choice we make because we think of others as better and more important than ourselves. Finally, be sure you do not lie to yourself. Deceiving yourself that lying is acceptable hardens your heart against truth and leads to eternal death (Rev. 21:8).
22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22–24, NKJV)
What drives you to withstand trials, adversities, and obstacles of resistance to achieve your goal? Too often, we are driven from our spiritual goal to seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness by fear, by doubt, by uncertainty, and many other hindrances. Paul’s example helps us stay the course (cf. Heb. 12:1-2). 1) He was “bound in the spirit” (to go to Jerusalem, v. 22). His mind was set on things above (Col. 3:1-3). His obligation to Christ was fixed deep within his soul. 2) He was undeterred by personal hardship (v. 23-24). Fear of persecution did not pull him off course. He cared more about serving the will of God than his own life. 3) His goal was to finish his race with joy (v. 24). Paul would not just finish his race; he would do so with joy (2 Tim. 4:6-8). 4) The ministry the Lord gave him was more important than his life (v. 24). Paul’s priority to faithfully preach the gospel is evident from a review of what he endured for Jesus (2 Cor. 11:23-33; 4:7-11). Our faith will be tested. Will we be moved when our adversary puts the allurements of sin before us? Will we be moved when enemies of the truth put trials and persecutions in our path? Will fear of death move us away from finishing our race with joy (Matt. 10:28)? Or will we say with Paul, “None of these things move me?”
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:7–9, NKJV)
The apostles of Christ “did not follow cunningly devised fables” when they made known “the power and coming or our Lord Jesus Christ” – they were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16; Mk. 9:2-7). In preaching the gospel, these eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ spoke the wisdom of God that was previously hidden from men. God set in place His plan to redeem people from sin before time (Eph. 1:3-14; 3:8-11). It did not originate in the heart of man or the minds of the rulers of men. They unwittingly participated in it when they crucified the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul uses Isaiah 64:4 to affirm that God plans and executes His will to bless those who follow Him. The gospel is not the wisdom of men; it is the wisdom and mind of God. It has the power to save sinners (Rom. 1:16). Perverted gospels have the power of condemnation, not salvation (Gal. 1:6-10). We must turn to and rely on the revelation given the apostles of Christ – the New Testament of Christ – for our salvation from sin and to guide us in the way of righteous living unto eternal life (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 10:35-39).
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38–39, NKJV)
The “gift of the Holy Spirit” is the promised redemption the Spirit gives to those who believe, repent, and are baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of sins. Many mistakenly believe the gift in verse 38 is the Spirit Himself. Yet, the gift of the Holy Spirit is the promise of redemption available to all (v. 39, 21; Gen. 22:18). It is synonymous with Peter’s parallel statement in Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Spiritual blessings (“times of refreshing”) come to the sinner who is converted by the gospel (believes, repents, and is baptized, Acts 2:37-38; Eph. 1:3). The “promise of the Spirit” is the “blessing of Abraham,” which is received “through faith” (through the gospel, Gal. 3:14, 15-25). Our responsibility as Christians is to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching because what they taught is from the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:10-13). God does not give us a personal indwelling of His Spirit (apart from the word of the gospel) to guide us. The word of truth He gave us through the apostles guides us (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12, NKJV)
Satan is not given the name “Lucifer” in the Bible. The word is a Latinized translation of Hebrew that means “day star,” “bright one,” or “light-bearer.” The “son of the morning” in Isaiah 14 is undeniably the king of Babylon (Isa. 14:4). Isaiah 14:3-23 is an oracle of judgment against Babylon’s king. Although his oppressive conquests exalted him over many nations, the Lord God of Israel would extinguish his brightness. He who cut down nations would be “cut down to the ground.” God would bring down the king (who had exalted his heart and his throne “above the stars of God”) “to the lowest depths of the Pit” (Isa. 14:13-15). This “man” (the king of Babylon) was a waning luminary, soon to be snuffed out by God’s righteous judgment (Isa. 14:16-17). God used the Medes to do just that (Isa. 13:17; Jer. 51:11-14, 28-29; Dan. 5:30-31). Our lessons include these: 1) God rules over and judges the nations (Dan. 4:25-26, 35; Acts 17:26); 2) No one can exalt himself above God without incurring wrath (Isa. 14:14-15; Rom. 1:18-23); 3) Do not add to the Scriptures things are not there. The king of Babylon is Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12, not Satan. 4) Christ overthrows Satan (Lk. 10:18; Jno. 12:31; 1 Jno. 3:8). Why choose to be ruled by Satan, a defeated foe? “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).
1 Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, give to the Lord glory and strength. 2 Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. 9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. (Psalm 96:7–9, NKJV)
Psalm 96 is a call to worship the Lord God because “He is coming to judge the earth” (Psa. 96:13). He is sovereign over every kingdom of earth and over every family of people who inhabit it. People of every nation are called on to attribute to the one true God the glory and strength by which He reigns, provides, and judges us all. Worship is about honoring God, not ourselves (v. 8). We must bring our offerings into His presence with holiness and reverence. Jesus teaches us to worship God “in spirit and truth” (Jno. 4:24). His gospel reveals the offerings of praise that God accepts (Acts 2:42). These offerings consist of the Lord’s Supper, praying, singing, giving, and teaching God’s word (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:15, 26; 16:1-2; Eph. 5:19). The Old Testament repeatedly teaches us God will not accept whatever we decide to give Him as worship, but that which He instructs us to give Him in worship. From Cain and Abel to Nadab and Abihu, from King Saul to King Uzziah and more, we learn God only accepts worship from hearts that reverently give His commanded worship. Let us give God the homage He is due. May we ever come before God with praise and adoration from hearts that fear Him and with lives devoted to holiness.
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” 5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3–5, NKJV)
Judas did several things that often pass for repentance today. Each one falls short of “repentance from dead works” that is an elementary principle of Christ and must not be confused with genuine repentance (Heb. 6:1). 1) Remorse is not repentance. Judas regretted that Jesus had been condemned. Regretting the outcome of our sin is not repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). Regretting unforeseen consequences caused by our sin does not mean we have changed our minds toward our sin. 2) Recompense is not repentance. Judas expressed his regret by returning the silver. Maybe he thought that would change the situation. Of course, it did not. We should, to the best of our ability, correct sinful wrongs we have committed. Repayment may salve the conscience but never address the intent and motives that led to sin in the first place. Repentance will do that (2 Cor. 7:11). 3) Reporting is not repentance. We can say, “I have sinned,” yet fail to have a contrite heart that changes before God and others (like Peter, whose bitter weeping led him to change his heart and life, Matt. 26:75). 4) Reciprocity is not repentance. Judas’ suicide was an act of despair. Repentance moves forward with faith and hope in Christ (1 Tim. 1:12-16).
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8–10, NKJV)
Do you ever feel like you are beyond saving? Like your sins are so many, so frequent, so powerful over you that you say to yourself, “God could never forgive me!” If so, then listen to the parable of the lost coin very carefully. You are valuable to God! He is looking for you! He wants to find you! He is willing and able to forgive you from the storehouse of His mercy and compassion (see Lk. 15:1-7; Eph. 2:1-10). Image if you lost one-tenth of your money. Wouldn’t you look for it diligently and rejoice when you found it? God is like that. He values every sinner. He does not look for sinners so He can condemn us, but so He can save us. The real question is not whether God can save you; it is, “Do I want to be saved?” “Do I want to live differently?” “Do I want to have the sure hope of eternal life?” Earnest faith, repentance toward God from a contrite heart, baptism into the death of His Son, and a life devoted to following Jesus are what God wants from every sinner (Jno. 8:23-24; Acts 17:30; Rom. 6:3-4; Jno. 8:12). You are valuable to God. Value yourself, put your faith in Jesus Christ, and follow Him. He will save you.