3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3–4, NKJV)
We rejoice in the truth that God forgives and does not mark (retain) our sins (cf. Psa. 6:1; 38:1). God’s lovingkindness does not free us from accountability for our sin; We are answerable for our sin, its consequences, and punishment. The way of the transgressor is hard, and the wages of sin is death (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 6:23). Today’s psalm praises God’s forgiveness, His mercy, and redemption of Israel “from all our iniquities” (Psa. 130:8). When God’s people cry to Him with repentant supplications, He hears and forgives (Psa. 130:1-2). He does not withhold forgiveness; neither should (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:32-35). God does not vindictively keep an account of evil (1 Cor. 13:5). His forgiveness generates reverential fear for His wonderful pardon (Psa. 130:4). God’s responsive mercy assures our hearts to patiently trust His purposes and hope in His word (Psa. 130:5-6). Christians trust God’s unfailing love, generous mercy, and abundant redemption. He forgives us when we repent and confess our sins (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9).
1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. (Isaiah 53:1–2, NKJV)
No doubt, many are drawn to others based on their physical features. Yet, we can fairly say that Jesus Christ was not particularly handsome. He had “no form or comeliness…no beauty that we should desire Him.” Unlike Saul, who was tall and handsome, God’s Anointed did not draw people to Himself because of his outward appearance (1 Sam. 9:1-2; 10:23-24). Christ does not gather a following like Absalom, who “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” with false humility and flattery (2 Sam. 15:5-6). It was David, a man after God’s own heart, who typified God’s suffering servant (1 Sam. 13:14; Psa. 89:3-4). God looks on the heart, not physical appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). So, what draws your attention to Christ and the gospel? Is it a large church building full of wealthy people? Maybe it is cathedrals or temples built by human hands? Furthermore, what are Christians using to draw people to Christ? It must always be the gospel, not things that appeal to the pride of the flesh. The Father draws sinners to Christ and salvation by hearing and learning His word, and so must we (Jno. 6:44-45).
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3, NKJV)
The foundations of our society are cracked. Decades of denying the existence of God and His truth, of sanctioning the killing innocent, unborn life, of oppression of our neighbors to get ahead, and of rejecting the fundamental truths of morality and marriage – all these and more can tempt us to despair of hope and remedy. Through David, God gives us answers that look above the moment and beyond the horizon of hurt and horror. When the foundations are destroyed, the righteous can 1) Keep their trust in the Lord God (Psa. 11:1-2). Corrective truth comes from God, not humans (Jer. 10:23). He protects us from an eternal perspective that we must foster that grounds us in times of trouble. 2) Remember God has not moved (Psa. 11:4). He remains enthroned in heaven; His sovereignty secures our faith and assures us His purposes prevail. 3) Know God sees and investigates every person and judges between the good and the evil (Psa. 11:4-6). The wicked do not escape His gaze and cannot hide from His justice (Rev. 6:12-17). 4) Know God is righteous, and He loves righteousness (Psa. 11:7). He beholds and rewards those who seek peace and pursue righteousness (Matt. 6:33). The righteous remain steadfast when foundations are shaken because we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. God is a consuming fire upon evil and the sustaining hope of all who serve Him “acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:27-29). These are the things the righteous can do.
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels (2 Thessalonians 1:3–7, NKJV)
What a magnificent summary of the Thessalonian saints’ faithfulness in the face of persecution, of their tremendous example of suffering for the kingdom and its powerful influence on brethren, and of God’s justice that trouble the troublers and rewards the faithful with rest. God is righteous; therefore, so is His judgment. In the glory of Christ returns, God will right every wrong leveled against His people (2 Thess. 1:8-10). Until then, keep patiently enduring in faith and love. God sees, He repays, and He and rewards.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33–34, NKJV)
Jesus said we must make the rule and reign of God and His righteousness the priority of our lives instead of the things of this world (Matthew 6:24-32). Daily priorities not only set what we pursue each day but also what we pursue our entire life. Priorities of a day turn into months, then months into years until finally, life ends. We are eager to set a lifetime goal of making God our top priority, yet we may fail to make Him and His will our priority each day. It is far easier to say Christ is a lifelong priority than to live that priority day by day (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21). How can we tell when we have fallen into this deception? By honestly assessing whether we are so worried and anxiously distracted by the troubles of each day that we push God’s rule and righteousness to the side (v. 34; Acts 24:25). When daily concerns are our most urgent priority, we are distracted and deterred from walking by faith. When that happens, God is no longer our priority. We are serving another master instead of the One who provides our daily bread and saves us eternally. Strengthen your faith and trust God every day. As your days turn into months and months into years, you will have eternal rest when death comes. (Sword Tips #1559, revised)
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6–7, NKJV)
Every day has its share of cares and troubles (Matt. 6:34). How do we handle them? Do they discourage us unto despair? Do they weaken our faith in God? Do they immobilize our walk with Christ? Peter said to cast all our care (anxiety, distractions) on God because He cares for us. But how? How do Christians cast our cares upon a caring God? 1) By replacing our pride with humility (v. 6). God “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). As long as we rebel against God’s help, we will grope helplessly in the dark for relief that never satisfies our soul. 2) By patiently waiting on the Lord (v. 6). Humility prompts faithful endurance in the face of life’s distractions and obstacles (1 Pet. 2:20; 4:12-13). God works on His timetable. It is good for us that He does (2 Pet. 3:9, 14-15). We cast our care on Him by obeying His will as our way of life. 3) By resisting the devil with sober vigilance (1 Pet. 5:8-9). Our adversary tempts us to make mountains out of molehills and forget the mighty hand of God that protects us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1). We must flee to His refuge, rely on His strength, resist the devil, and remain “steadfast in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:9). 4) Pray without ceasing (Phil. 4:6-7). God’s peace protects the heart and lives of those who trust Him and follow His way of truth. These are just some of the ways we throw all our care on Almighty God. “Have faith in God” (Mk. 11:22).
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6–7, NKJV)
God is “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). Our sins separate us from God, not His lack of love, concern, power, or unwillingness to come to our aid (Isa. 59:1-2). Nothing within ourselves or in this present age can fill the void left in a life without God. The answer to life’s problems, pain, sin, and death is Jesus Christ (Jno. 14:6). God has arranged life on earth and revealed His word in the Bible so that we will seek Him and find Him (Acts 17:27). We must forsake the way of evil and the thoughts of unrighteousness. We must “return to the Lord,” and we do He will be merciful. Full pardon from God for our sins before Him and against others is His promise, fulfilled in Christ (Rom. 5:6-11). A life without God is a life forever groping for meaning and purpose, yet always falling short. But, life with God is full of mercy, forgiveness, and hope. Seek the Lord in Christ and His gospel, and you will find His mercy as well as meaning for your life (Matt. 7:7).
1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know. (John 14:1–4, NKJV)
A spiritual song we sing says, “Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear.” How do we prevent our hearts from being troubled? Today’s familiar passage from the lips of Jesus teaches us how to soothe the anxious soul. 1) By the calming assurance of faith (v. 1). Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Focusing our attention on the Lord instead of ourselves is essential to avoid heart disturbance. 2) By the comforting promises of Christ (v. 2-3). Jesus promised to prepare a dwelling place for His followers. His death, resurrection, and exaltation at God’s right hand announce the success of His redemptive work, assuring us He will return to receive His saints in glory (1 Thess. 4:16-18; Col. 3:4). Comfort your heart with His promises. 3) By the confident knowledge of truth (v. 4). When Thomas expressed doubt and uncertainty, Jesus replaced it with confidence-building truth. He was going to the Father, and He is “the way, the truth, and the life” by whom we also go to the Father (Jno. 14:6). Firm assurance replaces doubt when we learn the truth that is in Jesus (Eph. 4:20-21). Live by faith, be comforted by the promises of God, and walk in truth to keep your heart from being troubled in troublesome times.
31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” (Matthew 25:31–33, NKJV)
Of course, we understand Jesus is describing people under the figure of sheep and goats. The setting is the day of His glory and judgment. Attended by a heavenly host, Jesus will be arrayed gloriously on His throne of judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). All the tribes of humanity from Adam to the last day will gather before Him, where each person will give an account of our lives (Rom. 14:12). Christ will judge impartially and righteously according to God’s truth, and each of us will receive judgment according to our deeds (Rom. 2:1-11). Judgment involves a moment of decision and separation, and Jesus describes it as separating sheep and goats (a common practice to this day). The question on our heart should be, “Will I be a sheep or a goat?” The answer is up to us. Jesus describes the sheep as those who loved their neighbor as themselves (Matt. 25:34-40). These will inherit a kingdom of eternal life (v. 34, 46). The goats are those who failed to regard others before themselves. By failing to serve others, they failed to serve Christ (Matt. 25:41-45). These will inherit an eternal punishment of fire (v. 41, 46). Instead of denying the judgment, denying our sins, or denying eternal hell, we should believe Jesus and serve Him by serving others. Prepare for Judgment Day. Sheep or goat; Which will we be?