20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20–21, NKJV)
The gospel has the power to save souls and change lives because it is the word of God (Rom. 1:16; 1 Thess. 2:13). Therefore, Paul did not hold back from teaching what would benefit his audiences, whether publicly or privately. In today’s passage, he summarized the powerful effect of the gospel. The gospel commands and produces repentance toward God (Acts 17:30). When received, it changes how we think and how we act toward God. Sin invariably corrupts our understanding of the true God (cf. Rom. 1:18-25). The gospel produces a change of how we think toward God, and consequently, toward sin (Acts 2:37-38). Like Paul, teaching the gospel means addressing how sin distorts our hearts toward God. The gospel equips us to have “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” once we change our hearts toward God. The gospel teaches us to submit to the authority of Jesus because He is Lord (our Master, Ruler). The gospel teaches us Jesus is Christ (God’s anointed prophet, priest, and king), the Savior of the world. Any message that lessens the authority and the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ is not the gospel (Gal. 1:6-10). Let us not shrink back from teaching the gospel. It changes hearts and lives when fully proclaimed and fully received (Lk. 8:15).
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29, NKJV)
Jesus is the good shepherd who gave His life for His sheep (Jno. 10:11). He knows His sheep and is known by them (Jno. 10:14). Jesus uses the language of God’s prophet Ezekiel as He explained His relationship with His followers: “‘You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God,’ says the Lord God” (Ezek. 34:31). Today’s passage addresses the security of believers. The Shepherd has the power to protect His sheep; that is beyond question: 1) Jesus speaks to His sheep, 10:27; 2) Jesus knows His sheep, 10:27; 3) Jesus gives them eternal life, 10:28; 4) His sheep are secure in His hand and in the Father’s hand, 10:28, 29. At the same time, His sheep make choices that contribute to their security in Christ: 1) His sheep hear His voice, 10:27; 2) His sheep follow Him, 10:27. Sheep are exposed to danger when they wander from their shepherd’s care. The same is true of Christians who stray from hearing and following the word of Christ (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Yes, Christians can fall away from Christ and be lost (Gal. 5:4; 1 Cor. 10:12). Falling away from Christ does not happen because Christ cannot save His sheep. It occurs when the sheep refuse to hear and follow the Shepherd (1 Cor. 5:1-5). Be a believer who hears and follows the voice of Jesus and be secure in Him. He will never lead you astray.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NKJV)
How do you define a successful life? Fortune? Leisure? Fame? Power? I watched a couple of TV shows today about former NFL players who set many records and won many championships? Their walls are lined with trophies and awards that recognize their athletic accomplishments. Yet, when they talked about what being successful was to them, it was not about statistics, championships, and awards. It was about being a good husband, a good father, a good friend, and a good citizen in the community. That is impressive. All these things are good, and yet, something was missing. They did not measure their success in spiritual terms. Jesus said, “What profit it is to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul” (Matt. 16:26)? When you wake up and consider how you intend to succeed that day (and in life), assess your success the way God does. God’s measure of success requires us to choose to practice justice and love mercy (to love our neighbor as ourselves, Matt. 22:39), and to choose to walk humbly with our God (to love God with all our being, Matt. 22:37). Define success as a life of justice, mercy, and faithful service to God. These things are good. God says these things make life successful.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1–3, NKJV)
Fear has gripped many. Fear of disease, civil unrest, enemies, the future, and more has settled into countless hearts, filling souls with uncertainty, anxiety, and doubt. The psalmist David turned to the Lord in moments of fear and dread. We can and must do the same. With eyes of faith, David saw the Lord God as his light, his salvation, and the strength of his life (v. 1). David put his confidence in the Lord in the face of wicked enemies. While darkness drives many to be uncertain and fearful of life’s path, Jesus Christ continues to be the light of the world (Jno. 8:12). As many trust wealth, political parties, and even violence as a means of deliverance, true salvation from evil is only found in Jesus Christ (Lk. 19:10; Acts 4:12). Pride leads us to trust in our strength and power, even when experience shows us trusting in the flesh ultimately fails (Jer. 17:5-10). God gives power to the weak who live by faith (Isa. 40:29-31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Whatever evil forces arise in your life, the answer to enduring them and being victorious over them is in the Lord. Put your faith in God, love Him, and keep His commandments (1 Jno. 5:3-5).
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:1–2, NKJV)
Peter’s warning makes it clear that what we believe and teach matters to God. Therefore, what Bible teachers teach us should matter. To think it does not matter to God what we believe “as long as we are sincere” flies in the face Peter’s admonition. The instruction of a false teacher is erroneous. His message is destructive and heretical and often is brought in secretly (cf. Jude 4). False teaching denies the Lord, who is the Truth, and in whose word we must abide (Jno. 14:6; 8:31-32). Peter emphasizes the danger of following error in verse 2. We cannot follow a destructive way without also being destroyed. False teaching is against “the way of truth.” When Christians follow it, others blaspheme (speak against) the truth. Peter did not teach unity in doctrinal diversity. Peter did not say a teacher is false only if his heart is insincere or deceptive. It is the false teaching that identifies the teacher as false (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Jno. 9-11). Minimizing false teaching minimizes Peter’s warning and endangers souls. Truth sets us free, but error enslaves (Jno. 8:32).
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:29–30, NKJV)
Mr. Rogers sang a children’s song on his television show that asked, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” The expert in the Law of Moses wanted to prove himself innocent in the matter of loving his neighbor as himself (Lk. 10:26-28). So he asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus taught him that loving our neighbor means being a neighbor to others instead of thinking some people are not my neighbors. He told of a man who was robbed, stripped of his clothing, and left wounded on the side of the road. Neither the passing priest nor Levite helped him (Lk. 10:31-32). But a Samaritan saw the man, was moved with compassion, and assisted him. (Remember, Jews did not consider Samaritans as their neighbors, Jno. 4:9.) Compassion for the stranger moved the Samaritan to sacrifice his travel plans, his time, and his money to help the unfortunate man (Lk. 10:33-35). We love our neighbor as ourselves when we act out of compassion and show mercy to others (Lk. 10:36-37). The Samaritan was a neighbor who helped his neighbor. Do not ask, “Who is my neighbor?” Instead, ask, “Am I being a neighbor to others?”