6 that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever (Joshua 4:6–7, NKJV).
The Lord instructed Joshua to set up twelve stones from the Jordan River as a memorial to God’s mighty deliverance and guidance of Israel across the Jordan into the promised land of Canaan (Josh. 4:1-11). Today is Memorial Day in America, a time to remember those who gave their lives in service of this country. We pause to reflect on the great moments of heroism, sacrifice, and deliverance. God wants Christians to remember even more significant moments of sacrifice and redemption. We remember the death of Jesus Christ as we eat the Lord’s Supper weekly (1 Cor. 11:23-26; Acts 20:7). We must never forget Jesus Christ, the raised Messiah, the world’s Savior (2 Tim. 2:8). Early saints remembered those who were imprisoned for the faith (Heb. 13:3). We ought always to remember the words spoken by Christ’s apostles (Jude 17). Memory is powerful. It helps us strengthen our resolve to be faithful in the present. Memories also warn us of the terrifying results of not obeying the Lord’s word; “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). It is appropriate to remember those who made great sacrifices for our country. Let us especially remember the Son of God who sacrificed Himself for us (Rom. 5:6-11). May we ever walk in His steps, thankful for His unselfish service on our behalf (Heb. 2:9-18).
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin (Romans 3:9, NKJV).
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul established that all people, whether Gentiles or Jews, are sinners (Rom. 3:10-20, 23; 6:23). The extent of sin is universal (“There is none righteous, no, not one;…they have all turned aside,” Rom. 3:10, 12). Thus, all are “under sin” – guilty captives unable to free ourselves from its bondage and death (Gal. 3:22; Rom. 7:24). Sin’s death passes to everyone who sins, not because Adam sinned (Rom. 5:12; Ezek. 18:20). Humanity’s sin (disobedience) against God magnifies His mercy, “that He might have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32). These simple truths expose the lies of Calvinism. (1) Total heredity depravity is not inherited. Personal sin separates each one from God (Isa. 59:1-3; Ezek. 18:20-24). (2) Unconditional election is a farce since God’s mercy is offered to every sinner in Christ (Rom. 5:15). His invitation to be saved is universal, but unconditional election makes God a tyrant (Matt. 11:28; Mark 16:15-16). (3) Limited atonement neglects that Jesus died “for everyone,” not just the elect (Heb. 2:9). (4) Irresistible grace rests on the false premise we are too corrupt to respond to God’s call to mercy without enabling grace from God to jumpstart faith. Yet, the “gospel of the grace of God” is preached to sinners who choose to resist or repent (Acts 2:36-41; 7:51; 13:44-46). (5) Perseverance of the saints is the baseless expectation that once God saves a sinner, that person cannot fall into sin’s condemnation. Sadly, many rely on the false hope of this false doctrine (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:6-19; 6;4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). The gospel of Christ calls sinners to salvation through obedient faith (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18). The doctrines of men leave sinners “under sin,” still needing salvation.
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them (Psalm 34:4–7, NKJV).
Fear is an emotion that resides in many hearts and affects many lives. Jesus Christ calls on us, His disciples, to live by faith and rise above fear. Whether it be fear of physical danger, illness, death, or fearing others and compromising our faith, Jesus admonishes us not to fear. He said, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (Matt. 8:26). And, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28). The Lord delivered David from all his fears (v. 4). David feared displeasing the Lord God more than the imminent trouble he faced (v. 7). God encircled David (and all who fear Him) with protective care and deliverance. Should we not remember that deliverance from earthly dangers ultimately comes when death delivers us into the care and keeping of God (Phil. 1:19-23). Let us determine to seek the Lord like David. He will hear our prayers, calm our souls, and deliver us from all our fears (Phil. 4:6-7).
1 Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. 2 Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah 3 But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. 4 I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah (Psalm 3:1–4, NKJV).
David’s son was attempting a coup. Absalom’s attempt to seize the throne caused David and his cohorts to flee Jerusalem to escape imminent harm (2 Sam. 15-16). David turned to the Lord when an adversary from his own house arose against him, and the Lord saved him from this moment of treason (2 Sam. 17-18). Still, many adversaries hinder and harm the righteous (1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Tim. 4:14-16). Christians wrestle against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Like David, these opponents of the truth and godliness may come from within our family (Matt. 10:35-36). Take strength in the Lord. He is your shield, a strong defense against evil. Trust the Lord’s way and walk in it; He is your glory, not yourself (v. 3). David knew the Lord heard his supplications for relief; God was still reigning from His holy hill of Zion (v. 4). The Lord would overthrow the usurper (Absalom). May we be like David and continue to trust in the glory, power, and purposes of God when trouble arises for following Him (1 Pet. 3:13-17). Victory over every trial and danger is in Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Pet. 3:18). He will not fail you (Heb. 13:5-6). Continue to be faithful and do not fail Him.
For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him (2 Samuel 14:14, NKJV).
Absalom, king David’s son, had fled into exile after murdering his brother Amnon in vengeance for raping his sister, Tamar (2 Sam. 13:14, 22, 38-39). Today’s passage records the words of a wise woman whom Joab conscripted to persuade David to let Absalom return from his banishment (2 Sam. 14:1-24). They are poignant and persuasive. Death is coming to us all, and its effects cannot be undone, like so much water spilled on the ground (Heb. 9:27). God is the Giver of life, not the One who wants to take it from us (Gen. 2:7). Likewise, God takes no pleasure in the death of sinners (Ezek. 18:31-32). Sin causes spiritual death (Gen. 2:15; Rom. 6:23). But God, in His great mercy, has devised a plan that gives spiritual life from sin’s death through His Son Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4-12; 2:1-7). Sin separates us from our heavenly Father, banished from the close fellowship He desires. God calls sinners to come to Him by the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). David allows Absalom to return from exile. God’s plan of redemption in Christ ends our spiritual banishment to end so we may walk in sweet fellowship with Him (Eph. 2:13; 1 John 1:6-7). Praise be to God for His abundant love and mercy He gives us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8, NKJV).
Many people move. They plan where they intend to move (sometimes years in advance). Perhaps to retire, maybe it’s a job reassignment or an educational opportunity. Perhaps it’s to start a marriage and life together. Belongings are packed and shipped (or hauled in a U-Haul) to the new residence. Moving is a lot of work! Imagine moving to a new location without any idea where you are going – except that it would be your inheritance. Because the Lord told you to go, you go. That is what Abram did. (Oh, and by the way, you are seventy-five years old and have no children at the time, Gen. 12:1-7.) He obeyed God “by faith.” Abram trusted God even though he did not see the outcome when his journey began. That is what obedient faith does. It follows the word of the Lord even when the end is not seen yet (1 Pet. 1:6-9). Obedience trusts God more than we trust ourselves and others. Faith without obedience is incomplete (James 2:17). Obedience without faith is an empty pretense (Matt. 15:7-9). The thing is, we know where we are going when we follow Jesus. We are going to the Father and our eternal inheritance (John 14:1-6; 1 Pet. 1:3-5). Christians are homeward bound. By faith, obey God’s word, and you are on your way to your eternal inheritance (Heb. 11:13-16).
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:23–26, NKJV).
The Lord’s Supper is not a rite or ritual, although many churches have turned it into one. The Scriptures do not call it the “Eucharist” or a sacrament; those descriptions are of Catholic origin. The Scriptures do not teach the substance of the bread and fruit of the vine changes into the actual body and blood of Jesus in the Mass. That is also a Catholic invention. The Scriptures do not elevate the Supper to a place superior to other acts of worship; therefore, neither should we. But they explain its value and meaning so that we will partake of it worthily instead of condemning ourselves when we eat and drink it (1 Cor. 11:27-29). The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of the death of Jesus (of His body and blood) that Christians eat on the first day of the week (v. 24, 25; Acts 20:7). The bread is emblematic of the body of Jesus sacrificed for the sins of the world (Heb. 10:5, 10). The cup (the fruit of the vine, Mark 14:23-25) is emblematic of Christ’s blood that dedicated the new covenant that provides remission of sins (Heb. 9:13-15, 18-22). The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of the Lord’s death that Christians will eat until Jesus returns (v. 26). Always eat the Supper to remember and proclaim Christ’s death.
“For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 25:11, NKJV).
Paul had been falsely accused of sedition against Rome and crimes against the Jews and kept imprisoned by an unscrupulous governor (Acts 24:5-6, 22-27). Two years later, he is before another Roman governor (Festus) answering these false charges (Acts 25:7-10). His appeal to Caesar’s court for judgment indicates several things worthy of our consideration and practice. (1) Paul put himself under the authority of civil government. We do not see Paul arguing against the government’s authority to adjudicate disputes of its citizens. Although the government was suppressing his rights (as Felix detained him, hoping for a bribe), Paul did not become violate. Neither should we when those in authority oppress us (1 Pet. 2:14-20). (2) It is right to seek justice from civil authorities. God ordained civil government to address the primary purpose of protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty (Rom. 13:1-4). Paul’s “appeal to Caesar” was the exercise of a legal avenue for justice and protection from the Jews who were trying to kill him (Acts 25:2-3). (3) If we violate the law, we should accept our punishment without objection. Paul was willing to be executed if he “committed anything worthy of death.” If we are guilty of violating the law, we ought to admit it, accept our punishment, and repent of our transgression against the Lord (Rom. 13:4-5). While our citizenship is in heaven, we are to be honorable citizens of society (Phil. 3:20; 2 Cor. 8:21).
14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14–15, NKJV).
The love of Christ compels us, driving us forward to do the will of God. His love compels us to live no longer for ourselves but Christ. When confronted with whether or not to obey the will of the Lord, Christians should not say, “Well, I have to do it” (as though it is a burden to follow Jesus, 1 John 5:3). We ought to say, “I will” because of Christ’s love for us. Paul beautifully described the conversion of thought and life from sinful self-interest to selflessly serving Christ. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Jesus “died for all” when we were dead in sin (v. 14; Rom. 5:8). The selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ compels us to live for Him and love as He loves us. That means we will “walk in love” and sacrifice ourselves for others as He did (Eph. 5:2). It means husbands will sacrificially love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:25). It means Christians will love one another with sacrificial, humble service (John 13:1-17, 34-35). Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:12-14). We know how Jesus loved us. It compels us to lay down our lives for Him and do whatever He commands.
11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another? (James 4:11–12, NKJV).
God’s prophet gives us a plain warning not to speak evil of one another. “Speak evil” translates the Greek word katalaleo, “to be a traducer, i.e. to slander:–speak against (evil of)” (Strong’s Greek #2635). Words that belittle, defame, and libel other Christians (or anyone, for that matter) are sins against brethren, against God, and His law. James does not negate the accurate, appropriate judging of sin. For example, the apostle Paul said we judge unrepentant Christians (“those who are inside”) by applying corrective discipline and putting away the evil person from ourselves (1 Cor. 5:12-13). James is condemning unrighteous judgments that are void of divine truth. He addresses and exposes the sinful “wars and fights” that arise among Christians in this context (James 4:1). Divisive, factious words and actions are worldly and prideful (James 4:1-6). We “become judges with evil thoughts” when we quickly think the worst, grumble and complain against one another, and show partiality in our treatment of one another (James 2:4, 12-13; 5:9). We become the law or standard by which we judge others. James cautions us to remember God is the Lawgiver to whom we are all answerable. He saves and destroys; therefore, we give place to His judgments. Let us not become judges of one another to our destruction.