18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18–22, NKJV)
What price do you pay for following Jesus? When Jesus gave a command to His followers that He would leave Capernaum to cross the sea of Galilee, the scribe said he would follow Jesus “wherever You go.” We hope that he did. Jesus told him clearly that following Him would require sacrifice. It is easy to follow Jesus when no sacrifice is needed. But, when push comes to shove, and sacrifice becomes necessary, do you follow Him then? What about when there is a pressing need in your life? What priority informs and persuades your decision then? Jesus emphasized the proper priority when He said, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus must have first place in our decision-making process. We cannot say we will follow Jesus but then refuse to sacrifice to do so. We cannot say we will follow Jesus but then refuse to make following Him our top priority. Our everyday choices reveal both our sacrifice and our priority when it comes to following Jesus.
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. 35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. (Psalm 119:33–36, NKJV)
Living by faith is not a blind leap in the dark. Faith is the rationale response of the heart that longs for God, His ways, and His blessings. Note this as the psalmist implores God to teach him the path of divine statues, and he will keep them (v. 33). He pleads for an understanding of God’s law so that he may keep it with a heart that is enlarged and completely devoted to God (v. 34; Psa. 119:32). He yearns for the discipline that comes with divine instruction so that he will walk on the path of obedience (v. 35). He obeys the commands of God with delight because his heart is full of the love of God, not greed for plunder (v. 36). Like the psalmist, let us pray for understanding to keep God’s word with our whole heart (Col. 1:9-11). Obeying the gospel from the heart freed us from sin’s slavery (Rom. 6:17-18). Now, let us keep on learning and living the commands of God with our whole hearts “to the end” (v. 33). Problems of sin arise when we no longer want God to teach us. The heart hardens against the way of His statutes. The path of His commands is no longer delightful. If this is where your heart and life are, then repent (change your heart) and return to the delight of obeying God with your whole heart.
37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.” (John 18:37–38, NKJV)
The editors of the Oxford Dictionaries chose “post-truth” as the word of the year in 2016. Post-truth suggests facts are less influential in shaping opinion than emotion and personal belief. Yet, by definition, truth is not relative. It is fixed, constant, absolute. The fact that we may not know or perceive truth does not make it any less the truth. For example, 12 inches equals one foot (30.48 cm, or 304.80 mm) regardless of how we feel about it. This was true before we understood it. You see, we learn truth, we are not the source of truth. When Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus bore witness to the truth that He was born to be king. Those who are “of the truth” hear His voice (accept His word of truth, v. 37). Jesus identified God’s word as truth, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (Jno. 17:17). God’s word is truth – not my feelings, and not yours. Not my reasoning power, and not yours. Not my perceptions, and not yours (Prov. 14:12). Truth is fixed, constant, absolute. Truth has been revealed, and we cannot be saved without it. Jesus said His word is truth (Jno. 8:31-32). Indeed, He is “the Truth” (Jno. 14:6). The gospel calls us to conform ourselves to the truth, not try to change the truth into what we want it to be.
35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:35–39, NKJV)
This passage presents a substantial problem for those who believe the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. Christians are urged to have endurance to “receive the promise.” Without a faith that endures, they would cast away their confidence and “draw back to perdition” (destruction). This is a far cry from comforting souls in sin that they cannot lose their salvation. This passage also confounds those who trust in the “faith only” doctrine. It points out the promise of life is not received until after “you have done the will of God.” Faith that saves the soul endures by continuing to do the will of God. Faith endures the struggles of suffering that come with following Jesus (Heb. 10:32-34). Enduring faith gives life (v. 37), it pleases God (v. 38), and it saves the soul (v. 39). “Indeed we count them blessed who endure” (Jas. 5:11).
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)
Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ will not exist in a person’s life until that person repents toward God. Repentance is changing the mind toward its object (in this case, toward God). It is about thinking differently, and then we live differently. Repentance is not the regret of feeling sorry toward God. Genuine repentance results from godly sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Some think to repent means “to turn,” but this is also incorrect. Only when we think differently about God and our sin against Him will we turn to God for salvation. Paul shows the difference between repentance and turning to God in Acts 26:20 when he explained he preached the gospel to people so “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Paul did not say, “turn (repent), and turn to God.” He said to repent (change your mind) and turn to God. Repentance, produced by godly sorrow, bears the fruit of turning to God (that is, “works befitting repentance,” cf. Lk. 3:7-14). The gospel requires repentance 1) Toward God, Acts 20:21; 2) Of sins, Lk. 5:32; 13:3, 5; Acts 8:22; 3) For the remission of sins, Acts 2:38; 3:19; and 4) Because God commands it, Acts 17:30. Without repentance, we will not escape the condemnation our sins bring from God (Rom. 2:3-5).
3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:3–4, NKJV)
The devil tempted Jesus to perform a self-serving miracle. After all, Jesus was hungry after a 40-day fast (Matt. 4:2). If He were the Son of God, turning the stones into bread would be within His power and solve his hunger. The devil used His hunger to tempt an unholy use of His power. But Jesus did not yield to the temptation of the flesh to misuse His power for temporal pleasure. That would not be the way He would reveal Himself to the world as the Son of God. He would live by the word of God first, even at the expense of temporary physical pain (Deut. 8:3). We should follow the example of Jesus when we are tempted to please the flesh instead of keeping the word of God. God promises to sustain and fill our lives with our necessities as we seek first His kingdom His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). With trust in God, let us live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” and reject the temptation to satisfy the urges of the flesh that violate the will of God.
16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17, NKJV)
This dramatic event at the baptism of Jesus capsulizes the identity and the nature of the Godhead. Seen by Jesus and John, the Spirit of God descended and rested upon Jesus as a heavenly attestation of approval. The presence of the Spirit of God was miraculous confirmation to John that Jesus is the “Son of God” (Jno. 1:32-34). At this seminal event, God the Father declared by word and by the presence of His Spirit the identity of Jesus and His pleasure toward Him (Isa. 42:1; Acts 10:38). Jesus is the Son of God, an expression denoting sameness or equality of nature (Jno. 5:17-18; 10:30-36). In other words, Jesus is Deity, God with us (Jno. 1:1-3, 14; Matt. 1:23). Three distinct individuals (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) comprising One God. The Godhead is a united One – complete and undivided in nature, purpose, and will (Deut. 6:4; Jno. 10:30). Doctrines of God that deviate from this profound truth concerning the Godhead (and, there are many) advance false gods. (For more on the Godhead, go to http://www.bibleanswer.com/godhead.htm.)