Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?… For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:23, 32)
One grossly misjudges and blasphemes God whenever one thinks He enjoys seeing men and women suffer. Quite the opposite. He sent His only begotten Son to suffer and die so we should not perish for our sins (Jno. 3:16). Others think God will not punish sinners because He loves us all. True, God loves us all, and has shown His love in sending His Son to die for us. But, His love does not overlook sin; His love is also just. “The soul who sins shall die”, not because God does not love the sinner, but because the sinner chooses to sin instead of obey God (Ezek. 18:4, 20). The wicked person “dies” because the wages of his or her sins is death (Rom. 6:23). God does not want you to die in your sins. Like ancient Israel in the days of Ezekiel, God wants you to “turn and live” (Ezek. 18:32). The decision is yours, as is the result of your choice (Ezek. 18:20).
Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:10)
God no longer speaks to us directly like He did to the boy Samuel. But rest assured, God has spoken to us “by His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). Young Samuel sets an example of readiness before God, both to listen to what He said and to be His servant. To be a servant of God you must listen to God’s word. You will need a humble, willing heart to listen to God’s word with an ear to obey Him. To be a servant of God means not only hearing what His word says, but also doing what He says. Jesus rebuked people who called His “Lord, Lord” while refusing to do the things He said (Lk. 6:46). Let us follow Samuel’s example and listen to God’s word by reading the Scriptures. And then, like Samuel, be God’s servant by doing what His word says (Matt. 7:21).
17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17-18)
The Father loves the Son because He voluntarily died for the sins of the world. When He did this He was obeying the command of Father. Then, by His resurrection, He claimed victory over death. When we obey the Father we are loved by Him (Jno. 14:21). Choose to be a disciple of Jesus and to obey the Father like Jesus did; voluntarily, completely and unselfishly.
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” 12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (Matthew 15:10-12)
One insults Jesus by saying His word cannot be understood. Sometimes, when one is offended by the word of God, he tries to deflect the force of truth by saying, “that’s just your interpretation”. That leaves the impression that God’s word is open to multiple meanings on any given topic. Thus, we cannot “hear and understand” the word of God; the best we can do is have our own interpretation of His word. That is very wrong. (How would you feel if someone said your word is open to many different interpretations?) When the Pharisees heard Jesus teach they understood Him. They were offended by His teaching (see Matt. 15:1-9). We are commanded to “not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Instead of being offended by God’s word, believe it, obey it and be set free from sin (Jno. 8:32).
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
At least three things are learned about our creation here. First, humans have been created in the image of God (v. 26). We, above all of God’s creation, bear the marks of the divine image. We are dual beings of flesh and spirit, possessing intellect, emotion, volition, conscience and immortality. These things distinguish us from the animal kingdom. Second, humans have been created to fulfill God’s purposes (v. 26, 28). Among these is the God-given right to rule over His creatures, big and small. As we “fill the earth” we have the right and responsibility to “subdue it” for the blessing and benefit of humanity. Third, humans have been created male and female (v. 27). God established gender identity to enable human procreation and to accomplish the purpose of filling up and subduing the earth.
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)
Good intentions without genuine commitment may soothe the conscience, but they do not satisfy the Lord. This person not only had a problem with setting the priority of following Jesus first, his words revealed another common hindrance to being a disciple of Christ Jesus; His dedication to his family was superior to his commitment to Jesus. The Lord is not condemning telling one’s family goodbye. But, He is undoubtedly saying no one can truly follow Him until every other commitment is made secondary to His will. Some people simply will not fully commitment themselves to following Jesus because family fondness trumps fidelity to the Son of God. By doing so they prove themselves unfit for the kingdom of God. Jesus demands first place and total commitment; no exceptions. Set your hand to the plow and always be committed to Christ first.
59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)
Many might find what Jesus says here offensive, as He did not care for the dead and those grieving their demise. That is not true, and would be a gross misrepresentation of Jesus (see Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus in John 11:17-37). The man Jesus called to follow Him said he would, but “first” he wanted to bury his father. A noble endeavor, yet one that drew attention to the priorities this man (and everyone since) must have to truly follow Jesus wherever He goes. Jesus commanded him to “go and preach the kingdom of God”, and that took precedence over everything else. Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness calls us to live the priorities of our faith, not reduce their significance based on other important activities. Nothing is as important as following Jesus. What is most important to you; Your wants and desires, or following Jesus first?