“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” (Mark 9:43-44)
Only through willful rejection and open denial that the Bible is the word of God can someone claim there is no heaven and no hell. A popular song states a common attitude toward heaven (and by implication, hell): “Everybody wants to go to heaven…but nobody want to go now”. Living that philosophy will never get you heaven! Heaven is reserved for those who fight the good fight, finish the course and keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:7-8). In today’s passage, Jesus uses exaggerated language to warn against sin and it’s result: hell. Remove every obstacle that keeps you from entering into life eternal – no matter how dear to you. If it is your hand; cut it off. If it is your foot or your eye; do the same (Mk. 9:45-48). Are you willing to sacrifice the things that are valuable to you in order to go to heaven? If not, then because of your sin you will be “cast into hell” – just as Jesus said (Mark 9:43, 45, 47). Yes, heaven is real, and so is hell. Jesus died for you so you can go to heaven. But, you must live for him in order to go there. Be sure you are living for heaven.
“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” (Proverbs 14:29, ESV)
God expects Christians to control their temper. It is not a virtue to have a short fuse or quick temper. In fact, it is sin: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking but put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:31). Outbursts of wrath come from a heart not yet trained in longsuffering, patience, meekness and self-control. Explosive displays of wrath harm your relationships, damage your influence and prevent you from doing the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20). You can control your spirit; you can put away anger and wrath. Do not make excuses for losing your temper, and do not blame someone else; take responsibility for your sin and then change your heart (repent). Replace outbursts of wrath with a soft answer that “turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1). Nothing good comes from losing your temper. So, be wise and control your spirit. Refuse to lose your temper and act like a fool.
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Youth is a wonderful time of fun and adventure. God’s word advises young people to rejoice in their youth, but to also understand that you are morally accountable to God for the choices you make in your youth (Eccl. 12:9). Young people are trying to find their place in this world; they want to be heard and respected. If you are young you should recognize that you are not entitled to respect; you must earn it. While you enjoy being young you realize that the moral choices you are making are defining you and whether or not you deserve to be heard. Choose to follow God when you are young, and no one will be able to successfully discount you simply because you are young. Set an example of faithfulness in the words you speak, in the way you conduct yourself, and in the love you show for God, your family and others. Live a pure life and you will be worthy of respect. That’s sound counsel for Christians of any age.
“He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (Proverbs 29:1)
Wrong is lovingly yet consistently reproved in order to produce correction: “Whom the Lord loves, He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12). That is why the father tells the son “do not despise the chastening of the Lord” (Prov. 3:11). However, when a person repeatedly refuses to accept correction, stiffening his neck against the truth of God, punishment will come suddenly. There will be no remedy for sin in the day of judgment; that opportunity will have passed. Choose now to accepts God’s discipline of your sin, repent and accept his mercy and forgiveness. Never harden yourself against the yoke of Christ. It is easy when you willingly accept it and follow his truth. To reject the correction of the gospel is utterly foolish.
“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:17)
Knowing and doing are two different things. Over and over the Lord Jesus Christ taught that blessings from heaven come when we do God’s will. Knowing God’s truth yet not obeying the truth is faithlessness. When Jesus spoke today’s verse he had just taught his disciples a stunning lesson of humble service by washing their feet. They had been too involved in arguing among themselves over who should be considered greatest among them to stoop before each other to perform such a menial task (see Luke 22:24). Jesus taught them humility serves others and is great in God’s sight. How then do we think we serve God while refusing to do His will? Elaborate theological arguments are offered to reject the role of obedience in salvation. But still the Savior says, “he that does the will of My Father in heaven” will enter the kingdom of heaven, not those who merely say “Lord, Lord” (Matt. 7:21). Yes, there is a big difference between knowing the truth and doing the truth. Do God’s will today and the Savior will bless you for your humble service to Him.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1-2)
Yesterday we learned that a conscience can be “good” while in sin, as when Saul had a good conscience while he persecuted Christians (Acts 23:1; 26:9-11). Today we learn how a conscience that was once trained in righteousness becomes seared; without feeling and broken. For the Christian, it happens when he or she chooses to “depart from the faith”. Deliberate sin, practiced time and again, overrules the promptings of your conscience until finally it is useless as an early warning devise against sin. To prevent a seared, unfeeling conscience you must be careful not to violate your conscience. Once you start doing so it becomes easier and easier to sin, and your conscience is gradually destroyed. Even then, God is ready and willing to forgive you if only you will repent. You can rehabilitate your conscience by God’s grace and your faith. Better still, refuse to practice sin and you will avoid damaging your conscience in the first place.
Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. (Acts 23:1-2)
Although Paul had lived with a “good conscience before God”, it had not prevented him from persecuting Jesus. The human conscience can never be the final judge of sin and righteousness, nor was it ever intended to be. The function of the conscience is to advise a person of right and wrong conduct based on how the conscience has been trained in what is right and wrong. A poorly trained conscience will not warn a person of a sinful act (as when Paul persecuted Christians). A conscience can even be seared so that it is no longer sensitive to sin (1 Tim. 4:1-2). Be careful to train your conscience with the truth of the gospel. A good conscience relies on God’s word to teach it what is right and wrong. Then, it will function well to warn you of sin and encourage you to do what is good. Do not “let your conscience be your guide” (your conscience may be wrong); Let God’s word guide your conscience. Your conduct will then please God, and you will “have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16).
“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:21-23)
Sin separates from God; it makes us God’s enemies. In sin, we were God’s enemies before our conversion. Yet, God’s love and grace is so great that he sacrificed his Son Jesus Christ to reconcile us to God. “Through death” you were presented to God as holy, blameless and above reproach in His sight. But, please take note of what follows: “—if indeed you continue in the faith…not moved away from the hope of the gospel”. Without a doubt, this statement shows that salvation is conditional (“if”). Your hope is sure “if indeed you continue in the faith”. So, it is possible to return to sin and move away from the hope of the gospel. Make it your aim today to remain “grounded and steadfast” and not to be drawn away from God and back into sin. Why would you want to become God’s enemy again?
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:37-41)
In fear his disciples awoke Jesus and scolded him for sleeping as the storm threatened their lives. At his word there was a great calm, provoking fearful amazement and wonder in the disciples: Who could Jesus be? This is yet another proof that Jesus is the Son of God. But, here is today’s lesson: Jesus Christ calls on us to have faith not to worry over things that are under his control. Faith fully trusts God, never doubting that what he has promised, he is able to accomplish (see Romans 4:19-22). What we perceive as disastrous, the Lord sees as our opportunity to have faith in him. So, instead of scolding the Lord when trials come and he does not act on our timetable, keep putting your faith in him. This is our faith: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.” (Luke 11:45)
Jesus did not set out to insult people when he taught heaven’s truth. Through no fault of his own, many were insulted by the plain truth he spoke. This lawyer (scribe of the Mosaic law) felt the sting of rebuke from Jesus as he pronounced three woes on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (see Luke 11:37-44). God’s truth cuts in all directions, exposing every sin and error of one’s heart and life. The question is, will we be insulted when we learn God’s truth, or will we be humbled and corrected by it? How you react to the truth of the gospel says a great deal about who you are – and who you want to be.