5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5–6, NKJV)
Jeremiah wrote spoke prophetically of Jesus Christ the King. He is the “Branch of righteousness” raised up by Yahweh to reign, to execute justice and righteousness, to bring salvation and safety to the people of God. Jeremiah’s predecessors, Isaiah and Micah, spoke of His coming reign of justice and righteousness (Isa. 2:2-4; 11:1-5; Micah 4:1-8). Jeremiah’s contemporary, Ezekiel, anticipated a shepherd prince who would feed God’s sheep and God would make a covenant of peace with them to dwell safely and receive “showers of blessing” from the Lord (Ezek. 34:24-28). Later, Zechariah reassured Jerusalem their king would come with salvation, riding on the foal of a donkey and speaking peace to the nations (Zech. 9:9-10; Matt. 21:1-10). God has delivered what He promised. The righteous Branch of David has come bringing salvation from sin, peace with God, and showers of blessings as the sheep of His flock (Acts 4:12; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 1:3; Jno. 10:15-16, 26-29). Do not be misled into looking for a future return of Jesus to reign as king on the earth. The King is on David’s throne now, reigning at the right hand of God (Acts 2:29-36; Heb. 1:8-13). Jeremiah said, “the days are coming,” and those days have arrived. Christ’s kingdom is His church (Acts 2:44; Mk. 1:14-15; 9:1; Matt. 16:18-19). Praise God for His great redemptive plan and the eternal spiritual blessings available to us all in His Son!
2 Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, and he sins who hastens with his feet. 3 The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord. (Proverbs 19:2–3, NKJV)
I grew up hearing that “ignorance is bliss.” Maybe you did, too. Sometimes it was said somewhat sarcastically to warn us against thinking it is true. But sometimes I heard it said to justify choosing a particular (usually foolish) course of action. After all, we frequently hear people say, “I didn’t know” to explain something they did or did not do. We have most likely used that line, too. The Bible does not teach ignorance is bliss; just the opposite. Solomon said a lack of knowledge propels us into doing dangerous things that lead to sin (v. 2). To think ignorance is bliss and then act without understanding puts us on a twisted path (v. 3). When trouble comes due to our foolish choices, many get angry at God for the problem. The remedy is to accept instruction from the Lord and gain knowledge and wisdom (Prov. 1:1-6). Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). Bliss comes from revering God, not getting angry at Him. When we respect God, we can “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). By doing so, our feet will not run to sin but walk the path that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3–4, NKJV)
A friend reminded me recently that God has always separated the light from the darkness. On His first day of creation, God commanded light into existence, called it “good,” and divided the light from the darkness. God’s word is light: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa. 119:105). (God’s word removes the darkness.) God sent the Messiah “as a light to the Gentiles,” bringing salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:6). (Christ calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1 Pet. 2:9). Jesus said He is “the light of the world” and that by following Him, we “shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jno. 8:12). God delivers those redeemed by the blood of Christ from the power of darkness, conveying them into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13-14). (God separates the redeemed from the dark power of sin and death.) God is light, and those who practice His truth walk in the light and have fellowship with Him (1 Jno. 1:5-7). And, the heavenly, eternal city of God is to be illuminated by the Lamb. There, the night is vanquished forever (Rev. 22:23-25). Yes, God separates the light from the darkness. Jesus said, “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (Jno. 12:35-36). Come out of the darkness into the light truth for salvation, divine fellowship, and eternal life.
For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. (Romans 16:19, NKJV)
Do others know you obey God? The Bible indisputably teaches obedience is the expression of one’s faith. For example, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15). James put it this way: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (Jas. 2:18). Earlier, Paul noted the Romans’ faith was spoken of by others throughout the world (Rom. 1:8). People were talking about their faith because they knew about their obedience. Their faith was genuine because they obeyed the Lord. Obedience proclaims our faith, too. Just saying we believe is insufficient to save us (after all, “even the demons believe—and tremble,” Jas. 2:19). Our obedience to the Lord must be good and innocent (Rom. 16:19). The wisdom of the world calls evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20). Conversely, Christians shun such folly and choose to live by the wisdom from above (Jas. 3:17-18). We influence the world for righteousness when others see our faith by our obedience (Matt. 5:13).
26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26–27, NKJV)
Leftist ideology is today’s religion for the secularist. Unbelievers who refuse to retain God in their knowledge have a belief system (Rom. 1:20-32). Humanism says, “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves” (Humanist Manifesto II, 1973). Christians must beware of their tactics and influence to dismantle God’s purposes for humanity. With no fear of God and antagonism toward His word of truth, secular humanists are busy reshaping society and souls. One way is by destroying God’s arrangement of the family (male and female marriage, father, mother, and children, Gen. 2:22-24; 1:28) while telling us they are pro-family. No, they are not. Case in point: First, the secularists advocate for abortion, an action that denies family life to innocent, unborn children. Second, they advocate against adopting children in desperate need of family structure and security by telling us these adoptions disrupt the child’s ethnic and cultural identity. Take away life (abortion) and deny family life (anti-adoption policies); these are the results of the humanist philosophy. God cares for the welfare of orphans (and widows), and Christians relieve them. God cares for a child’s life (unborn and born) and wellbeing, not skin color, ethnicity, and cultural background. Let us beware not to be stained by the world.
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13, NKJV)
Contentment is a learned trait. Whether one lives in a land of abundance or scarcity, contentment does not come easy. Defined as being “sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support; independent of external circumstances” (Thayer, 85), contentment looks beyond momentary situations. It has learned that life is “more than food,” and the body is “more than clothing” (Matt. 6:25). Contentment is an expression of faith in God, our great Provider, and Sustainer (Matt. 6:26-33). Whatever external forces press upon it, contentment fixates on Christ, not on self (v. 12-13). It looks beyond the moment into eternity (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Paul had learned contentment during his experiences, and so can we. Our strength to persevere through deprivation and to resist self-indulgence in times of plenty comes from Christ and our faith in Him. Whatever state in which you find yourself today, remember to trust Christ and order your life according to His principles of truth and righteousness (Eph. 4:23-24). By doing so, you can be content in Christ, come what may.
37 And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. 38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (John 5:37–40, NKJV)
Those who rejected Jesus as the Son of God did not do so for a scarcity of evidence. John had testified of Jesus, but they did not receive his testimony (Jno. 5:31-35; 1:29-34). The miraculous works of Jesus testified the Father had sent Him, but they would not believe (Jno. 5:36). The Father who sent Him testified Jesus is His Son, and still, they refused the truth (Jno. 5:37). The Father had testified of Jesus at His baptism (Jno. 1:33-34; Matt. 3:16-17). The Father also bore this testimony of Jesus in the Old Testament Scriptures (Jno. 5:39; Lk. 24:44-45). Why wouldn’t they believe the evidence? Because God’s word did not abide in them (John 5:38). The Scriptures contain the message of eternal life in the Son of God. Although searched the Scriptures for that life, but were unwilling to come to the very One they spoke of for that life. We must be willing to receive the evidence that Jesus truly is the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 27:54). Do not close your heart to the word of God. Spend time with the Scriptures with a willing heart to accept the truth they teach. Let God’s word abide in you, and you in it (Jno. 8:31-32).
15 not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, 16 to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment. 17 But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 18 For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:15–18, NKJV)
The apostle Paul energetically preached the gospel and fulfilled his ministry with faithful zeal. We can learn lessons by observing his gospel labors. First, Paul did not boast in other men’s labors (v. 15-16). That is, he gave credit where credit was due. He did not take credit for another person’s work. This trait of genuine meekness always serves the cause of the gospel. We should imitate Paul by admiring and encouraging others’ faithful work instead of trying to “ride their coattails” and elevate ourselves. Secondly, Paul did not boast in himself (v. 18). Self-commendation can color an honest examination of ourselves and our work for the Lord (Gal. 6:3-4). “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips” (Prov. 27:2). Thirdly, Paul boasted in the Lord instead of himself (v. 17). He could say, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” in the Lord (2 Cor. 12:10). Our faith must be in the strength of the Lord, not ourselves. Fourthly, Paul sought the Lord’s approval above all (v. 18). So, he worked diligently to be approved by God (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15; 4:7-8). In whose approval do we boast, men’s or God’s?
7 Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? 8 Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah (Psalm 77:7–9, NKJV)
In the moment of trial it may seem that God does not hear our cries, but He does (Psa. 22:1-2, 19-21). It may appear in a time of judgment that God is not merciful, but He is. In wrath, He remembers mercy (Hab. 3:2). God offers the “sure mercies of David” to all who will believe and obey God’s Son (Acts 13:34; Isa. 55:3-5). Isaiah’s call to Israel is now Christ’s gospel call to the nations: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:6-7). God offers us mercy when we seek Him through the gospel of His Son. The gospel teaches us to forsake our ways and call on God for His gracious pardon from sin. For example, see God’s mercy to those who killed the Son of God (Acts 2:21, 36-41). Or see how the persecutor Saul obtained God’s mercy (Acts 22:10-16; 1 Tim. 1:13). He will be merciful to us, in the same way. Truly, His mercy “reaches unto the heavens” (Psa. 57:10).
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12, NKJV)
Endurance is essential to resisting the temptations of sin. Our adversary, the devil, continually probes for openings and opportunities to entice us not to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; to sin against God (Mk. 12:30). Endurance is spiritual, mental, and emotional fortitude that perseveres through the moment of trial. James reminds us of some reasons why we endure temptations. 1) Because endurance brings God’s approval. The trials of life test our faith, and the devil seeks to exploit them. When we endure them, our faith grows stronger and has God’s approval (Jas. 1:3-4). 2) Because God has promised us a reward. The crown of life is promised to those who finish the course and keep the faith, not those who shrink back (2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 10:36-39). God will keep His word to us; We must keep our word to Him. 3) Because we love God. God has promised eternal life “to those who love Him.” We express our love for God over a love of this world when we endure temptation and do God’s will (1 Jno. 2:15-17). Endurance means committing ourselves to love God with more than words, but also with our deeds (Jno. 14:15; 1 Jno. 3:16-19). Enduring temptations is not easy but possible. God gives us a means of escape, that we “may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13, ESV).