Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26, NKJV)
The world hates those who follow Jesus. If you think that language is too strong, please recall it is Jesus who said it: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Everyone who practices evil hates the light of truth because it exposes their sin (John 3:19-20). When you obey truth its light shines brightly, and the world of darkness hates you for it (John 3:21). Those practicing sin will speak evil of you for not joining them in their sins (1 Peter 4:4, 12-14). If you are more concerned with what people think about you than with what the Lord thinks of you, then you fall under the “woe” Jesus pronounced in today’s verse. People will speak well of you when they know your life and words will not expose their sins. If that is the case, then you are not being the light of the world (Matthew 5:16). “Take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). Resolve to please God, no matter what people say about you (Galatians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 5:9).
27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” 28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27–28, NKJV)
Mary was indeed blessed among women, by giving birth to Jesus, and by having such a son as He (Luke 1:42, 46-48). Yet, “those who hear the word of God and keep it” are blessed more greatly than Mary. The Roman Catholic Church has heaped blessings upon Mary that cannot be heard by listening to the word of God. They venerate Mary, claiming for her all sorts of powers and position nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. Catholicism’s Mariology views Mary as the Mother of God and advocates her Assumption (that sinless Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul), her Immaculate Conception (that Mary was born without original sin), and her Perpetual Virginity (which contradicts Matthew 1:25; 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). Other Marian doctrines describe her as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix with Jesus Christ. Prayers are offered to Mary, with expectations of blessings. Yet, you must hear the Roman Church to learn these dogmas and doctrines. Jesus said we should hear the word of God and keep it. When we do, we will not have the Vatican’s blessing, but, we will have heaven’s blessing.
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42, NKJV)
People of faith can be distracted from listening to the words of Jesus. Like Martha (who believed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, John 11:27), we can busy ourselves with things we believe are necessary and forget what is truly needful. Martha wanted to listen to Jesus, but the distractions of serving her guests pulled her away. She was annoyed that Mary was not helping her, to the point that she questioned the Lord’s apparent lack of concern. We must not blame others, or the Lord, when we become distracted from our spiritual opportunities. Nothing is as important as sitting at the feet of Jesus to hear His word. We must choose what will not be taken from us – faith in Christ that come from hearing His word. Refuse to be pulled away from Jesus by mundane things. Be sure to “have ears to hear” the word of Jesus (Luke 8:8).
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (Romans 4:3–4, NKJV)
Obedience to Christ is not a work of merit that nullifies grace. The theology of Calvin has persuaded untold millions that obedience is a work that “earns” or merits salvation. If true, then James contradicts Paul, for he said, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:21-23). Faith is made complete by obedience. There is no contradiction in Scripture, only with Calvinism’s faulty definitions of faith and works. Like us all, Abraham was a sinner in need of grace. Only perfect law-keeping (sinlessness) would nullify grace and make salvation a debt (Romans 4:4). The faith that saved Abraham was not sinless, but it was obedient (as witnessed in the matter of Isaac). Through the gospel, it is obedient faith that God counts for righteousness today. Obedience earns nothing; it is the action of a dutiful servant (Luke 17:10). Obedience is the work that justifies the ungodly, for without it, faith is dead (James 2:20). Obedient faith, not faith only, justifies sinners (James 2:24).
57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end. (Matthew 26:57–58, NKJV)
Peter followed Jesus at a distance, to see how things would end. Earlier that night, Peter had pledged unflinching allegiance, “even if I have to die with You,” I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:35). But now, warming himself at the fire of the enemy, his reactions were quite different. Three times he denied knowing Jesus, even cursing and swearing his refutation (Matthew 26:69-75). You cannot successfully follow Jesus at a distance. That is the place of the spectator, who easily criticizes, but rarely participates. The light grows dim as we move away from the source, Jesus Christ (John 8:12). Attending an occasional worship service, offering an infrequent prayer, and giving lip service to following Jesus will tempt you to deny the Lord, just like Peter. Instead of distancing yourself from the Lord, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24, NKJV)
The apostle has contrasted walking in the Spirit with fulfilling the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). He has pointed out the kind of life the flesh prompts men to pursue (the works of the flesh), with its fatal result (“those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven,” Galatians 5:19-21). The character and conduct formed by the Spirit’s instruction and guidance is fruitful and robust, free from law’s condemnation (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who belong to Christ extinguish the flesh as the controlling factor of their lives (Galatians 2:20). Christians deliberately and methodically eliminate the influences and cravings of the flesh, so the fruit of the Spirit can thrive in their hearts and lives (Colossians 3:5). It is no accident that Christians bear the fruit of the Spirit. Through repentance, the heart has been conditioned to serve a new Master, Christ Jesus. The heart that is humble, repentant and responsive to the gospel is the perfect soil for bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Luke 8:15).
“gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23, NKJV)
Law defines sin and identifies the sinner: “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 7:20). It is through the commandment that sin is shown to be sin (Romans 7:13). For example, God law identifies the works of the flesh and the condemnation of those who “practice such things” (Galatians 5:19-21). By contrast, there is no censure against the fruit of the Spirit. Indeed, “we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:9). Our text does not mean that Christians are immune from law, but that we live under the restraints and blessings of God’s law. That is, we choose not to practice sin, but to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Commit yourself to bearing the fruit of the Spirit, by walking according to the Spirit-revealed law of faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:16-18; Romans 3:27).