37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 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?” 39 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. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:37–40, NKJV)
We have had a lot of wind storms where I live this winter, and another warning was just issued. When the storms of life billow up around us we may be like the disciples of Jesus. Frightened, we may question whether God knows and whether He cares. Jesus calming the storm assures us He does. In fact, if we are willing to learn the lesson, Jesus teaches us fear results from a lack of faith in Him. The Lord said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6) We know there will be storms in life, but we trust the Lord will see us safely through them all. Instead of being hindered by fear, boldly continue to rely on the Lord. His will prevails, as do all those who commit themselves to doing His will (Matthew 6:10; 7:21). “…for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:20–23, NKJV)
I received an interesting question about sin recently: “Could you explain the difference between the noun sin and the verb sins?” The grammatical answer is a noun identifies the sin (its nature, content, etc.), while the verb describes the active practice of that sin. Covetousness, for instance, is a noun identified as greedy desire to have more. It resides in and springs from the heart, presenting itself in greedy, covetous conduct. For example, when Achan saw the spoils of Jericho he said, “I coveted them and took them” (Joshua 7:20-21). Sin exists in the heart, and it presents itself in our actions. We cannot only think of sin as something practiced. It is also something held in the heart. Jesus confirmed this when He said to look at a woman to lust after her is to commit adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Lust in the heart is sin, and lust that presents itself in the act of adultery is sin. Whether sin is identified as a noun, or its action is discussed as a verb, its wages is death (Romans 6:23). Salvation from sin, whether “noun” or “verb,” is through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17; Acts 2:37-41).
1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1–5, NKJV)
Please read this list carefully. Let it sink into your heart. The “last days” and these dangers have continued since the first century (Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 John 2:18). Troublesome, difficult, stressful times exist as people turn away from God with selfish and sinful demands, expectations and actions. Christians are called to be God-loving, while those who press, stress and persecute God’s people love everything except God. They do not love good and they do not love God (v. 3, 4). They are hostile and heartlessness – they are without natural affection. Yet, they are warmly fond of some things. They “love” 1) Themselves (they are selfish and self-absorbed), 2) Money (they are materialistic and covetousness), and 3) Pleasure (they are fond of sensual delight). These obstructionists may even be religious (they appear godly), but their lives negate the power of true godliness. Satan’s angels still appear as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Be warned, and turn away from such (Ephesians 5:11).
1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” (Romans 15:1–3, NKJV)
The apostle teaches us to defer to the Christian who holds a conscientious doubt toward a personal scruple (a liberty that allowed by the Lord and that is non-sinful in nature, Romans 14:1-5). We are not to “destroy” a Christian for the sake of clinging to our personal preferences (liberties which, by definition, are pure, but not compulsory, Romans 14:20). We put a stumbling block before the weak (doubtful) brother when we will not forego our liberty to help him keep from violating his conscience (Romans 14:13, 15, 20, 22-23). When it comes to personal liberties we are not to please ourselves, but willingly decline to use our liberty to protect the doubtful (weak) brother. Jesus did not please Himself, but accepted our reproaches so we could be redeemed from sin. Similarly, we must not cling to non-sinful liberties when using them leads the weak (doubtful) Christian to violate his or her conscience (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 8:7-13). We must think more of others than we do ourselves. That would solve many problems, wouldn’t it?
5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. 6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.” 7 And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” (Revelation 16:5–7, NKJV)
The righteous judgment of God proceed from the righteous character of God. When the angel pours out God’s God bowl of wrath in this vision, he says God is righteous because He judges evil with His wrath (v. 5). God does not leave evil unpunished. Just as God poured out His wrath against nations in the Old Testament, He did so against Rome for persecuting and killing His saints and prophets. (See 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7, where the principle of God’s righteous judgment is applied to those who trouble Christians.) Punishment is due the wicked, and God executes justice against it (Romans 12:19). His judgments are “true and righteous,” unbiased by error and untainted by the stain of prejudice. The angel’s words are reminiscent of Psalm 19:9, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” Thanks be to God that He has revealed His judgments in His holy word! We can learn God’s judgments and live to receive glory instead of wrath on His day of judgment. “I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:7). Are you ready for the Judgment Day?
2 Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! 3 Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! 4 Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! 5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! (Psalm 150:2–5, NKJV)
The question is posed, “Why shouldn’t we use instrumental music to worship God today? After all, they were used by Israel in the Old Testament.” Yes, they were. Scripture says king Hezekiah “stationed Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, they were commanded “according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets” (2 Chronicles 29:25). But, we do not live under the authority of the old covenant. We hear and follow Christ for our approved worship, not Moses and the prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-2). We would not think of binding the Levitical rituals of worship, including animal sacrifices, today. Yet, king Hezekiah did along with the instruments he set in place (2 Chronicles 29:26-36). If Hezekiah’s trumpets and stringed instruments are allowed in worship today, then so are his animal sacrifices and associated offerings. We are content with the musical worship Christ revealed and approved in the new covenant. It repeatedly says to sing praises to God, but never to play praises (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). That’s enough.
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19, NKJV)
This passage explains several things about the musical worship we give God. It tells us to give God vocal music (singing). It tells us who sings and what it accomplishes, what we are to sing, how we are to sing, and to whom we sing. It is notable that vocal music – singing – achieves each of these purposes without adding an instrument. Forcing instrumental music into this passage (when it is not there) is a futile attempt to add to the sufficiency of God’s word. Worship music is vocal (singing). We speak “to one another” when we sing. Everyone sings – this is congregational singing – and by “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” we teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). Sacred, religious odes that address spiritual subjects are what true worshipers sing (John 4:23-24). Singing is the mode of communication to use, not whistling, stomping, thumping, clapping, humming, or any other non-verbal expressions that attempt to heighten emotion and mimic musical instruments. The heart, our God-made instrument, is plucked as songs are sweetly and earnestly sung to the Lord. We can unite on the truth that singing is true worship to the Lord. Division came when musical instruments were added to worship. We know God put singing in His church. So, who put playing musical instruments in the church (Galatians 1:6-9)? [More on this in tomorrow’s Sword Tip.]