But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? (Mark 2:8, NKJV)
Do you have a secret? Only you know what it is (you’re sure of that!). Oh, but you would be mistaken. The Lord Jesus already knows your secret. He knows what’s in your heart. He even knows the motives, intentions, and reasonings that are going on in your head as you work out how to conceal your secret. These men “reasoned in their hearts” that Jesus was a blasphemer because He told the paralytic man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk. 2:5-7). Jesus knew what they were saying to themselves in their hearts. And, the Lord knows what is going on in our hearts, too. When all is said and done, He will judge our both our hearts and our deeds. “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). What is in our hearts drives our words and our actions. By purifying our hearts and cleansing our conduct we are able to draw near to God and have His blessed presence in our lives. James wrote, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Jas. 4:8). We must remember that God will judge “every secret thing” according to the gospel (Eccl. 12:14; Rom. 2:16).
2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3 John 2–4, NKJV)
John prayed Gaius’ physical health would match his spiritual health. How did John know Gaius’ soul was progressing successfully? Faithful brethren had told John of his beloved Gaius’ spiritual fitness. They reported the truth was in Gaius and that he walked in the truth (v. 3). Therefore, John concluded his soul prospered because Gaius believed and lived by the truth. One is not spiritually healthy when he or she does not abide in the word (truth) of Christ (Jno. 8:31-32). So, using this biblical standard, can it be said that your soul prospers? Is the truth of God in you? Are you walking in the truth? If so, the answer is “yes.” If not, the answer is “no.” God’s truth brings spiritual prosperity when we receive it and walk in it. John’s joy was made full by hearing his children (in the gospel, 1 Cor. 4:15) walked in truth. Faithful discipleship cannot exist when the truth is not in us and our deeds are not in harmony with it. Apply John’s prayer to yourself. If your physical health matched your spiritual health, how healthy would you be? When you answer these questions, “Is the truth in you?” and, “Are you walking in the truth?,” you will have the Bible answer to the state of your spiritual health.
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 10:39-11:1, NKJV)
Faith that saves the soul does not draw back out of fear or neglect. It endures present trials, and by doing so receives the promised salvation (Heb. 10:36-39). This is the faith introduced in Hebrews 11:1 and described throughout that chapter. Faith is the substance of hope. “Substance” is a “setting under,” hence, faith is set under hope, supporting and stabilizing it. But, what supports and assures faith? We are told faith is the “evidence of things unseen.” Faith is conviction formed by the evidence of things that cannot be seen. For example, the swaying of the trees causes us to confidently believe in the wind, although we have never seen the wind itself. Faith concludes that “God is” (though unseen by human eyes) because this existence and order of the visible world announces His unseen presence, eternal power, and Godhood (Heb. 11:3, 6; Rom. 1:20; Psa. 19:1). Faith that God rewards those who diligently seek Him is shaped by the word of God (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10:17; Mk. 16:20; 1 Cor. 2:10-13). Without accepting the evidence of unseen tings, there is no faith. And without faith, there is no hope. Thanks be to God who gives us evidence of His presence and the revelation of His will, so we can believe He exists and be blessed by diligently seeking Him (Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-31).
13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13–14, NKJV)
Evoking the wonders of the unknown, poet Robert Frost wrote of two divergent roads in a yellow wood. Taking “the one less traveled by” men, he sighed, made “all the difference” (The Road Not Taken). Yes, many are the roads of life. Like Frost’s traveler, their ends are often obscured from sight. Jesus used the metaphor of roads and paths long before Frost. More importantly, He told us exactly where they lead. Jesus depicted two gates and pathways with very different outcomes. Each of us choose one or the other. One has a wide, inviting gate that gives way to a spacious pathway. This road is smooth and unencumbered. Many choose it, for it is easy. But, it leads to the horrible destination of damnable destruction. The other path has a narrow access point with obstacles nearby. Travelers entering this gate traverse a confined corridor paved with difficulty, turmoil, and trouble. Few accept the challenge of walking this path, but when they do, it rewards them with life. Only after traveling his chosen path could Frost look back from experience and assess the path he chose. Thankfully, we need not experience sin to know it leads to eternal demise. Choosing the narrow gate and straitened way of discipleship will lead you to eternal life (Rom. 6:22). Follow Jesus. He makes “all the difference” (Jno. 14:6).
24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. (Acts 20:24–25, NKJV)
Although chains and tribulation awaited Paul in Jerusalem, he would not be deterred from accomplishing the service given him by the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:22-23). He reminded the Ephesian elders that he had testified of God’s grace by preaching the kingdom of God while he was among them. Those who say the kingdom of God has not yet been established have a problem. If the kingdom does not exist now, then how can it be said that grace is obtainable now? In truth, Christians stand in grace now, and those who are saved by grace are transferred from sin’s darkness into the kingdom of the Son (Rom. 5:1-2; Col. 1:12-14). Preaching God’s grace is tantamount to preaching God’s kingdom. The saved are added to the church, which is the kingdom of God (Matt. 16:18-19; Acts 2:47; 28:23, 28, 31). The kingdom (the church) does exist now (Mk. 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). Kingdom citizens have been saved by grace, through faith (Acts 2:47; Eph. 2:8-9). God grace and God’s kingdom are inextricably linked. By God’s grace we are receiving an unshakable kingdom (Heb. 12:28). As a result, we are able (and expected) to “have grace” by which to serve God acceptably. In the kingdom (the church) there is grace and acceptable service to God.
4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:4–5, NKJV)
Jesus was not a son of Aaron. Being from the tribe of Judah, he could not be a priest according to the law of Moses. That law “had to be changed” for Jesus to “become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:11-14; 6:20). Since the priesthood has indeed changed (Jesus is now High Priest), the law has also changed. The new covenant of Christ is now in force, dispensing redemption and arranging our new life in Christ, including acceptable worship. The old covenant tabernacle worship (offered by the sons of Aaron) served as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things accomplished by our High Priest, Jesus (Heb. 7:24-28). But, even the wilderness tabernacle (the shadow of the “true tabernacle” which is the church, Heb. 8:1-2; 10:21) was built according to God’s revealed pattern. We believe God-given patterns for worship still matters to God (2 Tim. 1:13). The new covenant of Christ contains a pattern of worship to follow (Jno. 4:23-24). We must see that we follow it. What pattern do you follow when you worship? Is it the new covenant pattern, or the commandments of men (Matt. 15:8-9; Col. 1:21-23)?
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15, NKJV)
What Jesus said in today’s passage is easily understood. “If” marks it as a conditional statement, with a result to follow when the condition is met. The condition is “love Me.” When we love Jesus the effect or result is that we keep His commandments. Obedience is the result of loving Jesus. Notably, “love” is a verb in this statement. Loving Jesus is active. Therefore, loving Jesus is not a feeling that warms us on the inside even as we are disobedient to His will in our actions. Simply put, Jesus said our love for Him is shown by our obedience to Him. If I am not obeying Jesus, then I am not loving Him the way He wants to be loved. To keep His commandments we must know them. Undoubtedly, that is why His apostles said to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). God has communicated His will to us through His Son Jesus, and the New Testament is that message (Heb. 1:2; 1 Cor. 14:37). We must listen to God’s word to believe and obey the commands of Jesus (Rom. 10:17). When we come to faith through God’s word, our faith compels us to love Jesus by keeping His commandments. Far from trying to earn God’s grace, obeying Christ from the heart is a full expression of loving submission to Jesus. We need faith that listens to the word of Jesus, and love that obeys Him. This is the obedience to Christ that saves us from sin in order to become a servant of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Do you love Jesus? Then, keep His commandments.