11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11–13, NKJV)
Jesus came to the Jewish people, and they rejected Him as the Messiah. But, their refusal to receive Him did not prevent God from declaring Jesus to be Lord and Christ (Psa. 2:1-7; Acts 2:33-37). Now, everyone who receives Him has been given the right to become a child of God. It is precisely those who “believe in His name” that have the right to be born of God to become His child. Some have this verse 12 all wrong. They think it says, “receive + believe = become.” They use this verse to say you should pray for salvation, but nothing is said of prayer here. The verse actually says, “received Him (believed) = right to become” children of God. If you receive Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God (that is, you believe it), then you have the right to become a child of God. That truth is embedded perfectly into the call of the gospel at the Great Commission: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16). You have the right to become a child of God when you receive (believe) He is the Christ, the Son of God. But, without faith you cannot be saved (Jno. 8:23-24).
For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord. (2 Chronicles 28:19, NKJV)
The Lord allowed the kingdom of Judah to be oppressed by enemy states during the 8th century B.C. Assyrians, Edomites and Philistines plundered Judah because king Ahaz was “continually unfaithful to the Lord,” and because he “encouraged moral decline in Judah” (2 Chron. 28:16-18). It is undeniable that our country has been encouraging moral decline for a very long time. The “sexual revolution” of the 1960s promoted fornication and adultery, fracturing the home and paving the way for accepting the homosexual lifestyle as normal and natural (which it is not, cf. Rom. 1:24-28). Alcohol and other drugs decimates lives and destroys families (1 Pet. 4:1-5). Pornography has captured and corrupted souls – fueled by passion and internet accessibility on cell phones, tablets and computers. “Sin is a reproach to any people,” and America is no exception (Prov. 14:34). The Old Testament shows that God does not long endure any nation that mocks faith in Him as it rushes headlong into immorality. Now is the time for our nation to heed the warning God gave Israel: “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezek. 18:31-32)
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, (Psalm 146:5, NKJV)
Where do you set your hope for your happiness and blessedness? We are tempted to set our hopes on plans for the future – a career, a home, a family. These are good things, but, as James said, we must say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (Jas. 4:15). God is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1). Our hope is not misplaced when our hearts depend upon the Lord God. The spiritual fortune He gives, the blessed help He provides, sustains us in days of gladness and in days of gloom. There is an abiding favor given to all those whose hope is in the Lord God. Be sure your hope is anchored in the Lord and not on the shifting sands of this temporal, fleeting world.
A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident. (Proverbs 14:16, NKJV)
Confidence is an admirable trait when it is governed by God’s truth, by godly fear and by an aversion to evil. But, remove the restraints of humility and caution toward sin, and self-confidence becomes one’s undoing. The rage that characterizes a fool describes acting arrogantly in defiance of truth and wisdom. It is foolish to become comfortable with error and self-confident toward sin. Self-confidence conditions the heart to place more trust in oneself than in God and His truth. Wisdom teaches us to fear sin and its effects in our lives and the lives of others. We must “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). It is utterly foolish to resist God and His will; such self-confidence leads to eternal ruin (2 Thess. 1:8-9).
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. (Mark 16:14, NKJV)
How much evidence do you need before you will believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God? Jesus rebuked the eleven apostles for their continued unbelief in the face of multiple streams of evidence. There was the teaching Jesus gave them before His death; He told them repeatedly He would die and be raised (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; Lk. 24:6-7). The empty tomb had been reported to them by Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:9-11). Peter and John had seen the empty tomb (Jno. 20:1-10). Two disciples reported to them of seeing Jesus (Lk. 24:33-35). Still, the eleven did not believe, until Jesus appeared to them, rebuking them for “their unbelief and hardness of heart” (Mk. 16:14). The world has the evidence they, at first, refused. Jesus will not personally appear to each person so they may believe. The evidence has been left for us to come to the necessary conclusion that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Jno. 20:30-31). “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jno. 20:29). Does that blessed number include you?
5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,” (Luke 24:5–6, NKJV)
The resurrection of Jesus is the keystone of the gospel; without it, Christians have no faith, no forgiveness, and no hope (1 Cor. 15:17-19). Yes, He is risen! At the same time, one must admit the New Testament does not speak of, describe or command an “Easter” celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. No churches in the Bible had Easter services. There is no Easter holiday found there. The religious holiday called Easter developed as men moved away from following the apostles’ teaching, and added their traditions and decrees to the Scriptures. The Council of Nicea (325 AD), called by Emperor Constantine, decreed celebrating the resurrection of Christ (the “Christian Passover”) should be on a Sunday; it was the 7th century before the Catholic Church decreed rules assigning its annual date. Yet, all the while, God’s word continued to say nothing about such a religious holiday. God’s word does, however, say that God does not accept the traditions of men as true worship (Matt. 15:7-9; Col. 2:20-23). Christians honor Christ’s resurrection weekly, by our worship on the Lord’s Day – the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).
45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45–46, NKJV)
The supreme value of the kingdom of heaven is set before us in this familiar parable. We can see this merchant searching for beautiful pearls that would bring him a handsome profit in the marketplace. But when he found one pearl – only one – that was the most precious and valuable, he knew it was more valuable than anything else he possessed. And so, he sold everything he had and bought it. The lesson is simple, yet profound. The kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything else you and I could ever acquire. Like the merchant, we must recognize its value, and then we must sacrifice everything else in order to possess it. Jesus explained how we possess the kingdom: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Full surrender. Complete sacrifice. Faithful obedience. See the surpassing value of the kingdom, and honor the King with all your being, every day. The pearl of great price is worth it all.