43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—44 where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’” (Mark 9:43–44, NKJV).
Did you know more is recorded in the New Testament about hell from the mouth of Jesus than anyone else? The eternal fire of hell’s unending punishment is real and a substantial deterrent against evil. In today’s passage, Jesus used hyperbolic language (cut off the offending hand, foot, eye, Mark 9:43, 45, 47) to describe the urgent need to eliminate sin in our lives lest we fall under eternal condemnation. The fire of Jerusalem’s refuse dump (gehenna, “hell”) was a fitting figure of the “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” and those who do not follow Christ’s will (Matt. 25:41, 46). We gain nothing when we choose not to repent of sin. In the final judgment, those who “do not obey the truth” will suffer the corruption, agony, and darkness of being removed from God’s blessings forever (Rom. 2:5-11). Better to surrender the sin that seems most important to us and do God’s will than to “go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:43). While the goodness of God leads us to repentance, so does the wrath of God (Rom. 2:4-5). So, “sing to me of heaven” and warn me of hell. Jesus spoke of both to persuade faithful, righteous living (John 14:1-6; Mark 9:43-48). Purged of sin and tried by fire, the sacrifices we make to live for Jesus will preserve us unto the day of eternal bliss (Mark 9:49).
1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:1–2, NKJV).
Peter, James, and John saw a glimpse of Christ’s divine glory and majesty when His appearance changed on the mountain (2 Pet. 1:16-18). Christ had shared the glory of eternal deity with the Father from time immemorial (John 17:5). When He came to earth, He humbly emptied Himself of the appearance of divine glory and became “in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5-8; Micah 5:2; John 1:1, 14). When His form changed on the mount, the brilliance of His countenance revealed the brightness of His divine glory. Moses the Lawgiver and Elijah the prophet appeared with Jesus, and they talked about His approaching death in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Awakened from slumber and fearful, Peter proposed honoring Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, but his plan was silenced by the voice of the Father and the command to listen to His Son (Matt. 17:3-5). Jesus has authority over Moses and Elijah (the Law and the prophets, Matt. 5:17-18). Like the apostles, we must hear Jesus and follow all He says because He has all authority over the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 3:22-23; Heb. 1:2). A touch of the Master’s hand and the reassurance of His voice calmed the apostles’ fear (Matt. 17:6-8). So may we humbly and reverently listen to and obey the word of Christ day by day (Col. 3:17). When we do, Christ’s word calms our souls with the assurance of His presence and eternal life (Heb. 13:5; 1 John 5:11-13).
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. 3 I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know (John 14:1–4, NKJV).”
Jesus encouraged His apostles at a moment when He could have crumbled under discouraging anxiety and fearful anticipation of the cross. His apostles had quarreled (again) over who was the greatest among them (Luke 22:24). Judas’ betrayal was in motion (John 13:26-30). Jesus had just addressed His apostles’ imminent scattering and Peter’s denial (Mark 14:27; John 13:36-38). Now, amazingly, we see Him consoling them. Meditate with me on Christ’s exhortations to them. (1) Jesus gives calming assurance (v. 1). Faith in Christ and His word strengthens us in every trial and turmoil of life. Patient faith in Jesus replaces anxious care (Phil. 4:6-8). (2) Jesus gives comforting promises (v. 2-3). Christ promises a heavenly dwelling place to all who trust and follow Him. Soon He would go into heaven itself as our great High Priest to present Himself as the offering for the sins of the world (Heb. 2:17; 4:14; 9:26; 10:10-14). Hallelujah, what a Savior! (3) Jesus gives confident knowledge (v. 4). We know where Jesus went (heaven, now exalted at God’s right hand, Acts 2:32-36). We know the way to the Father is only through Him (John 14:5-6). Pondering these tremendous spiritual blessings persuades us to endure in faith through the storms of life, trust our Savior’s promise of eternal rest, and secure our hope in the knowledge of the gospel of the Son of God.
36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:36–39, NKJV).
The Hebrew Christians faced persecution for their faith (Heb. 10:32-34). These pressures and fears tempted some to drift back into the shadows of the first covenant, presumably, to avoid persecution (cf. Gal. 6:12). But such neglect and even willful rejection of Christ exposed them to God’s vengeance (Heb. 2:1-3; 10:26-31). God delivers His people from sin’s punishment of sin by faith (Heb. 10:37-38; Hab. 2:3-4). So, these Christians were encouraged to endure the present trials of faith and not shrink back to destruction (Heb. 10:39). Endurance is accomplished by doing the will of God and therefore receiving God’s promise of eternal life (Heb. 10:36). So, they needed to continue to be faithful through their present trials of faith. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). Again, “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). May we also hear and heed the inspired exhortation given to the Hebrew saints: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (Heb. 10:35).”
10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:10–12, NKJV).
Jesus silenced the hypocrites who tried to entrap him at the expense of a sinner’s soul (John 8:2-9). None of her accusers were willing to cast the first stone of condemnation against her (John 8:7). Jesus was not obligated to throw a stone under the Law of Moses (hence, “Neither do I condemn you,” v. 11). When Jesus finally spoke to her, it was not with a scolding tone of damnation; She knew her sin, and so did Jesus. He did not condone or excuse her sin; He warned her to repent and bear its fruit (“go and sin no more”). Then Jesus turned spoke again to the people who observed this encounter unfold (John 8:2). They must follow Him to keep from walking in the darkness of evil; He is the light of the world. The scribes and Pharisees (John 8:3), the woman taken in adultery (John 8:4), and the people listening to Him teach had to choose whether to follow Jesus. So do we. Jesus is merciful and forgiving when we follow Him (Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 2:37-41, 47; 1 John 1:6-9). Walk in His light and have the light of (eternal) life.
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2, NKJV).
How healthy is your soul? Would you be in good physical health if it matched your spiritual health? In this age of Covid, we are inundated with information and misinformation about being healthy, safe, and protected. Prudent measures for good physical health are important (1 Tim. 5:23; Luke 10:34). Exercise helps slow the rate of decay of our death-destined bodies (1 Tim. 4:8). But the gospel compels us to look at the health of our souls as more essential (1 Tim. 4:7-8). It is the remedy to our sin and death; salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 5:24-25; Rom. 1:16; 6:23). A cure for Covid would be a worldwide bestseller. Yet, the cure for sin is cast aside by countless souls rushing headlong toward eternal death. Why is that? Why are people more afraid of their physical death than their eternal death (Matt. 10:28)? Because they do not believe God and the words of His Son, Jesus. Why is the death of God’s saints precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15)? Because they are the ones who “take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,” serving God faithfully all their days (Ps. 116:13-14, 16-19). With Ananias, we ask, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The remedy for your sins is available through the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:17-19; 2:24; Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 2:1-10). Believe and obey Jesus and be saved from sin and death (Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 5:8-9).
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34, NKJV).
Jesus has given us multiple reasons not to be drawn away from the righteousness of the kingdom in Matthew 6:25-33) by temporal cares, including (1) Our value to the Father (Matt. 6:25-26), (2) Worrying does not improve our condition (Matt. 6:27), (3) God proves He provides for His creation, so trust Him to provide our needs (Matt. 6:28-31); and (4) God knows our needs (so seek first His kingdom and righteousness, unlike the Gentiles who do not know God, Matt. 6:32-33). Finally, today’s passage assigns distracting cares (which take us away from kingdom righteousness) to the uncertainty of tomorrow (Matt. 6:34). We have today, with no promise of tomorrow. Therefore, address today’s problems; Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow that may not come at all. The answer to anxiety is not detachment from personal responsibility. The resolve to meet daily duties with the focus of faith that relies on Him (“if the Lord wills,” James 4:15) replaces worry with contentment. The most important things to those who follow Jesus are the heavenly treasures that endure long after our physical life with its needs have ended. God provides for our needs on earth. How much more abundant are the eternal treasures He gives us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Do not worry; Have faith in God. Seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and your reward will be far greater physical goods (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38, NKJV).
The life and words of Jesus bore witness to the truth. He came into the world to be a king and everyone who is “of the truth” hears His voice (John 18:37). Truth did not matter to Pilate. He did not hold truth in high esteem. To Pilate, like so many others, truth was pliable, relative, able to be shaped by the moment’s expediencies (Matt. 27:15-26). While cynicism drips from his question, “What is truth?” deserves a credible answer. Scripture gives us the answer. (1) God’s word is truth (John 17:17; 8:31-32). Truth comes from God (John 8:40). (2) Truth is knowable. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). (3) Truth is impartial. It is consistent and does not show favoritism (Rom. 2:1-2; Acts 10:34). (4) Truth is righteous. The word of truth, the inspired Scriptures, equips us for righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). (5) Truth is incorruptible (1 Pet. 1:23). Truth is not relative, a shape-shifting entity without constancy and continuity. We do not shape truth into what we wish it to be. We obey truth to be purified in heart and life (1 Pet. 1:22). (6) Truth is eternal (1 Pet. 1:23-25). Truth “lives and abides forever.” Untarnished by the passing of time, truth inhabits eternity. It is no wonder, then, that we ought to acquire truth and never let it go, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it. Also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4–5, NKJV)
Faith is the victory that defeats the world of evil. A good brother reminded me that the righteous die victoriously (Sword Tips #2226), as assured in Revelation 2-3. Let us briefly note those assurances to “him who overcomes.” 1) Access to the tree of life (Rev. 2:7). Eternal life, forever sustained by God’s provisions. 2) Protection from the second death (Rev. 2:11). The faithful have no part in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8). 3) Identification as God’s chosen (Rev. 2:17). This one is known and kept by God forever (Rev. 14:1; 22:4). 4) Share in the glory of Messiah’s victory over every evil enemy (Rev. 2:26-28). The faithful one will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). 5) Confessed before the Father (Rev. 3:5). The pure life that unashamedly lived for Christ is written forever in the Book of Life (Mk. 8:38; Rev. 20:12). 6) Secure citizenship with God in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 3:12). Forever dwelling with God, serving Him in full fellowship is the reward of those who hold fast (Rev. 3:11; 21:2, 22). 7) Reign with Christ over sin and death (Rev. 3:21). To forever share in His great victory over every enemy of God will be the indescribable reward of the righteous (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 22:5). These are our hopes and expectations in Christ. He will keep His word to us. Let us keep our word to Him and be faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).
Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his! (Numbers 23:10, NKJV)
When all is said and done, and they lay our cold, dead body in the grave, will it be said that we died the death of the righteous? Death comes “to the righteous and the wicked,” it is true, but their deaths are different in eternally significant ways. 1) The righteous die in faith. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). Only when we walk by faith will we die in faith (2 Cor. 5:7). Being faithful to the Lord in life affects how we die (Lk. 12:19-21; 16:19-25). 2) The righteous leave a legacy of good deeds. A display of her charitable kindness attended Dorcas’s death (Acts 9:36-39). “Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden” (1 Tim. 5:24-25). 3) The righteous die after a life of spiritual service despite adversity. “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Come what may in life, our paramount goal is to die in the Lord. 4) The righteous die with God’s blessing. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psa. 116:15). Death is an appointment we will all keep (Heb. 9:27). We choose whether ours will be the death of the righteous by the choices we make in life.