1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” (Matthew 23:1–3, NKJV)
Emphasizing the need to live what we preach, it has been said, “Seeing a sermon is better than hearing one.” Certainly, those who teach God’s word need to live God’s word. Otherwise, a stumbling block of hypocrisy is laid that is not easily removed. So it was with the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus confronted and confounded with His truth. Since they taught God’s law to Israel (“sit in Moses’ seat”), the Lord expected people to observe God’s law when they taught it. Yet, Jesus warned against following the example of these hypocrites because they did not follow the law they taught. We must see that God holds us accountable for our own spiritual responsibilities. We cannot blame hypocrites for our sin. We must also learn to distinguish between a teacher of God’s word who may sin and corrects it, and the hypocrite who pretends to be what he is not. A Christian’s sin does not automatically make that person a hypocrite. That happens when we pretend to be something we are not. Genuine faith prevents hypocrisy while fueling faithfulness to do the will of God.
Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks. (Ecclesiastes 10:18, NKJV)
Apathy is harmful to spiritual health and vitality. Apathy in this context is “an attitude of indifference and unconcern toward spiritual things. It generally ignores spiritual matters in order to place a greater emphasis on material things” (“What Is Wrong With Christian Apathy?,” Biblical Proof). Spiritual indifference is one of the besetting sins in our age of affluence, convenience, and leisure. Like ancient Israel, it is easy to become “at ease in Zion” and neglect “mercy, justice and faith” toward God and fellow human beings (Amos 6:1-6). Often generated by pride, it robs Christians of giving due time and attention to spiritual responsibilities and opportunities (Amos 6:7-8). We succumb to spiritual laziness when we are quick to address material concerns yet neglect our spiritual needs. Our hedge against spiritual apathy is to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Faith, activated by godly priorities to the will of God, helps guard against spiritual decay (see Romans 12:1-2).
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21, NKJV)
It is essential that the church honors God for the abundant “power that works in us.” Notably, it is “in the church by Christ Jesus” that God’s measureless power is glorified. So, the church is essential. It is essential for the church to know how to give God honor and glory. The church honors God being faithful to obey His will. You see, Jesus died for His church to sanctify it, so it will not have “spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). God’s will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Therefore, we must love God and not the world (1 John 2:15-17). When Christians defy the will of God and love the world, Christ is shamed and God is dishonored. The church must do more than say it honors God in Christ. Christians must reflect honor for God by how we live. This is done by obeying Him faithfully. This is how to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Such obedience is when and how God’s power works in us (Philippians 2:13). Trust God’s power. Live by faith, obeying Him “with fear and trembling.” He will work in you mightily, and take you home to eternal glory.
14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” (Isaiah 37:14–16, NKJV)
Jerusalem was besieged and it appeared the city would soon be captured by Assyria. God’s prophet assured king Hezekiah that God would overthrow the Assyrian king (Isaiah 37:1-7). Now, messengers from Assyria’s king delivered a letter of intimidation and reproach to the king of Judah (Isaiah 37:8-13). Hezekiah’s faith remained in the Lord, and he brought the threat before Him. In verse 16, Hezekiah honored three attributes of God that we do well to remember when we come to God in time of trouble. He honored 1) God’s holiness and mercy (“the One who dwells between the cherubim” referred to the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place of the Jerusalem temple), 2) God’s sovereignty as the One true God (“You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth,” and 3) God as Creator of all things (“You have made heaven and earth”). When the enemies of truth and righteousness press down upon Christians, we assure our hearts and our faith with these eternal truths. Let us follow Hezekiah’s good example of faith. God does not forsake the faithful (Hebrews 13:5-6).
12 “Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:12–14, NKJV)
Like Israel at the Red Sea, sometimes we have trouble waiting on the Lord and trusting His salvation. After witnessing God’s great judgments upon Egypt through the miraculous plagues, just days later Israel complained when the enemy’s army approached (Exodus 14:11-12). Moses told them to replace their fear with faith in the Lord’s power and presence, for He would fight for them. That day they would see the salvation of the Lord – and they did. God told Israel to “go forward,” and He protected them and delivered them as they did (v. 15-22, 29-30). Having been saved from our past sins in Christ, Christians are told to press forward in faith, not draw back in fear (Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 10:35-39; 12:1-2). Our enemy, the devil, will tempt us with sin and trials, trying to discourage and defeat us. Keep doing God’s will by trusting Him and the power of His word. Be faithful and go forward, never backwards, “for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).
5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:5–6, NKJV)
Just as God gathered a remnant of His people back to Jerusalem after their Babylonian captivity and exile, He is now gathering a remnant for salvation “according to the election of grace.” Here, and throughout the book of Romans, grace (which is heard in the truth of the gospel, Colossians 1:5-6) is set in contrast to law keeping law (the law of Moses) as the means of justification (Romans 3:21-26). Grace is not obtained through law-keeping, for if one keeps the law (without sin), then his reward is a debt earned, not a gift given (Romans 4:1-8; Ephesians 2:8-9). So, how does God execute “the election of grace?” God elected (chose) to save sinners in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6). Through the blood of Christ, God makes forgiveness of sins available “according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). God calls sinners out of sin into salvation by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Faith obeys God and obtains grace, just like Abraham and his faith (Romans 4:16; James 2:21-24). We are saved “by grace through faith,” not by earning grace, but with a faith that takes God at His word and does what He says. Christians do that, and stand in the “true grace of God” (1 Peter 5:12).
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).