21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21–23, NKJV)
Calling Jesus your Lord and Savior is not sufficient to assure your entrance into heaven (v. 21). Saying “Lord, Lord” but not doing what Jesus says does not please Him (Luke 6:46). We must do the Father’s will to enter heaven. This teaches us faith alone is not acceptable to Jesus. Well-intended religious activities are not sufficient to insure entrance into heaven, either (v. 22). Declaring to act in the name of Jesus does not make it so. Verse 23 explains that even well-meaning actions that are not approved in the word of God, are lawless (without law, not sanctioned by God’s law), and therefore, rejected. When religious practices are not revealed in the word of God they are lawless (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 John 3:4). Heaven is for those who are doers of the word. So, do the will of God and do not rest your hope of heaven on well-intended practices that are not approved by God’s word.
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16–18, NKJV)
King Nebuchadnezzar had elevated these three young Jews to positions of authority in the province of Babylon (Daniel 2:49). But, the king’s favor did not shield their faith from being tested. When the king built a huge image of gold and commanded all to fall down and worship before it (or face execution in the fiery furnace), they refused to compromise their faith (Daniel 3:1-15). You see, their faith was already settled. Threats to their positions or to their lives deterred their faithfulness to the true God, even after being given a second chance to comply with the king’s command. They trusted God to deliver them, whether by life or by death (which He certainly did, Daniel 3:19-30). What is our take away from their incredible faith and deliverance? We must decide our course of action before our faith is tested. Like them, we must not hesitate. We must not waver. If that cannot be said of your faith during your hour of trial, then decide now to be steadfast and immovable in your faith (1 Corinthians 15:58). By doing so, when your faith is tested you will prevail victorious in Christ (1 John 5:4).
3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3–4, NKJV)
Christians “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). Along with rejoicing in “having been justified by faith” and its spiritual blessings, we also learn to glory (boast, joy, rejoice) in tribulations as we view their beneficial results (verse 3). Our faith looks beyond present distress and its pain, uncertainty, trauma and trials, to the consummation of our hope. We understand (we know) that trouble borne out of being faithful to Christ produces steadfast endurance (perseverance). Do not be overwhelmed when trials test your faith, but “by patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). Patiently continuing to do God’s will despite tribulations produces “character” that is approved by God. Trustworthy dependability to keep doing the will of God is developed in your life by consistently enduring the distresses that test your faith (see James 1:2-4). The hope you have in Christ is enlivened and secured when your faith is genuine and when, by God’s grace, you are trustworthy to persevere through the temporary trials of life.
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. (Genesis 7:1, NKJV)
God called Noah and his family into the ark after Noah built the ark “according to all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22). Why was Noah allowed to enter the ark and saved from the impending flood? God said, “Because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.” Does God see your righteousness? Some would have you believe there is no righteousness ever to be seen in men and women by contorting Isaiah 64:6, “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” Was Noah’s righteousness like filthy rags? Obviously not. Nor was it self-righteousness as in the Pharisee who trusted in himself (Luke 18:9-14). His was “the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7). This is the kind of righteousness we must practice to be born of God and righteous in His sight (1 John 2:29; 3:7). God counts righteous the person who exercises obedient faith. Without such faith, there is no grace from God. Otherwise, all would have been allowed into the ark and saved from the flood. But, only the righteous are saved. Just like Noah and his family obeyed God and were saved through water, baptism “now saves us” (1 Peter 3:20-21). When you believe and obey the gospel of Christ, you will be saved and righteous – like Noah (Romans 10:10; 6:16).
So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:20, NKJV)
God gave Jericho to Israel by His grace (Joshua 6:2, 16). Yet, it was necessary that Israel obey in faith for the city walls to collapse (Joshua 6:3-5). Please notice that while the walls fell by God’s grace, the army of Israel still had to take the city. The edge of the sword was applied to this godless city after the walls fell (Joshua 6:21). Spiritual victories require us to fight to possess the Lord’s victories (Ephesians 6:10-13). We must be militant against the forces of evil to gain the victory of faith (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; 1 John 5:3-4). Today’s passage also reminds us our spiritual battle is right in front of us. We fight the good fight of faith alongside fellow Christians, exhorting and helping one another each day (Hebrews 12:12-13). We do this even as we engage in our own battles against temptation, trials and trouble. By grace through faith, victory in Christ is assured.
9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” 11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (Hebrews 5:9–11, NKJV)
The great truth that Jesus Christ is the sinless sacrifice by whom our eternal salvation is offered is fundamental to the gospel of His grace. It is also basic truth that He saves “all who obey Him” – obedience faith is necessary to be saved and go to heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christ’s appointment by God as the High Priest of our confession to serve in heaven of God’s house is crucial to our redemption (Hebrews 3:1; 8:1-2). Understanding the nature and work of our High Priest enlivens our hope and sustains our diligent service to Him. Yet, like the Hebrew Christians, we may not be in a good position to learn these things. We become “dull of hearing” (difficult to teach) if we are not diligent hearers and doers of the word (James 1:21-25). Spiritual growth in Christ requires a heart that is open to Christ’s word and a life that is using His word “to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). How’s your hearing?
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’” (Revelation 2:7, NKJV)
What the Spirit of God said to the church of Ephesus (by the Lord’s messenger or “angel,” Revelation 2:1) was said to all the churches of Christ. Christians are urged to lend an ear and give careful attention to the divine message. Notice how the Spirit of God communicates with Christians. It is not through your emotions, feelings, and life events. The Bible says God speaks to us all in the same way, through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). The apostolic Scriptures are the mind of God, revealed for us to know (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Also, please see in today’s verse that it is the person “who overcomes” who is given access to the tree of life. Those who prevail will be saved. But, not everyone will eat from the tree of life (Revelation 22:1-5). Some Christians will not listen to Jesus. And so, they will not “fight the good fight of faith” nor “lay hold of eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:12). Refuse to be that kind of Christian. Open yourself to the word of God and faithfully follow Jesus by following “what the Spirit says to the churches.”