Why do you say yet not obey? That is the penetrating question Jesus asked those who followed Him from place to place during His ministry. Disciples (followers) learn and live the training received from their Master (Luke 6:40; John 8:31). Jesus is not our ‘Lord’ unless we obey Him. Like them, the Master challenges us to investigate our motives for saying He is Lord while disobeying His word. The Scriptures help us examine ourselves to discover and remove obstacles preventing salvation and hindering discipleship. (1) A hard heart (John 12:37-40). An open, receptive, and responsive heart accepts the word of God and is fruitful by doing the Lord’s will (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). (2) Fear and favor of men (John 12:42-43). Fearing rejection from others, many still prefer men’s favor over God’s approval. (3) Love of the world (1 John 2:15). Genuine love for Jesus obeys His commands (John 14:15). When we misplace our love and disobey Jesus, we deceive ourselves to think we love Jesus. (4) Deceived by false teaching (Luke 8:15). A popular doctrine convinces many souls that Christians cannot fall from grace (be lost). Yet, the gospel warns disciples against falling away (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:12-13). This false doctrine opens the door to complacent, neglectful faith (Heb. 6:11-12; 10:39). Jesus said it is foolish to hear His words and do nothing (Luke 6:49; Matt. 7:26-27). But it is wise to hear and do His words (Luke 6:47-48; Matt. 7:24-25). Yes, we must do more than say, “Lord, Lord,” to be a disciple and enter the kingdom of heaven. We must hear and do the words of Christ (Matt. 7:21-23).
7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7–8, NKJV).
While continuing to address the correct motive of prayer (v. 7; Matt. 6:5-6), Jesus turns our attention to the method of prayer. How we pray (method) will align itself with why we pray (motive). The pagans repetitively ritualize prayer to their gods. Such prayers are nothing more than empty phrases of useless babblings. Like the false prophets who called on the name of Baal, vainly repeated prayers in the name of the Lord are void of meaning and efficacy (1 Kings 18:26). Ritualized prayers may have a form of godliness, but they deny it power (2 Tim. 3:5). Ironically, millions vainly repeat in ritualized worship the model prayer Jesus is about to teach (Matt. 6:9-13), the very thing Jesus warned against doing. Our Father knows our needs, anxieties, pains, struggles, joys, and so much more. He knows our requests before we bring them to Him in prayer. As a result, our Father receives and responses favorably when we come to His throne of grace with words of reverent humility, not rehearsed blather (v. 8; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:12). Don’t pray like the heathens. Pray like a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23–24, NKJV)
This stern warning against pride in personal wisdom, power, and wealth is set against the backdrop of God’s wisdom, power, and richness. Paul wrote, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Human insight is nothing before the Almighty’s wisdom. Only the boastful would make such a foolish claim. Concerning human power, “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). Pride moves people to think they are stronger than God. Riches are temporary, and “perish through misfortune” (Eccl. 5:14). Pride in material abundance can lead to neglecting eternal riches (Lk. 12:15-21). By contrast, we can “understand and know” the Lord (Jer. 9:24). We understand He is sovereign (Lord), and accomplishes what is gracious, just, and righteous in the earth. Humility glories in God’s accomplishments, not ours. By doing so, God assures us of His favor (delight).
He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22, NKJV)
Anthropologists tell us marriage is a social development borne over years of adaptation for the sake of necessity, alliances, and survival instincts. The Bible presents a very different picture. Jesus connected the beginning of marriage with “the beginning of the creation,” affirming that both originated with God (Mk. 10:6; Gen. 2:18-24). Solomon strayed from God’s marriage arrangement of one man and one woman for life, and his faith and loyalty to God faltered (1 Kgs. 11:1-8). Marriage was designed by God to be a blessing. It is men and women who repeatedly corrupt its purity and goodness with such things as multiple wives (Gen. 4:16-19), divorce (Mal. 2:14-16), same-sex marriage (1 Cor. 6:9-10), and other redefinitions of marriage (not to mention fornication and adultery, Heb. 13:4). In today’s verse, as in all other biblical references, the word “wife” is feminine, and is coupled with the masculine form for husband (or, as in this case, a masculine pronoun for the husband). Husband and wife are not man and man or woman and woman – such relationships may be legal contracts, but they are not marriages in the sight of God. The value of a good wife is immeasurable (Prov. 31:10). A selfish, sinful spouse is a heartache that can lead to your spiritual demise. Choose wisely. And, be thankful to God for the blessing of a good wife (or a good husband) in your life.
Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard. (Proverbs 13:15, NKJV)
Sin is a choice that brings hardship to everyone who is enslaved by it. The consequences of sin are hard, and can be permanent (as is indicated by the Hebrews word which is translated “hard” in today’s verse). When we choose to be unfaithful to God’s standard of truth, under which we live and to which we are accountable, the course of our life will be difficult. When we choose to be unfaithful to God, we only hurt ourselves (cf. Acts 9:5). Unfortunately, evil influences in this world are at work to play-down the age-old truth, that “whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Many think they can sin without consequences or punishment. They have been deceived by a permissive society that glamorizes and rewards sin. It is a hard, yet necessary lesson, to accept the consequences of our sins. Only by acknowledging the reality of our own sins against God – as well as the consequences they bring – will we ever be willing and able to repent and obey the Lord to be saved by His grace (cf. Acts 2:37-41). Good understanding of sin’s difficulties helps us avoid sin, and obtain favor from God and men. Sinners will obtain favor from God by coming to Jesus. His yoke is far easier, and His burden is far lighter, than sin (Matt. 11:28-30).
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 good man obtains favor from the Lord, but a man of wicked intentions He will condemn. (Proverbs 12:2, NKJV)
The word of God points out that good intentions alone will not wash away our sins (cf. Cornelius, whose good intentions and moral life did not save him, Acts 10:1-2, 22; 11:14). It is equally apparent that without good intentions we will not obtain God’s favor. Wicked, evil motives bring God’s condemnation. God’s favor is reserved for the good-intentioned person who actually does what He says is good (Eph. 2:10). So, Cornelius was told that “whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35). Let us couple our good intentions with doing the good will of God, so that we will be received by the Lord and blessed by Him in Christ (Eph. 1:3; Jas. 1:25).
Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor. (Proverbs 14:9, NKJV)
Often the righteous are ridiculed, made a laughing stock and spoken evil against because they will not join sinners in committing sin or in accepting sin as good (1 Pet. 4:4). Sin is little more than a sport to those who reject God’s truth: “To do evil is like sport to a fool, but a man of understanding has wisdom” (Prov. 10:23). Do you mock at your own sin by carelessly refusing to repent of it? Be wise and gain understanding. There is no favor or grace for one who scoffs at sin. Instead of mocking at sin, choose the righteous path of truth and obtain favor with God, now and forevermore.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22, NKJV)
Who you find to marry makes a huge difference in your life. God arranged marriage for one man and one woman for life (Gen. 2:18-25). By it, loneliness is averted through a companionship that unites two into “one flesh”. While millions minimize marriage, sinning against God by living together, marriage continues to be “honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Marriage is intended to bring joy and fulfillment to life, not painful complaint, criticism and cynicism. A good wife (or husband) is a great blessing from the Lord. So, choose your mate wisely and live in the Lord’s favor. If you are already married, then make it your aim to be the kind of wife or husband who brings your spouse joy and gladness.
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, NKJV)
Living in God’s grace does not give Christians a license to have arrogant attitudes, words and deeds toward one another. There ought to be a symbiotic relationship between younger and older Christians; interdependent, instead of independent, of each other. In another context, Paul said, “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself” (Rom. 14:7). We need each other. Therefore, proper respect and regard ought to be shown by all. Younger saints should yield to their elders out of respect and consideration. An older Christians should not discount and despise a fellow saint simply due to their youth. We are yield to one another out of humility. After all, God will not receive the proud; He favors the humble. Commit yourself to developing a humble attitude. Be humble by using kind words and respectful actions toward your brethren in Christ.