19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:19–21, NKJV)
Christians are to be “filled with the Spirit” of God instead of the intoxicating spirits created by men (Eph. 5:18). Several actions necessarily follow when we are filled with the Spirit through the word of Christ dwelling in us (Col. 3:16). 1) Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (v. 19). Speaking to one another takes the form of singing, of “making melody in your heart to the Lord.” It is singing words that communicate the heart’s message. This singing to the Lord encourages each Christian who sings from the heart. It is not entertainment. Neither is it a performance of a few for the many. This speaking is not playing, strumming, and humming songs. Nothing of the kind is in this verse. It does not say to play songs, but to speak to one another in songs. Let us not put words into God’s mouth (like “play”) that He did not say. 2) Give thanks always for all things (v. 20). Gratitude and praise exude from the life filled with the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Our songs and lives express hearts that respect God in Christ as the Giver of every blessing (Eph. 1:3). 3) Submit to one another in the fear of God (v. 21). The Spirit-filled life lives for others, not oneself. We serve Christ by serving one another (Mk. 10:42-45; Matt. 25:40). Subordinating ourselves to each other is a token of reverential respect for God. Be filled with the Spirit. Worship. Give thanks. Serve one another.
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14–15, NKJV)
Christ lived in the flesh to die for humanity. He was “made a litter lower than the angels” when He partook of “flesh and blood.” Through God’s grace, His “suffering of death” “for everyone” equipped and glorified Him as the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:9-10). He blazed the trail for our redemption from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. By doing so, Christ destroyed the devil, rendering useless his power to use the fear of death against us. Christ has overcome sin and death by His death and resurrection. We view death with hope, release, and joy because of Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). In Christ, life has its proper context – a temporary blessing on the road to eternity (2 Cor. 5:1). In turn, understanding death instills in us the faith to make the Lord’s will our own (Jas. 4:13-17). Death is coming for us all, but that is not the end of the story. Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). His gospel calls on us to die to sin and live with and for Him, now and forever (Gal. 2:20). Keep the faith, praise God, and have no fear; Christ has overcome the world (Jno. 16:33).
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. (Matthew 14:27–29, NKJV)
Would we have faith to step out of the boat? Peter did. He heard the Lord’s command to “come,” and he trusted Jesus. To “be of good cheer” means to be confident instead of fearful. Faith is in a struggle with fear. When we “step out of the boat” (as it were), we are replacing fear with trust and confidence in the word and power of Jesus. If Peter put his faith in himself when he stepped out of the boat, he would sink. When we trust in ourselves instead of the Savior, we also sink. Christians confidently “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7, 8). So, when Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life,” do we “step out of the boat” and trust God’s provisions (Matt. 6:25)? When He says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me,” do we “step out of the boat” and confidently sacrifice ourselves for Christ (Lk. 9:23)? When He says, “He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me,” do we “step out of the boat” to love Jesus more than those most precious to us (Matt. 10:37)? Confidently do what Jesus commands. When you do, faith overcomes fear and seizes the spiritual victory in Christ (1 Jno. 5:4-5).
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV)
In today’s verse, “spirit” is the mental disposition that defines and characterizes the Christian’s faith. Our faith is not timid. Contextually, Paul encouraged Timothy to be bold in his “genuine faith” and unafraid to use the miraculous spiritual gift he had received (2 Tim. 1:5-6; 1 Tim. 4:14). He was duty-bound to use his gift with the power, love, and a sound mind. A sound mind is disciplined, exercising self-control in all things. Let us discipline our minds and bodies with self-control to choose godliness and resist evil (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Gal. 5:23). Otherwise, we tarnish and defile the gifts, abilities, and opportunities God gives us (Rom. 12:3-8). A bold faith disciplines itself with the power of God’s truth and love. The power of truth defines and guides our path, while love shapes our motives and objectives. When these combine with a disciplined mind, we are equipped with the confidence of faith not easily overcome by the world (1 Jno. 5:4).
2 Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, and he sins who hastens with his feet. 3 The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord. (Proverbs 19:2–3, NKJV)
I grew up hearing that “ignorance is bliss.” Maybe you did, too. Sometimes it was said somewhat sarcastically to warn us against thinking it is true. But sometimes I heard it said to justify choosing a particular (usually foolish) course of action. After all, we frequently hear people say, “I didn’t know” to explain something they did or did not do. We have most likely used that line, too. The Bible does not teach ignorance is bliss; just the opposite. Solomon said a lack of knowledge propels us into doing dangerous things that lead to sin (v. 2). To think ignorance is bliss and then act without understanding puts us on a twisted path (v. 3). When trouble comes due to our foolish choices, many get angry at God for the problem. The remedy is to accept instruction from the Lord and gain knowledge and wisdom (Prov. 1:1-6). Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). Bliss comes from revering God, not getting angry at Him. When we respect God, we can “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). By doing so, our feet will not run to sin but walk the path that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).
3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3–4, NKJV)
We rejoice in the truth that God forgives and does not mark (retain) our sins (cf. Psa. 6:1; 38:1). God’s lovingkindness does not free us from accountability for our sin; We are answerable for our sin, its consequences, and punishment. The way of the transgressor is hard, and the wages of sin is death (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 6:23). Today’s psalm praises God’s forgiveness, His mercy, and redemption of Israel “from all our iniquities” (Psa. 130:8). When God’s people cry to Him with repentant supplications, He hears and forgives (Psa. 130:1-2). He does not withhold forgiveness; neither should (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:32-35). God does not vindictively keep an account of evil (1 Cor. 13:5). His forgiveness generates reverential fear for His wonderful pardon (Psa. 130:4). God’s responsive mercy assures our hearts to patiently trust His purposes and hope in His word (Psa. 130:5-6). Christians trust God’s unfailing love, generous mercy, and abundant redemption. He forgives us when we repent and confess our sins (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9).
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1–3, NKJV)
Fear has gripped many. Fear of disease, civil unrest, enemies, the future, and more has settled into countless hearts, filling souls with uncertainty, anxiety, and doubt. The psalmist David turned to the Lord in moments of fear and dread. We can and must do the same. With eyes of faith, David saw the Lord God as his light, his salvation, and the strength of his life (v. 1). David put his confidence in the Lord in the face of wicked enemies. While darkness drives many to be uncertain and fearful of life’s path, Jesus Christ continues to be the light of the world (Jno. 8:12). As many trust wealth, political parties, and even violence as a means of deliverance, true salvation from evil is only found in Jesus Christ (Lk. 19:10; Acts 4:12). Pride leads us to trust in our strength and power, even when experience shows us trusting in the flesh ultimately fails (Jer. 17:5-10). God gives power to the weak who live by faith (Isa. 40:29-31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Whatever evil forces arise in your life, the answer to enduring them and being victorious over them is in the Lord. Put your faith in God, love Him, and keep His commandments (1 Jno. 5:3-5).
22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22–24, NKJV)
What drives you to withstand trials, adversities, and obstacles of resistance to achieve your goal? Too often, we are driven from our spiritual goal to seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness by fear, by doubt, by uncertainty, and many other hindrances. Paul’s example helps us stay the course (cf. Heb. 12:1-2). 1) He was “bound in the spirit” (to go to Jerusalem, v. 22). His mind was set on things above (Col. 3:1-3). His obligation to Christ was fixed deep within his soul. 2) He was undeterred by personal hardship (v. 23-24). Fear of persecution did not pull him off course. He cared more about serving the will of God than his own life. 3) His goal was to finish his race with joy (v. 24). Paul would not just finish his race; he would do so with joy (2 Tim. 4:6-8). 4) The ministry the Lord gave him was more important than his life (v. 24). Paul’s priority to faithfully preach the gospel is evident from a review of what he endured for Jesus (2 Cor. 11:23-33; 4:7-11). Our faith will be tested. Will we be moved when our adversary puts the allurements of sin before us? Will we be moved when enemies of the truth put trials and persecutions in our path? Will fear of death move us away from finishing our race with joy (Matt. 10:28)? Or will we say with Paul, “None of these things move me?”
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:7–8, NKJV)
Fear and shame are companions. The fear of isolation (from family and friends), the fear of retribution (from influential people), and the fear of rejection (from those we love), and the fear of reprimand are mere samplings of the fears that cause the silence of shame and the retreat of fearing men rather than following the Lord (Matt. 10:28; Jno. 9:22; 12:42-43). Paul called Timothy to the courage provoked by faith. Paul experienced abandonment from brethren due to the gospel and his imprisonment for it (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:10, 16). But, the Lord stood by him, strengthened him, and delivered him from evil for salvation in His heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:17-18). We are urged not to be ashamed of the gospel that saves us or those suffering for it (Rom. 1:16). Anchored by faith in His unshakable word, we can resist the temptations of fear and shame with power, love, and soundness of mind. May we boldly face every foe of faith, confident that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37-39).