13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13–15, NKJV)
Life can turn on a dime. Plans made are often interrupted by forces beyond our control. Life is uncertain and brief. Time and chance play in our lives (Eccl. 9:11-12). When we live as if we control time and events, we are shortsighted, unwise, and even reckless with our lives. Freewill certainly plays a role in our lives as we anticipate tomorrow. Not only our choices but the consequences of others’ choices can have dramatic, even deadly effects. The driver who chooses to drive under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is a hazard to himself and others. Innocent lives suffer. Combining these realities with life’s brevity (life is like a disappearing vapor) draws our attention to the Lord’s will instead of selfish desires. We live under His providence and should learn contentment in times of both good and bad. As Job said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity” (Job 2:10)? Life happens. Be sure you are trusting the Lord’s will daily regardless of what happens.
1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1–2, NKJV)
Yesterday’s Sword Tips (#2093) observed Philip telling Nathanael to “come and see” whether anything good could come from Nazareth (Jno. 1:43-47). The evidence proving Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God is abundant, but we must “come and see” for ourselves. Christians will not force you to believe and follow Jesus. (But note, Jesus said your choice will have eternal results, John 12:48-50.) Nicodemus had seen Jesus work miracles, or he had heard about them from credible witnesses. He drew a necessary conclusion that God had sent Jesus and God was with Jesus from the signs Jesus did. The process of learning and examination is how God presents the truth of the gospel to the world. Competent eyewitnesses of the words and works of Jesus (His apostles) preached the gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ (Mk. 16:15-20; Acts 1:8; 10:38-43). We preach that same gospel today (2 Tim. 4:2-4). Those who heard the apostolic message had a choice to make: Believe, obey, and be saved, or disbelieve and be lost (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:36-41; 13:44-48). You and I and the whole world have the same decision to make. By the way, Nicodemus was not saved because he believed Jesus came from God. Only when he entered the kingdom of God by the new birth of water and the Spirit would he be saved from his sins (Jno. 3:3-5). So it is for every lost soul today.
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:1–2, NKJV)
The goal of Paul’s “orders” to the churches was to have funds prepared to apply to the “collection for the saints” – a gift that was being gathered from among Gentile churches to relieve needy Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-27; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1, 12). This order of readiness necessarily implies treasuries existed in each local church. Freewill offering continues to be how each local church of Christ funds its work of benevolence, evangelism, and edification. Verse 2 gives concise answers to essential questions about our giving. 1) When? On the first day of the week. 2) Who? Each one of you. 3) What? Lay something aside. 4) How? As he may prosper. 5) Why? That there be no collections when I come. Their gift would be collected and ready to send to Jerusalem when Paul arrived (1 Cor. 16:3-4). A treasury into which each one lays something aside accomplished this then, and now (see the church’s treasury in Acts 4:34-5:4). With singleness of heart, Christian give bountifully, cheerfully, and thankfully to fund the work God gives local churches (2 Cor. 8:1-5, 12; 9:6-11).
1 Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth. 2 Why should the Gentiles say, “So where is their God?” 3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:1–3, NKJV)
The sovereignty of Yahweh (the “eternally-existing One,” Exo. 3:14-15) evokes, demands, and prompts us to praise and magnify His grandeur and power. In contrast to giving honor to God, the sin of idolatry is rooted in glorifying men instead (Psa. 115:4-8; Exo. 20:1-6). Idolatry is a lie that corrupts the nature of God and the lives of those exchange the truth of God for the lie (Rom. 1:21-25). We honor and praise the true and living God because of His mercy and truth. These are hallmarks of God’s sovereign dealings with humanity. Paul succinctly noted that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Thus, the sovereignty of God is not arbitrary (saving and condemning on a divine whim). Neither does it rob humanity of freewill, for we must “come” to the knowledge of the truth (Matt. 11:28-30). We are responsible before God to seek His mercy according to His truth. In His mercy, God has given His Son to be our Savior. In His truth, He calls sinners to believe the gospel of His Son, repent, and be baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38). God’s mercy and truth brings the sinners to salvation, saved by grace through faith. To Your name we give glory, O Lord, God of mercy and of truth.
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” 5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3–5, NKJV)
Did Judas have a choice? Or, did God predetermine his betrayal because of His sovereign election and man’s corrupt nature? Being born totally corrupt (as Calvinists tell us), did Judas sin out of necessity? God indeed is sovereign (Psalm 66). But no, we are not born corrupted by original sin (Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 18:3; Romans 7:9). God created man and woman with freewill, and it was not taken from humanity after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6; Romans 5:12). Judas chose to be a thief and a betrayer (John 12:6). He chose not to believe in Jesus, and he chose to let the devil into his heart (John 6:69-71; 13:2, 27). Yes, Judas had a choice – God’s foreknowledge did not eliminate Judas’ freewill. When we sin it is because we yield to temptation (Jas. 1:13-16). We do not sin because we must sin (due to a corrupt nature). Sin is committed, not inherited (Romans 5:12). God has chosen to save us (sinners) in Christ (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:4-7). We must choose to come to Christ (Matthew 11:28). God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill are not hostile to each other. Do not choose sin. Choose to honor God’s sovereignty by believing and obeying the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).
2 All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:2–3, NKJV)
Each of us face common experiences of humanity. We also face death, which is common to us all. Our experiences and our end are true of “under the sun” (life on earth). Whether it is “time and chance” or a “purpose under heaven” in which we choose to engage, human life has been so designed by our Creator that wisdom teaches us to accept that “our works are in the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 9:11; 3:1-8; 9:1). This does not mean we are doomed to a life of fatalism without freewill. It means the purposes of God will prevail as He sets the boundaries of our times and seasons, and as His providence oversees and operates (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19). The “one event” and the “one thing” in today’s passage (as the end of verse 3 shows) is death. When hearts are set on evil things, no preparation is made for death. That is madness, not wisdom. Knowing we will die, we should get ready for it. Be righteous and wise, fearing God and keeping His commandments (Ecclesiastes 9:1; 12:13).
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” (Matthew 23:37–39, NKJV)
The Messiah expressed His ardent desire to draw Jerusalem close to Himself, comfort her and protect her. Yet, Jerusalem was not willing to receive His love. She killed God’s prophets; their message was disdainful to her. She stoned God’s servants, and would soon kill God’s Son. Now, the desolation of divine judgment was in her future. Only by understanding the Messiah’s gospel would any of her inhabitants find a blessing (read Acts 3:24-26). Note here the longing of God and the freewill of man. God desires the salvation of all (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Yet, without a willing heart to receive God’s word and follow His will, the lost person will not be saved. Responsibility for the desolation of Jerusalem, applied by the Roman army in A.D. 70, fell squarely on the shoulders of its rebellious citizens. If we refuse God and the salvation He offers us, we are responsible for our own demise. Why not rather turn to Christ, receive His word, obey His will and be saved?
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18–20, NKJV)
God “desires all men to be saved”, but He will not force His salvation on anyone. The freewill He gave us from creation must be exercised to come to Him with one’s whole heart. God would bless Judah and Jerusalem’s willing obedience with cleansing from their sins and the good abundance of their land. But, rebellious refusal to faithfully follow the Lord would bring their destruction. Jerusalem was eventually devoured by their enemies’ sword, a just punishment for her sins. The gospel of Christ calls every sinner to come to the Lord, to hear His words of mercy and call to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:36-41). Receive God’s word with a willing heart and obedient life. He will cleanse you of your sins and give you abundant, eternal life. If not, remember that judgment is certain against all who rebel against the Lord (Rom. 2:6-11).
3 Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. 4 So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude. (Luke 22:3-6)
Judas made a choice to betray Jesus. The fact that Satan entered Judas does not at all suggest he lost his freewill in the matter. Satan set the enticement before him, and he gave into the temptation. It is the same with all temptation to sin: An enticement coupled with a person’s own desires (“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed”, James 1:14). The tempter can be resisted: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). No one forces you to sin; the choice is yours. And, so is the accountability before God. The wages of sin is death. God gift is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Choosing sin brings death. Choose faith in Jesus (Matt. 11:28-30; 7:21-23; Lk. 6:46).