Evil comes in different forms, and we must not be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). False prophets come in sheep’s clothing but are devouring wolves (Matt. 7:15). False apostles and deceitful workers appear as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Worldly wisdom is an imposter posing as truth (1 Cor. 3:18-20). Immorality presents itself as the answer to our longings but delivers death (Prov. 6:24-29; Gal. 5:19-21). False teachers bring in “destructive heresies” while endearing themselves to the naïve (2 Pet. 2:1-3; Rom. 16:17-18). We must test (examine) everything to approve what is excellent and abstain from evil in every form it takes (Phil. 1:9-11). That requires a standard by which to test all things. The “word of the truth of the gospel” is the only objective and verifiable standard of divine teaching and holiness that impartially judges right and wrong (Jno. 12:48; 17:17). Inspired Scripture must have the final say in “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). Learn God’s word and examine “all things” by its truth (2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 17:11-12). Then, confidently cling to “what is good” and refuse “every form of evil.”
1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, 3 And gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1–3, NKJV)
Redemption by the Lord from the grip of the enemy arouses thanksgiving in the recipients of His mercy. Psalm 107 rehearses God’s merciful deliverance of Israel from their Babylonian exile back to Canaan. God took them from “the hand of the enemy,” gathering a remnant from every place they were scattered, redeeming them from captivity. Israel had “rebelled against the words of God” and suffered greatly because of it (Psa. 107:10-12). But, when “they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, He saved them out of their distresses” (Psa. 107:13). God is merciful and forgives when we turn from sin to Him. If God has redeemed you from sin’s bondage, give thanks for His goodness! If you are still in the clutches of sin, then call on the name of the Lord for mercy and forgiveness (Acts 2:21, 37-41; 22:16). As He did for Israel, even so now God is gathering redeemed souls from the four corners of the earth by the gospel of Christ (Isa. 11:11-16; Mk. 16:15-16; Rom. 1:16; 11:5). “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”
Do others know you obey God? The Bible indisputably teaches obedience is the expression of one’s faith. For example, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15). James put it this way: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (Jas. 2:18). Earlier, Paul noted the Romans’ faith was spoken of by others throughout the world (Rom. 1:8). People were talking about their faith because they knew about their obedience. Their faith was genuine because they obeyed the Lord. Obedience proclaims our faith, too. Just saying we believe is insufficient to save us (after all, “even the demons believe—and tremble,” Jas. 2:19). Our obedience to the Lord must be good and innocent (Rom. 16:19). The wisdom of the world calls evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20). Conversely, Christians shun such folly and choose to live by the wisdom from above (Jas. 3:17-18). We influence the world for righteousness when others see our faith by our obedience (Matt. 5:13).
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NKJV)
How do you define a successful life? Fortune? Leisure? Fame? Power? I watched a couple of TV shows today about former NFL players who set many records and won many championships? Their walls are lined with trophies and awards that recognize their athletic accomplishments. Yet, when they talked about what being successful was to them, it was not about statistics, championships, and awards. It was about being a good husband, a good father, a good friend, and a good citizen in the community. That is impressive. All these things are good, and yet, something was missing. They did not measure their success in spiritual terms. Jesus said, “What profit it is to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul” (Matt. 16:26)? When you wake up and consider how you intend to succeed that day (and in life), assess your success the way God does. God’s measure of success requires us to choose to practice justice and love mercy (to love our neighbor as ourselves, Matt. 22:39), and to choose to walk humbly with our God (to love God with all our being, Matt. 22:37). Define success as a life of justice, mercy, and faithful service to God. These things are good. God says these things make life successful.
11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 12 Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. (Psalm 34:11–16, NKJV)
Fear of the Lord is not theoretical. It is practical and reveals itself in how we live our lives. Here, the inspired psalmist David teaches how to respect and reverence God. We will know the fear of the Lord if we listen to his instruction, and our lives will be blessed. Living a full life that delights in its joy is realized when we 1) Control our language (v. 13). Our words reveal our hearts. 2) Turn away from evil and practice good things that advance peace (v. 14). Pursue peace with God and with others, and you will it replaces chaos with tranquility. 3) Remember that the Lord attends to the needs of the righteous (v. 15). God has promised to provide our needs when we prioritize His will in our lives (Matt. 6:31-33). He hears and responds to the prayers of righteous people. 4) Remember that the Lord opposes those who practice evil (v. 16). Pursuing evil does not bring happiness now or in eternity; only pain and eternal death. God and others see whether the “fear of the Lord” is in our lives. When it is, whatever life brings our way becomes a blessing (1 Pet. 3:8-13).
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. 102 I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. (Psalm 119:101–102, NKJV)
Self-discipline is essential in keeping the word of God. Discipleship requires discipline, both to order one’s life after the Master’s teachings and to refrain from conduct that is against the Master’s instruction (Lk. 6:40; Jno. 13:13-17). Pride is ever ready to puff up our confidence in ourselves. It deceptively assures us we could never deny our Lord (Matt. 26:35; cf. Prov. 16:18). Therefore, since “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” we must continually “watch and pray, lest (we) enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). Utter commitment to God’s judgments (determinations) must governor our choices to refrain from evil and pursue good (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 3:8-11). When we argue with God’s word to justify our sinful choices and conduct, we have allowed personal judgments to control us instead of the decisions of God. (That’s pride at work.) Jeremiah said, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). God does not delight in those whose evil (sin) is called good (Mal. 2:17). Self-disciplined faith in God helps us guard against reversing God’s judgments and calling good evil, and evil good (Isa. 5:20-21; Prov. 17:15). God is our teacher, and His word shows us what is evil and what is good. Walking in God’s word is how we “watch” and avoid entering into sin.
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. 26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. (Lamentations 3:25–27, NKJV)
Jeremiah ponders the goodness of God’s mercies, compassion, and faithfulness in the midst of the overwhelming sorrow of Jerusalem’s demise (due to her sins against the Lord, Lam. 3:22-24; 1:1-5). When sorrow comes into our lives, hope waits and seeks the Lord (v. 25). When we put our trust in the Lord and His sovereign will, He will send His salvation (v. 26). Youthful vigor must overcome impatience that burdens can aggravate and intensify (v. 27). God’s goodness will not overlook sin (as His punishment against Jerusalem shows). But, when we will abandon our sin and turn to the Lord, He will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:7). The gospel of Christ explains how to receive His salvation (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-41; 3:19). God is good, and it is good for us to hope in Him, to wait quietly for His salvation, and to bear our burdens (Matt. 11:28-30).
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:4–5, NKJV)
Psalm 100 is a psalm of thanksgiving unto God. All the earth is pictured as serving the Lord with gladness, and coming “before His presence with singing” (Psa. 100:1-2). God is due the service of worshipful praise because He is our Sovereign, our Creator, and our Sustainer (Psa. 100:3-4). The blessings that come to us from Almighty God also inform and persuade our thankful worship of Him. Three of God’s character traits, from which our blessings flow, are highlighted as reasons for giving Him thanks. 1) His goodness. In His beauty, God showers good blessings on us all (Acts 14:17). 2) His mercy. God is unfailing in His kindness and ever vigilant to show mercy “to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exo. 20:6). 3) His truth. Unfailing in its power to purify us, God’s word of truth endures forever (Jno. 17:17; 1 Pet. 1:22-25). God’s goodness, mercy, and truth compel us to “enter His gates with thanksgiving” with joyful praise. May we always give God thankful praise for who He is and for what He does for us.
“For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4, NKJV)
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Allied invasion of Europe on the beaches of Normandy, France. Their goal was to liberate a continent captured in the grip of Nazism. Their success continues to be felt to this present hour. As we honor the sacrifices of that day and the freedom it signaled for millions of souls, we ought to remember it is God who ordains civil authorities. The governments of men are intended by Him to execute justice, and to apply punishment (wrath) to evildoers. Therefore, we are to submit to governing authorities out of our respect for God (Rom. 13:1-3). They are God’s servants for us to administer what is good. But, what happens when governments before evil and oppressive? Since God rules the nations, He raises them up and He brings them down when their rulers and their citizens refuse righteousness (Prov. 14:34; Dan. 4:28-35). We must keep on doing good and not take personal vengeance against evil. Instead, we are to give place to the wrath of God: “for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17-19). He did. And, He continues to do so. Let the righteous be patient, and “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:20-21).
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17, NKJV)
We are not told why this man ran to Jesus. We assume he urgently desired to talk with Jesus before he lost his opportunity. (We should not delay to urgently run to Christ for salvation and the spiritual blessings only He gives.) He knelt before Jesus in an obvious expression of deference and honor. (We ought to approach Jesus with reverential honor.) The man recognized Jesus as “Good Teacher.” (Jesus emphasized His goodness was linked to His divine nature, since “No one is good but One, that is, God,” Mark 10:18). The man was interested in eternal life, and wanted to know what to do to inherit it. Note, Jesus did not tell him there was nothing he could or should do. Jesus told him to keep the commandments of God (which the man had kept from his youth, Mark 10:19-20). Jesus loved the man, but he lacked one thing. His heart was not fully given to Christ. He loved his possessions more than following Jesus (Mark 10:21-22). He had to change his heart – his allegiance – to follow Jesus and inherit eternal life. When you run to Jesus, where is your heart? Be sure your heart will do whatever it takes to “take up the cross and follow” Jesus (Mark 10:21).