30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade” (Mark 4:30–32, NKJV).
There are many speculative and erroneous anticipations about the kingdom of God. Jesus described the nature of God’s kingdom (not of this world, spiritual, John 18:36) and when it would be established (before His generation passed away, Mark 9:1). To look for the kingdom’s future coming misunderstands and misapplies “the gospel of the kingdom of God” Jesus preached (Mark 1:14). The kingdom Jesus preached and established is His church (Matt. 16:18-19). Today’s parable pictures the growth of God’s kingdom. Despite its humble beginnings (like the tiny mustard seed, it would fill the earth (Isa. 2:1-4; Dan. 2:35; Matt. 28:19-20). Its humble start is in keeping with the humility of Jesus its king (Zech. 9:9; Mark 11:1-10). The kingdom’s seed, the word of God, is planted in good hearts that bear good fruit (Mark 4:14, 20). The kingdom of God did not come with military might and fanfare. It comes is within the hearts and lives of those who receive its gospel (Luke 17:20-21). From Pentecost in Acts 2 (through gospel preaching), the kingdom spread from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Human armies do not defeat this kingdom; it is enduring, unshakeable (Heb. 12:28). All who receive the word of the kingdom (the gospel) and hold it fast obtain salvation, divine comfort, and the eternal provisions of citizenship in the kingdom of God (Col. 1:13-14; Eph. 1:3; Phil. 3:20).
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)
God had a complaint against Israel (Micah 6:1-2). Despite His righteous acts of deliverance from Egypt, the nation had turned away from Him (Micah 6:3-5; 1 Sam. 12:7-8). They would not appease God by multiplying burnt offerings. Even offering one’s firstborn to Him would be insufficient (Micah 6:6-7). God wanted Israel’s faithful devotion in heart and conduct. He still does (Mark 12:30-31; Acts 10:34-35). Micah 6:8 is a template for God-approved character brought to fullness in the new covenant of Christ. (1) He has shown you. God’s word reveals His will, and we must give attention to it (Heb. 1:2; 2:3-4). We must do His will, not our own (Matt. 7:21-23). (2) What is good. God is good and shows us what is good (Ps. 73:1). Israel’s rulers had perverted justice by hating good and loving evil (Micah 3:1-2). We are to hear and do what God says is good (Heb. 13:20-21; Eph. 2:10). (3) What does the Lord require of you? Yes, the Lord has requirements (commands) we must keep (John 14:15, 21-23). (4) Do justly. With fairness and integrity, justice must guide our treatment of others (Matt. 5:33-37; 7:12). (5) Love mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). (6) Walk humbly with your God. The lowly in heart walk with God, but pride brings destruction (Col. 3:12; James 4:6, 10; Prov. 16:18). Let us live in Christ, so God has no complaint against us (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:5).
27 “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:27–28, NKJV).”
The ambitious quest for superiority over others is conquered by the truth Jesus uttered and lived. Dominance over fellow disciples in the body of Christ is defeated by complete servitude. Only when we yield ourselves as slaves to serve others are we like our Master. The Lord humbled Himself to become human, and further still, to die on the cross for the sins of the world (Phil. 2:5-8). Jesus is not great because people served Him. He is great because He served others, including us. He gave His life as the ransom (redemption price) for our sins (1 Tim. 2:6). His disciples forego the prideful pursuit of glory from others. God honors those who give themselves in service to Christ and others. Christ has shown us the way. (1) Like Jesus, we must desire to do God’s will instead of our own. “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God” (Heb. 10:9; Matt. 26:39, 42). (2) Like Jesus, we must humble ourselves (Phil. 2:5). A slave (bondservant) is lowly in spirit. Pride never elevates us in the Master’s sight, while humility delivers grace from His hand (James 4:6, 10; 1 Pet. 5:5-6). (3) Like Jesus, it takes personal sacrifice to serve God and others. Jesus gave His life. We are to deny ourselves and bear our cross, giving our lives in His service (Luke 9:23; Gal. 2:20). Do you want to be great in the kingdom? Enslave yourself to the service of others, and your reward will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 25:34-40).
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load (Galatians 6:2–5, NKJV).
The mature Christian is encouraged to restore a fellow Christian ensnared by sin (Gal. 6:1). A spirit of gentleness directs this act of love and fulfills the will of Christ (Eph. 4:2). The apostle elaborates by immediately turning our attention to ourselves, not the sinning Christian (verses 3-5). (1) Prideful conceit prevents bearing another’s problems (Gal. 6:3). When a Christian sins, it is a time for us to rally to help that soul, not point a finger in shame. Remembering our frailties and failures helps us remain humble and avoid deceiving ourselves. (2) Personal examination equips us to humbly help bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:4). There should not rejoice when sin overtakes a soul. Comforting ourselves in someone else’s sin by self-righteously assuring ourselves we are not like them ensures our spiritual demise (Luke 18:9-12). We should examine ourselves and not try to justify ourselves on the back of another’s sin (2 Cor. 13:5). (3) Each Christian has their load to bear (Gal. 6:5). Each person is responsible for himself before God (2 Cor. 5:10). When someone falters, it does not mean we have met our obligation to the Lord. When we address our spiritual condition, we can help others with the impediments and sin that so easily ensnares us (Matt. 7:3-5; Heb. 12:1).
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Daniel 4:37, NKJV).
Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his throne over Babylon to live as a wild animal because of his pride that praised his accomplishments while ignoring God (Dan. 4:22-33). Instead of praising the Most High God, who “rules in the kingdoms of men,” the king praised himself and his majesty (Dan. 4:25, 28-31). God has not abdicated His rule over the nations (Ps. 22:28; Acts 17:26). Those in power who honor the true and living God are blessed; those who pridefully dishonor Him face inevitable defeat (Ps. 33:10-22). “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect” (Ps. 33:10). And, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12). Nebuchadnezzar learned God’s “works are truth, and His ways justice” (Dan. 4:37). God calls national leaders and all the earth’s inhabitants to humble themselves before Him. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” is true of individuals and nations (Prov. 16:18). Daniel’s counsel to the Babylonian king remains relevant: “Break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Dan. 4:27).
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:6–8, NKJV).
God gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34). The proud heart is not accepted or rewarded by the Lord. James says, “therefore,” and continues by giving practical guidance about what God expects us to do to receive His grace. (1) Submit to God (v. 7). Humility yields to the word and will of God, but the pride of life refuses to subject itself to God (Rom. 8:7). We must be humble servants of Christ and others for God’s grace to rest on us. (2) Resist the devil (v. 7). Our Adversary is crafty and powerful, but our strength to resist him comes from the Lord (1 Pet. 5:8; 1 John 4:4). We overcome the wicked one by the power of God’s word living in us (1 John 2:14). (3) Draw near to God (v. 8). God’s prophet told king Asa, “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2). Seek the Lord. You will find Him by following the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:7-8; 11:28-30; John 8:31-32). (4) Cleanse your hands (v. 8). We must purify our conduct to conform our actions to the “implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21, 25). (5) Purify your hearts (v. 8). The stability of singular faith in Christ (not divided loyalties) is required to receive God’s grace (James 1:6-8). Obeying the truth purifies hearts, so He receives our pleas for grace (1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Tim. 2:22). Accepting God’s abundant grace requires our obedient faith.
12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:12–16, NKJV)
The Lord heard and answered the lepers’ pleas for mercy. One of them not only knew he needed mercy, but he also knew how blessed he was when Jesus healed him (vs. 15-16). We all need God’s mercy. Indeed, we all live under the merciful forbearance of God (Acts 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:8-9). Are we thankful for God’s mercy? The Samaritan was a thankful man. See his humility as he falls on his face at Jesus’s feet, thanking Him for being healed. Are we like the other nine? Once fed and filled by God’s loving mercy, do we turn away with no thought of gratitude and humble thanks? God knows when we are not thankful to Him (Lk. 16:17-18). The Samaritan had faith. Jesus told him, “Your faith has made you well” (Lk. 17:19). Faith not only compels us to seek mercy; it induces us to fall at Jesus’s feet with humble thanks for His mercy that saves us (Titus 3:4-5). God is rich in mercy and saves us by His grace through our faith in Christ (Eph. 2:4-9). Like the healed Samaritan, let us humbly and thankfully glorify God for His mercy.
3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load. (Galatians 6:3–5, NKJV)
The willingness and ability of a mature Christian to bear the burden of a fellow disciple overtaken by sin (and attempting to restore him, Gal. 6:1-2). This requires humbly examining oneself and accepting one’s spiritual responsibility (“bear his own load,” v. 5). Here is the essential meaning and application of verses 3-5. Without this preparation of faith and character we are ill-equipped to “fulfill the law of Christ” when others need help overcoming sin (Gal. 6:2). The mature Christian understands he (or she) is not the savior of the fallen; the Lord is. He is merely a servant of the Lord doing His work. The mature Christian’s joy in doing this work does not come from measuring himself against the failures (or successes) of others. Mature Christians rejoice in doing their duty (“his own work”) and giving Christ the glory and honor (Lk. 17:10). Our responsibility is to fulfill the law of Christ and to love one another by helping restore the fallen. Pride and self-promotion prevent us from fulfilling this task. “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2–3, NKJV)
Israel’s wilderness wanderings tested their faith in the Lord God. Would they obey Him? Or would they rebel in disobedience when faced with hardships, setbacks, and uncertainties? God disciplined their hearts through the trial of hunger and by the blessing of daily manna (and other provisions, Deut. 8:4-6). God meant for their trials and blessings to humble them and turn their hearts to Him. God taught Israel by trials and blessings to live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” God also lovingly teaches and corrects us by trials and blessings, like parents who love their children, Heb. 12:4-11). Life is more than bread. Life is more than comfort. Like Israel, life with God that lasts forever comes from God when we obey Him. Jesus knew this when the devil tempted Him to sin (Matt. 4:3-4). Let us accept God’s training during times of trial and blessing that we may humbly obey the Lord God and live with Him now and forever.
30 No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord. 31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord. (Proverbs 21:30–31, ESV)
A great temptation faced by all is to believe our wisdom, understanding, and counsel are unquestionably better than any other. This temptation opens a door through which pride enters to prevail over our thinking and conduct. The sin of pride leaves God and His will out of the picture as we make decisions and set the course of our lives. James put it this way, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (Jas. 4:13-16, ESV). We must revere God’s sovereignty in all our preparations for success (whether in business, in relationships, politics, or any other endeavor under the sun). Our wisdom, understanding, and counsel cannot prevail against the revealed will and purposes of God. God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud – a lesson we all need to remember (Jas. 4:6). As we “fight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold on eternal life,” we must not forget the victory belongs to the Lord, not to us (1 Tim. 6:12).