Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2, NKJV).
How healthy is your soul? Would you be in good physical health if it matched your spiritual health? In this age of Covid, we are inundated with information and misinformation about being healthy, safe, and protected. Prudent measures for good physical health are important (1 Tim. 5:23; Luke 10:34). Exercise helps slow the rate of decay of our death-destined bodies (1 Tim. 4:8). But the gospel compels us to look at the health of our souls as more essential (1 Tim. 4:7-8). It is the remedy to our sin and death; salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 5:24-25; Rom. 1:16; 6:23). A cure for Covid would be a worldwide bestseller. Yet, the cure for sin is cast aside by countless souls rushing headlong toward eternal death. Why is that? Why are people more afraid of their physical death than their eternal death (Matt. 10:28)? Because they do not believe God and the words of His Son, Jesus. Why is the death of God’s saints precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15)? Because they are the ones who “take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,” serving God faithfully all their days (Ps. 116:13-14, 16-19). With Ananias, we ask, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The remedy for your sins is available through the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:17-19; 2:24; Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 2:1-10). Believe and obey Jesus and be saved from sin and death (Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 5:8-9).
28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Matthew 7:28–29, NKJV).
Those who heard Jesus’s message were astonished when His sermon on the mountain concluded. Utter amazement swept over the Galilean crowd who, with rapt attention, had listened to the Teacher from Nazareth. They had not heard teaching like this before. Jesus taught authoritatively from within Himself, not like the rabbis in their synagogues who leaned upon previous experts in the law to support their premises. Jesus spoke truth with the authority of heaven, independent of what men opined and postulated. His words bore the voice of heaven’s power (not the impotent regulations of men). They still do. Jesus competently and boldly taught the righteousness of the kingdom because He possessed the authority (power, the right) to do so. He is God with us, the Word who became flesh, full of grace and truth (Matt. 1:23; John 1:1-3, 14, 17). To honor the Father, we must hear (receive) the teachings of His Son, Jesus (Matt. 17:5). We stand in awe of the truth Jesus taught and its power to save the lost and secure the saved (Matt. 4:23; 9:35). So may we ever submit to the authority of Jesus Christ and be counted righteous by faith instead of futilely trying to establish our own brand of righteousness (Matt. 5:20; Rom. 1:16-17; 10:1-3). The Master Teacher has spoken. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Matt. 13:9, 13-17).
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall”” (Matthew 7:24–27, NKJV).
Wisdom is achieved by hearing and doing the words of Jesus (v. 24). Why? Because He words of the truth of God (John 8:31-32). Like the wise man who built his house on the rock, building your life on hearing and obeying the truth of Jesus Christ is a solid foundation that weathers life’s storm (1 Pet. 1:6-9). “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Ps. 107:43). Conversely, foolishness follows those who hear His words but do not do them. Life’s uncertainties, sins, and sorrow batter and destroy souls that do not have the solid foundation of hearing and obeying Jesus. God pleads with humanity not to ignore Him. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1). And yet, in unbelief, “Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22). The choice to be wise or foolish comes down to whether we will hear and obey Jesus. From this day forward, may we all “Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it” (Prov. 8:33).
3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:3–5, NKJV).
Paul asked these disciples of John a simple, probing, and informative question: “Into what then were you baptized?” Their answer (“into John’s baptism”) gave Paul the opening to explain the prerequisite and outcome of John’s baptism and help them become Christ’s disciples. First, repentance was necessary to receive John’s baptism, without which his baptism “for the remission of sins” was useless (Luke 3:3, 7-8; Matt. 3:5-8). Second, John’s preaching and baptism prepared people to believe on the Messiah (whom Paul tells them is Christ Jesus, Acts 19:4; Luke 3:3-6). John’s baptism served its purpose and ran its course. Convinced that Jesus is the Christ (in whom John prepared them to put their faith), John’s disciples became disciples of Jesus by being “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (by His authority, Acts 19:5). They were not disciples of Jesus before and until they were baptized in His name. Christ’s baptism remains how believers become disciples of Jesus. Faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, prepares the sinner to repent and be baptized in His name to be saved and become His disciple (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:36-41; 10:48; Gal. 3:26-27).
20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mark 10:20–22, NKJV).
Jesus loved the rich young ruler with a love we are to imitate (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:11). The world distorts love into something that bears little if any resemblance to the authentic. Consider how Jesus loved this young man and set it as a marker for how you love others. (1) Jesus’s love meant He wanted the man to have eternal life (Matt. 19:16-17). We ought to have an earnest desire for the salvation of lost souls. (2) Jesus’s love meant He told the man what he needed to hear and do. The man kept God’s law, but he lacked one thing (v. 21). We must not hesitate to tell people everything they need to hear about inheriting eternal life (Acts 20:27). (3) Jesus’s love did not immediately save the man. God loves the whole world, but sinners must respond to it to be saved (John 3:14-21). (4) Jesus’s love did not change His message when the man went away. We do not change the gospel message for the sake of larger crowds and pleasing the people. That only results in churches filled with unconverted souls (Acts 5:11-14). Love acts in the best interest of its object, not to please itself. That is how Jesus loved the young man, and how He loves us. May we follow His example (Eph. 5:1-2).
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. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:28–30, NKJV)!
Scripture says Christ’s disciples were fearful when they saw Jesus walking on the sea toward them (Matt. 14:24-26). Jesus reassured them with, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (Matt. 14:27). Peter’s decision to walk out to Jesus was rooted in his trust in Jesus; he believed His word (“come”) and his power to make it happen. Peter’s decision certainly was not due to his ability to walk on water! Fear reappeared when Peter looked around and lost focus on Jesus. Will we admit that sounds very much like us at times? Sin and the storms of life shake us. Jesus is near, coming to offer relief, but we are afraid. He says, “Come to Me…and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). And so, we begin to do just that, becoming a Christian and following Him. But our focus is easily diverted by the turmoil and trials of life; we become afraid, stop walking by faith, and begin to sink in the overwhelming flood of desperation, depression, and despair. Still, Jesus is ready and able to save us if we will call on Him, confessing our sins and repenting of them (Acts 8:22-24; 1 John 1:9). Living by faith means walking with Jesus through frightful moments, not just safe ones. He will not fail you. Jesus replaces fear with salvation’s abiding peace (Heb. 13:5-6).
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant (Mark 9:9–10, NKJV).
Peter, James, and John had just witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, seen Moses and Elijah talking with Him, and heard the Father’s voice say, “This is my beloved Son. Hear Him” (Mark 9:1-7). Why did Jesus tell them to tell no one what they had seen until “the Son of Man had risen from the dead?” Here are a couple of reasons. First, several were already bearing testimony that Jesus is the Son of God: (1) John the Baptist, the Elijah of prophecy (Mark 10:11-13; Matt. 11:14; John 5:33-35); (2) The Father Himself by the miracles of Jesus (John 5:36-37); and (3) The Scriptures (John 5:38-39). Second, the apostles were not yet prepared to tell others what they had seen. That was not their job at this moment. They still had much to learn from the Master. Only now did they understand John was the prophesied Elijah (Matt. 17:12-13). They did not know Jesus would rise from the dead (Mark 9:10). They did not yet grasp the redemptive work of Christ (Peter even rebuked Jesus for saying He would suffer, be killed, and rise after three days, Matt. 16:21-23). Rest assured, the apostles would tell others about the transfiguration when Christ commissioned them to preach the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; see 2 Pet. 1:16-18). What can we learn from this? (1) Teachers must first be students of God’s word (1 Tim. 4:13, 15-16). (2) Teach what you know while maturing in your knowledge of God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 5:11-6:3). (3) Zeal without knowledge can be dangerous (Rom. 10:2-3).
24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them”’ (Acts 28:24–27, NKJV).
Why do some people readily respond to the gospel of salvation? Why do some people reject the gospel and refuse to believe it? The answer is not due to any deficiency in the gospel itself. The gospel is not a distant, inaccessible, and undiscernible message. It has been preached openly to the world (Rom. 10:6-8; Eph. 3:3-5). The answer lies in the heart of the hearer. Isaiah wrote of the dull hearts, heavy ears, and closed eyes of Israel (Isa. 6:9-10). Jesus applied the prophet’s words to His generation (Matt. 13:13-15; 15:7-9). Christ also taught parables that illustrated hard hearts that prevent the gospel’s penetration and saving power (Matt. 13:18-19). Do not marvel when the truth of the gospel is rejected, scorned, and denounced. The problem is not the word of salvation; it is the solution (Rom. 1:16). Honest and good hearts receive the word of God, “keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38, NKJV).
The life and words of Jesus bore witness to the truth. He came into the world to be a king and everyone who is “of the truth” hears His voice (John 18:37). Truth did not matter to Pilate. He did not hold truth in high esteem. To Pilate, like so many others, truth was pliable, relative, able to be shaped by the moment’s expediencies (Matt. 27:15-26). While cynicism drips from his question, “What is truth?” deserves a credible answer. Scripture gives us the answer. (1) God’s word is truth (John 17:17; 8:31-32). Truth comes from God (John 8:40). (2) Truth is knowable. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). (3) Truth is impartial. It is consistent and does not show favoritism (Rom. 2:1-2; Acts 10:34). (4) Truth is righteous. The word of truth, the inspired Scriptures, equips us for righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). (5) Truth is incorruptible (1 Pet. 1:23). Truth is not relative, a shape-shifting entity without constancy and continuity. We do not shape truth into what we wish it to be. We obey truth to be purified in heart and life (1 Pet. 1:22). (6) Truth is eternal (1 Pet. 1:23-25). Truth “lives and abides forever.” Untarnished by the passing of time, truth inhabits eternity. It is no wonder, then, that we ought to acquire truth and never let it go, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it. Also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. (Luke 5:4–6, NKJV)
How would you react if you were a fisherman and a carpenter told you where and how to catch fish? Many would disregard such counsel as ignorant, presumptuous arrogance. But Peter did not react that way. The one advising Peter (the fisherman) had already gained the multitude’s interest by His miracles and His teachings (Lk. 4:40-44; 5:1). Indeed, Jesus had previously healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a high fever (Lk. 4:38-39). Peter’s humble faith in the word of Jesus is our lesson today. Our experience, our knowledge, our labor, our frustrations – none of these rise above the power and authority of Christ’s words (v. 5). Spiritual blessings result when we divest ourselves of every obstacle of our stubborn will and obediently yield to the word of Christ (v. 6). What if Peter had said, “I will, but I must rest first,” or “I will do that tomorrow when the conditions are more favorable,” or, “I don’t feel that will do any good?” The excuses used to resist the gospel of Christ are many (Acts 24:25). Instead of making excuses for not following the word of Christ, trust His word is the truth. “Launch out into the deep” (v. 4). He will bless you for obeying Him (Matt. 11:28-30). Jesus says to believe and obey His gospel, and He will save you (Matt. 7:21; Mk. 16:15-16).