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)
As a new year dawns, we take stock on the past while anticipating the future. The past year records our successes and failures, our struggles and victories, our joys and sorrows. The new year holds out hope of better days and greater accomplishments. Resolutions are made, plans are laid, and the work to achieve them begins. Yet, life is uncertain, and life is brief. A life well-lived is a life that depends upon God; a life that acknowledges God, and puts God’s will first each day. Better to live with this resolve, “Thy will be done,” than to live as if our will ultimately makes it so. It is the height of hubris to ignore God in one’s life. As you celebrate the new year, and plan great things to come, remember the Lord’s will. Do His will first, and you will be blessed, whatever the new year brings (Matthew 6:33-34).
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7–8, NKJV)
In contrast to the one who trusts in man (verses 5-6), the person who trusts and hopes in the Lord, is as a mighty tree, planted by the waters. Its roots grow deep and wide, nourished by the water and strengthened by its refreshment. It survives seasons of heat and drought, flourishing and bearing its good fruit. So are those who put their faith and hope in God. God is our Life-giver, who also sustains us through life’s trials and difficulties. And, more than physical sustenance, the Lord has prepared for us a better place than this world of shadows and sorrow. A heavenly dwelling place awaits all who put their trust and confident expectation in Jesus (John 14:1-6). Far from having blind faith, our eyes are wide open as we see from afar the heavenly country (Hebrews 11:13-16). Walk by faith. Trust the Lord, and rest your hope in Him.
10 Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?” ’ Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:10–11, NKJV)
Without doubt, Israel had grievously sinned against the Lord God. From the depths of despair, with their sins bringing ruin to their nation, they wondered how they could survive. Although judgment was being exacted upon the sinful nation, it gave God no pleasure to see its demise. He is not a vindictive God, who delights in the destruction of those who sin against Him. Even when sin has separated sinners far from Him, God yearns for their life, not their death. For that reason, God pleaded with these souls to turn from their evil ways, and live. At this very moment, you may be weighed down by sin. If so, God wants you to have eternal life, not eternal death. Through the gospel of Christ, He calls you to turn away from every sin, and live. Godly sorrow produces repentance, that leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10; Acts 2:37-38). Turn, and live.
12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. (Ecclesiastes 12:12–13, NKJV)
As you see from the above notation, this is the 1200th Sword Tip. Seeing that number reminded me of today’s passage. People will always write books. And, people will continue to read and study them. Yet, making intellectual pursuit the goal of one’s life “is grasping for the wind,” as Solomon explained in Ecclesiastes 1:17-18. God’s word, the Bible, is complete; it will not be added to by God, and it cannot be improved upon by human wisdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19). Bible study is essential. But, Bible study is not an end in itself. Reading and knowing God’s word is vanity, unless we “fear God and keep His commandments” (verse 13). That is the purpose of life. The Bible teaches us why to fear God and how to obey Him. This is why we read, learn and study the Bible – so that we may live reverently, obey God completely, and thereby, fulfill our God-given purpose. By God’s good grace, may that ever be the purpose that drives our lives (2 Peter 3:17-18).
5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Peter 4:5–6, NKJV)
God’s assured judgment of sinners, including those practicing the immoral excesses named in this context (1 Peter 4:3), is the very reason the gospel is preached to the world. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). The world is dead in sin. The gospel of God gives the sinner life out of spiritual death (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:23). Sinners who believe the gospel will obey it by repenting and being baptized (Acts 2:37-41; 1 Pet. 3:21). The result of this is salvation – life “according to God in the spirit.” This new life necessarily compels the saved to “cease from sin” (1 Pet. 4:1). Although the saved sinner will be judged harshly by those who continue to practice sin (see 1 Pet. 4:4), God’s assured forgiveness and promised eternal life confirms our heart and lives in Him. Being reviled for good conduct is but one way we are willing to “suffer in the flesh” because we have “ceased from sin” (1 Pet. 4:1).
24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:24–25, NKJV)
The God who was unknown to the Athenians and their philosophers – the God whom Paul proclaimed – is a creative God. Unlike the Greek pantheon that was borne of mythology, He is Ruler of heaven and earth. His invisible attributes (His eternal power and deity) are clearly seen, witnessed by the heavens and the earth (Rom. 1:20; Heb. 11:3). Consequently, it is futile to think that God inhabits temples made with human hands. Nor is God sustained by the works of men. We do not give God anything that sustains His existence. He is the source of our life, our breath and all that we are and possess. Idolatry is built upon the arrogance, futility and folly of men, who believe they can invent a god from their own imagination, carve an image of it, fall down before it, and then gain benefit from their god for doing so (Isa. 44:9-20; Jer. 10:1-16). The true and living God is superior to His creation; not dependent upon it for His existence and His perpetuation. Be sure you are honoring the true God and not a god you have imagined in your heart. The Bible shows the difference between the two.
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:14–15, NKJV)
The apostle John had just described the children of God as those who “practice righteousness,” making an application that loving one’s brother is the epitome of this righteous conduct (1 Jno. 3:10). The brethren of whom he speaks are fellow Christians. One’s passage from spiritual death into spiritual life is assured by practicing love toward fellow Christians. As Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, the Christian who hates a fellow Christian is a murderer. A heart filled with hate has death abiding in it; not eternal life. To detest and disregard our brethren assures that we “abide in death” and will not pass into eternal life. (Oh yes, a Christian can sin and lose his soul!) This is a powerful motive to love each other as He has love us, and by obeying the Lord, abide in His love (Jno. 13:34-35; 15:10).