24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin (Romans 7:24–25, NKJV).
In Romans 7:14-25, the apostle Paul uses himself to portray the person who is under law, under sin. He is lost, outside of Christ, being ruled by sin. His spiritual condition is “wretched” (miserable, afflicted, impure). He is shrouded in spiritual death as he serves sin (Rom. 7:24; 6:16, 23). This condition describes every person lost and outside of Christ (Rom. 3:23). Who can rescue the wretched person from the bondage of sin’s rule and the death it brings? (1) The sinner cannot save himself. He is dead because of his sin (Rom. 7:9). (2) Another sinner cannot save a sinner. Both are guilty before God and worthy of death (Rom. 6:23). (3) The law of God that the sinner violated cannot save him. It indicts and convicts him as guilty (Rom. 7:13-14; 3:19-20). (4) More sin will not save the sinner. Giving in to sin only increases guilt, imprisoning the soul in evil (Rom. 7:14-21). (5) Only Jesus Christ our Lord can deliver us from the body of death caused by sin (Rom. 7:25; 5:6-11; Acts 4:12). We escape sin’s condemnation and obtain life in Christ by choosing not to “walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1-2). Christ’s gospel is God’s power to save the wretched soul from sin’s guilt, pain, and death (Rom. 1:16-17). The gospel calls us to believe, repent, and be baptized into Christ to escape the misery and eternal death caused by sin (Rom. 6:3-11; Heb. 5:9).
Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him (John 6:27, NKJV).
Some people followed Jesus because they expected Him to work a miracle and feed them. Jesus rebuked this shallow, selfish, faithless view of Him (John 6:26). Jesus contrasted their misguided motive for seeking Him with working for the food that produces everlasting life. He was by no means saying do not work for your daily food (“If anyone will not work, neither let him eat,” 2 Thess. 3:10). Jesus said to be concerned primarily with working for the food that leads to everlasting life. The work God gives us to achieve that result is to “believe in Him who He sent” (John 6:29). Jesus is the “bread of life” in whom we must believe to eat “the living bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:35, 51, 58). By faith, we do so when we receive and obey His words (John 6:63-68). Unbelievers do not trust and follow Jesus; believers do. When we accept and obey His word, we have not earned everlasting life; we have only done a servant’s duty (Luke 17:10). The gospel call is, “You who have no money, come, buy and eat” (Isa. 55:1-3). The question to ponder is, “Why are you seeking Jesus?” To gain some temporary, physical advantage, or to labor “for the food which endures to everlasting life?”
For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him (2 Samuel 14:14, NKJV).
Absalom, king David’s son, had fled into exile after murdering his brother Amnon in vengeance for raping his sister, Tamar (2 Sam. 13:14, 22, 38-39). Today’s passage records the words of a wise woman whom Joab conscripted to persuade David to let Absalom return from his banishment (2 Sam. 14:1-24). They are poignant and persuasive. Death is coming to us all, and its effects cannot be undone, like so much water spilled on the ground (Heb. 9:27). God is the Giver of life, not the One who wants to take it from us (Gen. 2:7). Likewise, God takes no pleasure in the death of sinners (Ezek. 18:31-32). Sin causes spiritual death (Gen. 2:15; Rom. 6:23). But God, in His great mercy, has devised a plan that gives spiritual life from sin’s death through His Son Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4-12; 2:1-7). Sin separates us from our heavenly Father, banished from the close fellowship He desires. God calls sinners to come to Him by the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). David allows Absalom to return from exile. God’s plan of redemption in Christ ends our spiritual banishment to end so we may walk in sweet fellowship with Him (Eph. 2:13; 1 John 1:6-7). Praise be to God for His abundant love and mercy He gives us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels (Luke 9:23–26, NKJV).
Commitment. Jesus had it and was committed to doing the Father’s will to the point of death (“lifted up” John 8:28-29). Early Christians had it, losing their lives rather than denying the Lord (Acts 7:59-60; 26:10). Christians who faced impending suffering were exhorted by Christ to “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). This directive helps us understand what it means to “deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Even life itself must not be more precious to us than Jesus and doing His will. There is no benefit in gaining the whole world and forfeiting souls. Commitment to Christ eliminates being ashamed of Him and His words. We express faith that overcomes the world by our commitment to Christ (1 John 5:4). Commitment to Christ takes precedence over everyone and everything in the life of a disciple. May it be so with us today and each day that follows.
7 I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons. 8 I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. 10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:7–11, NKJV)
Who is your counsellor? God had become David’s counsellor. God’s word instructed David and turned his heart to thankful praise for God’s guidance and assurances. In the night, David’s emotions yearned for God’s continual presence. The guidance and powerful comfort of God’s hand enriched his heart with gladness, removing doubts during troublesome times. David was secure because God was with him (“I shall not be moved,” v. 8). He lived in the hope of future life with God beyond the grave. God would make it so. His “Holy One” would not see corruption. David’s hope was fulfilled when Jesus, his seed, was resurrected (v. 10; Acts 2:27, 31; 13:35-37). David’s hope stirs our souls to follow the example of his faith. God’s “path of life” is where we, too, have “fullness of joy” in God’s presence (v. 11; 2 John 9; 2 Cor. 6:16-18). God’s word is the path of life that leads to eternal pleasures under the watchful guidance of God’s mighty hand (v. 12). Like David, let us praise God for the counsel of His word and rejoice in the hope set before us (Heb. 6:18-19).
3 The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. 4 Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!” 5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. 6 The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. 7 Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:3–7, NKJV).
Hebrew tradition ascribes Psalm 116 to Hezekiah upon his deliverance from death by Yahweh (Isa. 38). Others view it as a psalm of thanksgiving on the occasion of some other imminent peril (Spence, Pulpit Commentary, Psalms III, 70). Three attributes are ascribed to the Lord in thankful praise of His salvation from the “trouble and sorrow” of death and despair (v. 3). (1) God is gracious (v. 5). His “throne of grace” is ever accessible to our pleas for help in times of need (Heb. 4:15-16). (2) God is righteous (v. 5). He has promised to hear and answer our prayers (1 John 3:22; 5:14-15). He is upright to keep His word. (3) God is merciful (v. 5). His compassion compels Him to protect and secure us in our time of danger and doubt (Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 13:5-6). Christians learn to cast our anxious cares upon the Lord because we know He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6-7). God still hears us and delivers our souls from the sorrow, despair, and terror of sin and death. Our souls rest in God’s character. He will deliver us from every evil work (Phil. 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 4:17-18). “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). Let us rest in God and praise Him, for He has dealt bountifully with us in Christ Jesus (Ps. 116:7).
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4–5, NKJV)
Faith is the victory that defeats the world of evil. A good brother reminded me that the righteous die victoriously (Sword Tips #2226), as assured in Revelation 2-3. Let us briefly note those assurances to “him who overcomes.” 1) Access to the tree of life (Rev. 2:7). Eternal life, forever sustained by God’s provisions. 2) Protection from the second death (Rev. 2:11). The faithful have no part in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8). 3) Identification as God’s chosen (Rev. 2:17). This one is known and kept by God forever (Rev. 14:1; 22:4). 4) Share in the glory of Messiah’s victory over every evil enemy (Rev. 2:26-28). The faithful one will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). 5) Confessed before the Father (Rev. 3:5). The pure life that unashamedly lived for Christ is written forever in the Book of Life (Mk. 8:38; Rev. 20:12). 6) Secure citizenship with God in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 3:12). Forever dwelling with God, serving Him in full fellowship is the reward of those who hold fast (Rev. 3:11; 21:2, 22). 7) Reign with Christ over sin and death (Rev. 3:21). To forever share in His great victory over every enemy of God will be the indescribable reward of the righteous (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 22:5). These are our hopes and expectations in Christ. He will keep His word to us. Let us keep our word to Him and be faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).
32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:32–36, NKJV)
The Son of God was deeply touched in His spirit when He saw the sorrow of Mary and Martha and those comforting them over the death of their brother, Lazarus. Mary fell at the feet of Jesus, weeping and confessing her faith in Him. If only Jesus had been there four days earlier, her brother would still be alive. Jesus knew Mary would soon embrace her beloved brother. Soon, Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead (Jno. 11:38-44). Moved by their grief, the loving Savior wept. He is moved when we face the death of loved ones. Our assurance that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” soothes us in moments of death’s sorrowful separation (Jno. 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:19-20). Death’s sorrow gives way to life eternal for God’s faithful. Jesus faced the agony of death for us. He knows death’s painful grief. He also knows victory over death by His resurrection. We share in His victory over death with confident hope as we weep when death takes those we love because Jesus knows and cares (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14–15, NKJV)
Christ lived in the flesh to die for humanity. He was “made a litter lower than the angels” when He partook of “flesh and blood.” Through God’s grace, His “suffering of death” “for everyone” equipped and glorified Him as the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:9-10). He blazed the trail for our redemption from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. By doing so, Christ destroyed the devil, rendering useless his power to use the fear of death against us. Christ has overcome sin and death by His death and resurrection. We view death with hope, release, and joy because of Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). In Christ, life has its proper context – a temporary blessing on the road to eternity (2 Cor. 5:1). In turn, understanding death instills in us the faith to make the Lord’s will our own (Jas. 4:13-17). Death is coming for us all, but that is not the end of the story. Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). His gospel calls on us to die to sin and live with and for Him, now and forever (Gal. 2:20). Keep the faith, praise God, and have no fear; Christ has overcome the world (Jno. 16:33).
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.