38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38–39, NKJV)
Jesus had just explained that following Him will bring conflict into your life (Matthew 10:34-36). Even family members will oppose you when you follow Jesus. Yet, we must still love Jesus more than family. This is a cross we must bear to be worthy of Christ. Compromising His truth for the sake of peace with family makes one unworthy of being His disciple (Matthew 10:37). Indeed, whenever we put our own life (our interests, desires and pleasure) before doing the will of Christ, we will lose it. Only when we surrender all for the sake of Christ will we have life. Following Jesus first and always brings eternal life; following ourselves always bring eternal death (Proverbs 14:12). Living by faith requires that we bear whatever burden must be borne to be true to Christ. When compared to the burden of sin, this burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:20–21, NKJV)
Without a doubt, this passage warns Christians against falling away from Christ. The ones described here had escaped sin through knowing Christ; they had been untangled from sin’s snare by the power of the Lord (Romans 6:17-18). They had known the way of righteousness and the holy commandment of God, but now they had returned to sin’s filth and were overcome by it (2 Peter 2:22, 20). The Scriptures reveal the way of righteousness as the pathway of life (Proverbs 12:28). Wisdom travels its byways (Proverbs 8:20). Truth is spoke by its travelers (Matthew 21:32). The Lord knows those who walk its path (Psalm 1:6). He also knows those who turn aside to the right or to the left, leaving its holy commands for the unholy, sinful allurements of the world. Protect yourself against sin. Walk the path of righteousness in faith, guided by truth and strengthened with wisdom, and you will have life. If you have turned from its way, repent and return to the Father. He is ready and able to forgive you (1 John 1:8-9).
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4–5, NKJV)
The Word’s creation of the world is ample proof that He is the source of life (John 1:3). Not only did He create life on our planet, He also spoke into existence the light that sustains that life. But, He is the source of a light that is far greater than the sun, moon and stars. The Word, who was with God and was God, is the source of eternal life. The life He came to give is abundant (John 10:10). Those who believe in Him “shall never die” (John 11:26). The everlasting life He brought to the world illuminates the path out of sin’s darkness to the presence of the Father (John 14:6). The light of His life is so powerful that the darkness of sin did not overtake (overwhelm) it (John 1:5). Jesus taught, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). The Word gives us life and lights our path to the throne of God. Unquestionably, Jesus is the light of the world, and he who follows Him “shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). The eternal life Christ gives through His word is stronger than the darkness of sin and death. Trust and follow the word of God. Walk in the light of His truth, and have life eternal.
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).