A friend reminded me recently that God has always separated the light from the darkness. On His first day of creation, God commanded light into existence, called it “good,” and divided the light from the darkness. God’s word is light: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa. 119:105). (God’s word removes the darkness.) God sent the Messiah “as a light to the Gentiles,” bringing salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:6). (Christ calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1 Pet. 2:9). Jesus said He is “the light of the world” and that by following Him, we “shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jno. 8:12). God delivers those redeemed by the blood of Christ from the power of darkness, conveying them into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13-14). (God separates the redeemed from the dark power of sin and death.) God is light, and those who practice His truth walk in the light and have fellowship with Him (1 Jno. 1:5-7). And, the heavenly, eternal city of God is to be illuminated by the Lamb. There, the night is vanquished forever (Rev. 22:23-25). Yes, God separates the light from the darkness. Jesus said, “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (Jno. 12:35-36). Come out of the darkness into the light truth for salvation, divine fellowship, and eternal life.
Endurance is essential to resisting the temptations of sin. Our adversary, the devil, continually probes for openings and opportunities to entice us not to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; to sin against God (Mk. 12:30). Endurance is spiritual, mental, and emotional fortitude that perseveres through the moment of trial. James reminds us of some reasons why we endure temptations. 1) Because endurance brings God’s approval. The trials of life test our faith, and the devil seeks to exploit them. When we endure them, our faith grows stronger and has God’s approval (Jas. 1:3-4). 2) Because God has promised us a reward. The crown of life is promised to those who finish the course and keep the faith, not those who shrink back (2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 10:36-39). God will keep His word to us; We must keep our word to Him. 3) Because we love God. God has promised eternal life “to those who love Him.” We express our love for God over a love of this world when we endure temptation and do God’s will (1 Jno. 2:15-17). Endurance means committing ourselves to love God with more than words, but also with our deeds (Jno. 14:15; 1 Jno. 3:16-19). Enduring temptations is not easy but possible. God gives us a means of escape, that we “may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13, ESV).
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6–7, NKJV)
God is “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). Our sins separate us from God, not His lack of love, concern, power, or unwillingness to come to our aid (Isa. 59:1-2). Nothing within ourselves or in this present age can fill the void left in a life without God. The answer to life’s problems, pain, sin, and death is Jesus Christ (Jno. 14:6). God has arranged life on earth and revealed His word in the Bible so that we will seek Him and find Him (Acts 17:27). We must forsake the way of evil and the thoughts of unrighteousness. We must “return to the Lord,” and we do He will be merciful. Full pardon from God for our sins before Him and against others is His promise, fulfilled in Christ (Rom. 5:6-11). A life without God is a life forever groping for meaning and purpose, yet always falling short. But, life with God is full of mercy, forgiveness, and hope. Seek the Lord in Christ and His gospel, and you will find His mercy as well as meaning for your life (Matt. 7:7).
31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” (Matthew 25:31–33, NKJV)
Of course, we understand Jesus is describing people under the figure of sheep and goats. The setting is the day of His glory and judgment. Attended by a heavenly host, Jesus will be arrayed gloriously on His throne of judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). All the tribes of humanity from Adam to the last day will gather before Him, where each person will give an account of our lives (Rom. 14:12). Christ will judge impartially and righteously according to God’s truth, and each of us will receive judgment according to our deeds (Rom. 2:1-11). Judgment involves a moment of decision and separation, and Jesus describes it as separating sheep and goats (a common practice to this day). The question on our heart should be, “Will I be a sheep or a goat?” The answer is up to us. Jesus describes the sheep as those who loved their neighbor as themselves (Matt. 25:34-40). These will inherit a kingdom of eternal life (v. 34, 46). The goats are those who failed to regard others before themselves. By failing to serve others, they failed to serve Christ (Matt. 25:41-45). These will inherit an eternal punishment of fire (v. 41, 46). Instead of denying the judgment, denying our sins, or denying eternal hell, we should believe Jesus and serve Him by serving others. Prepare for Judgment Day. Sheep or goat; Which will we be?
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)
How do you define a successful life? Fortune? Leisure? Fame? Power? I watched a couple of TV shows today about former NFL players who set many records and won many championships? Their walls are lined with trophies and awards that recognize their athletic accomplishments. Yet, when they talked about what being successful was to them, it was not about statistics, championships, and awards. It was about being a good husband, a good father, a good friend, and a good citizen in the community. That is impressive. All these things are good, and yet, something was missing. They did not measure their success in spiritual terms. Jesus said, “What profit it is to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul” (Matt. 16:26)? When you wake up and consider how you intend to succeed that day (and in life), assess your success the way God does. God’s measure of success requires us to choose to practice justice and love mercy (to love our neighbor as ourselves, Matt. 22:39), and to choose to walk humbly with our God (to love God with all our being, Matt. 22:37). Define success as a life of justice, mercy, and faithful service to God. These things are good. God says these things make life successful.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1–3, NKJV)
Fear has gripped many. Fear of disease, civil unrest, enemies, the future, and more has settled into countless hearts, filling souls with uncertainty, anxiety, and doubt. The psalmist David turned to the Lord in moments of fear and dread. We can and must do the same. With eyes of faith, David saw the Lord God as his light, his salvation, and the strength of his life (v. 1). David put his confidence in the Lord in the face of wicked enemies. While darkness drives many to be uncertain and fearful of life’s path, Jesus Christ continues to be the light of the world (Jno. 8:12). As many trust wealth, political parties, and even violence as a means of deliverance, true salvation from evil is only found in Jesus Christ (Lk. 19:10; Acts 4:12). Pride leads us to trust in our strength and power, even when experience shows us trusting in the flesh ultimately fails (Jer. 17:5-10). God gives power to the weak who live by faith (Isa. 40:29-31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Whatever evil forces arise in your life, the answer to enduring them and being victorious over them is in the Lord. Put your faith in God, love Him, and keep His commandments (1 Jno. 5:3-5).
11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 12 Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. (Psalm 34:11–16, NKJV)
Fear of the Lord is not theoretical. It is practical and reveals itself in how we live our lives. Here, the inspired psalmist David teaches how to respect and reverence God. We will know the fear of the Lord if we listen to his instruction, and our lives will be blessed. Living a full life that delights in its joy is realized when we 1) Control our language (v. 13). Our words reveal our hearts. 2) Turn away from evil and practice good things that advance peace (v. 14). Pursue peace with God and with others, and you will it replaces chaos with tranquility. 3) Remember that the Lord attends to the needs of the righteous (v. 15). God has promised to provide our needs when we prioritize His will in our lives (Matt. 6:31-33). He hears and responds to the prayers of righteous people. 4) Remember that the Lord opposes those who practice evil (v. 16). Pursuing evil does not bring happiness now or in eternity; only pain and eternal death. God and others see whether the “fear of the Lord” is in our lives. When it is, whatever life brings our way becomes a blessing (1 Pet. 3:8-13).
10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10–11, NKJV)
Jesus will come from heaven in the same manner the apostles saw Him ascend into heaven – visually, personally, powerfully (Acts 1:9; 1 Thess. 4:16). Scriptures plainly tell us what will happen when Jesus returns. We do well to learn and reflect on what will take place when the Lord returns, then conform our hearts and lives to the will and word of the Son of God (Matt. 7:21-27). These things will happen when Jesus returns: 1) Resurrection of all the dead (Jno. 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:20-22). 2) Change of all the living from mortal to immortality (1 Cor. 15:52-54). 3) Judgment of every person (Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 17:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27; Rom. 2:5-11; Rev. 20:11-12). 4) The fiery destruction of the material realm (2 Pet. 3:7, 10-12). 5) Delivery of the kingdom to God the Father – eternal life in heaven (Matt. 25:46; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 21:6-7). 6) The eternal punishment of the disobedient – eternal death in hell (Matt. 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Rev. 20:13-15; 21:8). Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God, and He will return. May the truth convict us to faithfully serve Him and attempt to persuade others to prepare for that great day (1 Thess. 5:1-11; 2 Cor. 5:11).
17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17–18, NKJV)
Jesus did not commit suicide by laying down His life. He sacrificed His life in obedience to the Father’s command. And by His power, He would come back to life (Jno. 11:25). No one took His life against His will. Jesus did not resist arrest in Gethsemane, although He could (Matt. 26:52-53). He yielded to the unjust trials before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Herod, and the Roman governor. He endured mocking ridicule, humiliation, and scourging’s trauma. Without resistance, He was nailed to a cross and executed condemn sin and to draw sinners to Himself for salvation (Jno. 12:31-33). The good news of His death and resurrection gives tremendous answers to those who contemplate suicide. Jesus gives help to the helpless who face sin’s heartache and loss (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:15-16). He gives peace and joy to the hapless, whose misery seems unbearable (Rom. 5:1-2; Acts 16:25-34). He gives a new birth and living hope to the hopeless (1 Pet. 1:3). If you are in despair to the point of considering suicide, seek help immediately. And, hear the gospel call to come to Jesus Christ for salvation from your sins. Because Jesus died for you, you can live with help, comfort, and hope in Him. In Christ, death is swallowed up in eternal victory (1 Cor. 15:54-58).
47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:47–51, NASB95)
Bread is a staple of physical life and stands for the food that sustains life. Jesus takes this common truth and applies it to Himself as the bread of life (Jno. 6:35, 48). He is “the living bread that came down out of heaven” (Jno. 6:51). When we “eat this bread” (His flesh, the offering of His body to give life to the world, v. 51), we will live forever. How do we eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life eternal (Jno. 6:53-56)? Not by cannibalism (Jno. 6:52). Not by the Roman Catholic Church’s Eucharist and transubstantiation (this verse does not discuss the Lord’s Supper). We eat His flesh and drink His blood (figuratively) for eternal life by coming to Jesus and believing in Him as the “bread of life” (Jno. 6:35). By the words of Christ (which “are spirit and are life,” Jno. 6:63), the Father teaches and draws sinners to the Son (Jno. 6:44-45). Faith in Jesus Christ comes from hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17). The word of Christ says actions produced by faith are necessary to partake of the bread of life for eternal life. In faith one must 1) Confess faith (Rom. 10:9-10), 2) Repent (Acts 2:37-38; 17:30), 3) Be baptized (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:37-38), 4) Be a faithful servant of Jesus (cf. Jno. 4:34; Rom. 12:1-2). Jesus has the “words of eternal life” (Jno. 6:68). Live by His words, and you will live forever (Jno. 6:51).