5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV).
Why do you pray? The Lord knows the reasons and motives of our prayers; He is the One who “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). Jesus knew many people pray so others will view them as religious and pious. They choose conspicuous places to petition heaven’s throne. Their desire (to be seen by men), once achieved, is their only reward. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven understand prayer to be intimate communication with their heavenly Father. It is a time to pour out thanks, adoration, petitions, and pleas to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). There we find the divine assurance of mercy, solace, and peace. Our Father is in private places. He sees, hears, and openly rewards our humble prayers (Phil. 4:6-7). Prayer is not a ritual; it is a retreat to commune with our Father. Keep pure motives when you pray. God sees the purpose of our prayers, so seek His approval when praying to Him. Remember, it is God who answers our prayers, not people. So pray to be seen by your heavenly Father.
7 “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:7–8, NKJV).
The Lord of the Sabbath did not violate the Sabbath, nor did He sanction its violation when His disciples plucked the heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-2). The Pharisees accused His disciples of being Sabbath-breakers. But Jesus pronounced them “guiltless” because His disciples acted consistently with the law and its provision of mercy (Matt. 12:7; Hosea 6:6; Deut. 23:25). The Pharisees had developed a tradition that such conduct was work, and so to do it on the Sabbath was a sin. They added their tradition to God’s word and bound it on others. Thus, they “condemned the guiltless.” Jesus was not approving situation ethics and justifying violating God’s law. Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets, not destroy them (Matt. 5:17). Neither does this occasion endorse breaking God’s word for a so-called greater purpose (mercy, for example). The law of God allowed for mercy, which the apostles received as they plucked and ate the grain. The tradition of the Pharisees denied compassion and condemned the innocent. Both mercy and truth are present in God’s law (Ps. 85:10). Beware of human traditions. They nullify both (Col. 2:8, 20-23).
5 …and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:5–8, NKJV).
God is ready, willing, and able for us to cast our cares on Him. But how do we do that? When facing trials and trouble, we often hear it said, “Just give it to the Lord.” But, how? Today’s verse gives needed instruction on how to cast all our care upon Him to avoid being distracted and overwhelmed by life’s circumstances that test our faith. (1) It takes humility (1 Pet. 5:5-6). Pride prevents turning to God and obstructs grace from His throne of mercy (Luke 18:9-14). (2) It takes trust that God cares for you (1 Pet. 2:7). Faith in God’s mighty hand and attentive care compels us to prayerfully throw our anxious distractions at His feet (Matt. 6:24-25). (3) It takes self-control (1 Pet. 5:8). Anxious care is the devil’s tool to distract and devour us. Sober thinking is needed to make righteous choices when faced with difficult times of temptation (1 Thess. 5:6-10). (4) It takes vigilance (1 Pet. 5:8). Apathy prevents seeking God’s care and grace and prepares us to be an entrée for the devil’s dinner. Casting our care on God takes being watchful to do God’s will and avoid sin (Eph. 5:15-16). We cast our care on God by humbly trusting God (walking by faith), being diligent to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and boldly approaching His throne of grace for “help in time of need” (2 Cor. 5:7; Matt. 6:33-34; Heb. 4:16).
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin (Romans 3:9, NKJV).
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul established that all people, whether Gentiles or Jews, are sinners (Rom. 3:10-20, 23; 6:23). The extent of sin is universal (“There is none righteous, no, not one;…they have all turned aside,” Rom. 3:10, 12). Thus, all are “under sin” – guilty captives unable to free ourselves from its bondage and death (Gal. 3:22; Rom. 7:24). Sin’s death passes to everyone who sins, not because Adam sinned (Rom. 5:12; Ezek. 18:20). Humanity’s sin (disobedience) against God magnifies His mercy, “that He might have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32). These simple truths expose the lies of Calvinism. (1) Total heredity depravity is not inherited. Personal sin separates each one from God (Isa. 59:1-3; Ezek. 18:20-24). (2) Unconditional election is a farce since God’s mercy is offered to every sinner in Christ (Rom. 5:15). His invitation to be saved is universal, but unconditional election makes God a tyrant (Matt. 11:28; Mark 16:15-16). (3) Limited atonement neglects that Jesus died “for everyone,” not just the elect (Heb. 2:9). (4) Irresistible grace rests on the false premise we are too corrupt to respond to God’s call to mercy without enabling grace from God to jumpstart faith. Yet, the “gospel of the grace of God” is preached to sinners who choose to resist or repent (Acts 2:36-41; 7:51; 13:44-46). (5) Perseverance of the saints is the baseless expectation that once God saves a sinner, that person cannot fall into sin’s condemnation. Sadly, many rely on the false hope of this false doctrine (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:6-19; 6;4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). The gospel of Christ calls sinners to salvation through obedient faith (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18). The doctrines of men leave sinners “under sin,” still needing salvation.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him (1 John 3:1, NKJV).
Through the apostle John, the Holy Spirit draws our attention to the kind of love God has for us. He says to “behold,” to see, be aware of and understand the nature of God’s love that blesses us to be called God’s children. John will go on to proclaim, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Today, let us behold and understand the depth and breadth of God’s love from three vantage points. (1) God’s love is sacrificial. He “so loved the world” that He gave His Son to be lifted up on a cross to deliver sinners from death (John 3:14-17). Love gives of itself to serve others (see the example of Jesus, Eph. 5:25-27). (2) God’s love is merciful. God’s “great love” is adorned by His “rich mercy” (Eph. 2:4). Love acts out of mercy to relieve others. With tender compassion, God saw our sin dilemma (death, Rom. 6:23) and graciously saved us through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:5-8). (3) God’s love is purposeful. “In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Love takes the initiative; it is neither negligent nor apathetic. As we behold God’s love for us, may we follow John’s appeal, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:12–16, NKJV)
The Lord heard and answered the lepers’ pleas for mercy. One of them not only knew he needed mercy, but he also knew how blessed he was when Jesus healed him (vs. 15-16). We all need God’s mercy. Indeed, we all live under the merciful forbearance of God (Acts 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:8-9). Are we thankful for God’s mercy? The Samaritan was a thankful man. See his humility as he falls on his face at Jesus’s feet, thanking Him for being healed. Are we like the other nine? Once fed and filled by God’s loving mercy, do we turn away with no thought of gratitude and humble thanks? God knows when we are not thankful to Him (Lk. 16:17-18). The Samaritan had faith. Jesus told him, “Your faith has made you well” (Lk. 17:19). Faith not only compels us to seek mercy; it induces us to fall at Jesus’s feet with humble thanks for His mercy that saves us (Titus 3:4-5). God is rich in mercy and saves us by His grace through our faith in Christ (Eph. 2:4-9). Like the healed Samaritan, let us humbly and thankfully glorify God for His mercy.
1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: (Luke 15:1–3, NKJV).
Simply put, a parable is an illustration of divine truth. The illustration is taken from ordinary life events, from which the spiritual lesson is drawn. Greek dictionaries define a “parable” (parabole) as “a similitude…fictitious narrative (of common life conveying a moral)” (Strong’s, G3850). Understanding the parables depends on the condition of one’s heart. Jesus explained this in the parable of the soils, which He said is key to understanding the parables (Mark 4:13, 14-20). An open, honest heart receives its meaning, holds it fast, and bears good fruit (Luke 8:9-10, 15). Hard, closed hearts do not receive God’s word and fail to understand and apply the parables of the Lord (Matt. 13:10-22). In today’s passage, the scribes and Pharisees complained against Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners. They distorted the truth of the matter. The sinners came to Jesus to hear Him teach. He did not endorse their sins; just the opposite. He taught them the way of God in truth to save them. Jesus answered His critics with three parables. God is compassionate toward sinners (Luke 15:4-7), God values each and every soul (Lk. 15:8-10), and God mercifully forgives sinners who repent and return to Him (Luke 15:11-24). Like the elder son, the complainers were ungrateful of their blessings and unmerciful toward sinners (Lk. 15:25-32). Powerful lessons for those who have “ears to hear” (Matt. 13:9).
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4–6, NKJV).
God made “us alive together with Christ” when we were dead in our trespasses and sins (v. 5). Three questions arise as we consider God’s tremendous work of saving sinners. (1) Why save us? Three elements of God’s character answer why God saves sinners: His mercy, love, and grace (v. 4-5). God’s mercy is rich, His love is great, and His grace is available to all (Titus 2:11; 3:4-5; 1 John 4:10-11). Without God’s mercy, love, and grace, we would all face the wages of our sins, eternal death (Rom. 6:23). (2) Who is saved? The “us” who are made “alive together” constitute the church, the body of Christ, the household of God (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:14-22). The Lord adds saved people to His church (Acts 2:47). Therefore, the church is essential; it is the saved ones (Eph. 3:10-11; 5:25-27). (3) Where is salvation? Salvation is “in Christ.” Sinners are raised out of the death of sins to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). The “heavenly places” signifies the spiritual relationship of salvation in Christ. In the “heavenly places,” we have fellowship with Christ, every spiritual blessing, and we stand with Christ in the battle against the devil and evil (Eph. 2:6; 1:3; 6:10-13). God still The riches of God’s grace continue to be proclaimed in the gospel to everyone, offering salvation “by grace…through faith” (Eph. 2:7-8).
36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:36–37, NKJV).
There is a lot of unneighborly conduct these days—all manner of unkindness and cruelty result when hearts are full of jealousy, envy, bitterness, and malice. For example, the woke cancel culture of today shows no mercy to a neighbor. Its virtue signaling, self-vindication, and hypocritical deflection of self-scrutiny are bearing the fruit of injustice, suspicion, and division among us. Conversely, being a neighbor means showing mercy to others when they need it. To do that, we must have hearts full of compassion (Col. 3:12). Being a neighbor is about loving “your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all did that? In this encounter between a lawyer and Jesus (Luke 10:25-37), the critical question was not when the lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29)? It was Jesus’s question back to him, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves” (Luke 10:36)? The true neighbor actively shows mercy to others (Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Pet. 3:8-9). We ought to look for opportunities to show mercy to others. They are not hard to find. Be a neighbor today. Show mercy to someone in their time of need. You will reap what you sow (Matt. 5:7).
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:7–9, NKJV)
This event in Israel’s history aptly illustrates salvation from sin and death (Rom. 6:23). They grumbled against God and Moses, which brought death into the camp. They confessed their sin and were told if a serpent bit them to look at the bronze serpent Moses made, and they would live. Their salvation from death becomes a figure of the Son of Man being lifted up on the cross to save humanity from sin (John 3:14-17). Israelites received God’s mercy and lived when they trusted and obeyed God’s command to look at the bronze serpent. Even so, sinners “look” at Jesus in faith by repenting and being baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:37-38, 41). By doing so, the sinner receives God’s redemptive mercy and is saved. Israel did not earn their deliverance from the deadly serpents; they trusted God and obeyed Him. The same is true for every sinner Christ saves (Heb. 5:9).