2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2–3, NKJV)
Israel’s wilderness wanderings tested their faith in the Lord God. Would they obey Him? Or would they rebel in disobedience when faced with hardships, setbacks, and uncertainties? God disciplined their hearts through the trial of hunger and by the blessing of daily manna (and other provisions, Deut. 8:4-6). God meant for their trials and blessings to humble them and turn their hearts to Him. God taught Israel by trials and blessings to live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” God also lovingly teaches and corrects us by trials and blessings, like parents who love their children, Heb. 12:4-11). Life is more than bread. Life is more than comfort. Like Israel, life with God that lasts forever comes from God when we obey Him. Jesus knew this when the devil tempted Him to sin (Matt. 4:3-4). Let us accept God’s training during times of trial and blessing that we may humbly obey the Lord God and live with Him now and forever.
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:12–14, NKJV)
Jesus commanded His apostles to love one another as He had loved them. This commandment is equally given to every Christian (1 Jno. 4:21). We are to walk in love as Christ loved us (Eph. 5:2). We know love because He laid down His life for us. Therefore, “We also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jno. 3:16). Jesus Christ died for every person because we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23; 5:8; Col. 1:19-23). There is no greater love than His voluntary, sacrificial death. Jesus said we must do “whatever He commands” to be His friend (v. 14). That includes loving one another, but it does not stop there. Jesus taught much more than loving one another. He commissioned His apostles to teach disciples “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). So, when we trust Jesus and do what His apostles command us, we are friends of Jesus. Abraham was “the friend of God” because he believed God and obeyed Him (Jas. 2:21-24). Faith in and friendship with Jesus means far more than a mental agreement of who He is and what He has done. Friendship with Jesus is far more than asking Him into your heart to be your Savior. Are you doing whatever He commands you? When you do, you are His friend, saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 5:9). Be a friend to Jesus. Obey whatever He commands.
9 As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:9–11, NKJV)
Jesus continued His final discourse with His apostles before being arrested, tried, and crucified. He had loved His apostles while with them, and He wanted them to abide in (stay in) His love. He had just said, “Abide in Me, and I in you,” which would occur when His words remained in them (Jno. 15:4, 7). They would bear much fruit by doing so (Jno. 15:8). In today’s passage, Jesus elaborated that they would abide in His love by keeping His commandments (v. 10). He had set this example for them (and us) by keeping His Father’s commandments and abiding in His love. Their joy would be full when they obeyed Jesus. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus coupled love and joy with obedience? Those who discount and disconnect obedience from salvation refuse to see this linkage. Obeying Jesus is not a way we earn blessings. It is the divine condition under which God gives heavenly blessings (Acts 10:34-35). Our faith in Jesus and His word convinces us to love Him by obeying Him. We rejoice in His promised love and presence with a joy that remains and reaches into eternity.
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:23–24, NKJV)
It is easy to say we love Jesus. But it is not so easy to genuinely love Him. Jesus defines when we love Him, and when we do not. In today’s passage, Jesus used the word agapao (love), a verb, an action word, to describe how to love Him. We know someone loves us when they show their love through actions (1 Jno. 3:18). Likewise, loving Jesus is revealed by our actions. He said if we love Him, we will keep His word. Obeying Jesus is the benchmark of love (Jno. 14:15). When we love Jesus, God will love us. A relationship of loving fellowship is formed with the Father and Son (v. 23). Not loving Jesus is exhibited by not keeping His words. We do not love Jesus when we disobey Him; those are His words (v. 24). Jesus has given us a way to know whether we love Him. If that is your desire, then keep His word. By doing so, you know that you love Jesus, that the Father and Son love you, and that you are in fellowship with them.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30, NKJV)
How much do you trust God? Do you trust Him enough to silently march around a hostile city once a day for six days, and on the seventh day do so seven times? Do you believe God enough to blow trumpets and shout after doing so because He said do it? These are among the things God told not one person, but about 600,000 soldiers of Israel to do because He had “given Jericho into your hands” (Josh. 6:2). Why did they have to do anything if God was giving them the city by His grace? Because grace comes “through faith” (see Eph. 2:8). Israel did not earn Jericho, they showed their faith in God’s promise to give them the city. When they obeyed His word (“after they were encircled for seven days”), the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Now, why do so many people resist the words of Jesus when He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16)? If the sinner does not faith enough to be baptized, will he or she be saved? The answer is clear, yet many are told to just believe God will save you, pray to Him asking Him to, and you are saved. No, that is not what Jesus said. When we learn about the faith that Israel had at Jericho, we also learn of the faith we must have to be saved.
13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:13–17, NKJV)
Christians show respectful submission to governing authorities. We don’t break the law. We do so “for the Lord’s sake” because He ordained civil authority and rules over it (Rom. 13:1-2). This is the will of God, and by doing so we silence the ignorance of foolish men (v. 15). When Christians vote, they are doing good, and our votes should advance righteousness and godliness in the land. We must obey God rather than men, but our freedom in Christ does not permit us indiscriminately to violate laws we deem improper (Acts 5:29). Instead, we obey God’s command to honor all people, including those with civil authority (v. 17). Remember, it is easy to submit to laws and honor rulers with which we agree. The test of faith is to submit to laws with which we disagree and to honor those in office for whom we did not vote.
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.” (John 18:38, NKJV)
Many people believe truth is relative, not absolute. A recent social cartoon captured the post-truth mindset. It depicts a witness in the courtroom with hand raised being asked, “Do you solemnly swear to speak your truth, your whole truth, and nothing but your truth?” (Fishman, 9/20/2020, King Features Syndicate, Inc.). Post-truth is “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” (Cambridge Dictionary). Again, “Post-truth is a philosophical and political concept for ‘the disappearance of shared objective standards for truth’ and the ‘circuitous slippage between facts or alt-facts, knowledge, opinion, belief, and truth’” (“Post-truth,” Wikipedia.org). Pilate did not let the objective truth he discovered by investigating evidence (“I find no fault in Him at all”) get in the way of his political agenda. Let us be clear; Truth is absolute. Truth is God’s word (Jno. 17:17). Truth is Jesus Christ (Jno. 1:1-3, 14; 14:6). The Scriptures provide truthful evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who can save you from your sins (Jno. 20:30-31; Acts 17:2-3). Will you believe and obey the truth? Or will you stand with Pilate? Have I “become your enemy because I tell you the truth” (Gal. 4:16)?
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23–26, NKJV)
Let that soak in for a moment. Our sins make us guilty before God and under His wrath. Our just punishment is eternal death (Rom. 1:18; 3:19; 6:23). But, God has provided an offering for our sins that appeases His wrath against sin (1 Jno. 2:2; 4:10). That offering is His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s grace justifies sinners by the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:9). His blood appeases God’s wrath, redeeming us from sin’s bondage and death (Rom. 5:10; Heb. 10:1-10). The Law of Moses could not do this. God’s power to save sinners is in the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16; 3:20-22). By the offering of His Son, God showed Himself to be just (innocent, holy) when He bore with previous sins (Rom. 3:26; Acts 17:30). Now, He commands all sinners everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31). Thus, God is vindicated. The death of Jesus shows God was just in forbearing with “sins that were previously committed.” And, His righteousness is seen in justifying those who have faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). The faith (the gospel) produces personal faith that obeys the word of Christ (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; 6:17-18). Believing sinners obey Christ’s command to be baptized, which is into His death so their sins will be washed away by His blood (Mk. 16:16; Rom. 6:3; Acts 22:16).
28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28–31, NKJV)
The reciprocal tension between faith and doubt is displayed in the marvel miracle when Jesus (and Peter) walked on water. Confident in Christ’s command, Peter got out of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus. Then, fear found a place in his heart as he focused on the wind and waves instead of on Jesus, and he wavered in doubt. Faith gave way to dread and doubt. Peter was being pulled in two different directions. His faith in Jesus compelled him to do what would be unthinkable and impossible (walk on water). But fear caused him to doubt. Jesus said Peter lacked trust when he doubted and began to sink (“little faith”). Jesus immediately saved Peter, which reassures us in times of doubt. When doubt tests our faith, let us remember that victory over this world’s spiritual dangers is through faith in Christ (1 Jno. 5:4-5). Trust and obey His word. Do not let doubt pull you away from Christ.
27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” 28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27–28, NKJV)
There is no doubt that God blessed Mary as the mother of Jesus. And, there is no doubt that as a son, Jesus was a blessing to His mother. Jesus lived the wisdom of Solomon’s proverb, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice” (Prov. 23:24-25). Like Jesus, children should choose to be a blessing to their mothers and fathers by treating them with righteous respect. Righteous children are a blessing from the Lord. Notably, Jesus explained an even greater blessing than Mary’s will come to every person who hears and keeps the word of God (v. 28). Jesus shifted the focus of the woman’s proclamation from the physical to the spiritual. Only one person was blessed by God to be the mother of Jesus, yet through her service, God blesses the whole world (Lk. 4:46-55). The child Mary bore is the Son of God who blesses with salvation everyone who hears and keeps the word of God (Lk. 1:35; Jno. 8:31-32). The blessing of salvation restores our soul and refreshes us daily with the spiritual blessings of Christ (Acts 3:19; Eph. 1:3). Every lost soul who hears and obeys the word of Christ will be saved (Mk. 16:15-16).