34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. 35 For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; 36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:34–36, NKJV).
Wisdom cries out, offering her blessings of prudence, knowledge, discretion, counsel, understanding, and strength to those who will listen to her (Prov. 8:1, 12-14). Consider some necessary traits that help us listen to wisdom’s instructions. (1) We must fear God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Only when we fear God are we willing to listen to wisdom’s guidance. (2) We must receive the word of God. “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6). God’s word is the wellspring of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Yet too often, we turn from it to human teachings and counsel (Col. 2:8). By doing so, we sin against our souls, hate wisdom, and love death (Prov. 8:36). (3) We must live as God instructs us. “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly” (Prov. 2:7). Divine instruction and its wisdom do us no good if we do not apply them. Wisdom calls on us to follow the truth of God. Wisdom says, “My mouth will speak truth,” and “all the worlds of my mouth are with righteousness” (Prov. 8:7). The blessings of wisdom come to those who fear God, receive His word, and obey what He says (James 3:13-18).
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?”
And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5, NKJV).
Like the apostles, Christians want our faith to grow. Instead of working a miracle to put greater faith into their hearts, Jesus taught them how their faith could grow. His disciples have a responsibility to live in such a way that gives increase to their faith. (1) Faith is increased by trusting the power of faith (Luke 17:6). Faith is a force that activates us to live in harmony with God’s will. It is the fuel that feeds the engine of our lives (2 Cor. 5:7; see Hebrews 11 where people acted “by faith”). We can accomplish whatever God says to do when we trust faith’s power. (2) Faith is increased by offering the service of faith (Luke 17:7-8). Faith in the Lord requires us to serve Him, not ourselves. Our faith will not grow until we humble ourselves before the Lord and trust and serve Him first. (3) Faith is increased by obeying the duty of faith (Luke 17:9-10). Just as a servant has duties to perform, disciples of Christ are to do all we are commanded (v. 10). We have nothing in which to boast when we obey Christ in faith. We have earned nothing. We have only done our duty. Obeying Christ fulfills our duties to Him. Faith is dead without obedience (James 2:20). To increase your faith, diligently “add to your faith virtue…knowledge…self-control…perseverance…godliness…brotherly kindness…love” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Trust faith’s power, offer faith’s service, obey faith’s duty, and the Lord will increase your faith (Phil. 2:12-13).
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8, NKJV).
Many people move. They plan where they intend to move (sometimes years in advance). Perhaps to retire, maybe it’s a job reassignment or an educational opportunity. Perhaps it’s to start a marriage and life together. Belongings are packed and shipped (or hauled in a U-Haul) to the new residence. Moving is a lot of work! Imagine moving to a new location without any idea where you are going – except that it would be your inheritance. Because the Lord told you to go, you go. That is what Abram did. (Oh, and by the way, you are seventy-five years old and have no children at the time, Gen. 12:1-7.) He obeyed God “by faith.” Abram trusted God even though he did not see the outcome when his journey began. That is what obedient faith does. It follows the word of the Lord even when the end is not seen yet (1 Pet. 1:6-9). Obedience trusts God more than we trust ourselves and others. Faith without obedience is incomplete (James 2:17). Obedience without faith is an empty pretense (Matt. 15:7-9). The thing is, we know where we are going when we follow Jesus. We are going to the Father and our eternal inheritance (John 14:1-6; 1 Pet. 1:3-5). Christians are homeward bound. By faith, obey God’s word, and you are on your way to your eternal inheritance (Heb. 11:13-16).
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:6–8, NKJV).
God gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34). The proud heart is not accepted or rewarded by the Lord. James says, “therefore,” and continues by giving practical guidance about what God expects us to do to receive His grace. (1) Submit to God (v. 7). Humility yields to the word and will of God, but the pride of life refuses to subject itself to God (Rom. 8:7). We must be humble servants of Christ and others for God’s grace to rest on us. (2) Resist the devil (v. 7). Our Adversary is crafty and powerful, but our strength to resist him comes from the Lord (1 Pet. 5:8; 1 John 4:4). We overcome the wicked one by the power of God’s word living in us (1 John 2:14). (3) Draw near to God (v. 8). God’s prophet told king Asa, “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2). Seek the Lord. You will find Him by following the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:7-8; 11:28-30; John 8:31-32). (4) Cleanse your hands (v. 8). We must purify our conduct to conform our actions to the “implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21, 25). (5) Purify your hearts (v. 8). The stability of singular faith in Christ (not divided loyalties) is required to receive God’s grace (James 1:6-8). Obeying the truth purifies hearts, so He receives our pleas for grace (1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Tim. 2:22). Accepting God’s abundant grace requires our obedient faith.
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household (Acts 16:30–34, NKJV).
What does it mean to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” for salvation? Before one can do so, he or she must hear the word of the Lord since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). So, Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord” to the jailer and his house (v. 32). Believing on Jesus Christ for salvation mean more than agreeing and confessing He is “the Christ, the Son of God,” since demons did as much (Luke 4:41; James 2:19). The jailer’s conversion shows us when sinners believe and are saved in Christ. This sinner was convicted of the truth when he heard God’s word. He repented of his transgressions (indicated by washing their wounds) and was immediately baptized (v. 33). Then there was great rejoicing because he (and his family) had “believed in God.” Some try using this passage to deny water baptism is essential for salvation. If that is true, why were they baptized immediately? Why was the rejoicing after baptism and not before it (v. 34)? Saving faith is not like the faith of demons. It trusts Christ and obeys from the heart His commands to repent and be baptized (Rom. 6:17-18; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). That kind of faith saves the soul (Matt. 7:21).
11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ 12 Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage (2 Kings 5:11–12, NKJV).
God’s prophet, Elisha, told the leprous Syrian commander to dip seven times in the Jordan River to be healed (2 Kings 5:9-10). He was furious, enraged at what he must have viewed as an insult. Why do we get upset and enraged when God’s word says we are to believe and do something to receive God’s blessing? Like Naaman, we are tempted to think what we feel is best. But by doing so, we fail to put our faith in the Lord, trust His word, and follow His will. Our ways seem right to us, but they do not lead to God and eternal life (Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23; John 14:6). Instead of turning away from God in a rage, why not simply do what He says? Put your faith in the Lord today instead of yourself. That was the advice Naaman’s servants gave him. He had the good sense to change his mind (repent), trust the prophet’s words, go to the Jordan, and do as he was told. Naaman was healed by God’s power when he trusted and obeyed God’s word (2 Kings 5:13-14). When we want God’s salvation from sin’s blight, we will trust and obey His word instead of our feelings (Luke 6:46; Matt. 7:21; Rom. 10:17).
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places” (Psalm 135:6, NKJV).
“God is in control.” We hear that a lot, but what does that mean? The Scriptures help us understand God’s control over the world. (1) God’s sovereign will prevails on earth (Psa. 135:6; Dan. 4:34-35). “He rules and works according to His eternal purpose even through events that seem to contradict or oppose His rule” (Holman, 1523). (2) God did not create the world and then walk away from it. The false theology that only nature’s laws operate in this world is called Deism. It rejects God’s interaction with His creation whether by revelation, by miracles, or by answering prayers (Eph. 3:3-5; Heb. 2:4; Matt. 7:7-11; Acts 14:17). (3) God does not control every event in your life. Free will means we can choose between good and evil, and our choices have consequences (Deut. 30:19; Gal. 6:7-8). Conversely, fatalism is the “doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them” (Merriam-Webster). Calvinism’s doctrine of predestination is false since God gave us free will (Josh. 24:15). (4) God’s plan for us is that we fear Him and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). His will and purposes prevail in heaven and earth, and human redemption in Christ is the centerpiece (Rom. 8:28-30). Through the gospel, God is calling us to believe and obey Him to be saved and walk with Him in life and eternity (Mark 16:15-16; 1 John 1:5-10; Matt. 7:21-23).
5 Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ (Deuteronomy 4:5–6, NKJV)
Through Moses, the Lord repeatedly exhorted Israel “to be careful to observe” His commandments (Deut. 5:1, 32; 6:3). Was careful obedience only reserved for Israel because God commanded them from Mt. Sinai (Deut. 4:13-14)? No, the Lord God has always expected people to obey His commands, promising blessings to the obedience and warning the disobedient of punishment (Gen. 2:16-17; Exod. 20:5-6). God’s desire and expectation that we obey Him remains true under the new covenant, the gospel of Christ. For instance, Jesus expects those who call Him “Lord, Lord” to do what He says (Luke 6:46). We must do the will of the Father to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). Christ is the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). But “to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Rom. 2:8-9). No wonder Paul commended Timothy for carefully following “good doctrine” from the apostle (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10). God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience. This truth abides forever.
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).