27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27–28, NKJV).”
Jesus challenges us to get to the heart of the matter when identifying and turning away from sin. Of course, adultery remains a sin as it was under the Law of Moses (Exod. 20:14; Rom. 13:9). Even the first covenant called on Israel to love the Lord God with all their heart (Deut. 6:5). Jesus drills down to the root of this (and every) sin; the heart’s desires and impulses (1 John 2:15-17). Lustful looks at a woman are adultery in the heart, and so is the act. The heart is the source of sin. Sin lurks in the recesses of the heart’s desires, emotions, and motives (Gen. 4:7; Matt. 15:19-20). God’s word has the power to pierce the heart and reach its thoughts and intents (Heb. 4:12). By doing so, it convicts us of our sins and calls us to repent (change our heart, Acts 2:37-38; 26:20). Jesus vividly described the severity of repentance: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell (Matt. 5:29–30).” Jesus will forgive our sins when we repent (Acts 17:30; Matt. 11:28-30). And drastic steps are necessary to repent to avoid sin’s eternal punishment.
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say (1 Corinthians 10:14–15, NKJV).
Many idols live in the hearts of men and women. Some are apparent, from the nearly 394-foot-tall Buddha in Japan, the 65-foot-tall Shiva in India, to the millions of shrines honoring local gods around the globe. Other idols are not as visible. Hidden in hearts, people carry these false gods like Israel took their little idols in the wilderness (Amos 5:25-26). Anything elevated to a place of honor and devotion above the only true God is an idol, a false god (Isa. 40:18-20; Jer. 10:1-11; Rom. 1:22-23). For example, greed for material possessions and power over others is a false god. Covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Wise people judge idols are “useless things” and turn away from them (Acts 14:15-17). The gospel calls us to turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). Only the true God lives and forgives (Acts 17:22-31; 26:17-20). Carving idols of wood, stone, metal, or in the recesses of our hearts is futile and foolish (Isa. 44:9-20). Flee idolatry. The gospel plea is to repent of sin against the living God, put your faith in Him, and obey the word of His Son Jesus Christ. Salvation is only possible in Jesus (Acts 4:12).
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:12–13, NKJV).”
Regardless of race, ethnicity, language, gender, social status, free or enslaved, all of us have sinned against God and need saving from sin and death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). The gospel accomplishes what we cannot do for ourselves. It delivers us from the bondage and death of sin (Rom. 1:16-17; 7:24-8:1). Still, God says we must “call upon Him” to be saved. The “why” is evident (salvation). But how do we call on the name of the Lord? Paul quoted Joel 2:32 as Peter did on Pentecost (Acts 2:21). That gospel sermon explained how to call on the name of the Lord for salvation. Sinners were convicted of their sin against Jesus Christ and asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do (Acts 2:37)?” They already heard Peter say, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Now, Peter explained how to do so to be saved. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Peter told convicted believers to call on the name of the Lord by repenting and being baptized. By doing so, they would receive God’s gift of salvation (remission of sins). He did not tell them to pray a sinner’s prayer. He did not say to ask Jesus into their hearts as their Lord and Savior. He said to repent and be baptized. God was calling them to be saved. Peter encouraged them with many additional words, and about 3,000 “gladly received his word” and were baptized (Acts 2:39-41). We plead with you to call on the name of the Lord as they did. When you do, the Lord will save you.
1 Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. 2 After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. 3 Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth” (Hosea 6:1–3, NKJV).
The prophet Hosea set out God’s case against Israel and her sins against Him (Hosea 4:1). His people had betrayed His love and turned to her lovers (Hosea 2:2, 4-5; 4:11-12). What could Israel do to avoid punishment for her adulterous idolatry (Hosea 2:12-13)? “Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts (Hosea 2:2).” Only by returning to the Lord could the nation escape the outcome of her sins. But there was “no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1). Israel had “ceased obeying the Lord” and joined herself to the idols (Hosea 4:10, 17-19). Judgment was certain (Hosea 8:7-13). God continues to seek His lost sheep, calling His people to come back to Him when they fall into sin (Matt. 18:10-14). The Lord will revive the heart of the fallen when they “return to the Lord” with repentant, prayerful confession of their sins to Him (Acts 8:22-24; 1 John 1:9). The Lord’s hand can reach and restore the fallen who return to Him and forsake their sin (Isa. 59:1-2; Luke 15:11-24). He will revive and receive every soul that comes to Him (Matt. 11:28-30).
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants’” (Luke 15:17–19, NKJV).
The change of heart that led to merciful forgiveness in the parable of the wasteful son is well known. God is ready to receive back every sinner who comes to himself. God’s divine mercy impelled Solomon to pray about Israel coming to itself after sinning against the Lord. While dedicating the temple, Solomon petitioned God to hear the prayers of His people after their sins brought His anger and punishment upon them (1 Kings 8:46). He prayed, “Yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You…saying, ‘We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness’; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul…grant them compassion…” (1 Kings 8:47-53). God is ready to forgive us and receive us with loving compassion when we decide to come to ourselves and repent. Coming to ourselves about our sins takes admitting them (to ourselves and God, Ps. 51:3-4). It takes turning our hearts and lives back to God. Repentance leading to salvation is more than being sorry for sin. It is a radical change of heart that leads us to obey God instead of sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up (1 Corinthians 13:4, NKJV).
Love is enduringly patient. Instead of being short-fused, love is kind while being “long-spirited” (longsuffering) toward another. Truly, God has displayed love’s longsuffering toward us over and over. Even now, while God commands all to repent, He tarries with “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9; Acts 17:30). When we grasp the nature of God’s longsuffering love, it moves us to obey His command to repent: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance (Rom. 2:4)?” We must not deceive ourselves into thinking God’s love is so longsuffering that He does not judge and punish unrepented sin. God does not condone and reward sin; that is not genuine love. God’s love has made provisions for the redemption of sinners in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8-11). The gospel calls sinners to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 3:14-21). What loving-kindness God shows us in Christ; He yearns for our salvation. In longsuffering, God continues to plead with sinners through Christ’s gospel to repent and be saved (Acts 2:37-41). May we show this kind of love to one another (John 13:34-35). Kind, longsuffering love opens doors of opportunity to serve each other, strengthen one another, and help save some.
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).
8 “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:8–9, NKJV)
It is tempting to trust in our spiritual heritage for divine approval. We can put our confidence in our parents’ faith without developing our own. Merely trusting in a spiritual heritage is a futile and fatal approach to our present faith and future hope. John the Baptist’s preaching reminded his audience to take a personal inventory of their hearts and lives. This reminder still holds. He warned the Jewish people not to put their confidence in their ancestral heritage. It was God who chose Abraham and blessed him for his faith (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:6). God must be trusted and obeyed because His purposes prevail. His judgment of Israel was imminent when John preached (“the ax is laid to the root of the trees”). God’s judgment destroys the unfruitful (those who do not repent and bear its fruits). Repentance is a change that takes place in the heart. It is a fundamental reordering of perspectives and priorities to put away sin and do God’s will (Lk. 3:10-14). Repentance is not being sorry for our iniquities; it results from godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Without repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot bear good fruit (Acts 20:21). But, when we change our hearts toward God (repent), we will conform our lives to His will – “bear fruits worthy of repentance.”
13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13–14, NKJV)
The letter to the Colossians displays and describes the preeminence of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:13-20 details His primacy and our incentives to entirely submit our hearts and lives to Him. Today’s passage unequivocally states that Jesus has a kingdom and, therefore, a King (v. 13). It also views Jesus as the Redeemer whose death gives forgiveness of sins (v. 14). The kingdom of God (also called the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 13:11; Mk. 4:11) exists today. Therefore, Jesus is now reigning as King (Heb. 1:8-9). The Son’s kingdom is the church He built, the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18-19; Heb. 12:28). Sinners escape the “power of darkness” (sin and death) by entering “the kingdom of the Son.” This transfer from the spiritual realm of darkness to the Son’s kingdom happens when the Redeemer’s blood is applied to the sinner, forgiving his or her sins (Col. 1:14). The blood of Jesus is the ransom price paid to deliver sinners (1 Tim. 2:6). Redemption is only in Christ (v. 14; Acts 4:12). The gospel calls sinners to Christ for forgiveness through His blood. When sinners believe in Jesus Christ, repent, and are baptized into Christ, the blood of Jesus washes away their sins (Acts 2:37-41; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27). Jesus, the King, and Redeemer, continues to save sinners. He is worthy of our undying praise and devotion (Rev. 5:8-14).