Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2, NKJV).
How healthy is your soul? Would you be in good physical health if it matched your spiritual health? In this age of Covid, we are inundated with information and misinformation about being healthy, safe, and protected. Prudent measures for good physical health are important (1 Tim. 5:23; Luke 10:34). Exercise helps slow the rate of decay of our death-destined bodies (1 Tim. 4:8). But the gospel compels us to look at the health of our souls as more essential (1 Tim. 4:7-8). It is the remedy to our sin and death; salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 5:24-25; Rom. 1:16; 6:23). A cure for Covid would be a worldwide bestseller. Yet, the cure for sin is cast aside by countless souls rushing headlong toward eternal death. Why is that? Why are people more afraid of their physical death than their eternal death (Matt. 10:28)? Because they do not believe God and the words of His Son, Jesus. Why is the death of God’s saints precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15)? Because they are the ones who “take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,” serving God faithfully all their days (Ps. 116:13-14, 16-19). With Ananias, we ask, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The remedy for your sins is available through the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:17-19; 2:24; Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 2:1-10). Believe and obey Jesus and be saved from sin and death (Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 5:8-9).
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name’” (Matthew 6:9, NASB95).
Meditate with me today about “our Father who is in heaven.” Unfortunately, many do not think of God at all. Others consider him to be a grandfatherly figure who nods approvingly toward whatever we do. Some do not believe in a personal God at all, but being pantheists believe “that reality is identical with divinity, or that all-things compose an all-encompassing, immanent god (Wikipedia). The words of Jesus are clear, concise, and consistent with the nature of God revealed in the inspired writings of the Bible. Jesus identified God as (1) Our Father. As our Creator, God is the Father of us all (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 8:6). He also created our spirits and is the “Father of spirits,” in whose image we are made (Heb. 12:9). Christians are children of God by faith and have an intimate fellowship with our Father (Gal. 4:5-7). (2) Personal. Our Father is not “like gold or silver or stone” shaped by artistic expression (Acts 17:29). He knows us and calls us through the gospel to come to Him (Acts 17:27; 2:21, 39). (3) In heaven. God is Spirit and not defined by or confined to material things (John 4:24). Physical constraints do not limit God (Acts 7:48-50; 2 Pet. 3:8). (4) Holy. Hallowed means “to sanctify” or set apart as holy in our minds and lives. We fail to revere His name when defining God by our will, ways, and expectations (Rom. 1:20-23). Jesus held His heavenly Father in the highest regard, and so must we (John 10:29; 14:28). (5) The One to whom we pray. We pray to God our Father, assured that He hears and answers us according to His will, which is always best for us (Matt. 7:11; 26:39-44; 1 John 5:14-15). Think on these things.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:5–6, NKJV).
We live according to where we set our minds. The person who fixes his mind on fleshly things lives for the flesh and produces the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). The apostle of Christ firmly declared, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). Conversely, to live “according to the Spirit,” we must set our minds on “the things of the Spirit.” What are those things? Nothing less than the things the Spirit revealed to the apostles, which they preached to the world (1 Cor. 2:10-13). The things of the Spirit are the words of truth He revealed, confirmed, and inspired. The “fruit of the Spirit” is borne in our lives when we follow the Spirit’s guidance that is in God’s word (Gal. 6:16-18, 22-23). Today’s passage explains we either live “according to the flesh,” or we live “according to the Spirit,” but not both. Spiritual death (separation from God) is the outcome of being carnally minded. Spiritual life and peace with God result from being spiritually minded. Have you set your mind on the things of the Spirit or the flesh? “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1–2, NKJV).
Wicked kings had ruled the northern kingdom of Israel since its inception at the revolt against king Rehoboam (1 Kings 12). God used the kingdom of Assyria as the rod of His anger to punish Israel and her wicked rulers (Isa. 10:5-11). A remnant of Israel returned to the land from captivity, foreshadowing a second and more incredible remnant, gathered by the gospel (“a remnant according to the election of grace,” Isa. 10:20-22; 11:10-16; Rom. 11:5). Isaiah predicted and described God’s righteous king who rules over God’s kingdom (“My holy mountain,” Isa. 11:9) in today’s passage. Springing forth from the roots of Jesse, this Rod and Branch would reign and execute righteous judgment on the evil and the good (Isa. 11:3-5; Jer. 23:5; Heb. 1:8-9). He is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of God (Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:30-35; Rom. 1:3-4). God’s Spirit would abide with Him, signifying heaven’s fellowship and approval (Matt. 3:16-17). His character would be stellar, marked by divine wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord (v. 2). As God’s Servant, the Messiah brought “justice to the nations” as He preached the gospel of the kingdom, proclaiming freedom from sin’s bondage and God’s vengeance against evil (Isa. 42:1-4; 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-21). God’s king, Jesus Christ, has come, received His kingdom, and reigns at God’s right hand (Psa. 110:1-2; Dan. 7:13-14; Acts 2:32-36; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 1:3, 13). All hail the King (Matt. 21:4-11).
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:17–18, NKJV).
It is comforting to know the Lord hears the cries of the righteous in their time of trouble. Through the psalmist David, the Holy Spirit explains who the righteous are that God hears and saves. It is “those who have a broken heart…such as have a contrite spirit.” God’s deliverance from sin’s crushing weight is available to all of us (1 Tim. 2:4; Rom. 1:16). But God’s salvation from sin’s trouble is received by the person who approaches Him with a heart burst into pieces because of sin. Crushed and crumbling in spirit, this is the picture of godly sorrow that produces “repentance leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10). The broken heart, the contrite spirit, no longer sees sin as desirable, alluring, exciting, and fulfilling. Convicted by its shameful disgrace against the Almighty, sin’s abhorrence and destruction are acknowledged (Ps. 51:3). We must come to ourselves like the prodigal son and realize the end of our sin is eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Today is the moment not to harden our hearts toward God and our sins against Him (Heb. 3:7-13). The Lord is near, wanting, willing, and waiting to save souls troubled by sin. Come to God with convicted hearts of faith, crushed in humble sorrow by sin, and obey Him. God will hear and save you (Acts 2:37-41).
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:19–21, NKJV)
Christians are to be “filled with the Spirit” of God instead of the intoxicating spirits created by men (Eph. 5:18). Several actions necessarily follow when we are filled with the Spirit through the word of Christ dwelling in us (Col. 3:16). 1) Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (v. 19). Speaking to one another takes the form of singing, of “making melody in your heart to the Lord.” It is singing words that communicate the heart’s message. This singing to the Lord encourages each Christian who sings from the heart. It is not entertainment. Neither is it a performance of a few for the many. This speaking is not playing, strumming, and humming songs. Nothing of the kind is in this verse. It does not say to play songs, but to speak to one another in songs. Let us not put words into God’s mouth (like “play”) that He did not say. 2) Give thanks always for all things (v. 20). Gratitude and praise exude from the life filled with the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Our songs and lives express hearts that respect God in Christ as the Giver of every blessing (Eph. 1:3). 3) Submit to one another in the fear of God (v. 21). The Spirit-filled life lives for others, not oneself. We serve Christ by serving one another (Mk. 10:42-45; Matt. 25:40). Subordinating ourselves to each other is a token of reverential respect for God. Be filled with the Spirit. Worship. Give thanks. Serve one another.
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24, NKJV)
First-century Christians regularly came together on the first day of the week to worship God (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2; Heb. 10:24-25). True worshipers follow the teaching of Jesus taught about worship. It is “in spirit and truth.” Worship “in spirit” calls on the heart as the source of our worship of God. For example, prayers and songs must be with the spirit and understanding; it is not rote ritualism (1 Cor. 14:15). True worshipers praise God “with understanding” when they sing (Psa. 47:7; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). A heart far from God that goes through the motions of worship is an abomination to Him (Matt. 15:7-9). True worshipers also worship God “in truth.” His word reveals what worship He accepts. Churches of Christ gather every Sunday to pray, sing, eat the Lord’s Supper, thankfully give as we have been prospered, and listen to the teaching of God’s word (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2). Souls who worship “in spirit” are careful to give God the “in truth” worship He accepts. New Testament Christians did that. We aim to do the same today. We hope you will, too.
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7–8, NKJV)
Jeremiah said the human heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:5). Indeed. Since our hearts can deceive us, Paul’s warning is for us all. God is not mocked; we do not deceive God. We will reap what we sow. Like Israel (who sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind, Hos. 8:7), we will reap the results of the life we choose. With this sober reminder, Paul begins to conclude his exhortation to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh (Gal. 5:16-6:10). Fulfilling the lust of the flesh produces the works of the flesh and results in eternal corruption (Gal. 5:16, 19-21; 6:8). But, walking in the Spirit bears the fruit of the Spirit that results in everlasting life (Gal. 5:16, 18, 22-25). Helping one overtaken by sin is sowing to the Spirit (Gal. 6:1-2). Envious conceit and self-promotion sow to the flesh (Gal. 5:26; 6:3). Sharing in all good things with our teachers is sowing to the Spirit, but refusing to do so is a trait of the flesh (Gal. 5:20; 6:6). Paul’s broader context bears out this principle. Those who tried to be justified by the law failed and forfeited being led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:3-4, 18). We are accountable to God for what we sow in life (2 Cor. 5:10). When judgment comes, will we reap sorrowful tears or joyful glory? Do not be deceived.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV)
In today’s verse, “spirit” is the mental disposition that defines and characterizes the Christian’s faith. Our faith is not timid. Contextually, Paul encouraged Timothy to be bold in his “genuine faith” and unafraid to use the miraculous spiritual gift he had received (2 Tim. 1:5-6; 1 Tim. 4:14). He was duty-bound to use his gift with the power, love, and a sound mind. A sound mind is disciplined, exercising self-control in all things. Let us discipline our minds and bodies with self-control to choose godliness and resist evil (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Gal. 5:23). Otherwise, we tarnish and defile the gifts, abilities, and opportunities God gives us (Rom. 12:3-8). A bold faith disciplines itself with the power of God’s truth and love. The power of truth defines and guides our path, while love shapes our motives and objectives. When these combine with a disciplined mind, we are equipped with the confidence of faith not easily overcome by the world (1 Jno. 5:4).
8 “‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:8–9, NKJV)
The heart we bring before God in worship must be pure, holy, and pious. Our worship must be “in spirit” (Jno. 4:24). The actions we bring before God in worship must accord with His word. Worship must also be in “truth” (Jno. 4:24). Today’s text teaches the value of doctrine (truth) in worship by contrasting it with the vain worship produced by men’s commandments. Many people and churches say doctrine is not essential as long as your heart is sincere. By doing so, they have forgotten what Jesus taught in today’s passage. By applying Isaiah 29:13, Jesus said hearts are corrupted (“far from Me”) when people try to worship God while following the commands of men. Vain worship results. Our attitude in worship is to be reverent and humble (Psa. 5:7; 89:7). Worship is not a casual affair that honors people; it is a time of holiness before the Lord (Lev. 10:3). Our actions in worship are to follow God’s truth, not men’s traditions bound upon worshipers (Mk. 7:6-9). Worship is accepted by God when worshipers respect Him and bring before Him the worship His word approves (Rev. 5:13-14). God seeks true worshipers, not vain worshipers (Jno. 4:23). Therefore, let us scrutinize our hearts (spirit) and our hands (conduct) and worship Him “in spirit and truth.”