Why do you say yet not obey? That is the penetrating question Jesus asked those who followed Him from place to place during His ministry. Disciples (followers) learn and live the training received from their Master (Luke 6:40; John 8:31). Jesus is not our ‘Lord’ unless we obey Him. Like them, the Master challenges us to investigate our motives for saying He is Lord while disobeying His word. The Scriptures help us examine ourselves to discover and remove obstacles preventing salvation and hindering discipleship. (1) A hard heart (John 12:37-40). An open, receptive, and responsive heart accepts the word of God and is fruitful by doing the Lord’s will (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). (2) Fear and favor of men (John 12:42-43). Fearing rejection from others, many still prefer men’s favor over God’s approval. (3) Love of the world (1 John 2:15). Genuine love for Jesus obeys His commands (John 14:15). When we misplace our love and disobey Jesus, we deceive ourselves to think we love Jesus. (4) Deceived by false teaching (Luke 8:15). A popular doctrine convinces many souls that Christians cannot fall from grace (be lost). Yet, the gospel warns disciples against falling away (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:12-13). This false doctrine opens the door to complacent, neglectful faith (Heb. 6:11-12; 10:39). Jesus said it is foolish to hear His words and do nothing (Luke 6:49; Matt. 7:26-27). But it is wise to hear and do His words (Luke 6:47-48; Matt. 7:24-25). Yes, we must do more than say, “Lord, Lord,” to be a disciple and enter the kingdom of heaven. We must hear and do the words of Christ (Matt. 7:21-23).
13 The lazy man says, “There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!” 14 As a door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed. 15 The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl; It wearies him to bring it back to his mouth. 16 The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly (Proverbs 26:13–16, NKJV).
Diligence is a hallmark of faith (Rom. 12:11; Heb. 4:11; 6:11; 2 Pet. 1:5, 10). Laziness fails to see daily opportunities to serve God, our families, brethren, and neighbors. Laziness serves the desires of Satan, not God. Solomon’s wisdom teaches us to be diligent in every part of our lives as it identifies the indicators and dangers of idleness. (1) The lazy person always has an excuse for not meeting his responsibilities (v. 13). Real or imagined dangers and difficulties content the lazy to remain so (Prov. 22:13; 20:4). God will use us to accomplish His work when we diligently seek and do His will (Matt. 19:26; Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 11:6). (2) The lazy person fails to use his time wisely (v. 14). He sleeps when it is time to work (John 9:4). As a result, he is unprepared to successfully meet life’s challenges (Prov. 6:6-9; 19:15). We must redeem our time wisely (Eph. 5:15-16). (3) The lazy person does not want to work (v. 15). The answer to his problem is staring him in the face, yet he is unwilling to work (Prov. 19:24). There is no reward in life or eternity for the apathetic and negligent soul (Prov. 12:27; 13:4; Eccl. 5:18-20). (4) The lazy person comforts himself with his pride (v. 16). He is self-deceived, lacking the perception needed to change his condition (Prov. 16:18). Let us be diligent in things temporal and eternal. Otherwise, “the desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor” (Prov. 21:25).
35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37 When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” 39 And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons (Mark 1:35–39, NKJV).
There were great demands on Jesus’s time. He came to the world to preach “the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:38, 14-15). People gathered around Jesus to hear His teachings and be healed (Luke 5:15). His apostles needed personal training before going into the world to preach the gospel, so He taught them privately (Luke 9:10). Religious opponents pressed against Him to undermine Him and His work (Luke 11:53-54). He saw long days and short nights. Yet, Jesus took personal time for prayer and meditation (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; Matt. 14:13). He managed His time effectively, even when everyone was looking for Him. He set and kept priorities for how He used His time (in Mark 1:38, Jesus chose to go to “the next towns” to preach even as people searched for Him in Capernaum, Mark 1:21-34). We all have demands on our time as parents, children, employers, employees, etc. Like Jesus, remember your faith priorities each day without distraction. Take time to pray, read God’s word, meditate, and serve others (1 Tim. 4:13, 15). “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… (Matt. 6:33).” Redeem your time with wisdom and faith (Eph. 5:15-17).
Bible reading is essential to salvation from sins and living faithfully to the Lord. The Bible is the inspired word of God, His truth delivered in this last age by His Son, Jesus Christ (John 16:13; 17:17; Heb. 1:2; 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Jude 3). By it, faith is produced and strengthened in us (Rom. 10:17; Acts 20:32). Christians read the Bible! We read it to increase in knowledge of God’s will and wisdom to apply it to our lives (Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-11). It is little wonder the apostle Paul closes his letter to the Thessalonians with a charge to read it to all the holy brethren. His writings are the “commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). Paul’s “charge” (“to cause someone to swear,” TDNT, V:462) put them under oath to do so. It was not optional but mandatory that they read his epistle. Even so, we are under oath to read the Scriptures. Public Bible reading and teaching please God and should please us (Neh. 8:1-3, 7-9; 1 Tim. 4:13). The saints circulated the apostolic letters for all to read (Col. 4:16). We should never think there is “too much” Scripture in a gospel sermon. Private Bible reading allows quiet time for meditation, examination, and correction of personal spiritual needs (Acts 8:29-35; 1 Tim. 4:15-16; Phil. 4:8). The Holy Scriptures will make us “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” when we read and learn them (2 Tim. 3:14-15; 2 Pet. 3:15-16). Have you read your Bible today?
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance (Romans 2:4, NKJV)?
God is rich in many other things we need for our spiritual salvation and survival. Consider the abundance of riches God possesses and provides people of faith for a moment. (1) God is rich in both wisdom and knowledge (Rom. 11:33). Wisdom was His constant companion before, during, and after creation (Prov. 3:19; 8:22-31). Listening to wisdom’s counsel (God’s word) brings blessings to one’s life, but ignoring it delivers calamity (Prov. 8:32-36; 1:20-33). (2) God is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4). By His abundant compassion, He “made us alive together with Christ,” saving us from the death of sin by His grace through faith (Eph. 2:5-9). (3) God is rich in goodness (Rom. 2:4). His integrity is untarnished; His kindness is without end. (4) God is rich in forbearance (Rom. 2:4). His endurance with us in our weaknesses is unmatched. He is constantly ready to forgive our sins against Him (Matt. 18:23-27; Luke 15:18-24). (5) God is rich in longsuffering (Rom. 2:4). Instead of quickly retaliating against our sins, He is “long-tempered,” giving us opportunities to repent instead of perishing (2 Pet. 3:9). God’s holy character is seen in the aim of His goodness, forbearing, and longsuffering toward us, which is repentance. God is not an evil ogre ready to destroy us at the drop of a hat. To be sure, He disciplines us to strengthen our faith and equip us to resist sin (Heb. 12:3-11). Meditate on God’s character and abundant kindnesses, and your faith will be fortified as you live for Him.
For there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11, NKJV).
It is not easy to be objective in moral and spiritual matters. Yet, God is impartial in His judgments, and He expects us to be, too. Paul recognized “God shows personal favoritism to no man,” therefore, he refused to court the favor of men by changing his preaching to please men (Gal. 2:6, 4-5; 1:10). James wrote, “The wisdom that is from about is…without partiality” (James 3:17). Prejudice (judging a matter or person before and without evidence, Prov. 18:13) and preferential treatment based on fleshly considerations are grievous sins. James explained at some length what happens when partiality happens in the assembly of the church (James 2:1-13). James said showing favoritism based on external factors (in this case, wealth or poverty) is evil (v. 2-4). It dishonors the innocent person (v. 6). It is an unloving action of sin (vv. 8-9). And it is unmerciful (vv. 12-13). When we show favoritism, we are in danger of condemning the innocent and approving the guilty. The apostle Paul warned Timothy against rash judgments and partiality in 1 Timothy 5:19-22. Instead, he was to “observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). Neither misplaced sympathy (“You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute,” Exod. 23:3) nor a lingering grudge (“You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute, Exod. 23:6) must be allowed to distort justice (Lev. 19:15, 18). Fearing God protects us against partiality, but fearing men causes it (2 Chron. 19:5-7; Deut. 1:17). Our heavenly Father does not play favorites. He accepts all who fear Him and work righteousness (Acts 10:34-35). And He judges “without partiality…according to each one’s works” (1 Pet. 1:17). So may we develop the character of impartiality seen in God.
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:17–18, NKJV).
The gospel forbids retaliation and taking personal vengeance. To do so disrespects God and His righteous vengeance against evildoers: “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Therefore, Christians are to overcome evil with good by doing all we can to live peaceably with others (Rom. 12:21). We can seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:10-11; Heb. 12:14). For example, the carnally minded say, “I’ll never make peace with him because he wronged me.” But Christians are to be peacemakers, not conflict promoters (Matt. 5:9). The carnally minded say, “I’ll get even with him.” But Christians turn the other cheek instead of retaliating in kind (Matt. 5:38-42). The carnally minded say, “He wronged me once, and I’ll never trust him again.” But Christians forgive as God in Christ forgave us (Eph. 4:31-32). To be a peacemaker takes self-control, sacrifice, and selflessness. Wisdom from above is peaceable because it is “pure” and “willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Peace does not happen on its own. Peacemakers wisely sow “the fruit of righteousness” to “make peace” (James 3:18; Matt. 5:9).
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (Ephesians 1:17–19, NKJV).
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians was specific, praying God would give them “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (v. 17). Paul wanted them to have insight (“the spirit of wisdom”) and understanding in knowing God by His revelation of truth (cf. Eph. 3:3-4). Paul prayed that they would grasp an appreciation of the spiritual blessings derived through the wisdom of knowing God and His revelation. He describes this as “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened (v. 18). Divine revelation lights our way with truth (John 8:12, 31-32). With a spirit or mind of wisdom to follow His revelation, we obtain spiritual blessings that include: (1) Knowing the hope of His calling (v. 18). The gospel hope of rest and resurrection is central to the gospel (Matt. 11:28; 1 Cor. 15:19-20). (2) Knowing the riches of God’s inheritance in the saints (v. 18). In Christ, we share present spiritual riches and, finally, eternal life (cf. Mark 10:29-30; 1 Pet. 1:4-5). (3) Knowing the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward believers (v. 19). God’s power raised Jesus and works in us, His church, to achieve God’s purposes when we do His will (Eph. 1:20-23; 3:17, 20; Phil. 2:12-13). May God be glorified “in the church by Christ Jesus” for such wonderful spiritual blessings (Eph. 3:21; 1:3).
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).
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19, NKJV).
Unrestrained words lead to foolishness, sin, and sorrow. The wisdom of restraining our tongues is reiterated by James, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). Consider some of the sins that arise when one is captured by “the multitude of words.” (1) The sin of pride in one’s eloquence. Although we are confident the apostle Paul had command of rhetoric and eloquence, he made it a point not to parade such abilities when preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Likewise, while eloquent, Apollos drew attention to the Scriptures and not himself (Acts 18:24-25). His humility prepared him to learn the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26). Pride enters in when we try to impress others with many words. (2) The sin of misguided prayers. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt. 6:7). God’s attention is not gained by many words but by a contrite heart (Luke 18:13-14). God is not impressed by the multitude of words. After all, He made man’s mouth (Exod. 4:11). (3) The sin of foolishness. Wisdom advances righteousness and avoids evil by knowing when to speak and when to be silent (Eccl. 3:7). Fools spread slanderous insinuations, rushing headlong to their destruction, but “wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding” (Prov. 10:18, 14, 13).