20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Colossians 2:20–22, NKJV)
The gospel of God calls sinners out of the world’s darkness into the light of fellowship with Christ (1 Pet. 2:9; 1 Cor. 1:9). The gospel calls us to no longer live according to the wisdom and will of the world, but by the truth of Christ (Jno. 8:31-32). Yet, just as in the first century, Christians must continue to be warned not to be ruled by the religious regulations of men. It is not God’s will that humanly devised expectations are bound upon people as if they were God’s will (1 Tim. 4:1-3). The “commandments and doctrines of men” have often taken the form of creeds and confessions through the ages, resulting in Protestant denominations. The inspired Scriptures are sufficient to define and regulate our lives (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). Yet, literally billions of souls religiously obligate themselves to things that “perish with the using.” Instead of this, obligate yourself to God’s word. It purifies the soul, it is incorruptible, and it abides forever (1 Pet. 1:22-25).
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV)
Jesus repeatedly used this exhortation (Matt. 13:9; Lk. 14:35; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Having “ears to hear” is about having a heart that is ready to accept the teachings of Christ. Jesus used a similar exhortation when He said, “He who is able to accept it, let him accept it” (Matt. 19:12). Ears are closed to hearing the gospel of the kingdom when hearts refuse to receive it. So then, our heart condition reveals whether or not we have “ears to hear” God’s word. This is the essential message of the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:3-9). The hard, closed heart does not receive the word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19). The shallow, emotional heart listens – until the cost of discipleship is too great (Matt. 13:20-21). The crowded heart is overtaken by other concerns that choke the word and prevent hearing and fruitfulness (Matt. 13:22). The good heart is the soil that listens to God’s word, understands it and bears fruit (Matt. 13:23). The good heart hears (receives) the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:18). We must guard against having ears that “are hard of hearing” God’s word (Matt. 13:13-15). If you have “ears to hear” it means your heart receives the word of God, holds it fast, and bears fruit with endurance (Lk. 8:8, 15). The good news is we can change our hearts and start having ears to hear by repenting, receiving the truth, and obeying it. Do you have ears to hear God’s word?
My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word. (Psalm 119:25, NKJV)
The Bible addresses the problem of being overwhelmed by grief, sorrow, and depression. Psalm 119:25-32 is a passage that helps when our heart is “in the dust,” and when it “melts from heaviness” (Psa. 119:28). When grief seems unbearable, when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, when anxieties immobilize us, God can revive (renew) our souls through His word. How is this possible? First, God’s word helps us trust in God’s way instead of in ourselves (Psa. 119:26). It produces faith and reveals priorities and goals upon which to focus, that help us maneuver life’s moments of doubt (Matt. 6:33-34). Second, as we mediate on it, God’s word helps us perceive His ways for our lives (Psa. 119:27). It teaches us what to concentrate our thinking upon so we can clear our minds of worldly clutter and concentrate on eternal things (Phil. 4:8). Third, rely on the strength of God’s word (Psa. 119:28). It is true, regardless of what others tell you. Its redemptive power can raise you out of sin’s despair to heavenly places (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 2:4-7). Fourth, instead of continuing to “cling to the dust,” deliberately choose “the way of truth” and cling to God’s testimonies (Psa. 119:30-31). Finally, stay the course (Psa. 119:32). Continue following God’s commands by faith, and your heart will be enlarged with His gracious blessings of salvation, hope, and eternal life (Psa. 119:32).
1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! 3 They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. (Psalm 119:1–3, NKJV)
Divine spiritual blessings are given the “undefiled.” (The word means to be “entire, complete, sound,” Strong’s, BDB.) They are undefiled (sound) in the way – they “walk in the law of the Lord” (v. 1). Does our obedience matter to God? Most certainty! (Disobedience is sin, and defiles our souls, 1 Jno. 3:4; Jas. 4:8.) We are not saved by Christ without obedience (Heb. 5:9; Mk. 16:16). The “undefiled” are not such because they have never sinned, but because their life is directed by the law of the Lord (Rom. 3:23). His testimonies are kept with a whole heart that seeks God and keeps His declarations (Matt. 6:24, 33). Does whether we understanding God’s word matter to God? Most certainly! (We must understand the word of God to obey it, Acts 8:30-38). That the undefiled “do no iniquity” reminds us of 1 John 3:6, “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him” (cf. vss. 4-10). Both passages describe practicing righteousness and practicing sin. Does it matter to God whether or not we sin? Most certainly! Righteousness, not sin, must rule the Christian’s life (Rom. 6:14-18). We do not say we “have no sin,” we repent and confess it when we do (1 Jno. 1:8-9). Thus, we refuse to walk in sin. Instead, we will walk in His ways, practicing His truth (1 Jno. 1:6-7).
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5, NKJV)
What is the work of an evangelist? Many, including some evangelists, either do not know or fail to appreciate what is his work. As a result, unscriptural, unrealistic expectations and demands are put upon him. This ought not be so. There is a work he must do, and for which he is accountable. An evangelist is a herald, a “bringer of good tidings” (Thayer, 257). He is a gospel preacher. Paul explained this in 2 Timothy 4:1-2: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word!” The evangelist’s work is not to entertain an audience with comedy and storytelling. His work is not measured by his eloquence (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:1, 4, 13). The work of the evangelist is not to be the church’s social coordinator. Preaching the gospel is about feeding souls, not feeding stomachs (Jno. 6:26-27). To do his work he must devote himself to “reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:13). He cannot preach what he does not know. Do not expect that of him. The evangelist must go into the pulpit and Bible studies prepared to proclaim the word of God. The work of preaching the gospel is not about filling time, it is about filling the time you have with the word of God. That is how the seed, God’s word, is planted into hearts (Lk. 8:11-15). That is your work, evangelist. Be sure you do that work. Do not be deterred and distracted by false definitions and expectations of your work.
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2–4, NKJV)
A Christian friend shared the following sign with me: “Too much sugar preaching leads to truth decay.” I like that. Just as we are drawn to the sugary high of candy (that leaves us without nutrition, and eventually with cavities), we can be lured away from sound doctrine by feel-good preaching (that fails to nourish our souls with truth, as it leaves spiritual decay of error in its wake). Do you “endure” (allow, bear with) sound doctrine, or have you replaced it with the soothing scratch of your itching ears? We must not become intolerant of Bible preaching that convinces, rebukes and exhorts. Preach me the word, because its truth convinces me of Christ, of my sin, and of His way of salvation. Preach me the word, because its truth rebukes my error, and does not comfort me in sin. Preach me the word, because its truth exhorts me to bear the image of Christ, to live by faith in holiness and righteousness of truth. The word is not always easy to accept, but it is exactly what we must hear, receive, and hold fast to be fruitful and blessed in the Lord (Lk. 8:15).
40 Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. 41 So he said, “Then bring some flour.” And he put it into the pot, and said, “Serve it to the people, that they may eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot. (2 Kings 4:40–41, NKJV)
There was a famine in Israel and food was scarce. When Elisha the prophet told his servant to make a pot of stew, someone gathered unknown herbs, vines and gourds for it, “though they did not know what there were” (2 Kings 4:38-39). Elisha miraculously cleansed the poisonous stew, and they ate without harm. When we eat spiritual food we must know what it is. The doctrines and commands of men are “death in the pot” and destroy our souls by taking us away from God’s truth (Gal. 1:6-9; Col. 2:20-23; 2 Jno. 9). The wisdom of the world causes spiritual death (1 Cor. 1:21; 2:6-7; 3:19). Yes, the spiritual food we “eat” matters! Be sure you partake of the Bread of Life (Jesus) by hearing, believing and following His word (John 6:27, 35, 48-58). He has the words of eternal life (John 6:60-68).