“And They Waited To Accuse Him” ( Mark 3: 2, ESV ) by Carley Evans

Jesus is in the synagogue on the Sabbath; a man with a withered hand is also there. The Pharisees watch Jesus to see if He will heal the man unlawfully on the Sabbath. Jesus “grieves at their hardness of heart” and is angry that these religious leaders do not recognize that it is “lawful on the Sabbath to do good” rather than to do or allow harm. (Mark 3:5,4) And of course Jesus restores the man’s withered hand. The Pharisees immediately plot “how to destroy [Jesus]” “with the Herodians.” (Mark 3:6)

Jesus sees Matthew “sitting at the tax booth” and calls to him to follow. “And he rises and follows [Jesus].” (Matthew 9:9) Later, Jesus joins Matthew, other tax collectors, and sinners at a house; He reclines at the table amidst sinners. The Pharisees accuse, asking Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11) Jesus hears. He tells them that those who are well have no need of a doctor while those who are sick need healing. Then Jesus says, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'” (Matthew 9:13)

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” as do the Pharisees. “They always go astray in their heart; they do not know My ways. As I swear in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.'” (Hebrews 3:7-8,10-11)

“Seven Abominations” ( Proverbs 6: 16, ESV ) by Carley Evans

“Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

God mentions eyes, tongue, hands, heart, feet, lungs, (arms, legs — think about it.) The abominations which God hates are essentially the body parts of people who practice: haughtiness, deceit, wicked scheming, perjury, murder of the innocent, glorying in evil, and the sowing of discord. Their opposites are people who practice: humility, truthfulness, glorying in goodness, faithfulness in witness, protecting the innocent, and the sowing of harmony.

Peter writes that we “through the knowledge of [Christ]” and “through [His] precious and very great promises become partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:3,4) Because of this truth, Peter encourages us to “make every effort to supplement [our] faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7) We are not to “forget that [we] are cleansed from [our] former sins.” (2 Peter 1:9)

“Put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:1-3) For “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10) If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)

“The Narrow Gate” ( Matthew 8: 12 ) by Carley Evans

Jesus is impressed with a centurion who understands authority. The centurion asks Jesus to heal one of his servants who is paralyzed at home. When Jesus says, “‘I will come and heal him'” (Matthew 8:7) the centurion recognizes that it is enough for Jesus to speak healing words; He does not need to come to the house. Jesus marvels, and “says to those who follow Him, ‘Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.'” (Matthew 8:10)

In the next moment, Jesus says that while many who are not of Israel will “recline at the table in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 8:11) “the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

In a single statement, Jesus tells us of the existence of heaven and of hell. In heaven is joy and restoration; in hell is sorrow and destruction. In heaven is the presence of God; in hell is the final separation from God in a place of “outer darkness.” Both states of existence are eternal. Heaven is for the wise; hell is for the foolish.

Jesus warns that the road to destruction is wide, and many find it. After all, we are born on the road to destruction and so follow it naturally. But, the road to God is narrow and difficult to locate much less follow; and few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14) Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate.” (Matthew 7:13)

“And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who build his house on the Rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the Rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

“The Law Of Liberty” ( Galatians 5: 4, ESV ) by Carley Evans

“You were running well. Who hinders you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7) “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you are fallen away from grace.” Do you not recall “that whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it?” (James 2:10) “You are called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13) Remember, “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Galatians 5:14) “So, speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who shows no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12-13)

“Who Has Measured God?” ( Isaiah 40: 13, ESV ) by Carley Evans

I admit I am disturbed now and then by persons who seem to have figured out God — who speak as if God talks to them personally, directly on a regular basis, telling them big secrets, revealing Himself to them in some peculiar manner. Before you protest — I’m not saying that God is not known to speak to His children with that still voice, leading us to turn one time to the left, another time to the right. However, one of my cautions is checking that still voice against the Word; for there are times I hear a voice inside my mind, telling me something or other. I am always fearful it is my own self speaking and not my Lord at all. I am concerned that “behold, they are all a delusion; their words are nothing.” (Isaiah 41:29) After all, “to whom will [we] liken God, or what likeness compare with Him?” (Isaiah 40:18)

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the Word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:1-2,3)

We live in “the last days,” in the time in which God “speaks to us by His Son.” In these last days, there is no special knowledge reserved for only a few. Rather God has fully revealed Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ and through His Holy Spirit.

“Whom did [God] consult, and who made [God] understand?” Do we really believe we can measure the Lord of Hosts, that we can encapsulate Him inside our idea of His Truth? “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.” (Isaiah 40:28)

“Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord?” No one.

“A Restless Evil” ( Proverbs 25: 11, ESV ) by Carley Evans

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

“We all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell… No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” (James 3:2-10)

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged.” (James 5:9) “Do not boast and be false to the truth.” (James 3:14) “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:15-16)

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:26-27)

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.” (James 2:8)

“The Strength To Comprehend” ( Ephesians 2: 4-5, ESV ) by Carley Evans

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loves us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, makes us alive together with Christ — by grace you are saved.” Paul says, God is rich in mercy and filled with great love for us. God “makes us alive” and seals us “with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14) God “raises us up with Him and seats us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6) “For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) I pray you “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)

Lord, make us strong so that we may know the gift of Your grace, the richness of Your mercy, and the immensity of Your love, so that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Amen.

“Once For All” ( Hebrews 9: 12, ESV ) by Carley Evans

Christ, as High Priest, “enters once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Christ enters the holy places one time; that event is the only one required to “secure an eternal redemption” “for all” and a new covenant. “A death — [Christ’s] — occurs that redeems [us] from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9: 15) Simultaneously, Christ “does away with the first in order to establish the second.” (Hebrews 10:9) “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4) Instead, “Christ offers for all time a single sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:12) “By [this] single offering He perfects for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14) And so,”where there is forgiveness of [sins and lawless deeds], there is no longer any offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:17,18)

“Eyes On Jesus” ( Hebrews 12: 2, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

Let us “keep our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.” Once again, the Holy Spirit gives us a succinct picture of the good news. The gospel is here in this single statement — Jesus is both the source and the perfecter of our faith.

Therefore, our attention — our eyes — should be focused on Jesus, not on others and certainly not on our selves.

Now this is not to say we should not “lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us” and “run with endurance the race that lies before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Indeed we are called by the same Holy Spirit to do both. We are called to put off the old man and put on our new nature.

The good news, however, is that we “have been taken hold of by Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:12) Yet, we “pursue as [our] goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13) After all, “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) And our Savior has “the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” (Philippians 3:21)

Therefore, “everything that was a gain to [us], [we] consider to be a loss because of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7) Think of those things we once considered as gains: status, church standing, friends, obedience to rules and regulations. Now these have no value in our walk with God — Why? Because only Christ is the source and perfecter of our faith.

“At Peace With God” ( Romans 3: 26, HCSB ) by Carley Evans

What is God’s righteousness which “has been revealed?” (Romans 3:21) God’s righteousness is demonstrated “in His restraint” as “[He] passes over the sins previously committed.” (Romans 3:25) “For while we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:2) Therefore, God’s righteousness is demonstrated as “[He] presents [Christ] as a propitiation through faith in [His Son’s] blood.” “[God] is righteous and declares righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26) And so we see “[we] are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)

God restrains Himself now that Jesus has taken the sins of the world upon the crucifixion tree. And God declares righteous those who put their faith in Christ’s finished work.

If our righteousness — and therefore our inheritance — come through adherence to law rather than through faith, then “faith is made empty and the promise is canceled.” (Romans 4:14) “The promise is through faith, so that it may be according to grace.” (Romans 4:16) “[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25) “Therefore, since we are declared righteous by faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)