Jesus warns that those who suffer are not worse sinners than others. He uses the example of eighteen who are killed when the tower in Siloam falls on them. He says these are not “worse offenders than all the others who live in Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:4) Then Jesus twice tells us that “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3,5)
Sin is sin, says Jesus. We all alike are sheep gone astray, and unless we repent and rely upon the sacrifice of Jesus, we die in our sin.
A woman is caught in adultery, and the Pharisees bring her to Jesus for judgment. The Pharisees challenge the Lord to follow the Law of Moses, which calls for the woman to be stoned to death. They rhetorically ask,”So what do You say?” (John 8:5) Jesus writes in the dirt. When He stands, He says to the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) He writes in the dirt again. One by one, the Pharisees walk away, “beginning with the older ones” until Jesus and the woman are alone. (John 8:9) Jesus stands up, looks at the woman and asks her where her accusers have gone. He wants to know if anyone is left to accuse her. And she says, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11)
Jesus tells her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)
Repent, or perish; sin is sin; all alike are gone astray. And, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.” I can hear Him say, “Why would I condemn you? I came here to earth to save you, not to judge you. My blood covers your sin. You suffer, but not any more than anyone else. Come; turn and follow Me.”
Peter writes that after we suffer awhile, specifically a little while, “the God of all grace, who calls [us] to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish [us].” God isn’t going to relegate His responsibilities to anyone else, including us. Yes, Peter calls us to resist our adversary who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:9,8) But Peter knows, as should we, that it is God the Holy Spirit who enables us to “be sober-minded [and] watchful” and to stand “firm in [our] faith.” (1 Peter 5:8,9) This is the reason Peter exhorts us to “cast all [our] anxieties on Him.” After all, says Peter, Christ “cares for [us].”
Jesus cares for us. Let that truth sink into your heart. Jesus loves us. He loves us enough to give His life for us. Even when we are His enemies, He dies for us. Paul reminds us that if Jesus is willing to die for us when we are His enemies, how much more is He willing and able to give to us now that He has made us His friends!
When you believe in Him, that is, in Jesus Christ you are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of [your] inheritance until [you] acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
What you will acquire eventually is your inheritance. What you acquire now, in conjunction with your belief in Jesus Christ, is God the Holy Spirit. He is your seal, similar to a stamp of ownership in that you are purchased by the blood of Christ crucified. His blood buys you for God the Father, and His Holy Spirit guarantees your acceptance into the family of God.
Your inheritance is one you share with Israel. Israel is predestined to be the nation of God. You also – because you “hear the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation” and believe – are a child of God.
Therefore, “having the eyes of your heart enlightened… [you] know what is the hope to which He calls you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
You are called to hope, to a rich inheritance through Christ’s great power to save. And, you are sealed with God, the promised Holy Spirit.
God calls us out. He says, ‘Don’t be smug and satisfied with yourself. This complacency is the mark of the foolish, of the simple.’
“To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:2-7)
The awe – the fear – of God is the starting line for instruction in wisdom. Now that you have put your hand to the wheel, begun the race, started to build, don’t shrink back. Run the full race. Seek instruction, says God. Desire discretion. Hope and strive “to understand words of insight.”
Don’t be complacent, self-satisfied and proud of your spirituality.
“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: ‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:20-22)
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
James asks, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” And answers, “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1-3)
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11) Therefore, “do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged.” (James 5:9) “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.” (Proverbs 19:5) Therefore,”do not swear, either by heaven and by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5:12)
“Who is wise and understanding among you?” asks James, and answers, “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” (James 4:13) “In the meekness of wisdom” is restraint. “Whoever keeps his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23) “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.” (James 3:6) “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. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:9-10)
Lord God, our Maker, forgive us for rising so quickly to anger and dissension. Forgive us for and heal us from bitterness and rage. Help us to reign over our passions. Keep us meek and wise. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
God promises, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, My great army, which I sent among you.” God tells us that He sends His great army against us, to swarm, eat, and destroy. As God comes against us, we cry aloud in despair,”Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us: look, and see our disgrace!” (Lamentations 5:1) “Our pursuers are at our necks, we are weary; we are given no rest.” (Lamentations 5:5) “The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning. The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned!” (Lamentations 5:15-16)
After our near total destruction because of our unrecognized sins, the Lord restores to us all He has taken — “what the swarming locust has eaten.” With this restoration, God pours out His Spirit. His great promise comes true: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh: your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit.” (Joel 2:28-29) “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32)
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong, fear not!'” (Isaiah 35:3-4) “‘He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.” (Isaiah 35:5-7)
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
What are these “dead works” the author of Hebrews mentions? I want to travel back to Job, and suggest that the good things Job did in his life are “dead works.” “All our good deeds are as filthy rags” to the Lord God.
“Only in the Lord, it shall be said of Me, are righteousness and strength.” (Isaiah 45:24) “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I Am God, and there is no other; I Am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all My purpose.” (Isaiah 46:8-10)
“Woe to him who strives with Him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’ ” (Isaiah 45:9-10)
Do not argue with your Creator. Don’t be fooled into believing that if you do this and don’t do that, if you strive with all your might to be good, you somehow please Him. Believe instead that Christ “entered 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 eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12) Believe that “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)
As we have been delivered from “dead works,” we are now free “to serve the living God.”