“Who is a God like You,
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
Because He delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18).
In this closing section of the book of Micah, the prophet poses a significant question to God. He is amazed that God can ultimately forgive the iniquities of His people in view of their extreme rebellion against His will.
In this book, the prophet alternates between enumerating the sins and moral corruption of God’s people and then telling them blessings are coming. He tells them of their impending punishment in captivity and then encourages them with the promise of restoration.
And now the prophet asks God, “How can You do such a thing?” How can You pardon iniquity and pass over the trespasses of such a rebellious, ungrateful people? Then, he answers his own question: “He delights in mercy!”
If we are honest, we cannot keep from asking ourselves the same question. In view of the attitudes we sometimes have and the mistakes we sometimes make, how can God pardon us? The answer: Because He really cares about us and desires that we bring ourselves under His mercy by submitting to His will. Our God, indeed, is an awesome God.
Third of a three-part study on Mark 4:21-23
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear’ ” (Mark 4:23).
While this verse clearly goes back to the message laid out in the Parable of the Sower—that is, that everyone is responsible for receiving the word properly—Jesus also sends a clear warning to these apostles.
The warning is clear and concise: Jesus tells them they had better use the ears God gave them for hearing—and the kind of hearing He is talking about is not casually taking in sound. He has clear reference to listening with the intent of heeding.
And this message resounds down to us today. If we have a sincere desire to go to Heaven and be with God someday, we must take heed how we hear the message of the gospel: it must be with an honest heart that is exacting, proving what we hear and holding fast to the message.
Second of a three-part study on Mark 4:21-23
“For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light” (Mark 4:22).
Even though a full understanding of the gospel had been withheld from the multitudes for the moment, Jesus says that at the proper time, everything they need to know for obedience will be revealed.
Essentially, Jesus is preparing the apostles for their full responsibility as they go into all the world to preach the gospel. He has explained the Parable of the Sower to them privately so that they can explain it publicly. And, as they accomplish this task, everyone will be able to hear and understand the gospel message clearly.
As well, this teaching can be carried to another level of meaning: in the resurrection, all of the prophecies will be understood, all of the mysteries will be revealed, all of the uncertainties will be clarified—everyone will have full understanding of the scheme of redemption at that time.
First of a three-part study on Mark 4:21-23
“Also He said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand?” (Mark 4:21).
Jesus has just taught the multitudes the Parable of the Sower following which He explains its meaning privately to His apostles. This parable emphasizes the importance of receiving the word with a ready mind.
Then, in this verse, He uses a “lamp” as a symbol of the word or more specifically of the gospel, which gives light to the World. And He uses a “basket” and a “bed” to represent suppression of the gospel.
So, even though the world is not yet ready to receive all of the gospel message, Jesus teaches His apostles here that they will become a beacon—a lampstand—whose purpose will be to transmit this spiritual light to the world.
Light is not meant to be hidden; rather, it is meant to be placed in a prominent position so that it can be seen by everyone, implying that the gospel message is to be known and understood by all.
“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).
Caring for others and having love for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ have been a central part of Christianity since the very beginning of Christianity. In fact, even in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus includes the idea of brotherly love in His teaching.
If love is an integral part of the fabric of Christianity, then our hearts will be in the right place and our actions will demonstrate the love that is there. Peter teaches that our love is to be pure: that is, our hearts, our thinking, and our motivations must be in the right place if we are to be faithful children.
Peter joins the ranks of not only Jesus but also other New Testament writers in emphasizing the importance of the love Christians are to have for one another. But none of these writers ever failed to place equal emphasis on “obeying the truth.” Love never displaces obedience to God’s divine will; but, rather, the two work hand in hand as we conduct our lives as God would have us to.
“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (2 Peter 2:1-2).
Nothing is more important in our lives than growth—physical and spiritual growth. Physically, we understand the concept of growth: with proper soil, planting, and tending, plants grow; with proper nutrition and exercise, children grow; and the same is true for animals.
From a spiritual perspective, growth is a central theme in the New Testament. In fact, twenty-four passages insist that we are to grow up in Christ. Scholars define the words “grow up” as follows: “increase in power and strength; bring up to manhood; increase in size; to grow up in union with Christ.”
As well, the writings of the New Testament issue an imperative—not an option—that we grow up in every way as a Christian: in our relationship with Jesus, in living lives that resemble the kind of life that Jesus lived, in our union with Him, and in our dedication to Him.
Fulfilling this mandate requires that we immerse ourselves in His word, beginning with a proper understanding of the basic elements (the pure milk) and moving on to more complex issues (the meat). Only then can we mature into the kind of Christian He wants us to be.
“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless” (James 1:26).
“Think before you speak” is an axiom that has been handed down for generations, and it is well that it has been because this principle has a firm base in scripture. Exhortations to control the tongue, as well as to exercise self-control in all areas of life, abound in both the Old and New Testaments.
James is the New Testament writer who has much to say about the necessity of controlling the tongue. His most aggressive statement has to be the one found in this passage. It is one thing to say that a person is weak in the faith, but to say that his religion is useless takes the situation to an entirely new level.
The lesson is clear. We must think carefully about the impact of our words before we let them fly from our lips. What we say to others can come across to them in ways we never intended. Words can cause hurt, they can cause division, they can cause confusion. But we must weigh our words so that none of these is a problem.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8)
At one time, the Ephesian Christians, Gentiles in the flesh, were under a cloak of darkness, ignorant of God’s plan for spiritual enlightenment; but when they obeyed the gospel, they moved into a sphere of light.
Consequently, the Apostle Paul issues a direct command: he says “walk,” meaning “conduct your lives”; and then he says, “as children of light,” meaning they should allow their lives to show they are living in the light of God’s instruction.
This instruction is a terse description of the human condition. Each of us who has obeyed the gospel was, at one time, in spiritual darkness, separated from God; but when we came to the Lord, we stepped into the light of the gospel. Thus, Paul says, we should live our lives in a way that demonstrates that fact.
“Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. … For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen” (1 Corinthians 15:15-16).
Paul has preached vigorously the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the Corinthians because false teaching has arisen among them. There are those who said the dead do not rise. In fact, some prominent Jews, the Sadducees, promoted that doctrine, even though some of them had been around when Jesus was resurrected.
The apostle here uses logic in refuting that doctrine, even calling himself a false witness if Jesus had not been raised. If the dead don’t rise, then Jesus could not have been raised; thus, all are still in their sins.
The scriptures are convincing as they affirm the reality of the resurrection. Jesus arose from the dead after His crucifixion; thus, the dead do rise. As a result, it is sobering to realize that we, too, will be resurrected and will receive our final judgment.
“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).
The Apostle Paul re-emphasizes a significant point Jesus made one day when he was having a discussion with a lawyer: Jesus taught that loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is the second of the great commandments.
Love is an outward demonstration of care and concern for others whether they are with us or far away and whether or not they have an immediate need. Our neighbor is anyone, regardless of social standing, position in society, or close ties with us.
Paul takes a broad stroke across human nature here in reiterating the principle Jesus had laid down. This kind of love is mandatory for the follower of Christ, and it is inclusive, including those who do not show love to us as well as those who do.