This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on February 20, 2015
The scriptures make a powerful case for the importance of God’s word. The phrase, “Thus says the Lord,” for example, appears more than 400 times in the Old Testament. It is a signature phrase used by the prophets when introducing a message from God. It signifies the authority for the statement that follows and certifies that the statement is not of the prophet’s own devising, but is indeed from God Himself.
Time after time Moses reminded the people of Israel to keep the word of God in every aspect of their lives. They had to know God’s word and obey it in order to receive His blessings in the Promised Land. If they did not know and obey God’s word, they would suffer His wrath. Moses often punctuated these reminders by telling Israel not to stray from God’s word either to the right hand or to the left. One cannot read the Old Testament without seeing the necessity of knowing God’s word and obeying it.
However, some professed believers today act as though somehow God’s revealed word is not as important as it once was. They speak of “knowing Jesus” as if it is some mystical thing that envelopes them like a foggy night. They often look down upon those who stress the importance of reading and knowing scripture, as though reliance on the written word somehow separates one from the Savior. When pressed, they will attest that they believe in God’s word, but their attitudes toward it and their actions suggest that their feelings are far more important to them.
When we honestly read the New Testament, we discover that God has not changed His attitude about His word. He still requires that we know and obey His word in order to receive His blessings. One of the places where this truth is powerfully proclaimed in the New Testament is Jas. 1:21. Here James said, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”
James’ choice of words in this verse is interesting and very meaningful. He said it is the “implanted” word that is able to save one’s soul. This means that the word of God must abide within one’s heart in order to bear the “fruit” of salvation. The most obvious illustration of this truth is a farmer and the seed from which he wishes to harvest a crop. So long as the seed sits in a bag in his barn, it cannot produce a crop, and he is foolish to expect it to do so. Only when the farmer has planted the seed in the ground and watered and nurtured it, will a crop grow and fruit be produced.
In the same way, as long as our Bibles sit on the shelf unopened and unread, the word of God will not produce salvation for us. Only when we open God’s word, plant it in our hearts, and nurture it there will we know God’s will and obey it. Only then will we receive the salvation for which God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross.
We cannot implant the word of God in our hearts unless we devote ourselves to it and to doing what it commands us. Systematic study is essential to knowing God’s will, but until we do what the scriptures command us to do, the word will not bear fruit in our lives. In Jas. 1:22 James said, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” This is the rest of the story. One who hears (or reads) God’s word and does it, has implanted the word in his heart. The implanted word will bear the fruit of salvation in that person’s life and that person will have a home in heaven at the end of time.
This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on January 14, 2015.
The picture above recently appeared on Facebook. It depicts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden at the moment they sinned against God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The comment attributed to Eve in the caption at the bottom of the picture is a common attitude expressed by many today.
While we may not have heard this idea in reference to Adam and Eve in the Garden, most of us have indeed heard it in other contexts. It is the trump card usually played by one whose conduct or attitude has come under criticism. In the face of reproof from God’s word, the offending party will often brush the criticism aside by asserting that God does not care about rules, but only about the condition of one’s heart. The implication is that if one loves God in his or her heart, then God is pleased, no matter what that person may or may not do. Also implied in this statement is that “rule keepers” are actually hypocrites who really don’t love God in their hearts.
As is the case with most lies, there is a kernel of truth in this assertion. The Pharisees were the premier rule keepers of their day, but the Lord correctly identified them as hypocrites, whose hearts were far away from God (Mt. 15:8, 9). They were hypocrites, not because of their insistence on obedience to God’s commands, but because they were voiding God’s commands by their human traditions. This is very different from the sincere chastisement given to one who has strayed from God’s will.
It is true, of course, that God looks at the heart. In 1 Sam. 16:7 Samuel the prophet learned this when he looked upon the sons of Jesse trying to determine which one of them God wanted to be king of Israel. The Lord said, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Samuel was impressed with the physical attributes of Jesse’s older sons, but God had chosen the youngest, David, to be king because he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14).
The fact that God looks at the heart does not, however, discount the fact that He requires mankind to obey His commandments. David is an excellent example of this truth. David was a man after God’s own heart because he obeyed God’s commands. His good heart led him to respect God’s will and to do his very best to always obey it. The love he held in his heart for God was demonstrated by his obedience. If he had done otherwise, he would not have had the right kind of heart.
This is what is lost on those who claim that their hearts are right with God even as they do their own thing in their worship and walk with Him. The one who loves God obeys His commands. The one who disobeys God’s commands does not love Him. Our Lord and Savior made this very point on the night of His betrayal. In Jn. 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” He made the same point using different words in Jn. 4:24. Jesus told the woman at the well, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
God is not pleased by actions performed superficially, no matter how correct their form. Neither is He pleased by warm, heartfelt actions that have the appearance of love, but which violate His revealed will. God requires us to love Him sincerely, from the heart, and to demonstrate that love by our obedience to His commands.
On February 14th we celebrate a special day to commemorate our love. We give flowers and candy, we plan romantic dinners and we send cards that express our devotion for that one special person in our life. We sing songs that extol the fervency of our affection, and we make a special effort to demonstrate the love that we hold for that person the year round. Even the most “macho” of men will find ways to express tenderness on this one day of the year.
The gifts we give on such an occasion, no matter how expensive or how simple, are usually accepted with great joy. Everyone appreciates being loved, and even the smallest expressions of love touch us deeply. This is one reason why mothers tend to keep and to cherish the little hand-made cards and trinkets that their children give them. It is also why a wife will keep every Valentine card her husband has ever given her.
We understand that true love is much more than the size or monetary value of a gift given on a special occasion. In fact, we treasure the daily expressions of love, and count them to be more indicative of love, than even the most elaborate and expensive of gifts. A fancy gift on a special day does not make up for unspoken love the rest of the time. What we desire more than anything is a demonstration of love in all the ups and downs of life. We want to know that our husband or wife is giving his or her very best each and every day. This is how it works in the most successful marriages (although gifts on special occasions are also appreciated and must not be neglected!).
As Christians, we are the recipients of the best of both worlds in this regard. We have the daily gift of God’s love as He blesses our lives with all that we need (Mt. 6:33). We have the ongoing presence of His Holy Spirit, who has been given to us as the pledge of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14). We have His promise that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist it (1 Cor. 10:13), and we have the assurance that He will never desert us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). All of these things demonstrate God’s love for us each and every day of our lives.
In addition to this, He has given us the greatest gift that could possibly be given to us. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16, NASB). Jesus told His disciples that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends (Jn. 15:13). This He did for each of us when He shed His precious blood on Calvary as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He did it because God loved us, even while we were yet sinners, and because He loved us as well (Rom. 5:8). There is no greater love that could be shown to us.
As the recipients of such love, it behooves us to do two things. First, we must show our appreciation for it by always obeying the Lord’s commands. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). If we do this, the Lord’s sacrifice of love will not have been in vain. Second, we will love one another, even as our Father and His Son have loved us. John said, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:7, 8). What God has done for us, we must do for each other, for there is no greater love than this.
In Gen. 6:5 the scripture says, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” These words describe the sorry conditions that led God to destroy all life on the earth, except for those who were saved in the Ark. The text does not tell us the specific wickedness that was prevalent on the earth, but we may safely conclude that it involved every kind of ungodly behavior that is common to mankind.
If we wonder what it must have been like in that long-ago time, all we have to do is take a look at the state of things today. There is no question that our current culture is very much like that described in Gen. 6:5. All around us we see wickedness and ungodly behavior glorified in society. One of the most obvious evidences of this fact is our culture’s obsession with sex, and its shameless promotion of ungodly sexual conduct. It has gotten so bad that even the advertising on television is flooded with sexually-charged images and innuendos.
The influence of this ungodliness cannot be overstated. The more we are exposed to these things, the more likely we will become tolerant of them. When we become more tolerant of such things, we will be more likely to engage in them ourselves. This is a fact of human nature that our God fully understands. This is why His word is so outspoken against sexual immorality.
In Eph. 5:3-5 Paul said, “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” He went on in vs. 11-12 to say that we must not participate in such unfruitful deeds of darkness, but should rather expose them. He added that it is disgraceful even to speak of such things.
The Greek word that is translated “immorality” in these verses is porneia. This is the word from which our English word “pornography” is derived. It is a word that refers to any kind of sexual immorality. In the context, then, Paul is telling us that we cannot be sexually immoral and expect to enter the kingdom of Christ. This flies in the face of our culture, which wants us to believe that there is nothing wrong with “a little sex”. God’s word, however, warns us that sexual activity is a blessing that is limited to a man and his wife within the bounds of holy matrimony. Any other sexual activity is immorality, and it will keep those who practice it out of heaven at the end of time.
In 1 Cor. 6:18-20 Paul tells us to flee sexual immorality because our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and we are not our own. He says, “Flee immorality (that is, sexual immorality). Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” We have been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, and we must glorify God in all that we do. And here is the key to achieving this: we must flee from sexual immorality. We cannot expose ourselves to sexually immoral images and themes lest they lead us into sin. Those who do such things place their souls in eternal jeopardy.
Thankfully, sexual immorality can be forgiven if we confess our sins and seek the Lord’s forgiveness in accordance with His word. In 1 Cor. 6:9-11 Paul said some of the Corinthians had been sexually immoral before they became Christians, but they had been washed by the blood of Christ. Their sins were forgiven when they were baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-7), and they were made new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). For this reason, they were no longer their own but the Lord’s, and the apostle commanded them to live sexually pure lives.
Do not be seduced by our ungodly society. Flee sexual immorality in all its forms. Those who live sexually pure lives will enjoy richer lives here on earth, and eternal life in heaven at the end of time.