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“What Will You Give In Exchange?”

Friday, December 18, 2020

            Our Lord Jesus asked His apostles, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8:36-37). These questions of Christ get my attention. In an age when we are told that possessing material goods is the purpose of life, we need to go back and listen to the Lord’s words here.

            Please understand that one’s soul is his greatest possession. The eternal soul of man is of such value that Jesus died so that men’s souls might be saved (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 5:8-9). The eternal soul of man is just that -- eternal. It will last after this world is on fire (II Pet. 3:10)! It is the immortal soul that continues. “Then shall the dust (our bodies) return to the earth as it was,” but the spirit of man will return to God’s care  (Ecc. 12:7). Do we appreciate the true value of the soul?

            I am not sure we always appreciate the value of the soul. As I observe men, I see them exchange their eternal souls for doctrinal error (Gal. 1:6-9, 3:1; Rom. 16:17; II Pet. 2:1-3). I see others exchanging their souls for drinking and drugs (I Pet. 4:3-4; Prov. 20:1; Gal. 5:19-21). Still, others will exchange their souls for ungodly acts like stealing, fornication, homosexuality, and lying (I Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:8; Eph. 4:25-32). In other words, folks are saying that practicing these things are more important and are of a higher value than their souls’ salvation. Please reread Mark 8:36. What is actually gained when folks spend their lives in such sins?

            We are very short-sighted, aren’t we? We think satisfying the flesh will result in a satisfied soul. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The fact is that if someone were able to acquire all of the gold in the world, the silver, the diamonds, the precious gems, the money, etc., none of this would equal the value of his soul.

Some, though, don’t even need this much to exchange their souls! Some will jeopardize their souls and even deny plain Scriptures to avoid contradicting family members or some respected person (Jn. 1:11; Mk. 7:6, 8-9, 13). Some do it by yielding to others’ ungodly pressure rather than listening to God (Lk. 8:13; Jn. 12:42-43). Yet, others exchange their souls by going back into the world after learning the truth (Lk. 8:14; II Tim. 4:10)! (Notice that I added Scripture references to show that the problems that plague us are the same problems that plagued people in the first century!)

            Is it any wonder the words of Christ, not only in Mark 8 but throughout Scripture, are applicable today? Our needs and concerns are the same now as they were then. Our need to stand firm and hold tightly to our soul’s salvation is just as needed now as it ever was (I Thess. 5:21; II Tim. 1:13; Heb. 10:23)!

            Friend, what will you give in exchange for your soul? Could it be you have already done this? Some folks are exchanging their souls for personal pursuits, personal sins, and pleasing self, and they are being short-changed! Don’t allow this to happen to you!

            We can avoid this happening to us when we deny ourselves and follow the Lord (Mk. 8:34)! We can prevent this by determining to live by faith (Jn. 8:24; Heb. 11:6) and being baptized for the remission of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Then, we need to live a faithful life to the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). Let us present our bodies as “a living sacrifice” to God (Rom. 12:1-2). We can make sure that our souls are not exchanged for the wrong things, but these kinds of actions and decisions must be made today! Now (II Cor. 6:2)! Some wait until it is too late. Don’t be like them!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“The Traditions Of Men Vs. The Word Of God.”

Thursday, December 17, 2020

            The Pharisees were constantly at odds with Jesus and His disciples. No occasion makes it more defined than Mark 7:1-16. There, the Pharisees confronted Jesus and His disciples for not keeping “the tradition of the elders” (v. 3, 5). Mark explains that these people held their traditions in high regard. One such tradition had to do with the washing of their hands. They had been taught that unless one washes his hands to his elbows before eating, then the food he eats is considered unclean by God. By extension, eating this unclean food made the person unclean as well. Similarly, there was a demand for washing the pots, cups, and other vessels holding the food. Jesus would later say that He was more concerned about what came out of the mouth rather than what was put into the mouth (Mk. 7:15; Matt. 15:17-20).

            Jesus then pointed out that they had another tradition that if someone gave a gift to the Temple, this exempted him from providing needed money and care to his parents (“Corban” - Mk. 7:11-13). This person could say essentially, “I gave at the Temple” rather than giving needed funds to his parents. Jesus said this and several other traditions had “made God’s word of none effect” (Mk. 7:13). God never intended for His commands to be placed at odds against each other. The Law of Moses granted people the ability to give a gift to the Temple and care for their parents. The Pharisees, in contrast, encouraged them to do one thing and exclude the other.

            What does “tradition” mean? A tradition is simply something we’ve done for a long time. We can certainly think of many things we do as individuals, as a community, as a church, and as a nation that fit in the category of “traditional.” Traditions are not equal with inspired Scripture, though (II Tim. 3:16-17)! After reading Mark 7, we might all agree that it is a good idea to wash one’s hands and eat off of clean plates. Yet, Jesus showed how the people’s traditions had become sinful because they “set aside” God’s commands and made God’s word “of none effect” (Mk. 7:8, 13). Traditions in and of themselves aren’t necessarily sinful. It is when we place our traditions above God’s revealed will that we have a problem!

This is why I titled this essay “The Traditions Of Men Vs. The Word Of God.” If we are not careful, we will end up treating a tradition as truth or as an unbreakable command when, in reality, it is not in that category at all! Let me hasten to add this is not an article condemning everything “traditional.” Paul even wrote to the Thessalonians and reminded them that some traditions come from God (II Thess. 2:15). Indeed, there are many things Christians (and non-Christians) do that, while traditional, aren’t sinful. Mark 7 (and Matthew 15) reveal, though, that men placing traditions above God’s commands is a real possibility. After years of practicing these, the Pharisees preferred their traditions to God’s word. In so doing, Jesus said they were sinning.

            How can I know whether or not a tradition I am practicing will place me at odds with God’s word? A simple test is: Ask whether or not my tradition came from God (II Thess. 2:15, 3:6; I Pet. 4:11)? Am I doing something simply because “Dad and Mom” liked it, or a preacher said to do it, or because we as a nation have “always done it”? Am I doing something because I have found it authorized in the Bible (II Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:17)? Traditions can lead me into sin if I give them as much respect as I do the word of God.

When we look at traditions from this perspective, I hope we see that there are many things we do that can be called “traditional.” Are any of these traditions obstacles to our spiritual growth? If so, then those need to end! Practicing man’s traditions is not worth losing our souls (Matt. 16:26)!

God’s word must come first in my life (Matt. 6:33)! After that, everything else must fall into place. When we get this in the wrong order, we will have problems, but when we do it right, we will be blessed! The Pharisees’ problem was they placed their traditions above God’s will and were condemned for it. It got so bad they refused to recognize Jesus as Christ because He didn’t fit what they wanted. Let us learn the lesson and put Christ and the gospel first and lay our traditions aside when they conflict with what Christ has said! Let us get this right because our traditions will die one day, but the word of God will never pass away (Matt. 24:35; I Pet. 1:25; Ps. 119:89; etc.)!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Twelve Baskets, Seven Baskets”

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

            On two occasions, Jesus fed a multitude of people. We estimate 10,000 or more were fed based on Mark 6:44 and Mark 8:8. I’m sure we’ve heard and read about these miracles in the past. In Mark 6, we learn that Jesus fed 5000 men (not counting women and children, Matt. 14:21), and in Mark 8, he said Jesus fed 4000. This was done with a tiny amount of food in comparison to those who needed to be fed. In Mark 5, Jesus fed the multitude with five barley loves and two small fish, while in Mark 8, we read that Jesus had seven loaves and a few fish.

            The miracle of feeding great numbers with a small amount of food is a wonderful event worthy of our awe and respect. Feeding 5000+ (Matt. 14:21) motivated some people to want to force Christ to be a king (Jn. 6:15). Yet, this wasn’t the point of the miracle(s). In fact, feeding these great numbers should have brought the people’s minds back to events that happened in Old Testament days. One such example is what Elisha did in II Kings 4:42-44.

            Of course, Christ’s compassion motivated Him to feed the people (Mk. 6:34, 8:2), and at the same time, this miracle would show people again that He is the Son of God, not merely a good teacher or a good leader. However, what gets my attention is that both times the miracle was performed, there were leftovers! Can you imagine this? Just having enough food to feed more than one person was something. Then to think of His ability to feed the people until they were full (Mk. 6:42, 8:8) is a miracle! Now, we read in Scripture that there was not only food, but enough to fill the people, and so much food that there were leftovers?? Amazing! Praise be to God!

            Could there be any significance to the fact that one miracle produced leftovers that filled twelve baskets while another filled seven baskets? That number hasn’t escaped my notice. Jesus didn’t say much about the result of those miracles except the time He chastised the apostles for not understanding what He meant by “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6-12, Mk. 8:14-21). However, could there be something worth considering when we think of the numbers 12 and 7? I am willing to discuss this, but could it be that twelve baskets were left so that the twelve apostles had something they could touch and remember? John 6:5-7 gives us some insight into the apostles’ attitude, and it seems they doubted how the people would get fed anyway. “Two hundred pennyworth” (nearly a year’s wages) wasn’t enough to feed everyone, Philip estimated. Thus, at the end of the miracle, each apostle had gathered a basket of food.

            The feeding of the 4000 resulted in seven baskets of leftovers (Mk. 8:8). To the Jews, “7” represented perfection. The perfect number of baskets leftover certainly would be the “perfect” end to a miracle where so many were fed.

            Even if you disagree with the application I made, I know we can all agree that Jesus is the One who can supply our needs (Matt. 6:25-33). He made this abundantly clear that He could feed the people so that they would be well-supplied for the journey to their homes. Jesus lived on this earth for 33 years, and He knows man’s physical and spiritual needs (Heb. 4:15). Beginning with a small amount and producing leftovers reminds me of God’s promise in Malachi 3:10 to His people.

            Jesus came to this world that men might “have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Isn’t the feeding of 5000 and 4000 object lessons of this truth? If Christ can provide abundant physical food, can we not also have abundant spiritual blessings? I believe so! Jesus has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3). Are we appreciative? Have we noticed what He has provided? Indeed, we have access to so much in the Lord that even the “leftovers” are more than anyone could fathom!

            Are you a Christian? If not, why not? The chasm and blackness that fills your soul can be filled and enlightened when you come to the Lord for salvation (Acts 2:38; Mk. 16:16)! Living the life of a Christian is a beautiful blessing wherein we have “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17). Do you believe the miracles occurred concerning the feeding of the masses? If so, what is stopping you from partaking of the spiritual food and spiritual water that can sustain you for eternity? Indeed, this is available in unlimited supply!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“John the Baptist”

Saturday, December 12, 2020

                   John the Baptist (or John the Immerser) stands as a key figure in Bible history. It was he who was the forerunner for Christ. He “prepared the way” for Jesus by preaching repentance and telling folks the Messiah would soon be on earth (Mk. 1:2-5). In his humility, he was quick to tell people that he wasn’t the Messiah (Jn. 3:28). John thought he wasn’t worthy to untie the Messiah’s shoes (Mk. 1:7)! In our vernacular, he was like the best man at a wedding (Jn. 3:29). He would rejoice for the groom and get out of the way (Jn. 3:30)! Those who have studied about John say that the majority of his work took place over a matter of months. Not only this, but his work overlapped with Christ’s, though John was finishing up as Christ was starting!

                   Mark 6 records a day that would change the course of John’s life. We know John had preached about the need for repentance (Mk. 1:4; Matt. 3:2). Yet, there was a time in which John made things “personal.” He stood up to Herod and let him know it wasn’t lawful that he’d be married to his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias (Mk. 6:17-18). John stood for the truth, and though imprisoned for preaching the truth and ultimately losing his life, he didn’t back down, apologize, or compromise the truth.

                   Such an example ought to cause us to stand up and cheer. John takes his place with so many Old and New Testament worthies who chose death over compromise (Heb. 11:32-39; Acts 7:54-60; Rev. 2:13). His brave actions haunted wicked Herod afterward. We see that when Jesus began His preaching in earnest, Herod was convinced that Jesus was actually John that he had killed. Now, we know why the apostles told Jesus that some thought Him to be John (Matt. 16:14). It is because Herod insisted John had been raised from the dead and was preaching once more (Mk. 6:14-16).

                   Why might Herod have made any connection at all between Jesus and John? May I suggest it’s based upon the subject matter in His preaching? Jesus came preaching, “repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17), as did John (Matt. 3:2). Jesus didn’t compromise with those in error when preaching (Mk. 7:5-16), and neither did John (Mk. 6:18). Even in death, we see that just as the disciples laid John’s corpse in a tomb (Mk. 6:29), so did the disciples of Christ do this for His corpse (Matt. 27:57-60). Of course, the difference is that in three days, Jesus resurrected while John’s body remained in the grave (I Cor. 15:1-8).

                   Later, there were people who took note of the fact that the apostles had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Why did they say this? For many of the same reasons, Herod saw a similarity in the teaching of John and Christ. In light of these facts, I have a simple question to ask.

                   Who do people think of when they see you? Do your actions and words remind people of Christ or someone else? Christ left you an example that you might follow in His steps (I Pet. 2:21). Are you following Him? If not, why not? When people see you, do they see Christ in you (Gal. 2:20; Matt. 5:16)? If not, who do they see and why? Herod saw a connection between John and Jesus. Does the world see a connection between you and Christ?

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Thy Faith Hath Made thee Whole.”

Friday, December 11, 2020

            Interruptions are frustrating, aren’t they? Interruptions might slow us down or even stop us from doing what we’d planned to do. Someone has said that we ought not to be so frustrated by interruptions. Perhaps it is that this is the time God wants us to slow down and reconsider our plans.  I’m not sure we could say that’s true for every interruption, but perhaps this observation has some merit on occasions when God’s providence is at work.

            Have we ever noticed that Jesus was interrupted a lot in His work? One such interruption came in Mark 5:21-43. After Jesus returned from Gadara, on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, He was met by a great crowd. Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, fought the people to ask Christ to heal his daughter, who was very sick (v. 23). As Jesus traveled to Jairus’ house, a lady who’d been stricken with illness for 12 years came to Him and touched the hem of his garment for healing (v. 28-29).

Her act stopped Jesus. It interrupted the trip to Jairus’ house in that moment. Her action wasn’t unknown to Jesus. He is God and knows all (Jn. 2:25, 6:64; Acts 15:18;  Heb. 4:13). His question to her wasn’t unlike the question God asked in the Garden (Gen. 3:9). His question caused her to stop and she confessed to what she had done when she interrupted Him (Mk. 5:33).

            Notice Christ’s response to this lady. “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace and be whole of thy plague” (Mk. 5:34). This interruption did more than just stop Jesus. It allowed Him to do some vital teaching. In this account, He taught the apostles, and teaches us!

What does Christ teach us in Mark 5? He teaches us that the faith that saves isn’t merely a mental assent. If this woman had stood out of the way and merely stated her belief to others that Jesus could heal her, it would’ve done nothing for her. She had to act! James teaches us the same truth when he declares, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24) and “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:26)!

            When we study this short but powerful interruption, we see a woman who definitely believed that Jesus is the Son of God. This is why she decided to go and meet Jesus. She fought the crowd (Mk. 5:27). She reached for Christ’s garment (Mk. 5:28), trusting that even to touch His garment meant healing. Later, she’d confess what she did (Mk. 5:33). Therefore, after she’d believed and acted on this faith by going to where Jesus was, fighting the crowds, and touching His garment, she then confessed her faith to Christ. In response, Jesus commended her saying, “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mk. 5:34).

            Yes, friends, the faith that saves is the faith that obeys! It motivates us to act when we might not have acted otherwise. This is Bible faith! Do you have Bible faith? If not, why not? Without this, we can’t please God (Heb. 11:6). How do we get such faith? Faith comes by hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17), and then this faith grows by being exercised (Heb. 11; Rom. 16:1-15)! What kind of faith do you have? Is it living or dead (Jas. 2:26)? Are we acting on our faith as the woman did in Mark 5, or are we too afraid?

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

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