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"In Order"

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Leviticus has been called “the first book that a Jewish boy would have read in Old Testament days, but the last book a Christian will read.” That is unfortunate because this book, like the 65 others, has something to teach us (Rom. 15:4). As soon as the Tabernacle was finished, God set forth His commands concerning how worship was to occur and then sent the Israelites forth to Canaan. Thus, we see that the book of Leviticus records events that took place in about a month (Ex. 40:17; Num. 1:1).

            I am impressed with the phrase “in order” that is used in chapters one and six. All told, there are nine occasions between Exodus 26:17 and Leviticus 6:12 where God spoke about the Tabernacle or some facet of worship there and said something was to be “in order.” Our God is a God of order and structure (I Cor. 14:40). He had patterns for those in the Old Testament to follow and has patterns He wants us to follow (Heb. 8:5; I Cor. 11:1; I Pet. 2:21-22).

            We see what happened when Cain did not follow God’s pattern for worship (Gen. 4:4-5). It is evident God cares that things are done in a particular order. What would have happened if Noah had not followed God’s design for the Ark (Gen. 6:14)? What would have happened had the people not followed God’s pattern for the Tabernacle’s construction (Ex. 36-40)? Would God have accepted just any structure, or just any kind of worship, or just any kind of cargo vessel? We know the answer and see God’s consistent nature shine when He tells His people to put things “in order” in Leviticus one!

            Similarly, are there not patterns for us when we read the New Testament Scriptures? There are some who insist there is no New Testament pattern. We are told that the New Testament is a “love letter” and does not have commands for us to follow. Is this true? When we read the New Testament, is there not a pattern for worship (Jn. 4:24; Acts 2:42, 20:7; I Cor. 11:23-28, 14:40, 16:1-2; etc.)? Is there not a pattern for how the local church does her work (Acts 11:28-30; Eph. 4:12; Phil. 4:15-16; Rom. 15:25-26; etc.)? Is there not a pattern for marriage (Matt. 5:32, 19:4-9; Eph. 5:31), and for raising children (Heb. 13:4; Eph. 6:4)? How about just living day by day? Must we not also make sure that what we do is done by the authority of Christ and that our religion is “pure” (Col. 3:17; Jas. 1:26-27)?

            Notice that there is a pattern with God. He has things he wants done “in order” and woe unto us if we get them “out-of-order”! I believe many of the problems we face today result from people doing things without regard for God’s order! When we read Leviticus, let us be impressed that God wants things done “in order,” and let us respect that principle today!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Take Heed What You Hear.”

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

            I imagine there are few words of advice more needed today than the words of Christ in Mark 4:24. In a world that’s filled with “fake news,” it’s hard to know the truth. Pilate once asked sarcastically, “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:38), but I believe there are folks asking this question sincerely. Do you have an answer for them?

We’re a generation bombarded with information, yet we have so little knowledge! It’s tragic. In a sense, though, people in every generation have endured this problem. Had that not been so, Jesus wouldn’t have said what He did in Mark 4:24.

            We face the problem of being bombarded with information but little knowledge because the father of lies (Jn. 8:44) roams this earth looking for victims (I Pet. 5:8). He wants us to listen to lies, idle tales, or any other thing so long as we don’t listen to the word of the Lord! He tries hard to steal the word when he can (Mk. 4:4, 15). If it takes root, though, then he tries to get us to give up as we face persecutions and hardships from those who do not wish for us to serve God (Mk. 4:5-6, 16-17). If this tactic fails, he uses the “cares of this world,” “the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things” to stop our spiritual growth (Mk. 4:7, 18-19).

            God’s word, the “seed” (Mk. 4:3, 14), does its best work in the “good ground” (Mk. 4:8, 20). Here in this fertile soil, the “seed” can take root, grow, and produce more fruit. How do we get to this point? We get here by taking “heed” (taking care, NAS, NET) to what we hear!

            To what are you listening? What fills your ears? What fills your eyes (remember, our reading affects us, too)? Do you demand that sound words be preached and taught to you (II Tim. 4:2), or do you not care (II Tim. 4:3-4)? As you read, or as someone teaches you, are you listening carefully? Do you compare what you learn to the Scriptures (Acts 17:11)? “Take heed what ye hear” when it comes to the word of God!

            Do we read God’s word through a filter? This is my way of asking do we read God’s word to prove our belief? Do we read God’s with the idea already in mind, and we simply go to God’s word to prove it? Are you upset if the preacher doesn’t say or teach something in the manner you want to hear it? Friend, “take heed what ye hear”!

Furthermore, take heed because “many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I Jn. 4:1; II Pet. 2:1-3)! They bring “damnable heresies” and “bring upon themselves swift destruction.” This is nothing we want to fellowship (II Jn. 9-11)! Therefore, we need to “take heed.” Just because a person is nice or has a friendly face doesn’t mean that he is telling the truth when he speaks. Often, false teachers appear as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29-31). Thus all the more reason to “take heed” or pay attention!

Following the Lord isn’t for the lazy (II Tim. 2:15). It’s not for the unobservant person, either! Not being observant will get you in trouble. Let’s listen to the words of the Lord more, and men less! I saw a meme recently that said words to the effect that the longer we spend time in God’s word, the more we’ll see how Satan has lied to us. Amen to that! Let’s listen! Let’s take heed to the truth and see the blessings that flow from God’s throne!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Jesus' Attitude Toward Sinners.”

Saturday, December 05, 2020

            The book of Mark is the shortest book of those comprising the “gospel records.” It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Mark doesn’t wait long before showing us the opposition Jesus faced in His preaching. In Mark 2, we see scribes and Pharisees opposing Him and His work. Among their common complaints was that Jesus associated with sinners. Mark 2:15-17 says, “And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his (Matthew’s, JMJ) house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

            Seeing as Jesus just invited a publican (Matthew) to follow Him (Mk. 2:14), it shouldn’t be a surprise that when Jesus went to Matthew’s house, publican friends would be invited to listen to Jesus! Jesus treated this man just as He had earlier treated four fishermen (Mk. 1:16-20). He simply requested that they “follow Him.” This would change their lives far beyond anything we could describe on this page.

            The point being that Jesus looked at five sinners (Rom. 3:23) and saw not what they were, but what they could become! He saw people who’d do much good for the Lord’s cause and kingdom, but they had to be taught! Jesus was willing to teach. In fact, Jesus was willing to teach all that would listen to Him. This is why we see multitudes coming to Him and listening (Mk. 1:28, 33, 37, 45, 2:1-2, 13, etc.).

            In contrast, the scribes and Pharisees had no time, no compassion, and gave no thought to the lives and concerns of the sinners around them. I’m reminded of Christ’s parable in Luke 18:11-12. Therefore, when they saw Jesus spending time with publicans, sinners, and the like, this was scandalous to them! If He claims to be God’s prophet, and people claim He is the Messiah, surely even He would know the kind of people He is around! (For more study, please read Luke 7:36-50 and see the attitude of Simon toward Christ.)

            In Mark’s short book, we see Christ’s attitude toward sinners as one of respect, one of compassion, and one of love. He never berated them for their bad decisions or sins. He never acted as if they were beneath Him (though they were  -- all of us are!). He did, however, tell the truth and told it unapologetically. He told the truth in a manner that they (and all) could understand. Please read Mark 2:15-17 and see that when Jesus was criticized for even associating with publicans, sinners, and others, His answer was not a defense of their sin. He didn’t say, “At least they’re not hypocrites!” as some might’ve been tempted to say. His answer was straight-forward: “they need Me!”.

            Notice Jesus called them sick. He called them sinners and said they needed to repent (Mk. 2:17)! Can you imagine such language coming from the lips of the Lord? Yet, there it is. What impresses me is that these people seemed to follow Him in greater numbers the longer He was on earth. What had Jesus done? As we observe Jesus in Mark 2 and the rest of the book, we see Someone who showed compassion (Mk. 1:41, 5:19, 6:34, 8:2). He saw people who needed direction (Mk. 6:34) and saw sinners who needed salvation. The people responded to this genuine action and listened intently. What Jesus said in Mark 2:17 was not “new news” to them. They knew they were in sin, and now they knew that they had come to the right Person who could bring them salvation!

            What can I learn from this short reading? I can learn first to not be like the scribes and Pharisees. No one is “beneath” you. All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23). If you’ve been saved from your sins, then thank God for the salvation (Lk. 19:10; Mk. 16:16)! When you see people who aren’t saved, realize that you were in their shoes not that long ago. Someone loved you enough to tell you the truth. Now, love them enough to do the same (II Tim. 2:2; Eph. 4:15)!

            The second lesson I learn in Mark 2:15-17 is to be like Jesus in my speech! Folks who are in sin need to know it! Friend, “no greater injustice can be done to a person than to leave them with the impression they are saved, when in fact, they aren’t!” Jesus called the people sick, sinners, and in need of salvation. This is precisely what they needed to hear. If they hadn’t been told this, they might’ve left the presence of Jesus thinking that they were just fine. Dear one, when you talk to someone about their soul, remember that this part needs to be said. You can talk about the weather, crops, children, the government, and 1000 other things, but if you miss the chance to talk to someone about his soul, you’ve missed it! There’s nothing more important than the condition of one’s soul (Matt. 16:26)! Pleasant smiles, hugs, and being neighborly will mean little when on Judgment, they look at you and say in so many words, “You met me day by day and knew I was astray, yet you never mentioned Him to me!” I would much rather thousands of people on Judgment Day cry that I told them about Jesus and warned them about sin but hurt their feelings than to have one person say, “You never mentioned Him to me!” What about you?

A third thing I learn from Jesus was even when He spoke of people being sick and sinners, He didn’t seem happy about it! May we never take a condescending view of others in sin (Matt. 7:12, 22:39; Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20; etc.). As we noted earlier, it wasn’t that long ago that we were in their position as well.

Lastly, I have to note that the message of Christ was a message for all. While it would’ve been easy for the Pharisees, scribes, and others to listen to Mark 2:17 and then think, “OK, this is why Jesus is with them.” If we listen closely to the response, it was actually a rebuke to those people as well. Think about it! Jesus said He came to call the sinners to repentance. Amen. Was He not also preaching to the Pharisees, scribes, and others when He was preaching those three years? Was there ever a time from Matthew-John where Jesus stopped His preaching to say, “Scribes and Pharisees, what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to you”? Jesus’ attitude was that those self-righteous people were as guilty of sin as the rest (Mk. 7:6-9)! They needed the same message because they needed the same Savior! Jesus suffered as a sacrifice for all men, not just for the ones on the “wrong side of the tracks”! They would’ve understood Jesus’ message here if they’d cared to listen, instead of wasting time pointing their fingers at others!

Much more could be said, but take what we’ve learned here and think seriously about our attitude. What kind of attitude are we displaying? Who’ve we told about Jesus this week? What efforts do we make to bring others to the Lord, beginning with those under our own roof (Eph. 6:4; Titus 2:3-5)? Think seriously about this, my friend, because the souls of those we love as well as our own souls hang in the balance (Ezek. 33:7-9)!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Leaving Father In The Boat.”

Thursday, December 03, 2020

            In our previous study, we studied about Christ calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be fishers of men. One other event connected with this calling is found in Mark 1:20 (and Matt. 4:22). Mark makes a point of saying that Peter and Andrew “forsook their nets,” and when James and John left, they left their father in the boat. Matthew’s account varies slightly by saying they left “their ship and their father.” Either way, the point is that things were left behind to follow Christ. In these four men’s cases, they had to leave their family (father) and their business (ship and nets) to follow the Lord and be “fishers of men.”

Jesus didn’t take such decisions for granted. Later, He told the disciples, “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mk. 10:29-30).

            Christ never promised the disciples a life of ease when He called for them. Nor did He promise a life free from sacrifice! I think Mark 1:18-20 states this lesson quite succinctly. Matthew 8:19-22 and Luke 9:59-62 teach a similar truth when three people approach the Lord about following Him, and each person is told essentially to choose Him over anyone and anything else. Yes, following the Lord requires sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2)! He never promised a life of ease on earth. He promised life eternal (Matt. 25:46) and rest one day (Heb. 4:9) if we’ve been faithful now!

            Many have sacrificed for the Lord through the years. I think of Elijah, Elisha, Job, and many others in the Old Testament. Some have lost their lives in order to remain faithful to God. This is recorded for us in Scripture. Even our “secular” history records the lives of those who risked life and limb that the gospel might spread far and wide. While many lost their lives, still others lost their livelihoods, and some lost families in order to live according to God’s will. I can think of many preachers of the gospel whose sacrifices have allowed me to preach where I am today, and I’m thankful.

            The older I get, the more I understand, though, that anything truly worth having will cost something. I’ve also seen that (with a few exceptions) we don’t usually appreciate the things given to us without some condition. Usually, the things for which we haven’t struggled and earned are the first things we give away or sell. If that item breaks or is stolen, there’s little emotion involved. I hasten to add I know there are exceptions to this, for example, an inheritance or something similar, but usually, what I’m saying is true. Watch people and see if I’m not right!

I know it sounds trite to say, “There is no free lunch,” but that is a true statement. For you to get something “free” means someone else bought it. That includes the “free gift” of our salvation (Rom. 5:15-16, 6:23)! Someone else paid a price that we might have the opportunity to be saved (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8; Matt. 20:28, 26:28; Heb. 5:8-9; etc.). Don’t get me wrong, there are conditions attached to this “free gift,” and rightfully so! We can’t enjoy the blessings of God’s gift unless we believe in Christ (Jn. 8:24), repent of our sins (Lk. 13:3), confess Christ as God’s Son (Rom. 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). We must have some “skin in the game,” and we do when we make that commitment to accept the Lord’s conditions and follow Him for the rest of our days (I Cor. 15:58; Rev. 2:10b; etc.). We must put the Lord first (Matt. 6:33) and not be “conformed” but be “transformed” (Rom. 12:2), that we might grow closer to the Lord every day.

            Four apostles in this text left family and business to follow Christ and serve Him for the rest of their days (Mk. 1:18-20). What’ve we left behind? Does the gospel mean anything to you? Does the cross mean anything? Have we been fooled into thinking that being a Christian requires little more than warming a padded pew and devoting my time for an hour or so on Sunday? Have we left anything behind willingly? If not, why not? Those who think that being a Christian is nothing or that there isn’t true sacrifice involved in being a Christian have never read the Book! The gospel demands much of us. Ask Peter, Andrew, James, and John what it cost them! However, the reward will surely be worth it (Rom. 8:18).

            Are you ready to leave this world behind to gain Heaven?

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

When All Else Fails, Compromise!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

When the walls of Jerusalem were erected, and only the gates remained to be hung, Israel’s enemies again tried to stop the progress. Seeing that brute force would not work (Neh. 4:7-23), Sanballat and Geshem tried a more “diplomatic” approach where perhaps they could get Nehemiah to compromise with them. They asked him to stop the work and meet them in one of the villages in the plain of Ono (Neh. 6:2-3). Nehemiah was not falling for this, and refused, even though the men hounded him for a meeting (v. 4-5).

When Nehemiah refused, Sanballat sent an open letter (Neh. 6:5) accusing him and the Jews of rebellion against Xerxes. Understand, an “open letter” was a form of insult against Nehemiah. Yet, when insulted, Nehemiah spoke the truth that Sanballat made up these charges. He then prayed for God’s strength (v. 8-9). He faced yet another test when Shemiah tried to get him to hide in the Temple under the ruse that Nehemiah needed to do this to save his life (v. 10-11). Thankfully, Nehemiah refused to listen and stood his ground with his people, again turning to God in this time (v. 14).

Satan does the same to us. First, he tempts us to give in to our lusts and sin against God (Jas. 1:14-15). If temptations that lead to rebellion do not lure us, then he uses other tactics, like compromise, to lead us away from the Lord. We see this in Matthew 4 and Luke 4 when Satan tempted Christ. When other tactics failed, he tried to get Jesus to compromise. If Jesus bowed and worshipped Satan, He would have the “kingdoms of the world”! He could avoid the cross altogether (Matt. 4:8-10; Lk. 4:5-8)! Why not compromise, Jesus? Isn’t this a way to “have your cake and eat it too”?

Compromise with the truth has been Satan’s tactic for years. He wants men to feel good about their partial obedience and then justify the behavior we want to do. For example, we might not yield to the temptation to be homosexual (Rom. 1:26-27), but Satan wants us to say we love others and will accept this behavior in others (ignoring Rom. 1:32). Similarly, we might not drink alcohol (I Pet. 4:3), but Satan says we ought not to condemn others who drink and exercise their “rights” in the USA. If someone takes a stand for truth and says that there is only one way to Heaven, through the teachings of Christ (Jn. 14:6), Satan’s minions will hound us and call us “narrow-minded,” and a “Pharisee.”

Yes, when Satan fails at getting us to turn from the Lord, he will try to get us to compromise. Friend, what will we do about this? What have we done? I hope we haven’t fallen into the trap of compromising with sin, but if so, know that there is still time to repent while we live (II Pet. 3:9; Heb. 3:7-8). If you need to be baptized for the remission of sins, then do it (Acts 2:38; I Pet. 3:21). Don’t compromise with false doctrine on this issue or any other! Take advantage of the time we have and do what God says without compromise or apology -- just like Nehemiah!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

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