“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12) NKJV
As I write these words, our nation is in turmoil. A presidential election has just taken place and there are rampant allegations of fraud. Whether all of the allegations or even a few of them are true, we may never know.
However, trouble has been brewing among our people for years. Our country’s two party system appears to be broken as leaders of both political parties express disdain for each other. Our current president has called for justice, while our soon-to-be president is calling for unity. Sadly, I have little hope that the desire of either man will come to pass. Oh, I have faith that the Lord can make it happen, but we the people must want it and work for it to happen.
Fingers are being pointed, hate is raging strong and our country is sorely divided.
Voters on both sides are recalling the past misdeeds of the other, all the while vowing revenge in the future. At times, it seems as if our country is on the brink of a second civil war.
In all the pandemonium, I recall a verse of scripture that was introduced to me early in life as the golden rule. Although it is never referred to in the Word of God as the golden rule, that is how it has become popularly known.
The golden rule was given by Jesus during His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12 and has been paraphrased as follows, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Christ’s instruction to His followers is to be proactive instead of reactive. It is human nature to fire back at the one who fires the first shot or to treat others as they have treated us, but these things are not what Jesus told us to do.
In fact, He taught us to take the first step in blessing others. We are to bless not only those who bless us, but also those who have shown themselves to be our enemies.
The Lord’s point was that It does not matter how others have treated us, how much injustice they have dealt us or how many false accusations they have hurled our way. We are to treat them as we would have them to treat us.
Child of God, the only way healing will ever come to this land we love is for us to do what Jesus said. We must stop being reactionary and begin proactively blessing even those who have done or would seek to do us wrong.
Did Jesus say, “Do unto others as THEY HAVE DONE to you?” No! He said, “Do unto others as you WOULD HAVE THEM DO unto you.”
Read Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:38-48; Galatians 5:14; 1 Peter 3:9
“The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one (Psalm 14:2-3). NKJV
When someone dies, there are always those who say, “He was such a good man, or she was such a good lady.” Admittedly, when I have heard those words spoken of some, I have thought, “Well, if you believe that, then you must not know what I know about them.” In my mind, was I judging the person? Nope, just stating a fact. In Luke 18:19, Jesus Himself asked a certain ruler who had just called Him, “Good Master,” “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” NKJV
Another often repeated phrase is, “People are good at heart.” However, the Word of God says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” NKJV
According to the psalmist, no one is good. In fact, the prophet Isaiah went a step further to explain in Isaiah 64:6, “...we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy (menstrual) rags...” KJV
The Word of God teaches that there are people who DO good, but only God IS good.
When Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, he and his wife, Eve, lost their innocence (Genesis 3:7-12). When they did, sin became a part of the world in which we live. The Bible says, later, “[Adam] had a son in his own likeness, after his own image” (Genesis 5:3). That means that Adam, a sinner, begot a sinner. Scripture further explains that Adam’s sin has spread to all creation: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). No one is good because everyone of us has been affected by Adam’s sin.
King David wrote in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.” NKJV
So, since there is nothing inherently “good” within any of us, how can we ever make it to Heaven? Well, I’m glad to report that God solved that problem by giving His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to pay for all of our sin (John 3:16-18).
And, if you will admit to God that you have sinned against him, turn away from your sin, believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the grave and confess out loud that Christ is the Lord of your life, He will save you. You have no hope aside from Jesus (Acts 4:12).
So, are we good? No, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of perfection (Romans 3:23). However, God certainly is good, and if you will place your trust in Jesus today, He will save you (Roman 5:8, 6:23).
Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 14:6; Ephesians 2:8-9
“...For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). NKJV
Recently, I was honored to officiate the funeral of a relative. He was full of life every time I saw him, usually with a huge smile on his face.
Following my remarks at his graveside, one of his sons and I visited briefly. We talked about the things we did when we were little boys. After we spoke, I thought to myself that when we played together as youngsters, our parents were much younger then than he and I are now.
Wow! Where does the time go? Why do the years pass by so quickly? We are literally here one day and gone tomorrow.
When I read or hear of someone dying, I am often reminded of when my wife and I headed for home early one morning, after vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. At first, due to the heavy fog, we could barely see the taillights of the car in front of us. Then, without warning, the fog lifted and was gone.
And so it is with life. We are all here for a brief moment of time, then God calls us out of this world.
As believers, knowing this, it is so important that we make each day count for the glory of God because our time on this earth is ebbing away.
We should all take inventory of our lives, and ask ourselves each night, “What did I do today to honor God? Did I show His love by giving to someone in need? Did I express His love by speaking words of kindness to another? And if tomorrow does arrive, what will I do to cause the Heavenly Father to smile with approval.”
When life ends, those of us who have placed our faith in Christ will go to where He is and be rewarded for what we did in this life for the cause of His Kingdom. We need to live so that when that time comes, we will not be ashamed to meet the Lord.
Consider the words of the poet C.T. Studd wrote, “Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last".
How are you living today? Do you know Christ as your personal Savior? If not, place your faith in Him before it is too late! And if you do know Christ, then allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in living a life that is pleasing in the eyes of God.
Read 1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Colossians 3:23-25; Hebrews 9:27
"But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor…" (Philippians 1:22) NKJV
The apostle Paul had been falsely accused of stirring up trouble, when really all he had done was to share the Good News that Jesus saves. So-called witnesses testified against him, but because Paul was a Roman citizen, he had the right to appeal to Caesar, the emperor of the Roman Empire.
Awaiting his hearing before Caesar, while imprisoned in Rome, Paul did not know if he would be released from prison or executed. So, he wrote to his Christian brothers and sisters in the church at Philippi, "But IF I live on in the flesh..." To Paul, that was a big "if!" Either way, he knew he would be just fine because he trusted in the Lord. If Paul lived, he would continue his ministry, but IF NOT, and he were executed, he would simply go home to Heaven to be with the Lord.
How about you? Are you prepared for the "if nots" of life? What if your financial situation never improves? What if you never have the Christian marriage you desire? What if your wayward child never turns his or her life around? What if you are persecuted for your faith when all you wish to do is live for the Lord, tell others about him and help them also to become His faithful followers? What if life doesn’t turn out the way you planned? Can you agree with Paul that all that you will keep trusting and living for the Lord?
King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image and decreed that all within the Babylonian Empire bow down to it. However, there were three Hebrew young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who had placed their faith in God, and so, they refused. The king told them that their refusal would mean they would be thrown into a fiery furnace. But the three told the king, according to Daniel 3:17-18, "If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But IF NOT, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” NKJV
In the case of the three Hebrews, God indeed delivered them from the fire, but they were prepared “IF NOT.”
Here is the inside scoop: According to the Bible, everything in life is NOT going to always go your way. God might allow you to endure certain things so that others can be helped. He might allow certain things to occur to increase your faith. He could allow difficulties and problems to come your way for which you might never know the reason. But be assured of this, the Father knows best! He sees the big picture when we see only a tiny brushstroke on the canvass.
Be prepared for the "IF NOTS" of life. If they haven't already arrived, trust me, they are on the way! Just remember the promise of Jesus that He will never leave you nor forsake you. God is forever faithful!
Read Isaiah 41:10, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, 1 Peter 5:7
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). NKJV
I suppose one of my biggest pet peeves is to see or hear someone quote scripture out of context or say that the Bible says something that it simply does not say.
Recently, for example, I read a Facebook post by a woman who was attempting to defend any woman’s so-called “right” to choose abortion.
In her attempt to defend the actions of other women, she wrote, “The Bible says, don’t judge.”
Actually, what the Word of God says in Matthew 7:1-2 is, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” NKJV
To say, “The Bible says, don’t judge,” is to make a false statement. However, when someone wants to excuse his or her sins or condone the sins of others, that is usually what he or she will say.
Using these verses as an example of one misquoting scripture, allow me to explain what the Lord meant when He spoke those words in Matthew 7:1-2.
Jesus was not saying that as His followers we are never to pass judgment on someone else. To the contrary, in several other places in scripture, including the very same chapter in which these verses are included, God’s Word makes clear that Jesus was not condemning all manner of judgment.
Thus while thinking of, often misquoting or taking verse 1 out of context, sometimes one presents an argument against all forms of judgment. But again, that is not at all what Jesus was saying.
In fact, a few verses later in this same chapter, Jesus, Himself, referred to some people as dogs (v. 6) and false prophets (v. 15). Then, He went on to say in verse 16, that you will know men by their fruits. Was He judging others when He made those statements? Of course He was! The apostle Paul was also incredibly bold in calling out the sinful actions of others, as was the apostle Peter.
In Matthew 7, Jesus was simply instructing His listeners not to make hasty and unfair judgments of others when they, themselves, were guilty of the same sin.
For example, when the woman who was caught in adultery was taken before Jesus, He said to her accusers, “...He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). NKJV
He made that statement to them because it was likely some of the woman’s accusers had been with the woman themselves or were guilty of the same sin of adultery.
So, be careful to know what you are talking about when you say, “The Bible says...,” because the fact of the matter might be that God’s Word doesn’t say that at all, at least not in the way you are using it to make your case.
~And there you have it—my sermon for the day.
Read 2 Peter 3:16, Revelation 22:18-19
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). NKJV
Men are notorious for not reading instructions. Often, one’s reason for not reading instructions is because he thinks it’s easier to do it his way.
I once heard of a father who bought his daughter a swing set. The little girl’s mother told the dad before he began his project of putting the swing set together that he should read the instructions, but he refused. Hours later, screws, bolts, nuts and parts of the swing set lay all over the yard. Why? Because the man didn’t read the instructions.
Today, the lives of countless people lie in shambles because they have failed to read the instructions for life that God provides in His Word. Marriages have ended, young people have become wayward, careers have been ruined, people have been imprisoned and, sadly, millions have died and gone to Hell because they never took the time to read God’s instructions.
Don’t misunderstand! The Bible is much more than an instruction book. God’s Word is really the story of Jesus, from Genesis to Revelation.
In the story, we learn that God planned all along to send Jesus to show us how to live, to redeem us of our sins by dying on the cross and to rise from the dead offering us the hope of everlasting life.
When Jesus came to earth, He lived humbly (Philippians 2:8), He lived lovingly (John 13:34-35), He lived prayerfully (Luke 5:16) and He lived selflessly (John 17:4).
But don’t think for a moment that simply imitating Jesus can cause you to live life according to God’s instructions or give you hope of life to come. It is imperative that you accept Jesus as your personal Savior and recognize Him as the Lord of your life.
Only then, will the Holy Spirit empower you to live life as God would have you to earth and will you be guaranteed a life with Christ in eternity.
Living life your way is the wrong way to live. Living life as Jesus lived His life is the right way to live. But you cannot live like Jesus if you don’t know Him. And you can’t know Him until you place your faith in Him and get to know His story.
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) ESV
Do you want to live abundantly in this life? Do you want to live eternally in Heaven? Then. become a student of the story of Jesus (God’s Word—the Bible).
Read the instructions!
Read Psalm 119:11, 105; Proverbs 3:1-2; John 8:32; Hebrews 4:12.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
As the Lord concluded His final words to His disciples before leaving for Heaven, He spoke of trouble to come. However, He told them where they could find peace no matter what they would face ahead.
Christ’s disciples would endure persecution and all but one of them would suffer martyrdom. My prayer is that those I know and love, nor I, will ever experience prison, torture, beatings or death because of our faith. Even so, living in a world that is growing increasingly hostile toward Christians, I suppose these are real possibilities.
What Jesus told His disciples applies easily to those of us living today. We will all have to deal with trouble in this world on some level.
So, where do we find peace in spite of any affiliation that might come upon us? Well, Jesus said that we find peace in Him.
Therefore, it is important that we nurture our relationship with Christ by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Him.
We can do this through prayer, spending time studying God’s Word and worship.
We can also draw closer to Him by living like Him—loving God with all our heart soul mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
If you are feeling overwhelmed while living in these days of trouble, allow Jesus to provide you with the peace you need. Just as He calmed the raging sea with a strong command (Mark 4:35-41), Jesus can speak peace to your situation. Rest in Him!
Read 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Isaiah 26:2; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7
“There are friends who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). NLT
Have you ever considered someone a friend who later proved not to be? Maybe you experienced the loss of a loved one, but the person you thought was your friend was not there to comfort you. Perhaps when you were low, he or she was not there to lift you up. It could be that you even failed morally, and when you needed a friend the most, the person you thought was your friend walked away from you.
As long as things were good, you could count on the fact that your so-called friend would be by your side to help you celebrate. But, when hard times came, he or she was nowhere to be found. Such people are called “fair weather friends.” As long as the sun is shining in your life, you can count on them to be there. However, when skies over you turn gray, they turn and run.
Thus far, the darkest days I have ever experienced were those that followed the deaths of my parents who passed away within one month and three days of each other. I’d like to say that I was a super Christian who pushed all grief aside and kept right on going, but that was not the case. As an only child, I was devastated. The immediate family I had known and loved growing up was gone and grief overwhelmed me for years.
It is in times like the one I just described when you find out who your true friends are. They are the ones who pause to take the time to share in your sorrow, who go out of their way to check on you, who pray for you, who encourage you and who are available to listen to you when you need to express how you are feeling. They sympathize with you. In short, they are there for you!
It is shocking and hurtful when we discover that a person we thought loved and cared for us really doesn’t. But how grateful we are for those who journey with us during our times of struggle. We will never forget them or their acts of kindness.
Thankfully, there is one friend we can always depend on, and His name is Jesus. To His friends, Jesus gave the wonderful promise, “...I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). NKJV
We never have to wonder whether Jesus is a true friend or a fair weather friend. He has proven that He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He came to show us how to live abundantly (John 10:10). He died for us on the cross to pay our sin-debt to the Father (John 3:16). He rose from the grave, overcoming death, so that we might live eternally (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). He prayed for the Father to send the Holy Spirit to comfort us as we live our earthly lives (John 15:16). Finally, He has gone to prepare a place for us so that He can someday return to receive us unto Himself so that where He is, there we may be also (John 14:1-6).
You can’t do anything about fair weather friends except make sure that you are not one. Be like Jesus. When your friends need you, show them how much they mean to you. Be there for them!
And, although a person who you thought was your friend has forsaken you, remember that Jesus never will!
Read John 15:12-14; Job 6:14; Proverbs 27:17
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). NKJV
Perhaps at no other time are more lies told than during an election season. I have read memes on Facebook and watched campaign commercials on television where one candidate’s supporters or the candidate himself or herself told outright lies about another candidate’s positions on issues. It’s not just the left or the right. Both sides are guilty.
To bear false witness against a neighbor means to lie about them. Most of the time, people bear false witness to make themselves look good and make others look bad. Doing so can spring from a root of bitterness, from unresolved hurt, from unforgiveness, from jealousy or from a number of other sins. The Hebrew word translated “neighbor” in Exodus 20:16 can mean an associate, a brother, companion, friend, spouse or neighbor.
People bear false witness in a court of law. Others bear false witness in private by whispering, talebearing, backbiting, slandering or attempting to destroy another’s character by innuendos, sly insinuations and evil suggestions.
Doing such things should not occur, especially for followers of God. God’s children are to reflect the character of God. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” NKJV
Never does one act more like the devil than when he or she is lying about someone else. Jesus told the Pharisees in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” NKJV
Remember, Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” NKJV
Running others down to build yourself up is something God despises. Will you reflect the character of God by always telling the truth lovingly, or will you imitate the father of lies, the devil himself?
Read Matthew 15:18-19; Colossians 3:7-8; Ephesians 4:29
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). NIV
Everything in life is not always going to turn out as you had planned. How you respond to unpleasant or unexpected things that happen along the way can make all the difference in your life as well as the lives of others.
I’m talking about “attitude.”
A few days ago, I drove for an hour to speak at a meeting. When I arrived at my destination, no one was there. I quickly called a man to ask if I had made a mistake. Had I gotten the date wrong? Was I mistaken about where the meeting was taking place?
Apologetically, the man informed me that the meeting had been canceled and that no one had thought to call and let me know.
At that point, I had a decision to make; how would I react? Would I become frustrated and angry? Would I be kind? The choice was mine.
Suddenly, I looked up into the sky and was reminded that I had just spent the last hour driving in the sunshine, enjoying the beautiful day God had made. I decided right then and there to make the most of it. I told the man that the mix up was no problem, that I was happy, and not to worry about it. After all, I should have called ahead to make sure that the meeting was still taking place, especially in this season when a pandemic has changed so much of what we do and how we do it. I pulled over at a restaurant, ate lunch, then went on about my day.
I could have ruined my entire day had I made a different choice. The wrong decision could have gotten me in a bad mood and caused me to become irritable. It all hinged on my attitude.
When the apostle Paul wrote the words he recorded in Philippians 1:27, he was sitting in a Roman prison. He did not know if he would live or be put to death. And the people in the church at Philippi. who dearly loved him, did not know if they would ever see him again.
So, Paul wrote in effect, “Whatever happens, react in a way that will show others who you belong to.”
As I write these words, a lot is happening in our world. You could lose your job. You might lose your home.
The election, only days away, might not turn out the way you want.
You might experience something as minor as a flat tire, coffee spilled down your shirt first thing in the morning, or receive on the receiving end of a coworker’s snarky comment.
How will you react?
Will you get mad and conduct yourself in a manner that doesn’t resemble Christ in any way, or will you determine now, whatever happens, I’m going to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of my Lord?
The choice is yours. Your actions will be determined by your attitude.
Read Philippians 2:14-15, 4:8-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Jerry Fulton's goal in life is to share the love of Jesus, so others might become followers of Christ.